There was a lot of tea leaf reading in statements made by National Security Adviser Jim Jones on the Sunday shows. USA Today on Jones' statements this weekend: "The top White House national security adviser on Sunday downplayed the need to send more troops to Afghanistan, where insurgent attacks in a remote area killed eight American soldiers over the weekend." More: "It would be, I think, unfortunate if we let the discussion just be about troop strength," Jones said on CBS. "The president should be presented with options, not just one fait accompli" about the course ahead.
On CNN, Jones pushed back against the top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal's public campaign for more troops, which included a speech Thursday to a London think tank. "Ideally, it's better for military advice to come up through the chain of command," Jones said.
The Washington Post led with Jones' apparent reprimand of General McCrystal and others for going public with their case for more troops.
The New York Times looks at the role General David Petraeus is playing in President Obama's war council versus the influence he had with President Bush. He's still a major voice, but not the dominating one. An interesting nugget: "Petraeus's advisers say that to preserve a sense of military impartiality, he has not voted since at least 2003, and that he is not sure if he is still registered in New Hampshire, where he and his wife own property."
More: "No longer does the man who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have one of the biggest voices at National Security Council meetings, as he did when Mr. Bush gave him 20 minutes during hour long weekly sessions to present his views in live video feeds from Baghdad. No longer is the general, with the Capitol Hill contacts and web of e-mail relationships throughout Washington's journalism establishment, testifying in media explosions before Congress, as he did in September 2007, when he gave 34 interviews in three days.
The change has fueled speculation in Washington about whether General Petraeus might seek the presidency in 2012. His advisers say that it is absurd — but in immediate policy terms, it means there is one less visible advocate for the military in the administration's debate over whether to send up to 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.
General Petraeus's aides now privately call him "Dave the Dull," and say he has largely muzzled himself from the fierce public debate about the war to avoid antagonizing the White House, which does not want pressure from military superstars and is wary of the general's ambitions in particular."
Forget Petraeus for president in 2012, how about ex-Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf. Yup, he traveled to Iowa delivering the same message to the Des Moines Register editorial board he gave to the Washington Times last week: it's a bad idea for the U.S. to pull out of Afghanistan. "Musharraf spoke to Des Moines Register reporters and editors at the Clive home of a family friend, where he stopped for the day. The former Pakistani leader, who is a controversial figure at home and abroad, is on a speaking tour in the United States."
The headline may read: "8 U.S. soldiers killed in Taliban attack in Afghanistan" but read the details of this attack. Was it an attempt by the Taliban to score a cheap P.R. headline in the U.S. and the world as they knew the U.S. was going to be pulling out of rural parts of the country anyway?
Al Hunt's latest missive in Bloomberg helps explain the case for the smaller footprint approach in Afghanistan.
"Nearly two dozen House liberals have signed onto a bill introduced this past week that would prohibit an increase of troops in Afghanistan," The Hill reports. "A bill introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) on Thursday would bar funding to increase the troop level in Afghanistan beyond its current level… 'Open-ended military intervention in Afghanistan is not in our national security interest and will only continue to give resonance to insurgent recruiters painting pictures of foreign occupation to a new generation,'" Lee is quoted as saying.
Peter W. Galbraith, who last week was fired from his position as the U.N.'s deputy special representative in Afghanistan, called the recent presidential elections there "a foreseeable train wreck," and shed light on his being fired, in a Washington Post op-ed yesterday. Galbriath writes that "as many as 30 percent of Karzai's votes were fraudulent, and lesser fraud was committed on behalf of other candidates. In several provinces, including Kandahar, four to 10 times as many votes were recorded as voters actually cast." On his reasons for being let go from the U.N., Galbraith writes, "For weeks, [U.N. Special Representative Kai] Eide had been denying or playing down the fraud in Afghanistan's recent presidential election, telling me he was concerned that even discussing the fraud might inflame tensions in the country. But in my view, the fraud was a fact that the United Nations had to acknowledge or risk losing its credibility with the many Afghans who did not support President Hamid Karzai."
George Will sums up his take on President Obama's two major foreign policy challenges: "Regarding Afghanistan, President Obama might believe he can effect a Houdini-like escape, uninjured, from the box his words have built. Regarding Iran, he seems to believe that its leaders can be talked or coerced (by economic sanctions) out of their long, costly pursuit of nuclear weapons by convincing them that such weapons do not serve Iran's "security."
Writing in the New York Times, James Traub weighs the differences between conflict with an enemy--like Russia during the cold war--and an ideology like Communism and religious extremism: "The question now is whether "containment" is also the right metaphor for Afghanistan, and for the threat of Islamic extremism...Al Qaeda, and jihadism generally, is a global force that seeks control of territory chiefly as a means to carry out its global strategy. It has no borders at which to be checked; its success or failure is measured in ideological rather than territorial terms — like Communism without Russia. Mr. Kennan often suggested that America's own example of democratic prosperity was one of its most powerful weapons during the cold war; and plainly that is so today as well."
Iran has agreed to allow inspectors into their secret nuclear facility on October 2. It's probably the latest date they could have agreed to without looking like to the rest of the world they were trying to delay things but many will ask, why are inspectors waiting 20 days? What can the Iranians hide in three weeks?
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran's cooperation with the IAEA had left no "vagueness" about its nuclear work. 'There are no ambiguous issues remaining because of Iran's good cooperation with the agency,' Ahmadinejad said in a meeting with ElBaradei, state radio reported."
On Saturday, an International Atomic Energy Agency report concluded that Iran has "sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable" atom bomb, the New York Times reported. The report is at odds with an earlier study done in 2007, which said that Iran stopped trying to develop nuclear weapons in 2003. Titled "'Possible Military Dimensions of Iran's Nuclear Program'… [The report] draws a picture of a complex program, run by Iran's Ministry of Defense, "aimed at the development of a nuclear payload to be delivered using the Shahab 3 missile system," Iran's medium-range missile, which can strike the Middle East and parts of Europe."
On Meet The Press, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said "the U.S. had three options: to push sanctions through the U.N.; work with European allies to punish Iran; or to take unilateral action in conjunction with the other possible courses of action." And on Fox News Sunday, there was some bipartisan agreement on dealing with the country. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) said the U.S. "cannot allow talking and negotiation to replace strong action if we feel we have to take that step." Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Congress should pass measures to "empower the president and our country to be tough and to put some actions behind words. So let's have 'Iran Week' in the Senate and get something done."
Graham added "if sanctions fail and a military route is necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, the United States -- not Israel -- should lead the effort. Graham said that such an attack should not only target nuclear facilities."