Beaming in Karzai

William Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, is in the Middle East this week. He arrived in Yemen yesterday to speak with officials about regional security and development. Burns will also try to coax Iraqi politicians into a representative government and monitor progress on the transition to Iraqi control post-the U.S. troop withdrawal. He'll wrap up his Middle Eastern tour in Jordan where he’ll touch on the peace process among other things.

Back at home, the White House beamed Afghan President Hamid Karzai in for a top-level meeting late yesterday. Karzai spent 30 minutes speaking with President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the new interim Chief of Staff Pete Rouse, and via videoconference, U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and General David Petraeus about long-term security issues, with a focus on the transition to Afghan control by 2014. The Afghan president has set that date as the point Afghan forces will take the lead on security and military operations all across the country.

Washington didn’t have any specific reason to issue a travel alert about Europe, just a sense that something was going on. State Department spokesman PJ Crowley put it this way: “We have credible information that justified the alert, but it is not specific at this point.” Attorney General Eric Holder said much the same, adding that they had “sufficient information that justified the issuing of the alert.”

And U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice is worried about a “disturbing uptick in violence” in Sudan. She is part of a group of envoys from the Security Council in the African country right now to survey the situation in the lead-up to a January referendum on Southern Sudanese secession. They have not met with Sudan’s president and accused war criminal Omar al-Bashir, who is out of the country.