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Britain sees Afghan transition on track

Published By United Press International
LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Afghan forces are able to take charge of their own national security faster than expected, said visiting British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond.

Hammond is visiting British forces in Helmand province as part of a two-day trip to Afghanistan. British forces are part of an international military intervention set to come to an end next year as Afghan forces stand up.

Hammond, in a statement, said transition is on track as British forces move to an advisory role.

"The Afghans are developing these capabilities faster than we expected and we have every reason to believe that they will be able to maintain security as the ISAF forces draw down," he said.

Hammond's visit follows a report from the United Nations that said the cost of corruption in Afghanistan in the past three years reached $3.9 billion.

The report said half of Afghan citizens paid some sort of bribe to get better public services. Jean-Luc Lemahieu, regional representative for the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, said bribery has become part of everyday life in Afghanistan.

"Afghans know that corruption is eating at the fabric of their society," he said in a statement. "The solution is not only to be found within the government but also within the wider community."
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Race winner Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain (C) stands between second place finisher Christopher Froome of Great Britain (L) and third place finisher Vincenzo Nibali of Italy on the presentation podium following the final stage of the Tour de France in Paris on July 22, 2012. Wiggins of Great Britain became that country's first ever overall winner of the Tour de France. UPI/David Silpa