NATO has handed over control for security in Afghanistan's central Bamiyan province to Afghan security forces.
Bamiyan is the first of seven areas to accept responsibility for its own affairs in the initial phase of the transfer. A ceremony was held Sunday in Bamiyan to mark the handover from New Zealand troops to Afghan forces.
Bamiyan province has seen little fighting since the overthrow of the Taliban in late 2001. The area was once home to two giant sixth-century Buddhist statues destroyed by the Taliban.
NATO will hand security over to Afghanistan's army and police in a gradual process due to be completed by the end of 2014, clearing the way for most foreign troops to return home. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has long pushed for the handover.
Last month, U.S. President Barack Obama announced 33,000 of 100,000 American troops will leave Afghanistan over the next 14 months. Germany has also said it will soon start to reduce its contingent of 5,000 armed forces by the end of this year. And French President Nicolas Sarkozy says his country's troops will be withdrawn in roughly the same proportion and on a similar schedule as that of the United States. France has 4,000 troops in Afghanistan.
Britain has said it will withdraw 500 troops from Afghanistan by the end 2012, reducing the size of its force to 9000.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.