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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Test of Afghan Pullout Leaves Residents Fearful


BAMIYAN, Afghanistan—Taliban checkpoints have mushroomed on the main roads leading here as the insurgency spreads into Bamiyan—the province selected last year to kick off the U.S.-led coalition's handover to Afghan security control because it was deemed the country's safest.

With insurgents and bandits openly roaming Bamiyan's remote districts and the Taliban blowing up food and fuel trucks on the road to Kabul, many residents here increasingly fear they will be overrun once the last coalition base in the province closes in April.

"Right over these mountains, they are waiting to launch rockets at us as soon as the foreign forces leave," said Ali Hekmat, dean of Bamiyan University's Education Department, pointing at the pink-hued cliffs ringing the provincial capital. "It is very easy to destabilize this province."

What happens here is a portent of things to come in the rest of Afghanistan, as the U.S. winds down its longest foreign war. The U.S.-led coalition began transferring security responsibility over provinces and districts to Afghan security forces in mid-2011. The entire country is slated to be handed over by 2014, the year when the coalition's military mandate ends.

President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney, when asked during Monday's presidential debate what they would do if the Afghans were unable to handle their own security by then, both reiterated their commitment to a 2014 withdrawal.

The coalition says the transition is progressing well, with three-quarters of the country's population already living under Afghan security control. The handover continues though the Taliban-led insurgency shows no sign of being defeated. In September, according to coalition statistics released Tuesday, the number of insurgents attacks was 1% higher than in September 2011....Continue Reading... 

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