The Nato summit which is about to begin on Sunday is set to decide the future of Afghanistan amid heavy protests from anti-Nato groups.

US President Barack Obama is hosting the summit in his hometown, Chicago.

Fear of return of Taliban groups after the withdrawal of foreign troops is one of the primary concerns for western nations and the issue will be dominating the Nato talks.

"We are in a process of gradually handing over lead responsibility for security to the Afghans and that process will be complete by the end of 2014.

"During that process you will see withdrawals of troops; you will see a gradual change of the role of our troops from combat to support," said Nato's Secretary General according to a BBC report.

Obama will also be holding an hour-long talk with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the sidelines of the Nato summit.

The summit will be crucial for the Obama administration as the country is facing presidential elections in November 2012.

Newly-elected French President Francois Hollande also insisted on the gradual pullout of troops. "This decision is an act of sovereignty and must be done in good coordination with our allies and partners," Reuters quoted Hollande as saying. Hollande is also expected to hold special talks with Karzai.

Recent reports also suggest a small section of UK troops will remain in Afghanistan even after the pullout. "As we've said previously, British forces will not remain in a combat role in Afghanistan beyond 2014. The majority of forces that remain in Afghanistan will be in a training mentoring role, for example at the Afghan Officer National Training Academy," the BBC reported a senior government official as saying.

"But I wouldn't rule out a small number of forces playing a counter-terrorism role if needed. This would be in keeping with how we are working to protect ourselves from the counter terrorism threat emanating from other parts of the world, such as the Arabian Peninsula," the official added.

Up to 200 members of British forces could stay on in Afghanistan after the deadline of December 2014.

The summit is likely to announce plans to provide a pan-European missile defence system, which is supposed to have reached its interim capability. The deal jointly made by 14 countries to purchase five US drones is also to be finalised at the meeting.

Anti-Nato protests

Meanwhile, Chicago has been witnessing one of the largest ant-Nato protests in recent times. Thousands of demonstrators marched in the city to show solidarity protest against the Afghan war.

The Coaltion Against Nato-G8, the group which is protesting against the summit is trying to march to the summit venue.

"So far, the numbers have been underwhelming. Sunday will be the day the protesters get closest to the summit, and it will be the day we see the largest number of protesters. There are certainly going to be arrests and maybe a scuffle or two. I would be surprised if there weren't," Jeff Cramer of the global security consultancy Kroll International, said, according to Reuters.

Chicago police have also charged three men who were part of the protests, with conspiracy to commit terrorism on Saturday.

A woman is detained during a street demonstration ahead of the NATO Summit in ChicagoReuters
Protesters race to avoid being contained by police during street demonstrations ahead of the NATO Summit in ChicagoReuters
Police line up as demonstrators march during a protest before the start of a NATO summit in ChicagoReuters
Demonstrators march during a protest before the start of a NATO summit in ChicagoReuters
Demonstrators attempt to block Chicago police officers on horses during an anti-NATO protest march in ChicagoReuters
A demonstrator bleeds from his face after clashing with Chicago police during an anti-NATO protest march in ChicagoReuters
Protesters face Chicago Police during an anti-NATO protest march in ChicagoReuters
Demonstrators march through the downtown area during an anti-NATO protest in ChicagoReuters
A demonstrator yells during a protest before the start of a NATO summit in ChicagoReuters
Demonstrators clash with law enforcement officers during a protest before the start of a NATO summit in ChicagoReuters
Demonstrators clash with law enforcement officers during a protest before the start of a NATO summit in ChicagoReuters
Protesters link hands in the streets during an anti-NATO protest march in ChicagoReuters
Protestors march towards the home of the mayor of Chicago one day before a NATO summit is set to beginReuters