CHICAGO - NATO leaders will endorse plans to hand over combat command in Afghanistan by mid-2013 on Monday and seek practical progress in opening routes to bring an international army of more than 130,000 back home from an unpopular, resource-draining war.
The strategy for a gradual exit from Afghanistan is aimed at holding together the multinational force and maintaining security in spite of France's decision to withdraw its troops earlier than scheduled.
At a summit in Chicago, leaders of the 28-nation alliance will endorse plans for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force to hand over command of all combat missions to Afghan forces by the middle of 2013 and for the withdrawal of most of the 130,000 foreign troops by the end of 2014.
NATO diplomats said thinking had moved to the logistical challenge of getting a multinational army that size out of the Afghan mountains and deserts and back home - safely and with their equipment.
They said the aim was to sign a framework agreement with Afghanistan's northern neighbor, Uzbekistan, to allow "reverse transit" of NATO supplies from Afghanistan.