(LISBON, Portugal) -- NATO leaders emerged from a closed-door session in Lisbon, Portugal, Saturday to announce plans to hand over full responsibility for Afghanistan's security by the end of 2014.
"Starting early next year, Afghan forces will begin taking the lead for security operations," NATO Secretery General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a news conference. "This will begin in certain districts and provinces, and based on conditions, will gradually expand throughout the country."
While there seems to be general agreement among the 28 members of NATO, the U.S. may be a bit more reluctant than other nations. Said one senior administration official about the hard end date of 2014, the White House "has simply not taken that position yet."
Just a week after expressing his frustrations over the US military presence in his country, Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday complimented President Obama for how he addressed the security transition in his remarks at the NATO summit session.
The two presidents met on the side of the NATO summit and Karzai told Obama that his remarks at an earlier meeting on Afghanistan “set the tone right for the whole meeting.”
“That was my goal,” Obama said. “Every once in awhile I do things right.”
This was the first meeting between the two since May when Karzai came to the White House. It came just a week after Karzai expressed frustrations in a Washington Post interview over the US military presence in his country and said that now was the time for them to withdraw.
The process begins with the drawdown of coalition troops next year. In addition, an agreement is in place for a long-term NATO presence within the country. The Secretary General made that clear. "If the Taliban or anyone else aims to wait us out, they can forget it," he said. "We will stay as long as it takes to finish our job."
For now, the battle in Afghanistan goes on. U.S. General David Petraeus, in charge of operations there, said in Lisbon, that some Taliban "momentum has been stymied and sometimes reversed." He told CNN in an exclusive interview this week that he believes he will be able to begin sending U.S. troops home in July, 2011.
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