Next on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s list: Pakistan. “We intend to push the Pakistanis very hard,” Clinton said during a press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, adding that Washington would press onward in its mission to “create a strong foundation for an Afghanistan free from interference.” Pakistan will have a “very big price” to pay if it does not take strong actions to combat insurgents.
Clinton will have to face the repercussions of her comments about Islamabad head-on, traveling to Pakistan after she wraps up her visit to Afghanistan. Washington is making a serious diplomatic push, sending a group of top national-security officials to Islamabad. The list includes CIA Director David Petraeus, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman. The delegation is supposed to demonstrate unity among the various U.S. agencies operating in the region and will push Islamabad to crack down on Pakistan-based militants launching attacks in Afghanistan.
The secretary of state was in Afghanistan meeting with Karzai and other Afghan government officials. Her sitdowns also covered the topic of reconciliation. Meanwhile, the top commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, said that a “high-intensity, sensitive” operation is under way against one of those difficult insurgent groups, the Haqqani militant network. And Allen indicated that coalition troops would turn over security to control to Afghans faster than expected.
Washington is getting ready for another round of disarmament talks with North Korea. Glyn Davies, the U.S. IAEA representative, will replace Stephen Bosworth as the special envoy on the case, devoting full-time attention to the subject. Both Davies and Bosworth will meet with North Korea’s delegation next week (October 24 and 25) at what State Department spokesman Marc Toner called further “exploratory meetings to determine if North Korea is prepared to fulfill its commitments under the 2005 joint statement of the Six-Party Talks . . . as well as take concrete steps toward denuclearization.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will travel to Japan next week, and Tokyo is trying to make some headway on the U.S. Marine base issue before he arrives. Washington wants to move some 8,000 Marines from Japan to Guam, but first it must come to an agreement with Tokyo about moving its base on Okinawa to a less-crowded part of the island. That agreement is hard to come by. The base issue has set off an intense internal debate in Japan, and a stalemate has been the result.