Tuesday, August 10, 2010

FP morning brief 8/10

UN report reveals increase in Afghan civilian casualties

Top story: A UN report found that civilian casualties in Afghanistan increased 31 percent over the first half of this year, compared to the same period of 2009. However, the survey also revealed that this increase was largely caused by insurgents; the Taliban and its allies were responsible for 76 percent of the deaths, up from 53 percent during the first half of last year. 1,271 civilians were killed in the first six months of this year, and a further 1,997 were wounded.

Overall, casualties caused by the NATO-led coalition or Afghan government forces declined 30 percent compared to the same period last year. Casualties from coalition air strikes, previously the leading cause of civilian deaths in Afghanistan, declined 64 percent. Insurgents' use of suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices were the single largest cause of casualties in the first half of this year, killing 557 people.

The report, which was published by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, attributed the overall rise in civilian casualties to the more intense military activity of the United States and its allies. It also credited an order limiting the use of air strikes, which was issued by the former U.S. commander in the country, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, for the decrease in civilian deaths by the coalition.

Gates shutters military command: Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Monday that he would recommend that President Obama close the U.S. Joint Forces Command, which had been established in 1999 to coordinate training among the different branches of the military. The move will allow the Pentagon to cut the jobs of thousands of Defense Department employees and contractors.

Middle East
  • Saudi Arabia said that it will allow Blackberry service to continue.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency found that Iran had activated a second cascade of centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
  • Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah gave a press conference that he said provided proof that Israel was behind the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
  • The United States and Vietnam undertook joint naval exercises in the South China Sea.
  • The Chinese government ordered that 2,000 factories in the countries close because they are wasting energy.
  • Afghan President Hamid Karzai will dissolve all security firms in the country, said a spokesman.
  • Supporters of Rwandan President Paul Kagame celebrated after early returns showed their candidate winning over 90 percent of the vote in the country's presidential election.
  • Naomi Campbell's agent denied lying in her testimony at the war crimes trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor.
  • Leaders from North and South Sudan met to discuss the terms of a referendum on the south's independence next year.
  • Researchers claimed that climate change is partially responsible for the wildfires that have swept across Russia this summer.
  • An employee of the Northern Ireland police force escaped a car bomb attack.
  • Google launched its "Street View" service in Germany, which has raised controversy over privacy concerns.
  • A judge ruled that the confessions of Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr, which he now claims were made under duress, can be heard at his trial.
  • A U.S. engineer has been found guilty of selling military secrets to China.
  • Former Mexican President Vicente Fox called for drug legalization, arguing that it was a way to limit the power of Mexico's powerful drug cartels.
-David Kenner
Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

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