And then there were none. As recently as two weeks ago, military experts were discussing the hard-to-fathom option of the Obama administration leaving as few as 20,000 troops in Afghanistan following the schedule departure of U.S. forces beginning this year. Some then called “grossly inadequate” reports that President Obama was considering perhaps 6,000 troops. Now it appears that the president is considering leaving no troops on the ground, as Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai begins meetings in Washington today to discuss the U.S. pullout.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, once commander of forces in Afghanistan, argues in an interview this week that there is “a geostrategic argument” for a stabilizing force in the region to combat the Taliban and al-Qaeda. He cautioned against retaining too small a force, let alone no force: “We had 7,500 in Afghanistan in the summer of 2002 when I was first stationed there,” he said. “And 7,500 wouldn’t do much.” This, the long-fought result of what Obama once called the “good war.”
France may intervene militarily in Mali as it becomes “an Afghanistan-like base for Islamist militants and a potential source of terrorist actions.” In a speech coinciding with an emergency UN Security Council session last night, French President François Hollande said, “We are faced with a blatant aggression that is threatening Mali’s very existence. We will be ready to stop the terrorists’ offensive if it continues.”
The death toll from Thursday’s twin bombings at a billiards hall in Pakistan has risen to more than 80, with at least 120 injured. “2012 was the bloodiest year for Pakistan’s Shia community in living memory and if this latest attack is any indication, 2013 has started on an even more dismal note,” Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch, told the Associated Press.
Snow and severe winter weather is worsening the conditions for residents across parts of the Middle East, particularly for Syrians fleeing civil war.
Assassins killed three Kurdish leaders, including Sakine Cansiz, co-founder of the militant nationalist PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), in a shooting authorities described as “an execution” in central Paris. The assassinations come as Turkey has begun talks with imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan to end a two-decade-old conflict between Turkish and Kurdish rebels.
Economic downturn in the United States poses a geopolitical threat stemming not so much from unemployment—as in Europe—but from “the persistent decline in the middle class standard of living, a problem that is reshaping the social order that has been in place since World War II and that, if it continues, poses a threat to American power.”
Russian officials say a new ban on adoptions by Americans won’t go into effect until next year. To be continued.
Should Britain’s Prince William and his wife, Kate, have a daughter, she can be called “princess,” according to a new royal proclamation that overturns a 1917 decree that only an eldest son can retain the royal title and rights of an heir.