An Indian soldier looks toward the Pir Panjal mountain range from one of their forward posts at the Line of Control between India and Pakistan, Dec. 16, 2020 (AP photo by Channi Anand).

In late February, India and Pakistan announced a cease-fire along their de facto border in the contested region of Kashmir. In a joint statement, the two countries’ military authorities said that there will be a “strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing,” while also claiming they will seek to “address each other’s core issues and concerns” to ensure sustainable peace between the two long-time enemies. The announcement essentially revives a 2003 cease-fire agreement along the Line of Control, or LoC, as the de facto border is known. It was followed on March 18 by a speech by Pakistan’s […]

U.S. soldiers patrol on the outskirts of Spin Boldak, near the border with Pakistan, about 63 miles southeast of Kandahar, Afghanistan, Aug. 9, 2009 (AP photo by Emilio Morenatti).

Have know-nothing civilian bureaucrats, lily-livered humanitarian do-gooders and misguided academics tied the military’s hands with increasingly restrictive norms that don’t correspond to the laws of war, let alone the rigors of battle and requirements of victory? That’s the premise of a new article in Military Review by Army Lt. Gen. Charles Pede and Col. Peter Hayden. Pede and Hayden write derisively of the three-decades-old shift in U.S. military doctrine toward enhanced civilian protection, exemplified by the population-centric counterinsurgency approach to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is a danger, they argue, since troops trained in restraint and respect for […]

The French Navy ship Vendemiaire during a port call in Manila, Philippines, March 12, 2018 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

In early February, France revealed that one of its nuclear-powered attack submarines had completed a mission in the South China Sea. The rare announcement, two years after the passage of the frigate Vendemiaire through the Taiwan Strait, was a clear signal of a growing French, but also European, interest in the sensitive region. European awareness of its strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific is a slow train coming. Even for France and the U.K.—which, as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and nuclear powers with a tradition of power projection, have long been interested in East Asia—there has been […]

United Nations peacekeepers guard the area where a U.N. convoy was attacked in Nyiragongo, North Kivu province, Democratic Republic of Congo, Feb. 22, 2021 (AP photo by Justin Kabumba).

After months of political and institutional maneuvering, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s president, Felix Tshisekedi, has finally unshackled himself from his predecessor, Joseph Kabila. The two had until recently been partners in an uneasy power-sharing arrangement, but Tshisekedi now has the power to make decisions without being constrained by the man who put him in office. The key question is how he will use it. Kabila ruled the country for 18 years but agreed to step down ahead of the disputed 2018 elections, in which his preferred successor lost to Tshisekedi even as his allies gained a sizeable majority of […]

A displaced mother and her children prepare for the night inside a church in Pemba city, Cabo Delgado province, Mozambique, April 19, 2019 (AP photo by Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi).

Last year was a turning point for the shadowy, Islamic State-linked jihadist group that is operating in the Cabo Delgado province of northern Mozambique. First, the operational tempo of Ahlu-Sunnah Wa-Jama, or ASWJ—locally known as al-Shabab, though it has no known connection with the Somalia-based extremist group—took off dramatically. According to data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED, the group launched 437 attacks in 2020, compared to 256 between 2017 and 2019. Second, ASWJ managed to assert control over major transportation routes. Its presence has impeded safe travel on the primary north-south road connecting the […]

Female soldiers of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic parade near Tindouf, southern Algeria, Feb. 27, 2021 (AP photo by Fateh Guidoum).

Three months after former U.S. President Donald Trump’s startling decision to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, President Joe Biden’s own policy regarding this long-disputed territory remains undefined. Yet he may be forced into action soon, as there are signs the conflict is heating up: Renewed fighting between Moroccan forces and the pro-independence Polisario Front broke out in November, ending a 30-year cease-fire. Washington seems to be in no hurry, given that the fighting is so far low in intensity. U.N. sources say they have so far only confirmed the deaths of two Moroccan soldiers, though neither side acknowledges any […]

Pope Francis arrives for an open air Mass at a stadium in Irbil, Iraq, March 7, 2021 (AP photo by Hadi Mizban).

Pope Francis traveled to Iraq earlier this month, his first trip overseas since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and the first-ever papal visit to the war-torn country. Francis said he wrestled with concerns that the three-day visit could facilitate the spread of COVID-19, but ultimately deemed it a worthwhile opportunity to encourage and show solidarity with Iraq’s dwindling Christian minority. During his travels, the pontiff also highlighted a number of issues that he has devoted considerable attention to throughout his papacy, including poverty, interfaith dialogue and conflict resolution. Joshua McElwee, the Vatican correspondent and international news editor for the […]

An aerial view of the outlying Atoll National Park of the Dongsha Islands, southwest of Taiwan, Sept. 15, 2010 (AP photo by Peter Enav).

Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine prompted much international outrage but little meaningful action. President Vladimir Putin was able to forcefully redraw his country’s borders, shrugging off the international sanctions that the United States and European Union imposed in response. Putin’s success augmented “the belief among some that bigger nations can bully smaller ones to get their way,” as U.S. President Barack Obama put it at the time. Given Crimea’s location in a small country—and the complex, often ethnically tinged territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia—the world was not willing to fight for it. History may not […]

Thousands of anti-Syrian government protesters mark 10 years since the start of a popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, that later turned into an insurgency and civil war, in Idlib, Syria, March 15, 2021 (AP photo by Ghaith Alsayed).

Editor’s Note: Every Monday, Managing Editor Frederick Deknatel highlights a major unfolding story in the Middle East, while curating some of the best news and analysis from the region. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive Middle East Memo by email every week. It is probably the most documented conflict in history. Since Syria’s civil war began following the Assad regime’s suppression of a popular uprising a decade ago, activists, citizen journalists and everyday Syrians alike have uploaded videos and images of the conflict for anyone around the world to see. Reporters may have been widely barred from the […]

A soldier stands guard as firefighters work at the site of a bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 20, 2021 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, stands between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Faced with the fact that the United States has lost patience with the Afghan government’s dithering negotiations with the Taliban, Ghani now has little choice but to orchestrate a deal that will likely end his presidency—and almost certainly result in a destructive civil war. Whether Washington decides to honor a bargain struck with the Taliban under the Trump administration, which calls for the exit of 2,500 American troops by May 1, or whether the Biden administration extends their mission by another 90 or 180 days, is almost […]

A soldier stands on a coca field during a manual eradication operation in Tumaco, Colombia, Dec. 30, 2020 (AP photo by Ivan Valencia).

If President Ivan Duque has his way, Colombia will soon resume aerial fumigation of coca plantations for the first time in over five years. It paused the spraying in 2015 due to growing health and environmental concerns over the herbicide glyphosate, which the World Health Organization classifies as a likely carcinogen. Colombian courts have subsequently set strict conditions for future fumigation. But Duque argues that booming coca crops since then are responsible for rising levels of cocaine trafficking, spurring conflict between armed groups, massacres of civilians, forced displacement and the widespread assassination of local activists and human rights defenders. The […]

A Predator B unmanned aircraft taxis at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas, Nov. 8, 2011 (AP photo by Eric Gay).

The Pentagon confirmed this week that President Joe Biden has imposed new, temporary restrictions on counterterrorism drone strikes outside of active battlefields, making them subject to review by the National Security Council. According to The New York Times, which first broke the news, the rules were quietly put in place on Biden’s first day in office, as a stopgap measure while his national security team conducts a broader review of U.S. counterterrorism operations. According to Charli Carpenter, a professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst specializing in the laws of war, the Biden administration’s review is a long-overdue opportunity to rein […]

An unmanned U.S. Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, in southern Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2010 (AP photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth).

On its first day in office, the Biden administration quietly placed temporary limits on counterterrorism drone strikes outside of active battlefields. According to the New York Times, which first broke the news last week, the new restrictions are intended as a stopgap while Biden’s national security team conducts a broader review of U.S. counterterrorism operations overseas—including whether to reverse policies put in place by the Trump administration that expanded the use of drone strikes. In light of the Biden administration’s more cautious stance on drone strikes and its renewed focus on multilateralism, some analysts have argued the U.S. should be […]

Pope Francis, surrounded by shells of destroyed churches, leads a prayer for the victims of war at Hosh al-Bieaa Church Square, in Mosul, Iraq, March 7, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Medichini).

Editor’s Note: Every Monday, Managing Editor Frederick Deknatel highlights a major unfolding story in the Middle East, while curating some of the best news and analysis from the region. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive Middle East Memo by email every week. “Mosul Welcomes You,” read banners across the city when Pope Francis visited Sunday, the last full day of his landmark trip to Iraq. Most of the banners covered crumbling buildings or hung on walls still pockmarked by bullets and artillery. The pope arrived in Mosul by helicopter, flying over the “the rubble of houses [that] stretched […]

Refugees from Tigray at the Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Dec. 11, 2020 (AP photo by Nariman El-Mofty).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive Africa Watch by email every week. Despite mounting pressure from the international community, the Ethiopian government is blocking independent investigations into allegations of atrocities and human rights abuses committed by federal troops and their allies in the war-torn Tigray region. Instead, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office confirmed this week that the government will conduct its own probes. The statement from Abiy’s office acknowledged that the allegations are “credible,” a reversal from the government’s earlier […]

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After nearly a decade of conflict, the extensive damage inflicted on Syria’s environment is emerging as another devastating, if less visible, tragedy of its civil war. Polluted soil and contaminated water are exacerbating the already severe suffering of Syrian civilians, undermining their ability to meet their basic needs and jeopardizing the country’s postwar future. While the war in Syria is far from over, the steep environmental toll will pose significant challenges to the country’s recovery when the fighting does eventually stop. Syrian and international experts are warning that the environmental impacts of war must be addressed with urgency—or the damage […]

A rally near the United Nations Headquarters to protest Sri Lanka’s military offensive against the Tamil Tigers and civilian casualties, New York, April 17, 2009 (AP photo by Seth Wenig).

On a snowy afternoon in January, 24-year-old Thanujan Sellathurai delivered a speech in front of a small crowd of protesters from the Tamil community in Geneva. He called for the United Nations, which has several of its agencies headquartered there, to condemn the “brutal atrocity” that had just taken place in Sri Lanka. Authorities at the University of Jaffna, on the northern tip of Sri Lanka, had ordered the bulldozing of a memorial paying tribute to the victims of the Mullivaikkal massacre, a mass killing of Tamil civilians that took place in May 2009, during the last few days of […]

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