Two weeks into the crisis, the Taliban continued to hold 21 Korean Christians hostage in Ghazni province in small, dispersed groups. And President Hamid Karzai headed to Washington for a tense White House summit over security and the Taliban resurgence.
The Taliban killed two men in the Korean group, in Afghanistan for a medical mission, and a Taliban spokesman said the mostly female remainder were ill. Desperate South Korean officials who began by negotiating through the Afghan government asked for a face-to-face meeting with the Taliban, and even Korean UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon begged Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to put pressure on the extremists. Meanwhile, the Afghan army dropped leaflets in the province Aug. 1 warning residents of upcoming military action, though local officials denied it was an effort to rescue the hostages.
The tension grew so thick even former president Bill Clinton, speaking at a Democratic Leadership Council meeting on July 31, said he didn't "want to get in the middle of that little spat that Hillary and Senator Obama had." After Sen. Barack Obama asserted at a debate that as president he would meet with some of the most notorious world leaders, Sen. Hillary Clinton called it "irresponsible" and "naïve" to meet with the likes of Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro without laying significant groundwork-a first foreign policy divide in the campaign.
But Democratic lawmakers remained defiantly united in opposing the war in Iraq. The House passed a bill barring the establishment of permanent military bases in Iraq and Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed to "go on record-every day if necessary" to register opposition to the war. The legislation sparked renewed questions about President Bush's long-term plans for Iraq, and his ability to communicate those goals to the American public.
Amnesty International will stick to its new policy, adopted in April, of accepting abortion in cases of rape and incest. The human-rights group meets this month in Mexico where discussion on the topic may continue, but not change anything. Having been neutral on abortion for decades, Amnesty officials said the shift came from a desire to help women raped in war zones such as Darfur and Congo.
One year after the UN ordered peacekeepers into Darfur, UN and Sudan officials agreed to a "hybrid" peacekeeping force to patrol the crisis region-raising African-led troop levels from 7,000 to potentially over 20,000. But the agreement does not allow peacekeepers to seize illegal weapons, and does not sanction the Islamist government in Khartoum if it does not keep its end of the deal-key concessions made to win the vote of Security Council member China.