Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Afghan counterpart, Salahuddin Rabbani, in Moscow, Feb. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Ivan Sekretarev).

In his speech to the 27th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in February 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev described the war in Afghanistan as the USSR’s “bleeding wound.” Gorbachev would order Soviet forces out of Afghanistan two years later. During the subsequent three decades, Soviet and subsequently Russian leaders sought to steer clear of the country that many likened to Moscow’s Vietnam. This history makes Russia’s re-engagement in Afghanistan in recent months all the more striking. A generation after its army invaded, occupied and then withdrew from the country, Moscow has again emerged as an important power broker […]

A Papuan protester with a poster of a map of Papua province during a demonstration outside the office of Freeport-McMoRan's Indonesian subsidiary, Jakarta, March 1, 2006 (AP photo by Dita Alangkara).

Indonesia has one of the world’s greatest stores of natural resources, but it can sometimes be tricky getting them out of the ground. Over 20 percent of the world’s tin comes from this archipelagic nation. In West Papua province, the Grasberg mine contains the world’s largest store of gold and the world’s third-largest store of copper. Majority-owned and operated by American mining giant Freeport-McMoRan, the mine is home to an estimated $100 billion in reserves. But at the moment, Freeport is exporting very little ore and has begun laying off its workforce at the mine amid a standoff with the […]

A currency trader watches monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room, Seoul, South Korea, Oct. 13, 2016 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on income inequality and poverty reduction in various countries around the world. Last year, millions of South Koreans joined marches to demand that President Park Geun-hye step down over a corruption and influence-peddling scandal. But the protests also drew on popular grievances over growing economic inequalities. In an email interview, Anthony P. D’Costa, chair and professor of contemporary Indian studies at the University of Melbourne and editor of “After-Development Dynamics: South Korea’s Engagement with Contemporary Asia,” discusses income inequality in South Korea. WPR: What is the extent of income […]

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands with children at the Presidential Palace, Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 21, 2016 (Egyptian Presidency photo via AP).

As the Chinese government has worked to raise its profile in the Middle East, it has sometimes struggled to promote Chinese culture in the region. Despite its emphasis on cultural engagement since then-President Hu Jintao called for China to increase its global soft power in 2007, Beijing has found it difficult even to eclipse its Asian rivals. A young Arab man or woman might buy Chinese-made goods or even study abroad at a Chinese university, but he or she would be more likely to watch a Japanese film or listen to a Korean pop song than to consume China’s cultural […]

Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, attends a change of command ceremony, Kabul, Afghanistan, March 2, 2016 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

The conflict in Afghanistan played a surprisingly small role in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, possibly because none of the candidates had any new ideas on what to do about this long-festering problem. But there is an old aphorism sometimes attributed to Leon Trotsky, the Russian revolutionary and communist theorist, that goes, “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” While Trotsky probably never uttered the phrase, there is something to it. It certainly applies to the conflict in Afghanistan: While the war was not a major topic in Donald Trump’s successful presidential bid, he […]

New Afghan air force pilots attend class at the air force university, Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 21, 2016 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

A recent United Nations report found that civilian casualties in Afghanistan resulting from Afghan-initiated airstrikes doubled between 2015 and 2016, to 252. The American military says those figures are inflated, but has begun training a new cadre of Afghan air controllers who can warn Afghan pilots of the risks of collateral damage. In an email interview, Marc Schanz, the director of publications for the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, discusses Afghanistan’s air force. His opinions are not in any way reflective of the policies of the Mitchell Institute. WPR: What is the make-up of Afghanistan’s air force, in terms of […]

Trucks laden with troops and ammunition await helicopter transportation in Long Tieng, a staging area for the CIA-backed clandestine army of Hmong tribesmen, Laos, Oct. 3, 1972 (AP photo).

The U.S. war in Laos began in early 1961, when President Dwight Eisenhower, on one of his last days in office, approved a paramilitary CIA mission known as Operation Momentum to arm the ethnic Hmong population against communist forces. Under Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, the proxy war grew to become the largest CIA paramilitary operation in U.S. history. In his new book, “A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA,” drawing on declassified CIA files and interviews with key players, Joshua Kurlantzick reframes the Laos war […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference, Jerusalem, Jan. 19, 2015 (AP photo by Tsafrir Abayov).

Earlier this month, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and visiting Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon signed an agreement that makes it easier for Japanese businesses to invest in Israeli cyber-technology firms. In an email interview, Emanuel Shahaf, CEO of Technology Asia Consulting, discusses Israel’s ties with Japan. WPR: What are the main areas of cooperation between Japan and Israel, and how extensive are bilateral ties? Emanuel Shahaf: Relations between Israel and Japan are developing in the wake of Israel’s pivot to Asia and, in particular, in response to the considerable development of relations between Israel and China. Israel’s relations with […]

A woman helps a child wear a mask to protect against air pollution, Beijing, China, Nov. 26, 2016 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Though the government has demonstrated interest in improving women's rights in China, economic and security issues far outweigh gender concerns. Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the status of women’s rights and gender equality in various countries around the world. [marketing]blockbuster[/marketing] China passed its first law against domestic violence in 2015, but a key part of the legislation—issuing restraining orders against abusers—has not been properly implemented, putting women at risk. In an email interview, Andrea den Boer, a senior lecturer at the University of Kent, discusses women’s rights in China. WPR: What is the […]

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, and his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, left, review an honor guard, Hanoi, Vietnam, Dec. 20, 2016 (AP photo by Tran Van Minh).

For over three decades, Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen, has ruled his country without any sign of ever wanting to give up power, despite growing indications that Cambodians want him to. As the country prepares for elections, he has begun his most ruthless campaign yet to consolidate his position as a strongman and undermine his opponents to ensure his own political survival. The resignation of the country’s longtime opposition leader is just the latest indication of the heavy price that Hun Sen is exacting on Cambodia’s domestic politics and foreign policy. Since coming to power in 1985 with Vietnamese support […]

Indonesian Muslims march during a rally against Jakarta's minority Christian governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 2, 2016 (AP photo by Tatan Syuflana).

Since late 2016, Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, has been consumed by a blasphemy case against the Christian and ethnically Chinese governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok. After mounting pressure from hard-line Islamists who staged mass demonstrations against him, Ahok—who is a candidate for the Feb. 15 gubernatorial election in Jakarta—is now on trial for a statement that he uttered in mid-October that was deemed insulting to the Quran. His case has sparked fears about the growing voice of radical Islam in Indonesia and the threat it could pose to the country’s reputation for […]

A woman walks by a slum in front of an apartment construction site, Jakarta, Indonesia, Aug. 14, 2014 (AP photo photo Tatan Syuflana).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on income inequality and poverty reduction in various countries around the world. Indonesian President Joko Widodo recently pledged that his administration would focus on reducing economic disparities in 2017, and he called on his ministers to accelerate the implementation of the government’s poverty-eradication programs. In an email interview, Matthew Wai-Poi, a senior economist at the World Bank, discusses inequality in Indonesia. WPR: What is the rate of income inequality in Indonesia, what are the latest trends in terms of widening or lessening inequality, and what are the main factors […]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Brazilian President Michel Temer, Goa, India, Oct. 17, 2016 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

Last month, the Indian government approved plans to move forward with talks for a free trade agreement with Peru, which would be India’s first free trade agreement in Latin America. In an email interview, Hari Seshasayee, a Latin America analyst at the Confederation of Indian Industry, discusses India’s ties across Latin America. WPR: Who are India’s main partners in Latin America, and what are the main areas of cooperation? Hari Seshasayee: India and Latin America cooperate in six main areas: energy, mining, automobiles, pharmaceuticals, information technology and agriculture. Three of these sectors-energy, mining and agriculture-are focused primarily on commodities. Venezuela, […]

A Philippine soldier guards the site of bombing at a night market that killed 15 people, Davao city, southern Philippines, Sept. 2, 2016 (AP photo by Manman Dejeto).

After a spate of kidnappings and renewed clashes with the Philippines’ armed forces over the past year, the Islamist militants of Abu Sayyaf have forged a reputation as one of Southeast Asia’s most radical and brutal jihadi groups. The high-profile beheadings in 2016 of two Canadian hostages has focused global attention on the remote, impoverished and underdeveloped region of the southern Philippines where Abu Sayyaf operates. The violence has heightened the sense of urgency to find a solution to the long-running insurgency and placed an intense spotlight on President Rodrigo Duterte’s strategy. So far, Duterte’s comments on Abu Sayyaf have, […]

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a meeting, Quito, Ecuador, Nov. 17, 2016 (AP photo by Dolores Ochoa).

Last week, when tensions between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Pena Nieto, boiled over, Latin American leaders followed the news with great interest. As they strategized about the way forward under the new U.S. administration, the signals from Washington confirmed their fears that the Trump administration will unleash new headwinds for a region where many countries are facing mounting difficulties. The spectacle of watching a fellow Latin American nation berated and, in many people’s opinion, insulted by the man in the White House produced a wave of diplomatic reactions. But more than anything, it spurred a […]