President Obama on Sunday said NATO’s defense capabilities and Afghanistan would be the primary focus of meetings among world leaders at the NATO Summit held in Chicago through Monday.
“We anticipate not only ratifying the plan for moving forward in Afghanistan … but we’re also going to be talking about the progress that we’ve made in expanding NATO’s defense capabilities,” President Obama said as he met with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Obama commended Rasmussen’s leadership as chief official of the strategic alliance, and said the meetings would ensure “that every NATO member has a stake and is involved and integrated in our mutual defense efforts.”
The president had earlier met with President Karzai of Afghanistan, where he highlighted the centrality of Afghanistan to the Chicago meetings.
“The NATO summit is going to be largely devoted to ratifying and reflecting the broad consensus that so many of our partners and ISAF members have agreed to,” Obama said at a press conference with Karzai, referring to the countries that have deployed troops to the war.
President Obama said NATO nations would be focusing on a vision for Afghanistan “post-2014,” when troops would be withdrawn and the Afghan War would be over.
“The Strategic Partnership Agreement, [and] this NATO Summit, are all part and parcel of a shared vision that we have in which Afghanistan is able to transition from decades of war to a transformational decade of peace and stability and development,” he said.
Karzai thanked American taxpayers for their support and reaffirmed his nation’s commitment to the transition process and to the complete withdrawal of NATO forces by 2014.
The Chicago meeting is the first time a NATO meeting has been held outside the U.S. capital and the first time many world leaders have met since the last NATO meeting in Lisbon in 2010.
Although there are 28 member nations in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), 61 countries are in attendance in Chicago, as well as the EU, the United Nations, and the World Bank.
Apart from Afghanistan—which will be discussed formally Monday morning—the two-day summit will address a range of pressing issues, including the alliance’s potential role in Syria and Iran, the missile defense program, and fiscal issues, the latter particularly pertinent as Europe and the United States endeavor to rein in spending and reducing deficits.
The NATO alliance is considered “cornerstone” to U.S. national interests, and the president’s focus on both the G8 and NATO reflects the increasing value the Obama administration places on U.S. alliances, says National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.
“No other nation in the world has the set of global alliances that the United States does. No other nation in the world … has a series of countries that it can go to around the world and work with these countries,” he told a press briefing ahead of the G8 and NATO summits.
Donilon stressed the strength of alliances over ‘coalitions of the willing,’ saying alliances are more highly valued and have established lines of communication and organizational architecture.
“You have operational capabilities that you practice and work on, and can call on in a moment’s notice,” he said, citing as an example the speed with which NATO responded to Libya.
While President Obama was talking about peace and stability in the confines of the summit venue, (the massive McCormick Place convention center), protesters outside were making their voices heard.
Thousands turned up in Grants Park Sunday for a city hall-approved rally and parade to the summit venue; around a thousand anti-war and anti-NATO protesters rallied around the city on Saturday night.
While the protests have been largely peaceful to date, there were reports that one protester was run over by a police vehicle at Jackson Street Bridge Saturday night.
“Chicago Police van number 6751, accelerated as it passed through the crowd, striking several people and seriously injuring one victim, who was later transported to the emergency room” the Boing Boing website reported, with a statement and a video of the hit-and-run.
The Chicago police force also claimed to have foiled a terrorist plot, arresting three men on Wednesday and charging two more Saturday.
The first three were from out-of-state, The Chicago Tribune reported, and were accused of planning to strike President Obama’s campaign headquarters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house, and police stations, with Molotov cocktails.
Two more men were charged Saturday for similar offenses.
Chicago police also confirmed that the city of Chicago website and the police department site had been hacked. Both were reported inoperable Sunday morning.
“We are aware of the potential issue with the city’s website and are working with the appropriate federal authorities to address the situation,” said Pete Scales, a spokesman for the city said in a statement.
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