NATO sets an ‘irreversible’ but risky course to end war

By Matt Spetalnick and Missy Ryan, Reuters

CHICAGO– NATO set an “irreversible” course out of Afghanistan on Monday but U.S. President Barack Obama admitted the Western alliance’s plan to end the deeply unpopular war in 2014 was fraught with peril. A landmark NATO summit in Chicago endorsed an exit strategy that calls for handing control of Afghanistan to its own security forces by the middle of next year but left questions unanswered about how to prevent a slide into chaos and a Taliban resurgence after allied troops are gone.

The two-day meeting of the 28-nation military bloc marked a major milestone in a war sparked by the Sept. 11 attacks that has spanned three U.S. presidential terms and even outlasted al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Obama and NATO partners sought to show their war-weary voters the end is in sight in Afghanistan — a conflict that has strained Western budgets as well as patience — while at the same time trying to reassure Afghans that they will not be abandoned.