US troops have now been present in Afghanistan for the past seventeen years. Initially, the US-led offensive that came in response to al Qaeda’s attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, was mainly an air campaign, supported by indigenous anti-Taliban forces on the ground. This approach proved highly effective. Al Qaeda and Taliban command-and-control centers across Afghanistan were dismantled within days. Most of their commanders were forced to flee to safe havens in Pakistan.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s resignation on October 9 caught many, including some within US President Donald J. Trump’s Cabinet, by surprise. She will leave the post at the end of the year.

Haley, a former governor of South Carolina and the daughter of Indian immigrants, at times struck an independent position from Trump, but was also a prominent supporter of the president.
Over the past five years, the Maldives steadily transitioned from democratic to authoritarian rule under President Abdulla Yameen. Despite all odds, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) achieved a stunning electoral victory on September 23 that provides the Indian Ocean nation with an opportunity to reverse the erosion of rights and freedoms that occurred during Yameen’s tenure. The new government must now secure the loyalty of its institutions, including political factions within the MDP and the military, to ensure a peaceful and stable transition of power from Yameen to President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and his new ruling coalition in November.  

Challenge posed by ISIS affiliate must be addressed

The message from Washington these days appears to be that severing the link between the Taliban and Pakistan is the silver bullet for peace in Afghanistan. It is, however, simplistic to portray the Taliban as the only insurgent group in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the only relevant outside actor. While the Taliban might be the insurgent group with the most sympathizers and members, there are other groups active in Afghanistan that may not be influenced by Pakistan. An enduring peace in Afghanistan is only possible if it involves a deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and addresses the challenge posed by these other insurgent groups.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to appoint Zalmay Khalilzad as his Afghan envoy, tasked with mediating between the Taliban and Kabul, might help bring Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government and at least some factions of the Taliban together. Khalilzad has walked a fine line between Afghanistan’s many ethnic groups in the past. He helped effectively form the country’s first post-Taliban government and organized the country’s first post-Taliban elections.

US-Palestinian relationship is ‘broken,’ says former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad

The decision by US President Donald J. Trump’s administration to close the Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is a symptom of a “completely dysfunctional and broken relationship” between the United States and the Palestinians, says Salam Fayyad, a former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority who is currently a distinguished statesman at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.

The Trump administration’s decision was announced in a statement from the State Department as well as in remarks by senior administration officials on September 10.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford arrive in Islamabad on September 5 for a fresh episode of Mission Impossible: to bend Pakistani leaders into submitting to their wishes in the losing war in Afghanistan. They hope to persuade Pakistan’s newly minted prime minister, Imran Khan, and army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, to move against militants inside Pakistan, especially those who use Pakistani soil to fight the United States, NATO, and the Afghan troops in Afghanistan. A sense of déjà vu hangs over these talks.

Differences over Iran sanctions and trade are holding back the relationship

On September 6, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and US Secretary of Defense James Mattis will participate in the inaugural 2+2 dialogue in New Delhi—a symbolically powerful reminder of growing ties between the United States and India. The relationship has, however, become beset by major challenges that should be addressed to ensure the upward trajectory of the strategic partnership.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out a new vision for American economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific on July 30, announcing the rollout of a new US regional infrastructure initiative, which, while not explicitly targeting China’s growing economic power in the region, will attempt to provide Indo-Pacific countries with an American financial alternative to Beijing.  

In his opening remarks, made at the US Chamber of Commerce’s Indo-Pacific Business Forum, Pompeo announced new Department of State infrastructure and connectivity projects worth $113 million in the Indo-Pacific region. These programs, intended to promote development in the digital economy, energy, and traditional infrastructure sectors, “seek to capitalize on economic opportunity with the spirit of freedom and openness,” with partners who share “democratic values.”
The apparent victory of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in the July 25 parliamentary election marks a new inflection point in Pakistan’s politics and external policies.  This election, though marred by allegations of tampering and violence, marks Pakistan’s second consecutive transition from one civilian-led government to another through an election.  Additionally, PTI’s ascent is a break from the dominance of Pakistan’s two, dynastically controlled, political parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).  As negotiations to form a government under PTI leadership take place over the coming weeks, observers should watch a few factors for signs of what is to come.
In August 2017, US President Donald J. Trump signed into law the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a bill designed in part to sanction countries doing business with Russia’s defense industry. Like some other US partners, India is at risk of CAATSA sanctions because the bulk of its defense inventory is from the former Soviet Union and it maintains substantial defense ties with Russia.