US to begin Afghan troop withdrawal
After nearly ten years of combat operations in Afghanistan against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, President Barack Obama announced that the US would begin to draw down its involvement in the region starting next month.
In an address to the nation on Wednesday, Obama highlighted the accomplishments of the armed forces since 9/11 before making the case to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
Obama said that the US had successfully reversed the Taliban’s momentum in the country and trained Afghan national security forces to defend their own country.
The plan calls for the withdrawal of 10,000 troops by the end of the year. A total of 33,000 will be withdrawn by the end of next summer. By 2014, the military will play a purely support role in the country.
Obama also stated that the Afghan national government must find a political settlement with the Taliban in order to ensure lasting peace. Obama said that the US would host a NATO summit in Chicago next May in order to effectively transition responsibility to the Afghan government.
Obama said that ‘a decade of war’ had questioned the nature of American engagement around the world, and that a pragmatic strategy that favored the use of surgical strikes should be employed when possible. Finally, the President said that the US must focus on ‘nation building’ at home by investing in its people to create new jobs.
China releases noted artist from prison
Following two months of imprisonment, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei returned to his home on Wednesday after pleading guilty to charges of tax evasion. Weiwei is best known in the West for helping design the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
In addition to his work as an artist, Weiwei was a human rights activist. His arrest sparked widespread condemnation from the West as an affront to the freedom of expression of Chinese artists. The Chinese government insisted that Weiwei was arrested purely due to his financial affairs.
Recently, Weiwei unveiled an exhibit in London called Sunflower Seeds, which consisted of over a 100 million handmade porcelain seeds. According to Weiwei, the work was a response to China’s growing industrialization and mass consumption.