Message from Chicago

It was only to be expected that nothing much would come out of the deliberations at the NATO summit in Chicago. The central issue was Afghanistan. NATO reaffirmed its decision to cry halt to all NATO-led anti-insurgency operations and to withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan by December 31, 2014. Its strength has already been depleted by operations in Libya and its financial inanition. President Barack Obama, however, reiterated that the international community would not leave Afghanistan in the lurch. The Conference was primarily concerned with the formulation of a post-withdrawal strategy. It was said that some foreign troops would remain on Afghan soil in an advisory capacity. Evidently Afghan security forces cannot take on the Taliban challenge. On the other hand, the new French President Francois Hollande is determined to pull out French troops by the end of this year. It could lead other NATO countries to follow suit.

Pakistan was the main hurdle. President Asif Ali Zardari was invited to the summit. The Pakistani army had refused to reopen NATO supply routes to Afghanistan. It meant tacit support to the Haqqanis. Islamabad is demanding billions of dollars for its cooperation in the war on terror in the region. But there is a suspicion that a large slice of the aid requested may be diverted to anti-NATO operations which will be suicidal for the alliance. Few would like to see the Taliban to be back in power which will strengthen Islamic terrorism and threaten regional security. NATO has to develop alternative supply routes to Afghanistan through Russia and Central Asia. A hasty pull-out also calls for a rethink. But these matters will now be clouded in the gathering electoral storm in the US.

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