U.S. military focus shifts
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. Marines will march out of Afghanistan by the thousands next year, winding down combat in the Taliban heartland and testing the U.S. view that Afghan forces are capable of leading the fight against a battered but not yet beaten insurgency in the country’s southwestern reaches, American military officers say.
At the same time, U.S. reinforcements will go to eastern Afghanistan in a bid to reverse recent gains by insurgents targeting Kabul, the capital.
Gen. James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, said in an Associated Press interview that the number of Marines in Helmand province will drop "markedly" in 2012, and the role of those who stay will shift from countering the insurgency to training and advising Afghan security forces.
The change suggests an early exit from Afghanistan for the Marine Corps even as the prospects for solidifying their recent successes are uncertain.
"Am I OK with that? The answer is ‘yes,"’ Amos said. "We can’t stay in Afghanistan forever."
Egypt clashes leave 1 dead
CAIRO (AP) — Fresh clashes between security forces and Egyptian protesters demanding the military step down broke out Saturday in front of the Cabinet building, leaving one man dead, as violence threatened to overshadow next week’s parliamentary elections.
Meanwhile, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling military council that took power after Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February, met separately with opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei and presidential hopeful Amr Moussa, who was the former head of the Arab League. Egyptian state TV reported the meetings but gave no details.
The new prime minister, whose appointment by the military on Friday touched off a wave of anger among protesters accusing the army of trying to perpetuate the old regime, also held a series of meetings trying to sway youth groups to his side.
State TV said Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri, who is unpopular in part because he served under Mubarak, offered Cabinet positions and is pondering the formation of an advisory council to be composed of leading democracy advocates and presidential hopefuls.
The suggestion however failed to disperse the protesters, with nearly 10,000 packing into Cairo’s central Tahrir Square as organizers called for another mass rally on Sunday.
Islamist Party leads in vote
RABAT, Morocco (AP) — An Islamist Party is on track to become the largest party in Morocco’s new parliament with a dominant showing after two-thirds of the seats were announced Saturday by the Interior Ministry.
The Justice and Development Party has taken 80 seats, almost twice as many as the next most successful party, with 282 seats announced out of the 395 up for grabs in the nationwide vote a day earlier.
Barring a massive upset, the PJD — known by its French initials — will be the largest party in the new parliament and charged with forming a new government — making another Islamist victory in an election brought about by the Arab Spring.
Last month, Tunisia’s Ennahda Party took 40 percent of the seats in elections in the country that started a wave of pro-democracy uprisings across the Middle East after its people overthrew their long-serving president.
Egypt is set to hold elections of its own on Monday that are also expected to be dominated by Islamist parties, lending increasing weight to the view that religious movements have been some of the biggest benefactors of the Arab Spring.
Car lots rewrite life in India
BARABANKI, India (AP) — Out on the edge of town, a few steps from the railroad tracks and across the street from an emerald-green field that stinks of sewage, Sanjeev Saxena sits inside a signpost of a new Indian era. Occasionally, he glances up from his desk to see if anyone is coming through the door.
He’s waiting to sell you a dream.
It’s a dream about small-town prestige, and air conditioning in the brutal north Indian summer. It’s a dream they never thought they’d see in India’s millions of villages, and of people who once couldn’t imagine clawing their way into the middle class.
It’s a dream that comes in 15 models and 35 colors. Financing is easily available.
"I remember when cars were for rich people," said Dharmendra Srivastava, 32, one of Saxena’s seven salesmen at the brightly lit dealership with the unwieldy name Bright4Wheel. "Today, everyone in India wants to have a car: the city people, farmers, everyone."