Official says Afghanistan ready to take over

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.

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

Obama told Americans about his decision in his State of the Union speech. He had earlier briefedAfghan 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 U.S. will retain soldiers here after most foreign troops leave at the end of 2014.