This week insurgents grabbed headlines by staging a nearly 20-hour attack in Kabul. This incident is the latest in a string of acts of violence aimed at creating a sense of instability in the country. These attacks underscore the challenges facing transition to Afghan leadership and - as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen have said - the importance of its continuing on pace. Part of that process must be finding a political solution that can incorporate all parts of Afghan society. We see small signs of progress in the lead-up to two international conferences on Afghanistan this fall - but negotiations with the Taliban will be long, tough and characterized by a mixture of progress and setbacks along the way to an agreement.
When Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives in New York next week to address the UN General Assembly, he will do so with little power at home and as one of the last remaining authoritarian figures in the region. International pressure continues to mount against Iran as questions about its nuclear program go unanswered and its internal crackdown persists. Iran is clearly feeling this pressure. In recent days, Iran has signaled that it may be open to discussing nuclear issues that it had previously refused to address and has launched an all-out "charm offensive" against additional pressure and isolation.
As the super committee reconvenes, prominent conservatives are working to take defense spending -- more than 50 percent of discretionary spending -- off the table, and calling into question the debt deal their colleagues negotiated. Basic facts suggest a different approach. Measures enacted thus far have only slowed the rate of growth in the defense budget, while experts point to two wars financed entirely by government borrowing. In order to maintain our security, grow the economy and reduce the deficit, we must start with an honest assessment of the capabilities we both need and can afford -- a strategy to deal with the world we actually face and a willingness to cut what we don't need.
This weekend tensions rose in the Middle East and diplomats prepared for a possible vote in the UN General Assembly on Palestinian statehood. In dramatic and quickly-changing circumstances, the U.S. has unchanging national interests: an unshakeable commitment to the security of our ally Israel and a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Over the weekend, Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel owed President Obama "a special measure of gratitude" for U.S. work with Egypt to protect Israeli diplomatic personnel under siege. At the same time, the weekend's events highlight the importance of close U.S. ties with all the countries of the region - and visible progress toward resolving the conflict. The perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict foments extremism and frustration in the Arab world, creating challenges for U.S. military, diplomatic and economic objectives. Progress toward resolving the conflict will not resolve all of the problems in the Middle East, but it will make it easier to pursue core U.S. interests, in addition to making life safer and easier for Israelis and Palestinians.
As Americans remember and honor those we lost ten years ago, homeland security officials warned of a "credible but unconfirmed" al Qaeda threat tied to the 9/11 anniversary. This alert highlights three fundamental facts of life in 2011. First, both in improving and reorganizing the response at home, and taking the fight to al Qaeda abroad, the US has had significant success in combating terrorism. Second, while mass casualty events, such as we saw ten years ago, are less likely as a result, smaller-bore plots are a continued concern. Finally, the American people's vigilance and resilience is the deciding factor in our strength. As New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a press conference yesterday, "the best thing we can do to fight terrorism is to refuse to be intimidated by it." Juliette Kayyem, former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security, told the National Security Network, "This is exactly how information should be shared. Domestic law enforcement, local and state officials and first responders working together. They are being honest about we know and what we don't." The tenth anniversary is a moment of remembrance and national unity - something that al Qaeda cannot bear.
Iran returns to the world stage this week, in U.S. electoral politics and in anticipation of a discussion of its nuclear ambitions, human rights violations and political weakness at the United Nations General Assembly and International Atomic Energy Agency next week. Iran presents itself with menacing actions that consistently come up short - technical delays in its nuclear program, regional allies turned pariah in Syria, autocracy left behind by its "Arab Spring" neighbors. Dealing with Iran will require persistence, international unity and strategic patience - we have opportunities for influence, but no magic bullets.
As Americans consider the legacy of 9/11 and ponder how to balance meeting global challenges with rebuilding strength at home, tonight conservative candidates for president will debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Fixing problems at home, starting with the economy and jobs, will rightly command much of the debate. But the candidates' visions for how America should conduct itself in the world also merit exploration. The gap between positions many candidates have already taken and the recommendations of non-partisan military and national security experts deserves focus as Americans look for pragmatic, non-ideological ways forward in a challenging time.
From the bevy of coverage, reminiscences and commentary in the lead-up to the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, three themes emerge. We pay tribute to those we lost and all those who serve - whether in our armed forces, as first responders or as citizens building up our communities - by learning the lessons of what has worked, and what has not, over the last decade. We can be proud, as a nation, of our resilience, our institutions and our values. And we can resolve to strengthen our institutions and prize our unity in diversity going forward - and in so doing, defeat terrorists' aim of sowing fear, disunion and overreaction.
Ten years ago America and the world were shocked by the most horrific foreign attack on U.S. soil in our history. In the decade since we have learned a great deal about ourselves, about how to handle the terrorist threat and about what works and doesn't work in combating terrorism.
more than 40 years, Muammar Qaddafi's corrupt and tyrannical rule appears to be
drawing to a close. That victory belongs to the Libyan people who won it with their
own lives and the support of the international community. Now, as across the Arab
world, comes the hard part: building a stable, democratic and peaceful state.
The rebel government, the Transitional National Council, has paid lip-service
to those goals. Now they're faced with the hard task of implementing them; the
international community should lend support to that effort, but as with the
military phase of the mission, Libyans must ultimately win the peace. At home, the Libyan effort points the way toward an
American leadership that makes commitments commensurate with our interests, shares the burdens with others, and promotes
our values while taking into account financial