MAZAR-I-SHARIF - The international community will provide $20 billion in assistance over the next three years to equip Afghan forces, the security transition commission head said on Saturday.
Dr. Ashraf Ghani said this at a news conference after security for Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of northern Balkh province, transitioned from NATO-led German troops to Afghan forces.
The Balkh governor, ministers of defense and mines, and International Security Assistance Force official participated in a ceremony marking the transition at the 209th Shaheen Military Corps headquarters.
Despite having problems and weaknesses, Afghan forces would gradually take control of security operations across the country until 2014, said Ghani, a former finance minister.
As part of efforts to improve their capacity, the Afghan security personnel would be equipped with 600 vehicles, tanks and 8,000 different kinds of machines, the official added.
Governor Atta Mohammad Noor said: "Over the past 10 years, Afghans have been in control of security for the city. Today, they have formally assumed this responsibility for Mazar-i-Sharif."
While seeking help from the world at large in removing hurdles to the ongoing transition project, he said Afghanistan needed a strong air force in addition to properly training its security organs and enhancing their strength.
Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak characterised the process as a litmus test for the Afghan forces and a pride for the nation. However, he insisted they were ready to fight until their last breath to defend their motherland.
Within the ISAF framework, nearly 4,800 German troops are currently deployed to the northern Afghanistan. Fifty-three of them have been killed so far during the mission.
Announced by President Hamid Karzai on March 22, the transition project is expected to be completed throughout the country by the end of 2014.
Security responsibility for the central province of Bamyan, Mehtarlam, Lashkargah and Herat City has already been transferred to Afghan forces. Kabul and Panjsher provinces are also due to transition to local security lead over the next few days.