Emergencies and Backup Plans

General David Petraeus moved to the House yesterday for testimony about Afghanistan. He told lawmakers that President Obama hasn’t yet made a decision about how to draw down troops in July. Petraeus is in the process of preparing different scenarios to present to the president and deciding what recommendations he’ll make. The indication thus far has been that Washington will take out noncombat troops first—engineers and support forces, for example. But Petraeus said that isn’t all true: “I do believe there will be some combat forces included in those options and in that recommendation.”

Mark C. Toner was filling in as State Department spokesman yesterday in the wake of PJ Crowley’s quick departure. And he had a lot of ground to cover. He brought up a statement recently released by U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos that ordered Americans to keep at least 50 miles away from the crashing Fukushima reactors. Even though that contradicted Tokyo’s more positive depictions of the situation, Toner said that was the Washington's “most current assessment” and that the administration has “nuclear experts on the ground.”

He also noted that Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman was on his way back from Bahrain yesterday. Feltman had a sitdown with the Bahraini foreign minister and expressed deep concerns about the use of force to quell protests there. Toner added, “we’ve called on all GCC members to support what we believe is the ultimate resolution here, which is . . . a political dialogue” to bring about a political resolution.

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said Washington is planning for a Libya no-fly zone and more. She said yesterday that the Security Council needs to be ready for steps that “perhaps go beyond a no-fly zone.” Rice spoke as the council finished up its second day of Libya discussions.

And on the ground in Tunisia today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton focused on economic development and refugees. “The revolution created so many hopes and now we have to translate those hopes into results and that comes through economic reform and political reform,” Clinton commented.