Colombia’s long armed conflict against leftist guerrilla groups may be entering its final stages as peace negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) proceed. The possibility of peace comes after a decade-long military buildup and a series of offensives left both the FARC and the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) weakened, but not defeated. Colombia, a distant third in population among Latin American countries, now has the region’s second-largest armed forces and its largest army. This buildup turned the tide in the conflict. But it has also altered the Colombian military’s relationship with its civilian leaders. The president […]

While details remain uncertain about who started the fighting and exactly who did what to whom, last week saw a marked escalation in rhetoric and violence between mostly Sunni Arab protesters and Iraqi government forces under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s control. Peaceful protests turned into armed camps. Dozens were killed in the most intense clashes with security forces since Iraq’s virtual civil war in 2006-2007. The Iraqi state is today much better equipped to hold its own against armed adversaries than it was six or seven years ago, when the U.S. played a crucial role in ending sectarian fighting, not […]

There was a small but striking increase in the chances of a Western intervention in Syria last week. The Obama administration not only confirmed that it is “very likely” that the Syrian military has “used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria” but also added that “the United States and international community have a number of potential responses available, and no option is off the table.” Secretary of State John Kerry privately briefed Congress on options ranging from diplomatic actions to a no-fly zone. All this has been in line with previous U.S. warnings to the Syrian government against […]

On April 24, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated a committee charged with opening negotiations with militant group Boko Haram and preparing for a possible amnesty deal. In an email interview, Jennifer Giroux, a senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich who specializes in conflict in energy-producing and transit regions, explained what the process might entail as well as the obstacles it faces. WPR: What would the amnesty proposal currently under consideration for Boko Haram involve? Jennifer Giroux: At the moment there is not an amnesty deal but rather the organization of resources to develop an amnesty […]

In his recommendations for the United States to become more actively involved in determining the outcome of the Syrian civil war, Sen. Bob Corker, the ranking Republican member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has fallen victim to one of the more seductive temptations that regularly befall American policymakers: that with enough aggressive leadership and a healthy application of technological acumen, Washington can get other actors to align themselves with and then execute U.S. policy objectives. Summed up, Corker’s policy strategy is to locate the elusive Syrian moderates who, once armed, trained and equipped by the United States, will in […]

Friday’s ministerial meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan, of the Istanbul Process will bring together representatives of 14 regional countries and 16 others to discuss efforts to stabilize Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 2014 withdrawal of Western forces from the country. As the drawdown nears, regional powers are growing increasingly worried. Russia, India, Pakistan and China recognize that the departure of Western forces could allow a resurgence of the Taliban, threatening Afghanistan’s economic and political development and spreading ripples of insecurity throughout the region. Unfortunately, the Istanbul Process is focused on vague confidence-building measures, rather than concrete proposals for Afghan reconciliation. […]

Before the modern era, most nations didn’t spend much time speculating about where their next war would be or who it would involve. Geography largely determined who would fight whom. With the rare exception of invaders from afar, enemies often remained at each other’s throats for decades, even centuries. States knew who they would fight — the only question was when. But the United States is different. With no major enemies nearby, America’s wars have been fought around the world against a wide range of opponents. This meant that U.S. policymakers and military leaders needed to anticipate the location and […]

The United Nations may be on the verge of launching a new wave of peace operations, beginning with a blue helmet force in Mali in July. Further deployments to Somalia and Syria are also on the horizon. Yet the U.N. still has a huge amount of unfinished business to complete in countries where peacekeepers are already deployed, ranging from Haiti to Liberia and Lebanon. As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his advisers look for the resources for a new generation of missions, they will face pressure to cut costs and downsize existing missions — even if that means leaving some fragile […]

RAQQA, Syria — This dusty, nondescript provincial capital in eastern Syria has all the hallmarks of a city recently captured by rebel forces. A statue of former President Hafez Assad has been pulled down from its plinth, its lips painted red and a pair of horns fixed to its head. Nearby, houses have been reduced to rubble by government air raids, while many that remain standing are pockmarked by small-arms and heavy-weapons fire. One feature, however, sets Raqqa apart from other towns captured by Syria’s rebels: The Syrian rebellion’s traditional flag — green, white and black with three red stars, […]

Chadian President Idriss Deby announced Sunday that the country would withdraw its troops from northern Mali, after a suicide attack killed three Chadian troops Friday. The announcement reflects the uncertainties that surround Chad’s increasingly prominent role in efforts toward regional stability. In January, Chad deployed soldiers to assist the French military offensive in northern Mali. Chadian forces there, which currently number around 2,400, have seen some of the heaviest fighting in the war. Although French, Chadian, and Malian forces quickly conquered territory after the intervention began, the ensuing months have seen regular bombings and raids by Malian Islamists, as well […]

Colombians under 65 cannot remember living in a country at peace. Internal armed conflict has raged almost continuously in the South American nation since 1948. With talks ongoing between the government and the larger of the country’s two leftist guerrilla groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombians may soon discover what peace is like. But they may find it only a bit more peaceful or secure than what came before. The talks taking place in Havana, Cuba, which are the fourth peace process attempted with the FARC since 1982, have a better-than-even chance of resulting in an accord. […]

The Realist Prism: Jihadists’ Rise Complicates U.S. Strategy on Syria

The announcement this week that Jabhat al-Nusra (the Nusra Front), one of the main armed groups battling to take down the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has formally announced its allegiance to al-Qaida could signal a major shift in Syria’s two-year-long civil war. It certainly complicates matters for the United States. Over the past several months, Washington has concentrated its efforts on two parallel but complementary tracks: forging a broad-based, secular-leaning, pro-Western provisional government that could take over the administration of areas where the government in Damascus has lost control; and encouraging different rebel military groups to develop a […]

Under North Korea’s former dictator Kim Jong Il, crises followed a well-choreographed pattern. There would be provocation and sometimes outright aggression accompanied by paranoid, hostile and even hysterical rhetoric from Pyongyang. Eventually Kim would be mollified by some diplomatic concession or more assistance to keep the ramshackle North Korean economy from collapsing altogether, and things would return to normal — such as it was. However much this game frustrated the United States, Washington was fairly confident that it would not escalate into accidental war. Kim knew how far to push and when to back off. Unfortunately, the young Kim Jong […]

The new South Korean government of President Park Geun-hye finds itself in a difficult situation. On the one hand, it must respond to North Korea’s missile threats to avert more serious ones. On the other, it must do so without provoking Pyongyang or Beijing. Chinese officials are already concerned by South Korea’s strengthening security ties with the U.S. as well as by Seoul’s recent decision, supported by Washington, to acquire longer-range offensive ballistic missiles capable of reaching Chinese territory. But responding to the urgent North Korean threat requires bold action, and, despite Beijing’s complaints, the added pressure that closer U.S.-South […]

Policy discussions about peacekeeping frequently get bogged down in technical details, such as the wording of United Nations resolutions, rather than tackling big strategic questions. This has been true of most commentary on the U.N. Security Council’s decision in late-March to mandate an “intervention brigade” to “neutralize and disarm” armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). There has been a lot of talk about the council’s unusually aggressive language, and less about the new brigade’s role in the complex political struggle for access to the DRC’s natural resources. Peacekeeping experts are excited that the council has directed […]

The Realist Prism: North Korea Gambles on Strategic Assumptions

Experts are debating what precisely are the motives behind North Korea’s recent spike in belligerent rhetoric and posturing, with answers ranging from the opinion that “war talk” is an attempt by the North’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, to solidify his hold on power to the worry that the regime is losing its grip on reality. What is more certain, however, is the set of assumptions guiding Pyongyang’s strategic calculus. Whether the North Korean leadership’s assessments are accurate or not — and what steps the other powers in the region take to correct them — may help determine how this […]

Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan became acting president in February 2010 following the incapacitation of his predecessor Umaru Yar’Adua. Elected in his own right in April 2011, Jonathan now stands near the midpoint of his first full term in office. His People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which has won every election since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, dominates the executive and legislative branches of the federal government and governs 23 of Nigeria’s 36 states. The advantages of incumbency and party dominance will likely assure Jonathan another term when Nigeria votes again in 2015. Yet insecurity, corruption and stalled policy implementation have provoked […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 181 2 Last