UK & World News
Karzai Wants 'World's Burden' Lifted By 2014
President Hamid Karzai has said he hopes the transition out of war in Afghanistan will mean his country is "no longer a burden" on the international community.
After talks with US President Barack Obama at a Nato summit in Chicago, Mr Karzai said Afghanistan is "looking forward to an end to this war".
Nato is planning to handover to Afghan security forces the lead in operations against the Taliban in 2013, before a complete departure of combat forces in 2014.
Mr Karzai said it was important to complete the security transition and withdrawal of foreign combat troops so Afghanistan will be "no longer a burden on the shoulders of our friends in the international community, on the shoulders of the United States and our other allies".
Mr Obama said the world was behind Mr Karzai's strategy, adding that Afghans "desperately want peace and security", but warned there would be days of "hardship" ahead.
Despite France saying it would pull out its troops earlier than planned from Afghanistan, Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said there would be "no rush for the exits".
He added: "We will stay committed to our operation in Afghanistan and see it through to a successful end. Our goal, our strategy, our timetable remains unchanged."
But France has shaken up the carefully crafted withdrawal plan with new Socialist President Francois Hollande saying that he plans to pullout French troops by late 2012, a year earlier than planned.
More than 60 world leaders at the defence alliance summit are trying to negotiate an endgame for Western forces in Afghanistan and discuss its post-war future, including security and upcoming elections.
But just like discussions at the G8 summit in Camp David, financial constraints are likely to dominate the search for answers.
Who pays the bill for the Afghan forces who will take over remains contentious with the US unwilling to shoulder all of the estimated $4.1bn a year.
Leaders are hoping for commitments to cover the 10 years of the strategic long-term partnership Mr Obama signed with the Afghan President earlier this month.
But former presidential candidate John McCain told Sky News he has doubts about the viability of that deal.
"I hope they can implement it correctly and I'm more optimistic than I've been in the past," he said.
"I just wish the president would stop emphasising withdrawal and emphasise the importance of the strategic partnership."
He said the Taliban view of the US pullout plan is that "you have the watches, we have the time".
The alliance is unlikely to offer any solutions to the crisis in Syria during the summit but is likely to discuss the impact of budget cuts on defence capability.
Ivo Daalder, the US ambassador to Nato, has said the mission in Libya "only accentuated" the growing gap in capabilities between the US and its European partners, who actually ran short of precision-guided munitions at one point.
Mr Daalder said the US provided 75% of all intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets and flew 75% of aerial refueling missions in the Libya operation.It also provided the bulk of the officers who co-ordinated the targeting.
The two-day summit follows the meeting of G8 leaders in Camp David in Maryland which focused on containing the impact of the eurozone financial crisis.