Afghanistan's future set to dominate Nato summit

The city of Chicago is hosting a two day NATO summit from today Credit: Reuters

The Prime Minister has travelled from the tranquility of Camp David to the fast-paced city of Chicago. The G8 summit is over; let the NATO gathering begin.

The G8 was a compromise on a grand scale. Yes, Greece should stay in the Eurozone but the country must meet its financial obligations. Yes, growth is crucial but fiscal discipline is important too. There was anend-of-summit statement that everyone could agree to support.

But of course the Camp David summit changes nothing. Europe's fate lies in Athens and Madrid notin the picturesque Presidential hide-away nestling in the Catoctin Mountains.

So now the international agenda shifts from the Eurozonecrisis to Afghanistan. The NATO meetingin Chicago needs to coordinate an exit strategy. It must transition the Western Alliance fromwar to peace.

The key principle of NATO's Afghan mission is this:"In together, out together." In other words, Western troops have fought side by side since 9/11; theyshould leave in a co-ordinated manner. That is the theory.

But the principle has been fatally undermined by theelection of President Hollande who is insisting that all French combat troopsmust leave Afghanistan within the next 6 months.

That's two years ahead of America's and Britain's timetable.

The truth is that the Afghan war is going badly for NATO.

Outright victory is no longer even an aspiration. Now NATO commanders just hope that the central government in Kabul can survive beyond 2014. Winning is now defined as simply keeping the Taliban at bay.

So this Chicago summit is about co-ordination and the management of expectations. After a decade of fighting, after billions of dollars spent, and hundreds of lives lost, it's come down to this question: How can we extract ourselves from Afghanistan with just a little pride intact?