Afghanistan’s president agrees to withdrawal plan
KABUL – Joined by leaders from Iran to America, President Hamid Karzai embraced plans Tuesday for Afghan forces to begin taking control of their country by next summer.
Amid smothering security that shut down much of Kabul, Karzai backed new reforms designed to give his corruption-riddled government more credibility and to empower the troubled Afghan security forces to take full control of the country by 2014.
While Afghan forces prevented any major attacks on the international conference, insurgents sought to disrupt the event by firing a rocket at Kabul’s airport, forcing a plane that was carrying U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to land instead at nearby Bagram Air Base.
As the conference wound down, NATO officials also announced that an Afghan army trainer had opened fire at a shooting range in northern Afghanistan, the second attack in a week. Tuesday’s shooting in the relatively quiet city of Mazar-e-Sharif killed two American civilians – both thought to be private security contractors training Afghan army recruits – as well as two Afghan soldiers, including the suspected attacker.
America’s $27 billion plan to create a reliable Afghan police force and army is considered the linchpin for President Barack Obama’s plan to start scaling back U.S. military forces in Afghanistan next summer.
Under the plan unveiled Tuesday in Kabul, Karzai reaffirmed his vow that Afghan forces will take full control of security in their country in 2014.
“I remain determined that our Afghan national security forces will be responsible for all military and law enforcement operations throughout our country by 2014,” Karzai said in a tightly guarded hall at the Foreign Ministry.
As with Obama’s July 2011 deadline for beginning to withdraw U.S. troops from the country, foreign leaders made it clear Tuesday that change would happen only when Afghan fighters were ready to take control.