Afghan forces ready to take over security duties in expanded areas
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REPORTING FROM KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai finalized plans Sunday to bring more cities and provinces under the control of his nation’s security forces, a step that will formally place more than half the population under the protection of Afghanistan’s troops and police.
Areas to be part of the “transition,” which is key to the NATO force’s plans to end its combat mission in 2014, is heavily weighted toward relatively peaceful areas in the country’s north and west. But it also includes some contested spots, such as the capital of Ghazni province, south of Kabul.
The handover list also represents a vote of confidence that some of the military gains made during major offensives led by U.S. Marines nearly two years ago can be maintained by Afghan forces, including in the districts of Marja, Nawa and Nad Ali in Helmand province.
The first of the handovers to Afghan control took place over the summer. Reflecting continuing security worries, though, the next phase of the transition was delayed; the latest list was to have been finalized weeks ago.
Karzai’s office announced that the National Security Council had given its endorsement to the handover of five provinces in their entirety, parts of nine other provinces, and seven provincial capitals.
The largest of the cities on the list is Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, in Afghanistan’s east. The designated provinces include Balkh, whose capital Mazar-e-Sharif, another major metropolis, came under Afghan control in July.
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