Cipher Brief Expert Tim Willasey-Wilsey served for over 27 years in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He is a Visiting Professor of War Studies at King’s College, London. OPINION -- It seems likely that the intra-Afghan talks will resume in Doha this week in spite of the attack on Fawzia ...

Cipher Brief Expert Doug Wise served as Deputy Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from August 2014 until August 2016. Following 20 years of active duty in the Army where he served as an infantry and special operations officer, he spent the remainder of his career at CIA. J.R. Seeger ...

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is focusing on reported intelligence that Russia placed bounties on the lives of US troops in Afghanistan. The committee is expected to hold a hearing on Thursday titled, “Russian Bounties on U.S. Troops: Why Hasn’t the Administration Responded?”  On Friday, the committee will address the ...

Bottom Line: Russia is accused of funding Taliban contract killings of US troops in Afghanistan. US military officials made limited accusations of Russian arms support for the Taliban in 2018, a turnaround from the heyday of US-Russian cooperation in Afghanistan 2009-2014. Recent reporting by The New York Times that intelligence ...

OPINION -- On 27 June, The New York Times reported Russia was offering bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers. The paper cited anonymous sources placing blame on Russia’s GRU, which has a long history of subversion, sabotage and assassination.  As expected, there was significant outcry in Washington.  House ...

  Bottom Line Up Front With Afghanistan sharing a border with Iran, one of the epicenters of the pandemic, government officials in Kabul have warned that COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan could eventually reach into the tens of millions. The Taliban has been cooperating with Afghan health ministry officials in distributing ...

Tim Willasey-Wilsey is a former senior British diplomat and now a Senior Visiting Fellow at King’s College London’s Department of War Studies. The probability is that United States and British troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan irrespective of Taliban non-compliance with the terms of the Doha agreement of 29th. February ...

  Bottom Line Up Front There are still questions surrounding the recent U.S.-Taliban agreement, including how Washington can pressure the Taliban to fulfill the key tenets of the deal, as well as what the U.S. strategy is for supporting the Afghan government. External actors, including the UAE and elements in ...

The United States signed a peace agreement with Taliban leaders on Saturday that is intended to end the US’ 18-year involvement in Afghanistan. The deal agreed to in Doha, included the involvement of U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban Co-Founder and leader of the Taliban Political ...

Tim Willasey-Wilsey is a former senior member of the British Foreign Office. He is currently a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at Kings College London’s Department of War Studies. When one looks at the proposed agreement between the United States and the Taliban due to be signed on 29th February there ...

  Bottom Line Up Front After a month of on again, off again talks, the United States and the Afghan Taliban seem to have reached an agreement that could lead to a temporary cessation of violence in the near term. The next hurdle will be negotiations between the Taliban and ...

Bottom Line Up Front Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan, recently returned to Kabul to jumpstart political negotiations with the Taliban. Talks are currently inching toward a ceasefire, though an agreement on the specifics has yet to be reached. One of the most significant variables impacting the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Protests continue in India over the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act, which provides for expedited citizenship but specifically excludes Muslims. The new law applies to people who entered India before 2014 from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh if they belong to six specified religions. The ...

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford retires later this month, but in his own quiet way he is leaving behind his recommendation for the current problem of when to reduce U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan. It’s clear that President Trump still wants to cut American forces as contemplated in the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Eighteen years after the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the group has evolved and looks much different today than it did nearly two decades ago. The influence of al-Qaeda core and its senior leadership hiding in Pakistan has been reduced, while franchise groups ...

As the U.S. administration is contemplating the next steps in our march toward departure from Afghanistan (what some consider a much needed disengagement from an 18 year conflict, while others see more as a Vietnam-like total surrender ceding our gains to an unrepentant Taliban) one aspect that must be considered ...

Even though the Trump administration has yet to settle precisely on the speed, timing or terms of withdrawal from Afghanistan, there is no doubt that this is the ultimate objective. The administration is negotiating the details with the Afghan Taliban, the group that controlled the country and harbored al-Qaida before ...

  Bottom Line Up Front America’s longest war - soon approaching its 18th year in Afghanistan - is not over although it may be entering a new phase. The potential U.S.-Taliban deal comes at a time of maximum leverage for the Taliban, which controls more territory in 2019 than at ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Following months of negotiations between U.S. officials and Taliban leaders, an agreement on bringing the war in Afghanistan to a formally recognized end now seems imminent. The most important elements of the negotiations are the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the Taliban’s relationship with transnational ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Last week, members of the Afghan Taliban along with Afghan politicians and power brokers met in Moscow to discuss the contours of a potential peace deal for the war-ravaged country. Representing the Taliban was one of the group’s original co-founders, Abdul Ghani Baradar, who offered ...

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad is just beginning a multi-nation tour that will include peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar.  This comes as Taliban militants reject calls for a truce to coincide with Eid, which comes at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.  At ...

  Bottom Line Up Front: On May 19, 2019, a prison riot in Vakhdat, Tajikistan, left 29 people dead, including supporters of the so-called Islamic State. Allegedly orchestrated by militants, government information about the riot is limited and leaves many questions unanswered. Tajikistan has seen an uptick in jihadist-inspired violence ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Toward the end of May, John Walker Lindh was released from U.S. federal prison after serving 17 years of a sentence stemming from ten charges related to terrorism. At least 90 more terror-related offenders will be released in the United States over the next five ...

Lieutenant General Guy C. Swan III (Ret.) currently serves as an AUSA Vice President. During more than 35 years of active service he commanded at every level through Army Service Component Command.  On this Memorial Day I and many members of the West Point Class of 1976 will be remembering ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The U.S. and the Taliban will soon resume talks in Doha, Qatar, as the peace process moves forward but without significant input from the Afghan government. Peace talks are primarily centered around two issues: a Taliban pledge not to harbor international terrorist groups and the ...

Negotiations have wrapped up between the U.S. and the Taliban, with both sides citing ‘progress’ but nothing groundbreaking in terms of a settlement.  These are the longest talks of their kind since the conflict began in 2001. In the aftermath of the negotiations, a diplomatic crisis is growing between Washington ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On February 13, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 248-177 to require the administration to end support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. If the bill clears the Senate it would be the first time a War Powers Act bill passed both chambers, setting up ...

  Bottom Line Up Front A partially declassified study of U.S. military operations demonstrates the difficulty in accurately counting and mitigating civilian casualties. Disparities exist between official Pentagon estimates of civilians killed and those done by external agencies, leading to assumptions about the former being less transparent. The study reiterates ...

  Bottom Line Up Front After nearly two decades at war in Afghanistan, the United States seems to be seriously pursuing a negotiated peace agreement with the Taliban. As part of any negotiated settlement, the United States will push the Taliban to distance itself from al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. ...

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats released the Worldwide Threat Assessment on Tuesday, with Intelligence Community leaders briefing Senators on the biggest threats facing the U.S. While The Cipher Brief will cover all aspects of the broader threat matrix that includes China, Russia and North Korea, this week we are ...

U.S. and Taliban officials have agreed to a framework for a possible deal that could see a Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used by terrorist organizations or individuals in the future in exchange for, among other things, a full U.S. troop withdrawal.  In an announcement on Monday, U.S. ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan will give terrorist groups like al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) more room to maneuver. AQIS is a major node in a network with deep roots in South Asia, and it works closely with other terrorist groups, including the ...

The Cipher Brief’s new Friday column Cipher Select, is laser-focused on bringing you a range of different perspectives on special operations issues over the next several months. United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was established in 1987, with a mission to “Organize, train, equip and provide fully capable Special Operations Forces ...

OPINION -- On December 31, The New York Times published a piece that claimed Afghan forces “trained and equipped by CIA agents or contractors” were conducting “torture and killings with near impunity.” The piece opens with the description of one such raid where an alleged CIA-trained strike force burst into ...

  Bottom Line Up Front As 2019 begins, the U.S. and its allies will continue to deal with crises that started years ago and have now matured into critical threats. The U.S. faces numerous crises that warrant a multilateral response in a time when Washington is increasingly responding unilaterally. Among ...

  Bottom Line Up Front By October 2019, the U.S. will have spent approximately $6 trillion in efforts related to support of the so-called ‘global war on terror.’ This figure factors in the true costs of a series of seemingly endless military campaigns, to include debt payments and spending across ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On October 18, the Taliban assassinated General Abdul Raziq, the extremely powerful and controversial police chief of Kandahar Province. The Governor of Kandahar, Zalmai Wesa, was injured in the attack, while the province’s intelligence chief, Gen. Abdul Momin, was killed. The head of U.S. military ...

While not in the headlines every day, al Qaeda operatives are still the targets of somewhat regular military operations in places like Yemen.  The U.S. carried out a series of air strikes against al Qaeda targets in Yemen over the summer according to U.S. Forces Central Command (CENTCOM). Former Acting ...

Blackwater Founder Erik Prince is making a renewed public push to privatize the U.S. war in Afghanistan.  The current CEO and Founder of Frontier Services Group, (a security, aviation and logistics company primarily doing business in Africa) has reportedly gotten the attention of the President, despite the fact that current ...

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is welcoming a ceasefire offer made to the Afghan Taliban over the weekend by the Afghan government.  The offer comes as the Afghan Taliban stretches its lethal reach across Afghanistan with violent campaigns that have been building in intensity since earlier this year.  Recent ...

Update: June 18, 2018 - Despite an incredibly rare ceasefire between the Afghan Government and the Taliban in observance of Eid al-Fitr, two deadly suicide bombings rocked Jalalabad over the weekend.   Officials said the latest attack in eastern Nangarhar Province killed at least 18 people and wounded as many as ...

Bottom Line: With the original ISIS core nearly expelled from its so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq, other ISIS branches are growing in influence and lethality. Skilled fighters and funding are flowing to ISIS Khorasan Province in Afghanistan where the group has taken advantage of the country’s weak central government ...

Tensions that mounted during a deadly, Islamist protest in Pakistan last month were resolved not by the country’s civilian government, but by leaders of its military and intelligence agency. The incident was another reminder of who really holds the reins in a tumultuous nation that the U.S. has leaned on ...

America’s plan of attack in Afghanistan has evolved significantly, since President Donald Trump announced his new strategy for confronting the Taliban-led insurgency and the Islamic State’s inroads in Afghanistan – but the poor state of the Afghan troops, and the inability of the Afghan government to care for all its ...

Earlier this week, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, laid out a two-year plan to take back substantial territory in Afghanistan and drive the Taliban toward the negotiating table. In a Monday video conference from Kabul, Nicholson said that the strategy outlined by U.S. President Donald Trump in ...

Jalalabad, AFGHANISTAN – When Donald Trump announced his administration’s strategy for Afghanistan, it was welcomed by Kabul’s leaders and other Afghan urban centers. Influential figures in politics, business, security and the media saw it as much-needed change from President Barack Obama’s stopwatch approach to the 16-year-long U.S. involvement in the ...

On Friday, a military judge ruled Bowe Bergdahl, who deserted his outpost in Afghanistan in 2009 and was subsequently held captive by the Taliban for five years, will be dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Army. His rank will be dropped from sergeant to private, and he will have to pay ...

KABUL, Afghanistan - On an otherwise ordinary Friday evening, a stranger entered the Imam Zaman mosque in West Kabul, just as worshippers were completing the evening prayer. Unnoticed in the crowd, he detonated the explosives hidden in his vest, killing at least 50 people – including a 14-year-old boy in the eighth ...

“We may have advisers there 10 years from now, but the Taliban will not be the enemy they are,” was the way Defense Secretary James Mattis described the future in Afghanistan under the new Trump administration policy. He said it during almost six hours of testimony that he and Joint ...

The longest war in U.S. history enters its 17th year on Saturday, with approximately 11,000  American forces still stationed in Afghanistan.  The campaign began on October 7, 2001 in response to the devastating September 11 terrorist attacks . On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and General Joseph Dunford, the ...