Happy Thursday World readers, and welcome back for a 1,797 word (7-minute) tour of this week's big global stories.
On patrol in Paktika province in 2009. Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images
President Trump says he's "very close" to a deal that will begin the end of America's war in Afghanistan.
Why it matters: There’s a reason the U.S. has been stuck in Afghanistan for nearly two decades. Pulling out would leave the precarious structure it's attempted to build in danger of collapse.
What they’re saying:
Between the lines: Trump is not the first American president to hold that position.
State of play: Defense Secretary Mark Esper said today that the U.S. and Taliban had “negotiated a proposal for a seven-day reduction in violence."
Between the lines: Obama pledged a "conditions-based" withdrawal at the outset of his presidency. The conditions were never ripe. They're unlikely to be for years to come.
What to watch: For now, Trump may be satisfied with a partial deal and a partial troop reduction. Ultimately, he clearly wants out. So do all of the leading 2020 Democrats.
The bottom line: The administration is quite reasonably searching for a way to “leave with our head held high,” Morell says.
On to the next one. Merkel (R) with Kramp-Karrenbauer. Photo: Gregor Fischer/picture alliance via Getty Images
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s resignation as chair of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) was abrupt, but her fall as Angela Merkel’s heir apparent was inevitable, Sudha David-Wilp of the German Marshall Fund writes for Axios:
Why it matters: The CDU has been longing for a different chancellor candidate throughout the short and bumpy tenure of Kramp-Karrenbauer, known as AKK, because of her blunders and the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). Now it can cut its losses and prepare for the 2021 election.
Driving the news: AKK couldn’t seem to control CDU lawmakers in the former East German state of Thuringia, who broke a taboo by cooperating with the AfD to form a government.
The big picture: The center-right CDU has been losing votes on the right to the AfD and on the left to the Greens.
What to watch: Europe's biggest economic power will be preoccupied with domestic politics until it determines who will follow Merkel as chancellor.
Celebrations in Khartoum last December marking the one-year anniversary of the uprising. Photo: Ashraf Shazly/AFP via Getty Images
Sudan's transitional government has reached an agreement to compensate the families of victims of the 2000 U.S.S. Cole attack, which killed 17 sailors and injured 39, it said today.
Why it matters: This is part of an effort to get off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Sudan previously harbored al-Qaeda, which carried out the attack. The designation carries restrictions on foreign assistance and financial transactions that have strangled Sudan's economy.
The big picture: This is only one of several steps to clean up Sudan's international image taken by the joint military-civilian government that replaced brutal dictator Omar al-Bashir last year.
What to watch: Sudan's economy is in shambles and its transition to democracy is far from certain. The delicate power-sharing deal with the generals is slated to continue until elections in late 2022.
Speaking of major 2019 uprisings...
Trust in Hong Kong's local government fell from 54% in 2017 to 30% last year, while trust in police fell from 80% to 43%, according to Gallup.
1. The UN is urgently seeking $76 million to help control massive locust swarms in East Africa
2. The Senate voted 55-45 today to curb Trump's ability to launch military action against Iran without congressional authorization.
3. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ripped up a military pact with the U.S. that allowed American troops to train there.
4. The Italian senate cleared the way for far-right leader Matteo Salvini to face trial for allegedly kidnapping 116 migrants by refusing to allow them to dock in Sicily last summer, when he was interior minister.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
In May 2019, the FBI's Foreign Influence Task Force quietly added a unit aimed at countering China's political influence in the United States.
In an exclusive interview with Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, an FBI official reveals for the first time the bureau's approach to countering China's interference in local and state politics:
"This is ultimately a potential systemic challenge to the world order that we've had for the past several decades."— FBI official
The big picture: There is a growing body of evidence that China devotes massive resources to influencing the political environments of foreign countries, including the United States.
If you do one thing... Sign up for Axios China. It's really, really good.
Some 120 countries around the world relied on the same firm, Crypto AG, for decades to keep their most sensitive communications secure.
The Washington Post's Greg Miller broke that remarkable story, in a joint reporting project with Germany's ZDF, after examining a classified CIA history of the program.
Go deeper: Axios' Dan Primack spoke with Miller on his Pro Rata podcast. Listen.
Nothing to see here: a slum in Ahmedabad. Photo: Raquel Maria Carbonell Pagola/LightRocket via Getty
"I can absolutely tell you they were not retaliated against."— National security Adviser Robert O'Brien on the removal of the Vindman brothers from the National Security Council. He claimed Trump didn't ask him to fire them, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was not punished for his impeachment testimony.