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NATO Gathers To Discuss Afghanistan, Missile Defense, And Its Own Future

 Demonstrators are reflected in a souvenir shop window in Chicago, Illinois, as peace activists march through the street demanding an end to NATO violence ahead of the summit.
Demonstrators are reflected in a souvenir shop window in Chicago, Illinois, as peace activists march through the street demanding an end to NATO violence ahead of the summit.
By Heather Maher
CHICAGO -- The last time NATO leaders gathered for a summit, in Lisbon in 2010, they agreed to halt combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and hand off security responsibilities to Afghan forces.

As they meet again in Chicago, their main goal is to figure out how to make that happen.

The discussion among the alliance's 28 members takes place against the backdrop of shrinking defense budgets and economic hardship in much of Europe, and hard questions over NATO's future role in an increasingly complex global security landscape.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said last week that he fully expected NATO to continue training, advising, and assisting Afghan security forces, and saw the postconflict operation as "a new mission with a new role."

That new mission is expected to cost $4 billion annually, and Rasmussen expects leaders at the summit to firm up their financial commitments.

LATEST: Afghan President Expresses Gratitude As NATO Summit Opens

"In Chicago, we will also start to spell out our commitment to help finance the Afghan security forces of the future as part of an international community effort and together with the Afghans themselves," Rasmussen said. "We all have a stake in maintaining the gains we have made together with such great investment and sacrifices."

Stampede For The Door?

Most allies are planning a gradual withdrawal of combat forces between now and the end of 2014, but there are fears that some may decide to follow the lead of French President Francois Hollande, who has promised to withdraw French forces from Afghanistan by the end of this year.

Afghan National Army soldiers raise their national flag next to the French flag during a transition ceremony at a base in Afghanistan in April.
Afghan National Army soldiers raise their national flag next to the French flag during a transition ceremony at a base in Afghanistan in April.


Former U.S. diplomat Heather Conley, who is now director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), says she doesn't foresee discussion of major adjustments to the exit strategy forged in Lisbon two years ago. But she acknowledges that the matter isn't entirely settled.

"I think what you're going to see is a clear reaffirmation of the transition strategy until 2014. A lot of questions still remain about...Hollande's removal of French forces by the end of this year, whether that will have any domino effect, if you will, on other European or coalition partners deciding to transition a little earlier than previously anticipated," Conley notes, "but getting to that end state and furthering the post-2014 national force will be very, very important."

EXPLAINER: What's On The Table At NATO Summit -- European Missile Defense

In Afghanistan, officials are adopting a wait-and-see attitude. A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai's government, Siamak Herawi, said the goal of the Afghan delegation in Chicago was to return home with assurances that the NATO allies won't abandon the fragile country.

"We hope that with the support for the programs and [proposals] that the Afghan delegation will present in the meeting, there will be a long-term guarantee for peace and stability in Afghanistan so that Afghan people can have hope in the future," Herawi said.

White House national security adviser Tom Donilon, told reporters in a presummit briefing that Obama would hold a private meeting on May 20 with Karzai in Chicago before the summit begins in order to lay the ground for wider discussions on the transition.

NATO's Future In Discussion

Although Afghanistan will dominate the summit agenda, NATO leaders will also discuss European missile defense, which has long been a point of contention with Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to skip the summit is being attributed to his opposition to specific aspects of the shield.

Rasmussen said progress in developing the system will be announced at the summit. "In Chicago, we will declare an interim capability. This is only a first step, but it is significant," he said.

"We are acquiring allied ground surveillance, which uses drones to provide crucial intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance information to our forces. This will help fill a gap shown by our operations in Libya and Afghanistan."

NATO-hopeful Georgia, which has sent troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan, looks set to be disappointed in Chicago.
NATO-hopeful Georgia, which has sent troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan, looks set to be disappointed in Chicago.


Also up for discussion is the future role of the 63-year-old alliance, which is in the midst of reshaping itself in the face of rising global threats and austerity pressures on military spending in Europe.

Leaders plan to endorse a strategy of "smart defense" -- an approach to dealing with 21st-century challenges such as the quickly shifting political situation in the Middle East and China's formidable strength. According to Stephane Abrial, the NATO supreme allied commander for transformation, the strategy involves more collaboration on military education, training, and exercises, and the application of new technologies.

What won't be on the Chicago agenda is enlargement, which means aspirant countries Georgia, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Montenegro will go home empty-handed.

Once a top priority for NATO, expansion is now far down on the list of priorities, in part because of the alliance's current identity crisis but also because of objections by key members such as Germany.

Conley of the CSIS says the fact that countries are waiting in the wings to join is "very difficult" for NATO, which has always had an open-door policy. She believes that policy will be reinforced in Chicago, but little more will be offered because "there's an increasing level of frustration that the NATO enlargement strategy has run out of strategic vision."
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Comments
     
by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
May 19, 2012 15:33
Have you ever gone to a dinner at a fancy restaurant with a group of friends (and some others who you are not so sure about), and then begin to wonder who is going to pick up the tab when the meal is done? $4 billion annually to support a pipe-dream? Hate to be so skeptical, but when push comes to shove, the countries of NATO always place their individual national interests above those of the bloc. As an American taxpayer, I say 'mission accomplished.' Bring the troops home now. The writing has been on the wall for the last five years. The mission in Afghanistan is headed south, and the soldiers on the ground understand that there is no military solution and that the Karzai government enjoys little legitimacy outside of Kabul. If this meeting was to have been a success, NATO should have invited reps from the Taliban to participate. A meeting which will be full of all sorts of eloquent rhetoric…. signifying nothing.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
May 21, 2012 03:44
Who makes decisions in USA and often in Russia?
CIA and KGB torturing me and steal, usually after the fact,
when I put it on Internet or in writing, than reporting to leaders.

They plagiarize everything from all walk of life, making money
and fame for their low base creatures.

For instance, Senat voted to "continue war in Afghanistan" two
days ago.
I was surprised by their language and was about to write about
it on internet:
"War against whom?...
Isn't it time to help Afghanistan live in peace and have hope for future?...
I must write it, because it only might help Russians invade again,
using USA language of war for exit strategy...
And so on..."

CIA, Military, Bechtel and other USA spying agencies, staffed by
Russians mostly, made me seek again.
(They doing it to me since I came to this country in 1980 - threats, harassment, subliminal, hypnotists, Non Lethal Weapons, block-out from making any money, destroying property, preventing me from finding more safe apartment,
making me sick and killing for many years, along with my old mother that is bound in bed for last decade...)

Today a surprise - NATO say it will change from war to peaceful Afghanistan, using my wordings.
I didn't like it and went to my computer, but was interrupted by voices from apartment, the floor above me, discussing me
with unbelievable impudence:

"It is our agency's achievement!
We own him! We have right to use him as "Shotske" switch -
We ask question or give order and he must report to us!
It is like we hired him or want to hire him!
It is a credit to our agency and to our agents and it belongs to us - if not what we obtained from this man, our country would be in a lot of trouble!"

I was insulted and very laud:
"You, dirty plagiarist spies, how dare you even talk in my presence!"

Sure your country and the World would be in a lot of trouble,
if I and people like me wouldn't do anything about it!
But I doing it on my own - many who read my letters to UN
and many other entities and my posts and commentaries on
internet, even here, know it all too well!

Your agencies, West and East, already condemned your World
and yourself by doing it to us!
The moment you even thought to insult us, we returned to Heavens the best we would create, leaving only minimum
to help suffering humanity, if you wouldn't interfere - or otherwise let you turn it against yourself...

by: vn from: Belgrade
May 20, 2012 13:01
The Serbs are so happy to hear from the geese-in-the-fog NATO who are walking the streets of Chicago ending up in the Balkans, likening Serbia more and more. You people just can't take a NO for an answer.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
May 20, 2012 19:42
"NATO Gathers To Discuss... Its Own Future". What future :-)))?

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