Central African Republic

The violent events at the beginning of October in Central African Republic – the public murders and clashes in the capital, Bangui; the less publicised killings across the nearly ungoverned countryside (an area greater than that of France); the raids along the CAR-Cameroon border – are symptoms of the breakdown of the international community’s security arrangements and of CAR’s interim government itself.

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As of Thursday, the Islamic State (ISIS) had seized 40% of the strategic Syrian border town of Kobani, raising questions about the success of U.S.-led airstrikes meant to stem the group’s advance. The U.N. warned that ISIS could massacre the remaining 500 people trapped in Kobani, while analysts said an ISIS victory there would destabilize both the border region and the Middle East at large.

ISIS now controls roughly one-third of Syrian territory. Its continued spread has sparked a debate over new measures to counter the group, among them the possible creation of a buffer zone in northern Syria – which could require a no-fly zone to protect it.

Syria Turkey

In this interview with Syria Deeply, Didem Aykel Collinsworth, Turkey Senior Analyst, explains why Turkey has stepped up its cooperation with the international community in the fight against the Islamic State (IS). Didem stresses that this move is a defensive measure and that direct involvement in the war in Syria would be extremely unpopular in Turkey. Turkey is very much aware of the risk IS poses, but it sees the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as the largest domestic security threat. The key here is to move as fast as possible with the peace process and confidence building measures between Turkey and the PKK , so that there are the grounds to cooperate in Kobani.

On 26 September 2014, the United Nations Secretary-General convened a high-level meeting on the Central African Republic. The meeting aimed to identify the next steps for the restoration of peace and stability in the country, following the signing of the Brazzaville Cessation of Hostilities agreement on 23 July, the appointment of a new transitional government on 24 August and the transfer of authority from the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) on 15 September. The meeting was attended by CAR’s President Catherine Samba-Panza and representatives of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council, regional states, regional organisations and international financial institutions. The International Crisis Group sent the following letter to the participants ahead of the meeting.

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Iraq Syria Turkey
Turkish soldiers stand on a hill, facing the Islamic State (IS) fighters' new position, 10km west of the Syrian city of Ain al-Arab (Kobane) near the Syrian border, 2 October, 2014. AFP

Border Patrol: Turkey Tries a New Tack on Its Southern Frontier

In this Q and A, Hugh Pope, deputy director of Crisis Group’s Europe and Central Asia Program, discusses Turkey’s latest change in policy towards Syria, Iraq and the coalition against Islamic State.

Does the parliamentary resolution accepted on 2 October 2014 ­– authorizing Turkish troops to be deployed over the border and foreign armed forces to be based in Turkey – mean that Turkey is going to war in Syria or Iraq?

No cross-border action is likely, at least not yet. There is confusion in the Turkish capital as the government feels its way towards the safest of several dangerous courses. One Turkish newspaper splashed a headline this week about how, if necessary, “We’ll Go in Alone”. A few dozen Turkish tanks have been sent to the border and several thousand troops moved up in reserve. But Turkey is only inching towards direct action. Turkey’s defence minister says the government has no immediate plan to use the new authority to send troops abroad or accept foreign troops in order “to counter any possible attack on our country from all terrorist organisations in Iraq and Syria”. Instead, the main purpose appears to be to deter Islamic State jihadis from taking on Turkey, and perhaps to signal both determination and impatience to Turkey’s Western allies.

Iraq Syria
A fighter of the Islamic State (IS) holds an IS flag and a weapon, Mosul, 23 June, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

What lies behind the “Islamic State” threat

Going beyond the clichés, Peter Harling shares some disturbing truths on the origins and the rise of the Islamic State. The horrific murder of hostage Hervé Gourdel in the name of the Islamic State organisation has focused France’s attention on the jihadi group and reinforced President François Hollande’s determination to strike the group’s positions in Iraq.

But what really is this ultra-radical group? Who contributed to its ascension? Why does it continue to attract disciples around the world? And how can it be stopped? International Crisis Group’s project director for Iraq, Lebanon and Syria and senior Middle East and North Africa adviser, Peter Harling, who lived and worked in Iraq for seven years, reveals to Le Point some disturbing truths on the war against the Islamic State.

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Central African Republic

Crisis Group’s Central Africa project director, Thierry Vircoulon, speaks to Deutsche Welle following the announcement from the International Criminal Court of a new investigation into atrocities committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) in the last two years. Months of fighting between the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition and the Christian anti-Balaka militia have left at least 5,000 people dead. The atrocities to be probed include murder, rape, forced displacement, persecution, pillage and the use of children under the age of 15 in combat.

Women from Altyn-Kazyk on the way to fetch water from Kalys-Ordo. CRISIS GROUP/ Max De Haldevang

Central Asia’s Coming Winter of Discontent

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Germany and like-minded Western donors like Switzerland and the Netherlands have poured millions into trying to solve Central Asia’s chronic water problems. But Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have wasted this opportunity. A new strategy is called for, both in the region and by those who would help it.

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The Maritime Regional Architecture in the Gulf of Guinea. CRISIS GROUP

Gulf of Guinea: A Regional Solution to Piracy?

Acts of piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea represent more than a quarter of worldwide reported attacks. Steadily increasing since 2007, maritime insecurity in this region affects the trade of 455 million people. It affects the shipment of five million barrels of oil per day (Africa’s total is nine million), accounting for forty per cent of European and twenty-nine per cent of American imports. In its December 2012 report The Gulf of Guinea: The New Danger Zone, Crisis Group analysed the emergence of this problem and recommended a two-pronged, long-term response: building a regional maritime security architecture and improving the economic and security governance of the states in the region. While the region is working to develop the security architecture, it also needs to tackle the illicit economic dimensions of the overall situation. In addition, lessons learned from the securing of the Straits of Malacca (which inspired a similar effort in the Gulf of Aden) should be shared with African countries.

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  • 4 February 2014

    CrisisWatch Interactive Map

    CrisisWatch interactive map provides busy readers in the policy community, media, business and interested general public with a succinct regular update on the state of play in all the most significant situations of conflict or potential conflict around the world.

  • 24 June 2014

    The Central African Crisis

    In this series of video interviews, Thierry Vircoulon, Crisis Group's Central Africa Project Director, discusses the conflict in the Central African Republic.

  • 27 May 2014

    Iran's Nuclear Crisis

    Ali Vaez, Crisis Group's Iran Senior Analyst, discusses the latest developments in nuclear negotiations between the P5+1 and suggests a way forward that would satisfy all sides.