Daniel Dombey

By Daniel Dombey, US Diplomatic Correspondent

Few things on this planet are as important as US-Chinese relations, since between them the two countries do so much to shape world events. So Robert Gates’ extended trip to Beijing, dealing with some of the most difficult aspects of that relationship – their burgeoning military rivalry and their fledgling cooperation on security issues – is a pretty significant event. Read more

Daniel Dombey

By Daniel Dombey, US Diplomatic Correspondent

You can understand why the latest flare-up of tension in the Korean peninsula has left Barack Obama none too happy.

Obama has had a pretty poor November so far, what with historic reverses in the midterm elections and a wretched G20 in Seoul where, rather than rallying the rest of the world against China’s currency policy, he found himself at the receiving end of several countries’ strictures about the Fed’s attempts to reflate the stumbling US economy. Read more

Daniel Dombey

By Daniel Dombey

The heat bore down in Kandahar province and in the relative safety of two military bases the Pentagon chief saw the state of the Afghan war for himself. Dressed in chinos and a baseball cap, Robert Gates was a day tripper with a difference.

His soft, careful speaking style and the way in which he posed for photos with almost every US soldier who crossed his path gave little clue of the defence secretary’s influence in Washington and his beliefs  about the conflict itself. But he most definitely matters. Read more

Daniel Dombey

By Daniel Dombey

A ride in a C17 cargo plane from Baghdad to Kabul, consultations with Gen David Petraeus, the commander the US is pinning its hopes on in Afghanistan, and talks with Hamid Karzai the Afghan president who often exasperates his western partners – that’s what made up Robert Gates’ Thursday.

We in the press shared a good part of it. The birds’ eye view from the C17 gave a sense of the inhospitability of Afghanistan, with stunning glimpses of  mountains set in desert wilderness.

At a press session at his headquarters Camp Eggers base we saw Petraeus. He sought refuge in generalities when asked specifics about, for example, his plans for the province of Kandahar. Read more

Daniel Dombey

When the feel-good part of a trip is the visit to Iraq, you know you’re on an interesting journey.

After travelling to Baghdad yesterday to mark the formal end of the US’s military mission in that country, US defence secretary Robert Gates came today to Afghanistan, where Washington hopes to engineer a similar handover. Read more

Daniel Dombey

Today, we are busy with another, much more controversial part of America’s military legacy – Iraq. Flying unannounced to the country as ever, we went by helicopter to Ramadi, once a seat of the insurgency, and travelled over a vast desert seemingly drained of all colour. Read more

Daniel Dombey

By Daniel Dombey in al-Asad, Iraq

If you want to see what the US’s “responsible drawdown” in Iraq looks like, come to al-Asad Air Base. Here, in a desert of white sands, amid light canvas tents and under roaring planes, Robert Gates, US defence secretary, has begun a trip to mark the end of the US combat mission in the country.

The location is symbolic. The air base is in al-Anbar province, where some of the most violent episodes of the war took place and where the Anbar awakening that preceded the US surge took place.

When Gates arrives with a group of us journalists in tow, it is not yet seven in the morning and the transition from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn is just a few hours old. While we were in the air, President Barack Obama hailed the “historic moment” in only his second address from the Oval Office.

From al-Asad, at first glance, things look less dramatic. Read more

Daniel Dombey

By Daniel Dombey, US diplomatic correspondent

Travelling with Hillary Clinton this past week has given me a distinctly unusual perspective on the world.

For instance: on some stops just about all you see is the inside of the presidential palace. So I can report that Argentina’s famous Casa Rosada or Pink House, from whose balcony Evita Peron made appearances before Argentina’s shirtless masses, is in a distinctly dodgy state of disrepair. Read more

Daniel Dombey

By Daniel Dombey, US diplomatic correspondent

For most ordinary mortals, Hillary Clinton’s schedule in Brazil on Wednesday would be a day to recover from.

The US Secretary of State spent much of the day in Brasilia meeting the foreign minister and president. She then flew to São Paulo, where she endured an hour-long motorcade driving past residential neighbourhoods, warehouses and love hotels. The rain drummed down, brakes skidded, and intrepid Brazilian motorists tried to cut into the convoy. Read more

Daniel Dombey

By Daniel Dombey, US diplomatic correspondent

There was a flash in Hillary Clinton’s eyes just now as she talked about the issue that is occupying ever more of her time as Secretary of State – Iran’s nuclear programme.

Last month the US-led campaign to increase pressure on Tehran took her to Qatar and Saudi.  Arabia, where King Abdullah welcomed her with a lavish lunch and watched a few minutes of a football match as he sat beside her wearing a frayed pair of Nike trainers. (Later on he switched his giant television to off-road truck racing.)

Iran has also been a constant concern for Clinton during her present swing through Latin America and the position of Brazil, which is currently sitting on the UN Security Council, is particularly important. Read more