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  1. ITV Report

US to end Afghan combat role early

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and US President Barack Obama at the White House today Photo: Reuters/Larry Downing

US President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai have agreed to accelerate the schedule for moving Afghanistan's security forces into the lead across the country, with US troops shifting fully to a support role.

Speaking at the White House today, Obama said speeding up the process to this spring would set the stage for further withdrawal of US and other forces from Afghanistan.

The shift of control to Afghan security forces was previously scheduled to take place this summer.

"Starting this spring, our troops will have a different mission: Training, advising and assisting Afghan forces", Obama said. "It will be a historic moment".

However, he did not provide a time frame of when a US drawdown would take place.

The leaders also said Obama had agreed to place battlefield detainees under the control of Afghanistan's Government.

During a joint news conference, Karzai said he was pleased by the agreement, as it means that by spring there will be no foreign troops in Afghan villages.

Asked about the decision to speed up the transition, Obama said it was not yet clear what it would mean for the pace of US troop withdrawals this year, adding it was "something that isn't yet fully determined".

However, he said plans remain on schedule to give Afghan security forces full responsibility for security nationwide by the end of December 2014 - theoretically with no back-up - at which point "this war will come to a responsible end".

Karzai later told an audience at Washington's Georgetown University that Afghanistan's progress over the last 10 years would not have been possible without help from the US: