The Afghan War in 2013: Volume III – Security and the ANSF
By Anthony Cordesman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
March 27, 2013
Transition poses many challenges. Afghanistan is still at war and will probably be at war long after 2014. At the same time, the coming cuts in International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces and cuts in military and civil aid, along with the country’s fractious politics and insecurity, will interact with a wide range of additional factors that threaten to derail Transition: Afghanistan’s internal political dynamics and the weakness and corruption of Afghan governance mixed with growing de facto power of regional and ethnic power brokers. The difficulties of making a Transition to a non-Karzai government in 2014, as ethnic, regional, and sectarian power-struggles threaten to dominate elections and further divide the government. The difficulties in creating an effective mix of Afghan forces to replace US and other ISAF forces. A steady decrease in US and allied resolve to sustain high levels of spending, advising efforts, and partnering after 2014. Read more
The Syrian Opposition’s Very Provisional Government
By Yezid Sayigh
March 28, 2013
The Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (National Coalition) formally took up Syria’s seat in the Arab League this week. The outgoing chairman of the coalition, Moaz al-Khatib, who had announced his resignation only days before, represented the coalition, and the provisional prime minister, Ghassan Hitto, sat behind him. This recognition is an important diplomatic gain. But it will prove ephemeral unless the National Coalition and its provisional government can follow up speedily by delivering effective administration, basic services, dispute resolution, and security in the liberated areas, which it claims now extend over 100,000 square kilometers and include 10 million inhabitants.
Lebanon Imperiled as Prime Minister Resigns Under Duress
By Paul Salem
March 23, 2013
The resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister, Najib Mikati, was the result of intensifying pressure between the pro-Assad and anti-Assad camps in Lebanon and the region. At a minimum, it ushers in a period of further drift and weakening of the country’s political and security institutions. At worst, it might herald a serious entry of the Syrian conflict into Lebanon, a showdown between the country’s factions, and challenges to its basic constitutional order. Lebanon’s leaders and foreign friends should recognize the depth of the peril and work to find a way forward to form a new government, appoint a new, effective head of the internal security forces, and hold fresh parliamentary elections.
The Meaning and Consequences of Israel’s Apology to Turkey
By Caroline Glick
Center for Security Policy
March 26, 2013
US President Barack Obama was on the line when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to apologize for the deaths of nine Turkish protesters aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010. For those who don’t remember, the Mavi Marmara was a Turkish ship that set sail in a bid to break Israel’s lawful maritime blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza’s coastline. When Israeli naval commandos boarded the ship to interdict it, passengers on deck attacked them – in breach of international maritime law. Soldiers were stabbed, bludgeoned and thrown overboard. In a misguided attempt to show the good faith of Israeli actions, the naval commandos were sent aboard the ship armed with paintball guns. As a consequence, the soldiers were hard-pressed to defend themselves. In the hand-to-hand combat that ensued, nine of the Turkish attackers were killed.
The Free Syrian Army
By Elizabeth O’Bagy
Institute for the Study of War
Fragmentation and disorganization have plagued Syria’s armed opposition since peaceful protestors took up arms in December 2011 and began forming rebel groups under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army. A lack of unity has made cooperation and coordination difficult on the battlefield and has limited the effectiveness of rebel operations. Since the summer of 2012, rebel commanders on the ground in Syria have begun to coordinate tactically in order to plan operations and combine resources. This cooperation has facilitated many important offensives and rebels have taken control of the majority of the eastern portion of the country, overrunning their first provincial capital in March 2013 with the capture of al-Raqqa city. However, rebels have been unable to capitalize on these successes, and fighting has largely stalemated along current battle fronts particularly in the key areas of Aleppo, Homs and Damascus.
Youth Activism in the Small Gulf States
By Lori Plotkin Boghardt
March 28, 2013
Policy Watch 2059
Youths have been key drivers of revolutions across the Middle East since the beginning of the Arab uprisings in early 2011. For example, one recent study indicates that more than half of the protestors in the Egyptian revolution were between the ages of 18 and 30. Although young activists have not sparked similarly dramatic change in the small states along the Persian Gulf’s western littoral — Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman — they will likely play an important role in structural reform and therefore merit more attention from both Washington and their own governments. Increasingly muscular youth movements carry important implications regarding the extent of potential change in the Gulf, as already seen in fits and starts in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman. Like their counterparts in other Arab states, young Gulf activists tend to pursue political agendas that are more far-reaching than those of traditional opposition elements and older generations. Yet they generally call for legislative, judicial, and other structural reforms rather than all-out revolution.
Yemen’s National Dialogue and al-Qaeda
March 26, 2013
The National Dialogue Conference launched in Sana on March 18 will give Yemen an opportunity to pursue fundamental reforms over the next several months. Yet it also gives the United States an opening to help leading figures in the process focus on comprehensively defeating al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Meeting that goal will require a nuanced reform effort that aligns the state’s interests with those of the tribes and other groups that have tolerated or supported al-Qaeda in the past.
Arms for Syria’s Rebels: Shaping the War’s Outcome
March 25, 2013
Military assistance can make Syrian rebel forces more effective, help shape the post-Assad period for Syria, and increase influence and access for the donor.
On March 25, the New York Times reported that the CIA has been helping Arab governments and Turkey sharply increase their military aid to the Syrian opposition in recent months, expanding the “secret airlift of arms and equipment.” Indeed, arming the rebels with suitable weapons and providing them with appropriate training and advice can hasten the collapse of the regime, shape the endgame, and give the United States and its allies some influence on the ground after the Bashar al-Assad regime is swept away.
Initial Outcomes of Obama’s Middle East Trip
By David Makovsky and Robert Satloff
March 23, 2013
During his recent Middle East visit, President Obama forged an emotional connection with the people of Israel, earned credibility to deal with Iran’s nuclear research, and put the Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on the regional agenda, according to Washington Institute Executive Director Dr. Robert Satloff and David Makovsky, the Institute’s Ziegler Distinguished Fellow and director of its Project on the Middle East Peace Process. In these videos, the experts discuss the president’s reception in Israel and the West Bank, and assess the likely policy implications of the trip.
Obama Helps Restart Talks Between Israel & Turkey
By Dan Arbell
March 22, 2013
Israel apologized to Turkey today for the May 2010 incident on board the Mavi Marmara naval vessel, part of a flotilla to Gaza, in which nine Turks were killed from Israel Defense Forces fire. The apology came during a 30-minute telephone conversation between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, orchestrated by President Barack Obama, who was ending his 3 day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Erdogan accepted the Israeli apology, and the leaders agreed to begin a normalization process between Israel and Turkey, following the past three years, when relations were practically at a standstill. (Last December, I wrote about the beginnings of a Turkey-Israeli rapprochement, and discussed more of the policy implications here).
BRICS Leadership Will Be Tested by Syria
By: Salman Shaikh
The humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Syria is probably the most serious crisis facing the world today. And yet, the international community is struggling to find a way forward. With more than four million Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance and three million internally displaced – a conservative UN estimate based on surveys of 6 out of 14 governorates in Syria – the humanitarian response to the plight of civilians so far has been entirely inadequate. A recent UNICEF report highlighted the two million children maimed, orphaned, and suffering from malnutrition as a result of the conflict – an entire generation “scarred for life”. Meanwhile, over one million refugees are seeking asylum in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. This number will likely hit the three million mark by the end of 2013 – a ticking bomb for countries based on delicate social, ethnic, and sectarian balance.
The Real Reason Putin Supports Assad
By: Fiona Hill
March 25, 2013
Few issues better illustrate the limits of the Obama administration’s “reset” with Russia than the crisis in Syria. For more than a year, the United States has tried, and failed, to work with Russia to find a solution to end the violence. Moscow has firmly opposed international intervention to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power, arguing that the conflict must be resolved through negotiations and that Assad must be included in any transitional arrangement leading to a new government.
Chechen Commander Forms ‘Army of Emigrants,’ Integrates Syrian Groups
By: Bill Roggio
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
28th March 2013
A commander from the Russian Caucasus known as Abu Omar al Chechen has formed Jaish al-Muhajireen wa Ansar, or Army of the Emigrants and Helpers, and integrated several Syrian fighting units into the ranks. Abu Omar was the commander of the Muhajireen Brigade, which fights alongside al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the Al Nusrah Front.
The creation of the Army of the Emigrants and Helpers was announced on March 26 by Kavkaz Center, a propaganda arm of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, an al Qaeda-linked jihadist group in Russia’s Caucasus.
Latest IMU Capture Indicates Resiliency of Terror Group in Afghanistan
By: Patrick Megahan
26th March 2013
Yesterday, Afghan and Coalition forces captured a commander from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan during yet another operation in the Kunduz district of Kunduz province. The International Security Assistance Force reported that the captured leader “is alleged to lead a cell of insurgent fighters responsible for improvised explosive device and direct fire attacks on Afghan and Coalition forces” and that before his arrest “he was believed actively planning to assassinate an Afghan National Security Forces official.”
Springtime for Salafists
By: Daveed Gartenstein-Ross
26th March 2013
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
In mid-March, a 19-year-old Tunisian activist named Amina Tyler posted several topless photographs of herself on Facebook. In one pose, the dark-haired Amina is set against a black background, wearing lipstick and eye shadow. She cradles a cigarette in her left hand and stares off camera, with the words “My body is my own and not the source of anyone’s honor” written in Arabic across her naked chest. In another iconic photo, Amina stands before a white tile background. Gone is the heavy makeup from the first photograph, and she stares directly into the camera, both of her middle fingers raised. The phrase “Fuck Your Morals” is scrawled on her body in English.
How Iraq’s Future May be Shaped by its Neighbors
By:Yoel Guzansky, Gallia Lindenstrauss
Foreign Policy Research Institute
Since the last American soldiers left Iraq more than a year ago, the fear of rising Iranian influence in the country has become more pronounced. This fear that Iran may fill the vacuum left by the United States has prompted Turkey and several Arab states to clarify their position vis-à-vis Iraq in an attempt to counterbalance Iran’s influence.
Obama’s Mideast trip changes nothing
By:John R. Bolton
March 26, 2013
President Obama’s trip to Israel and Jordan last week had two widely divergent objectives. Publicly, he wanted to repair the political damage he has suffered from his frosty relationships with Israel and its leaders. On substantive policy, by contrast, officials on both sides believed that Obama intended, in his private meetings, to continue relentlessly pressuring Israel for more concessions to the Palestinians and to refrain from using military force against Iran’s nuclear-weapons program.
Why Sanctions On Iran Aren’t Working
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
By: Bijan Khajehpour, Reza Marashi, & Trita Parsi
Washington DC – Sanctions have so far failed to affect the Iranian government’s nuclear policy and are unlikely to do so in the future given the perceptions and calculations of the Iranian elite, according to a new report by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).
“Never Give In and Never Give Up” [pdf] studies the impact of sanctions on Tehran’s nuclear calculus and identifies the factors that have enabled the Iranian government to sustain its policy, despite mounting economic pressure.
Now Obama Needs to Pressure Turkey
By: Jonathan Schanzer, Emanuele Ottolenghi
Foundation of Defense of Democracies
March 27, 2013
In a surprise development on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued an apology to Turkish Prime Minister Yayyip Erdoğan over the ill-fated May 2010 flotilla conflict on the high seas between Israeli commandos and Turkish-backed activists seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Stay out of Other Nations’ Civil Wars
By Doug Bandow
March 27, 2013.
The long-standing Syrian dictatorship is an abomination. The ongoing Syrian civil war is a tragedy. America should stay out.
A decade ago another administration began another war with a promise of enshrining Pax Americana on the Euphrates. Unfortunately, the result was a wrecked Iraq, empowered Iran, and discredited America. With the decade-long attempt to implant liberal democracy in Afghanistan finally coming to a close, Washington should reject proposals for another unnecessary war of choice.