A Date with the Libyan Opposition

Spending the day in Paris yesterday with the G8, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made some time for a late-night meeting with one of Libya’s opposition leaders, Mahmoud Jibril. The meeting was kept quiet because of worries about Jibril’s security. For 45 minutes, the two spoke about what Washington can do to pressure Qaddafi’s regime. Jibril reportedly requested that the United States conduct air strikes on Libya, targeting Qaddafi’s airfields, as well as providing supplies for the opposition and political and economic aid. Washington, for its part, was trying to demonstrate high-level support for the rebels and to get a better sense of who the opposition actually is.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council sent forces into Bahrain yesterday to help control protests there. And the Pentagon had no idea it was going to happen, according to a DOD spokesman, Colonel Dave Lapan. Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates when he was in the region just last week didn’t hear a peep about the deployment. Same goes for Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during his earlier visits. White House press secretary Jay Carney, along with a spokesman for the UN’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, called for restraint: “we urge non-violence in response to non-violent protesters, the respect for the universal rights of people in the region to gather peacefully.”

Gates and commander of forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus both met with President Obama yesterday to discuss the counterinsurgency effort. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to announce next week the beginning of the “transition to Afghan security lead,” according to a White House statement. The strength of the Afghan National Security Forces was one focus of the meeting along with the U.S. troop withdrawal.

The sitdown came a day before General Petraeus had to report to the Hill. He is appearing before Congress today to talk about progress in Afghanistan, despite a recent uproar about civilian casualties and creeping pessimism about the prospects for success.