At a ceremony in Kabul on Tuesday, NATO officially handed over security of Afghanistan to the country’s forces. It marked the first time the whole nation has been under Afghan control since the coalition invaded to oust the Taliban in 2001.
From Brussels, Teri Schultz filed this report for our Newscast unit:
“Afghan forces are now leading security operations all over the country, as NATO-led forces gradually drop back into a supporting role in the remaining, most difficult, districts.
“In Kabul, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen congratulated Afghan President Hamid Karzai on reaching what’s called ‘Milestone 2013.’
” ‘Your forces are showing great courage. Great skill. And making great sacrifices,’ Rasmussen said.
“Karzai said his citizens should be proud, too.
“‘The Afghan people will see their own children providing protection to their lives and country,’ Karzai said.
“Though many Afghans do want foreign troops out as scheduled at the end of 2014, others fear their forces may be left without enough equipment and training to do the job alone.”
As the BBC reports, the challenges ahead were evident just before the handover ceremony, when a suicide bomber elsewhere in Kabul killed “three employees of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and wounded more than 20.”
But as the BBC also points out, in the broader history of Afghanistan, this is a momentous day: “For the first time since the departure of Soviet forces in 1989 and the years of civil war that followed, security across the whole of Afghanistan is now the responsibility of forces led by the Afghan government.”
Another bit of important news to come out of Afghanistan today is that Karzai confirmed his government will hold peace talks with the Taliban.
According to Al Jazeera, the Taliban had said earlier that it was getting ready to open a political office in Doha, Qatar.
“Until earlier this year, Karzai was strongly opposed to the Taliban having a meeting venue outside Afghanistan, but the U.S. has pushed for the Taliban to be present at the negotiating table,” Al Jazeera reports.