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US Faces More Foreign Policy Challenges in 2015



A new year joins new challenges to old ones. Many disputes between countries -- and between governments and rebels -- continued throughout last year. And they continue as 2015 begins.

Barack Obama faces many challenges as he enters his final two years as president. In December, Mr. Obama marked the end of America’s longest war.

“After more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over.”

But the Department of Defense says that does not mean America will no longer help Afghanistan. Rear Admiral John Kirby is a department spokesman. He spoke to reporters before 2014 ended.

“It’s not like on December 31st we’re just gonna walk away. We aren’t. We’re going to remain.”

More than 10,000 American troops will remain in Afghanistan this year. They will help the Afghanistan air force. They will train Afghan troops. And they will help fight terrorists. The Afghan troops need the help because Taliban fighters have increased their attacks.

In 2015, the United States and other countries will also continue the fight against Islamic State militants. The group became known to many in 2014 after it quickly took control of large parts of Iraq and Syria. The world learned more about the group when it showed videos of one of its members beheading Western hostages.

Airstrikes against the group appear to be working. Military experts predict the attacks will continue to weaken the terrorists.

In Iran, the United States and five other world powers will continue to try to reach a nuclear agreement. A November deadline passed without an agreement. Now, negotiators are hoping to reach an agreement by July. Secretary of State John Kerry says the negotiations will be difficult.

“These talks aren’t going to suddenly get easier just because we extend(ed) them. They’re tough. And they’ve been tough. And they’re gonna stay tough.”

Experts say the new, Republican-controlled U.S. Congress could make it more difficult for President Obama’s foreign policy team to be successful. The Republicans are the opposition party to Mr. Obama’s Democrats.

The United States has already placed sanctions on Russia because of Russian support of Ukrainian separatists. The sanctions have hurt Russia’s economy and reduced the value of its money. But American officials say they do not want the Ukraine conflict to stop the U.S. and Russia from having a good relationship.

Eric Rubin is a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.

“No one is giving up on the U.S. - Russia relationship. We have to get it to a better place.”

The U.S. says it would end sanctions against Russia if it meets conditions, including withdrawing its troops from Ukrainian territory.

The U.S. also faces challenges in its relationship with North Korea. Investigators in the United States blamed North Korea for an attack on the computers of Sony Pictures Entertainment in November. President Obama answered with new sanctions against North Korea. It was the first foreign policy decision he made in the new year.

I’m Christopher Cruise.

VOA Correspondent Alex Villarreal reported this story from Washington. Christopher Cruise wrote it for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly edited the story.

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Words in This Story

challenge n. a difficult task or problem; something that is hard to do

deadline n. a date or time when something must be finished; the last day, hour, or minute that something will be accepted

tough adj. very difficult to do or deal with

sanctions n. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country. Usually plural

separatists n. a member of a group of people who want to form a new country or religion that is separate from the one they are in now

conditions n. something you must do or accept in order for something to happen

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