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 1:54 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:16 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT