Regardless of which presidential candidate wins on election day, the next president will face a range of national security threats, both new and old.
Here are five national security challenges (in no particular order) either Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton or Republican nominee Donald Trump will face.
1. Radical Islamic Terrorism
The threat posed by radical Islamic terrorism is still very much a national concern 15 years after the start of the Global War on Terror. The next president will be responsible for finishing off the Islamic State and countering any threat it poses should it revert to its traditional terrorist roots.
Al-Qaida is also a persistent threat, having seen a resurgence in the chaos of Syria. Should ISIS fall apart, al-Qaida could benefit by seizing the remnants of what is left. The Taliban in Afghanistan is also in the midst of a major revival which will likely require continued U.S. support to properly counter.
2. Iranian Influence in the Middle East
Obama’s major nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran did little to stop the country from spreading its influence across the greater Middle East. In fact, Iran has expanded its influence in at least three major conflicts since.
Iranian influence is undoubtedly most prevalent in Iraq, where Iranian-backed Shiite militias make up a substantial portion of the official Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Iran’s influence in the Houthi rebellion in Yemen also poses a national security risk, given the recent Houthi attack on U.S. ships with what are believed to be Iranian-supplied missiles. Iran also jumped at the opportunity to support its ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after civil war broke out in 2011. The country is believed to control as many as 25,000 forces in Syria, according to an Israeli official.
2. Russian Aggression
Russia presents a diverse array of potential threats for the next president, most notably regarding NATO and cyber warfare. Russia’s ongoing intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea frightened several NATO allies, especially those bordering Russia who are concerned they may be next.
Russia’s alleged cyber attacks on the U.S. will also likely continue to pose a problem, regardless of who is elected president. Most of the previous attacks focused on spreading misinformation and the hacking of Democratic pary institutions, but a potential Russian attack on fragile U.S. infrastructure could be significantly more dangerous.
3. China’s Rise
China’s land-grab in the South China Sea threatens the U.S. Navy’s freedom of navigation and global shipping lanes. The next president will have to institute a policy to ensure freedom of the seas to ensure U.S. exports and naval ships are free to go where they are allowed under international law.
4. North Korea
North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un engaged in several aggressive actions during the Obama presidency, ranging from failed missile launches to nuclear tests. The hermit country increased its provocations throughout 2016, and will probably continue to do so in the next four years.
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