(Associated Press) - NATO took over control of eastern Afghanistan from the U.S.-led coalition Thursday.
The commander of the NATO-led force, Lt. Gen. David Richards, called the move "historic" in a ceremony attended by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan.
The U.S., with 13,250 troops, will remain the biggest contributor of troops to the 33,000-strong force, reports Trend.
Of the 41,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, only 8,000 U.S. troops will function outside NATO control: those tracking al-Qaida terrorists or involved in air operations. The overall level of American forces will remain around 21,000.
"A key point to remember in this transition is that the United States maintains its full commitment to Afghanistan. It will be undiminished," Eikenberry said.
The command consolidation confines direct U.S. control to a single chief enclave: the sprawling American base at Bagram. A U.S. Army helicopter unit based at Kandahar airfield also will remain under American oversight.
U.S.-operated prisons and interrogation centers at Bagram will remain under U.S. command, while NATO will continue to transfer its detainees to Afghan police.