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Obama, NATO Sign Afghan Power Transfer Plan

Obama, NATO Sign Afghan Power Transfer Plan

By MacKenzie Babb Staff Writer

Washington - President Obama has joined NATO allies in a formal agreement to transfer security control of Afghanistan's 34 provinces to Afghan forces starting in 2011.

Speaking to reporters November 20 in Lisbon, Portugal, at the end of the 2010 NATO Summit, Obama said the transition of security forces would begin in July, with a target of completion by the end of 2014. He said the plan, proposed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, was endorsed by NATO partners.

"My goal is to make sure that, by 2014, we have transitioned, Afghans are in the lead, and it is a goal to make sure that we are not still engaged in combat operations of the sort that we're involved with now," Obama said.

"Certainly, our footprint will have been significantly reduced. But beyond that, you know, it's hard to anticipate exactly what is going to be necessary," he added.

He said Americans may play an extensive role in training and support in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

Obama added that NATO members have forged a long-term partnership with the Afghan people, leaving "no doubt that as Afghans stand up and take the lead, they will not be standing alone."

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he did not foresee a combat role for allied forces beyond 2014, "provided, of course, that the security situation allows us to move into a more supportive role."

He said the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force will maintain a military presence in the country beyond 2014, mostly to train Afghan security forces and provide other assistance.

"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," he said.

The commitment was underscored with a joint partnership declaration, signed by NATO members and Karzai, who took part in the November 20 meeting.

In addition to the new Afghanistan strategy, another key development of the two-day summit was the signing of a new, 21st-century NATO Strategic Concept, which Obama said will strengthen the ability of partner countries to protect themselves and each other.

The summit also included a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council - the fir= st to be attended by both Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev And at the conclusion of the NATO Summit, Obama joined European Commission President Jos=E9 Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy for the 2010 U.S.-EU Summit, which focused attention on t= he still-recovering world economy, security cooperation and global issues such as Iran, the Middle East peace process and Afghanistan.

ENDS

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