Continuing Trouble on the Afghan Front
There were no celebrations in Afghanistan last week to mark the fifth anniversary of the fall of the Taliban regime. That seems appropriate given the somber assessment from top American intelligence officials following some of the most intense fighting since U.S.-backed Northern Alliance forces took the capital, Kabul, on Nov. 13, 2001. "Despite having absorbed heavy combat losses in 2006, the [Taliban] insurgency has strengthened its capabilities and influence with its core base of Pashtun communities," Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told a Senate panel last week. Looking ahead to 2007, Maples said that "insurgents are likely to sustain their use of more visible, aggressive, and lethal tactics."
The director of the CIA, Gen. Michael Hayden, offered his view that stabilizing Afghanistan will take "at least a decade" as well as "many billions of dollars." Improvements in security and quality of life are needed, he said, but "in many areas, the Afghan government is nowhere to be found." Progress has been "slow" in building a capable Afghan army, he testified, and "little progress has been made in constructing an effective Afghan national police force." Said Maples: "Many Afghans expected the situation to be better by now and are beginning to blame President Karzai."
A Chill Wind at Climate Talks
Faced with unwelcome news at home-from empowered Democrats pushing greenhouse gas limits to a lawsuit after the administration failed to produce a required global warming report-the Bush administration also took fire last week at a key United Nations climate conference in Nairobi, Kenya, where U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan lashed out at the "frightening lack of leadership" in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Later, Annan denied that he was singling out the United States for criticism. But the U.S. delegation lost no time shooting back, asserting the country is "committed to addressing" climate change, noting that $29 billion has been spent on climate science and technology in the past five years.
The United States and Australia are the only two industrialized countries that rejected the Kyoto Protocol. With most member countries failing to meet their Kyoto reduction targets, the United States is having an I-told-you-so moment. Jostling aside, the closed-door conference focused primarily on what happens after Kyoto expires in 2012. "This was really a conference about establishing a schedule for future negotiations," said one observer. As expected, parties agreed Friday to pursue a further review of the Kyoto Protocol by 2008.
A Limited Win for Women in Pakistan
Despite strong opposition from Islamic religious parties, Pakistan's National Assembly adopted the much-anticipated women's rights legislation reforming rape laws, which previously made it all but impossible for a woman to successfully bring charges against her attacker. Now, judges will have the discretion to send a rape case for trial in secular court under criminal laws rather than in an Islamic court using the Hudood laws that require a rape victim to produce four male Muslim witnesses or potentially face adultery charges herself based on her own testimony.