A Dongfeng-41 intercontinental strategic nuclear missiles group formation marches to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Beijing, Oct. 1 2019 (Imaginechina photo via AP Images).

Satellite photos recently obtained by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, the Federation of American Scientists, and others appear to show that China is building vast fields of new missile silos in its sparsely populated western region. That has prompted fears that Beijing may be well on its way to possessing a much larger nuclear arsenal than anyone had expected and aspiring to rival the United States and Russia, the two countries that have traditionally dominated the global nuclear order. If this comes to pass, tripolarity will for the first time become the primary feature of that order, with […]

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the terror attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., August 26, 2021 (Photo by Oliver Contreras for Sipa USA via AP Images).

Debacle. That is the only right and proper way to describe President Joe Biden’s handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden lost every point he’s dropped in national polling this week entirely of his own accord, and history will not be any kinder to his foreign policy legacy. Most Americans might agree with the White House decision to exit Afghanistan. Regardless, August 2021 will remain an indelible stain on the United States’ reputation.  That was already the case before yesterday’s horrific suicide bombing outside Kabul’s international airport, which left at least 100 dead, including 13 U.S. servicemembers, and 150 injured, according to the latest […]

President Joe Biden pauses as he listens to a question about the bombings at the Kabul airport that killed at least 13 U.S. service members, Washington, Aug. 26, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which gives a rundown of the week’s top stories on WPR. Subscribe to receive it by email every Saturday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. By now, the shock of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has begun to wear off. But the outrage over the Biden administration’s handling of the evacuation of Western civilians and Afghan nationals at risk of Taliban retaliation seems to have only risen this week, even as the airlift gathered pace. That outrage turned to horror Thursday, when […]

Sunbathers on the beach in Barcelona, Spain, July 9, 2021 (AP photo by Joan Mateu).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Europe Decoder, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about Europe. Subscribe to receive it by email every Thursday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox.  The island of Malta is known as a tourist destination for its scenic views. Perhaps less recognized is that it now has the world’s highest coronavirus vaccination rate, with 80 percent of the total population, including children, and 90 percent of people over the age of 12 fully vaccinated. It […]

National Guard soldiers block access to a road in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz state, Mexico, Aug. 30, 2019 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

The United States and Mexico have experienced a significant number of setbacks in their security cooperation over the past year. Although policy differences, mutual accusations of wrongdoing and a degree of distrust have always been inherent aspects of the bilateral relationship, U.S. and Mexican administrations since the late 1990s had generally found ways to work together on the principal issues affecting them. This pragmatic approach was severely tested during former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, particularly after the populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, became president of Mexico in December 2018.  With Trump out of office, AMLO […]

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In an address to the nation in early July, President Joe Biden suggested that one of the factors leading him to withdraw all remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan was the “need to focus on shoring up America’s core strengths to meet the strategic competition with China and other nations that is really going to determine our future.” For the past several years, the zeitgeist in Washington has been all about great power competition, or the need to prepare for potential conflict with countries the United States considers “near-peer” adversaries—namely Russia and China, but to a lesser extent, Iran and North Korea as well. The […]

U.S. President Joe Biden shakes hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, July 26, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Fears of the collapse of the state are growing in Iraq as the Afghanistan debacle deepens, with each passing day revealing more details about the lack of detailed planning and foresight about the consequences of a U.S. pullout for Afghans.  A similar lack of attention to the crucial American role in influencing events in Iraq could result in a pitched struggle among the competing militias and factions there for control of political power and state resources. Simply put, Iraq’s stability risks becoming an afterthought for U.S. policymakers calibrating a global rebalancing, despite the enormous consequence of instability in Iraq for domestic […]

Afghan security personnel arrive at the site of an explosion targeting a United Nations vehicle in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 24, 2019 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

The images of humanitarian chaos and the deteriorating situation for women after the swift Taliban takeover of Kabul have left the international community grasping for options. In the face of Afghan women’s desperate pleas for support, women’s rights NGOs in the United States recently called for a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan. There is no question that such an operation, if mounted earlier, would have been beneficial to Afghan civilians and particularly to women. As David Cortright and I have written before, and as much scholarly research shows, U.N. peacekeeping operations work better than Western counterinsurgencies at maintaining durable peace, […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a military parade, in Nicosia, Cyprus, July 20, 2021 (Turkish Presidency pool photo via AP Images).

Like other foreign powers, Turkey was caught off-guard by the speed of the Taliban’s recent blitz across the country, which has greatly complicated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plans. While most NATO countries were happy to wash their hands of the conflict after a grueling 20-year counterinsurgency and nation-building effort, Erdogan was proposing that Turkey continue to provide security for Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.  Erdogan had discussed this idea with U.S. President Joe Biden during their meeting on the margins of the NATO Summit last month, and negotiations with Washington were reportedly ongoing until last week, despite the Taliban’s fervent […]

Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 19, 2021 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

The swift return of the Taliban to power has sparked panic in Afghanistan and sent shockwaves around the world. With U.S. military forces taking control of the Kabul airport and the evacuation of foreign nationals and thousands of Afghans proceeding, important questions loom about the future of Afghanistan and the impact of the convulsive events that unfolded over the past few days. Here are some of the major unknowns going forward, the answers to which, as they emerge over the coming weeks, months and years, will determine how exactly the radical group’s return will reshape the country, the region and, […]

Then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger speaking with an elderly Afghan refugee during his visit to an Afghan refugee village in northwest Pakistan, Oct. 1, 1983 (AP photo by Moin Ban).

In October 1983, during a visit to New York City from West Africa, where I had recently begun a career as a foreign correspondent, I stood in my uncle’s kitchen and took in the evening news over a drink before dinner. The main story that night was the visit by then-President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger, to Pakistan. Weinberger traveled to that country’s border with Afghanistan and there, at the Khyber Pass, vowed that U.S. support for Afghan insurgents would bring down the Soviet-backed government in power in Kabul at the time. “I want you to know that […]

Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint that was previously manned by American troops near the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 17, 2021 (AP photo).

A full accounting of the costs of the United States’ failed intervention in Afghanistan will take years or even decades. But judging from the reactions from overseas to the past week’s events, the debacle has already taken a significant toll on America’s credibility. Justifiably or not, President Joe Biden’s insistence on a complete military drawdown, despite the growing warning signs throughout the summer of a Taliban takeover, has prompted U.S. allies and partners to question whether Washington will uphold its security commitments elsewhere in the world.  From Europe to East Asia to the Middle East, a key takeaway from the […]

An oil tanker on fire in the Gulf of Oman (AP file photo).

In recent weeks, a series of attacks on commercial shipping in and near the Persian Gulf have been unofficially attributed to Iran, including a drone attack that killed two mariners in the Gulf and an attempted hijacking of a commercial vessel in the Strait of Hormuz. Along with another suspected attack, in which several ships simultaneously reported difficulties in steering, these incidents highlight both the importance of commercial shipping to the global economy and the sector’s vulnerability to asymmetric tactics, including cyberattacks. They also show how Iran is using cyberattacks to demonstrate its capabilities, and signal what to expect from […]

A German military aircraft prepares to land at the German camp in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, Oct. 3, 2008 (AP photo by Anja Niedringhaus).

The collapse of the Afghan government over the weekend, culminating in the Taliban’s entry into Kabul and declaration of an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, stunned most observers with its rapidity, even if the outcome itself was not a surprise. Ever since it became clear that U.S. President Joe Biden would withdraw U.S. military forces from the country whether or not a peace deal and power-sharing agreement had been reached, the prospect of a Taliban military victory seemed likely, if not necessarily guaranteed. The speed with which the Afghan security forces unraveled, provincial leaders swapped allegiance and the national government dissolved, […]

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani arrives to attend the Central and South Asia 2021 conference in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, July 16, 2021 (AP photo).

If we are to believe American intelligence assessments leaked this week, it is only a matter of time before Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, falls to the Taliban. Judging by the worrying news from several of my Afghan friends and colleagues who are now all clamoring to get out of the country, it could even be a couple of weeks. For some, it’s shocking to think that the city of roughly 5 million at the center of the country’s heartland could soon be the next to fall, after the Taliban’s aggressively swift push to seize control of provincial capitals in the north.  But for close […]

Internally displaced Afghans from northern provinces, who fled their homes due to fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security personnel, wait to receive free food in a public park in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

From the moment President Joe Biden announced in April that the United States would withdraw all its military forces from Afghanistan within a few months, the level of violence there intensified, negotiations sputtered and the prospects for the Afghan people—especially Afghan women—became grim. The seeming rashness of the decision and lack of planning to handle obvious major contingencies were serious missteps for a president that has so far made mostly thoughtful, carefully calibrated moves. This is not to suggest that U.S. forces should stay in Afghanistan forever. To be sure, Afghanistan is the land of no easy solutions, and Biden […]