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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
February 6, 2014

Top of the Agenda

U.S. Treasury Targets Haqqani Militants

The Treasury Department designated three leaders of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network in Pakistan as "global terrorists," a move that freezes the men's assets and places pressure on a group blamed for fueling violence in Afghanistan (RFERL). Meanwhile, Afghanistan's Electoral Complaints Commission said it has only received a fraction of its funding and may not be ready in time for the country's presidential vote in April (Reuters). The election is widely anticipated because outgoing President Hamid Karzai said he won't sign a security agreement with the United States until a new leader is chosen. Countries such as Germany have offered to deploy soldiers to Afghanistan beyond the end of NATO's combat mission in 2014, but the plan hinges on the signing of the security deal (Deutsche Welle).


"Mr. Karzai has had a strained relationship with Washington ever since Mr. Obama was elected in 2008. His first disagreement began over the White House's flawed counterinsurgency strategy, which avoided going after terrorist havens in Pakistan. Mr. Karzai repeatedly insisted that the war on terror should not be fought in Afghan homes, but in North Waziristan, Quetta and Peshawar, where al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been hiding," writes Haroun Mir in the Wall Street Journal.

"Karzai understands perfectly well that the Afghan alliance with the U.S. is a diminishing asset as it moves closer to withdrawal. Under the Afghan Constitution, he may not serve another term, so if the U.S. remains the power behind the throne, he will have to step down in the spring. That would leave him the choice of remaining in Afghanistan, vulnerable to revenge killing by the Taliban, or going into powerless exile from the country he has led for a decade," writes Noah Feldman for Bloomberg.

"Some Afghans have pushed back against Mr. Karzai's conspiracies and destructive ways but not enough. The candidates running to succeed him owe voters a vision of how they will improve governance, reduce corruption and work more productively with the United States and its allies, who have spent billions of dollars to underwrite Afghanistan's economy and will be asked to continue the aid, at reduced levels, in the years to come," the New York Times writes in an editorial.


Pacific Rim

North Korea Warns the South About Reunions

Just one day after agreeing to hold reunions for families separated by the 1950–53 Korean War, North Korea threatened to cancel the reunions unless U.S.-South Korean military exercises are halted (BBC).

THAILAND: A plan to set global rice prices has backfired in Thailand, stripping the country of its position as the world's top exporter and leaving the prime minister to face an investigation over the plan as tensions mount in Bangkok (WSJ).


South and Central Asia

Pakistan, Taliban Start Peace Talks

The first round of peace talks between the Pakistani government and Taliban insurgents began in Islamabad after numerous delays. The agenda for this round is establishing a roadmap for future discussion amid deep skepticism over whether dialogue can bring peace (Dawn).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and evolution of the Pakistani Taliban.


Middle East

Nuclear Deal Stirs Political Tensions in Iran

Iran's state broadcaster blocked a live address by President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday, and only aired the speech after Rouhani criticized the move on Twitter. The tensions reflect growing pressure from hardliners over domestic politics and Iran's nuclear deal (FT).

IRAQ: Thousands of women are being illegally held in Iraqi prisoners and have suffered from torture and other abuse, including sexual assault, according to Human Rights Watch (AFP).



Ghana Limits Foreign Exchange Deals to Prop Up Its Currency

Ghani's cedi declined to a record low against the dollar as the central bank set limits for foreign-exchange transactions in an effort to boost its currency (Bloomberg).

This CFR Backgrounder explains currency crises in emerging markets.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Shortly after the country's interim president addressed soldiers at a ceremony to launch a renewed national army, a group of troops seized a man they accused of belonging to a Muslim rebel group and killed him (LATimes).

CFR's John Campbell highlights three things to know about the crisis in the Central African Republic and what is needed for peace.



U.S. Diplomats in Kiev for Talks

Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland arrived in Ukraine to meet with President Viktor Yanukovich and opposition leaders over the next two days to help resolve the political crisis that has gripped the country since December (AP).

RUSSIA: The United States is warning airlines flying to Russia for the Winter Olympics that terrorists may try to smuggle explosives hidden in toothpaste tubes (Guardian).



Regulators Investigate Currency Exchange Rate-Fixing

Financial regulators in New York are investigating Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, Goldman Sachs, and other large banks over alleged manipulation of foreign exchange markets. Authorities in the UK, Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Singapore are conducting similar investigations (al-Jazeera).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the manipulation of interest rates by banks known as the Libor scandal.

BRAZIL: The government launched a subsidy program that provides $20 "cultural coupons" to workers earning up to $300 a month. The coupons can be spent on books, music, theater tickets, and similar purchases (WaPo).



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