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Afghanistan high on agenda for upcoming summits in Chicago

Updated: March 2, 2012 8:18AM



The agenda for 50 countries coming to Chicago in May for the NATO and G-8 summits includes Afghanistan, arming NATO for the future, and partnering with more countries around the globe, White House officials said Tuesday.

The officials met with Chicago’s consul generals, who are trying to set up events around town so that, for instance, Italian officials can meet Italian-American Chicagoans and Eastern European officials can meet with the large ethnic populations from those countries here.

The agenda for the G-8 — the countries with the largest economies — is a bit looser than the NATO agenda and is still being negotiated, said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication.

The NATO agenda was somewhat set at last year’s meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, at which NATO members set their timetables for withdrawal from Afghanistan.

President Obama has announced 30,000 U.S. troops coming home from Afghanistan this summer. The transition of power to Afghan security forces has begun and the 28 core members of NATO, as well as 22 more ally states involved in Afghanistan, want to be on the same page, Rhodes said. That will include NATO members’ financial support for the Afghan security forces.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta heads to Brussels in the next few days to further iron out the agenda, Rhodes said.

Chicago was one of several cities the White House considered for the summits once it decided it should be held outside Washington, Rhodes said.

Chicago, of course, had two important cheerleaders: President Barack Obama and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who already had left the White House to run for mayor when these discussions began but is still “beloved” in the White House, Rhodes said.

Beloved?

“I did say that — I said that on the record,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes admitted, “He’s my former boss.”

As for Obama, Rhodes said, “The president is from Chicago. It’s his hometown. He loves his city. He’s fully confident in the ability of his home city to put on a great face.”

Rhodes said Chicago business owners should not worry about rioting.

“I’ve traveled with the president on every one of these foreign trips and at every one of these things there is protests, so we kind of factor that into the equation,” Rhodes said. “We know that there are always going to be demonstrations. There were in Pittsburgh. There were in Toronto. There were in London. I think we were fully confident that Chicago had more than the ability to deal with that.”

And he said Chicago taxpayers should not worry about being stuck with the bill that some estimate may climb as high as $65 million. “We’re confident that the resources will be there without a burden on the Chicago taxpayers.”

The NATO summit will also focus on a missile defense system to protect Europe and the United States. And the final focus is partnering with non-NATO countries around the world.

“In Libya, you had Arab states like Qatar and the [United Arab Emirates] cooperating with NATO to implement that intervention, and so in Chicago we want to bring together some of these partner states and explore ways that NATO can have closer cooperation with non-NATO member states around the world.”



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