The deadly conflict in South Sudan, itself the culmination of a long-running power struggle within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, is increasingly drawing in neighboring countries driven by disparate security and economic interests, further complicating the crisis and efforts to reach a resolution. The U.N. has accused both sides of South Sudan’s split of committing human rights abuses in the conflict, which has so far claimed an unknown number of lives, displaced an estimated 900,000 people both inside and outside the country and shows no signs of letting up. An agreement to cease hostilities was violated even before its […]

The protests in Ukraine and Venezuela and the unveiling this week by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel of the Obama administration’s budget request to Congress would appear to be separate and unrelated events. Yet they are linked by the challenge those developments pose to the strategic assumptions that serve as the foundation of the fiscal year 2015 U.S. defense budget. The United States can no longer afford a strategy that hedges against all possible risks. The fiscal crunch, combined with the need to divert an ever-growing portion of the defense budget to personnel, health and pension costs and away from procurement—particularly […]

More than anything else, grand strategy is about balancing risk. In a world of limited resources, countries cannot have everything they might like to have, or achieve everything they might like to achieve. They cannot defend perfectly against every threat, or spend robustly on every priority at home and abroad. This is why grand strategy requires policymakers to choose—to make judgments about what risks a country can accept, and what risks it cannot. This is precisely the dilemma illustrated by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s speech on the defense budget on Feb. 24. As Hagel made clear, the armed forces […]

Last November, the United States suspended aid and arms transfers to Egypt in reaction to the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi. In contrast, earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, praising the “unconditional friendship” between Egypt and Russia countries and reportedly working to negotiate a $2 billion arms deal. Although American officials express a continued commitment to the U.S. partnership with Egypt—and the United States is likely to remain Egypt’s top arms supplier—leaders on both sides of the relationship are wondering where it’s heading. The confusion was heightened this week when the interim Egyptian […]

On Feb. 16, the Supreme Military Council (SMC) of Syria’s Western-backed rebel grouping, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), expelled its chief of staff, Gen. Salim Idris. Idris, who had long been seen as ineffective, was replaced by Brig. Gen. Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir, a Syrian army defector and head of the FSA’s Quneitra military council. His deputy is to be Col. Heitham Afeisi, co-founder and deputy commander of the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, a large FSA outfit mainly active in the northwest. The move capped a difficult six months for Syria’s rebels. Plagued by divisions and infighting, as well as indecision among their […]

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ recent proposal for a NATO-led peacekeeping operation in Palestine is not a novel idea. Similar proposals were floated by both the Clinton and Bush administrations as well as in NATO’s 2010 “Albright report.” But Abbas’ plan, which calls for NATO troops to be indefinitely deployed to protect the West Bank and Gaza as well as checkpoints within East Jerusalem, is worth considering. There are several reasons why NATO should take the idea seriously. First, and most obviously, NATO could make a significant contribution toward facilitating peace between Israel and Palestine. Without doubt, NATO would offer […]

Although the geopolitical tug-of-war between the European Union and Russia was recognized as a principal factor driving recent events in Ukraine, NATO’s full role in the crisis is not widely understood. Like the EU, the alliance’s pull on Ukraine has long aroused anxieties in Moscow as well as among pro-Russian Ukrainians, exacerbating tensions related to the East-West standoff. But while NATO took no military action in the crisis, its partnership policies toward Ukraine have helped keep the Ukrainian armed forces out of the recent street fighting and could help the country emerge from its recent security crisis. Ukraine is not […]

Speaking to a crowd in Tel Aviv last month, former Israeli National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror emphasized a common Israeli concern about future conflicts. “Whatever will be the scenario,” he said, Israel “will have to deal with many missiles and rockets.” But, he added, Israel now faces “a new scenario” because “the numbers now are so different.” He pointed especially to Hezbollah’s arsenal, estimated by some senior Israeli officials at 100,000 projectiles. Israel has therefore been building up its layered active defense systems, and last week an Israeli firm unveiled the newest layer at the Singapore Air Show: the laser-based […]

Over the past few decades, violence in Mexico has reached horrific levels, claiming the lives of 70,000 as criminal organizations fight each other for control of the drug trade and wage war on the Mexican police, military, government officials and anyone else unlucky enough to get caught in the crossfire. The chaos has spread southward, engulfing Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. Americans must face the possibility that the conflict may also expand northward, with intergang warfare, assassinations of government officials and outright terrorism in the United States. If so, this will force Americans to undertake a fundamental reassessment of the threat, […]

Since the early 2000s, Algerian politics have been generally understood as a behind-the-scenes struggle between, on one hand, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his regional and administrative allies and, on the other, the military intelligence service chief, Mohammed “Tewfik” Mediene. Over the past several months, however, Algeria’s deep politics have risen to the surface, exposing the main fault lines between the country’s most powerful political camps. With the April presidential election approaching, Algeria’s elite appears locked in dispute at the highest levels. Proponents of a fourth term for the aging and ailing Bouteflika are charging ahead, while his institutional rivals are […]

Last month, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus told a crowd in Virginia that “we have the most advanced platforms in the world, but quantity has a quality of its own.” Mabus and other Navy leaders are currently grappling with severe budget constraints, and as he said those words the Navy was reportedly considering decommissioning one of its 10 active Nimitz-class aircraft carriers as a cost-saving measure. The $13 billion USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of the next-generation Ford-class carriers, was christened in November and is currently expected to join the fleet as the 11th carrier in 2016.* Although […]

For more than a decade, the United States has poured blood and money into Afghanistan, hoping to turn it into some sort of functioning democracy that could at least keep the Taliban at bay. This project always had a deep tinge of unreality. Few places on earth are less hospitable to accountable governance, robust rule of law, protection of human rights and security provided by the state. The United States and its allies never had a plan to make Afghanistan economically self-sufficient or able to pay for its own security forces. Everyone knew the state would remain a ward of […]

On Jan. 31, British Prime Minister David Cameron hosted French President Francois Hollande for the third bilateral summit since the signature of the Lancaster House treaties on bilateral defense and security cooperation in November 2010. Although the two leaders have met on several occasions, this was the first official summit since Hollande’s election in May 2012. The year that followed the French presidential election was qualified by a senior British official as a “long strategic pause,” marked by uncertainty over what Hollande’s defense policy would look like as well as delays over both nominations of senior French defense officials and […]

French President Francois Hollande arrived in Washington yesterday to further strengthen the U.S.-France relationship, which has greatly improved from its Iraq War-era nadir. Hollande is facing the lowest approval ratings of his presidency and a faltering economic recovery with sustained high unemployment. But even so, French officials have signaled a desire to maintain an active foreign policy with close U.S. cooperation. The visit is “a nice way for the United States to pay France back for its leadership on Syria, Iran and Mali,” says Nicholas Dungan of the Atlantic Council. The French, for their part, “will be looking to see […]

There are two points of approximate consensus regarding the U.S. government’s Syria strategy. First, the U.S. should not send American troops to become directly involved in the fighting. All across the political spectrum in the U.S., among hawks and doves, the national sentiment strongly opposes sending U.S. forces to fight on the ground in Syrian battlefields. America is tired of sending its soldiers to die in Middle Eastern conflicts. The boots-on-the-ground option is off the table barring a dramatic development. The second point of growing agreement is that the Obama administration’s current approach to the Syrian conflict is a failure. […]

U.S. leadership in the global security system is not what it used to be. Ukraine is in turmoil while Washington does little but warn and plead. Libya remains chaotic while the violent detritus of its 2011 civil war destabilizes Africa and the Levant. China uses ancient claims to assert ownership of tiny islands and potentially valuable stretches of the open sea. Gulf states are apoplectic over American inaction on the horrific Syrian civil war and the beginning of detente between Washington and Iran. America’s arch enemy al-Qaida seems as influential and dangerous as ever, with franchises popping up faster than […]

Editor’s note: This is the fifth 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, Part II here, and Part III here. Regional Command South encompasses Afghanistan’s key southern province of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement in the 1990s and an epicenter of its violent resurgence between 2005 and 2006. The province’s […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 201 2 Last