The Rwandan armed forces and police deployed to the Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique have made impressive gains combatting the Islamic State-affiliated al-Shabaab militants that have devastated the area. These 1,000 or so forces secured the key port city of Mocimboa da Praia in August, and the militants — who have committed grave atrocities, killed thousands and driven nearly a million people from their homes — have been forced to retreat from several areas of this natural resource-rich region.
North Korea announced on September 13 that it had tested long-range cruise missiles over the weekend. It described the missiles as a “strategic weapon of great significance.” The test caused alarm in North Korea’s neighbors — South Korea and Japan, both U.S. allies — as the revelation now puts both countries within striking distance. But despite the test, a spokesperson for the Biden administration said the United States remains prepared to engage with North Korea. USIP’s Frank Aum discusses the significance of the tests, the arms race on the Korean Peninsula, and what signals North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be sending to the United States with this latest test.
In May 2021, Thai security forces were in a three-hour standoff with two Malay-Muslim separatist insurgents in a small remote village in the southernmost border province of Yala. As they stood their ground, the two combatants made video calls to family and friends to bid farewell. Someone began recording one of the calls on another cellphone. Soon, footage of the two men, who were killed in the operation, was circulating on social media.
When measured by the death toll, Nigeria seems beset by violence. By some accounts, the COVID-19 pandemic has made experiences of violence even more common — notably, Nigeria recorded a 169% increase in abductions between 2019 and 2020. While quantifying violence is relatively straightforward, defining what peace means to ordinary Nigerians has been largely overlooked, even if such definitions may be more meaningful. By exploring more nuanced understandings of peace, how these vary between and across communities, and finding which indicators of peace are most valued, peace might be better pursued. We went in search of how people in the states of Bauchi, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Plateau define peace. Here are six of our most important findings.
Thailand’s southernmost region is home to one of Asia’s longest-running armed conflicts. A separatist movement that emerged in the 1960s sought to carve out the Muslim-majority region as an independent state. Levels of violence have oscillated over the course of the conflict, with the most recent insurgency arising in the early 2000s. Despite decades of protracted armed conflict, there is recent cause for optimism.
Following the coup by the Myanmar army on February 1, 2021, fighting exploded immediately in the China-Myanmar border area along a strategic trade route between the two countries. But the outbreak wasn’t about the coup — instead it was a battle between two Chinese-speaking militias over control of the Kokang Special Administrative Zone, a lucrative center for illegal business. The story behind this episode provides a small window on the rise of regional criminal networks under the army’s patronage and how they are enjoying a new lease on life under the junta.
Over the past six months under the junta’s “care,” the chaos and turmoil sparked by the coup has moved the country past the brink of failed state status. Growing armed resistance is emerging in the shrinking area where the military’s unbridled brutality has preserved its veneer of control. In liberated zones and particularly in regions controlled by ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), new forms of governance and even sovereignty are taking shape in the vacuum left by Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing’s war on political reform.
After a recent contested election, the Central African Republic finds itself in a precarious situation. Violence around the election combined with the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 and destructive flooding have caused the humanitarian emergency to reach its worst state in five years. Meanwhile, the CAR government has been accused of engaging in Russian-backed disinformation campaigns targeting domestic civil society, French diplomats and the United Nations peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA), threatening key relationships. Even as the long-simmering issue of hate speech continues to draw fault lines through the country, efforts to combat these campaigns have focused primarily on challenging fake news rather than addressing the underlying fear and prejudice that spoilers use to stoke conflict.
The Afghan government has had its most difficult week fighting the Taliban since the insurgency began. As of this writing, 12 provincial capitals have fallen since last Friday, marking the first time the Taliban have controlled a city since they were ousted in 2001. By some estimates the Taliban control two-thirds of the country. While many experts predicted that the rapid and unconditional withdrawal of U.S. troops would increase Taliban control, few saw it happening this fast. A Taliban takeover of Kabul — once thought to be years away if at all — is now conceivable within months, or even a matter of weeks.
The situation in Afghanistan—and with it the Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship—is likely to worsen in the short term. The prospect of a prolonged civil war or full Taliban takeover now looms large as hopes of a negotiated settlement recede. Whatever the outcome, the countries’ bilateral relationship will continue to be shaped by tensions that have characterized it for more than a century. This report examines these sources of tension and identifies potential openings for engagement that could, over time, become sources of stability and growth.