International leaders meeting at a conference held at the Afghan Interior Ministry in Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 20 renewed their commitment to turn over responsibility for the nation’s security to the Afghan government by 2014.

AmiriThe return of Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri to Iran from CIA custody has news agencies wondering whether he defected or was kidnapped by the CIA during a June 2009 hajj (Islamic religious pilgrimage) to Mecca. “Americans wanted me to say that I defected to America of my own will, to use me for revealing some false information about Iran's nuclear work," Amiri said from Tehran airport last week, claiming, "I was under intensive psychological pressure by [the] CIA.... The main aim of this abduction was to stage a new political and psychological game against Iran.”

AP and the New York Times reported on July 15 that on the previous day the Afghan government approved a U.S.-backed plan to establish local defense forces that will enable villagers in remote areas of the country to defend themselves against attacks by Taliban insurgents.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recommended Marine Corps General James Mattis July 8 to head the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the joint military command for the Middle East that includes supervision of the Iraq and Afghan wars. The U.S. Central Command combines theater command of the four service branches as well as special operations for the Middle East and Central Asia.

Octavia Nasr, a senior Middle East editor at CNN, has been fired from her position after writing in a post on Twitter that she "respected" Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah — a Lebanese Shia Muslim leader with links to the terrorist group Hezbollah who died on July 4. Nasr wrote: "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.... One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot."