By Urmila Venugopalan, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Urmila Venugopalan is the South Asia manager at Oceans Beyond Piracy. You can follow her on Twitter @Urmila_V and @OBPiracySAsia. The views expressed are her own.
Maritime piracy has long been considered the scourge of commercial shipping in the Indian Ocean. Recently, however, a combination of government- and private sector-led action has seen the number of pirate attacks in the region plunge to their lowest levels in almost five years.
This year’s statistics are unusually encouraging: the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported in July that Somali piracy activity fell by almost 60 percent, down from 163 incidents in the first half of 2011 to just 69 in the same period of this year. Somali pirates also hijacked only 13 ships, down from 21, according to the IMB.
Robust cooperation among international navies has certainly played a key role in driving this trend. Regular naval patrols – led by NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield, the EU’s Operation Atlanta, and Combined Task Force 151 – have undoubtedly disrupted several pirate attacks. China, India and Japan have also independently contributed to this effort – in a significant move at the start of this year, the three countries agreed to set aside their rivalries and coordinate their escort convoys in the Gulf of Aden.
By Javid Ahmad, Special to CNN
Javid Ahmad, a native of Kabul, is a program coordinator with the Asia Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington, D.C. The views expressed are his own.
Recent events have underscored the extent to which Afghanistan’s inept leadership undermines the country’s nascent administrative capabilities. Last week, two of President Hamid Karzai’s most powerful cabinet colleagues – Defense Minister Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi – lost no-confidence motions in the Afghan parliament and were disqualified from holding office due to their perceived inaction over a spate of violence. Bismillah Khan was also reportedly accused of carving out his own ethnic Tajik fiefdom within the Afghan police force and alienating and marginalizing Pashtun officials working under him.
As Karzai struggled to find replacements for those two, the Afghan television network Tolo released bank statements purportedly belonging to Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal, which suggested more than $1 million in deposits (keep in mind that Afghan cabinet ministers receive an average monthly salary of $3,500). Zakhilwal’s claims that he was remunerated for his work as consultant before joining the government in 2005 ring hollow – nongovernmental organizations and foreign government entities operating in Afghanistan don’t pay that lavishly. More importantly, all of the deposits coincided with Zakhilwal’s time in the Afghan government as finance minister and as the financial chief of President Karzai’s reelection campaign.
By Michael O’Hanlon, Special to CNN
Michael O’Hanlon is senior fellow at Brookings and author of The Wounded Giant: America’s Armed Forces in an Age of Austerity. The views expressed are his own.
Military strikes against the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Qom, together with other possible targets related to Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, could last for a single day and single sortie – or they could last for several days or even weeks. The latter possibility of course implies American participation too, and probably requires the use of air bases in one or more Gulf states as well, given the likely U.S. interest in using stealthy planes that at present don’t fly from aircraft carriers (though B-2 bombers could fly from Diego Garcia, for example).
So what is the likely effectiveness, and what are the likely risks, of each possible approach? I’d argue that there is there is significant unpredictability about how well an air campaign by Israel in particular would work – not least in terms of how much of the existing Iranian nuclear infrastructure it would destroy, and how long it might take Iran to recover (and that’s even leaving aside the huge issue of how Iran might retaliate).
By Michael Rubin, Special to CNN
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School. He also teaches Afghan history to deploying U.S. Army units. The views expressed are solely those of the author.
More than a decade into the conflict, the Afghan war isn’t going well. Politically, Afghanistan is a mess. While some analysts still say the American counterinsurgency strategy works, Afghans beg to differ. Their country was safer ten years ago than it is today. The problem wasn’t the invasion itself, but rather than aftermath. The mission to deny terrorists a vacuum was essential, so where did the United States go wrong?
Here are the seven key mistakes the United States and its allies have made:
Rapidity of Reform. Cynics may say Afghanistan never changes, but that is nonsense. Afghanistan today is far different than it was 30 years ago, let alone a century ago. The fact is, Afghanistan changes: Just very slowly. The experience of Amanullah Khan in the first decades of the twentieth century and the Saur Revolution in 1978 demonstrate the correlation between rapidity of reform and insurgent backlash. Zahir Shah (r. 1933-1973), on the other hand, moved slower but presided over some of Afghanistan’s most successful reforms. It’s possible to bring good, representative governance to Afghanistan and perhaps even democracy. Just not on a Washington political timeline.
Editor's note: Soner Cagaptay is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a GPS contributor. You can find all his blog posts here. Col. Richard Outzen is a foreign area officer in the U.S. Army. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Soner Cagaptay and Col. Richard Outzen.
By Soner Cagaptay and Col. Richard Outzen, Special to CNN
Only a few years ago, Turkey’s commitment to NATO was in doubt. Some were even suggesting that Turkey would abandon the alliance — or that at least, the alliance should seriously lower its expectations.
But recent events in Syria, including last week's downing of a Turkish plane by Damascus, and Turkish-Iranian competition in the Middle East have been increasing NATO's worth for the Turks.
Turkey has also signed up to join NATO’s missile-defense project, putting its name under what has been NATO’s core mission for decades: meeting common threats with common action by democratic states. (In this modern-day example, it’s Iranian missiles as the threat in question, not Russian tanks.)
For the moment, at least, Turkey has found comfort in NATO’s security. But Ankara’s long-term commitment to the alliance should not be taken for granted, because Turkey has at least two strategic alternatives to NATO.
KING: This year's NATO summit is in Chicago. And topping the official agenda is the transition in Afghanistan, but there are other giant issues for the 34 heads of state attending.
ZAKARIA: The truth is NATO was a defensive alliance. It was designed for, really, to protect against Russia, against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. And ever since 1990 when all that ended, it's been flailing around looking for something to do.
But it is a very useful time when all these heads of state, heads of government get together, and there's always something or the other on the agenda that's pretty crucial. FULL POST
Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst and the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden, from 9/11 to Abbottabad."
It's the diplomatic equivalent of hosting both the World Cup and the World Series in the same country on the same weekend.
On Saturday President Obama welcomes the leaders of the world's most powerful countries to the G8 conference at his country retreat at Camp David in Maryland. And the next day he hosts some two dozen NATO heads of state in Chicago.
The challenges of this Diplopaloozaa include some complicated logistics: How do you get eight world leaders and their delegations comfortably situated in the rustic wood chalets that make up Camp David, and which has never hosted this many heads of state before?
Read more from Peter Bergen about the challenges, the Syria question and the last-minute guest at the NATO summit: Pakistan.
Editor’s Note: This is an edited version of an article from the ‘Oxford Analytica Daily Brief’. Oxford Analytica is a global analysis and advisory firm that draws on a worldwide network of experts to advise its clients on their strategy and performance.
France intends to withdraw its troops from NATO-led operations in Afghanistan by 2013. This is earlier than the previously agreed deadline of 2014. This announcement, coupled with signs that other allies - including the United States - may be rushing to leave Afghanistan, threatens to humiliate the alliance, with severe consequences for trans-Atlantic security.
Every generation of Western politicians has dreaded the possibility of NATO's demise. In the 1960s, governments assumed that the anti-Americanism generated by the Vietnam War would tear the alliance apart. A decade later, there were worries that detente would produce the same result. When the Cold War ended, politicians feared that the 'glue' provided by the Soviet threat would disappear. Yet NATO defied these predictions and survived with an increased membership and enhanced reputation. FULL POST
By Michael O'Hanlon - Special to CNN
With the continued willingness and ability of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to brutally crush his country's opposition, the question about what options we might have to stop the slaughter grows increasingly haunting. I am not currently advocating military intervention, but it is worth surveying the tools at our disposal to contemplate what might come next - if not immediately, then perhaps down the road.
1. Invasion to carry out regime change
Let's start with the extreme option and then work down the list, so to speak. Invasion to carry out regime change, even if done with complete political correctness, a UN mandate, and strong Arab and other Muslim participation, is very unappealing. Syria is not dissimilar from Iraq in size, and as such one would have to think in terms of 100,000 to 150,000 troops for several years of post-invasion stabilization. Casualties to foreign forces alone could number well into the hundreds or low thousands, even if Assad did not use chemical weapons in response.
By James Joyner – Special to CNN's Global Public Square
As the Libya crisis has unfolded these last several months, some long-festering contradictions have come to light.
First, for a variety of reasons, many of us opposed American intervention in the conflict. As horrible as the potential humanitarian crisis in Benghazi could have been, preventing it did not strike us as a vital national interest worthy of going to war. Further, we had and continue to hold doubts about whether the end state — which the United States would have great responsibility for given our role in bringing it about — would be the stable, pro-Western democracy for which we would hope. Also, given fatigue from ten years of constant war fighting and the strains of the global recession, it’s clear there is little appetite for post-conflict reconstruction. FULL POST
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
Back in March, many neoconservatives in Washington were extremely dismissive of the way President Obama was handling the intervention in Libya. They argued that he was doing too little and acting too late – that his approach was too multilateral and lacked cohesiveness. They continuously criticized President Obama for, in the words of an anonymous White House advisor, "leading from behind."
But now that these critics are confronted with the success of the Libya operation, they are changing their tune and claiming paternity of the operation. They are further arguing that if their advice had been heeded, the intervention in Libya would have been swifter and even more successful. But the Libya intervention is so significant precisely because it did not follow the traditional pattern of U.S.-led interventions. Indeed, it launched a new era in U.S. foreign policy. FULL POST