After the opening day of the NATO summit in Chicago, President Obama is still working on solidifying a strategy for ending combat operations in Afghanistan, but it seems his secondary goal of opening up supply lines in Pakistan has already fallen apart. President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan was invited to Chicago at the last minute in the hope that the issue could be settled, but on Sunday President Obama refused to even meet with him without an agreement in place.
The route, which once moved 40 percent of NATO’s nonlethal supplies into Afghanistan, has been closed since 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in American airstrikes in November. The country has demanded an apology, though it seems the central issue now is how much Pakistan will be paid for allowing transport trucks on its roads again. The New York Times reports that previously Pakistan wanted $250 for every truck traveling from Karachi to the Afghan border, but now it’s more than $5,000 per truck. Zardari was granted a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday, and both sides say they’re hopeful that they’ll reach a deal soon — though probably not during the summit.
In contrast, Obama’s relationship with Afghan President Hami Karzai seems to be less rocky now. After their meeting on Sunday, Obama reaffirmed the plan to remove combat troops from Afghanistan, while continuing to support the country as its security forces take over. “The Afghan war, as we understand, it is over,” said Obama. Yet, this only underscores the importance of resolving the dispute with Pakistan. As the U.S. begins to withdraw from Afghanistan, the supply routes will become even more crucial, since crossing the border to Pakistan is the easiest way to remove heavy equipment from the country.
Tensions continued outside the summit on Sunday. Forty-five people were arrested and four police officers were injured as thousands of protesters marched through downtown Chicago. Yesterday, two more people were arrested in connection with the alleged terror plot to hurl Molotov cocktails at President Obama’s campaign headquarters and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house, plus banks and police stations throughout the city. Obviously, it’s been a stressful weekend for President Obama, but Mitt Romney’s got his back. He thoughtfully penned an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune that explains everything Obama’s doing wrong regarding NATO. No need to thank him, Mitt’s just here to help!