KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — President Hamid Karzai said today the nation’s military and police are ready and willing to take full responsibility for security in the country if the U.S.-led international coalition decides to speed up the handover to Afghan government forces.

With support for the already unpopular war fading in the West, there has been growing speculation that NATO could accelerate withdrawal plans that currently call for the security transition to Afghan forces to be complete by the end of 2014, when all foreign combat troops are scheduled to leave the country.

“Afghans are ready to expedite the process of transition if necessary, and willing as well,” Karzai said during a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. “So this is in all aspects good news for us and good news for NATO.”

There are questions, however, about the ability of the Afghan forces to secure the country.

The Afghan army has grown to 184,676 soldiers, and the country’s police force now numbers 146,339 officers — putting them just short of the planned number of 352,000 members. But critics say the rapid expansion has not significantly improved their ability to plan and conduct operations without support from foreign forces in terms of logistics, air support and medical evacuations.

Furthermore, the number of Afghans leaving the army has remained stubbornly high, with 27 percent of troops either deserting or not re-enlisting despite the higher salaries offered.



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