Afghan forces ready to secure country after 2014: Karzai

Kabul, Feb 16 (IANS) Afghan President Hamid Karzai reiterated Saturday that the Afghan security forces are entirely ready to ensure national security after NATO-led forces withdraw from the country by the end of 2014.

"Once the foreigners leave, Afghans will demonstrate to the world that they are able to secure the country and provide security for the nation," Karzai said in his speech delivered at an army officers's gathering at Afghan National Military Academy, reported Xinhua.

"Our national security forces are entirely ready to take security charge by the end of 2014," Karzai said. "Afghans do not need foreign forces for the defence of their country."

Transition of security responsibilities from NATO-led forces to Afghan army and police began in mid-2011 and lasts till 2014 when Afghanistan is due to take over its full security duties from US and NATO-led forces.

Currently there are about 100,000-strong foreign forces, with nearly 66,000 of them Americans in the country.

Under US President Barack Obama's withdrawal plan, 33,000 US troops already pulled out of Afghanistan in September last year and another 34,000 will return home within one year.

The Afghan leader also called on Taliban and other insurgent groups to renounce violence and join the government-initiated peace and reconciliation process.

The Taliban, whose regime was ousted by a US-led invasion in late 2001, has renewed armed insurgency since then, staging roadside and suicide bomb attacks, killing combatants as well as civilians.

However, the Taliban has repeatedly turned down government's offer for peace talks, saying there will be no dialogue with the government in the presence of foreign troops in the country.

According to Karzai, even if the NATO-led forces leave Afghanistan, international financial support for the war-ravaged country will stay.

During an international aid conference in Japan in July last year, the donor countries pledged more than $16 billion in development aid for Afghanistan through 2015.

The US and its NATO allies also promised almost the same amount to support Afghan army and police after pullout of their troops.

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