All Pakistan, All the Time

Yesterday was a big day for Pakistan. President Obama had his monthly meeting with his national-security team that touched on counterinsurgency strategy and cooperation with Pakistan to fight extremists. That sitdown led up to the kickoff of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue. A Pakistani delegation, headed by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, is in Washington for three days of talks. The focus will be on the oftentimes-tense relationship between the two countries and how they can better work together. On the U.S. side, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, incoming Ambassador to Paksitan Cameron Munter and others will be part of the discussions.

The face-to-face between Pakistani General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Gates, Mullen and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michelle Flournoy focused on the longer term, according to Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell. Gates said to Kayani he was hoping to move the relationship “beyond the day-to-day ups and downs that it has historically experienced.”

Obama made an announcement yesterday that he would not be stopping in Pakistan during his Asia trip next month. He’ll head to the country in 2011 instead, and will invite Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to the States. Over the course of the dialogue, the president is also expected to announce a potentially $2 billion aid package to Pakistan to help with the fight against extremists. Qureshi spent the evening at an event at the Brookings Institution with U.S. special representative Richard Holbrooke. Diverging from the expected U.S. support package, Pakistani foreign minister called for “trade, not just aid” during the meeting. He’ll meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the close of the conference on Friday.

Also yesterday, Clinton called on Arab states to give more aid to the Palestinian Authority “to support making the state of Palestine a reality.” She was speaking at the pro-Palestinian American Task Force on Palestine in DC. And Clinton also noted that the administration hasn’t given up hope on the peace process and the “essential” two-state solution yet.

Elsewhere in the world, Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed today that Chinese President Hu Jintao will visit the United States in January, perhaps signaling that the U.S.-China relationship is getting a bit less tense. Holder was in Beijing earlier this week meeting with Chinese officials and would not give any further information about the planned visit.