World News Brief, Thursday December 16

Intelligence report says US has limited chance of success in Afghanistan; experts expect Obama policy review will allow a reduction in troops; South Korea holds drill to practise for nuclear bombing; asylum boat crashes into rocks and kills 27 off Christmas Island; Chavez asks parliament for sweeping new powers; and more

Top of the Agenda: Intel Reports Question Afghan Progress

Two National Intelligence Estimates (NYT) present a pessimistic view of the war in Afghanistan, just a day before the Obama administration's review of U.S. war strategy. The documents contradict much of the U.S. military's recent optimism and suggest a limited chance for U.S. success (LAT) unless Pakistan ends tacit support for the Afghan Taliban in border sanctuaries. Ranking military commanders dispute the reports' findings, claiming much of the intelligence is obsolete and unrepresentative of the recent months' progress from "intensive operations with the full complement of surge forces." In addition, officials argue the reports were written remotely by Washington analysts with limited grasp of on-the-ground dynamics.

Most experts expect the forthcoming policy review to present sufficient progress (Guardian) to allow a modest U.S. reduction of forces. White House officials indicate the review will describe progress in breaking Taliban momentum and destroying al-Qaeda leadership, as well as improved cooperation with Pakistan. After raising troop levels to one hundred thousand last year, the administration hopes to begin a staged withdrawal in July 2011 and hand over the majority of control by 2014.


This opinion piece from Politico details several points of consensus from the policy community on the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

Reuters' White House blogger Ross Colvin suggests President Obama needs good news in Afghanistan in order to justify an end to the U.S. combat mission.

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 Holds Nationwide Drill


Amid growing suspicions of an upcoming North Korean nuclear test, South Korea held a nationwide civil defense drill (Yonhap) requiring all citizens to practice mock emergency procedures. It is the nation's largest such drill since 1975.

This interview with Jeffrey Lewis discusses the WikiLeaks cables on North Korea's missile sales to Iran and how they have raised new concerns about the country's proliferation activities.

Australia: A boat carrying seventy asylum seekers crashed into the rocks and sank (SMH) off Christmas Island, killing twenty-seven. The island, an Australian territory, serves as an offshore detention center for refugees. Authorities believe most of the boat's passengers are of Middle Eastern origin.



- Allawi Joins Iraqi Government

- Chavez Requests Decree Powers


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