Rarely a week passes without a grim new article, op-ed or newspaper story warning us that al-Qaida is mounting a comeback. Retired U.S. Army Gen. Jack Keane, for instance, recently declared that al-Qaida is “seeking to take advantage of the opportunities posed by revolutionary change throughout the Middle East” and is “on the rise.” Writing for the Wall Street Journal, the RAND Corporation’s Seth Jones argued that, with the Obama administration turning its attention to the Asia-Pacific region, al-Qaida is pushing into the political vacuum created by the Arab Spring and “riding a resurgent wave as its affiliates engage in […]

Tanzania is lobbying to be allowed to make a one-off sale of its ivory stockpile ahead of the annual meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In an email interview, Esmond Martin, an independent wildlife trade consultant, discussed the ivory trade regime. WPR: What is the CITES decision-making process on issues like Tanzania’s request for a one-off sale of its ivory stock? Esmond Martin: The present CITES decision-making process concerning Tanzania’s request for a one-off sale of ivory consists of a panel of experts put together by CITES to visit Tanzania to check how effective the […]

This past week’s 44th annual U.S.-South Korea Security Consultative meeting chaired by South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta provides an opportunity to benchmark the health of the alliance at a moment when at least one of the presidential administrations, that of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, is certain to leave office soon. At their meeting, the two countries’ defense establishments agreed to continue transitioning wartime operational command responsibilities to the South Korean military, retain 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea, expand U.S.-South Korea cooperation in new areas such as outer space and the cyber […]

As China’s once-in-a-decade political transition nears, the announcement this week of the promotions of five generals has brought the parallel transition in China’s military leadership into focus. The appointees are widely expected to become members of the Central Military Commission (CMC), the ultimate source of military authority in the country, according to the New York Times. Two experts who spoke with Trend Lines said these individuals are a piece of the larger puzzle of China’s military modernization. “These individuals are going to bring a worldview, a set of experiences, that will shape how China becomes a regional and global military,” […]

Following considerable speculation that it would be postponed or even cancelled, the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will convene in Beijing on Nov. 8. The meeting marks the beginning of the final leg of China’s extended leadership transition process and should give greater clarity on China’s direction in the coming decade. Over the past two years, China’s intricate and opaque leadership structure has been shaken to the core by a series of high-profile political scandals amid elevated economic uncertainty. Major disagreements on how to respond to these challenges have riven elite groups, and the factional coalition […]

Having already overseen a spectacular warming of ties with mainland China, with 18 signed cross-strait agreements to show for it, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou took the latest step in his National Day speech on Oct. 10, approving a plan to allow both sides to set up representative offices on each other’s soil. But permitting Chinese officials to have a permanent presence on the de facto independent island is a controversial step, drawing inevitable comparisons to Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, which is widely seen as meddling in politics there. On Sunday, Lin Join-sane, the new chairman of the Straits […]

Until recently a pariah state and the bête noire of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Myanmar is now poised to outshine the organization and its members if the liberalizing nation can steadily advance its reforms. Since March 2011, when President Thein Sein’s reformist government was formed, Myanmar has witnessed a series of dramatic changes. One of these was the free and fair by-election in April, which resulted in pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy winning representation in parliament. Another remarkable development was Myanmar’s decision in August to abolish media censorship. As Kyaw Zwa Moe, […]

With the endgame near for large-scale U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, Americans have already begun to debate the broader implications of the conflict. Many have painted it as a failure, even a strategic fiasco. But it is not. Given the dynamics of the conflict and its wider strategic context, Afghanistan should be considered a win, albeit one that came at a much greater cost than was necessary. In the emotional turmoil following the Sept. 11 attacks, there was little consideration of the ultimate strategic goals of a U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan. The focus was instead on destroying al-Qaida and […]

As India continues to grow, the recent slowdown notwithstanding, its need for natural resources shows no signs of ebbing. With New Delhi increasingly turning to resource-rich developed countries for energy and food security, Canada’s profile in particular seems to have grown considerably. Significant unconventional hydrocarbon resources, high-quality uranium deposits, abundant land and a lack of geopolitical risk all make Canada a natural partner to feed India’s rise. However, there are still some issues that need to be resolved before an even deeper relationship can take root. The outlook was not always so rosy. Canada was the first country to withdraw […]

With increasing tensions on display in the East and South China Sea, much attention has been given to the growing military capabilities of the People’s Republic of China. The attention is understandable: China recently commissioned its first aircraft carrier and is developing anti-ship ballistic missiles dubbed “carrier-killers.” But while China’s military build-up is in many ways being geared toward challenging America, no matter how unlikely a conflict between the two powers might be, an assessment of Chinese power must also gauge the prowess of Chinese forces against other possible challengers, especially the regional armed forces it could face in combat. […]

Last month, I had the opportunity to spend a week in Uzbekistan meeting with government officials, think tank researchers, university faculty and other members of the country’s national security community. We shared frank assessments on Uzbekistan’s relations with Russia, China, Afghanistan and other neighboring countries, as well as with the United States. Judging by the size of its population and the strength of its military, Uzbekistan is potentially the most powerful of the five Central Asian countries. In addition, its pivotal location bordering all the other Central Asian countries as well as Afghanistan give Uzbekistan great geopolitical and economic importance […]

Recent years have witnessed a significant increase in both labor disputes and regulatory burden in the resources sector across the world. The ongoing mining sector unrest in South Africa, marked by widespread wildcat action and shocking levels of violence, suggests that these pressures continue to mount and that previous policy responses may prove insufficient. Moreover, there is a risk that the disorder seen in South Africa may presage a new, even more contentious phase of global resource exploitation characterized by a higher incidence of resource nationalism in both developing and developed economies. Resource nationalism can take many forms (.pdf). At […]

The debate over U.S. drone strikes against militants in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has risen in intensity over the past few weeks, following a highly critical report on the strikes’ impact on the region’s civilian population as well as last week’s anti-drone “peace march” to the FATA. However, the focus on drones is unhelpful and legitimizes a narrative that mischaracterizes the real problems in Pakistan. The use of drones is a reaction to militancy that is the product of historical and systemic failures in governance in Pakistan. By making drones the focus of attention, Pakistani institutions can evade […]

At the European Union-China Summit in Brussels last month, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao urged EU leaders to end the EU embargo on arms sales to China. In an email interview, Richard Bitzinger, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, discussed the EU arms ban on China. WPR: How is the ban currently affecting relations between the EU and China? Richard Bitzinger: Since being enacted in 1989, the ban has stood as an irritant to EU-China relations, but it has not harmed the relationship much, either when it comes to […]

In East Asia, warning signs are emerging that countries facing strained ties over continual territorial disputes are finding it increasingly difficult to isolate their economic decisions from their political disagreements. Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that China cancelled scheduled trips by its finance minister and central bank chief to the annual International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in Tokyo, Japan. The article called this the latest example of how the “highly volatile territorial dispute” between China and Japan is beginning to damage the “huge economic relationship” between the second and third largest economies in the world. […]

Over the weekend, the Philippine government announced that it had reached a framework agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to end the separatist insurgency the rebel group has waged for decades in the southern Philippines. As reported by the New York Times, Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III said the framework agreement “paves the way” for peace and represents a major step toward ending the conflict in Mindanao, a predominantly Muslim island in the only predominantly Christian country in Asia. In an email interview with Trend Lines, Steven Rood, the Asia Foundation’s country representative in the Philippines and an […]

The International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a report yesterday titled, “Afghanistan: The Long, Hard Road to the 2014 Transition.” Although the report focuses on the political problems that Afghanistan faces, the country’s security, economic and diplomatic challenges are perhaps even more serious. According to the ICG, “Afghanistan is hurtling toward a devastating political crisis as the government prepares to take full control of security in 2014.” The group’s senior Afghanistan analyst, Candace Rondeaux, details how the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) are “overwhelmed and underprepared for the transition,” even as Afghan President Hamid Karzai “seems more interested in perpetuating his […]

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