Top of the Agenda: NATO Summit Overshadowed by U.S.-Pakistan Rift
The United States and Pakistan failed to reach an agreement to reopen a NATO supply line (NYT) from Pakistan through Afghanistan ahead of a crucial NATO summit that got under way in Chicago yesterday. U.S. President Barack Obama refused to meet with his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, unless a deal was reached. The two-day summit--to which Pakistan was invited at the last minute in the hopes of securing a deal over the supply routes--is focused on winding down NATO's decade-long war in Afghanistan. Pakistan closed the routes after a U.S. airstrike killed twenty-four Pakistani soldiers along the Pakistani-Afghan border in November, exacerbating already strained relations between the two countries.
"The alliance continues to confront fundamental questions about how it should define its role and mission in the twenty-first century, and whether its member nations have the political will and capacity to fulfill its mission. In particular, countries are ambivalent about whether the alliance should continue to conduct operations outside the North Atlantic, or limit missions to member nations' borders," writes CFR's Stewart M. Patrick in this Expert Brief.
"This week in Chicago, Obama will announce the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan by next summer. He will, in effect, be conceding defeat: the Taliban remains strong; the Hamid Karzai government looks inept and corrupt; the country appears headed for civil war. Al Qaeda may be weaker than it was three years ago, but not because of America's wildly expensive counterinsurgency effort, which has proved a massive bust," writes the Daily Beast's Peter Beinart.
"It's the realization that the Taliban will remain very much alive and kicking after NATO leaves that has prompted Obama to press upon Karzai the need to engage with greater urgency in reconciliation talks with the Taliban--and also to implement electoral reforms to diminish corruption and make elections more transparent," writes TIME's Tony Karon.