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NATO-led forces have formally handed over the last of Afghanistan's 95 districts to Afghan security forces.
President Hamid Karzai announced the move as his countrymen officially assumed responsibility for security from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
President Karzai said:
Our security and defence forces will now be in the lead. From here, all security responsibility and all security leadership will be taken by our brave forces.
The UK Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, said:
This is a significant announcement that means Afghan National Security Forces are in control of security throughout the country – all provinces, all cities, all borders – and for all of Afghanistan’s 27 million citizens.
This is a hard-fought milestone on the road to complete Afghan security responsibility, with ISAF forces now moving to a role of training, advising and assisting. I was in Afghanistan last week and I was struck by the hugely impressive progress of the Afghan forces we have trained. Now it is those forces that will lead on planning and executing operations, with ISAF troops moving into support, throughout the whole country.
Afghanistan will continue to face challenges as it builds towards becoming a secure and stable state. The Afghanistan our combat forces leave at the end of 2014 will not be perfect, but will be able to stand independently and will never again provide a haven for terrorists to attack the West. That is why we remain firmly committed to supporting Afghanistan beyond 2014 and into the future.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the Afghan transition announcement, and said:
This decision marks an important milestone, when Afghan soldiers and police will take the lead for security across the country. This is a day of pride for all Afghans and the 50 nations which contribute to ISAF.
As Afghan forces step forward, ISAF’s role will shift from combat to support. We will no longer plan, execute or lead combat operations. By the end of 2014 our combat mission will be completed, and a new mission will begin.
Together with our partners, we are planning to continue to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces. And NATO will also play its part in the broader international efforts to ensure the long-term sustainment of the Afghan security forces.