Next Afghan security handover to touch 17 provinces

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Seventeen areas in Afghanistan have been slated for the next phase of the security handover from foreign troops to Afghan forces, which President Hamid Karzai is expected to announce next week, a senior Afghan official said on Wednesday. Under a plan agreed by NATO-led forces and Karzai, all foreign combat troops will leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, with the rapidly-expanding Afghan police and army assuming full security responsibility in their place. The shortlist covers 17 areas, seven of which are provinces – mostly in the relatively peaceful north – that could be handed over in their entirety, while districts within the others will pass into Afghan police and army control. Parts of some provinces on the list, like southern Helmand, have already been handed over to Afghan control.
Takhar, Sar-e-Pul, Samangan, Parwan, and Balkh provinces in the north, Daikondi in central Afghanistan, and Nimroz in the west could be fully handed over, according to a list seen by Reuters. “It is expected that President Karzai will announce the potential areas and provinces during a regional conference in Istanbul on November 2,” said Abdul Khaliq Farahi, head of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance. The implementation of the plan could start as soon as December, a NATO official said earlier this month. The list also includes parts of Wardak and Ghazni provinces, which lie west and southwest of the capital Kabul and have a heavy insurgent presence, along with a district in southern Helmand province, one of the Taliban’s strongholds.