Trump rhetoric versus Afghan reality

US President Donald Trump announces his strategy for the war in Afghanistan during an address to the nation from Fort Myer, Virginia, U.S., August 21, 2017. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Donald Trump did not say how many additional troops he would send to Afghanistan

After some 16 years, the battle for Afghanistan - America's longest running war - is going to get a whole lot longer.

This was the essential message from President Donald Trump's address. His stress on abandoning timetables and moving to a "conditions-based approach" as he called it, means that US troops will be in Afghanistan for a considerable time to come.

The decision on a new Afghan strategy was much delayed, but after much prevarication he has essentially followed the line of his senior military advisers.

He refused to give any numbers as to additional troops and so on, but the plan backed by his generals is thought to involve the despatch of some 3,800 additional military trainers and advisers to the country - so it is likely that this is part of what will happen.

US air support - crucial in helping Afghan government forces to withstand Taliban pressure on the battlefield - may also be stepped up, but here too President Trump was playing his cards close to his chest.

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US and Russia's diplomatic spat: Carving out an uncertain path

  • 31 July 2017
  • From the section Europe
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July, 2017 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Russia's President Vladimir Putin appears to have hoped for a reset in relations after Donald Trump won power

Russia's decision to significantly reduce the number of US diplomatic staff marks the end of any immediate hope for a fresh start between Moscow and Washington. Indeed, it could usher in a new and uncertain period of competition between the two capitals.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin seized upon US President Donald Trump's election victory as offering the potential for a very different relationship.

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Nato sends 'alive and strong' message from Estonia

  • 10 July 2017
  • From the section Europe
British soldiers during the official ceremony welcoming the deployment of a multi-national Nato battalion in Tapa, Estonia, on 20 April Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The UK commands the Nato battle group in Estonia

The Estonian town of Tapa is about an hour and half's drive eastwards from the capital Tallinn. Tapa owes its existence to the fact that it sits at an important railway junction. It bears all the hallmarks of an old Soviet garrison town - there was indeed a Russian air base here during the Cold War.

But today, sitting less than 150km (93 miles) from the Russian border, it is the base for a Nato battle group - here, according to the alliance, to reassure the Estonians and to demonstrate Nato's solidarity to Moscow.

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North Korean missiles: Can the US defend itself?

North Korean TV releases photos of purported ICBM test launch Image copyright Reuters
Image caption North Korean state TV released photos of the purported ICBM test launch

Whatever the precise range and capability of North Korea's latest ballistic missile test, there is no doubt that it is making steady progress towards its goal of having a nuclear-capable missile, able to threaten the continental US.

That term "nuclear capable" is important. Pyongyang must both miniaturise a nuclear warhead to fit on the head of a missile and be able to protect it against all the buffeting and forces as it re-enters the earth's atmosphere.

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How much of a threat does Russia pose, and to whom?

  • 29 June 2017
  • From the section Europe
Flags of Nato member countries fly during a ceremony at the new headquarters in Brussels, 25 May Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Nato countries have sent battle groups to deter any Russian move west

Nato defence ministers are reviewing progress in what's known as the alliance's "enhanced forward presence" - its deployment of troops eastwards to reassure worried allies, and deter any Russian move west.

Nato has dispatched four battalion-sized battle groups, one deployed in Poland and one in each of the three Baltic republics: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

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Why has Trump been so harsh on Iran?

US President Donald Trump gestures during his meeting with Israeli President Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Trump has repeatedly criticised Iran during his first foreign trip as president

This is President Donald Trump's first foray to the Middle East and it will not be his last. But he has already got one thing clear.

Antipathy towards Iran is the one thing that Washington's disparate allies in the region agree upon.

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Nuclear conflict risk: Why the bomb is back

  • 5 May 2017
  • From the section World
Filming on the set of Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb on 14 March 1963 Image copyright Express/Getty
Image caption The film Dr Strangelove satirised fears of a nuclear conflict between the US and the former Soviet Union

The film Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb - to give it its full title - remains a comedy classic. Starring Peter Sellers in multiple roles and directed by Stanley Kubrick, it illustrated the way in which the US and the then Soviet Union might unintentionally drift into all-out nuclear war. Back in 1964, when it was first released, it was a very dark comedy indeed. Audiences then lived under the very real shadow of the Cold War nuclear arms race.

Mindful of the dangers, over the years, an elaborate series of arms control and arms reduction agreements were concluded between the two superpowers to try to manage their nuclear rivalry.

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North Korea tensions: Why clarity is key to avoiding a spiralling crisis

  • 26 April 2017
  • From the section Asia
A military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People's Army (KPA) is seen in this handout photo by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) made available on 26 April 2017. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption North Korea has put on elaborate military displays in recent days as tensions rise

Some 10 days ago, as tensions mounted on the Korean peninsula, a British newspaper ran a cartoon showing a smiling North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, alongside a similarly smiling Donald Trump.

Under Kim Jong-un was the caption "unpredictable, oddly coiffed nutter threatens world with massive firepower". Next to him, the beaming President Trump was wearing a shirt emblazoned with a picture of the massive bomb that US forces had just dropped in Afghanistan, with the slogan "Been there, Done that, Got the T-shirt!"

Read full article North Korea tensions: Why clarity is key to avoiding a spiralling crisis

Trump's nuclear problem with Iran requires a plan B

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks after his swearing-in ceremony at the Oval Office, accompanied by President Donald Trump, 21 March 2017 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Trump administration must come up with a clear approach to the problem posed by Iran

Once again rhetoric and reality in the Trump administration appear to be at odds with each other.

Earlier this week, the administration certified to Congress - as it must every 90 days - that Iran was abiding by the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name given to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

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Trump’s lack of clarity on foreign policy may prove catastrophic

US President Donald Trump at a meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, 7 April 2017 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The lack of clarity with US foreign policy is a cause of concern for America's allies

Just a few days ago the Russian embassy in London responded on its Twitter feed to the British Foreign Secretary's announcement that he was cancelling his planned visit to Moscow.

Accompanying the Russian tweet was a picture of the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimea War - one of the great disasters of 19th Century British military history.

Read full article Trump’s lack of clarity on foreign policy may prove catastrophic