Daily News Brief

February 18, 2009

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

- Obama authorizes more troops for Afghanistan.

- Hillary Clinton travels to Indonesia.

- Mysterious attack on presidential palace in Equatorial Guinea.

- Mexicans block U.S. border posts to protest drug war.

TOP OF THE AGENDA: U.S. Troop Boost in Afghanistan

U.S. President Barack Obama has authorized an additional seventeen thousand troops for Afghanistan (WashPost), a move that will increase U.S. troop levels there by 50 percent. The new deployments will begin in May. Meanwhile, the administration is conducting a strategic review of the Afghan war that is due to conclude in late March. Analysts say the three thousand U.S. troops who recently arrived in Afghanistan will be watched closely to see if the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is working (CSMonitor).

Polling in Afghanistan shows that "the number of people who feel the United States has performed well in Afghanistan has been cut in half in the last three years," from 68 percent to 32 percent, according to military expert Anthony Cordesman  (TIME). This has coincided with a deterioration in U.S. relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai (Spiegel).

 

BACKGROUND:

 

A CFR.org Daily Analysis looks at the Obama administration's efforts to develop a new Afghan strategy.

 

Two CFR fellows discuss a November 2008 trip to the battlegrounds of Afghanistan.

 

 The Brookings Institution's Afghanistan Index tracks security and economic indicators in the country. 

 

MIDDLE EAST: Possible U.S.-Syria Thaw

Voice of America reports that the Obama administration appears to be taking small steps toward resuming dialogue with Syria (VOA). A high-ranking Congressional delegation is visiting the country this week.

 

IRAN: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says his country is waiting to see "signs of real change" under U.S. President Barack Obama. "Is bullying going to disappear?" he asked in a television interview on Tuesday night (Bloomberg).

 

IRAQ: Final results in Iraq's provincial elections will be released on Thursday. The election commission is continuing to investigate fraud charges, but it says that thus far investigations have not changed any vote results (WSJ)

PACIFIC RIM: Clinton in Indonesia

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continued her Asia trip in Indonesia, where she said that "Building a comprehensive partnership with Indonesia is a critical step on behalf of the United States' commitment to smart power" (AFP). The Jakarta Post looks at Indonesian opinions on the significance of Clinton's visit.

 

JAPAN: The Japan Times discusses the increasingly shaky government of Prime Minister Taro Aso, which suffered a blow from the resignation of its finance minister due to his drunken behavior at a G7 finance meeting.  Reuters looks at the possible candidates who may replace Aso.

 

SOUTH & CENTRAL ASIA: Pakistan's Peace Deal

Terrorism analyst Bill Roggio writes in The Long War Journal that a recent deal between Pakistan's government and militants in the Swat Valley that allows sharia law to be imposed is similar to previous deals that collapsed shortly after being signed.

 

SRI LANKA: The New York Times reports from the eastern part of Sri Lanka, where the government declared victory over the rebel Tamil Tiger group eighteen months ago (NYT). There are few signs of reconstruction and there is widespread fear among civilians.

AFRICA: Mystery Gunfire in E. Guinea

Armed gunman in speedboats came ashore and attacked the presidential palace in Equatorial Guinea on Tuesday night (BBC). The government claimed the gunmen came from the Niger Delta, but the country's largest militant group, MEND, denied involvement.

 

NIGERIA: In an interview with AllAfrica.com, the governor of Rivers State in Nigeria discusses his plans to turn his area of the Niger Delta from an area marked by unrest to a place of economic development. He argues that all the governors in the area have started to achieve positive change in the Niger Delta.

 

CHINA-AFRICA: Writing in the Asia Times, a Ghanaian think tank executive analyzes the significance of Chinese President Hu Jintao's trip to Senegal, Mauritius, Mali, and Tanzania.

 

AMERICAS: Mexicans Block Border

Hundreds of Mexicans have blocked key border crossings into the United States in protest against the deployment of the Mexican army to fight drug traffickers (BBC).

 A CFR.org Backgrounder explains the details of Mexico's war on drugs. A recent panel at the Wilson Center discussed how the United States and Mexico could think more strategically about their relationship.

 

DETAINEES: The New Yorker reports on the last "enemy combatant" detained in the United States, noting that how the Obama administration handles this case will have repercussions for all the detainees held in Guantanamo Bay.

U.S. ECONOMY: In the Atlantic, sociologist Richard Florida looks at how the economic crisis will reshape America's cities and regions.

 

EUROPE: Germany Drafts Bank Nationalization Plan

Germany's cabinet has agreed on a draft law that would allow the temporary nationalization of troubled banks (BBC).

 

RUSSIA: In an interview with Spiegel, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the West "is applying a double standard" when it criticizes Russia's war with Georgia in August 2008. He also has a heated discussion about Iran, Afghanistan, and relations with the United States.

 

UKRAINE: As the economy slides downward, Ukraine's president and prime minister are engaged in a bitter and public power struggle (CSMonitor). Eighty-five percent of Ukrainians believe there is no government order in their country.

 

 

TRANSNATIONAL: SPACE WAR

Foreign Policy says there is a space-related arms race underway, and the United States should take the lead on talks over a space treaty.

A September 2008 Council Special Report looks at China, space weapons, and U.S. security. 

 

GlobalPost offers a country-by-country analysis of the effects of the global economic crisis. 

OPINION ROUNDUP:

In Wednesday's roundup: Hillary Clinton's tour of Asia; the sharia-for-peace deal in northern Pakistan; and President Obama's options in Afghanistan.

 

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