LISBON, Portugal (AP) - President Barack Obama says he's confident the U.S. will be able to go ahead with its troop pullout plan from Afghanistan beginning in July 2011, but it's "hard to anticipate" the exact U.S. role in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
That's the date for U.S. and NATO troops to transfer control to Afghan forces. But Obama says U.S. counterterror operations will go on until officials are confident al-Qaida is no longer operating.
The president says the goal is to have Afghans in the lead in 2014 and the U.S. no longer involved in the type of combat operations going on now.
He says he anticipates the change in operations in Afghanistan will be similar to what's happened in Iraq.
At a news conference at the NATO summit in Portugal, Obama said: "we are in a better place now than we were a year ago" and the key is to keep making progress between now and next summer.
Obama also met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the sidelines of the summit. It was the first meeting between the two leaders since Karzai visited Obama at the White House in May.