Alliance leaders and partner countries have finalized plans for an "irreversible transition" in Afghanistan. NATO will maintain a presence in the country after 2014, but not in a combat role.
The plans reiterate NATO's commitment to ending the unpopular mission, while reflecting confidence in the Afghan forces and their ability to secure the country.
"This will be another step toward Afghans taking full lead for their security as agreed to by 2014," Obama said as he opened the meeting on Monday, the final day of the two-day event.
The leaders issued a summit communiqué saying that while NATO will maintain a significant presence in Afghanistan after 2014, "this will not be a combat mission."
NATO and partner nations formally agreed that Afghan security forces will take control of any combat next summer, with the alliance in a supporting role. This transition, Obama said, is the "next milestone" to ending the decade long war.
International frustration with the deadly mission is growing.
The Taliban and its allies, meanwhile, have warned they plan to fill the void in Afghanistan as soon as NATO leaves.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Afghans were already running security operations throughout half of Afghanistan and that they are ready to meet next year's targets.
"This is an important sign of progress toward our shared goal: an Afghanistan governed and secured by Afghans for Afghans," said Rasmussen.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai also said his nation was looking forward to an end to the war, "so that Afghanistan is no longer a burden on the shoulder of our friends in the international community, on the shoulders of the United States and our other allies."
For some participating nations, the transition cannot come soon enough. France, for example, is seeking to end its combat commitments early.
Leaders at the conference were also discussing how the international community would finance Afghan security forces in the future.
NATO estimates it will cost about $4.1 billion (3.2 billion euros) a year to finance Afghan forces. Afghanistan's government will foot $500 million of that, and the rest will come from donor countries.
tm/ncy (AP, AFP)