National Security Brief: September 13, 2011

— A series of blasts in central Kabul targeted the US embassy and gunmen are holed up in a high-rise building, exchanging gunfire with police. The Taliban claim responsibility for the attack.

— The Pentagon is planning to significantly reduce U.S. assistance to Afghanistan’s army and police by more than half over the next three years as the White House increasingly views spending on the Afghan military as unsustainable.

— Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch released a report detailing abuses by U.S.-trained Afghan police forces, alleging murder, rape and theft.

— Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told NBC’s Today show that the two American hikers arrested near Iran’s border with Iraq, and charged with espionage, will soon be released as a “humanitarian gesture.” They will be released on $500,000 bail.


— NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned that extremists in Libya might “try to exploit” the power vacuum left by the dictator Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s departure from power.

— The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights decried the “increasingly violent power struggle” in Yemen and called on the government to end the violence and free prisoners arrested for peacefully protesting.

— The U.N. High Commissioner’s comments came just as Yemen’s embattled President Ali Abudullah Saleh, who’s been convalescing in Saudi Arabia, announced that his vice president has the power to negotiate a transition with the formal opposition, a move some of the unsanctioned opposition calling for Saleh’s immediate departure rejected.

— House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said yesterday that the House would cut off aid to the Palestinians if they moved forward with its U.N. membership bid.

— A Kenyan human rights activist may sue the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations for a year he spent in a Ugandan prison on terrorism charges, where he said Ugandan intelligence interrogators told him they were using questions provided by the F.B.I.