Leaders insist no rush to exit Afghanistan

Leaders insist no rush to exit Afghanistan

The United States and Nato leaders insist the Afghanistan fighting coalition will remain whole despite France’s plans to yank combat troops out early, but leaders wary of plummeting public support for the war are using an alliance summit on Sunday to show they want to move quickly away from the front lines.

With a global economic crisis and waning public support for the war in the backdrop, world leaders were opening the Nato summit to tackle Afghanistan’s post-conflict future — from funding for security forces to upcoming elections.

President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai were meeting on Sunday on the sidelines of the summit. Their hour-long discussion was expected to focus on planning for Afghanistan’s 2014 elections, as well as the prospect of a political settlement with the Taliban, a senior Obama administration official said.

Public opinion in Europe and the United States is solidly against the war, with a majority of Americans now saying it is unwinnable or not worth continuing.

Newly elected French President Francois Hollande has said he will withdraw all French combat troops from Afghanistan by year’s end — a full two years before the timeline agreed to by nations in the US-led Nato coalition.

“There will be no rush for the exits,” Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. “Our goal, our strategy, our timetable remain unchanged.” Rasmussen said that new position does not indicate fresh cracks in the alliance.

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