The deadly conflict in South Sudan, itself the culmination of a long-running power struggle within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, is increasingly drawing in neighboring countries driven by disparate security and economic interests, further complicating the crisis and efforts to reach a resolution. The U.N. has accused both sides of South Sudan’s split of committing human rights abuses in the conflict, which has so far claimed an unknown number of lives, displaced an estimated 900,000 people both inside and outside the country and shows no signs of letting up. An agreement to cease hostilities was violated even before its […]

The protests in Ukraine and Venezuela and the unveiling this week by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel of the Obama administration’s budget request to Congress would appear to be separate and unrelated events. Yet they are linked by the challenge those developments pose to the strategic assumptions that serve as the foundation of the fiscal year 2015 U.S. defense budget. The United States can no longer afford a strategy that hedges against all possible risks. The fiscal crunch, combined with the need to divert an ever-growing portion of the defense budget to personnel, health and pension costs and away from procurement—particularly […]

On Feb. 16, the Supreme Military Council (SMC) of Syria’s Western-backed rebel grouping, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), expelled its chief of staff, Gen. Salim Idris. Idris, who had long been seen as ineffective, was replaced by Brig. Gen. Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir, a Syrian army defector and head of the FSA’s Quneitra military council. His deputy is to be Col. Heitham Afeisi, co-founder and deputy commander of the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, a large FSA outfit mainly active in the northwest. The move capped a difficult six months for Syria’s rebels. Plagued by divisions and infighting, as well as indecision among their […]

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ recent proposal for a NATO-led peacekeeping operation in Palestine is not a novel idea. Similar proposals were floated by both the Clinton and Bush administrations as well as in NATO’s 2010 “Albright report.” But Abbas’ plan, which calls for NATO troops to be indefinitely deployed to protect the West Bank and Gaza as well as checkpoints within East Jerusalem, is worth considering. There are several reasons why NATO should take the idea seriously. First, and most obviously, NATO could make a significant contribution toward facilitating peace between Israel and Palestine. Without doubt, NATO would offer […]

Will the Ukrainian revolution help or harm the Syrian rebellion? The two uprisings currently appear to be on very different trajectories. It is three years since Syrian citizens began protests against President Bashar Assad, precipitating the cycle of violence that would lead to civil war, yet he maintains a brutally tenacious hold on power. By contrast, Assad’s Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych, was forced from the capital, Kiev, last week after just three months of demonstrations culminating in a sudden spike in violence. Assad may view Yanukovych’s humiliation as proof of the need for utter ruthlessness against his opponents. But the […]

Editor’s note: This is the last of a seven-part series examining conditions in Afghanistan in the last year of U.S. military operations there. The series examined 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, Part II here, Part III here, Part IV here and Part V here. In 2001, the Taliban were thought to be all but defeated with the fall of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, little more than a month after the U.S. launched its first airstrikes on […]

That Russia and NATO are developing plans to conduct a rare joint maritime show of force to reaffirm their commitment to the Syrian chemical weapons elimination process is a good development. According to Reuters, Russian and U.S. warships will jointly escort a U.S. vessel, the USS Cape Ray, which has been re-equipped to destroy Syria’s most dangerous chemical weapons. Russian and NATO experts are currently developing a unified command structure, possible rules of engagement and other details within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, the most important alliance structure linking the parties. The escort mission would be largely symbolic since […]

Last month, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus told a crowd in Virginia that “we have the most advanced platforms in the world, but quantity has a quality of its own.” Mabus and other Navy leaders are currently grappling with severe budget constraints, and as he said those words the Navy was reportedly considering decommissioning one of its 10 active Nimitz-class aircraft carriers as a cost-saving measure. The $13 billion USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of the next-generation Ford-class carriers, was christened in November and is currently expected to join the fleet as the 11th carrier in 2016.* Although […]

Editor’s note: This is the sixth 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, Part II here, Part III here and Part IV here. In 2009, President Barack Obama vowed to narrow the U.S. mission in Afghanistan while expanding the resources for it, announcing a goal to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida and […]

French President Francois Hollande arrived in Washington yesterday to further strengthen the U.S.-France relationship, which has greatly improved from its Iraq War-era nadir. Hollande is facing the lowest approval ratings of his presidency and a faltering economic recovery with sustained high unemployment. But even so, French officials have signaled a desire to maintain an active foreign policy with close U.S. cooperation. The visit is “a nice way for the United States to pay France back for its leadership on Syria, Iran and Mali,” says Nicholas Dungan of the Atlantic Council. The French, for their part, “will be looking to see […]

There are two points of approximate consensus regarding the U.S. government’s Syria strategy. First, the U.S. should not send American troops to become directly involved in the fighting. All across the political spectrum in the U.S., among hawks and doves, the national sentiment strongly opposes sending U.S. forces to fight on the ground in Syrian battlefields. America is tired of sending its soldiers to die in Middle Eastern conflicts. The boots-on-the-ground option is off the table barring a dramatic development. The second point of growing agreement is that the Obama administration’s current approach to the Syrian conflict is a failure. […]

U.S. leadership in the global security system is not what it used to be. Ukraine is in turmoil while Washington does little but warn and plead. Libya remains chaotic while the violent detritus of its 2011 civil war destabilizes Africa and the Levant. China uses ancient claims to assert ownership of tiny islands and potentially valuable stretches of the open sea. Gulf states are apoplectic over American inaction on the horrific Syrian civil war and the beginning of detente between Washington and Iran. America’s arch enemy al-Qaida seems as influential and dangerous as ever, with franchises popping up faster than […]

Editor’s note: This is the fifth 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, Part II here, and Part III here. Regional Command South encompasses Afghanistan’s key southern province of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement in the 1990s and an epicenter of its violent resurgence between 2005 and 2006. The province’s […]

The autonomous districts recently declared by many of Syria’s Kurds—who with some 2.2 million persons make up about 10 percent of Syria’s population—have potentially important implications for the deadlocked Syrian civil war that has been raging for almost three years. This struggle has increasingly drawn in the United States and Russia, as well as various regional parties, such as Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, among others. In addition, Syria itself has degenerated into a Hobbesian war of all against all as the various opposition factions—increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadists from abroad—have begun fighting among themselves as well as […]

What do you see when you look at the Central African Republic (CAR)? The crisis in the previously largely unknown former French colony is becoming a Rorschach test for international policymakers. Few would deny that the CAR has endured a hellish breakdown of basic order that has claimed at least 2,000 lives and forced a quarter of the country’s 4 million citizens from their homes. But is this simply a humanitarian disaster that needs to be stopped through rapid military action? Or is it a case of a failed state that demands a long-term effort to rebuild the government’s capacity […]