LASHKARGAH - Security responsibility for the southern city of Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand province, was handed to Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) on Wednesday, an official said.
Afghan officials and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander Gen. John Allen attended a ceremony, marking the security transfer to local forces, said Daud Ahmadi, the governor's spokesman.
After the ceremony, Governor Gulab Mangal told a news conference government institutions in Helmand had almost collapsed three ago. Security forces were marred by divisions and the drug commerce was rampant, he recalled. As a result, work on reconstruction schemes came to halt.
However, the governor said, the security switch in Lashkargah and adjoining areas was made possible with reconstruction assistance from the international community, introduction of good governance and strengthening of government departments.
Mangal urged the central government to give governors more powers, seal Helmand's border with Pakistan and step up counter-terrorism operations. The security handover would be meaningless if border security was not increased, he warned.
Dr Ashraf Ghani, in charge of the transition project, said Afghans would maintain cordial relations with foreign troops even after the security switch. Besides military cooperation, the world would help Afghanistan in other areas as well, he hoped.
Equipped with modern weapons and other facilities, Afghan forces were ready to shoulder responsibility for the security of other regions as well, said the former finance minister. The security personnel, having a strong sense of patriotism, were capable of defending their country, he believed.
He announced $7.5 million would be spent over the next three years on training and equipping the Afghan forces in Helmand. Defence Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak said the Afghan National Army was prepared for the security handover. He asked residents to support the project of national importance.
The PRT would stay in the provincial capital and foreign troops -- mostly British -- in the Baba Jee area, according to the Helmand police chief, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Hakim Angar.
"Lashkargah has seven police districts and the security transfer in one of them (Baba Jee) has been delayed due to some problems," he explained.
Besides ministers of defense, agriculture and rural development, the Nimroz governor, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance chief and senior Afghan and foreign officials attended the event.
President Hamid Karzai announced the security transition process on March 22, the first day of Nawroz -- the new solar year. The transition process is expected to be completed throughout the country by the end of 2014.