Week Ahead: US Sgt. Robert Bales to be charged over Afghanistan killings


A mourner cries over the bodies of Afghan civilians, allegedly shot by a rogue US soldier, seen loaded into the back of a truck in Alkozai village of Panjwayi district, Kandahar province on March 11, 2012.



BOSTON — This week the US military involvement in Afghanistan will be big in the news.

The killing of 16 Afghan civilians, including 9 children, last week, allegedly by US Army sergeant Robert Bales, will continue to prompt debate on the mission of US troops in Aghanistan.

Bales, 38, who turned himself in after the killings, was flown out of Afghanistan and is being held in pre-trial solitary confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He is expected to be charged this week, according to AP.

Bales' history as having been on his fourth deployment to war zones and his record of having suffered traumatic injuries calls into question the US military's multiple deployments of troops in the long-term engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bales won honors for his performance in combat in Iraq. But he has also been under financial pressure over house mortgages and had a couple of brushes with the law in his home state, Washington, according to AP. It appears that Bales' defense will plead that he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

The entire international community will participate in the debate over Afghanistan this week. On Thursday, March 22, the United Nations Security Council will consider the UN mission in Afghanistan, one day before it expires.

More from GlobalPost: The lessons of Sgt. Robert Bales

Syria crisis focuses on Aleppo and the Assad family

Syria will continue to be gripped by violence between supporters of President Bashar al-Assad and anti-government activists.

On Sunday 67 people were killed in clashes throughout Syria, including two children and seven soldiers from the Free Syria Army, reported CNN which quoted the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a network of opposition activists.

The dead were killed in fighting in the northeastern city of Deir Erroz, where 29 dead were counted, as well as the cities of Idlib, Homs and the suburbs of Damascus.

The Assad family will continue to be under scrutiny, following the leak of emails, published by The Guardian and other British newspapers, which show the ruling family and their inner circle are more concerned about buying luxury goods than in the violence that has wracked Syria.

New attention has focused on Asma, Assad's British-born wife, who could face a two-year jail sentence for breaking international sanctions by shopping online at Harrod's, the London department store, and jewelry stores in Paris, according to the Daily Telegraph.

In one of the leaked emails, Asma wrote, "I am the real dictator," and said that she has supported her husband's crackdown on the opposition that is blamed for the deaths estimated to be at 8,000.

More from GlobalPost: Syria: Damascus blast kills police and civilians 

Libya, France and ICC all want to put on trial Gaddafi's top security official

The arrest Saturday in Mauritania of Abdullah al-Senussi, who was the head of intelligence for Libya's deposed ruler Muammar Gaddafi, has set off a scramble between the new Libyan government, France and the International Criminal Court. All three want to put Senussi on trial.

The Hague-based ICC wants to try Senussi for crimes against humanity. It issued an arrest warrant for him last year.

France accuses Senussi of being behind the 1989 bombing of an airliner over Niger in which 54 French nationals died. French courts have tried and convicted Senussi in absentia and French officials confirmed they would request that Mauritania extradite Senussi to France.

The new Libyan government insisted that Senussi be returned to Libya so that he could stand trial for many crimes including the alleged torture of anti-Gaddafi rebels. 

Senussi was Gaddafi's right hand man and is reported to have directed the construction of a secret nuclear facility deep in the Sahara desert.

It will be interesting to see where Mauritania will decide to send Senussi.

More from GlobalPost: Libya's ex-spy chief Senussi arrested in Mauritania 

Republican race moves on to Ilinois 

The marathon race of the Republican primaries keeps going and going.

This week started off with a win in the US territory of Puerto Rico for Mitt Romney, who won 83 percent of the vote there, according to polls. Rick Santorum did poorly, with just 8 percent of the vote, after saying that Puerto Rico should adopt English as its official language in order to attain US statehood.

On Tuesday, March 20, attention will be focused on the primary vote in the midwestern state of Illinois. Illinois is generally viewed as a state that has many moderate Republicans and therefore Mitt Romney is expected to do well there. And he will welcome picking up as many as possible of that state's 69 delegates.

On Saturday, March 24, Louisiana is holding its primary and the more conservative Rick Santorum may do better there. It has 20 delegates.

An interesting race will be in Maryland, also on March 24, which has a winner take all system for the allocation of its 37 delegates.

More from GlobalPost: McCain: GOP presidential race is the nastiest he's ever seen

Senegal goes to the polls again 

The West African state of Senegal will hold a runoff election on Sunday, March 25 between President Abdoulaye Wade and opposition challenger Macky Sall.

Wade, 85, is going for a controversial third term, which is against the country's constitution.

Normally West Africa's most peaceful and stable country, Senegal has been rocked by angry demonstrations against Wade, in which more than six protesters have died.

In the first round of elections in February, Wade won 35 percent of the vote, well short of the 50 percent he needed to win outright.The opposition field of 13 different candidates split the rest of the votes. Sall, 50, came in second with 26 percent of the votes. But now most of the opposition have united behind Sall.

It is expected to be a tight race, and international observers will be watching closely to see if it is free and fair.

More from GlobalPost: Senegal opposition rallies ahead of presidential election