A young boy walks past a mural depicting the U.S. peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, left, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 5, 2020 (AP Photo by Rahmat Gul).

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ appeal in March for a global cease-fire amid the coronavirus pandemic made no impression on the Taliban. Through April, the militant group’s commanders seemed generally dismissive of the risks posed by COVID-19 as they ramped up their annual spring offensive. The disease had yet to make much inroads into Afghanistan and Pakistan at the time. Many Taliban members happily promoted the idea that true believers had nothing to fear, and that the pandemic was only a problem for the decadent West. Accordingly, Taliban officials continued meeting each other normally and, during Ramadan in May, many […]

Tires burn during a demonstration to commemorate the first anniversary of a deadly crackdown carried out by security forces on protesters, in Khartoum, Sudan, June 3, 2020 (AP photo by Marwan Ali).

More than a year after the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir’s regime, the coronavirus pandemic is hitting Sudan’s still-fragile democratic transition. Differences between the civilian and military leaders in the transitional, power-sharing government are growing, as the military consolidates its authority due to restrictive security measures that went into effect in April, including a ban on public gatherings and protests around the country, with particularly harsh restrictions in effect in the capital, Khartoum. COVID-19 has also brought chaos to Sudan’s troubled economy, damaging the transitional government’s credibility and popularity. The road had not been smooth since last August, when Sudan’s […]

Palestinians run from tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers during a protest against Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank, in the village of Qusin near Nablus, June 5, 2020 (AP photo by Majdi Mohammed).

July 1 is an ominous day for Palestinians, when Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is set to leap forward into formal annexation. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held onto his office by forging a power-sharing agreement with his political rival, Benny Gantz, that gave him the authority he needed to deliver on his biggest campaign promise: unilaterally annexing Israel’s settlements in the West Bank as soon as next month. The plans for annexation prompted a reckoning in Ramallah, where President Mahmoud Abbas announced last month that the Palestinian Authority would no longer coordinate with Israel on security […]

An Indian army convoy moves on the Srinagar-Ladakh highway at Gagangeer, northeast of Srinagar, India, June 17, 2020 (AP photo by Mukhtar Khan).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein, Freddy Deknatel and Prachi Vidwans talk about the deadly border clash between Indian and Chinese troops in a remote Himalayan mountain pass. With India and China seemingly torn between competition and cooperation, what factors will shape their choice to escalate or resolve this border dispute? Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | RSS | Spotify Relevant Articles on WPR:Can India and China Stand Down After Their Worst Border Clash in 45 Years?Xi and Modi Trade Confrontation for Comity at Another Informal SummitWhy Modi and Xi Made Nice at Asia’s Other […]

The demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office building in Kaesong, North Korea, June 16, 2020 (Korean Central News Agency photo via AP Images).

What a difference two years makes. The spring and summer of 2018 saw an extraordinary rapprochement between the two Koreas, as their leaders held successive face-to-face meetings, culminating in a landmark visit by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang. The flurry of diplomacy produced a number of joint declarations, agreements, hotlines and other confidence-building measures, including an inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong, just 6 miles into North Korean territory from the Demilitarized Zone. It was the first full-time communication channel and served as a de facto embassy between the two sides, which are technically still at war having not […]

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political rival, Abdullah Abdullah, after signing a power-sharing agreement in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 17, 2020 (Photo by Afghan Presidential Palace via AP Images).

Afghanistan is still a long way from reaching a political settlement, but news this week that Afghan government negotiators will soon meet directly with Taliban leaders in Qatar is evidence that peace is possible. Or, at the very least, it may be one small step closer. The question now is whether a myopic focus on military issues will blind negotiators and stakeholders to the various pitfalls ahead on the long road to reconciliation. Getting this far this fast only a few months after the United States signed a peace deal with the Taliban is evidence that confidence-building measures are working. […]

Protesters hold a photo of President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a rally near the U.S. embassy in Seoul, South Korea, June 12, 2020 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Amid a storm of domestic crises, and with less than five months until Election Day, President Donald Trump suddenly faces the prospect of having his signature foreign policy initiative, once quietly stalled, unravel spectacularly. Trump took personal charge of the daunting North Korea file early on, all but proclaiming victory after a groundbreaking, made-for-TV meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un in Singapore two years ago, immediately after which he announced on Twitter: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” Back then, that sounded preposterously premature. Today, it brings faint echoes of Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 declaration […]

A portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Old City of Aleppo, Sept. 27, 2019 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

It might seem like an all-too familiar story: With its economy cratered by civil war, and new pockets of anti-regime resistance, Syria is on the verge of state collapse. President Bashar al-Assad isn’t just on the back foot; he is weaker than ever. Is he about to fall? You might have read this before—back in 2015, perhaps, before Russia intervened to save Assad. Indeed, in May 2015, I wrote about just that, as Syria’s army showed more signs of fracturing and the economy sank further. The value of Syria’s currency that month had hit a record low against the U.S. […]

An Indian soldier atop a military vehicle as an army convoy moves on the Srinagar-Ladakh highway at Gagangeer, northeast of Srinagar, India, June 17, 2020 (AP photo by Mukhtar Khan).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. A deadly clash Monday between hundreds of Chinese and Indian soldiers dramatically escalated a weeks-long standoff along the two countries’ disputed border in the Himalayas. At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the fight with Chinese troops in the treacherous mountains of Ladakh—the first combat deaths along India’s border with China since 1975. New Delhi and Beijing both appear to want to avoid a war like the one they fought near this remote frontier in 1962, but the […]

A fighter from a militia funded by the United Arab Emirates, stands on the frontline of conflict in Yemen’s Dhale province, Aug. 5, 2019 (AP photo by Nariman El-Mofty). Internationalized civil conflicts increase the chances of war between states.

It is too soon to tell how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect international security. Whether it will provide opportunities for prolonged peace or create conditions for new rivalries and disputes depends on how long the pandemic lasts, how the world moves forward from bungled initial responses and how quickly countries recover from the virus’s societal and economic fallout. But already, the pandemic is exposing and accelerating trends that have made the world more vulnerable to international conflict. That may be surprising, since before the outbreak, most statistics indicated that, on the whole, the world had never been better. People were […]

Malian soldiers, working with French forces, battle jihadist insurgents in Gao, Mali, Feb. 21, 2013 (AP photo).

France announced earlier this month that its armed forces had killed Abdelmalek Droukdel, the emir of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, during a June 3 military operation in northern Mali. The operation, carried out by French troops with the help of intelligence and surveillance aircraft provided by the United States, represents a rare, quantifiable victory for France and its counterterrorism partners in the region as they struggle to contain a bloody insurgency by jihadist groups. A veteran of Algeria’s brutal civil war in the 1990s, Droukdel’s rise and fall in many ways mirrors the fortunes of the organization […]

Lawmakers wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus at the parliament building in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, June 1, 2020 (AP photo by Aung Shine Oo).

In the early weeks of 2020, the signs pointed to progress in Myanmar’s convoluted effort to finally end 70 years of ethnic strife in its border areas. On Jan. 8, representatives from the government and the 10 ethnic armies that are party to a 2015 cease-fire deal convened in the capital, Naypyidaw, where they reached an eight-point agreement on the next steps to continue implementing that cease-fire. They also vowed to meet for a fourth national peace conference by the end of April, to build on three earlier summits held between 2016 and 2018. That fourth summit would have signaled […]

Police form a line in Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, as demonstrators gather to protest the death of George Floyd, Washington, June 2, 2020 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

It is hard to pinpoint the exact moment when this feeling of suffocation began. For so many born and raised here in Washington, D.C., it probably began early in life when their parents sat them down for “the talk,” about how to comport themselves safely during encounters with the police. But for me, the air in Washington became almost unbreathable on Monday when I saw Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, striding along Lafayette Square in his battle fatigues as helicopters in the sky above my neighborhood roared westward across Capitol Hill to the […]

Army officials attend a military ceremony in Bogota, Colombia, Nov. 16, 2019 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

When the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, agreed to demobilize as part of Colombia’s landmark 2016 peace agreement, it ended 50 years of armed conflict. It also left the Colombian army without its chief adversary. The country still faces internal armed threats, like the smaller guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army, and about 10,000 fighters are scattered across dozens of smaller militias, some of them led by former FARC members. But for Latin America’s largest army, the adjustment has been fraught with difficulty. The army built up a formidable intelligence apparatus during the country’s decades of internal conflict, […]

Mozambique’s president, Filipe Nyusi, at the Ponta Vermelha Palace in Maputo, Mozambique, Sept. 5, 2019 (AP photo by Alessandra Tarantino).

As Mozambique enters the third month of its lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19, fighting between government troops and a shadowy Islamist militia has escalated significantly in the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado. According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a global monitoring group, insurgents have stepped up attacks in 2020, with more than 100 “violent events” this year, the precise term ACLED uses based on its methodology—an increase of 300 percent over the same period last year. In roughly 90 of those incidents, militants attacked civilians, resulting in more than 200 reported fatalities, including one […]

A protester holds an Iraqi flag during anti-government protests in Baghdad, Iraq, May 12, 2020 (AP photo by Hadi Mizban).

BAGHDAD—The Islamic State is stepping up its attacks in Iraq, fulfilling the expectations of many analysts that the extremist group would mount a comeback after the Iraqi government declared victory over it in 2017. While the Islamic State has yet to show the same capabilities it had at its peak in 2013 and 2014, when it gained control of several provinces and population centers—including Mosul, one of Iraq’s largest cities—the tempo of attacks has been increasing for over six months. This coincides with a period of domestic unrest due to widespread anti-government protests. The U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State […]