Kabul: The process of handing control from foreign to Afghan security forces began in Afghanistan on Sunday, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry said.

A ceremony was held at the police headquarters in the central province of Bamiyan, the first of seven areas to transition responsibility this month, ministry spokesman Siddiq Siddiqi.

Under the transition process Afghan forces and officials will take more responsibility for security and their own affairs, allowing a gradual withdrawal of foreign troops.

All foreign combat troops are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and Western countries have begun to announce partial drawdown starting this summer, with all 33,000 US "surge" troops leaving by the end of 2012.

There are around 150,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, nearly 100,000 are from the US, battling a near ten-year Taliban-led insurgency.

Western officials say the whole process in the seven areas -- which include the cities of Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, and Lashkar Gah in the volatile southern province of Helmand-- could take up to two years to implement.

Siddiqi said the ceremony was attended by the head of the transition committee, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, along with national ministers of interior, defence and public works.

The deputy head of Afghanistan's intelligence agency also attended, along with the ambassador of New Zealand, representing the foreign troops in the area.

"The Afghan officials expressed their preparedness to step up their efforts to ensure security in the province and implement more development projects," said Siddiqi.

There is widespread doubt over the ability of Afghan national security forces to take full responsibility for warding off insurgent-linked attacks, amid high levels of illiteracy and attrition within the army and police.

(Agencies)