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SnapshotsSep 27, 2019 | 19:55 GMT
U.S.: Iran Draws Washington Deeper Into the Middle East
On Sept. 26, the United States announced it was sending yet another batch of military forces to the Persian Gulf in the wake of Iran's latest attack against Saudi Arabia. The deployment includes a U.S. Patriot missile defense battery and four Sentinel radar systems, along with an additional 200 personnel to operate the equipment. The deployment of these additional forces represents a significant shift away from previous U.S. efforts to decrease its military presence in the Middle East and, in turn, focus its attention on threats posed by Russia and China in the European and Asia-Pacific theaters.
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GuidanceSep 17, 2019 | 10:00 GMT
A U.S. Army helicopter on a flight to Camp Post on Sept. 11, 2017 at Camp Shorab in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
Reweighing the Prospects for Peace in Afghanistan
On Sept. 7, U.S. President Donald Trump called off a nearly yearlong U.S. effort to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan -- citing a recent attack that killed a U.S. soldier (among other victims) as proof of the insurgency's insincerity in peace efforts. The announcement has since halted U.S. efforts to continue its drawdown from its nearly 18-yearlong involvement in Afghanistan. The White House, however, has not deviated from its goal of forging a political settlement to end the conflict, which suggests talks will resume at some point. But even if the United States extracts a partial cease-fire and counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban in exchange for a troop withdrawal under a peace deal, the wider Afghan conflict will continue apace until the Taliban and Kabul agree to a nationwide cease-fire.
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AssessmentsAug 9, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
Ships carrying Chinese military personnel depart Zhanjiang, in south China's Guangdong province, on July 11, 2017, bound for a support base in Djibouti.
China May Set Its Navy on Course for the Persian Gulf
China has become the latest country to voice interest in becoming involved in the proposed U.S. naval security plan for the Persian Gulf. On Aug. 6, Chinese Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Ni Jian said China is considering having its navy escort its commercial ships in the region, and that Beijing is also looking at the U.S. proposal for Gulf escorts. Ni hedged that China would only move in this direction in the event of a "very unsafe situation" in the Persian Gulf. If the Chinese decide to proceed, this would mark a significant step forward in China's military and naval presence in the region.
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AssessmentsAug 5, 2019 | 19:16 GMT
This photo shows French, British and U.S. paratroopers training together in south of France.
Why the U.S. Will Struggle to Reduce Its Military Commitments Abroad
Time and again, the United States has attempted to redirect its attention and resources more toward its great power competitions with Russia and China. But this effort keeps getting undermined by Washington's other commitments around the world. Since taking office, U.S. President Donald Trump has sought to address this problem by pressuring allies to commit more military resources to places like Syria (where the United States is trying to draw down its troops) and most recently, the Persian Gulf (where it now finds itself with an increased risk of a military clash with Iran).  But concerns over the direction of U.S. leadership has made even Washington's strongest partners in Europe reticent to deploy more troops to these hot spots. This lack of trust -- combined with the fact that many allies already have significant security commitments of their own -- will thus likely leave the United States with little choice but
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SITUATION REPORTJul 11, 2019 | 02:02 GMT
U.K., Iran: British Tanker Resists Iranian Seizure Thanks to Royal Navy 
A U.S. aircraft recorded five armed vessels operated by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) attempting -- and ultimately failing -- to seize a British oil tanker crossing into the Strait of Hormuz on July 10, Reuters reported, citing unnamed U.S. officials. The British oil tanker was being escorted from the rear by the Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose, which reportedly gave a verbal warning and trained its guns on the approaching IRGC vessels before the Iranians dispersed.
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AssessmentsJul 8, 2019 | 06:00 GMT
According to the U.S. military, a Japanese tanker was damaged by a limpet mine resembling Iranian mines on June 13, 2019.
Why the U.S. Plan to Protect Tankers in the Persian Gulf Won't Deter Iran
In response to the recent spat of Iran-linked attacks in the Persian Gulf, the United States has set out on an initiative aimed at securing oil tanker traffic in the area, while providing better visibility and attribution for any future incidents. Coined the Sentinel program, the operation would involve deploying additional warships and maritime patrol planes, as well as placing cameras and other surveillance devices on crude-bearing vessels transiting through the region.  To help lessen the strain on U.S. resources, the White House is now trying to corral the support of both regional and global allies who also risk having their oil supplies disrupted by Iranian attacks. But doing so will be no easy feat, as Washington's sanctions-heavy approach to Iran in the past year has alienated even its closest partners. However, even if the United States can successfully establish such a coalition, it still won't be enough to ensure that
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AssessmentsJul 3, 2019 | 10:00 GMT
A picture showing U.S. sailors move an X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator onto an aircraft elevator aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush.
Visual Anthology: The U.S. Drone Fleet
Unmanned systems have carved out an essential niche in militaries the world over. Once a curious footnote to their manned brethren, remotely piloted vehicles are increasingly ubiquitous on the modern battlefield -- and beyond. Although originally intended to function as surveillance platforms, the weaponization of drones has been ongoing for decades, with many larger systems able to deliver a payload with precision guidance. Drones offer a plethora of advantages, including rapid deployability, extended loiter times, cost-effectiveness and the ability to enter dangerous environments without putting people at risk. Having operated drones such as the MQ-1 Predator since the mid-1990s, the United States is a pioneer of modern unmanned systems and has more experience than any other nation when it comes to employing armed and unarmed drones in combat. However, competition is fierce, and military planners and defense manufacturers are already earmarking significant budgets for research and development and acquisition. In this visual anthology,
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AssessmentsJan 18, 2019 | 06:45 GMT
A picture of Taliban representatives attending an international talks on Afghanistan in Moscow on Nov. 9, 2018.
Why Afghanistan's Peace Talks Won't Really Start Until the U.S. Leaves
The United States is redoubling its efforts to achieve peace in Afghanistan. In September 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Popmpeo appointed Zalmay Khalilzad as the U.S. special envoy for Afghan reconciliation, but the 63-year-old, Afghan-born diplomat faces a daunting task in convincing the Taliban to agree to a cease-fire and participate in formal peace talks with President Ashraf Ghani's administration, all in a bid to end the 17-year war. Formal peace talks are likely to sketch out a political settlement that would likely grant the Taliban a share of power in a post-conflict government. Khalilzad has conducted three rounds of preliminary talks with the Taliban, but the insurgent movement abruptly withdrew from a fourth round of dialogue scheduled to take place in Saudi Arabia this month due to its refusal to engage with officials representing the Afghan government, which the group views as illegitimate. The key, thus, is the
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AssessmentsSep 5, 2018 | 09:00 GMT
Pakistan strongly influences the shape of the conflict in Afghanistan, and China and Russia are becoming more involved there.
Why Russia and China Are Expanding Their Roles in Afghanistan
As the great powers deepen their presence in South Asia, all eyes are on Afghanistan. A year has passed since U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his Afghan war strategy in August 2017, seeking to break the stalemate in America's longest-running conflict. But the Taliban's sustained assault on the city of Ghazni demonstrates that the addition of a few thousand U.S. troops under operations Resolute Support and Freedom's Sentinel has failed to decisively swing the pendulum in Kabul's favor.
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On SecurityMar 6, 2018 | 08:00 GMT
The touristy Grand Oasis hotel in Cancun was the site of a murder apparently related to organized crime in early March 2018.
Staying Smart and Safe on Spring Break in Mexico
Well, it's that time of the year again. Several friends, family members and even a Stratfor colleague have sought out my opinion on the security risks of spending spring break in Mexico. Some general guidance about planning a safe spring break can be found here, and I encourage you to read it in addition to this article. But based on the number of people asking me about spring break travel to Mexico, there seems to be a particular level of concern about the subject this year. And in fact, the security situation in the country has changed since my last dedicated piece on the topic five years ago.
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On SecurityFeb 22, 2018 | 08:00 GMT
Nikolas Cruz sits in court during a hearing. He is charged with killing 17 people in a school shooting on Feb. 14.
A Blueprint for Preventing School Shootings
Nikolas Cruz was determined to burn Valentine’s Day 2018 into memory. After a ride-sharing service deposited him on the campus of the Parkland, Florida, high school from which he had been expelled, authorities said, the 19-year-old entered a stairwell, uncased his semi-automatic rifle and proceeded to unleash hell upon the students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Cruz, who apparently left the scene after blending into the crowd of panicked former classmates to get past responding police. was later arrested and charged with the attack that killed 17 teenagers and adults and injured at least 15 more.
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ReflectionsOct 7, 2017 | 14:43 GMT
As the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan War neared in 2011, a U.S. soldier readies his weapon at a forward operating base.
Sixteen Years and Counting: The Afghan War Grinds On
The United States has reached another grim milestone in its war in Afghanistan. On Oct. 7, U.S. forces marked their 16th year of involvement in the conflict that began as retaliation against al Qaeda, which had plotted the 9/11 attacks under the sanctuary of Afghanistan's erstwhile Taliban government. This year's anniversary comes as another change in the U.S. approach to the long-running conflict is unfolding. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has proposed a revitalized plan to break the ongoing stalemate between the Taliban-led insurgency and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. The plan Mattis outlined Oct. 3 during a hearing of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee would reshape both the tactical and strategic approaches taken by the United States in the war. This marks the latest attempt by Washington to reach for a fresh solution to resolve the Afghan quagmire, the longest-running war in the country's history.
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AssessmentsAug 2, 2017 | 09:00 GMT
Weary Afghan and American soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division return from a long patrol to Combat Outpost Asheque Oct. 16, 2010 in Zhari district west of Kandahar, Afghanistan.
In Washington, War Fatigue Is Setting In
As the newest administration in Washington hammers out a strategy for the war in Afghanistan, a rift has opened among U.S. policymakers about how to proceed. On one side is the Pentagon, which has proposed sending up to 3,900 troops to the conflict-ridden country. If approved, the move would escalate the United States' involvement in the war, which began over 15 years ago. On the other side of the debate is the White House, where reports have emerged of calls to draw down the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan. War fatigue, spurred by an unwillingness to wade deeper into a feud whose resolution eluded the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, is clearly setting in.
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