Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Foreign Minister, arrives at O’Hare Airport to attend the Nato Summit in Chicago on Saturday. Security has been high throughout the city in preparation for the summit, where delegations from about 60 countries gather to discuss the war in Afghanistan and European missile defence. Image Credit: AP

Chicago: Afghanistan will top the agenda of Nato's biggest summit in history which opens today in US President Barack Obama's hometown.

However, the US leader will not be in a mood for celebrations or basking in the sunshine if plans for Afghanistan's future do not get enough support and if attempts to fend off fissures within the alliance do not succeed.

France's President Francois Hollande seemed to announce unexpected damage to Nato's plans for an orderly withdrawal of all troops by the end of 2014 when he said in his first meeting with Obama that he had made a pledge during the presidential campaign that he will withdraw French troops by the end of 2012.

"I had made a promise to withdraw our combat troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2012," Hollande told reporters in the White House. "This decision is an act of sovereignty and must be done in good coordination with our allies and partners."

However, he seemed not to shut the door completely when he said that he also "stipulated that there would still be support in another form".

Hollande is expected to come under intense pressure from fellow Nato leaders to avoid a "hasty pullout" and to abide by the 2014 deadline amid reports that the alliance is making progress in its training of Afghan security forces which now have 300,000 men, double the 2009 figures.

A question that will linger at the two-day summit is on what will happen after 2014.

Clear issue

For Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the issue is very clear.

"I expect that Nato will continue to train, instruct and assist Afghan security forces," he said at his monthly press conference. "It is very much in our interest for the progress that has been made with much sacrifice be preserved."

Afghanistan must never again be used as a base to launch attacks on a Nato country, Rasmussen said.

Obama has already signed a partnership agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to regulate bilateral relations until 2024.

Under its terms, the US will support Afghan security forces financially and logistically in exchange for access to bases in Afghanistan to fight terrorists.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week signed a long-term strategic partnership agreement that will give Afghanistan €150 million (Dh703 million) annually to support its police and military forces after Nato-led troops leave the country in 2014.

Obama hopes that the Chicago summit will result in getting more assistance and better defined financial commitments from Nato countries.