DipNote: The Week in Review

Posted by Luke Forgerson
June 27, 2011
Afghan Boy Waits With His Kite in Kabul

Last week, President Barack Obama delivered remarks on the way forward in Afghanistan. President Obama said:

"...In one of the most difficult decisions that I've made as President, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan. When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives: to refocus on al Qaeda, to reverse the Taliban's momentum, and train Afghan security forces to defend their own country. I also made it clear that our commitment would not be open-ended, and that we would begin to draw down our forces this July.

"Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. Thanks to our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security."

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, "...The United States is meeting the goals [President Obama] set for our three-track strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The military surge has ramped up pressure on al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents. The civilian surge has bolstered the Afghan and Pakistani governments, economies, and civil societies, and undercut the pull of the insurgency. The diplomatic surge is supporting Afghan-led efforts to reach a political solution that will chart a more secure future."

Secretary Clinton continued, "...It's important we have the resources to continue implementing our strategy. The State Department is following the Pentagon's model and creating a special emergency fund -- an Overseas Contingency Operations account -- that separates normal operating costs from extraordinary wartime expenses. Now, I will hasten to say we are painfully aware of today's fiscal reality. And I know that it is tempting for some to peel off the civilian and diplomatic elements of our strategy. They obviously make fewer headlines; people don't know as much about them. And it would be a terrible mistake, and I'm not saying that just for myself, but as our commanders on the ground will tell you, the three surges work hand-in-hand."

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake offered a glimpse of civilian efforts in Afghanistan, spotlighting how regional partners are supporting educational initiatives in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Monique Quesada, Political and Economic Chief at the U.S. Consulate in Herat, explained why she volunteered to serve in Afghanistan.

While remembering former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, Secretary Clinton spoke about the dedication of Foreign Service Officers. The Secretary said, "...It takes a special commitment to join the Foreign Service, a willingness to live and work in far-off places, to learn languages like Serbo-Croatian, and it's a commitment not only by officers, but by their families."

Secretary Clinton continued, "...Fifty years from now, many of us will no longer be here, but at the State Department, I am confident people will still be telling stories about Lawrence Eagleburger -- the Foreign Service officer who rose all the way to the seventh floor as Secretary of State, the diplomat who helped presidents and secretaries and America lead through times of crisis, the man who traveled with briefcases full of cartons of cigarettes, who always made time to talk with the junior officers. His time as Secretary was brief, but his service was long, and his impact will endure."

In other news, Secretary Clinton traveled to Guatemala and Jamaica, where she participated in the Central American Security Conference and the High-Level U.S.-Caribbean Conference. Secretary Clinton addressed the growing violence and insecurity that transnational crime has spawned in Central America and celebrated the contributions of the Caribbean diaspora in the United States.

Venezuelan-born Greivis Vasquez, an NBA rookie with the Memphis Grizzlies, WNBA star Kayte Christensen, and former NBA player Darvin Ham hosted a series of basketball clinics for children from underserved neighborhoods in Caracas and demonstrated the ability of sports to connect people across borders. Meanwhile, Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs Reta Jo Lewis participated in several events to promote peer-to-peer dialogue among U.S. mayors and their international counterparts. Special Representative Lewis also met with Mayor Jean Quan of Oakland and Mayor Edwin M. Lee of San Francisco, which host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Senior Official's Meeting and the Women and the Economy Summit (WES) this September.

During a special press briefing, Assistant Secretary of State East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell outlined U.S. long-standing interests in the Pacific and previewed his travel to the region this week with colleagues from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of Defense, and the Pacific Fleet. Secretary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, and Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa participated in the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting.

Secretary Clinton also met with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung, Hwan, and USAID Administrator Raj Shah joined her for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on development cooperation between the United States and South Korea. USAID Administrator Shah also joined Under Secretary of State Robert Hormats to announce the recipients of the 2011 World Food Prize, honoring individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. Meanwhile, Pacific Partnership 2011 continued its humanitarian mission to Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.

First Lady Michelle Obama traveled to Botswana and South Africa, where she met with young people and organizations dedicated to combating HIV/AIDS. In other news on the continent, the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement reached an agreement to reduce tensions in Abyei and improve the security and humanitarian situation on the ground, while American diplomats continued to expand relationships with local leaders, international partners and civil society organizations in Southern Sudan to promote peace and stability.

Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Eric Schwartz underscored the critical role refugee assistance plays in U.S. government efforts to ease suffering and promote conditions for reconciliation and peace. Dora Chanesman shared her remarkable journey from refugee to American citizen. Her entry was part of our ongoing effort to commemorate the Refugee Convention, approved 60 years ago by a special United Nations conference.

Last week, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations hosted the original UN Charter, reminding us that "while the world's most pressing challenges cannot be tackled by the United States alone, there is no substitute for U.S. leadership in the world."

In related news, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on sexual and gender identity, while U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice addressed multilateral efforts to promote human rights for LGBT persons around the world. Secretary Clinton will address the human rights of LGBT people and U.S. foreign policy on Monday, June 27 at 10:25 a.m. (EDT). You will be able to watch her remarks streamed live on www.state.gov and DipNote.

Secretary Clinton will also release the annual Trafficking in Persons Report on Monday, June 27, 2011, at 2:00 p.m. (EDT). You will be able to watch the report's rollout on www.state.gov and DipNote. Later in the week, Secretary Clinton will travel to Budapest and Vilnius, where she will participate in the Community of Democracies 6th Ministerial. Stay tuned to DipNote for more on her trip. In the meantime, we thank our readers for your comments and look forward to continuing to hear from you this week.

Comments

Comments

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
June 27, 2011

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Folks are going to be hearing about this now that CNN has picked it up as national news, but I thought I'd give you folks an eye witness account of the forest fire that threatens Los Alamos national labs.

Yesterday afternoon when this started, I looked west and I can only describe it as looking exactly like a volcano had just blown its top. This fire is now in a 24 hours time span grown to over 45,000 acres...winds @ 40+ mph.

Evac of homes etc. in progress.

National incident teams on site, power, phones, and they just cut off natural gas to the labs as a safety precaution, fire's less than a mile away.

They say all the radioactive stuff stored there is not at risk, "yet" ...Quote /unquote get this,..."yet."

Given the other fire across the valley that has charred 15 square miles that threatens my city watershed, as well as northern communities I do believe that my neck of the woods is about to be declared a national disaster area in the next 24-48 hours.

It would be real good of the President to fly on out here and pay folks a visit, as the proverbial cowpie has hit the fan.

Somewhere in the archives of this blog is my reccolection of the last time this happened about a dozen years ago and all I can say is that we have the potential for a major nuclear event on our hands, and it's lookin' to get a lot worse before it's all over.

Please pray for rain, if your into that.

Or bang a drum, do a rain dance and get pagan about it, we need all the help we can get. I hope folks will pass this on to the White House because this is beyond all current resources we have to contend with it.

We have Zero...repeat Zero containment at present.

Thanks for passing this message upward and onward.

EJ

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
June 28, 2011

Eric in New Mexico writes:

UPDATE 9:00pm 6/27

Los Alamos, NM – Los Alamos County officials are reporting the fire is now threatening Los Alamos. They are ordering a mandatory evacuation which will begin and proceed in this order: Group 1: Western, Quemazon, Ponderosa; Group 2: North Community, Barranca Mesa, North Mesa; Group 3: East of Diamond and the remainder of the town site.

Source; SantaFeNewmexican newspaper

--

Order came about 2:00 pm , there's about 12-14,000 residents in the county which are affected.

Not to be alarmist, but we have just a wee bit of a situation here in New Mexico that could effect way more than just us locals.

EJ

P.S. You folks have a DART team you can spare? Those folks would be quite useful right about now I think, bein' it is what it is, and definately of disasterous proportions.

sound64
June 29, 2011

W.W. writes:

At the end of the week everything turned to Violence again Like Egypt Libya Syria Greece ...The system is still unstable and not equilibrate..after standing for LGBT afghan libyan and african there was a guy who stood up claiming for his right as DADT worker..This guy was struggling for taxes bills while he was hardly trying to bring food on his children table when suddenly a piano start playing...was quite an interesting song ...a song was finally floating on air...so as a man from a snowy river after a cup of red wine ...went to bed ready for the next day of hard work

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
June 29, 2011

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Update: Las Conchas fire-

Evac of Los Alamos went off without a hitch, aprox. 12,000 folks are either staying with friends, relatives, or in various shelters.

Fire is now 60,000 + acres, spot fires on lab property put out, "no off-site radioactive releases detected" was how one official put it, fire surrounds the labs on three sides, every resource avail. has been called in from the region and while threat remains and potential does exist, folks did one fantastic job of fighting this thing as yesterday was a "critical day" and succeeded in holding the lines, even as live embers were being blown a mile or more ahead of the main fire.

It isn't over yet by any stretch, it it still zero percent contained, some recent reports put it at 3%, but were talkin' 19 square miles of burning forest in tinder dry condition, what's got folks worried is the extreme nature of this fire's rapid growth.

Fortunately it looks like a "worst case" scenario has been avoided thus far.

Folks got on top of this thing in an all out effort in a very timely manner. Many thanks and kudos to all involved!

The patience, compassion and self discipline my fellow New Mexicans have shown in this crisis would set example for anyone caught up in disaster as to best methods of dealing with it effectively.

I still think the Pres. needs to take time out of his week to come pay us a visit, 'cause right about now would be a good time to talk about renewable resources and proper forest management.

Among a few other national security topics.

EJ

Dagorret N.
|
Kansas, USA
July 3, 2011

D.N. in Kansas writes:

This blog is great. It will allow the world to keep track of your pretending to engage in diplomacy with Iran while your "administration" plans to bomb them without Congressional authorization, practical justification, the support of the American people, international legal support, or even the most basic sense of right and wrong.

Thanks for keeping us safe by radicalizing half-a-million Muslim citizens. Great work!

.

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