National Security Brief: April 18, 2012

— Afghan president Hamid Karzai in a speech yesterday laid out his vision for the future of Afghanistan, making “an emotional defense of his outreach to the Taliban, urging the insurgents again to lay down their weapons, if only to hasten the withdrawal of American forces.”

— While the U.S. and its NATO partners are preparing to pull away from the front lines in Afghanistan next year, Karzai said any future strategic partnership should include a U.S. commitment to pay billions of dollars for Afghan security forces.

— The U.S. army has opened a criminal investigation after photos were released to the Los Angeles Times showing U.S. troops from the 82nd Airborne Division posing with the bodies of Afghan suicide bombers in multiple instances in 2010.

— Syrian government forces assaulted an opposition stronghold with a steady rain of mortar shells Wednesday even as the foreign minister promised the regime would respect a week-old cease-fire and withdraw troops from urban centers in line with an international peace initiative.


— Despite numerous reports of progress in nuclear talks between the P5+1 and Iran, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) mocked the negotiations. “I think it’s a wonderful turn of events. Now they’re talking and then they’re going to talk some more,” McCain said yesterday. “I am exuberant actually that they are going to talk some more.”

— At least a half a dozen countries are probing U.S. corporate and military computer systems, preparing for possible cyberattacks in the future, says the FBI’s former top cyber-sleuth, Shawn Henry. Other experts acknowledge that China, Russia, and Iran are among the countries probing U.S. networks.

— Outlook for progress in stalled Israeli-Palestinian talks looks dim as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wrote to Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterating Palestinian demands for restarting peace talks, including an end to Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Meanwhile, 1,200 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jail launched an open-ended hunger strike on Tuesday to protest jail conditions.

— The IAEA says it unlikely to send a delegation to North Korea after Pyongyang stated it is no longer bound by an agreement with the U.S. not to test missiles and nuclear devices after the U.S. suspended food aid.