One thing I’ve discovered from writing columns over the years is that they’re a great way to elicit invitations to sit down and talk with various players in the national security establishment. All you have to do is mention somebody’s office and you’re likely to get an e-mail from their public affairs officer eager to set your thinking straight. And so it was last week that I had the chance to converse with Ambassador John Herbst, three years in the job now as the State Department’s Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization. I earned the invitation by describing the CRS job […]

Among the more than 20 top posts at the State Department that have yet to be filled is the director of foreign assistance. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice created the post in 2006 to consolidate responsibility for the country’s nearly $30 billion foreign aid budget. What follows is a letter to the still-to-be-named nominee. To the incoming director of foreign assistance, As you well know, for more than six decades, foreign aid has played an indispensable role in the conduct of the United States’ foreign affairs. Today, 154 countries benefit from some kind of financial assistance. Along with defense […]

President Barack Obama came to power with a not-so-secret plan to reshape the Middle East. His team envisioned a fundamental realignment in the region, with an eye towards resolving a host of longstanding conflicts that made it a global focal point of political instability. A key element of that plan centered on one country: Syria. By reconstituting Washington’s relationship with Damascus, the reasoning went, Obama would manage to radiate improvements outward to a host of regional disputes. Seven months into the Obama administration, Washington’s efforts to pry Syria from its tight alliance with Iran and persuade it to start working […]

World Politics Review’s new special report on the Afghanistan warcompiles news, analysis and opinion from WPR’s pages to provide insightinto the situation on the ground, as well as the strategic questionsfaced by U.S. and coalition policymakers. Non-subscribers can purchase individual copies at the Scribd store, while subscribers can download the report free from our document center. Not a subscriber? Sign up for a four-month free trial. (The four-month trial offer expires Sept. 30). Below is the report’s table of contents: -Introduction from the WPR Editors -ABU MUQAWAMA ON AFGHANISTAN: AN IN­TERVIEW WITH ANDREW EXUMBY JUDAH GRUNSTEIN July 29, 2009 Policy […]

In one of the most quoted aphorisms in international relations, the Prussian political philosopher Carl von Clausewitz said that “war is merely a continuation of politics.” In other words, for every war that has been waged, we can point to political aims underpinning its waging. Take some recent examples. In large part, the 1991 Persian Gulf war was about exerting power: It sought to prevent an invasion of Saudi Arabia and oust Iraqi forces from Kuwait. However, in Vietnam, the end goal was political influence: The war was fought to keep the south from falling to the communists. The examples […]

On Thursday morning, a bomb exploded in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, injuring a British soldier. Two days later, the soldier died at a hospital in Great Britain. He was the 200th U.K. fatality in the eight-year-old Afghanistan war. British newspapers marked the milestone with a flurry of grim news reports. And in short order, fighting claimed four more British troops. Great Britain has around 9,000 troops in Afghanistan — the biggest national contingent, after the U.S. British forces are concentrated in the restive south, especially in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates […]

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There is tremendous buzz about Afghanistan’s elections. Open up any op-ed page, and you can find countless articles about votes and democracy and Karzai not instantly winning, and whatever else. But what I don’t get is why anyone cares.Democratic elections usually rest on a few basic principles: a free and fair vote, an uncoerced selection of candidates, and an agreement by all parties to abide by the results. Afghanistan doesn’t quite qualify for any of these. *Take the idea of a free and fair vote. Pajhwok, an internationally-funded independent Afghan news service, has an entire news page set aside for […]

In his address during the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue late last month in Washington, President Barack Obama personally appealed to the visiting senior Chinese officials for assistance in achieving his nuclear nonproliferation agenda. Based on the speech Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi made on Aug. 12 at the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, it appears that his message was only partly received. Yang made clear that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) would provide only limited assistance with respect to several of the most important U.S. goals. President Obama stressed the need for concerted action with respect to curbing the […]

Will the White House approve even more troops for Afghanistan? As Gen. Stanley McChrystal reevaluates the war strategy, he has reportedly considered as many as 30,000 more, and he’s making a strong case. So much that an interview with the Wall Street Journal resulted in a front page headline declaring the, “Taliban Now Winning.” But the troop numbers don’t tell the whole story. Or, the story doesn’t tell all the troop numbers. Almost all counts circulated these days consist of “boots on the ground” assessments. Only, as a single measure, boots on the ground is only a part of the […]

JALREZ VALLEY, Afghanistan — It’s a chilly summer night in the Jalrez valley, lit well by a three-quarter moon. I’m on a mission with the men of the 4/25 Artillery Battalion, part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division, based in the Wardak and Logar provinces. We are weaving through ancient irrigation canals and wading across the numerous small rivers that feed the fertile valley, making our way to a medium sized village nestled into a hillside. Our winding path has been carefully chosen to minimize the chance that we will step on an IED, but […]

U.S. plans to expand its military presence in Colombia have elicited predictable condemnations from anti-American elements in South America, but also concern from friends who see them as encroachment from our ongoing “war on drugs.” Similarly, in another part of the world, Africa Command boss Gen. “Kip” Ward’s repeated assurances that the United States isn’t interested in setting up bases on the continent remains a tough sell, given the new regional combatant command’s explicit mission to expand U.S. military cooperation there. Critics are quick to call every new American boot on the ground “imperial overstretch,” or “empire.” But as often […]

Recently, U.S. policy in Somalia hit a new low, with the shipment of 40 tons of arms to a government on the verge of overthrow, if not nervous collapse. Worse still, last Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with the president of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and promised to expand U.S. support. This perpetuates a long history of unsuccessful meddling in the affairs of Somalia, from Black Hawk Down to air strikes against al-Qaida suspects to support for the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006. Somalia would be better off without our spasmodic interference. That’s […]

If July represents the first results of the Afghanistan surge, the portrait is sobering. With 75 troops killed, it was the deadliest month for the coalition since the war began. The British, who have about 9,000 soldiers in the country, were hit particularly hard, with eight soldiers killed in less than 24 hours recently. The painful news sounded political echoes in London. The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee announced last week that “avoidable mistakes” have been part of a deficient strategy, leading to mission creep. It singled out the U.K.’s anti-poppy campaign, in particular, as a “poisoned chalice.” All […]

NEW DELHI — Two weeks after issuing a joint statement in Egypt that was welcomed around the world as a much-needed step towards narrowing their differences through dialogue, India and Pakistan have returned to their previously stated, belligerent positions. The two neighbours, whose history of conflict goes back over six decades, have backed off from the eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation witnessed after the Mumbai terror attacks last November. But fresh questions are being raised here about Pakistan’s resolve in acting against terror groups active against India. The U.S. has helped keep the peace between the two countries in the past. After the […]

Speaking in Accra, Ghana, last month, President Barack Obama declared, “The 21st century will be shaped by what happens not just in Rome or Moscow or Washington, but by what happens in Accra, as well.” His speech was designed to highlight America’s commitment to Africa and the opportunity for closer relations. On the heels of Obama’s trip to Ghana, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Africa this week. Her seven-nation tour — with stops in Kenya, South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Liberia, and Cape Verde — will take her to hot spots and powerful […]

KAMPALA, Uganda — The bus destined for Gulu in northern Uganda hums and vibrates, its black exhaust pouring into Kampala’s deserted downtown streets, as a woman draped in a green dress stands up in front and calls for a prayer. Years ago, when Joseph Kony and his band of abducted child soldiers were still looting, maiming and terrorizing the north, prayer for this journey was essential. Yet three years after Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) were routed from northern Uganda — chased into isolated stretches of jungle in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African […]

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