US troops will hand off responsibility for military operations to the Afghans in the spring, President Obama and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai announced Friday. That represents a modest acceleration from earlier plans.
US and other foreign troops in Afghanistan will turn over full responsibility for military operations to Afghan forces sometime this spring, a move that represents a modest acceleration from earlier plans – and which is aimed in part at painting a picture of progress in the 11-year-old war.
President Obama announced the imminent completion of the transition to full Afghan leadership in providing the country’s security at a joint White House press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai Friday afternoon.
Mr. Obama did not state outright that the acceleration from NATO’s previous plans to turn over the lead in military operations by mid-2013 would mean a similar acceleration in the drawdown of the 66,000 US forces in Afghanistan. But he said progress in the capabilities of Afghan security forces means US troop levels will continue to fall “at a steady pace.”
“What we’ve seen is that the Afghan soldiers are stepping up,” Obama said, adding that this would allow US and other NATO forces to shift to a “training, assisting, and advising role.”
Mr. Karzai, who has been in Washington since Tuesday meeting with administration officials and congressional leaders, underscored successful outcomes on two priorities he had set for his US visit: Foreign troops will soon be largely out of Afghan villages – a sore spot for many rural Afghans – now that Afghans are taking the lead in military operations, and Afghan authorities will soon assume control of Afghan detainees and detention facilities.