Farewell to Kabul
On his 13th trip to the country, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates toured U.S. military positions and met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Washington is trying to define its role in Afghanistan after 2014, an informal target date for international forces to leave the country completely. Gates applauded the gains made by coalition forces in Taliban-ravaged provinces and insisted that the U.S. was "well positioned" to begin its withdrawal this July, even though it's likely that most of the 100,000 troops will remain longer. Kabul's fragile government needs a U.S. presence to prevent a possible insurgent takeover even as it fumes over the toll of the U.S. occupation. The latest incident involved the deaths of nine Afghan boys on March 1 from an accidental NATO air strike in Kunar province, prompting a contrite U.S. apology. A new U.N. report found that more than 2,700 civilians were killed last year, the bloodiest since the U.S. invaded.
Mubarak's Gone, but Old Battles Aren't Over
Egyptians set upon one of the most reviled institutions of the regime of ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak, storming the offices of the Interior Ministry's state security organization in Cairo and elsewhere. Over the decades, Egypt's state security--not to be confused with the more popular military--spied, bullied, detained and tortured countless people. But while Egyptians may be united in their loathing of the secret police, sectarian tensions still simmer. Street violence on March 8 between Copts and Muslims led to 13 deaths. A day later, a knife-wielding mob clashed with pro-democracy activists in Cairo's Tahrir Square, forcing the country's new Cabinet to adjourn its first session.
World by the Numbers
[The following text appears within a map. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual map.]
Percentage of California's population that is Latino, nearly at parity with non-Hispanic whites, according to new census figures
Estimated percentage of costumes at Carnaval that were made in China
Number of years a soccer stadium in Benghazi was named for Venezuela's Hugo Chávez; rebels recently renamed it after "martyred" comrades
Number of foreigners enrolled in Chinese universities this year, a record
Value of a set of jewels found in a Paris sewer; the diamonds and other gems were stolen from a luxury boutique in 2008
At a Funeral, Only More Death
Draped in a shawl, a suicide bomber attacked the funeral of a relative of a prominent tribal leader in the country's rugged northwest, killing at least 37 people. The Taliban have claimed responsibility, rebuking the tribal elder, Hakeem Khan, for mobilizing a pro-Islamabad militia in support of the Pakistani government's efforts to clamp down on the ongoing Taliban insurgency. The bombing came a day after a blast in the industrial city of Faisalabad killed 25.