The US-led NATO military alliance says handing over security matters to Afghan forces could take place well beyond a 2014 target date in some areas in Afghanistan.
Mark Sedwill, the top civilian NATO representative in Afghanistan, said the transition could run “to 2015 and beyond” in some areas that could still face security problems, Reuters reported.
The remarks come as Afghanistan is scheduled to be among top priorities to be discussed when NATO leaders gather for an annual summit in Lisbon this week.
Senior officials in Washington have recently confirmed that American troops will remain in the war-ravaged country for at least four more years. This is while US President Barack Obama had pledged a major withdrawal from Afghanistan by July 2011.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently demanded the United States reduce its presence and military operations in the country.
In an interview published on Sunday, President Karzai called on the US military to reduce its visibility and the intensity of its operations in Afghanistan and end its night raids in the country.
“The time has come to reduce military operations,” the Afghan president told The Washington Post.
“The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan … to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life,” he added.
The afghan president’s remarks come as over 100,000 Afghans have been killed since the US-led war began in October 2001.
Hundreds of civilians have lost their lives in US-led airstrikes and ground operations in various parts of Afghanistan over the past few months, with Afghans becoming more and more outraged over the seemingly endless number of deadly assaults.
There are currently more than 150,000 US-led foreign forces stationed in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, some 648 foreign troops have lost their lives in Afghanistan so far, making 2010 the deadliest year for the US-led forces since the start of the war in 2001.
The increasing number of troop casualties in Afghanistan has sparked widespread anger in the US and other NATO member states, undermining public support for the continuation of the Afghan war.
In a rare acknowledgement, newly-appointed French Defense Minister Alain Juppe called Afghanistan “a trap for all the parties involved.”