Tue, 01 Jan 2013 03:16:34 GMT

Fourth tranche of transition marks major milestone: Panetta

Washington, Dec 31 (PTI) US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta today said that the announcement by Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the fourth tranche of security transition marks a major milestone in war-torn Afghanistan''s effort to achieve long term peace and prosperity.

Congratulating 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 this is another sign of steady progress.

Noting that this step demonstrates the success of their strategy, Panetta said that as part of this fourth phase of transition, Afghan security forces will lead responsibility for the safety of 87 per cent of the Afghan population, which is a strong indicator that Afghanistan is on the path to full self-governance.

"The Afghan people, as well as their American and ISAF partners, should take pride in what they have accomplished and in their ability to effectively carry out this transition process. 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-Qaeda. Today''s announcement marks another major advance toward those goals," Panetta said.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said this is a significant step towards our shared goal of seeing Afghans fully in-charge of their own security by the end of 2014.

"It is the result of the progress we have made together, and thanks to the courage and resolve of the Afghan people, the Afghan forces and our ISAF troops and trainers. The Afghan army and police are steadily growing in capacity and confidence. They already lead the vast majority of operations, are responsible for most of the training, and are highly trusted by the Afghan people," Rasmussen said.

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