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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
June 19, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Afghanistan Suspends U.S. Talks

Omar Sobhani/Courtesy Reuters  

Omar Sobhani/Courtesy Reuters

Afghanistan suspended security talks (BBC) with Washington that had been aimed at shaping the U.S. military presence in the country after the 2014 drawdown, blaming U.S. inconsistency over the Taliban peace process (al-Jazeera). Washington announced Tuesday that it would engage in direct negotiations with the group, which officially opened a political office in Doha, Qatar, a day earlier. Meanwhile, The Taliban claimed responsibility for the death of four U.S. forces in an overnight attack (al-Arabiya) on Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on Wednesday. Negotiations on the Bilateral Security Agreement with Kabul began this year and, if completed, will determine how many U.S. bases and soldiers will remain in Afghanistan once NATO ends combat operations.


"President Karzai clearly feels a sense of anger and betrayal over the way the U.S. made that announcement. He thought there would be a commitment from the Taliban to engage with the Afghan government, to recognize the constitution and to renounce violence," writes Jonathan Beale for the BBC.

"The fact that the Taliban will once again be meeting face to face with American negotiators is a positive sign, say experts. But few think this represents a major shift in policy on either the Taliban or the U.S. side," writes Jean Mackenzie for Global Post.

"The retrograde itself will cost as much as $6 billion and involve about 29,000 personnel, for the American part alone (each of the 50 coalition countries is responsible for its own logistics). The job is unprecedented in complexity; compared with Iraq, the region's terrain and politics make it a mover's nightmare," writes The Economist.



North Korea, China Hold Talks

North Korea's top nuclear envoy held talks with senior Chinese officials on Wednesday in a meeting that was slated to focus on the North's nuclear weapons program and bilateral ties (Yonhap). China has expressed frustration with Pyongyang and supported tightened UN sanctions earlier this year.

CHINA: The UN's High Commissioner for Refugees said that Edward Snowden (SCMP) would not be given preferential treatment were he to apply for asylum in Hong Kong, where he is currently hiding.

Sue Mi Terry discusses how to avoid the next Edward Snowden in this Foreign Affairs article about intelligence reform.



Swiss Government Will Not Reopen Zardari Case

The Swiss government is unable to reopen a $60 million money laundering case (Dawn) against Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari, saying the case is "time-barred" and calling the president a "clean" man. Zardari was accused of purchasing Surrey Palace, a luxury home in England, through illegal money.



Turkey Detains Protest Suspects

Turkey's Interior Ministry said more than seventy people had been detained (NYT) in the crackdown on demonstrators in Istanbul and Ankara on Tuesday. Protestors have recently resorted to silent vigils, standing still in public squares. Ankara has called the protestors "members of terror organizations."

SYRIA: G8 leaders meeting in Northern Ireland adopted a statement urging Syrian peace talks (BBC) to be held in Geneva "as soon as possible," although they gave no timetable for the talks.

This CFR Backgrounder lends context to the current G8 summit.



Al-Shabaab Attacks UN Compound in Somalia

Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked insurgents from the Al-Shabaab group opened fired on a UN compound in the capital of Mogadishu in the first major attack (AFP) in recent years targeting the international body. The militants used to control most of the capital until it abandoned fixed positions in 2011.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the history and organization of Al-Shabaab.

MALI: Mali's government inked a deal with Tuareg rebels (VOA) that will allow the army to return to Kidal, an important rebel-held city, ahead of next month's elections.



Obama to Speak on Nuclear Arms in Berlin

U.S. president Barack Obama will announce plans for a sharp reduction (Reuters) in nuclear warheads in a speech at the Brandenburg Gate during his first visit as president to the German capital. The move would cut the amount of deployed atomic weapons by up to one-third.

SPAIN: The International Monetary Fund issued a report on Wednesday saying that Spain needs further labor market reforms (FT) to reduce its "unacceptably high" unemployment rate.

CFR's Robert Kahn discusses austerity and growth in the eurozone in this Global Economics Monthly report.



Protestors Overwhelm Sao Paulo

As protests continued in Sao Paulo (AP), local officials in at least four Brazilian cities agreed to reverse public transportation fare hikes in response to the uproar. President Dilma Rousseff tried to defuse the tension by acknowledging the need for more responsive governance (MercoPress).

PARAGUAY: Paraguayan president-elect Horacio Cartes will visit Spain and EU institutions in what will be his first official trip outside the region (MercoPress).



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