It's a stunning reality check which many diplomats knew but did not expect to hear. That for 2016, "Survival will be an achievement for the National Unity Government" in war torn Afghanistan. The words came as a blunt assessment by the U.N.'s new political point man for Afghanistan, Mr. Nicholas Haysom who warned the Security Council that the beleaguered South Asian land faces a "difficult fighting season" as the Taliban will seriously confront the Kabul government on a nationwide scale.
Five years after the Arab Spring revolutions swept the Middle East, the expansive North African country of Libya has descended into a dangerous downward spiral in which competing governments, militias, and terrorist elements have formed a chaotic witch's brew on the doorstep of Europe. Ominously, according to diplomatic and military officials, Islamic State (ISIL) terrorists have become entrenched in this strategic but fragmented state that borders six other countries.
The U.N. Security Council has tightened the economic sanctions noose on North Korea in response to the Pyongyang regime's nuclear and ballistic missile proliferation. The 15-member Council voted unanimously to slam a wide range of economic, scientific and trade bans on the reclusive communist country in direct response to North Korea's fourth nuclear weapons test and a ballistic missile launch earlier this year.
U.S. President Barack Obama promised yet again to fulfill his election pledge to close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo, Cuba. This time he means it. With less than a year remaining on the presidential clock, Obama plans to release some of the 95 remaining combatants to places like Uzbekistan and Sudan while shifting the remainder of up to 60 of the most hardcore terrorists to "supermax" prison facilities in the U.S. He may seal a wider deal on the leased naval base on an upcoming landmark visit to Havana in late March.
Reversing the trend of economic mismanagement, ending a 15-year debt impasse with foreign lenders, calming a percolating political crisis over the disputed Falkland/Malvinas islands in the South Atlantic, and overcoming the image of unpredictability, Argentina's new conservative government faces serious obstacles in reintroducing Argentina to an often skeptical world.
While recessionary winds continue to buffet the world economy, many countries are still prospering due to innovative policies that have embraced economic growth and expanded economic opportunities and grown the middle class in places as disparate as East Asia and South America. Yet, the United States, the world's largest economy, has slipped downward yet again in economic freedom according to a significant new survey.
Five years after the onset of the purportedly pro-democracy revolts against authoritarian rulers in much of the Middle East, the heady warm breezes of the Arab Spring have been replaced with swirling ill winds sweeping the region from Tunisia to Iraq. Governments were toppled, chaos ensued, and the genie of pent up political frustrations soon turned violent. Syria, Libya and Yemen are wracked by violence.
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates slammed both the Obama administration and the presidential candidates calling for long-term realism in America's fight against the Islamic State terrorism. "I think that the president has all along underestimated ISIS, has underestimated the degree of fear that they have been able to provoke among a lot of Americans," Gates stated, using an alternative acronym for IS.
Not one week into the new year, the North Koreans jolted the world as well as the Richter scale with a nuclear weapons test. While the underground blast shook the remote Punggye-ri region near the Russian border, the political reverberations of the bomb have been felt globally,
It's time to consult the crystal snow globe for a look at both the likely and unexpected events which will shape the New Year. Serious strife both in the Middle East, and Africa to a lesser extent, have expanded leading to a culture of conflict with the ensuing reverberations of refugees which have swamped into neighboring countries and deeper into Europe.