President Donald Trump walks with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, June 16, 2017 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

At some point in the next year, the Trump administration should release its first official National Security Strategy. In the past, many of these reports were simply extended self-congratulations or a litany of unrealistic aspirations of little value to the government agencies that had to implement them. It is vital for the inaugural Trump effort to avoid these pitfalls by identifying realistic and attainable midterm goals. The key word here is “realistic.” In the midterm—from four to 10 years—the United States is not going to eradicate the self-styled Islamic State, al-Qaida or the Afghan Taliban. Nor will it engineer the […]

Nigerian soldiers man a checkpoint, Gwoza, Nigeria, April 8, 2015 (AP photo by Lekan Oyekanmi).

Vast ungoverned spaces, weak security institutions, corrupt administrations and scarce economic opportunities are all factors contributing to the entrenchment of Islamist extremism in West Africa and the Sahel. Regional governments have struggled to respond to the threat and ensure security, and in some cases their actions have only made things worse. Could the planned “G5 Sahel Joint Force” represent a turning point? This WPR Special Report assesses what’s at stake. Purchase this special report as a Kindle e-book. The Roots of Conflict How West Africa Became Fertile Ground for AQIM and ISIS Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and the so-called […]

Jean-Rock Sobi, right, representative of the Democratic Front of the Central African People, talks with Anicet Dologuele of the Union for Central African Renewal after signing a peace deal, Rome, June 19, 2017 (AP photo by Domenico Stinellis).

On June 19, Central African Republic’s government and more than a dozen armed groups signed a peace deal mediated in Rome by the Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio, briefly raising hopes of a break, or at least a reduction, in violence. Those hopes were seemingly dashed the following day, when heavy fighting resumed in the town of Bria. The town’s mayor said at least 100 people were killed. In an email interview, Evan Cinq-Mars, United Nations adviser with the Center for Civilians in Conflict, explains how the dynamic of the conflict in Central African Republic has evolved and why the situation […]

Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, center, speaks during a peace conference at the Presidential Palace, Kabul, June 6, 2017 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

With the Trump White House abdicating decision-making authority over the Afghan war to the Pentagon, it’s only a matter of time until the United States escalates troop levels in Afghanistan again. The security situation in the country is dire, with the Taliban in control of more territory than at any point since the 2001 invasion and momentum on its side. The situation for Afghan civilians remains terrifying, with a spate of recent attacks highlighting how little progress has been made in America’s longest war. If things weren’t bad enough, Afghanistan is also in the grips of a festering political crisis, […]

President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May at the White House, Washington, Jan. 27, 2017 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

It is hard to believe the degree of shock most of us felt this time last year at the outcome of the Brexit referendum, given everything that has transpired since then. The resentment many Britons felt toward the European Union was no secret, nor was the fact that London’s relationship to Brussels had historically been lukewarm at best. But for all its flaws, the EU was a known commodity. Brexit, in contrast, represented a deep tangle of unknowns, both economic and political, with most of the debate being over the extent of the damage and devastation it would wreak on […]

Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 military fighter jets and German Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets participate in NATO’s Baltic air policing mission, Lithuania, April 25, 2017 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series about NATO members’ contributions to and relationships with the alliance. This year, troops from the Netherlands arrived in Lithuania to participate in a German-led battalion that is part of a broader NATO effort to bolster defenses near Russia; similar battalions are deploying in Poland, Latvia and Estonia. The deployment coincides with rising support within the Netherlands to increase defense spending, which was scaled back during the first half of this decade. Both developments reflect the realization, in the Netherlands and across Europe, that European militaries need to ramp up efforts […]

A hotel staff member mops the floor in front of a picture featuring portraits of the late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung, left, and Kim Jong Il, Pyongyang, North Korea, June 19, 2017 (AP photo by Wong Maye-E).

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part column. The first part can be found here. America’s military involvement in Syria topped this week’s headlines, but North Korea remains the most dangerous security problem the United States faces. Pyongyang has not engaged in any outright military provocations for a few weeks. But the death of Otto Warmbier, an American student arrested in Pyongyang a year ago and returned last week in an unexplained comatose state, has amplified anger against the bizarre Kim Jong Un regime and led to calls for expanded sanctions against it. On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald […]

Two Japan Self-Defense Forces destroyers anchored at the Port of Djibouti, during a break in an antipiracy mission in the waters off Somalia, Jan. 19, 2015 (Kyodo photo via AP).

The world’s newest mega-dock opened last month in Djibouti, the strategic real estate agent to world powers that is leasing access to the highest bidder. In a move to widen its African investment portfolio, China fronted the $590 million needed for the 1,700-acre Doraleh Multi-Purpose Port, the first of four docks and other infrastructure projects in Africa that are central to China’s grandiose Maritime Silk Road master plan. This comes as Djibouti gets more crowded. The small, strategically located country in the Horn of Africa already hosts U.S., French and Japanese military bases and will soon add a Saudi military […]

Defense Secretary James Mattis looks over his notes before a news conference at the Pentagon to give an update on the Islamic State group, Washington, May 19, 2017 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

As the fight against the so-called Islamic State approaches its endgame, the United States seems to be stumbling its way up the escalation ladder in Syria. Repeated U.S. airstrikes against Syrian forces and allied militias in southeastern Syria had already caused alarm that the U.S. might be drawn deeper into the country’s civil war. The downing of a Syrian warplane by a U.S. fighter jet over the weekend punctuated those concerns. In response, Russia announced it would suspend the use of a communication channel to “deconflict” air operations over Syria—that is, avoid unintended confrontations between Russian and American jets—although the […]

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha during a press conference, Bangkok, Thailand, May 23, 2017 (AP photo by Sakchai Lalit).

In July, according to spokespeople for Thailand’s government, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha will come to Washington for a White House visit. It promises to be a substantial diplomatic and reputational boost for both Prayuth, who led the coup in May 2014 that deposed Thailand’s most recent elected government, and the junta running Thailand, which remains a U.S. treaty ally. Former President Barack Obama did not offer Prayuth a White House invitation, although Obama did meet with him as part of a summit in California of Southeast Asian leaders in February 2016. The Thai junta repeatedly expressed anger at the Obama […]

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias arrive for the NATO summit, Brussels, May 25, 2017 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series about NATO members’ contributions to and relationships with the alliance. While Greece continues to be one of only five NATO countries meeting the alliance goal of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense, economic contractions in recent years have meant that the amount of real investment has decreased considerably. However, because of long-running security concerns such as the perceived threat posed by Turkey and new challenges like the migration crisis, the portion of the budget going to defense is expected to remain relatively high. In an email interview, Dr. Thanos […]

A French soldier stands alongside troops who helped France take back Mali’s north as they participate in a ceremony formally transforming the force into a United Nations peacekeeping mission, Bamako, Mali, July 1, 2013 (AP photo by Harouna Traore).

There is a lot of talk at the United Nations about tailoring peace operations to address the specific needs of the countries and communities that they serve. But from the vantage of the Security Council, there are really only two types of peacekeeping missions: the ones the French like, and the ones the Americans and British like. The entire edifice of U.N. operations rests on a delicate network of bargains among Paris, London and Washington about how to balance these two groups of missions. France has pushed for peacekeepers in a series of its former colonies including Cote d’Ivoire, Mali […]

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a welcome ceremony in Doha, Feb. 15, 2017 (Press Presidency Press Service photo by Kayhan Ozer via AP).

Like the rest of the world, Turkey was blindsided by the sudden decision by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to cut all diplomatic, trade and transportation ties with Qatar earlier this month. Ankara is now scrambling to respond coherently to this new headache over Qatar, a state with which it has deepened ties in recent years. This is a strategic dilemma of the first degree for Turkey. If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fails to stand by the only true Arab ally he has left, he could lose all semblance of influence in the Arab world. […]

Soldiers goose-step across Kim Il Sung Square during a parade to celebrate the 105th birthday of Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s late founder and grandfather of current ruler Kim Jong Un, Pyongyang, April 15, 2017 (AP photo by Wong Maye-E).

In early 2003, with U.S. military intervention in Iraq increasingly likely, the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command had detailed plans in place to defeat Saddam Hussein’s military. But because the George W. Bush administration insisted that the invasion would be short and American troops rapidly withdrawn, military plans for stabilizing and reconstructing Iraq after the battlefield victory were woefully inadequate. To remedy this, Conrad Crane and Andrew Terrill, two former U.S. Army officers on the faculty of the U.S. Army War College, led a study project that brought together a wide range of experts on both Iraq and military stabilization […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of the ruling Justice and Development Party, Ankara, June 13, 2017 (Pool photo via AP).

As the dust settles from President Donald Trump’s first visit to the Middle East, his policy in the region, such as it exists, is harkening back to the years before his predecessor, Barack Obama. Obama only sought minor recalibrations in long-standing U.S. policy toward its allies in the region, and his criticisms of them amounted to the mildest rebukes. But Trump’s visit made it clear that Saudi Arabia and Israel are, once again, the unmistakable pillars of America’s Middle East posture. Egypt also seems more firmly in the U.S. orbit than ever, given Trump and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s mutual […]

Members of a U.S. Air Force munitions team assemble guided bombs to support the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar, March 10, 2015 (AP photo by Adam Schrek).

Americans generally don’t think much about where their nation’s military bases are located around the world, but they probably should. For most of the past century, a pillar of U.S. strategy has been to address threats and defeat enemies as far away from the homeland as possible. This makes security partnerships and forward presence important. And that requires bases. During the Cold War, stationing military forces abroad was a sign of commitment to allies, assuring them that America would be there if they were attacked. This helped deter aggressors. If deterrence failed, the thinking went, foreign bases would make it […]

The head of Russia’s space agency, Igor Komarov, center, attends the launch of Russia’s Glonass monitoring station in Managua, Nicaragua (Roscosmos via AP).

On April 7, an unusual ceremony took place on the edge of a dormant volcano not far from the Nicaraguan capital, Managua. Nicaraguan officials joined Russian representatives for the formal opening of a new Russian satellite-tracking station, located barely 1,000 miles from the United States. Presiding over the ceremony was Laureano Ortega Murillo, a man grown powerful by virtue of his parentage. He is the son of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and the president’s wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. The satellite facility, part of Russia’s Glonass network, a global navigation system in the mold of GPS, was given a name […]

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