As extremists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria march on Baghdad and much of the Iraqi army runs away, there has been a torrent of writing from national security experts, journalists and pundits. This made it easy to miss an important story by Greg Jaffe and Kevin Mauer about American military veterans struggling to understand why the government and military that they worked so hard to create in Iraq has failed so miserably. This is more than simply soul searching: As Jaffe and Mauer noted, the outcome of this debate could have far reaching implications for the future […]

When the Obama administration took control of U.S. foreign policy in 2009, it undertook to mitigate what it considered the damage wrought by the George W. Bush team. The Iraq War was to be wound down, although, as it happens, more or less along the timeline laid down by the previous president. Afghanistan, the forgotten war, was to be quickly turned around by a judicious application of U.S resources and attention. A deft wielding of diplomacy would end the standoff with Iran, “reset” relations with Russia and bring China into a new dialogue to solve global problems. After the massive […]

Nearly two months ago gunmen launched a brazen attack on Hamid Mir, one of Pakistan’s most famous and trusted journalists, riddling his car with bullets. Mir survived the assassination attempt, but soon plunged into a storm of controversy after he and his brother accused the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) of the crime. Mir’s employer, Geo television, broadcast the allegation immediately and provided it hours of coverage. Geo subsequently apologized for its unsubstantiated accusations, but the standoff worsened as the military forced cable providers to block Geo, began campaigning against the network and requested that PEMRA, Pakistan’s media regulator, […]

Since hosting a meeting last September to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the start of Six-Party Talks on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, China has stepped up shuttle diplomacy with the aim of resuming those negotiations. The result so far has been a virtual merry-go-round of periodic consultations among the respective chief delegates to the talks in Pyongyang, Beijing, Washington, Tokyo, Moscow and Seoul, but there has been no discernible progress toward resumption of the multilateral talks. On the contrary, rather than forging the consensus necessary to draw North Korea back into substantive multilateral negotiations, the process appears to […]

The United States has “a willing partner in the next Afghan president, whichever one it is,” said Supreme Allied Commander Europe Gen. Philip Breedlove last week. He said he was “extremely confident” that Afghanistan and the United States would be able to reach an agreement to keep in Afghanistan the 9,800 U.S. troops slated to remain there past the end of the year, when the NATO-led mission in the country officially ends. But the U.S. footprint in the country is shrinking, and if Breedlove’s confidence is misplaced, the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan could soon go to zero. The U.S. […]

In a revealing quirk of history, the crisis in Iraq caused by the sudden onslaught of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) can help us better understand possible scenarios for Afghanistan moving forward. Despite their many differences, both countries are exposing the consequences of America’s decreased leverage combined with the rising but often mutually competing influence of other powers. Notwithstanding the desire of both Iraqi and U.S. leaders to keep U.S. forces in Iraq beyond 2011 in order to train and equip Iraq’s still developing security forces, domestic political opposition in both countries combined with flawed diplomatic negotiations […]

China has agreed to deploy additional peacekeepers to South Sudan, significantly raising its security profile in the war-torn country. With the failure of two cease-fires in South Sudan’s six-month-long conflict, China has committed a brigade of 850 soldiers to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), bringing the force’s total deployment to roughly 20,000 in the coming months. The move reinforces a shift in tactics for China, from noninvolvement toward forging peace. China’s decision comes after months of turmoil that has impacted every facet of South Sudanese society. Since December, interethnic conflict between Dinkas supported by President Salva Kiir […]

Two separate terrorist attacks rocked the international airport in Pakistan’s biggest city, Karachi, last week, killing dozens. On Sunday, the Pakistani military launched a long-delayed ground assault into its tribal regions in an effort to root out the militants that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif now calls a threat to “the sovereignty of the motherland.” Pakistan has for years been locked in conflict with the Pakistani Taliban, also known as the TTP, a homegrown Pakistani group with links to the Afghan Taliban. But the Pakistani military’s initial statements on its operations in the tribal areas this week emphasized that among […]

A large part of ending civil wars and insurgencies is about finding new political solutions to old political conflicts. One such political solution and instrument has at times been to convert armed groups into political parties. Convincing former warring parties to enter formalized democratic politics is not an easy task however, and even when armed groups transform into political parties, the challenges for long-term democracy continue. Research related to the political integration or reintegration of armed groups has been quite extensive. But political integration of armed groups is only one facet of a larger question about political integration of various […]

Over the past two years, whenever Russia has undertaken steps in the international arena that the United States disapproves of, there has been a predictable response in Washington: a parade of somber-faced U.S. officials solemnly warning Moscow that its actions are opposed by the “international community” and that Russia risks isolation by its policy choices. Indeed, #RussiaIsolated has become the hashtag of choice in the State Department’s social media arsenal. Certainly, the U.S. has had some successes in turning the hashtag into reality: winning some symbolic votes at the United Nations; getting a coalition of states to impose limited sanctions […]

Rising tensions in Asia, as highlighted at the recent Shangri-La Dialogue, have brought to the surface fault lines between Australia’s foreign affairs and defense strategies. With a foreign affairs focus on “economic diplomacy,” Australia has struggled to reassure its largest trading partner, China, that the deeper military ties it forged with Japan and the U.S. this week in no way represent a threat. The Shangri-La Dialogue was notable this year for heated exchanges between China, Japan and the United States. The 28-nation Asia Security Summit, hosted annually in Singapore by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, is usually carefully scripted […]

One can read the Pentagon’s latest report on Chinese military power, released last Thursday, in many ways, but two interpretations come to mind most easily. On one hand, one sees clear continuities with previous versions of this congressionally mandated annual assessment. This year’s report does not highlight any radical changes or breakthroughs in Chinese military capabilities during the past year and does not foresee any revolutionary developments over the coming one. On the other hand, the document depicts a comprehensive and unrelenting Chinese military buildup whose sheer size and persistence should, if trends continue, propel China to superpower status in […]

With some Southeast Asian Muslims raising funds and recruiting fighters for Syria, concerns are growing that these activities will eventually raise the risk of terrorism in the region. The numbers are still low, but some governments—Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore in particular—are beginning to wonder what the impact will be a few years hence if some of their extremist nationals or neighbors come back with new skills. The past decade has seen a steady decline in the extremist threat from the region, which was once seen as a possible “second front” for al-Qaida. Enhanced vigilance, good law enforcement, reasonably cooperative interstate […]

Tensions have been running high between China and Vietnam over China’s installation of an oil rig in disputed waters, with anti-China riots erupting in Vietnam in May. In an email interview, Carlyle Thayer, professor emeritus at the University of New South Wales, explained how the maritime dispute threatens the otherwise booming China-Vietnam relationship. WPR: What is the extent and recent trajectory of Vietnam-China trade and investment ties, and what are the major sectors involved? Carlyle Thayer: Since Vietnam and China normalized relations in late 1991, bilateral trade has grown significantly. China is now Vietnam’s largest trading partner, with two-way turnover […]