Robert Gates confirmed today that the US is in "preliminary" talks with the Taliban, reports the Hill, cautioning that they've only been going on for a "few weeks." Appearing on State of the Union and Fox News Sunday, the outgoing defense secretary said the State Department was handling talks—though not at the level of Hillary Clinton—but that he didn't expect "substantive headway until at least this winter. "I think the Taliban have to feel themselves under military pressure and begin to believe that they can't win before they are willing to have a serious conversation." Elsewhere on the Sunday dial, as per Politico:
- Gates on War Powers Act: "President Obama has complied with the law consistent in a manner with virtually all of his predecessors. From our standpoint at the Pentagon, we're involved in a limited kinetic operation."
- John McCain on WPA backlash: "I would say to my Republican friends, if this were a Republican president, would you be trying to impose these same conditions? We don't want to do anything ... which would encourage Gadhafi to remain in power."
- Lindsey Graham on why Congress should 'shut up' on WPA: "The president's done a lousy job of communicating and managing our involvement in Libya—but I will be no part of an effort to defund Libya or cut off our effort to bring Gadhafi down."
- Graham on GOP candidates waffling on Afghanistan: "If you think the pathway to the GOP nomination is to get to Barack Obama's left, you're going to meet a lot of headwinds."
- David Axelrod on Jon Huntsman's tenure as ambassador: "What has changed is not his view of the economy, but his view of his own chances to, perhaps, win the nomination. That's politics." But, "He was encouraging on the whole range of issues. He was a little quizzical about what was going on in his own party. And you got the strong sense that he was going to wait until 2016 for the storm to blow over."
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