“Modern warfare is evolving rapidly,” warned the introduction to the Obama administration’s 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, “leading to increasingly contested battlespace in the air, sea, and space domains—as well as cyberspace.” U.S. attempts to erect effective cyberdefenses are, however, facing significant challenges. This is due both to the nature of the threat, which can affect a vast array of critical networks with little or no warning, and to political dynamics in the United States. The Justice Department’s recent indictment of five Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officers accused of hacking U.S. companies is only the most recent sign that previous […]

The mass kidnapping of schoolgirls by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram put an unwelcome spotlight on Nigeria. Though the attention is new, Nigeria’s security and governance deficits are not, with implications for the country’s domestic politics and regional influence. The United States and international partners have a role to play in assisting Nigeria, particularly in terms of improving security, but ultimately it is how Nigeria rises to the challenges it faces that will determine the course of its future. This special report reviews those challenges, and the responses to them, through recently published articles. Domestic Politics Nigeria’s Fault Lines […]

The confirmation process last week for David Barron, a former Obama administration lawyer nominated to the federal judiciary, reopened a debate about the justification for what has come to be known as the U.S. “targeted killing” program. But as the politics of the issue heat up, the administration and its critics seem to be relying on different interpretations of the terminology at the heart of the debate, and their underlying disagreement speaks to broader questions about the future of the American war on terror. For many critics of the administration’s approach to counterterrorism, the term “targeted killing” has come to […]

I had the opportunity to spend part of last week in Russia, giving a talk at the Moscow Carnegie Center on U.S.-Russia security cooperation after Ukraine, and attending the third annual Moscow International Security Conference, organized by the Russian Defense Ministry. The difference between the two audiences was striking: The talk at Carnegie attracted mostly members of the liberal intelligentsia eager to manage the Ukraine crisis in a way that preserves U.S.-Russian cooperation in some areas; in contrast, the Russians who addressed the conference, including top officials of the Russian Foreign and Defense Ministries as well as the armed services, […]

Policymakers, military leaders and members of Congress are making choices now that will determine the size and capability of the future U.S. military. Because of the government debt crisis, the armed forces are shrinking quickly and extensively, amplifying the long-term effects of any bad choices. As always, the downsizing process is political. No member of Congress wants to lose jobs in his or her district when a base closes or the military stops buying a locally made product. That said, Pentagon leaders, both civilian and uniformed, think more in terms of strategic factors, prioritizing capabilities by projecting what a future […]

Last week’s visit of Gen. Fang Fenghui, China’s highest-ranking military officer, to the United States both testified to the improvement in bilateral military relations and highlighted the continuing differences between these two military powers. Fang, the chief of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Staff, initially spent two days in San Diego, where he met the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, and toured the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, a littoral combat ship and the regional Marine Corps Recruit Depot. He then traveled to Washington to meet with his U.S. counterpart and official host, Chairman […]

A year ago this week, President Barack Obama spoke at the National Defense University, where he laid out a vision for how the United States would—slowly—move away from the paradigm of war in confronting the threat posed by terrorism. Every war America has fought, Obama reminded us, has come to an end. So must the war footing, if not the struggle, against global terrorism. What’s happened since then? The State Department’s annual assessment of terrorist networks says terrorist attacks on Americans have continued to decline, with just 16 U.S. citizen fatalities last year. U.S. drone strikes targeting terrorists have also […]

France’s announcement that it will reorganize its deployment of thousands of troops across the Sahel region of Africa came as a blow to early hopes that security could be swiftly restored in northern Mali after last year’s Operation Serval. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said on May 8 that despite assurances in 2013 that his country’s military intervention in Mali would be over in a matter of months, 1,000 French troops will now remain in the country, down from what are thought to be about 1,600 French troops at present. A further 3,000 will be based in three other […]

Over the course of the past year, there has been a cascade of African-led initiatives to increase security cooperation in the Sahel and Maghreb regions. While such initiatives are a function of the enduring imperative for states there to develop a more robust regional response to counter nonstate transnational threats, such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other violent extremist organizations, Sahel and Maghreb states may yet struggle to let go of some of the baggage that had impeded previous regional cooperation efforts. Prior to the 2012-2013 Mali crisis, mistrust among regional partners had hampered efforts to convince […]

The past few years have seen a remarkable recovery of Russia’s international influence and ambitions. Rejecting an implicit offer of partnership with the West, albeit with junior status for Moscow outside its Eurasian region, the Russian government under President Vladimir Putin continues to pursue a separate agenda aimed at making Russia an important and independent pillar of the global order. Moscow may not yet aspire to become a global superpower and peer rival of the United States again, but its goals and some of its capabilities still exceed those of Britain, France, Germany, Japan and other typical regional powers. Not […]

“It’s no accident that the expansion of Russia and China has come at the exact moment when we are dismantling our military and retreating from the world,” said outgoing House Armed Services Committee chair Buck McKeon last week in a speech shortly before launching into the committee’s marathon markup of the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). After hours of wrangling, the committee ended up authorizing over $600 billion for the Department of Defense, including almost $80 billion in overseas contingency operations funds, and weighing in on a host of defense policy issues. The outcome reflected a determination […]

No matter whether the crisis in Ukraine begins to de-escalate in the coming days, Vladimir Putin, with his 19th century outlook, has demonstrated the hollowness of the West’s 21st century approach to Euro-Atlantic security. The twin pillars of the European security establishment—NATO and the EU—have been unable to respond effectively because their assumptions about the nature of conflict and the burdens that members ought to bear to provide for the common defense, formed out of the experiences of the mid-to-late 20th century, have not been updated. For all the exalted talk about NATO as the mailed fist of the West, […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe just finished a 10-day, six-country tour of Europe. The trip’s primary focus was securing momentum toward an end state in Tokyo’s negotiations with the European Union on an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The trade talks have been moving at a steady pace since the first round of negotiations in early 2013. A finalized Japan-EU EPA would facilitate trade between the world’s third-largest economy and the EU, a partnership that would be worth over $20 trillion dollars, or nearly one-third of global GDP. According to a report from the European Commission, the EPA would result in […]

Back in February, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn defined the purposes of his agency before a Senate hearing. The DIA’s mission is to “prevent strategic surprise, deliver a strategic advantage and to deploy globally” to allow the U.S. government to “understand the threats it faces, enable decisions and actions” and prepare to face future dangers, he said. Now Flynn and his deputy, David Shedd, are on their way out, and there are some reports that they are being pushed out due to concerns about Flynn’s leadership style. The DIA released a statement saying that both Flynn […]

More than three weeks have passed since members of the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram burst into a girls’ school in the northeast of the country and kidnapped hundreds of girls. It took at least two of those weeks before international attention turned to the crisis, and even longer for the Nigerian government to sharpen its response and accept help rescuing the girls. Among the many questions surrounding the attack, one of the most puzzling is why Nigeria failed to react effectively for so long. By the time Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan at last spoke publicly about the kidnapping, the […]

For the first time since a military coup in 2012, Guinea-Bissau held presidential and parliamentary elections on April 13, setting the stage for the country’s return to civilian rule. With over 700,000 registered voters, 13 presidential candidates, 15 parties running for parliament and a history of chronic political instability, the elections could have been a recipe for more turmoil. But these fears proved unfounded, as on April 23 Guinea-Bissau’s National Elections Commission announced the final results of the parliamentary poll and the first-round results of the presidential election; more importantly, none of the country’s political forces disputed the results. The […]

Even while U.S. troops are still disengaging from combat in Afghanistan, the American military is hard at work distilling lessons from its long, costly counterinsurgency campaigns of the past decade. Two new counterinsurgency doctrine manuals—a joint one released last November and an updated Army/Marine Corps publication that will hit the streets in the next few days—provide a window into what lessons the military drew from Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet both are also important for what they do not or cannot address. Military doctrine institutionalizes the recent experience of the armed forces and identifies “best practices” for future operations. That the […]

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