Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced today that Lt. Gen. Raheel Sharif will succeed Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as Pakistan’s powerful chief of army staff. Kayani, who will retire on Nov. 29 after a six-year tenure, commanded the Pakistani army through a tumultuous time in the country’s history, which included Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s clash with the Supreme Court, imposition of emergency rule and forced ouster; a complex and violent insurgency; antagonism with the U.S.; and economic uncertainty. Kayani was instrumental in transforming the army, enabling it to better cope with current and emerging security threats. He also distanced the army […]

The ink was not dry on the agreement that the United States and its five partners signed with Iran over the weekend before criticism exploded. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “a historic mistake,” while his economic minister, Naftali Bennett, said, “If five years from now a nuclear suitcase explodes in New York or Madrid, it will be because of the deal.” Former U.S. diplomat John Bolton called it “abject surrender.” And all of this is just the opening round: During the coming weeks there will be an outpouring of attacks on the agreement. The freshly signed deal is […]

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced today he is seeking to establish a new security dialogue with Indonesia in an effort to repair a bilateral relationship damaged by recent spying revelations. In an email interview, Richard Chauvel, senior lecturer at the School of Social Sciences and Psychology at Victoria University, discussed the security relationship between Australia and Indonesia. WPR: What are the main areas of overlap in security interests between Indonesia and Australia? Richard Chauvel: Indonesia remains Australia’s most important regional relationship. Indonesia shapes Australia’s strategic environment. The air and sea approaches to Australia are through the Indonesian archipelago as […]

After winning the October 2013 elections, the new Coalition government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott inherited the difficult task of readjusting Australia’s strategic and defense policy. Power shifts in Asia have already begun to challenge fundamental aspects of Australia’s strategic posture. The rise of China and the relative decline of the U.S. position in the Asia-Pacific region potentially put Australia in a difficult position: that of maintaining close relations with both its major ally, the United States, and its most important trading partner, China. If Sino-U.S. relations become even more competitive, Canberra could find itself between a rock and a […]

China’s decision to establish an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) that encompasses its disputed islands with Japan is yet another attempt to expand its territorial claims by presenting neighboring countries with a fait accompli. These power plays aim to augment China’s regional position over time without provoking a major military confrontation or countervailing coalition. But in this case Beijing may have overreached and scored an own goal. Over the past few months, China has engaged in a sustained diplomatic campaign to exploit tensions between Seoul and Tokyo. As part of this effort, Beijing has deftly used its influence over North […]

Iran Nuclear Deal a Welcome First Step

The phase one agreement signed in Geneva over the weekend by the P5+1 powers and Iran, though temporary, conditional and fraught with uncertainty, is inarguably good news: It is the first time that Iran has explicitly agreed to freeze or limit parts of its nuclear program, and roll back other parts of it, since the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president in 2005. If the deal holds, the next six months will be the first time in eight years that Iran’s nuclear program has been slowed for reasons other than technical difficulties and outside sabotage. It bears noting that the […]

Last week, Serbia signed a military cooperation agreement with Russia. In an email interview, Jim Seroka, professor at Auburn University and former visiting professor of national security studies at the U.S. Air War College who has written extensively on the Western Balkans, explained the state of Serbia’s armed forces. WPR: What is the current state of Serbia’s defense forces? Jim Seroka: The Serbian armed forces today have shrunk considerably in size and capabilities since 2000 and no longer represent a security threat to Serbia’s neighbors. In 2000, Serbia-Montenegro had more than 100,000 military personnel, 1,500 main battle tanks and 192 […]

On Nov. 8, Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines. The storm, known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, was one of the largest typhoons on record, with estimates of the dead in the thousands and of the displaced in the millions. The United States acted quickly to help its ally, but some senior lawmakers and military officials worry that in the age of sequestration U.S. capabilities to carry out such operations in the future may deteriorate. The U.S. response in the Philippines has been “rapid and decisive,” according to Renato DeCastro of De La Salle University in Manila. He explained […]

By Sept. 10, 2001, the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, was increasingly slouching toward irrelevance. Although USAID Administrator Brian Atwood had instituted important reforms during his tenure at the helm during the 1990s, the agency had been badly bloodied by a contentious political battle with the Republican-controlled Congress over whether it should be folded into the State Department. Remarkably, Atwood held both the State Department and Sen. Jesse Helms at bay when Congress tried to abolish USAID and place its remains in Foggy Bottom. But Atwood and the agency paid a steep price for their resistance, and angry […]

The Chinese government has been unabashedly showing off its nuclear weapons this past month. The most noteworthy display was unprecedented TV coverage in late-October of China’s nuclear submarines conducting combat drills, accompanied by a photo spread profiling the subs’ activities. Chinese media justified the display as reinforcing deterrence against foreign threats and meeting Western demands for military transparency. One can debate whether this selective transparency, which builds on previous exposures of China’s new stealth planes and other new military capabilities, is meant as a warning to Washington and Tokyo not to challenge Beijing’s territorial claims, a message primarily for internal […]

Representatives of the Colombian government and the FARC guerilla group announced on Nov. 6 in Havana that they had reached an agreement that could allow FARC leaders to participate in Colombian politics. The precise details of the agreement have not been disclosed, and the two sides have agreed that it would not go into effect until a final peace settlement has been reached. Nevertheless, according to Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America, the peace process is moving along reasonably well, and the two sides both may have “gotten past the point of no return” toward reaching a […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent “reassurance tour” of America’s Middle East partners was not a resounding success. Kerry’s attempts to convince skeptical allies that the United States remains committed to their security and well-being, interrupted in part by the secretary’s decision to travel to Geneva to attend the second round of talks over Iran’s nuclear program, were confronted with concerns that the United States lacks both strategic focus and staying power. Writing in Gulf News, Linda S. Heard opined, “The U.S. is currently bleeding trust with many of its regional allies.” On Egypt, Syria, Israel-Palestine and Iran, U.S. […]

In response to concerns about cartel involvement, the Mexican military was placed in control of the policing and administrative functions of a major port city in the state of Michoacan earlier this month. In an email interview, Stephen Morris, professor and chair of the political science department at Middle Tennessee University who researches political corruption in Mexico, explained corruption in Mexico’s military. WPR: How affected is the Mexican military by corruption compared to other institutions such as the police? Stephen Morris: Generally, the Mexican military is considered to be less corrupt than other governmental institutions in Mexico, particularly the police. […]

Prior to the end of 2012, the Sahel, the region comprising Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, did not receive much attention in Europe outside Paris. However, since the French-led intervention in early 2013 to combat the violent Islamist takeover in northern Mali, the Sahel has become a regular subject for discussion among European foreign and security policymakers. Suddenly, as Bamako was faced with a coup, it hit home to Europeans how close the region is and how closely intertwined with European interests it has become. As we near the end of 2013, the strategic importance of this region, and […]

In the shrinking U.S. defense establishment there is one growth area: cyberwarfare. The military’s Cyber Command plans to quadruple in size by 2015, adding 4,000 additional personnel, while all of the other combatant commands are likely to become smaller. The Navy is doubling its own cyber force, and the other services are likely to keep pace. This much growth will not be easy—finding, keeping and focusing cyberwarriors will remain challenging for the U.S. military. States have always needed soldiers and sailors. And while every society has a few people inherently attracted to danger and discomfort, there are never enough of […]

Lists of African success stories do not tend to include Chad. More than half of the country’s citizens live below the poverty line. According to data collected by the United Nations, most have spent less than two years at school. From 2008 to 2010, the European Union and U.N. deployed peacekeepers to the country’s unstable eastern border with Sudan. At one point, rebels managed to assault the capital, N’Djamena. Yet this year, Western powers and the U.N. have turned to Chad to help manage new crises in Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR). The supposed basket case has suddenly […]

Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Saudi Arabia earlier this week to mend fraying U.S. ties with the kingdom, which remains one of America’s key partners in the Middle East. At the end of his visit, in a joint press conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud, Kerry declared that U.S.-Saudi ties are “strategic” and “enduring.” But if the Obama administration now believes that things are back on track, it should reconsider that assessment. Given the current overlap between Washington and Riyadh’s regional and global interests, both countries will continue to work closely together, but the coming years will […]

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