CHICAGO - Western leaders gathering this weekend to define their path out of Afghanistan will announce a pivot in the NATO mission next year, formally putting Afghan soldiers in charge of combat operations across the country, US and NATO officials said on Sunday.
The leaders are expected to endorse a US decision - telegraphed by the Pentagon earlier this year - to shift foreign troops to a support role in mid-2013.
"The milestone that we believe the leaders will consider tomorrow and that we anticipate that they will approve is a midway mile marker that marks a point in transition from NATO lead to Afghan lead," said Doug Lute, special assistant to President Barack Obama for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said "by the middle of 2013, we expect the Afghan forces to be taking the lead for security right across the country."
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