Karzai In London For Afghan Talks

The gradual handover of Afghan security matters to the country's own administration will begin this year, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said today.

Meeting with the Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai in London, Mr Brown conceded difficult times still lie ahead for the region.

This afternoon both men opened an international conference focusing on Afghanistan's future.

British troops battle Taliban forces daily, having sustained their highest levels of fatalities in 2009 since the 2001 US-led invasion began.

But despite facing "tough times", Mr Brown said a system had been drafted to bringing more UK soldiers home.

"It will take time but I believe that the conditions set out in the plan that we will sign up to today can be met sooner than many expect and, as a result, the process of handover district-by-district will begin later this year," he said.

Mr Brown backed proposals by the Afghan authorities to reintegrate rebel fighters prepared to put down their arms.

Financial incentives will be offered to those willing to renounce violence in the region.

Plans have also been put forward for a national council for peace, reconciliation and re-integration.

President Karzai said: "We must reach out to all of our countrymen, especially our disenchanted brothers who are not part of al Qaida or other terrorist networks, who accept the Afghan constitution."

He continued: "During the next two to three years we intend to focus on gradually assuming the responsibility for security in greater parts of our country.

"This will allow our international partners to eventually move their security forces out of the parts secured by our own forces while refocusing their efforts on better civilian (infrastructure) economic development and rebuilding Afghanistan."

Mr Brown said the might of Afghanistan's security forces was expected to reach 300,000, supported by international forces of around 135,000.

He has also pledged money to train 12,000 key Afghan civil servants to improve governance.


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