Barack Obama, NATO chief agree on major topics of NATO summit

Updated: 2012-05-10 13:06


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WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen agreed Wednesday that topics on Afghanistan, defense capabilities and partnerships will dominate the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago.

At the president's Oval Office, the two leaders discussed final preparations for the gathering of NATO leaders, slated for May 18-19, the White House said.

On Afghanistan, where American and NATO forces have fought a decade-old war, they agreed that the Chicago summit should reaffirm allied commitment to the transition plan agreed on in Lisbon, Portugal in November 2010 when the leaders last met and agreed to hand over the control of security in Afghanistan to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

In their Chicago meeting, NATO leaders will arrange the final stages of the transition, including a shift next year from combat to a support role, as well as "enduring" support for "sufficient and sustainable" Afghan forces.

On the capabilities of the world's largest military bloc, they were of the opinion that the summit should highlight the commitment of allies to field the defense capabilities that NATO needs for the 21st century at a time of austerity.

"They discussed their expectation that allies would be in a position to announce progress on a number of key capabilities initiatives, including on missile defense," the White House said.

Of the 28 NATO member states, only three currently meet the common commitment to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense. Further cuts are expected as many countries aim to trim their budget deficits.

One of US objectives for the summit is to maintain NATO's core defense capabilities in the period of austerity and build a force ready for future challenges, as US officials put it.

Obama and Rasmussen discussed the importance of NATO's partnerships with non-member countries, and welcomed the recent decision by allies to invite a group of 13 partner nations to Chicago for an "unprecedented" meeting to discuss ways to further broaden and deepen bilateral cooperation, the White House said.

"NATO is now a hub for a global network of security partners which have served alongside NATO forces in Afghanistan, Libya and Kosovo," it said.

The United States has 90,000 troops in Afghanistan, while other NATO allies and partner countries have 36,000 and 5,300 respectively.