Afghanis take over security in a provincial capital from NATO

An honor guard marches during the ceremony for transfer of authority in Mehterlam, Laghman province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday. The NATO handover is a step toward withdrawal of foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

Associated Press

An honor guard marches during the ceremony for transfer of authority in Mehterlam, Laghman province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday. The NATO handover is a step toward withdrawal of foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

MEHTERLAM, Afghanistan — NATO handed over responsibility for the security of the capital of an eastern province to Afghan forces Tuesday, the latest step in a transition that will lead to the withdrawal of all foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

U.S. forces turned over control of Mehterlam, the capital of Laghman province, but will retain responsibility for the other areas in the predominantly Pashtun province that remain under Taliban and other insurgent groups' influence.

NATO officials said the hand­over sent a powerful signal that progress is being made.

"Above all, it is a tangible demonstration to the Afghan people of the growing capacity of this government and its increasing ability to improve citizen's lives," said Lt. Gen. James Bucknall, deputy commander of coalition forces.

Mehterlam is one of seven areas being transferred to the Afghan government this month, the first phase in a 31/2 year plan to see the entire country under Afghan control.

On Sunday, the peaceful province of Bamiyan was handed over, while the transition process has begun in northern Panjshir. The two, which have seen little violence, are the only provinces to be handed over.

Violence has increased around the country since President Hamid Karzai announced on March 22 that government forces would take control of the seven areas.

Pakistan: Shelling killed 4 troops

Mortar shells and artillery from Afghanistan killed

four Pakistani paramilitary troops in a tribal region Tuesday, the Pakistani army said. The Frontier Corps soldiers died in South Waziristan, a northwestern region where the military has fought the Pakistani Taliban, said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, an army spokesman. The military relies heavily on paramilitary troops to police the lengthy, porous border. There was no immediate response from NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Afghanis take over security in a provincial capital from NATO 07/19/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 11:50pm]

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