The United States relies on Jordan to help resolve many of the thorniest problems in the region, including fighting terrorism, dealing with the consequences of the Syrian civil war and finding a peaceful resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is in this context that U.S. officials recently told the Associated Press that preparations were being made for U.S. Special Forces to train Iraqi troops on Jordanian soil in the near future. According to David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a former Levant country director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the United States and […]

It would be easy to dismiss the trajectory of Erik Prince, who made a fortune with his security firm Blackwater only to resign and turn to a form of self-exile amid intense public criticism, as a personal drama born from a set of particular historical conditions. Prince revealed this month that he will be the chairman of a Chinese-based company providing security to extractive industries in Africa, suggesting his future will no longer intersect with America’s. But the professional evolution of Prince, Blackwater and its replacements are not simply side effects of American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan or the […]

Editor’s note: This is the fourth of a seven-part series examining conditions in Afghanistan in the last year of U.S. military operations there. The series runs every Wednesday and will examine each of the country’s regional commands to get a sense of the country, and the war, America is leaving behind. You can find the Series Introduction here, Part I here and Part II here. Regional Command East encompasses Afghanistan’s most populous region. The territory extends from Afghanistan’s mountainous eastern border with Pakistan to the central provinces surrounding Kabul, an area characterized by wide variation in terrain, ethnic groups, political […]

Can Estonian soldiers defend their country by fighting in the middle of Africa? Last week, the European Union approved plans to send up to 1,000 troops to the Central African Republic (CAR). Perhaps surprisingly, Estonia was the first EU member to make a firm pledge of ground forces to the mission, which will reinforce existing French and African contingents. Other eastern EU members, including Poland and the Czech Republic, are also reportedly considering participating, while Britain and Germany have hung back. This diplomatic maneuvering says more about the state of European defense cooperation than African affairs. The Estonians, Czechs and […]

Washington’s reluctance to include Tehran unconditionally in talks to end the war in Syria was on full view this week. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s invitation to Iran to take part in preliminary peace talks at Montreux, Switzerland—quickly accepted—led to a diplomatic crisis after the U.S. insisted Iran had to embrace the agreement reached in June 2012 by the U.N.-backed Action Group for Syria, which among other things called for the formation of a transitional governing body. Syria’s main external opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, also threatened not to show up to the talks if the Iranians were present. So […]

The life of an insurgent is not easy. When state security forces possess advanced surveillance technology, even remote areas are unsafe. Fear is persistent; death can come quickly, silently and at any time. If security forces penetrate a rebel movement or local competitors arise, only paranoid insurgents survive. Over time, fear and paranoia become grinding, exacting a heavy psychological price. And in the end, insurgents seldom win: Most are killed, defeated or fade away without a clear victory. Why, then, would anyone become an insurgent? Put simply, people do so out of desperation. Insurgents consider the status quo unjust and […]

Editor’s note: This is the third of a seven-part series examining conditions in Afghanistan in the last year of U.S. military operations there. The series will run every Wednesday and will examine each of the country’s regional commands to get a sense of the country, and the war, America is leaving behind. You can find the Series Introduction here and Part I here. Northern Afghanistan, particularly the regional capital Mazar-i-Sharif in the province of Balkh, represents something of a success story. The region by and large benefited from the international intervention without experiencing the same level of economic distortion as […]

After winning Kenya’s March 2013 presidential election, President Uhuru Kenyatta inherited the difficult task of leading East Africa’s most significant diplomatic and economic actor while simultaneously awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The charges, for alleged crimes against humanity, stemmed from Kenya’s disputed 2007 elections. Given Kenya’s historically strong ties to the West, the charges against Kenyatta and his deputy president, William Ruto, forced the new Jubilee coalition government onto an immediate diplomatic tightrope—one defined by an all-consuming campaign to weaken international support for the trials, while maintaining enough continuity of engagement with the West to prevent international […]

As U.S. forces draw down in Afghanistan, the United States continues to carry out targeted killings against suspected terrorist leaders in several theaters—including through the use of armed drones—and to enhance the ability of partner nations to carry out lethal operations. But U.S. drone strikes can kill innocent civilians along with their intended targets, generating backlash abroad and concerns domestically. According to reporting last week by the Washington Post, one such strike moved Congress to insert language into the $1.1 trillion spending bill that blocks Obama administration attempts to transfer the U.S. drone program from the CIA to the Pentagon. […]

When diplomats gathered at the United Nations last week to launch a series of commemorations of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, there was much talk of the need for decisive responses to early signs of future mass atrocities. By contrast, actual diplomacy to manage today’s well-advanced crises in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) was more tentative. The U.S. and Russia called for local cease-fires to ease the suffering in Syria. South Sudanese negotiatorsin Addis Ababa mulled a truce while fighting continued unabated at home. An agreement to appoint a new interim president in the CAR failed to […]

TEL AVIV, Israel—Before he became the leader of his country, Ariel Sharon, the recently deceased former Israeli prime minister, spent most of his life as a military man. The formative events for the late general took place on the battlefield. The experiences proved so powerful that they shaped Sharon as a political actor, gradually chiseling the profile of a political leader with such strong and unexpected views that he managed to antagonize even his closest allies and surprisingly satisfy some of his harshest critics. By the time he became Israel’s most powerful man, the lessons of war led the older […]

Editor’s note: This is the second of a seven-part series examining conditions in Afghanistan in the last year of U.S. military operations there. The series will run every Wednesday and will examine each of the country’s regional commands to get a sense of the country, and the war, America is leaving behind. The series introduction can be found here. Historically a crossroads of commerce and culture linking Persia and Central Asia, the ethnically mixed western region of Afghanistan has more recently been notable for the stability and wealth of its most important province, Herat, and its capital city of the […]

Given budget pressures and widespread disillusionment with the outcome of the American counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, critics contend that the United States does not need a large, active-duty Army but should instead rely on other nations and reserve forces. As land power advocates and the Army’s leaders push back, debate rages. This is not simply a quibble over budget figures. Rather, it reflects a monumental strategic decision. Choices made today about the Army—and the rest of the military—will determine the options available to American presidents years and even decades from now. A recent essay by defense expert Kori […]

Last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai made his third visit to India in 2013 and his 14th since first taking office in 2001. This time, the two governments announced they would deepen their defense and security ties, with several initiatives designed to increase the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) as most if not all NATO combat forces prepare to leave the country in 2014. Although Indian officials declined to fill Karzai’s entire shopping list, Afghan-Indian military cooperation will likely increase still further now that the United States, which has generally discouraged New Delhi from assuming a major […]

Since the conflict in South Sudan escalated in December, well-meaning governments and United Nations officials have repeatedly argued that only a political solution can end the fighting. “There is no military solution,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power told CNN on Christmas Eve. But the South Sudanese government does not seem entirely convinced. Over the past week it has ratcheted up its offensives against rebel-held areas, recapturing the economically important town of Bentiu. Bor, another major center in rebel hands, has also been under attack. The government is still in peace talks with rebel envoys, but it is evidently […]

Depressing headlines from the Middle East have thrown cold water on any lingering optimism that U.S. policy objectives in the region were on track. In Iraq, Fallujah and Ramadi have been lost, at least for now, to al-Qaida-linked insurgents. The Syrian conflict has apparently transformed into a multi-sided war, increasing the likelihood that Bashar al-Assad’s regime will survive. And progress remains elusive in Afghanistan as the countdown to withdrawal continues. Not long ago there was reason for hope in all these countries. The surges in Iraq and Afghanistan were supposed to have worked, and the Arab Spring, it was hoped, […]

Editor’s note: This is the first of a seven-part series examining conditions in Afghanistan in the last year of U.S. military operations there. The series will run every Wednesday and will examine each of the country’s regional commands to get a sense of the country, and the war, America is leaving behind. This year, the bulk if not the entirety of international troops will leave Afghanistan; the few thousand likely to remain, pending agreement with Kabul, will mostly be concentrated on a handful of bases and serve in a training and advisory role for Afghan forces. In February, the number […]

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