Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) leaders in Ramallah, West Bank, on March 4, including Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas. Reuters news described Fayyad as the "pointman in Western-backed reconstruction plans for the Gaza Strip that freeze out the territory's Hamas Islamist rulers."
During a Gaza reconstruction conference held at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, on March 2, international donors pledged $4.481 billion in aid help the Palestinian economy and rebuild the devastated Gaza strip. The United States was represented at the conference by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who pledged $900 million — $300 million for Gaza reconstruction and another $600 million to support the Palestinian National Authority's (PNA) budget shortfalls and operating expenses.
In her first trip abroad since becoming secretary of state, Hillary Clinton traveled to four Asian countries including China, the world's most populous country, where human-rights concerns were trumped by global economic concerns during Clinton's February 20-22 visit. China is still an openly communist nation and has a dismal human-rights track record. But it also has the world's fastest-growing major economy and is the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury securities.
Gen. David McKiernan, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, predicted on February 18 that the additional 17,000 U.S. troops scheduled to be sent to Afghanistan will remain there for three to five years. "This is not a temporary force uplift," said McKiernan at a Pentagon news conference. "It will need to be sustained for some period of time, for the next three to four to five years."
President Barack Obama decided February 16 to send an additional 17,000 U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan, as part of his campaign promise to increase U.S. presence in that troubled nation. The decision comes days after a sobering U.S. intelligence assessment authored by retired Admiral Dennis Blair concluded that "corruption has exceeded culturally tolerable levels and is eroding the legitimacy of the government.”