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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
February 27, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Taliban Launch Suicide Attack Outside NATO Air Base

Two Taliban suicide attackers set off a car bomb (NYT) outside NATO's Jalalabad Air Base in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least nine Afghans. Four NATO personnel were wounded. The Taliban said the bombing was in retaliation for recent Quran burnings at the U.S.-run Bagram Air Base north of Kabul. That incident sparked nearly a week of ongoing violent protests across the country. Two U.S. military officers working in the Afghan Interior Ministry were shot dead on Saturday, while six U.S. troops were wounded by demonstrators at a base in northern Afghanistan on Sunday. Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged Afghans to be "calm and peaceful" (al-Jazeera).

Analysis

"The burning of Korans by foreign troops on one side and the killing of foreign troops by Afghan soldiers on the other have pushed the level of alienation between the two sides to what could be an all-time high. The Saturday murders were only the latest of at least 22 similar killings that have occurred since last April," writes TIME's John Wendle.

"The latest incident runs counter to both objectives: Afghanistan's leaders will find it even harder to cooperate with Western forces, while the Taliban have been handed on a plate an incident that appears to justify their central claim--that America and her allies are waging war on Islam itself," writes the Daily Telegraph's David Blair.

"But on the flip side, just like a lot of other misguided honors that Muslims are trying to protect in our community, from wounds dating back to the days of colonialism and harkening into the modern day with protections over the national sovereignty of Pakistan during the Osama bin Laden raid, we, as Muslims, go too far protecting our perceived "honor" at the expense of common sense," writes Asra Q. Nomani at the Daily Beast.

 

PACIFIC RIM

Australian PM Wins Labor Leadership Vote

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard defeated Kevin Rudd in a Labor leadership challenge by seventy-one to thirty-one votes (Australian). Gillard ousted Rudd as prime minister in 2010.

SOUTH KOREA: The United States and South Korea launched joint military exercises (Yonhap) on the Korean peninsula. North Korea responded defiantly, saying it was "fully ready for both dialogue and war."

This CFR Crisis Guide provides an interactive multimedia overview of the dispute between North and South Korea.

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Pakistani Troops Destroy Bin Laden Compound

Pakistani security forces demolished the Abbottabad compound (AFP) where U.S. Navy Seals found and killed al-Qaeda's Osama bin Laden last year. The site had attracted hundreds of daily visitors.

Pakistan's stability is of great consequence to regional and international security. Examine the roots of its challenges, what it means for the region and the world, and explore some plausible futures for the country with this CFR Crisis Guide.

 

MIDDLE EAST

Yemen's President Formally Hands Over Power

Outgoing Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh formally handed over power to Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi (al-Jazeera), who was elected to succeed Saleh in an uncontested ballot last week. Saleh ruled Yemen for thirty-three years.

SYRIA: The government held a referendum on a new constitution (NYT) on Sunday, even as Syrian troops continued a deadly crackdown on civilians and opposition forces. Western leaders dismissed the referendum as a farce, while the EU tightened economic sanctions against the Syrian regime.

Establishing "no-kill zones," using drones to protect civilians, and encouraging defection could halt the killing in Syria, writes Princeton's Anne-Marie Slaughter in the New York Times.

 

AFRICA

Tight Presidential Race in Senegal

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade is in a close race with former prime minister Macky Sall, signaling a potential presidential runoff (Reuters). The election comes on the heels of weeks of violent protests against Wade, who is running for a third term despite a two-term limit.

NIGERIA: A suicide bomber (BBC) drove his car into a church in the central city of Jos, killing at least three people and prompting a riot by Christian youths. The radical Islamist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attack.

Widening violence by Nigeria's Islamist group Boko Haram has caused concerns about its possible links to international terrorist groups, explains this CFR Backgrounder.

 

EUROPE

G20 Defers Decision on Europe Aid

G20 finance ministers and central bankers, meeting in Mexico, deferred a decision over providing the International Monetary Fund with new resources for combating the eurozone sovereign debt crisis (WSJ). The officials called on the EU to expand its rescue fund in exchange for further IMF support.

GERMANY: As the German parliament prepared to vote on a second bailout for Greece (DerSpiegel) agreed upon by EU leaders last week, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich broke with Chancellor Angela Merkel and said Greece should be encouraged to leave the eurozone.

Greece appears to have averted imminent default, but its recovery prospects remain clouded by the severity of its planned austerity measures and the impact cutbacks have already had on its stricken economy, explains this CFR Analysis Brief.

 

AMERICAS

Colombia's FARC Says It Will End Kidnappings

Colombia's FARC rebel group said it will end its long-held practice of abductions for ransom (Guardian), and will free the ten remaining police officers and soldiers being held in the jungle. FARC chief Rodrigo Londoņo Echeverri has called for peace talks with the government to end the country's forty-six year civil war.

HAITI: Prime Minister Garry Conille, who resigned suddenly on Friday (NYT), said he decided to step down after none of his ministers showed up to a cabinet meeting. Conille's decision follows months of mounting tension between himself and President Michel Martelly.

 

Campaign 2012

Romney Says Focus on Afghan Security

GOP candidate Mitt Romney said Sunday that the United States should focus on helping Afghanistan build up (TheHill) "its own military and security forces" so they can "maintain the sovereignty of their government from an attack from the Taliban." The remarks come as NATO continues to grapple with a wave of violence sparked by the accidental burning of Qurans in the country.

Newt Gingrich continued to make gas prices (SFChronicle) a major campaign issue. He said his energy plan, which reduces barriers for domestic production, including offshore drilling, would produce "about $16 trillion in royalties in the next generation, enough to completely pay off the national debt" as well as creating "at least 8 million new jobs."

Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.

 

 

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