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White House Releases Afghan War Review, WikiLeaks’ Assange Granted Bail

The Obama administration’s review of its strategy in Afghanistan says the “surge” of troops that the president sent to war last year has made gains against al-Qaida — but cautions those gains “remain fragile and reversible.” The summary, based on classified documents but made available to the public, also states that the United States will begin decreasing the number of troops in Afghanistan this summer, as scheduled, without committing to a number.

Read the summary here.

In December 2009, President Obama sent an additional 30,000 troops to stabilize the security situation. At a summit in Lisbon in November, NATO leaders indicated their goal of turning full security responsibilities over to Afghan forces by 2014. President Obama is expected to discuss the review to the press Thursday morning.

Meantime in Afghanistan on Thursday, 14 civilians were killed when their bus hit a roadside bomb in Herat Province.

WikiLeaks Founder Released From Jail in London

Update (1:05 p.m. ET): Assange left a London jail Thursday, and thanked supporters for helping him post bail.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be freed on bail on orders of a London judge, overturning a decision on Tuesday. Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden on charges of sex crimes.

It is the latest development in a complex legal saga for Assange, who is the center of controversy in the week following WikiLeaks’ release of secret State Department documents. Assange denies the charges.

Assange’s legal team also may face unrelated charges in the United States, where federal prosecutors are examining the link between Assange and an Army private accused of leaking the classified documents.

New Jobless Claims in U.S. Fall Slightly

There is some good news for the depressed labor market — the number of new jobless claims fell to 420,000 last week, 3,000 less than in previous weeks. The unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent in November, when employers added a mere 39,000 new jobs. The improvement, however slight, is a welcomed sign of recovery from the recession.

European Court Says Ireland’s Abortion Law Violates Women’s Rights

The European Court of Human Rights criticized Ireland’s abortion ban, pressuring Ireland to change its laws to allow abortions in cases where a woman’s health is threatened. The court, based in France, said Ireland had the right to outlaw abortion in the majority of cases based on “the profound moral values of the Irish people in respect of the right to life of the unborn.” Irish women seeking an abortion have often traveled overseas.

Post-Election Violence Grows in Ivory Coast

Soldiers clashed with street protesters in the coastal city of Abidjan, the site of growing violence in the wake of the disputed presidential election between incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and his rival Alassane Ouattara, who also claims victory. Shots were fired near Ouattara’s hotel, and at least three people were killed in the clashes. His supporters had been planning to protest at the offices of state television, which had been airing broadcasts favorable to Gbagbo.

Gbagbo has refused to step down after the results of a runoff election gave Ouattara a 9-percent margin of victory. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on Gbagbo to accept the results, and said “those who incite or perpetrate violence…will be held accountable for their actions.” There are 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers in the country.

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