Good forecast: In one of the most positive predictions yet, a senior NATO security official said Monday that the coalition is "very confident" that the Afghan National Security Forces will be ready to handle all security operations in the country by December 2014 (NYT). The assessment comes just over a week after the Taliban launched a complex series of attacks across the country, and amidst growing concern within the Afghan populace that the country's security forces will founder once international troops leave.
The long-term strategic partnership agreement approved by the U.S. and Afghan negotiating teams on Sunday is reportedly more symbolic than it is substantive, designed to send a message to al-Qaeda that the United States will maintain a presence in the region to prevent a resurgence by the group (AP). Important details such as how much funding the U.S. government will give Afghanistan after 2014, or how many U.S. troops will stay in the country, are expected to be worked out over the coming year.
Indicative of the end of the U.S. war in Iraq and drawdown in Afghanistan, the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) will reportedly reorganize its spy operations to put more emphasis on new national security priorities like China and Iran (NYT, Post, LAT). A study of the DIA's work completed last year found that the agency's attention to war zones was adequate, but intelligence on other global threats was lacking.
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Pakistan's Supreme Court is expected to deliver a verdict on Thursday in the contempt of court case against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who could be forced to step down and spend six months in prison if convicted of refusing a court order to reopen a corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari (AP, ET/AFP, Dawn). However, even in the case of Gilani's resignation, the ruling Pakistan People's Party has a majority in parliament that would allow them to elect a new prime minister.
Pakistan's Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) named 11 more companies in its investigation of an ephedrine quota scandal involving the illegal import and processing of the drug for sale on the black market, in which Prime Minister Gilani's son Ali Musa Gilani has also be implicated (Dawn). The prime minister has rejected the allegations against his son (Dawn, ET, DT).
U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh engaged in a violent fight in the northern Punjab city of Gunjrunwala on Monday (ET). The actual world leaders were not present of course, but two bulls with the names of the U.S. president and the Indian prime minister painted on their backs fought out the diplomatic battle on a grassy field, with Obama reigning victorious at the end.
-- Jennifer Rowland