Top of the Agenda: State Department Pulls Staff From Lahore Consulate
The U.S. State Department ordered the evacuation (Reuters) of non-essential staff from its consulate in the northeastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Friday due to the threat of attack, issuing a travel warning to U.S. citizens. The closure comes days after Washington evacuated diplomats from its Yemen bases and shuttered nearly two dozen missions across the Middle East and North Africa due to a terror alert (al-Jazeera) involving al-Qaeda. A U.S. official said the threat was specific to the Lahore consulate; it is unclear if it was linked to the previous closures. The country, also believed to be home base for al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, has faced a bloody insurgency (AP) by the Pakistani Taliban that has killed more than forty thousand civilians and security personnel.
"Pakistan is looking for a stronger, firmer message about what the United States intends to do [in Afghanistan]. How many forces does it plan to leave? What [are] its hopes for a future deal with the Taliban and where [does] Pakistan fit into all of that?" says Daniel Markey in this CFR interview.
"It is strange that Washington wants Pakistan to use its influence to bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table for a political settlement in Afghanistan and, at the same time, expects it to take military action against them. The fact of the matter is that such military operations in the past made Pakistan the target of terrorist attacks, while relieving, to some extent, the U.S. forces and their allies in Afghanistan of the burden of fighting the Afghan Taliban," writes Javid Husain for The Nation.
"Almost twelve years after it joined the rest of the world in fighting terrorism, Pakistan still remains uncomfortable with the idea of confronting the terrorists. Pakistani politicians, clerics, and journalists see terrorism only as a consequence of their country's alliance with the West, not as Pakistan's problem to handle," writes Farahnaz Ispahani for Foreign Policy.
Taiwan, Philippines Resume Relations
Taiwan and the Philippines restored relations (LAT) after working for three months to quell anger over a fishing boat shooting incident that bruised friendly ties between the allies. Taiwan imposed sanctions after Manila's coast guard shot a Taiwanese fisherman in overlapping waters in May.
JAPAN: Japan and the United States discussed many challenges (KyodoNews) to the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations in their first round of talks in Tokyo.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
U.S. Urges Dialogue Between Pakistan, India
The U.S. State Department urged India and Pakistan to hold further dialogue (Dawn) to reduce tensions after the youth wing of the ruling Congress party in India attacked the Pakistan High Commission on Wednesday. Relations have plummeted after India alleged that Pakistani troops killed five Indian soldiers in Kashmir.
Saudi King Pledges $100M to UN Counterterrorism
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah announced a $100 million gift (WSJ) for a UN counterterrorism center, emphasizing the threat that religious extremism posed to the region. The country has been an active opponent of religiously-oriented political movements and militant Islamic armed groups.
ISRAEL: U.S. secretary of state John Kerry briefed Jewish leaders on the resumed Palestinian-Israeli peace talks (Haaretz), scheduled for next week, repeating an appeal to American Jews to endorse the process.
CFR's Elliott Abrams asks whether there is a future for Jewish communities in Europe in this blog post.
Zimbabwe Admits Election Irregularities
Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission said that some 300,000 voters were turned away (NewZimbabwe) and 206,000 received assistance from election officials during last week's disputed presidential vote, which extended President Robert Mugabe's thirty-three-year rule.
CFR's John Campbell discusses the impact of Zimbabwe's elections in this blog post.
ETHIOPIA: An Ethiopian military aircraft carrying ammunition crashed at Mogadishu's international airport on Friday, killing four crew members. Ethiopia is supporting Somalia's fight (Reuters) against al Qaeda-linked militants.
U.S., Russian Officials to Meet
U.S. and Russian foreign and defense chiefs are schedule to meet (AP) Friday to discuss the crisis in Syria, arms control, and missile defense in what are expected to be chilly talks after President Barack Obama canceled his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
President Obama's cancelled visit is another indication that the so-called U.S.-Russia reset has derailed, says CFR's Stephen Sestanovich in this new interview.
ITALY: Italy's lower house of parliament approved a growth package (Reuters) introduced by Enrico Letta's coalition government in a bid to pull the country out of recession.
Brazil Rebukes IMF on Greece
Brazil's representative on the International Monetary Fund's executive board gave a stern rebuke (FT) of Greece's bailout program, saying he was abstaining in a vote to authorize the latest payment to the cash-strapped nation.
ARGENTINA: Demonstrators gathered in Buenos Aires to protest (MercoPress) the administration of Argentine president Cristina Fernandez forty-eight hours before primary elections.