Zee Media Bureau
Kabul: Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced Tuesday that Afghan forces have taken over the security responsibility for the entire country from NATO-led troops, finishing the transition process that began in 2011.
Hailing the security transition as a `historic` moment, Karzai announced, "Our security and defence forces will now be in the lead. From here, all security responsibility and all security leadership will be taken by our brave forces,".
Karzai made the announcement at a handover ceremony held at the new National Defence University built to train Afghanistan`s future military officers.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the coalition will help militarily if and when needed but will no longer plan, execute or lead operations.
Alliance training since 2009 dramatically increased the size of the Afghan National Security Forces, bringing them up from 40,000 men and women six years ago to about 352,000 today.
After transition, coalition troops will move entirely into a supporting role, training and mentoring, and in emergency situations providing the Afghans backup in combat, mainly in the form of airstrikes and medical evacuation.
"Ten years ago, there were no Afghan national security forces. Five years ago, Afghan forces were a fraction of what they are today. Now you have 350,000 Afghan troops and police. A formidable force. And time and again, we have seen them dealing quickly and competently with complex attacks. Defeating the enemies of Afghanistan, and defending and protecting the Afghan people," Rasmussen said.
Today’s takeover by Afghan forces marks a significant milestone in Afghanistan’s history since Taliban ouster in 2001, opening a new era for the South Asian country as foreign troops led by the NATO will now play merely a supporting role.
The takeover ceremony however, was marred by a botched bomb attack against an Afghan politician when a bomb exploded in the Afghan capital, killing at least three people.
A police officer named Asadullah said the target was the convoy of Mohammed Mohaqiq, a prominent ethnic Hazara lawmaker who is a former Cabinet member.
The leader of the People`s Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan, Mohaqiq is a member of the National Front, which represents members of the former Northern Alliance that fought the Taliban before the US invasion in 2001. The predominantly ethnic Pashtun Taliban persecuted the Hazara minority during their five-year rule that imposed a radical interpretation of Islamic law.
The Taliban insurgency has been pressing an intense campaign of violence in the run-up to Tuesday`s security handover.
The transition is a high point of the 12-year-old war, with the coalition insisting Afghan security forces it has been training for years are now strong enough to take the lead in the fight against the Taliban.
With Agency Inputs