Leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation have sealed a landmark agreement to hand control of Afghanistan over to its own security forces by the middle of next year, putting the Western alliance on an "irreversible" path out of the decade-long war.
The alliances' summit in Chicago formally committed to a US-backed strategy on Monday that calls for a gradual exit of foreign combat troops by the end of 2014, after which the NATO mission would assume only training and advisory roles.
"As Afghans stand up, they will not stand alone," Barack Obama, the US president, said in his concluding remarks.
The US president, however, acknowledged NATO's plan was fraught with risk even as he touted it as a sound approach.
"Are there risks involved? Absolutely," Obama conceded, saying the Taliban remained a "robust enemy" and NATO's gains on the ground were fragile.