US troops in Afghanistan will end “most” combat operations this spring, US President Barack Obama and Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai have agreed.
American forces are expected to switch to a support role, slightly earlier than originally scheduled, as Afghan troops take the security lead.
The two leaders also backed the holding of talks between the Afghan government and Taliban leaders in Doha, Qatar.
Most of the 66,000 US troops in Afghanistan are due to leave in 2014.
“Starting this spring, our troops will have a different mission - training, advising, assisting Afghan forces,” Mr Obama said in remarks at the White House on Friday, as Mr Karzai stood alongside.
More: US Troops Will End ‘Most’ Afghanistan Combat This Spring
EXAMINED from close up, this has been a dismaying election. Too often the 2012 presidential campaign has thrown up large topics for debate—the role of government, the limits of welfare, or how to square globalisation with the American dream—only to argue about them in small ways. Too much stress has been laid on the candidates’ characters, life stories or personal good faith. Too little has been laid on the feasibility of their policies.
Record-breaking sums have been spent on torrents of negative advertising. In the race’s last days neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney has hesitated to betray virtues that are supposed to define them. Mr Obama—who in 2004 enraptured a party convention by rejecting the division of America by race or ideology—has run an advertisement in the swing state of Ohio, accusing his rival of plotting to kill the car industry, closing with the horrid slogan: “Mitt Romney. Not one of us.” Mr Romney is a convinced free-trader with expertise in turning round underperforming businesses. But in Ohio he has run an election-eve ad denouncing Fiat, owners of the Jeep brand, for presuming to increase that business by supplying Chinese buyers from a local production line, or, as his rustbelt-pandering spot puts it: “Obama…sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.”
Yet take a step back, and this small-minded, mean election points to a big, reassuring constant of American politics. Pitted against each other in contests turbocharged by partisanship and pots of money, politicians often overreach. Such partisan ferocity can pay dividends in election contests, notably by revving up the base in congressional or local districts whose boundaries can be gerrymandered to favour one side. But in time, and especially at the national level, overreach tends to be penalised. Encouragingly often the democratic system self-corrects. Time and again, the big landmarks and waypoints of this election have involved instances of each side going too far and paying a price.
A BBC World Service opinion poll has found sharply higher overseas approval ratings for US President Barack Obama than Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
An average of 50% favoured Mr Obama, with 9% for Mr Romney, in the survey of 21,797 people in 21 countries.
US President Barack Obama has rebuked Republican rival Mitt Romney, saying that anyone seeking to be president needs to work for all Americans.
Mr Obama told chat show host David Letterman Mr Romney was wrong to describe 47% of Americans as “victims”.
Earlier, Mr Romney defended his remarks after secretly filmed video of a speech to donors became public.
He told Fox News he knew those “dependent on government” would not vote for him in November’s election.
Mr Romney also decried the notion of government “redistribution”, calling it an “entirely foreign concept”.
More leaked video emerged on Tuesday, showing Mr Romney saying Palestinians do not want peace in the Middle East.
ALMOST the only thing on which Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, his Republican challenger, agree is that the economy is in a bad way. Unemployment is stuck above 8% and growth probably slipped below an annualised 2% in the first half of this year. Ahead lie the threats of a euro break-up, a slowdown in China and the “fiscal cliff”, a withering year-end combination of tax increases and spending cuts. Mr Obama and Mr Romney disagree only on what would make things worse: re-electing a left-wing president who has regulated to death a private sector he neither likes nor understands; or swapping him for a rapacious private-equity man bent on enriching the very people who caused the mess.
America’s economy is certainly in a tender state. But the pessimism of the presidential slanging-match misses something vital. Led by its inventive private sector, the economy is remaking itself (see article). Old weaknesses are being remedied and new strengths discovered, with an agility that has much to teach stagnant Europe and dirigiste Asia.
America’s sluggishness stems above all from pre-crisis excesses and the misshapen economy they created. Until 2008 growth relied too heavily on consumer spending and house-buying, both of them financed by foreign savings channelled through an undercapitalised financial system. Household debt, already nearly 100% of income in 2000, reached 133% in 2007. Recoveries from debt-driven busts always take years, as households and banks repair their balance-sheets.
The War Over Class War: Economic misunderstanding, not overblown rhetoric, is the real problem with the president
IT DOES not take much to be accused of waging class warfare in America. The charge was levelled last year at Mitt Romney, of all the unlikely leftist agitators, when he suggested that certain tax breaks should be available only to those who earned less than $200,000. Rick Santorum, one of Mr Romney’s rivals for the Republican nomination, though he had promised never to use the word “class”, earned a similar rebuke for pointing out that he came from humble origins, supposedly an implicit contrast with Mr Romney, whose father was a governor and cabinet secretary.
For those who see such comments as tantamount to storming the Bastille, Barack Obama’s recent behaviour might bring to mind St Petersburg in 1917. According to Mr Romney, he is attacking nothing less than capitalism and the free-enterprise system. An article in Forbes magazine calls Mr Obama a “socialist in the European reform-Marxism tradition” although not, to be fair, “a communist of the cold war tradition”. John McCain, whom Mr Obama defeated to win the presidency in 2008, detects “class warfare at its worst”.
The main evidence of Mr Obama’s proletarian sympathies is a couple of advertisements recently released by his campaign depicting Bain Capital, the private-equity firm Mr Romney founded and ran for 15 years, as a rapacious corporate raider. In one, downtrodden former employees of a steel mill in which Bain Capital invested describe the firm as a “vampire” which “sucked the life” out of the business, leaving them not only without work but without the health insurance or pensions they had been expecting. In another advertisement, a woman laid off from an office-supply factory asserts that Mr Romney “doesn’t care anything about the middle-class or the lower-class people.”