Afghan pullout, Pakistan row cloud NATO summit

Afghan pullout, Pakistan row cloud NATO summit

Afghan pullout, Pakistan row cloud NATO summit

urkish President Gül, (3rd from R) FM Davutoğlu (R) and Defense Minister Yılmaz (L) meet with Turkey’s NBA players, Okur (2nd from L) and Aşık, in Chicago. AA photo

More than 50 world leaders gathered in Chicago a key NATO summit yesterday with the aim of establishing a unified exit strategy from Afghanistan. The meeting, however, is likely to be overshadowed by a row over Pakistan as there is no sign that Islamabad would open its border crossing to NATO trucks carrying essential supplies to Afghanistan.

It was the first summit of the 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization on U.S. soil in more than a decade and has followed a two-day summit of G-8 leaders hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama in Camp David.

Obama is expected to announce at the gathering what he has already told the leaders in private: All combat operations led by U.S. forces will cease in the summer of 2013, when the United States and other NATO forces move to a “support role,” whether the Afghan military can secure the country or not.

French President François Hollande has shaken up the carefully crafted transition plan, vowing to bring his 3,500 combat troops home in 2012, a year earlier than planned.

Among the world leaders at the table with Obama will be Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, who accepted a last-minute invitation to attend. “We can’t solve the problems in Afghanistan without the positive engagement of Pakistan,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said May 19. However, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta suggested in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that Islamabad was demanding too high a price to resume the deliveries across its territory. Quoting a senior U.S. official, the daily said Islamabad now wanted $5,000 per truck, compared with $250 previously, amounting to a handsome sum for the thousands of trucks that rumble across the border daily. “Considering the financial challenges that we’re facing, that’s not likely,” Panetta told the daily.

Gül to meet Merkel,  Hollande

Turkish President Abdullah Gül was scheduled to attend the opening session of the summit and have a luncheon with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He will then meet with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte before convening with Hollande. He was later expected to attend a working dinner. Separately, Gül held talks May 19 with his Afghan, Azerbaijani and Macedonian counterparts on the sidelines of the summit. During his meeting with Karzai, the two leaders referred to a friendship agreement signed between the two countries in 1921 and decided to speed up efforts to update the agreement. Karzai, meanwhile, also thanked Turkey for its role in Afghanistan.

Compiled from AFP and AA stories by the Daily News staff.