May 11 - As the civilian death toll in Afghanistan declines, a NATO general says Afghans are on track to handle their own security by end of 2014. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
The civilian death toll declines in Afghanistan. The United Nations is reporting that after five years of mounting civilian causalities, the death tolls was down 20 percent in the first four months of the year. Protecting civilians is one of the prime tenets of the Afghan counterinsurgency strategy,. Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson in Kabul was made available to Reuters by the Pentagon. (SOUNDBITE) (English)BRIGIDIER GENERAL CARSTEN JACOBSON, SAYING: "We have to take every step that is possible to protest the population as this is the prime target and the prime task of the international security assistance force." Following a series of recent civilian casualties blamed on NATO, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said a strategic partnership agreement signed with the United States earlier this month was at risk of becoming "meaningless" if Afghans did not feel safe. Ties between Kabul and Washington have already been strained over a string of incidents involving U.S. forces this year, including the killing of Afghan villagers for which a U.S. soldier was charged and the inadvertent burning of copies of the Koran. With The international Security Assistance Force hoping to handover full responsibility to Afghan forces by the end of 2014, Jacobson is confident those forces will be up for the job. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FORMER EDITOR OF NEWS OF THE WORLD, REBEKAH BROOKS, SAYING: "It really takes the civilian population to believe that there security forces can protest them and we are very confident that we can move them there within the next two and a half years." On Sunday, Karzai is expected to announce the transfer of more than 200 districts to Afghan control in the third phase of a handover. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters.