Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

G8 and NATO-athon, with Pakistan at the table

By Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst
updated 12:05 PM EDT, Wed May 16, 2012
President Obama talks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Pakistan has accepted NATO's invitation to the Chicago summit.
President Obama talks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Pakistan has accepted NATO's invitation to the Chicago summit.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Pakistan to attend NATO summit
  • Obama hosts G8 conference at Camp David, then NATO summit in Chicago
  • Peter Bergen: The issues will be funding Afghanistan's future and the civil war in Syria
  • Bergen: Problems are how to hold Assad accountable and NATO's Afghanistan fatigue

Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst and the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden, from 9/11 to Abbottabad."

(CNN) -- It's the diplomatic equivalent of hosting both the World Cup and the World Series in the same country on the same weekend.

On Saturday President Obama welcomes the leaders of the world's most powerful countries to the G8 conference at his country retreat at Camp David in Maryland. And the next day he hosts some two dozen NATO heads of state in Chicago.

The challenges of this Diplopaloozaa include some complicated logistics: How do you get eight world leaders and their delegations comfortably situated in the rustic wood chalets that make up Camp David, and which has never hosted this many heads of state before?

And the challenges, of course, also involve trying to resolve some very knotty problems:

-- In a time of contracting budgets, what kinds of commitments are plausible for NATO countries to make to Afghanistan after the alliance withdraws all its combat troops from the country in 2014?

Peter Bergen
Peter Bergen

-- What to do about the civil war in Syria?

In a significant and symbolic development, Pakistan's President Asif Zardari has accepted NATO's offer to attend the Chicago summit, according to Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., Sherry Rehman. Given that the summit's principal focus will be the future of Afghanistan, a discussion without the participation of Pakistan would have been a bit like trying to stage "Hamlet" without Hamlet appearing on stage.

Right now Pakistan is blocking the transit of critical NATO supplies over Pakistani roads to Afghanistan. Still, the vital air corridor across Pakistani airspace into Afghanistan remains open.

Pakistan closed the ground routes in protest after NATO forces killed about two dozen Pakistani soldiers last November at a post on the Afghan-Pakistan border, in what NATO has termed an accident.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Monday raised the possibility of reopening those ground supply routes to Afghanistan, saying their closure was "important to make a point. Pakistan has made a point and now we can move on."

In addition to an agreement on reopening the supply routes, the Obama administration hopes to obtain greater Pakistani involvement in peace talks with the Taliban.

A senior administration official says that there is evidence that the "reconciliation" process with the Taliban -- which the United States has been quietly moving forward with for many months -- has split the Taliban movement; some elements of the Taliban are interested in reconciliation, while others are "very upset" about this idea.

The assassination on Sunday of Mullah Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban minister who was negotiating between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents -- an attack that has been claimed by a breakaway Taliban faction -- would seem to underline this point.

A key issue that will be discussed in Chicago is who will pay for the Afghan army and police after the NATO drawdown. The expected end strength of the Afghan national security forces will be around 350,000 by 2015, although that is expected to fall to 230,000 by 2017.

The costs to pay for this are estimated to run around $4 billion a year after 2014, and the Afghan government can pay only a small fraction of it.

Although the Obama administration "won't be passing the hat," U.S. officials expect that some NATO countries will announce in Chicago commitments to pay for the Afghan army and police post-2014.

At the Camp David meeting one of the most complex problems that will be discussed is what to do about the conflict in Syria.

Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan reached an agreement with Syrian President Bashir Assad in April that Assad would observe a ceasefire and pull back his soldiers from urban areas where Assad's forces have killed thousands.

The senior administration official says, "We have been very skeptical about the Annan plan. We have not seen Assad fulfill any part of the deal."

At Camp David, the administration plans to discuss measures about how to hold Assad accountable for his violations of the ceasefire and the human rights of his people.

It will be a long weekend for President Obama and his team. There appear to be no good options in Syria and, like most Americans, NATO countries have grown very weary of the long war in Afghanistan.

CNN's Elise Labott contributed reporting to this piece.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
updated 9:10 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Sat August 16, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Sun August 17, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
updated 5:46 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
updated 6:26 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
updated 4:24 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
updated 6:56 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
updated 4:35 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
updated 7:08 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Mary Allen says because of new research and her own therapy, she no longer carries around the fear of her mother, which had turned into a generalized fear of everything
updated 3:59 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Gilbert Gottfried says the comedian was most at home on the comedy club stage, where he was generous to his fellow stand-up performers
updated 4:54 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Iris Baez, whose son was killed by an illegal police chokehold, says there must be zero tolerance for police who fatally shoot or otherwise kill unarmed people such as Michael Brown
updated 8:46 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Maria Cardona says as he seeks a path to the presidency, the Kentucky Senator is running from his past stated positions. But voters are not stupid--and they know how to use the internet
updated 10:19 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Gene Seymour says the shock at the actor and comedian's death comes from its utter implausibility. For many of us over the last 40 years or so, Robin Williams was an irresistible force of nature that nothing could stop.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Soledad O'Brien says the story of two veterans told in a documentary airing on CNN shows the challenges resulting from post-traumatic stress
updated 11:25 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT