NATO hands over control of northern Afghan city to local forces
The Afghan government officially took control of security in the capital of the peaceful northern province of Balkh Saturday, part of an effort to begin handing over all security responsibilities to Afghan forces by 2014, DPA reported.
The NATO-led German forces handed over security responsibilities to local forces in a high-security ceremony attended by senior government and military officials in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
"We truly understand that putting the security and military burden of our country on our international friends forever would not be rational," Atta Mohammad Noor, the powerful provincial governor said, addressing the ceremony.
He said that he welcomed the official transition of this responsibility to the Afghan forces and will do everything in his power to carry out this responsibility with honour.
In a first phase of handovers, seven areas are slated - after almost a decade of war in Afghanistan - to take over their own security. However, most of the places are fairly peaceful and Afghans have long controlled their own security in these regions with little help from foreign troops.
Many Afghan civilians are sceptical of the capabilities of Afghan forces on the ground.
Noor said there will be no "serious difficulties in the short term."
"But, given the change in the fighting tactics of terrorists and their supporters, who use nontraditional, irregular and grueling method of war in all dimensions, especially aimless killing of the civilians and assassination of elite civil and military figures, we will face many challenges in the long run," Noor said.