Libyan children wave national flags as they look out over Tahrir Square, during the second anniversary of the uprising that toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Benghazi, Libya, Feb, 17, 2013 (AP photo by Mohammad Hannon).

Libya is a mess and rapidly getting worse. It is a “failed state ravaged by civil war, and a magnet for al-Qaida and Islamic State (IS) recruits,” as Christopher Chivvis put it— “Somalia on the Mediterranean.” The principle victims are Libyans themselves. After suffering through decades of Moammar Gadhafi’s dictatorship, they now face a future that is, in many ways, even worse. But the danger spreads outward. Gadhafi’s weapons have been used to arm extremists across Africa, dragging other nations like Mali toward the abyss. Libya probably has more IS fighters than any place outside Syria, and they now threaten […]

NATO troops take part in the military parade to mark Estonia’s Independence Day near the Russian border, Narva, Estonia, Feb. 24, 2015 (AP photo by Liis Treimann).

The latest cease-fire between government forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine remains tenuous, but there are some signs it may hold for now. Kiev withdrew heavy artillery from the front today as the Russian ruble rallied for the first time since its collapse in December, prompted both by the cease-fire and by a rebound in global oil prices. While Russia’s economic outlook remains grim, with Western sanctions still in place, Russian President Vladimir Putin can claim some measure of victory after a year of interventions in Ukraine. Meanwhile, to the north, the three Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—are faced […]

The entrance to Camp 5 and Camp 6 at the U.S. military’s Guantanamo Bay detention center, which President Barack Obama has pledged to close amid opposition in Congress, Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, June 7, 2014 (AP photo by Ben Fox).

When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, there were 680 prisoners being held in the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Today, there are 122. As The Associated Press has reported, that is “less than half the number when [U.S. President Barack] Obama took office, and the fewest since 10 days after the U.S. began shipping al-Qaida and Taliban fighters, shackled and clad in orange jumpsuits, to the base on Jan. 11, 2002.” A slow trickle of prisoner releases has steadily picked up over the last year and a half, and especially in recent months, as part of a policy […]

A Libyan soldier wakes his comrade in Al Ajaylat, 75 miles west of Tripoli, Libya, Feb. 21, 2015 (AP photo by Mohamed Ben Khalifa).

Four years after the revolution began to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi’s regime with NATO’s help, and amid a worsening civil war, Libya today faces a new and very real threat: militants affiliated with the self-declared Islamic State (IS). Even though Libya has no religious divisions that IS can exploit to establish a foothold, the country’s ongoing political crisis, armed conflict and security vacuum provide a fertile environment for IS to expand its influence to Europe’s doorstep. The Islamic State’s senior leadership in Libya is made up of foreign fighters from Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, who were dispatched to Libya by […]

Ukrainian troops wave as they ride on an armored vehicle near Artemivsk, eastern Ukraine, Feb. 24, 2015 (AP photo by Evgeniy Maloletka).

This past week, I had the opportunity to attend a roundtable in New York sponsored by the Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development on the question of whether the West and Russia have entered into a new Cold War. My sense of pessimism that it now seems impossible to get relations between Russia and the West back on track was reinforced by listening to the exchanges. Even if the present cease-fire holds in Ukraine and succeeds in halting open warfare, the effect will only be temporary. Any sort of long-term settlement seems to be beyond reach. Neither Russia nor […]

U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wave to the media before a meeting in New Delhi, India, Jan. 25, 2015 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

U.S. President Barack Obama’s January visit to India saw some long-awaited movement on the two countries’ Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), touted by both sides as a means to transform the current buyer-seller defense relationship into one based on coproduction and co-development. In pursuit of this stated goal, India and the U.S. have agreed upon some pathfinder projects for production of U.S.-origin systems in India, in addition to exploring several high-end joint technology development proposals. The moves confirm that the DTTI will be a key element of the two sides’ renewed bilateral defense pact as it moves into its […]

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy guided missile destroyer Qingdao during a search and rescue exercise off the coast of Hawaii, Sept. 9, 2013 (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brennan D. Knaresboro).

Earlier this month, while visiting Seoul for talks with his South Korean counterpart, China’s defense minister expressed Beijing’s opposition to the deployment in South Korea of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system. That followed a similar declaration by China’s ambassador to South Korea in November, and the topic was reportedly also raised by Chinese President Xi Jinping in talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye during Xi’s visit to Seoul in July. The vocal expressions of Chinese concern are puzzling, since the U.S. and South Korean governments have not held any formal talks on such […]

Shiite militia fighters sing anti-Islamic State group songs on the frontline near Kirkuk, Iraq, Feb. 15, 2015 (AP photo by Emad Matti).

Iraq is an artificial creation cobbled together from provinces of the old Ottoman Empire by outsiders. The ethnic groups and religious sects that live there were not always mortal enemies, but there was an undercurrent of enmity among them that turned malignant when Saddam Hussein imposed a murderous domination by his group, the Sunni Arabs. When the United States waded into Iraq, it hoped that this precarious political entity could hang on in part as a barrier to Iran. After the removal of Saddam in 2003, Washington encouraged Baghdad to develop an inclusive government balancing the interests of its component […]

Burkina Faso Lt. Col. Issac Yacouba Zida, right, leaves a government building after meeting with political leaders in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Nov. 4, 2014 (AP photo by Theo Renaut).

Late last month, the transitional government of Burkina Faso officially announced that presidential and legislative elections would take place in October. That came after two months of lengthy negotiations between the new government and the Independent National Electoral Commission, known by its French acronym, CENI, along with political leaders and civil society. The elections will formally conclude a consensus-based but nevertheless precarious political transition. It will also mark the one-year anniversary of popular protests that forced the resignation of Blaise Compaore, who ruled Burkina Faso for 27 years. After the violent demonstrations last October against Compaore’s attempts to modify constitutional […]

Egyptians, mostly Christians, during a protest against the Islamic State for the execution of Egyptian Coptic Christians, Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 16, 2015 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

The latest installment of horror delivered by the propaganda machine of the so-called Islamic State (IS) confirmed one of the terrorist group’s principal strategies, the evidence of which has been gradually emerging as IS captures territory, seizes hostages and carries out barbaric acts that are promptly disseminated for publicity purposes. A video released Sunday showed the execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians captured by IS members in Libya over the past few months. The Egyptians appear marching single-file on the beach, wearing the familiar orange jumpsuits worn by hostages in previous IS videos, as their captors lead them to their […]

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi makes a statement after militants in Libya affiliated with the Islamic State released a grisly video showing the beheading of several Egyptian Coptic Christians, Feb. 16, 2015 (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency).

Days after ordering airstrikes on targets of the so-called Islamic State (IS) in eastern Libya, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi may be in hot water with his Gulf Arab patrons—not over the strikes, but for comments made in their aftermath by an Egyptian official at the Arab League. On Thursday, the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) backed Qatar’s decision to withdraw its ambassador from Cairo after Egypt’s representative to the Arab League accused Doha of supporting “terrorism” in Libya. The accusation came during an Arab League debate on Egypt’s actions in Libya; Qatar’s representative had apparently raised some reservations. […]

NATO headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, Jan. 8, 2015 (NATO photo).

This past weekend, militants in Libya aligned with the so-called Islamic State (IS) brutally executed 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians they had captured. As the victims’ blood flowed into the Mediterranean Sea, their executioner declared, “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.” Even as most of Europe’s attention remains focused on the east and the fighting in Ukraine, the horrific murders highlight the threat the continent faces to the south. They also serve as yet another reminder, if one were necessary, that the operation to depose former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, once praised as a successful example of the responsibility to […]

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, Sen. Jack Reed and Sen. James Inhofe prepare to vote on the nomination of Ashton Carter to be the Pentagon chief, Feb. 10, 2015, Washington (AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite).

When Americans think of civil-military relations, what jumps to mind is the interaction of the armed services and the executive branch of government. This relationship is central to American democracy, but also relatively straightforward. The Constitution makes the president the commander-in-chief of the military, and commissioned officers serve “at the pleasure of the president.” Officers follow the president’s orders or are fired. Yet as Mackubin Thomas Owens points out, “Those who neglect the congressional role in American civil-military relations are missing an important element.” In many ways, this is a more complicated relationship, since it lacks the clear chain of […]

Villagers sitting on the back of a small truck as they, and others, flee the recent violence near the city of Maiduguri, Nigeria, Jan. 27, 2015 (AP photo by Jossy Ola).

Last weekend, Nigeria’s electoral commission announced that, contrary to statements made just days prior by the chief of defense staff and the chief of army staff, the country’s security forces could not guarantee the safe conduct of presidential and parliamentary elections originally scheduled for Feb. 14 and 28. The commission postponed the poll for six weeks, the minimum time the security forces say they need to conclude a major military operation against militants from Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria and before which they would be unavailable to provide security for the elections. The presidential and parliamentary elections are now set […]

Filipino fishermen on a boat go by Vietnamese frigates at the south harbor in Manila, Philippines, Nov. 25, 2014 (AP photo by Aaron Favila).

Earlier this month, the foreign ministers of the Philippines and Vietnam met to discuss the possibility of forming a strategic partnership. In an email interview, Carl Thayer, professor emeritus at the University of New South Wales, discussed ties between Manila and Hanoi. WPR: What is the recent trajectory of Philippines-Vietnam relations, and to what extent are the South China Sea territorial disputes driving closer ties? Carl Thayer: Philippines-Vietnam relations have been on an upward trend since October 2010, following the state visit to Hanoi by Philippine President Benigno Aquino and subsequent visits to the Philippines by Vietnam’s president in 2011 […]

Jordanian King Abdullah II talks with Safi al-Kaseasbeh, father of slain Jordanian pilot Lt. Moaz al-Kassasbeh, Karak, Jordan, Feb. 5, 2015 (AP photo by Nasser Nasser).

The picture blew across the Internet like a hot wind in the desert. It showed King Abdullah II of Jordan wearing combat fatigues, staring deeply into the camera, his chest cinched with parachute straps, his hands clad in black gloves, barely resisting the impulse to clench into fists. In the viral aftermath of the posting on the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s official Facebook page, the rumor spread that the king was personally flying combat missions against the so-called Islamic State (IS). The palace denied it, but social media users refused to believe the fabrication and continued repeating the claim: After […]

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, center, claps as Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, left, shakes hands with Senate President Franklin Drilon, Manila, Philippines, Sept. 10, 2014 (AP photo by Aaron Favila).

The political fallout of a botched police raid in the southern Philippines continues to dominate international headlines and threaten the country’s burgeoning peace process with southern rebels. Forty-four police officers and 18 fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) lost their lives in the township of Mamasapano after what its mayor called a “misencounter” during a police operation to capture Zulkifli bin Hir—a senior leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network with suspected ties to the MILF. The incident represents the largest single loss of life by Philippine police officers in recent history, and has significant political ramifications for […]

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