When it comes to the Afghanistan war, Secretary Clinton says that U.S. leaders are making crucial life-and-death decisions based on what's best for national security, not based on results of public-opinion polls. She made the remark at yesterday's news conference on the Afghanistan war review after being asked whether the Obama administration could continue the war if high levels of American public support could not be maintained. (A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 60 percent of Americans surveyed -- a record high -- do not think the Afghanistan war has been worth it.)
Clinton had this response (my emphasis in bold):
It is our assessment, backed up by 49 other nations that are also committing their troops, their civilians, their taxpayer dollars, that this [war] is critical to our national security.
Obviously, if we had concluded otherwise, we would have made different decisions.…
I'm well aware of the popular concern and I understand it.… Leaders, and certainly this president, will not make decisions that are matters of life and death and the future security of our nation based on polling.…
So I think it's understandable and I'm very respectful of the feelings of the American people. But the question I would ask is, how do you feel about a continuing American commitment that is aimed at protecting you and your family now and into the future? Because that's the question that we've asked, and this is how we'd answer it.
Certainly, crucial security decisions shouldn't be made based on whatever public opinion happens to be at the moment, but over the long term, you can't sustain a war without a critical mass of public support. A full-blown, counterinsurgency, nation-building strategy will take decades to succeed, if it can even succeed at all. Most Americans are unlikely to have the stamina for such a long-haul approach, given the dire unemployment and fiscal problems at home. For now, it looks like the United States will pull out when Afghanistan reaches some minimally acceptable state that some administration officials have been calling "Afghan good enough."
Video of yesterday's news conference (the exchange about opinion polls begins at about 17:20):
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Upon the passing yesterday of Richard Holbrooke -- U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Foreign Policy editor from 1972 to 1977, and chief architect of the 1995 Dayton Accords -- Secretary Clinton mourned him as one of America's "fiercest champions and most dedicated public servants." In a statement, she described him as a "consummate diplomat, able to stare down dictators and stand up for America's interests and values even under the most difficult circumstances."
It's so hard to believe he's no longer here. Just two weeks ago, on Nov. 30 at our Global Thinkers gala, FP paid a special tribute to Holbrooke for his many contributions to foreign policy -- and Foreign Policy. (The video of his remarks is below, followed by Clinton's complete statement upon his passing.)
Holbrooke's death leaves a huge hole in the United States' strategy regarding the Afghanistan war. A Washington Post article today reports:
Holbrooke's death is the latest complication in an effort plagued by unreliable partners, reluctant allies and an increasingly skeptical American public.… As the glue that held the enterprise together, his absence is likely to increase the already formidable challenge the administration faces.
Clinton's complete statement:
Tonight America has lost one of its fiercest champions and most dedicated public servants. Richard Holbrooke served the country he loved for nearly half a century, representing the United States in far-flung war-zones and high-level peace talks, always with distinctive brilliance and unmatched determination. He was one of a kind -- a true statesman -- and that makes his passing all the more painful.
From his early days in Vietnam to his historic role bringing peace to the Balkans to his last mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard helped shape our history, manage our perilous present, and secure our future. He was the consummate diplomat, able to stare down dictators and stand up for America's interests and values even under the most difficult circumstances. He served at every level of the Foreign Service and beyond, helping mentor generations of talented officers and future ambassadors. Few people have ever left a larger mark on the State Department or our country. From Southeast Asia to post-Cold War Europe and around the globe, people have a better chance of a peaceful future because of Richard's lifetime of service.
I had the privilege to know Richard for many years and to call him a friend, colleague and confidante. As Secretary of State, I have counted on his advice and relied on his leadership. This is a sad day for me, for the State Department and for the United States of America.
True to form, Richard was a fighter to the end. His doctors marveled at his strength and his willpower, but to his friends, that was just Richard being Richard. I am grateful for the tireless efforts of all the medical staff, and to everyone who sat by his side or wished him well in these final days.
Tonight my thoughts and prayers are with Richard's beloved wife Kati, his sons David and Anthony, his step-children Elizabeth and Chris Jennings, his daughter-in-law Sarah, and all of his countless friends and colleagues.
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton said today that she and the U.S. government support reintegration and reconciliation with Taliban members who meet specific criteria. We are "willing to support what's called reintegration -- namely, people on the battlefield coming off and going back into their society -- and reconciliation, which is a much more political process to work out terms of peace with people who [have] led the Taliban, but only on very clear conditions," she told ABC's Robin Roberts during an interview in Brussels, where she attended a NATO ministerial meeting.
Those "clear conditions" are:
Clinton was cautious with her remarks and said she's unsure how many Taliban leaders would agree to these conditions. In fact she said, "I think it's highly unlikely that the leadership of the Taliban that refused to turn over bin Laden in 2001 will ever reconcile. But stranger things have happened in the history of war, but it can only happen if they [are] willing to abide by the red lines that we and the Afghan government have established."
Other the other hand, Clinton sounded somewhat optimistic about lower-level Taliban members who likely joined in the first place just to get a paycheck. "I am increasingly convinced that many of the lower-level Taliban, young men who frankly went to fight for the Taliban because they got paid more than they could make anywhere else -- I believe that they are, in increasing numbers, laying down their arms and coming back into society."
She also told Roberts, "What we are seeing is a move by the lower-level fighters, many of them, to leave the battlefield, which is all to the good because they are being convinced that this fight is no longer one they want to be part of."
Anything about the Taliban joining peace talks or becoming part of the Afghan government will make most Americans nervous. Anyone can pay mere lip service to meeting the three "red line" conditions listed above; how do you tell whether someone isn't surreptitiously supporting violence and al Qaeda on the side? I also wish Clinton had reiterated that no political reconciliation should come at the price of Afghanistan's women -- which is one of the scariest things about involving the Taliban in peace talks and the government. Back in July during her visit to Kabul, Clinton made it starkly clear that Afghan women can't be marginalized in the reconciliation process, saying:
I don't think there is such a political solution that would be a lasting, sustainable one that would turn the clock back on women. That is a recipe for a return to the kind of Afghanistan -- if not in the entire country, in significant parts of the country -- that would once again be a breeding ground for terrorism. So we've got our red lines, and they are very clear: Any reconciliation process that the United States supports, recognizing that this is an Afghan-led process, must require that anyone who wishes to rejoin society and the political system must lay down their weapons and end violence, renounce al Qaeda, and be committed to the Constitution and laws of Afghanistan, which guarantee the rights of women.
Below is an edited video of today's interview:
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Aisha, the 19-year-old Afghan whose nose and ears were hacked off by her husband and who appeared on the cover to Time magazine this summer, has a new prosthetic nose!
With her new look, she attended the Grossman Burn Foundation's benefit event in California on Oct. 8 and received an Enduring Heart award from Maria Shriver, wife of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. "This is the first Enduring Heart award given to a woman whose heart endures and who shows us all what it means to have love and to be the enduring heart," Shriver said.
The Grossman Burn Foundation paid for Aisha's surgery in California, and plastic surgeon Peter H. Grossman, co-director of the Grossman Burn Centers, is hoping that a "permanent solution" can be found, perhaps reconstructing Aisha's nose and ears from bone, cartilage, and tissue from other parts of her body, reports the Daily Telegraph. Now, Aisha is beginning a new life in the United States. What a brave young woman.
Update, 4:13 p.m.: The brutality inflicted on women like Aisha shows us why Secretary Clinton is so adamant that absolutely no political reconciliation in Afghanistan should come at the price of Afghan women's well-being. As she said in July in Kabul:
I don't think there is such a political solution that would be a lasting, sustainable one that would turn the clock back on women. That is a recipe for a return to the kind of Afghanistan -- if not in the entire country, in significant parts of the country -- that would once again be a breeding ground for terrorism.
Here is a CNN video about Aisha, whose surname has not been disclosed, and her new look:
Thumbnail images, left to right: Grossman Burn Foundation, Getty Images
It's absolutely deplorable that anyone would poison innocent children just trying to get an education, but it appears to be happening in Afghanistan, with children -- especially girls -- becoming poisoned at school by toxic gases over the past two years. Blood tests have found toxic levels of organophosphates in victims of 10 mass poisonings, the New York Times reported Aug. 31. Organophosphates are found in herbicides and insecticides and are used in the development of chemical weapons, such as the nerve gases VX and sarin.
Just last Wednesday, Aug. 25, another gas poisoning occurred at a girls school Kabul, and dozens of girls and teachers had to be taken to the hospital, as seen in the photo above and video below. These poisonings are particularly tragic because as humanitarian Greg Mortenson of Three Cups of Tea fame puts it, education promotes peace "one school at a time." With every girl who can't learn to read and every school that is attacked, Afghanistan remains one giant step farther from peace.
Details -- whether all the poisonings were deliberate and how the gases were delivered -- are still under investigation, but Secretary Clinton, an unflagging advocate for the empowerment of girls and women, has condemned these disturbing attacks through the following statement, issued Aug. 31:
The United States is deeply concerned by the recent poisonings of Afghan school children in Kabul. While details of these attacks are still being verified, Afghan schools, teachers, and students, particularly girls, are regularly targeted by anti-government elements seeking to destabilize Afghanistan and undermine progress. We condemn such attacks and are working with the Afghan government to address this important issue and prevent further incidents from occurring.
Afghanistan and the United States, together with 40 other co-sponsors, presented a joint resolution to the Human Rights Council that was adopted by consensus in June concerning attacks on innocent students, particularly girls, in Afghanistan. We urge the international community to continue their support for the Government of Afghanistan in combating repression and violence against girls seeking an education, and in bringing to justice those responsible for these appalling attacks.
Our deepest sympathies are with the families of the victims, and we assure the government and all the people of Afghanistan that the United States will stand by you as you continue working to bring peace and stability to your country.
Below is an Al Jazeera video about the gas attacks:
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton yesterday issued a statement condemning "in the strongest possible terms" the murder of 10 aid workers by the Taliban. Today at 3 p.m., she will be delivering another statement on this despicable tragedy. The last four paragraphs of yesterday's statement are below, with my bolding for emphasis:
We are heartbroken by the loss of these heroic, generous people. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this senseless act. We also condemn the Taliban's transparent attempt to justify the unjustifiable by making false accusations about their activities in Afghanistan.
Terror has no religion, and these acts are rejected by people all over the world, including by Muslims here in the United States. The Taliban's cruelty is well-documented. Its members have assassinated tribal elders and thrown acid in the face of young girls. Earlier this summer, they accused a 7-year-old boy of spying and hung him. With these killings, they have shown us yet another example of the lengths to which they will go to advance their twisted ideology.
The murdered medical aid workers, as well as the volunteers from many nations and the international coalition working to establish stability in Afghanistan, represent exactly what the Taliban stands against: a future of peace, freedom, opportunity, and openness, where all Afghans can live and work together in harmony, free from terror.
That is what we are working to achieve in Afghanistan, in partnership with the Afghan people. As we mourn the loss of these aid workers, we will continue with our own efforts, inspired by their example.
In the photo above, taken today, family and friends carry the coffin of Jawed, 24, seen at left, one of the two Afghans killed. According to the website of the International Assistance Mission, the aid group the 10 deceased were working with, Jawed served as the team's cook and also helped dispense eyeglasses. He was known for his sense of humor, and his survivors include his wife and three children, who are less than school age.
This is just so sad.
From top: SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images, International Assistance Mission
FP blogger David Rothkopf has written an impassioned post, "Women and Islam: The real test of our values," in which he states that the way women are treated in many Islamic countries is "a disgrace every bit as grand and incomprehensible and awful as the Holocaust -- only it is much bigger, much more ancient, and if possible, much more evil if only due to the extent of its reach and the breadth of our acceptance of what has happened."
Just as I did last week, he mentions that Secretary Clinton "argues we will not forget the women of Afghanistan -- that they are one of the reasons we are there." When it comes to the rights of women and girls, he states, "No one has been more tireless or vocal in pursuit of these goals than Clinton." Which makes me wonder: In what ways would the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan be different if Clinton had been elected president?
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, along with their advisors, had dinner in Kabul yesterday evening, and afterward the two had a private discussion that went on late into the evening, reports the Washington Post. The meeting was "deeply substantive," a State Department official told the Post, saying that it included talks about reintegration of Taliban members and the handoff of security responsibilities as U.S. troops start to leave in July 2011.
On the subject of reintegration of Taliban fighters: Reconciliation with militants was a subject Clinton touched up yesterday while she was still in Pakistan. During a news conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Mehmoud Shah Qureshi, she said:
We are supportive … of the reconciliation and reintegration efforts undertaken by President Karzai and the Afghan government. We have made it clear that we think reconciliation cannot succeed unless the insurgents, who have been fighting the Afghan government over the last several years, recognize the importance of renouncing violence if they wish to enter into the political system; renounce al Qaeda, which remains at the center of a syndicate of terror across the world; and agree to abide by the Constitution and the laws of Afghanistan. It seems to us that there will be some who are willing to meet those conditions and others who are not. And we would strongly advise our friends in Afghanistan to deal with those who are committed to a peaceful future where their ideas can compete in the political arena through the ballot box, not through the force of arms. And there are those who will never be reconciled, and we hope that they can be defeated because they pose a continuing threat to Afghanistan and, by extension, to Pakistan.
U.S. State Department/Flickr
Secretary Clinton was busy on the phones yesterday afternoon, calling the foreign ministers of coalition countries to discuss with them President Barack Obama's decision to have Gen. David Petraeus succeed Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
As FP's The Cable notes, Clinton has been "conspicuously silent" about this mess. She has not issued a statement about the issue, even though two of her officials, special envoy Richard Holbrooke and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, were insulted in the Rolling Stone article. One possible reason Clinton remains mum is she doesn't want to step onto Defense Secretary Robert Gates's turf by commenting on a top military official. Doing so could also drive the rumor that she's itching to replace Gates as defense secretary.
Plus Clinton -- the only person singled out for praise in the Rolling Stone article -- "admires" McChrystal, as State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley put it at yesterday's daily press briefing. It's a tough position in which to be, liking a guy everyone's upset with.
(In the photo above, Clinton walks into the White House yesterday.)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Speaking at the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, Secretary Clinton sought to reassure Indians that the United States doesn't see India merely in the context of Pakistan or Afghanistan. She said at the plenary session:
"[W]e must not only build on areas of agreement but, frankly, address doubts that remain on both sides, doubts among some Indians that the United States only sees India or mainly sees India in the context of Afghanistan and Pakistan, or that we will hasten our departure from Afghanistan, leaving India to deal with the aftermath."*
But how true is it that the United States doesn't see India primarily through the context of Pakistan and Afghanistan? It seems like the United States wants India and Pakistan to resolve their dispute ASAP so that Pakistan can concentrate more on its western border with Afghanistan.
*This quote was updated from a previous version from NDTV that had transcription errors.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton met with four female Afghan government ministers yesterday and made a pledge to the women of Afghanistan: "We will not abandon you. We will stand with you always."
The Afghan government is planning to reconcile with and reintegrate "moderate" Taliban, and many Afghan women are understandably concerned that women's rights will be even more sidelined. Clinton reassured them:
It is essential that women's rights and women's opportunities are not sacrificed or trampled on in the reconciliation process.
And Clinton restated that message in her discussion with Afghan President Hamid Karzai later in the day when she listed the conditions that Taliban members would have to meet to reconcile or reintegrate. In addition to saying that they must abide Afghanistan's laws and Constitution, renounce violence, and cut ties with al Qaeda and its extremist allies, Clinton said, "[O]n a personal note, they must respect women's rights."
Let's hope this move to reconcile with and reintegrate "moderate" Taliban doesn't end up being a step backward for Afghan women.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
"... it's like walking through the Old Testament" -- that's a description of Afghanistan's Uruzgan province provided by Dutch Army Brig. Gen. Tom Middendorp to the Washington Post last summer.
The United States wants 21st-century-style women's liberation in Afghanistan, but can the United States make that happen -- and fast? It took the United States 144 years (1776 to 1920) to grant women the right to vote. Now Afghanistan is expected to go from Old Testament times to the 21st century in something closer to 144 months.
It would be great if the United States had a magic wand to make Afghanistan a land of freedom, democracy, good governance, and women's rights. Gen. Stanley McChrystal even thinks he has one; he calls it "government in a box." Reality check: The only people who can create a stable, free Afghan government that is "of the people, by the people, for the people" is the Afghan people themselves. And unfortunately, it doesn't seem like a critical mass of them are onboard yet to make that happen. So, the United States and its allies find themselves trying to drag Afghanistan kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
Yes, this is discouraging. Every day that goes by is another day that Afghan women are treated worse than animals. But there are a lot of people out there who think that if the United States just perseveres and just continues plugging away at it, democracy and women's rights will happen -- just read Valerie Hudson and Patricia Leidl's excellent FP piece, "Betrayed," about why the United States must not let down the women of Afghanistan.
The authors point out that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- an absolutely unflagging advocate for women and girls around the globe -- said in March, "... the subjugation of women is a threat to the national security of the United States." Hudson's research proves it: "states with higher levels of violence against women are also less peaceful internationally. Indeed, violence against women is a better predictor of bellicosity than level of democracy, level of wealth, or presence of Islamic civilization."
I share the authors' belief that the United States shouldn't abandon the women of Afghanistan, but I also think there are limits to what the United States can do. Just like you can't force someone to fall in love with you or command an atheist to genuinely believe in God, you can't make an entire society embrace women's rights. Yes, social change is possible -- the West went from burning women as witches to women burning bras -- but it unfolds indigenously, organically, slowly, over decades, centuries. Now the United States wants to hit the fast-forward button on social change in another country. Imagine if Dutch troops dropped into Alabama and pushed for sincere, societywide, approval of same-sex marriage -- how fast do you think social change would be?
Continued after the break …
SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
"We will not abandon the Afghan people. Our civilian commitment will remain long into the future," Secretary Clinton said this morning at the State Department in her opening remarks to U.S.-Afghan bilateral discussions. She also said, 'The ability to disagree on issues of importance to our respective countries and peoples is not an obstacle to achieving our shared objectives.… Rather, it reflects a level of trust that is essential to any meaningful dialogue and enduring strategic partnership."
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, as seen above with Clinton, said the international forces in his country must do more to prevent civilian deaths, but also noted that Gen. Stanley Chrystal is the first foreign commander to personally apologize to him whenever a military operation ends up killing civilians.
There's a lot more of Karzai on Clinton's schedule today. At 3:30 p.m., she has a one-on-one meeting with him, and at 5 p.m. she will host a reception for him. She already hosted a dinner for him yesterday, as seen in the photo below, in which it's striking that she's the only woman. I wonder how that feels -- to be the only woman in so many of these gatherings.
Top to bottom: Mark Wilson/Getty Images, PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
Clinton is meeting with some big names today (above, she greets Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai before their 11 a.m. bilateral) and will conclude her Monday by hosting a dinner with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Her public schedule:9:15 a.m.: Meeting with assistant secretaries.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
In his piece, "What did Karzai say to Clinton?" yesterday, FP's Josh Rogin notes that regarding the ongoing friction between the U.S. administration and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in light of recent remarks he made, it was Secretary Clinton who was specially selected to deal with the issue:
Clinton, who feels she has a rapport that allows her to speak candidly with the Afghan leader, was chosen to handle the issue. She told him to concentrate on the upcoming "peace jirga," the reconciliation conference Karzai is organizing for early May.
More about the 25-minute phone call Karzai made to Clinton last Friday is over at the Washington Post.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
A quick roundup of Secretary Clinton news before I log off to edit an article:
•"Karzai clarifies remarks that sparked White House 'concern' in call to Clinton" (Washington Post)
•Clinton congratulated Senegal yesterday on the 50th anniversary of its independence. (Meanwhile, Senegal unveiled a controversial giant statue -- taller than the Statue of Liberty -- that was made with help from North Korea.)
•Clinton will be speaking at the University of Louisville (in my home state!) on April 9!
ROGERIO BARBOSA/AFP/Getty Images
The United States and Canada may be good friends, but that didn't keep Secretary Clinton from getting tough and ruffling feathers there during her two-day visit this week. Three things have irked many Canadians:
•Clinton's criticism that Canada didn't invite indigenous groups and some Scandinavian countries to a meeting on the future of the Arctic.
•Clinton's public appeal on Canadian TV for Canada to stay in Afghanistan past its planned 2011 withdrawal date.
•Clinton's urging that Canada's initiative on global maternal health include contraceptives and abortion, the latter of which Prime Minister Stephen Harper (seen above) wants to leave out.
It takes a lot of guts to stand up for your beliefs and be critical of a friend.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
With the troop withdrawal date of July 2011, Secretary Clinton said, the U.S. administration is sending a "message of urgency" to Afghans and their government to go after the Taliban and al Qaeda more effectively. She made the remark in an interview yesterday with CBS's Katie Couric. When asked by Couric, "Why start withdrawing U.S. troops just 18 months after the surge begins?", Clinton's response was:
Well, I think there's been considerable misunderstanding about what the president said and what he meant. He said [Tuesday] night that our goal is to begin transferring responsibility for security and hopefully being able to bring some of our troops home starting in July 2011. But this is going to be done in a responsible way and based on the conditions as they are assessed. And we want to send a message of urgency to the people and government of Afghanistan and others that they have to be part of making sure that we go after al Qaeda and their allies, which include a lot of the Afghanistan Taliban."
When Couric followed up by asking, "So is this a not-so-subtle message to Hamid Karzai that he better step up to the plate because the U.S. will not be there forever?", Clinton answered:
Well, I think that this is a very clear message to President Karzai and to the rest of the Afghan leadership [that] what has gone [on] before hasn't been as effective as it needed to be, and we want to have the Afghan attention focused in a way that will produce results."
But will establishing a date of July 2011 for the beginning of a U.S. troop withdrawal truly give the Afghan leadership a kick in the pants to get its act together? And even if it does try hard to go after the Taliban and al Qaeda, will it be able to succeed? Based on all the corruption and dysfunction in the Afghan government, it's hard to be optimistic, but for the sake of Afghans and the world's security, I hope Clinton is right and that the situation in Afghanistan will become more tolerable.
Secretary Clinton, above talking with Pakistanis in Islamabad today, will be on PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer tonight (check local listings for the exact time). She was interviewed in Islamabad today by the NewsHour's Margaret Warner. I've read the transcript, and Clinton says a lot of important things about her time in Pakistan this week and U.S. and Pakistani efforts to go after extremists. I'm not allowed to post the entire transcript, but here's how the interview begins:
Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images
Warner: Secretary Clinton, thanks for being with us. Now you've been to Pakistan many times but never as Secretary of State, never at such a volatile time.
Warner: Was there anything unexpected that you found here? Something that you didn't imagine?
Clinton: Well, Margaret it, it wasn't that I found here anything unexpected. It was that I knew before I came that we had our work cut out for us, that there was a level of um, mistrust and misunderstanding uh that I wanted to tackle head-on. I have a great deal of admiration uh, for uh, the culture and the history and the struggle of the people of Pakistan. But what became clear in the time that I've been Secretary of State, is that there was an enormous number of questions about our motive, our intention, our actions that had been built up over the last 8 years. So I wanted to try to address those and go out and meet people and hear and listen and have a really, a good dialogue which I think we've had.
Secretary Clinton will be on ABC's Nightline at 11:35 p.m. (U.S. Eastern time) tonight. Her interview was taped earlier today in Moscow, and if you can't watch it, you can read an edited transcript here. In the interview, Clinton discusses important issues such as Afghanistan strategy and Iran. As the clip above shows, she also mentions that she "absolutely" would have asked Barack Obama to be in her cabinet had she been elected president last year.
Secretary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are in harmony on many foreign-policy issues, according to a recent New York Times article. Tensions between the secretaries of state and defense have often been "epic" in previous administrations, but the two get along remarkably well, even talking Afghanistan policy over a long private dinner at the Blue Duck Tavern last week after their joint talk for CNN.
Over at FP's Shadow Government blog, Peter Feaver comments.
A briefing of Clinton news:
•Afghanistan: U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Secretary Clinton has "zero tolerance" for the lewd, disgusting behavior of private security guards at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan.
•Honduras: Today in Washington Clinton meets with Manuel Zelaya, the ousted Honduran president seen at left a few weeks before he was removed from office. If the State Department formally declares that his ouster was a coup, then U.S. foreign aid to Honduras will be suspended.
•Bill: No. 7 on Politico's list of "21 Things You Can't Say to the President on His Summer Vacation": "President [Bill] Clinton called and says he is willing to fly to Afghanistan to investigate allegations of wild parties in Kabul. He’s called four times, in fact."
•Op-ed: A fan of Madam Secretary has written an op-ed, "Clinton Has Her Own Problems," that discusses, among other things, the secretary of state's difficulties in filling vacant State Department positions due to the onerous security-clearance process.
Photo: ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton testified yesterday (as seen above) in front of a Senate subcommittee that the United States is "being out-communicated by the Taliban and al Qaeda" and that it needs a "new strategic communication strategy" in order to "do a better job of getting the story of the values, ideals, the results of democracy out to people who are now being fed a steady diet of the [worst] kind of disinformation."
Al Qaeda's propagandists produce high-quality videos and elaborate Web sites, which has led U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to often say, "We're being out-communicated by a guy in a cave."
Clinton didn't provide details about what any "new strategic communication strategy" would involve, but whatever it is, let's hope it follows sound media ethics. In the past, the United States secretly paid Iraqi newspapers to run articles written by U.S. troops. In 2006, the Defense Department's inspector general discovered that the Lincoln Group, a private contractor, had paid Iraqi media outlets to run articles without attribution that were favorable to the U.S. military.
It's doubtful, though, that Clinton would support such tactics. According to a 2008 Washington Post article, when then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld learned about the Lincoln Group's "anonymous pay-to-publish program," he told reporters, "Gee, that's not what we ought to be doing."
In all fairness, FP -- the print edition -- runs multipage ads from various countries, which are clearly marked as "Special Advertising Supplement." The May/June issue has supplements from the Dominican Republic, Angola, and Cabinda (an Angolan province).
And speaking of Angola, Clinton has that country on her schedule today:
11:00 a.m. Bilateral with His Excellency Ansuncao Afonso dos Anjos, Minister of External Relations of the Republic of Angola.
11:45 a.m. Meeting with Joint Summit Working Group.
2:00 p.m. Bilateral with His Excellency Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania.
4:15 p.m. Attend The President's bilateral with Excellency Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania.
Photo: TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images
After yesterday's trilateral, Secretary Clinton is back to bilaterals today, as her schedule below shows. She meets again with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (let's hope there's no reset button involved this time).
10:30 a.m. Bilateral with His Excellency Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
10:45 a.m. Bilateral with His Excellency Makhdoom Shah Mehmood [Qureshi], Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
11:00 a.m. Bilateral with His Excellency Miroslav Lajcak, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic
12:00 p.m. Bilateral with His Excellency Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
1:15 p.m. Working Lunch for His Excellency Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
3:45 p.m. Bilateral with His Excellency Franco Frattini, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Italian Republic
After a day heavy with bilaterals (including one with Israeli President Shimon Peres, above), Secretary Clinton has a crucially important day today. The presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan are in Washington. She has a bilateral with each and a trilateral with both together.
Some people, including Clinton, fear that Pakistan's Taliban insurgency threatens the government. Two weeks ago, with Islamist militants just 60 miles from Islamabad, the capital of nuclear-armed Pakistan, Clinton declared to the House Foreign Affairs Committee: "[We] cannot underscore [enough] the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by the continuing advances."
9:15 a.m. Bilateral with His Excellency Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
9:45 a.m. Bilateral with His Excellency Asif Ali Zardari, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
10:30 a.m. US-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Consultations II
Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images
Secretary Clinton is at The Hague in the Netherlands for today's international conference on Afghanistan. She will not be having any "substantive" discussions with Iranian officials there, but they did share a conference table earlier today.
On another note, Clinton has said the phrase, "war on terror," is finished. The Associated Press reports that on her way to The Hague she said:
"The [Obama] administration has stopped using the phrase, and I think that speaks for itself."
Clinton is in the Netherlands, so, of course, I have to include this photo with tulips:
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives on March 31 with Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen for the start of the international conference on Afghanistan in The Hague. Afghanistan's international backers, including Iran, are gathering to try to bring new impetus to efforts to combat the Taliban-led insurgency, help spread democracy, and rebuild.
Photos: ROBERT VOS/AFP/Getty Images
Once again, Secretary Clinton is headed abroad. This time to The Hague, in the Netherlands, to attend a conference about Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Her official schedule:
ON FOREIGN TRAVEL
Meanwhile, husband Bill was in Colombia this weekend, attending the annual meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank (and apparently enjoying watermelon and bananas while he was at it).
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton poses with traditional Colombian fruit vendors in the framework of the 50th Inter-American Development Bank annual meeting on March 28 in Medellín, Colombia. The March 28 assembly was on the international economic crisis and its impact in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images
Here's a photo of Secretary Clinton standing behind President Obama at this morning's announcement about Afghanistan and Pakistan.
What do you think Hillary's thinking?
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about Afghanistan and Pakistan as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates look on behind him in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on March 27 in Washington. Obama announced a new strategy consisting of increasing troops in Afghanistan while boosting aid in Pakistan with the hopes of weakening al Qaeda.
Here's a close-up photo:
Clinton and National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones listen to Obama make a statement on Afghanistan and Pakistan in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House in Washington on March 27.
Photos, top to bottom: Mark Wilson/Getty Images, NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
Madam Secretary is an obsessive blog about all things Hillary Clinton. From her policies to her pantsuits, Madam Secretary delivers up-to-the-minute news, analysis, and gossip about America's top diplomat.