For decades U.S. security policy has followed two distinct tracks. In Europe, the Pacific Rim and the Middle East, the extent of American national interests and the possibility of aggression by hostile states led to a direct approach with formal security treaties and the stationing of U.S. forces. In places like Latin America, Africa and, more recently, Central Asia, U.S. strategy was indirect, focusing on security assistance and the provision of advice and training. Partnerships were the coin of the realm. The idea was that other country’s militaries, helped by the United States, would take responsibility for security in their […]

After a decade of gradual rapprochement anchored by booming bilateral energy ties and close coordination on combating Kurdish separatists, Iran and Turkey are struggling to maintain a veneer of mutual amity and cooperation. In recent months, Iran and Turkey have shown growing signs of estrangement. At the heart of their differences lie the Syrian crisis and Ankara’s gradual alignment with the West’s efforts to check Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The two neighbors continue to be bound, however, by a complex and deepening state of energy interdependence, which explains why both sides continue to exercise a measure of self-restraint in their engagements […]

As the conflict in Syria continues, with the United Nations reporting a dramatic increase in the numbers of refugees fleeing the country, Syria’s economy, too, is a victim of the violence. And its chances of recovery are looking slim. “Syria is now fully a war economy that displays all the features of a country in conflict,” Samer Abboud, assistant professor of history and international studies at Arcadia University, told Trend Lines in an email interview. “There is increased informality and black market activity, an increase in criminality and markets for violence, families trying to cope under these conditions by whatever […]

Amid fears that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will pass weapons systems to the Lebanese military group Hezbollah, Israel apparently carried out an airstrike within Syria last night. Regional officials told news outlets that Israel appeared to be targeting a convoy carrying SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles near the border with Lebanon, though Syria claimed Israel targeted a research facility near the capital, Damascus. “The Israelis have always been sensitive to any increase in Hezbollah’s anti-aircraft capability,” Jeffrey White, defense fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Trend Lines, noting that Israel has already suffered some losses due to surface-to-air […]

With peace talks engaged for the first time in a decade, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) at its weakest point in history, Colombia’s once-stifled oil and mining sectors have taken off, enabling oil production to reach a record of 1 million barrels per day in late-December. Yet the extractive industry has found itself increasingly targeted by the FARC and other rebels who are seeking to force concessions from the government, putting foreign investment, now at all-time highs, at risk. The FARC are suspected in the bombing of a gas pipeline in La Guajira in Northeastern Colombia on […]

European Union member states, Canada and the United States have all committed military transport aircraft to move troops and equipment from Europe to West Africa in support of the French offensive to reclaim northern Mali from Islamist rebels. Six American C-17 Globemaster III aircraft are flying missions as part of U.S. Africa Command’s effort to support French operations, while one Canadian C-17 and two British C-17s are also flying cargo to support the air and land campaign. The involvement of North American aircraft in the French-led mission has brought Europe’s long-standing airlift shortage to the fore. Faced with the demands […]

The wars in Mali and Syria have followed very different trajectories over the past month. While Syria has become symbolic of international inaction, France’s use of force in Mali has shown that some Western governments are still willing to launch new interventions abroad. And while there have been no dramatic military shifts in Syria, French troops have pushed deep into northern Mali with growing speed. The crises also have very different geopolitical implications. The situation in Mali is the latest in a long series of French operations to stabilize its former colonies, although Paris enjoys an unusual level of African […]

In January, France began military operations to wrest northern Mali from the control of Islamist militants and prevent them from taking over the rest of the country. In an email interview, Rachel Utley, an expert on French defense and security policies at the University of Leeds, discussed France’s broader military posture in the Sahel region of North Africa. WPR: What are France’s overall military capabilities in the Sahel, and where are its regional bases? Rachel Utley: France maintains a long-standing military presence in Africa, as important for its political value — the promotion of French presence and influence — as […]

The response to last week’s hostage crisis at the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria perfectly encapsulated the broader relationship between the European Union and Algeria. EU countries, notably France and the U.K., tried to encourage Algeria to consult with them on handling the dramatic events taking place on Algerian territory, but ultimately, the Algerian government acted on its own terms, on the basis of its better intelligence about the situation on the ground. In the end, European leaders acknowledged that, while they would have liked some advance notice, the Algerian army had responded swiftly and appropriately according to its […]

Germany’s reluctance to participate in the French intervention in Mali beyond providing logistical support and humanitarian assistance is hardly surprising. Europe’s “leading power” has been repeatedly absent from its partners’ past military efforts, the most notable recent example being its refusal in 2011 to take part in the operation against Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi. Although Germany now hopes to prove itself a reliable partner, it appears to be caught between its reservations about foreign military intervention and its responsibilities as an ally, neighbor and large European power. Despite every indication that the crisis in Mali is developing into a conflict with […]

Today all conflicts have cascading effects, quickly engulfing neighboring states and, if unchecked, entire regions. They cause humanitarian disasters, refugee problems and sometimes ecological decay while abetting the spread of extremism, crime and disorder. The expanding violence in the Saharan region is a perfect example. Tragically, North Africa has joined the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, Yemen and Somalia as one of the world’s most dangerous places. All of these conflicts share a pathology: Extremists associated with or inspired by al-Qaida blend with and exacerbate existing tensions based on ethnicity, sect, clan, race or personal patronage, making old conflicts even more deadly. The […]

Earlier this month, the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations asked the Security Council to permit the use of surveillance drones for U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In an email interview, Walter Dorn, an expert in the technology of U.N. peacekeeping at the Royal Military College of Canada and the Canadian Forces College, discussed the U.N.’s drone plan. WPR: What capabilities is the U.N. seeking to acquire with the proposal to deploy drones in the Democratic Republic of the Congo? Walter Dorn: The U.N. would like to better see and hear what’s going on within its […]

Last week, outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta came to Europe to say “goodbye and good luck.” The U.S. is switching its strategic focus to the Pacific; in the future, Europeans will have to do more fending for themselves. The coincidental eruption of the Mali crisis underlined Panetta’s point. The U.S. found itself legally precluded from intervening because of the overthrow of the democratic government by the Malian army in March. So in this North African crisis, the U.S. would not even “lead from behind” as it had in Libya. Any intervention in Mali was strictly up to the Europeans. […]

France has been at war in Mali for just more than a week, and though you might not know it from much of the media coverage, France is winning. This fact has been overlooked in a good deal of commentary on the fighting for three reasons. First, the Islamist rebels the French set out to fight have proved surprisingly resourceful. Second, the Malian army has turned out to be hopeless. Finally, the seizure and murder of Western oil workers in Algeria by a group associated with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has shown that the Islamists have some strategic depth. […]

Editor’s note: This report was originally published on Oct. 30, 2012, and updated with new material on Jan. 21, 2013. France’s sudden military intervention in Mali has put the country’s twin crises at the top of the international agenda. A loose coalition of Tuareg nationalists, Islamic militias and transnational criminal networks has split the country in half, with a military-led coup government in Bamako seemingly incapable of crafting a decisive response. Meanwhile, the spillover is increasingly threatening regional stability. Updated to include new developments, this WPR special report reviews the conflict in Mali and the crisis in the Sahel. Mali […]

We are rapidly approaching the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. For some politicians, their initial stance on the war is something they might prefer to overlook. It will be interesting to see, for instance, if, during their nomination hearings, either Secretary of State-designate John Kerry or Secretary of Defense-designate Chuck Hagel is asked whether they still stand by their yea vote in October 2002 to give President George W. Bush the authorization to pursue military action against Saddam Hussein. For others, the inevitable retrospectives will fall into one of several predictable categories. Some will attempt to […]

Last week’s meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai felt like a last desperate attempt to salvage a crumbling marriage: With the relationship clearly dying, the two sides quibbled over the pace of U.S. disengagement and the extent of future American aid and assistance. But as U.S. involvement in Afghanistan winds down, Americans should already be thinking about what they can learn from their longest war. U.S. national security strategy, as I explained in my book “Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy,” is shaped by the lessons drawn, rightly or wrongly, from previous conflicts, wars […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 261 2 Last