By Dr Sanjaya Baru, Director for Geo-economics and Strategy
As Asia’s rising powers seek to sustain growth and ensure stability, energy security has moved to the forefront of Asian geopolitics. The recent visit by China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar was as much about ensuring energy security for China as it was about China playing a role in maintaining political stability in the Middle East. The visit came against the backdrop of the growing threat of United States-led oil-export sanctions against Iran and China’s need to secure alternative sources of oil and gas. But its unstated purpose was to bolster China’s rising profile in the Persian Gulf and the Muslim world.
As international security forces prepare to depart from Afghanistan, the latest Adelphi book examines the country’s ability to tackle its security problems, overcome corruption and revive its devastated economy. The government faces daunting challenges, ranging from insurgency and cross-border terrorism to the difficulty of reconciling Taliban figures and combatants into a political settlement. It must also cope with persistent regional instability, with its neighbours tempted to step up their interference in Afghan affairs.
The book also contains a chapter dedicated to maps and infographics explaining key demographic, military and economic issues. In this free sample map, we show how the international community has worked together to help develop Afghanistan’s transport infrastructure despite the ever present threat of IEDs and insurgent attacks.
‘For those of us who care about the importance of Afghanistan and worry about its future and thus for our own safety, this book makes fascinating and essential reading.’ Lord Robertson, former Secretary-General of NATO
The book will be launched in London on Wednesday January 11 at 12.30-13.30. Read more
It is a nervous time for the US military and defence-aerospace industry. The US’ new strategic guidance document released last week, entitled ‘Sustaining US leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense’, set out plans to resize US forces for smaller-scale operations. The extent of cuts will not be clear until the president’s budget submission at the end of January but the guidance provides us with an insight into the strategic context within which these decisions will be made.
With the Pentagon planning for over $450bn in cuts over the next ten years, it was widely expected that the review of defence priorities would reflect ‘a moment of transition’ for the US military. Beyond the need to meet the savings noted in the Budget Control Act, the end of the US military presence in Iraq, the drawdown in Afghanistan, the death of Osama Bin Laden and continuing actions against al-Qaeda and its affiliates have been major drivers in the rethink of strategic priorities.
By Virginia Comolli, Research Analyst
On Christmas Day bomb attacks on two churches in the centre of Nigeria and towns in the northern state of Yobe killed 42 people and wounded several more. The group which claimed responsibility was Boko Haram, an extremist Islamic sect which has terrorised the country with attacks and killings since the early 2000s with the supposed goal of establishing sharia law.
Since 2009 Nigeria has witnessed an overall steep increase in Islamist violence that has spread from the northern states and threatened the capital Abuja and other areas in the country’s central region, known as the Middle Belt. Boko Haram has become the most high profile of these Islamist groups- causing over 450 casualties in 2011.
IISS’s Michael Elleman has just been interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman at CFR.org, who writes that: ‘Tensions have heightened between Tehran and Washington in the strategic Strait of Hormuz following increased sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program. Iran test-fired missiles and has threatened to close the strait. This is to signal to the United States and its neighbors in the region that Iran has a deterrent capacity, says Michael Elleman, a leading expert on Iran’s missile development. The threats are also aimed at bolstering leadership domestically, he adds. Elleman says while there has been no evidence since 2003 of Iran developing a nuclear weapons program: ‘Iran certainly is making tremendous headway in developing a range of ballistic missiles that could threaten the cities throughout the Gulf and in Israel.”
Read the full interview at the Council on Foreign Relations