"Inside McCormick Place, NATO will be deciding how to de-emphasize its involvement, its footprints in Afghanistan and how to wind down its presence. It will be known as the Chicago accords basically," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Afghanistan tops the items on the summit agenda, agreeing to means of support after the 2014 withdrawal; also, the economics of a coalition defense as most allies have faced financial hardship; and reaching out to NATO partners, particularly those in the Persian Gulf like Pakistan, which was recently invited to the summit.
"If you're going to talk seriously about Afghanistan you need Pakistan at the table," said Rachel Bronson with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a public education forum. "It's not clear that they're going to come but the offer is important because withdrawal from Afghanistan is on the table."
Kurt Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO who was involved in five previous summits, says summits can give allies motivation to find consensus.
"If your leaders are going to get together, that's a start and people have to make decisions, reach compromises and put in place what may be done so when they get together it's all done. That's the first thing. It just creates an action-forcing event," said Volker.
The former ambassador also recalls frustration at previous summits at which there were too many speeches and not enough face to face time. He hopes organizers allow time in the brief 24 hours to get work done.