For U.S. officials who worked under former President Barack Obama, many of whom are now beginning or contemplating jobs in Joe Biden’s administration, the war in Yemen casts a long shadow. What started on their watch as a primarily internal power struggle has since metastasized into a messy and multilayered conflict. It is the world’s most dire humanitarian crisis, involving alleged violations of international law—many of them perpetrated with American-made arms—and has become a potential trigger for a region-wide conflagration. For much of Biden’s foreign policy team, then, Yemen represents both unfinished business and, potentially, a small but significant piece of a wider course correction in U.S. policy toward the Middle East.
Few nations have seen their dreams and hopes dashed as quickly and ruthlessly as South Sudan. A mere two years after thousands thronged the streets of the capital, Juba, to celebrate independence from Sudan’s autocratic rule, the country descended into a brutal civil war. The fallout between President Salva Kiir and Vice President-turned-rebel Riek Machar, and the subsequent fighting, exerted a terrible toll. Between 2013 and 2018, up to 400,000 people were killed and 4 million—a third of the country’s population—displaced, amid numerous reports of ethnic-based atrocities like rape and massacres.
Six separate terrorist attacks took place in Europe between late September and late November of last year—three in France, and one each in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. All six attacks were inspired by Salafi-jihadist ideology, which is, and will remain, a persistent terrorism threat to Europe and elsewhere in the West for the foreseeable future.
Rumors began swirling last fall that al-Qaida chieftain Ayman al-Zawahiri had died of natural causes. With no confirmation, counterterrorism analysts and long-time al-Qaida watchers weighed in with various assessments of what it would mean for the terrorist organization if it had indeed lost its leader. Just last week, al-Qaida’s official media arm, al-Sahab, released a video perhaps intended to quell reports of Zawahiri’s demise, with audio clips of Zawahiri addressing the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. But because those messages failed to reference any specifically current events—his vague comments about Rohingya Muslims could apply to events in Myanmar over the past several years—it fueled further speculation that the septuagenarian terrorist leader was in fact dead
“The terrorists are quick,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters after a summit with the leaders of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou in May. “This is why we have to be quicker, so that we can beat them.”
What happens in the Sahel, the vast sub-Saharan region of Northern Africa, “is not only the responsibility of the region, but is also a European responsibility,” Merkel added in what was for her some uncharacteristic alarmism. “If chaos gains the upper hand here—something we want to prevent—other areas would be impacted.”
The transitional government in Sudan announced last month that it will extradite former dictator Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he is wanted on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Sudan’s Darfur region. The move was a sign that the new government in Khartoum, which took over last year after Bashir was ousted by the military amid popular protests, is trying to present itself as a responsible member of the international community. It also wants to draw a clear line under the Bashir era domestically and undertake serious peace negotiations with rebel groups, including in Darfur, where armed conflict persists.
A joint peacekeeping mission led by the United Nations and the African Union, known as UNAMID, has been deployed to Darfur since 2007. But its mandate is scheduled to end this fall, and the peacekeepers have been gradually leaving.
After nearly a decade of conflict, the extensive damage inflicted on Syria’s environment is emerging as another devastating, if less visible, tragedy of its civil war. Polluted soil and contaminated water are exacerbating the already severe suffering of Syrian civilians, undermining their ability to meet their basic needs and jeopardizing the country’s postwar future.
Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden announced his decision to fully withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Sept.11. After 20 years and two generations of American service members fighting there, America’s longest war will come to an end. What will the legacy of that war be for the U.S. military? And will it have a lasting impact on American society?
Sudan Webinar Series
March 1 – April 26, 2021
Democratic Transition and the Critical Role of the Security Sector
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has said Nigeria is facing “a state of emergency” as a result of ongoing insecurity. This emergency is commonly understood as the threat posed by Boko Haram in the country’s northeast. However, this understates the complexity and multidimensional nature of Nigeria’s security challenges, which impact all of the country’s regions. At the same time, armed violence is not omnipresent across Nigeria and is primarily concentrated in specific geographic corridors. Following is a review of Nigeria’s diverse security threats, the risks they pose, and the landscapes in which they have germinated.