This photo purports to show volunteers standing near the wreckage of the destroyed vehicle in which Mullah Akhtar Mansour was allegedly traveling, Baluchistan, Pakistan, May 21, 2016 (AP photo by Abdul Malik).

Last weekend, a U.S. military drone killed Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, as he drove home from Iran to Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. This was a bold action, marking the first time an American drone strike had been ordered in the Taliban’s home base, rather than in Pakistan’s tribal areas that border Afghanistan. It may not signal yet another new U.S. strategy for the war in Afghanistan, but it is a significant tactical and political shift, recognition that as the Obama administration winds down, trends in the country are not good. As Dan De Luce and John […]

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr speaking to his supporters before entering Baghdad’s highly fortified Green Zone, March, 27, 2016 (AP photo by Karim Kadim).

A key character from the Iraqi insurgency is back center stage in Baghdad, but what does it mean? The re-emergence of Muqtada al-Sadr, the 42-year-old Shiite cleric notorious for his firebrand rhetoric and command of a feared militia, the Mahdi Army, has sparked all kinds of coverage. Sadr has been compared to an “Iraqi Gandhi”—an evolution, in the same headline, from “rabid warlord.” His apparent reinvention from militia leader to “shrewd political operator” has people asking, again, whether he is the most powerful man in Iraqi politics. The return of this “old provocateur” in February amid streets protests outside Baghdad’s […]

Chadian peacekeepers with the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) patrol a check point, Tessalit, northern Mali, Nov. 3, 2013 (U.N. photo Marco Dormino).

Who can do the best job of fighting terrorists in Africa? Islamist extremist groups such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Somalia’s al-Shabab and northern Nigeria’s Boko Haram are garnering increasingly intense international attention. Last week, the U.S Army chief of staff was in Tanzania to discuss the threat with his African counterparts. In the meantime, United Nations Security Council ambassadors were visiting Somalia, while Western and Arab foreign ministers met in Vienna to discuss Libya, where the self-declared Islamic State has a foothold. Also last week, the Nigerian government claimed a symbolic victory when it announced that it had […]

Legionnaires of the 13th DBLE of the French Foreign Legion during a commemoration ceremony, Marseille, France, April 30, 2016 (AP photo by Claude Paris).

In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama campaigned for president promising to extricate the United States from its grinding wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. His administration, Obama hoped, would be known for domestic programs rather than war-fighting. Unfortunately America’s adversaries had different intentions. Obama has now been at war longer than any other U.S. president. A case can be made that America’s ongoing military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere does not constitute “war” in the constitutional and strategic senses of the word. But it is clear that armed strife is the new normal, not an episodic aberration as […]

Hezbollah supporters carry the coffin of slain commander Mustafa Badreddine during his funeral procession, southern Beirut, Lebanon, May 13, 2016 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

For all its current brutality and intractability, the war in Syria, like all wars, will one day come to an end. In pondering over what the Middle East will look like when that day comes, it is worth considering how the war will have changed Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia and political organization. Last week Hezbollah’sMustafa Badreddine was killed in Syria.Badreddine was not just an ordinary fighter for the group. He was responsible for some of Hezbollah’s most spectacular attacks over the years, including the 1983 U.S. Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, along with other hotel, embassy and airline bombings. […]

A member of the Moroccan special anti-terror unit at the headquarters of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations, Rabat, Morocco, April 20, 2015 (AP photo by Abdeljalil Bounhar).

Last week, the Long War Journal reported that the “self-proclaimed head of the Islamic State’s arm in the Sahara has reportedly threatened to attack Morocco,” according to an audio statement sent to Al Jazeera. The message’s authenticity has not been verified, and there has been no official media release of the tape. But it drew attention to the potential terror threats facing Morocco, which has for years taken pride in its domestic anti-radicalization programs and has emerged as an important counterterrorism partner for European countries, including France and Belgium. In 2014, the leader of the Islamic State (ISIS), Abu Bakr […]

U.S. President Barack Obama during a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, April 5, 2016 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

There has been a distinct pattern to America’s time as a global power: Whenever the United States becomes involved in a conflict, it quickly draws lessons that set the trajectory for the next conflict or problem. American strategy truly is iterative, with the recent past paving the way for future action. This means that getting the lessons right, or at least as right as possible, is a vital part of strategy-making. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, for instance, the lessons of Vietnam haunted policymakers and framed public debate over America’s role in the world. This led the U.S. military to […]

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, right, at a military parade to mark Pakistan's Republic Day, Islamabad, March 23, 2016 (AP photo by Anjum Naveed).

The fallout of the so-called Panama Papers, along with rising civil unrest, security challenges, and the expanding role of the military in civilian affairs, have resulted in the most challenging period for Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, since he took office in 2013. Yet Sharif is likely to survive the current difficulties, given the weak position of the opposition and the military’s lack of interest to force a change in government. However, Sharif’s longer-term political prospects are less clear. They could be hampered by additional repercussions from investigations into Sharif’s family shielding their money in offshore bank accounts and shell […]

Iraqi counterterrorism forces hold an ISIS flag they captured regaining control of Hit, Iraq, April 13, 2016 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

Two years ago the conflict between the self-styled Islamic State (ISIS) and the government of Iraq saw dramatic, unexpected shifts, as large swaths of territory and major cities changed hands. The battle lines moved back and forth. For a while it seemed that the extremists might march triumphantly into Baghdad. But then the Iraqi government and security forces regained their bearing and held on. Slowly the tide turned, at least a bit. Since then, anti-ISIS militias have grown stronger; U.S. air attacks have crippled the group; and the coalition fighting the movement has made strides in shutting down its access […]

Celebrating the spring festival of Nowruz in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, Turkey, March 21, 2016 (AP photo by Murat Bay).

Growing disorder throughout the Middle East has created the possibility for major changes to the status of Kurdish minorities in Iraq, Turkey and Syria. At a time when the region is shaken by sectarian divisions and upheavals, Kurds have emerged as critical actors in providing security and stability. Kurdish military gains in Syria and Iraq, along with initial political gains in Turkey after last June’s elections, gave a boost to their self-confidence in 2015. However, with internal challenges and unending battles, that self-confidence has since been punctured. In December 2015, Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government […]

Senegalese soldiers during U.S.-led Flintlock military training, Thies, Senegal, Feb. 18, 2016 (AP photo by Vincent Tremeau).

On Monday, the United States and Senegal signed a deal to facilitate U.S. troop access to the West African country, in the latest example of the American military’s expanding presence in Africa. The deal authorizes the creation of infrastructure that enables quick deployment for U.S. forces; once the construction of new facilities is completed, American troops won’t have to start from scratch in the event of a crisis or attack. The agreement comes in the context of West Africa’s increasingly precarious security, with rising threats from militant groups such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram and the […]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, Lahore, Pakistan, Dec. 25, 2015 (AP photo).

It is always a risk to claim that the tide may be turning in India-Pakistan relations, where contentious security and political concerns have famously trumped avenues for collaboration time and time again. It is prudent, then, to approach last week’s meeting between India and Pakistan’s foreign secretaries with a degree of caution. It is far too early at this stage to know the actual significance of this brief meeting. But even if it did not lead to any breakthroughs, the meeting itself should not be ignored. It was an outcome, and a reflection, of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s perseverance […]

Ayman al-Zawahri, left, holds a press conference with Osama bin Laden, Khost, Afghanistan, 1998 (AP photo by Mazhar Ali Khan).

Five years after the killing of Osama bin Laden, the U.S. public seems to understand that the fight against terrorism is a struggle that’s here to stay. The challenge for government officials is to manage the threat without exacerbating it, or allowing terrorism to monopolize the time and resources at the expense of other compelling public policy needs. Most people get that—that is, until the next attack happens and the second-guessing starts. It was five years ago this week that the U.S. launched a successful operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, targeting the leader of al-Qaida. Bin Laden was killed in the […]

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh at a rally commemorating the anniversary of the militant group, Gaza, Palestine, Dec. 12, 2014 (AP photo by Adel Hana).

The Gaza Strip will become “uninhabitable” by 2020, according to U.N. reports published in September 2015. This grim and alarming reality facing the nearly 2 million Palestinians living in Gaza is the result of both external and internal factors. Externally, successive Israeli wars in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014 effectively destroyed the basic foundations of day-to-day life in Gaza. These wars were preceded and followed by land, sea and air blockades imposed by Israel, and later by Egypt. The blockades have led to one of the harshest regimes of collective punishment in modern times, limiting the flow of basic goods into […]