Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Wali Karzai, a formidable powerbroker in the southern province of Kandahar–the Taliban's strategic base and locus of the U.S. military surge–had been accused by the United States of having ties to southern Afghanistan's lucrative narcotics trade and engaging in other corrupt practices. However, over the past year, U.S. officials courted his support, seeing him as necessary for stability (WSJ) in the fragile southern region.
The murder undermines the power structure (NYT) in southern Afghanistan–widely understood to be built around the Karzai family–and laid the groundwork for a power struggle to replace Wali Karzai. Stability in the region is likely to be further challenged as the United States prepares to reduce troop levels.
President Karzai confirmed his brother's death (WashPost) at a news conference, noting, "This is the life of the people of Afghanistan."
Ann Marlowe of the Hoover Institution challenges the prevailing concept of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan as a "war of perceptions."
President Barack Obama's decision to remove thirty thousand troops from Afghanistan in just over a year heightens the difficulty in securing the east and south of the country against far-from-defeated Taliban forces, writes CFR's Max Boot.
Obama should pursue a more sweeping troop drawdown in Afghanistan that focuses a residual force on counterterrorist operations, and helps Washington devote more resources to fixing severe domestic problems, says CFR President Richard N. Haass.
MIDDLE EAST: Clinton Says Assad Has 'Lost Legitimacy'
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had "lost legitimacy" following attacks against the U.S. embassy (BBC) in Damascus by pro-government demonstrators. The embassy demonstrations came on the heels of U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford's visit to the city of Hama last week, a seat of anti-government protest.
CFR's Steven A. Cook argues that the national dialogue convened by the Syrian government lacks credibility, and raises question about what steps the Syrian military will take as the regime faces continued popular protests.
Libya: Saif al-Islam, a son of embattled Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, said that the Libyan regime is in talks with the French government (al-Jazeera). The French denied any direct contact with the Qaddafi regime, but urged the rebels' National Transitional Council to come to the negotiating table.
PACIFIC RIM: U.S., China Military Leaders at Odds over South China Sea
At a joint news conference in Beijing, the chief of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, General Chen Bingde, publicly chastised his U.S. counterpart (WSJ), Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, for recent U.S. reconnaissance missions and "inappropriate" naval exercises conducted with Vietnam and the Philippines in the disputed South China Sea. Mullen responded that the exercises were routine, in compliance with international norms, and would continue.
Philippines: Fourteen armed men abducted two U.S. citizens (BBC) and their Philippine relative from a resort on the southern Philippine island of Tictabon, where Islamist militants and Muslim separatists are known to be active.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA: U.S. Drone Strikes Kill Militants in Pakistan
U.S. drone strikes killed at least twenty-five militants (Dawn) during the past twenty-four hours in Pakistan's northwestern tribal region, considered an al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold.
U.S. drone strikes and "kill/capture" missions against al-Qaeda operatives, particularly in Pakistan and Yemen, have gained new attention and notoriety. Four experts debate the legality and efficacy of the controversial counterterrorism strategy.
AFRICA: Sudan Outlines Austerity Measures and New Currency
As part of a three-year economic emergency program, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced a new currency and new budget austerity measures (Reuters), meant to compensate for an expected loss of oil revenues following South Sudan's secession.
The independence of South Sudan is a call for celebration but many difficult issues remain unresolved, says CFR's John Campbell. The outstanding delineation of 20 percent of the Sudan-South Sudan border and questions regarding divisions of oil revenues between the two countries must now be addressed.
Kenya: During a visit with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki in Nairobi today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the east African nation to cooperate with an investigation (DailyNation) by the International Criminal Court over 2008 post-election violence, and to complete the implementation of Kenya's new constitution.
AMERICAS: Debt Talks Stalled by Widening Partisan Divide
Talks between the White House and congressional Republicans over a bipartisan deficit-reduction plan–needed to pave the way for a rise in the nation's debt ceiling ahead of an August 2 deadline–continued to stall (WashPost) yesterday as Republicans rejected President Barack Obama's call for tax cuts on wealthy Americans.
Obama used his bully pulpit yesterday to press Republicans for a deal on raising the U.S. debt ceiling, but both sides appear set to take their dispute to the final moments, as financial markets watch anxiously, writes CFR's James Lindsay.
United States: The Obama administration approved a new regulation that will require firearms dealers (NYT) along the southwest border to report anyone who buys more than one semiautomatic rifle in a five-day period, in an effort to limit Mexican drug cartels from obtaining weapons from the United States.
EUROPE: Stock Markets Fall as Euro Debt Contagion Worsens
World stock markets continued to fall Tuesday–with the euro at a low of $1.388–as Greece inched closer to default and yields on ten-year Italian bonds rose to a high of 6 percent, fueling fears (Guardian) that Italy could be the next European state to fall prey to a widening sovereign debt crisis.
United Kingdom: After seven months under house arrest, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is to appear before the UK's High Court today to appeal extradition to Sweden (DailyTelegraph) over sexual assault allegations, charges he says are politically motivated in light of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables that undermined the government.