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 ...

Over the last few months, Taliban orchestrated attacks have wreaked havoc across Afghanistan on a near-daily basis, leading to mounting deaths tolls for Afghan and U.S. forces as well as for Afghan citizens. To make matters worse, earlier this year, reports began to circulate in the U.S. that Russia is ...

Afghanistan is now President Donald Trump’s war, but it’s wider than just that country. Having refused to accept a strategy and operational plan presented to him last month by Defense Secretary James Mattis, Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford, as well as National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, all of whom have ...

Amid rising frustration in the White House about the war in Afghanistan, reports have emerged about two major dynamics: a disagreement between National Security Advisor LTG H.R. McMaster and the president’s chief strategist, Steven Bannon, over the way forward in Afghanistan, and, as part of that disagreement, the future of ...

As President Donald Trump struggles to find a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, The Cipher Brief’s Mackenzie Weinger spoke to two experts — retired Lieutenant General Guy Swan, and retired Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — to get their respective insights on ...

In addition to ethnic divisions and poor governance, the power projection of neighboring countries inside Afghanistan will continue to be a key factor in determining whether the U.S. and our allies will be successful in Afghanistan. The primary mission for the U.S. in Afghanistan continues to be denying ISIS and al ...

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is one of most powerful intelligence agencies in the world, as it works to further Pakistani interests in South Asia. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with William Milam, former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, to discuss ISI’s role within Pakistan’s political and military structure as ...

Pakistan’s intelligence organization, known as Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has ensnared the U.S. in a double game for years. Operating in the shadows of the Pakistani “deep state” – a term used to reference the country’s political system, which is dictated by unelected military and security officials – the ISI has ...

For the last 15 years, the U.S. and Pakistan have struggled to navigate the murky nature of their relationship as they strive to bring security to South Asia. Today, while U.S.-Pakistani ties are fraught with mistrust – stemming from questions over the Pakistani military’s support for the Taliban, Pakistan’s knowledge ...

Despite Pakistani claims to have taken action against all terrorist groups on its soil, U.S. government officials have continued to signal that neither anti-Afghan Taliban groups like the Haqqani Network or anti-Indian groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) have been specifically targeted in any of the Pakistani military's security operations. To the ...

As the Trump Administration debates sets its policy for the way forward in Afghanistan, it will also need to consider the role of Pakistan in helping to provide security in the region. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel spoke with Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry, to discuss current ...

The U.S. war in Afghanistan has entered into its 16th year with no end in sight. With the battle against the Taliban essentially mired in a stalemate and the Afghan government failing to address endemic corruption and countrywide economic woes, there appear to be no good options for moving forward. ...

The U.S. continues to face a daunting challenge in Afghanistan, as it aims to bring stability to a country that has been plagued by conflict for decades. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Anthony Cordesman, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International ...

The American war in Afghanistan is in its 16th year. It was preceded by 12 years of civil war, and before that by the Soviet Union’s war. So the country itself has been in, more or less, continuous conflict since 1979.  Today, the Trump Administration is facing the same set ...

If you take Defense Secretary James Mattis at his word, the United States in coming years will be doing nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan, once the ISIS and Taliban forces are defeated. That was the repeated message Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford gave last week to House ...

President Donald Trump made it abundantly clear at the recent NATO heads of State meeting in Brussels that he wants to see members of the transatlantic alliance boost their military spending. Denmark, the only Nordic country that is a member of both NATO and the European Union, has been a ...

President Donald Trump has to make a decision soon: what will he do in Afghanistan? The U.S. is now in its 16th year in the country, and top military and foreign policy advisors are advocating for an expanded military role. Experts told The Cipher Brief that the President must consider ...

On Thursday, the United States carried out an airstrike targeting ISIS in Afghanistan, dropping a Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb (MOAB) on a tunnel and cave complex. The strike marked the first time the MOAB, nicknamed “Mother of All Bombs” has been used in combat operations. Afghan defense officials announced ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director and Senior Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center, to discuss the threat posed by al Qaeda’s affiliate in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). According to Kugelman, al Qaeda has managed to “spread its tentacles across the Indian Subcontinent ...

While al Qaeda’s affiliate in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) may be regionally focused, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says “that doesn’t mean AQIS can be divorced from al Qaeda’s aspirations to attack the West.” In an interview with The Cipher Brief, Gartenstein-Ross also said ...

While al Qaeda’s affiliates in North Africa, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen continue to grab headlines, the terrorist network has surreptitiously expanded eastward, entrenching itself throughout the Indian subcontinent. “Al Qaeda’s reach in South Asia is deeper than what not only the news headlines, but also the U.S. government, may suggest,” explains ...

Afghan defense officials announced Friday that 36 ISIS fighters were killed by a U.S. air strike on a tunnel and cave complex, with the possibility of a larger death toll. The strike was carried out on Thursday with a GBU-43 bomb, nicknamed the “Mother of All Bombs,” marking the first ...

In an exclusive interview with The Cipher Brief, Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan Ambassador to the U.S., emphasized the progress that the Afghan government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, and the Afghan National Security Forces, have made in stabilizing the country and to improve Afghanistan’s economy.  Mohib believes the key to ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Representative Will Hurd, R-Tex., about what more the U.S. can do to improve security and the economy in Afghanistan. Hurd believes that an improved Afghan Air Force and more Afghan Special Forces “would really put the Taliban on the run.” As well, Hurd says, the ...

Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced that ISIS’ leader in Afghanistan, Sheikh Abdul Hasib, was killed in an April 27 joint-operation carried out by Afghan and U.S. Special Forces. The raid, which took place in the Achin District in Afghanistan’s Eastern Nangarhar Province – the same location where the U.S ...

The new administration must surely be thinking about the challenges of Afghanistan and Pakistan and what to do.  The region has bedeviled outsiders for generations.  Afghanistan perplexed Alexander the Great, got the best of the British, beat up on the Soviet Union, and now it’s befuddled U.S. Presidents Barack Obama ...

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan wants several thousand more troops from the U.S. and its allies to help break the “stalemate” in the 15 year-old war, which he told members of Congress has lately seen increased Russian involvement to bolster the Taliban and undermine the U.S. and NATO. “In ...

One of the most daunting foreign policy tasks facing the Trump Administration is determining America’s path forward in Afghanistan. From the time he launched his campaign until assuming the Oval Office two weeks ago, U.S. President Donald Trump has shied away from outlining a vision for Afghanistan, which begs the ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, to discuss how the U.S. reconstruction effort should proceed in Afghanistan. According to Sopko, “Oversight has been a problem since day one in Afghanistan,” and “agencies should provide effective and honest oversight as the first line ...

The Afghanistan and Pakistan region is home to 20 UN and U.S. designated terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda, the Islamic State (ISIS), and the Haqqani network. This is a higher concentration than any other region of the world, and it is why preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven from which these groups can ...