World News Brief, Wednesday August 7

Taliban hold secret talks with Hamid Karzai; China's foreign minister finishes Southeast Asia tour; Japanese prime minister vows to pursue world without nuclear arms; US and Britain withdraw government and diplomatic personnel from Yemen; US evaluating whether Obama will attend Russian summit in wake of Snowden decision; and more

Top of the Agenda: Taliban in Talks With Afghan Government

The Taliban have held secret talks with the government of Afghan president Hamid Karzai in a bid to jumpstart a stumbling peace process (AP), although discussions with representatives of the Afghan High Peace Council have so far been unofficial and viewed as a negotiation on conditions for formal talks. The Taliban's reclusive leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, said Tuesday that his group was willing to start peace negotiations, blaming the United States and the Afghan government for the derailment of talks two months ago and calling a boycott on next year's presidential elections. As Western troops continue their 2014 drawdown, controversy has mired the peace process since the official opening of a Taliban political office (Reuters) in June in Qatar.


"The insurgency is again described as 'resilient,' and the report repeats a complaint heard in Washington and Kabul: that so long as the Taliban can find haven in Pakistan, defeating them on the battlefield will be difficult if not impossible. But other than advances in a few areas, including northern Helmand Province, the insurgency is struggling to make gains and consolidate them," writes Thom Shanker for the New York Times.

"Much will depend on a number of 'known unknowns.' One is what role Pakistan intends to play. It claims to have helped bring the Taliban to the table in Doha, but senior Afghan government officials are not yet convinced that Pakistan has become a partner for peace," writes the Economist.

"The United States is desperate to exit the war as soon as possible, and has apparently realized peace talks are the only viable option. Karzai, meanwhile, is desperate to leave office in 2014 with a legacy that features securing some level of peace for his country. Only the Taliban are able to carry on indefinitely at little political or military cost," write Hamdullah Mohib and Lael Mohib for Foreign Policy.



China Finishes Southeast Asia Tour

China's foreign minister, wrapping up a six-day visit to four Southeast Asian countries, said that all claimants in the South China Sea dispute should have "realistic expectations" (SCMP) and take "a gradual approach" to a proposed code of conduct aimed at defusing maritime tensions.

This CFR Backgrounder details the territorial disputes in the South China Seas.

JAPAN: Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe vowed at a ceremony marking the eighty-sixth anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing to pursue a world without nuclear arms (JapanTimes).


US and Britain withdraw personnel from Yemen

US still evaluating whether Obama will attend Russian summit


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