US President Donald J. Trump’s America First approach will have to take a back seat when it comes to Afghanistan.

As the Trump administration wrestles with a decision on whether to send several thousand additional US troops to Afghanistan in an effort to end a fifteen-year-old war and make peace with the Taliban, there is a firm belief in policy circles that there is a critical need for the United States to deepen its engagement in that country.

Yet, with Trump there is a “real possibility that the United States, if it is not successful within some acceptable period of time, could choose to reduce its commitment to Afghanistan and ultimately withdraw,” said Ashley Tellis, Tata chair for strategic affairs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “If that outcome occurs the door will be open to internecine regional competition in Afghanistan, which will only make circumstances in Afghanistan worse,” he added.

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“The real crucial link in the international exchange is the last three feet, which is bridged by personal contact, one person talking to another.” - Edward R. Murrow


US diplomats serving at embassies and consulates abroad are gearing up for June Pride celebrations with local LGBTI communities and their allies at a time of uncertainty about where the promotion LGBTI human rights will fall among US President Donald Trump’s policy priorities.

In previous Pride celebrations under the Obama administration, US embassies and consulates flew rainbow flags; ambassadors marched in Pride parades in Tel Aviv, Warsaw, Mexico City, and Zagreb; and diplomats hosted public events with local government officials and human rights activists to demonstrate US commitment to global equality.

These measures came about in direct response to the official policy determinations of former US President Barack Obama and former Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry that made LGBTI rights an important piece of US foreign policy. Obama’s 2011 presidential memorandum directed all foreign policy-related agencies to ensure that US diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBTI persons. Clinton delivered an address to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council in December 2011 in which she declared: “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” In 2015, the first US special envoy for LGBTI rights was appointed.

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On June 8, the United Kingdom will vote in its second general election in just over two years. Six major parties are contesting these elections, with the Conservative and Labour Parties holding the largest share of seats.
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The last election in May 2015 resulted in a Conservative government, and led to the June 2016 national referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union. Following the result in favor of Brexit, Prime Minister David Cameron—the leader of the unsuccessful Remain campaign—resigned, and former Home Secretary Theresa May took office.

May’s leadership has been dominated by Britain’s departure from the EU, and the implications for the country. In April, facing domestic opposition to this approach, including legal challenges, she called a snap general election. She argued this would help Britain have a stronger negotiating position in the talks with other EU member states, and would give her a clear mandate to go ahead with leaving the EU. Although Brexit is an important issue in the election, however, it is not the sole focus of the campaign. Health, education, welfare, immigration, and the environment feature heavily in the manifestos of the major parties.

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To use an old Thatcherite adage, the United States, United Kingdom and European Union are all living in cloud cuckoo land, seemingly vastly underestimating the medium- to long-term effects of Brexit: a dramatically weakened UK, an undermined EU, and fragmented transatlantic relations. Put another way: the transatlantic rift that has clearly already opened over NATO and now the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement could be just the start—made far worse by a bad Brexit.

Over the past few months, a group of Brits in Brussels has been working unofficially on Brexit scenario planning, attempting to delve into what the UK, EU, and transatlantic relations will be facing with Brexit. Laid out in such detail—which we will do in the next few weeks—is a veritable catalogue of daunting mountain-size challenges. While it’s true the UK faces some of the biggest knots to disentangle, the EU and transatlantic relations won’t be spared. Viewed all together, it is clear that breezy statements such as “Brexit means Brexit” hide a veritable catalogue of hurdles and hardships, mostly on the British side, but also for the EU.

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Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the front-runners in the British general election, have endured a volatile race punctuated by two terror attacks that have rocked Britain. With campaigning suspended twice after each incident and British pollsters’ failure to predict Brexit, FutureSource queried a data science firm to get its reading on the election that has challenged conventional forecasters.

GovBrain, located in Washington, DC, uses a patent-pending “Trend Meter” inside its machine learning and artificial intelligence system. GovBrain analyzes digital trends from nearly one thousand government, regulatory, and legislative sources along with political, financial, and technology news sites from around the world.

According to the GovBrain Trend Meter, Prime Minister May’s Conservatives have forged a strong lead that should be the makings of a comfortable victory for the Tory prime minister. Corbyn’s Labour received no bounce on the Trend Meter after both terror incidents, and now Labour lags with too much ground to make up before voting begins Thursday.

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In recent years, the protection and advancement of the human rights of LGBTI people has become a hallmark of US foreign policy.

In 2011, former President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum that, among other things, directed government departments and agencies working overseas to “combat discrimination, homophobia, and intolerance on the basis of LGBTI status or conduct.” Since then, there has been an increase in the number of US diplomats participating in pride parades around the world, US embassies proudly hoisting the rainbow flag alongside the Stars and Stripes, and over $7.5 million dollars distributed to US partners and allies around the world to combat discriminatory legislation, protect human rights advocates, and increase our capacity to report on incidents of human rights violations.

I, for one, am tremendously proud of everything the United States has done since LGBTI rights were formally recognized as a foreign policy priority. However, Washington cannot afford to de-prioritize the human rights of the LGBTI community. US efforts to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to the visibility they bring to widespread LGBTI and foreign policy issues, must continue.

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For eight years, the United States led the world in the fight to advance LGBTI equality and ensure that all people could live free from the fear of discrimination, bigotry, and violence.

More than any president before him, former President Barack Obama set the standard to inspire many around the world to follow.

On Obama’s watch, the United States set forth a number of measures to promote and integrate LGBTI rights into US foreign policy. Such steps included: issuing a presidential memorandum directing all federal agencies to ensure our overseas efforts promote the rights of LGBTI individuals; appointing the first Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons to lead and coordinate the US Department of State’s diplomatic efforts across the globe; naming a Senior LGBT Coordinator to the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to ensure that LGBTI rights were fully integrated into all aspects of USAID's overseas work; and expanding the Global Equality Fund, a multi-million dollar, public-private partnership to advance international LGBTI rights.

This was incredible progress. For the first time in history, the United States made the promotion of LGBTI equality a priority in conducting foreign affairs. Yet, in less than six months, US President Donald J. Trump has already created a void of leadership that threatens the interests – and even the lives – of millions of LGBTI people around the world.

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Every time I think the editorials, commentaries, tweets announcing the end of US global leadership have reached a crescendo, it seems that some new decision or announcement from the White House elevates concern again. I confess that I, too, have decried the abdication of a leading role for the United States on the world stage more than once in recent weeks. 

From a strategic standpoint, there have been numerous policy errors in the first few months of the new administration of US President Donald J. Trump.  From a wavering stance on NATO, which does not acknowledge the full value of the Alliance, to a cozy relationship with strongmen and near silence on human rights, to the announcement on June 1 that the United States will pull out of the Paris climate accord, Trump’s actions have rattled allies and created uncertainty about the trajectory of US leadership.  Whether or not one agrees with these and other foreign policy decisions of the Trump administration, it is indisputable that these have been difficult months for the American brand around the world. 

The American brand—our reputation, the perception that those around the world have of the United States, and the things they associate with it—is not a strategic end in itself. Being liked within the international community is not a security strategy, but it has been a cornerstone of the United States’ global influence since it emerged as a world power more than a century ago.

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US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement is in line with his past denials of the reality of climate change, which he has called an “expensive hoax.” His decision, however, will have grave consequences for the United States.

Supported by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, Trump has made clear his intention to scrap former US President Barack Obama’s greenhouse-gas-emissions-reduction targets and to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. Moreover, Trump and Pruitt have also declared that the United States will renege on its $3-billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund. 

The Trump administration appears to have few qualms about the potential for increased CO2 and methane emissions from coal and natural gas production. It believes these sectors create jobs and are important to its political base. Rather than try to marry political priorities with climate commitments, the Trump administration has rejected any emissions-reduction targets and put its faith in private sector technology innovation to continue to produce the substantial emissions reductions we have seen as a result of the substitution of shale gas for coal.

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While Ford Motor Company is “disappointed” by US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, it will not impact the company’s strategy to continue working toward technological advances designed to improve customers’ quality of life, William C. Ford, Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, said at the Atlantic Council on June 5.

It “would be nice” to see the United States abide by the Paris deal, an international agreement with more than 190 countries committed to reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions, however, the US withdrawal from the accord “doesn’t change anything for us,” said Ford. He insisted his company, which has already made great progress toward clean energy improvements, will continue with business as usual.

“We are already ahead of where the Paris accords would like us to go,” in terms of environmental regulations, he said.

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