Afghan forces to take control of 230 of 400 districts soon
AFGHAN forces were due to take over security responsibilities in several major cities and districts from foreign troops before this month’s NATO summit in the United States, a defence ministry’s spokesman said on Wednesday.
The third phase of the transition of security from NATOled forces to Afghan security forces would expand the area under Afghan control to all 34 of the provincial capitals and 230 of about 400 districts in the country, Zahir Azimi said.
“Many parts of the country will be covered in the third period of the transition,” he said without mentioning the date for the start of the third phase. He also did not say which cities and districts were to be transferred.
Most of the areas now under Afghan control have been largely peaceful, and the transition has been carried out with large deployments of forces. The third phase is to include highly volatile areas, according to officials in the know, putting pressure on the buildup and capacity of the Afghan forces.
Western countries were due to pull out all their combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, leaving Afghanistan’s security to its own national forces.
The security transition began in July when seven largely peaceful areas were handed over to Afghan forces despite concerns over their abilities. In December, Afghan forces, in the second phase of the transition, took over security responsibility for six provinces, seven provincial capitals and 43 districts in nine provinces, covering half the Afghan population.
“The national army of Afghanistan along with other security forces are capable of securing the country successfully in the third phase,” Azimi said. But many Afghans have expressed doubts about their abilities.
Most provincial capitals are safe because of a heavy presence of security forces, both Afghan and international, but others often come under attack by Taliban insurgents, like Kandahar and Tirinkot in the south and Jalalabad, Khost and Gardez in the east.
Foreign forces have remained engaged, mostly in supporting roles, after the security transition.
According to Afghan officials, as many as 40 Afghan districts are under serious Taliban influence except for district headquarter towns where large number of troops is deployed. The Taliban last month overran a district in Nangarhar, a volatile eastern province, but were forced to retreat days later after the Afghan army launched an offensive.
Meanwhile, support for the war in Afghanistan has reached a new low, with only 27 percent of Americans saying they back the effort.