South Sudan: Friendship Over Fear

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A civil war that has plagued South Sudan, the world’s newest country, over the past four years verges on ethnic genocide and has left half the prewar population in need of humanitarian aid. As the international community tries to help end the violence, the U.S. Institute of Peace brought two of the country’s promising young leaders—one from each side of the divide—to Washington to pursue research on ways to heal the rifts. By the end of their stay, they may have learned just as much from each other.Read more……

 

 

Allies Under Attack: The Terrorist Threat to Europe

Georgia Holmer testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade.

By: Georgia Holmer

I testify before you today as the Director of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) at the United States Institute of Peace, although the views expressed here are my own. USIP was established by Congress over 30 years ago as an independent, national institute to prevent and resolve violent conflicts abroad, in accordance with U.S. national interests and values. Violent extremism and terrorism pose significant challenges to peace and security in our world today, and understanding its causes and finding ways to address it are priorities for USIP.  Read more……..

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Defusing Violent Extremism in Fragile States

Cases in Sahel, Lake Chad and Other Regions Illustrate What Works

By: Fred Strasser, United States  Institute of Peace

In Nigeria, a radio call-in show with local Islamic scholars provided an alternative to extremist propaganda. In Somalia, training youth in nonviolent advocacy for better governance produced a sharp drop in support for political violence. In the Lake Chad region, coordinating U.S. defense, development and diplomatic efforts helped push back Boko Haram and strengthened surrounding states. Such cases illustrate ways to close off the openings for extremism in fragile states, experts said in a discussion at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Three men who defected from the al-Shabab militant group stay at an undisclosed location in Somalia in June of 2014.

Noor, Bashir and Ahmed, men who defected from the al-Shabab militant group, stay at an undisclosed location in Somalia. Photo Courtesy of The New York Times/Daniel Berehulak
For 15 years, the annual rankings of the Fragile states Index  have prompted the question of what works and what doesn’t in improving governance, enhancing stability and, increasingly, in reducing violent extremism, said Patricia Taft, programs director at the nonprofit Fund for Peace, which produces the Fragile States Index.From the Sahel to North Africa to South Asia, fragility generates the political grievances, social alienation and economic failure that fuel extremism, the panelists said at the event, part of the regular Conflice Prevetnion and Resolution Froum . Fragility, as defined last year by the USIP-led Fragility Study Group , is the absence or breakdown of a social contract between people and their government, with institutional weakness and a lack of political legitimacy.

The impact of fragility—and the openings it provides for extremist influence—surfaces throughout a society, the panelists said. Read more…….

 

Afghanistan: Is Peace Possible Without Justice?

By: Belquis Ahmadi

When Gulbuddin Hekmatyar returned to Kabul on May 9 after two decades in hiding, the former warlord received a hero’s welcome by authorities who had struck the peace deal that ushered him back. His convoy was escorted by helicopters and armed police. His supporters gleefully marched through the streets of the Afghan capital and drove pickup trucks showing off their machine guns and grenade launchers. In the presidential palace, a red carpet was rolled out for Hekmatyar, along with other former mujahedeen leaders accused of war crimes.

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Longtime Afghan faction leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar speaks in one of his first public appearances after nearly 20 years in hiding as he returned to Kabul in recent weeks following a peace deal with the government. (Tolo TV screenshot)
But the warm embrace by government officials does not necessarily extend to the people of Kabul. Many remember the havoc, bloodshed and devastation Hekmatyar inflicted on the city during the inter-factional fight for control of Kabul among militant groups in the 1990s.

Hekmatyar has factional supporters, and indeed many other mujahedeen warlords have much blood on their hands and have avoided any accountability. But to many Afghans, Hekmatyar remains a particularly notorious warlord who assassinated hundreds if not thousands of intellectuals in Afghanistan and Pakistan during that time. His militia, Hezb-e-Islami, which is being normalized today as a political party, was responsible for such atrocities as throwing acid at educated Afghan refugee women and raining rockets down on Kabul, killing thousands of people and internally displacing many more.

Kabul residents remember Hekmatyar’s group blocking the supply road to the capital city, forcing women and young children to walk for miles just to buy a sack of flour or cooking oil. Many men who tried to make the journey on foot through Hezb-e-Islami’s stronghold in the Char-Asyab district, approximately eight miles south of Kabul, never made it back alive.

But now the Afhgan government’s peace deal with Hekmatyar, in which he renounced violence and pledged to abide by the country’s constitution, is being hailed as a historic achievement by local authorities and foreign diplomats. As recently as 2003, the U.S. State Department listed him as a terrorist, accusing Hekmatyar of participating in and supporting attacks by al-Qaida and the Taliban.

To reach the deal, Hekmatyar’s name was taken off the United Nations terrorist list. He and his men are getting free accommodation and security in Kabul. But instead of expressing remorse for his crimes against civilians, or asking forgiveness, Hekmatyar is urging people to forget the past.

Is that even possible? Would an effort by Afghans to simply erase Hekmatyar’s war crimes from their memories bring the necessary closure to allow the fragile country to develop long-term democratic institutions?

Hardly. Unless past crimes are addressed in a fair manner in accordance with Afghanistan’s laws and the country’s obligations under international treaties, the future cannot be stable and the violence will spill into future generations. Research by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission as well as international human rights bodies has uncovered ample evidence of atrocities on all sides of the conflict that victims want addressed.

That’s why an Afghan citizens’ group recently sent a petition  to the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) requesting justice for the victims of crimes allegedly committed by Hekmatyar and his group.

In response, the head of UNAMA said, “Afghan citizens and others who have been victims of atrocities must not be deprived of their right to judicial redress.”

Any attempt by the Afghan government or the international community to strike a peace deal with those responsible for war crimes must ensure accountability and justice.

Put simply, there is no peace without justice.

Source : USIP

Ebola to Piracy: Sustaining U.S.-China Work in Africa

By: Jennifer Staats

U.S. and Chinese leaders have worked with counterparts across Africa to combat a range of security threats on the continent, from Ebola to piracy to instability in Sudan and South Sudan. A recent United Nations Security Council Resolution condemning terrorist attacks and violence in the Lake Chad Basin illustrates that more joint efforts are needed to support Africa’s stability and development. Unfortunately, distrust and skepticism between the United States and China are getting in the way of further progress. But there may be a way to prevent backsliding.

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U.S.-China counter piracy exercise. Photo Courtesy of U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary M. Keen/Released
Initial trilateral efforts in Africa have revealed three key lessons for effective cooperation, according to experts in a recent discussion at USIP.  First, successful efforts must be African-led and should work through existing African institutions. Second, leadership matters, and the U.S. and Chinese ambassadors in Africa play a critical role in making collaboration possible. Third, engagement must be sustained, holistic, and long-term, rather than ad hoc.

Although both the United States and China want to see an economically prosperous and secure Africa, there are many barriers to closer cooperation. They include competition, lack of transparency, different definitions of “stability,” and bureaucratic stovepipes.

Three ambassadors and an associate director at the Carter Center in Atlanta considered ways to overcome these hurdles in a March 2017 article in Foreign Affairs.

“The goal should be to transform occasional moments of cooperation—such as the shared efforts of China, the United States, and African governments during the Ebola crisis—into what China expert Kurt Campbell has called “habits of cooperation” on those areas where all parties largely agree.”

Campbell and the four authors addressed the point at the USIP event on April 11, held to discuss progress in a three-year project between the institute and the Carter Center, called the Africa-China-U.S. Consultation for Peace. The program is being conducted in coordination with the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel.

In addition to the authors’ recommendations, experts identified other opportunities for collaboration:

  • Coordinate humanitarian assistance to the Lake Chad Basin to avoid duplication and gaps.
  • Conduct joint research on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, including piracy as well as illegal and unreported fishing.
  • Strengthen maritime security structures in West Africa, particularly the Interregional Coordination Center in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
  • Develop African merchant marines to facilitate trade.
  • Address threats to food security and public health.
  • Build the capacity of African peacekeepers and establish a reliable source of funding for African Union peace operations.
  • Invest in civilian security, governance, economic rehabilitation, effective community-police relations, and the judicial and security architecture in the Lake Chad Basin.
  • Align development assistance, infrastructure projects, and economic investment with conflict prevention efforts.

The need for three-way cooperation in Africa remains high.  Where direct collaboration is not possible, one alternative might be to pursue complementary policies that still would allow parties to work in parallel toward the same goals, as long as they maintain some openness and transparency.

The United States and China should commit to adding these issues to the new U.S.-China Consultative Dialogue, to ensure these opportunities get the attention they deserve. The challenges facing Africa cannot be ignored just because leaders in Washington and Beijing cannot overcome their mistrust. Instead, the three parties must find creative ways to pursue complementary efforts that will help everyone realize their shared interests.

Source : United States Institute of Peace

Top Civic Leaders Aid Nigerian Fight to Curb Extremism

Muslim and Catholic Clerics Pursue Strategy with Retired Army Chief, Foreign Minister and Others

By: Fred Strasser

Nigeria’s Roman Catholic cardinal urges his flock to embrace diversity. The spiritual leader of the country’s Muslims leads efforts to prevent radicalization and condemns Boko Haram. A former United Nations envoy advocates for professionalism among civil servants. A retired army chief of staff presses for the government to reach out more to alienated groups. These leaders and seven other prominent figures form a new high-level advisory group helping northern Nigeria’s powerful state governors address the social, religious and political forces that fuel extremist violence.

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The crisis in Nigeria’s north—including the Boko Haram insurgency and a looming famine that is related to the conflict—have forced more than 2 million people from their homes and destabilized other countries in the Lake Chad Basin. Confronting these conflicts falls in significant measure to Nigeria’s elected state governors, according to USIP Senior Advisor Johnnie Carson, a former assistant secretary of state for African affairs.The 11-member senior working group, brought together by the U.S. Institute of Peace to support a strategic approach to dealing with the sources of violent conflict in the north, is made up of some of the leading figures in Nigerian public life.

There is a limit to how much arms and guns can do in this matter.

Nigerian Cardinal John Onaiyekan
The Sultan of Sokoto,Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, is the highest authority in mainstream Islam in Nigeria. He and Roman Catholic Cardinal John Onaiyekan, the Archbishop of the capital, Abuja, are well-known for their Interfaith Initiative for Peace, which seeks to defuse conflict over issues ranging from elections to land use. Abubakar often says in public that terrorism has no place in Islam. Onaiyekan, in a Christmas television address last year, urged “peace and harmony” between religions and within each faith, in a country where divisions include the role of moral norms in legal codes.“We need to agree on the place of religion in our nation,” the Cardinal said. “If we sincerely want a nation that is united and integrated, we must work seriously towards one law for every citizen.”

Other members of the senior working group include former Chief of Defense Staff and Chief of Army Staff General Martin Luther Agwai, who led the U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur and last year headed a committee investigating violence in Kaduna state; Ibrahim Gambari, a former minister of foreign affairs and U.N. under-secretary-general who now heads the Savannah Center for Diplomacy, Democracy and Developmen in Abuja; Fatima Balla Abubakar, a well-known diplomat and politician; and Aisha Murtala Muhammed, the founder and chief executive of the Murtala Muhammed Foundation, an organization that seeks to bolster business philanthropy throughout Nigeria and Africa.

Thinking Strategically

“The working group aims to expand the conversation from ‘poverty is a cause of conflict’ to thinking practically and strategically,” said Oge Onugobu, a USIP senior program officer for Africa. “For example, where do you locate a school so no one feels disadvantaged? Or does some group appear to have impunity from prosecution? These are things the group, with its deep expertise, can help governors to consider and plan for.”

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H.E. Cardinal John Onaiyekan and Dr. Usman Bugaje in discussion at the senior working group meeting. Dr. Bugaje is an advisor to the Sultan of Sokoto.
With a population of 180 million, Nigeria is the continent’s most populous state and its biggest democracy. More than half of the country’s citizens live in northern Nigeria.USIP has worked for more than a decade with Nigerian civic, religious and government leaders to prevent or halt violent local conflicts. The initiative with the northern governors is funded by the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, and USIP collaborates with a local partner, the Center for Democracy and Development, in Abuja. Onubogu leads USIP’s programs on Nigeria and attended the senior working group’s first meeting on February 28 in Abuja.

A dozen of the northern governors met at USIP in October. They broadly  concluded that ending the war and poverty plaguing their region requires initiatives for education, reconciliation and political inclusion of minorities and women. The working group is aimed at developing plans to address those needs and keeping the governors focused on implementing them.

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Amb. Fatima Balla makes a point, as Dr. Chris Kwaja looks on.
The full working group meets with the governors next month for the first time. In preparation, it will conduct a review of peacebuilding initiatives in northern Nigeria. It also will examine a new peacebuilding organization in Plateau state to see if it’s a model other northern states could use.

A Microcosm of Nigeria

The Plateau State Peacebuilding Agency, a publicly-funded body under the governor’s office, was set up last year to reduce conflict in a state considered a microcosm of Nigeria for its social, ethnic and religious stresses. Over two decades, more than 5,000 people have died in communal violence in Plateau state, stalling economic development and shredding community trust.

The current governor determined that past crisis-oriented attempts to end the conflicts—from interfaith dialogues to citizen input to the use of security forces—were inadequate. The agency seeks to create institutional mechanisms for long-term peacebuilding, including conflict-resolution training, coordination among civil society groups and ongoing interfaith dialogue.

The working group’s efforts to advance stability in Nigeria remain urgent despite what President Muhammadu Buhari calls the”technical defeat” of Boko Haram, said Onubogu. The Cardinal said the same in his Christmas message, lauding Buhari’s efforts against the insurgency but saying, “It is not yet all over.”

“There is a limit to how much arms and guns can do in this matter,” he said. “Religious communities and leaders must come out to play their role, which is often very efficient and very cost effective, in comparison with budgets for military action.”

Source :USIP

Things Will Become Alright When Nigerians Return To The Basic Morals and Value

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Nigerians have been advised to return to the basic tenets  of morals and values, as a condition for having a sane and less problematic society.

This advice was given by the Commandant General of Zion Chaplain and Charity Services, Ibadan, Nigeria, Chaplain Julius Taiwo , in a chat.

”Majority of us are Ministers of the gospel, and  we believe in the core values of every personality and we believe that until we go back to the basic standard or the norms and values which were at the beginning, nothing will work. Until every individual re-examines himself or herself, we can’t get it right. When morals are removed from society, then expect anything, without morals, we can’t do anything.

Chaplain Taiwo lamented that parents had continuously ignored their domestic obligations saying ”we did not get to this stage suddenly”.

He called for concerted efforts to reverse the trend, adding, ”we should give  total support to the present administration by been law abiding, and praying for those in Government. If some are getting it wrong, some will  get it right, we should not lose hope”,Chaplain Taiwo asserted.

He maintained that Zion Chaplain and Charity Services focused its training on integrity, self-esteem and moral values, as a step towards equipping people with all they need to become ‘Men of Purpose”.

Generals May Launch New ISIS Raids Without Trump’s OK

The commander in chief is taking heat—and hearing cheers—for a raid in Yemen that killed a SEAL. But for the next mission, Trump may take himself out of the loop altogether.

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The White House is considering delegating more authority to the Pentagon to greenlight anti-terrorist operations like the SEAL Team 6 raid in Yemen that cost the life of a Navy SEAL, multiple U.S. officials tell The Daily Beast. It’s part of an effort to step up the war on the so-called Islamic State.

President Donald Trump has signaled that he wants his defense secretary, retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, to have a freer hand to launch time-sensitive missions quickly, ending what U.S. officials say could be a long approval process under President Barack Obama  that critics claimed stalled some missions by hours or days.

In declared war zones, U.S. commanders have the authority to make such calls, but outside such war zones, in ungoverned or unstable places like Somalia, Libya, or Yemen, it can take permissions all the way up to the Oval Office to launch a drone strike or a special-operations team.

Trump’s subsequent defense of the Yemen raid, and discussion of accelerating other counterterrorist operations, shows his White House will be less risk averse to the possibility of U.S.—or civilian—casualties, unlike the Obama White House, which military officials say was extremely cautious to the point of frustrating some military commanders and counterterrorist operators.

Yet that added authority might give Mattis and senior military officers pause, after Trump blamed military leaders Tuesday for the loss of Navy Seal Senior Chief Petty Officer William”Ryan” Owens  during the fraught Jan. 28th raid against al Qaeda in Yemen, instead of accepting responsibility for the raid’s outcome as commander in chief.

“This was a mission that was started before I got here,” Trump said Tuesday during a Fox News interview. “They explained what they wanted to do—the generals—who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”

Owens’s father told Miami Herald  he believes the raid was rushed and unnecessary, and refused to meet Trump at Dover Air Force Base when his son was returned home.

“I can understand people saying that. I’d feel—What’s worse? There’s nothing worse,” Trump said of the father’s reaction. “This was something that they were looking at for a long time… and according to Mattis it was a very successful mission. They got tremendous amounts of information.”

In Trump’s first address to Congress, he saluted Owens’s widow, Carryn, who was there as a guest. Tears streamed down her face as the president hailed the fallen Navy SEAL as “a warrior, and a hero.”

He added that he’d just “reconfirmed” with Mattis that the raid was “highly successful” and “generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemies.” The amount of information gathered is still a matter of debate, however, NBC News reported Monday that after a month of examining what was captured on the scene, the raid has yielded little intelligence. The White House subsequently disputed that report.

“Missions of this type provide insights into AQAP’s disposition, capability, and intentions—information we otherwise do not have access to,” said Central Command spokesman Maj. Josh T. Jacques on Wednesday.

Despite the controversy, Trump has signaled that he wants to operate more like the CEO he was in the private sector in such matters, and delegate even more power to Mattis, which may mean rewriting one of President Barack Obama’s classified Presidential Policy Directives on potentially lethal operations in countries where the U.S. is not officially involved in combat.

The National Security Council spokesman was not immediately able to comment.

Former Obama administration officials tell The Daily Beast they’d already streamlined the approvals process for counterterrorism raids, following the failed 2014 mission to rescue U.S. hostages James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and Kayla Mueller, who were being held by ISIS in Syria. The hostages were moved shortly before U.S. special operators arrived on the scene.

“Obama gave a lot of leash to commanders in the field—but not on everything,” said one former senior Obama administration official. “It’s all about controlling escalation. Do I want to give someone else the authority to get me deeper into a war?”

The official explained that in some cases, Obama deemed it necessary to push authority down to his commanders, as when he gave the Navy SEALs the green light to shoot their way out of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, though firing on Pakistani troops might have triggered armed conflict with Islamabad.

Obama used to give Mattis pre-delegation authority to act when he was head of Central Command on some issues, but not others, the official said. “Will you delegate authority if an Iranian boat gets close, I can take it out? Most presidents will think carefully about that,” he said. “There’s usually a healthy back-and-forth to come up with the right balance.” The official spoke anonymously to discuss the sensitive discussions on approving raids.

Trump officials believe loosening the permissions process can help turn up the heat against ISIS—and counterterrorist-focused agencies like the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are lining up new targets in anticipation of more numerous and more rapid approvals.

One model being considered is pre-delegating authority to Mattis on extremely sensitive operations like hostage rescues; for raids or drone strikes against pre-approved targets, that authority could be pushed much further down the chain of command—all the way down to the three-star general who runs JSOC. If his teams spot a target that’s already on the White House approved high-value target list, the elite force will be able to move into action, informing the national-security apparatus of the operation but not having to wait for permission.

Word of discussions about loosening permissions to strike comes despite criticism that the Jan. 28 raid in central Yemen against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was approved so quickly that it was launched without proper planning, and botched when al Qaeda fighters heard the SEALs approaching, kicking off a deadly firefight.

SEAL Owens was killed and six U.S. troops were wounded during the fighting, and the “hard landing” of the would-be medical-evacuation aircraft.

Owens’s father wants the decision process investigated. There are already three Pentagon investigations underway, according to Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis: the pro-forma investigation into the combat death; another into the loss of an Osprey rescue helicopter that was so damaged that it had to be left behind and destroyed; and another investigation into the allegations of civilian casualties from the raid.

Yemeni officials reported several women and children were killed. That included the 8-year-old daughter of former AQAP cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, according to the girl’s grandfather in comments to the AP.(Former AOAP cleric Awlaki, a U.S citizen, helped inspire followers with his online sermons until he was killed by a U.S drone strike in 2011.)

The Yemeni government reacted to the raid with a statement, reiterating “its firm position that any counterterrorism operations carried out in Yemen should continue to be in consultation” with Yemen’s civil-war-embattled government, and include “precautionary measures to prevent civilian casualties.”

Special Operations Commander Gen. Tony Thomas pushed back on the notion that the raid was poorly or hastily planned. He told reporters in Washington, D.C., recently that the raid preparation was “absolutely not” rushed or in any way disorganized.

And the SEAL raiders never lost the element of surprise, two U.S. officials said. But the raiders “didn’t expect the whole town to come out armed and fighting,” said one. Pentagon spokesman Davis said women fighters came out firing from several locations as the SEAL team hit its target, contributing to casualties on both sides.

One U.S. official told The Daily Beast that the raid garnered possibly “the most intelligence ever netted” on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, including information that will help U.S. intelligence map the network of AQAP followers and how they operate. Central Command stumbled when trying to prove that, however, by releasing an al Qaeda training video captured by the SEAL task force during the raid—but didn’t realize it had been disseminated by AQAP nine years earlier.

This story was updated to add comment from Central Command.

Source : The Daily Beast

As Netanyahu, Trump Meet, How to Keep Doors Open to Peace?

Can Israelis and Palestinians—With U.S. Support—Find a Vision and Take Steps Forward?

By:
Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington tomorrow is likely to produce at least a few initial signs of next steps in a decades-long conflict—and equally long efforts to resolve it. It’s unclear how President Trump will engage on the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but he has indicated his interest in “making the ultimate deal.” He also recently issued a statement on the unhelpful nature of settlements, and affirmed his commitment to the two-state solution.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a floor-to-ceiling map that has Israel at its center, in his office in Jerusalem, July 2016. Photo Courtesy of The New York Times/Uriel Sinai

Certainly, after decades of effort, initiatives to resolve this conflict engender cynicism. One Israeli analyst I recently met referred to the collective perennial diplomatic efforts as the “rest in peace” process, and a refrain from Palestinians is that diplomacy has been heavy on process, light on peace.

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Yet majorities of Israelis and Palestinians still support a two-state solution as the preferred end to the conflict, even while harboring pessimism regarding its prospects. As time passes, this goal becomes more difficult to implement as settlements expand, attitudes harden, political division persists, and mutual mistrust in the existence of a good-faith partner deepens.

But should President Trump take up the challenge, the opportunity still exists. Ultimately the onus is on the Israelis and Palestinians, but in this climate of leadership inertia, and against a backdrop of regional turmoil, there is a role for responsible U.S. engagement. Playing that role sits squarely within U.S. national security interests.

The broader Middle East may be on fire, but those who seek regional stability ignore the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at their peril. The conflict captures the imagination well beyond its borders, and remains an easy rallying cry for violent extremists. This also means that Israelis, Palestinians and many Arab states now share regional security interests. But cooperation among these players on mutual threats will be limited until there are clear signs of a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The prospect of pushing the parties to meaningful direct negotiations in the near term is dim, and trying is inadvisable. But things can, and should, be done short of that objective. Above all, progress will require a clearly-defined vision for how this conflict ends, an articulated commitment by the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships to a shared goal of a two-state solution, and practical steps on the ground that provide a tangible sense to the Israeli and Palestinian publics that the vision is achievable.

The U.S. cannot effectively go it alone as a third party, but it can lead in corralling our European and Middle Eastern allies around a coordinated package of incentives, disincentives and steps that pave the way. These include easing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza; advancing stronger governance and institutions in the West Bank; improving economic opportunity in East Jerusalem; halting settlement activity; guarding against official provocation and incitement; and strengthening support for civil society initiatives that build trust and prepare the ground for peace.

It’s a tall order, but clear avenues and mechanisms exist, should President Trump decide to take up the charge. Peace inevitably will require process, but to succeed, that process must be implemented with an unambiguous destination, and a set of defined landmarks en route.

Source : USIP

In a Divided U.S., One Event Proved There’s Still Bipartisan Foreign Policy

By:
Nancy Lindborg

Amid the public debate about America’s divisions, it may have been easy to miss this image just days before the inauguration: the national security advisers of Presidents Obama and Trump standing side by side to vow bipartisan cooperation in the transition of authority.

The advisers — Obama’s ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser — went beyond simple cordiality. Over two days, they met national security, diplomatic and international development leaders from across the political spectrum to explore common ground for the shaping of America’s foreign and security policies.

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America’s recent political acrimony has been profound, but this gathering — “men and women who have, between them, witnessed every crisis to buffet American national security for 40 years,” noted The Economist — transcended it.The conference, called ”Passing the Baton,” is convened by the U.S Institute of Peace at presidential transitions.

It showed that, even now, dialogue can build the bipartisan foundations of effective policies so vital for national security.

As the Trump administration and a new Congress take on America’s security and foreign policy challenges, here are areas of broad agreement that emerged at Passing the Baton:

1. U.S. leadership is indispensable and will require allies.

Even more than most elections, last year’s contest spurred talk of an isolationist America inclined to turn inward, away from many of its international engagements and allies. But oceans long ago ceased to buffer us against turmoil abroad and every administration ends up having to respond to global crises and the threats they raise for America.

“We have to … take on a much greater leadership role” that “whether we like it or not, the world demands,”Flynn told us. The new administration will review U.S. “relationships around the globe,” he said.

 

But he joined Rice and others from both parties in urging that the United States continue to work with our partners. “In fact, alliances are one of the great tools that we have, and the strength of those alliances magnify our own strengths,” Flynn said.

2. America’s engagement abroad will include “strengthening its platform” at home.

Democrats and Republicans agreed that the United States needs to reinforce internal foundations from which it exercises its role abroad. This means “strengthening our economy, getting our politics to work, [and] restoring our military” following years of exhausting deployments and budget sequestration, said former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, who served under President George W. Bush.

3. Getting ahead of crises abroad means addressing their root causes.

Across the political spectrum, policymakers and experts declared it urgent that the United States lead in an international partnership to focus on fragile states. These countries, governed ineffectively and often repressively, are generating the civil wars, extremism, refugees, pandemics and other crises that have roiled Europe and that threaten American security, noted retired Gen. Jack Keane.

Sen.Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) renewed his idea for an international public-private partnership — a “new Marshall Plan” — to offer greater development and investment to those states willing to enact tough reforms.

Graham and others noted that it is far cheaper to prevent crises in fragile states than to firefight wars and refugee emergencies after violence breaks out.The U.S Institute of Peace recently helped formulate strategic recommendations on that prevention work for the new Congress and administration.

4. U.S. policy must use all available tools and must strengthen those critical to building sustainable peace abroad.

Sens. Graham and Tom Cotton  (R-Ark.); former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who served under President Clinton; and others, military and civilian, all underscored America’s need for strong tools of diplomacy, development and reconciliation.

Many focused on what federal budgeters call “the 150 account,” which covers all international activities except national defense. This spending “is 1 percent of the budget” and “is a great tool in the war on terror,” said Graham. If setting a budget to improve America’s “defense doesn’t mean the 150 account, you made a huge mistake,” he said.

Development work in strategic areas is “incredibly inexpensive compared to … military systems,” said retired Adm. James Stavridis. “These are really penny-on-the-dollar investments.”

5. American policy will need a bipartisan response to attacks on the rules-based international regime.

Leaders from across America’s political spectrum voiced concern at aggression by Russia; military assertiveness by China; a weakening in Europe’s cohesion; and the outsized influence that small groups or individuals can wield through advanced technology and weapons. These signal an erosion in the international system that has managed conflicts and advanced shared values, effectively if imperfectly, for seven decades.

“The world won’t get more orderly without U.S. leadership,” noted Frederick Kempe of the Atlantic Council.

6. Successful foreign policies require long-term consistency — perhaps for a decade or a generation.

Only sustained, consistent policies can solve or prevent crises, and this underscores the need for a bipartisan core to those policies. As Albright noted, the world’s challenges don’t present themselves in four- or eight-year segments.

Last year’s peace deal to end Colombia’s civil war was facilitated by a U.S. policy of economic development, security assistance and support for peace negotiations sustained by three administrations over more than 16 years.

Not all the talk at the conference was harmonious. But Americans from all sides showed their commitment to cultivating common ground on our relationship with the world.

For decades, American leaders have agreed that a bipartisan basis for our foreign policy is essential. Those who gathered at the recent Passing the Baton conference showed that it remains possible.

Originally published in The Hill. Republished with permission.

Source : USIP