Reporting Derrick Blakley
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UPDATED 05/18/12 11:42 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Among local and national leaders, the NATO Summit is considered a chance to shore up global alliances and put Chicago in the global spotlight.
As CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, the first world leaders were set to arrive in Chicago on Friday – Turkish President Abdullah Gül, and Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev.
As of 11 a.m., work crews were putting the finishing touches on the convention hall, including preparing the workspace for the 2,200 members of the international media who have received credentials to cover the event.
Technicians in the cavernous media center are checking out each and every one of the 1,400 Internet connections that reporters will use to file their stories.
Security preparations are also in place, including the deployment of U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives dog teams to sniff out possible explosives.
The key issue under discussion this weekend is the future of NATO’s commitment in Afghanistan. Danish television newsman Olav Christensen says his NATO member country wants to know when their role in Afghanistan will end.
“Like many other countries, we have soldiers in Afghanistan, so it’s important for us to see what’s going to come out of this; when are troops going to be able to pull back from Afghanistan, and also, what’s the future of Afghanistan?” Christensen said.
While some European nations are anxious to withdraw from Afghanistan, Christensen said the Danish believe NATO is playing a crucial role there.
“A lot of people support the effort. The understand the argument, or they buy the argument if you can say that, that it’s important that we have a safe Afghanistan with a government which is in control so that you can avert the fact that maybe al-Qaeda could come back,” he said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai will be at the conference this weekend.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will be arriving in Chicago for the conference on Saturday, after wrapping up the G-8 Summit at Camp David. Obama’s very first meeting on Sunday morning will be with Karzai.