Reflecting the public mood in NATO countries tired of the war, the communique said the withdrawal timetable is "irreversible".
President Obama, at the opening of the second day of the NATO summit Monday morning, demonstrated his displeasure with the Pakistan government by singling out for mention the Central Asia countries and Russia that have stepped in to replace the Pakistan supply route. He made no mention of Pakistan, even though Zardari was in the room at the time.
To ram home the point, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Pantetta also held a meeting at the NATO summit with senior ministers from Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Panetta expressed his "deep appreciation" for their support.
Pakistan has a crucial role in Afghanistan because of its close ties to the Taliban and other insurgent groups challenging the Afghanistan government.
Zardari was invited late to the NATO summit, and the Obama Administration had high hopes that he would arrive in Chicago prepared to announce the opening of the supply routes.
Zardari, in talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a series of demands, offering to reopen the supply routes only if the U.S. was prepared to pay a higher charge for each vehicle using it, from $250 to as much as $5,000 per vehicle. Zardari also wants a review of the U.S. policy of drone attacks against targets inside Pakistan and a public apology for the killing of its troops.
Pakistan will regard it as a humiliation that President Obama refused to grant Zardari a full bilateral meeting, particularly as he met President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan in Chicago on Sunday an hour before the NATO summit opened.
The Obama Administration has expressed regret over the killing of the Pakistan troops but is reluctant to issue an apology, concerned this will be portrayed by Republicans as a sign of weakness.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Sunday that NATO realized it could not solve Afghanistan's problems without including Pakistan in the solution. He expressed hope the supply route issue would be resolved soon.
The White House national security spokesman, Ben Rhodes, said issues such as the reopening of supply lines were not normally dealt with at presidential level. Rhodes said: "The invitation to attend this summit was extended by NATO of course. We obviously supported that. It's important for Pakistan to be here because as we contemplate the future of the region, they are obviously going to be a part of that picture.
"What I would say is, frankly, the types of issues that are being worked through about the reopening of the supply lines are not the type of issues that get hammered out at the presidential level. These are things that working-level negotiating teams sit down and address."
Intellpuke: You can read this article by Guardian Washington, D.C., Bureau Chief Ewen MacAskill, reporting from the NATO summit in Chicago, Illinois, in context here: www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/21/obama-zardari-nato-standoff