India has a $11 billion defense contract up for grabs, and Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates are both trying to convince the country’s defense minister that Washington is the best supplier of over one hundred multicombat fighters. As State Department spokesman PJ Crowley put it: “We think we have the finest military hardware in the world, and if India is upgrading its defense capabilities, they should buy American.” Indian Defense Minister AK Antony is in Washington for two days. President Obama will make his first state visit to India in five weeks.
As the drone war ramps up, head of the CIA Leon Panetta is in Pakistan holding talks with leaders there, including the army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, about Western intelligence on an al-Qaeda plot to attack sites in the UK, France and Germany. Panetta was doing his best not to step on too many toes. He is quoted by Islamabad as saying “Pakistan’s sovereignty will be fully respected.”
And George Mitchell is running back and forth between Jerusalem and Ramallah today. He met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this morning. He didn’t have much to say before the meeting, just that he was on a “mission of peace.” This afternoon he is meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel will officially announce today that he’s moving onto colder pastures. He has decided to run for mayor in Chicago, and his replacement in DC will be Pete Rouse, currently a senior adviser. Rouse was Obama’s chief of staff back when the now-president was a senator. Though Rouse might be around for only a short time. He’s had some second thoughts about making the job a long-term commitment.
Last week General David Petraeus announced that he had finished his work on a tentative drawdown plan in Afghanistan but didn’t give a hint of which districts might be the first ones to see troops depart. Yesterday, the commanding general for NATO’s Regional Command West said that the city of Herat, the third-largest in Afghanistan, is “ready to begin the transition.”