June 23rd, 2011
09:29 AM ET

Daily Roundup: Obama’s Afghan troop drawdown plan

Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.

President Barack Obama is expected to travel today to Fort Drum, NY, to rally support for his plan to withdraw thirty-three thousand troops (CNN) from Afghanistan. In a televised speech last night, Obama said ten thousand of the surge forces would withdraw by the end of the year, with the remainder leaving Afghanistan by 2012–about one-third of the one hundred thousand U.S. troops in the country.

"It's time to start nation-building here at home," Obama said. The speech predictably drew a mixed response in Washington, with outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) supporting the decision, while prominent Republican critics, in particular House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) are more skeptical.

In Afghanistan, political leaders expressed fears (WSJ) that U.S. allies could leave before their job is done. While the troop withdrawal is not expected to change much in Afghanistan right now, U.S. and Afghan officials worry about the overall impact (NYT) on Afghanistan's struggling economy. And with Gates's recent acknowledgement of "outreach" talks with members of the Taliban, some Afghans are worried about a new Taliban takeover (Guardian) when the United States leaves.

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A constraint on America's retreat from Afghanistan "is the recognition that, more than ever, the United States will be relying on Afghanistan's help to deal with the threats emerging from Pakistan," writes David Sanger in the New York Times.

This CFR timeline of the war in Afghanistan examines the events that led to U.S. involvement and the history of the conflict.

The White House review of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan in 2009 opted for a competitive decision-making process. This time, the administration has aimed at consensus, which should make executing the strategy easier, writes Brett McGurk in Foreign Affairs.

MIDDLE EAST: Escalating Syria-Turkey tensions

Syrian troops massed on the Turkish border overnight (Reuters), escalating tensions with Ankara as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad uses increasing military force to crush a popular revolt.

Violence committed by thugs loyal to Assad has prompted thousands of Syrians to flee to Lebanon and Turkey. Sources describe growing opposition to a system based on nepotism and secret police, says thisDer Spiegel article.

Bahrain: A security court's sentence of life in prison (AP) for eight Shiite activists is a new blow in the kingdom's efforts to squelch the "Arab Spring" movement. The verdict led to the most significant unrest in weeks and raised questions about whether pro-reform leaders will respond to calls by the Sunni monarchy to open talks next week.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA: India and Pakistan Hold Talks

Senior diplomats from India and Pakistan (Dawn) are holding talks to repair relations that unraveled after the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The two-day talks in Islamabad between the countries' foreign secretaries come ahead of a July visit to India by Pakistan's foreign minister.

PACIFIC RIM: China's Ai Weiwei Released

Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (BBC) was released on bail after pleading guilty to charges of tax evasion. His arrest in April prompted a global campaign for his release and galvanized criticism of China's human rights record.

China: China's vice foreign minister warned the United States to stay out of the region's heightening territorial disputes (NYT) and maritime conflicts in the South China Sea.

China's growing military and naval strength and its increased pugnacity are heightening concerns in Vietnam, the Philippines, and elsewhere, says CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick.

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AFRICA: Al-Qaeda Militants Escape Yemen Jail

More than sixty suspected al-Qaeda militants (WashPost) escaped from a jail in Mukalla, in southern Yemen, adding to signs that al-Qaeda and other extremists are seeking to capitalize on the country's political unrest.

Yemen's current situation is not so much a negotiation between advocates of reform and remnants of the old regime as a raw power struggle between rival armed factions, writes CFR's Isobel Coleman.

Nigeria: A bomb killed at least five people at the police headquarters in capital Abuja, likely targeting (CNN) the police inspector general. Responsibility for the attack was unclear, but the militant Islamist group Boko Haram has recently been targeting the police and government.

AMERICAS: Gore Blasts Obama on Global Warming

In an essay for Rolling Stone, former vice president Al Gore writes that Obama has failed to act decisively to alter policies on global warming and energy.

Guatemala: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that the United States will increase aid to fight drug cartels (BBC) in Central America by more than 10 percent, to nearly $300 million. Analysts say the figure, announced at a regional conference in Guatemala, is small, given that more than two-thirds of cocaine sent from South America to the United States passes through Central America.

EUROPE: France Plans Phased Afghan Drawdown

French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the phased withdrawal (BBC) of France's four thousand soldiers serving in Afghanistan. The French will follow the timetable of U.S. withdrawals announced by President Obama.

France: The race to lead the International Monetary Fund is all but over as its executive board interviews the candidates this week andFrench Finance Minister Christine Lagarde appears on track to win final approval within days, says the Wall Street Journal.

Some analysts argue the IMF must do more to implement changes to improve the plight of the world's poor and guarantee the Fund's relevance in a shifting global economy.

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Topics: Afghanistan • Daily Roundup • President Obama

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    "French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the phased withdrawal (BBC) of France's four thousand soldiers serving in Afghanistan. The French will follow the timetable of U.S. withdrawals announced by President Obama".
    Very clever of Sarko! This would boost his chances for the re-election.

    June 23, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Reply

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