HERAT -- Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) are prepared and ready to continue defending the country from the Taliban and other adversaries after the withdrawal of international coalition forces, members of the army and police say.
Based on the announced timetable, NATO and US forces will begin withdrawing from Afghanistan in the coming months, aiming to complete the action by September 11.
"As the international forces prepare to leave Afghanistan, we are ready to defend and protect our people," said Azizullah, an Afghan National Police (ANP) officer in Herat.
International forces have not been involved in frontline fighting for several years, as the ANDSF have taken on this responsibility alone, he said.
"We are no longer dependent on foreign forces and can independently carry out military operations," he said. "We are fully equipped with advanced military equipment and will not allow the enemy to threaten our country and people."
Azizullah called on the Taliban to abandon the war and the killing of Afghans. If the Taliban choose to continue to fight, they will be defeated and destroyed, he said.
Afghans should not be concerned about the future because the security forces will not allow terrorist groups to threaten their lives, said Esmatullah, another ANP officer in Herat.
"Our people should know that their security forces are ready to defend our country and thwart the enemies' aggression," he said. "Afghans should not worry about the withdrawal of international forces because their security forces are able to protect them."
The Taliban must realise that even in the absence of international forces, they cannot win the war militarily, he said. "It is best for the Taliban to join the ongoing peace process instead of fighting."
Ready to defend Afghanistan
Military officials expressed confidence that the ANDSF have developed the capacity and capability needed to fight terrorists and defend the country.
For the past several years, the ANDSF have been managing and launching operations independently in the western region, said Maj. Gen. Abdul Raof Arghandiwal, commander of the 207th Zafar Corps of the Afghan National Army (ANA).
"Our international partners have been providing only advice and training, and they do not participate in the [fighting]," he said. "The ANDSF, particularly ANA forces, have a strong hand on the battlefield and can thwart any Taliban movement."
"While Taliban attacks in the western region have increased in recent years, the ANDSF alone have repelled their attacks and destroyed them," he said.
"Afghans should be confident that the ANDSF are able to defend them," said Bakhtyar Rahmat, a first sergeant with the 207th Zafar Corps.
"I assure my countrymen that I will defend Afghanistan to the last drop of my blood," he added.
Afghan youth are also becoming more interested in joining the ANP.
"During the past year, nearly 5,000 cadets and officers have joined the ANP in Herat, Farah, Badghis and Ghor provinces after receiving professional training," said Gen. Jalil Ahmad Haqdost, commander of the police training centre in the western region.
"Police receive the kind of training that helps them in the combat situation in the country," he said, noting that this professional training "has helped reduce casualties".
All ANP training programmes are based on international standards, Haqdost said, adding that the withdrawal of foreign forces will not affect the training of security forces.
The ANDSF are ready to independently fight the enemy, he said.
The ANDSF's success in battling the Taliban and other terrorist groups in recent years has won the public's trust, analysts say.
The ANDSF are among the most professional and strongest forces in the region, said Toryalai Taheri, deputy chairman of the Herat provincial council.
"During the past two decades, the ANA, ANP and ANDSF have proven their capabilities in fighting against the Taliban, ISIS [the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria'], al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups," Taheri said.
"Afghan forces cannot be defeated in their fight against terrorism and against interference from neighbouring and regional intelligence agencies, and they have made the public hopeful as they are capable of independently defending the country," he said.
The ANDSF prove their capabilities every day on the battleground, said Mohammad Naim Ghayur, a political affairs analyst in Herat city.
The security forces are fighting "the most dangerous war in the world" but have proven that they always emerge victorious on the battleground, he said.
"Although the ANA is a new army ... it is successful in the ongoing war," he said.