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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
October 23, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Obama, Sharif to Meet in Washington

Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif will meet President Barack Obama at the White House today, but few breakthroughs are expected on contentious issues such as drone strikes or Pakistan's alleged support for the Taliban (AP). While officials from both countries hope to reduce bilateral tensions, analysts are skeptical that there will be a dramatic reassessment of the relationship (CSM). Human rights organizations have renewed their criticisms of the Obama administration's counterterrorism policies, saying some drone strikes may constitute war crimes, a charge that U.S. officials deny (al-Jazeera).


"It certainly would be useful for the Obama administration to press Sharif hard on his country's support for several terrorist groups, including those behind the killings of American soldiers in Afghanistan and the Mumbai massacre of 2008. The group backing that slaughter, Lashkar-e-Taiba, continues to openly operate in Pakistan," writes Jeffrey Goldberg for Bloomberg.

"Peace talks, worryingly, could also fail in dangerous ways. In 2004, the first U.S. drone strike in Pakistan killed Nek Muhammad, an al Qaeda-linked Taliban commander who had just concluded a peace deal with the Pakistani army. Rightly or wrongly, [opposition leader Imran] Khan is far from the only Pakistani pointing to that episode as evidence that the United States aims to pit Pakistanis against each other. Therefore, Khan argues, rejecting cooperation with the United States is Pakistan's best course of action," writes CFR Senior Fellow Daniel Markey for Reuters.

"The United States government can help reduce the dominance of the Pakistani military by strengthening key civilian institutions, particularly Parliament and the police. The American government should renew its main civilian assistance program to Pakistan, which is financed only through 2014," writes Michael Kugelman in the New York Times.


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Manila Backtracks on South China Sea Accusations

Philippine president Benigno Aquino said that concrete blocks found on a disputed shoal in the South China Sea were "very old," backtracking from previous accusations that Beijing was building new structures in the area (Reuters).

This CFR InfoGuide examines maritime disputes in the South and East China Seas.

CHINA: U.S. space agency NASA lifted a ban prohibiting Chinese scientists from attending a November conference in California, a move that was lauded by Beijing (Xinhua).



India, China Sign Border Pact

Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang signed a border defense cooperation agreement Wednesday that aims to end decades of tensions over competing claims to remote stretches of the Himalayas (AFP).



Geneva Talks Elusive after London Meeting

A meeting of Western and Arab backers of opponents of the Assad regime failed to convince the opposition to attend talks with Syrian government at an internationally sponsored conference in Geneva next month (Independent). Saudi Arabia indicated it would stop cooperating with the West.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the global response to the Syrian conflict.

IRAQ: Gunmen and suicide bombers killed twenty-five members of security forces and three civilians in Anbar province last night (al-Jazeera).



Kenya Disputes Army Looting Claim

Kenya's army chief defended troops who were accused of looting a Nairobi mall during last month's al-Shabab attack, saying the soldiers only took water. Security cameras showed soldiers carrying shopping bags out of a supermarket (BBC).

MOZAMBIQUE: Renamo, a former rebel group, attacked a police station after saying it has ended a 1992 peace deal with the country's ruling party (VOA).



Spain Ends Two-Year Recession

Gross domestic product expanded 0.1 percent in the third quarter, marking an end of Spain's two-year recession. Foreign investors are returning to Spain's equity and bond markets, raising hopes that the country will soon be able to reduce its 26 percent unemployment rate (Bloomberg).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the eurozone crisis.

GERMANY: The European Central Bank announced Wednesday it will begin a year-long review of 130 large European banks next month in an effort to expose hidden losses and strengthen the banking system (Telegraph).



Brazil's FX Moves Reveal Policy Tensions

Brazil's central bank stemmed the decline in the country's currency this year by introducing a $60 billion swap facility, but the strengthening real is now causing concerns over Brazil's competitiveness (FT).

UNITED STATES: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said allegations that the NSA has collected seventy million French telephone conversations are false (Deutsche Welle).



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