March 23rd, 2012
09:58 AM ET

Roundup: U.S. soldier to be charged over Afghan killings

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

U.S. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales will be charged with seventeen counts of murder (NYT) today over an attack on Afghan civilians in southern Kandahar province on March 11, U.S. officials said. The attack came on the heels of public protests and killings over the burning of Qurans at a U.S.-run NATO air base, further compounding a troubled U.S-Afghan partnership and U.S. efforts to negotiate an exit from the decade-old war. Bales's attorney has claimed his client suffers from "mental problems" and does not remember many of the details of the March 11 incident.


"The rapid exclusion of Afghans from the process of trying the accused shooter has, predictably and understandably, exacerbated the growing anti-American anger in that country. It is hard to imagine any nation on the planet reacting any other way to being denied the ability to try suspects over crimes that take place on its soil," writes Glenn Greenwald for the Guardian.

"In a sense, none of these facts matter. It shouldn't be hard to see the bright line between war fatigue, or P.T.S.D., or whatever name you give it, and hunting down, shooting, and stabbing little children in their homes, and women and men, burning their bodies, and then returning to base and demanding a lawyer," writes the New Yorker's George Packer.

"Forget about President Obama expediting U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan this year. It matters not that some American soldiers are coming apart at the seams, killing innocent Afghans, and burning Qurans, or that President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan screams to restrict U.S. operations," writes CFR's Leslie H. Gelb for theDaily Beast.

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Japan Prepares Missile Defense Systems

Japan is readying its missile defense systems to be deployed near the island of Okinawa in response to a North Korean rocket launch (BBC) planned for next month, Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka confirmed.

CHINA: HSBC's Purchasing Managers Index, a gauge of manufacturing activity, contracted for the fifth straight month in February, fueling fears over a deep Chinese economic slowdown (WSJ).


Pakistan's Gilani to Meet With Obama

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of an international nuclear summit in Seoul next week, a Pakistani official said. The meeting, which has not been confirmed by the United States, would constitute the highest-level U.S.-Pakistani talks (AFP) since U.S. troops killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last year.

Pakistan's stability is of great consequence to regional and international security. Examine the roots of its challenges, what it means for the region and the world, and explore some plausible futures for the country with this CFR Crisis Guide.


EU to Sanction Assad's Wife

The EU is set to sanction the British-born wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Asma, by imposing a travel ban and freezing her European assets (Telegraph). The sanctions are also expected to target Assad's mother, sister, and sister-in-law in an effort to further pressure the regime over its deadly year-long crackdown on opposition forces.

As the government of the brittle, one-party Syrian state remains dug in against a determined but fractured opposition, expert Joshua Landis discusses the fault lines in the Syria uprising in this CFR Interview.

EGYPT: The United States is set to resume $1.3 billion in annual military aid (al-Jazeera) to Egypt, despite ongoing U.S. concerns over Egypt's transition to democracy and a crackdown on U.S.-backed NGOs and pro-democracy groups.


Rebels Advance After Mali Coup

Tuareg rebels in northern Mali advanced south, exploiting uncertainty within the government armed forces (Reuters) following a military coup that deposed President Amadou Toumani Toure. In the capital of Bamako, the mutinous soldiers moved to arrest the president, whose whereabouts are unknown.

NIGERIA: South Africa, Angola, and Nigeria jointly endorsed Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to be the next president of the World Bank (BBC), a post that has traditionally been held by an American. The deadline for nominations is today, and the United States has yet to put forward a candidate.


EU Proposes Expanded Bailout Fund

The European Commission urged EU member states to expand the eurozone firewall by combining the continent's temporary and permanent bailout funds to create a permanent $1.24 trillion rescue mechanism (WSJ), a move expected to face resistance from Germany.

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, explains this CFR Backgrounder.

FRANCE: Prime Minister Francois Fillon insisted French police did not have justifiable cause to arrest Mohammed Merah (CNN) before he killed seven people, including three Jewish children. Merah, a self-proclaimed member of al-Qaeda, died yesterday following a siege by police on his Toulouse apartment.


Pope Departs for Mexico

Pope Benedict XVI will arrive in Mexico today for a weekend visit, during which he will meet with President Felipe Calderon and directly address the ongoing drug violence (NPR) plaguing the country. Benedict is set to visit Cuba early next week.

Since 2006, the Mexican government has been in embroiled in a bloody drug war, which has failed to significantly curb trafficking, explains this CFR Backgrounder.

ECUADOR: Ecuadorian natives protested in the capital of Quito (al-Jazeera) against President Rafael Correa's recent agreement with China allowing for industrial copper mining in the Amazon's Zamora-Chinchipe region.


Voters Consider Energy Issue 'Very Serious,' Poll Says

A new Gallup poll says 42 percent of voters describe the energy situation as "very serious," but gas prices still rate behind other issues, such as the economy, as the most important problem.

Campaigning ahead of Saturday's primary, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich stuck with their energy mantras (TimesPicayune) as they crisscrossed Louisiana–with "drill, baby drill" from Santorum, and promises of $2.50 gas from Gingrich.

Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy, check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.

Topics: Afghanistan • Daily Roundup

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soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. George Patton

    These killings should never have happened in the first place and now Stall Sgt. Robert Bales faces a possible death sentence. Let's just put the blame of this tragedy exactly where it belongs, that is, the right-wing politicians in Washington who got us into this useless war in the first place!!! When will the American public ever learn?

    March 23, 2012 at 10:14 am | Reply
    • Patrick

      In every forum, you spout your imam's mantra of putting the blame on "right-wing fanatics".
      In every forum, we ask you to prove your statements and all you can say "that is what my imam told me.'
      Can you say anything without lying?

      March 24, 2012 at 9:51 am | Reply
  2. HERO

    how about the ra pe of 2 women too!!! read and see the afganistan news and media , why you hiding the truth? if you commit the crim you must face justice in afganistan........same as it in in usa......this evil person is a cowered killing women, children and weak old people what a hero!!!!

    March 23, 2012 at 10:36 am | Reply
    • Marine5484

      Well said, HERO. Thank you.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:11 am | Reply
  3. Marshall P.

    In some tragic ways, this reminds me of that book, "None of Us Were Like This Before" – while it's a very different story (one that traces how US forces turned to torture, and devastating impact it had on the soldiers), there are nonetheless elements of this story that ring familiar. (By the way, I *highly* recommend the book.)

    March 23, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Reply
  4. j. von hettlingen

    Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian made a point, that it wasn't a good idea to have Bales sent back to the U.S. for trial. It would calm the Afghans down, if he stood trial in Kandahar.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Reply
  5. j. von hettlingen

    Asma al Assad is not banned from travelling to the U.K. She is a British citizen! She, her mother- and sisters-in-law will not be able to shop in Paris and Rom.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Reply
  6. j. von hettlingen

    After the release of the dozen American citiizens who worked as NGO workers in Cairo, the U.S. is set to resume $1.3 billion in annual military aid (al-Jazeera) to Egypt.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Reply
    • Patrick

      Stop spouting lies.
      If you want to be believed, quote your sources.

      March 24, 2012 at 10:38 am | Reply
  7. Innocent Iraqi

    15 civilians died so US is mourning ? How funny , US has killed millions of Iraqi because Iraq was not ready to sale oil in exchange of US currency . US also committed genocide in vietnam . Those 15 civilian life were more valueable than millions of Iraqi people .

    March 23, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Reply
    • Marine5484

      Thank you, Innocent Iraqi. I couldn't agree more!

      March 24, 2012 at 9:27 am | Reply
    • Patrick


      March 24, 2012 at 10:39 am | Reply
  8. sadat

    What happens if Joe threw hot water ice

    March 23, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Reply
  9. Benedict

    Tough,but i‘m not surprised! Nobody will allow a trial of their military on foreign lands,no matter the offense committed!!!

    March 24, 2012 at 10:01 am | Reply
  10. Richard

    Ok here's what i do not understand. Although the death of any children is a tragedy beyond comparison, it would be hard to say that it was not earned by the adults. We are talking aout a society and a people that value a book more than ahuman life. I didn't see the afgan protests over the murder of US soldiers for the accidental burning of a book! Where is that outrage? Where? We are talking about a poeple and a society that values a piece of paper more than a human life, as long as that human is American. If we treated afgans or moslems in the US as they treat Americans we would have been at war decades ago with every moslem country.
    1. Do not build mosques in the US the same as we cant build a church in Saudi.
    2. Christians groups begin grabbing moslems, beheading them, braging aout it and posting video on the net
    3. Have Americans committing acts of terrorism inside Mecca
    4. If a moslems talks bad about the bible than start protesting and killing moslems in response.
    You see the formula does not work if it is applied in reverse. Moslems shoul kneel down and thank the US, period.

    March 26, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Reply

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