The Obama administration reportedly has developed a plan to begin transferring security in some areas of Afghanistan to the country’s forces over the next 18 to 24 months, with a goal of ending U.S. combat missions there by 2014.

The four-year plan to wind down U.S. and allied fighting in Afghanistan will be presented to a NATO summit meeting in Lisbon later this week and “reflects the most concrete vision for transition in Afghanistan assembled by civilian and military officials since President Obama took office last year,” The New York Times reported late Sunday.

In many respects, the concept follows the precedent set in Iraq, where a similar troop surge and strategy shift under President George W. Bush in 2007 enabled U.S.-led coalition forces to eventually hand over security duties to the Iraqis region by region, the paper said. Last summer, President Obama was able to withdraw two-thirds of U.S. forces from Iraq and declare the U.S. combat mission there over.

“Iraq is a pretty decent blueprint for how to transition in Afghanistan,” the Times quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying. “But the key will be constructing an Afghan force that is truly capable of taking the lead.”

The U.S. is already assessing areas of Afghanistan that could be safely handed over to local security forces, and is poised to have them identified as early as later this year, the paper cited officials as saying.

Word of the plan came as the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan warned Afghan officials Sunday that President Hamid Karzai’s recent public criticism of U.S. strategy is seriously undermining the war effort, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Gen. David Petraeus expressed “astonishment and disappointment” over Karzai’s call to “reduce military operations” and end U.S. Special Operations raids in southern Afghanistan, the Post reported, citing unnamed Afghan and U.S. officials.


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