NATO helicopters required to end standoff in Kabul hotel, at least 21 killed; Afghanistan raid shows local forces taking a lead on security but also better organised Taliban; Greek austerity bill passes; Sudan ceasefire agreed; Former Thai seeks comeback despite corruption and terror charges; US wars cost well over US$3 trillion – was it worth it?; and more
Top of the Agenda: Taliban Militants Attack Kabul Hotel
Heavily armed Taliban militants stormed Kabul's historic Hotel Intercontinental (Bloomberg) last night, sparking an hours-long standoff with Afghan troops and police. NATO helicopters ended the siege by firing on militants who had taken over the roof of the building. News reports this morning say at least twenty-one people were killed in the attacks (NYT). Among the hotel's guests were a number of Afghan officials gathered to discuss a transition to full domestic control of defense, security, and civilian governance as US-led NATO troops end their combat role by the end of 2014.
The raid showed some success (CSMonitor) in having Afghan forces take more of a lead role on security. However, the assault--the first major attack on the capital in more than a year--also raises questions about security (WashPost) in the country. The insurgents targeted one of Kabul's best-protected buildings and a number of news reports remarked on how well-organized the attack appeared to be. It is unclear how they managed to get in, but some reports say the assailants may have been wearing police uniforms. Afghan officials have struggled to keep Taliban militants from infiltrating security forces (NYT), but screening as many as eight thousand forces a month in the rush to ramp up domestic control is difficult.
On Al Arabiya, Mary E. Stonaker, a scholar at Singapore's Middle East Institute, says the Kabul attack underscores the fragility of Afghan security.
CFR's Max Boot says President Obama's decision to remove thirty thousand troops from Afghanistan in just over a year heightens the difficulty in securing the east and south of the country against far-from-defeated Taliban forces.
In this media call, CFR President Emeritus Leslie H. Gelb and senior fellow Stephen Biddle discuss the planned phased withdrawal from Afghanistan and what it means for Obama's strategy in the region.
PACIFIC RIM: TEPCO Might Ask for More Power Reductions
Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), the owner of the destroyed Fukushima nuclear reactors, might ask for new reductions in the country's power use (Reuters) if they are unable to quickly bring a number of quake-damaged nuclear reactors in northwest Japan back online.
Thailand: Fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra could make a comeback if his opposition Puea Thai Party wins this weekend's election, despite being convicted of corruption and wanted on terrorism charges (AFP).