Amidst economic uncertainty and political excitement, academics and diplomats converged in Washington last week to discuss the future direction of the United States’ Southeast Asia strategy. Their assessments, along with broader regional developments, highlight the key challenges, shifts and continuities that will drive the next administration’s policy toward the region. Most of the conference participants agreed that the absence of a serious conventional threat meant that Southeast Asia’s challenges and flash points will continue to remain internal, such as insurgency, abrupt political transitions and economic volatility. Thus, on the security front, Washington must build on its successes in assisting its […]

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Close to 16 million Indonesians are expected to leave the country’s cities this week in a mass exodus to their hometowns in order to celebrate Idul Fitri and the end of the Ramadan month. But this year, they will be hitting the roads as a broad national debate over a controversial anti-pornography bill continues to rage from the local communities of Bali to the streets of Jakarta. Earlier this month, the government announced that it was close to passing legislation that would monitor not only media, but also behavior — even conversation — that is seen to […]

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AFOE’s Edward Hugh offers a solid analysis of the current financial turmoil roiling Russian markets, that among other things debunks the idea that the invasion of Georgia was an essential cause — as opposed to a catalyzing event — of the capital flight in the invasion’s aftermath. In other words, absent other fundamental weaknesses and contributing factors, there’s no way of knowing whether globalized markets would have “punished” Russia’s muscle-flexing in the Caucasus. While most of the loud arguments about the Russian invasion have framed it in terms of NATO enlargement and some sort of moral obligation to defend Georgia’s […]

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Arif Rafiq at Pakistan Policy Blog explains why you’d need to take the best parts of Obama’s approach, the best parts of McCain’s approach, then improve them both significantly, before you’d have a viable Pakistan policy. Very good analysis worth reading. Rafiq makes the point that both candidates continue to emphasize a Musharraf-centric rhetoric that was perhaps relevant during the winter primary campaign, but ignores the ways in which Pakistan’s situation has dramatically changed over the past nine months. The major problem with Obama’s Pakistan policy is his insistence on unilateral strikes against high-value al-Qaida targets within Pakistani territory. As […]

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Tom Barnett flags this WaPo article (from August) about the ways in which women’s emergence in the workforce is challenging traditional gender roles and family structures. As Barnett puts it: Globalization is a job threat to us, but it’s a social revolution to most countries around the world. Another area where the hidden costs of “The Rise of the Rest” have yet to be calculated into the emerging redistribution of global power and influence. I’ve already discussed the ways in which America has a head start on the kind of multicultural society globalization will ultimately select for. China, for instance, […]

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With the security situation in Iraq improved to the point where Secretary of Defense Robert Gates referred to entering the “endgame” in Congressional testimony yesterday, the question of what to do in Afghanistan is getting more and more attention every day. In the same testimony Gates, when pressed, conceded the possibility of adding three more brigades to our troop presence there next spring. That’s in addition to the additional brigade announced by President Bush for February, and would roughly meet the repeated requests of theater commanders. Meanwhile, the White House has announced an interdepartemental strategic review of Afghanistan policy to […]

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When Pakistan’s new president, Asif Ali Zardari, met privately with U.S. President George W. Bush on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York Tuesday, the deteriorating security situation along the Afghan-Pakistani border was certainly a central topic of discussion. But while cross-border attacks from both sides of the frontier are seriously exacerbating relations between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States, they might also paradoxically be driving the three countries to consider ever-deeper levels of cooperation. Afghan officials, and their American and NATO allies, have long criticized their Pakistani counterparts for failing to suppress the numerous Islamist militants […]

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Janine Davidson at Intel Dump cites a Tom Johnson and M. Chris Mason piece in the Atlantic, All Counterinsurgency is Local, before discussing the tension between the tactics of counterinsurgency, which emphasize engaging with governance and authority at the most immediate (ie. local) level, and the strategy of counterinsurgency, which emphasizes shoring up governance and authority at the national level: [T]he question we need to examine is about tradeoffs. What are we sacrificing from a national or international security perspective when we focus on human security at the local level, as Johnson and Mason suggest? What might an international system […]

NEW DELHI — The series of deadly bomb blasts that shook India’s capital on Sept. 13 has prompted some of the usual finger pointing at Pakistan, but most evidence suggests the attacks were perpetrated by homegrown Islamist militants, and there is growing recognition here that the increasing activity of such groups poses a huge challenge to India’s anti-terror capabilities. A shadowy Muslim group, the Indian Mujahedeen, claimed responsibility for the five attacks that left 24 dead and at least 100 injured at commercial and tourist hubs around New Delhi. The serial attacks constituted the fourth separate such incident in as […]

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A quick word on today’s vote by the French Parliament to extend the mission in Afghanistan, which for political reasons was never in doubt. The vote comes in the aftermath of the Taliban ambush last month that left ten French soldiers dead, an ambush that has had a very long media trail here in France. Immediately after the shocking news, gruesome rumors circulated about the circumstances surrounding the soldiers’ deaths, rumors that the authorities were very slow to respond to. Soon thereafter, Paris Match published photos of the Taliban who had been involved in the ambush, provoking a storm of […]

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The widening of the Afghanistan War into Pakistan takes on added significance in light of two news items today. The first is a report that Pakistani forces on the Afghan frontier once again opened fire on American helicopters that “strayed” across the border. The second, more damning, is a report via Army Times that Pakistani helicopters repeatedly “strayed” across the frontier last June in order to resupply Taliban forces engaged in a “significant fight” with Afghan Border Police. The report is based on the account of an American officer embedded on a training mission with the Afghan troops, and is […]

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In what has been heralded by Armenian and Turkish diplomats as “football diplomacy,” Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan joined Armenian President Serge Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edvard Nalbandian earlier this month to watch the two nations’ teams play a World Cup qualifying match in the Armenian capital of Yerevan. The face-to-face meeting, the first ever since Armenia became an independent nation in 1991, removed “a key psychological barrier” that has existed between the two nations and was a clear first step forward in the process of reconciliation between the two neighbors. Turkey closed the border with […]

The Russian military intervention in Georgia has imparted a new tension in the Sino-Russian relationship. Earlier this month, the Chinese Foreign Ministry made the surprising suggestion that the United Nations could help resolve the Georgia crisis. Spokesperson Jiang Yu told reporters in Beijing that the U.N. might, “through dialogue and consultations . . . help achieve regional peace and stability and should embody the common ground of all the various parties.” In previous U.N. Security Council (UNSC) sessions, the Chinese representative had adopted a low-key position while Russian and Western diplomats deadlocked over proposed UNSC resolutions to resolve their acrimonious […]

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More proof that Christopher Hill deserves the Congressional Gold Medal. Seriously, the only job I’d want less than negotiating with the North Koreans would be to do brain surgery on Kim Jong Il. It must be hard enough keeping your hands steady knowing that if you slip up the patient dies.

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After years of reflexively blaming Pakistan for any and all domesticterrorist attacks, it looks like India will now have to address agrowing homegrown Islamic terrorist threat. At ten percent of India’spopulation, the Indian Muslim community can’t possibly hope to imposean Islamic state, and even if that were the goal, it was achieved 60years ago with the independence of Pakistan. Still, while I’ve tended to dismiss the idea that Islamic extremismrepresents a strategic or existential threat to the U.S. (or the West),I suppose that if it does, it’s not in the sense that it can actuallyachieve its objectives so much as […]

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Pakistan officials say U.S. cross-border strikes are counterproductive. Defense Secretary Gates is coy about whether the Pakistani government authorized the strikes, and says the U.S. will “take whatever action is necessary to protect our troops.” From a counterinsurgency perspective, are such strikes the best way to protect our troops? Retired Lt. Col. John Nagl doesn’t appear to think so. Here’s what he said in an interview we published today: It is impossible to kill or capture your way out of an insurgency. Although cross-border raids can be tactically effective, they come with significant political costs that must be weighed carefully. […]

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Ever wonder what would happen in an alternate universe where, instead of haunting Fox News studios, John Bolton had been born in India? Well, he’d probably be named Bharat Verma, and he’d probably be the Editor of the Indian Defense Review. And not only would he be glad about the instability threatening Pakistan’s existence, he’d be actively encouraging it and lauding the benefits resulting from the “cessation of Pakistan as a state”: Pakistan’s breakup will be a major setback to the Jihad Factory, asthe core of this is located in Pakistan, and functions with the help ofits army and the […]

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