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London Draft Sees 2011 Start To Afghan Handover


ISAF soldiers, like these Dutch troops in Mirwais, could maintain just a "supporting role" in some places "by early 2011."
KABUL (Reuters) -- Afghan forces should begin to take "security primacy" in some provinces by early 2011, according to a draft communique on the future of Afghanistan due to be unveiled at an international conference in London this week.

The draft, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters today, says Afghanistan and the international community will agree to a "framework" for turning the country's security over to Afghan forces, with the process to begin this year.

It commits to "an agreement that transition will begin in 2010 and that a number of provinces may transition to Afghan security primacy, with ISAF moving to a supporting role within them, by early 2011", referring to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

It emphasises efforts to persuade Taliban fighters to lay down their arms, committing Afghanistan to set up an organisation to "reach out to insurgents," and the international community to pay for the reintegration program.

International donors will commit to channeling more of their aid through the Afghan government and providing debt relief to Kabul, although precise figures were left blank in the draft.

Afghanistan would also commit to setting up a transparent system for managing its mining and energy sectors, both potentially big money-earners for Afghanistan's aid-reliant economy.

Germany To Decide 'Concrete Number' Of Troops

In an interview to be published in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" on January 25, Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said the German army would focus more on training Afghan security forces closer to the population.

Before the conference, to be held in London, Guttenberg will produce "a concrete number for a possible increase of the German troop contingent," the paper quoted him as saying.

Chancellor Angel Merkel said on January 23 that Germany will be accelerating its operations to train Afghan security forces in the north of the country, shedding more light over what role the fresh troops may have.

A storm over Germany's presence in Afghanistan erupted in November after a German-ordered air strike near Konduz killed scores of civilians. The Afghan government said 30 noncombatants died, as well as 69 Taliban fighters.

The attack cost the chief of the armed forces and a minister their jobs, sparking a parliamentary inquiry that also threatens Guttenberg.

Germany has consistently said that additional forces it may send would likely have a training mission. A parliamentary mandate currently allows the government to station 4,500 troops, but officials have signalled this ceiling could be raised.

Polls show a majority of Germans want the country's troops pulled out of Afghanistan, but Berlin has been under pressure from the United States and NATO leadership to bolster its presence there.

Merkel meets Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Berlin on January 26.

compiled from multiple Reuters reports