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Wednesday: Obama Holds Talks with Karzai; Kagan to Meet Key Senators

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meet at the State Department on Tuesday. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai meets with President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday for talks on the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.

For the past few months, U.S. strategy has been to extend more authority and financial resources to local leaders across Afghanistan. That strategy has rankled Karzai, “who has argued that any weakening in his position could fracture the central government and undermine his ability to woo Taliban fighters away from the insurgency,” the Washington Post reports.

In talks Wednesday, says the Post, Karzai “plans to stress that the U.S. search for local governance solutions cannot come at Kabul’s expense, sources close to his delegation said. The challenge for U.S. officials will be to convince Karzai that ceding power and control to local leaders will in the long run strengthen his hold on office.”

President Obama “has a fine line to walk,” says Slate’s Fred Kaplan. “On the one hand, he does have to shore up Karzai’s confidence … On the other hand, Obama has to continue pushing President Karzai to clean up his act, even threatening him with consequences if he doesn’t. If Obama doesn’t succeed on both tracks, his war strategy is doomed.”

Karzai’s visit “should be tailored to reassure the Afghans that the United States has a vision for a multidimensional long-term partnership,” writes Brett McGurk of the Council on Foreign Relations. “A strategic signal must be sent early and often that the Taliban cannot simply wait America out,” he says. “That signal is essential to isolating the most hardened elements of the insurgency and weaning rank and file fighters off the battlefield. Reassurance will also strengthen Karzai’s hand as he tries to divide and weaken the insurgency.”

Kagan to Meet With Senators

Just down Pennsylvania Avenue on Wednesday, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan will be on Capitol Hill for a round of informal meet-and-greets with key Senators. Among the lawmakers she’ll meet: Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy; Jeff Sessions, the committee’s top Republican; Majority Leader Harry Reid; and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Kagan will without a doubt face tough questioning during confirmation hearings over a range of hot-button issues. But don’t expect huge Republican pushback, says Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post. As she put it to Jim Lehrer on Tuesday’s NewsHour:

“I am not getting a sense that there is a real appetite for a huge fight here. Now, it is Washington. It is an election year. There will be some battle. But I think, at this point, it’s one that is primarily aimed at kind of revving up the base on both sides, maybe raising a little money on both sides. But … most people I have talked to do not expect, say, a filibuster in the Senate.”

British Government Taking Shape

Britain’s new government is beginning to take shape after Conservative leader David Cameron became the nation’s new Prime Minister on Tuesday, ending 13 years of Labor party rule. Not only does Britain have a new prime minister, it also has its first coalition government since World War II.

The Conservatives failed to win an outright majority in last week’s parliamentary elections, forcing the party into a ruling coalition with the nation’s third largest political bloc, the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, has been named deputy prime minister.

“I think what this reflects is to make sure this isn’t a fragile coalition,” Ned Temko of the Observer from London said on Tuesday’s NewsHour.

Federal Investigators Probing Morgan Stanley

Federal investigators have stepped up their investigation into Wall Street’s role in the financial crisis, opening a probe into whether banking giant Morgan Stanley misled investors about mortgage derivatives it sold and then allegedly bet against. The Wall Street Journal reports:

“Morgan Stanley arranged and marketed to investors pools of bond-related investments called ‘collateralized debt obligations,’ or CDOs, and its trading desk at times placed bets that their value would fall, traders say. Investigators are examining, among other things, whether Morgan Stanley made proper representations about its roles.”

Child Survives Plane Crash in Libya

An Afriqiyah Airways jet carrying 104 passengers from Johannesburg crashed Wednesday while attempting to land at the Tripoli airport in Libya. A 10-year-old Dutch child was the only known survivor, according to the Associated Press.

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