Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: missiles, jobs and a soldier captured

USA-SUMMIT/PROTESTAs sometimes happens in Washington, much of the news reverberating around town this morning started someplace else.

From the other side of the world, reports that North Korea has test-fired short-range missiles, including two surface-to-ship missiles, from its east coast. From Afghanistan, the Pentagon confirmed a U.S. soldier has been captured, and Taliban insurgents have claimed responsibility. What is not known now is why and how.

There is some domestic news on this getaway morning — the official U.S. Independence Day holiday starts tomorrow, one day ahead of July Fourth celebrations — and it brings some gloom to the picture: U.S. employers cut 467,000 jobs in June, more than analysts expected. That brings the U.S. unemployment rate to 9.5 percent, the highest since 1983.

Jobs are on the agenda at the White House, where President Barack Obama will meet with business leaders to talk about innovation and job creation, and then discuss the same subject at a Rose Garden event this afternoon.

The Michael Jackson saga continues on morning television, with heretofore unseen home videos of the Gloved One and his kids, a look behind the gates at Neverland and parsing of a 2002 will that gives custody of the children to Jackson’s mother, and if she is no longer living, to Motown icon Diana Ross.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Defending women’s rights in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Barely had President Barack Obama outlined a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan meant to narrow the focus to eliminating the threat from al Qaeda and its Islamist allies, before the U.S.-led campaign ran into what was always going to be one of its biggest problems in limiting its goals. What does it do about the rights of women in the region?

The treatment of women has dominated the headlines this week after Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a new law for the minority Shi'ite population which both the United States and the United Nations said could undermine women's rights. Karzai has promised a review of the law, while also complaining it was misinterpreted by Western journalists. 

In Pakistan, video footage has been circulated of Taliban militants flogging a teenage girl in the Swat valley, where the government concluded a peace deal with the Taliban in February. The graphic and disturbing video, which has been posted on YouTube, has outraged many Pakistanis and the flogging was condemned by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani as shameful. There have been contradictory reports of exactly when and why the girl was punished, although Dawn newspaper quoted a witness as saying she was flogged two weeks ago for refusing a marriage proposal.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Israel and India vs Obama’s regional plans for Afghanistan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will Israel and India -- the first the United States' closest ally and the second fast becoming one of the closest -- emerge as the trickiest adversaries in any attempt by the United States to seek a regional solution to Afghanistan?

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama plans to explore a more regional strategy to the war in Afghanistan — including possible talks with Iran.

The idea has been fashionable among foreign policy analysts for a while, as I have discussed in previous posts here and here. The aim would be to capitalise on Shi'ite Iran's traditional hostility to the hardline brand of Sunni Islam espoused by the Taliban and al Qaeda to seek its help in neighbouring Afghanistan. At the same time India would be encouraged to make peace with Pakistan over Kashmir to end a cause of tension that has underpinned the rise of Islamist militancy in Pakistan and left both countries vying for influence in Afghanistan.