Tuesday marked a milestone for the 12-year-old war in Afghanistan, with NATO forces officially handing over responsibility for the country's security to Afghan government forces.
Since 2010, when President Barack Obama accelerated training as part of his rapid surge of forces into the country, the Afghan National Army has grown from around 100,000 members to 195,000. But it still faces a number of challenges, including a desertion rate so high that it needs 50,000 new recruits every year to replace those who leave). In December 2012, a Pentagon report determined that only one of the Afghan military's 23 brigades was able to operate effectively without NATO support. Now, Afghan troops will have to do just that; except in rare cases, they will no longer be able to rely on the support of U.S. warplanes, medical evacuation helicopters, or ground troops.
Here’s a look back at the long preparation for this week's big handover.
An Afghan National Army soldier assigned to the Mobile Strike Force Kandak fires an RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launcher during a live-fire exercise supervised by Marines Team on Camp Shorabak, Helmand province, Afghanistan on May 20, 2013.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Ezekiel R. Kitandwe