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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
September 22, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Afghan Presidential Candidates Sign Power-Sharing Deal

After more than three months of political deadlock, Afghanistan's presidential candidates signed an agreement brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, forming a national unity government (NYT). Ashraf Ghani will become president and make major policies, while runner-up Abdullah Abdullah or his nominee will be the country's chief executive with the responsibility of implementing policy (TOLO). The deal is welcomed in hopes that it will bring an end to the turmoil that has shaken the country following increased Taliban attacks, economic troubles, and allegations of fraudulent elections (Reuters). President-elect Ghani announced on Monday that he plans to name a woman to the country's highest court (AP).


"On paper, given the distrust between the two [candidates], the deal may look fragile and unworkable. But the pair has little choice than to make it succeed. An ethnically-divided country with parallel governments is a form of mutually-assured destruction, particularly given the country's dependence on foreign money that will be impossible to source if this new government falls," writes the Economist.

"Even if both candidates reach an agreement to form a unity government, and even if they are able to define the responsibilities and authorities of a new Chief Executive, the arrangement is likely to break down in practice as trust between the two sides has disappeared. It is difficult to see how the parties that have failed to agree to a power-sharing agreement for two months, despite intense pressure to do so, will be able to effectively share power," writes Shahmahmood Miakhelin Foreign Policy.

"At the end of the day, the millions of Afghan voters who defied Taliban threats to cast ballots are now left wondering if their votes counted. Mr. Ghani's presidency was not, by any reasonable measure, the result of a fair and credible election. Even so, Secretary of State John Kerry and his team in Kabul deserve recognition for formulating a power-sharing plan that gave the Afghans a way out of a crisis that could easily have plunged the country into a disastrous cycle of violence," writes the New York Times.



Students Protest in Hong Kong

Thousands of students from more than two dozen schools across Hong Kong began a week-long boycott (SCMP) of classes in protest of China's stance on electoral reform in the territory. The demonstration is a prelude to a larger protest on October 1, organized by pro-democracy group Occupy Central.

JAPAN: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed holding direct talks (JapanTimes) with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in November. Abe's government has placed sanctions against Russia, hampering plans for a scheduled visit from Putin.



Pakistan Appoints New Intelligence Chief

Pakistan's army named Maj. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar as the new head of the country's top intelligence agency (WSJ), the Inter-Services Intelligence—also known by its acronym ISI. Akhtar, who previously headed a Pakistani paramilitary force in Karachi, had been noted for his leadership in clearing the city of militants and crime.



Turkey Struggles With Refugee Crisis

Turkey began closing some of its border crossings with Syria after roughly 130,000 Kurdish refugees fleeing ISIS militants entered the country over the weekend (BBC). Turkish security forces had clashed with Kurds protesting in solidarity with the refugees, one million of whom have already fled to Turkey.

This CFR video discusses the escalating U.S. concern over the rise of ISIS.

YEMEN: The Yemeni government and Shia Houthi rebels inked an agreement (NYT) aimed at ending the political crisis that has gripped the country for weeks. The deal comes hours after the prime minister's resignation.



Sierra Leone May Extend Ebola Lockdown

Sierra Leone said it may extend its controversial three-day lockdown (Guardian) aimed at halting the spread of Ebola, which has killed more than five hundred people in the country. The quarantine, which forced six million people to stay at home beginning Friday morning, has been highly unpopular, with locals reporting food shortages.

CFR's Laurie Garrett says that West Africa's Ebola outbreak is outpacing efforts to contain and combat it.

KENYA: Two suspected members (DW) of the Somalia-based terror group al-Shabab were arrested upon their arrival to Frankfurt Airport. Kenyan authorities had captured them in August and then extradited them to Germany, where both are citizens.



France's Sarkozy Announces Return to Politics

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that he will return to politics (France24) and seek the leadership of his center-right UMP party in a move that could position him for a 2017 presidential bid. Sarkozy was named in a corruption probe earlier this summer.

SWEDEN: Sweden's far-right party, the Sweden Democrats, won almost 13 percent (al-Jazeera) of the parliamentary vote, making it the country's third-largest political party. The anti-immigration party has roots in the neo-Nazi movement.



New York Hosts Climate March

Tens of thousands participated in the People's Climate March in New York, where protestors demanded stronger United Nations action (TIME) against global warming. The march coincided with the UN summit on climate change, which convenes this week during the General Assembly to discuss an international carbon-emissions agreement.

While the UN summit will not deliver any binding commitments, real action is occurring on the domestic front, says CFR's Michael Levi.

ARGENTINA: A U.S. court dismissed an appeal by Citibank and Argentina to allow the country to make payments on debt tied to a bitter legal battle with U.S. hedge funds (MercoPress).



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