President Obama announced on Wednesday night that Afghanistan will top the agenda at next year’s NATO summit, which he's decided to bring to his hometown of Chicago next May. In his televised speech to the nation, he also disclosed that Chicago will host the G-8 summit the same week as the NATO gathering.
The two summits will run back-to-back, May 15-22, a White House official told National Journal.
At the NATO gathering, the 28 alliance leaders “will review the progress in Afghanistan since the Lisbon NATO Summit, and discuss the next phase of our transition to full Afghan security in 2014,” said the official. The administration official said the summit “will provide President Obama with the opportunity to continue his leadership of our most important security alliance, to fulfill commitments made by allied leaders in Lisbon in November 2010, and to sustain our joint work to revitalize NATO to prepare it to effectively meet challenges of the 21st century.”
The smaller G-8 summit will focus more on economic issues since it includes Japan, which is not a member of NATO.
The decision to hold the two summits in Chicago—first reported by The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times—places the president’s hometown at the center of the diplomatic stage. By bringing the most world leaders ever to an American city other than New York, it also represents an unprecedented security challenge.
A senior administration official said the choice was born out of a desire to "explore options beyond Washington."
"Often you have these things in the capital city. I think what we believe is important to do is to highlight other parts of America that represent the character of our people and that can make for interesting venues. So we did know that we wanted to go outside of Washington," the official said.
The official also said that Chicago emerged as a "natural fit" given its resources, diversity, and the interest from former-Obama-chief-of-staff-turned-Chicago-mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Of course, it helped that it provides an opportunity for the president to visit his home city.