World Hot Spots: What to Watch
By Sharon Lo, Managing Editor, DTJ & The Source
As we head into the New Year, here are some of the stories to watch around the world:
President Trump could announce as early as this week a troop drawdown in Afghanistan. The likely scenario would be to withdraw approximately 4,000 troops, bringing the number of American service members down from an estimated 12,000 (13,000 according to some news outlets) to approximately 8,600 troops.
This comes as the US pauses talks with the Taliban following an attack by the militant group on Bagram Airfield this week. The talks are aimed at ending the 18-year war there.
Details are emerging on how China would increase imports from the US by as much as $200 billion over the next two years in order to meet its commitments under the phase one trade deal announced last week. Beijing is expected to import $40 billion to $50 billion of agricultural products, and possibly resume purchases of US ethanol.
Also this week, China’s second aircraft carrier entered service. This adds major firepower to its military ambitions as it faces tensions with self-ruled Taiwan, as well as with the US and regional neighbors around the disputed South China Sea.
Iran & Iraq
US and Iraqi officials are concerned that protests in Iraq could spark a war. The anti-government protests have taken place over the last two and a half months in cities across the country.
What does this have to do with Iran? Much of what the demonstrators are protesting is Iran’s influence in Iraq. In addition, over the past few weeks, unknown attackers have launched rockets near several US military bases in Iraq. Evidence points to these attacks coming from Iranian-backed militias.
As diplomatic efforts at a denuclearization deal with North Korea flounder, Pyongyang recently threatened to deliver an unwelcome “Christmas gift” to the United States. Gen Charles Brown, Commander of Pacific Air Forces and Air Component Commander for US Indo-Pacific Command, says he expects North Korea’s “gift” to be a long-range missile test.
The Senate has voted to impose sanctions on companies working on Russia’s Nord Stream pipeline. The sanctions were made as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which is expected to be signed into law by President Trump soon. Critics argue the sanctions will antagonize European nations counting on the project’s natural gas.
Less than a week after winning a landslide victory in the United Kingdom’s general elections, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is laying out plans to fulfill his signature campaign promise: getting Brexit done. Johnson’s plans will mean that the UK and EU need to complete a new trade deal between January 31 and December 31, 2020.