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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
July 8, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Potential Unrest Looms Over Afghan Vote

Afghan presidential contender Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory on Tuesday, rejecting preliminary election results that gave his rival, Ashraf Ghani, a lead of a million votes. Abdullah also called on thousands of supporters rallying in Kabul to give him time to plan his next steps and avert a crisis (TOLO). An Abdullah ally and provincial governor called Monday for "widespread civil unrest" and warned of forming a "parallel government," drawing a swift condemnation from U.S. secretary of state John Kerry, who warned that an extralegal power grab would jeopardize international financial and security support (WSJ). Kerry is expected in Kabul at the end of the week to mediate the crisis (WaPo). Meanwhile, a Taliban suicide bomber killed four NATO troops north of Kabul, as well as twelve civilians and Afghan police (AFP).


"Abdullah's re-engagement in the election process is fundamental to any hope of an outcome to this election which is acceptable to all parties. However, the presence of his observers is also, in a very practical way, crucial to getting an audit that actually scrutinises the ballots," writes Kate Clark for the Afghanistan Analysts Network.

"There is pressure on the Afghan government to get this election completed and install a new presidential administration in time to meet the political, economic, and military challenges of the transition period as foreign troops leave. There's a crucial NATO summit in September, a major meeting of donors in November, and other hurdles that will require a functioning new administration," International Crisis Group's Graeme Smith told DeutscheWelle.

"If this moment is decisive, as I suggested, it is because it will determine whether or not Afghan leaders have truly adopted the logic of democracy—as Afghan voters seem to have done—or whether the source of power is ultimately non-institutional, negotiable, the result of behind-the-curtain deals, and permanently dependent on international arbitration," writes Scott Smith for the Global Observatory.


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U.S. to Manage China Ties at Beijing Summit

The U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue is due to open Wednesday with cyberspying, maritime disputes, and North Korea's nuclear program topping the agenda. The U.S. delegation, led by Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, will prioritize the stabilizing of rocky relations (WSJ).

INDONESIA: Nearly 190 million Indonesians are expected to vote tomorrow in a tightly contested race for the presidency of the world's third-largest democracy (FT).



India to Seek Foreign Investment in Rail Infrastructure

India's railways minister said the government would seek foreign direct investment to improve the nation's state-owned, cash-strapped transit infrastructure, averting further fare hikes, which marked the new administration (TOI).

The Backgrounder examines the causes and consequences of India's lagging infrastructure.



Israel-Hamas Showdown Escalates

Israel and Hamas moved toward broader confrontation Monday night (AFP) as the Israeli air force bombed targets in Gaza while Gazan militants stepped up rocket fire. The Israeli security cabinet reportedly agreed to refrain from a large-scale military operation, but reservists were called up in anticipation of a possible ground escalation (Haaretz).

BAHRAIN: Bahrain declared Tom Malinowski, a senior U.S. diplomat, persona non grata after he met with representatives of a Shia opposition party (WaPo).



UN Highlights Development Achievements

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted achievements toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals ahead of a 2015 deadline, but acknowledged that progress, which has largely come from India's and China's rapid growth, was uneven (CSM).

CFR's Gayle Tzemach Lemmon says more research is needed on the correlation between child marriage and state fragility.

UGANDA: Police say they repelled an attack on their barracks near the DRC border by "tribal gunmen" (Mail & Guardian), sparking intercommunal violence that has left eighty-five dead (TheObserver).



Ukraine Presses Ahead Against Insurgents

Ukraine's defense minister said that the country will restart ceasefire negotiations with pro-Russian separatists in the country's east only after the rebels have laid down their weapons (AP). Russian president Vladimir Putin has publicly ignored rebel appeals for assistance (WSJ).

Kimberly Marten says Putin's actions are best explained by domestic political competition.

VATICAN: Pope Francis asked forgiveness of victims of sexual abuse in the church after meeting with six victims (Guardian).



UN: Child Migrants to U.S. Are Refugees

UN officials are pushing for refugee status (AP) for many of the children fleeing to the United States from Central America. The call comes as the White House remains mired in the crisis by anti-sex trafficking legislation that makes it hard to return children to their home countries (NYT).

NICARAGUA: The Nicaraguan government and a Hong Kong-based developer unveiled plans for a canal that would link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Nicaragua says it will break ground on the $40 billion project this year, over environmentalists' objections (BBC).



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