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Karzai to Announce Next Phase of Afghan Security Transition

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (file photo)

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (file photo)

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is set to outline Wednesday the second phase of transferring security control from foreign to Afghan forces.

President Karzai issued a statement Tuesday saying he will make the announcement at this week's loya jirga in Kabul. The meeting of more than 2,000 Afghan politicians, tribal elders and community leaders begins Wednesday.

Last month, Afghan officials said all or parts of 17 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces would be handed over in the second phase of the transition. Among those identified were Takhar, Sar-e-Pul, Samangan, Parwan, Balkh and Badhakshan provinces in the north, and Herat and Nimroz provinces in the west.

NATO plans to transfer full security control to Afghan forces by the end of 2014. The process began in July, and Afghan police and troops already have taken charge of several cities and provinces.

But some provincial governors have expressed concern about the Afghan forces' readiness to take over security, especially as violence continues.

On Monday, Afghan security forces killed an attempted suicide bomber outside the venue of the jirga. Two other would-be attackers were arrested.

During a similar gathering in 2010, Taliban militants carried out an attack relatively close to the tent where the jirga was being held, wounding three civilians.

This week's jirga participants are expected to discuss what presence, if any, the United States will have in Afghanistan following the scheduled withdrawal of all foreign combat troops. The U.S. State Department has expressed confidence the assembly will reaffirm the "strong partnership" between the two countries.

The jirga also is to cover plans by the Afghan government to make peace with the Taliban. Those plans were undermined in September by the assassination of President Karzai's chief negotiator, Burhanuddin Rabbani.

On Sunday, the Afghan Taliban threatened to disrupt the assembly, releasing documents it said are top-secret security arrangements for the meeting. Both NATO and Afghan officials have dismissed the documents as fake.