Obama Nato 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
LISBON, Portugal — NATO will start drawing down its troops in Afghanistan next July and its combat role in the war-torn nation will end by 2014 or earlier so security can be turned over to the Afghans, a top alliance official said Friday.
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"We think that goal is realistic, and we have made plans to achieve it, but of course if circumstances agree, it could be sooner, absolutely," said Mark Sedwill, NATO's top civilian representative in Afghanistan.
Sedwill said the troop withdrawal starting next year will be "shallow" and eventually accelerate but did not elaborate.
The escalating war in Afghanistan, where the alliance is struggling to
contain Taliban militants, looked set to dominate a two-day NATO summit
opening Friday in Lisbon.
NATO spokesman James Appathurai also said the alliance's 28 leaders,
including President Barack Obama, were poised to approve the withdrawal
plan. He said NATO is "quite confident of the end of 2014 timeline for
handing responsibility to Afghan security forces" as requested by Afghan
President Hamid Karzai.
Appathurai and Sedwill did not say how many NATO troops would stay in
Afghanistan after 2014 serving as military advisers and trainers or in a
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who arrived in Lisbon
ahead of Obama, met for an hour Friday with Karzai, a State Department
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a private
meeting, said the session at Karzai's hotel was "candid and friendly"
and covered key aspects of the NATO mission in Afghanistan — including
the planned transition to Afghan security control, as well as
international civilian assistance to Kabul.
They reached a "common understanding" on outlines of a longer-term Afghan-NATO partnership, the official said.