Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday ditched “quiet diplomacy” and spoke out publicly in support of Saudi Arabian women protesting the unwritten ban on their right to drive in the Kingdom.
“What these women are doing is brave and what they are seeking is right” said Clinton, in answer to a question from CNN at a press availability at the State Department. “This is about Saudi women themselves, they have joined together, they are acting on behalf of their own rights.”
Until now, the State Department said Clinton was engaged in “quiet diplomacy,” working behind the scenes, raising the issue last week in a telephone conversation with Saudi Prince Saud al-Faisal.
President Barack Obama has made a final decision on the rate of initial U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed Tuesday.
The president will keep his commitment to start a withdrawal in July, Carney said.
Carney claimed the United States has had "significant" success in meeting its military goals in Afghanistan.
"The process (under which the president's decision was made) was all about the mission that was laid out" by Obama in 2009, Carney said.
Two influential U.S. senators introduced a resolution Tuesday expressing support for limited American involvement in the NATO-led military campaign in Libya - part of an effort to counter rising pressure in the House of Representatives to withdraw backing for the mission.
The resolution, introduced by Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry and Arizona Republican John McCain, authorizes the commitment of U.S. forces for one year while stressing the lack of support for any use of American ground troops.
"I believe the president did the right thing by intervening to stop a looming humanitarian disaster," McCain said. "I believe we will find a strong, bipartisan majority that is in favor of authorizing our current military operations in Libya and seeing this mission through to success." FULL POST
A congressional source told CNN Tuesday that members are being told this afternoon that President Obama’s Afghanistan drawdown calls for 10,000 troops to be withdrawn by the end of this year and another 20,000 troops by the end of 2012.
During the briefings, the source says, it’s being acknowledged that Defense Secretary Gates, Afghan war commander Gen. David Petraeus and Joint Forces commander Gen. Ray Odierno had pushed for an initial drawdown of between 3,000 and 5,000 troops this year— and that they should be support troops only—not combat troops. But the source says the White House has decided to take a more aggressive stance.
Some members of Congress, the source says, are concerned about withdrawing equipment for the 10,000 troops this summer and fall—in the middle of fighting season. The source says they are asking: "Why not wait until the snow starts falling?'
The chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, (D-Mich), has renewed his call for a substantial cut in the number of U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama is due to announce his decisision on troop numbers Wednesday.
“It should be a significant number," Sen. Levin said. "That’s what the president committed to. Significant means a minimum of 15,000 by the end of this year……If it isn’t significant it doesn’t serve it’s purpose which is to make clear to the Afghan government that the primary responsibility for security needs to be transferred to them."
" Anything less than 15,000 it seems to me sends a weaker message to the Afghan people and the wrong message to the American people who really want us to make a significant reduction in our presence," Levin said.
He said the shift to Afghan security forces taking the lead "is key to the success of the mission because a strong Afghan army taking on the Taliban is the Taliban’s worst nightmare, because facing an Afghan army removes the Taliban’s propaganda argument that they are fighting ‘occupiers.’"
President Barack Obama is expected to announce this week that 30,000 U.S. "surge" forces will be fully withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, an administration official has told CNN.
Obama will deliver his highly anticipated speech on the troop drawdown on Wednesday.
The time-frame would give U.S. commanders another two "fighting" seasons with the bulk of U.S. forces still available for combat operations. Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates has pushed for additional time to roll back Taliban gains in the country before starting any significant withdrawal - a position at odds with a majority of Americans, according to recent public opinion surveys.
Gates acknowledged Tuesday that domestic public opinion and congressional support for further military engagement must be taken into account by the president.
Compiled by Tim Lister
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