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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
July 9, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Obama Considers Complete Troop Withdrawal From Afghanistan

Andrew Burton/Courtesy Reuters  

Andrew Burton/Courtesy Reuters

President Barack Obama is reportedly considering a withdrawal of all U.S. troops in Afghanistan following the end of official military involvement in December 2014. Although the Obama administration had been negotiating leaving a small residual force of about eight thousand after the scheduled 2014 pullout, the so-called "zero option" now looks to be under serious consideration (NYT). The relationship between Obama and Karzai fell to new lows in recent weeks as Karzai sought to undermine long-sought U.S. talks with the Taliban, suspending negotiations (Reuters) with the United States on a long-term security deal.

Analysis

"The [Afghan National Army] will still need help with military advice, intelligence collection, logistics (a weak point), air support, counter-IED (improvised explosive devices) capabilities and medical evacuation. In the short term, nothing would enhance America's negotiating position with the Taliban more than a clear commitment from Barack Obama to provide an enduring force able to perform these tasks," says the Economist.

"If you ask ordinary Afghans about their future in 2015 and beyond, they are more likely to express fears about an economic recession, increased violence by militants, total abandonment by the international community, and uncertainty about President Karzai's replacement than a civil war or a triumphant return of the Taliban to power," writes Ahmad Shafi for Foreign Policy.

"An important reason for Washington's desire for a peace settlement is precisely fear of a political meltdown in Kabul next year, stemming from a bitterly contested and rigged election producing a president whose authority would be rejected by the existing Kabul elites and the Afghan National Army. Thousands of American soldiers would be caught in the middle of the resulting mess," writes Anatol Lieven in the New York Times.

 

PACIFIC RIM

Coal Use in Northern China Found to Increase Mortality

People in northern China live five and a half years fewer (Guardian) on average than those in southern China, a new study finds, attributing the disparity to high levels of air pollution from overreliance on coal in the north, where the Chinese government provides it free for heating. The government announced measures last month to combat air pollution.

KOREA: South and North Korea will hold low-level talks Wednesday to discuss avoiding future disruptions at the jointly run Kaesong Industrial Complex (Yonhap), where operations were suspended in the spring amid heightened tensions over North Korea's nuclear program.

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

'Incompetence' Enabled Bin Laden's Pakistan Stay, Report Says

A leaked Pakistani government report said that Osama bin Laden was able to reside in Pakistan for nine years because of the "culpable negligence and incompetence" of state institutions (Dawn), particularly the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence agency. The report also criticized the U.S. raid as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty.

 

MIDDLE EAST

Explosion in Hezbollah Stronghold

A car bomb exploded in Beirut's southern suburbs (DailyStar) on Tuesday, killing one and injuring at least thirty-eight. The attack was attributed to Syrian rebels retaliating against Shia militant group Hezbollah for its intervention in defense of the Assad regime.

This CFR Backgrounder provides history and analysis on Hezbollah.

EGYPT: Under pressure to restore democracy, Adli Mansour, Egypt's new head of state, announced that parliamentary elections would be held in six months (Reuters), sooner than expected, and followed by a presidential election. Muslim Brotherhood officials said they would boycott the process and called for more protests.

 

AFRICA

Al-Shabaab Attacks Police in Mogadishu

A bomb in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, wounded five police officers Tuesday, in an attack claimed by the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab (Reuters). The government, reliant on African peacekeepers to protect its facilities, has said it needs more support to build its security forces.

This CFR Backgrounder on al-Shabaab includes an interactive timeline of the group's history.

ZIMBABWE: Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai picked up endorsements from two political parties (VOA) in his bid to unseat longtime leader Robert Mugabe as president in elections at the end of the month, giving him a broader coalition of supporters than he had in the disputed 2008 election.

 

EUROPE

Greece on Track for European Aid

Eurozone finance ministers agreed to unlock 4 billion in bailout funds (WSJ), provided government payrolls are trimmed and other conditions are met by July 19. While creditors had in the past been dissatisfied with the slow pace of reforms, they noted that previous delays in aid created economic turmoil.

CZECH REPUBLIC: Prosecutors investigating former prime minister Petr Necas on corruption charges asked Parliament on Monday to strip him of immunity (NYT). Necas, who ran on a reformist platform, would be the highest-level official to face corruption charges in the country since the fall of communism.

 

AMERICAS

Election Error Causes Suspicion in Mexican Race

Authorities ordered a recount in the election for the post of Baja California governor (LAT) after both major candidates declared victory and election officials cited an algorithm error. The conservative PAN candidate had been ahead of the candidate from PRI, the ruling party, leading to accusations of fraud.

CFR's Shannon O'Neil discusses Mexico's democratic transition in this excerpt from the CFR ebook Pathways to Freedom.

BRAZIL: President Dilma Rousseff announced a plan to hire ten thousand doctors (BBC) to work in underserved areas of Brazil as a part of broader reforms after mass demonstrations took place last month. Medical students will be required to serve two years in the public sector.

 

 

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