Afghans `will not stand alone` after 2014 handover: Obama

Obama pledged that US forces would stand by Afghan even after NATO pulls out in 2014.

Lisbon: President Barack Obama pledged
that US forces would stand by Afghanistan even after
NATO-led troops hand control of the fight against Taliban
insurgents to Afghan forces in 2014.

Far from the dusty battlefields of Afghanistan, where
more than 2,200 Allied troops have fallen in a vicious
nine-year-old war, Obama and NATO leaders flew in to Lisbon
for a two-day summit to set the handover date.

Afghanistan`s President Hamid Karzai wants the allies
to allow Afghanistan`s fledgling forces to take charge of the
battle against insurgent fighters by 2014, allowing the bulk
of the 150,000-strong US-led force to return home.

"We finally have the strategy and resources to break
the Taliban`s momentum, deprive insurgents of their
strongholds, train more Afghan security forces, and assist the
Afghan people," Obama wrote in a widely published op-ed.

"Even as America`s transition and troop reductions
will begin this July, NATO can forge a lasting partnership
with Afghanistan to make it clear that, as Afghans stand up
and take the lead, they will not stand alone," Obama wrote.

"We cannot turn our backs on the Afghan people as
before," he added, in a separate interview with Spain`s El
Pais daily.

The Alliance`s summit has been billed as one of the
most important in its history, with meetings planned with the
beleaguered Afghan leader and former Cold War foe Russia`s
President Dmitry Medvedev.

Karzai is in open disagreement with his NATO sponsors
over combat tactics, and Medvedev`s Russia has in the recent
past been fiercely critical of US missile plans, but the
leaders hope both can be won over.

Alongside this, they hope to unveil the 28-nation
alliance`s new "strategic concept", a planning framework to
govern how it orders security priorities in a world of
multiple new threats and ever tighter defence budgets.

They will unveil plans for a network of radars and
interceptors to form an anti-ballistic missile shield in the
skies of Europe to protect NATO members, and overcoming
Russian concerns by inviting them to take part.

Before leaving Moscow, the Russian party said that it
was keen to share ideas about common missile defence, but
played down the chances of a major decision realigning the
continent`s security.

"During his address, President Medvedev will voice a
number of ideas about how we shall build cooperation in the
missile defense sphere in the coming years," said Medvedev`s
top foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko.

Moscow, however, will not expect too much too early.
"We are realists, we will not ask for the impossible,"
Prikhodko said.