Protesters from the Answer Coalition gather in front of the White House, Washington, April 14, 2018 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

As the tragic civil war in Syria grinds through its eighth year, it is impossible to make sense of the Trump administration’s strategy as it moves in one direction and then shifts in another, again and again. American policy is utterly incoherent, and there is no sign that will change. President Donald Trump’s position on Syria, expressed more often in tweets than in formal policy statements, vacillated wildly even before he was elected president. In June 2013, for instance, he contended that the United States should “stay the hell out of Syria.” But two months later, after Syrian President Bashar […]

A girl eats boiled leaves from a local vine to stave off starvation, in the extremely impoverished district of Aslam, Hajjah, Yemen (AP photo by Hammadi Issa).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series on food security around the world. As the war in Yemen enters its fifth year, the country’s population is coping with an increasingly severe shortage of food. The United Nations’ humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, said last week that three quarters of Yemenis need some form of humanitarian aid, and the situation is nearing a “tipping point, beyond which it will be impossible to prevent massive loss of life as a result of widespread famine across the country.” WPR spoke via email with Noha Aboueldahab, a visiting fellow at the Brookings […]

Wanuri Kahiu, the director of the film “Rafiki,” stands by an art installation in Nairobi, Kenya, April 27, 2018 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Senior Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. Ever since “Rafiki,” the latest film by the acclaimed Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu, screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May, it has been widely praised by foreign critics and directors and even generated some Oscar buzz. But only in the past week have Kenyans been able to see it for themselves. The film centers on a romance between two women. Ezekiel Mutua, chairman of the Kenya Film Classification Board, or KFCB, banned it domestically, saying it was an […]

Soldiers examine burnt-out cars outside the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, after it was attacked by al-Qaida-linked extremists, Jan. 17, 2016 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

The Islamist militants came on motorbikes, arriving before dawn in two villages in eastern Burkina Faso. In the first village, Diabiga, they struck a mosque, killing a local Muslim leader and four other worshipers; a sixth person later died of his injuries. In the second village, Kompienbiga, they killed three members of the same family. The dual attacks, which occurred on Sept. 15, did not come as a total surprise. In the weeks leading up to them, a series of similar incidents in the east claimed around 20 lives. Analysts suspect the violence is the work of the Islamic State […]

A memorial is set up to mark the second anniversary of fighting in Ilovaysk between Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Ukraine paramilitaries and pro-Russia insurgents, Kiev, Ukraine, Aug. 29, 2016 (Sipa photo via AP).

Under the cover of darkness, eight cargo trucks from Russia rumbled down a dirt road just inside the Ukrainian border. A breeze cooled the early August night, drifting over the Russian countryside into this swath of coal-mining country in Donetsk, before being caught in the swells of the Black Sea. It was clear. A perfect night for a drone from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which has been monitoring a shaky cease-fire in eastern Ukraine for the past four years, to record video of the convoys of KamAZ-4310s, the green army trucks once called the “workhorse of […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, Sept. 12, 2018 (Pool photo by Valery Sharifulin/TASS News Agency via AP).

Can the U.S. and its main geopolitical rivals bury their differences? World leaders are in New York for the United Nations General Assembly this week. The main question on everyone’s mind is what President Donald Trump will say. Last year, Trump struck a bellicose note during his first U.N. appearance. He effectively promised to rip up the Iranian nuclear deal, a pledge he has since kept, and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea unless it gave up its own nuclear ambitions. Trump’s speech presaged a rough year in U.N. diplomacy, as the Security Council has since then hobbled from dispute […]

A Palestinian girl peeks out of a car window after receiving UNRWA food aid in a refugee camp north of Jabalia, Gaza Strip, Sept. 4, 2018 (Photo by Wissam Nassar for DPA via AP Images).

RAMALLAH—“We lose Trump’s money, but we preserve our dignity,” Ahmed, 19, told me at Qalandia refugee camp near Ramallah when I asked him how he felt about President Donald Trump’s recent decision to halt all U.S. funding to UNRWA, the United Nations agency that provides food, education and health care to the more than 5 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Created in 1949, UNRWA has been a lifeline for Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 and 1967 wars with Israel. Last year, the United States provided about […]

Syrian authorities distribute bread, vegetables and pasta near the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack, Douma, Syria, April 16, 2018 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is close to military victory over the rebels that he has been fighting since 2011. The largest remaining area of opposition control is Idlib province, and the regime is gearing up to retake it. Turkey and Russia developed a cease-fire plan last week to try and prevent further large-scale fighting, but it may not work. The future looks grim for the people of Idlib. Like Assad’s other offensives, if this one takes place it will be brutal, with civilians suffering as much as rebel fighters. And if past patterns hold, Syrian government forces will use whatever […]

Rwandan President Paul Kagame attends a roundtable event at the EU-Africa summit held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Nov. 29, 2017 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Senior Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. “It took me by surprise, but I hope this is the start of the opening of the political space in Rwanda.” That was Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, a Rwandan opposition politician who was incarcerated for six years before her surprise release over the weekend. More than 2,100 other people were also freed in a move for which the government provided little explanation. Ingabire returned to Rwanda from the Netherlands in 2010 and announced her plan to challenge President Paul Kagame […]

Afghan security personnel walk past the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 23, 2018 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, discuss the latest escalation in the U.S.-China trade war and new developments in North Korean nuclear diplomacy. For the Report, Michael Semple talks with WPR’s senior editor, Robbie Corey-Boulet, about the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan and life on the ground in territories under their control. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered straight to your inbox. The newsletter offers a free preview article […]

Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016 (AP photo by Allauddin Khan).

The Afghan Taliban are experiencing a revival. Today, they find themselves in control of much of the territory they claimed before 9/11, a new version of the Islamic Emirate that the U.S. intended to eliminate. Instead of focusing on public statements, policymakers trying to assess the Taliban’s motives must closely examine what life in Taliban-controlled territory looks like. In 1992, after groups of guerrilla fighters known as mujahideen succeeded in toppling Afghanistan’s communist government, which had been backed by the Soviet Union, they quickly turned on each other, kicking off a civil war. In response, a group of young clerics […]

Peacekeepers from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon stand at attention during a ceremony at the mission headquarters, Naqoura, Lebanon, March 19, 2018 (AP Photo by Hassan Ammar).

Is it time to stop panicking about peacekeeping? Discussions of United Nations peace operations are always tinged with a sense of crisis. Blue-helmet operations have been through a rough patch in recent years, struggling to stay on top of crises from the Central African Republic and South Sudan to the Golan Heights. As I noted last week, many experts fear that U.N. forces in trouble spots like Mali have stumbled into counterterrorist and stabilization missions that they cannot sustain. This is just one aspect of a broader malaise. The U.N. has endured a long series of revelations about indiscipline, corruption […]

Two New York City firefighters look toward One World Trade Center through the open ceiling of the Oculus at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, New York, Sept. 11, 2018 (AP photo by Craig Ruttle).

The anniversary of 9/11 has become an annual opportunity for soul-searching, for Americans to take stock of where they stand not only in the ongoing conflict with violent jihadism but more broadly as a nation. One thing stood out this year: Americans are more pessimistic about the struggle against al-Qaida and its offshoots than at any time since Sept. 11, 2001. In a sense, this is understandable. The United States is still mired in Afghanistan and Iraq with no sign of victory. Jihadism persists in many parts of the Islamic world and is even spreading to new regions. It continues […]

Angolan President Joao Lourenco, center, arrives for an event at the EU-Africa summit, Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Nov. 29, 2017 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Senior Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. When Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who served as president of Angola for nearly four decades, confirmed last year that he would not run for another term, many expected him to continue wielding power behind the scenes. This was especially true after he announced he would stay on as head of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, or MPLA, which has been the ruling party since the oil-rich southern African country attained independence from Portugal in 1975. “He […]

Chad’s president, Idriss Deby, left, listens to Burkina Faso’s president, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, before a working session of the African Union in Nouakchott, Mauritania, July 3, 2018 (AP photo by Ludovic Marin).

About a month ago, a fresh wave of violence kicked off in northern Chad when rebels crossed over from neighboring Libya and staged an attack on a border post in the region of Kouri Bougri. According to one report, the rebels, who arrived on vehicles equipped with machine guns, managed to kill at least three soldiers while possibly kidnapping others. A security source, speaking to Radio France Internationale, initially downplayed the significance of the incursion, saying it had been perpetrated by common criminals. But the Military Command Council for the Salvation of the Republic, or CCMSR, a Chadian rebel group […]

Election posters for Jimmie Akesson, right, leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats, and Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, second from right, Flen, Sweden, Aug. 30, 2018 (AP photo by Michael Probst).

Yesterday’s anniversary of the 9/11 attacks passed by with relatively muted commemorations. This is understandable given the passage of time, and how we commemorate increasingly distant events. But if the immediate consequences of 9/11 have faded, the less visible aftereffects of that day’s trauma persist. At times, these aftereffects, no less pernicious for being hidden, spring into full view—most recently on Sunday, when Swedish voters made the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party the third-largest in parliament. It would be relatively easy to trace the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe, of which the Swedish electoral results are but the latest example, […]

A member of the German armed forces wears a helmet that features the United Nations logo at Camp Castor in Gao, Mali, April 5, 2016 (Photo by Michael Kappeler for DPA via AP Images).

Seventeen years after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, the “war on terror” is still stumbling along. From the Sahel to the Philippines, governments and international coalitions continue to battle jihadi groups. In an era of mounting international competition, political leaders, generals and spies continue to agree that transnational terrorism is a common threat. Global organizations like the United Nations cannot insulate themselves from this tendency. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has made consolidating the institution’s counterterrorist activities a priority. Last week, World Politics Review ran a trenchant piece by Larry Attree and Jordan Street of Saferworld, warning that […]

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