Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Taliban fighters launched multiple raids on government installations across Afghanistan, including strikes on the diplomatic quarter and parliament in Kabul (BBC). Analysts say the audacious, complex operation was designed to send a bloody message to NATO forces and its domestic allies. The assorted attacks commenced simultaneously at about 1:45 p.m.—several in Kabul, and others in Nangarhar, Logar, and Paktia provinces.
Officials say thirty-six gunmen were killed along with three civilians and eight members of Afghan security. They also report they have arrested two would-be suicide bombers who were targeting the second vice president, Mohammad Karim Khalili. There were also reports that members of the Haqqani network participated in the violence. As NATO forces prepare to draw down by the end of 2014, the attacks have raised concerns about the handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces.
"The only way to think about Afghanistan is to ask the question directly and without prejudice: is it in America's vital interests to fight on in Afghanistan? To me, the answer is an unequivocal 'No.' Bashing the Taliban and al Qaeda was vital 10 years ago after 9/11. But since then, the war against terrorists has become global, and Afghanistan is but a small piece of that," writes CFR's Les Gelb in the Daily Beast.
Writing on ForeignPolicy.com, Paul D. Miller suggests five steps to better politics in Afghanistan: "The United States and United Nations should work with the Afghans instead [of supporting the 2014 election] to push for a grand political bargain that could actually make a difference in the counterinsurgency against the Taliban: a new Loya Jirga to amend the constitution, devolve power, adjust the electoral calendar, change the voting system, and invite the Taliban to form a political party."
Though toppled from power in Kabul in 2001, the Taliban has become a resilient force active on two fronts–in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This CFR Backgrounder examines the origins, leadership, and structure of the militant group.
China Increases Flexibility of Exchange Rate
Beijing has taken new steps to allow its currency to gain or lose as much as 1 percent of value each day, a doubling of its trading band (CNN). The move was welcomed by IMF officials who said it allowed market forces to play a greater role in the level of the exchange rate.
In this recent CFR Working Paper, Professor Alan Taylor considers whether China might play a larger role in stabilizing the world economy by supplying an internationalized renminbi as a reserve asset.
NORTH KOREA: Leader Kim Jong-un spoke at a public rally in Pyongyang on Sunday, reinforcing the country'semphasis on military strength and technology (WashPost). His speech came two days after the failed launch of a rocket.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Pakistan Probes Mass Prison Attack
Pakistan's Taliban has claimed responsibility for an attack that freed 384 inmates from a jail (Dawn) in the country's western Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
INDIA: The country's home minister has raised concern about the spread of a decades-long Maoist insurgency to three more states (BusinessWeek), making it active in twelve states overall. He called for filling hundreds of thousands of police vacancies to bolster the fight against the insurgents.
Ban Says Syria Must Protect UN Monitors
The Syrian government is responsible for guaranteeing freedom of movement (AP) for UN observers monitoring the nation's five-day cease-fire, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday, calling the cease-fire "very fragile," but also saying it was essential that it hold so that an "inclusive political dialogue can continue."
ISRAEL: The military said it has suspended an officer caught on video (CNN) striking a pro-Palestinian activist in the face, describing the incident as severe.
IRAN: President Obama and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disagreed on Iran (USAToday), with Netanyahu criticizing extension of the nuclear talks and Obama saying they are the best hope of resolving the dispute.
Sudan Air Strikes Hit UN Peacekeepers Base
Sudan and South Sudan continued to engage in military clashes along their border, while the United Nations mission in South Sudan confirmed that a UN peacekeeper camp was hit (al-Jazeera) by Sudanese air force strikes Sunday. A UN spokesman said there were no casualties. Fighting between the two countries has been continuous in recent weeks over a disputed oil-rich region territory.
GUINEA-BISSAU: Mediators from the Economic Community of West African States are set to hold talks today with military leaders who staged a coup the country last week (AP). The coup leaders said Sunday that they were forming a National Transitional Council to replace existing political institutions.
Norway's Mass Shooter Pleads Self-Defense
Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing extremist accused of killing seventy-seven people in a shooting spree in Norway last year, admitted to the act but said he was not guilty, citing self-defense (DeutscheWelle).
BRITAIN: Moody's Investors Service has signaled a new wave of ratings downgrades (WSJ) involving banks in sixteen European countries. Some investors and financial institutions are concerned the moves could reignite Europe's debt crisis.
Obama Faces Backlash on Cuba at Americas Summit
Latin American opposition to U.S. sanctions on Cuba (Reuters) left President Barack Obama isolated at the Summit of the Americas, with conservative-led U.S. allies like Mexico and Colombia throwing their weight behind the traditional demand of leftist governments for the first time, illustrating Washington's declining influence in a region being aggressively courted by China.
Poll Shows Many Voters Like Buffet Rule
According to a new Gallup poll, 60 percent of voters support the proposed Buffett Rule, which would require individuals earning $1 million or more per year to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes–a major Obama campaign issue.
According to the Boston Globe, GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney is assembling a vast and diverse team of foreign policy advisers, including some experts from the George W. Bush administration, some from Romney's own 2008 campaign, and still others who have openly disagreed on his planned policies, such as Mitchell Reiss, who has suggested negotiating with the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan.
A U.S.-Colombia trade deal (Bloomberg), approved by Congress in October, may put the president at odds with the powerful AFL-CIO in an election year.