March 14th, 2012
09:06 AM ET

Roundup: Panetta visits Afghanistan

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.

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"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

"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.


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

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Topics: Afghanistan • Daily Roundup

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soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. George Patton

    There goes Leon Panetta shedding his alligator tears over those brutal Afghan murders. These right-wing thugs will do almost anything to make themselves look good!

    March 14, 2012 at 10:47 am | Reply
  2. likk

    so mean

    March 14, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Reply
  3. Marine5484

    So we're going to withdraw 23,000 more American troops from Afghanistan this summer! Why don't we do the right thing and pull all 91,000 of them out right away? I say that we're already more than 10 years too late!!!

    March 14, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Reply
  4. j. von hettlingen

    Panetta believes that the US is "on the right path" and shouldn't let the incidents in the past undermine the U.S. strategy. He is determined to bring this war to a responsible end and achieve the mission that the U.S. had embarked on. Wish him luck!

    March 14, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Reply
    • George Patton

      I disagree with that. We have and never had any more right to be in Afghanistan than the Russians had. We need to follow Mikhail Gorbachev's example and begin phased withdrawals as soon as possible and try to persuade our so-called NATO "allies" to do the same. Never mind too, all this bla-bla-bla about what "heroes" we have been over there!!!

      March 14, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Reply
  5. j. von hettlingen

    Ahmadinejad has made history. It was the first time since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 that Iran's MP's grilled its president in the parliament, no doubt at the behest of his antagonist – the supreme leader. The Machiavellian happened to have survived the inquisition. Although he has to step down next year, he will not disappear out of politics.

    March 14, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Reply
  6. j. von hettlingen

    Ten years of work and $900 million! That's what the first judgement of the International Criminal Court had cost, in the case against the Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, after a decade in existence.

    March 14, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Reply
  7. matt a

    Despite the incident involving the loss of 19 Afghans, leaders proclaim that strong cooperation exists among both militaries.

    That would make the pullout by 2013 more harmonius–if such an event is possible in the Middle East.

    Relativity: U.S. troops have been there since 2003.

    March 14, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Reply
  8. Chris

    Corporate corruption
    Big Oil speculating
    Wall street
    Big war profits

    March 22, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Reply

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