National Security Brief: June 23, 2011

— Afghan President Hamid Karzai welcomed President Obama’s plan to withdraw 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by next summer, saying it’s the “right decision for the interest of both countries.” However, local leaders expressed fears of civil war and renewed Taliban encroachments.

— GOP presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman criticized Obama’s decision on Afghanistan, saying it’s “time we move to a focused counter-terror effort which requires significantly fewer boots on the ground than the President discussed tonight.”

— Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed Obama’s Afghanistan withdrawal plan, saying the UK would keep its force levels there “under constant review.” Meanwhile, France said today that it would gradually withdraw some of its 4,000 troops and hand over security to the Afghans by 2014.

— The Afghan Defense Ministry said its military is ready to take responsibility for fighting the Taliban and securing key parts of the country that will be the first to transition as the U.S. begins a troop drawdown in July.

— Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged $300 million to help governments in Central America crackdown on drug cartels while acknowledging that the “demand for drugs rests mostly in my own country.”

— In light of a brutal crackdown in Syria, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon disparaged the “credibility” of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, adding that passing a stalled U.N. resolution condemning the violence “would be helpful.”

— As NATO members such as Italy are wavering, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a French newspaper that the alliance is committed to “making the necessary effort for a sustained operation” in the already 100-day-old war with Libya.

— A U.S. general in Iraq told reporters that Iraq is running out of time to ask U.S. forces to stay beyond a negotiated withdrawal date at the end of this year because “late in the year it will be difficult to change direction.”

— Former Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said that sanctions against Iran are “less costly than all other options” while “keeping all options on the table.” Earlier this month, Ashkenazi critcized formed IDF Chief Meir Dagan for publicly opposing a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.