Washington: US President Barack Obama on Sunday met his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai to discuss transition in Afghanistan post 2014 during which both the sides agreed that there would be days of hardship ahead.
"We recognise the hardship that the Afghan people have been through. Both of us recognise that we still have a lot of work to do. The loss of life continues in Afghanistan. There will be hard days ahead, but we're confident that we're on the right track," Obama told reporters in a joint press availability following the meeting between the two leaders.
Stating that the Afghan people "desperately want peace and security”, Obama said the United States and NATO will continue to provide support for Afghan security forces during this transition and said Afghan forces have made "excellent progress”.
Obama said the process is "also painting a vision post 2014 in which we have ended our combat role, the Afghan war as we understand it is over, but our commitment to friendship and partnership with Afghanistan continues."
Referring to his recent visit to Afghanistan, Obama said during that trip to Afghanistan, they were able to finalise the partnership agreement that reflects a future in which two sovereign nations.
The two nations "... are operating as partners to the benefit of our countries' citizens but also for the benefit of peace and security and stability" in the region, he said.
Obama said NATO summit is going to be largely devoted to ratifying and reflecting the broad consensus that so many of their partners and ISAF members have agreed to," Obama said, "one in which we are working with" our Afghan partners "over the next several years to achieve a complete transition to Afghan" rule for Afghan security.
In his brief remarks, Karzai said the two leaders "had a good meeting today in which Afghanistan reaffirmed its commitment" to the transition process.
He said that it's important to complete "so that Afghanistan is no longer a burden" on the international community, the US and other allies.
Karzai agreed with Obama that Afghanistan is very much "looking forward to an end to this war," and spoke of the country's desire for "self-reliance”.
He said it was important that the allies ensure that they help Afghanistan take "steady and strong steps" on that road.
This was Obama's first of the few bilateral that have been planned on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Chicago, which is being attended by leaders from more than 60 countries.
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari is attending the summit at the invitation of the NATO Secretary General. The White House yesterday said that no bilateral has been planned between Zardari and Obama.
During his meeting with the NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Chicago, Obama said the summit would ratify the plan to move forward in Afghanistan.
"At this summit, we anticipate not only ratifying the plan for moving forward in Afghanistan -- a transition process that will bring the war to an end at the end of 2014 and put Afghans in the lead for their own security -- but we’re also going to be talking about the progress that we’ve made in expanding NATO’s defence capabilities -- ensuring that every NATO member has a stake and is involved and integrated in our mutual defence efforts," Obama said.
"We're going to have an opportunity to talk about the partnerships that NATO has been able to set up with like-minded countries around the world, and find ways that we can deepen and engage those partners to help to promote security and peace around the world," Obama said.
Rasmussen said in his remarks, "Mr President, I would like to thank very much for your strong leadership, for your dedication to our alliance. America has always been a source of strength and inspiration in NATO, and I'm very pleased that we can hold our 25th summit in your home city, Chicago."
"Chicago has always been a place where Europeans and North Americans have come together. And now, we have come together to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between us," he said.
During the meeting, Obama praised the leadership of Rasmussen.
"Secretary General Rasmussen arrived in this post during one of most challenging times that NATO has faced. He has guided us through some very rocky times. And I think the results of this NATO Summit are reflective of his extraordinary leadership," Obama said.
First Published: Monday, May 21, 2012, 08:56