DENPASAR, Indonesia — Washington’s decision to partially lift the ban on contact with Indonesia’s Kopassus special forces command has angered human rights organizations within the country and beyond. The decision, which had been rumored for some time, was announced by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at a meeting last Thursday with Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta. The ban on Kopassus was part of a U.S. military embargo imposed more than a decade ago in response to repeated human rights abuses committed by Kopassus units and by Indonesia’s military, the TNI, in Papua, Aceh and East Timor. The […]

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I haven’t had the time to read anything other than second-hand commentary on the WikiLeaks document dump, but as “revelations” go, this one seems to be weak tea. The direct effect on the Afghanistan War will most likely be felt in some of the relationships the U.S. must manage (Pakistan and India, for instance). There’s also the risk that some of the granular information they contain, which extend to some NATO coalition partners, could accelerate the crumbling of support in Europe. Beyond that, as Joshua Foust noted, there is the human cost faced by Afghan informants and other strategic assets […]

As Gen. David Petraeus takes over the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan, he is right to continue a strategy of counterinsurgency and to strengthen it with a plan that seeks to give local Afghan communities the means to defend themselves. However, both the recently announced local defense plan, which pays community members to don a rifle and police uniform, and the over-arching counterinsurgency of which it is a part take the wrong path to reducing violence in Afghanistan. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in 2008, the U.S. “cannot kill its way to victory.” Yet, the Pentagon has emphasized “providing […]

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There have been a couple of “confirmed” inflection points in the Obama administration’s approach to Iran, Russia and China in the past few weeks, and the contrast between the outcomes is revealing, both about the relative challenges of the three portfolios, but also about the relative development of the three countries. With regard to Iran, although there are not yet any concrete outcomes, the Obama administration’s strategy of open-ended engagement accompanied by staged sanctions has clearly isolated Tehran, to an extent that many critics of the Obama approach — myself included — did not anticipate. In the past week, Iran […]

In terms of volume, the more than 90,000 documents posted on the WikiLeaks Web site has to be one of the largest publications on the Internet of classified U.S. government material. But in terms of content, the so-called Afghanistan War Logs don’t tell us anything that most people who have been following the war even casually don’t already know. For example, U.S. officials have long complained about support within Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), for foreign terrorist groups — including the Taliban, which the ISI helped establish. The large number of Afghan civilian casualties resulting from coalition […]

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India’s chief of naval staff called for increased bilateral cooperation with Sri Lanka during a visit to the country late last month. In an e-mail interview, Eurasia Group’s Asia analyst, Maria Kuusisto, discusses evolving relations between India and Sri Lanka. WPR: What is the historical context of India-Sri Lanka relations? Maria Kuusisto: India-Sri Lanka relations have been marked by both tension and cooperation. The relationship has been historically driven by the shared Tamil ethnic community: India has a Tamil community of 60 million and Sri Lanka has a Tamil community of three million. When the Tamil ethnic insurgency in Sri […]

At the 2008 summer Olympic Games in Beijing, the New York Times columnist Tom Friedman observed something intriguing about the powerful American team, which won the overall medal count for the games. After wandering through the athletes’ village, he noted, “The Russian team all looks Russian; the African teams all look African; the Chinese team all looks Chinese; and the American team looks like all of them.” The United States, Friedman said, is the clearest example of a nation whose “strength comes from diversity.” The most powerful nations in history have all followed a similar formula. In “Day of Empire,” […]

There’s no question that globalization, in its modern American form of expanding free trade, just went through its worst crisis to date. But while economists debate whether or not we in the West are collectively heading toward a 1938-like “second dip,” it’s important to realize just how myopic our fears are about the future of a world economy that America went out of its way to create, defend, and grow these past seven decades. First, no matter how severe any second dip becomes, comparing our current plight to the Great Depression of the 1930s is an exercise in profound hyperbole, […]

Diplomats and international officials like talking about conflict prevention, but they are curiously uncomfortable talking about how conflicts actually work. Instead, there is a never-ending quest to explain the economic or social root causes of today’s wars. These explanations have gained in sophistication to the point that no self-respecting analyst today would ascribe violence to “ancient ethnic hatreds,” a phrase that was often applied to the Balkan wars just a decade ago. Instead, economists talk about how greed and natural resources fuel violence, reducing rapacious governments and marauding rebels to rational economic actors. Political experts prefer to highlight the need […]

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Kang Guek Eav, a.k.a. Duch, the notorious commandant of Pol Pot’s S21 death camp where about 16,000 people were sent to their deaths, was found guilty on Monday of murder, torture and crimes against humanity by a United Nations-backed court. The decision was hailed by local and international authorities seeking justice for up to 2 million people who perished here between 1975 and 1979, amid one of the darkest chapters of the 20th century’s bloody history. However, many of the victims were upset by the sentence, which could see the 67-year-old former mathematics teacher walk out […]

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A flurry of posts on COIN happen to form a coherent discussion of the strengths, weaknesses and future of counterinsurgency in the post-Afghanistan era: Michael Cohen here, David Ucko here, Spencer Ackerman (responding to Cohen) here and Andrew Exum responding to Ucko here. This last one by David Steven, unrelated to the rest, neatly wraps some context around them all. As for me, I think the U.S. military will leave Afghanistan having integrated the full-spectrum, whole-of-government approach to warfare, that it will not reapply its newly gained expertise in any major conflict for the decade that Stevens floats, but that […]

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There are a lot of reasons to be reassured by the Pakistani government’s decision to extend Gen. Ashfaq Kayani’s term as chief of staff by three years: continuity in leadership at a crucial strategic moment in Afghanistan and the Pakistan frontier, as well as a solid reputation for integrity and competence that facilitates what could otherwise be tough political sells in both ongoing wars. The similarity to the arguments supporting the appointment of Gen. David Petraeus to lead the U.S. and NATO war effort in Afghanistan should be obvious. It’s comforting to think that the two men are well-suited to […]

The 2014 Afghan security plan unveiled by President Hamid Karzai this week at the international conference in Kabul raises once again the question of whether the U.S. and NATO are moving towards a 21st century variant of the “Najibullah strategy” as they seek to determine their end game in Afghanistan. The reference is to the regime of Mohamed Najibullah, the Afghan leader at the time the Soviet Union withdrew its combat forces from Afghanistan in 1989. The Afghan government that the Soviets left behind controlled the major population centers as well as some of the rural regions of the country, […]

NEW DELHI — Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna’s three-day visit to Pakistan last week to move the bilateral Composite Dialogue forward will be joining a long list of Indo-Pak diplomatic debacles, the most recent one being at Sharm el-Sheikh last July. However, even by the abysmal standards of Indo-Pakistani diplomacy, the public spat between Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart, Mehmood Qureshi, at the joint press conference in Islamabad on July 15, marks a new low in bilateral engagement. It has also raised a fundamental question about India’s foreign policy toward its neighbor, one that is deeply dividing an already […]

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is putting the finishing touches on his second budget since taking office, one that some suspect could serve as a campaign platform for early elections aimed at winning back support his party lost in the 2008 voting that brought him to power. Back then, with the global economy facing recession, and amid forecasts of a depression, the Malaysian opposition scored unprecedented gains at the ballot box. Najib’s governing United Malays National Organization (UMNO) lost its cherished two-thirds majority with which it has controlled politics here for more than half a century. But it was a […]

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The Russian and South Korean coast guards held joint anti-piracy and anti-terrorism drills in the Sea of Japan earlier this month. In an e-mail interview, Richard Weitz, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a World Politics Review senior editor, discusses the historical context and changing dynamics of Russia-South Korea relations. WPR: How have bilateral relations between Russia and South Korea evolved since the end of the Cold War? Richard Weitz: During most of the 1990s, the new Russian Federation under President Boris Yeltsin shunned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) while pursuing better ties with the Republic of […]

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai plans to have Afghan forces take charge of security operations nationwide by 2014. Though delegates at an international donor conference in Kabul were apprehensive of too quick a changeover, most were optimistic that Afghan forces will soon be able to head security efforts in the country.

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