Defence & Diplomacy

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has undoubtedly concluded the international order’s shift away from Western dominance over global affairs. Yet, defining this new international order has proven to be one of the most challenging conundrums of the past decade. Not only because our indicators of power struggle to capture accurate power distributions – and thus hindering our strategic planning capabilities, but also due to the system’s intrinsic tensions: while human rights are compromised by governments from Poland to China, transnational democratic movements sprouting online can trigger major protests across South East Asia; while the technological and economic rifts separating the world’s richest and poorest states grow, military superpowers are forced to pull out of unending conflicts in Mali, Iraq or Afghanistan against groups with a fraction of their budgets.

To better navigate this sea of uncertainties, the Defence & Diplomacy Policy Centre has decided to deconstruct common misconceptions and assumptions regarding this new international order by focusing on the two following themes.

In the first term, the Policy Centre will analyse the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. This theme is meant to outline the key elements of contemporary U.S. grand strategy and assess how withdrawal has impacted the state’s ability to achieve its goals abroad. This will lead to further reflections on the renewed strategic roles of China, Russia, Pakistan and Turkey in Central Asia, the impact of the Taliban’s return on domestic and international terrorism, the logistical lessons to be learned from the withdrawal, and more generally, the failure of counterinsurgency in the past 20 years.

In the second term, the Policy Centre will uncover the intricacies of ‘small state diplomacy’. Amid constant noise of a return to great power politics, it is easy to overlook the role of smaller powers in the realm of diplomacy. In fact, hard power rarely translates directly into negotiating leverage. This theme seeks to shift focus from the study of global powers to an analysis of small states, proto-states and non-state actors in international diplomacy. This will lead to further reflections on the unique leverage of ‘fragile’ states in climate negotiations, the crucial role of intermediary states such as Oman in nuclear negotiations, or the diplomatic leverage of proto-states from Somaliland to Taiwan. 

At the Defence and Diplomacy Policy Centre, we encourage and appreciate any contributions revolving around our theme. If you wish to contribute through participation in policy papers, blog posts or events, please do not hesitate to contact us at We look forward to hearing from you!

Noah Trowbridge 

Director, Defence and Diplomacy Policy Centre

Our Policy Centre:

Noah Trowbridge


I’m a third-year BA International Relations student in the Department of War Studies. I am typically involved in research surrounding political risk in Sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia, but I also enjoy delving into cyber risk and international law. Outside of work, you can probably find me planning hiking trips with friends or cheering on Chelsea at the local pub.


Ariel Koh


I’m a third-year History and International Relations student here at King’s. I’m most interested in the future of conflict, especially with regard to cybersecurity, the role of regional organisations and Sino-US relations. In my spare time, you can find me trying out new recipes or in a dance studio somewhere!

Robert Culligan

Liaison Officer

I am a MA student in International Affairs from King’s College London. I holds a MA in Politics and International Relations from The University of Aberdeen. I am a public speaker, event organiser and fintech-sector analyst. My research interests lie in space policy, the post-Soviet region, and British Diplomacy. In my spare time, I like to cook, run, cycle, and garden.

Our Working Group:

Sara Cheraga

I am studying a BA (Hons) in European Studies. I’m entering my final year. My research interests cover three main areas: the MENA region (politics, economics, culture…), climate change and multilateral diplomacy. Outside of work, I enjoy drawing and painting (I am self-taught), reading and going to museums.

Anne Debie

Hi everyone! I am a third-year undergraduate in International Relations and I am particularly interested in the trends within the intelligence apparatus with a particular focus on the privatization of the defense system. Outside of work, I enjoy going on outdoor adventures with my friends and love to spend time talking and meeting new people around good food.

Jack Hodges

I’m a third-year History and International Relations student at Kings. My research interests include Sino-US relations and the role and development of Human Rights institutions. Outside of IR, I like to spend my time running, rowing and out with friends

Joshua Mathew

I’m a second-year Political Economy undergraduate, and am interested in the policy priorities of small states, and the effect of Chinese development in the African region. In my free time, I dabble in amateur photography.

Dorottya Zsiboracs

I am a second year International Relations student at King’s War Studies Department. My main areas of interest are multilateral diplomacy, especially U.S policy in the Middle East, security strategy and international law. In my spare time I enjoy learning French, reading Russian literature, trying various kinds of sports, and representing youth in various international fora.

Rania Khan

Hi! I am a first-year undergraduate in International Relations at King’s. My interests include the foreign policy priorities of emerging economies, particularly in South Asia, and the impact of modern conflict and conflict resolution on marginalized communities, especially women. In my free time, I like to read, sing and spend time with my friends and good dumplings!

Gabriel Pontin

I’m a first-year politics student here at King’s, most interested in how new technologies are changing defence as we know it. I also take a keen interest in the methodology and effectiveness of international development, meanwhile I’m a ward organiser for a major political party in South London. When I’m not studying I’m either finding time to practice some facet of mixed martial arts or at a West Ham home game.