1. US commanders say that, in a firefight in Afghanistan, the Taliban put and kept civilians directly in the line of fire, preventing them from fleeing and using them as shields.
2. CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus says that recent airstrikes in the Afghan-Pak theater have killed 3 of the region's top 20 terrorist leaders.
3. Ahead of transition at the White House, the Treasury Department has tightened sanctions against Iran.
4. Though Venezuelan ally Hugo Chavez has so far failed in his own rule extension bid, Vladimir Putin "could return as president next year" in Russia.
U.S. Says Taliban Put Afghans in Line of Fire - NY Times
President Bush to Press for Bigger Afghan Army - AP
China tests its mettle in Syria, Surging in Middle East - Asia Times
China flexes military hardware muscle - AFP
Congo rebels drive thousands from their homes - Telegraph
France jails 4 members of jihad network - International Herald Tribune
U.S. Treasury tightens banking sanctions on Iran - Reuters
Ahmadinejad Sends Letter to Obama - NY Times
Obama Victory, Timetable Alter the Tenor of Iraqi Politics - NY Times
Shell secures 25-year access to Iraq's oil, gas - Washington Times
Rice: Peace Agreement Before Inauguration Unlikely- NY Times
Obama, Olmert agree on need to advance peace process - Reuters
Recent Pakistan air strikes killed top militants, says Petraeus - DAWN
13 dead in suspected missile strike in North Waziristan - Washington Times
Obama's (Jewish) first pick raises (Pakistani) eyebrows - DAWN
Pakistan sets death penalty for cyber terrorism - Telegraph
Chavez Bid Failed, But Putin 'could return as Russian president next year' - Telegraph
U.S. Engages Russia on Missile Defense - NY Times
Syrian TV shows men 'confessing' to deadly bomb blast (Caveat Emptor) - AFP