(for the Week Ending January 20, 2012)
5. Government and African Union forces began a heavy offensive early on Friday against insurgent strongholds on the outskirts of the capital, Mogadishu, trying to drive the Islamic militants they have long battled out of the city, officials and witnesses said.
Both U.S. and French special forces are believed to be helping with guidance and intelligence, while keeping low profiles.
4. China’s top energy group and its partners Qatar Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell agreed to push ahead with plans for a $12.6 billion refinery and petrochemical complex in east China which is likely to start before similar rival facilities.
The project, which includes a 400,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery and a 1.2-million-tonne-per-year ethylene complex, is one of several joint-ventures that China, the world’s second biggest energy consumer, hopes will provide the fuel for its expanding economy.
3. Israeli leaders held talks with the top U.S. military commander, General Martin Dempsey, following the postponement of a joint exercise that was to be the biggest ever for the two allies.
Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he stressed common interests and the important partnership between the U.S. and Israel in his meetings with Israeli counterpart Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and President Shimon Peres. He was also scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
2. France suspended its training operations in Afghanistan and threatened to withdraw its entire force from the country early, after an Afghan wearing an army uniform shot and killed four French troops Friday and wounded others.
1. Major powers seeking to negotiate an end to Iran's suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons on Friday signaled their openness to renewed talks with Tehran but diplomats said the powers remain divided on their approach.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the group, issued a statement making clear that a diplomatic path remains open to Iran despite tougher sanctions and fresh speculation of a military strike on its nuclear facilities.
It has been an interesting month of December. For 2012, GovPartners will be releasing bi-weekly news updates from around the world which may be of interest to current (and potential) government contractors. Below is a top-ten list of the news-worthy material which have dominated the headlines for the month of December:
10. NATO vows to continue to carry out nighttime raids that target suspected insurgents. The partnership with Afghan forces will also continue to increase as well, with Afghan special forces now take part in nearly all night raids.
9. U.S. increasingly reliant on the three transit routes which snake through Central Asia, Russia and the Caucasus to ship non-military supplies and fuel into Afghanistan as the relationship between Washington and Pakistan continues to deteriorate.
8. General John Allen reiterated that “the continued work beyond ’14 in terms of development of economic capability and governance will continue. We will also see, probably, a U.S. military capability beyond ’14.”
7. The U.S. military may have withdrawn from Iraq, but international companies continue to pour into the oil-rich country. Earlier this month, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Mitsubishi Corp. signed a final $17.2 billion, 25-year contract with the country. Some $12.8 billion would be spent on infrastructure and $4.4 billon on construction of a liquefied natural gas facility.
6. Iraq cabinet okays 2012 budget at $100 billion. The new budget forecasts total government expenditures at $68 billion, including $31.6 billion set for investment spending in 2012.
5. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and General Carter Ham, commander of the U.S. Africa Command, paid a visit to the country in mid-December and expressed their confidence and support in Libya’s transition to democracy.
4. Afghanistan's government signed a deal with China's state-owned National Petroleum Corporation, allowing it to become the first foreign company to exploit the country's oil and natural gas reserves. The deal, initially valued at $700 million, could end up being more than ten times this amount if more reserves are discovered and developed.
3. The Department of Defense’s $662 billion budget for 2012 was approved by the U.S. Congress. The lawmakers agreed on $518 billion for Pentagon operations and about $115 billion to cover the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
2. Kim Jong-Il passes away, names his 27-28 (depending on source) year old son, Kim Jong-un as his successor.
1. Iran threatens to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital route in the Gulf where more than 1/3rd of the world’s ship-borne oil passes.