The Diplomatic Push

Jimmy Carter arrived in Pyongyang yesterday to bring home an American, Aijalon Gomes, that was in for eight years of hard labor after being caught crossing from China into North Korea. The administration said on Monday that Carter would be making the trip as a private citizen, not as a representative of the government. State Department spokesman PJ Crowley kept quiet Tuesday: “We will continue to withhold comment. We do not want to jeopardize the prospects for Mr. Gomes to be returned home by discussing any details related to private humanitarian efforts to get him released.”

Forces may be making some headway against al-Qaeda in Pakistan, but the organization and its affiliates are ramping up their efforts in Yemen and North Africa, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday. Other U.S. officials said that in all likelihood Washington will be responding in kind, turning up the heat in Yemen to try to replicate the success that drones had in Pakistan.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been busily chipping away at bloated areas of the military’s budget and redirecting funds in an effort to modernize the U.S. arsenal. It looks like he may have a little more wiggle room come next year. The Pentagon has asked for an increase in its budget—“for about 1 percent for the top line above inflation”—and thinks it’s going to get the extra money.

In Iraq next week, General Ray Odierno will hand over command of troops in the country to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin as forces draw down and the State Department starts to play a larger role. And the administration sent a veteran diplomat, Princeton Lyman, over to Sudan. He'll join U.S. special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson and others to help with negotiations around a planned January referendum on Southern Sudan’s secession.