More than a year since the territorial defeat of ISIS, the region is still reeling in the wake of the self-styled caliphate’s destruction. Kurdish authorities operate two dozen detention facilities in northeast Syria holding thousands of former ISIS fighters. On October 5, Kurdish authorities in charge of al-Hol said they would free the 24,000 Syrians in the camp, where conditions have become increasingly unsustainable. USIP’s Mona Yacoubian, Chris Bosley, and Leanne Erdberg Steadman look at what led to the decision to release these Syrians and the challenges ahead for reintegrating them into their communities.
As Afghan peace talks in Doha move forward, a vital component to the success of any peace deal will be how Afghanistan’s security sector can reform to sustain peace after more than 40 years of violence, and how the international community can best assist. This effort would benefit from recalling the lessons of another time when there was need for a comprehensive reconsideration of Afghanistan’s security sector: the two years immediately following the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban regime. Despite the many important changes, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) have undergone and a dramatically different context, key lessons from 2002-03 remain relevant to guide thinking ahead of and after a peace agreement.
Over two months later, there are still more questions than answers regarding the Beirut explosion that killed over 200 people and damaged large swaths of Lebanon’s capital city. Meanwhile, the fallout from the explosion has forced the resignation of Lebanon’s government, which had already been under fire after months of protests over corruption and a deteriorating economy. USIP’s Elie Abouaoun and Osama Gharizi look at where the blast investigation stands, what’s holding up the formation of a new government, and what a new outbreak of COVID-19 means for Lebanon.
Iraqis hit the streets in unprecedented numbers last October, calling for political and economic reforms, greater job opportunities for youth, and better government services. In the year since, the country has been rocked by a number of developments, including growing U.S.-Iran tensions playing out on Iraqi soil, the COVID pandemic, and increasing citizen disenchantment with the country’s political system and its sectarian foundation. USIP’s Sarhang Hamasaeed and Elie Abouaoun look at where Iraq’s protest movement stands today, the economic impact of COVID, the prime minister’s call for early elections, and U.S.-Iraq relations.
Many parts of Pakistan have always struggled with flooding, especially over the last decade, due in part to climate change as weather events have become more extreme. But for Pakistan’s largest city Karachi, August saw immense rainfall—breaking all previous records in the past century—and widespread flooding that brought the city to a standstill. USIP’s Jumaina Siddiqui and Cyril Almeida look at why Karachi’s flooding situation is so dire, how contentious political dynamics have impeded governance reforms in the city, and what can be done to prevent future humanitarian disasters.
As people in Belarus continue massive protests against an autocratic ruler and a rigged election, risks are rising that Russia’s military could take a direct role, less visible than an overt invasion, projecting power westward toward NATO and threatening Ukraine from the north. The dramatic images of this prodemocracy movement resemble those from neighboring Ukraine, yet one difference is critical. The Belarus uprising seeks no sharp break from Russia or turn toward the European Union or NATO. So effective policies to advance Belarusians’ democratic hopes should work for the long term.
More than two months after a massive explosion rocked Beirut, the country’s twin political and economic crises continue to spiral while a COVID crisis descends upon the Mediterranean nation. International aid for repairing billions in damage and bolstering Lebanon’s flailing economy is largely contingent on sweeping political reforms that have yet to materialize. After another Lebanese prime minister resigned last month, President Michel Aoun has called for consultations next week with members of parliament to name a new premier. This comes days before the October 17 anniversary of mass protests that broke out last year, which began as demonstrations against unpopular taxes but rapidly expanded to calls for an overhaul of the country’s sectarian-based political system.
For the third time in 15 years protesters in the Kyrgyz Republic capital of Bishkek have seized and set fire to the “White House,” the seat of parliament and presidential staff. The situation is chaotic with multiple political actors claiming to be in charge and the threat of chaos expanding to the provinces. It is a scene all too familiar to Kyrgyzstan in the last 15 years, leading to a cycle of protests and calls for advancing democracy followed by backsliding into authoritarianism. While working to stabilize the situation in the short term, the United States and regional actors should be cognizant of the country’s deep regional and ethnic fault lines and support actors in Kyrgyzstan who will address them so that this time the cycle does not repeat itself.
When Afghan officials and international donors meet next month to consider future aid commitments to Afghanistan, they will face a changed situation from their last gathering four years ago. Then, the focus was on tying financial assistance to government reform in the midst of ongoing war with the Taliban; peace was barely on the agenda. Now, peace talks between the Taliban and the government have begun, and a new Afghan administration is still taking shape with an agreement that resolved the disputed 2019 presidential election. Meanwhile, fighting and casualties remain at unsustainable levels and the country is reckoning with the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences.
At the turn of the century, Pakistan had the highest GDP per capita when compared with India, Bangladesh, and Vietnam. Twenty years later, it is at the bottom of the group. Political upheaval, a violent insurgency fed by the war in Afghanistan, and the inability of successive governments to carry out reforms are to blame for this decline. Today, a polarized political environment and elite intrigue among civilian, judicial, and military institutions has made sustainable economic growth and reforms that much more unlikely. The COVID-19 pandemic has further sharpened the challenge.