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NATO turns over regions to Afghans amid more assassinations

Afghan Army forces take over Bamiyan province, while top Karzai aid killed

Afghan lawmakers killedEnlarge
Afghan soldiers, who are taking on more responsibilities in regions of Afghanistan, are seen here carrying a photo of the Afghan lawmaker, Mohammad Hashim Watanwal. Watanwal is one of many officials killed in a recent surge of violence surrounding NATO's handover of certain provinces to Afghan troops. (Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images)

In Afghanistan this summer it seems one small step forward, three big steps back. As NATO turned over security to Afghan forces in restive Bamiyan province, a senior aide to Afghan President Hamid Karzai was killed in his home in Kabul today.

Jan Mohammad Khan, a former governor of Uruzgan province, was killed in an attack on his home in Kabul, officials said. Another lawmaker, Mohammad Hashim Watanwal, was also killed when gunman stormed the house in the capital, the BBC reported. The killings come less than a week after Mr Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, was assassinated. Security forces and the attackers exchanged gunfire around Khan's house in the western Karti Char district of Kabul for some time, police officials said.

The killings tempered any possible PR lift NATO officials hoped for from a "transition" ceremony earlier Sunday, when its forces began handing Bamiyan to the Afghan National Army, one of the first moves of its kind under a plan announced by President Karzai in March. Another, Panjshir province in the east, began being handed over earlier this month. Both places have seen little to no fighting and barely had any coalition troop presence, the AP reported.

Western officials say the larger hand over plan will include the cities of Mazar-i-Sharif in the north, Herat in the west, and Lashkar Gah in the volatile southern province of Helmand, and could take up to two years to implement, Al Jazeera reported.

But almost universal doubt remains over the ability of the Afghan forces' to take responsibility for fighting the Taliban amid high levels of army desertion and police corruption.

"The drawdown is, unfortunately, a foregone conclusion and it's based on political decision making, political calendars, rather than the situation on the ground," Daoud Sultanzoy, Afghan analyst and former member of the parliament, told Al Jazeera.

Meanwhile, NATO troops called in an air strike and killed at least 13 Taliban fighters in the eastern Nangahar province on Sunday, the AP reported, and three NATO service members were killed in roadside bomb attacks, one in the east and two in the south.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/war/afghanistan-war/110717/nato-turns-over-regions-afghans-amid-more-assassinations