On his first trip to Afghanistan as Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta offered an upbeat assessment. "We're within reach of strategically defeating Al Qaeda," he said.
US pullout from Afghanistan must be seen in light of threats from Iran, Pakistan, North Korea. Going forward, there will be fewer troops, more drones, and a massive contest of wits.
A tough job awaits Leon Panetta at the Pentagon: three wars, budget cuts, Al Qaeda in Yemen, prospects of a nuclear Iran. But some good news awaits the new Defense secretary, too.
The Senate gives Gen. David Petraeus a resounding 94-to-0 vote of confidence as CIA chief. But Pakistan signals that fighting terror – a top priority – will be hard, closing a base to US drones.
NATO’s Afghanistan coalition lauded Afghan police and security forces for responding ‘quickly and professionally’ to the Kabul attack. But the raid will probably provide fodder for critics of President Obama’s plan to draw down US troops in the country.
To the Taliban – and much of the world – the withdrawal is a sign of US weakness. The short-term benefits of abandoning counterinsurgency in Afghanistan may be politically appealing. But the long-term costs may be greater than Obama anticipates.
While President Obama has laid out a path for reducing US military involvement in the Afghanistan war, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the civilian surge of 1,100 engineers, aid workers, and diplomats is only now hitting top gear.
President Obama said the Afghanistan war drawdown would be done from a position of strength, citing success in killing Al Qaeda leaders. But a similar campaign to weaken the Taliban has not been equally successful.
Gen. David Petraeus is on Capitol Hill Thursday for his confirmation hearing for the CIA post. The US is moving away from his troop-heavy approach to war, including, to a degree, in Afghanistan.