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Obama, Rasmussen Agree Summit To Focus On Afghan Transition


NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks with reporters after meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington on May 9.
U.S. President Barack Obama and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen have met at the White House for talks ahead of a NATO summit in Chicago later this month.

A statement from the White House said Obama and Rasmussen agreed the summit would "reaffirm allied commitment" to a plan for the transition of security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

NATO forces would move from a combat role to support for "sufficient and sustainable Afghan forces."

Alliance members are expected to work out details of their planned withdrawal when NATO heads of state meet in Chicago on May 20-21.

Some 130,000 foreign soldiers, mostly from NATO member countries, are fighting alongside about 350,000 Afghan security forces against Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.

Meanwhile, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi says Afghan forces are due to take over security in several major cities and districts before the NATO summit in Chicago.

Azimi said the handover is the third phase of a security transition from NATO-led forces that began last July.

He said areas under Afghan control would be expanded to all of the country's provincial capitals and to 230 of about 400 districts.

Most areas now under Afghan control have been largely peaceful.

The third phase is to include volatile areas and put pressure on Afghan forces.

Meanwhile, the Afghan Ministry of Education has warned about security in 11 provinces where the Taliban enjoys popular support -- noting that 550 schools have been shut in those areas recently due to security concerns.

With additional reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters
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