World News Brief, Friday December 17

US withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan on track, says review; Australia's border policy under scrutiny following death of 28 asylum seekers; UN lifts sanctions on Iraq; US sues BP over Gulf oil spill; Swedish terror attack opens world to terrorists; and more

Top of the Agenda: Afghan War Review Has Drawdown on Track


A White House review of President Barack Obama's Afghan war strategy (WashPost) confirmed that a July drawdown of U.S. troops is on track despite uneven progress. The president mandated the year-end review following his announcement of a thirty thousand troop surge in December 2009. Details released from the report suggest headway in clearing the Taliban from Kandahar and Helmand provinces, though other challenges remain. The report summary makes clear that the pace of withdrawal will be based on changing conditions on the ground (BusinessWeek).

Ambiguity about the drawdown is generating pressure from military commanders and Republicans who would like a measured reduction as well as Democrats who expect a prompt withdrawal (NYT). Leading up to the review, administration officials tried to downplay its significance as a strategic turning point. The summary indicates that old difficulties continue to plague the war effort including Afghan corruption and the persistence of terrorist safe havens in Pakistani border regions (WSJ). Observers suggest there is still disagreement within the Obama administration on questions like the overall scope of the war and how much to pressure the Pakistani government. The White House said these issues would be addressed in meetings of the National Security Council, and that these meetings would dictate the rate of withdrawal.


Andrew Exum of Foreign Policy outlines five "ways to win" in Afghanistan and reverse the deterioration of conditions in America's longest war.

Washington Post op-ed columnist George Will compares Taliban resistance to the 1968 North Vietnamese Tet Offensive.

CFR President Richard N. Haass says that as the United States moves away from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is an opportunity to reorient U.S. foreign policy.

This CFR Task Force Report examines the U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.


This Pakistan Crisis Guide from CFR offers a range of expert perspectives on Pakistan's history and future prospects.


PACIFIC RIM: South Korea to Hold Live-Fire Drill


South Korea will hold its first live-fire exercises (Yonhap) since North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong Island last month, killing two marines and two civilians. North Korea says the attack was in response to the last live-fire exercises held on the island. The upcoming exercises will be observed by the U.S.-led UN Command.

This CFR interview with Leon V. Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project, calls for the United States and South Korea to support a peace process and political and economic engagement with North Korea.

Australia: The death of twenty-eight asylum-seekers in a shipwreck off Christmas Island has sparked a public debate on Australia's border policy (CNN). Prime Minister Julia Gillard defended her government's stance, which some critics allege encourages the influx of refugees.



- Security Council Removes Iraq Restrictions
- United States Sues BP over Spill
- Swedish Attack Sparks Fears of Extremism



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