India Addresses Child Prostitution

The Indian government released a disturbing report this week on the extent to which child prostitution and trafficking for sexual purposes has become a major issue for Indian law enforcement. According to Indian Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta, there are an astounding 100 million people involved in these practices in one way or another. Of the more than 3 million sex workers in India, it is estimated that 40 percent of them are children. To illustrate the extent of the problems faced by millions of Indian children, the father of one of the stars of the recent hit-movie Slumdog Millionaire recently […]

Not McChrystal Clear

By all accounts, the Obama administration’s new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, and the troop increase to implement it, is a counterinsurgency approach to counterterrorism. In other words, the primary objective is no longer to build a stable Afghan state, and the primary enemy is no longer the Taliban per se. Instead, the tactics of population-centered warfare learned in Iraq will be applied to Afghanistan and the Taliban insurgency, but only in order to target al-Qaida more effectively. The appointment of Gen. Stanley McChrystal — a dyed-in-the-wool COIN man — as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is seen as cementing this approach […]

On the face of it, the case for firing the Nepalese Army chief, Gen. Rukmangad Katuwal, was fairly straightforward. Katuwal had ignored an executive directive on inducting former Maoist guerrillas into Nepal’s armed forces, as per the November 2006 peace treaty that ended a bloody insurgency dating back nearly a decade. As if that weren’t enough, he was also rumored to be planning a coup against the civilian government. But instead, it was Maoist Prime Minister Puspa Kamal Dahal — commonly known by his nom de guerre, Prachanda — who ended up resigning, after Nepalese President Ram Baran Yadav overruled […]

Who Fired McKiernan?

A few thoughts on the announcement that Gen. Stanley McChrystal will replace Gen. David McKiernan as commander of American forces in Afghanistan. First, most of the news reports and blog commentary I’ve read so far trace the decision directly back to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus, with some noting the role played by Joint Chiefs head Adm. Michael Mullen. Indeed, a few of the ledes I’ve seen have formulated it as Gates, or alternatively “the Pentagon,” calling for McKiernan’s resignation. That stands in stark contrast to the last two headline-making cases of a commander relieved […]

The world continues to hold its breath over a swine flu that, while perhaps slowing, is still likely to kill in the low hundreds and remains balanced on the edge of a true pandemic. Although only a mere 2-3,000 cases have — so far — been recorded worldwide (80 percent of them in co-sources Mexico and America), this variant of H1N1 influenza penetrated dozens of nations and all mass-populated regions of the globe in a matter of days — a truly humbling reminder of how globalization enhances mankind’s epidemiological interdependency. Has the media overreacted? It’s possible that round-the-clock coverage in […]

COIN, Colonialism and Credibility

A big part of the American exit strategy from both Iraq and Afghanistan, and indeed a big part of U.S. COIN doctrine more generally, is the de-Americanization of the conflicts through the progressive replacement of U.S. forces by indigenous security forces. The same thing can essentially be said about efforts to get Pakistan to address the Taliban insurgency in FATA and the NWFP more aggressively as well. Those efforts will obviously hit snags, as this NY Times article about the lapses in Iraqi security forces’ preparedness illustrates. There’s also something predictably counterproductive about having the Pakistani military commit the same […]

Dusting Off U.S. Taiwan Policy

For a solid backgrounder on U.S. Taiwan policy, take a look at this CRS report (.pdf, via FAS’ Secrecy News site). The foundations of current U.S. policy towards Taiwan date back to the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, as well as several communiqués signed with the PRC, the latest in 1982. As the report makes clear, there’s been enough changes in the past 30 weeks, let alone the past 30 years, to warrant a new look at some of the assumptions in our thinking on cross-Straits relations. There’s currently room for leeway on China policy by individual presidential administrations, and […]

Have we really reached the end of American hegemony? For those who think so, the signs of America’s decline and the rise of emerging powers are everywhere. According to this line of argument, the world’s sole superpower succumbed to overstretch. U.S. failures in the “war on terror” revealed the limitations of American military power, while its role in provoking the global economic crisis revealed the shortcomings of American economic leadership. As a result, rising powers around the world feel suddenly emboldened by America’s visible weakness. Brazil’s president blames the worldwide recession on “white-skinned people with blue eyes,” and Russia and […]

India Crashes the Party

Although the subject of India was barely mentioned in public, it was central to the private discussions between U.S. and Pakistani officials in Washington yesterday. Here’s Helene Cooper writing in the NY Times: [T]he one thing that no one seemed to be talking about publicly is theone thing that, privately, Obama officials acknowledge is the mostimportant: how to get the Pakistani government and army to move thecountry’s troops from the east, where they are preoccupied with a warwith India that most American officials do not think they will have tofight, to the west, where the Islamist insurgents are taking over […]

Opinion Shaping and the Pakistan Threat

I’ve been taking my time to fully digest the wildly fluctuating press reports coming out of Pakistan and Washington over the past few weeks. But I tend towards a bit of skepticism towards both. There seems to be a lot of “not seeing the forest for the trees” on both sides. In Pakistan, that means an almost casual, business-as-usual approach to a residual problem that totally misses the increasingly urgent cues coming from the Obama administration. In Washington, that means a heightened alarmism that is better adapted to shaping American opinion than it is to addressing what amounts to a […]

The Gospel According to COIN

At my own risk and peril, I’ve got to take issue with Joshua Foust on this one (third bullet point down in his post). The problem here isn’t that Al Jazeera “cannot tell the difference between standard issue evangelical boilerplate and a command to go destroy Islam in the name of Jesus.” It’s that a population that already suspects it’s being targeted as part of a religious crusade against Islam might not be able to. Given some of the quotes in the article, I wonder whether the evangelicals at issue might not be able to either. Clearly the U.S. Army […]

Strange Bedfellows in Kabul

Afghan President Hamid Karzai may have a lot of explaining to do concerning his choice of running mate for the upcoming Afghan elections when he meets with President Barack Obama today. Considering the growing popular skepticism (.pdf) in America about the Afghanistan War, one would think that Karzai would have made things easier for his Washington supporters with a more attractive choice. Instead he’s picked Mohammad Qasim Fahim, a former warlord and protégé of murdered Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Massoud, who has also been accused of drug smuggling, gun running and kidnapping. Kai Eide, the senior U.N. envoy in Kabul, […]

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Unsubstantiated corruption allegations against the Cambodian judiciary overshadowed the Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal, denying it the pristine start that supporters would have hoped for. The United Nations linked their funding for the trial to an inquiry into whether Cambodian judges paid kickbacks for their jobs, resulting in a cash shortfall after staffers balked at the demand. However, the Japanese announced a $4.1 million grant for the Cambodian side of the tribunal, which should ensure enough funds until the end of 2009. The allegations stole a lion’s share of the attention from center stage, where the […]

President Barack Obama didn’t look into Dimitry Medvedev’s eyes and claim that he saw the Russian president’s soul at the G-20 summit in early April. But the meeting between the two leaders has potentially set the stage for a more pragmatic relationship between Washington and Moscow. Substantial policy differences still separate the two powers, but the dynamics of the U.S.-Russia relationship have shifted away from the mutual bitterness that arose out of the August 2008 war in the Caucasus. However, although energy is not a major part of the public discourse on U.S.-Russian relations, it is a latent factor that […]

For years, analysts have argued that the Nabucco natural gas pipeline — a U.S.-backed effort to transport gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe via Turkey, thus bypassing Russia — needed to accept gas from Iran if it was to be economically viable. But Iranian involvement in the project, which is intended to reduce European energy dependence on Russian gas exports, has been anathema for U.S. policymakers: Washington’s efforts to thwart Iran’s ambitions have so far overridden its desire to thwart Russia’s. That may be changing. The White House has appointed a new envoy for Eurasian Energy, Richard Morningstar, who […]

Throughout its history, America has experienced many kinds of bubbles. The 19th century brought us a railroad bubble, the 20th, an Internet bubble. Now, 100 days into a new presidency, America has replaced the housing bubble that opened the 21st century with an Obama bubble. But while bubbles usually convey negative connotations, the “Obama Bubble” is one that we in America — and the rest of the world — desperately need. When George W. Bush came into office, the United States was still perceived by most countries as an ascendant nation — one reviving the infrastructure of its post-World War […]

‘Tis the season of snap judgments on President Obama’s first 100 days in office, replete with scorecards, grading sheets, and cartoon thumbs pointing up or down. The temptation with such analyses is simply to generate a laundry list of accomplishments, as if a crowded agenda or a flurry of decisions connotes successful leadership. Under normal circumstances, the key measure tends to be “traction,” as in, Did the new administration hit the ground running on issues A through Z? But these aren’t normal times. America and the world are experiencing the sort of once-in-a-lifetime restructuring of international affairs that only a […]

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