The United States relies on Jordan to help resolve many of the thorniest problems in the region, including fighting terrorism, dealing with the consequences of the Syrian civil war and finding a peaceful resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is in this context that U.S. officials recently told the Associated Press that preparations were being made for U.S. Special Forces to train Iraqi troops on Jordanian soil in the near future. According to David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a former Levant country director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the United States and […]

It would be easy to dismiss the trajectory of Erik Prince, who made a fortune with his security firm Blackwater only to resign and turn to a form of self-exile amid intense public criticism, as a personal drama born from a set of particular historical conditions. Prince revealed this month that he will be the chairman of a Chinese-based company providing security to extractive industries in Africa, suggesting his future will no longer intersect with America’s. But the professional evolution of Prince, Blackwater and its replacements are not simply side effects of American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan or the […]

Editor’s note: This is the fourth of a seven-part series examining conditions in Afghanistan in the last year of U.S. military operations there. The series runs every Wednesday and will examine each of the country’s regional commands to get a sense of the country, and the war, America is leaving behind. You can find the Series Introduction here, Part I here and Part II here. Regional Command East encompasses Afghanistan’s most populous region. The territory extends from Afghanistan’s mountainous eastern border with Pakistan to the central provinces surrounding Kabul, an area characterized by wide variation in terrain, ethnic groups, political […]

In NATO’s annual “state of the alliance” report published yesterday, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen details the areas in which Russia and NATO expanded their “practical cooperation” last year. Russia continued to allow NATO governments to transport supplies to their military contingents in Afghanistan through Russian territory, and joined with the alliance in developing the Afghan Air Force through the NATO-Russia Council Helicopter Maintenance Trust Fund. NATO and Russia also expanded cooperation in counterterrorism, including the Vigilant Skies 2013 exercise, which simulated a joint mid-air response to the hijacking of civilian aircraft, and tests of their joint IED-detection technologies developed under […]

In 2009, President Barack Obama stood before an enthusiastic crowd in Prague and proclaimed that he would make the “peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” a key administration foreign policy goal, though it may not be achieved in his lifetime. And while his is not the first administration to support this objective—the United States is formally committed to move toward disarmament as a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—Obama was more emphatic than any other recent president of the United States that eventual global nuclear disarmament, and not just nonproliferation in places like Iran, should be a […]

Can Estonian soldiers defend their country by fighting in the middle of Africa? Last week, the European Union approved plans to send up to 1,000 troops to the Central African Republic (CAR). Perhaps surprisingly, Estonia was the first EU member to make a firm pledge of ground forces to the mission, which will reinforce existing French and African contingents. Other eastern EU members, including Poland and the Czech Republic, are also reportedly considering participating, while Britain and Germany have hung back. This diplomatic maneuvering says more about the state of European defense cooperation than African affairs. The Estonians, Czechs and […]

The inhabitants of Michoacan, a state on Mexico’s Pacific coastline, must feel a grim sense of deja vu regarding recent developments surrounding organized crime-related violence in the region. Seven years ago, then-President Felipe Calderon launched the Joint Operation for Michoacan, through which the Mexican federal government essentially took over responsibility for security enforcement from regional and local authorities. The operation began shortly after La Familia, a criminal organization based in Michoacan, publicly announced itself as a new force to be reckoned with. The law enforcement response then marked the beginning of the Calderon administration’s so-called “war on drugs.” Although La […]

The life of an insurgent is not easy. When state security forces possess advanced surveillance technology, even remote areas are unsafe. Fear is persistent; death can come quickly, silently and at any time. If security forces penetrate a rebel movement or local competitors arise, only paranoid insurgents survive. Over time, fear and paranoia become grinding, exacting a heavy psychological price. And in the end, insurgents seldom win: Most are killed, defeated or fade away without a clear victory. Why, then, would anyone become an insurgent? Put simply, people do so out of desperation. Insurgents consider the status quo unjust and […]

Editor’s note: This is the third of a seven-part series examining conditions in Afghanistan in the last year of U.S. military operations there. The series will run every Wednesday and will examine each of the country’s regional commands to get a sense of the country, and the war, America is leaving behind. You can find the Series Introduction here and Part I here. Northern Afghanistan, particularly the regional capital Mazar-i-Sharif in the province of Balkh, represents something of a success story. The region by and large benefited from the international intervention without experiencing the same level of economic distortion as […]

After winning Kenya’s March 2013 presidential election, President Uhuru Kenyatta inherited the difficult task of leading East Africa’s most significant diplomatic and economic actor while simultaneously awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The charges, for alleged crimes against humanity, stemmed from Kenya’s disputed 2007 elections. Given Kenya’s historically strong ties to the West, the charges against Kenyatta and his deputy president, William Ruto, forced the new Jubilee coalition government onto an immediate diplomatic tightrope—one defined by an all-consuming campaign to weaken international support for the trials, while maintaining enough continuity of engagement with the West to prevent international […]

As U.S. forces draw down in Afghanistan, the United States continues to carry out targeted killings against suspected terrorist leaders in several theaters—including through the use of armed drones—and to enhance the ability of partner nations to carry out lethal operations. But U.S. drone strikes can kill innocent civilians along with their intended targets, generating backlash abroad and concerns domestically. According to reporting last week by the Washington Post, one such strike moved Congress to insert language into the $1.1 trillion spending bill that blocks Obama administration attempts to transfer the U.S. drone program from the CIA to the Pentagon. […]

When diplomats gathered at the United Nations last week to launch a series of commemorations of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, there was much talk of the need for decisive responses to early signs of future mass atrocities. By contrast, actual diplomacy to manage today’s well-advanced crises in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) was more tentative. The U.S. and Russia called for local cease-fires to ease the suffering in Syria. South Sudanese negotiatorsin Addis Ababa mulled a truce while fighting continued unabated at home. An agreement to appoint a new interim president in the CAR failed to […]

After years of deadlocked negotiations and apparent inflexibility on the part of the Islamic Republic of Iran to make substantive concessions on its development of nuclear technology, some of which might be used for weapons, Tehran has recently become much more accommodating. The framework agreement reached in November in Geneva, trading cessation of enrichment and dilution of existing stockpiles of enriched uranium for sanctions relief, will go into effect Jan. 20. Is this newfound willingness to negotiate simply a result of personnel changes, beginning with the election of Hassan Rouhani as president? Not entirely. After all, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei […]

The United States has maintained large numbers of nuclear weapons on high alert for decades, ready to launch at a moment’s notice. Numerous military personnel are specifically assigned to manage U.S. nuclear weapons operations and must be ready to precisely carry out complex tasks under extreme time pressure. But the operators of these weapons are human, and the Air Force announced earlier this week that 34 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch officers had been suspended for cheating on a monthly proficiency test. The airmen were stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, which houses 150 of the nation’s 450 […]

TEL AVIV, Israel—Before he became the leader of his country, Ariel Sharon, the recently deceased former Israeli prime minister, spent most of his life as a military man. The formative events for the late general took place on the battlefield. The experiences proved so powerful that they shaped Sharon as a political actor, gradually chiseling the profile of a political leader with such strong and unexpected views that he managed to antagonize even his closest allies and surprisingly satisfy some of his harshest critics. By the time he became Israel’s most powerful man, the lessons of war led the older […]

Given budget pressures and widespread disillusionment with the outcome of the American counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, critics contend that the United States does not need a large, active-duty Army but should instead rely on other nations and reserve forces. As land power advocates and the Army’s leaders push back, debate rages. This is not simply a quibble over budget figures. Rather, it reflects a monumental strategic decision. Choices made today about the Army—and the rest of the military—will determine the options available to American presidents years and even decades from now. A recent essay by defense expert Kori […]

Last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai made his third visit to India in 2013 and his 14th since first taking office in 2001. This time, the two governments announced they would deepen their defense and security ties, with several initiatives designed to increase the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) as most if not all NATO combat forces prepare to leave the country in 2014. Although Indian officials declined to fill Karzai’s entire shopping list, Afghan-Indian military cooperation will likely increase still further now that the United States, which has generally discouraged New Delhi from assuming a major […]

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