KABUL, Afghanistan, May 13 (UPI) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced Sunday the next phase of the transition of national security responsibilities from NATO to Afghan forces.
Once Tranche Three, the third phase involving 122 more districts, is completed, 75 percent of Afghanistan will be under Afghan control. The phase, which includes Kapisa, Uruzgan, and Parwan provinces, could be completed as quickly as six months, ABC News reported Afghan officials said.
Successful completion of Tranche Three would allow France to pull out its 4,000-plus troops by the end of the year, as French President-elect Francois Hollande has stated is his goal.
"Tranche III! Tranche III! Tranche III!!!" ABC said the U.S. Embassy in Kabul tweeted when the announcement was made.
U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement welcoming Karzai's announcement, calling it "an important step forward in our effort to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan."
"The Afghan National Security Forces are strengthening their capacity as we remain on track to meet our goal of having the Afghan government fully responsible for security across the country by the end of 2014," Obama said. "A week from now, world leaders will gather at the NATO Summit in Chicago to discuss how we can effectively advance the transition process as our forces move from combat to a support role, and demonstrate our enduring support for the Afghan Government and Afghan National Security Forces. I look forward to meeting with President Karzai and my fellow leaders in Chicago to discuss these critical steps that will strengthen Afghan sovereignty while responsibly winding down the war."
U.S. Gen. John Allen, commander of all international forces in Afghanistan, said the announcement "is a testament to the capacity and capability of the Afghan National Security Force."
ABC said the upbeat announcement was offset by word that a key member of Karzai's High Peace Council, which is seeking reconciliation with the Taliban -- had been gunned down while his car was stopped in traffic on the way to work.