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 ...

The concept of regime change – toppling a hostile or distasteful foreign government and replacing it with a friendly one – has long tantalized U.S. policymakers, inspiring covert actions like the U.S.-supported Iranian coup in 1953 to U.S. military invasion and occupations, such as Iraq in 2003. Under the Trump ...

Multiple challenges face Iran-Afghanistan relations, chief among them are security and resource issues.  Tehran seeks a stable government in Kabul, but one that does not rely on the U.S. for its security and stability.  Ironically, this has led Iran to, in the short-term, make common cause with the Taliban so ...

As Afghanistan’s neighbor to the west, Iran has significant security and economic interests vis-à-vis Afghanistan. Relations between the two countries have been complicated for centuries, but the complex nature reached new heights in the latter half of the 20th century after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 saw a Shiite regime ...

As Afghanistan’s western neighbor, Iran maintains a vested interest in prodding war-torn Afghanistan towards achieving political and economic stability. Burdened by Afghan refugees and a stream of narcotics that have traversed the Iranian-Afghan border and strained the Iranian economy, Iran’s leadership has prioritized resolving these issues and pursuing its own ...

A critical diplomatic post took a major step towards being filled when the nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan appeared at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. John Bass, the current U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, faced questions from Senators about the future of Afghanistan, less ...

Since the September 11 attacks, the U.S. has used leadership decapitation – the targeting and killing of terrorist leaders – as a pillar of its counterterrorism strategy. Through combat operations, special operations forces raids, and drone strikes, the U.S. has successfully removed al Qaeda and ISIS commanders from battlefields across ...

An old boss of mine at the CIA used to talk to young officers who were deploying to Afghanistan or Pakistan, and in his preamble to discussing the myriad of challenges and interests in the region, he would remark that if the officer were a thoroughbred, an assignment to the ...

The Pentagon has sharply revised its official number of United States forces in Afghanistan to approximately 11,000, up from the 8,400 previously acknowledged. And on Thursday, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis announced he has signed orders to send additional troops to the country, following President Donald Trump's speech unveiling his ...

Immediately following President Donald Trump's speech on Afghanistan last Monday, the gears of the U.S. foreign policy machine began to turn, and experts analyzed what the President’s statement meant for troop numbers, the scope of those troops’ mission, and whether this new approach differed from that of Trump’s predecessors. The Cipher ...

During a primetime address to the nation last Monday, President Donald Trump laid out his vision for the United States in Afghanistan: “our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win.” Standing in front of a large audience of U.S. service members and key members of his Cabinet, ...

The President’s announcement of his strategy for Afghanistan opens a new era for the 16-year war, yet most of the rhetoric and strategy matches that of two previous administrations. He identified broad goals such as “winning” against terrorists and building a capable Afghan government not necessarily one made “in our ...

President Donald Trump said Monday night in his speech on Afghanistan, “We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.” Does Trump actually know what is meant by nation-building? Didn’t Trump’s claimed study of “Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle” teach him that in addition to military gains, ...

The U.S. is calling on Pakistan to eradicate its safe havens for terrorists or else the U.S. will stop providing security assistance and other support to the country. U.S. President Donald Trump made this clear in his address on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia on Monday night, saying ...

U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged to take a stronger stance vis-à-vis Pakistan as part of his new U.S. strategy for South Asia. “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” ...

U.S. President Donald Trump’s call for Pakistan to stop harboring terrorists, or else – outlined in a speech on U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia on Monday night – risks enflaming tensions in the region. Trump also called on Monday for more cooperation with India, and especially India’s help ...

The first deployments of new U.S. troops will arrive in Afghanistan "pretty quickly," the top U.S. commander for the Middle East said on Tuesday, following President Donald Trump's announcement the U.S. will continue its long-term commitment to the country. "What's most important for us now is to get some capabilities ...

President Donald Trump laid out his new strategy for war torn Afghanistan Monday night, promising a winning formula that will include all instruments of U.S. military, diplomatic, and economic power, as well as pressuring our allies for more assistance in the fight.  But there were few specifics for how he ...

In a speech delivered Monday night at Fort Myer military base in Arlington, Virginia, U.S. President Donald Trump outlined his administration’s Afghanistan strategy. The President reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to ensuring that Afghanistan does not devolve back into a terrorist safe haven and pledged to maintain a U.S. military ...

Speaking to the nation in his first prime time speech, President Donald Trump laid out his administration’s new strategy for the United States’ war in Afghanistan. “From now on, victory will have a clear definition,” he said, “attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking ...

  President Donald Trump had promised to outline the “path forward in Afghanistan and South Asia” during his prime-time address on Monday night. Although he announced the United States would deepen its commitments to the nearly 16-year-old conflict, the president did not address troop numbers or lay out specific benchmarks ...

President Donald Trump vowed in his first prime time speech that “we will fight to win” in Afghanistan, saying “from now on, victory will have a clear definition.” What that means, he said, is “attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and ...

The President will speak to the nation directly Monday night, the White House announced, to discuss his Administration’s strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia writ large. The announcement came just days after Trump held a high-level strategy meeting at Camp David that Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters yielded ...

While much of the United States’ attention in South Asia has centered on battling al Qaeda, ISIS, the Haqqani network, and the Afghan Taliban, several other militant organizations, most notably Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), consistently wreak havoc in the region and directly threaten U.S. interests and security. Although LeT does not have ...

There has been a lot of writing lately on Afghanistan as the new administration struggles with what do to there, just as the previous administration struggled mightily to define both the mission and the end game. In the absence of any good ideas, or any solutions, the last administration tragically ...

Six months into his presidency, Donald Trump and his national security team are struggling to develop an Afghanistan strategy. His defense secretary, Jim Mattis, presented a proposal last month, which included an increase in the U.S.  military presence in Afghanistan by 4,000 troops, but the president rejected it, ordering his ...

As the Trump Administration struggles to develop a strategy in Afghanistan, Russia has surreptitiously inserted itself into the mix. In late July, reports once again surfaced that Russia has been providing material support to Taliban militants battling U.S., NATO, and Afghan forces. In some respects, this seems as though a ...