The United States welcomes President Karzai's announcement today of the first three provinces and four cities to begin the process of transition from ISAF to Afghan-led security in the coming months. This step advances the vision for transition that ISAF members and the Afghan Government agreed to at the Lisbon Summit in November and that President Obama reaffirmed in his December policy review. We look forward to troop reductions starting in July and continuing based on conditions on the ground, with the transition to be completed by the end of 2014. As we have long said, the Afghans themselves must take responsibility for their own future – for providing security, for strengthening governance, and for reaching a political solution to the conflict.
The provinces and districts included in today’s announcement include areas in every region of the country and together they are home to nearly a quarter of the population of Afghanistan. Together with our Allies and partners, the United States will realign our civilian and military resources in these provinces to support the Afghan Government's increasing responsibility for security and the delivery of other essential services to its citizens. As transition proceeds and Afghan leadership strengthens across the country, a process of political reconciliation to end the conflict will become increasingly viable.
Transition is an essential pillar of the U.S., NATO, and international community’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan. As part of that commitment, NATO and the Afghan Government signed an Enduring Partnership Declaration at Lisbon. The United States is also currently negotiating a bilateral Strategic Partnership Declaration with Afghanistan. This new partnership will contribute to building up Afghanistan’s capacity and institutions, as well as to improved economic and political relations between Afghanistan and its neighbors well beyond 2014.
The United States continues to support the Afghan people as they work to build a more stable and peaceful nation and we remain committed to the goal of a region that is free from al-Qaida and no longer a safe haven for international terrorism.