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The Afghan War Took an Awful Toll. I Would Still Serve Again

Was it worth it?

I don’t mean the wars — it’s nearly impossible to argue the wars were worth it, surely — but what about our service in them? Did it mean anything?

This question haunts many veterans on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Did anything we do in the years that followed matter? Worse, if the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan hurt the United States more than they helped, did our participation in them betray the country we had pledged to serve?

I was already a second lieutenant in the Army in the fall of 2001, and much of my life since then — two combat deployments to Afghanistan, one to Iraq, time back in Afghanistan as a civilian adviser, several years in the Pentagon as a senior defense official — has been shaped by America’s forever wars.…  Seguir leyendo »

Primavera de 2010, atardecer en Qala e Naw, capital de Badghis, noroeste de Afganistán. Después de una intensa jornada de trabajo, recibo la llamada de mi teniente coronel jefe de Batallón, desplegado en la todavía muy precaria base avanzada de operaciones de Sang Atesh, a unos 60 kilómetros de mi cuartel general, y hasta hace unos días dominada por la insurgencia talibán, donde el despliegue de los legionarios españoles, junto a soldados y policías afganos, empieza a llevar la tranquilidad a la zona. Recibo novedades del día. A pesar de las duras condiciones de vida y el clima extremo, la moral de nuestros soldados es elevada.…  Seguir leyendo »

L’inaction aussi a son prix et il est plus que temps d’en sortir car… Rappelons l’enchaînement qui a conduit au chaos qui s’installe aux frontières de l’Europe. En Syrie, malgré la France, Barack Obama n’avait pas voulu faire respecter les lignes rouges qu’il avait lui-même tracées à Bachar Al-Assad. Son successeur s’est ensuite largement retiré du Proche-Orient pendant que l’Europe décidait de ne pas agir seule. La Russie s’est engouffrée dans ce vide pour reprendre pied dans la région aux côtés des régimes de Damas et de Téhéran.

La Russie est redevenue acteur mondial pendant que les démocraties occidentales se repliaient et Vladimir Poutine a alors décidé d’en finir avec le conflit syrien.…  Seguir leyendo »

Soldados y policías chinos sirven en ocho misiones de paz de la ONU en África. Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

China ha ido aumentando su participación en las operaciones de mantenimiento de la paz de las Naciones Unidas (NU) en África desde su primera misión en 1989, cuando la ONU se encargó de la independencia de Namibia de Sudáfrica. Desde entonces, su dotación y personal han ido aumentando.

En 2019, China donó siete mil millones de $ al mantenimiento de la paz de la ONU, que contribuyó en un 15,22% al presupuesto global para el mantenimiento de la paz. Esta cifra creció un 10,28% en 2018, y China se convirtió en el segundo mayor contribuyente financiero después de Estados Unidos. De las 14 misiones actuales para el mantenimiento de la paz, 7 se desarrollan en África, lo que supone dos tercios del presupuesto.…  Seguir leyendo »

Muy pocas madres se pueden permitir que sus ‘bebés de paz’ vayan a colegios como este de Kolminy. Michelle D. Milliman/Shutterstock.com

Marie* tenía 14 años y acudía a una escuela cristiana cuando conoció a Miguel, un soldado brasileño destinado en Haití como Casco Azul de la ONU. Pronto inició una relación con él. Cuando le dijo que estaba embarazada de su hijo, Miguel le aseguró que le ayudaría con el niño, pero volvió a Brasil. Marie trató de comunicarse con él vía Facebook, pero Miguel nunca respondió.

Al enterarse de que estaba embarazada, el padre de Marie la echó de casa y se fue a vivir con su hermana. Actualmente, su hijo tiene cuatro años y Marie continúa a la espera de recibir algún tipo de ayuda por parte del ejército brasileño, alguna ONG, las Naciones Unidas o el estado haitiano.…  Seguir leyendo »

Peacekeeper with the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti

An independent United Nations (UN) strategic review has recommended that the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC) complete a phased withdrawal by 2022. Moina Spooner, from The Conversation Africa, asked Mats Berdal to give his insights into why this is happening and what the implications could be.

Why is the peacekeeping operation coming to an end?

The UN Organisation Mission in the DRC started off as a small observer force in 1999. It was deployed by the UN Security Council to monitor the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement signed in August 1999. At the time the hope was that this would mark the end of the Second Congo War.…  Seguir leyendo »

A soldier on the African Union Mission in Somalia standing guard on a street during a security operation in Mogadishu, Somalia. EPA/Tobin Jones

In an ever more urbanising world, peacekeepers will increasingly operate in cities. In a recent article, we analysed how attacks against the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) affected the peacekeepers’ ability to operate in Mogadishu.

Cities host key logistical and political assets and institutions. They are frequently the object of fierce contestation among warring parties. Cities may also remain divided and insecure long after formal peace agreements are signed, posing significant challenges to peaceful transitions.

Securing strategically important cities and protecting key institutions are thus crucial tasks for peace operations. However, operating in densely populated urban areas brings significant challenges.…  Seguir leyendo »

Vivimos en un mundo cada vez más globalizado e interdependiente donde la comunicación, la economía y las amenazas a nuestra seguridad también son globales. Atrás quedaron los tiempos en los que era fácil pensar que la seguridad de nuestro país y de nuestra ciudadanía podía garantizarse con la mera defensa de nuestras fronteras. Amenazas como el terrorismo internacional, el crimen organizado o el interés por debilitar nuestras instituciones democráticas, son amenazas que no conocen fronteras y por tanto, han de ser abordadas de manera conjunta y coordinada. Precisamente este año se cumple el 30º aniversario de la primera participación de nuestras Fuerzas Armadas en una misión en el exterior en el marco de las operaciones de mantenimiento de la paz de Naciones Unidas (ONU).…  Seguir leyendo »

ean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP/Getty Images A government soldier in Masiaka, a town about forty miles east of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, on the day the rebel leader Foday Sankoh was captured, May 17, 2000

There is one place in the world where Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, is not vilified for his part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a West African country where, less than three years earlier, his government’s intervention helped to end one of the most vicious conflicts in recent history. In Sierra Leone, where he is a hero, the “Blair Doctrine” was a rare case of an overseas military operation not for strategic or commercial interest, but for humanitarian purposes and in the name of an ethical foreign policy. Blair would later write in his autobiography that the episode was one of his proudest moments in office.…  Seguir leyendo »

Women in the town of Mweso, Congo, walk past a convoy from the U.N. peacekeeping mission on April 10. (Alexis Huguet/AFP/Getty Images)

The second Liberian civil war began 20 years ago this month. All told, the conflicts that ravaged Liberia from the beginning of the first civil war in 1989 to the end of the second in 2003 resulted in the deaths of some 250,000 men, women and children, the displacement of more than 1 million civilians and the destruction of much of the country’s infrastructure.

The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) deployed in 2003 to help the country rebuild, and stayed until its mandate ended last year. By most accounts UNMIL was a success, shepherding in over a decade of peace and three consecutive democratic elections.…  Seguir leyendo »

When President Trump took questions at his March 19 news conference with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a reporter asked what he thought about possibly using military force to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Trump’s answer was, “I think of all possibilities. All options are open.” The Trump administration has repeatedly stated the United States will not “rule out” military intervention in Venezuela because “every option is on the table.”

Two months ago, Trump recognized National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself Venezuela’s interim president in January. Increasing numbers of Venezuelans — and foreign governments — have backed Guaidó and rejected the contested presidency of Maduro, but the country remains in a political stalemate.…  Seguir leyendo »

La crisis venezolana no augura tiempos de paz justa. Las razones esgrimidas por los contendientes y sus seguidores, en las que no se quiere incidir, y los apoyos de actores exteriores parecen conducir, si el diálogo y la buena voluntad no lo remedian, a otro conflicto de dimensiones nacionales, regionales e internacionales. Demasiada pasión y demasiados intereses para que se pueda atender a las necesidades del sufrido pueblo de Venezuela. A las gentes que viven en ese país no les queda más remedio que tomar partido, como ocurre en todos los conflictos civiles. Las “pobres gentes” son al final los que sufren y son víctimas inocentes de la violencia.…  Seguir leyendo »

A sign says "Venezuela deserves change" at a rally in support of amnesty for political prisoners.CreditCreditMeridith Kohut for The New York Times

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking to the United Nations Security Council on Jan. 26, called on “every other nation to pick a side” and to “stand with the forces of freedom” in the standoff between President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela and Juan Guaidó, the head of the country’s National Assembly, who declared his interim presidency on Jan. 23 and quickly won the support of the United States and many other countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Since Mr. Pompeo’s speech, the United States has put further pressure on the Maduro government, imposing new oil sanctions and reiterating that “all options” — including, presumably, military intervention — “are on the table.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Violence against civilians in Darfur . Darker shades of red represent higher numbers of recorded instances of violence against civilians in a locality, while lighter shades represent fewer recorded instances of violence. The black bullets indicate instances of obstruction and/or intimidation of peacekeepers, while the shade of the localities in Darfur indicate the number of documented instances of violence against civilians between January 2008 and April 2009. (Figure from: Duursma, A. Obstruction and intimidation of peacekeepers: How armed actors undermine civilian protection efforts. Journal of Peace Research.)

Congolese rebels killed eight U.N. peacekeepers on Nov. 15. The same rebel group was responsible for the death of 15 peacekeepers in December 2017, the deadliest single assault on the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo in its 25 years of existence.

U.N. peacekeepers also face heavy armed resistance in places such as Mali, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. These serious attacks may obscure another crucial threat to peacekeeping missions: Government forces and rebels obstruct and intimidate peacekeepers to prevent them from fulfilling their civilian protection mandate.

For instance, government forces and the Kamuina Nsapu militia fought in Congo’s Kasai-Central province in March 2017.…  Seguir leyendo »

July 2016 – Malakal, South Sudan – A U.N. peacekeeper stands guard as civilians enter the Protection of Civilians (POC) site outside the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Malakal, South Sudan on Wednesday, July 13, 2016.(Jane Hahn for Washington Post)

Syria’s seven years of conflict have had devastating consequences, with hundreds of thousands of people dead and over 4 million refugees. Would the story be different if the United Nations Security Council had managed to come to an agreement and deployed a peacekeeping operation (PKO) early in the conflict?

Would a PKO have been able to resolve this conflict? Despite popular conceptions to the contrary (see also here and here), a large body of research has shown that PKOs are surprisingly effective at keeping the peace.

How PKOs contribute to peace

Here are four ways PKOs contribute to peace. This intervention reduces the amount of violence during conflict, reduces the duration of conflict, increases the duration of peace following conflict — and limits the risk that conflict in one country spreads to neighboring countries.…  Seguir leyendo »

U.N. peacekeepers from Rwanda serve at a U.N. base in Malakal, South Sudan, in 2016. (Jane Hahn for The Washington Post)

Over the past 20 years, U.N. peacekeeping deployments have increased by more than 600 percent. Currently, the United Nations manages 14 peacekeeping operations worldwide, staffed by more than 95,000 military personnel, police, civilians and volunteers.

For almost all of these, a common mandate is to protect civilians — which is important not just in immediately saving lives, but also in sustaining peace over the long run. Recent academic research has focused on how well peacekeepers do at reducing conflicts’ virulence and spread.

But do armed peacekeepers actually protect civilians from harm? That’s been debated lately. A recent report, delivered to U.N.…  Seguir leyendo »

Un soldat syrien filme les dégâts provoqués dans un centre de recherche scientifique ayant été la cible des tirs de missiles des Etats-Unis, de la France et du Royaume-Uni en représailles à une attaque chimique attribuée à l’armée syrienne. Damas,… © Hassan Ammar

Certains se sont prononcés en faveur des récentes frappes aériennes contre des sites présumés de production et de stockage d’armes chimiques en Syrie. Ceci sans s’appesantir sur les aspects juridiques. Quel que soit l’avis que l’on se fasse de leur utilité immédiate et de leur légitimité politique ou morale, on ne saurait ignorer que ces attaques constituent une violation manifeste de l’interdiction de la menace et de l’usage de la force, ancrée à l’article 2 de la Charte des Nations unies. Elles ne pourraient se justifier qu’en cas de légitime défense ou d’autorisation par le Conseil de sécurité – ce qui n’est ici pas le cas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Peacekeeper troops from Ethiopia and deployed in the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) patrol outside Abyei town, in Abyei state. ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN / AFP

In 2011, Sudan and South Sudan sought outside help to prevent a return to war along what would become their international border. This effort followed a resurgence of violence in border areas: a new insurgency in South Sudan’s Unity State in April; the Sudanese army’s move into Abyei, an oil-rich area claimed by both countries, in May; and renewed fighting in the Sudanese states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile (known as the “Two Areas”) in June. Part of the UN Security Council’s response to their requests for support was its deployment of a peacekeeping mission, the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA).…  Seguir leyendo »

A Syrian soldier films the damage to the scientific studies and research center after the attack near Damascus. (Hassan Ammar)

Following his April 11 tweet that missiles “will be coming” in Syria, President Trump on Friday night announced U.S. airstrikes in multiple sites, including Damascus. The targeted sites were ones believed to be capable of storing chemical weapons and/or chemical precursors. The attacks were carried out in retaliation for last week’s alleged chemical weapons attack by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

This is not the first time President Trump has ordered airstrikes in Syria, of course. Last April, Trump used airstrikes against Shayrat Airbase in the aftermath of another chemical attack by the Assad regime. Even though the strike appears to have been much larger than last year’s, this remained an airstrike-only operation.…  Seguir leyendo »

Les bombardements occidentaux sur la Syrie, après les attaques au gaz du régime de Bachar Al-Assad contre sa population, ne constituent en aucun cas une réponse suffisante ou proportionnée à ce crime, mais ils sont légitimes et doivent ouvrir le débat sur la protection à plus long terme des Syriens.

La responsabilité du régime syrien est-elle en doute ? Non, il n’y a aucune raison de penser que le coupable est à chercher ailleurs qu’à Damas ; la seule question ouverte est le niveau de complicité des Iraniens et des Russes, ces derniers ayant par ailleurs commis des crimes de guerre dans leurs opérations de bombardements contre des civils.…  Seguir leyendo »