Iraqi security forces hold a flag of the Islamic State group they captured during an operation outside Amirli, north of Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 7, 2014 (AP file photo).

End Game: Al-Shabab as a Model for the Islamic State’s Decline

By Clint Watts
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What might the decline of the Islamic State look like? The best recent historical model may be al-Shabab, the terrorist group that once governed Somalia but which has now entered a state of gradual decline. Such a comparison would be useful for dealing with the implications of IS’ likely fall.
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A juvenile detainee stares out the window at the Naguru Remand Home, Kampala, Uganda, Nov. 13, 2006 (photo by Flickr user Endre Vestvik, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license).

Hidden Cruelties: Prison Conditions in Sub-Saharan Africa

By Martin Schönteich
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As in other parts of the world, most prison systems in sub-Saharan Africa are abusive. This article looks at examples from Uganda, Sierra Leone, Namibia and South Africa in order to better understand the challenges facing the continent’s prison systems and the possible paths to reform.
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Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the closing ceremony of the Rio+20 U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 22, 2012 (AP photo by Andre Penner).

Sustainable Partnership: Security and the Post-2015 Development Goals

By Johan Bergenas
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The Sustainable Development Goals being developed by the United Nations place a greater emphasis on the role of security in achieving global development. This provides an opportunity to engage defense and security actors and to form partnerships with the private sector across traditional divides.
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Metrocable cars travel over the slums of Medellin, Colombia, Oct. 31, 2013 (photo by Flickr user Jorge Gobbi licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic).

Contested Cities: Latin America’s Urban Challenges

By Fernando Luiz Lara
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Anyone trying to understand Latin American politics should pay close attention to urban areas. The region’s contemporary urban struggles are characterized by three main issues: public safety; mobility and accessibility; and resources and climate change. These topics are inextricably linked.
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A U.S. special operations forces soldier leads Iraqi special operations forces while practicing movement techniques, Baqubah, Iraq, April 6, 2011 (photo by Flickr user DVIDSHUB used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

Role Reversal: U.S. Special Operations Forces After the Long War

By Steven Metz
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The 9/11 attacks propelled irregular threats and unconventional responses to the forefront of U.S. strategy, making special operations forces the star of the show. Now, as U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan winds down, the question is whether SOF will return to playing a supporting role.
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Honor guards stand at the Pentagon Memorial on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks at the Pentagon, Arlington, VA, Sept. 11, 2011 (AP photo by Charles Dharapak).

Hide in Plain Sight: The Strategic Challenge of ‘Gray Swans’

By Michael J. Mazarr
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Conventional wisdom holds that the biggest threats to strategy come from sudden and unexpected events, or “black swans.” But too little attention has been paid to a more common problem: “gray swans,” risks that are anticipated but that remain fundamentally improbable, and for that reason are disregarded.
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Protesters confront police during a demonstration calling for a boycott of presidential elections, Bejaia, Algeria, April 5, 2014 (AP photo by Sidali Djarboub).

The Deluge: Algeria’s Pending Succession Crisis

By Azzedine Layachi
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Algeria today faces important challenges, including social transformations, economic uncertainty and political sclerosis. All of these issues might become exacerbated by a pending leadership succession, the smoothness of which is far from guaranteed, due to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s poor health.
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Anti-government protestors burn tires as they protest a new law that could delay the scheduled election to be held in 2016, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jan. 20, 2015 (AP photo by John Bompengo).

From Bullets to Ballots: The Next Battle for Congo’s Future

By Jason Stearns
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For years, the international community has focused on war in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. But in the capital of Kinshasa, the real crisis concerns who will succeed President Joseph Kabila, who appears to be trying to illegally extend his presidential mandate.
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A protester holds a poster of German Chancellor Angela Merkel reading ‘Mrs. Merkel, here is the people’ during a rally of the Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA), Dresden, Germany, Jan. 12, 2015 (AP photo by Jens Meyer).

Germany’s Deceptive Calm: The Hidden Rifts in Merkel’s Consensus

By Paul Hockenos
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On the surface, Germany under Chancellor Angela Merkel appears a model of harmony and consensus. But while Merkel has been an energetic modernizer of German conservatism, her success has overshadowed a number of deep divisions that threaten the stability she has built.
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A man travels along a street in his wheelchair during a three-day lockdown to prevent the spread on the Ebola virus, Freetown, Sierra Leone, Sept. 21, 2014 (AP photo by Michael Duff).

Quarantined: How Ebola Derailed Sierra Leone’s Postwar Recovery

By Tamasin Ford
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In 2002, Sierra Leone emerged from a decade-long civil war, one of the bloodiest in Africa. What followed next was a decade of unprecedented reconstruction, reconciliation and phenomenal growth rates. That is, until last year, when a crippling disease ripped through every facet of society.
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