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Afghan forces to take lead in securing 7 areas

KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday announced details of the first stage of a plan to give Afghan forces more authority, saying his countrymen "don't want foreigners to take responsibility for security anymore."

Under the plan, Afghan forces will assume the nominal lead for security of three relatively secure provinces and four cities in July.

The beginning of the handover will coincide with the scheduled start of the U.S. military pullout, which commanders have said will be slow and gradual.

The Afghan government and NATO officials hope the transition will be complete by the end of 2014, when the Obama administration hopes the United States will end its combat mission in Afghanistan.

The first provinces the government intends to assume formal control over are Panjshir in the north and Bamiyan in the northwest. Both have remained relatively safe in recent years.

In a speech, Karzai said Afghan authorities will take primacy for security in Lashkar Gah in southern Afghanistan, Herat in the west, Mazer-e-Sharif in the north and Mehterlam in the east. Karzai also included Kabul province, which includes the capital, in the list of areas that will be transitioned, even though the province has long been under Afghan control.

The president also used his speech, delivered at the National Military Academy of Afghanistan in Kabul, to urge insurgents to lay down their arms, adding that he understood and acknowledged the litany of grievances that have emboldened the insurgency.

Among those causes he listed airstrikes and night raids conducted by NATO troops and his government's shortcomings, including a broken justice system.

Guilty plea expected in killing of civilians

One of five U.S. Army soldiers accused of killing three Afghan civilians for sport near Kandahar last year is expected to plead guilty and agree to testify against other defendants at a court-martial hearing set to begin today , according to one of his lawyers and documents in the case. Spc. Jeremy Morlock, 22, is the first of the five soldiers to face a court-martial at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Seattle.

New York Times

Afghan forces to take lead in securing 7 areas 03/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 12:03am]

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