KABUL, Afghanistan – Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Saturday and said that Afghan security forces must take more responsibilities for a successful transition from U.S.-led NATO forces starting in July.
“For the upcoming transition to be successful, the Afghan government and security forces must be willing to step up and take more security responsibility for governing and defending their own territory,” Gates said, talking with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The security transition is scheduled to begin in locations across Afghanistan in July to pave the way toward a complete withdrawal of NATO troops by the end of 2014.
Violence has increased across Afghanistan, as the Taliban have stepped up attacks against Afghan and NATO troops. The Taliban militants launched their spring offensive last month and killed several key provincial security officials to sabotage the transition.
There are fears that the early withdrawal of NATO troops will jeopardize the security gains achieved in the last two years.
“The international coalition wants to be a strong partner in this effort, but ultimately it is up to the Afghan people and elected government to chart Afghanistan’s destiny,” Gates said.
Karzai once again emphasized that bombing of Afghan houses and night raids by NATO troops must end.