Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Lisbon: NATO Summit *updated with schedule*
Secretary Clinton arrived in Lisbon last night and President Obama arrived early this morning:
President Barack Obama and NATO’s 27 other leaders open a two-day summit Friday on keeping the Cold War alliance relevant — but the meeting is being overshadowed by the escalating war in Afghanistan, where the alliance is struggling to contain Taliban militants.
NATO officials say they expect unanimous support from the allies for Obama’s plans for a new, expanded missile defense system in Europe that would be based on an existing shield meant to defend military units from attack. The U.S. already has a missile defense system based mainly in North America, and it is planning one for its European allies.
But Obama will face tough questions from U.S. allies on his exit strategy in Afghanistan. He will also meet with leaders of the European Union on Saturday to defend his preference for stimulus spending at a time when many European nations are enacting economic austerity measures.
The leaders are expected on Saturday to endorse a plan by Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, to start handing over responsibility for security in some areas of Afghanistan to government forces in 2011. The plan is to end the alliance’s combat role by 2014 if conditions on the ground allow, but to retain significant forces in the country after that to train and advise the Afghan army and police.
The alliance’s target is in line with Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s goal of having his forces take the main responsibility for security by 2014, Obama said in an interview published Friday in El Pais, Spain’s leading newspaper.
Obama also told the paper he expected the allies will pledge additional trainers for Afghan security forces.
“This effort is going to take time and our commitment to Afghanistan and the Afghan people is for the long-term,” Obama said. “We cannot turn our backs on the Afghan people.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton defended the high cost that European nations are paying for their participation in the war in Afghanistan, and urged them to stay the course despite dire economic difficulties for many countries that have translated into wage cuts, lost jobs and massive government budget reductions.
“Though we are very supportive of the difficult decisions that will have to be made concerning the economy, just as back home President Obama is making difficult decisions concerning our own economy, we believe that the mission we are pursuing in Afghanistan must continue,” Clinton told reporters…
UPDATE:Just got this:
Secretary Clinton is on foreign travel in Lisbon, Portugal (EST + 5 hours).
8:15 a.m. LOCAL Secretary Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado, in Lisbon, Portugal.
9:30 a.m. LOCAL Secretary Clinton participates in a meeting of U.S.-EU Energy Council, in Lisbon, Portugal.
11:25 a.m. LOCAL Secretary Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in Lisbon, Portugal.
PM LOCAL Secretary Clinton joins President Obama for meetings and events, in Lisbon, Portugal.
7:45 p.m. LOCAL Secretary Clinton attends a Working Dinner for NATO Foreign Ministers, in Lisbon, Portugal.