NATO leaders seek easy exit from Afghanistan


UK Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and President Barack Obama confer at the NATO meeting in Chicago on May 21, 2012.



NATO leaders meeting in Chicago are expected to reaffirm their plans today to end the Afghanistan war in 2014, The Associated Press reported.

The next major milestone is handing lead combat roles to the Afghan army midway through 2013.

US President Barack Obama met with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday.

“We still have a lot of work to do, and there will be great challenges ahead,” Obama said, according to the AP. “The loss of life continues in Afghanistan.”

The president is attempting to secure commitments from his NATO allies to help fund Afghan security forces, while making clear to US voters the unpopular war is ending.

Afghanistan needs an estimated $4 billion annually, and Obama is leading a fundraising drive.

Germany, the UK, Italy, Australia and Canada have pledged to continue funding the effort.

France complicated the issue when newly elected President Francois Hollande said French troops would leave early.

“Our combat mission will come to an end but we will not walk away,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, The Canadian Press reported.

Finding an actual exit strategy is also complicating the mission, according to Reuters.

The NATO force of 130,000 troops (all their supplies and equipment) must find paths from Afghan deserts and mountains.

Leaders from NATO’s 28 member nations are hoping to negotiate agreements with Uzbekistan and Pakistan.

However, Pakistan has blocked NATO traffic at its borders since NATO forces killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last year.

“Countries in the region should also help our efforts for taking people back, together with the materials and other equipment,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mehmet Fatih Ceylan said, according to Reuters. “It’s a big challenge ... and this is a new dimension people are focusing on now – how to take them safe and secure back home.”