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 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT