Madam Secretaries

Robert Gates thinks next year is probably going to be a good time for him to hand over the defense-secretary mantle. He expects to have a good handle on how things are going in Afghanistan since “there is no question in anybody's mind that we are going to begin drawing down troops in July of 2011.” But then there’s always General David Petraeus, who on Sunday said he could see himself advising the president to delay the withdrawal if conditions on the ground should dictate caution.

The rumor mill swung into action almost immediately after the Gates retirement news, though people have been whispering about when Gates would depart almost since Obama took office. Is Hillary Clinton a possible replacement for Gates? Clinton would be the first woman to serve as secretary of defense if she got the job. Of course, all of this chatter could just be chalked up to the August news doldrums as well.

Elsewhere, Senator John Kerry is back in foreign-policy action. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sat down with Afghan President Hamid Karzai today to talk about the war. Actually, Karzai requested that the administration review its strategy, since the war won’t be a success unless there’s “a clear explanation of who is friend and who is foe” and the two countries concentrate their efforts on the “bases and roots” of terror. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and General Petraeus were also at the meeting.