Rome: The Afghan city of Herat could be under Afghan control by the end of 2011, Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa said today after talks with US General David Petraeus, Ansa news agency reported.
"I think that by the end of 2011 several districts in the western zone could be handed over. Herat, for example, is already a zone that could be ready," La Russa said at the
meeting in an air force base in Milan in northern Italy.
"Our objective is to give back the territory to the Afghan government and army so that they can continue the action against terrorism and launch a process of normalisation
of that territory," La Russa said.
After the end of 2011, "combat soldiers can be reduced but trainers will remain. 2011 could be an important year," he added. Petraeus, the top US commander in Afghanistan, will take part in a meeting of the International Contact Group on Afghanistan in Rome on Monday.
The NATO alliance, facing waning public support for the war, is anxious to begin a transition next year that would have Afghan army and police taking over from US-led troops in some parts of the country.