The Real Problem

The administration invaded the Sunday morning talk show circuit yesterday. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates could be caught on ABC’s This Week, CBS’s Face the Nation and NBC’s Meet the Press. (Gates’s predecessor Donald Rumsfeld also made his way to This Week.) Gates and Clinton were making the talk-show rounds in the lead-up to President Obama’s much anticipated Libya speech tonight. It is his first shot at fully articulating the reasoning behind the intervention.

In her ABC appearance, Clinton touched on the administration’s relationship with Pakistan. The secretary of state called relations “very challenging” citing “some problems” both sides have had to deal with. Despite the difficulties in figuring out how to combat the extremist threat within Pakistan and having to work on the relationship every day, Clinton said that Washington and Islamabad have “developed good lines of communication, good opportunities for cooperation.” Clinton will be in London tomorrow for a Libya meeting.

Gates said on NBC yesterday that Libya is not one of the United States’ “vital interests,” though it is “part of the region which is a vital interest.” Yemen, on the other hand, could be a "real problem." On ABC, Gates explained the threat posed by a potential fall of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. He argued that a government collapse or the entrance of a “dramatically more weak” leader could severely harm U.S. counterterrorism efforts there. As he put it, the country is key because “the most active and at this point perhaps the most aggressive branch of Al-Qaeda, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, operates out of Yemen.” Intelligence services have reported that this particular branch of al-Qaeda might be close to launching an attack.

In the economic realm, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will jet off to China this week to meet with Chinese officials and G20 members. Top of the list will be a discussion of “reforms to the international monetary system” amid ongoing concerns about trade imbalances. But according to one Chinese spokesperson, “The renminbi exchange rate is not on the agenda.”

And at the end of last week, Marc Grossman, the special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, set out on a trip to Brussels and Moscow to coordinate actions with U.S. allies. In Brussels, he met with NATO and EU officials, and in Moscow, counternarcotics operations were set to be at the fore.