– Vice Adm. William McRaven, President Obama’s nominee to lead Special Operations Command, said that there is a need for a small contingent of U.S. commandos to remain in the country past the Dec. 31, 2011 withdrawal deadline.
– China’s largest oil company has begun operations at Al-Ahdab oil field in Iraq, making the field the first major new area to start production in Iraq in 20 years. Meanwhile, the same company signed a deal with Sudan’s oil ministry yesterday advancing oil and gas cooperation.
– The Wall Street Journal reports that “a group of former warlords who helped the U.S. topple the Taliban regime in 2001 have launched a political alliance against Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s rule, in a re-emergence of old civil-war divisions.” The leaders say they are concerned that Karzai will seek to claim more power following President Obama’s announcement to withdraw U.S. troops.
– The Security Council “has extended the mandate of the 19,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo for a year, saying any force reduction should depend on ending violence in the volatile east and improving the ability of the Congolese to protect civilians.”
– At least five Saudi women have been taken into custody accused of defying the men-only driving rule in the ultraconservative Arab kingdom, marking “the first major backlash by authorities since a campaign was launched by Saudi women nearly two weeks ago to challenge the driving restrictions.
– A group of Okinawans, led by the island’s mayor, is protesting the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement, arguing it gives Americans on Okinawa too much protection and prevents Okinawans from pursuing legal cases against Americans.
– Sanctions against an Iranian port operator could disrupt food shipments to Iran according to a warning issued by the head of Maersk Line, the world’s top container shipping firm. The new sanctions target Tidewater Middle East, a company the Treasury Department suspects is run by the Republican Guard.