Time is Running Out

In his meetings with Iraqi’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and head of the regional government in Kurdistan, Massoud Barzai, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pressed the leaders to finally finish forming a government and make a decision about whether they want the help of U.S. troops beyond the scheduled December 31, 2011 withdrawal date. “Time is running out in Washington,” he added. Gates made clear that any force that remained would be significantly smaller: “it obviously would be a presence that is a fraction of the size we have here now. It is truly up to the Iraqis at this point.”

On Libya, Gates maintained that U.S. participation in the military intervention did not set a precedent. As uprisings continue to shake states across the Middle East, he said that the convergence of events surrounding the intervention, including the fact that the Arab League requested military action, was unprecedented, and that “it's hard for [him] to imagine those kinds of circumstances being replicated any place else.”

With rumors flying about who is in line to be SecDef after Gates leaves the post, the CIA is trying to quiet the speculation. Yesterday, CIA spokesman George Little told the press that the Agency’s current director, Leon Panetta, is good where he is: “He isn't seeking any other job and hasn't been asked by the president to take on a different role.” But should he leave, General David Petraeus seems to be a crowd favorite to take the job. Both sources close to the White House and lawmakers think he’d be a good fit.

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security is still working on its plans to replace the color-coded terror alert system. The hope is that the new system will be more targeted. “The alerts will be specific to the threat,” according to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.