A Meeting of the AfPak Minds
President Obama sat down yesterday with his top national-security and intelligence minds to take stock of the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, DNI James Clapper, VP Joe Biden and commander of forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus all took part in the regular review (Biden and Petraeus by video link). The meeting came as tensions continue to ratchet up between Washington and Islamabad, with the US criticizing Pakistan’s intelligence services for links to insurgents and Pakistan rejecting the assertions.
General Petraeus was actually in Pakistan yesterday to meet with the army chief there, General Ashfaq Kayani. The US embassy in Islamabad released a general statement about the sitdown that said the pair “discussed topics of mutual interest and ways to improve regional security.”
Elsewhere in the world, Chinese and US officials are planning for a May economic meeting. The relationship between Beijing and Washington has been rocky of late as the US debt piles up and criticisms of China’s currency policy continue to fly. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with China’s Vice Premier Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo.
Reports are emerging that CIA Director Leon Panetta made a secret visit to Turkey at the end of March. He allegedly sat down with Turkish intel chief Hakan Fidan and other officials. Panetta (according to the newspaper Sabah) discussed the situation in Syria with his Turkish counterparts.
Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech outlining his vision for the future of the Department of Justice. The speech was in part an effort to distance the department from Gitmo and 9/11 trials after Holder, in a big concession to Congress, gave up his push for accused terrorists to be tried in civilian courts. He did, however, add, “Let me be very clear about this: we will continue to rely on our most powerful and most proven tool in bringing terrorists to justice -- our federal court system.” Holder also noted that the department would focus on “four essential priorities” going forward: terrorism, violent crime, financial fraud and looking out for society’s “most vulnerable members.”
And high-level administration officials are set to meet with a Mexican delegation, led by Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa, on Friday to talk about the drug trade. Nearly 35,000 people have died in Mexico’s five-year-long war against cartels.