The ISI's Proxies

Admiral Mike Mullen has been busy lately. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff pulled out the proxy war label to describe the Pakistani intelligence service’s links to the Haqqani network. When he sat down with Pakistani General Ashfaq Kayani for four hours or so, Mullen recounted, the pair talked about “the need for the Haqqani Network to disengage, specifically the need for the ISI to disconnect from Haqqani and from this proxy war that they're fighting.” The chairman of the Joint Chiefs said that the ISI’s strategy of supporting proxies is a “strategic approach [that] has to shift in the future.” The Haqqani network is a Taliban-linked militant group reportedly responsible for a number of attacks inside Afghanistan, including last week’s in Kabul.

Islamabad and Washington are meanwhile coming to some sort of accord. They have agreed to put a cap on the number of U.S. troops inside Pakistan, the Associated Press reports. Force numbers would be cut roughly in half, to between 100 and 150 troops on the ground, and only 10 special-operations trainers will be allowed on Pakistani soil. That's a reduction from 140 trainers, but still some progress, since Pakistan originally wanted all U.S. forces out.

Mullen also said yesterday that Washington is on track to withdraw troops from Iraq by the end of the year. Forty thousand troops should be left in country at the end of this month, down from about fifty thousand on September 1, when combat operations came to an end. (Mullen originally said thirty thousand would be left on the ground at the end of September, which a spokesman later corrected.) Washington is still talking to Baghdad about possibly leaving a few thousand troops there after year's end to train Iraqi forces.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is calling on al-Shabab to allow food aid into southern Somalia. The Islamist militant group has mostly banned aid agencies from operation in areas it controls, but a severe drought has put hundreds of thousands of people at risk. Clinton said yesterday, “I don’t understand what possible political or ideological benefit comes from allowing women and children to starve in areas you’re responsible for.”

The Palestinian bid for statehood is “an unwise and diversionary gambit,” according to U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice. She said the bid would not succeed and reiterated that the Israelis and Palestinians need to come to an agreement at the negotiating table.