Burnt Out

The Obama team lost another member on Friday. The departure of National Security Adviser James Jones was announced after months and months of speculation that he would step down and discussion of how the military man just didn’t seem to fit in the administration. But that’s not the end of it. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to retire next year and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs is looking to head back to Chicago to work on President Obama’s 2012 prospects. Commentators are split on the cause of the slew of departures. Robert Gibbs said last month that the team is simply exhausted, putting in 15 to 16 hour days, 7 days a week. Other critics say that Obama’s leadership style is to blame.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai confirmed, in an interview with Larry King, that he has been holding talks with the Taliban. The administration has been “talking to the Taliban as countryman to countryman,” Karzai said, “for quite some time.” The discussions have been unofficial up until now, but since Karzai has appointed a peace council, the talks will “go on officially and more rigorously” Karzai hopes.

U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke thinks that we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. “The reports greatly exceed the reality,” Holbrooke said today in Berlin.

Secretary Gates is in Vietnam for the ASEAN defense ministers meeting. He will try to demonstrate Washington’s engagement with the region and concern about territorial disputes going on there without stepping on any toes, especially China’s. The United States and China are just now getting back on the road to military-to-military dialogue after a few tense months.