Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Afghan peace process, closing off for the time being a rare opening to resolve a long, stagnant, and unpopular war. Whatever one thinks of the specifics of the deal that the U.S. representative at the talks, Zalmay Khalilzad, had nearly finalized with the Taliban, the episode was a perfect demonstration of the conflicted, often self-defeating view of peace agreements that mires U.S. foreign policy.
Meanwhile, researchers are increasingly understanding the dynamics that drive people to join terrorist groups—unpacking the numerous, complex reasons, and shining light on the local sociopolitical dynamics, something the media is covering more regularly. This new wave of research has a multiplicity of focus areas and employs rigorous methods to offer workable insights on violent extremism. It’s time for policy to catch up to the research.
Violent conflict upends and polarizes societies, disrupting social structures and gender roles. Projects and policies intended to assist communities that are fragile or affected by violence are more successful when they consider the different effects conflict has on men, women, boys, and girls. Approaches to conflict resolution that account for gender issues and include a broader array of society reduce gender-based violence, enhance gender equality, defuse conflict, and lead to more sustainable peace.
Several major developments have rattled the region in recent weeks, including Iraq’s ongoing protests, the U.S. withdrawal from Syria and the death of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi. USIP’s Sarhang Hamasaeed says his death is a major blow to the terrorist group, but “the fact remains that … the enabling environment that gave rise to ISIS” is still present.
After two rounds of presidential elections which sandwiched parliamentary elections, Tunisia has accomplished something that has eluded every other country in the Middle East and North Africa: repeated free and fair democratic elections. And while that milestone may renew the faith of many in the trajectory of Tunisia’s democratic transition, the outcome of these elections is a harbinger of more difficult times.
Conflicts centered on Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia have seized recent global attention, overshadowing the dangerous escalation of the crisis in Kashmir. India’s government in August abrogated the political autonomy of the portion of Kashmir that it governs. To suppress protests, India has had to maintain a severe lockdown—effectively, a form of military rule—over more than 7 million people in the Kashmir valley. While India and Pakistan have avoided military clashes over this spike in their 62-year dispute over Kashmir, Dr. Mujibur Rehman, a scholar on Indian politics at New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Central University, says the international community should organize a high-level factfinding mission to reduce the risk of greater violence.
A chain reaction of events over the past two weeks in Syria have effectively reordered the conflict’s balance of power. Russia has emerged as the key power broker in Syria. Meanwhile, both the Assad regime and Turkey have achieved important gains, while the Kurds have suffered a significant loss. A 10-point deal negotiated between Russia and Turkey—if implemented successfully—will fulfill Turkey’s long-held demand that Kurdish forces be pushed approximately 20 miles off the Syrian-Turkish border. Following a U.S. decision to withdraw the majority of its forces from Syria, the deal also cedes control over significant portions of northeast Syria to the Assad regime and Russia. USIP’s Mona Yacoubian looks at the elements of the Russian-Turkish deal and its implications for Syria and the broader region.
In the aftermath of U.S. troop withdrawal from northeast Syria, USIP’s Mona Yacoubian says “we’re seeing Russia come in and fill the vacuum,” which will have “long-term strategic implications” for stemming a possible reemergence of ISIS as well as U.S. influence in the region.
Sunday marked eight years since longtime Libyan dictator Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi was killed. In the post-2011 aftermath, another military man, Khalifa Haftar, has taken control over Libya’s east and much of its vast southern region, Fezzan. The battle for the capital, Tripoli, between Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), based in the east, and the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the west in Tripoli, has dominated international attention on Libya. But the stability of the south is all too often overlooked. The region is critical to U.S. interests and any effective policy must not only focus on achieving reconciliation between the east and west, but on building stability in Fezzan.
It’s been over a year since the U.S., led by Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad, opened talks with the Taliban aimed at ending the 18-year war. Over that year, Afghan women have demanded a seat at the negotiating table, worried that the hard-won gains made over the last two decades could be in jeopardy. Even with the peace process stalled, “it is vital that the U.S. remain engaged” to ensure that Afghan women’s rights are protected, said Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) last week at the U.S. Institute of Peace’s latest Bipartisan Congressional Dialogue.