— The first half of 2011 was the deadliest period for civilians in the Afghan war since the U.N. began tracking statistics in 2007. The U.N. recorded 1,462 deaths, a 15 percent increase from the same period last year.
— Two National Guard regiments comprising about 1,000 soldiers are expected to be the first troops to leave Afghanistan this month as part of the U.S. drawdown.
— While American combat deaths are on the rise in Iraq, Iraqi government officials are privately telling U.S. officials that they want the U.S. military to stay past 2011. However, the Iraqi government “is also tacitly condoning attacks by Shiite militias on American troops, by failing to respond as aggressively to their attacks as it does to those of Sunni insurgent groups such as Al Qaeda in Iraq.”
— The CIA defended a vaccination drive used to collect DNA in hopes of confirming Osama Bin Laden’s presence in a Pakistani garrison town by declaring that the program was not a “fake public health effort.”
— The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution Wednesday recommending U.N. membership for South Sudan. The General Assembly is anticipated to give final approval today.
— The Arab League announced it will submit a request for recognition of the Palestinian state at the U.N. as part of the Arab peace initiative.
— Turkey arrested 15 suspected terrorists it said were affiliated with Al Qaeda, thwarting an alleged plot to attack the U.S. embassy there.
— A senior American defense official said yesterday that the U.S. has never ruled out sending terror suspects to Guantanamo despite President Obama’s pledge to close down the military prison.