Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Amir Shah and David Rising / The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks at a press conference during a ceremony at a military academy on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday, as Afghan forces take over the lead from the U.S.-led NATO coalition for security nationwide.
The handover paves the way for the departure of the majority of coalition forces — currently numbering about 100,000 troops from 48 countries, including 66,000 Americans — within 18 months.
The NATO-led force is to be cut in half by the end of the year, and by the end of 2014 all combat troops are to leave and be replaced — contingent on Afghan governmental approval — by a smaller force that would be on hand for training and advising.
It was not immediately clear how long Karzai planned to suspend the negotiations on the agreement.
The U.S. has not yet said how many troops will remain in Afghanistan, but it is thought that it would be a force made up of about 9,000 Americans and 6,000 allies.
Six years ago, Afghan security forces numbered fewer than 40,000, and have grown to about 352,000 today. But questions remain if they are good enough to fight alone.
In the Helmand attack late Tuesday, local official Mohammad Fahim Mosazai said five police officers who had only been on the local force for three months were killed, apparently by five of their fellow officers. He blamed the killings on Taliban infiltrators, and said the suspects escaped with the victims' weapons.
In a similar attack in Helmand a week ago, six policemen were found shot dead at their checkpoint, and there have been several other such incidents in the past year, including officers poisoned while eating.
Taliban insurgents have warned they would infiltrate Afghan security forces to carry out insider attacks.
Overnight in the eastern province of Nangrahar, police ambushed Taliban fighters outside a village in the Surkh Rod district, killing four and capturing two militants. Two police officers were wounded in the fighting, said deputy provincial police chief Masoon Khan Hashimi.