Summit opens amid tight security
CHICAGO (PAN): The two-day NATO summit began in the US city of Chicago on Sunday afternoon, with plans for ending the war in Afghanistan and preserving achievements of the past decade high on the agenda.
As heads of state arrived at McCormick Place at 1:30pm amid tight security, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh rasmussen and US President Obama made opening remarks. The participants are to discuss ways of meeting the 2014 withdrawal deadline for ISAF’s combat soldiers.
Iraq Veterans Against the War planned a day of protests before joining musician Tom Morello at the Petrillo Band shell for a concert in Grant Park. The event will be followed by a rally and march.
Gearing up for their largest demonstration, thousands of protestors gathered at Grant Park and planned to march to the lakeside convention centre, where the world leaders have already arrived.
Late on Saturday, anti-war protestors blamed police for running down a demonstrator with a van. But the authorities said the vehicle’s driver was responding to an attack by the protester.
One of the key issues on the agenda is funding the buildup of Afghan security forces, expected to reach their end-strength of 350,000 by 2015. The cost has been projected at $4 billion annually.
Leaders from 60 countries and international agencies are in Chicago, where they are to ponder over Afghanistan’s future, especially on dicey security matters, and other NATO-related issues.
NATO secretary-general's spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, told Pajhwok Afghan News approval of $4.1 billion for Afghan security force and ways to preserve achievements of the international community and Afghan government would be discussed.
“The biggest-ever two-day summit will confer on issues related to Afghanistan, which will send an explicit massage to Afghans that the international community is standing steadily by its promises and will never leave the country alone,” remarked Lungescu.
Afghan journalist Shafiq Hamdam, billing the meeting as vital to the country’s future, said Afghanistan was once again the focus of the global fraternity. He believed important decisions were going to be taken on stabilising the country.
President Hamid Karzai would meet his American counterpart Barack Obama and several other world leaders on the sidelines of the summit, a member of the Afghan government delegation said. Karzai is also scheduled to hold talks with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.
A day earlier, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said they would hold serious talks with President Asif Ali Zardari on dismantling insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan.
Addressing international youth groups, including those from Afghanistan, Rasmussen said they would pressure Islamabad to destroy militant safe heavens on its soil.
“During the summit, we will discuss with Pakistan’s president the issue and the international community will send Pakistan an open message.”
Without going into the specifics of the message, Rasmussen said insurgents were the enemies of Afghanistan and the world at large, and they ought to be handled collectively.
“We can’t solve the problems in Afghanistan without the positive engagement of Pakistan,” Rasmussen said at a policy forum.“We have to solve these problems,” he said with regard to the militant safe havens.
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