Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani joined many commentators earlier this month in making the case for doubling U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan from the current 27,000. He and others argue that more troops would address escalating violence in the country and hedge against the increasing fragility of neighboring Pakistan’s government. Such a large-scale U.S. troop increase, however, could be disastrous in the region, where maintaining a relatively light U.S. footprint and building a more significant allied one is the paradoxical key to defeating al-Qaida and the Taliban. Even the 3,000-man increase that U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is currently considering […]

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The New Year in Sri Lanka began with an all-out confrontation between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a terrorist group that has been battling the Sri Lankan government on and off for decades. An already fragile ceasefire accord between the two warring parties was irreparably damaged on Jan. 3 when the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa withdrew from the agreement. This in turn rendered the presence of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, an independent body of international investigators observing and recording human rights violations on the island, obsolete. The fact that […]

Just Talking? Why Were Two European Officials Expelled from Afghanistan?

One story that appears to have largely fallen through the cracks of international news coverage during the holidays is the mysterious expulsion of two European officials from Afghanistan in late December. The Irishman Michael Semple and the Briton Melvyn Patterson are reported to have left Afghanistan in compliance with the expulsion order shortly after Christmas. Semple has been widely identified as the acting head of the European Union delegation in Afghanistan — although the site of the EU delegation, officially headed by German diplomat Hansj√∂rg Kretschmer, makes no mention of him in this capacity. Patterson is an official of the […]

BAHRAIN PASSES LAW ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING — Bahrain’s legislature Dec. 31 signed off on a law to combat human trafficking, which has particularly victimized the country’s migrant workers. Bahrain’s king is expected to approve the law. The law provides for the establishment of a new Human Trafficking Victims Assessment commission to provide medical and psychological assistance to trafficked persons and a new Human Trafficking Authority to create strategies to combat the scourge. It also sets up financial penalties of up to $265,000 for those convicted of trafficking. Fines are subject to doubling in cases where the victims are below 15 […]

THE GENERAL IN THE WINGS — The least desirable — but certainly not unlikely — short-term outcome of Pakistan’s post-Bhutto turmoil is the emergence of another military strongman to replace President Pervez Musharraf. In which case, the name most frequently mentioned in Washington is Musharraf’s recent successor as chief of the country’s powerful army, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani. Unlike the blustering Musharraf, the general waiting in the wings is reclusive and at the same time popular with the army, but the apparent contradictions in his background make him hard to read. Before taking over as army chief from Musharraf, he was […]

Benazir Bhutto’s presumed assassination was a disaster waiting to happen: She had predicted it herself. After years of exile, she was welcomed home on Oct. 18 with a suicide bomb attempt, and there was no reason to suppose that her many enemies would be content with that failure. The likely prospect of her winning the now-postponed Jan. 8 parliamentary elections and becoming the prime minister of a non-religious government threatened, in different ways, the current leadership, Islamic fundamentalists, the Taliban and al-Qaida, and her old nemesis, the army. Her assassins, therefore, tried to make sure of a kill by first […]

Imagery of weather and baseball dominated Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s visit to China at the end of 2007. Greeting Fukuda in Beijing, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao observed that, “Although it is a chilly winter day, we can feel the warmth from friendly China-Japan relations here.” The Chinese had characterized Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s October 2006 visit as “ice-breaking,” while terming Wen’s April 2007 trip to Japan as “ice-thawing.” The most publicized event of the summit occurred when Fukuda and Wen, dressed in baseball uniforms, tossed a ball back and forth in front of the cameras to symbolize […]

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