Troop Withdrawals and Insurgent Links

The outgoing commander of forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus is in Washington to deliver his much-anticipated recommendations about next month’s Afghanistan troop withdrawal. The administration is supposed to start bringing  troops home in July, and Petraeus is offering his insight into how fast those drawdowns should happen. The exact recommendation has been a very well-guarded secret up until now, with the administration only hinting that the initial withdrawal would be “significant.” Keeping busy, next Thursday, Petraeus will have his confirmation hearing for the position of CIA director before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Suspicions are mounting that the Pakistani military tipped off insurgents about the CIA's plans to target a few of their bomb-making facilities, heightening concerns about links between the military and militants. The CIA had notified Islamabad about the sites and requested that they raid the facilities, but the insurgents were gone when troops arrived. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is calling on the everyone to be patient in delivering judgments because the details just aren’t clear. In an interview with the AP, he did acknowledge that “There are suspicions and there are questions, but I think there was clearly disappointment on our part,” but cautioned that that should not affect shaky U.S.-Pakistan relations. In the same interview, Gates also noted that the way is open to repealing the ban on openly gay military members.

And admiral Mike Mullen, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the DOD might be cutting military assistance to Latin American and African countries. Mullen called the aid “preventative investments” that might be on the chopping block as the Pentagon tries to slash its budget, something current CIA Director Leon Panetta will have to deal with since he's essential a shoo-in to take over for Gates as secretary of defense.

Beijing is once again criticizing Hillary Clinton for her remarks about China. The secretary of state referred to China’s borderline neocolonial activities in Africa, and the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman responded today, “We have never imposed our will on African countries.” Hong compared China’s experiences with “colonial occupation” in the past to those experienced by Africa. Yesterday, Secretary Clinton called on African countries to cut off their ties to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. She was addressing the African Union in Tanzania yesterday and said, “It has become clearer by the day [Qaddafi] has lost his legitimacy to rule, and we are long past time when he can or should remain in power.”

And the debt talks headed by Vice President Joe Biden are still plodding along. He will sit down today with the bipartisan group of legislators to continue their attempts to come to an agreement on budget cuts so the debt ceiling can be raised.