NATO forces started handing control of Afghanistan’s security to the country’s own troops and police on Sunday.
The handover will be a gradual process due to be completed in 2014, when most foreign soldiers will return home.
Some Afghans fear the pullout could lead to an increase in insurgent violence but the move has been welcomed by the military.
“The process of transition is irreversible. No matter how much we have to sacrifice, we will see this process through and secure the nation ourselves,” said General Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Afghan defence ministry.
Yet that process will be not easy. Coalition forces recognise that Afghanistan’s tribal makeup could prove problematic when trying to set up and train cohesive security forces.
“The biggest challenge is having them come from all parts of Afghanistan, because they come from all tribes speaking different languages, different cultures,” said US Army Officer Packer, who is in charge of training new recruits for the army.
Some officials worry the withdrawals could push previously volatile areas back into violence.
British forces hope to hand over Nad Ali, a former Taliban stronghold, to Afghans early next year but the police there say they need more time.
“I don’t think we have enough men here at the moment. We need to increase our numbers, both in the local and national police. Then we won’t need NATO troops here . If you’ve got enough weapons and enough men, then you can be in control,” said Shadi Khan, the Afghan National Police chief for Nad Ali.
Meanwhile, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission says the drawdown of foreign forces could put any democratic gains from the past decade at risk.
A spokesman for the commission told Reuters that he fears that the pullout is premature and could prompt a civil war.