Post-Conflict Colombia: Demining The Battlefield

By W. Alejandro Sanchez Nieto and Brittney J. Figueroa. W. Alejandro is an international security analyst. Follow him on Twitter: @W_Alex_SanchezBrittney is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelors degree in Global Studies, and a Minor in Latin American Iberian Studies.

Colombia is entering its post-conflict era as a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) has been ratified by the Colombian Congress, while talks with the country’s other insurgent movement, the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberacion Nacional, ELN ) will commence in January 2017. Hence, it is natural that analysts, including the authors, are discussing what the government’s priorities should be toward maintaining peace and bringing more development and justice to post-conflict Colombia. One issue that President Juan Manuel Santos is paying particular attention to is the removal of mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

mines

The Situation

The use of mines and IEDs is a standard tactic utilized by insurgent and terrorist movements worldwide (Hollywood brought this issue to light via 2008’s The Hurt Locker). When it comes to Colombia, it is impossible to adequately estimate how many mines, IEDs, and unexploded ordnance lay across the South American country, as we would have to combine those that belong to the FARC, ELN and now-defunct insurgent groups.

As such, possibly the best way to assess the current situation  is by focusing on the number of casualties. In response to the problem, the Colombian government created an agency called Acción Integral Contra Minas Antipersonal (DAICMA) to track injuries and casualties caused by mines and IEDs. While overall incidents have significantly decreased since 1990, tragically, deadly explosions do still occur. For example, in 2013, two separate events of accidental mine explosions in Northern Colombia took the lives of two 13-year-old boys; one while he was walking with his grandmother, and the other during a school beach clean-up activity. Moreover, just this past November, Yisely Isarama Caisamo, a six-year-old girl from the Chocó department, tragically lost her life when she stepped on a mine. Her mother was severely injured as well, but survived. Mines have also taken the lives of animals: in January 2016, in the department of Cauca, an army dog saved the lives of 30 of his fellow soldiers when he stepped on a landmine covered by brush while attempting to secure the trail ahead.

When it comes to areas affected, most mines seem to be located in Antioquia, Nariño, and Meta. Acción Contra Minas, reports that from January 1990 to 30 November 2016, there have been 195, 121, and 63 deaths caused by mines in these departments, respectively. Of those 379 combined casualties, 106 were children. This is unfortunately not surprising, as these are areas with strong insurgent presence. The mine problem is exacerbated because areas with high amounts of mines are consistently found in rural areas where poverty, inadequate infrastructure, and lack of accessible healthcare are rampant, making it more difficult for injured people to receive quick medical treatment.

An Elevated Response

As the war comes to a close, President Santos is pushing for increased demining of the battlefield as exemplified by his 15 October pledge that in four years 21 million square meters will be cleared of mines and IEDs. In order to achieve this, the Colombian Army has created a brigade, Brigada de Desminado Humanitario, tasked with demining operations. Currently, the brigade stands at 500 troops, however the plan is to increase its number to a division, or 5000 troops, in 2017 and to double that number in 2018.

Additional troops are a welcomed initiative as mines continue to be found. For example, according to a 15 December press release by the Colombian Army, the 160th Battalion located and deactivated four antipersonnel mines in Cerro Guerrilla, in the Chocó department. The Army reported that the devices belonged to the Ernesto Che Guevara Front of the ELN.

Insurgent And International Support

President Santos’ pledge is important and commendable, and the tragic recent loss of a little girl due to an explosive, highlights the need to rid Colombia of these weapons in order to prevent further loss of life. Nevertheless, one important issue to keep in mind is that in order to achieve that 21 million square meters of clearance, the Colombian military will have to operate in territory currently controlled by the guerrillas. Hence, insurgent support will be instrumental in finding minefields, and other areas where IEDs are located, to speed up their removal. It is important to emphasize that a treaty with the FARC has been signed, but negotiations with the ELN are only starting, so it would be a gesture of goodwill by the latter insurgent group to begin helping demining operations.

We must also briefly mention the role of the international community in this process. For example, the Obama administration and the Norwegian government have launched the Global Initiative for Demining Colombia. Similarly, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) is also operating in the South American nation. As for non-governmental organizations, one major example is the British-based Halo Trust that has operated in Colombia for years.

The authors suggest that U.S. troops could be deployed to Colombia to actively help with the clearing operations. For example, the 122d Engineer Combat Battalion or the 1221st Route Clearance Company could visit the South American state and offer their expertise. These two units are singled out because they belong to the South Carolina National Guard that has been assigned to Colombia as part of the National Guard State Partnership Program. A sort of joint-mining clearance operation between the S.C. National Guard and the Colombian mining brigade would help strengthen bilateral military relations while working for a noble cause.

The Woes of Chocó

In a July 2016 press release, Acción Contra Minas outlined its goals and achievements relating to the mine situation. Some of these victories include the announcement that five municipalities in four departments:two in Antioquia, and one each in Bolivar, Meta, and Santander, were declared safe from mine contamination. Additionally, it was reported that there are currently mine-clearing operations in three other departments: Caldas, Sucre, and Tolima. The government is also working with civil society organizations as well as non-governmental organizations like the HALO Trust, Handicap International, and Ayuda Popular Noruega (APN).

While the ongoing mine-clearing efforts outlined by Acción Contra Minas are valiant, and the victories admirable, it is worrisome that Chocó, the poorest and most underdeveloped department in Colombia is not on the Desminado Humanitario 2014-2016 Plan of Action demining priority list—a list that includes 91 municipalities in 13 different departments. In many areas, mine-related incidents (both injuries and fatalities) havegenerally decreased (e.g. Antioquia, Caqueta, Tolima), while the number of incidents in Chocó hasfluctuated. For example, between 2012 and 2014, the annual total of incidents went from 16, to 10,and back to 16, respectively. In 2015, there were 17 incidents, the highest ever recorded in the department. As for 2016, the number is back down to 10.

Although the mine situation is a result of the country’s decades-old conflict, the infrastructural shortcomings of Chocó due to state neglect make the clearance of mines a more complex challenge. According to the National Administrative Department of Statistics (Departamento Adminstrativo Nacional de Estadística; DANE), in 2015 the poverty rate in Chocó was an astounding 62.8%, with 37.1% living in extreme poverty.Given the current economic situation of Choco’s inhabitants, those injured by mines face extreme difficulty in receiving the support they need. Quibido, the department’s capital has but one hospital for 400 000 people. This problem is aggravated because the road system in Chocó remains inadequate, despite an improvement project that first began in 1967.

The continued presence of mines and IEDs has had a deep social and very human impact on civilians living in areas where mines have yet to be extracted; hence it is imperative that Bogota continues to deploy mine-clearing missions. It is the authors’ hope that in due time, Desminado Humanitario programs will accomplish the total clearing in Chocó so that the state can then focus on setting and reaching new goals of infrastructural development in the weary department.

Final Thoughts

Mines and explosives are nasty tools of war. They do not recognize friend from foe, civilian from fighter, young from old. They lay underground waiting for days, weeks, or years before they are ignited. Countries like Cambodia and Vietnam are still suffering from these unexploded weapons of war, and Afghanistan and Iraq will suffer the same fate. Sadly, Colombia will similarly have to live with mines and IEDs in the countryside for the foreseeable future, though the creation (and future expansion) of the Army’s demining brigade, as well as international support, will hopefully quicken their removal. Cooperation with the insurgents will be key to locate the mines and other explosives in order to avoid future loss of life. Mines, IEDs, and unexploded ordnance have no place in 21st century Colombia.

The authors wish it to be known that the views presented in this essay are their sole responsibility do not necessarily reflect those of any institutions with which the authors are associated. 

PS21 is a non-national, non-governmental, non-ideological organisation.

Why West Africa’s response to Gambia’s elections is vital

By Eric Mwiine Mugaju. Eric has just completed MSc Social Policy at LSE. He writes regularly for The Observer (Uganda) on politics, law and development issues in East Africa.

 

jammeh-yahhhh
Incumbent Yahya Jammeh announced on Friday that he rejects the results of Gambia’s recent election

 

 

President Yahya Jammeh’s rejection of the election results will test the region’s response to democratic challenges. Although a small player in the region, Banjul is the home of the African Union commission; so it’s response to Jammeh’s claims of foul play will act as a barometer for tolerance of leaders in the region who are unwilling to concede defeat.

Last night I was writing an article about how West African states lead by example, compared to their Eastern relatives, in the transition of power following elections. Senegal, Nigeria and now Ghana, all have shining track records for peaceful transitions of power.

Mid-paragraph I was interrupted by the buzz of a Whatsapp message from a friend in Gambia who, for the past week, has been taunting me and offering to teach our East African leaders a lesson in democracy. By comparison to West Africa (notorious for coup d’états in the decades following independence,  seems to have fairly well nailed the electoral process) East Africa’s recent political history has been marred with messy and frequently violent attempts to transfer power: Burundi, Uganda DRC and Kenya have all experienced significant violence and intimidation around their elections in recent years.

Despite West Africa’s relatively better track record, I was one of the many who were pleasantly surprised to learn of Jammeh’s decision to concede power. Until, that is, I read this message on my phone screen: “I drove home from work and the streets were deserted after the announcement that The President is rejecting the elections”. It seems that the contest is not yet over.

The uneasy atmosphere that my friend spoke of in Banjul shows that even Gambians are unsure of what to expect in response this news. At this stage it seems unlikely that the major blocs- the Economic Coalition of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU)- will respond favorably, with the AU already labeling Jammeh’s rejection null and void.

The reaction of these institutions will be key in determining whether Jammeh is to continue leading the country without facing sanctions and peacekeeping forces (both the AU and ECOWAS have military resources at their disposal) and he would need to gain the backing of at least these two institutions.

Based on past actions, we can expect resistance to Jammeh’s move from ECOWAS. Throughout the Sierra Leone conflict, for example, it represented one of the few peacekeeping forces to continuously maintain a presence in the country- it is not an organisation that shies away from either involving itself with its members internal affairs or from taking direct action to correct them.

The AU is likely to take a more hands-off approach however even this traditionally lenient bloc has been more forthcoming in flexing its muscles against the will of leaders seeking to outstay their welcome. Last year the AU intervened in Burundi despite the fact the Nkuruziza technically had the right to remain in power. The Union’s threat to send in peacekeepers sent a warning message to the Burundian president and likely curbed post-election violence.

In addition to this, the African Commission is based in Gambia’s capital, Banjul, so how the institution reacts to Jammeh’s actions will carry added symbolism. Further, the AU would be faced with logistical difficulties if the country were to experience unrest.

So what led to the vote which would have toppled Jammeh’s 22-year reign? Simply put failure to recognise that the dynamics of this election would be different. Typically, there are two main contenders in Gambia’s elections: the incumbent’s Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) and the United Democratic Party (UDP). APRC typically draw support from the country’s second-majority Fula and Jola ethnic groups, and have enjoyed many years of comfortable majority in elections. The UDP courts smaller ethnic groups and despite not having won outright, normally secure a significant minority of the vote.

However, this year several factors have coincided to lead to Jammeh’s defeat. Early on in the race, it became evident that Jammeh had lost a significant proportion of the Christian vote and even moderate Muslim supporters due to his decision to officially rename the country “The Islamic Republic of Gambia” in 2015.

Gambia is a Muslim-majority country with a significant Christian minority who comprise around 8% of the riverside nation’s population. However, despite the conservative outlook of its leader, Gambian society traditionally upholds a relatively liberal brand of Islam and many Christians and Gambian Muslims expressed discomfort at this move to recognise a state religion. Additionally, Jammeh’s moves to legalise other aspects of religious dogma (the obligation for women to cover their hair in public, for example) lost him support.

Together with this, in the months before the election race, former MP and party ally, Mama Kandeh defected from the party and ran in opposition to Jammeh. In doing so, he split the two-horse race and stole a significant portion of Jammeh’s supporters. The defector, in fact, won 17% of the vote, enough to have swung the outcome in Jammeh’s favour if he had still been with the party. Given the strong correlation between ethnic and political affiliation, Mama Kandeh’s split from the APRC diminished the voting power of the group by dividing their support between two candidates.

All this considered it seems more likely that Jammeh’s U-Turn could have more to do with feeling the sting of failing to act in the face of a preventable loss than “serious abnormalities”. Either way, this marks a departure from the status quo and we should watch West Africa’s leadership and see how it will react to the news: you can rest assured that would-be Jammeh’s in West Africa and beyond will be listening with intent.

PS21 is a non-national, non-governmental, non-ideological organisation. All views expressed are the author’s own.

PS21 update weekending Nov 18

As the legendary Chinese curse apparently does not quite say, we are now unquestionably living in interesting times. Many thanks to those who came to our discussion on peace building from Northern Ireland to Syria last week at King’s College London – unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it, but it sounds like a really useful event.

My Reuters column this week looks at what Trump might mean for Europe and NATO. Also worth reading is a piece for Washington-based blog site Nations and States by our very own Jocelyn Spencer on US Vietnamese relations. Jack Goldstone, member of our international advisory board, has also been taking his own look at the broader implications of the Trump victory.

For those of you in London, this discussion on Yemen this week should also be deafly worth attending. We had a handful of places left so please sign up below.

All best,

Peter

Lessons from the war in Yemen

Tuesday 22nd November, 6:30-8:00pm

Oxford Research Group, Development House, 56-64 Leonard Street, London, EC2A 4LT

Of all the conflicts in which the West is found itself a player in the last decade, Yemen has proved one of the most enduring and complex. What was once the scene of a Western-backed attempt to prop up an unpopular local leader and fight Al Qaeda is now increasingly portrayed as a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. As we head towards a new US administration and perhaps even more uncertainty in Europe, PS21 and the Remote Control Project pull together a uniquely qualified panel with a wide range of experience in the country to discuss its lessons and what might happen next.

Peter Apps [moderator] is executive director, PS21 and global affairs columnist, Thomson Reuters

Rafat Ali Al-Akhali was appointed in November 2014 as Minister of Youth and Sports in the Government of Yemen, a post he held until September 2015. Prior to his appointment, Rafat was leading the Policy Reforms team at the Executive Bureau for Acceleration of Aid Absorption and Support for Policy Reforms. In that position, Rafat led the planning and implementation of key reforms in Yemen including fuel subsidies, power sector, and civil service reforms. He also led business environment reforms and government efforts in private sector development.

Iain Smailes retired from the British Army in January 2016 after tours as defence attache in both Afghanistan and Yemen as well as deployments with the United Nations in Sierra Leone and Kosovo.

Mai Noman is a BBC Digital journalist covering the Middle East and founding member of “Kuni wa Kun”, a Yemeni youth initiative aiming to change perceptions and practices which hinder the development of women and the Yemeni society.

Emily Knowles joined Remote Control as project manager in March 2016. She has a background in conflict analysis and security policy, and tech current research focuses on the UK’s use of remote forms of warfare such as dronesAll, special forces, training and advisory missions in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Libya.

Baraa Shiban is a human rights activist who works with the human rights organisation Reprieve. He investigated drone strikes across Yemen between 2012 and 2015. He also served as a member of the Yemeni National Dialogue (2013) – a body in charge of reviewing Yemeni laws and drafting its new constitution. He helped to run a media centre in Sanaa’s change square (2011). Baraa has worked with Yemeni civil society since 2006.

Sign up here.

London Event Nov 22- Lessons from war in Yemen

Tuesday 22nd November, 6:30-8:00pm

Oxford Research Group, Development House, 56-64 Leonard Street, London, EC2A 4LT

Of all the conflicts in which the West is found itself a player in the last decade, Yemen has proved one of the most enduring and complex. What was once the scene of a Western-backed attempt to prop up an unpopular local leader and fight Al Qaeda is now increasingly portrayed as a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. As we head towards a new US administration and perhaps even more uncertainty in Europe, PS21 and the Remote Control Project pull together a uniquely qualified panel with a wide range of experience in the country to discuss its lessons and what might happen next.

Peter Apps [moderator] is executive director, PS21 and global affairs columnist, Thomson Reuters

Rafat Ali Al-Akhali was appointed in November 2014 as Minister of Youth and Sports in the Government of Yemen, a post he held until September 2015. Prior to his appointment, Rafat was leading the Policy Reforms team at the Executive Bureau for Acceleration of Aid Absorption and Support for Policy Reforms. In that position, Rafat led the planning and implementation of key reforms in Yemen including fuel subsidies, power sector, and civil service reforms. He also led business environment reforms and government efforts in private sector development.

Iain Smailes retired from the British Army in January 2016 after tours as defence attache in both Afghanistan and Yemen as well as deployments with the United Nations in Sierra Leone and Kosovo.

Mai Noman is a BBC Digital journalist covering the Middle East and founding member of “Kuni wa Kun”, a Yemeni youth initiative aiming to change perceptions and practices which hinder the development of women and the Yemeni society.

Emily Knowles joined Remote Control as project manager in March 2016. She has a background in conflict analysis and security policy, and tech current research focuses on the UK’s use of remote forms of warfare such as dronesAll, special forces, training and advisory missions in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Libya.

Baraa Shiban is a human rights activist who works with the human rights organisation Reprieve. He investigated drone strikes across Yemen between 2012 and 2015. He also served as a member of the Yemeni National Dialogue (2013) – a body in charge of reviewing Yemeni laws and drafting its new constitution. He helped to run a media centre in Sanaa’s change square (2011). Baraa has worked with Yemeni civil society since 2006.

Sign up here.

PS21 update week ending Nov 11

As always, many thanks for joining us on the PS21 journey. We had a couple of great events coming up in London over the next couple weeks, with some exciting plans for New York and Washington DC as well.

Many thanks to all who came to our joint US election drinks with Young Professionals in Foreign Policy. So far it was, of course, something of a rerun of our Brexit night drinks – right down to the surprise result that left a fair number of attendees with their heads in their hands. Interesting times indeed. For my take on the election results, here’s my latest column for Reuters.

A couple of other interesting pieces on PS21 in the last week, one on China and international food security and the other how militant group Hamas is increasingly seen as a model for others. A reminder that those who would like to write can contact our editor.

Needless to say,

Peter Apps, Executive Director

UPCOMING EVENTS

Twenty-first Century Peacebuilding from Northern Ireland to Syria

Monday November 14, 6pm War Studies Meeting Room, K6.07 Kings College London

According to the Global Peace Index, there are only 10 countries in the world in 2016 which can be considered free from conflict. The ongoing crisis in Gaza; worsening conflicts in the Middle East; the international stand-off  in Ukraine and the lack of a solution to the refugee crisis are some examples of the contributing factors that have made the world less peaceful in 2016 than it was in 2015.

Drawing on the lessons learnt in the Northern Ireland peace process, our speakers will assess 21st centruy peacebuilding strategies in the context of 21st century conflicts. Do we haev the tools to tackle some of these seemingly intractable situations? What have we learnt and what have we not learnt? Our speakers will look at conflict resolution and peace building strategies, contextualised in 21st century examples.

Dr Gordon Clubb is a Lecturer in International Security at the University of Leeds and is the director of the Terrorism and Political Violence Association. He has published on former combatants in Northern Ireland and the disengagement and de-radicalisation of terrorist movements.

Dr. Anastasia Voronkova is Research Fellow for Armed Conflict at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and Editor of the IISS’s new annual publication, the Armed Conflict Survey. Anastasia holds a PhD in comparative conflict studies from Queen Mary, University of London. She has extensive fieldwork experience in Northern Ireland and the South Caucasus. Her research interests include comparative conflict resolution, communication strategies and rhetoric of non-state armed groups, the political economy of armed conflicts, security and terrorism.

Prior to joining IISS she held teaching positions at University College London and Queen Mary University of London.

Haid Haid is a Syrian columnist and researcher who focuses on security policies, conflict resolution, Kurdish and Islamist movements. Prior to that, he was a programme manager on Syria and Iraq at the Heinrich Böll Stiftung-Middle East Office in Beirut. He also worked as a senior community services-protection assistant at UNHCR- Damascus office. He has a BA in Sociology, a post graduate diploma in counseling, an MA in social development and has just completed another MA in conflict resolution at King’s College.

Moderator: Professor Joe Maiolo is the Deputy Head of the Department of War Studies, Director of the Sir Michael Howard Centre for the History of War, and Professor of International History. He is an editor of The Journal of Strategic Studies, and co-editor of The Strategy Reader, a member of the editorial board for Intelligence & National Security, and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

He is currently a Visiting Research Professor at the Norwegian Defence Intelligence School, Oslo.

This event is being run in partnership with the Sir Michael Howard Centre for the History of War at KCL.

Please sign up here.

 

Lessons from the War in Yemen

Tuesday, November 22, 2016, 630 p.m. Development House, Leonard Street, EC2

Of all the conflicts in which the West is found itself a player in the last decade, Yemen has proved one of the most enduring and complex. What was once the scene of a Western-backed attempt to prop up an unpopular local leader and fight Al Qaeda is now a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. As we head towards a new US administration and perhaps even more uncertain in Europe, PS21 and the Remote Warfare Project pull together a uniquely qualified panel with a wide range of experience in the country to discuss its lessons and what might happen next.

Peter Apps [moderator] – executive director, PS21 and global affairs columnist, Thomson Reuters

Baraa Shihan – Yemeni human rights activist

Iain Smailes – retired British Army officer and former defense attache, Yemen

Emily Knowles – Project Manager, Remote Control, a monitoring group specializing in the use of special forces, drones and other not always accountable forms of warfare

Sign up here

London Event- 14 Nov, 21st Century Peacebuilding from N Ireland to Syria

Monday November 14, 6pm War Studies Meeting Room, K6.07 Kings College London

According to the Global Peace Index, there are only 10 countries in the world in 2016 which can be considered free from conflict. The ongoing crisis in Gaza; worsening conflicts in the Middle East; the international stand-off  in Ukraine and the lack of a solution to the refugee crisis are some examples of the contributing factors that have made the world less peaceful in 2016 than it was in 2015.

Drawing on the lessons learnt in the Northern Ireland peace process, our speakers will assess 21st centruy peacebuilding strategies in the context of 21st century conflicts. Do we haev the tools to tackle some of these seemingly intractable situations? What have we learnt and what have we not learnt? Our speakers will look at conflict resolution and peace building strategies, contextualised in 21st century examples.

 

Dr Gordon Clubb is a Lecturer in International Security at the University of Leeds and is the director of the Terrorism and Political Violence Association. He has published on former combatants in Northern Ireland and the disengagement and de-radicalisation of terrorist movements.

Dr. Anastasia Voronkova is Research Fellow for Armed Conflict at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and Editor of the IISS’s new annual publication, the Armed Conflict Survey. Anastasia holds a PhD in comparative conflict studies from Queen Mary, University of London. She has extensive fieldwork experience in Northern Ireland and the South Caucasus. Her research interests include comparative conflict resolution, communication strategies and rhetoric of non-state armed groups, the political economy of armed conflicts, security and terrorism. Prior to joining IISS she held teaching positions at University College London and Queen Mary University of London.

Haid Haid is a Syrian columnist and researcher who focuses on security policies, conflict resolution, Kurdish and Islamist movements. Prior to that, he was a programme manager on Syria and Iraq at the Heinrich Böll Stiftung-Middle East Office in Beirut. He also worked as a senior community services-protection assistant at UNHCR- Damascus office. He has a BA in Sociology, a post graduate diploma in counseling, an MA in social development and has just completed another MA in conflict resolution at King’s College.

Moderator: Professor Joe Maiolo is the Deputy Head of the Department of War Studies, Director of the Sir Michael Howard Centre for the History of War, and Professor of International History. He is an editor of The Journal of Strategic Studies, and co-editor of The Strategy Reader, a member of the editorial board for Intelligence & National Security, and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is currently a Visiting Research Professor at the Norwegian Defence Intelligence School, Oslo.

This event is being run in partnership with the Sir Michael Howard Centre for the History of War, at KCL.

Please sign up here.

 

London Event- 8 Nov, US Election Night

clinton-trumpTuesday 8th November, from 20:00

SE1 9FU – Holland Street Pavillion A near Bankside, London, SE1 9FU

Join PS21 to watch what may be the most sensational US election in living memory. Whatever the result may be, come along for drinks and good company.

To RSVP, click here.

Any volunteers wanting to publish their immediate reflections next Wednesday please contact the Web Editor before election night [editor@projects21.org].

 

As always, we look forward to seeing you there,

The PS21 Team.

 

PS21 update weekending Nov 4

A couple of great discussions over the last two weeks in both London and New York, a testament to some of the range of really great speakers we’ve managed to get. Many thanks to Thomson Reuters in Manhattan for hosting last week’s events on US foreign policy after the election chaired by Reuters senior editor Arlene Getz with Asha Castleberry, Charley Cooper and Mohamed Bazzi. Whoever wins this coming Tuesday, there are lots of very pressing challenges [many thanks to Jocelyn Spencer, Christine Mikolajuk and our other volunteers for helping organize].

A similarly fantastic discussion in London this Wednesday on 15 years of war in Afghanistan in conjunction with the King’s College London Afghan society. Thanks to Theo Farrell, Emma Graham-Harrison, Rob Johnson and Chris Kolenda for a truly stimulating – if not always uplifting – discussion, as well as our attendees from the Afghan Embassy in particular. A lot to drawer out, but the overarching – and more than a little depressing – message seems to be that the outside world have never really bothered to learn enough about the country to be effective. Definitely lessons to learn for future conflicts.

As many of you also know, we recently took on a new volunteer editor, Catherine Tilke. Under her direction, we’ve had a couple of great additions to the website over the last week, particularly Lorenzo Holt on the interplay between Libyan and Italian politics as well as her own on the difficulties of managing Europe’s migrant crisis. Email Editor@Projects21.org if you would like to write.

As always, many thanks for joining us on the PS21 journey. We had a couple of great events coming up in London over the next couple weeks, with some exciting plans for New York and Washington DC as well.

Peter Apps, Executive Director

UPCOMING EVENTS

US election drinks with Young Professionals in Foreign Policy

, Tuesday, November 8. From eight p.m. at Neo Bankside, Southwark

We have a few late tickets for our drinks event, which for the hardier souls will continue through the night until the results come in. Sign up here 

 

Twenty-first Century Peacebuilding from Northern Ireland to Syria

Monday November 14, six p.m. Kings College London

Monday November 14, 6pm War Studies Meeting Room, K6.07 Kings College London

According to the Global Peace Index, there are only 10 countries in the world in 2016 which can be considered free from conflict. The ongoing crisis in Gaza; worsening conflicts in the Middle East; the international stand-off  in Ukraine and the lack of a solution to the refugee crisis are some examples of the contributing factors that have made the world less peaceful in 2016 than it was in 2015.

Drawing on the lessons learnt in the Northern Ireland peace process, our speakers will assess 21st centruy peacebuilding strategies in the context of 21st century conflicts. Do we haev the tools to tackle some of these seemingly intractable situations? What have we learnt and what have we not learnt? Our speakers will look at conflict resolution and peace building strategies, contextualised in 21st century examples.

Dr Gordon Clubb is a Lecturer in International Security at the University of Leeds and is the director of the Terrorism and Political Violence Association. He has published on former combatants in Northern Ireland and the disengagement and de-radicalisation of terrorist movements.

Dr. Anastasia Voronkova is Research Fellow for Armed Conflict at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and Editor of the IISS’s new annual publication, the Armed Conflict Survey. Anastasia holds a PhD in comparative conflict studies from Queen Mary, University of London. She has extensive fieldwork experience in Northern Ireland and the South Caucasus. Her research interests include comparative conflict resolution, communication strategies and rhetoric of non-state armed groups, the political economy of armed conflicts, security and terrorism.

Prior to joining IISS she held teaching positions at University College London and Queen Mary University of London.

Haid Haid is a Syrian columnist and researcher who focuses on security policies, conflict resolution, Kurdish and Islamist movements. Prior to that, he was a programme manager on Syria and Iraq at the Heinrich Böll Stiftung-Middle East Office in Beirut. He also worked as a senior community services-protection assistant at UNHCR- Damascus office. He has a BA in Sociology, a post graduate diploma in counseling, an MA in social development and has just completed another MA in conflict resolution at King’s College.

Moderator: Professor Joe Maiolo is the Deputy Head of the Department of War Studies, Director of the Sir Michael Howard Centre for the History of War, and Professor of International History. He is an editor of The Journal of Strategic Studies, and co-editor of The Strategy Reader, a member of the editorial board for Intelligence & National Security, and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

He is currently a Visiting Research Professor at the Norwegian Defence Intelligence School, Oslo.

This event is being run in partnership with the Sir Michael Howard Centre for the History of War, at KCL.

Please sign up here.

Roundup: Our top posts so far

berlin skyline
A view of Berlin and its central television tower, the Fernsehturm

As the PS21 website approaches its 1st anniversary, we showcase some of our top contributions so far.

To kick things off are a few offerings from the Imagining 2030 series, where  writers describe the world as they imagine it in 14 years time….

Merkel’s Kinder: Caitlin Vito’s short piece imagines the reflections of a young university student, who arrived in Germany in 2016 as a child refugee.

The 1951 Refugee Convention now seems less like an international law for signatories and more like a light suggestion.

What we find in the region today is the partition of Syria into three territories: one built from the remnants of Assad’s Syria; a Kurdish state in the north; and a Sunni dominated territory, closely linked to the neighbouring caliphate…”

I leave the lecture hall and walk down the street and into one of the many Syrian-owned Shawarma shops in Berlin. Now there is something that wasn’t foreseen – the peaceful coexistence of Syrian Shawarma and Turkish doner kebab shops. At least on a culinary level, we can all agree on good food.

Taking the Trans-Siberian to Moscow:  Mark Galeotti describes shifting sands in a Russia which has abandoned imperial ambitions and turned its gaze inward.

It is telling that the new Trans-Siberian bypasses the old Russian imperial stronghold of Vladivostok. Instead the line from Beijing crosses the border at Zabaikalsk. There travellers from deeper in the Russian Far East who have taken the old Trans-Sib and then changed trains again, can finally relax into the new carriages which will whisk them to Moscow in just four days. The Russian flag flies over Zabaikalsk station, and Russian border guards walk down the train, scanning passports and fingerprints with their cloud-linked terminals, but the town outside is a monument to Chinese money and Chinese migration.

The liberal Preobrazhensky government that picked up the pieces after the collapse of Shuvalov’s self-serving regime has made a virtue of bowing to necessity. Moscow could afford neither to subsidise nor to neglect an under-capitalised, under-populated east. Free Economic Zones and Preferential Residence Zones have helped address both needs.

Looking back at President Trump: Peter Apps, Executive Director of PS21, relays the dysfunctional events of Trump’s 1st term in office and the return of Clinton to the White House.

Whether Trump himself ever expected to win is still hotly debated. Only after the election did he begin to show any serious efforts towards considering who would receive some of the top presidential appointments. Again, the ideological balance of his White House sometimes seemed to shift wildly unpredictably. Initially, there was widespread speculation he would appoint neoconservative John Bolton as his Secretary of State — indeed, the former Bush-era ambassador still clearly believes he had been offered the job.

Then, much to everyone’s surprise, came the announcement that Trump had asked John Kerry to remain for another two years. Kerry lasted barely 3 months, resigning in a hugely public spectacle after what he called the “most egregiously racist speech by the president so far.”

Machine Gunners
Burundian soldiers training for deployment to the African Union Mission in Somalia 2012

African-owned and driven strategies key in addressing terrorism: This is our first offering in the round-up from outside the Imagining.. series. Edward Wanyonyi looks at the need to update strategies for tackling terrorism across the continent of Africa.

While astronomical financial allocations are made to the modernisation of security services, these efforts although well intended are not coordinated with wider political and economic reforms in the society. It is one thing to establish national de-radicalisation programs but another to ensure that budgetary and development allocations aimed at addressing structural inequalities, marginalization and extreme disenfranchisement in the society are not politicised or end up excluding certain sections of the population. While the international community has established the coalition to militarily engage against groups like ISIL, African countries that are at risk of terror threat still lack proactive counter terrorism infrastructure and political agency to ensure that terrorism is not allowed to take root, win the hearts and minds of population, acquire military might and financial resources to the level like that of Boko Haram that leads to postponement of national elections.

Not with a bang, but a white paper: how British politics could fall apart this autumn: An anonymous NATO officer explores Britain’s changing role on the world stage.

Cameron has dismissed accusations of British strategic shrinkage as ‘nonsense’, while Fallon has insisted that Britain’s ‘global reach is as extensive as ever’ and that ‘no other country is Europe is playing such a strong global role’. Meanwhile, he emphasized niche capabilities which make Britain look unique and important, if not exactly powerful. The US has also helped Britain look good, with President Obama calling the UK America’s ‘best partner’ and US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter saying that the UK ‘has the ability to act independently, to be a force of its own in the world’.

Although some of these claims are factually true, the rhetoric is still dangerous, as the real, long run decline in British military capabilities is continuing unabated. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, ‘you can’t fool all of the people all of the time’. Even if Britain has achieved a politically acceptable force level that appeases its American allies despite its strategic and managerial deficits, the current British approach to international affairs is a plan for costly decline.

Winning the narrative in modern conflict: an interview with John Bassett: In this video interview, PS21 Fellow Gwenn Laine talks with the former GCHQ official about the centrality of narrative and ideology in modern conflicts.

“We can win the battles, but if we lose the political narrative, we lose the war.”

For some young Syrians, war brings unexpected freedoms: Rasha Elass uses interviews and personal experience to probe the ways in which Syria’s conflict has altered youth culture.

“Unlike previous generations, young Arabs are not beholden to a Western (colonial) model that is imposed upon them. And they have everything. A common language. Technology. Social platforms. But for some reason, they don’t own the narrative yet,” she said.

Ask a Frenchman what it means to be French, and he’ll say: “Equality. Liberty. Fraternity.”

Ask an American teenager what it means to be American, and she’ll invoke the Founding Fathers, separation of church and state, and the U.S. Constitution.

Ask Syrian school children, or Lebanese, or Iraqi, and each one will give a different answer depending on their politics, ethnicity, or religion.

Perhaps this explains why the Arab Spring has been a revolution without an idea, a movement devoid of an ideology. Or why, the instant the state falls apart, its inhabitants automatically fall back on their clan, sect, or religion.

syrian_woman_by_dollofroz-d6af3bi
“Syrian Woman” by Ruba Alash

On the front line of terror: the Kurdistan region of Iraq and the Arab Spring: Lara Fatah’s describes the implications of the Arab Spring for the Kurdish region of Iraq.

Suffice to say that the two biggest impacts that the Arab spring has had on Kurdistan is firstly, that it is now home to over 1.5 million refugees and IDPs, which has increased the KRI’s population by approximately 25 per cent, placing a huge strain on the local economy and the available resources. Moreover, some politicians have expressed fear about the possible future impact on the region’s demographics.

Secondly and more ominously, Iraq’s Kurds are now the frontline of the global fight against the terror of ISIL. With the Iraqi Army all but collapsing on the northern fronts, the Kurdish Peshmerga and Counter Terrorism forces have been left to hold the line and stop further cities falling into ISIL’s grasp.

The Arab Spring and the limits of American power: Last but not least, Ari Ratner takes an in-depth look at the possibilities and limitations of American diplomacy in the Middle East.

In today’s Washington, there is often money for military action. But advancing American interests through aid has become an affront to fiscal responsibility— even if it is often far more cost-effective.

America’s military might, meanwhile, has been proven difficult to utilize in a sustained manner. In Libya, the American-led air campaign against Qaddafi was successful. Yet, ensuring stability has proved far more difficult. Libya has turned into an example of the powerlessness of American power— with military means that we are unwilling or unable to bring to bear to solve underlying challenges— a lesson of critical importance as we ramp up the conflict with ISIS.

Syria, for its own part, has become the perfect storm of the Arab Spring— combining (indeed exceeding) the worst aspects of each uprising: the kleptocracy of Egypt, the sectarianism of Bahrain, the chaos of Libya, the poverty of Yemen, all rolled into a brutal proxy war involving major regional and global powers.

PS21 update weekending Nov 27

 

Dear all,

Perhaps thankfully, 2016 is now finally beginning to draw to an end. There is still plenty to watch, however – not least last week’s spectacle of a Russian aircraft carrier battle group making its way out the English Channel to bombard Syria. You can read my take on that here in my latest column for Reuters.

A couple of really great events coming up next couple of weeks in New York and London. Many thanks to all those who supported us and helped us get PS21 this far.

Pete

NEW YORK

America in the World After the Election

Wednesday, October 26, seven p.m. Millennium Room, Thomson Reuters, Times Square

As we near the end of perhaps the most contentious presidential election in recent history and the end of a turbulent year for international security and diplomacy, PS21 pulls together a panel of international affairs experts and journalists to discuss the security challenges the next president will face on the world stage. What crises might loom on the horizon in 2017? How should the next president prioritize global security concerns and assess threats to US interests? How will the US find its footing again after the dislocations, reversals and upheavals of 2016?

Arlene Getz (moderator) – Editor In Charge, Reuters Digital

Charley Cooper – Managing Director, R3; Former Special Advisor to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz

Asha Castleberry – PS21 Global Fellow; Fellow Adjunct Professor of Political Science, Fordham University; Army Veteran

Mohamad Bazzi – Associate Professor of Journalism, New York University; Former Middle East Bureau Chief, Newsday

Sign up here 

LONDON

Fifteen Years of the Afghan War

Wednesday, November 2, six p.m. Kings College London

A decade and a half after US-led forces first entered the country in the aftermath of 9/11, the Afghan war still simmers on. What are the lessons of the initial intervention, which ousted the Taliban from Kabul with little more than a handful of special forces and local fighters? How did it evolve into the troop-heavy NATO mission that followed, and what can we expect now most foreign troops have gone? PS21 and the Afghan Society at KCL pulls together an expert panel to discuss what for the West has been one of the defining conflicts of the century so far.

Emma Graham-Harrison – former Afghanistan Bureau chief, Guardian

Professor Theo Farrell – Dean of Arts and Social Sciences, City University. Researching and co-authoring a book on the history of the Taliban’s war in Afghanistan

 

Robert Johnson – Pembroke College Oxford, Director of the Oxford Changing Character of War Programme

Christopher Kolenda – Senior Military Fellow, Kings College London. Former Senior Advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Department of Defense senior leadership and has served four tours of duty in Afghanistan with the US military

 
Peter Apps [Moderator] – Reuters Global Affairs Columnist and PS21 Executive Director
US election night drinks with Young Professionals in Foreign Policy
Tuesday, November 8, eight p.m. Bankside
As the US election reaches its [hopefully] final stretch, PS21 and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy invite you to a drinks reception. As with our Brexit night event, some of us will be staying up into the small hours to see the results come in. Whether it’s Trump, Clinton or a 2000 style messy inconclusive result, it promises to be a night to remember.

London event Nov 2 – 15 years of the Afghan war

Wednesday, November 2, six p.m. Kings College London
A decade and a half after US-led forces first entered the country in the aftermath of 9/11, the Afghan war still simmers on. What are the lessons of the initial intervention, which ousted the Taliban from Kabul with little more than a handful of special forces and local fighters? How did it evolve into the troop-heavy NATO mission that followed, and what can we expect now most foreign troops have gone? PS21 and the Afghan Society at KCL pulls together an expert panel to discuss what for the West has been one of the defining conflicts of the century so far.

Emma Graham-Harrison – former Afghanistan Bureau chief, Guardian

Professor Theo Farrell – Dean of Arts and Social Sciences, City University. Researching and co-authoring a book on the history of the Taliban’s war in Afghanistan

Robert Johnson – Pembroke College Oxford, Director of the Oxford Changing Character of War Programme

Christopher Kolenda – Senior Military Fellow, Kings College London. Former Senior Advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Department of Defense senior leadership and has served four tours of duty in Afghanistan with the US military

 
Peter Apps [Moderator] – Reuters Global Affairs Columnist and PS21 Executive Director

PS21 update week ending September 31

Dear all,

Hoping this finds you well. Many thanks to those of you who made it to our drinks in London last week – a good crowd, and some interesting discussions.

A couple of interesting events below. Firstly we have a really fantastic panel coming up next Monday on changing trends in technology, society, politics and culture. Really looking forward to pushing some truly interesting issues.

For those in town this Friday, we also have a handful of spaces as a great discussion taking place in Whitehall with the head of counterterrorism for Iraqi Kurdistan. Details also below.

 

All best,

 

Peter

UPCOMING EVENTS

Tech, society, politics and culture

Monday 10th October 2016, 6:00pm-7:00pm

Location to be confirmed to attendees.

From the shanty towns of Lagos to the rise of Brexit and Trump, crowdsourcing to video on demand, changing technology is revolutionising society and politics round the world. How are modern political and media networks evolving? What does that mean for changing prower structures? How does it differ between the developing and the developed world? Where will it all go next? PS21 pulls together an expert panel to examine the changes seen so far and asks where these trends will take us next.

Peter Apps (moderator) – Reuters Global Affairs Columnist and PS21 Executive Director

Emmanuel Akinwotu – Journalist based in Lagos, Nigeria, writing for Guardian and New Stateman

John Elledge – Editor, Citymetric, member of the PS21 governing board

Eleanor Harrison OBE – CEO of award winning charity GlobalGiving UK; the world’s first and largest global crowdfunding comm unity for non-profits, GlobalGiving.co.uk

Aaron Bastani – Left-wing blogger and founder of Novara Media

Sign up here.

 

Counterterrorism in Iraqi Kurdistan

Friday, October 7, Whitehall, three p.m. [exact venue to be confirmed to attendees]

PS21 is delighted to host an off the record discussion on the security situation in northern Iraq with Lahur Sheikh Jangi Talabani, director of intelligence and counterterrorism for the Kurdistan Regional Government. The event will be moderated by  Peter Apps, global affairs columnist at Reuters.

Sign up here