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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
August 26, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Afghan Candidate Threatens to Withdraw

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah threatened on Tuesday to withdraw (AFP) from a United Nations-supervised audit of votes cast in the disputed election, potentially undermining a process aimed at rescuing the country's first democratic transfer of power. The audit was part of a U.S.-brokered deal between presidential candidates Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, both of whom claim election victory in the contest to succeed President Hamid Karzai (Reuters). General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, said Monday that the United States had devised plans that would allow U.S. forces to remain in Afghanistan beyond the end of the year if the election stalemate persisted and prevented the signing of a security agreement (AP).


"The best available solution is for Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ghani to cooperate fully with the ballot audit, accept the results (which were never going to be fraud-free, given the immaturity of the democratic system) and quickly form a functioning government that reflects the country's diversity. If they manage to do that, there might be some hope that they could, in time, restore voter trust and put Afghanistan on the path to a real democracy," writes the New York Times.

"More broadly, it isn't clear that the number of U.S. boots on the ground translates into meaningful political leverage, or is necessarily conducive to an enduring, much less healthy, stability. That doesn't mean that the U.S. shouldn't push Ghani and Abdullah to compromise, and continue providing economic support," writes Bloomberg.

"Iraq could hardly be a clearer cautionary tale: If the United States withdraws before the Afghan security forces are fully prepared to lead the fight against the Taliban and to deny safe haven to al Qaeda, jihadists are almost certain to regain safe haven there, much as the Islamic State (IS) has gained ground since the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011. That is what losing the war in Afghanistan looks like," writes Paul Miller for Foreign Policy.



Widodo to Announce Cabinet in October

Indonesian president-elect Joko Widodo is set to announce his cabinet team (Reuters) in early October as he ramps up preparations to lead the world's third largest democracy. Widodo faces economic woes in Southeast Asia's largest economy, including a widening current account deficit and slow growth.

JAPAN: Japanese officials and business leaders will meet counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Myanmar for their first talks on promoting increased business ties (Japan Times).



Sharif Meets With Army Chief

Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif met on Tuesday with the country's army chief to discuss the security situation (Dawn) around the ongoing political protests in the capital of Islamabad. Two opposition parties have been holding anti-government protests for more than two weeks.

CFR's Dan Markey looks at how to reorient U.S.-Pakistan strategy in this Council Special Report.



Arab Countries Strike Libya

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates launched covert airstrikes against Islamist-allied militias fighting for control of Tripoli, Libya, twice in the past week, the New York Times reported (NYT). Washington was not informed of the strikes planned by the regional allies, potentially further straining ties with Cairo.

SYRIA: The United States began surveillance flights (AP) over Syria after U.S. president Barack Obama issued approval, a move that could pave the way for airstrikes against ISIS militants in the country.

CFR takes a look at the ISIS propaganda machine.



Mugabe Visits China

China and Zimbabwe signed several deals on food, finance, and tourism during Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe's five-day visit, which began on Sunday. Mugabe, who faces criticism from the West for his human rights record, has increasingly turned toward China (DW).

SOUTH SUDAN: South Sudan president Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar agreed to a new cease-fire, and have been given six weeks by mediators to form a unity government (Addis Standard).



Ukraine Calls Snap Elections

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko called for snap parliamentary elections (FT) amid an escalating stand off with Russia over military confrontations with Russian-backed separatists in eastern regions. The move comes as Poroshenko is scheduled to meet President Vladimir Putin in Minsk for their first talks since June.

This new CFR Backgrounder gives an in-depth look at the Ukraine crisis.

SCOTLAND: Scotland's pro-independence leader Alex Salmond won a final televised debate (Guardian) against Alistair Darling on Monday, three weeks before a historic breakaway referendum.



Colombian President Calls for Investigation of Uribe

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos called for a thorough probe into allegations that the political party of former President Alvaro Uribe used classified intelligence to derail ongoing peace talks with FARC (Miami Herald), the country's largest guerrilla group.

BRAZIL: Brazil's presidential candidates will participate in their first televised debate (Bloomberg) Tuesday as they jockey for a spot in the runoff for the national elections against incumbent president Dilma Rousseff.



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