After 12 years of American pressure, al-Qaida’s core is, as President Barack Obama put it, “on the path to defeat.” That’s a good thing, but no one believes that crushing al-Qaida Central deep in its Pakistani sanctuary will mean the demise of the entire movement. Whether of necessity or as part of a deliberate strategy, al-Qaida has endorsed or adopted franchises across the Islamic world. Now American policymakers must assess the comparative danger posed by each of these and identify the most strategically significant ones. Counterterrorism experts often rate al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) the most active and lethal […]

While much of the world’s attention was focused on the birth of Britain’s Prince George, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting India, in an attempt to get the bilateral relationship between the world’s oldest and largest democracies back on track. New Delhi is understandably wary of the Obama administration. India’s policymakers are concerned about a possible U.S. “rush for the exits” in Afghanistan after 2014, especially if it involves a deal with the Taliban that would allow the militants to exercise real authority in the country and undercut Indian interests. Moreover, while India has real issues with China, including […]

On June 26, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev formally signed a law “annulling” the country’s agreement with the U.S. to host an air base in his country. The true significance of the law is unclear, and it could be a bargaining ploy to gain more favorable terms for a new agreement on the base, which has been the United States’ most conspicuous presence in Central Asia since being established shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. Regardless, the passage of the law has highlighted how U.S. interest in Central Asia is destined to diminish as the U.S. extracts itself from Afghanistan. In […]

The community of national security experts is consumed with debate on the appropriate size and configuration of the American military. Seldom does a week pass without some new report, commission or conference offering solemn advice on this complex issue. Policy journals and op-ed pages are awash with articles on it. Such vigorous discussion is a good thing, but it may be focused on the wrong issue—ultimately the size of the armed forces matters less than what they are asked to do. There are analysts, though, who are grappling with the type of conflicts the U.S. military may be ordered to […]

Whose Job Is Afghanistan’s Security Anyway?

On Monday, Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament voted no confidence in Interior Minister Ghulam Mujtaba Patang. The lawmakers advocated his ouster on the basis of, among other things, worsening security on several of the highways that link Kabul to the surrounding provinces. The vote was not terribly noteworthy for the predictable standoff it provoked between parliament and Karzai, who said he’d refer the matter to the Supreme Court for “advice.” As Gran Hewad and his coauthors point out at Afghanistan Analysts Network, Karzai and the legislature have had a testy relationship ever since Afghanistan’s first post-Taliban parliament was elected in […]

Given the recent prominence in international affairs of seemingly intractable disputes over maritime rights—from the South China Sea to the Arctic to the Eastern Mediterranean—it appears to be an opportune time for a 21st-century version of Otto von Bismarck, the “honest broker,” to convene the next great set of international conferences to settle some of today’s stand-offs. Moreover, since some of the most dangerous flashpoints that could bring major powers to the brink of war, particularly in the Western Pacific, are quite literally little more than rocks, someone with a Bismarckian sense of perspective is sorely needed. After all, as […]

Despite unfolding disasters in Egypt and Syria and the damage to American security from the bizarre Edward Snowden episode, Afghanistan, which had begun to seem like last year’s news, is grabbing headlines again. The Obama administration is undertaking yet another review of its options following the planned drawdown of U.S. military forces in 2014. Reports are that the administration, frustrated with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is considering a “zero option” that would leave no American troops in Afghanistan. But before wholesale disengagement is even officially on the table, opposition to it is flaring. Angry at the idea, House Armed Services […]

Should the West attempt to make the Syrian civil war drag on for as long as possible? The question may sound morally offensive and politically wrong-headed. The U.S. and its allies have consistently called for a rapid cessation of hostilities and a negotiated settlement. Yet they are currently pursuing military, diplomatic and humanitarian strategies that could contribute to prolonging the conflict. This could result in either a stalemate inside Syria or even more violence in the country and across the Middle East. As the Syrian war escalated from steady but limited violence to large-scale bloodletting in 2012, many Western observers […]

U.S. Central Africa Policy Sees a New Surge of Energy

Last month’s appointment of former Sen. Russ Feingold as the new United States special envoy for the African Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) signals an important surge of energy into American diplomacy in this troubled region. His appointment should be seen in the context of other recent positive steps, including the “Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region,” a February 2013 agreement among 11 African states known as the PSC Framework. The framework aims at ending the decades-long instability, violence, multiple humanitarian crises and grave human […]

The world is riveted by the ongoing turmoil in Egypt as that nation frantically searches for a political identity and a path to stable democracy. Because Egypt has long been one of America’s most important political and security partners, Washington is particularly worried about a collapse into violence or the seizure of power by extremists. Such concern is warranted, but more than just the future of Egypt is in play: The problems there are not unique or isolated, but emblematic of a crisis of governance engulfing the entire world. This will have a profound effect on U.S. security. In the […]

Prior to 1992, Philippine-U.S. security relations were framed by several bilateral defense arrangements. The two countries became formal allies in 1951 upon signing the Philippines-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty. Both countries also became members of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization in 1956. However, the most important of these bilateral defense arrangements predated the collective defense treaties binding the two countries: the 1947 Philippines-U.S. Military Bases Agreement, which facilitated the hosting of major American naval and air facilities in Philippine territory. The U.S. military bases in the Philippines, including the Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Base, extended vital logistical support […]

During the Cold War, the U.S.-Japan alliance was variously described as the cornerstone and the linchpin of U.S. Asia strategy, but over the past decade the role of this strategic alliance has come under increasing scrutiny. New dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region have prompted a rethinking of U.S. priorities in Asia. China’s rise has called for a more complex assessment in both Tokyo and Washington of the circumstances under which the alliance might be tested. Japan’s struggle with slow economic growth and a rather unpredictable effort at political reform has made strategic adjustment difficult. Similar concerns in the United States […]

The alliance between the United States and South Korea arose from the postwar liberation of southern Korea by U.S. forces and then the subsequent attack on the newly independent country by North Korea, backed by the Soviet Union and Communist China, in June 1950. U.S. forces have remained in South Korea ever since, though their numbers have fluctuated over time. During its first decades as an independent country, South Korea’s policy with regard to Pyongyang focused on being able to repel another North Korean invasion in partnership with the United States. The longer-term aspiration was to exploit the anticipated eventual […]

The recent revelations about U.S. intelligence programs are causing an uproar in Europe. In particular, the wide-ranging efforts to monitor European diplomatic offices and communications networks have led a number of officials to voice their discontent publicly. German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said that U.S. behavior “was reminiscent of the actions of enemies during the Cold War,” while French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was unequivocal: “These acts, if confirmed, would be completely unacceptable.” The question now is: What will be the actual policy implications of recent revelations about PRISM and associated intelligence collection efforts? And to what extent will these […]

On Wednesday, Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Egypt’s military chief of staff, announced that the country’s elected president, Mohammed Morsi, had been removed from office. Egypt’s constitution will be suspended; Adly Mansour, the chief judge of the Constitutional Court, will temporarily assume the presidency and oversee a transitional government until new elections can be held at a date yet to be determined. The events of the “second Egyptian revolution” have effectively terminated the experiment as to whether the Muslim Brotherhood, having won parliamentary and presidential elections last year, would be able to construct a democratic regime. They now present the Obama administration […]

With the rapid expansion of China’s regional and global interests, it is inevitable that Beijing will increasingly utilize its armed forces, police and civilian security agencies to protect and advance those interests. This trend is readily apparent in Southeast Asia, China’s strategic backyard. But while China’s cooperative security overtures have been welcomed, the assertive use of its military and paramilitary forces in the maritime domain continues to fuel concern among its nearest neighbors. The use by China of elements of its state security apparatus in Southeast Asia last month provides a good illustration. In mid-June, the Chinese navy’s hospital ship […]

Hasan Rouhani’s convincing election to the Iranian presidency may finally turn the page on eight contentious years of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s leadership. The president-elect, who takes office Aug. 3, has expressed his desire to ease tensions with the United States. In particular, Rouhani has shown interest in a new round of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, but he made clear in his first post-election press conference that he has no intention of accepting a moratorium on uranium enrichment. This stance lines up with his historical views: Nine years ago, as chief nuclear negotiator, Rouhani compared the controversy around Iran’s […]

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