Jan 12 - Afghan President Hamid Karzai says a new period is beginning for his country after an agreement is announced to speed up the handover of combat operations. Rough cut (no reporter narration).
(ROUGH CUT ONLY - NO REPORTER NARRATION) Afghan President Hamid Karzai told an audience at Washington's Georgetown University on Friday (January 11) that his country's progress over the last 10 years would not have been possible without U.S. help. He also said a new period was beginning, after an agreement was announced to speed up the handover of combat operations from the U.S. to Afghan security forces. Karzai and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed earlier in the day to speed up the handover of combat operations in Afghanistan to Afghan forces, raising the prospect of an accelerated U.S. withdrawal from the country. The Afghan president's visit came amid stepped-up deliberations in Washington over the size and scope of the U.S. military role in Afghanistan once the NATO-led combat mission concludes at the end of 2014. The Obama administration has been considering a residual force of between 3,000 and 9,000 troops - far fewer than some U.S. commanders propose - to conduct counter-terrorism operations and to train and assist Afghan forces. "I can tell you that the most recent period of the suffering of the Afghan history is behind us. A new period is beginning, has already begun, and that new period will be consolidated with 2014 coming, where your sons and daughters will no longer be burdened with protecting Afghanistan, where the Afghan sons and daughters will take the mantle and will move forward," Karzai said. There are some 66,000 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan. Washington's NATO allies have been steadily reducing their troop numbers as well despite doubts about the ability of Afghan forces to shoulder full responsibility for security.