The termination of the European Union embargo on providing military equipment to Syria’s rebels, combined with renewed efforts in the U.S. Congress to goad the Obama administration into providing arms to the anti-Assad opposition, suggests that the West will soon become more directly involved in aiding the fight against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The shift comes despite the near absence of domestic support in any NATO-member country for inserting troops directly into the fighting, and with concerns that establishing and enforcing any sort of no-fly zone over Syrian airspace might expose Western aircrews to unacceptable levels of […]

Prior to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s mid-May visit to Washington, the expectation among many observers was that the Turkish leader would be coming to the White House to press a reluctant President Barack Obama to commit to supporting more forceful—that is, military—action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. However, Erdogan’s trip played out quite differently. Rather than Erdogan convincing Obama to change positions, it was the U.S. president who got the normally strong-willed Turkish prime minister to soften his tone and publicly support the Geneva II process, Washington’s effort to convene an international conference next month on […]

Nigeria could be a dominant political force and engine for economic development in Africa and beyond. It has a large population with a highly educated professional class. Its proven petroleum reserves are the world’s 10th largest. And its military is one of the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, with extensive experience in multinational peacekeeping. Unfortunately, though, Nigeria’s problems run as deep as its potential. It has suffered some of the most rapacious and persistent government corruption in the world. Nigerian leaders, both military and civilian, have stolen untold billions while the nation sinks deeper into poverty. Many Nigerians use their impressive […]

Counterinsurgency theorists and stability operations specialists concur that developing competent local police forces is an absolute imperative to stabilize a fragile state. Yet, the U.S. government frequently seems to honor this principle in the breach. Indeed, the United States lacks the ability to effectively train and develop what is arguably the most important component of a state’s internal security forces. This gap was clearly illustrated by the American experience with police-building during the decade-long interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, with significant consequences in both countries. A survey of those efforts makes it clear that the development of effective indigenous police […]

In his speech yesterday at the National Defense University, President Barack Obama offered a detailed and comprehensive vision of how he plans to wind down the global war on terrorism. Perhaps inspired by the continued and growing criticism from his political base that his maintenance—and expansion—of executive powers inherited from the George W. Bush administration was setting troubling precedents for future chief executives, Obama announced his interest in limiting the legal basis for any future president’s ability to wield vast national security powers. He also outlined a “second go” at closing the facility at Guantanamo Bay; his first effort, heralded […]

The Libyan city of Benghazi saw a string of bombings early this month, highlighting Libya’s remaining internal security challenges two years after the fall of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. In an email interview, William Lawrence, director of International Crisis Group’s North Africa project, explained the landscape of Libya’s armed groups and the international role in security sector reform. WPR: What are the main armed groups currently operating in Libya, and what are their goals? William Lawrence: As reported by Small Arms Survey in June 2012 and in Crisis Group’s “Holding Libya Together” and “Divided We Stand,” there are four types […]

Early Sunday morning, the war in Syria took a new turn when forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and large numbers of Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon launched a major offensive to retake the Syrian town of Qusair. The ferocious battle, which continues to rage on, goes a long way in explaining some of the strategy and tactics currently dominating the conflict. In times of peace, the western city Qusair was not a particularly large or important one. The town’s population, which has fluctuated with the civil war, has ranged between 30,000 and 40,000. In recent weeks, however, the significance of […]

The Syrian civil war has become one of the most complex and tragic conflicts of the 21st century. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that 80,000 have died since 2011. The United Nations believes that 1.5 million Syrians are refugees, and that number could increase dramatically in coming months. Day by day, Syria is losing an entire generation, one that will be scarred by violence and unprepared to be productive citizens someday. Yet the conflict continues because those who could stop it—the Assad regime and its supporters, the various rebel movements and the external nations supporting one side or […]

Since late-March, when the rebel coalition Seleka took power in the Central African Republic (CAR), security has broken down in the country. United Nations Representative Margaret Vogt recently stated that CAR has entered “a state of anarchy”; in April, rebel-appointed Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye called for French and African help in restoring order. With Seleka struggling to turn military triumph into durable rule, CAR’s neighbors will likely see an increase in the circulation of refugees, fighters and weapons. Through March, international actors sought to keep deposed President Francois Bozize in power and peacefully resolve the conflict, which had reignited in […]

At their White House summit last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Barack Obama reaffirmed the two countries’ “model partnership” as they jointly called for greater international efforts to end the Syrian War. Thus far, the Arab Spring has had an overall positive effect on the Turkey-U.S. relationship. Before 2011, the Turkish-U.S. policy discourse focused on their divisions over Iraq, Iran and other regional security issues. But since the Arab Spring, Ankara and Washington have been preoccupied with harmonizing their policies toward the Arab world. This has become increasingly difficult with regard to Syria. Meanwhile, the […]

Editor’s note: Guest columnists Megan Gleason-Roberts and Alischa Kugel are filling in for Richard Gowan, who is on vacation this week. June will be the start of a new phase of United Nations engagement in Somalia, when the new U.N. Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) will replace the long-standing U.N. Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS), in place since 1995. In late-April, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon tapped Nicholas Kay, a former British ambassador and Africa director at the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as the secretary-general’s new special representative in Somalia. When Kay takes up his duties as the head of […]

KABUL, Afghanistan—In a surprise move in mid-April, Germany announced it is ready to provide between 600 and 800 troops to the as yet undefined NATO training contingent that will replace the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan after it comes to an end in 2014. It was the first such announcement by any country, including the United States. Washington is in the process of negotiating with Kabul the bilateral strategic agreement that should lay out the framework for a reduced but continued presence of American troops starting in 2015. Germany’s attempt to pull ahead of the pack is […]

If I were a strategist sitting in Beijing, I would see the prospects of any U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war as being very beneficial to China. This might seem counterintuitive, given that Beijing, following Moscow’s lead, has resolutely blocked any effort in the U.N. Security Council to authorize any sort of action in Syria. But while China is not interested in giving a green light to legitimize U.S. involvement, Beijing would quickly seize the opportunity to take advantage should the U.S. decide to entangle itself more closely in Damascus’ affairs. For one thing, China has a good track […]

This month, the Cote d’Ivoire government announced a plan to repatriate 200 former rebel fighters who had been exiled to Togo in the wake of Cote d’Ivoire’s post-election violence in 2010. In an email interview, Arthur Boutellis, a research fellow and adviser to the Peace Operations and Africa programs at the International Peace Institute, described the state of Cote d’Ivoire’s security sector reform and the obstacles to further progress. WPR: What has been the recent trajectory of Cote d’Ivoire’s security sector since the violence surrounding November 2010 elections? Arthur Boutellis: The security sector could have been a key driver of […]

Last week’s congressional hearing on the September 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, reignited the controversy over allegations that the Obama administration covered up or lied about details of the attack. The dispute will consume Washington for some time, ultimately influencing President Barack Obama’s effectiveness during his second term as well as the way the U.S. military responds to future crises. There are three big questions about the Benghazi attacks: Did the Obama administration, particularly the State Department, take prudent steps to assure the security of embassy personnel in Libya before the attacks? Has the administration […]

Last week, Efrain Rios Montt, the former Guatemalan dictator who ruled the country during the most violent years of its civil war, was found guilty of crimes against humanity and genocide and sentenced to 80 years in prison. Guatemalan courts only recently began prosecutions for crimes committed during the civil war, which lasted from 1960 to 1996. Rios Montt was convicted of overseeing the massacre of some 1,771 villagers of Guatemala’s Maya Ixil indigenous group during his 1982-1983 dictatorship. And the conviction may yet be overturned. Reuters has reported that a judge who presided over earlier hearings said she could […]

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Mohammed Morsi, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader and Egypt’s first post-Arab Spring president, even as Russia continued to back Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus against an assorted opposition that includes the Syrian branch of the Brotherhood. This apparent contradiction illustrates the challenges Russia is facing in the post-Arab Spring Middle East. Like virtually everyone else, Moscow was surprised by the groundswell of change that began in the Arab world in early 2011. Experts advising the Russian government call this a tectonic shift and compare its impact to that of the two defining periods […]

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