Stories by Jarrett Blanc

Expert Voices

Latest Afghan-Taliban peace talks fall apart before they begin

Ashfraf Ghani at a lectern
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo: Afghan Presidency Press Office / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

An informal conference between Afghan and Taliban negotiators in Doha this Saturday was postponed indefinitely after the Taliban rejected President Ashraf Ghani’s list of delegates, leaving intra-Afghan discussions further behind even as direct U.S.–Taliban security talks move forward.

Why it matters: Without progress among Afghans, the U.S. cannot achieve its core counterterrorism objectives.

Expert Voices

Risks of terrorist designation on Iran's Guard Corps outweigh rewards

photo of Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commander, Major General Mohammad-Ali Jafari
Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, at a press conference in Tehran in 2012. Photo: Mohsen Shandiz/Corbis via Getty Images

The designation of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) imposes few if any new restrictions. As President Trump noted, though, it is technically an "unprecedented" action, since the label was intended for non-state actors.

The big picture: This amounts to just one more layer of opprobrium on top of Iran’s 1984 designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, the IRGC’s designation under separate counterterrorism authorities, and a long list of related sanctions. Because most countries and firms worried about U.S. sanctions have already left the Iranian market, it's unlikely to chill much international business.

Expert Voices

U.S.-India missile defense strategy could threaten Afghan peace process

Acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan arrives in Kabul on February 11, 2019.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan in Kabul, Feb. 11. Photo: Sylvie Lanteaume/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. is ostentatiously promoting cooperation with India on ballistic missile defense, highlighting it in the 2019 Missile Defense Review as a “key element” of its Indo-Pacific strategy.

Why it matters: Pakistan is certain to see any such cooperation as a move against its nuclear force. Even though ballistic missile defense systems have nothing to do with the battlefield in Afghanistan, where the low-tech Taliban has forced the U.S. to the table, the move could threaten the U.S.-Taliban withdrawal negotiations by spurring Pakistan to reinforce its support for the group.