Traditionally competitors for influence in neighboring Nepal, China and India are now signaling readiness to join forces to pull the Himalayan nation out of its chronic political instability. The contours of a formal cooperation framework are yet to emerge. But academic and media circles in China and India suggest a growing convergence of interest in preventing instability from spilling across Nepal’s borders. Politics remain volatile in Nepal, where mainstream parties and former Maoist rebels cooperated to abolish the 240-year-old monarchy in 2008. But political infighting since has resulted in five prime ministers in as many years. Despite repeated extensions, an […]

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 Cambodia, the ruling Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) claimed victory in the elections held Sunday, but the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party is rejecting the results and calling for an investigation into alleged election irregularities. The experts who spoke with Trend Lines said that whether or not the opposition is successful in challenging the results, the election was in some ways a victory for the Cambodian opposition and for Cambodian democracy more broadly. “The CPP still has a majority and will still have the dominant voice. But the results will likely mean a more vocal opposition and perhaps lay the […]

Late last month, more than a decade of indecision over the so-called Southern Gas Corridor linking Caspian reserves to European Union markets finally came to an end with the selection of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) by the Shah Deniz consortium of gas producers in Azerbaijan. TAP was selected over the much more widely recognized and operatically named Nabucco pipeline, which had captivated the energy industry and shaped the geopolitics of the Black Sea-Caspian region for years. Shah Deniz consortium members, which include BP, Statoil, Total and Azerbaijan’s national energy company SOCAR, insist that the selection was based almost entirely on […]

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 […]

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 […]

The Gezi Park protests in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, which shook Turkey at the end of May, represent a turning point in Turkey’s contemporary political history. Although their main target was Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his style of government, the protests, in combination with developments in Syria’s civil war, will have significant consequences for the ongoing peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). At the same time, the need to effectively address the Kurdish issue could accelerate recent shifts in Turkey’s stance on the Syrian crisis. Though the Turkish-PKK peace process currently appears deadlocked due to natural mistrust […]

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 […]

Last week, al-Qaida’s Iraqi branch staged major simultaneous raids on two Iraqi prisons, afterward claiming to have freed more than 500 Iraqi detainees in the operation. In an email interview, Myriam Benraad, senior Middle East research fellow and Iraq specialist at Sciences Po Paris, explained Iraq’s detention system and the U.S. role in it. WPR: What is Iraq’s system for handling fighters captured on the battlefield? Myriam Benraad: Following the enforcement of the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement in 2009, U.S.-run prison facilities were officially transferred to the Iraqi government. Specific “rehabilitation” and “deradicalization” programs were developed and implemented, intended to thwart […]

During the first-ever business and commerce conference of the Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) in July, Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma called for an institutional mechanism to facilitate business interaction among members. Though the IOR-ARC has existed since 1995-1996, it has so far failed to emerge as a common economic platform, and India’s trade ties in the IOR region have progressed chiefly along bilateral lines. But with China’s economic overtures increasingly frequent and backed by commercial heft, India finds that it can no longer take its geo-economic position in the region for granted. To counter China’s commercial bilateralism, […]

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 […]

On Tuesday, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir dismissed his vice president and suspended the secretary-general of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) along with all 29 Cabinet members and their deputies. The move, which was announced in a decree read on national television, comes as the newly independent country faces a host of challenges, including continuing internal violence and negotiations with Sudan, its neighbor to the north. “What we have been seeing in recent months is a more public and more tangible jockeying within the party as a prelude to the 2015 elections,” said Lesley Anne Warner, Africa analyst […]

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 […]

When the European Union voted to add Hezbollah’s name to its list of terrorist organizations, it simultaneously added one more item to the growing list of costs the Lebanese group is incurring for its brazen intervention in Syria’s civil war. Jumping into the Syrian fray is taking a significant toll on Hezbollah, and it could ultimately take an even greater one on Lebanon. Still, Hezbollah calculates the risk would be even greater if it sat out the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Whether that decision will pay off is yet to be seen. Europe was careful to name Hezbollah’s […]

This month, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan rebel group now based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, staged attacks that prompted more than 60,000 Congolese refugees to flee to neighboring Uganda. In an email interview, Kristof Titeca, senior research fellow at the University of Antwerp’s Institute of Development Policy and Management and the University of Ghent’s Conflict Research Group, described the ADF’s background and its recent resurgence. WPR: What is the background on the Allied Democratic Forces in terms of their numbers and goals? Kristof Titeca: The movement was started in 1995 in eastern Congo by Ugandan members […]

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 […]

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