In a long-awaited milestone Tuesday, the U.S.-led NATO coalition forces formally turned over security in all 34 of Afghanistan's provinces to that nation's military and police units. The transition is fraught with uncertainty as Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the United States begin long-stalled peace talks with the Taliban. But after 12 long years of war and the combat deaths of more than 2,230 American service personnel, it is time for the Karzai administration to take responsibility and demonstrate it is capable of governing and protecting its citizens.
If numbers were the only guidepost in predicting success, Afghanistan's dramatic increase from having only 40,000 security personnel six years ago to 352,000 today would seem impressive. But when confronted by a committed Taliban, the motivation and training of the security forces — overseen by a notoriously corrupt government — remains an open question. It was not a hopeful sign that on the same day the security transfer occurred an insurgent assassination bomb attack killed three civilians.
By the end of 2014, 100,000 NATO coalition troops, including 66,000 American military personnel, are scheduled to leave Afghanistan. After so much personal and financial sacrifice for the United States, the withdrawal cannot come soon enough. Tuesday was an important day, as Karzai and his government assumed more responsibility for the future of Afghanistan. He does not have much time to demonstrate he is up to the job.