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get-attachment.aspx.jpegPolish President Bronislaw Komorowski meeting with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)Tuesday at his Chicago office. (photo courtesy Embassy of Poland)

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) returned to his office Tuesday for the first time since his stroke in January to meet with Poland's President, Bronislaw Komorowski. Chicago has the largest population of residents with Polish roots outside of Warsaw, and Komorowski had an active schedule before and after the Chicago NATO Summit--also meeting with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) on Tuesday. Poland's president gave Kirk a "Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland," the same honor he handed to Gov. Pat Quinn on Sunday to mark the Illinois National Guard partnership with the Polish army in Afghanistan and Iraq. Kirk, Emanuel when he was a House member and Kirk have all backed measures to make allow Polish citizens into the U.S. without a visa.

By Lynn Sweet and Abdon M. Pallasch

Closing out the Chicago NATO Summit, President Barack Obama said Monday "Chicago performed magnificently," encouraged global leaders to shop while they were here, thanked residents who endured traffic jams and said the protestors had a right to demonstrate.

"Obviously, Rahm was stressed. But he performed wonderfully," Obama said of the mayor, his former chief of staff who brought the summit to the city.

Obama made his comments at a press conference at McCormick Place where he revealed that among the gifts the U.S. gave global leaders were small replicas of an iconic Chicago landmark, the "Bean" sculpture in Millennium Park and footballs--to mark the leaders dinner Sunday night at Soldier Field.

"I have to tell you, I think Chicago performed magnificently. Those of us who were in the summit had a great experience. If you talk to leaders from around the world, they loved the city.

"Michelle took some of the spouses down to the South Side to see the Comer Center, where wonderful stuff is being done with early education. They saw the Art Institute.

"You know, I was just talking to (British Prime Minister) David Cameron. I think he's sneaking off, doing a little sight- seeing before he heads home.

I encouraged everybody to shop. Want to -- want to boost the hometown economy. We gave each leader a bean, a small model for them to remember, as well as a football from Soldier Field. Many of them did not know what to do with it.

" So I -- people had a wonderful time. And I think the Chicagoans that they interacted with couldn't have been more gracious and more hospitable. So I could not have been prouder."

Obama gently scolded the Chicago press for its coverage of the downside side of the Summit--the inconveniences and the demonstrators drawn to the city to object to the world's strongest military alliance.

"Now, I think with respect to the protesters, as I said, this is part of what NATO defends is free speech and the freedom of assembly. And -- and you know, frankly, to my Chicago press, outside of Chicago, folks really weren't all that stressed about the possibility of having some protesters here because that's what -- part of what America is about.

"And obviously, Rahm was stressed. But he performed wonderfully.

"And the Chicago police -- Chicago's finest did a great job under, you know, some significant pressure and a lot of scrutiny. The only other thing I'll say about this is thank you to everybody who endured the traffic situation.
Obviously Chicago residents who had difficulties getting home or getting to work or what have you, you know, that's -- what can I tell you? That's -- that's part of the price of being a world city.

"But this was a great showcase. And if it makes those folks feel any better, despite being 15 minutes away from my house, nobody would let me go home. I was thinking I would be able to sleep in my own bed tonight. They said I would cause even worse traffic. So I ended up staying in a hotel, which contributes to the Chicago economy. "


Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release May 20, 2012








White House Press Filing Center

McCormick Place

Chicago, Illinois

3:00 P.M. EDT

MR. RHODES: Good afternoon, everybody. Thanks for joining us. We're very pleased today to be joined by two guests here -- General John Allen, who's the Commanding General of ISAF; and Doug Lute, who leads our Afghanistan-Pakistan policy at the White House.

General Allen is here for a limited amount of time, so I think we'll begin by having the General walk you through his view of the situation in Afghanistan and the summit here. And he can take questions on the security aspects of our efforts in Afghanistan.

Then later on, Doug and I can give you a readout of the President's meeting with President Karzai and answer whatever other questions you have about Afghanistan and about the summit or other issues. But with that, I'll turn it over to General Allen. Thanks.

GENERAL ALLEN: Thank you, Ben.

Well, it's good to see you all. I wanted to spend just a couple of moments this afternoon just summarizing my key priorities with respect to the campaign, where we find ourselves now. Those priorities generally revolve around three key points. One is to continue the momentum of the campaign itself, continue to pressure the Taliban. The second priority is to move with all dispatch to accelerate the capacity and the role of the ANSF moving forward in assuming their role in security lead across the country. And a third is to set the conditions for, and to support the process of transition as it was envisioned as a road map in the Lisbon Summit in November of 2010.

All of those are complementary. The actions that we are undertaking with respect to the campaign in this coming campaign season are supported by the continued build of the Afghan National Security forces. We anticipate completing the recruitment of the ANSF, which will be 352,000 troops upon completion, and we expect to do that several months ahead of schedule. That date was originally 1 October; we would anticipate within the next couple of months.

We will continue to train and equip and ultimately to field the entire ANSF by the end of 2013. So we'll be approaching a key crossover point in the campaign in 2013 -- what's known as the Milestone 2013 where the ANSF will move into security lead in the context of the counterinsurgency campaign and where ISAF forces will be supporting that move into the lead, recognizing and noting, however, that combat will continue -- combat operations will continue in the country throughout the period of the remainder of the ISAF mission, which will conclude on the 31st of December 2014.

We've had a number of key developments in the last several months. The first was the successful signing of two memoranda of understanding with the Afghan government -- one on the shift of detention operations from the U.S. government to the Afghan government under Additional Protocol 2 of the Geneva Convention. The second was the memorandum of understanding which moved special operations under the Afghan constitution and in compliance with Afghan law. Those culminated later with the signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement by President Obama and President Karzai in Kabul in Afghanistan recently.

That has set the conditions for negotiations to begin in the relatively near future on a bilateral security agreement. That bilateral security agreement -- you'll see it called sometimes the BSA -- will ultimately define the size and the contribution of the United States over time to Afghan security.

Additionally, during the summer, I think many of you are aware, we will begin the process of recovering the phase two of the President's surge forces -- 23,000 troops -- which will redeploy from Afghanistan back to the United States by the end of September.

So there's been a lot of positive moves in the last several months. The ANSF continues on a positive trajectory both in terms of the recruiting but also in its operational commitment in the field and its accomplishments in the field as well.

And so with that, let me take your questions.

Q Thanks very much. What do you think about the French insistence to stick to their guns on pulling out combat troops by the end of this year? Are you concerned that other countries might view that as an opportunity to leave early as well? How do you see that impacting troop conditions on the ground?

GENERAL ALLEN: Well, ultimately, we will need to understand exactly what the French decision will mean. At this juncture -- and ultimately those decisions will be finally taken by the new French administration and the new President. At this juncture, we will seek to provide France opportunity, should they desire to continue to contribute to the ISAF mission. We have the capacity, using our current force structure to ensure that there is no degradation in security with respect to any decisions that might be made.

But those are sovereign French decisions and we'll support those decisions. But we're also prepared to provide options, viable options for contributions to the ISAF mission over time. And many of those contributions often take the form and the shape of training, mentoring, instructing. And all of those are important to the mission overall.

Q General, do you run the risk of gradually having nations take decisions like France's and being allowed to do so, where they leave some forces in place in a different role but the fighting ends up being done by the United States? And what would that say about the overall health of the mission if that's the case?

GENERAL ALLEN: Well, again, all of those decisions ultimately are sovereign decisions by the states themselves. The nature of the mission as it is evolving now is, as our numbers get smaller, is evolving into an advisory mission. And that's a very important mission in terms of being able to accelerate the ANSF to the lead. But as I think you've heard, Anne, many times, the mantra of this particular coalition has been "in together, out together," and I'm not seeing, frankly, many voices being raised that would oppose that mantra.

All of the states are going to ultimately make their own decisions with respect to how and when they draw their forces down. And many of the states today have made those decisions, and there are numbers coming down for many of those countries across the battle space.

Q Do you feel that you're being given adequate military input as to the effect of those decisions?

GENERAL ALLEN: We do the planning. I don't input directly into capitals, but senior national representatives, chiefs of defense, leadership that works through SACEUR and SHAPE -- we're in constant conversation about the needs of forces, expressed through something called the Combined Joint Statement of Requirements, which is a document that my headquarters publishes and SACEUR ultimately presents to the leadership of all 50 countries, which details my force generation priorities in order to accomplish this campaign.

And those CJSORs, they're called, help the countries to understand the countries to understand the kinds of forces that we need and the numbers of forces that we need. And as the mission continues to evolve from a mission that has relied so heavily to this point on maneuver forces and general purpose combat forces to specialized forces for the purposes of instructing or for advising, it's important that we all be in a constant conversation. And we are.

Again, I don't input directly into capitals on this, but I'm comfortable that the conversation is sufficiently strategic and expansive that we're accounting for the countries' input and the countries' opinions.

Q General, thank you. To what extent do the so-called inside killings, the attacks by people wearing Afghan uniforms on our and other ally troops that have occurred -- and the corruption that's been reported in the Afghan government -- affect your goals of this mission and your confidence in their government's ability to stand up a military that can defend their own turf?

GENERAL ALLEN: Well, that's several questions. Let me go first to what you articulated as the insider threat. Every one of those attacks we take very seriously. Every one of those attacks that has produced a death we offer our sincere condolences to those families. We pray for those who were wounded.

It's important to note that in the analysis that we have done, less than 50 percent of the ones that have perpetrated these attacks were in fact Taliban infiltraters. Many of these folks are self-radicalized. So it's important to understand and be able to recognize the nature of that self-radicalization in the ranks.

To that extent, we have partnered very, very closely with the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, the National Director of Security to undertake measures bilaterally to protect each other. It's not well-known that the Afghans suffer nearly as many casualties from insider threats as we do. And so it's important that we protect ourselves. And that begins with a more comprehensive screening process at induction. There's an eight-step vetting process that is now underway. There is also strong cooperation between the Ministry of Defense and the National Director of Security to ensure that there are counterintelligence elements that are placed in key locations, such as recruiting centers, training centers in the ranks of operational formations.

And so that's a -- those are measures -- we would call it unprecedented cooperation, actually, between the Afghans themselves and with us to reduce the potential threat of these insider attacks.

As well, we have revamped our own training standards to ensure that our troops are, not only as they enter the theater as well trained as possible, but we've pushed those standards back up through NATO and through the U.S. chain to ensure that that training occurs.

Now, there's a good-news story here, and that is that the Afghans have arrested more than 160 individuals in the last several months that they believe could have been in the throes of planning for an attack on ISAF forces. So the process is working. It's not perfect. Any time we have one of these it's a tragedy, but I also make sure everyone understands that every case where one of these occurs, that same day there are tens of thousands -- tens of thousands of interactions between the Afghans and ISAF forces that don't go that way, and in fact, strengthen the relationships and deepen our partnership.

As to the issue of corruption, I'm very conscious of that. It's, in fact, a line of operation within the campaign plan to do all that we can to reduce the influence of corruption with respect to the ISAF mission. To that extent, the President -- President Karzai has designated a presidential executive commission to work with us in a number of areas -- and they're very important areas with respect to reducing criminal capture of certain capabilities. But we're also partnering closely with the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior in something called Transparency and Awareness Accountability Working Groups

TAAWGs. And the Ministry of Defense has mapped the entire function of the Ministry of Defense from the accession of recruits to the acquisition of weapons. And we're looking at every aspect of Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry of Interior is engaged in it now, to be able to reduce the influence of corruption and potential criminal capture within those ministries. And we're focused on that and we're in close partnership with that.

Q So, cumulatively, these issues, how do they affect your confidence in the ability to fulfill the mission?

GENERAL ALLEN: I think we'll fulfill the mission, but I don't want to understate the complexity of the mission and the challenges that we will have. This country hasn't suffered from corruption that started last week and it's not going to be able to solve all of those issues in the near term. But I believe that senior leaders among the Afghans are, in fact, committed ultimately to solving this. They understand that corruption is corrosive to a democratic process. And ultimately to have the confidence of the international community and to be good partners with us in the business of the security and development of the Afghan national security forces, they recognize they've got to deal with this issue. I believe they are earnest in it and I think they're putting some real energy into it.

Q Let me ask about the security plan and the whole -- and the President's decision. Do you think that decision was made by the President really based on the conditions on the ground, which way they were heading, or was this more of a politically based decision? And do you think your input into the planning here was heard inside the White House?

GENERAL ALLEN: Which plan is that, sir?

Q Sorry -- the withdrawal plan, the 2014 --

GENERAL ALLEN: Well, I didn't participate in that, but I'll simply tell you that -- I wasn't the commander at the time. I'll simply tell you that I believe we have a very strong national security team now and the dialogue is wide open. And I'm very clear in saying -- and it's not intended to be a bumper sticker, but I mean it sincerely -- there's no daylight between the commander on the ground in Afghanistan and the Commander-in-Chief. And I think we're in an excellent strategic conversation right now about the way ahead. I'm frequently asked for my opinion and my views and I am grateful to be engaged in that kind of a strategic conversation.

They have played out to the advantage of the campaign because we have been strong consultation throughout the chain of command on the defense side up through NATO as well to the Secretary General, but also into the White House. So I'm comfortable with the state of the conversation right now, which is the strategic conversation, and the way ahead with respect to consultation between the commander, his chain of command, and the defense chain of command with the White House.

Q I'm sorry, I should have made it a little more clear on your part there, but in terms of your discussions with the President -- I understand that you weren't there before -- but do you really think that the level of troop withdrawal was to your liking?

GENERAL ALLEN: Well, I was asked whether I could execute that plan, and I told them that I can. And I'm executing the plan. And it's not just a pure factor of reducing 23,000 troops. There are a lot of other things that are occurring simultaneously with that.

Part of the importance of the surge was to create conditions under which we could withdraw those troops -- and I think those conditions are now underway -- and that was to move the Afghan National Security forces to a level and to a confidence where they could begin to assume the role of some of those surge forces in the field. And in fact, that's what's going to happen this coming summer. As those 23,000 troops come out, there will be Afghan National Security forces that will flow into those areas where there had been surge forces and they will take over the functions that those surge forces ultimately had performed. The difference is that now, as I explained a moment ago to Anne, as this mission begins to see more and more the introduction of advisory forces into the field, those Afghan forces which will flow in behind the surge forces will have advisors in them.

So I said I supported the drawdown plan; I'm executing that plan now and I believe it can be executed.

MR. RHODES: The General has to leave at 3:30 p.m., so we time for a couple more here.

Q Just following up on that question, do you -- is part of the planning that as the surge forces are replaced with the ANSF, for example, in Helmand, if there is some reinsurgence of the Taliban, do you have a plan to send troops back in, or once they're out, they're out?

GENERAL ALLEN: We have short-term capabilities to shift forces. We're going to watch very closely the Taliban. The Taliban have been unambiguous in that they intend to take advantage of the removal of the surge forces, and so we have planned for that. We're going to watch very, very closely their activities, and of course their -- what they say versus what they do. And if we detect that there is, in fact, a Taliban presence beginning to surge in behind our forces, we have forces that are available that we intend to put against that to prevent that from happening.

Q Thank you. General, could you put into perspective for the American people how the shift out of the combat lead role next year affects the risks for U.S. troops? And is there any concern that perhaps the diminishment of that risk would be overstated, that these troops will still be in serious harm's way?

GENERAL ALLEN: Well, I don't want to, again, understate the challenge that we have ahead of us. The Taliban is still a resilient and capable opponent in the battle space. And it's also important to understand while the Afghan National Security Forces will move in the lead in the context of this counterinsurgency campaign, we fully expect that combat is going to continue. And I anticipate having conventional maneuver forces as well as special operations forces that we will apply against those areas, where, in partnership with the ANSF, they are going to need our assistance in order to deal with the challenges that the Taliban are going to present to them.

We're three tranches into this process of transition, and the final two tranches -- one will occur towards the end of this year and one will occur roughly in the middle of next year -- some of the areas that will be transitioning will be up along the Pakistani border. We can anticipate that the Taliban there, recognizing that that's some of the last areas in which they can operate with freedom in Afghanistan, they're going to oppose that. And so I anticipate that during that period of time we're going to see some combat. The ANSF will be in the lead in that period and they'll be in the lead for the purposes of prosecuting the operations there. But we're going to see U.S. forces and ISAF forces engaged in supporting them.

So there is no end of combat before the end of 2014. And in fact, the Taliban will oppose the ANSF after 2014. But the difference -- and I think it needs to be clearly explained -- that we envisage that the ANSF will move into the lead -- this Milestone 2013 -- for the prosecution of counterinsurgency, and we'll largely be in support of that. But it doesn't mean that we won't be fighting and it doesn't mean there won't be combat. And that's important, because there is a narrative out there that combat operations for the U.S. stops at Milestone 2013. That is not in fact correct. It acknowledges that the ANSF have moved firmly and completely into the lead for the purposes of the counterinsurgency campaign, and we are largely in support of them.

Q General, can you explain how serious the Pakistan's closure of the crossings -- how that's impacting your ability to supply troops now that the fighting season has resumed? And also, what's holding up the deal, and when do you expect this is going to get settled?

GENERAL ALLEN: With regard to the ground line of communication, it has not, in fact, negatively affected my -- our prosecution of the campaign. Indeed, in some manner, some ways in which we measure our stockage, if you will, of certain capabilities in the battle space, they're higher today than they were when the ground line of communications were closed.

But there have been some very positive indications of late with the government in Islamabad about an interest in entering into negotiations, which I think you're all aware of, to open the ground line of communications. I can't tell you when that will occur -- obviously sooner is better than later -- but I can't tell you when that will occur.

But I think one of the important realizations of that is that, in fact, we are now talking about it. That, we view as being positive. We think it's a good indication -- a good indicator of an improvement in the relationship. We hope to see that improve even more. I recently had the opportunity to meet with General Kayani and his leadership in Islamabad for two days to talk about the future relationship of the trilateral military commands -- the Pakistani military, the Afghan National Security Forces and ISAF. It was a very positive conversation; the first time we'd met in about a year.

So I think that the trending right now is in a positive direction with respect to a variety of the conversations between Islamabad and ISAF, and Islamabad and Kabul, and Islamabad and the United States.

MR. RHODES: Thanks very much, General.


MR. RHODES: So now that we've focused on the security side -- and we can continue to take questions on some of these issues -- Doug can give you a readout of the Karzai meeting. Just from the perspective of the White House and the President on a couple of these issues that came up, on the French question, given the fact that President Obama has just spent a lot of time with President Hollande, we are confident that we can work with the French to ensure that even as they make their own national decisions about their combat forces, that there are, as the General said, additional ways for them to remain a part of the ISAF mission and for them to make contributions to the ISAF mission. And again, you heard the General speak to some of the different options for that around training.

But I think there is a broader story, frankly, of alliance unity and sticking with this mission, given the fact that it has been over a decade now and it's been a very difficult challenge; the fact that we still see so many countries engage in Afghanistan, and we see countries like Germany and the United Kingdom and Australia and others committing to the long-term sustainment of the Afghan National Security Forces I think speaks to how seriously NATO takes this.

And then to the question of what guides the President's decision-making on troops, I think the single-most important question that the President looks at and looked at when he called for the recovery of the surge is how -- are we going against our core objective in Afghanistan, which is to defeat al Qaeda and to deny it a safe haven in that country.

And again, the President has acknowledged that Afghanistan is not going to be a perfect place when we complete our NATO-ISAF combat mission in 2014. But we do think that we made good process against that core objective. He, of course, made the decisions to recover the surge in the context of the most devastating blows against al Qaeda's leadership that we'd seen over the course of the previous two years or so.

And again, we believe that we can continue to draw down our forces while making progress against that objective of denying a safe haven to al Qaeda and training up Afghan National Security Forces that can ensure that that threat pictures doesn't emerge once more from within Afghanistan.

With that, Doug will give you a brief readout of the Karzai meeting, and then we can take your questions on this and other topics.

GENERAL LUTE: Before talking about the bilat, which was a sort of 75-minute session earlier this morning, let me just add to Ben's last point and to John's earlier comments with regard to the recovery of the surge.

A lot of times we miss that the U.S. surge was intended to buy the time and space to fill up the Afghan capacity. And so when the President last year, at about this time, was considering options for recovering the U.S. surge, he judged that against progress on building up the Afghans. And that was a central factor, and in fact, the U.S. surge has enabled now the fielding of about 350,000 Afghans. So in a sense, the U.S. surge of 30,000 enabled the buildup of the Afghans to its current surge straight to 350,000.

And really the theme of Lisbon and now Chicago is very much the handoff from the U.S. and the NATO surge to the Afghan surge. So in a sense, you're exchanging the baton here between the U.S. surge and the Afghan surge.

The bilat -- so obviously, the President has just met about just short of three weeks ago in Kabul, where President Karzai welcomed President Obama to sign the Strategic Partnership Agreement -- and maybe some of you were there. That historic agreement was obviously founded on two key principles. One was a highlighting or an underlining of Afghan sovereignty. And if you read the document itself, it's very much a reflection of an appreciation for Afghan sovereignty. And then, the other key theme in the document, it is a theme of mutual commitments -- security commitments on both sides, but also beyond that, our political and economic commitments.

So they began the bilat by sort of just reminiscing only a couple weeks ago when they were in Kabul, so the President was able President Karzai to his hometown here in Chicago. And they agreed that already the Strategic Partnership Agreement has had a significant political impact from President Karzai's perspective -- political impact inside of Afghanistan by way of a reassurance to the Afghan people that they won't be abandoned in 2014. And President Karzai reflected that he views it as also having had a positive effect in the region.

President Obama then went on to outline three parallel transitions, which will all culminate in 2014. Obviously, the transition that gets the most attention is the security transition. That, as John mentioned, was kicked off at Lisbon about 18 months ago. And here in Chicago, we're about at the halfway point in the Lisbon vision, which began in November of '10 and which culminates with the full security responsibility in the hands of the Afghans four years later in December of '14. So here in Chicago, we're as close as we're going to get to a midway point assessment of that four-year at Lisbon process.

And they talked about how the security transition is underway. And they also talked about the three key decisions that will be undertaken tomorrow by the ISAF coalition of 50 national leaders. You undoubtedly know about these already, but this is the 2013 milestone. This is progress with the Afghan National Security Forces. And this is detailing the role that NATO will take in a successor mission post-2014.

President Obama reported to President Karzai the discussion he had had among his G8 colleagues at Camp David just yesterday, and how at the G8, they talked about the upcoming Tokyo conference in early July, and how the economic dimension of transition will need to work in close parallel and reinforce the security transition.

And then, finally, they talked and spent most of the time, actually, on the political transition, which will obviously have a major milestone with the 2014 presidential elections in Afghanistan, but actually a political transition that will take

-- and a political development process that will take years beyond 2014.

They spent about 45 minutes in this sort of delegation-on-delegation session, and then met privately for a few minutes as they to do, just so they can be completely candid in a personal exchange. And they concluded and look forward to the upcoming events over the next day or so here at Chicago.

So in a nutshell, that's the bilat readout, and I'm happy to take questions or comment.

Q I want to follow up on Carol's question on Pakistan that was given to General Allen. But first of all, can you confirm that Secretary Clinton is going to be meeting President Zardari? And second, you seem to say that progress was being made. So can you give us some update on what progress has been made?

MR. RHODES: I'll just make a couple comments and then, Doug, you may want to add something.

Secretary Clinton did meet with President Zardari today, so I'd expect there to be some form of readout of that meeting.

Q Do you not have one?

MR. RHODES: How it went or how long it went?

michelle nato.jpeg

First Lady Michelle Obama with NATO spouses at the Gary Comer Youth Center.
(Sun-Times Photo by John White)

click below for transcript

nato bi-lateral.jpeg

nato military .jpeg
(photos by Lynn Sweet)

CHICAGO--With military pagentry and a silent tribute to those who died in war, NATO opened it's 25th Summit in Chicago on Sunday, with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen paying tribute to the host city.

"Chicago has always been a place where Europeans and North Americans have come together. And now, we have come together to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between us," Rasmussen said.

The global leaders met over a large round table.

The bi-lateral session--the largest of the two-day summit featured at the start representatives of the 28 nations' militaries--one from each NATO member country. A U.S. Army bugler played tabs, then reville before they quick-marched out.

Below, a transcript of the session that was open to press coverage...

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release May 20, 2012



McCormick Place
Chicago, Illinois

12:52 P.M. CDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I just want to not only welcome Secretary General Rasmussen to my hometown of Chicago -- my understanding is he's already enjoyed some of the sights, and we were hearing about him jogging along the lake and appreciating the outstanding views and the skyline -- but more importantly, I want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership.

Secretary General Rasmussen arrived in this post during one of most challenging times that NATO has faced. He has guided us through some very rocky times. And I think the results of this NATO Summit are reflective of his extraordinary leadership.

At this summit, we anticipate not only ratifying the plan for moving forward in Afghanistan -- a transition process that will bring the war to an end at the end of 2014 and put Afghans in the lead for their own security -- but we're also going to be talking about the progress that we've made in expanding NATO's defense capabilities -- ensuring that every NATO member has a stake and is involved and integrated in our mutual defense efforts.

And we're going to have an opportunity to talk about the partnerships that NATO has been able to set up with like-minded countries around the world, and find ways that we can deepen and engage those partners to help to promote security and peace around the world.

All this has happened because of Secretary General Rasmussen's leadership. I'm very proud of the work that he's done. I think it's going to be reflected in the success of this summit. And on behalf of the American people, we want to say thank you.

Thank you very much. Mr. President, I would like to thank very much for your strong leadership, for your dedication to our alliance. America has always been a source of strength and inspiration in NATO, and I'm very pleased that we can hold our 25th summit in your home city, Chicago.

Chicago has always been a place where Europeans and North Americans have come together. And now, we have come together to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between us.

I look very much forward to a successful summit, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have worked so hard to make this summit a success. And I would like to thank the people of Chicago for their great hospitality.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right. Thank you so much, everybody.

END 12:55 P.M. CDT

Chicago Sun-Times political writer Abdon M. Pallasch is in President Barack Obama's NATO Summit press pool this Sunday and Obama exchanged remarks with him at the end of a meeting with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. Why, Obama wondered, has there been so much fuss about bringing the NATO Summit to Chicago?

Below, excerpt from Pallasch pool report

The president recognized your pooler and said, "Hey, how's it going?" Turning to Karzai, he said, "He's from my hometown."

"I asked him if he was missing the Crosstown games between the Cubs and his beloved White Sox and if he was going to be able to break away and watch as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did Saturday.

"No, they don't let me have fun," he said.

Joking about the Summit, he said, "I've been asking: Why is everybody making such a big fuss? This isn't as big as Taste of Chicago."

Your pooler noted that NATO protesters targeted Mayor Rahm Emanuel's house but not his and asked if he felt left out.

nato missile.jpeg The Chicago NATO Summit is highlighting new ballistic missile defense capacity for NATO allies in Europe. The missile model in this picture is part of an exhibit in the International Media Center at McCormick Place. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will visit the exhibit on Sunday afternoon.
(photo by Lynn Sweet)

nato file center.jpegNATO Summit filing center

state media office.jpegState Department's communications operation

nato media office.jpegNATO media headquarters

A massive filing center has been set up for the media. The White House Press Corps has a separate area a flight below. As nice as it is--the internet works swell and there is plenty of workspace--there is a deep sense of professional isolation because the global leaders--their foreign ministers--their defense secretaries--their military brass--are in other parts of the complex that reporters cannot access --except for those few in press pools. Still, there are some prospects--NATO and the State Department have press operations here and I've seen some White House folks around.
(photo by Lynn Sweet)

rasmussen nato sunday.jpgNATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen held a short press conference at the media center on Sunday morning.

Rasmussen predicted that the NATO allies will stick with the plan to pull out combat troops by 2014. "There will be no rush for the exits," he said.

New French President Francoise Hollande campaigned to withdraw French soldiers this year. Said Rasmussen, he was "not surprised" Hollande "wants to keep his pledges. He predicted that France will be prepared to help in Afghanistan in the coming years "in a different way."
(photo by Lynn Sweet)

nato host committee.jpegChicago NATO Host Committee staffers at an information booth. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

chicago lamp shade.jpegA one-of-a-kind lamp shade. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

The Chicago NATO Host Committee is running an information operation to assist reporters in writing stories about Chicago. The media lunch today is very Chicago--Chicago style deep dish pizza and hot dogs. The decor is also Chicago themed--lamp shades with famous quotes about the city.

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NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen delivering opening remarks at the Chicago NATO Summit. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

CHICAGO--NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was not critical Sunday of anti-NATO protestors in Chicago because the NATO nations represent "free societies where freedom of expression is a fundamental."

Rasmussen was asked whether protests distracted from the Summit and in his reply he did not address the arrest by local law enforcement of three alleged plotters who wanted to attack the Obama campaign headquarters, the home of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, police stations and squad cars.

"I am pleased that we the peoples of NATO countries live in free societies where freedom of expression is a fundamental value," Rasmussen said in his remarks at the start of the two-day Summit in the highly fortified McCormick Place complex.

"And that also includes the possibility that to express your views through demonstrations I would expect that such demonstrations would take place in a peaceful manner," Rasmussen said.

WASHINGTON -- Ambassador Capricia Penavic Marshall, the nation's chief of protocol, is tracking thousands of details in advance of the Chicago NATO Summit -- about dinners, flags, flowers, motorcades, red carpets, gifts, spouse schedules, ceremonies at McCormick Place and arrivals at O'Hare Airport.

There's a lot involved -- just in arranging and handling flags, for example.

"First and foremost I had a team here who made sure that we went through our inventory of flags to make sure that each country saw the image of the flag that we have and that they were fine with that image," Marshall told me in an interview.

" . . . Beyond that was acquiring enough of those flags because they need to placed in so many different positions. We have about 65 delegations that are attending and we have about 10 sets of flags. That's over 700 flags that we have to manage and take care of."

Marshall's team makes sure a flag looks good -- steamed, attached if need be to a "flag spreader" so the main field of a flag shows properly and hung in a uniform way -- all flags on the same poles of the same height, all facing to the right of the flag of the summit host nation -- the U.S.

Based in the State Department, Marshall is the person who is on the steps of the White House or on the tarmac greeting global leaders when they come to Washington for a presidential visit. Marshall has a long history of international event management; in the late 1990s, she was the social secretary for then first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton -- who is now the secretary of state.

Marshall gave me a rundown of the protocol operation in a summit of this magnitude, with heads of state, their foreign and defense ministers, and leaders of organizations -- such as the European Union -- converging on Chicago.

O'Hare arrivals

Whether the leader lands at O'Hare Airport in a private plane or commercial flight, they will be met by high-level military and State Department greeters -- who have "well rehearsed" their moves.

"We will have a ceremony that is in place set for them when the leader has arrived in their plane," Marshall told me. With precise landing times subject to change -- the greeters may be sprinting with their flags and red carpets. "You can almost see the group running across the tarmac," she said.

Motorcade management

"We have a full transportation team that is managing every movement of every motorcade trying desperately to make sure that the people of Chicago are not inconvenienced," Marshall said. The routes are being drawn so "they stay within a small footprint so that the movements of the motorcades stay within a specific area and don't really impede upon all the traffic of the city."


First lady Michelle Obama will host several events for spouses. A deputy chief of protocol is assigned to help spouses fill out their time in Chicago and Marshall said they are being encouraged to visit museums, take an architectural tour or shop "on that Magnificent Mile, we want them to go there." Topping the request list so far: the Art Institute.

Food and flowers

A top question the protocol operation asks each delegation is about food or flower allergies. If there is one, the leader or minister will be seated near non-scented flowers or greens. Color of flowers is another concern; in some cultures a certain color could designate a funeral.


Marshall's shop also advises on the official gifts for leaders, spouses and ministers -- and gets them wrapped and assembled. The aim is to "showcase the creativity of the people of our country." With the Summit in the hometown of the first couple, gifts will likely have a distinctive Chicago theme.

Dinner seating

NATO sets the protocol for seating and the final plan is approved by the White House. On Sunday, Obama has a "working dinner" with the NATO member leaders at Soldier Field, leaders of partner countries and spouses dine at the Field Museum, foreign ministers have their "working dinner" at the Adler Planetarium while the defense ministers eat at the Chicago Cultural Center.

The idea for the dinners, motorcade arrivals and other events when the leaders are together is to use what is called "precedent order." No one feels slighted when things are done by alphabetical order by name of nation or seniority in office. Presidents trump prime ministers; that's protocol.

The "beauty" of the system, said Marshall, is "there is a reason for it. It has been followed for years and years and years and so everyone understands the reasoning for the seating."

The official NATO schedule of events for
Sunday 20 May 2012

09:50 Doorstep statement by the NATO Secretary General l

13:30 Official greeting by the NATO Secretary General and the President of the United States of Heads of State and/or Government at McCormick Place.

14.15 North Atlantic Council meeting at Heads of State and Government Format l

• Ceremony honouring NATO military personnel for service in operational theatres of the Alliance

• Opening remarks by the Secretary General

• Welcome by the President of the United States

17:25 Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) Signing Ceremony presided by the Deputy Secretary General

17:25 Press Conference by the NATO Secretary General
18:00 NATO Secretary General visiting the Missile Defence Exhibition in IMC

19:40 Official Portrait of Allies' Heads of State and Government, Soldier Field, Chicago

19:15 Working Dinner of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs

20:00 Working Dinner of Heads of State and Government

20:00 Working Dinner of Ministers of Defence

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle landed in Chicago Saturday night and en route on Air Force One Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said he was not overly concerned over the arrests of three suspects over an alleged "terrorism plot."

Rhodes said he was not aware that Obama knew anything about the arrests and said "protests and security disruptions" are common at summits.

"We're very confident in the ability of Chicago, together with the United States government, to have a very successful event over the course of the next two days. If these more serious allegations are true, then I think it was effective work in making sure that they couldn't pose any additional threat to public security. But I'll have to wait -- what additional information comes out before getting into the specifics of this case."

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NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Saturday at the "Young Atlanticist Summit" in Chicago. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

rahm nato saturday.jpeg
Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a Saturday session of the "Young Atlanticist Summit," posing with officials from the Chicago Council of Global Affairs and the Atlantic Council. (photo by Lynn Sweet)

CHICAGO--The "positive engagement" of Pakistan is critical to "solve the problems in Afghanistan," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Saturday; he also said negotiations should be held with Taliban leaders if certain preconditions were met.

Rasmussen spoke the day before the Chicago NATO Summit, at a "Young Atlanticist Summit" conference session hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Atlantic Council at the Hotel Sax in Marina City.

Pakistan was invited to the NATO Summit at the last minute, after agreeing to re-open roads for Afghanistan-bound supply trucks closed last November following a NATO airstrike killing about two dozen Pakistani soldiers. One unresolved matter: Pakistan wants to charge $5,000 per truck for access to the transit route.

Rasmussen said he was meeting with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday afternoon.

During a question-and-answer session, Rasmussen was asked by an Afghan man to use one word to describe the enemy in Afghanistan.
"I think terrorists in general are enemies," Rasmussen said, "but when speaking about Afghanistan, the Taliban is the enemy of Afghanistan. We will help the Afghan people to defend themselves against that enemy."

NATO and Afghanistan troops cannot pursue Taliban and al-Qaeda militants who operate out of Pakistan, establishing sanctuaries there because of the war in Afghanistan.

The U.S., Afghanistan and NATO allies are concerned about the Pakistan government inability to shut down those sanctuaries and Rasmussen spoke to that point.

"We can't solve the problems in Afghanistan without a positive engagement of Pakistan. We have to solve these problems. We have invited President Zardari to attend the Summit. I expect to have a meeting with him this afternoon," Rasmussen said.

A threshold question is over negotiating with the Taliban; Rasmussen urged a try.

"I don't know whether the Taliban leadership is prepared to negotiate a solution, maybe not, I don't know, but I think we should give it a try, providing certain conditions" are being met, Rasmussen said.

He said any "reconciliation process must be led by the Afghanis themselves, so the Afghani government must be in the drivers seat.
"Secondly, groups and individuals involved in that reconciliation process must abide by the Afghan Constitution and respect human rights including women's rights and certainly they must cut links to terrorist groups.

"If these conditions are fulfilled, why not give it a try. But my point is the best way to facilitate a political process is to keep up the military pressure so that Taliban realizes that they have no chance whatsoever to win militarily."

President Barack Obama and GOP presumptive nominee Mitt Romney are divided over U.S. -Taliban engagement. The Obama White House has been in direct talks with the Taliban--moves Romney opposes.

Obama outlined the U.S. preconditions for negotiations with the Taliban in his May 1 address from the Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, following the signing of an Afghan-U.S. Strategic Partnership Agreement.

"We're pursuing a negotiated peace. In coordination with the Afghan government, my administration has been in direct discussions with the Taliban," Obama said.

" We've made it clear that they can be a part of this future if they break with al Qaeda, renounce violence and abide by Afghan laws. Many members of the Taliban -- from foot soldiers to leaders -- have indicated an interest in reconciliation. The path to peace is now set before them. Those who refuse to walk it will face strong Afghan security forces, backed by the United States and our allies."

FOOTNOTE: Rasmussen told the group he has two grandchildren growing up in Springfield. Mayor Rahm Emanuel--who addressed the conference in a closed door session--said beforehand that Rasmussen told him he ran five miles along the lakefront and called the Chicago skyline--spectacular.

In advance of the Chicago NATO Summit, the U.S. has been prodding financially stressed nations in Europe to chip in more for defense and help pay about a third of the estimated tab for maintaining Afghan National Security Forces after NATO combat troops pull out by 2014.

NATO has a goal of members spending 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense; the U.S. spends double that while most of Europe barely makes the benchmark.

I asked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta if convincing nations to maintain that 2 percent pledge was realistic given the dismal state of European economies.

"We got to continue to press them to invest in their defense and in their countries' national defense. That really is important. And it is not going to be easy," Panetta said.

"Many of these countries are going through serious budget problems. . . . It is very important that we continue to press these allies to not only develop the capabilities that NATO has to have for the future, but be willing, regardless of tight budgets, to keep up the investment in the national defense.

"We cannot walk away from the commitment that has to be made by everyone in NATO if we are going to be able to meet the threats of the future," Panetta said.

Panetta and I discussed NATO funding and his trip to Chicago for the summit at McCormick Place in an interview where I also asked about his long-time relationship with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The two served in the Clinton White House and both are former chiefs of staff -- Panetta for former President Bill Clinton and Emanuel for President Barack Obama.

Once Chicago landed the summit, Panetta recalled, Emanuel called him "to ask not only what he could do, but he also had a few suggestions where we should hold dinners."

On Sunday, according to City Hall, Panetta is tentatively scheduled to appear with Emanuel at a business roundtable on the Near North Side. On Monday, Panetta will visit the James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, along with Veterans Secretary Eric Shinseki. The facility is run through a unique joint VA/Department of Defense partnership.

The future of Afghanistan is a centerpiece of the Sunday-Monday NATO Summit, and there is a concern that some of the countries in NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan are not enthused about being part of a major post 2014 commitment.

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing earlier this month, Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon estimated that it will cost $4.1 billion annually to sustain the Afgan Security Force beyond 2014. The U.S. is looking for pledges from allies to come up with about $1.3 billion each year; the Afghan government would throw in $500 million and the U.S. would pay the rest.

What leverage, I asked Panetta, does the U.S. have if nations don't want to stick around Afghanistan?

"In 1989 the international community abandoned Afghanistan to years of civil war; that was followed by Taliban rule," Panetta said. "That was a serious mistake and we will not repeat that mistake. We can't afford to repeat that mistake."

Only the U.S. has made a sweeping commitment to Afghanistan, to provide assistance through 2024.

The timeline will vary for the other partners, Panetta said, but the allied nations, he believes, will step up -- to help with local police, agriculture projects or other training.

What is Panetta hearing from his counterpart defense ministers?

Said Panetta, "They think they would be making a serious mistake if they simply walked away from all of the effort that has been made to try to put Afghanistan on the right path towards success."

WASHINGTON-- White House National Security Advisor Tom Donilon laid out the NATO Chicago Summit broad schedule at a Thursday briefing. The final number as of today: 61 countries plus the EU, the United Nations and the World Bank will be in attendance.


President Barack Obama flies to Chicago on Saturday evening following the G-8 Summit at Camp David.


Donilon said "the first meeting that he'll have on Sunday will be with President Karzai of Afghanistan, obviously an important meeting because a central focus of the NATO summit will be on Afghanistan and on -- and Afghanistan's future. So the first meeting of the day, appropriately, is going to be with President Karzai of Afghanistan.

"The president will then move into various -- a series of NATO meetings. There'll be an initial meeting with the -- with just the NATO allies at the -- at 28. That evening, on Sunday evening, the NATO allies will meet at Soldier Field for a working dinner, and that'll be just leaders plus one adviser.


"On Monday morning the summit will continue at McCormick Place with discussions on Afghanistan. And this will be a broader meeting. This will be the NATO countries plus the 22 non-NATO Afghan troop --or non-NATO troop-contributing countries in Afghanistan.

"And the second formal meeting on Monday would be a session with the key partners that we had in various projects around the world with NATO."

WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama, in his official NATO Summit greeting, welcomes the global leaders to his hometown with a shot of civic boosterism.

"Chicago is the perfect place to strengthen our Alliance of democratic nations, which is rooted in the friendships between our people and the values we share. It's why I'm so proud that my hometown is the first American city ever to host a NATO Summit outside Washington, DC.," Obama says in the greeting.

"Chicago is a quintessentially American town, but it is also a hub of our transatlantic community. It has grown into one of the great cities of the world in no small measure because of the hard work and sacrifices of generations of immigrants, including many from NATO countries. Even now, roughly one in three Chicagoans trace their roots to NATO countries in Europe."

Click below for the complete text.

nato bag.jpg

nato bag contents.jpeg
Photos courtesy Chicago NATO Host Committee

WASHINGTON--Each NATO Summit attendee--and every journalist covering the world leaders this weekend at McCormick Place--will get a Chicago themed gift bag with food made in Chicago, music made in Chicago, suggestions where to sight-see in Chicago and personal welcomes from Chicago students.

If you get that the emphasis is on Chicago, then you got it right. The gifts are courtesy of the Chicago NATO Summit Host Committee, with the items intended to promote the city.

It's common for host committees of big events--the political conventions, the last NATO Summit in the U.S., --1999, in Washington--to highlight the locality with small gifts with the hope the recipient either lingers for a few more nights, returns at another time or passes along a recommendation about the host venue to friends.

A welcome letter in a souvenir notebook states, "We hope you can extend your stay here and experience some true Chicago-style hospitality. But if you can only sneak away from the NATO Summit for an hour, we thought we could identify a few highlights to make sure you don't waste the opportunity."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's wife, Amy Rule, offered some of her Chicago favorites, including checking out Millenium Park and North Avenue Beach, and the walks along the Chicago River.

The bag itself is made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles and is modeled on a bike messenger bag--to underscore that Chicago is a "bike-friendly" city--designed by JinJa Davis Birkenbeuel, president of Birkdesign Inc. There will be two logos on the bag-from NATO and the host committee..

Each bag contains:

*A welcome note from a Chicago student.

*A Chicago bike trail map.

*Snacks from Chicago companies--Popcorn from Garrett Popcorn Shops; "Chicago Truffles" from Vosges Chocolates; "Summit Trail Mix" from Fisher Nuts; Quaker Oats Yogurt and Granola Bars; Orbit gum from Wrigley; Milky Way from the Mars Chicago factory and a "NATO cookie" from Manny's Deli.

*A free download of music from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

*The notebook with tourism ideas from Rule and others--and a lot of "fun facts" about Chicago, such as "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama were both born in Chicago" to the lesser known to outsiders, "Western Avenue in Chicago is the longest
continuous street in the U.S."

*Chicago flag pin, visitor guide, map, "Explore Chicago" buttons and materials about NATO.

WASHINGTON -- With the American public -- and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney -- focused on the economy, President Barack Obama may not have much at stake politically if there are diplomatic flaps at the NATO Summit in Chicago.

And since Obama already signed a "Strategic Partnership Agreement" with Afghanistan to have most U.S. troops out in 2014 -- he flew to Kabul for the May 1 signing -- there may not be much of a price to pay domestically if pressure comes from the new president of France and other NATO partners in Afghanistan to shorten the timetable.

And if all heck breaks loose in Obama's hometown from protesters? Well, a riot in a president's hometown at a global summit is obviously not good. But the ramifications may not be far reaching. As political time goes, the presidential election is light-years away.

"Nobody in November will remember what happened," an Obama team source told me. It will be a short news cycle on the cable outlets "and a month in the [Chicago] papers."

Romney's team headquartered in Boston is hardly paying attention to the NATO gathering and was not, when I visited on Friday, sizing it up as an obvious political opportunity for them because they want an almost exclusive focus on the economy.

The rapidly expanding Romney operation (overlooking the Charles River) on Friday was ramping up the "message of the week" theme for this week -- on government spending. Romney hits the Chicago area on Tuesday for a fund-raiser at the Winnetka home of Pat Ryan -- the insurance mogul and civic activist -- and his wife, Shirley.

The Romney campaign could mull commenting on some policy difference that emerges -- but that would depend on the specifics and if strategically it paid for them to go off message. Same goes if protests get ugly or it there is some serious security incident. It all depends on the situation, I'm told.

Obama's biggest diplomatic stake

The biggest diplomatic stakes for Obama are the package of issues surrounding Afghanistan, made more complex because of the election of a new French president.

Three announcements are expected at the Chicago NATO Summit: When in 2013 the combat mission in Afghanistan shifts to supporting the Afghan National Security Forces; how much support, financial and otherwise the "ANSF" will get from NATO partners; and agreement on a "roadmap" for NATO's post-2014 role in Afghanistan.

France's new president, Francois Hollande -- a Socialist -- will be sworn in on MondayTuesday. He campaigned on a platform to pull out French combat troops by the end of 2012.

During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Chicago NATO Summit on Thursday, Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon was asked by committee chair Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) about Hollande.

Obama at the last NATO Summit -- in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2010 -- got the Afghanistan partners to agree to the 2014 timetable, Gordon noted.

"The French assure us that they are committed to our common success in Afghanistan, and I'm sure we'll find a way forward that ensures that common success. All I can do is speak to our own view, which is that this principle of 'in together, out together' remains critical," Gordon said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has much more at stake in the summit -- as Obama's former chief of staff, he grabbed the Summit, seeing it as a terrific opportunity to showcase Chicago. But he neglected to get buy-in from rank-and-file Chicagoans who see the inconveniences more than the advantages.

Emanuel has just one portfolio for the NATO Summit as host mayor. Though he once did while in the White House, Emanuel this week doesn't have to worry about the future of NATO, transatlantic security, ballistic missiles, Russia, free and fair elections in Afghanistan and how to make NATO allies take on their fair share of financial responsibilities and spend two percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

Obama wanted the summit to be in Chicago in part because he wanted to show off for foreign leaders a city that relishes it diversity -- with almost every ethnic group that is part of NATO and its partners.

The last U.S. NATO Summit was in 1999; this is the first outside of Washington.

"In addition to the opportunity to showcase one of our nation's great cities, our hosting of the summit in Chicago is a tangible symbol of the importance of NATO to the United States. It is also an opportunity to underscore to the American people the continued value of this alliance to security challenges we face today," Gordon said at the Senate hearing.

Emanuel, on the other hand, wanted the summit to drum up business for Chicago.

My thought is Emanuel far more than Obama owns the summit if things go wrong -- and will likely bear the brunt even though the Secret Service is taking the lead coordinating security.

Emanuel will find it harder to change the subject if there are horrible demonstrations. Obama, working off a national and global stage -- will be able to move on if all that goes wrong are protests.

"Foreign policy in the minds of the American people right now is not nearly as important as it has been in past elections," Brookings Institution scholar William Galston told me. "... They are focused almost exclusively on the economy."

Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley noted when we talked that demonstrations at world summits "are not unique to Barack Obama or to America today.

"Demonstrations happen every time there is a big gathering now of any leaders of the world anywhere," Daley said.

I asked Daley if the fact the summit is in hometown Chicago raises the stakes for Obama.

He said no. "Just cause it was his hometown people would say, 'boy, he could not control his home therefore we are not going to vote for him as president.' ... I don't see it. ... Obviously, it wouldn't help. But I don't see the American people holding him responsible for what may or may not happen by demonstrators who come from all over the country and all over the world to the city."

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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