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Afghan forces 'to take over up to four provinces from July'

NATO to discuss the first phase of the transition on Friday while President Karzai remains vague on the details

AFP , Thursday 10 Mar 2011
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Control of security in up to four provinces and three major cities in Afghanistan will be handed from international to Afghan forces from July, a senior government official told AFP on Thursday.

The official, who is close to President Hamid Karzai but spoke on condition of anonymity, said that "three, four provinces (and) two, three cities" were set to be handed over starting in July.

"This is for the first phase of the transition," he added, giving no further details of where the handover would take place.

Karzai is not due to unveil the first areas where Afghan forces will take the lead until 21 March.

He offered a teaser on his plans in a speech on Tuesday, saying "five to six places" would be handed over to Afghan forces in the first stage, but did not specify at this stage whether these were towns, districts or provinces.

NATO defence ministers are expected to discuss the transition as they meet in Brussels on Friday.

There are currently around 140,000 international troops in Afghanistan, around two-thirds of them from the US.

Responsibility for security across the country is due to be handed to Afghan forces by 2014, allowing foreign combat forces to withdraw.

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