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Increased U.S. funding to fight drugs and organized crime in Mexico and Central America has attracted a good deal of attention in recent years. But flying largely under the radar is the growing role being played in that effort by the U.S. military, most notably now in Honduras, where U.S. Marines are engaged in a joint training exercise with Honduran troops and the Pentagon is financing a new naval base. “There’s been a noticeable uptick in U.S. military aid and cooperation in Honduras during the past year,” says Adam Isacson, senior associate for regional security policy at the Washington Office […]

In a recent World Politics Review article, U.S. Army Col. Gian Gentile declared that COIN is “dead” as the motivating intellectual concept for the U.S. Army. Although combat continues in Afghanistan, to some extent guided by the precepts set forth in the Army’s “Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency,” Gentile argues that the inability of COIN doctrine to produce a definitive outcome in Afghanistan, along with the end of fighting in Iraq, serves to render the school of thought obsolete. Indeed, Gentile argues that the Army should abandon the “search for lessons of strategic value from the past 10 years of counterinsurgency […]

With huge hydrocarbon finds being unearthed in both conventional and unconventional sectors across the Americas, energy independence is being hyped to epic proportions in the United States. The scorecard now shows 6.5 trillion unconventional barrels of oil in the Americas, running from Canada all the way to Argentina, versus 1.2 trillion conventional barrels in the Middle East and North Africa. The U.S. and Brazil sit comfortably in the middle of the expected windfall, and even Mexico, long lost to the annals of hydrocarbon blunders, boasts major new unconventional reserves. Given the awesome scale of these figures, it is hardly surprising […]

BEIJING — Following recent declines in headline inflation, weak power generation in October and deepening financial losses for power companies, speculation has once again picked up regarding potential coal and electricity pricing reform in China. While some form of price adjustment looks imminent, structural reforms to pricing mechanisms affect multiple domestic interest groups and are proving hard to manage for the party-state. Beyond pricing, many broader reforms are already delayed, and the struggle to build consensus looks likely to cause further disruption. China’s ambition to wean itself off coal is well-documented. Draft versions of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) outlined […]

On Sept. 26, deep inside Taliban-controlled territory in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Afghan counternarcotics agents backed by their Australian counterparts seized and destroyed $350 million worth of illegal narcotics. The operation set a record for drug seizures in Afghanistan, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Two weeks earlier, the same authorities busted the largest heroin-producing facility found in Afghanistan since 2006, capturing drugs worth $150 million if sold in the U.S. Both operations took millions of dollars from the pockets of insurgents who might otherwise use the money to buy weapons and ultimately mount narco-terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan. But a […]

On Nov. 23, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned NATO that it needs to address Moscow’s security concerns over its plans for European ballistic missile defense (BMD) or face renewed confrontation. Although Medvedev’s declaration, made in a special televised announcement, may have been designed to boost his party’s fortunes in next week’s parliamentary elections, his position is a widely held one within the Russian government. And since he listed a series of demands that, while not unreasonable, cannot be met by NATO governments, the next Russian and American presidential terms will probably see renewed battling over the BMD issue. Medvedev recalled […]

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The international offensive against the Islamist al-Shabaab organization in Somalia appeared to take a new turn last week as hundreds of Ethiopian troops accompanied by armored personnel carriers reportedly crossed the border into the famine- and war-torn nation. The U.S. had already expanded its drone war into Somalia over the summer, and Kenyan troops have been fighting al-Shabaab in southern Somalia since last month. A significant incursion now by Ethiopia could shift the dynamics of the already chaotic war. But according to Bronwyn E. Bruton, deputy director of the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington, […]

NAIROBI — Targeting East Africa as an area of vital strategic interest, Israel is heightening its regional presence, most notably through a security pact signed last week with Kenyan political and security leaders. The move comes at a critical time for Kenya. The country’s military campaign aimed at eradicating al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab in Somalia has now entered its sixth week, and domestic security concerns continue to escalate. Speculation over the nature of the enhanced bilateral ties emerged after Kenyan political leaders provocatively declared the alliance. Officials from both nations have since been tight-lipped, and details remain murky. But Israeli officials in […]

It is hard to think of a period in the past five decades in which this country was more painfully bereft of national leadership than it currently finds itself. On one side we have an increasingly isolated president who, as Edward Luce opined recently, “prefers to campaign than govern.” On the other is a House-controlling GOP that, in the words of Thomas Friedman, “has gone nuts.” What’s more, the highly negative campaign that 2012 is shaping up to be will secure no governing mandate for the eventual winner, meaning that things are likely to get far worse. The result will […]

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Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho visited Angola earlier this month to promote greater investment from his country’s former colony. In an email interview, Pedro Seabra, a researcher at the Portuguese Institute of International Relations and Security, discussed Portugal-Angola relations. WPR: How have relations between Portugal and Angola evolved in the past decade? Pedro Seabra: Since Angola’s civil war ended in 2002, bilateral relations with Portugal have skyrocketed both in political and economic terms. Overall, there has been a clear political drive from both countries to try to make up for lost time while at the same time seeking to […]

It is usually difficult to judge with certainty the outcome of international summits in their immediate aftermath. But last weekend’s East Asia Summit in Bali, Indonesia, made at least one thing clear: The Obama administration has managed to mend the rift with the member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations that emerged under President George W. Bush. At Bali, President Barack Obama received strong and positive feedback from ASEAN countries. And in advance of the summit, he strengthened the United States’ historic alliance with Australia, a country that seems to be emerging with a new role in […]

President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Australia highlighted, in a very deliberate way, a decision to shift U.S. attention and resources away from the Middle East and toward East Asia. Obama’s remarks to the Australian Parliament, combined with his announcement of a new basing agreement at Darwin, on Australia’s northern coast, framed several days of discussions on the role that the United States would play in Asian power politics. Sam Roggeveen of the Lowy Institute of International Politics, an Australian foreign policy think tank, suggested that Obama’s speech in Canberra was as important and consequential as the Cairo speech of […]

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India has reportedly drafted plans to increase its military presence along its border with China. In an email interview, Jabin T. Jacob, assistant director of the Institute of Chinese Studies in Delhi, India, and the assistant editor of China Report, discussed the state of the India-China border conflict. WPR: What are the core unresolved issues regarding the India-China border? Jabin T. Jacob: The main point of contention in the Sino-Indian boundary dispute was originally the Aksai Chin area in the Indian northwest. China had built a road to Lhasa through the area, setting off the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962. This […]

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The recent agreement by India and Pakistan to move toward normalization of trade ties and liberalize visa restrictions on business travellers represented the first time in more than a decade that talks between the two countries have resulted in a concrete positive outcome. A new era of bilateral trade could well be afoot. But the development is best framed as “a logical consequence to a gradual rapprochement that has been occurring between India and Pakistan,” says Arif Rafiq, the editor of Pakistan Policy Blog and president of Vizier Consulting, a Middle East and South Asia strategy company. Rafiq, also a […]

In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington last Friday, Viktor Ivanov, the director of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN), laid out an ambitious agenda for increased Russia-U.S. cooperation in several counternarcotics areas, characterized by “new thinking” on a variety of issues. Ivanov, who stopped in Washington after attending the fifth meeting of the Counternarcotics Working Group of the U.S.-Russia Presidential Commission in Chicago, proposed creating an integrated command for counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan that would include representatives from the FSKN, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force […]

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Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak agreed to expand the two countries’ currency swap arrangement last month in an effort to stabilize their currency markets. In an email interview, Jeff Kingston, the director of Asian studies at Temple University Japan, discussed Japan-South Korea relations. WPR: How have diplomatic, trade and security relations between South Korea and Japan evolved over the past decade? Jeff Kingston: During Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s tenure from 2001 to 2006, relations had been stymied by disputes over historical issues dating back to World War II. The deep freeze resulted from […]

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President Barack Obama’s Asian trip is being hailed as a diplomatic triumph, and to the extent that the three-stop tour delivered both concrete and symbolic accomplishments, that assessment is correct. In Hawaii, Obama strengthened the chances that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will become the cornerstone of future trade integration in the region. In Australia, he announced a small but symbolically resonant agreement to station U.S. Marines at an Australian base. And at the East Asia Summit in Indonesia, he very visibly underscored America’s renewed commitment not just to Asia, but to the region’s multilateral institutional architecture that the Bush administration had […]

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