New Stories and Old Criticisms
U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman sped away to Islamabad on Monday, where he conveyed some strong sentiments to Pakistani military and intel leaders. He said that Congress in particular was none to happy about the revelation that Osama bin Laden had been living within Pakistan’s borders and that Islamabad needed to do something about it. Though it’s not just Congress—reportedly, CIA director Leon Panetta told legislators, “either they [the Pakistanis] were involved or incompetent. Neither place is a good place to be,” which the Pakistanis reacted to angrily.
Yesterday, Grossman met with officials from Afghanistan and Pakistan. In public, the envoy and his counterparts displayed a united front in the fight against militant Islamists. Grossman also spoke to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, ISI chief General Ahmed Pasha and military head Asfaq Kayani. The meeting had been scheduled before bin Laden was killed.
White House spokesman Jay Carney had to revise misleading statements about the circumstances surrounding Osama bin Laden’s death. Administration officials, including Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, had previously said that the al-Qaeda figure resisted arrest, but Carney explained that though bin Laden did resist arrest, he was unarmed when shot. Reports had also indicated that one of bin Laden’s wives attempted to shield him from the shots and was killed as a result, but that, it turns out, was also untrue. Carney said the administration is doing its best: “We have worked very hard to declassify information in record speed to provide as much insight into this operation as we can, as quickly as we can.” Carney also clarified that the death of bin Laden wouldn’t have an effect on the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, which is supposed to get started in July.
Brennan took to the airwaves himself to try to clear things up. On Fox, he said that the assault force that entered the Abbottabad compound would have accepted Osama bin Laden’s surrender only if they had been completely sure that he “did not pose any type of threat whatsoever.” They could not be certain that bin Laden wasn’t wearing an IED or didn’t have a hidden weapon.
And reports are emerging that CIA Director Leon Panetta let at least the heads of the House Intelligence Committee know that a strike was imminent a day before it occurred, according to the congressmen in question, Representative Mike Rogers (chairman of the committee) and Representative Dutch Ruppersberger (head Democrat). Rogers and Ruppersberger, along with the Senate intel leaders and the top lawmakers from each party in both the Senate and the House, have been kept in the loop about the search for bin Laden.
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke had some strong words for China today, criticizing Beijing for erecting protectionist barriers to foreign investment. He said, “American companies operating in China . . . are frequently shut out of entire industries, or they are forced to give up propriety information as a condition of operating in China.” That, he added, “is a major barrier to continued improvement of the United States and China's commercial relationship.” Locke has been nominated to be the next ambassador to China. Yet, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was slightly more positive yesterday, noting that China may actually be becoming more flexible: “We're seeing promising signs . . . of a very favorable change in direction in the basic thrust of Chinese economic policy.”