Yahoo News reports: When President Barack Obama welcomes NATO leaders to Chicago in ten days for a high-stakes summit on the war in Afghanistan, there could be a big gap in the alliance’s talks on strategy — a hole the size and shape of Pakistan.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen strongly suggested at his monthly press conference on Friday that Pakistan would not be welcome at the May 20-21 gathering unless it reopens key supply routes into Afghanistan.
“We have actually invited a number of countries from the region — neighbors of Afghanistan, Central Asian countries, Russia — because they provide important transit arrangements to the benefit of our operation,” he said.
“But, as you also know, our transit routes through Pakistan are currently blocked so we have to continue our dialogue with Pakistan with a view to finding a solution to that because that’s really a matter of concern,” Rasmussen said.
The secretary general also echoed past statements from leaders like President Barack Obama that no Afghanistan war strategy can ultimately be successful without Pakistan’s help.
“If we are to ensure long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan, we also need a positive engagement of Pakistan,” he said.
White House officials declined to comment on the record about Rasmussen’s comments. But an administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Yahoo News that “The U.S. and NATO want to see these lines opened up, and it would be preferable to have Pakistan participating in Chicago.”
“But we’ll have to see what progress Pakistan can make in the coming days to determine whether they might ultimately be issued an invitation,” the official said. Rasmussen’s comments came two weeks after the Pentagon released an Afghanistan war progress report that highlighted “both long-term and acute challenges” of the conflict, and warned that the Taliban and their al-Qaida allies “still operate with impunity from sanctuaries in Pakistan.”