NATO Coalition Already Fracturing Over Afghanistan
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UPDATED 05/19/12 10:59 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Many world leaders have arrived in Chicago for the NATO Summit on Sunday, and some friction is already emerging on the issue of military action in Afghanistan.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen arrived in Chicago on Friday evening. He was scheduled to discuss the next generation of NATO with younger delegates at the Chicago Club downtown.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports
WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports on Saturday morning, Rasmussen gave a preview of the group’s agenda at the Chicago Club downtown.
He praised Chicago before members of the Young Atlanticist Summit – which is composed of younger delegates – saying he could imagine no better NATO host.
“It brings together people from many countries and backgrounds,” Rasmussen said. “In short, it’s a lot like NATO.”
Rasmussen says NATO leaders will discuss at the summit transitioning forces in Afghanistan from combat roles to one of support next year, in something called Smart Defense.
“Nations are making individual contributions, and NATO is bringing it all together into a single system,” he said.
Rasmussen says dwindling defense budgets may force NATO countries to work together more to protect the alliance.
“You can’t be safe if you’re broke,” he said.
As CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, President Barack Obama will be arriving in Chicago on Saturday night, after wrapping up the G-8 Summit at Camp David.
But even before Obama arrives, it seems that the NATO coalition is falling apart regarding Afghanistan.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrived in Chicago on Friday. He is hoping NATO adheres to its previously-announced policy of keeping troops on the nation’s soil until 2014.
He says that will provide more time to train and upgrade Afghan security forces.
But newly elected French President François Hollande, a socialist, says he told President Obama at the G-8 meeting that French troops will be waving au revoir to Afghanistan much sooner.
“I reminded President Obama that I made a promise to the French people to the effect that our combat troops would be withdrawn to Afghanistan by the end of 2012,” Hollande said through an interpreter.
In addition to the issue of just when to get out, NATO members will also be considering how to pay for the Afghan army that will take over when NATO leaves.
It would cost about $6 billion a year to maintain the current Afghan security force of about 350,000. Afghanistan does not have that money, and NATO members have been slow to pony up pledges to foot the bill.
All in all, there will be plenty for NATO members to discuss when the summit kicks off on Sunday.