The United States relies on Jordan to help resolve many of the thorniest problems in the region, including fighting terrorism, dealing with the consequences of the Syrian civil war and finding a peaceful resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is in this context that U.S. officials recently told the Associated Press that preparations were being made for U.S. Special Forces to train Iraqi troops on Jordanian soil in the near future. According to David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a former Levant country director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the United States and […]

For almost 70 years, the foundation of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy rested on the kingdom’s relationship with the United States. America guaranteed Saudi security during a famous 1945 meeting between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz ibn Saud aboard the USS Quincy in the Suez Canal. That commitment had stood the test of history. The past three years, however, have brought enormous turbulence to the Middle East, and the Saudis have found Washington’s response increasingly worrisome. Saudi rulers are questioning America’s reliability as an ally and protector. They see the U.S. gradually relinquishing its pre-eminent role and allowing revolutionary […]

It would be easy to dismiss the trajectory of Erik Prince, who made a fortune with his security firm Blackwater only to resign and turn to a form of self-exile amid intense public criticism, as a personal drama born from a set of particular historical conditions. Prince revealed this month that he will be the chairman of a Chinese-based company providing security to extractive industries in Africa, suggesting his future will no longer intersect with America’s. But the professional evolution of Prince, Blackwater and its replacements are not simply side effects of American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan or the […]

Editor’s note: This is the fourth of a seven-part series examining conditions in Afghanistan in the last year of U.S. military operations there. The series runs every Wednesday and will examine each of the country’s regional commands to get a sense of the country, and the war, America is leaving behind. You can find the Series Introduction here, Part I here and Part II here. Regional Command East encompasses Afghanistan’s most populous region. The territory extends from Afghanistan’s mountainous eastern border with Pakistan to the central provinces surrounding Kabul, an area characterized by wide variation in terrain, ethnic groups, political […]

In 2009, President Barack Obama stood before an enthusiastic crowd in Prague and proclaimed that he would make the “peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” a key administration foreign policy goal, though it may not be achieved in his lifetime. And while his is not the first administration to support this objective—the United States is formally committed to move toward disarmament as a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—Obama was more emphatic than any other recent president of the United States that eventual global nuclear disarmament, and not just nonproliferation in places like Iran, should be a […]

President Barack Obama now has a little less than three years left in office, and the latest political parlor game is to try and discern what shape the final tranche of his administration will take. David Remnick’s profile of Obama in the New Yorker suggests that the next 12 months or so represents the administration’s last chance to set in concrete what it hopes its lasting contributions to U.S. foreign and domestic policy will be. After that, the calendar will shift, with the dominant question becoming who will succeed Obama come January 2017. So will the last third of Obama’s […]

In a budget agreement reached this month, the U.S. Congress declined to approve a package of reforms for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that the fund’s members agreed to four years ago. In an email interview, Daniel McDowell, assistant professor of political science in the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, explained the state of efforts to reform the IMF. WPR: What has been the recent state of efforts to reform the IMF? Daniel McDowell: In a word, stalled. The most recent push for reform began within months of the onset of the 2008 global financial crisis. The crisis revealed that […]

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues have become an increasingly prominent aspect of the U.S. foreign policy debate, especially as the United States considers the best response to anti-gay laws passed abroad. The most recent challenge comes from Nigeria. This month, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which critics say effectively outlaws pro-gay organizations and will worsen persecution of homosexuals in the country. Various news outlets have reported that several Nigerians have already been arrested under the law and that others have been attacked or harassed. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement […]

Washington’s reluctance to include Tehran unconditionally in talks to end the war in Syria was on full view this week. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s invitation to Iran to take part in preliminary peace talks at Montreux, Switzerland—quickly accepted—led to a diplomatic crisis after the U.S. insisted Iran had to embrace the agreement reached in June 2012 by the U.N.-backed Action Group for Syria, which among other things called for the formation of a transitional governing body. Syria’s main external opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, also threatened not to show up to the talks if the Iranians were present. So […]

The life of an insurgent is not easy. When state security forces possess advanced surveillance technology, even remote areas are unsafe. Fear is persistent; death can come quickly, silently and at any time. If security forces penetrate a rebel movement or local competitors arise, only paranoid insurgents survive. Over time, fear and paranoia become grinding, exacting a heavy psychological price. And in the end, insurgents seldom win: Most are killed, defeated or fade away without a clear victory. Why, then, would anyone become an insurgent? Put simply, people do so out of desperation. Insurgents consider the status quo unjust and […]

U.S. development aid has long been characterized by public sector funding of socio-economic, political and security projects in the developing and underdeveloped world. Over the past few years, however, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has begun a number of programs that are being financed by private capital. Among them, in 2011, USAID launched the Private Capital Group for Africa, aiming to generate more than $500 million in private investments to assist small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in sub-Saharan Africa, and the African Agricultural Capital Fund to invest $25 million specifically in agricultural SMEs in East Africa. Last […]

Editor’s note: This is the third of a seven-part series examining conditions in Afghanistan in the last year of U.S. military operations there. The series will run every Wednesday and will examine each of the country’s regional commands to get a sense of the country, and the war, America is leaving behind. You can find the Series Introduction here and Part I here. Northern Afghanistan, particularly the regional capital Mazar-i-Sharif in the province of Balkh, represents something of a success story. The region by and large benefited from the international intervention without experiencing the same level of economic distortion as […]

The implementation agreement for the interim nuclear deal reached between Iran and the P5+1 in November, in which Iran consents to constrain its nuclear activities in exchange for limited sanctions relief, officially entered into effect yesterday. The text of the implementation deal, finalized Jan. 12, remains confidential. But the White House released a summary that, while answering some important questions, still leaves uncertain whether the interim deal will achieve its main purpose of transitioning to a more comprehensive agreement. The implementation framework specifies the phasing and technical details of the reciprocal concessions the parties made in the interim agreement. These […]

As U.S. forces draw down in Afghanistan, the United States continues to carry out targeted killings against suspected terrorist leaders in several theaters—including through the use of armed drones—and to enhance the ability of partner nations to carry out lethal operations. But U.S. drone strikes can kill innocent civilians along with their intended targets, generating backlash abroad and concerns domestically. According to reporting last week by the Washington Post, one such strike moved Congress to insert language into the $1.1 trillion spending bill that blocks Obama administration attempts to transfer the U.S. drone program from the CIA to the Pentagon. […]

After years of deadlocked negotiations and apparent inflexibility on the part of the Islamic Republic of Iran to make substantive concessions on its development of nuclear technology, some of which might be used for weapons, Tehran has recently become much more accommodating. The framework agreement reached in November in Geneva, trading cessation of enrichment and dilution of existing stockpiles of enriched uranium for sanctions relief, will go into effect Jan. 20. Is this newfound willingness to negotiate simply a result of personnel changes, beginning with the election of Hassan Rouhani as president? Not entirely. After all, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei […]

The United States has maintained large numbers of nuclear weapons on high alert for decades, ready to launch at a moment’s notice. Numerous military personnel are specifically assigned to manage U.S. nuclear weapons operations and must be ready to precisely carry out complex tasks under extreme time pressure. But the operators of these weapons are human, and the Air Force announced earlier this week that 34 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch officers had been suspended for cheating on a monthly proficiency test. The airmen were stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, which houses 150 of the nation’s 450 […]

Given budget pressures and widespread disillusionment with the outcome of the American counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, critics contend that the United States does not need a large, active-duty Army but should instead rely on other nations and reserve forces. As land power advocates and the Army’s leaders push back, debate rages. This is not simply a quibble over budget figures. Rather, it reflects a monumental strategic decision. Choices made today about the Army—and the rest of the military—will determine the options available to American presidents years and even decades from now. A recent essay by defense expert Kori […]

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