WORLD leaders set the seal on their exit path from the war in Afghanistan, saying they would close the conflict at the end of 2014.
Although they vowed to keep their troops fighting there for two more years, Prime Minister David Cameron said the leaders were focussing on “the long-term future of Afghanistan”.
Attending the Nato summit in Chicago, the Prime Minister confirmed British troops – like other international forces – will end their combat role by the end of 2014.
Despite the withdrawal, he insisted the Taliban could not regain power by force of arms and urged them to reopen negotiations with President Hamid Karzai.
“The message to the insurgency is clear – you can’t win on the battlefield, stop fighting and start talking,” he said.
“We are making a decisive and enduring commitment to the long-term future of Afghanistan.
“The message to the Afghan people is that we will not desert them.”
US President Barack Obama, presiding over the war coalition summit in Chicago, said the Afghanistan left behind would be stable enough for forces to leave – but still loaded with troubles.
“I don’t think there’s ever going to be an optimal point where we say, ‘This is all done. This is perfect. This is just the way we wanted it and now we can wrap up all our equipment and go home’,” Mr Obama said.
“This is a process and it’s sometimes a messy process.”
Meanwhile, the commander of the international military force, US General John Allen, warned they would face combat fighting right up until the last day of their mission.
“There is no end of combat before the end of 2014. And in fact, the Taliban will oppose the Afghan National Security Forces after 2014,” he said.
Pakistan has not yet agreed to end the closure of key transit routes into Afghanistan – retaliation for US air strikes that accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers months ago.