Hagel has a tough time on first Afghanistan trip

March 11, 2013

Karzai ratchets up U.S. criticisms during Hagel’s Afghanistan debut, Venezuelan opposition leader Capriles announces  his bid for presidency, and Congo hopes to sign peace deal with M23 rebels. Today is Monday, March 11, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel meets with the media following his meeting with Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, March 10, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed   

Karzai comments mar Hagel’s trip. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai accused the United States of collusion with the Taliban following bombings that claimed 17 lives during Chuck Hagel’s first visit to Afghanistan as Secretary of Defense. No stranger to harsh criticisms of the U.S., President Karzai claimed on Sunday that the attacks “set off yesterday in the name of the Taliban, were in the service of Americans to keep foreigners longer in Afghanistan.”

It was one of several inflammatory comments by Karzai and his government on Sunday and follow weeks of efforts by the Afghan leader to curtail U.S. military activity in Afghanistan, including a call to kick American special forces out of an important province. U.S. commanders see special operations forces as key to the end-phase of the conflict.

Secretary Hagel told reporters that an alliance between the U.S. and the Taliban “wouldn’t make a lot of sense.” Two U.S. soldiers were killed in an insider attack in the strategic Wardak province on Monday.

Capriles throws his hat in the ring. Henrique Capriles, the opposition leader of Venezuela officially announced his bid for the presidency on Sunday. He will run against acting President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela’s upcoming race to replace the recently deceased Hugo Chavez. Maduro did not mince words when responding to Capriles’ accusations that he is capitalizing on the nation’s mourning to fuel his campaign:

“You wretched loser!” Maduro said of Capriles in a televised speech. “You have shown your true face – that of a fascist.”

Maduro, who President Chavez endorsed as his successor, is expected to win the April 14 election. But Capriles’ supporters are encouraged by the centrist governor’s strong, albeit unsuccessful, showing in October’s elections.

Peace deal between Congo and M23 rebels may be on the table. The Democratic Republic of Congo may be ready to sign a peace deal with M23 rebels on March 15, according to a draft agreement obtained by Reuters:

The draft says rebel fighters will hand in their weapons ahead of a deployment of United Nations peacekeepers in their territory, and those not facing prosecution will be integrated into the army. Congo’s government will, in turn, speed up the return of ethnic Tutsi refugees from Rwanda, it added.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that M23 leadership won’t sign the draft.  The deal calls for M23 fighters to hand in their weapons before U.N. peacekeepers are deployed to the region, where a year-long insurgency by rebel soldiers has increased long-term tension.

Nota Bene: Kenyans wait with bated breath over the weekend for the result of last week’s presidential election, before learning Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta claimed victory.


Close to home – Daphne Eviatar, senior counsel at Human Rights First, argues that 9/11 trials should be held on U.S. soil to ensure fair and orderly trials. (Reuters)

Nazi past – New research shows that almost half of the musicians in the 1942 Vienna Philharmonic were members of the Nazi party. (The Los Angeles Times)

Last stop – China will cut its Ministry of Railways, long plagued with scandal and accused of corruption. (Time)

This little piggy – More than 2,800 dead pigs have been found in a major Chinese river. (CNN)

Russia’s Judge Judy – Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s child right’s commissioner and the man behind a recent ban on American adoptions of Russian children, has a surprisingly diverse history. (The Atlantic)

From the File:

  • With death of Chavez, Castro says Cuba has lost its best friend
  • Syrian government “uses militias” for mass killings: U.N.
  • Suspected ringleader in India gang rape found dead in cell
  • Arrested Islamists accused of planning attack in France
  • Kenya chief justice pledges fair hearing for election challenge
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