President Obama's surprise visit to Afghanistan, his first in 18 months, closed a chapter of tension between U.S. and Afghan leadership. Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement overnight that will inaugurate a U.S. pullout from Afghanistan in 2013 but will allow some troops to remain in the country up to 10 years after. Underscoring charges that Obama used the dramatic overnight arrival and 1 a.m. signing of the agreement for campaign gain, campaign strategist David Plouffe accompanied him on Air Force One. To watch: NATO reaction to Obama-Karzai agreement ahead of a NATO summit later this month in Chicago. Danish army Gen. Knud Bartels, chairman of the alliance's military committee, has warned of the importance of "staying the course" in military intervention and training of Afghan army units-and has said that the withdrawal by next year outlined by Obama is not feasible.
Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng has reportedly left the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for medical care, following his escape from house arrest. Chen reportedly reached a deal with Chinese authorities to guarantee the safety of him and his family. That should end what U.S. officials had described as a diplomatic nightmare ahead of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to China. Two days ago President Obama himself sidestepped questions about Chen's whereabouts. "It would be inspiring sometime to hear an unqualified and spirited defense of freedom instead of dry diplomatic calculation," said Bob Fu of ChinaAid.
Nigerian forces raided the hideout of Islamist militant group Boko Haram in Kano on Tuesday, killing the suspected mastermind of an attack on Christian worshippers at a Kano university on Sunday.
Somali extremists Al-Shabaab remain alive and well in Kenya and ready to attack a Nairobi church, where a bomb explosion killed a university student.
Experts on international religious freedom will hold a press conference on Thursday morning at the National Press Club in Washington to address the plight of Christian communities around the world. Speakers will include Carl Moeller, president and CEO of Open Doors USA; Nina Shea, director for religious freedom at the Hudson Institute; Katharine Rhodes Henderson, president of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City; Yitzchok Adlerstein, director of Interfaith Affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center; and Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. To see the "dramatic increase of persecution" they seek to highlight, check out Open Doors World Watch List map.