Bamiyan (map, from bbcimg.co.uk) is the first of seven areas has been handed over by Nato to Afghan security forces. The handover is part of a plan announced in March by Afghan president Hamid Karzai.
Its realization is essential in the transition of power which is to take place in the following years, before foreign troops end combat operations in 2014.
For security reasons the transition ceremony was not announced in advance or broadcast live. It took place in Bamiyan’s police headquarters, in the presence of senior Afghan ministers and foreign ambassadors.
No army units are stationed in the province, therefore security will be under the police’s responsibility.
However international forces from New Zealand will stay in the area. They will be under Afghan control.
Although it is one of the most secure provinces in the country, Bamiyan is a poor region, which relies heavily on foreign aid. Around half of the population is not getting enough food and many inhabitants are worried that the transition will mean more corruption, less employment and less security.
But local officials showed optimism concerning the transition in Bamiyan, arguing that the province had not been badly affected by the Taliban offensive over the years.
“The transition process has officially began in Bamiyan today and this is a national process we have been waiting for,” Abdulrahman Ahmadi, spokesman for Bamiyan’s governor, is quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.
A long process
Afghanistan is currently divided in seven provinces : Kabul province, Panjshir province, Herat city, Mazar-e Sharif city, Lashkar Gah city, Mehtar Lam town and Bamiyan province.
Lashkar Gah, near where a British soldier was killed on Saturday, will most likely be the biggest challenge for Afghan forces. It is the capital of Helmand province, in the south of the country, where Taliban insurgents remain active.
The British soldier was patrolling with the Afghan army when he died. According to reports he might have been shot by a man in an Afghan army uniform.
When the initial handover was announced, Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that every step of the transition would be “determined by conditions on the ground.”
And even though casualty numbers are rising, it seems like the country’s security has been improved in several areas by the extra American troops and thousands of new Afghan police and soldiers.
The withdrawal has only begun and will take a long time since there are currently some 140,000 foreign troops in the country. Nearly 100,000 of them are from the US and are still fighting the Taliban insurgency.
After the withdrawal foreign troops will be there only to train and equip Afghan security forces, Nato troops will not engage in battle anymore.