NATO backs Obama exit plan from Afghanistan



Chicago:
NATO leaders have endorsed President Barack Obama's plan for the
withdrawal of the US-led international military force from Afghanistan by
the end of 2014 in the midst of a decade long war.




NATO leaders were leaving Chicago with "a clear road map" to bring the war
in Afghanistan to a "responsible end," Obama said during a news conference
on Monday at the end of the two-day summit focused on the future of
Afghanistan.




"We're now unified behind a plan to responsibly wind down the war in
Afghanistan," he said calling the decision a "major step" toward the end
of the war.




But Obama acknowledged that "real challenges" remained in dealing with the
problems across the border in Pakistan, and that the conference had not
resolved the impasse over reopening supply lines or the other tensions
about the fight against insurgents operating from safe havens there.




"We think that Pakistan has to be part of the solution in Afghanistan," he
said. "Neither country is going to have the kind of security, stability
and prosperity that it needs unless they can resolve some of these
outstanding issues.




NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he expected an agreement
soon for Pakistan to reopen its border with Afghanistan to military
shipments of departing NATO forces, which would resolve a sticky issue in
planning the withdrawal of foreign forces.




"So far, the closure of the transit routes has not had a major impact on
our operations," Rasmussen said, but added the transit routes were very
important and that he expected their reopening "in the very near future."




Pakistan closed the ground routes after a NATO airstrike in November
killed two dozen of its soldiers. NATO insists the incident was an
accident. Obama offered his condolences but refused to apologise.




The United States and Pakistan have not come to an agreement on the price
of reopening the supply lines, CNN said citing senior administration
officials.




The exit strategy which is backed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, calls
for handing over security responsibilities to Afghan forces in 2013, then
withdrawing foreign forces the following year.




After that, a new and different NATO mission will advise, train and assist
the expected 350,000-strong Afghanistan force, Rasmussen said.




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