KABUL - Security responsibility for Mehtarlam, the capital of eastern Laghman province, was handed over to Afghan forces on Tuesday, officials said. A ceremony marking the security transfer was held at the governor's house in Mehtarlam, the second of seven areas to hand responsibility to Afghan forces, the Ministry of Interior said. Dr. Ashraf Ghani, in charge of the transition process, read out a message from President Hamid Karzai, congratulating Laghman residents on the security switch to local forces.
Ghani urged the people to stoutly support the project with a sense of national responsibility. Following the transfer, he said, Afghan forces would be responsible for maintaining security on their own.
The Afghan army would support the police force, when needed, he said, adding that a committee had been set up to forge coordination in implementation of the project that would be extended to another five districts.
Since 2001, $336 million had been spent on Laghman's security infrastructure, the former finance minister said. An amount of $591.5 would be expended on civilian and military projects in the province, he promised.
Deputy Interior Minister Abdul Rahman Rahman called the handover a positive step that would enable Afghan forces to stand on their own feet. The forces were well-equipped to defend their motherland, he believed.
As many as 1,500 Afghan soldiers were currently based in Laghman, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi told Pajhwok Afghan News. They military personnel were capable of maintaining security and conducting all types of operations, he said.
"The proud Afghan nation has taken a significant step," said Abdul Khaliq Farahi, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) head. He pledged greater autonomy to the provinces in recruitment and financial affairs.
In addition to the provincial capital, Governor Mohammad Iqbal Azizi said, they were capable of maintaining security in others areas as well. The creation of quick reaction units in the police force and the intelligence service would have a positive impact on the security situation in Laghman, he hoped.
Ministers of rural development and rehabilitation and agriculture, interior ministry and intelligence officials, as well as representatives of NATO-led troops, also attended the event.
President Hamid Karzai announced the security transition process in March, on the first day of Nawroz, the Afghan new year. The transition is expected to be complete throughout the country by the end of 2014.