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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
September 30, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Afghanistan and United States Sign Security Deal

A high representative for new President Ashraf Ghani signed a bilateral security agreement (Reuters) with the United States on Tuesday, which will allow 10,000 U.S. military personnel to remain in Afghanistan through 2016 after the official combat mission ends in December 2014. Although former Afghan President Hamid Karzai had refused to sign (NYT) the deal despite U.S. threats of a full withdrawal, both President Ghani and Government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah promised to sign the agreement during their campaigns. The signing of the security deal comes a day after President Ghani was sworn in following a power-sharing deal with Abdullah, his former opponent.


"By agreeing to the deal so quickly, President Ghani is resetting a relationship soured by his predecessor Hamid Karzai, who refused to sign the agreements, and to the end attacked the US and its forces. The US ambassador to Kabul, Jim Cunningham, said that Tuesday's signing sent a broader signal to the region about continuing US commitment to Afghanistan," writes David Lyon for the BBC.

"There is an important lesson to be learned here: It's vitally important to keep a substantial commitment of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after this year. Military commanders are asking for at least 10,000 personnel, and if that request isn't granted by the White House (as leaks suggest it may not be), the odds will increase that Afghanistan, like Iraq, will descend into a civil war that undoes everything U.S. troops sacrificed so much to achieve," writes CFR's Max Boot in the Los Angeles Times.

"Our job now is to support Afghanistan for the Afghans — and to stay committed to a country of people who believe in a better future with an inclusive government that serves them all. Even as this political transition concludes and as Afghanistan takes responsibility for its own security, we must continue to support that aspiration," writes Secretary of State John Kerry in the Washington Post.



Hong Kong Leader Calls Beijing's Decision Final

Hong Kong's Beijing-appointed leader, Leung Chun-ying, announced that neither he nor Beijing would back down (SCMP) in the face of protests and called for protestors to return home. The Hong Kong stock market fell 1.9 percent on Monday and an additional 1.3 percent Tuesday (NYT).

All of Beijing's options come with significant political and economic costs writes CFR's Elizabeth C. Economy.

SOUTH KOREA: The government in South Korea submitted its plans to open its rice market (Yonhap) to the World Trade Organization on Tuesday; the country has proposed a 513 percent import tariff to protect local farmers.



Modi Meets Obama at White House

The two heads of state issued a joint statement (Indian Express) on Monday night announcing that the U.S.-India strategic partnership will be a transformative one, and that together the two countries will work to combat terrorism and prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Meanwhile, more than two hundred people were arrested in India's Gujarat state as religious clashes broke out (AFP).

This CFR Timeline chronicles the history of U.S.-India Relations.



Netanyahu Blasts ISIS, Hamas, and Iran at UN

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Iran the most dangerous country (National) in the world and linked Hamas and ISIS as "branches of the same poisonous tree" at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday.

SYRIA: ISIS released a third propaganda video of UK hostage John Cantlie (Guardian) which mocked Obama's strategy for fighting ISIS with airpower and announced that more videos would follow. The video was released as U.S.-led airstrikes continue in both Iraq and Syria.



UN: Ebola Has Orphaned Thousands of Children

The UN reported that at least 3,700 children who have lost parents to Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are at risk of being "shunned" (BBC).

CFR's John Campbell discusses governance issues in West Africa in the fight against Ebola in this CFR video.

NORTH AFRICA: The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported a record number of 4,077 deaths of migrants crossing deserts and seas worldwide (Reuters) so far in 2014, with 75 percent of those deaths occurring on journeys across the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe.



Heavy Fighting Continues to Threaten Ukraine's Cease-Fire

Violence broke out between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatists leaving twelve dead (Guardian) following reports that a tank shell hit a vehicle transporting Ukrainian soldiers near the Donetsk airport.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at the origin and evolution of the crisis in Ukraine.

BELGIUM: Belgium's biggest ever anti-terrorism trial opened (Al Jazeera) on Monday; prosecutors have accused forty-six men of belonging to the Sharia4Belgium group and indoctrinating youth to fight in Syria.



Head of Secret Service to Face Lawmakers

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson will answer questions before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the extent of a security breach (AP) by an armed intruder at the White House earlier this month.

ARGENTINA: New York district court judge Thomas Griesa found Argentina in contempt of court (Bloomberg) on Monday for seeking to shift control over payments of its restructured debt from New York to Buenos Aires.



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