- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 28, 2012

MONS, Belgium (AP) — Afghan forces soon will start taking charge of security for three-quarters of the nation’s 28 million people, NATO‘s top military commander said Wednesday.

Adm. James Stavridis also said the training of the Afghan army and police was proceeding very well, despite a rising number of attacks in which Afghan forces have turned their weapons on their U.S. and NATO partners.

“Very shortly we will announce further transition that will encompass 75 percent of the population,” Adm. Stavridis said in an interview with the Associated Press. He did not elaborate further on the exact timing of the announcement.

The Afghan army and police already have started taking the lead responsibility in large areas of the country, encompassing about half of the country’s population.

Adm. Stavridis said the target of over 350,000 security forces members will be achieved this summer, several months ahead of plans.

“The strategy is sound and is providing results,” he said.

The process of transitioning to Afghan lead was accelerated last year.

Instead of a six-stage process, the plan was changed to now achieve the transition in five steps, with the last starting as early as mid-2013 instead of 2014 — when most NATO troops are scheduled to depart Afghanistan.

Initially, the plan called for Afghan security forces to take charge in the most peaceful areas first. But Afghan and coalition officials decided it would be unwise to transfer the most volatile provinces in 2014, when the international force’s footprint will be shrinking.