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NSC Meeting, Day One: Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine

The first meeting of President Obama’s national security council is scheduled this afternoon, on the topics of Iraq and Afghanistan and the dicey situation in Israel/Palestine. According to The Associated Press and The Washington Post, Obama will receive military advice on his planned troop withdrawals in Iraq and troop increases in Afghanistan from U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus; the commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gens. Ray Odierno and David McKiernan, respectively; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen; and Defense Secretary Bob Gates, who’ll be joined for strategic advice by Secretary of State-in-waiting Hillary Rodham Clinton.

It’ll be interesting to see what tone is struck at the meeting — who hits it off with Obama, who makes compelling arguments to Obama, and who doesn’t. Will the subject of faster-paced withdrawals from Iraq and into Afghanistan come up? If so, who will advocate them, and who will push back? Will the Petraeus-Odierno alliance on cautious withdrawals from Iraq remain in place, or will there be some divergence of views now that Petraeus is responsible for more than just Iraq?

Karen DeYoung of The Post adds a good point about Israel/Palestine, which is that Obama “is expected to name” former Sen. George Mitchell as his envoy to the Middle East. That looks something like a return to form, as Mitchell was a Mideast troubleshooter during the early days of the Bush administration. In early 2001, he put together a report assessing how the second Palestinian intifada of 2000 came to be, and issued rather even-handed recommendations for resuming the peace process that were subsequently ignored by all parties. His appointment — sorry, Dan Kurtzer — would, at the least, indicate a renewed commitment to the widely-agreed-upon-but-difficult-to-implement principles of Palestinian security reform, counterterrorism enforcement and Israeli settlement freezes.

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