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Published:November 22nd, 2011 19:16 EST
afghanistan

Mazar, Afghanistan After Transition

By SOP newswire3

Looming over the city, the famous blue mosque of Mazar-e-Sharif is an attraction for people all over Afghanistan to this northern city. Alongside its cultural heritage, the city is also a hub for business from Central Asia and is the first Afghan terminus for the new train line from Uzbekistan.

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But Mazar`s latest success is its security. It`s a city taken wholly by Afghan forces. Since July, Afghan forces have been fully in charge of Mazar`s security, with ISAF forces only operating in a supporting role.

What`s especially striking about Mazar when you talk to people on the streets is their pride in the security forces. Elsewhere in the country, locals are sometimes wary of trusting their own police and army. But in Mazar they are a welcomed replacement to international forces.

Since foreign forces left this place our own security forces have taken the security well. We are happy with them, they treat us very well and they are developing ", says Ali, a student at Balkh University.

The foreign forces left the city of Mazar-e-Sharif and the security was handed over to Afghan forces. Now the security condition is very good, people live in peace and they do not have any security problems, " claims Fawad, a driver.

Mazar was one of the first cities in Afghanistan to transition to Afghan control of security in March this year. Since then the city has been relatively calm. Although there have been some high-profile attacks. A UN building and its staff were targeted during a demonstration in April.

However, there is still insurgent activity in the wider province of Balkh. The Police Chief, General Esmatullah Alizi, says they`ve lead several successful operations and stopped a large number of attacks.

During the first 2 months since transition, we had lots of successful operations. We arrested several groups, one of them very strong, which were planning suicide attacks and other terrorist attacks inside and outside the city, " says Alizi.

Once the whole province comes under Afghan control in the second phase of transition, the security forces will tackle the pockets of insurgency that come in from neighbouring provinces to shelter from Afghan and ISAF operations against them. The goal is to leave them no place to hide.

When operations are conducted in those neighbouring provinces, they escape from there and settle in our province. We have some plans with ISAF and we hope that with good coordination we`ll be able to remove all threats facing us and get ready for the second stage of transition and everything that relates to us so we`ll be able to perform it perfectly, " Alizi adds.

It`s an ambitious task, but there are already signs of progress. This week 20 Taliban fighters joined the government as part of the reintegration process in Mazar. The police say it`s a positive sign of their ability to take charge of the province.

Back on the streets of Mazar, it`s clear that having Afghan security forces on patrol is much more preferable to foreign soldiers.

Some problems are because of the foreigners although it does help us connect with the outside world. But they are exploiting people`s emotions and using them against the foreigners. But if all the security is taken by Afghans and they support the Afghan forces we will definitely have security ", says Ahmad, a student.

But taking over security for a whole province is very different from a single city. It`s clear there are still challenges ahead for the Afghan forces and the insurgents will take every chance to try and discredit their ability.

NATOChannel will be back in another 6 months to see how well they`ve faced that challenge.

http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/news_81069.htm