After 12 years of American pressure, al-Qaida’s core is, as President Barack Obama put it, “on the path to defeat.” That’s a good thing, but no one believes that crushing al-Qaida Central deep in its Pakistani sanctuary will mean the demise of the entire movement. Whether of necessity or as part of a deliberate strategy, al-Qaida has endorsed or adopted franchises across the Islamic world. Now American policymakers must assess the comparative danger posed by each of these and identify the most strategically significant ones. Counterterrorism experts often rate al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) the most active and lethal […]

In mid-July, Mexican authorities captured Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, leader of the Zetas, a major Mexican drug trafficking organization known for its brutality. In an email interview, Brian Phillips, research professor at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE) in Mexico City whose research focuses on subnational political violence, discussed Mexico’s strategy of capturing or killing the leaders of drug organizations. WPR: What is the rationale behind Mexico’s kingpin strategy? Brian Phillips: Mexico focuses on arresting “kingpins,” high-level members of drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs), because it is trying to reduce the power and violence associated with these groups. The […]

With FARC peace talks offering hope of a final settlement, Colombia is looking to cement the gains of the past decade. To do so will require filling in significant gaps in governance and building on the economic momentum provided by the U.S. free trade agreement and the Pacific Alliance. This World Politics Review special report looks at Colombia’s steps toward a new era of stability. Governance and Security Colombia’s Santos Gambles on FARC TalksBy Frida GhitisSeptember 6, 2012 After It Makes Peace, Colombia Must GovernBy Adam IsacsonApril 12, 2013 Chávez’s Absence Casts Shadow Over Colombia Peace TalksBy Andrew RosatiMarch 5, […]

At a NATO-Russia Council meeting last week, Rose Gottemoeller, the U.S. acting undersecretary for arms control and international security, complained about Moscow’s failure to provide advance notice of its recent large-scale military exercises. Gottemoeller stated that Russia had notified the U.S. about an exercise of “unprecedented size” in the Eastern Military District only as the activity commenced, while Washington “received word of the large aviation exercise in the Western Military District only through press reports.” According to the Russians, the “snap” exercises were designed to test the Russian military’s day-to-day readiness without advance warning of any drill. In addition, they […]

There have been many diplomatic efforts to end the Syrian war, and few if any are worth commemorating. But this week brings the second anniversary of one attempt that, despite making no difference on the ground, offered some evidence of how the international system is evolving. On Aug. 3, 2011, the Security Council agreed a statement calling for an immediate halt to violence in Syria. This was the council’s first significant declaration on the already six-month-old crisis. But it was also notable because of the three countries that championed it: Brazil, India and South Africa, all temporary members of the […]

While much of the world’s attention was focused on the birth of Britain’s Prince George, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting India, in an attempt to get the bilateral relationship between the world’s oldest and largest democracies back on track. New Delhi is understandably wary of the Obama administration. India’s policymakers are concerned about a possible U.S. “rush for the exits” in Afghanistan after 2014, especially if it involves a deal with the Taliban that would allow the militants to exercise real authority in the country and undercut Indian interests. Moreover, while India has real issues with China, including […]

The recent floods in northern India are a stark reminder of the extent of destruction wrought by natural disasters. Year after year we hear of the same hazards seemingly striking in the same places, be it floods in northern India or Pakistan, droughts in the Horn of Africa or typhoons in the Philippines. Yet, far from the media glare, localized and low-intensity recurrent disasters wear down the resilience of communities around the world through displacement and the loss of livelihoods. Unlike in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake or the 2010 Haiti earthquake, no […]

On June 26, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev formally signed a law “annulling” the country’s agreement with the U.S. to host an air base in his country. The true significance of the law is unclear, and it could be a bargaining ploy to gain more favorable terms for a new agreement on the base, which has been the United States’ most conspicuous presence in Central Asia since being established shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. Regardless, the passage of the law has highlighted how U.S. interest in Central Asia is destined to diminish as the U.S. extracts itself from Afghanistan. In […]

The community of national security experts is consumed with debate on the appropriate size and configuration of the American military. Seldom does a week pass without some new report, commission or conference offering solemn advice on this complex issue. Policy journals and op-ed pages are awash with articles on it. Such vigorous discussion is a good thing, but it may be focused on the wrong issue—ultimately the size of the armed forces matters less than what they are asked to do. There are analysts, though, who are grappling with the type of conflicts the U.S. military may be ordered to […]

After nine months in Havana, Cuba, negotiators are making slow but steady progress toward ending the conflict between Colombia’s government and its largest leftist guerrilla group, the 49-year-old Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The talks are now at the second of five agenda points, and a growing segment of public opinion believes that this peace process—the fourth in the past 30 years—may end in an accord. But the FARC are not Colombia’s only leftist guerrilla group with a national presence. The National Liberation Army (ELN), like the FARC, was founded in 1964. The ELN differs from the FARC in […]

Given the recent prominence in international affairs of seemingly intractable disputes over maritime rights—from the South China Sea to the Arctic to the Eastern Mediterranean—it appears to be an opportune time for a 21st-century version of Otto von Bismarck, the “honest broker,” to convene the next great set of international conferences to settle some of today’s stand-offs. Moreover, since some of the most dangerous flashpoints that could bring major powers to the brink of war, particularly in the Western Pacific, are quite literally little more than rocks, someone with a Bismarckian sense of perspective is sorely needed. After all, as […]

A reform push in Mexico that many have termed historic could get epic this fall. That’s when President Enrique Pena Nieto will introduce plans to reform the oil and gas sector and overhaul the country’s tax system. There’s a broad consensus among economists that Mexico’s growth and long-term vitality rely on the passage of these plans, interlinked because oil revenues constitute a substantial part—around one-third—of the federal budget. And there’s a general acknowledgment across much of the Mexican political spectrum that Pemex, the state-owned oil company, is in dire need of reform. Now in its 75th year, the company’s reputation […]

Last month, the European Union renewed the mandate of the European Network and Information Security Agency, its principal cybersecurity agency, giving it expanded responsibilities. In an email interview, Alexander Klimburg, a fellow at the Austrian Institute for International Affairs specializing in cybersecurity as well as EU foreign and security policy, explained the state of EU cyberdefense and its role in EU-U.S. relations. WPR: How is responsibility for cybersecurity divided among EU member states and the institutions of the EU? Alexander Klimburg: In the EU Cyber Security Strategy, published earlier this year, the EU committed itself to all five of the […]

Despite unfolding disasters in Egypt and Syria and the damage to American security from the bizarre Edward Snowden episode, Afghanistan, which had begun to seem like last year’s news, is grabbing headlines again. The Obama administration is undertaking yet another review of its options following the planned drawdown of U.S. military forces in 2014. Reports are that the administration, frustrated with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is considering a “zero option” that would leave no American troops in Afghanistan. But before wholesale disengagement is even officially on the table, opposition to it is flaring. Angry at the idea, House Armed Services […]

Since coming to office in January 2011, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has had to contend with annual economic growth slumping from 7.5 percent to 0.9 percent. Rather than introducing economic reforms—the president interpreted her mandate as one of continuing the policies set out by her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva—Rousseff’s team blamed a strong Brazilian currency for slow growth and nagging inflation. So, given that the value of the Brazilian real fell 10 percent against the dollar from May to June, reaching a four-year low, one would expect the government to be celebrating the new opportunity to export Brazilian […]

During Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to China in April, the U.S. and China issued a joint statement on climate change and agreed to undertake actions that would set an example for the rest of the world. In June, Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping agreed to address the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, a type of superwarming, short-lived greenhouse gas. While the two countries have plenty of issues to deal with on the bilateral agenda, climate change can be one of the least contentious, and further announcements are expected in the future. Announcements are good, but action is […]

The first major development in Mexico’s fight against drug organizations under the Enrique Pena Nieto administration came early yesterday morning when Mexican marines arrested Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, known as Z-40, the head of the ultraviolent Zetas organization. While lauding the arrest, analysts are largely united in the assessment that Z-40’s arrest will result in more violence in the near term, as the struggle to fill the power vacuum left by the arrest unfolds. The arrest also throws into relief the issue of the so-called kingpin strategy of targeting top leaders of Mexico’s drug organizations, which the Pena Nieto administration […]

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