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The assassination of Kandahar’s progressive mayor, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, this week marked the latest in a wave of high-profile killings in Afghanistan, reviving the debate over whether the Taliban is orchestrating a coordinated offensive ahead of America’s troop drawdown. Taliban leaders were quick to claim credit for Hamidi’s death, along with that of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai on July 12. However, top American officials in the war-torn country, along with one strategic insider who worked closely with Hamidi, are hesitant to verify the Taliban’s claims. “Whether Hamidi’s killing was really orchestrated by the Taliban is difficult […]

Even as Vietnam and China continue to conduct tit-for-tat naval maneuvers in the South China Sea, Hanoi has started making direct calls for foreign involvement in the two nations’ maritime territorial dispute. While many commentators saw this as a thinly veiled invitation to the United States, it could also be a precursor to India establishing a permanent presence in Vietnamese waters. India has apparently responded favorably to Vietnam’s offer of permanent berthing rights in Na Thrang port. The move would not only add military heft to India’s “Look East” policy, but is also emblematic of a larger Indian effort to […]

BEIJING — Since 2009, China’s credit-fueled economic stimulus plan has dramatically increased overall indebtedness and created new risks to long-term headline growth. Among the most acute of these is mounting local government debt, which has tripled as a percentage of GDP since 2008 amid a carnival of inefficient spending. Clearing up the mess has emerged as a key challenge for maintaining strong economic growth. However, the solution is as much political as economic and requires a fundamental rebalancing of the power relations between central and local government. Compared to most developed economies, China’s national debt levels remain low at around […]

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With the Obama administration and Republican congressional leaders locked in an impasse over the U.S. debt ceiling, U.S. diplomats are trying to convince China there is nothing serious to worry about: The debt ceiling will soon be raised, and America will not default on its foreign-held loans. That is reassuring news for China, which by some estimates is holding hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. Treasury bonds. But if the political gridlock in Washington has been the cause of some economic jitters in Beijing, it is generally understood that the U.S. default crisis is politically generated and will, one […]

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Farmers in Britain are harvesting a surprising new crop in an effort to combat a shortage of painkillers. It is a crop that is plentiful thousands of kilometers away in Afghanistan, but there, British and U.S. troops are trying to destroy it.

Matthew C. DuPée’s WPR briefing last week on Afghanistan’s counternarcotics efforts skillfully analyzes how U.S, U.N. and Afghan policies are failing to achieve an enduring reduction in the country’s opium production. Now neighboring governments, especially Russia, are growing increasingly worried that NATO’s withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan will force them to confront the problem largely by themselves. At present, the main threat Russia faces from Afghanistan comes in the form of Afghan narcotics exports. According to the United Nations, Russians are consuming much of the recent surge in Afghan narcotics production, which has occurred despite stagnant or even declining […]

There is no faster route to second-tier great power status than for an actual or aspiring superpower to fight a crippling conflict with another country from those same ranks. Moreover, if history is any guide, the glass ceiling that results is a permanent one: This was the fate of imperial Britain, imperial Japan and Germany — both imperial and Nazi — in the first half of the 20th century, and the same was true for Soviet Russia in the second half of the century, despite Moscow’s conflict with the West being a cold one. The lesson is an important one […]

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Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has met with Chinese leader Hu Jintao for bilateral trade talks during his visit to China. While the Chinese leader’s eyes are on Iraqi oil, Maliki is eying Chinese investments to redevelop war-ravaged Iraq.

Depending on your perspective, the original “Red Dawn,” released in 1984, was either a coming-of-age milestone or a crime against the medium of cinema. The movie pitted a high school football team in rural Colorado against the better part of a Soviet airborne brigade, the former led by Patrick Swayze and the latter led, for some reason, by a Cuban colonel. Not surprisingly for an American film, the Americans do quite well, although they are eventually overwhelmed by the firepower of Soviet helicopter gunships. Later this year, a remake of “Red Dawn” will hit the screens in the United States. […]

NEW DELHI — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in India yesterday for the second strategic dialogue between the two countries. The meeting’s agenda was dominated by the need to strengthen strategic counterterrorism and defense cooperation, iron out wrinkles over nuclear cooperation and adapt to the tectonic shift in the geopolitics of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. The bilateral strategic dialogue was put into motion during Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna’s visit to Washington in March. Though there was nothing to rival the high-adrenaline excitement surrounding the 2008 Indo-U.S. nuclear deal or the histrionics that characterized U.S. President Barack Obama’s November […]

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Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has been in Washington since last week, celebrating his birthday and guiding followers of Tibetan Buddhism in a multi-day prayer and meditation ritual. The U.S. government-funded Voice of America sat down with him.

One year after taking office in July 2010, Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s effort to end the country’s decades-long internal conflicts is still stuck in first gear. Aquino has put the highest premium on reaching a political settlement with the Muslim Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and making inroads with the Maoist front led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) — while not forgetting the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), another Muslim rebel group that signed a final, yet shaky, peace agreement in 1996. In fairness, Aquino has made progress. But doubts remain about whether the steps he has […]

The Obama administration’s decision to begin a process of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan was predicated on the assumption that the U.S. and NATO mission in that country had successfully set it on a “glide path” toward an acceptable level of stability. While always acknowledging the fragility and reversibility of progress achieved to date, there was increasing confidence that, especially after the elimination of Osama bin Laden, the U.S. had turned a corner in Afghanistan. The assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai, or AWK, throws all of this into doubt. Whether his killer in fact acted on orders of the Taliban, or […]

On June 26, at a gathering in Kabul marking World Counter Narcotics Day, the mood was somber. Gone was the positive spin of last year’s event, when Afghanistan’s minister of counternarcotics, Zarar Ahmad Moqbil, proudly announced that poppy cultivation had been reduced by up to 50 percent and that 23 out of 34 provinces were then free from poppy cultivation. Sadly, the significant decrease in opium production last year has since been attributed to a convergence of environmental and climatic variables that devastated the crops late in the season, not to effective counternarcotics measures. According to the United Nations, Afghanistan […]

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More than 1,400 people were arrested in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend during clashes between opposition protesters and government security forces, who reportedly used chemically laced water cannons to deter the crowd. The demonstrations were Malaysia’s most significant since 2007, and the swiftness with which Prime Minister Najib Razak cracked down suggests his government may be edgy ahead of elections to be held by 2013. “I think you’re seeing a lot of defensiveness on the part of the government,” says Bridget Welsh, a Malaysia specialist at Singapore Management University. “To lock down the capital city reflects a certain degree of […]

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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao traveled to Germany late last month, where he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and signed several major trade deals. In an email interview, Gudrun Wacker, a senior fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, discussed China-Germany relations. WPR: What is the recent history of China-Germany diplomatic and trade relations? Gudrun Wacker: When Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao came to Germany in June, he was accompanied by 13 cabinet ministers for the first-ever German-Chinese intergovernmental consultations. Germany has conducted such talks with very few countries in the world. These consultations reflect the importance of […]

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