By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press ServiceMarch 23, 2011
WASHINGTON, March 22, 2011 -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced the first seven areas of his country that will transition to full Afghan security control.
The announcement marks the beginning of the process that will see Afghan forces responsible for security across the whole country by the end of 2014.
In a speech in the Afghan capital of Kabul, Karzai announced that the area around Kabul, except the Sarobi district, will transition. Afghan forces already are in charge of security for most of the area.
Officials in Afghanistan and the United States stressed this was an Afghan decision.
"This heralds the beginning of the transition process for those areas," said Lt. Col. Beth Robbins, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
Other areas that will transition are Panjshi and Bamiyan provinces, the city of Herat in western Afghanistan and the city of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province.
Afghan forces will take the lead in Balkh province's capital of Mazar-e-Sherif and in Laghman province's Methalam City.
The announcement follows a careful process in choosing the areas. A joint Afghan-NATO group examined the capabilities of Afghan forces and areas where the security, governance and development processes are sufficiently advanced.
The conclusions were forwarded to NATO defense ministers, who accepted the recommendations during a meeting earlier this month. However, the transition decision was completely in Karzai's hands, officials said.
"We understand taking complete responsibility of governance, security and reconstruction in our country is not an easy task in a situation in which, on one hand we suffer from the legacy of 30 years of war, and on the other hand destruction and interference is still going on," Karzai said, according to a translation of his speech at the National Military Academy. "We know that the people of Afghanistan do not want the defense of their country to be on others, and also those who have helped us during the last 10 years cannot afford any more sacrifices for our security and defense.
"This is also for the sake of this reason," he continued, "that we have agreed with the international community that the Afghan government responsibilities should be handed over to Afghans."