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August 17, 2022
WORLD

Afghans take nationwide security lead from NATO

NATO has handed over security for the whole of Afghanistan for the first time since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, the BBC informs.
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. The attacker was believed to be targeting the convoy of prominent politician and Hazara leader Haji Mohammad Mohaqeq, 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. 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.
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. 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. The number of Afghan security forces has been gradually increasing from fewer than 40,000 six years ago to nearly 350,000 today.

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