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NATO's Lisbon meeting agenda: Afghan withdrawal and emerging threats

A NATO meeting in Lisbon Friday will redefine the organization for 21st century threats. But Afghanistan will also be a focus as Karzai has stepped up criticism of NATO.

By Staff writer / November 18, 2010

Police escort riders wait at the delegates entrance to the NATO summit in Lisbon Portugal on Nov. 18, the day before proceedings begin. NATO leaders, including Presidents Obama and Medvedev will confer on wide ranging issues including Afghanistan, missile defense and a reshaping of the alliance's resources.

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Lisbon

NATO leaders meet here Friday to define a new mission statement, a task the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has not undertaken since before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In addition to traditional security concerns, the agenda will cover the advent of so-called cyber terrorism, and the emergence of new threats to alliance members such as ballistic missiles in Iran.

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For US Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder, the goal of the NATO summit and the new “strategic concept” it is expected to deliver is nothing short of a “revitalization of NATO for the 21st century” by endowing the 28-nation alliance with “a new vision, new capabilities, and a new organization.”

But at the same time NATO leaders, including President Barack Obama, will grapple with Afghanistan and the problem of how and when to end the Alliance’s nearly decade-old military campaign there.

A pre-summit spat in Kabul this week between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and NATO’s supreme commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, over a recent uptick in Special Operations’ night raids of Afghan homes has renewed the perennial frustration at working with Mr. Karzai and will punctuate the deliberations.

Both Karzai and General Petraeus will be on hand in Lisbon to brief the leaders of the 47 countries taking part in the international campaign in Afghanistan. In addition to the 28 NATO members, 19 non-NATO countries are also involved.

Karzai and Petraeus met in Kabul Wednesday to iron out differences before the summit, but NATO’s top civilian representative in Afghanistan, Mark Sedwill, said Wednesday that the two officials have “different perspectives” on the use of night raids, among other issues. Karzai said Sunday in a Washington Post interview that the raids by American forces are alienating civilians and he asked that American military visibility be scaled back. Petraeus told Karzai that the raids, which are now led by Afghan forces, have been instrumental in recent successes against the Taliban, according to NATO officials.

Speech preview

NATO sources who asked not to be identified say Karzai and Petraeus will present a sense of common purpose following their Kabul meeting, but they also say Karzai agreed to have his speech to summit leaders previewed by NATO officials, a point that conveys the lingering anxiousness over the Afghan leader’s penchant for tossing bombshells.

Still, Topic A on the alliance’s Afghanistan agenda will be the timetable for a drawdown of military forces and a transition to a civilian-led engagement in the country. Karzai and NATO members continue to cite the end of 2014 as the date by which security operations will have shifted to Afghan forces. Canada’s announcement this week that it will end its combat mission next year and replace that with nearly 1,000 military trainers, plus civilian development and humanitarian specialists, is considered by many, including at the White House, a model for NATO’s long-term involvement in Afghanistan.

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