Nato will hand over responsibility for security in Afghanistan to Afghan forces by mid 2013 – that is the result of a two-day alliance summit in Chicago.
Nato is under pressure to bring its increasingly unpopular intervention to an end. Ahead of Monday’s session, US President Barack Obama explained the latest step towards the goal of full withdrawal by the end of 2014.
“Today we’ll decide the next phase of the transition, the next milestone. We’ll set a goal for Afghan forces to take the lead for combat operations across the country in 2013,” he said.
There are logistical problems, not least the fact that Pakistan is still effectively blocking supply routes into Afghanistan in a row with Washington over Drone air strikes.
On the streets of Kabul, attitudes towards a potential Nato pullout are mixed.
One man said that if the international community did more to improve the economy, people would not take up guns to destabilise the country. He said the problem was really an economic one.
But another read the summit as showing Nato support for the government of Hamid Karzai. “It shows the world Afghanistan is not alone and NATO will not desert Afghanistan,” he said.
However some Nato troops are heading home early. France, under new president François Hollande, is sticking to its pledge to withdraw all combat forces by the end of this year.