NATO to decide by March on Afghan transition

NATO and the Afghan government will decide in March on the first provinces where responsibility for security will be transferred to government forces.

Last Updated: Jan 25, 2011, 00:17 AM IST

Brussels: NATO and the Afghan government
will decide in March on the first provinces where
responsibility for security will be transferred to government
forces - a critical step in the alliance`s exit strategy.

Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also said
today that Afghanistan`s new parliament should be inaugurated
before the transition process starts. The legislature has
still not been installed four months after elections due to
political infighting.

"This spring will see a new stage of our engagement in
Afghanistan, with the announcement of the first provinces
where Afghan forces are ready to take the lead," he told
reporters.

The transfer of responsibility for security to the
Afghan government`s army and police is a cornerstone of the
Obama administration`s plan to begin withdrawing US and NATO
forces next June. The plan adopted last November at the
alliance`s summit anticipates that transition will be
completed by 2014, when NATO forces will end their combat
role.

Originally, the alliance expected the transfer of
security in the safest of Afghanistan`s 34 provinces to start
by the end of 2010.

But that date had to be set back due to escalating
combat and the spread of the insurgency into parts of the
country where it did not have a significant presence before.

"Last year we made hard-fought changes on the ground.
Now we need to ensure those changes are durable," Fogh
Rasmussen said.

"We have already made evaluations, and we envisage the
decision on transition to be taken in March."

NATO commanders have said their forces will continue
their drive into Taliban strongholds and expect more hard
fighting.

NATO has more than 140,000 troops in Afghanistan,
two-thirds of them Americans. Afghan security forces - which
currently number 256,000 troops - are expected to grow to over
300,000 members by the end of this year. They face about
25,000 insurgents.

PTI