A two-day Nato summit in Chicago has concluded with a landmark agreement on handing control of Afghan security to the country’s own forces by the middle of next year.
The alliance has now formally backed the US plan which is a major step towards bringing the unpopular decade-long war to an end. The aim is for all combat troops to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
However France’s newly elected President, Francois Hollande is sticking to his campaign pledge to bring French combat troops home earlier. He told reporters some allies had already withdrawn and the latest date for France would be the end of 2012.
And he dismissed speculation that the move would require Paris to pay any compensation.
Meanwhile Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zardari, is being urged to re-open supply routes into Afghanistan. The borders were closed after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in a US Drone air attack in November.
US President, Barack Obama comented:
“President Zardari shared with me his belief that these issues can get worked through. We didn’t anticipate that the supply-line issue was going to be resolved by this summit. We knew that before we arrived in Chicago. But we are actually making diligent progress on it”.
But there is no sign Zardari – a last-minute invite to the summit – is ready to give up his demands. They include Washington apologising for the deaths and a 30-fold increase in the toll on vehicles crossing its border.
Euronews correspondent to the summit, Paul Hackett said: “Now that a timetable to pull out of Afghanistan has been agreed thinking has turned to the logistical challenge of bringing most of the international troops back home. NATO leaders know if they can persuade Pakistan to open its borders that would help matters enormously, but it’s not proving easy.”