President Obama and the U.S.’s NATO allies, meeting at a summit in Chicago, committed to a complete withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan by December 2014. The withdrawal will be coupled with the “irreversible” handover of security responsibilities to the Afghans next summer.
A declaration from heads of state at the NATO summit emphasized that the handover will be completed by the end of 2014 but that NATO member countries may remain in a training and advisory capacities:
By the end of 2014, when the Afghan Authorities will have full security responsibility, the NATO-led combat mission will end. We will, however, continue to provide strong and long-term political and practical support through our Enduring Partnership with Afghanistan. NATO is ready to work towards establishing, at the request of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, a new post-2014 mission of a different nature in Afghanistan, to train, advise and assist the [Afghan National Security Forces], including the Afghan Special Operations Forces.
In remarks delivered at the summit today, Obama emphasized the progress made in Afghanistan during the U.S.’s decade-long war. “Our forces broke the Taliban’s momentum,” said Obama. “More Afghans are reclaiming their communities. Afghan security forces have grown stronger.”
Public war weariness has been a growing pressure on the White House and NATO member countries as Europeans and Americans express frustration with the long war and the associated human and financial costs. While NATO forces will maintain an active presence in Afghanistan through 2014, France’s new president, François Hollande, announced that France would withdraw troops by the end of the year.
Standing next to Afgan President Hamid Karzai yesterday, Obama recognized the sacrifices made by both Afghans and Americans over the past ten years. “[President Karzai] recognizes the enormous sacrifices American troops have made,” said Obama. He added, “We recognize the hardships that Afghans have been through during these many many years of war.”