If you attend a Congressional hearing on the state of U.S.-Pakistan relations, you’ll probably hear one of the lawmakers refer to Pakistan as a “frenemy,” sometimes friend, sometimes enemy.   It is one of the more contentious relationships the United States has with a nation that is ultimately so critical to ...

For over six decades, the United States and Pakistan have suffered through a tormented and often tumultuous relationship, one defined at its apex by wartime alliance and at its nadir by stiff U.S. sanctions. In many ways, the period since 9/11 has mirrored that longer history, with expectations inflated and ...

On May 1, 2003, U.S. President George W. Bush delivered his infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech declaring, “In the battle of Afghanistan, we destroyed the Taliban, many terrorists, and the camps where they trained.” Yet almost 13 years later, the Taliban (meaning “the students”) remains alive and well, threatening Afghanistan’s security ...

Although the Taliban organizations in Afghanistan and Pakistan share the same name, they operate as independent organizations under separate leadership structures. Jeffery Eggers, former Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, pointed out to The Cipher Brief that the Afghan Taliban uses Pakistan as a safe haven for ...

A negotiated peace settlement in Afghanistan in 2016 is unlikely. Negotiations have succeeded in other insurgencies when each side determined that victory was not possible and that a significant portion of their goals could be achieved through negotiations.  That situation does not currently exist in Afghanistan. Since the public acknowledgement ...

Conventional wisdom expected the Taliban to pose a security challenge following the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan. The Obama Administration and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani pinned hopes on Pakistan, the Taliban’s traditional backer, in arranging talks with the Taliban to manage the extent of the threat posed ...

By all accounts, the security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated sharply since U.S. and NATO troops ended combat operations in December 2014. The Taliban control more territory now than at any time in the last 14 years, and the group was able to temporarily capture a key Afghan city in ...

With the international community focused on the expanding threat from ISIS, the persistent threat the Taliban poses to stability in Afghanistan seems to be getting little attention.  The recent rise in Taliban attacks threatens the fragile state of affairs after more than 15 years of war and calls into question ...

Security in Afghanistan is worsening, and the trend has been downward for over a year.  Afghan military and police force casualties are rising and rapidly reaching a point which makes it difficult to sustain, while morale is impacted as desertions are growing and some soldiers and police go months without ...

Having spent some years living in Muslim countries and fighting terrorism, I always cock an eyebrow when I hear someone like Secretary of State John Kerry speak in the wake of the Paris attacks and say, "This is not about a clash of civilizations..."  Secretary Kerry’s statements tracked closely with ...

Today, the United States arguably contends with one of the most complicated and dangerous “world orders” in its history.  It must maintain a credible nuclear deterrence, defend against unprecedented levels of cyber warfare, compete in the militarization of space, engage in asymmetric warfare against insurgencies and terrorist groups worldwide, and ...

Military security assistance as it is currently applied is an outdated, myopic approach. It is characterized by ambiguous funding timelines, stove piped information, and the lack of unified resource application.  The U.S. can significantly increase the efficacy of security assistance resourcing through a holistic approach, integrating private and federal programs. ...

Nobody likes comparisons with the Vietnam War, but in the case of United States security assistance, the comparison is worth considering. The United States often approaches security assistance the same way it did in Vietnam, with the same results.   Moreover, because the United States has been using the same ...

U.S. security assistance and cooperation programs have come under a lot of fire recently.  The failure of the $500 million program to train and equip moderate opposition forces in Syria is the latest example. However, there is a longer history, including the collapse of the Iraqi military in its fight ...

Fourteen years ago this week, the United States began “Operation Enduring Freedom” in Afghanistan, with the purpose of eliminating the threat of al-Qaeda and toppling the Taliban. Yet today, the Taliban are surging across much of the country and al-Qaeda still lingers in the eastern border regions of Afghanistan. Despite ...

In an interview with The Cipher Brief, Andrew Small, an expert on Chinese policy in South Asia for The German Marshall Fund, discussed the evolving China-Pakistan relationship.  He said that ties between the two countries are “deepening,” as China becomes more engaged with Pakistan’s economy and security. The Cipher Brief: ...

Several years ago, relations between Pakistan and the United States hit a post-9/11 low. The 2011 discovery of Osama bin Laden’s compound not far from Pakistan’s premier military academy left Americans seething and suspicious. For their part, Pakistanis fulminated over a series of American “violations” of their territorial sovereignty by ...

Several years ago, relations between Pakistan and the United States hit a post-9/11 low. The 2011 discovery of Osama bin Laden’s compound not far from Pakistan’s premier military academy left Americans seething and suspicious. For their part, Pakistanis fulminated over a series of American “violations” of their territorial sovereignty by ...

As U.S. counterterrorism successes mount in eliminating terrorists in Pakistan, the al-Qaeda “glue” that holds the U.S.-Pakistan security relationship together has seemed to weaken.  What is the future of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship?  Tired and worn out by our long-running engagements in far away lands since 9/11, there is real temptation ...

The rifts among Taliban factions had been growing for some time, bubbling up as the deception over their leader’s death continued. They boiled over last month - not by accident -  on the eve of a second round of peace talks, forcing the Taliban to acknowledge that its supreme commander ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with General Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), for a wide-ranging interview.  The general offered his thoughts on the future of Afghanistan. The Cipher Brief: Can the U.S. really withdraw completely from Afghanistan? Does it concern you? GEN McChrystal: I ...

During the 11 months of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s presidency, and despite the combination of a rapid Western pullout and an expanding Taliban insurgency, there had been, nonetheless, at least some small room for optimism.  After all, until a few days ago, Ghani appeared to have established a genuine rapprochement ...

For the past several years, the Obama administration’s strategy for Afghanistan has rested on the basic assumption that although no reasonable amount of U.S. money or troops could win the war against the Taliban outright, a limited American commitment to Afghanistan’s security forces and government would enable Kabul to hold ...