The Afghan defense minister has urged a group of new soldiers to show unity and pride as part of the army that is taking over the lead from international troops in fighting the Taliban insurgency.

Gen. Bismullah Khan Mohammadi told 3,000 graduates of Afghan National Army training Saturday that the upcoming transfer of security responsibility nationwide is a day the "Afghan people have been waiting for years."

The minister praised the army for recruiting soldiers from all of Afghanistan's ethnic groups, noting that a single battalion had ethnic Tajiks, Pashtuns, Hazaras and Uzbeks. He urged the graduates to unite to fight insurgents.

Worries of Afghan security forces fragmenting along ethnic lines have been one of many concerns about the Afghanistan's future without foreign combat troops who are leaving next year.