The Turkish incursion into northern Syria has revealed a central truth in international affairs: that the future of military interventions will not be Vietnam-style imbroglios or long wars of attrition. They will be mostly one-off cross-border incursions of limited lifespans, casualties, or attention (though, contrary to many recent cross-border operations, Turkey’s latest incursion has attracted a lot of attention). The terrain will be difficult and rural; the level of governance minimal.
President Donald Trump has upended American policy in Syria, and possibly in the entire Middle East, in one stroke. His unilateral decision to withdraw American troops from the Kurdish region of northern Syria, and thus give a green light for the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish enclave, has put all American goals in Syria in grave jeopardy. These included protecting the autonomous Kurdish enclave as a quid pro quo for the Kurdish militia’s singular military contribution in liquidating Islamic State and capturing its capital Raqqa at the cost of thousands of lives. They also included preventing the regime of Bashar al-Assad from reasserting control in northern Syria (a very important US objective in Syria was to circumscribe Russia’s and Iran’s reach and influence in the country). Finally, one of the principal aims of American policy in both Syria and Iraq has been to prevent the resurgence of the IS.
USIP’s Andrew Wilder sees an urgent need to get the peace effort back on track.
President Trump’s weekend announcement of a halt to U.S. peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban—including a previously unannounced U.S. plan for a Camp David meeting to conclude that process—leaves the future of the Afghanistan peace process unclear. USIP’s Andrew Wilder, a longtime Afghanistan analyst, argues that, rather than declaring an end to the peace process, U.S. negotiators could use the setback as a moment to clarify the strategy, and then urgently get the peace process back on track before too much momentum is lost.
The conflict in Yemen will not be solved by a peace agreement between the Houthis and the internationally recognized government due to the increased fragmentation of internal political and economic structures.
The United Nations (UN) describes the conflict in Yemen as the world’s largest humanitarian disaster, as more than an estimated 24 million Yemenis currently need assistance. This underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive peace agreement. However, whereas the UN-led ongoing peace negotiations focuses on the elite level, sustainable peace in Yemen will depend on whether or not local actors are incorporated into the transitional political process and the future Yemeni state.
This week’s featured graphic maps the domestic coalitions in the Libyan conflict and their international supporters. For an insight into UN mediation in Libya, read Lisa Watanabe’s recent CSS Analyses in Security Policy here.