Primary NATO contributors to the ISAF task force that has occupied Afghanistan for almost 13 years have begun to withdraw their troops as of this month. Secretary of State John Kerry praised new President Ashraf Ghani for making moves to combat money laundering and corruption, with UK Prime Minister David Cameron also joining in. The peak of US involvement saw roughly 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan in 2011.
The Obama Administration, however, is also planning on keeping hundreds more troops than the promised token force of 9,800 that he had previously announced for 2015, another sign that the idea of total withdrawal is still as of yet unattractive to US policymakers. The total NATO force will be roughly 12,000 with US officials arguing for a “bridging solution” resulting from long delays in finalizing security agreements for foreign troops to remain after 2014. The main issue is the sudden withdrawal of most combat support troops – the delay in US policy resulted in the long debate with former Afghan President Karzai, who refused to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement until a successor was announced.
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- The Mongolian coal reserve of Tavan Tolgoi saw another high profile bidder come in yesterday. China Shenhua Energy will bid on the project, which is looking to be the largest coal deposit in the world, right next to the country with the largest energy demand in the world. Shenhua provided no details about ownership structures, according to a government resolution earlier, but the winning team will have a 51% ownership stake by a Mongolian firm with five or more years of domestic mining experience.
- Representatives of law enforcement agencies from Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have been meeting in Almaty to discuss cooperation in overturning drug superhighways that have made Central Asia the drug trafficking capital of the world. The meeting was organized by the OSCE Transnational Threat Department’s Strategic Police Matters Unit. Participants noted that most of these drugs come from Afghanistan and practitioners discussed corruption within their own governments on the same issue.
- The Islamic Development Bank (the foreign direct investment wing of Saudi Arabia) announced it was investing in Kyrgyzstan to create five advanced mobile health clinics that would be deployed to rural areas of the Central Asian country. Kyrgyz President ALmazbek Atambayev personally thanked King Abdullah for donating the clinics as part of the SR1 Billion project, which aims to offer general medical services to people in the least developed areas and providing medical treatment for the needy.
- Pakistan signed an agreement with Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan to import 1,000 MW of electricity under the CASA-1000 project at 9.35 cents per Megawatt from hydroelectric dams in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The project is scheduled for completion under the auspices of the World Bank, which is funding the project. Tajikistan’s share in the export of energy will be 70 percent, Kyrgyzstan will export 30 percent, Afghanistan will consume 300 megawatts, with Pakistan receiving 1,000 megawatts of electricity.