Aaaaand . . . I’m back! Minus a few wisdom teeth—and with a lot more Thai food in my belly. But Raffaela’s partisans need not weep; she will alternate with me covering national security news and analysis during the week. The endless struggle for control over Today’s Headlines and Commentary continues.
Let’s begin with more news of the drawdown in Afghanistan. Mark Landler and Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times report that President Obama said “American forces would play only a supporting role in Afghanistan”—though I’m still waiting on the magic number of troops who will stay behind.
While we draw down in one place, we’re ramping up in another: The Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration is offering limited support for the French offensive against Malian terrorists. (Mali question of the day: Do you think Volkswagen is regretting naming its SUV the Touareg?) Meanwhile, the gallant French ramped up their air strikes against terrorist training camps and bases over the weekend, according to the New York Times. David Axe of Wired’s Danger Room blog has more.
Josh Gerstein of Politico tells us that President Obama wrote a letter informing Congress that the U.S. military provided air support to a French mission to rescue a French intelligence agent held by Al Shabaab.
In other news, Pam Benson of CNN.com discusses the sometimes-overlapping roles of DNI director and CIA director—and the resulting problems.
Colin Powell adds his rah rah of enthusiasm to the rather-limited pile for Chuck Hagel’s nomination, says the Hill, while Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut isn’t quite so gung-ho. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, according to the Hill, thinks that “reports from former staffers about how they were treated by Hagel should be looked at during Hagel’s confirmation hearings to lead the Pentagon.”
Ross Douthat of the Times discusses why it’s fitting that Obama has nominated Hagel and Brennan: because the President’s “foreign policy has basically synthesized their respective Bush-era perspectives.”
Ismail Khan and Declan Walsh of the Times report that a bomb in North Waziristan killed at least 14 Pakistani soldiers and wounded at least 25 over the weekend. Meanwhile, the Pakistani government has taken over Baluchistan because of rising instability in the region, says the Wall Street Journal.
India and Pakistan are at it (again) over Kashmir (again). BBC.com reports that India’s army chief Gen Bikram Singh (no relation) has ordered Indian troops to respond aggressively to Pakistani firing on Indian soldiers. Two Pakistani soldiers were killed last week, after Indian soldiers were killed on January 8.
Here’s an interesting perspective: Rod Nordland of the Times describes Afghanistan’s tourism industry (bet you didn’t know there was an Afghan tourism industry), and the effect the Taliban has had on it (hint: not good).
Michael Hirsh of the National Journal argues that President Obama lacks “a U.S. diplomatic vision for the region” for South Asia “and a diplomat to execute it.”
Check out Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s interview with National Public Radio this weekend about his recently-released memoir entitled My Share of the Task. (Memo to NPR, whose programs don’t seem to be embeddable any more: Grrrrrr.)
And, for all you poor souls who have been without Zen for all of this time: check out Duffel Blog (h/t Raffaela) for a week’s worth of Zen. It’s the military’s equivalent of The Onion—need I say more?
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