Afghans take nationwide security lead from Nato

 
New soldiers of Afghan National Army attend graduation ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan. 15 June 2013 The Afghan army has been growing in size and capability

Nato has handed over security for the whole of Afghanistan for the first time since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.

At a ceremony in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai said that from Wednesday "our own security and military forces will lead all the security activities".

Observers say the best soldiers in the Afghan army are up to the task but there are lingering doubts about some.

International troops will remain in Afghanistan until the end of 2014, providing military back-up when needed.

The ceremony came shortly after a suicide bomb attack in western Kabul killed three employees of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and wounded more than 20.

President Hamid Karzai: "For the people of Afghanistan this is a great day"

The attacker was believed to be targeting the convoy of prominent politician and Hazara leader Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, who escaped with light injuries.

Meanwhile, sources close to Taliban representatives have confirmed to the BBC that they are opening an office in the Qatari capital Doha, possibly as early as Tuesday. It is seen as an important stage in establishing a political face for the movement.

The Taliban has in the past refused talks with Mr Karzai's government, calling it a puppet of the US. But the Afghan president said on Tuesday he is sending representatives to Qatar to discuss peace talks with the movement.

President Karzai has been outspoken about his upset at previous US and Qatari efforts to kick-start the peace process without properly consulting his government, the BBC's Bilal Sarwary reports from Kabul.

There is also concern within the presidential palace that the Taliban will use the political office in Qatar to raise funds, our correspondent adds.

'Remarkable resolve'

Tuesday's ceremony saw the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) hand over control of the last 95 districts in a transition process that began in 2011.

The last remaining districts included 13 in Kandahar province - the birthplace of the Taliban - and 12 each in Nangarhar, Khost and Paktika, all bastions of insurgent activity along the border with Pakistan.

Analysis

There are still 97,000 international troops in Afghanistan as part of the Nato-led mission but those numbers are reducing as the day for the end of combat operations comes closer.

The forces are increasingly engaged in the complex business of closing bases and packing kit; very few now go out on patrol.

The practical effect of today's event is not great - a handful of districts, mainly along the eastern frontier, and in Kandahar, move formally to full Afghan combat lead.

But the symbolic impact is profound. For the first time since the departure of Soviet forces in 1989 and the years of civil war that followed, security across the whole of Afghanistan is now the responsibility of forces led by the Afghan government.

Between now and the final exit of international combat troops at the end of next year, they will support combat operations only when requested. Alongside training the only other assistance is helicopters to take out casualties. The Afghan forces remain inconsistent, but those who train them say the best are as good as any army in a developing country.

President Karzai called it an historic day and a moment of personal pride.

"This has been one of my greatest desires and pursuits," he said, "and I am glad that I, as an Afghan citizen and an Afghan president, have reached this objective today."

He reiterated a shift in military strategy, ruling out the future use of air strikes on what he called Afghan homes and villages; the issue of Nato air strikes and civilian casualties has long been a sensitive one.

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Afghan forces were taking up the role with "remarkable resolve" but said there was still 18 months of hard work ahead for Isaf troops.

"We will continue to help Afghan troops in operations if needed, but we will no longer plan, execute or lead those operations, and by the end of 2014 our combat mission will be completed," he said.

Some Afghans who spoke to the BBC said security had improved in their areas after foreign troops left.

"Now that the foreigners are gone, the security situation in the city and in the districts is much better," said one man from Kandahar.

Another man, from Surkhroad district in eastern Nangarhar province, was less sure.

"In the past when foreign forces were present in Surkhroad the security was fine," he said.

"Now that the security responsibilities are being handed over to the Afghan forces, the security situation is currently ok, but there are some insurgents who are still firing from the eastern mountain areas."

'Good enough'

The number of Afghan security forces has been gradually increasing from fewer than 40,000 six years ago to nearly 350,000 today.

However, as it has taken over more responsibility for security, the Afghan army has suffered a sharp rise in casualties.

By comparison, international coalition casualties have been steadily falling since 2010.

A high desertion rate among Afghan forces has also meant that thousands of new recruits are needed each month to fill its ranks.

Despite the challenges, Isaf commander General Joseph Dunford recently told the BBC that the Afghan force is "getting good enough" to fulfil its role.

In recent Taliban attacks on the capital Kabul, Afghan rapid reaction police tackled the insurgents without having to call in Isaf forces.

The number of Isaf forces in Afghanistan peaked in 2011 at about 140,000, which included about 101,000 US troops.

Isaf currently has about 97,000 troops in the country from 50 contributing nations, the bulk of whom - some 68,000 - are from the US.

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the transition had been "tough"

By the end of 2014 all combat troops should have left to be replaced - if approved by the Afghan government - by a smaller force that will only train and advise.

The pressure on contributing nations to withdraw their troops has been exacerbated by a series of "green-on-blue" attacks in which members of the Afghan security forces have killed coalition troops.

At least 60 Nato personnel died in such attacks in 2012. Many more Afghan security force members have died at the hands of their colleagues, in so-called "green-on-green" attacks.

US President Barack Obama has not yet said how many troops he will leave in Afghanistan along with other Nato forces at the end of 2014.

Washington has said that the Afghan government will get the weapons it needs to fight the insurgency including a fleet of MI-17 transport helicopters, cargo planes and ground support airplanes.

Afghan army chief Gen Sher Muhammad Karimi said air capability was a key challenge.

"We are limited in air transportation and in some places we still need Isaf to help us. Other than that we are fully capable of doing our job," he told BBC Pashto.

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 36.

    The general consensus is that stability will only be returned to Afghanistan if the Afghan government holds discussions with the Taliban.

    So after years of fighting, lives lost - civilian and soldiers, horrific injuries and the destruction of infrastructure, the politicians now admit diplomacy is better than war.

    Such a waste of human life and resources, yet it's likely to get worse.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 35.

    No oil, no gas, no minerals, no water....hence we have no long term interest, except to next enslave the Afghan population into our kind of civilisation like burgers, cokes and phones.

    Yes, lets hastily move on to Syria so that we can immediately secure her gas fields and commence the process of reforming her banking industry to bring it in line with "our" way of financial dominance.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 34.

    #23 Thats the most bonkers account of history I've read in a long time. The british grew opium all over Bengal (for sale to China in exchange for tea). We wanted to control Afghanistan (although not make it part of the empire) as its the gateway into India and the only route Russia could have taken if they tried invading (which was likely at one point)

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 33.

    @25toorie
    I would have thought it possible that the U.S. backroom boys could genetically engineer a pathogen which would specifically target the opium poppy, thus removing the Taliban's funding. Something like the "Ash die back" fungus which is wiping out our ash trees only.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 32.

    Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for Al'Qaida. The Taliban while it still exists is not running Afghanistan. It can still attack girls schools or men who shave, or kids who fly kites but it cannot enforce its will on a whole country. It was a very high price to get here but Afghanistan is a better place now.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 31.

    Bye Afghanistan. We've just invaded you on the pretext of getting Bin Laden(there is no evidence linking him to the 9/11 hijackers), had drones strike innocent people, found/stole a vein of lithium worth a trillion $ and made a complete and utter mess of your country... so now we're going to silently leave and leave you to your own devices. Make sure the poppies are blooming while we're in Syria.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 30.

    When will our leaders learn to keep their noses out of other countries' affairs? They play with the lives of our soldiers to make themselves look important on the world stage.

    Mearnwhile Obama, the 'leader of the free world' presides over torture camps like Guantanamo, kills innocent civilians with drones and sends his goons to assassinate his enemies.

    Our friend indeed!

  • rate this
    +35

    Comment number 29.

    Who better tp police Afghanistan than its own people?
    Who can sort out Syria but the Syrians?
    Meanwhile, we could concentrate our energy and resources into looking after this country.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 28.

    Georgie boy had a personal vendetta and used 9/11 to justify it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 27.

    Post 2014 will be a tense, torrid time. The Taliban are a potent force and will flex their muscles. The Afghan army is being tested severely. The killing of Nato troops leaves a sour taste in the mouth as Nato hands back security lead to Afghan army. This does not augur well for the future. Karzai's hands are tied despite his brave words. Can Afghan troops stand up to th Taliban? The answer is NO!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 26.

    The sad thing is that in a couple of years the Taliban will be back and the the lives lost will all have been in vain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 25.

    The only thing that has been achieved ,apart from the needless waste of troops lives, is that Opium/Heroin production has soured by 800% and the Karzai family have now become rich beyond their wildest dreams after the CIA poured tens of millions of dollars into their lap.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 24.

    The figure at the end of this report says it all, a huge year-on-year increase in security forces deaths since the conflict began. What a grim outlook we have ran away and left the people of Afghanistan with.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 23.

    Lord Elphinstone handed over security to King of Afghanistan in 1840.
    Result was total chaos, Local chiefs ran their own show completely ignoring the King, Meanwhile Elphinstone lost half his men trying to retreat back to India. The British lagely gave up on Afghanistan after that rout and debacle. They bought their opium from Afghan traders instead of trying to control the market themselves

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 22.

    What is NOT mentioned, is that long after ALL our soldiers have left Afganistan we will still be paying £bns for Afgan security/army.

    Afganistan does not have an economy that can support/afford its military/police, so USA & UK/EU countrys will be handing over our taxpayers money for years/decades to come, money that should be spent on OUR MILITARY.
    UK military cuts are FUNDING AFGAN army

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 21.

    MR.TRUCULENT SAYS!
    "About time to". But when the soldiers come home you wont have any jobs left. They want to replace you with Reservists. "The TA". Thus they can pay them even less than you got. A soldiers pay is poor to start with & they don't get over time like The Police
    E&OE

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 20.

    This is a historic moment to Afghan forces taking care of their own country. NATO just paved the way and it is Afghan to walk on the crucial stone on still vulnerable effort to cope with security issue against taliban.
    Be strong for your own country upon boots withdrawal.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 19.

    Good.

    Winning the war was easy. Policing the society divided among itself was and will continue to be hard. As Syria is finding. Our troops being able now to leave will remove one excuse for the rebel elements to raise support for their terror acts.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 18.

    Now they can get rid of the corrupt western puppet Karzai.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 17.

    It cant be all bad news.

    I guess it would be a cheaper alternative than Spain or Turkey for our summer holidays.

    Any all-inclusive deals available in Kabul?

 

Page 14 of 15

 

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