Workers at a trading facility for charcoal from Somalia, in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 5, 2013 (AP photo by Kamran Jebreili).

The bitter Arab rivalry in the Persian Gulf is reshaping traditional spheres of influence and exacerbating fault lines farther south, in the Horn of Africa, the continent’s most volatile region. The spat between fellow members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which began a year ago when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates led an embargo of neighboring Qatar that shows no sign of ending, has sparked frantic diplomatic and economic activity across the Red Sea, with serious security consequences. Thrust center-stage into these changing political geographies is Somalia, among the world’s poorest and most conflict-prone countries. The fragile nation, […]

Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony in Beijing, June 27, 2018 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Over the past few decades, the U.S. military has had to shift its focus several times as the security environment and American national interests evolved. Until the end of the Cold War, it concentrated on preparing to fight the Soviet Union, potentially with nuclear weapons. In the 1990s, most of the military’s attention was on conventional wars against what were called “rogue states,” particularly Iran, Iraq and North Korea. After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. military retooled for counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. Now that era, too, is ending. Today, as the United States disengages from Iraq and Afghanistan, and Russia and […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Robert Fico, Slovakia’s prime minister at the time, during a meeting in the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, Aug. 25, 2016 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

BRATISLAVA—Slovakia, a NATO member that has called itself part of the “core of the European Union,” may talk positively about its Western orientation, but its actions recently suggest an increasingly closer alignment to Russia and its interests in Europe. Many observers point to the junior partner in its coalition government, the Slovak National Party, or SNS, as the reason why. The party’s nationalist, euroskeptic leader, Andrej Danko, the speaker of the Slovak parliament, has visited Moscow twice in the past eight months. Earlier this month, Slovakia’s Defense Ministry, which is headed by a member of the SNS, postponed a long-awaited […]

Pakistani journalists gather for a rally to mark World Press Freedom Day, Karachi, Pakistan, May 3, 2018 (AP photo by Fareed Khan).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series about press freedom and safety in various countries around the world. Last week, the Pakistani daily Dawn reported that its distributors and vendors were experiencing harassment and intimidation in several cities to prevent them from delivering the paper to subscribers. That followed an incident in April, in which the country’s largest television channel, Geo, was blocked by its cable operators across 80 percent of the country. Many in Pakistan saw the hand of the military behind the incidents. In an email interview, Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program […]

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens to a question from a reporter during a joint press conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, June 14, 2018 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Following last week’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, U.S. President Donald Trump trumpeted the potential for economic development in a country that most of the world has long considered a pariah. “Think of it from a real estate perspective,” Trump said, suggesting that instead of building nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, North Korea could have “the best hotels in the world.” While it is easy to attribute this seemingly peculiar position to Trump’s inexperience at statecraft, it actually runs deeper than that. It is one more manifestation of the enduring difficulty Americans have understanding how other cultures […]

American and French soldiers attend a daily briefing with the Nigerien military commander in charge of the fight against Boko Haram at a Nigerien military base in Diffa, Niger, March 26, 2015 (photo by Joe Penney).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, discuss the high-profile political crises over Italy’s refusal to offer safe haven for boats carrying rescued asylum-seekers, and the Trump administration’s family separation policy for asylum-seekers at the southern border. For the Report, Joe Penney talks with WPR’s senior editor, Robbie Corey-Boulet, about the U.S. military’s growing presence in West Africa, the secrecy that often obscures it, and what that means for the region’s fragile democracies.If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for […]

Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, greets the crowd upon his arrival at the National Sports Stadium for celebrations marking the country’s independence anniversary, Harare, Zimbabwe, April 18, 2018 (AP photo by Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi).

Since his elevation to the presidency following the November 2017 military intervention that removed Zimbabwe’s longtime ruler Robert Mugabe from power, Emmerson Mnangagwa has embarked upon a global charm offensive. This has been designed to restore the country’s reputation, which was badly battered by the turmoil triggered by Mugabe’s violent land seizures; repression of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC; and a series of rigged elections. In stark contrast to the belligerent anti-imperialist rhetoric of Mugabe, Mnangagwa has adopted the vocabulary of “reform” while seeking to build bridges to previous adversaries such as Britain and […]

A man sweeps dust off the street at dusk in Agadez, Niger, January 16, 2018 (photo by Joe Penney).

Recent controversies involving the U.S. military in Africa highlight how the Pentagon uses ambiguous language and outright secrecy to obscure its activities. At times, this has involved subverting democratic processes in partner countries, an approach that runs counter to years of diplomatic engagement. AGADEZ, Niger—In early May, Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, the head of U.S. Africa Command, addressed a group of journalists gathered in a staid, gray room at the Pentagon. The press conference had been called to disclose the main findings of the Defense Department’s investigation of an ambush seven months earlier in the West African nation of Niger. […]

People from Pakistan’s tribal areas participate in a rally demanding the release of suspects being held because of their alleged links to militants, Karachi, Pakistan, April 8, 2018 (AP photo by Fareed Khan).

Last month, Pakistan made one of the most important political moves in its 70-year history. Parliament passed legislation, officially the 25th Constitutional Amendment Bill, which paves the way for the merger of Pakistan’s semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas with the neighboring province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. On May 31, Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain signed the bill into law. Pakistan’s tribal belt will now come under the writ of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s provincial government. North Waziristan, South Waziristan and the rest of Pakistan’s seven tribal agencies will become districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. No longer will they be loosely administered by national government representatives known as political […]

A supporter of Gustavo Petro, the ex-mayor of Bogota who came in second in the first round of the presidential race, attends a campaign rally, Bogota, Colombia, May 17, 2018 (AP photo by Ivan Valencia).

In the first round of Colombia’s presidential election on May 27, Gustavo Petro, the ex-mayor of Bogota, won 25 percent of the votes cast, setting the stage for him to face off against Ivan Duque, a senator and former official of the Inter-American Development Bank who secured 39 percent. Their respective results make Duque—who is running as the candidate of the Democratic Center, the right-wing party that is most critical of the 2016 peace agreement with FARC guerrillas—the clear favorite to win in the June 17 runoff. But despite the fact that Petro can all but rule out taking office […]

U.N. peacekeepers stand near people queuing to enter a mosque during the visit of Pope Francis, Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov. 30, 2015 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

Birthday parties can be moments for both celebration and introspection. While it may be fun to mark life’s milestones, they can inspire soul-searching about the meaning of aging. There were understandably mixed feelings at the United Nations last week, as the organization marked peacekeeping’s 70th birthday. The Security Council sent military observers to the Middle East in 1948 to supervise the end of the first Arab-Israeli war. Pedants can debate whether this represented the birth of peacekeeping—the interwar League of Nations had deployed multinational forces—but it was the first of over 70 U.N. missions that have become the organization’s trademark. […]

U.S. Marines participate in a U.S.-Thai joint military exercise on Hat Yao beach, Chonburi province, Thailand, Feb. 17, 2018 (AP photo by Sakchai Lalit).

Every large organization must find strategic leaders if it is to be successful. The more competitive the environment an organization operates in, the more imperative the need for creative and effective leadership. For a military, this is particularly challenging. A corporation, a large nongovernmental organization or even the government itself can look outside if it does not have talent within its ranks. Because of the very specific skill set, professional ethos and ethical framework that it takes to lead during war, armed forces must find strategic leaders from within. This makes leadership development the lifeblood of a military organization, particularly […]

Members of a samba school portray drug traffickers during Carnival celebrations, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Feb. 13, 2018 (AP photo by Silvia Izquierdo).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, discuss President Donald Trump’s first trade war—not with China, but with Canada, Mexico and the European Union. For the Report, Christopher Looft talks with WPR’s senior editor, Robbie Corey-Boulet, about the Brazilian government’s move to militarize security in Rio de Janeiro and the political impact across Brazil. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered straight to your inbox. The newsletter offers a free […]