Last updated: June 23. 2013 11:52PM - 1104 Views

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The moment has arrived for the people of Afghanistan to step up. In a ceremony in Kabul this week, NATO officially handed over responsibility to Afghan leaders and security forces to take the lead in all security operations.

Six years ago, Afghanistan’s army and police forces totaled around 40,000. Now the number has risen to more than 350,000.

That’s an impressive increase, but as more than a decade of U.S. involvement has shown, it’s an immense challenge to bring security and stability to the Central Asian country, which defied conquest by the British empire in the 19th century and invasion by the Soviet Union in the 20th.

What are some of the needed ingredients for success?

Demonstrations by Afghan security forces that they can carry the fight strongly to the Taliban even as NATO forces continue to advise and, in emergency situations, provide airstrikes and medical evacuations. Progress against corruption in the government and military. Positive relations with neighboring Pakistan, where Taliban forces find sanctuary. And effective negotiations with the Taliban in peace talks that are about to begin in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar.

Over the past decade, American and allied military personnel have fought courageously to bring Afghans to this moment. More than 2,200 Americans, and more than 1,100 allied troops, have given their lives. U.S. spending is in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

American development teams — including National Guard teams from Nebraska as well as members of Iowa’s Army and Air National Guard — have worked hard to help the Afghan people pursue agricultural innovation and efficiency. …

Foreign troops, totaling about 100,000 from 48 nations today, are scheduled to leave the country by the end of next year.

What a travesty it would be if the progress in moving Afghanistan forward on women’s opportunities and the country’s many other areas of need were to be short-circuited now by military failures, government mismanagement and political shortsightedness.

Afghanistan and its leaders must step up to the challenge.

Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald

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