Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Afghan President Hamid Karzai says his country's armed forces are taking over the lead for security around the country from the U.S.-led NATO coalition.
The handover of responsibility on Tuesday marks a significant milestone in the nearly 12-year war and marks a turning point for American and NATO military forces, which will now move entirely into a supporting role. It also opens the way for their full withdrawal in 18 months.
The handover was marred by a botched bomb attack against an Afghan politician in another part of Kabul.
A large bomb exploded in the Afghan capital on Tuesday, killing at least three people on the day the international military coalition hands over responsibility for fighting the Taliban insurgency to the nascent national army and police they have been training.
Kabul deputy police chief Mohammad Daoud Amin said the blast was in the Pul-e-Surkh area of the western part of the city, which is miles (kilometers) away from the site of the handover ceremony attended by NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
A police officer named Asadullah said the target was the convoy of Mohammed Mohaqiq, a prominent ethnic Hazara lawmaker who is a former Cabinet member. Asadullah, who like many Afghans uses just one name, said he saw two dead bodies lying in the street and a police vehicle was destroyed in the blast.
Mohaqiq survived the blast, according to Nahim Lalai Hamidzai, another member of the Afghan parliament.
Gen. Mohammad Zahir, chief of the Kabul Criminal Investigation Division, said three people were killed by the bombing and another 30 were wounded -- including six bodyguards.
"The roadside bomb targeted the Mohaqiq convoy, but he safely passed. One of his vehicles was damaged," Zahir said.
The leader of the People's Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan, Mohaqiq is a member of the National Front, which represents members of the former Northern Alliance that fought the Taliban before the U.S. invasion in 2001. The predominantly ethnic Pashtun Taliban persecuted the Hazara minority during their five-year rule that imposed a radical interpretation of Islamic law.
The Taliban insurgency has been pressing an intense campaign of violence in the run-up to Tuesday's security handover. The transition is a major milestone of the 12-year-old war, with the coalition insisting Afghan security forces it has been training for years are now strong enough to take the lead in the fight against the Taliban.