Military and civilian agencies have worked more closely in recent years to prevent or reduce violent conflict, build the capacities of governments and strengthen national security. Still, lessons from the field show that more needs to be done to improve mutual understanding and cooperation among the array of organizations providing assistance. Lack of understanding has led to duplication of effort, inefficient use of limited resources and unintended consequences.
Pakistan just underwent a major military transition. Last week, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif appointed General Asim Munir as the new chief of the country’s powerful army, succeeding Qamar Bajwa who held the position for six years. Munir is a former chief of Pakistan’s powerful intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and before that the head of the country’s military intelligence. In nuclear-armed Pakistan with the world’s fifth largest military and a history of military rule, the army chief tends to be the most powerful leader — at times even perceived as the de facto leader due to significant influence over Pakistan’s domestic and foreign policies.
This month’s coup d’etat in Burkina Faso, the seventh in 26 months around the Sahel region, only extends the Sahel’s long agonies of failing governance, civil wars and violent extremism. Military-led intervention by France and other outside powers has failed to stem the widening destabilization of a landmass and population vastly bigger than those of the recent U.S. wars in Afghanistan or Iraq. U.S. and international security require a policy reset that addresses the Sahel crisis’ causes rather than its symptoms. In Burkina Faso and other states, this means supporting inclusive processes of national dialogue that can mobilize whole of the society to address those causes.
President Biden’s Middle Eastern diplomatic mission this week contrasts with news reports and public discussion in the past year suggesting that the region has become a lesser priority for U.S. foreign and security policy. Biden’s visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian West Bank territory build on a reality that Middle Eastern states have been knitting new relations, notably via the 2020 Abraham Accords. They are doing so in ways that Biden’s visit, and overall U.S. diplomacy, can advance.
In May 2021, USIP created the Bipartisan Senior Study Group for the Sahel comprised of 12 current and former high-level U.S. officials, renowned academics and prominent Africa experts. The senior study group aims to generate new insights into the complex challenges facing the Sahel region, including food security, human rights, security assistance, private sector development and job creation — as well as great power competition. The senior study group will provide original recommendations to the U.S. government and governments in the Sahel region to improve foreign assistance, resolve conflict and support lasting peace.
In today’s era of strategic competition between the United States and China, crises are more likely than ever in the Indo-Pacific region. Effective mechanisms are therefore needed to prevent such crises from escalating into armed conflict. To this end, USIP is examining crisis communication mechanisms and negotiations between China and its regional neighbors to identify common issues and themes across countries to provide lessons that can be learned and shared.
In March 2021, the U.S. Institute of Peace organized the Myanmar Study Group in response to the evolving crisis in Myanmar following the military coup a month prior. To support U.S. policy towards Myanmar, USIP convened a group of 9 prominent experts for a series of discussions about the dynamic context within the country and U.S. government policy options.