World News Brief, Thursday August 20

Violence in Afghanistan ahead of election; North Koreans to attend Yonhap's funeral; China offloads some American debt; China-Australia natural gas deal; Baghdad bombings; and more

Top of the Agenda: Pre-poll Violence in Afghanistan


Afghanistan is seeing a surge in violence ahead of tomorrow's presidential elections, which the Taliban have pledged to disrupt. Gunmen stormed a bank (Pajhwok) in Kabul, exchanging fire with police before three were shot. Separately, a suicide bomb attack (Quqnoos) in Kabul killed at least seven people and wounded more than fifty. The Wall Street Journal says the attacks in Kabul show the insurgents' ability to continue to strike in the heavily fortified city.

Afghanistan's government urged the media (al-Jazeera) not to cover any violence on election day saying such reports could discourage voters from going to the polls. Human Rights Watch and the Afghan Independent Journalists' Association condemned the request, saying it violates press freedoms.

In an interview with CFR, leading Afghanistan expert Ahmed Rashid discusses the possibility that a low voter turnout caused by Taliban violence could lead to a constitutional deadlock.

The Washington Post interviews Afghan voters and says their low expectations for the country's leadership will boost President Hamid Karzai's bid for reelection.

On Foreign Policy's AfPak Channel, J. Alexander Thier, director of the Future of Afghanistan Project at the U.S. Institute of Peace, lays out steps that should be taken immediately after the election to "set a clear tone" for the Afghan government, including a major speech by the Afghan president indicating "zero tolerance" for corruption.

A new CFR interactive timeline chronicles the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

A CFR Backgrounder profiles the Taliban in Afghanistan.

NPR has a primer for the election, including candidate profiles and a breakdown of the country's ethnic voting blocs.

PACIFIC RIM: N. Korean Delegation to Attend Kim Dae-jung's Funeral


North Korea is planning to send a delegation to the funeral of the former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung (Yonhap). Separately, diplomats from North Korea planned to visit Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) today with an "undisclosed agenda," the New York Times reports.

China: China reduced its holdings of U.S. government debt  (Shanghai Daily) by more than 3 percent, or over $25 billion in June, according to new U.S. treasury data. China holds more U.S. debt than any other country.

China-Australia: PetroChina, China's largest energy company, signed a deal to buy $41 billion worth (China Daily) of Australian liquefied natural gas.


-Series of bombings in Baghdad.
-West Bank settlements on hold.

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