Out of Afghanistan

Not so long ago, Afghan President Hamid Karzai banned the operation of private security companies from operating in his country. Washington expected him to amend the decree, but so far, no movement. Which means many companies and aid organizations in Afghanistan that rely on private security companies for protection are packing up. Development projects are key to General David Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy, and officials are preparing for long talks with the Karzai government to try to come to some sort of agreement. 

Aid may be screeching to a halt in Afghanistan, but things are ramping up in neighboring Pakistan. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the anticipated five-year $2 billion aid package for the country (which still needs to be approved by Congress). The assistance is meant to help Pakistan fight militants and to ensure a more long-term commitment between Washington and Islamabad.

In the wake of a California court decision that sought to ban the military from enforcing its don’t ask, don’t tell policy and Wednesday’s federal-appeals-panel decision to stay that ruling, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is making some changes. He announced yesterday that the power to dismiss troops moved further up the hierarchy. Now, the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force must personally approval any discharges. Gates noted that the change was made in direct response to the legal wrangling that has been going on about the policy. A groundswell calling for the immediate repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell is building, but amid two wars, many, including many military officials, would prefer the policy be slowly rolled back or simply remain in effect.

And many foreign-policy team members came out yesterday for General James Jones’s going-away party. Vice President Joe Biden, counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and now-NSC Chief of Staff Denis McDonough were all in attendance. The vice president, as well as Jones’s successor Tom Donilon, gave speeches.