President Donald Trump walks with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, June 16, 2017 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

At some point in the next year, the Trump administration should release its first official National Security Strategy. In the past, many of these reports were simply extended self-congratulations or a litany of unrealistic aspirations of little value to the government agencies that had to implement them. It is vital for the inaugural Trump effort to avoid these pitfalls by identifying realistic and attainable midterm goals. The key word here is “realistic.” In the midterm—from four to 10 years—the United States is not going to eradicate the self-styled Islamic State, al-Qaida or the Afghan Taliban. Nor will it engineer the […]

Children play in the surf at Kite Beach in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Jan. 8, 2016 (AP photo by Jon Gambrell).

Tucked just below the surface of the ongoing Saudi- and Emirati-led blockade of Qatar lies a seemingly banal rationale for the dramatic standoff: the future of tourism in the Gulf. When vacationers think of sun, luxury or both, which futuristic city will they think of: Doha or Dubai? As part of their post-oil economic strategies, Gulf states have doubled down on tourism, none more so than the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The skylines of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha all glitter with ever newer, ever more luxurious high-rise hotels, as Emirati and Qatari development plans pin their hopes on […]

Agricultural workers arrive to participate in an annual march organized by the National Farmers’ Federation, Asuncion, Paraguay, March 17, 2016 (AP photo by Jorge Saenz).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and associate editor, Robbie Corey-Boulet, discuss the implications for Africa and elsewhere of the Trump administration’s emphasis on security ties over development aid. For the Report, Laurence Blair talks with Peter Dörrie about the politics of inequality at the heart of Paraguay’s recently averted presidential term limit crisis. If you’d like to sign up for the beta version of WPR’s Africa-only subscription, you can do so here. It’s free for the first two months. And if you like what you hear on Trend Lines, as well as what you’ve seen […]

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz speaks during the India-Africa Forum Summit, New Delhi, India, Oct. 29, 2015 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

Earlier this month, Mauritania announced it would delay a constitutional referendum planned for mid-July, rescheduling it for Aug. 5. Among the most significant changes included in the proposed reforms would be the elimination of the country’s Senate, a proposition that has predictably spurred opposition from senators. The delay risks increasing political tension amid speculation about President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s plans for when his term expires in 2019. In an email interview, Imad Mesdoua, senior consultant at Control Risks and a specialist on North Africa and West Africa, describes the substance of the referendum and reactions from across the political […]

Equatorial Guinea’s president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, during the India-Africa Forum Summit, New Delhi, India, Oct. 29, 2015 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Associate Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. In March 2007, a group of NGOs filed a complaint in France against the ruling families of a handful of African countries, alleging that property and other assets they owned in France were obtained via corruption. A decade of legal wrangling later, the first trial in the so-called “biens mal acquis,” or ill-gotten gains, affair is now in full swing, with hearings unfolding in Paris in the case of Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the vice president of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea […]

Venezuelan protesters wearing helmets and gas masks near La Carlota air base, Caracas, June 24, 2017 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

Tensions rose exponentially in Venezuela on Tuesday evening, when a police helicopter took to the skies of Caracas in an operation aimed at bringing an end to the rule of President Nicolas Maduro. It is not clear if the attackers’ intention was to directly overthrow the government or to send a message to the president and the public that it’s time for Maduro to step—or be pushed—aside. What is clear is that the most likely scenarios for Venezuela’s future are increasingly becoming a coup or a civil war. It’s remarkable that the chopper, apparently commandeered by rogue members of the […]

Smoke rises following airstrikes by the Philippine Air Force at militant positions in the besieged city of Marawi, southern Philippines, June 6, 2017 (Sipa photo by Richard Atrero de Guzman via AP).

On May 23, militants linked to the self-proclaimed Islamic State ambushed soldiers in the southern Philippines seeking to apprehend Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the Islamic State’s affiliates in Southeast Asia. Within a matter of hours, over 400 militants from the Maute Group had completely seized the city of Marawi, launching a major operation to occupy city buildings, recruit sympathetic locals, take hostages and project the power of the Islamic State. The seizure of Marawi represents the greatest challenge Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has faced since taking office last year, and one of the most significant and concerted attempts by […]

Jean-Rock Sobi, right, representative of the Democratic Front of the Central African People, talks with Anicet Dologuele of the Union for Central African Renewal after signing a peace deal, Rome, June 19, 2017 (AP photo by Domenico Stinellis).

On June 19, Central African Republic’s government and more than a dozen armed groups signed a peace deal mediated in Rome by the Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio, briefly raising hopes of a break, or at least a reduction, in violence. Those hopes were seemingly dashed the following day, when heavy fighting resumed in the town of Bria. The town’s mayor said at least 100 people were killed. In an email interview, Evan Cinq-Mars, United Nations adviser with the Center for Civilians in Conflict, explains how the dynamic of the conflict in Central African Republic has evolved and why the situation […]

Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, center, speaks during a peace conference at the Presidential Palace, Kabul, June 6, 2017 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

With the Trump White House abdicating decision-making authority over the Afghan war to the Pentagon, it’s only a matter of time until the United States escalates troop levels in Afghanistan again. The security situation in the country is dire, with the Taliban in control of more territory than at any point since the 2001 invasion and momentum on its side. The situation for Afghan civilians remains terrifying, with a spate of recent attacks highlighting how little progress has been made in America’s longest war. If things weren’t bad enough, Afghanistan is also in the grips of a festering political crisis, […]

President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May at the White House, Washington, Jan. 27, 2017 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

It is hard to believe the degree of shock most of us felt this time last year at the outcome of the Brexit referendum, given everything that has transpired since then. The resentment many Britons felt toward the European Union was no secret, nor was the fact that London’s relationship to Brussels had historically been lukewarm at best. But for all its flaws, the EU was a known commodity. Brexit, in contrast, represented a deep tangle of unknowns, both economic and political, with most of the debate being over the extent of the damage and devastation it would wreak on […]

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang greets Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Beijing, May 13, 2017 (AP photo by Thomas Peter).

Earlier this month, Greece blocked a European Union statement at the United Nations that would have criticized China’s human rights record, with Athens saying it was opposed to “unconstructive criticism.” The move prompted a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman to publicly thank Greece “for upholding the correct position.” EU diplomats and rights groups, however, were less than pleased. Human Rights Watch and nine other groups issued a statement saying the EU’s credibility was being battered by its inability to adopt a coherent position on China’s human rights record. In an email interview, Rem Korteweg, head of the Europe in the World […]

Former U.S. President Barack Obama and former FBI Director James Comey attend Comey’s installation ceremony at the FBI’s headquarters, Washington, Oct. 28, 2013 (AP photo by Charles Dharapak).

A Washington Post exposé published Friday revealed new insights into the Obama administration’s real-time reaction to mounting evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The administration’s agonizing efforts to find a commensurate response, while avoiding escalation and the perception it was seeking to influence the election, will be interpreted through a mean-spirited partisan prism. That’s too bad, because there are sober lessons about politics and policymaking that should be considered across the partisan divide. The Obama administration struggled to find appropriate countermeasures to Russian meddling in the final weeks of its time in office, according to the […]

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with officials from Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador during the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America, Miami, June 15, 2017 (AP photo by Wilfredo Lee).

Over two days in Miami earlier this month, the leaders of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador met with officials from the United States and Mexico to discuss the longstanding challenges of combating transnational crime, narcotrafficking and corruption in Central America. Any discussion of migration policy, however, was explicitly off the table at the Conference on Prosperity and Security, which included U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. Despite brutal conditions in the region that have driven a spike in migration north in recent years, the Trump administration’s narrow priorities in Central […]

South Sudanese refugee children catch water overflowing from a reservoir being filled at the Imvepi reception center, northern Uganda, June 9, 2017 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Last Tuesday, which was World Refugee Day, the United Nations refugee agency reported three new shipwrecks off the coast of Libya involving vessels carrying refugees and migrants. One of them, a rubber dinghy, “began taking on water just hours into its journey,” and 129 people were missing after it capsized. Another boat, which was carrying 85 people, including many families with children, broke in two before sinking. The U.N. reports that more than 77,000 people have tried to make the sea crossing to Europe so far this year. The U.N. refugee agency’s Global Trends study for 2016, released to coincide […]

Paraguayans protest against a plan to change the country’s constitution, Asuncion, Paraguay, March 30, 2017 (AP photo by Jorge Saenz).

ASUNCION, Paraguay—The dramatic events that took place on the evening of March 31 grabbed an unusual amount of international media attention for Paraguay. After months of behind-the-scenes preparations, the governing right-wing Partido Colorado (PC), the left-wing Frente Guasu coalition (FG) and a dissident faction of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party (PLRA) made a bid to change the constitution to allow for presidential re-election, which is prohibited by Paraguay’s post-dictatorship 1992 constitution. Allies of President Horacio Cartes—one of the country’s richest businessmen, and a political newcomer prior to his election at the head of the PC in 2013—had been working for […]

A U.S. Navy F-18 fighter jet lands on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson following a patrol in the South China Sea, March 3, 2017 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

On June 21, the United States and China held their first-ever Diplomatic and Security Dialogue in Washington. The dialogue, co-chaired on the American side by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, is a new iteration of engagement that evolved from the April meeting between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, at Mar-a-Lago. Along with other newly created discussions on trade and law enforcement issues, the dialogue is aimed at narrowing the focus of the former U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which met annually during the Obama administration. Unfortunately, when it comes to […]

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley addresses the Security Council after a vote to sanction North Korea, New York, June 2, 2017 (AP photo by Bebeto Matthews).

Can the Trump administration give the General Assembly of the United Nations a new sense of purpose? This may sound like an uproariously silly question. The assembly, in which all U.N. member states are theoretically equals, is largely a geopolitical backwater. It churns out hundreds of resolutions each year, and the vast majority of these are unimportant. Few people are probably aware that the assembly passed a lengthy resolution on the political status of Bermuda last year, for example, and even fewer are likely to be excited that it did so. Yet the assembly can cause the occasional kerfuffle. Last […]

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