Who Will Replace Mullen?

The field of candidates for the position of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is slowly but surely being whittled down. Over the weekend, President Obama told Marine General James Cartwright, the former lead candidate and current vice chairman, that he was no longer in the running. Cartwright has been under increasing scrutiny lately as various allegations were leveled against him. The commander of U.S. forces in Europe Admiral James Stavridis is also reportedly no longer a candidate. Still considered front-runners are Army Chief of Staff General Martin Dempsey and the former head of operations in Iraq, General Ray Odierno. As early as next week the president could make his final decision about who will replace the current chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, who has been in the post for four year.

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he wished the Iraqis would just pop the big question already. U.S. troops are scheduled to be out of the country by the end of the year, but Gates believes that staying will both help secure Iraq further and send a reassuring message to other states in the region currently embroiled in their own forms of unrest. “I hope they figure out a way to ask, and I think that the United States will be willing to say yes when that time comes,” Gates commented.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai sat down today with General David Petraeus, the commander of forces in Afghanistan. According to Karzai’s office, the Afghan president was hoping to talk about “unilateral operations that have tired the people of Afghanistan.” One such “unilateral operation” was a recent NATO action that left four dead. It sparked protests which then killed another seventeen.

Vice President Joe Biden meanwhile has his eye on a very large target: $1 trillion worth of budget cuts. He’s been heading a bipartisan group of congressional leaders attempting to come to some agreement on the budget and raising the debt limit before the U.S. defaults. Yesterday though the group butted heads over Medicare. Democrats said they wouldn’t make Medicare cuts if the Republicans didn’t raise tax revenue. Biden said he stepped in and “made clear . . . that revenues have to be in the deal.” The group has thus far agreed on $200 billion in cuts.

And Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman is continuing his trip to Benghazi. He held meetings yesterday with the Transitional National Council and other opposition members.