Afghan forces took control of security across the country yesterday, marking a major milestone as US-led combat troops prepare to withdraw after 12 years of fighting the Taliban.
Speaking at a military academy outside Kabul, President Hamid Karzai said the police and army were ready to take on insurgents, but a bomb in the city underlined persistent instability.
Three civilians were killed in the attack, which targeted a prominent lawmaker as his convoy travelled to parliament just before the handover ceremony began.
Meanwhile, the Taliban yesterday opened an office in Qatar in a bid to start "dialogue with the world" as US officials said they hoped to meet the insurgents within days.
The Islamist militia, which has been fighting against US-led NATO troops and the Afghan government for 12 years, broke off initial contacts with the Americans -- restricted to a prisoner swap -- last year and have long refused to negotiate with Kabul.
Their announcement came just hours after Afghan government forces formally took over responsibility for national security from a NATO combat mission scheduled to leave the country next year.
"Our security and defence forces will now be in the lead," Karzai told Afghan and Nato officials at the event, the timing and location of which had been kept secret due to fears of a militant attack.
"From here, all security responsibility and all security leadership will be taken by our brave forces," he said.
An AFP photographer said Taliban representatives and Qatari officials opened the "political bureau of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" in Doha.