Washington: Leaving Chicago with confidence and a clear roadmap, President Barack Obama said the US and its coalition partners are making substantial progress against defeating al Qaeda and denying it safe haven, while helping the Afghans to stand on their own.
Obama said the US-led coalition was committed to the plan chalked out in his hometown to bring their war in Afghanistan to a responsible end.
"Here in Chicago, we reached agreement on the next milestone in that transition. At the ISAF meeting, we agreed that Afghan forces will take the lead for combat operations next year in mid-2013," the President said while interacting with reporters at the end of two-day NATO Summit in Chicago.
He said, at that time, ISAF forces would have shifted from combat to a support role in all parts of the country.
"And this will mark a major step toward the goal we agreed to in Lisbon, completing the transition to Afghan lead for security by the end of 2014, so that Afghans can take responsibility for their own country and so our troops can come home," Obama said.
Observing this would not mark the end of Afghanistan`s challenges, or their partnership with that important country, Obama said they agreed on what NATO`s relationship with Afghanistan would look like after 2014.
"NATO will continue to train, advise and assist, and support Afghan forces as they grow stronger. While this summit has not been a pledging conference, it`s been encouraging to see a number of countries making significant financial commitments to sustain Afghanistan`s progress in the years ahead.
"Today the international community also expressed its strong support for efforts to bring peace and stability to South Asia, including Afghanistan`s neighbours," he said.
In response to a question, asked by a US soldier based in Afghanistan through a journalist, Obama said the danger, a lot of times was not that anybody was purposely trying to downplay challenges in Afghanistan.
"A lot of times it`s just the military culture is we can get it done. And so, their thinking is, how are we going to solve this problem, not boy, why is this such a disaster? That`s part of the reason why we admire our military so much and we love our troops, because they have got that can-do spirit," he said.