Friday, May 26, 2017
At each stop on President Trump’s recent visit to the Middle East—Riyadh, Jerusalem and Bethlehem—he reiterated his seriousness about moving forward on Middle East peace. The theme continued in his visit to the Vatican, where the Pope gave the President a small sculpted olive tree and told his guest: “It is my desire that you become an olive tree to construct peace."
President Donald Trump’s upcoming meetings in Riyadh with Saudi King Salman bin Abd Al-Aziz could spur a renewal on two critical fronts for both leaders: the Saudi role in the region’s military conflicts and the extremist threat on its own turf.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is gathering 29 heads of state and officials from more than 110 countries in Beijing starting May 14 for the first summit of his high-stakes Belt and Road Initiative. The $4 trillion plan offers the promise of economic growth, stability and increased connectivity for countries around the world. But it also faces—and creates—a host of complications for China and the other countries involved.
Mashal Khan’s lynching last month for alleged blasphemy by fellow university students in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province sent shockwaves across Pakistani society. It instantly stirred recollections of the 2011 murder of Salman Taseer, a former governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, by his own security guard because he had opposed laws punishing blasphemy. Both episodes highlighted the deep intolerance for diversity and the readiness to use violence over religious disagreements in Pakistan. But there was one major difference that could open an opportunity to steer Pakistan in a more moderate direction.
The joint press conference held by President Trump and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after their meeting this week was spare of specifics, but abundant in atmospherics. Both leaders seemed intent on conveying the message that this is the start of a new chapter, and that peace—and the U.S.-Palestinian partnership toward that goal—is possible.
U.S. and Chinese leaders have worked with counterparts across Africa to combat a range of security threats on the continent, from Ebola to piracy to instability in Sudan and South Sudan. A recent United Nations Security Council Resolution condemning terrorist attacks and violence in the Lake Chad Basin illustrates that more joint efforts are needed to support Africa’s stability and development. Unfortunately, distrust and skepticism between the United States and China are getting in the way of further progress. But there may be a way to prevent backsliding.
On April 21, a group of 10 Taliban fighters, disguised as Afghan soldiers transporting a wounded colleague, entered the main base of the Afghan Army’s 209th Corps in the northwestern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. After a five-hour rampage through the camp, as many as 140, maybe more, Afghan soldiers were dead. The government announced a national day of mourning for a shocked nation, and the Minister of Defense and the Army Chief of Staff resigned. It was not the first such incident. Nor will it be the last.
Even in Afghanistan, a country that has seen four decades of bloodshed and destruction, the ravages of a relatively small contingent of the so-called “Islamic State” extremist group have been shocking: Men, women and children beheaded, individuals blown up with explosives strapped to their bodies, children indoctrinated to commit atrocities. So the U.S. military’s “Mother of All Bombs” dropped onto a remote warren of ISIS tunnels and caves was welcomed in some quarters. But there is more that the Afghan government and the U.S. can do to reduce the frustration and despair that drives so many, especially the young, into the radical fold.
Nigeria’s military appears to have the ISIS-affiliated Boko Haram extremist group on the run. But a different kind of conflict now threatens to undermine the government’s gains in reducing violence in Africa’s most populous country. Armed clashes between mostly Muslim herdsmen and predominantly Christian farmers are fueling a new, and even more intensive, era of instability. The conflict over land and natural resources has drawn little notice internationally and urgently needs more attention from Nigeria’s federal government.
Nigeria’s overstretched military will be pleased that the U.S. is moving ahead with plans to sell the country a dozen small attack planes for its fight against Boko Haram. The high-tech gear on the single-engine Embraer A-29 Super Tucano should improve precision targeting by the Nigerian forces to chase scattered fighters and help avoid disastrous mistakes such as the Jan. 17 bombing of a displaced persons camp that killed as many as 236 people. But with Boko Haram already in retreat and attention shifting to more permanent safety and security, the aircraft also might be of limited use.