On Sunday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest was asked who most influenced President Obama on the Iran deal, and he offered up three names: Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, UN Ambassador Samantha Power and National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
“Well, the president — a number of the president’s national security team have been very involved in this. The most public aspects — or those who have been most publicly involved in this process have obviously been the Secretary of State and the Undersecretary of State, Wendy Sherman, who has been our point person for a lot of the P5-plus-1 talks,” Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Seattle, where Obama attended DNC and DCCC fundraisers. Sherman used to lead campaigns for the Democratic National Committee long before being named to her key nuclear negotiator post.
“But obviously, Susan Rice and Ambassador Power, in their roles at the United Nations, have been instrumental to all of this. But there are a number of members of the president’s national security team at the White House that have been involved, as well. And they will continue to be involved in that process moving forward,” Earnest said.
When asked for examples of how they’d be involved, Earnest replied, “Nothing that I can share at this point.”
This morning the National Security Council announced that Rice was being sent to Afghanistan to smooth the waters with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The 2,500-member Loya Jirga, composed of Afghan tribal leaders and elites, called on Karzi to sign the bilateral security agreement with the U.S., which allows a residual force in the country beyond the 2014 pullout, before the end of this year.
Karzai won’t sign it, though.
Karzai’s term is good for a few more months as presidential elections are on April 5; candidates include some of his starkest opponents and his brother Quayum. As of three preconditions to sign the agreement, Karzai wants “transparent” presidential elections, progress in talks with the Taliban, and a pledge by the U.S. to not raid any more homes.
“If there is one more raid on Afghan homes by U.S. forces, there is no BSA. The U.S. can’t go into our homes from this moment onward,” Karzai told the Loya Jirga.
Washington wants the agreement signed now, but Karzai said he’ll get to it after April elections.
So Obama sent Rice over to Afghanistan to twist Karzai’s arm.
NSC spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden claimed the visit that began Saturday and ends tomorrow is really “a long planned trip to visit our troops and civilians around the holidays, while also assessing the situation on the ground.”
“Afghanistan continues to be one of the United States’ top national security priorities, and this trip is an opportunity for Ambassador Rice to take stock of our efforts and meet with American troops serving in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and our civilians at the U.S. Mission to Afghanistan. On behalf of President Obama, she is thanking the men and women who are away from their families this Thanksgiving and serving in harm’s way,” Hayden said.
“She will hear directly from U.S. troops, diplomats, and development professionals about our efforts as we move toward the responsible conclusion of our combat mission at the end of 2014 and as we continue to strengthen Afghanistan to ensure that it can provide security, governance, and opportunity for its people. Ambassador Rice will also meet with Afghan civil society leaders and Afghan officials, as well as visit U.S.–supported assistance projects.”
The pact with Washington would leave 10,000 to 15,000 U.S. troops in the country after the pullout date spread across nine bases.
“The U.S. insists the deal, which has taken months to negotiate, must be signed before the end of this year in order to secure plans for how many troops will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014,” Afghanistan’s Tolo News reported.