President Donald Trump walks with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, June 16, 2017 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

At some point in the next year, the Trump administration should release its first official National Security Strategy. In the past, many of these reports were simply extended self-congratulations or a litany of unrealistic aspirations of little value to the government agencies that had to implement them. It is vital for the inaugural Trump effort to avoid these pitfalls by identifying realistic and attainable midterm goals. The key word here is “realistic.” In the midterm—from four to 10 years—the United States is not going to eradicate the self-styled Islamic State, al-Qaida or the Afghan Taliban. Nor will it engineer the […]

Smoke rises following airstrikes by the Philippine Air Force at militant positions in the besieged city of Marawi, southern Philippines, June 6, 2017 (Sipa photo by Richard Atrero de Guzman via AP).

On May 23, militants linked to the self-proclaimed Islamic State ambushed soldiers in the southern Philippines seeking to apprehend Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the Islamic State’s affiliates in Southeast Asia. Within a matter of hours, over 400 militants from the Maute Group had completely seized the city of Marawi, launching a major operation to occupy city buildings, recruit sympathetic locals, take hostages and project the power of the Islamic State. The seizure of Marawi represents the greatest challenge Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has faced since taking office last year, and one of the most significant and concerted attempts by […]

Jean-Rock Sobi, right, representative of the Democratic Front of the Central African People, talks with Anicet Dologuele of the Union for Central African Renewal after signing a peace deal, Rome, June 19, 2017 (AP photo by Domenico Stinellis).

On June 19, Central African Republic’s government and more than a dozen armed groups signed a peace deal mediated in Rome by the Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio, briefly raising hopes of a break, or at least a reduction, in violence. Those hopes were seemingly dashed the following day, when heavy fighting resumed in the town of Bria. The town’s mayor said at least 100 people were killed. In an email interview, Evan Cinq-Mars, United Nations adviser with the Center for Civilians in Conflict, explains how the dynamic of the conflict in Central African Republic has evolved and why the situation […]

Nigerian soldiers man a checkpoint, Gwoza, Nigeria, April 8, 2015 (AP photo by Lekan Oyekanmi).

Vast ungoverned spaces, weak security institutions, corrupt administrations and scarce economic opportunities are all factors contributing to the entrenchment of Islamist extremism in West Africa and the Sahel. Regional governments have struggled to respond to the threat and ensure security, and in some cases their actions have only made things worse. Could the planned “G5 Sahel Joint Force” represent a turning point? This WPR Special Report assesses what’s at stake. Purchase this special report as a Kindle e-book. The Roots of Conflict How West Africa Became Fertile Ground for AQIM and ISIS Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and the so-called […]

Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, center, speaks during a peace conference at the Presidential Palace, Kabul, June 6, 2017 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

With the Trump White House abdicating decision-making authority over the Afghan war to the Pentagon, it’s only a matter of time until the United States escalates troop levels in Afghanistan again. The security situation in the country is dire, with the Taliban in control of more territory than at any point since the 2001 invasion and momentum on its side. The situation for Afghan civilians remains terrifying, with a spate of recent attacks highlighting how little progress has been made in America’s longest war. If things weren’t bad enough, Afghanistan is also in the grips of a festering political crisis, […]

A U.S. Navy F-18 fighter jet lands on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson following a patrol in the South China Sea, March 3, 2017 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

On June 21, the United States and China held their first-ever Diplomatic and Security Dialogue in Washington. The dialogue, co-chaired on the American side by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, is a new iteration of engagement that evolved from the April meeting between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, at Mar-a-Lago. Along with other newly created discussions on trade and law enforcement issues, the dialogue is aimed at narrowing the focus of the former U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which met annually during the Obama administration. Unfortunately, when it comes to […]

A hotel staff member mops the floor in front of a picture featuring portraits of the late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung, left, and Kim Jong Il, Pyongyang, North Korea, June 19, 2017 (AP photo by Wong Maye-E).

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part column. The first part can be found here. America’s military involvement in Syria topped this week’s headlines, but North Korea remains the most dangerous security problem the United States faces. Pyongyang has not engaged in any outright military provocations for a few weeks. But the death of Otto Warmbier, an American student arrested in Pyongyang a year ago and returned last week in an unexplained comatose state, has amplified anger against the bizarre Kim Jong Un regime and led to calls for expanded sanctions against it. On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald […]

A Fulani woman cooks outside her house, Daruga, Nigeria, June 12, 2005 (AP photo by George Osodi).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and senior editor, Frederick Deknatel, discuss the next phase of Syria’s civil war and the succession shake-up in Saudi Arabia. For the Report, Linus Unah talks with Peter Dörrie about how competition for resources is fueling violence between Fulani herders and farming communities in Nigeria, a situation the U.N. warns could “spin out of control.” If you’d like to sign up for the beta version of WPR’s Africa-only subscription, you can do so here. It’s free for the first two months. And if you like what you hear on Trend […]

Defense Secretary James Mattis looks over his notes before a news conference at the Pentagon to give an update on the Islamic State group, Washington, May 19, 2017 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

As the fight against the so-called Islamic State approaches its endgame, the United States seems to be stumbling its way up the escalation ladder in Syria. Repeated U.S. airstrikes against Syrian forces and allied militias in southeastern Syria had already caused alarm that the U.S. might be drawn deeper into the country’s civil war. The downing of a Syrian warplane by a U.S. fighter jet over the weekend punctuated those concerns. In response, Russia announced it would suspend the use of a communication channel to “deconflict” air operations over Syria—that is, avoid unintended confrontations between Russian and American jets—although the […]

A nomadic Fulani herder grazes his sheep on parched land around Gadabeji, Niger, May 11, 2010 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

KADUNA, Nigeria—The funeral took place on a sunny, late March morning in Goska, a village in northern Nigeria’s Kaduna state. Against the backdrop of mud homes covered with corrugated zinc roofing, people bustled down the single dusty road that runs through the town to a patch of land next to a church. Hundreds formed a crowd around a brown casket to bury 50-year-old Gideon Morik, a community leader who died on March 16. One of Gideon’s solemn-faced wives made her way silently to the center of the field. She dabbed her face with a handkerchief as she placed a vase […]

A French soldier stands alongside troops who helped France take back Mali’s north as they participate in a ceremony formally transforming the force into a United Nations peacekeeping mission, Bamako, Mali, July 1, 2013 (AP photo by Harouna Traore).

There is a lot of talk at the United Nations about tailoring peace operations to address the specific needs of the countries and communities that they serve. But from the vantage of the Security Council, there are really only two types of peacekeeping missions: the ones the French like, and the ones the Americans and British like. The entire edifice of U.N. operations rests on a delicate network of bargains among Paris, London and Washington about how to balance these two groups of missions. France has pushed for peacekeepers in a series of its former colonies including Cote d’Ivoire, Mali […]

Soldiers goose-step across Kim Il Sung Square during a parade to celebrate the 105th birthday of Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s late founder and grandfather of current ruler Kim Jong Un, Pyongyang, April 15, 2017 (AP photo by Wong Maye-E).

In early 2003, with U.S. military intervention in Iraq increasingly likely, the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command had detailed plans in place to defeat Saddam Hussein’s military. But because the George W. Bush administration insisted that the invasion would be short and American troops rapidly withdrawn, military plans for stabilizing and reconstructing Iraq after the battlefield victory were woefully inadequate. To remedy this, Conrad Crane and Andrew Terrill, two former U.S. Army officers on the faculty of the U.S. Army War College, led a study project that brought together a wide range of experts on both Iraq and military stabilization […]

Tribesmen loyal to Houthi rebels attend a gathering aimed at mobilizing more fighters, Sanaa, Yemen, June 20, 2016 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and senior editor, Frederick Deknatel, discuss the contrasting fortunes of British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron, and the implications of the British and French elections for the EU. For the Report, Laura Kasinof talks with Peter Dörrie about how, amid the chaos of Yemen’s ongoing crisis, former Yemeni President Ali Adullah Saleh has maneuvered himself back into a position of power. If you’d like to sign up for the beta version of WPR’s Africa-only subscription, you can do so here. It’s free for the first two […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of the ruling Justice and Development Party, Ankara, June 13, 2017 (Pool photo via AP).

As the dust settles from President Donald Trump’s first visit to the Middle East, his policy in the region, such as it exists, is harkening back to the years before his predecessor, Barack Obama. Obama only sought minor recalibrations in long-standing U.S. policy toward its allies in the region, and his criticisms of them amounted to the mildest rebukes. But Trump’s visit made it clear that Saudi Arabia and Israel are, once again, the unmistakable pillars of America’s Middle East posture. Egypt also seems more firmly in the U.S. orbit than ever, given Trump and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s mutual […]

Supporters of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh attend a rally marking one year of the Saudi-led coalition, Sanaa, Yemen, March 26, 2016. (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

In March, to mark—and taunt—the two-year anniversary of the military intervention launched by Saudi Arabia in northern Yemen, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh marched down a major thoroughfare in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, surrounded by throngs of adoring supporters. Bodyguards cleared his path as a crowd of tens of thousands cheered him on. The Sanaanis, as the capital’s residents are called, were overjoyed to catch sight of the man they consider their leader—even though he was forced to step down as president five years prior. Saleh delivered a speech to the crowd in his clipped northern accent, triumphantly declaring that […]

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., walks past food parcels included as part of humanitarian aid shipments to Syria, during a visit to the border crossing in Reyhanli, southern Turkey, May 24, 2017 (AP photo by Burhan Ozbilici).

The United Nations Security Council faces a prolonged crisis of confidence. Mounting tensions between the United States, Russia and China have stopped the council from taking serious action in response to crises in Syria, Ukraine and Burundi, among others. If those underlying tensions continue to worsen, the forum is likely to become ever more marginal to global affairs. The Security Council is a lot more active than it was in the worst days of the Cold War. In 1959, it mustered the will to pass just one resolution. It has churned out 20 in the first half of 2017. But […]

Donald Trump shakes hands with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani during a bilateral meeting as Rex Tillerson, Jared Kushner and H.R. McMaster look on, Riyadh, May 21, 2017 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

The crisis in America’s foreign policy apparatus entered a stunning new phase this past week with President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, followed yesterday by his comments on Twitter essentially taking Saudi Arabia’s side against Qatar in an intra-Gulf dispute. In between, reports emerged that during his visit to Brussels two weeks ago, Trump removed a passage from his speech explicitly confirming his commitment to NATO’s collective defense clause, Article 5, without notifying his national security adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, all of whom had argued […]

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