The Cable

Clinton starts “Foreign Affairs Policy Board”

On Dec. 19, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will host the first-ever meeting of a panel made up of outside experts that will advise Clinton -- and her successor -- on the top priorities facing the State Department.

Brookings Institution President Strobe Talbott, a former deputy secretary of state, is the chair of the new "Foreign Affairs Policy Board," which is modeled after the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. He will work with Jake Sullivan, director of the policy planning office at State, to coordinate the board's activities.

The Dec. 19 meeting will focus on Clinton's economic statecraft initiative, a State Department official said. The board members, who will serve two year terms, include a mix of Democrats and Republicans, former officials and experts from the military, diplomatic, and development fields. They include former Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg, former Policy Planning Director Anne-Marie Slaughter, former Congresswoman Jane Harman, former National Security Advisor Steve Hadley, former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, Brookings Institution scholar Bob Kagan, and many more.

Clinton has been trying to build up the State Department's policy infrastructure since she came into office. For example, she initiated and then executed State's first ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, which was modeled after the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review.

And even though Clinton is widely expected to retire next year, she intends for the new Foreign Affairs Policy Board to continue its work even after she steps down.

"The Board is composed of 25 members who will meet at the Department of State periodically to discuss issues of high priority for the Secretary and the Department," reads a press release set to be issued later today. "It will focus on broad strategic questions and provide the Secretary and other senior Department officials with insights, perspectives, and ideas. Secretary Clinton will meet with the Board several times during the duration of her tenure."

Read the full list of board members after the jump:

Liaquat Ahamed
Ann Fudge
Helene Gayle
Nina Hachigian
Stephen Hadley
Jane Harman
Carla Hills
Alberto Ibargüen
Robert Kagan
Rachel Kleinfeld
Jim Kolbe
Stephen Krasner
Ellen Laipson
Mack McLarty
Mike Mullen
Vali Nasr
John Negroponte
Jacqueline Novogratz
Tom Pickering
John Podesta
Anne-Marie Slaughter
James Steinberg
Strobe Talbott
Laura Tyson
Rich Verma

The Cable

Briefing Skipper: Burma, Cuba, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt

In which we scour the transcript of the State Department's daily presser so you don't have to. These are the highlights of Friday's briefing by deputy spokesman Mark Toner:

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Burma Friday and met with Aung San Suu Kyi and civil society leaders. On Thursday, Clinton had a three hour private dinner with Suu Kyi and they are quickly becoming BFFs. "I think real warmth developed. I think they saw some very familiar things in the other, and I think the beginning of a warm friendship was started here today and last night," a senior State Department official on the trip said.  "Look, it's very clear that these two women have played historic roles in each of their lives. And they meet and there's clearly a sharing and a connection, and it's just undeniable."
  • Back in DC, Toner opened Friday's briefing by noting that tomorrow will mark three years of imprisonment for American Alan Gross in Cuba. "He was arrested on December 3rd, 2009 and later given a 15-year prison sentence by Cuban authorities for simply facilitating connectivity between Havana's Jewish community and the rest of the world," Toner said. "We continue to call on the Cuban Government to release Alan Gross and return him to his family, where he belongs."
  • Toner reiterated that the U.S. expresses is "sympathies and our condolences" for the Pakistani soldiers who were killed in a NATO attack last weekend but would go as so far as to apologize for the incident. The New York Times reported Thursday that the White House overruled State Department officials who wanted to say sorry for the incident in order to smooth over U.S.-Pakistan relations.
  • Dec. 23 is the deadline for the CENTCOM run investigation, which is still in its early stages. "We need to get the truth here. We have endeavored to do so through this investigation. We've invited Pakistani participation in this investigation, and so let's see what that uncovers," Toner said. He didn't comment on the WSJ report that Pakistan okayed the attack or the reports from Pakistan that they plan to retaliate against U.S. forces next time.
  • State can't confirm the Al-Qaeda claim that they kidnapped American development worker Warren Weinstein in Pakistan. "It's impossible to say, frankly, whether it's true or not," Toner said. "We obviously remain profoundly concerned about Mr. Weinstein's safety and wellbeing."
  • Toner disputed reports in the Israeli press that the Quartet had taken proposals on borders and security from the Palestinians and passed them on to the Israelis. "We said that those are not accurate, that reports that the Quartet provided the Palestinian proposals to the Israelis," Toner said. "And the reason why that's important is, again, we're moving towards a direct exchange between the parties and that face-to-face preparatory meeting where we can talk about proposals on territory and security." He didn't deny that the Palestinians gave proposals to the Quartet, only that the Quartet passed them on to the Israelis.
  • The State Department doesn't have a problem with the Muslim Brotherhood winning the Egyptian elections, as long as they play by the rules. "There's a lot of elections that need to still be carried out, but we're off to a very positive start," Toner said. "We would always look for whoever emerges in the political leadership in Egypt to govern according to democratic ideals.  That's sort of the proof that we're looking for and the Secretary's spoken to this as well."

State Department