The Beat Goes On

Notably absent this morning from President Obama’s monthly meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan will be Richard Holbrooke. The special envoy passed away yesterday evening after a weekend full of surgeries to attempt to repair his torn aorta. He had fallen ill on Friday during a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and had been rushed to the hospital. Known as the Bulldozer for his work to help end the Bosnian war, Holbrooke was praised by leaders across the world, even those with whom he had an at times tense relationship, like Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Holbrooke’s absence will certainly be felt. He was the point man for U.S. civilian efforts in Afghanistan. And his death comes at a time when the administration is just wrapping up its Afghanistan strategy review. But the administration is pressing onward. Obama will meet with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, CIA Director Leon Panetta, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, General David Petraeus and others. Mullen is currently in Pakistan to meet with the country’s army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and urge Islamabad to keep the pressure on militants. Obama will make a statement on Thursday about the strategy review and is expected to cite progress, though White House spokesman Robert Gibbs also noted that there are many challenges remaining “in both security and governance.”

Joe Biden meanwhile is getting ready to chair a meeting of the UN Security Council tomorrow. The body is set to pass a few resolutions that will remove sanctions placed on Iraq during Saddam Hussein's reign. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said that the meeting is “an important opportunity for the international community to recognize the very real progress that Iraq has made.”

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak about the Iranian threat and the peace process. According to Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon’s press secretary, this sixth meeting of the year “touched on everything from the recent wildfires in Israel to ongoing peace process efforts to the challenges posed by Iran.” Panetta and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon also met with the Israeli defense chief.

It was announced back in September that Larry Summers, the director of the National Economic Council, was going to step down and head back to Harvard University. The White House said yesterday that the administration might not be able to name a successor by the end of the year. Robert Gibbs cited a brimming legislative calendar for the delay. But rumor has it that Richard Levin, president of Yale University, might get the nod.