Good-Bye to All That

Getting a little teary-eyed, outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered his thanks to troops in Afghanistan on his last official trip to the country. In Kandahar, he said “I just want you to know I think about you every day, I feel your hardship and your sacrifice and your burden, and that of your families, more than you can possibly know,” adding that the fact that he was the person to have signed their deployment papers “weighs on [him] every day.” On the looming troop withdrawal from the country, Gates said that leaving combat troops on the ground as long as possible to secure progress made thus far is “a no-brainer.” “No one wants to give up the gains that have been won at such a hard cost, and nobody wants to give our allies the excuse to run for the exits,” Gates commented. But some reports indicate that the administration is considering steeper troop cuts than previously on the table. Officials cite the death of Osama bin Laden, the costs of war and the need to give Afghans a reason to start taking more control as factors in the shift.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said much the same as Gates in Washington last week. Though General David Petraeus, the commander of forces in Afghanistan, hasn’t yet made his troop-withdrawal recommendation to President Obama, Mullen expects it in the next few weeks. Mullen said it’s important that the drawdown doesn’t harm progress. Second in command in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, added that Afghan forces have to start taking the lead in more areas.

Last week, Google announced that a cyberattack apparently launched from China managed to hack into hundreds of personal email accounts, including some belonging to government officials and members of the military. White House spokesman Jay Carney said that it is unlikely that any official U.S. government accounts were compromised, since “all of our work is conducted on work email accounts.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday that Washington is looking into the reports.

Clinton might have a new job in her future anyway. Fox News chairman Roger Ailes said he’d like to put her on his payroll: “I’d like to hire Hillary Clinton. She looks unhappy at the State Department. She’d get ratings.”

Sarah Palin is joining the debt-ceiling chorus: “I don't believe Tim Geithner as he cries wolf for the fourth time now, telling us that there is a drop-dead date and crisis will ensue.” The treasury secretary says Washington will hit the debt ceiling and begin defaulting in August, but many of his GOP detractors think he is overstating the threat. Moody’s Investor Services meanwhile said it is thinking about downgrading the United States’ credit rating if Congress can’t come to an agreement on raising the debt ceiling.