One thing I’ve discovered from writing columns over the years is that they’re a great way to elicit invitations to sit down and talk with various players in the national security establishment. All you have to do is mention somebody’s office and you’re likely to get an e-mail from their public affairs officer eager to set your thinking straight. And so it was last week that I had the chance to converse with Ambassador John Herbst, three years in the job now as the State Department’s Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization. I earned the invitation by describing the CRS job […]

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In the course of private meetings with Kenyan officials on her recent African trip, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed for the dismissal of the Kenyan chief of police, the attorney general and other government figures she said were linked with corruption and the country’s recent post-election violence. According to the Kenyan paper the Nation, quoting a government minister who was present at one such meeting, Clinton presented the Kenyan government with a list of “violence and corruption suspects,” promising to name, shame and ban them from visiting the United States, the Nation reported. Among older Africans, that would […]

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Tunisian authorities continue to permit and encourage rights abuses under the guise of fighting terrorism and promoting national security, Amnesty International charges in a new report. “The government portrays Tunisia as a country where the rule of law prevails, but that is far from the reality. In practice, the Tunisian authorities continue to carry out arbitrary arrests and detentions, allow torture and use unfair trials, all in the name of the fight against terrorism. This is the harsh reality behind the official rhetoric,” Malcom Smart, director of AI’s Middle East and North Africa Program said in a statement. The report, […]

The convergence last week of Secretary Clinton’s trip to East Africa and the arrest in Australia of four men with links to the Somali al-Shabab movement on terrorism charges serves to highlight al-Shabab’s emergence as an extremist threat. While Secretary Clinton’s support of the Somali Transitional Government may delay al-Shabab’s rise, 18 years of failed statehood suggest that it is time for the United States and its allies to fundamentally reassess their policy towards Somalia. Instead of focusing exclusively on the powerless transitional government, Western nations should recognize and support existing institutions in Somalia to halt the advance of al-Shabab […]

U.S. plans to expand its military presence in Colombia have elicited predictable condemnations from anti-American elements in South America, but also concern from friends who see them as encroachment from our ongoing “war on drugs.” Similarly, in another part of the world, Africa Command boss Gen. “Kip” Ward’s repeated assurances that the United States isn’t interested in setting up bases on the continent remains a tough sell, given the new regional combatant command’s explicit mission to expand U.S. military cooperation there. Critics are quick to call every new American boot on the ground “imperial overstretch,” or “empire.” But as often […]

Recently, U.S. policy in Somalia hit a new low, with the shipment of 40 tons of arms to a government on the verge of overthrow, if not nervous collapse. Worse still, last Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with the president of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and promised to expand U.S. support. This perpetuates a long history of unsuccessful meddling in the affairs of Somalia, from Black Hawk Down to air strikes against al-Qaida suspects to support for the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006. Somalia would be better off without our spasmodic interference. That’s […]

Speaking in Accra, Ghana, last month, President Barack Obama declared, “The 21st century will be shaped by what happens not just in Rome or Moscow or Washington, but by what happens in Accra, as well.” His speech was designed to highlight America’s commitment to Africa and the opportunity for closer relations. On the heels of Obama’s trip to Ghana, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Africa this week. Her seven-nation tour — with stops in Kenya, South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Liberia, and Cape Verde — will take her to hot spots and powerful […]

KAMPALA, Uganda — The bus destined for Gulu in northern Uganda hums and vibrates, its black exhaust pouring into Kampala’s deserted downtown streets, as a woman draped in a green dress stands up in front and calls for a prayer. Years ago, when Joseph Kony and his band of abducted child soldiers were still looting, maiming and terrorizing the north, prayer for this journey was essential. Yet three years after Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) were routed from northern Uganda — chased into isolated stretches of jungle in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African […]

There was a time in the 1960s and 1970s when Somali clans across East Africa imagined a “pan-Somalia” encompassing former British, Italian and French colonies, in addition to portions of eastern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. The former British and Italian colonies — Somaliland in the north, and the southern U.N. Trust Territory of Somalia, respectively — had taken a tentative first step towards realizing this greater Somali state, when they merged in 1960 to form the Republic of Somalia. But the greater union was not to be. The former French colony declared independence, as Djibouti, and Ethiopia and Kenya each […]

Driven by food security concerns, governments around the world have begun purchasing land in developing nations for agricultural purposes. Foreign land acquisition — known by critics as “land grab” — responds to worries over global problems that include growing water scarcity, teeming populations, increasing demand for food and bio-fuels, and climate change impacting arable land and its productivity. This trend necessitates an international framework or code of conduct that can protect small local farmers as well as the economy and the ecology of the host country from potentially negative impacts. Such a code would seek to resolve the question of […]