Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
U.S. President Barack Obama proposed $487 billion in military spending cuts over the next ten years as part of a new, "leaner" U.S. defense strategy (WSJ) he unveiled Thursday at the Pentagon. The plan includes a 14 percent reduction in the number of Army troops and a diminished U.S. nuclear arsenal.
The move comes as the Pentagon faces significant budget cuts in the wake of an ongoing U.S. fiscal crisis. However, Obama insisted the United States would maintain its global "military superiority" (NYT).
The plan also calls for a larger U.S. military presence in Asia (Reuters), along with an expansion of cyber and drone technologies.
President Obama has put forward a generally pragmatic vision for the 21st century, while also addressing the nation's deep fiscal problems, says this New York Times editorial.
Domestic entitlements are beginning to squeeze the U.S. military, says this Wall Street Journal editorial.
U.S. lawmakers are considering sharp cuts to defense spending as part of mandated deficit-reduction efforts. This CFR Backgrounder discusses the effects of such major cuts and implications for U.S. military strategy.
Deadly Suicide Bombing in Damascus
A suicide bomber attacked a central neighborhood in the Syrian capital of Damascus on Friday, killing at least ten people (al-Jazeera) and wounding dozens of others.
IRAQ: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki reached out to the militant Shiite group Asaib Ahl al-Haq (NYT)–formerly allied with the cleric Moktada al-Sadr–to bring it into Iraq's fragile political system. The move could shift Iraq's allegiances away from the United States and closer to Iran.
As the last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in December, an emerging political battle among the country's top leaders has raised concerns over its stability. It underscores the difficult road ahead for the fragile democracy and potential for greater violence, says CFR's Ned Parker in this interview.
UK Foreign Secretary Visits Myanmar
British Foreign Secretary William Hague met with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon (Guardian), the first visit to Myanmar by a senior British official since 1955. Hague said the military-backed government must implement further democratic reforms before the EU can lift sanctions.
In this Boston Globe op-ed, CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick says dramatic signs of political opening and reform by Myanmar's new civilian government suggest the limits of international pressure.
SOUTH KOREA: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell said the United States will work closely with Seoul (WSJ) in developing a diplomatic approach to North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong-un, despite the North's rejection of the current South Korean government.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Karzai Calls for Control of Afghan Prisons
Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded the United States relinquish control over the Bagram detention center (al-Jazeera) –the largest in Afghanistan–and other facilities holding Afghan prisoners. Karzai said imprisoning Afghans without trial violates the country's constitution and human rights.
Meanwhile, the military said eight NATO troops were killed (AFP) on Thursday and Friday in a series of bomb attacks by insurgents in southern Afghanistan.
This CFR Timeline examines the events that precipitated the U.S. war in Afghanistan as well as the history of the war.
Deadly Attack at Nigerian Church
Gunmen fired on a church in the northeast Nigerian city of Gombe, killing at least six people (BBC). The radical Islamist group Boko Haram is suspected of the attacks, which came less than a week after President Goodluck Jonathan implemented a state of emergency in response to similar incidents.
Widening violence by Nigeria's Islamist group Boko Haram has caused concerns about its possible links to international terrorist groups, explains this CFR Backrounder.
SOMALIA: The African Union extended the mandate of its peacekeeping mission (Reuters) in Somalia for another year, and said it would expand the force targeting al-Shabaab Islamist militants to include close to eighteen-thousand troops.
This CFR Backgrounder offers a profile of the al-Shabaab Islamist militant organization based in southern Somalia.
Chile's President Invokes Anti-Terror Law
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera invoked a controversial anti-terror law–which allows suspects to be detained for a long time without charge–to pursue any criminals considered responsible for a series of forest fires (MercoPress), the most recent of which left six firefighters dead in southern Chile.
Euro Declines Sharply
The euro fell Thursday to $1.2790, its lowest level against the dollar (WSJ) since September 2010. The currency has dropped 2 percent over the past two weeks, marking a potential shift in the euro's long-term trajectory.
The eurozone, once seen as a crowning achievement in the decades-long path of European integration, is buffeted by a sovereign debt crisis of nations whose membership in the currency union has been poorly policed.
TURKEY: Authorities arrested and jailed Ilker Basbug, the former head of Turkey's armed forces, on charges of trying to topple the government (DeutschWelle) of Prime Minister Reccep Tayyip Erdogan.
Kodak Preparing for Bankruptcy
Eastman Kodak Co., the 131-year-old company that was once among America's most successful businesses, is set to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (WSJ). The announcement reinforces expectations that the coming year will be one of economic restructuring in the face of slow growth.
MANUFACTURING: A Labor Department report is expected to show a second consecutive year of growth in U.S. manufacturing jobs, bright spot for the economy (NYT). Until last year, manufacturing employment had not seen growth since 1997.
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