KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan is confident it can take full control of its security next year, President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday, despite steadily rising Taliban violence.
The insurgents have struck in the east and south as well as in the diplomatic heart of Kabul as part of their spring offensive, raising fears that Afghan forces will struggle to keep the peace after Western combat forces withdraw in 2014.
But Karzai, speaking at an international conference on Afghanistan’s future, voiced no such doubts.
“We are certain that this transition will be completed in 2013 whereby the entire country, the Afghan population their security, well-being and matters related to governance will be handled by the Afghan government alone,” Karzai said.
He said that 2014 would see the “complete withdrawal” of foreign forces from Afghanistan, although the international community will continue to provide a certain amount of support.
The one-day conference is aimed at building support for Afghanistan among its neighbours and allies further afield, to help stabilise the country as it takes responsibility for its security after nearly 11 years of international support.
Foreign ministers or their deputies from 15 countries including China, India, Pakistan, Iran and Russia are attending the “Heart of Asia” conference.
Another regional bloc, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, comprising China, Russia and the Central Asia states also signalled this month its plans to play a larger role in Afghanistan.
Karzai said greater cooperation would help in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and the region.
Afghanistan is in the third phase of a five-stage transition in which the centres of all provincial capitals including in the violence-plagued south and east will be handed to Afghan forces.
Four French soldiers were killed in an insurgent attack last week in the eastern province of Kapisa, one of the areas marked for transition this year.
Earlier, 20 civilians were killed and 50 wounded when a pair of suicide bombers struck within minutes of each other outside a NATO base in the southern city of Kandahar, the bloodiest attack in weeks.
Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editng by Robert Birsel