The CSS Blog Network

Is President Trump’s Foreign Policy Shaping Up?

Courtesy of Oli Goldsmith/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This article was originally published by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) on 20 April 2017.

April has been an eventful month geopolitically so far. President Trump carried out a much-trumpeted-about Tomahawk missile strike at the Syrian regime, held responsible by him for a nerve-agent attack on the village of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib, a province largely held by rebels. Trump has changed his mind on China, which he previously accused as a ‘currency manipulator’. He has also changed his mind on ‘resetting’ relations with Putin and US-Russia relations are at their ‘lowest point’ in years. Trump has issued a harsh warning to North Korea to stop missile and nuclear tests. There are signals that Trump would scale up the US military engagement in Afghanistan. Trump has congratulated, with alacrity, Turkey’s President Erdogan on his referendum victory. Are all these developments related to one another?

Syria

On March 30, 2017, the US stated that it no longer wanted to topple President Basher al-Assad and would instead concentrate on defeating and destroying the Islamic State (IS). Assad, on life-support provided by Russia and Iran, must have heaved a sigh of relief. He might have thought that over time he could free himself from the life-support system and even recover the lost territory in full.

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Ambling Blindly Back into the Mountains: 5 Hard Questions for the Next Phase of Afghanistan

Courtesy of Kenny Cole/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 23 February 2017.

Gen. John Nicholson, who commands the American-led international military force in Afghanistan, recently made headlines when he called for “a few thousand” more troops and a deeper American commitment to the fight in Afghanistan in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month.

This echoes the calls from a number of other analysts, as well as from senior government officials. The recently departed national security advisor, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — who once served as the senior intelligence officer for the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan — seemed to support greater commitment to the region. As they say, personnel is policy: Flynn appointed senior National Security Council staffers who called for engagement in Afghanistan to potentially continue another five to ten years. There’s good reason to think these beliefs might be shared by incoming national security advisor, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, given his substantial investment in Afghanistan.

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Just Because We Look Away, The War in Afghanistan is Not Over

Courtesy Surian Soosay/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) on 13 January 2017.

Recent developments herald a troubled year for the Afghans

During 2015 and 2016, the Taliban have been on an offensive and gained territory. Particularly they have made inroads into strategic areas where the Taliban can control the roads. At the same time, there is an active fight between the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and Taliban over 20% of the Afghan territory. How the final battle will fall out is unknown, but if the ANSF loses, the Taliban can end up controlling up to one-third of the country.

The past couple of years have seen an increase in violent incidents, an increase in militant actors and in both the number of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and Afghan returnees from the EU, Pakistan and Iran. The increase of violence is related both to the force used by insurgents and the Afghan government. The increase in militant actors is due to the military operation, known as the Zarb-e-Azb, launched by the Pakistani army in the tribal areas of Pakistan, which has pushed over new militants to Afghan soil, but also due to the entrance of the Islamic State into Afghanistan.

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Militant Attack and Support Zones in Afghanistan: April – September 2015 (Institute for the Study of War)

Attack and support zones of ISIS, Taliban and other militants in Afghanistan (click for detailed view). Map: Evan Sterling/Institute for the Study of War

This report was originally published by the Institute for the Study of War on 7 August, 2015.

Taliban elements and other militant groups are conducting operations across Afghanistan, including spectacular attacks against major population centers and U.S. bases. The Haqqa­ni Network, a Taliban aligned-group, continues to pressure the ANSF and NATO forces with spectacular attacks in Kabul and Khost. Taliban elements are also conducting numerous ground assaults to seize district centers, especially in northern and southern Afghanistan. These campaigns comprised the 2015 warm weather from April 2015- September 2015. There have been several notable developments following the announcement of the death of Mullah Omar onJuly 29. First, Taliban militants have claimed control of two district cen­ters in Helmand on August II and August 26. Second, ISIS’s Wilayat Khorasan have claimed control of seven district centers in Nangarhar over the course of July and September. Third, Taliban infighting has escalated as different factions compete and express varying positions on who should lead the Taliban movement. » More

Can Afghanistan’s Unity Government Be Built to Govern?

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani with John Kerry. Image: US Dept. of State/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 2 October, 2014.

The transfer of power on September 29 from President Hamid Karzai to his successor Ashraf Ghani was momentous but oddly anticlimactic. It was only possible after a highly controversial presidential election between Ghani and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, which brought the country to the brink of chaos. Abdullah refused to recognize the results, which gave Ghani an overwhelming second-round victory. The United States negotiated a power-sharing deal where Ghani would become president, but a “chief executive officer” position would be created for Abdullah. The deal also prescribed an audit of the election supervised by the United Nations to identify and remove fraudulent votes. » More

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