Blog Posts by Olivier Knox

  • Obama doubles US troop levels in Iraq

    President orders postelection surge, seeks $5.6 billion for military campaign

    In a dramatic post-election surge, President Barack Obama is doubling the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to 3,000 and asking Congress for $5.6 billion for the war against the so-called Islamic State, officials said Friday. Obama aides denied that the timing was political or that the escalation amounted to "mission creep."

    The Pentagon said the new forces would deploy to Iraq “in a noncombat role, to expand our advise-and-assist mission and initiate a comprehensive training effort for Iraqi forces.”

    It was the second major announcement regarding Obama’s undeclared and open-ended campaign against the extremist group since Tuesday’s elections. After months of rejecting calls to seek new war-making authority from Congress, Obama reversed course on Wednesday.

    The U.S. Central Command overseeing the campaign will use some of the funds to set up two “advise-and-assist operations centers” outside Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurd capital of Irbil. It will also set up sites across Iraq for training 12

    Read More »from Obama doubles US troop levels in Iraq
  • Obama says he’s not ‘mopey’ about the election

    Casually describing sweeping Republican election gains as “a good night” for the GOP, President Barack Obama promised on Wednesday to work with the GOP to “take care of business” but offered to make few changes to his priorities, principles, staff or style.

    “There’s no doubt that Republicans had a good night,” the president said in his first press conference since Tuesday’s drubbing of Democrats. “It doesn’t make me mopey, it energizes me, because it means that this democracy’s working.”

    Brushing off Republican warnings, Obama defiantly vowed to forge ahead with executive action on immigration if Congress refuses to enact a comprehensive overhaul that cleared the Democrat-held Senate but stalled in the Republican-led House of Representatives.

    “I have no doubt that there will be some Republicans who are angered or frustrated by any executive action that I may take,” he said. “My executive actions not only do not prevent them from passing a law that supersedes those actions, but should

    Read More »from Obama says he’s not ‘mopey’ about the election
  • What the White House is planning for the next 2 years

    On tap after the election: An Iran nuclear deal, a push on trade and the battle to replace Eric Holder

    Life after the midterm elections was never going to be easy for President Barack Obama. In the best-case scenario, he would have watched his influence dwindle steadily as the fight to succeed him heated up. He would have worked to polish his legacy. There would have been work on his “library,” that traditional political-mausoleum project beloved by lame-duck presidents drifting ever closer to the day when they are forgotten but not gone.

    But now Obama finds himself pushed toward the sidelines by two potent forces. One is the Republican capture of the Senate as well as major governorships. The other is frustrated congressional Democrats’ increasing focus on what the party’s 2016 nominee – potentially Hillary Clinton – needs from them over the next two years.

    The president planned the traditional post-election press conference for 2:50 ET Wednesday afternoon, and planned to host House and Senate leaders of both parties at the White House on Friday.

    In a series of interviews over the past

    Read More »from What the White House is planning for the next 2 years
  • With Obama largely absent from the campaign trail, Democrats turned to Biden

    The vice president has rallied all over the country, but one Democrat called it ‘an A-for-effort campaign in a Ready for Hillary world’

    Struggling Democrats largely kept President Barack Obama in political quarantine this year, shunning joint public appearances as though they feared his sagging approval ratings were contagious. First lady Michelle Obama has helped to fill the vacuum somewhat, but perhaps no one has worked as hard to help Democrats as Vice President Joe Biden.

    Biden has labored all year to generate cash, supporters and positive headlines for his party’s candidates — as well as amass political chits he could call in should he decide to run for president in 2016.

    In 2014 alone, the vice president has campaigned for 66 different candidates, local committees or Democratic Party branches and held 70 events in 22 states and Washington, D.C., according to figures provided last week by his office.

    Tune in: Midterm Mixer with Katie Couric and David Gregory, 11 p.m. EST on Nov. 4

    "There's no question that Vice President Biden is appealing — he has spent his life in public service fighting for working families and

    Read More »from With Obama largely absent from the campaign trail, Democrats turned to Biden
  • State Dept. defends balance of career vs. political posts

    For Kerry, foreign service is ‘in his blood’ spokeswoman says

    The State Department on Friday rejected criticisms that too many top diplomatic jobs have gone to political appointees rather than career foreign service officers.

    “There’s never been a secretary of state more personally connected to the Foreign Service than Secretary (John) Kerry. It’s in his blood. It’s stamped in his DNA. He’s the son of a foreign service officer,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki told Yahoo News by email.

    “It’s no accident that he has worked with President (Barack) Obama to build a senior team with more foreign service officers in leading assistant secretary positions than at any time in recent memory, and no accident that he chose a foreign service officer to serve as the State Department’s Counselor for the first time in thirty years,” she added.

    The head of the American Foreign Service Association, which represents current and former career diplomats, had warned in an interview with Yahoo News on Thursday that the historical balance between foreign service officers and

    Read More »from State Dept. defends balance of career vs. political posts
  • The State Department is too top-heavy with Obama political picks, says foreign service group

    It matters because ‘The world is a mess,’ the association says

    U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns at the Diplomatic Corps holiday reception at the State Department in Washington December 19, 2012. (Yuri Gripas/REUTERS)U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns at the Diplomatic Corps holiday reception at the State Department in Washington December 19, 2012. (Yuri Gripas/REUTERS)
    President Barack Obama’s fondness for rewarding big donors with plum diplomatic posts overseas made international headlines earlier this year when a few of them embarrassed themselves in confirmation hearings.

    Now, the association that represents career U.S. diplomats is sounding the alarm about leadership at the very top of the State Department, warning that foreign service professionals are losing ground to “political” picks.

    “The world is a mess,” American Foreign Service Association President Bob Silverman told Yahoo News in a telephone interview. “We need our most experienced people – people who have actually managed embassies, who have actually managed international programs – in the mix at the top of the leadership.”

    With the retirement of Bill Burns, the highly regarded foreign service officer who served as the State Department’s No. 2, just one of the top nine jobs in American diplomacy is held by a career diplomat: Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy. (The number

    Read More »from The State Department is too top-heavy with Obama political picks, says foreign service group
  • Homeland Security Secretary Johnson announces tighter security at federal buildings

    The news comes one week before the midterm elections, amid threats from Islamic State terrorists

    Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced on Tuesday that the government is stepping up security at federal buildings in Washington, D.C., and nationwide, citing enhanced risks of “small-scale attacks by a lone offender.”

    “The reasons for this action are self-evident: the continued public calls by terrorist organizations for attacks on the homeland and elsewhere, including against law enforcement and other government officials, and the acts of violence targeted at government personnel and installations in Canada and elsewhere recently,” Johnson said in a recent statement. The secretary appeared to be referring to the fatal shooting at the Canadian Parliament building.

    Johnson also urged state and local governments “to be equally vigilant, particularly in guarding against potential small-scale attacks by a lone offender or a small group of individuals.”

    The secretary did not spell out what form the increased security would take, and emphasized that it “will vary

    Read More »from Homeland Security Secretary Johnson announces tighter security at federal buildings
  • Obama gives Ebola survivor Nina Pham a bear hug at the White House

    A show of confidence for a jittery public

    A bear hug is worth a thousand words? President Barack Obama embraced Ebola survivor Nina Pham in the Oval Office on Friday, shortly after the 26-year-old Dallas nurse was discharged from the National Institutes of Health.

    The White House photo op came as the Obama administration struggled to reassure jittery Americans that they should trust medical and scientific authorities and that the deadly disease does not threaten them.

    In a show of faith in the nation’s elite doctors and scientists, the White House did not subject Pham to any additional screening before her face-to-face meeting with the president.

    “Ms. Pham was tested five different times to confirm that she no longer had the virus,” press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. “So all the necessary testing that allowed her to safely return home with a clean bill of health is the same guidance that she has gotten in terms of meeting the president.”

    Earnest also praised New Yorkers who went about their routines after a Manhattan

    Read More »from Obama gives Ebola survivor Nina Pham a bear hug at the White House
  • Smuggled oil, sex slaves, kidnappings, crime: Inside the Islamic State’s million-dollar money stream

    The extremist group’s preferred currency? The U.S. dollar, of course

    The United States has ramped up a campaign to squeeze the Islamic State’s astounding ability to get cash, a highly sophisticated moneymaking machine that has generated tens of millions of dollars since mid-June and made the group one of the world’s richest extremist forces, officials said on Thursday.

    ISIL, as it is also known, has amassed a fortune through the sale of smuggled Iraqi oil, kidnappings for ransom, and extortion and crime in areas it controls. And unlike al-Qaida, external donations account for a relatively small amount of its cash flow.

    “With the important exception of some state-sponsored terrorist organizations, ISIL is probably the best-funded terrorist organization we have confronted,” Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said on Thursday in a speech to a Washington,D.C., think tank. At a subsequent briefing at the White House, Cohen declined to provide an estimate of the group’s net worth today.

    From mid-June until President

    Read More »from Smuggled oil, sex slaves, kidnappings, crime: Inside the Islamic State’s million-dollar money stream
  • Obama taps former Biden aide Ron Klain as ‘Ebola czar’

    A well-regarded manager, not a doctor, called in to fix the federal response

    President Barack Obama has picked Ron Klain, an inside-the-Beltway veteran and well-regarded manager, to oversee and fix the wobbly federal government response to West Africa’s deadly Ebola outbreak.

    “The president has asked Ron Klain to take on the task of coordinating his administration’s whole of government Ebola response,” the White House said. His formal title will be “Ebola Response Coordinator.”

    Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, “will report directly” to Obama Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco and National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

    His job will be to ensure “that efforts to protect the American people by detecting, isolating and treating Ebola patients in this country are properly integrated but don’t distract from the aggressive commitment to stopping Ebola at the source in West Africa,” the White House said.

    Klain, a veteran of political knife fights like the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida, is generally well regarded in Congress

    Read More »from Obama taps former Biden aide Ron Klain as ‘Ebola czar’

Pagination

(1,307 Stories)