Today’s Headlines

June 17, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

On Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) strongly emphasized the importance of continuing to invest in the smart power tools of development and diplomacy in a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.  Sen. Graham, the Ranking Member of the Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, made clear that a comprehensive, smart power strategy is critical to achieving our national security objectives and success in Afghanistan, saying, “The civilian partners in this effort to secure Afghanistan are as important as any brigade we have.”  He also warned that this critical partnership between civilian and military efforts is in danger, saying, “The military-civilian partnership is not going to survive if Congress becomes an isolationist body.  Now is the time, after Bin Laden’s death, to pour it on.”  Sen. Graham then challenged Congress, saying, “What I would like to see this summer is Congress to fully fund the civilian side as well as the military side.”

Must Reads

Who’s In the News

Obama hears from Petraeus on Afghan troop options (Reuters, Laura MacInnis and Missy Ryan)

General David Petraeus presented recommendations to Obama and the president’s national security advisers in a meeting on Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.”They discussed a range of options. As I think the general has said in the past publicly, this was a question of options plural and not option. That conversation will continue,” Carney told a White House news briefing. The Obama administration is seeking ways to curtail its military involvement in Afghanistan as U.S. budget pressures grow and public support dwindles for the nearly 10-year-old war.

Gates Stresses the Importance of Ties With Pakistan (New York Times, Elisabeth Bumiller and Thom Shanker)

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and the nation’s top military officer said on Thursday that it was critical for the United States to maintain ties with Pakistan despite growing anti-Americanism in the Pakistani military and the worst relationship between the two countries in years. Admiral Mullen warned about the perils of abandoning Pakistan, which receives at least $2 billion a year in military aid from the United States. “Were we to walk away, I think it’s a matter of time before the region is that much more dangerous, and there would be a huge pull for us to have to return to protect our national interests,” he said.

Smart Power

Secretary Clinton Helps Secure Seven Additional African Nations to Join the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (US State Dept. Media Center)

On the heels of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s visit to Africa, seven African nations have joined the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Encouraging the development and use of clean cooking solutions in cultures, communities, and countries throughout the developing world is consistent with the core principles of U.S. foreign policy and development efforts, which focus on improving the lives of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Politics/Foreign Policy

White House Responds to Criticisms on Libya (Voice of America, Dan Robinson)

The White House pushed back Thursday on criticisms from members of Congress of a lengthy explanation sent to Capitol Hill about the legality of U.S. involvement in military operations in Libya. President Obama described U.S. involvement in Libya as a supporting role, though he mentioned strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, in support of NATO operations protecting civilians from actions by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Deadline to End Surge (Wall Street Journal, Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes)

The military is asking President Barack Obama to hold off on ending the Afghanistan troop surge until the fall of 2012, in a proposal that would keep a large portion of the 33,000 extra forces in the country through the next two warm-weather fighting seasons. The U.S. military has about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, including the surge forces. The U.S. plans to leave only a “small fraction” of the total number after December 2014, when the Afghans are scheduled to take over full security responsibility, outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday.

Agriculture bill narrowly clears House (Politico, David Rogers)

A $17.25 billion agriculture and nutrition bill narrowly cleared the House Thursday after deep cuts from food aid triggered a backlash against commodity programs — spelling more trouble for the farm lobby at a time of high deficits. Adopted 217-203, the underlying spending bill Wednesday reflects the second round of appropriations cuts in a matter of months — a total 25% reduction from funding levels only a year ago in fiscal 2010. And as food aid programs — at home and abroad — are targeted for major reductions, this has strained old alliances for the farm lobby even as Republicans have felt less committed to agriculture — and traditional farm powerhouses like the ethanol lobby.