ASSAD TO OUTLAST OBAMA Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go, President Obama has said. But according to documents the Associated Press reviewed, Obama’s administration doesn’t actually think that can happen until March 2017 at the earliest — months after Obama leaves office, and five years after Obama called on Assad to step down. According to that timeline, elections in Syria would then take place in August 2017, with a transitional body governing the country in the meantime. But the draft schedule, based on a plan devised in Vienna, depends on circumstances that have shifted since it was drafted in November. The latest schism between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two major powerbrokers in the Middle East, is not least among the additional hurdles that may now block the path toward implementing the timeline.
GROWING CHAOS IN AFGHANISTAN One more American soldier dead, two more injured in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, where Taliban forces are advancing on major cities, is just one sign of how the war in Afghanistan, though officially over since 2014, trickles on. There were 22 more deaths of soldiers in 2015. The Washington Post has this round-up of stories from the past year to track the decline of the security situation.