American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta lauded Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s announcement that Afghanistan has entered the second to last stage of the transition of security responsibility from NATO’s International Security Assistance Force to Afghan security forces.
"It is another sign of steady progress that the Government of Afghanistan has announced the fourth tranche of the transition process,” Panetta said in a statement issued today.
Afghanistan's security transition is designed to take place in five tranches, or stages. The transition is in line with the plan set forth at the Lisbon summit, ISAF officials said in a news release issued today.
“I congratulate President Karzai, his national security team, and the Afghan National Security Forces for their commitment to taking even more of a lead role for the security of the Afghan people,” Panetta said.
As part of the fourth tranche, 12 Afghan provinces entered the security transition process, ISAF officials said. Afghanistan now has 23 of its 34 provinces entirely in the transition process. The provinces added in tranche four are primarily in the north and interior of the country, said officials, noting that one district in Helmand province is also included in the announcement.
“This step demonstrates the success of our strategy and the progress that the men and women of ISAF, working closely with our Afghan partners, are achieving every day in Afghanistan,” Panetta said.
"President Karzai's announcement of the fourth group of provinces to enter transition is another historic step for Afghanistan as it gets closer to taking full responsibility for security of the entire country," said Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of ISAF and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.
"With the addition of these 12 full provinces to the transition process, Afghan National Security Forces are now taking the security lead in areas where 87 percent of the Afghan people live," Allen said.
This is a strong indicator that Afghanistan is on the path to full self-governance, Panetta said.
“Going forward, our efforts in Afghanistan will continue to ensure that the Afghan people can secure and govern themselves, and to deny safe haven to al-Qaida. Today's announcement marks another major advance toward those goals," he said.
It is expected that all parts of Afghanistan will have begun transition by the summer of 2013, ISAF officials said, putting the Afghan forces in the lead for security nationwide.
Ambassador Maurits R. Jochems, NATO’s senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, recognized that the progress made in professionalism and confidence by the Afghan National Security Forces has enabled the transition strategy to succeed.
Speaking about NATO and ISAF's commitment to Afghanistan, Jochems said, "ISAF will continue to support the Afghan National Security Forces until the end of 2014, and after that NATO and its partners remain committed to Afghanistan's future stability through a new mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces."