Final shift to Afghan force to start in 2013, NATO official says

NATO's top official says the alliance will adhere to its plans to hand over security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

But in an apparent response to France's call for a speedier NATO exit from Afghanistan, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday this meant that "from mid-2013 we will start the final transition of provinces and districts to lead Afghan responsibility."

Last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy jolted NATO by announcing France would speed up its exit and ask NATO to end its combat mission in 2013.

The move was seen as the latest crack in a coalition already strained by economic troubles in Europe and the United States, the Afghan government's sluggish battle against corruption, and a dogged Taliban that remains unbeaten after a decade of war.