Archive for the ‘Security’ Category

8
Jul

Fighters from forces aligned with Libya's new unity government fire anti-aircraft guns from their vehicles at Islamic State positions in Algharbiyat area, Sirte, June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

Although there has been some progress in forming a national unity government in Libya, “unity” is a rather inapplicable word for the country. In reality, friction between various political actors remains high. Ultimately, perhaps a form of disunity—confederation, rather than centralization—is the best model for Libya.

Libyan politics: A primer

During the summer of 2014, the Libyan leadership, after an initial hint of cooperation, split into two governments:

  • One, headquartered in Tobruk and based on a secular matrix, was recognized internationally. It received support from the House of Representatives and was abetted by General Khalifa Haftar and his so-called National Libyan Army. Externally, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia have supported this government because of its anti-Islamist ideology. In May 2014, Haftar launched “Operation Dignity” against the Islamist militias, supported by the Zintan brigades (consisting of the Civic, al-Sawaiq, and al-Qaaqa brigades), and the militias coming from the ethnic minorities of Tebu and Fezzan.
  • The other, headquartered in Tripoli, was Islamic in nature. It was supported by the new General National Congress (GNC) and was part of the Libya Dawn group of pro-Islamist militias (which included groups from Misrata, Amazigh, and Tuareg). Qatar, Sudan, and Turkey have supported this government for different reasons, including to earn a more prominent place on the global stage or to support the Muslim Brotherhood.

But it gets more complicated, since it wasn’t just the Tobruk- and Tripoli-based governments that competed to fill the power vacuum post-Gadhafi. The constellation of militias and brigades has changed continuously. There are Salafist groups such as:

  • Ansar al-Sharia Libya (or ASL, located between Benghazi and Derna);
  • Muhammad Jamal Network (between Benghazi and Derna);
  • Al-Murabitun (in the southeast, around Ghat, Ubari, Tasawah, and Murzuq);
  • Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (or AQIM, in the southwest and northeast of Libya); and
  • Ansar al-Sharia Tunisia (or AST, located between Derna and Ajdabiya). Read more…

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5
Jul

RICHARD SOKOLSKY is a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former member of the U.S. Secretary of State’s policy planning staff.

In a pre-retirement interview[1] on May 1, NATO’s top military officer, General Philip Breedlove, warned that the Russian military might not be ten feet tall but was “certainly close to seven.” NATO’s war planners are right to worry about the Russian military threat to its eastern flank. Fortunately, the alliance may be in a stronger position than it thinks—and although its leaders may not realize it, what is important is that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his generals almost certainly do.

NATO’s efforts to build a stronger deterrent and defense posture in the east are necessary and long overdue. But they may not be enough to de-escalate the alliance’s confrontation with Russia and reduce the risk of a direct conflict. Two years after NATO launched plans to beef up defenses on its eastern front, a midcourse correction is needed to reduce the risk of a collision with Russia.

NATO’s perception of the Russian threat has changed dramatically since Moscow gobbled up Crimea. Once thought to be outmanned and outgunned[2] by NATO, Russia is now seen by many observers as a superior military force, poised to overrun an alliance that is “outnumbered, outranged, and outgunned[3]” on its eastern flank. From the West’s perspective, Russia is a revisionist, neoimperialist, and expansionist power determined to overturn the post–Cold War European security order, destroy NATO’s cohesion, and restore its sphere of influence throughout the former Soviet Union. As a military alliance with a collective security commitment at its core, NATO should be reinforcing its exposed eastern flank with a more persistent presence of heavier forces to reassure these countries of NATO’s resolve and capacity to make good on its Article 5 commitment. Military organizations are prone to plan conservatively, and NATO is basing its plans on a worst-case scenario.

From where Putin sits, however, “the correlation of forces,” to use an old Soviet phrase, probably looks quite different. From the Kremlin’s perspective, in its decision to spread east, NATO has muscled in on Russia’s traditional turf. Meanwhile, Moscow believes the United States seeks to subvert the Putin regime by promoting democracy in and around the country. Russia’s estimates of the military balance with NATO are permeated by a deep sense of inferiority in terms of conventional Prompt Global Strike capabilities, nuclear weapons, missile defenses, cyberweapons, and even the much-hyped hybrid forms of warfare. The Russian general staff, like NATO’s military planners, are basing their plans on worst-case thinking as well. Read more…

June 29, 2016; www.foreignaffairs.com

6
Jun

An obscure court in The Hague will soon issue a ruling likely to inflame tensions in the South China Sea and force Washington to clarify how far it is willing to go to defend its allies in Manila.

The international tribunal is due to issue a decision this month over territorial disputes in the strategic waterway that have pitted China against its smaller neighbor, the Philippines. Most experts believe the court will side with Manila on the key issues.

But China has already rejected the court’s authority and vowed to stick to its far-reaching claims over the contested shoals, reefs, and rocks that the Philippines also asserts are its own. With a minuscule navy and coast guard, Manila will be looking to the United States for both diplomatic and military support. But, so far, Washington has stopped short of promising to come to the rescue of the Philippines if its ships clash with Chinese vessels in the South China Sea.

“We’ve had a number of uncomfortable senior-level engagements with the Filipinos over the past few years where they have pressed us, quite hard at times, to make our commitments clear,” a former senior U.S. government official, who was present at some of the discussions, told Foreign Policy. But the United States always declined to clarify its stance, the ex-official said.

The showdown in the South China Sea has been heating up for years, thanks to China’s large-scale land reclamation and aggressive use of fishing fleets and coast guard ships to bully other countries to steer clear of what Beijing considers its territory. Read more…

  • By Dan De Luce is Foreign Policy’s chief national security correspondent., Keith Johnson is a senior reporter covering energy for Foreign Policy.
  • June 2, 2016
1
Jun

Six weeks before a critical summit meeting aimed at bolstering NATO’s deterrence against a resurgent Russia, the alliance is facing a long list of challenges. The first is to find a country to lead the last of four military units to be deployed in Poland and the three Baltic nations.

But that, analysts say, could be the least of its problems.

Security concerns are as high now as they have been since the end of the Cold War. As the immigration crisis has strained relations within the Continent, anxieties have been heightened by Russian military offensives in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and a bombing campaign in Syria that has demonstrated Moscow’s rapidly increasing capabilities. Lately, Russia has talked openly about the utility of tactical nuclear weapons.

Despite the growing threats, many European countries still resist strong measures to strengthen NATO. Many remain reluctant to increase military spending, despite past pledges. Some, like Italy, are cutting back. France is reverting to its traditional skepticism toward the alliance, which it sees as an instrument of American policy and an infringement on its sovereignty.

And that is not to mention the declarations of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, that NATO is “obsolete,” that the allies are “ripping off” the United States and that he would not really be concerned if the alliance broke up. While that may be campaign bluster, it does reflect a growing unwillingness in the United States to shoulder a disproportionate share of the NATO burden, militarily and financially. Read more…

By ; Published on May 31st in the nytimes.com

14
Apr

Out of Africa

Written on April 14, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Africa, Europe, Foreign Policy, International Development, Security

Agadez, NIGER — It’s Monday and that means it’s moving day in Agadez, the northern Niger desert crossroad that is the main launching pad for migrants out of West Africa. Fleeing devastated agriculture, overpopulation and unemployment, migrants from a dozen countries gather here in caravans every Monday night and make a mad dash through the Sahara to Libya, hoping to eventually hop across the Mediterranean to Europe.

This caravan’s assembly is quite a scene to witness. Although it is evening, it’s still 105 degrees, and there is little more than a crescent moon to illuminate the night. Then, all of a sudden, the desert comes alive.

Using the WhatsApp messaging service on their cellphones, the local smugglers, who are tied in with networks of traffickers extending across West Africa, start coordinating the surreptitious loading of migrants from safe houses and basements across the city. They’ve been gathering all week from Senegal, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Chad, Guinea, Cameroon, Mali and other towns in Niger.

With 15 to 20 men — no women — crammed together into the back of each Toyota pickup, their arms and legs spilling over the sides, the vehicles pop out of alleyways and follow scout cars that have zoomed ahead to make sure there are no pesky police officers or border guards lurking who have not been paid off.

It’s like watching a symphony, but you have no idea where the conductor is. Eventually, they all converge at a gathering point north of the city, forming a giant caravan of 100 to 200 vehicles — the strength in numbers needed to ward off deserts bandits.

Poor Niger. Agadez, with its warrens of ornate mud-walled buildings, is a remarkable Unesco World Heritage site, but the city has been abandoned by tourists after attacks nearby by Boko Haram and other jihadists. So, as one smuggler explains to me, the cars and buses of the tourist industry have now been repurposed into a migration industry. There are now wildcat recruiters, linked to smugglers, all across West Africa who appeal to the mothers of boys to put up the $400 to $500 to send them to seek out jobs in Libya or Europe. Few make it, but others keep coming. Read more…

APRIL 13, 2016

www.nyt.com

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