Whitney Kassel

O Say Can You Free Me?

Dozens of Americans are spending this July 4 as hostages in far-off lands. Washington should do more to get them back.

North Waziristan is not where you want to spend July 4. When you hear what sounds like fireworks, it's more likely coming from an unmanned drone than your neighbor's kids. Sadly, this is how some Americans are spending Independence Day this year.

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One Insurgent at a Time

How Alcoholics Anonymous can fix Obama's counterterrorism strategy.

President Obama's commencement speech at West Point last Wednesday touched a lot of nerves. From America's already uneasy allies in East Asia to concerned Afghans to a litany of critics who feel he is abrogating the United States' role in the international order, the vision he sketched for U.S. engagement has been a popular target for opprobrium. But in the speech, he also set forth one oft-repeated goal that has generated little discussion: renewing the effort to build partner nations' capacities to combat al-Qaeda and related groups on their own soil.

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COIN of the Realm

Could the counterinsurgency strategy that failed for the U.S. in Afghanistan work for China in Xinjiang?

Random arrests, indefinite detentions, and religious oppression are certainly nothing to aspire to. But observers of China's internal affairs can in some respects consider Beijing's campaign against Muslim Uighur separatists in the Western region of Xinjiang to be a success, at least to the extent that the unrest there hasn't devolved into an all-out war. Still, tensions there appear to be rising. There seems to be an increase in violence between Han Chinese and Uighurs, who make up just under 50 percent of the region's roughly 22 million people, as well as in Uighur-planned terrorist attacks. In late October, a car crash near Beijing's Tiananmen Square killed five -- an exceedingly rare attack on one of the most heavily policed parts of China. On March 1, masked attackers stabbed to death 29 people and injured more than 140 in a railway station in the southern city of Kunming. And an April 30 bomb and knife attack at a railway station in Urumqi, which killed three and injured 27, was all the more dramatic as it took place at the end of Xi Jinping's first visit to Xinjiang as president.

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COIN's Funeral

How the United States and NATO came to pursue the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan -- and why it might never be used again.

If Iraq was, very arguably, counterinsurgency's success story, Afghanistan looks increasingly like the place COIN went to die. Half of the soldiers NATO tried to train can't read. They spent billions on roads leading nowhere, schools with no teachers, and efforts to halt a heroin trade that has hit all-time highs. And in exchange for these labors and over 3,400 fatalities, we've seen President Karzai's February prisoner release and bilateral security agreement negotiations -- which look more like NATO is being shown the door than being asked to help stave off an all but inevitable civil war. Even leaders who implemented the strategy, most notably former U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, have been singing COIN's funeral dirge.

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Tupac in the Kremlin

How the martyred king of gangsta rap, a bisexual LSD-touting beat poet, and a reclusive alcoholic painter inspire a Moscow apparatchik.

When Putin's senior advisor Vladislav Surkov learned of the U.S. sanctions being levied against him in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea, he responded: "The U.S. I am interested in is Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don't need a visa to access their work. So I lose nothing."  

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