WASHINGTON, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Monday said the security transition process announced earlier in the day by Afghan President Hamid Karzai is a "sign of steady progress," as the United States prepares to exit combating roles in that country.
"It is another sign of steady progress that the Government of Afghanistan has announced the fourth tranche of the transition process," Panetta said in a statement.
Earlier in the day, Karzai announced that Afghanistan has entered the second to last stage of the transition of security responsibility from NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to Afghan security forces.
Afghanistan's security transition is designed to take place in five tranches, or stages. As part of the fourth tranche, 12 Afghan provinces entered the security transition process, ISAF officials said. Afghanistan now has 23 of its 34 provinces entirely in the transition process.
"This step demonstrates the success of our strategy," said Panetta. U.S. President Barack Obama has announced a withdrawal strategy that would see security responsibilities transferred to Afghans by the end of 2014.