Bin Laden's Wives and Pakistan's Complicity

Today, President Obama is scheduled to attend strategic and economic talks with China alongside Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. A Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo is spending the day in meetings at State, the Department of the Interior and the Treasury. To kick off the talks, Geithner offered China some advice. He said Beijing needed to reduce its reliance on exports: “The challenge is to lay the foundation for a new growth model, driven more by domestic demand, with a more market-based economy, and a more sophisticated financial system.”

National Security Adviser Tom Donilon appeared on Meet the Press yesterday and called on Pakistan to give the U.S. access to Osama bin Laden’s three widows and any intel that was left in the al-Qaeda leader’s compound. President Obama said much the same in an interview. Alongside trying to uncover information on other al-Qaeda leaders, Washington is attempting to get to the bottom of Islamabad’s knowledge of bin Laden’s whereabouts. The wives and the other materials from the compound might shed some light on potential links between bin Laden and the Pakistani government and ISI. Donilon said, “Our guess is that the wives knew just who was keeping Bin Laden alive for all these years." He referenced the A. Q. Khan case in which Washington has been denied interviews with the Pakistani nuclear chief who is accused of helping Libya, North Korea and Iran get their nuclear programs started.

So far, Donilon said, he has not come across any links between the Pakistani leadership and bin Laden: “I’ve not seen any evidence at least to date that the political, military, or intelligence leadership of Pakistan knew about Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad, Pakistan.” The national security adviser added that Washington would have to work with Islamabad to get to the bottom of it all.

On Friday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said bin Laden’s death could be a “game-changer” in Afghanistan, but didn’t indicate that that would mean a quicker withdrawal from the country. It’s way too early to tell now, but the defense secretary said, “in six months or so we'll probably know if it's made a difference.” He cited the tension between the “close personal relationship” shared by Taliban leader Mullah Omar and bin Laden on the one hand and on the other, the belief of some Taliban that they were betrayed by al-Qaeda.

Tomorrow, Vice President Joe Biden will hold another round of bipartisan talks aimed at forging an agreement on the budget. Republicans would like to see some serious budget cuts in return for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling.

And move over Angelina Jolie. Secretary Clinton teamed up with actress Julia Roberts to pen an op-ed on clean stoves. The two were touting the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves to make more environmentally and health-friendly stoves available to more people.