Afghanistan wants early takeover of security: President Karzai

Friday 16 March 2012,

(BNA) KABUL: Afghanistan wants to take over control of the nation's security in 2013 not 2014 and for US troops to pull out of villages, President Hamid Karzai said Thursday.

President Karzai told visiting US defence chief Leon Panetta that "Afghanistan is ready to take overall security responsibility", a statement from his office said.

"Our demand is that this process should be executed sharply and the responsibility should be handed over to Afghans."

 President Karzai said both sides should work together so that the process of handing security from international troops to Afghan forces would be completed in 2013 rather than 2014,according BNA.

The president also wants the United States to pull all its troops out of villages, where they have outposts, and relocate them in their bases.

International forces should "be withdrawn from villages and relocated in their bases", and international community should focuses on reconstruction and economic development

Panetta's visit had been billed as an opportunity to smooth over relations with Afghan leaders, which took a severe knock when a US soldier allegedly massacred 16 villagers on Sunday and copies of the Holy Quran were burnt last month.

Panetta said after the meeting he was "confident" the United States and Afghanistan would work out a treaty allowing a US military presence in the country beyond a pullout in 2014.

Panetta said he was optimistic that both sides would reach an agreement on night raids — a major issue blocking the treaty — ahead of a NATO summit in Chicago in May.

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