National Security Brief: December 21, 2011

U.S. Customs and Border Protection now operates eight $20 million Predator drones — five, and soon to be six, along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Drones firing missiles in Pakistan, however, appear to be on hold: The Pakistani government says the U.S. hasn’t launched an airstrike inside Pakistan in 33 days, possibly the longest pause since the program got rolling in 2004.

In an interview with the New York Times, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, said troops might stay past the current 2014 deadline, perhaps with the blessing of Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who Allen said “just the other day talked about his desire to have conversations with the U.S. about a post-2014 force.”

A Pentagon spokesperson, seeking to walk-back Secretary of State Leon Panetta’s comments that Iran could have a nuclear weapon in a year, said Panetta’s view of Iran hadn’t changed and that if Tehran made the decision to produce weapons-grade uranium, it would be detected by U.N. inspectors.

The House gave final congressional approval for a bill imposing tighter sanctions against Belarus and calling for the release of all Belarusian political prisoners.

The Iraqi political crisis, which has heated up since U.S. troops left the country this week, could affect otherwise upbeat estimates for Iraq boosting its oil production.

A week-long Chinese village protest against farmland seizures ended after officials offered to release three men arrested during land protests during September and re-examine the cause of death of a village leader who died in policy custody.

In a troubling sign for a country criticized for press freedom issues, Turkey arrested 26 journalists, claiming that they hold links to the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), a separatist group widely considered to commit terror.