(WASHINGTON) — Government officials in Afghanistan, including President Hamid Karzai, have announced the next phase in the transition from U.S. to Afghan forces being responsible for the country.
According to the Afghan transition commission, Afghan security forces are now responsible for protecting 75 percent of the country. The next phase, which doesn’t have a clear end date, will bump that up to 87 percent.
NATO and ISAF are praising the transition, calling it an “historic step,” but the numbers should be looked at cautiously. When the Afghans say 87 percent of the country will be in Afghan control, it’s more of an administrative statement. The effectiveness of the Afghan National Army and police forces vary greatly from province to province, and town to town.
In some areas, Afghans might officially have taken over from U.S. forces, but they are far from being able to protect against the Taliban.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued a statement Monday congratulating President Hamid Karzai on entering the second to last phase of the transition process before the U.S. drawdown in 2014.
“It is another sign of steady progress that the Government of Afghanistan has announced the fourth tranche of the transition process. I congratulate President Karzai, his national security team, and the Afghan National Security Forces for their commitment to taking even more of a lead role for the security of the Afghan people,” Panetta’s statement read.
Panetta said this new step for Afghanistan is an indicator that the country is “on the path to full self-governance.
“The Afghan people, as well as their American and ISAF partners, should take pride in what they have accomplished and in their ability to effectively carry out this transition process. Going forward, our efforts in Afghanistan will continue to ensure that the Afghan people can secure and govern themselves, and to deny safe haven to al-Qaeda,” Secretary Panetta said.
“Today’s announcement marks another major advance toward those goals.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
KJ Kwon and Ben Westcott, CNN
Stephanie Halasz, Jason Hanna and Livia Borghese, CNN
Angela Dewan, CNN
Kareem Khadder, CNN