Chicago: Nato leaders gathered in Chicago on Sunday to chart a path out of Afghanistan as war-weary Western nations seek to fend off dissent in their alliance and ensure Afghanistan can hold a still-potent Taliban at bay when foreign troops withdraw.
US President Barack Obama hosts the summit in his home town, Chicago, a day after leaders of major industrialized nations tackled Europe’s debt crisis, backing keeping Greece in the euro zone and vowing to take steps necessary to revitalize the world economy.
Costly war: Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Chicago on Sunday. By Carolyn Kaster/AP
The shadow cast by fiscal pressures in Europe and elsewhere will follow leaders from Obama’s presidential retreat in Maryland to the talks on Afghanistan, an unwelcome weight on countries mindful of dwindling public support for a costly war that has not defeated the Taliban in more than 10 years.
The Obama administration, looking ahead to the November presidential election, is expected to emphasize a common alliance vision for gradually pulling most of the Nato force of around 130,000 by the end of 2014. In addition to the shared fiscal stress, the talks may be characterized by undercurrents of division between leaders in Washington, Brussels and in other nations, such as France, who are more eager to go home.
France’s new leader, Francois Hollande, repeated a pledge during his inaugural visit to Washington last week to pull “combat troops” from Afghanistan this year. He has said an extremely limited number of soldiers would remain to train Afghan forces and bring back equipment beyond 2012.
“This decision is an act of sovereignty and must be done in good coordination with our allies and partners,” said Hollande, who will discuss his exit plans with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday. Yet Hollande has declined to define the details of his withdrawal, saying that was France’s “business”.