Backgrounders

Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

Sharia and Militancy

Author: Toni Johnson

Experts say Islamic law, or sharia, holds wide appeal for Muslim populations in many countries and is beginning to spread via democratic means, but it is also being used as a tool of Islamic militancy and extremism.

See more in Religion; Middle East and North Africa

Sudan's Fractured Internal Politics

Authors: Toni Johnson and Stephanie Hanson

Experts say instability in south Sudan should be looked at in tandem with the crisis in Darfur, and some call for addressing Sudan's problems in a more unified way to help forestall an escalation of violence.

See more in Sudan; South Sudan; Peacekeeping

Afghanistan's National Security Forces

Author: Greg Bruno

The growth and strengthening of Afghanistan's domestic security forces is seen as key to an eventual U.S. exit, but some analysts caution that progress will remain slow.

See more in Afghanistan; NATO

U.S. Drone Activities in Pakistan

Author: Greg Bruno

The reliance on unmanned drones to target terror suspects in Pakistan has been quietly lauded by U.S. officials. But the covert program, which has so far gotten little public scrutiny, is facing mounting legal and ethical concerns.

See more in Defense Strategy; United States; Pakistan

Fifteen Nuclear Agendas to Watch

Author: Toni Johnson

The Review Conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty gets underway amid new concerns about Iran and North Korea and disputes between nuclear haves and have-nots. Fifteen countries will play a special role in the debate.

See more in Global Governance; Proliferation