The final two stages of transition from foreign to Afghan forces will be different to previous stages because the areas being handed over are more volatile, Afghan Defense Minister Bismillah Mohammadi said Tuesday.
In a Kabul press briefing, Mohammadi said that while he welcomed the withdrawal of the Nato forces in the near future, he was concerned about the last fourth and fifth rounds of the Nato security handover to Afghan forces because these final areas were the most insecure.
“This round will be different from the others because insecure areas are part of this round of transition,” Mohammadi said, adding that the fourth and fifth rounds will have more challenges and will be more dangerous than previous handovers.
He said despite there being no sign of a lessening foreign “intervention” in Afghanistan and the security situation was still difficult, he supported the withdrawal of Nato troops.
“There are no signs of a cut in the intervention of particular countries in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan situation is very sensitive right now, but I welcome the withdrawal of Nato troops,” Mohammadi said.
Officials have previously said they fear that a lack of military equipment and air power in the Afghan ranks will create a huge gap for Afghan security forces to deal with when the foreign troops withdraw.
There are more than 117,000 Nato troops forces in Afghanistan working alongside nearly 350,000 Afghan forces to fight insurgency in the country. The final round of transition is scheduled to happen in 2014.
Mohammadi’s comments come a day after UK newspaper The Guardian reported Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen saying that Nato is considering removing troops from some areas faster than the planned 2014 deadline as troop morale declines in the face of rising “insider attacks” by Afghan forces against their Nato counterparts.
Rasmussen said that options were being studied and should be clear within three months.
“From now until the end of 2014 you may see adaptation of our presence. Our troops can redeploy, take on other tasks, or even withdraw, or we can reduce the number of foreign troops,” he said. “From now until the end of 2014 we will see announcements of redeployments, withdrawals or drawdown … If the security situation allows, I would not exclude the possibility that in certain areas you could accelerate the process.”
Rasmussen acknowledged that, “a significant part of the insider attacks are due to Taliban tactics” and that the attacks had damaged the relationship between the international forces and the Afghan army and police.
“There’s no doubt insider attacks have undermined trust and confidence, absolutely,” he said.