Nato backs Afghan exit plan

Agrees to secure the war-torn nation through 2014

red ire: Demonstrators covered in red paint block a main avenue leading to the Nato convention centre in Lisbon on Saturday. AP

Nato, which has over 1,50,000 troops based in Afghanistan, intends to begin the phaseout next year. But the agreement on Saturday ensures the slower military transition favoured by Obama, even as Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been pushing for greater control.

The pact followed more than three hours of talks among leaders from the 28 Nato countries, including Obama, and the 20 other coalition countries in Afghanistan.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary general of Nato, said the agreement showed a commitment to the long-term security and development of Afghanistan.

“Today marks the beginning of a new phase in our mission,” Rasmussen said at a signing ceremony for the agreement, which was attended by Karzai and Ban ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general.

“We will launch the process by which the Afghan government will take leadership for security throughout the country, district by district.

If the enemies of Afghanistan have the idea that they can just wait it out until we leave, they have the wrong idea. We will stay as long as it takes to finish our job.”

Public opinion across Europe and in the US is opposed to the war in Afghanistan. But with a shift from combat operations to police and army training, diplomats said they hoped they could buy some time with the public instead of rushing out of Afghanistan.

While Ivo Daalder, the American ambassador to Nato, said the 2014 goal and the end of Nato’s combat role beyond that date “are not one and the same,” many Nato countries have insisted they will remove all their troops by 2014.

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