KABUL (AFP) – The process of handing control from foreign to Afghan security forces and officials in seven areas of Afghanistan will start from late July, a senior official said Thursday.
Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister who is now in charge of the transition process, said that the much-heralded transition process would start between July 14 and 21.
President Hamid Karzai had previously indicated that transition would start at some point during the Afghan solar month of Saratan which ends on July 22 but Ghani's comments give the most precise timing yet.
"The exact date of transition is from 23 to 30 of Saratan (July 14 to 21)," he said.
Under the transition process Afghan forces and officials will take more responsibility for security and their own affairs, allowing a gradual withdrawal of foreign troops.
Some 10,000 US troops will leave Afghanistan this year and 33,000 will go by next summer, President Barack Obama said this month.
All foreign combat troops are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. There are around 150,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, nearly 100,000 of which are from the US, battling a near ten-year Taliban-led insurgency.
Ghani spoke after a conference attended by the governors of the seven safer areas of Afghanistan which are in the first wave of transition, plus the country's defence and interior ministers and head of the intelligence service.
He said that transition in the seven areas would be "simultaneous."
Western officials say the whole process in these areas -- which include the cities of Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat and Lashkar Gah in the volatile southern province of Helmand -- could take up to 18 months to implement.