Afghanistan "faces tougher times" in next security handover By Mirwais Harooni Posted 2012/05/10 at 4:41 am EDT KABUL, May 10, 2012 (Reuters) Afghanistan faces tougher security challenges in the next phase ofa transition from foreign to Afghan forces as insurgents step uptheir attacks, Afghan officials said on Thursday. President Hamid Karzai is expected to announce on Sunday thetransfer of 230 districts and the centers of all provincialcapitals to Afghan control in the third phase of a handover beforemost NATO troops pull out by the end of 2014. "In 2014 we will face a national survival test, but our enemieshave to know that this nation is committed to fulfill thisprocess," Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, head of the transition process,told reporters in Kabul. "The third stage is a difficult stage. We don't want to tell liesto Afghanistan's people, but these difficulties are not ones thathave no solution. |
The fourth and fifth stages will be moredifficult," Ahmadzai, a former finance minister, said. Afghanistan and its Western backers plan a total of five stages ofsecurity transfer, which will eventually includeTaliban-strongholds such as Kandahar and much of Helmand as well asvolatile eastern provinces, among other areas. No officials would comment on what specific districts in whichprovinces would be transitioned in the third phase. The difficulties underlining the third phase were also echoed byU.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker who joined NATO's top commander inAfghanistan, U.S.
General John Allen, other NATO soldiers andAfghan officials to talk about the next step. More than a decade since coalition forces toppled the Taliban, NATOforces and the Afghan government are scrambling to build up andimprove local security forces to be able to take over from foreignforces. There are, however, few signs of improving security in Afghanistan.Insurgents are already mounting a spring campaign of suicideattacks, while talks with the Taliban as part of efforts to reach apolitical settlement appear to have stalled. Two senior U.S. lawmakers have said that the Taliban is strongernow than before President Barack Obama ordered a surge of U.S.troops to Afghanistan, contradicting the administration'sassessment of the insurgency.
Ties between Kabul and Washington have been strained recently overa string of incidents involving U.S. forces this year, includingthe killing of Afghan villagers and the accidental burning ofcopies of the Koran. Less than a week after signing a strategic partnership agreementwith the United States, Karzai said the pact was at risk ofbecoming "meaningless" if Afghans did not feel safe following aseries of civilian casualties blamed on NATO. (Reporting by Mirwais Harooni; Editing by Nick Macfie).
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