Kabul: Afghan forces took control of security across the country on Tuesday, marking a major milestone as US-led combat troops prepare to withdraw after 12 years of fighting the Taliban.

Speaking at a military academy outside Kabul, President Hamid Karzai said the police and army were ready to take on insurgents, but a bomb in the city underlined persistent instability.

Three civilians were killed in the attack, which targeted a prominent lawmaker as his convoy travelled to the Parliament just before the handover ceremony began.

"Our security and defence forces will now be in the lead," Karzai told Afghan and NATO officials at the event, the timing and location of which had been kept secret due to fears of a militant attack.

"From here, all security responsibility and all security leadership will be taken by our brave forces. When people see security has been transferred to Afghans, they support the army and police more than before,” he added



"Ten years ago, there were no Afghan national security forces... now you have 350,000 Afghan troops and police, a formidable force," NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

"We will continue to help Afghan troops in operations if needed, but we will no longer plan, execute or lead those operations, and by the end of 2014 our combat mission will be completed,” he said.

The handover of the last 95 districts from NATO to Afghan control includes areas in the south and east where the Taliban have concentrated their bloody insurgency since 2001.

(Agencies)

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