National Security Brief: April 19, 2012

— The U.S. and its NATO allies finalized agreements yesterday to wind down the war in Afghanistan, “paving the way for President Obama to announce at a NATO summit meeting in Chicago next month that the unpopular, nearly 11-year-old conflict is close to an end.”

— New images of G.I.’s caught on camera while defiling insurgents’ remains in Afghanistan has brought new questions within the military community about whether discipline is breaking down as U.S. soldiers feel stresses from the decade-long conflict and a counterinsurgency strategy that spreads small units across vast distances.

— Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) said Afghan president Hamid Karzai is “reaching beyond what is realistic” in asking that the United States guarantee it $1 billion in annual funds for security after the war.

— U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon sent a letter to the Security Council saying Syria had failed to implement a six-point peace plan, writing, “Violent incidents and reports of casualties have escalated again in recent days, with reports of shelling of civilian areas and abuses by government forces.”

— Two NGO’s that do refugee work wrote in a U.N.-supported report said that fighting over the uprising that started in Syria has displaced 230,000 people, with tens of thousands fleeing the country and the rest displaced internally — with Syria now eighth in the world for total internally displaced persons.

— The CIA is seeking authority to expand its drone program in Yemen by securing permission to launch “signature strikes,” allowing the agency to strike targets solely on intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior even when the identity of those who could be killed is unknown.

— The fighting between Sudan and South Sudan is spreading to areas other than the disputed Heglig oil fields on the border, which sparked the fighting. Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir vowed to “liberate” the South Sudanese people in a threat to overthrow the nascent country’s government.

— After five years of Hamas rule in Gaza, the militant organization is losing popularity as Palestinians find that the opposition movement has failed to live up to expectations as the governing party in Gaza and engages in widespread corruption and patronage.