James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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The World Next Week: Future U.S. Troop Levels in Afghanistan, Colombia and FARC Peace Talks, and the North American International Auto Show

by James M. Lindsay
January 10, 2013

U.S. president Barack Obama and Afghan president Hamid Karzai meet in Kabul in May 2012 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. president Barack Obama and Afghan president Hamid Karzai meet in Kabul in May 2012 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters).

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the debate over future U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, the resumption of peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels next week in Havana, and the start of the North American International Auto Show.

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The highlights:

  • Afghan president Hamid Karzai is in Washington, DC, for talks on the future of U.S.-Afghan relations. There are 66,000 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan, down from a peak of nearly 100,000. That number will drop a lot between now and the end of 2014. Indeed, for the first time U.S. officials are raising the possibility of a complete withdrawal. Whether every U.S. serviceman comes home or 5,000 to 10,000 stay behind as a reserve force, the capacity of the Afghan government and military is going to be tested.
  • Colombian and FARC representatives meet next week in Havana to resume talks on ending a conflict that has raged for nearly fifty years and killed more than 600,000 people. The peace talks, the first in a decade, started last October in Oslo before moving to Havana in November. At the time, FARC officials said they would observe a ceasefire. Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has kept up the military pressure on the rebel group, which these days is deeply enmeshed in the drug trade. FARC officials say they will revoke their ceasefire offer on January 20 if Bogota does not reciprocate.
  • A U.S. auto industry that was humbled by the financial crisis of 2008-2009 will be using next week’s North American International Auto Show to show that it’s back from the brink. Car sales are up and company balance sheets look better than they have in years. But job numbers haven’t snapped back to previous levels and probably never will. The result has left Detroit and numerous other Midwestern cities that boomed in the heyday of the U.S. auto industry in tough shape.
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is 7 million. My Figure of the Week is Eric Schmidt. As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.

For more on the topics we discussed in the podcast check out:

United States considers withdrawal from Afghanistan: The Washington Post discusses the options under consideration for U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014. Reuters predicts that Chuck Hagel will want to scale down operations in Afghanistan if he is confirmed as secretary of defense. Foreign Policy suggests that complete withdrawal of troops after 2014 is a real possibility.  The Huffington Post argues that civil society and human rights groups are critical to bringing stability to Afghanistan.

Tensions rise between the Colombian government and FARC rebels: CFR.org provides a backgrounder on the FARC. BBC News discusses the goals of the peace talks and reports that an airstrike killed thirteen members of FARC in late December. Reuters reports that FARC will revoke its unilateral ceasefire on January 20 if the Colombian government continues to fight.

North American International Auto Show gets underway: The New York Times writes that Chevrolet is moving Camaro production from Canada back to the United States.  The Atlantic suggests that global manufacturing might be shifting back to the United States.  The Associated Press tells the story of the auto industry’s recovery in Detroit. The official website of the North American International Auto Show counts down to the event and provides updates and press releases on the show.

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