The NATO summit in Chicago started on Sunday, and while the focus of the summit is supposed to be on withdrawing troops from Afganistan, a rift between the U.S. and Pakistan is taking center stage.
The tiff is over a supply route through Pakistan that the U.S. wants open on time for when they want to send military personnel and equipment home. The supply line was closed in November after a NATO airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
According to the New York Times, officials on both sides "expressed optimism last week that an agreement was imminent," but they weren't able to close a deal before the summit. Pakistan was invited with the hope that it would work up enough good will to get a deal done, otherwise it would be "really uncomfortable" for Pakistan at the conference, a senior U.S. official told the Times. That was not the case, unfortunately.
Apparently they haven't been able to reach a deal because Pakistan is trying to raise the price for using their supply route. Before the closure the cost per truck using the supply line was $250, but according to a Times source they're now asking for “upward of $5,000." An American official with knowledge of the negotiations told the AFP, "That's, in a word, unacceptable."
The focus of the summit in Chicago is the future of Afganistan over the next ten years, and the eventual handover of military control to the Afghan government. President Obama spoke with Hamid Karzai privately before the official talks between all 50 world leaders got under way. "I want to express my appreciation for the hard work that President Karzai has done," Obama said after their meeting. "He recognizes the enormous sacrifices American troops have made." Karzai said that he is "very much looking forward to an end to the war" and that he hopes in the near future Afganistan would "no longer be a burden on the world."
France ruffled feathers after Francois Hollande said he was going to withdraw France's remaining troops by the end of the year. NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen had to promise there wouldn't be a quick pull out from any other NATO countries. "There will be no rush for the exits. We will stay committed to our operation in Afghanistan and see it through to a successful end," he said. German Chancellor Angela Merkel supported him, saying, "Germany supports NATO's idea: We went into Afghanistan together and we want to withdraw from Afghanistan together."