WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has decided to begin publicly walking away from what it once touted as key deadlines in the war in Afghanistan in an effort to de-emphasize President Obama’s pledge that he’d begin withdrawing U.S. forces in July 2011, administration and military officials have told McClatchy Newspapers.

The new policy will be on display next week during a conference of NATO countries in Lisbon, Portugal, where the administration hopes to introduce a timeline that calls for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan by 2014, the year when Afghan President Hamid Karzai once said Afghan troops could provide their own security, three senior officials told McClatchy, along with others speaking anonymously as a matter of policy.

The Pentagon also has decided not to announce specific dates for handing security responsibility for several Afghan provinces to local officials and instead intends to work out a more vague definition of transition when it meets with its NATO allies.

What a year ago had been touted as an extensive December review of the strategy now will offer no major changes in strategy, the officials said. So far, the U.S. Central Command, the military division that oversees Afghanistan operations, hasn’t submitted any kind of withdrawal order for forces for the July deadline, two of those officials said.

The shift already has begun privately, partly because U.S. officials realized that conditions in Afghanistan were unlikely to allow a speedy withdrawal.

“During our assessments, we looked at if we continue to move forward at this pace, how long before we can fully transition to the Afghans? Of course, we are not going to fully transition to the Afghans by July 2011,” said one senior administration official. “Right now, we think we can start in 2011 and fully transition sometime in 2014.”

Another official said the administration also realized in contacts with Pakistani officials that the Pakistanis had concluded wrongly that July 2011 would mark the beginning of the end of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.

That perception, a Pentagon adviser said, has convinced Pakistan’s military — which is key to keeping Taliban sympathizers from infiltrating Afghanistan — to continue to press for a political settlement instead of military action.

“This administration now understands that it cannot shift Pakistani approaches to safeguarding its interests in Afghanistan with this date being perceived as a walk-away date,” the adviser said.

Last week’s elections also have eased pressure on the Obama administration to begin an early withdrawal. Earlier this year, some Democrats in Congress pressed to cut off funding for Afghanistan operations. With Republicans in control of the House of Representatives starting in January, however, there will be less push for a drawdown. The incoming House Armed Services chairman, Rep. Howard “Buck” Mc-Keon, R-Calif., told Reuters last week that he opposed setting the date.