Afghan forces will take “full responsibility for their nation’s security” this year, announcedPresident Obama on Friday after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Obama indicated he would bring home all U.S. forces earlier than a planned 2014 timetable. “Starting this spring, our troops will have a different mission—training, advising, assisting Afghan forces. It will be an historic moment and another step toward full Afghan sovereignty.”
Syria’s civil war has left the region with “a staggering humanitarian disaster,” according to a new report from the International Rescue Committee. According to the report, 600,000 Syrians have fled their country, and as many as 2 million are internally displaced. A meager international response has left many of the refugees without food or protection from what already is a harsh winter.
Torrential winter rains in the Middle East flooded the Lebanon offices of SAT-7, creating an unexpected setback for one of the largest satellite Christian networks in the region.
We’re following: The case of an Iranian-American pastor, Saeed Abedini, who has been imprisoned in Iran since last July. According to his wife, Panahi, who lives in the United States with the couple’s two children and spoke to a journalist, Abedini was in Iran in July “to visit his parents and establish a non-sectarian orphanage. He was preparing to return home when Iranian authorities confiscated both his U.S. and Iranian passports at the border with Turkey.” Abedini is being held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, he has told his family, a prison widely documented for brutality with a wing for political prisoners.
Only on Friday, nearly six months after his imprisonment, did the U.S. State Department speak out on behalf of Abedini, expressing its “serious concerns” about his fate and acknowledging that the sole reason for his imprisonment in Iran is because of his “religious beliefs.” Abedini has been an American citizen since 2002.
More than 60,000 Russian children have been adopted by Americans in the last 20 years—while, only 1,200 Russian children were adopted by Russians during that same period. The ban on adoption of Russian children by Americans went into effect Jan. 1, but the Kremlin now suggests ongoing adoption cases will be valid until 2014.
Anonymous, the international hacker group, broke into MIT’s website on Sunday evening, leaving a tribute to Aaron Swartz, 26, the digital activist who allegedly committed suicide on Friday. Global activists are blaming MIT for Swartz’s death after it assisted the U.S. Attorney’s office in launching an investigation that led to charges against Swartz for the theft of 5 million JSTOR academic documents. Swartz stood to face 35 years in prison over charges of computer fraud and $1 million in fines—penalties digital activists say are excessive.