Kerry and Karzai

The criticisms leveled yesterday at the Kerry-Karzai meetings didn’t just go one way. Senator John Kerry had some strong words for the Afghan president. He was trying to stamp out graft, reminding Karzai that Kabul needs to cut down on corruption if wants American support in the war. Kerry said that “President Karzai and his government need to understand that there is no patience for endless support for something that doesn't meet higher standards with respect to governance.” The trip comes after Mohammad Zia Salehi, one of Karzai’s key advisers, was arrested for using his sway to help out in another corruption case in return for a car.

Kerry's meeting with Karzai last year was successful, with the senator helping to convince the Afghan president to accept a runoff election. But Karzai might not be that open to suggestion this time around. On Monday, his administration announced that a decree would soon be issued ordering the breakup of all private security companies operating in Afghanistan within four months, which coalition commanders were none too happy about.

Ambassador Chris Hill, recently back to the States from Iraq and set to retire soon, said his goodbyes at the State Department yesterday. As he has done elsewhere recently, Hill said that we have the “right strategy in Iraq,” and that things are “clearly going in the right direction.” His timing could’ve been a bit better though. Just a few hours before the press event, a suicide bomber killed over forty people at a military recruitment center in Baghdad.

Budget cutting is no easy task, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates has brought in some help. He tapped Robert Rangel, his special assistant and a former Republican staff director on the House Armed Services Committee, to head up a group tasked with figuring out how to make all those major cuts Gates has been talking about actually happen—how to reduce spending on contractors, close down the Joint Forces Command and trim the Pentagon’s staff.