More troops sent to Afghanistan for Obama's surge; critics say Obama's strategy too costly; South Korea imposes Iran sanctions; Japan seizes Chinese fishing boat, relationship threatened; death of two American soldiers in Iraq "won't undermine mission"; Secretary Clinton defends US foreign policy; and more

Top of the Agenda: U.S. Completes Deployment for Afghan Surge

 

The final U.S. brigade sent to Afghanistan as part of U.S. President Barack Obama's surge strategy took over a section of territory in east Afghanistan (WSJ), but Taliban attacks against the government and foreign forces have not let up. The Taliban has threatened to attack polling stations in upcoming parliamentary elections on September 18, prompting Afghan election officials to close additional polling stations to heighten security (AFP). The Taliban and Haqqani network, an ally of al-Qaeda, have normally taken refuge in Pakistan during winter months, but military officials think the groups may stay in eastern Afghanistan this year due to the flooding in Pakistan. But even as military leaders push new units into position to improve security, they are also under pressure to develop plans to draw them down in line with Obama's withdrawal deadline of July. Some analysts say Obama's declared intent to draw down troops from July has emboldened Taliban fighters (FT). Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar claimed Islamist militants are close to victory over NATO forces in Afghanistan in a public statement, days after U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made a morale-boosting trip to troops in Kandahar.

Analysis:

In the Telegraph, Con Coughlin says a "new mood of defeatism" has overtaken U.S. and British leaders in their approach to the war in Afghanistan, which could reverse progress made over the past decade.

In the Washington Post, Katrina vanden Heuvel says the recent report by the Afghanistan Study Group outlines a clear alternative to the Obama administration's surge strategy, which is "flawed and is costing too much in treasure and lives."

Parliamentary elections in Afghanistan next month will be seen as a test of long-term stability. But analyst Candace Rondeaux says pre-election violence and corrupt candidates will undermine the vote's legitimacy.

Background:

Read this July 21 speech by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Kabul Conference on Afghan reconstruction.

 

PACIFIC RIM: U.S. Welcomes South Korea's Iran Sanctions

 

Under U.S. pressure, South Korea's foreign ministry added 102 Iranian firms and twenty-four people to its sanctions list and promised to more thoroughly inspect cargo from Iran (CSMonitor) and curb investment in oil and gas enterprises. The United States welcomed the move (AFP) in a joint statement by U.S. Secretary of State Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Though a new IAEA report adds to concerns about Iran's nuclear program and U.S. opposition to the program is warranted, there's no clear proof that the country is pursuing weapons or would act belligerently if it succeeded, says CFR's Matthew Fuhrmann.

Japan-China: China warned its ties with Japan could be damaged by the seizure of a Chinese fishing boat accused of deliberately ramming Japanese coast guard ships in disputed waters (al-Jazeera).

 

ELSEWHERE:

- Iraq Killings Won't Undermine Mission
- Clinton Defends U.S. Foreign Policy

This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org

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