Afghan Security Transition Timetable “On Track,” Clinton Says
By Stephen Kaufman
IIP Staff Writer
April 18, 2012
The transition of security control of Afghanistan from international forces to the Afghan government is “on track” for 2014, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, adding that countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization had met and reaffirmed their support for the transition and their “enduring commitment to Afghanistan.”
Speaking in Brussels April 18 with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Clinton said, “We are on track to meet the December 2014 deadline for completing the security transition. Already 50 percent of the Afghan people are secured primarily by Afghan forces, and by this spring it will be 75 percent.”
When NATO members meet in Chicago in May, they will decide on the next phase of the transition, Clinton said, and hope to be ready to “define NATO’s enduring relationship with Afghanistan after 2014.” Clinton added that NATO will “work with the Afghans to ensure that the Afghan national security force is fully funded.”
The security transition is only part of a “larger enterprise” that includes political and economic dimensions for Afghanistan’s future, Clinton said, and others in the international community and Afghanistan’s neighbors have “a central role to play.”
“Beyond NATO, many nations are invested in Afghanistan’s future and are providing support for the Afghans to attain self-reliance, stability and further their democratic future,” she said.
The secretary responded to reports of an April 17 incident in which water at a girl’s school in Afghanistan was poisoned, sickening 150 girls. She said such incidents serve as a reminder that “there are people who would destroy Afghanistan’s long- term future in order to restrict the rights of women and girls.”
“Human rights protections for religious and ethnic minorities are also still fragile. Universal human rights are critical to Afghanistan’s security and prosperity, and we will continue to make them a priority,” she said.
Clinton also praised the “fast and effective” response of Afghan security forces to recent attacks in Kabul.
“Not long ago, this kind of response by Afghans themselves would not have been possible. So the Afghans are proving themselves increasingly ready to take control of their own future,” she said.
Panetta said that in the incidents, the internationally trained Afghan forces “responded quickly, professionally and with great courage, rendering ineffective those largely symbolic attacks that we saw in and around Kabul.”
He said history has shown that insurgencies ultimately are best defeated by local forces who know the terrain, culture and the neighborhood. “When the Afghans do their job, we are doing our job. When the Afghans win, we win,” Panetta said.
Under the third phase of the transition this spring, Afghans are increasing their security and governance responsibility from more than 50 percent of Afghanistan’s population to 75 percent. “They have been in the lead for counterterrorism night operations since December, and now, thanks to a memorandum of understanding that was recently signed, all of these operations will fall under the authority of Afghan law,” Panetta said.
The defense secretary added, “In less than six months’ time, Afghan security forces will take full leadership of detention operations, thanks again to another agreement that was signed recognizing Afghan sovereignty.”
The defense secretary also cited an increase in the number of former Taliban forces that have put down their arms and reintegrated into Afghan society. In January 2011, some 600 Taliban had participated in the program, and as of April 2012, the number has increased to more than 4,000, he said.
“We intend to build on this success. We’re committed to an enduring presence in Afghanistan post-2014 and a continuing effort to train, advise and assist the ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] in protecting the Afghan people and denying terrorists a safe haven. We cannot and we will not abandon Afghanistan,” Panetta said.