BRUSSELS — The United States and its NATO allies are readying plans to pull away from the front lines in Afghanistan next year as President Barack Obama and fellow leaders try to show that the unpopular war is ending.
NATO allies insisted they are not pulling the plug early on the Afghanistan war as top military and diplomatic officials from the U.S. and NATO allies met Wednesday. The allies are finalizing a plan to shift primary responsibility for combat to Afghan forces and firming up a strategy for world support to the weak Afghan government and fledgling military after 2014.
That year is the deadline to the NATO-led war to end, although it is clear that many nations will have long since stopped any active front-line combat and some will have pulled out completely.
At the same time, the nations that have prosecuted a 10-year war against a Taliban-led insurgency are reassuring nervous Afghans they will not be left to fend for themselves.
“There is no change whatsoever in the timeline,” NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen insisted Wednesday.
The messages aimed at different audiences are both challenged by current events in Afghanistan, where insurgents staged an impressive, coordinated attack last weekend that struck at the heart of the U.S.-backed government and international enclave in Kabul. Meanwhile, Taliban leaders are boycotting peace talks the U.S. sees as the key to a safe exit.