NATO Buzzword: 'Sustainment' In Afghanistan

World leaders are gathered in Chicago for a two-day NATO summit starting Sunday morning. This is the third time the U.S. has hosted a NATO summit since the alliance was formed, and the first time it's being held in a city other than Washington, D.C. As NPR's Jackie Northam reports, the agenda will center on a theme: Afghanistan.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. World leaders are gathered in Chicago for a two-day NATO summit, which starts this morning. The summit agenda centers on Afghanistan, specifically figuring out how to meet a 2014 withdrawal deadline while shoring up Afghanistan's security forces. We'll hear a view from the White House in a moment. But we begin with this report from NPR's Jackie Northam in Chicago.

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JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: There's tight security in downtown Chicago for the NATO summit and the large protests seen here all week are expected to continue as dozens of world leaders sit down to decide Afghanistan's future. For the U.S., this summit is about winding down the war and ensuring that NATO allies and other nations stay committed to the country after the bulk of combat troops withdraw at the end of 2014. In particular, the Obama administration wants help training Afghanistan's security forces, which holds an estimated annual price tag of about four billion dollars. Administration officials say you're going to hear the word sustainment a lot at the summit. It's a euphemism for how the training program is going to be paid for. NATO's secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, says it's unlikely anyone will be writing at a check at the summit, but he's looking for a signal that the international community is willing to chip in after 2014.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I would stress that the Chicago summit will not be a pledging conference. So, I wouldn't expect a total sum of contributions to be announced at Chicago. But I would expect some allies and some partners to announce significant contributions to the financing of the Afghan security forces in the future.

NORTHAM: But many analysts agree that for many countries, making a long-term commitment to Afghanistan is difficult. They say there's fatigue after a decade-long involvement in Afghanistan, and many of the European allies are struggling with the fallout from the debt crisis. President Obama is holding his first bilateral meeting at the summit this morning with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Jackie Northam, NPR News, Chicago.

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