Never before has a president held such a gathering at Camp David; Obama has never even hosted one foreign dignitary there before now. Compared to his first G-8 meeting less than three years ago, he finds himself a senior member: Japan, Russia, Britain, France and Italy have all turned over their leaders since then. New-old Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending his predecessor, Dmitry Medvedev.
On Afghanistan, Obama has already telegraphed the message for Chicago, one which also fits his we're-getting-out-of-war election theme.
NATO will get more specific about putting Afghanistan in the lead of the combat mission in 2013 in advance of the end of the war itself by the end of 2014.
And although the Sunday and Monday summit is not a donor conference, Obama will come seeking money commitments from nations inside and outside the alliance to help the Afghan army defend the country — and potentially prevent it from slipping into a chaotic haven of trouble — when the world alliance pulls out.
The cost is expected to run more than $4 billion a year, and the United States is trying to reduce its share of the burden as Afghanistan's largest patron. The trouble for Obama is that's a tough sell. Many countries have their own strapped economies and diminishing public appetite to build up another nation after a long, costly war.
American voters will hear again that the war is ending. What they won't hear, Obama officials say, are new details on U.S. troop withdrawals.
The United States is expected to draw down to about 68,000 troops by September, and Obama is not yet ready to discuss the pace after that.
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