during the NATO summit
LISBON, Portugal (AP) -- 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.