Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta arrived in Afghanistan today for a planned two-day visit. The unannounced trip comes amid mounting strains in the U.S.-Afghanistan partnership (NYT) following the killing of sixteen Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier in southern Kandahar province over the weekend. Panetta, who will meet with Afghan officials and NATO commanders during his visit, insisted that the shooting incident would not undermine the U.S. strategy to wind down the war by 2014. The military is expected to withdraw 23,000 troops by the end of this summer.
"With Osama bin Laden now dead, some are wondering whether it's time to declare this mission accomplished–or with Afghanistan so troubled, perhaps it's mission impossible? In fact, it is mission incomplete: The Afghanistan mission is going worse than we had all hoped, but better than many understand. With patience and perseverance, we can still struggle to a tolerable outcome," write Bruce Riedel and Michael O'Hanlon for ForeignPolicy.com.
"Even though Afghans across the country have for years demanded the withdrawal of foreign troops, many fear that a hasty departure that would leave behind a weak national army would lead to civil war and anarchy of the sort that reigned upon the collapse of the communist government three years after the withdrawal of the Soviet military," writes TIME's John Wendle.
"The consequentialist will argue that the good results outweigh the bad, that democracy, freedom and the liberation of Afghan women will improve the lives of Afghans so much that the deaths of a few are justified. This is an easy judgment for westerners to make from the comforts of their own homes; but it stinks of the same patriarchy and arrogance of the white man's burden that justified colonialism for so many years," writes Ross Caputi for the Guardian.
Rising Wages Across Asia
Many Asian governments, including those of Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, have followed China's lead by urging businesses to raise wages in an effort to limit labor unrest, a move expected to increase the cost of manufacturing (WSJ) for many international companies.
CHINA: The Ministry of Commerce defended the government's policy of limiting the export of rare earths (NZH) after the United States, the European Union, and Japan lodged an official complaint with the World Trade Organization. China said it would "properly deal" with the dispute settlement request.
CFR's Edward Alden discusses the WTO's role in international trade disputes on CFR's "Renewing America" blog.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Sri Lanka Accused of Illegal Detentions
A new report by human rights group Amnesty International accused Sri Lankan security forces of detaining hundreds of prisoners illegally during and following the country's twenty-six year civil war, which ended in 2009. Amnesty called on the UN to investigate allegations of prisoner torture and abuse (al-Jazeera).
Syria in Idlib Offensive
The Syrian military pushed forward with a deadly offensive against opposition forces in the northern Idlib province, as Amnesty International claimed that Syrians detained during the past year's anti-government uprising faced "systemic torture" (NYT) by Syrian security forces.
IRAN: In an unprecedented move, the parliament summoned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for questioning (BBC), focusing on his economic policies and alleged rift with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
This CFR Crisis Guide examines the structure of the Iranian regime, divisions among its political factions, and the evolving opposition movement.
ICC Convicts Congo Warlord
The International Criminal Court at The Hague convicted Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga of recruiting child soldiers (Guardian) in ethnic fighting in 2002-2003 and using young girls as sex slaves. The conviction is the court's first verdict since its inception ten years ago.
SOMALIA: An al-Shabaab suicide bomber reportedly blew himself up inside the presidential palace compound (Reuters) in Mogadishu today, killing five people and injuring ten.
This CFR Backgrounder provides a profile of the al-Shabaab Islamist militant organization based in southern Somalia.
EU to Suspend Funds to Hungary
EU finance ministers agreed to suspend funding earmarked for Hungary due it its failure to reach EU-mandated budget targets (WSJ). At the same time, the EU succeeded in pressuring Spain to accept additional budget cuts for this year.
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.
UNITED KINGDOM: Former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks and her husband, Charlie, were arrested yesterday morning on obstruction of justice charges connected with an ongoing investigation into News Corp's questionable reporting tactics (Independent).
Argentina's Court Shifts Abortion Law
Argentina's Supreme Court ruled unanimously yesterday that all rape victims are allowed to have an abortion (PrensaLatina), and no longer require a court order to do so. Abortions are generally illegal in Argentina.
BRAZIL: Federal prosecutors announced yesterday that they are for the first time filing criminal charges in connection with government abuses committed in the 1970s (AP) during the country's two-decade military dictatorship, which fell in 1985.
Exit Polls Show Economy Still a Major Issue
Fifty-nine percent of Alabama GOP primary voters and 56 percent of Mississippi voters polled said the economy was the most important issue of the campaign, according to CNN exit polls from Tuesday. At least another 25 percent of voters polled in both states were most concerned about the federal budget deficit.
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was largely shut out in Tuesday's southern contests, continues to top the other candidates among economy-minded voters, according to a Bloomberg National Poll.
Rick Santorum, who won both Alabama and Mississippi contests, used his election night speech to talk about energy and continue his message of reducing regulations that get in the way of oil and gas production.
Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy, check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World