This photo purports to show volunteers standing near the wreckage of the destroyed vehicle in which Mullah Akhtar Mansour was allegedly traveling, Baluchistan, Pakistan, May 21, 2016 (AP photo by Abdul Malik).

Last weekend, a U.S. military drone killed Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, as he drove home from Iran to Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. This was a bold action, marking the first time an American drone strike had been ordered in the Taliban’s home base, rather than in Pakistan’s tribal areas that border Afghanistan. It may not signal yet another new U.S. strategy for the war in Afghanistan, but it is a significant tactical and political shift, recognition that as the Obama administration winds down, trends in the country are not good. As Dan De Luce and John […]

U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, Japan, Friday, May 27, 2016 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima, Japan, today, the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to the site of the U.S. atomic bombing at the end of World War II. He remembered those lost in that devastating conflict and joined with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in calling for renewed attention to the task of ridding the world of nuclear weapons. The leaders of the U.S. and Japan—the only nation to have used these terrible weapons and the nation against which they were used—stood together to call for an end to nuclear proliferation. The symbolism of Obama’s visit aside, for many, […]

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr speaking to his supporters before entering Baghdad’s highly fortified Green Zone, March, 27, 2016 (AP photo by Karim Kadim).

A key character from the Iraqi insurgency is back center stage in Baghdad, but what does it mean? The re-emergence of Muqtada al-Sadr, the 42-year-old Shiite cleric notorious for his firebrand rhetoric and command of a feared militia, the Mahdi Army, has sparked all kinds of coverage. Sadr has been compared to an “Iraqi Gandhi”—an evolution, in the same headline, from “rabid warlord.” His apparent reinvention from militia leader to “shrewd political operator” has people asking, again, whether he is the most powerful man in Iraqi politics. The return of this “old provocateur” in February amid streets protests outside Baghdad’s […]

Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil women hold photographs of their missing family members, Colombo, Sri Lanka, Dec. 10, 2015 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

JAFFNA, Sri Lanka—The scars of Sri Lanka’s 26-year-long civil war remain plainly visible in the country’s north, where ethnic Tamils make up the vast majority of the population. Abandoned colonial mansions riddled with bullets stand as testament to the long war and the devastation it wrought on the region. More than half a decade after the fighting ended, despite a noticeable influx of investment from exiled Tamils, much needs to be done before the conflict between the Sinhalese-dominated state and the Tamil minority can finally be relegated to the pages of history, allowing Sri Lanka to work toward a prosperous […]

Porcelain photos decorated with the images of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a shop in Damascus, April 18, 2016 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

Although they are on opposite sides of Syria’s civil war, Russia and Saudi Arabia find themselves in similar positions. Both are presenting themselves as trying in earnest to rein in their proxies. Russia, wanting to again be considered a great power, has forced Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to come to the negotiating table and perhaps can force him to make important compromises. The Saudis, wanting to be seen as reliable and essential U.S. allies in the region, claim to have organized the fragmented Syrian opposition into a moderate, cohesive body. Moscow and Riyadh may indeed have enough leverage to rein […]

Chadian peacekeepers with the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) patrol a check point, Tessalit, northern Mali, Nov. 3, 2013 (U.N. photo Marco Dormino).

Who can do the best job of fighting terrorists in Africa? Islamist extremist groups such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Somalia’s al-Shabab and northern Nigeria’s Boko Haram are garnering increasingly intense international attention. Last week, the U.S Army chief of staff was in Tanzania to discuss the threat with his African counterparts. In the meantime, United Nations Security Council ambassadors were visiting Somalia, while Western and Arab foreign ministers met in Vienna to discuss Libya, where the self-declared Islamic State has a foothold. Also last week, the Nigerian government claimed a symbolic victory when it announced that it had […]

Legionnaires of the 13th DBLE of the French Foreign Legion during a commemoration ceremony, Marseille, France, April 30, 2016 (AP photo by Claude Paris).

In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama campaigned for president promising to extricate the United States from its grinding wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. His administration, Obama hoped, would be known for domestic programs rather than war-fighting. Unfortunately America’s adversaries had different intentions. Obama has now been at war longer than any other U.S. president. A case can be made that America’s ongoing military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere does not constitute “war” in the constitutional and strategic senses of the word. But it is clear that armed strife is the new normal, not an episodic aberration as […]

A Syrian Kurdish fighter from the People's Protection Units (YPG), Sinjar, Iraq, Jan. 29, 2015 (AP photo by Bram Janssen).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and host Peter Dörrie discuss the challenges facing President Maurico Macri’s reforms in Argentina, Mozambique’s hidden debt crisis, and land protests in Kazakhstan. For the Report, Denise Natali joins us to talk about how the Syrian war has impacted the country’s Kurds and their prospects for autonomy. Listen:Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant articles on WPR: Macri’s Moment: Can Argentina’s New President Live Up to the Hype? Massive Debt Revelation Another Blow to Mozambique’s Economy Kazakhstan’s Unprecedented Land Protests Only the First Wave of Discontent? Can Syria’s Kurds Leverage War […]

Hezbollah supporters carry the coffin of slain commander Mustafa Badreddine during his funeral procession, southern Beirut, Lebanon, May 13, 2016 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

For all its current brutality and intractability, the war in Syria, like all wars, will one day come to an end. In pondering over what the Middle East will look like when that day comes, it is worth considering how the war will have changed Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia and political organization. Last week Hezbollah’sMustafa Badreddine was killed in Syria.Badreddine was not just an ordinary fighter for the group. He was responsible for some of Hezbollah’s most spectacular attacks over the years, including the 1983 U.S. Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, along with other hotel, embassy and airline bombings. […]

Secretary of State Dean Rusk, President Lyndon B. Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara at a meeting in the White House, Feb. 9, 1968 (photo by Yoichi Okamoto from LBJ Library archive).

In the fall of 1967, when then-President Lyndon Johnson looked out from his increasingly isolated perch at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the signs of discontent and anger about the war in Vietnam were increasingly evident. A majority of the country negatively viewed his handling of the war, and for the first time since the U.S. intervention in Vietnam had begun, Gallup found that a majority of Americans believed the war was a mistake. On Johnson’s political left, anger over the war had reached a boiling point. In October, 100,000 anti-war demonstrators marched on the Pentagon in the largest anti-war protest in […]

A Syrian Kurdish sniper looks at the rubble, Kobani, Syria, Jan. 30, 2015 (AP photo).

The breakdown of the Syrian state has been a political boon for Kurdish groups. Failed governance, civil war, jihadi threats and external support have enabled the Kurds’ Democratic Union Party (PYD)—an affiliate of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK)—to advance its leftist-nationalist agenda. Since 2011, the PYD has created new facts on the ground in Syria by expanding territories, assuming de facto control over oil fields, creating three autonomous cantons, and declaring a so-called federal Kurdish region. The PYD has also benefitted from both U.S. and Russian backing in the campaign against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS), support that has bolstered […]

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Paris Climate Conference, Le Bourget, France, Nov. 30, 2015 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Given global headlines, you might think the world is terribly off course. Geopolitical rivalry threatens stability from Eastern Europe to the South China Sea. Jihadi terrorists sow mayhem throughout the Middle East. A scary virus emerges in Latin America, spreading across borders. A Brazilian president is brought down, as the Panama Papers expose corruption in other lands. Publics everywhere, alienated by yawning inequality and anemic growth, vent their frustration at a system rigged for moneyed elites. Populist politicians, sensing the sour mood, promise to reverse globalization by building walls to keep out foreigners and abandoning trade agreements. This noisy, negative […]

Map of the Sykes–Picot Agreement signed by Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot, May 8, 1916 (U.K. National Archives image).

This month marks the centenary of the Sykes-Picot treaty, a French-English agreement to establish areas of control and influence in the Arab lands of the Middle East after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The milestone has stirred up resentments and a sense that the flailing states of the region never really existed as coherent geographic entities. But changing borders is not easy, and even if one could draw a better map of the Middle East, it would not solve its deepest sources of distress. Much is being said about the 100th anniversary of the Sykes-Picot agreement, a minor event […]

U.S. President Barack Obama during a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, April 5, 2016 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

There has been a distinct pattern to America’s time as a global power: Whenever the United States becomes involved in a conflict, it quickly draws lessons that set the trajectory for the next conflict or problem. American strategy truly is iterative, with the recent past paving the way for future action. This means that getting the lessons right, or at least as right as possible, is a vital part of strategy-making. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, for instance, the lessons of Vietnam haunted policymakers and framed public debate over America’s role in the world. This led the U.S. military to […]

Cuban dissident Miguel Alberto Ulloa holding his prison release document, Havana, Cuba, Jan. 9, 2015 (AP photo by Ramon Espinosa).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and host Peter Dörrie discuss the challenges facing NATO, South Sudan’s unstable peace, and Kim Jong Un cementing his power at North Korea’s party congress. For the Report, Ted Henken, joins us to explain what normalization with the U.S. and reforms mean for Cuba’s economy and political opposition. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant articles on WPR: From Russia to Refugee Crisis, NATO Faces Biggest Test Since the Cold War Machar’s Return Only the First Step in Bringing South Sudan Back Together North Korea Party Congress Shows Kim’s Power—and […]

A member of the Moroccan special anti-terror unit at the headquarters of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations, Rabat, Morocco, April 20, 2015 (AP photo by Abdeljalil Bounhar).

Last week, the Long War Journal reported that the “self-proclaimed head of the Islamic State’s arm in the Sahara has reportedly threatened to attack Morocco,” according to an audio statement sent to Al Jazeera. The message’s authenticity has not been verified, and there has been no official media release of the tape. But it drew attention to the potential terror threats facing Morocco, which has for years taken pride in its domestic anti-radicalization programs and has emerged as an important counterterrorism partner for European countries, including France and Belgium. In 2014, the leader of the Islamic State (ISIS), Abu Bakr […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attend a Victory Day parade, Red Square, Moscow, May 9, 2016 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his campaign to prevent Ukraine from drawing closer to the European Union in 2014, his strategic objectives went beyond that Eastern European country’s borders. To be sure, Russia was concerned about Ukraine’s political and economic drift toward the West. But Moscow’s warnings to Kiev, which were followed by military action, were also meant as a signal to other countries that might have contemplated following in Ukraine’s steps. The message was aimed at what used to be a clearly demarcated sphere of influence, serving as a threat to any country that was once part of […]

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