Original pieces written by Atlantic Council staff or affiliates.
  • Fighting ISIS in Libya

    Libyan foreign minister seeks US engagement in effort to root out terrorists

    Amid concern that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is regrouping in Libya, Mohamed Taher Syala, the foreign minister in Libya’s internationally recognized, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), said the United States must remain committed to defeating the terrorists in his country.

    More than five years after its longtime ruler, Moammar Gadhafi, was ousted and killed in an Arab Spring-inspired uprising, Libya remains mired in chaos. It has two rival governments and is awash in weapons and independent militias. ISIS has sought to exploit this chaos in the North African nation.

    In the summer of 2016, the United States conducted drone strikes against ISIS targets in the coastal city of Sirte. Troops loyal to the GNA—mostly militias from the western city of Misrata—also helped shatter ISIS’ control over its stronghold in Sirte.

    Syala praised the US military intervention. “Without those attacks, it would be very difficult for our forces to conquer Daesh in that area,” he said in an interview with the New Atlanticiston March 23. ISIS is also known as Daesh.

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  • US Engagement in the Balkans Seen as Vital

    Albanian foreign minister said United States has a ‘decisive’ role in Balkan reforms

    It is critical for the United States to deepen its engagement in the Balkans—a region that faces threats from terrorists as well as Russia, Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati said in Washington on March 21.

    In February, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama warned that the Balkan peninsula is in danger of slipping under the influence of Russia if it is ignored by the new administration of US President Donald Trump.

    Bushati conceded in an interview with the New Atlanticist that the region faces “some security challenges.” Russia, for example, is trying hard to prevent Balkan states from joining the European Union (EU) and NATO, he said. “When we speak of the Euroatlantic path and the EU accession process, we should take into account the reform process,” he added.

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  • Italy Seeks a US-European Front to Face Common Challenges

    ‘Transatlantic bond remains as important as ever,’ said Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano

    Unprecedented migration, instability in the Middle East, and the growing threat of terrorism necessitate a joint US-European approach to common security challenges that stem from the Mediterranean region, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said at the Atlantic Council on March 21.

    “In the past, common security threats came from the east,” said Alfano, adding, “today, they are coming from the southern shores of the Mediterranean.” Describing the Mediterranean region as a strategically significant location that ties the European Union (EU) to NATO and then to the United States, Alfano insisted that “a common effort in the Mediterranean is a keystone to our security,” and should be a priority in NATO strategy.  

    “Europe and the United States face common challenges in the Mediterranean,” he said. “For this reason, I am convinced that our transatlantic bond remains as important as ever.”

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  • Despite Sen. Rand Paul, Montenegro’s Foreign Minister is Confident of NATO Membership

    Montenegro’s Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic is confident that, despite a procedural setback, the US Senate will ratify a protocol that will allow his nation to become the twenty-ninth member of NATO. This, he said, should happen before the Alliance’s summit in Brussels in May.

    NATO foreign ministers signed the Accession Protocol with Montenegro in May 2016. Prospective members must win approval from all NATO members’ parliaments, as well as the unanimous consent of the US Senate. Once that approval is secured, Montenegro will be invited to join the Alliance. This would represent NATO’s first expansion since Albania and Croatia joined in 2009.

    So far, twenty-four of twenty-eight NATO allies have backed Montenegro’s accession. In the United States, the process has hit a roadblock: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) has demanded a roll call vote, which is a lengthier process than a quick voice vote.

    “I am very confident [that the Senate will ratify the protocol] and rely on US democracy," Darmanovic said in an interview with the New Atlanticist at the Atlantic Council on March 21.

    "It is normal procedure to try to get it done by unanimous consent, but in any democracy, it is not easy to get 100 out of 100 senators or parliamentarians,” he added.

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  • Russia’s Support for the Taliban Leaves Kabul Feeling Uneasy

    Afghan foreign minister sees threat to peace process

    Russia’s support for the Taliban—a terrorist group with which the United States has been at war for more than fifteen years and that is dedicated to overthrowing Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government—is causing considerable unease in Afghanistan where officials worry it will undermine efforts to make peace in their war-torn country.

    “[E]stablishing contacts with these terrorist groups will give them a wrong message and they will think that the international community is recognizing them,” said Salahuddin Rabbani, Afghanistan’s foreign minister and a former head of the country’s High Peace Council. This, in turn, would undercut a peace and reconciliation process because the Taliban “will not be encouraged to come to the negotiating table,” he added.

    The peace process has had scant success in part because, as Rabbani noted, Afghanistan’s eastern neighbor, Pakistan, continues to provide material support and sanctuary for the terrorists.

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  • On the Economics of Cyber Weapons, Part 2

    Some industrial organization in cyber, and the organization of cyber forces

    We are now seven months past what Nicholas Weaver called the National Security Agency’s “No Good, Very Bad Monday.” We may not know who the Shadow Brokers really are, but as Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai wrote on Motherboard, quoting Thomas Rid (“Cyber War Will Not Take Place”) of King’s College, they were probably very angry at Fort Meade. Back last August, they took the NSA’s website offline for almost a full day. In the big scheme of things, that’s not that scary. As Robert McMillan reported for the Wall Street Journal, their broken English—“how much you pay for enemies cyber weapons?”—was amusing. Their demand for one million bitcoin (about $568 million) was downright comical. Perhaps they might have settled for some sharks with lasers on their heads. At least that would have made for a novel organizational concept. More seriously, to cope with cyber problems, some novel organization may indeed be what’s needed, in both industry and the military.

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  • A Message to Europe: Let’s Stick Together

    Dear European friends of America,

    In these challenging times, I am writing to ask that you not abandon your American ally. We have fallen on hard times, and our new leader, Donald Trump, is different from any other in our history.

    I know that some have compared Trump to one of his predecessors—Andrew Jackson. But Jackson was president in simpler times, when news moved at the speed of the pony express, and there was no country that could destroy ours in a matter of minutes. Or, for that matter, we were not able to wipe out virtually any other country on Earth.

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  • The Importance of Values in Engagement with Russia

    In devising a strategy to counter Russian aggression, the new US administration must keep in mind the significance of fundamental values and frame a foreign policy accordingly, said Simon Palamar, a senior fellow with the Center for International Governance and Innovation.

    “Invoking values… is useful for reminding us about what we’re doing this for and why we’re pursuing this policy,” he said. While US President Donald J. Trump has expressed a desire for improved relations between the White House and the Kremlin, Palamar said, “Russia and the United States still simply have incompatible positions and interests on a lot of things.” These opposing positions cannot be bridged solely by good relations between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the values informing the US stance on the world stage must not be disregarded for the sake of expediency, according to Palamar. “That leads to discord; that leads to resentment.”

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  • Trump’s Budget Will Weaken National Security, say Lawmakers

    US President Donald J. Trump’s draft budget, which proposes to increase defense spending by slashing funding for the US Department of State and foreign aid, would imperil national security efforts and weaken the US stance on the world stage, according to two US lawmakers—one a Democrat and the other a Republican.

    “You cannot balance the budget on the back of discretionary spending,” said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA). “If [increased defense spending] comes at the expense of the State Department, it’s not a recipe for success; it’s a recipe for making our national security weaker.”

    Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) echoed Moulton’s concern over the proposed budget, warning: “If you’re going to cut State, you’re going to have to increase the bullets. That does translate into body bags.”

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  • Ukraine's Parliamentary Internship Program May Be in Jeopardy

    Over the past twenty-two years, the Ukrainian Parliamentary Internship program has introduced more than 1,500 university-age men and women to the legislative process by employing them in committees and departments of the Verkhovna Rada. The program gives young professionals practical experience with the parliament’s institutions and procedures by allowing them to participate in legislative work.

    But the program may be in jeopardy. Funded since its inception by USAID as part of a larger Rada initiative run by the East Europe Foundation (EEF), the internship program may lose its support next year if the Rada doesn’t include it in the budget. If EEF and the Interns’ League, the NGO that directly administers it, cannot find replacement funding, the program may not continue.

    That would be unfortunate.

    “The Rada intern program is one of the most important [programs] to prepare young people for serving the nation,” said MP Hanna Hopko, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee.

    “We need more of these young professionals to transform the country further,” said MP Svitlana Zalishchuk.

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