Just days after an exhausting and somewhat disappointing trip to Asia, President Obama is heading back overseas to attend a two-day NATO summit in Portugal. Topping the agenda – the war in Afghanistan.
President Obama and dozens of world leaders are expected to open Friday's NATO summit with a way out of Afghanistan.
The military alliance is set to endorse a plan that would begin bringing home tens of thousands of troops early next year. By 20-14 the goal is to hand over most of the security to Afghan forces. But some experts fear that may be too soon.
"Unfortunately Afghanistan is not yet ready," said Haroon Mir, head of Afghanistan Research and Policy Center.
Violence is at its worst since the Taliban were toppled from power in 2001. And insurgents have vowed to continue stepping up their attacks.
"If the U.S. and other NATO allies start withdrawing their forces, we will certainly have a return of the Taliban," Mir said.
Despite the nine-year-old war's growing unpopularity, Pentagon officials insist they're not rushing to the exit door. They've called the 2014 timeline a target, not a deadline.
While Afghanistan will top the summit agenda, European tensions will also be discussed. On Saturday, NATO will hold its highest level talks with Russia in two and a half years. Leaders will try to figure out how much input the country should have in a U-S backed missile defense system in Eastern Europe.
"I suspect we will get a lot of very warm feelings, but in practice the outcome is unlikely to be very significant," said Jonathan Eyal, Director of International Security Studies at Royal United Services Institute.
Experts say Russia isn't fully convinced the system won't be used against it. In fact, the country has already warned that if it feels threatened, it could pull out of a missile treaty worked out with the U.S. last year.