NATO invites Pakistan to key summit on Afghanistan in Chicago


U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (2nd L) meets with Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith (2nd R) at the NATO Defence Ministers Summit in Brussels, June 8, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed (BELGIUM)



NATO has invited Pakistan to a key summit about the future of Afghanistan to be held in Chicago May 20-21, Agence France Presse reported

President Asif Ali Zardari’s spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, told the Los Angeles Times that NATO's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen telephoned the Pakistani leader Tuesday to ask him to attend the meeting. 

Pakistan's Washington embassy told BBC News that Zardari was "likely to attend" the meeting in Chicago. 

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CNN's national security analyst Peter Bergen pointed out that having a meeting about the political situation in Afghanistan without Pakistan would be problematic. 

"A discussion of the future of Afghanistan without the participation of its much larger neighbor, Pakistan, is a bit like trying to stage "Hamlet" without having Hamlet ever appear on the stage," wrote Bergen. 

The move is one of several signs that Pakistan may soon lift a blockade of NATO's ground supply lines to Afghanistan, which it imposed after a NATO air strike killed 24 soldiers in November, according to BBC News. 

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"We're working very closely with Pakistan to allow the opening of the transit line because obviously this is in everybody's interest," NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu told AFP.

One of the key issues at hand in Chicago will be who foots the bill for Afghanistan's army and police after NATO pulls out of the region, CNN reported, which is expected to cost $4 billion a year after 2014, when NATO will begin to downdraw its combat forces. 

The summit in Chicago on Sunday and Monday is being called the largest NATO meeting to date, with about 60 countries and organizations attending, according to BBC.

It will come just a day after President Obama hosts the leaders of the world's most powerful countries at the G8 conference at Camp David in Maryland, CNN reported. 

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