Brookings – Shibley Telhami & Connor Kopchick / A recent poll shows how Americans think about the war in Afghanistan
- A survey carried as part of the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll showed that despite Americans’ hesitancy to deploy U.S. troops into other conflicts, they remain comparably supportive, after 18 years of war, of maintaining the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan. At a time of deep partisan polarization on nearly every issue, there is little on Afghanistan. If this situation is compared with the U.S. withdrawal from Northern Syria, attitudes were set along party lines: 66% of Democrats opposed the move, while only 23% of Republicans did.
- Even when partisan disparities occur on policy preferences related to the war in Afghanistan, they generally do not appear severe enough to constitute polarization. Republicans (63%) were 23 percentage points more likely than Democrats (40%) to disagree with the idea that the United States has a responsibility to ensure that Afghanistan has a liberal democratic government. Despite the difference, however, taking no responsibility for Afghanistan’s democracy was the most popular response for both Republicans and Democrats.
- Trump’s policy toward Afghanistan included negotiating with the Taliban to end the war. We found respondents were divided on negotiating with the Taliban, with 42% supporting and 41% opposing. Typically, we would expect Republicans’ opinion to fall in line with Trump’s aims, however, Republicans were nine percentage points more likely to disagree (49%) than agree (40%).
- POLITICO – Caitlin Oprysko / ‘NATO plus ME’: Trump proposes NATO expansion into Middle East
- Foreign Policy – Robbie Gramer, Lara Seligman & Colum Lynch / Western officials believe Iran shot down Ukrainian airliner
The New York Times – Stephen Castle / U.K. lawmakers give Brexit the green light
- After more than a year of turmoil, British lawmakers signed off on Thursday with minimal fuss and no fanfare, on legislation to take their country out of the EU at the end of the month. The vote is not the final parliamentary action, since the bill will be considered next by the House of Lords, but the suspense that surrounded many previous votes was entirely absent. Even if the Lords amend the bill, the large Conservative majority in the Commons could overturn any changes.
- Once the exit plan has also been approved by the European Parliament, the stage will be set for Britain to reverse more than four decades of integration with its European counterparts. What comes next remains far from clear — the deal set to go into effect on Jan. 31 establishes a transition period, and the two sides are preparing for negotiations on a trade deal and on other future ties.
- It would be impossible to agree on everything on the table this year, Mr. Barnier said, while adding that some issues would need to be decided. Moreover, European officials are determined to prevent Britain from gaining preferential access to continental European markets while undercutting them through lighter regulation.
- Financial Times – Jim Brunsden, Sam Fleming & Sebastian Payne / Barnier sticks to firm line on Brexit talks
South China Morning Post – Sarah Zheng / Taiwan polls: Kuomintang’s fight goes far beyond Han Kuo-yu’s presidential bid
- Incumbent president Tsai Ing-wen is favourite for re-election but the race is still very much on for control of the island’s legislature. Tsai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party has a big majority in the Taiwanese parliament but Han’s popularity could help the KMT close the gap. However, despite his and the KMT’s sweeping victories in the regional elections in November 2018, Han has failed to build on that support and is widely expected to lose out to Tsai Ing-wen from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who is seeking a second term as president.
- While the incumbent is the favourite in the leadership contest, Saturday’s polls will also decide the composition of Taiwan’s legislature, and it is in that race that the hopes of the mainland-friendly KMT are still very much alive. Out of the 113 seats in the Legislative Yuan, the island’s parliament, the DPP currently has 68 and the KMT 35.
- Both leaders have painted the vote as bordering on existential. Tsai’s campaign has focused on the need to safeguard Taiwan’s national sovereignty and democracy in the face of increasing threats from Beijing, while Han and his team have stressed the importance of revitalising the economy by rooting out corruption and strengthening the island’s relationship with Beijing.
- Foreign Policy – James Palmer / Taiwan’s election is a referendum on its identity
The Atlantic – Uri Friedman / A new nuclear era is coming
- One potential knock-off effect from current geopolitical turmoil may not come into clear view for some time: the emergence of Iran as the next nuclear-weapons state, at the very moment when the world appears on the cusp of a more perilous nuclear age. When Iran announced that it would suspend more of its commitments under the JCPOA, I recalled something Richard Burt, the U.S. diplomat behind the largest nuclear-weapons reduction in history, told me. He noted that in the 80s, people were acutely aware of the dangers of a nuclear conflict. That’s no longer the case, he warned.
- This past year alone, several worrying issues have transpired, such as a newly unconstrained Iranian nuclear program, an emerging North Korean nuclear-weapons power, the specter of other countries going nuclear, emboldened nuclear states in South Asia, the demise of U.S.-Russian arms control and the outbreak of great-power competition.
- 2019 may, indeed, be remembered “as the turning point from an era of relative calm” to “the dawn of a dangerous new nuclear age,” the nuclear experts Nicholas Miller and Vipin Narang wrote last month in Foreign Affairs. The consequences could be “catastrophic”.
The Washington Post – Danielle Paquette / Suspected Islamist militants kill 25 soldiers in Niger
- An attack launched by suspected Islamist militants on motorbikes killed at least 25 soldiers Thursday in the West African nation of Niger, adding to a death toll that has surged in recent weeks as troops struggle to contain violent extremism in the region. This act of terror came about a month after gunmen ambushed a Nigerien army post in another border town, killing 71 soldiers in the deadliest strike on the nation’s forces in recent memory.
- Terrorist groups routinely carry out attacks across the Sahel region, which lies south of the Sahara Desert. The scourge took root nearly a decade ago, and authorities have warned that it’s spreading as governments struggle to combat it amid limited resources. Thousands of troops from Niger, neighboring countries, France and the United Nations have been enlisted in the fight against extremist organizations seeking influence and safe haven in the region.
- Burkina Faso, which neighbors Niger, is a particularly troubling case. Its citizens, a mix of Muslims and Christians, used to move freely without fear before extremists started unleashing havoc in the country about four years ago. The number of deaths from the violence swelled from 80 in 2016 to 1,800 by last year, according to the United Nations.
- Brookings / Foresight Africa: Top priorities for the continent 2020-2030
The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.