NATO: Afghan Security Transition Represents Milestone

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2011 — Afghan forces’ assump­tion of the secu­ri­ty lead in sev­en provinces and dis­tricts last week rep­re­sents “a sig­nif­i­cant step toward our shared goal of see­ing Afghans in the lead across the coun­try by the end of 2014,” a NATO spokes­woman said today.

The trans­fers put almost one-quar­ter of the Afghan pop­u­la­tion under the pro­tec­tion of their own nation­al secu­ri­ty forces, Car­men Romero told reporters today.

NATO and part­ner forces con­tin­ue to sup­port them, but in those areas, the Afghans are in the lead,” she said. “This is what tran­si­tion is all about. This is part of our agreed strat­e­gy.”

Romero offered con­grat­u­la­tions on progress the Afghans have made to date and reit­er­at­ed con­tin­ued NATO sup­port as the tran­si­tion con­tin­ues. “We will con­tin­ue to stand by them as they take respon­si­bil­i­ty for more and more of their coun­try,” she said.

Tran­si­tions have tak­en place in all sev­en areas Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai iden­ti­fied in March to trans­fer to an Afghan secu­ri­ty lead, Army Lt. Col. Eliz­a­beth Rob­bins, a Pen­ta­gon spokes­woman, explained.

Six tran­si­tion cer­e­monies have been held: in Bamiyan province on July 17; in east­ern Lagh­man province’s Mehtar Lam city on July 19; in Hel­mand province’s Lashkar Gah city on July 20; in Her­at city in Her­at province on July 21; in Mazar-e-Sharif city in Balkh province on July 23; and in Pan­jshir province on July 24.

The Afghan gov­ern­ment has opt­ed to date to hold no for­mal cer­e­mo­ny mark­ing the tran­si­tion of all but one dis­trict of Kab­ul province to Afghan secu­ri­ty con­trol, Rob­bins said. She not­ed that Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces have been in the lead in the cap­i­tal city for sev­er­al years.

Dur­ing cer­e­monies mark­ing the Lashkar Gah tran­si­tion, Afghan mil­i­tary offi­cials rec­og­nized the impor­tance of their new respon­si­bil­i­ty to pro­vide peace and sta­bil­i­ty in Hel­mand province’s cap­i­tal and largest city.

Our men have picked up good skills from coali­tion forces and we are now ready to take over secu­ri­ty,” said Afghan Nation­al Army Brig. Gen. Sheren Shah, com­man­der of 3rd Brigade, 215th Corps.

Coali­tion forces will remain in the area to help guide a smooth tran­si­tion and pro­vide advice to the Afghan forces, said Scot­tish Army Lt. Col. Alis­tair Aitken, com­mand­ing offi­cer of Com­bined Forces Lashkar Gah.

The secu­ri­ty tran­si­tions took place amid major lead­er­ship changes in Afghanistan.

U.S. Ambas­sador to Afghanistan Ryan C. Crock­er was sworn into his new post yes­ter­day, and Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen assumed com­mand of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan last week.

Speak­ing to employ­ees at the U.S. Embassy in Kab­ul fol­low­ing his swear­ing-in, Crock­er point­ed to last week’s suc­cess­ful secu­ri­ty tran­si­tion as an indi­ca­tor of progress. He vowed to work hand-in-hand with Allen, coali­tion lead­ers and the Afghan gov­ern­ment to con­tin­ue.

The com­ing year will be crit­i­cal in set­ting the right path, Crock­er said, empha­siz­ing the impor­tance of think­ing through the tran­si­tion peri­od care­ful­ly and in con­sul­ta­tion with the Afghan gov­ern­ment.

I think all of us — Amer­i­cans, coali­tion part­ners, the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty and the Afghan lead­er­ship — know that we must pro­ceed care­ful­ly,” he said. “There will be no rush for the exits. The way we do this in the months ahead will have con­se­quences far beyond Afghanistan and far into the future.”

Allen, in a let­ter to ISAF as he took his new com­mand, empha­sized the impor­tance of coor­di­nat­ing and coop­er­at­ing close­ly with Afghan part­ners to sup­port the tran­si­tion.

Now is the time to be ‘all in’ as we sup­port the pros­e­cu­tion of the cam­paign, the devel­op­ment and field­ing of the [Afghan forces] and the process of tran­si­tion,” he wrote.

When we have com­plet­ed the work of this cam­paign, Afghans will be in the lead in secu­ri­ty across the coun­try, secur­ing the final phase of tran­si­tion in 2014,” Allen wrote. “They will be pos­tured not only to pre­vent the return of extrem­ism and ter­ror­ism in Afghanistan, but also to achieve Afghanistan’s long-term secu­ri­ty require­ments.”

(Marine Corps Cpl. Adam Leyen­deck­er, deployed to Region­al Com­mand South­west with 2nd Marine Expe­di­tionary Force, con­tributed to this arti­cle.)

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)