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US to defer Afghan exit date to 2014

world Updated: Nov 16, 2010 00:02 IST

The Obama administration has developed a plan to begin transferring security duties in select areas of Afghanistan — to that country’s forces over the next 18 to 24 months, with an eye toward ending the American combat mission there by 2014, officials said on Sunday.

The phased four-year plan to wind down American and allied fighting in Afghanistan will be presented at a NATO summit meeting in Lisbon later this week, the officials said. It will reflect the most concrete vision for transition in Afghanistan assembled by civilian and military officials since President Obama took office last year.

In many respects, the concept follows the precedent set in Iraq, where a similar troop surge and strategy shift in 2007 enabled American-led coalition forces to eventually hand over security duties to the Iraqis region by region. By last summer, Obama was able to pull out two-thirds of US forces from Iraq and declare America’s combat mission there over.

“Iraq is a pretty decent blueprint for how to transition in Afghanistan,” one American official said Sunday, insisting like others on anonymity to discuss the strategy before its presentation. “But the key will be constructing an Afghan force that is truly capable of taking the lead.”

The new transition planning comes as prospects for last year’s troop increase in Afghanistan and reformulated strategy there remain uncertain. US forces in Afghanistan have tripled under Obama, and Gen David H Petraeus, the commander, has expressed confidence that they are making progress. But the last of the reinforcements arrived only recently, and officials have said it is too early to say whether the strategy will work. NYT