Out of Pakistan
Outgoing CIA Director Leon Panetta made a surprise visit to Pakistan on Friday. It was his first visit since the death of Osama bin Laden. The word on the street is that Panetta was trying to convince Islamabad to retract its call for U.S. military trainers to leave Pakistan. CBS News reports that an unnamed Pakistani government official said, “Mr. Panetta was told point blank, there will be no U.S. boots on the ground.” Afghan President Hamid Karzai was also in Pakistan over the weekend to speak with officials there about reconciliation with the Taliban.
Elsewhere in the region, outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen joined outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates in sounding a note of caution about the Afghanistan troop withdrawal. He said progress made in the country is not guaranteed. NATO’s “the job is by no means done – the gains that have been generated are fragile and reversible,” Mullen commented in London on Friday. General David Petraeus, commander of forces in Afghanistan, is expected to submit his recommendations about how many troops to withdrawal soon.
Petraeus is meanwhile broadening his scope a bit as he gets ready to take over for CIA Director Leon Panetta. In Rome on Friday, the general sat down with Italy’s foreign minister to talk about finding some sort of resolution to the conflict in Libya and the “unstable situation in Somalia, particularly as regards the growing problem of piracy and international strategies to confront it,” according to an Italian Foreign Ministry statement. Back at home, Bob Dole is trying to get Petraeus to join the race for the presidency. “We’re due for another Eisenhower,” Dole said, calling on Petraeus to face off against Obama for the top job.
On a five-day trip to Africa, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a moment to chide China for its colonial activities on the continent: “We saw that during colonial times, it is easy to come in, take out natural resources, pay off leaders and leave. . . . We don’t want to see a new colonialism in Africa.” She also criticized Beijing for its attempts to “stifle the Internet.”
Clinton called the death of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the man suspected to be the head of al-Qaeda in East Africa and to have been responsible for the Kenya and Tanzania U.S. embassy bombings in 1998, a “just end” and a serious blow to the terrorist organization. Somali troops shot him to death at a roadblock last week. And yesterday, the secretary of state was in Tanzania to observe development projects there, especially food programs, and examine the role of women in agriculture.