May 21 - U.S. President Obama calls for responsible end to the war in Afghanistan amid hopes of refocusing resources at home. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
Finding an endgame for Afghanistan. NATO leaders wrap up a two day meeting in Chicago, reaching a landmark agreement to hand control of Afghanistan over to its own security forces by the middle of next year, giving the Western alliance an exit strategy out of an unpopular, decade-long war. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA SAYING: "We leave Chicago with a clear roadmap. Our coalition is committed to this plan to bring our war in Afghanistan to a responsible end." NATO backed a U.S.-backed strategy that calls for a gradual exit of foreign combat troops by the end of 2014. Alliance leaders acquiesced to new French President Francois Hollande's insistence on sticking to his campaign pledge to withdraw French troops by December 31, two years ahead of NATO's timetable. While there was no sign this would send other allies rushing for the exits, leaders could face pressures at home. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA SAYING: "The timetable we have established is a sound one, it is a responsible one . Are there risks involved in it? Absolutely . Can I anticipate that over the next two years there are going to be some bad moments, along with some good ones? Absolutely, But. I think it is the appropriate strategy whereby we can achieve a stable Afghanistan that won't be perfect. We can pull back our troops in a responsible way and we can start rebuilding America and making some of the massive investments we have been making in Afghanistan here back home." A standoff persisted between NATO and Pakistan over Islamabad's refusal to reopen supply routes to international forces in Afghanistan - crucial to an orderly alliance withdrawal - and no imminent resolution seems likely. The once popular war which was launched in 2001 has lost public support in the United States, and along the sidelines of the Chicago summit, demonstrators took to the streets to decry a war that they say has gone on too long. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters.