Afghan forces ready to take over: official

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iol pic wld sotua -obama REUTERS An Afghan man watches a television broadcast of U.S. President Barack Obama delivering his State of the Union speech, in Kabul.

Kabul, Afghanistan -

A Kabul official has welcomed President Barack Obama's decision to bring home half of the 66 000 American troops in Afghanistan with the next year, saying Afghan forces are ready to take responsibility for the country's security.

Defence Ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said on Wednesday that Afghan troops will fill the “vacuum” caused by the withdrawal of 34 000 US troops over the next 12 months.

Obama told Americans about his decision in his State of the Union speech. He had earlier briefed Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Karzai's office said the two leaders discussed strengthening and equipping the Afghan forces and a pending security agreement that will determine whether the US will retain soldiers here after most foreign troops leave at the end of 2014. - Sapa-AP

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