May 17, 2013 by John Price
The Arab Spring that prompted the ouster of authoritarian regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya also led to the rise of Islamists who are bent on creating Islamic states that adhere to Shariah law — and that fate could await Syria after dictator Bashar Assad falls. The democratically elected governments of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya are either led or beset by Islamists.
Libyan President Mohammed Magerief, leader of the General National Congress, is at risk of being overthrown by the Islamist extremists. Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki faces a similar challenge from radical Salafists — members of a fundamentalist Islamic sect. Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood is pressing to create an Islamic state ruled under Shariah law.
May 14, 2013 by John Price
Always unarmed, ambassadors often are protected only by the goodwill of the countries in which they serve. But when hostilities arise, when governments fall, when their very lives are threatened, ambassadors and their staffs can rely only on the will and the strength of their homeland to ensure their security.
Before taking their assignments, U.S. ambassadors are given a presidential Letter of Instruction stating that the secretary of state “has responsibility for the coordination and supervision of all U.S. government activities and operations abroad” and “must protect all United States Government personnel on official duty.” Congressional investigations into the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, have shown that the State Department failed to do just that, breaking its covenant with its diplomatic corps.
As a former U.S. ambassador who had received the Letter of Instruction, I was appalled when then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, testifying before Congress in January, tried to minimize the deaths of U.S. personnel in Benghazi by saying, “What difference at this point does it make?” It makes a big difference. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, State Department officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed when heavily armed extremists overran the U.S. diplomatic compound and, several hours later, assaulted a nearby CIA annex.
May 14, 2013 by Olivia Bartolomei
The world is witnessing a chasm that will set American war technology far above the rest of the world. Whereas drones were once used for land surveillance, now they are being equipped with bombs and are being used for targeted assassinations. There are limited political restraints on the legality and morality of a drone strike. Drones are a dirtier and asymmetrical type of warfare, the inevitability of mass casualties, which begs the question of morality, as well as the prospect of vulnerable robotic systems.
Manned air warfare has been used for over a hundred years. However, with the development of Unarmed Air Vehicles (UAVs), the need for human pilots has been eliminated. During the First World War the U.S. Navy used “air torpedoes”, unmanned Curtis biplanes, with attached TNT, designed to nosedive at a target and explode. However, the planes never gained enough interest before the end of the war in 1918. After many other failed attempts to develop a useable drone, the project remained stagnant for years. Then in the 1950s the U.S. Military created a “proto-drone” known as the Cruise Missile, and with that design, engineers were able to tinker with the mechanics to create the “modern drone” in the early 1990s. During this time drones have been used specifically for surveillance and it wasn’t until the late 1990s that the U.S. Air Force started attaching missiles to their unarmed aircrafts. America started flying drones over the Middle East in 2000 and the first non-military supported drone strike was on February 4th, 2002.
May 10, 2013 by The Social Architects
Even though the protracted internal armed conflict has ended, community members have been unable to return to their day-to-day lives. Under the administration of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s militarization has continued unabated. The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) has established numerous checkpoints and camps near peoples’ homes. Military personnel frequently patrol these areas – day and night. Sadly, the military’s intrusion into practically all aspects of civilian affairs remains a way of life in the conflict-affected North and East.
At the entrance to Kanthi Kiramam (Kilinochchi), there is a small army camp. Members of the 7th Battalion of the Sri Lanka National Guard (7SLNG) reside there. A checkpoint is located on the other side of the camp, adjacent to a bus stop. At least three members of the military are actually living at that checkpoint. A brief history of this checkpoint may be of interest to both domestic and international observers.
Checkpoint Installation: Sequence of Events and Dubious Reasoning
Community members opposed the establishment of this checkpoint. Many community members said that such a checkpoint would frighten people while waiting for the bus.
May 8, 2013 by David H. Shinn
A new study estimates that famine and severe food insecurity in Somalia claimed the lives of about 258,000 people between October 2010 and April 2012, including 133,000 children under five. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia and the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) commissioned the study.
A two page summary of the study said a combination of events triggered the famine. First, the eastern Horn of Africa experienced the driest period in 60 years. Second, donors delivered a low amount of humanitarian aid in southern Somalia in 2010 and much of 2011. In many areas, conflict and insecurity impeded humanitarian aid and access. You can access the complete 87 page report titled “Mortality among populations of southern and central Somalia affected by severe food insecurity and famine during 2010-2012″ by following the link in the summary.
May 7, 2013 by Arafat Kabir Upol
This past Sunday’s clash between Islamist groups and security forces has turned the capital city of Bangladesh, Dhaka into a ghost town. Does it blacken Bangladesh’s image as a moderate Muslim country? On Sunday this week, approximately half a million supporters of a new movement-Hefazat-e Islam (protector of Islam) staged a sit-in at each entrance point to Dhaka in order to isolate Dhaka from the rest of the country.
This later turned into a violent battle with police that cost at least fifteen lives with scores of injured. Hefazat, however, claims that the actual death toll is higher than that. As the live telecast has been suspended and some areas blacked out while the civil defence agencies go into action to disperse the staunch activists of Hefazat, it has become difficult to ascertain the number of people killed by police. The situation still looks dire in Dhaka.
The virtual battlefield of Dhaka streets may send an obscure message to the world. Is Bangladesh en route to becoming an Islamic state?
May 7, 2013 by Mahamoud A. Jimale
Somalis do not need to focus on topics that are fundamentally weakening their society. Somalis are at a crossroads of putting together a society that has been in disarray for more than two decades; mired by a long civil war and social fragmentation prompted by tribalism.
Tribalism is ugly and was rejected by the ancient Greeks and developed societies. The failure to recognize the adverse consequences of tribalism in Somalia especially in the areas of social and economic development was hindered by political opportunists who pushed for political and economic spoils by appealing to false nationalism.
April 29, 2013 by David H. Shinn
Laura Hammond, School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, published an article titled “Somalia Rising: Things Are Starting to Change for the World’s Longest Failed State” in volume 7, issue 1 (2013) of the Journal of Eastern African Studies.
The article examines some of the challenges facing the new Somali government and assesses the dynamics which allowed the emergence of relative newcomers into important roles, especially President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. She wonders if the recent optimism is justified and will it be sustained?
April 27, 2013 by David H. Shinn
American jihadi Omar Hammami, who left Daphne, Alabama, years ago and eventually joined al-Shabaab said on 26 April 2013 that he was the subject of an assassination attempt at a tea shop somewhere in Somalia after falling out with al-Shabaab. Associated Press journalist Jason Straziuso reported the story in an article titled “American Jihadi in Somalia Tweets on Kill Attempt.”
April 26, 2013 by David H. Shinn
The International Peace Institute (IPI) published a paper in April 2013 titled “Peace Operations, the African Union and the United Nations: Toward More Effective Partnerships.” The authors are Arthur Boutellis, research fellow at IPI, and Paul D. Williams, associate professor in the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.
The paper analyzes the evolution of collaboration between the UN and AU on peace operations and asks how they can cooperate more effectively. It looks at the AU mission in Somalia as a case study that exemplifies some of the positive and negative aspects of the UN-AU relationship. The paper then summarizes some of the challenges that will need to be overcome if the two organizations are to optimize their collaboration and deploy legitimate and effective peace operations. It concludes by offering some practical recommendations for enhancing UN-AU relations.
April 25, 2013 by Sudhanshu Tripathi
Once again President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are proceeding ahead with a major offensive against rebels in Jdaidet Artouz and Jdaidet al-Fateh suburban districts – around 15 kms southwest of the Syrian capital, Damascus – killing countless in the process. In fact, the government troops, as reported, were trying to encircle the contested town of al-Quasyr, so as to quell gains made by the rebels.
Although the precise number of those killed in the latest fighting has not been ascertained, the UK based, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that the death toll might rise to as high as 250, mostly due to indiscriminate shelling. The fact stands, further substantiated by the records of another activist group called Local Coordination Committee, which estimated the casualties to be an even higher. It said that most of the victims were killed in Jdaidet Artouz.
April 24, 2013 by John Price
The influence of radical Islam is on the rise around the world — and in the United States. Mosques and Islamic schools called madrassas increasingly are teaching extreme, fundamentalist interpretations of the religion that presumably inspired the Chechen-born suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings.
“The way to gain influence among the Muslim community is to control the mosques — to control what people think — to have the right imam preach the right message,” says Steven Emerson, an award-winning journalist and author.
Mr. Emerson, executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, shared with me shocking insights about the growth of radical Islam in the United States, noting that terrorist network cells have grown rapidly since 1991.
April 23, 2013 by John Price
In January, French President Francois Hollande responded to interim Malian President Dioncounda Traore’s urgent request for military help to keep Islamists from advancing to the capital, Bamako. Since then, the coalition of French and African troops have driven Islamist extremists affiliated with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa from the northern towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal although sporadic suicide bombings have continued.
On April 11, Malian Prime Minister Diango Sissoko visited Gao, the highest-ranking government leader to do so since the French incursion in January. His mission was to thank Malian troops and reassure the 60,000 residents that elections to form a national government would go forward in July.
The plan includes restoring a government presence in the town and more security. When the Islamists took over northern Mali in March 2012, government officials fled, leaving village leaders to fend for themselves. Malian government leaders fear their army cannot resist the Islamists alone. Mr. Sissoko said that French troops need to stay, at least until stability is achieved.
April 23, 2013 by Scott Firsing
Editor’s Note: In partnership with YPIA, we are especially delighted to cross-post this 2013 list. The 2012 Top 5 winners can be found here.
YPIA is once again happy to announce its top five young megastars under 40 years old who take time out of their busy schedules to help the African continent. This is an annual award and serves as a precursor to the May release of YPIA’s top 35 under 35.
And the winners are:
April 21, 2013 by David H. Shinn
Chatham House published in April 2013 a briefing paper titled “Djibouti: Changing Influence in the Horn’s Strategic Hub” by David Styan, Birkbeck College, University of London. The study emphasized the expansion of the US Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) base in Djibouti, the reconfiguration of France’s military presence and the establishment of Japanese and other military facilities there. Djibouti has become an international maritime and military laboratory where new forms of cooperation are being developed.
Djibouti has accelerated plans for regional economic integration. Building on close ties with Ethiopia, existing port upgrades and electricity grid integration will be enhanced by the development of the northern port of Tadjourah. These strategic and economic shifts have yet to be matched by internal political reforms, and growth needs to be linked to strategies for job creation and a renewal of domestic political legitimacy.