Iraq pullout -- A week ago House Speaker Nancy Pelosi questioned President Obama's plan for the war in Iraq stating that she wants a 15-20,000 residual force left there, rather than the 50,000 being considered in the plan.
Iraq contracting -- General Ray Odierno has recently (3/4/09) directed that his subordinates systematically reduce the use of civilian contractors and increase the hiring of Iraqis. To quote Spencer Ackerman at Firedoglake,
Odierno's asking his commanders to cut their reliance on contractors -- there are about 150,000 of them in Iraq, according to the Christian Science Monitor's Gordon Lubold, which include 37,000 Iraqis -- by 5 percent each quarter. He apparently made a point in his directive of criticizing the military's reliance on contractors, and candidly told commanders that their troops may need to take up the shortfall.
Iraq scandal -- According to the New York Times, via Memeorandum, "An inquiry on graft in Iraq focuses on U.S. officers." To quote:
Federal authorities examining the early, chaotic days of the $125 billion American-led effort to rebuild Iraq have significantly broadened their inquiry to include senior American military officers who oversaw the program …
Afghanistan elections -- On Feb. 28 President Hamid Karzai ordered that presidential elections be moved forward to April or May, rather than a recently set date in August. Karzai was supposed to step down on May 21. The New York Times asserts that it could "be an attempt to avert constitutional challenges to his legitimacy." Moving it up would be a huge logistical challenge. Western officials had supported a delay.
Pakistan's border central -- According to Jeff Stein, who writes "Spy Talk" (2/24/09), some 70 military advisers (Special Forces) are in Pakistan providing training for Pakistani troops, as well as intelligence and advise on combat tactics. Stein continues,
Make no mistake about it: Pakistan hangs in the balance.
President Obama suggested as much in his speech to Congress Wednesday night, when he said, "We will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and combat extremism. Because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens half a world away."
Mid-East regional diplomacy -- It is very heartening to learn about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's trip to the Middle East to attend an aid conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. It seems that she and the administration have no illusions about better relations with Iran, though both parties remain publicly hopeful. Politico reported that The Secretary met with the foreign minister of the UAE at the conference, as well as shaking hands and briefly speaking with the Syrian foreign minister. Clinton later flew to Israel for talks and also met with the Palestinians in the West Bank.
Israel and the Palestinian territories -- The challenge is great for U.S. diplomatic efforts in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Clinton critics took on the question of pressing Israel to let more aid into Gaza, claiming that it would strengthen Hamas. Secretary Clinton continues to work for a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah to form a unified Palestinian Authority. Even the U.S. House of Representatives has weighed in with advice to Secretary Clinton, advice with which Siun at Firedoglake agrees.
Regarding the defense budget Glenn Greenwald put up an outstanding post a month ago that focused on "The defense cut" falsehood from the Washington Post and Robert Kagan," at Salon.com (2/3/09). He takes apart the neocon arguments, point by point, fact by fact, chart by chart.
"More than meets the eye" -- After the release of 9 official Bush terror policy memos from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, there is a renewed push for a so-called independent "truth commission" to look into the people involved, what happened and why. Yesterday The Senate Judiciary committee held a hearing on "Getting the Truth through a Non-Partisan Commission." According to ProPublica, at least 35 other memos remain buried in DOJ files. A separate investigation has been going on for years in the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility regarding the genesis and quality of the legal opinions. [More on this in Sunday's upcoming post]
References --national security
- From CQ Homeland Security's "Behind the Lines" Newsletter of March 4, 2009, are a couple of excerpts by David C. Morrison. To quote:
Follow the money: . . . “Afghanistan now supplies over 93 percent of the global opiate market [creating a] narco-economy strengthening the power of tribal warlords, the Taliban and al Qaeda,” a Forbes commentary spotlights. . .
Pakghanistan: Pakistan’s foreign minister has vowed no tolerance for al Qaeda in the Swat Valley despite accepting a peace deal that includes imposition of sharia law, Agence France-Presse reports “If Pakistan collapses or is taken over by Islamic extremists—you face the prospect of Islamic extremists having nuclear weapons. . . That’s why Pakistan is Obama’s potential Vietnam,” Thomas Ricks tells Newsweek. Pakistan’s opposition leader warns AP, relatedly, that political chaos could embolden Islamist militants threatening nuclear-armed Pakistan. In the good news column, Pakistani forces have defeated Islamist militants in a strategically important region on the Afghan border and expect to clear other areas by the end of the year, Reuters quotes officials Saturday. An allegedly U.S. missile attack on a target in a border region of Pakistan dominated by a Taliban leader killed eight people yesterday, the Los Angeles Times tells.
- Tracking Whitehouse.gov's new Iraq page -- March 3, 2009: The all-seeing eye of ChangeTracker , our handy tool that watches for changes on White House Web sites, spotted a total rewrite of the Iraq agenda  over the weekend. The changes reflect the new policy presented by President Obama on Friday at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.
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