Pakistan sits at a critical crossroads of U.S. Counterterrorism efforts, and geo-political strategy with China. Pakistan has elected a former cricket player, Imran Khan, as it’s newest Prime Minister.  Pakistan’s new Leader could prove to be a spoiler in US/Afghanistan relations, as he’s previously expressed support for the Taliban, criticized ...

Bottom Line:   Pakistani citizens are heading to the polls next month in a public display of democracy and choice. Yet, with Pakistan’s military continuing to play a leading role in the country’s political affairs, it seems that the upcoming elections will once again amount to a stamp on an otherwise ...

Maligned as a bastion of extremism and a top terrorist safe haven, Pakistan’s Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA), along the country’s northwestern border with Afghanistan, have endured a significant transformation in the last few years. Between June 2014 and May 2016, the Pakistani army launched operation Zarb-e-Azb, literally translated as ...

Bottom Line: China’s “One Belt, One Road” economic strategy, aimed at developing regional trades routes connecting East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and Europe, has expanded into Pakistan where Chinese companies have launched numerous projects to build up Pakistan’s infrastructure and energy sector as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor ...

After a short trip to Pakistan last week, I return to Washington convinced that the Trump administration’s new coercive approach toward Islamabad is working, at least in the narrow sense that it has grabbed the attention of Pakistani decision-makers and forced them to take notice of U.S. demands. So far, ...

The Trump administration has given Pakistan a new “hit list” of nearly a dozen top militants to detain, to show its willingness to fight terrorism, but the U.S. won’t share intelligence that would help lead to their capture, and has snubbed Pakistani requests to meet CIA chief Mike Pompeo in ...

The vast size of the proposed China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has players on all sides struggling to calculate the pros and cons for their own interests. From the benefit of creating new trade routes to the obstacle of the war in Afghanistan, regional leaders and their citizens are assessing ...

The Trump administration’s decision to suspend security assistance to the Pakistani military pending “decisive action” against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network represents an attempt to hold Pakistan accountable. While leaders in Islamabad are highly unlikely to shift their national security strategy to align with U.S. interests, the administration ...

Bottom Line: U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to cut off aid to Pakistan to force Islamabad to take a harder line on terrorism. But in the past decade, economic leverage over Pakistan has yielded only short-term results. The Trump administration also runs the risk of incurring consequential backlash from ...

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 ...

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 ...

An American woman along with her husband and three children held captive in Afghanistan since October 2012 were recovered yesterday by Pakistani forces, officials said Thursday. President Donald Trump said the U.S. government secured the release of the family by working together with Pakistan, a development that both sides could ...

Pakistan’s foreign minister says the Trump administration is blaming Islamabad for America’s own failure to rout out terrorism in the region. “We are not saying we are saints. Perhaps in the past we have made some mistakes,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif told reporters in Washington Thursday. “But since the ...

On May 2, 2011 the agonizing, decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden finally ended. The raid by U.S. Navy seals on the walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan was the culmination of years of intelligence gathering. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the CIA stepped up efforts begun years earlier to ...

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 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 ...

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 ...

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a group designated by both the U.S. and Pakistan as a terrorist organization, continues to mount attacks against Indian forces in the disputed Kashmir region. It  operates under the guidance of Pakistan’s intelligence service, known as the ISI, as part of the ISI’s regional “proxy” strategy. However, LeT’s ...

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 ...

In South Asia, most of the U.S. attention is focused on Afghanistan where it is combatting terrorist and insurgent groups such as al Qaeda, ISIS, the Haqqani network, and the Taliban.  But another prominent, Pakistani-based militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), continues to carry out attacks against Indian forces in the disputed ...

On Friday, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigned after the Pakistani Supreme Court disqualified him from office on charges of corruption. Sharif’s family finances were uncovered as part of the 2015 Panama Papers and led many opposition parties to call for an investigation into offshore accounts belonging to Sharif and ...

While the origins of the phrase may be traced back to Turkey, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) today represents the defining example of a “deep state.” Historically responsible for coups, assassinations, domestic political manipulation, covert action, media suppression, torture, and “disappearances” across the country – particularly in Pakistan’s insurgency prone ...

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 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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Academic and policy analysts generally agree that Pakistan’s army and directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, exert a controlling influence over most of Pakistan’s core state policies. This entrenched, unelected, and opaque “deep state” is complemented by a near-permanent “establishment” comprised of a relatively small cadre of politicians, senior bureaucrats, ...

The term “Deep State” has achieved new popularity in recent weeks, but not in reference to opaque military elites in faraway countries. Today, the term is aimed at the U.S. government itself. In particular, the deep state has become a catchall term, which credits a shadow network of spies and ...

The last couple of weeks have seen almost daily terrorist attacks across Pakistan from a variety of bad actors:  February 13:  A suicide bombing during a protest rally in Lahore. February 14:  Two police officers were killed trying to defuse a terrorist bomb near a bus stop in Quetta.  February ...

With the Trump Administration set to take office next month, The Cipher Brief spoke with Robert Grenier, former CIA Chief of Station in Pakistan and Afghanistan and author of the book, “88 Days to Kandahar,” to discuss ways for the U.S. to move forward in its efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. ...

In the latest cross border clash between Pakistan and India, an elderly woman and Indian soldier were killed and two others were injured, according to an Indian news agency. Press Trust of India also reported that, since September 29th, 60 such cross-border incursions by Pakistani militants have occurred across the ...

India and Pakistan have experienced numerous militarized engagements and three wars over the disputed territory of Kashmir. Of particular note is that India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear status has not resolved the security challenges of Kashmir; in fact, it has continued to be a flashpoint for open conflict between the two ...

As India and Pakistan near the 70th year of their separation, contention over Kashmir shows no signs of abating. Border clashes between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) have increased in tempo since an attack on an Indian army base left 19 Indian soldiers dead in September. ...

The Taliban is mounting an increasingly deadly insurgency across Afghanistan, including a breakthrough into Lashkar Gah, the capital of Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province, earlier this week.  Regional experts and military officials assert that combatting the Haqqani network, one of the largest factions of the Afghan Taliban, is critical to thwarting ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Bruce Riedel, Director of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institution to discuss the current threat posed by the Haqqani network. According to Riedel, the Haqqani network “is the most deadly and effective part of the forces opposing American and allied troops in Afghanistan” ...

The Haqqani network’s continued presence in Pakistan, as well as recent Taliban advances in Afghanistan, have resulted in a “steady deterioration in U.S.-Pakistan relations over the past year,” explains Daniel Markey, Senior research professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), in an interview with The Cipher ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Matthew Olsen, Former Head of the National Counterterrorism Center to discuss the progress that the U.S. has made over the last 15 years in the War on Terror. According to Olsen, “While we’ve been successful in preventing large-scale attacks,” the U.S. must continue to ...

On September 2, a suicide bomber struck a court in Pakistan’s northern city of Mardan, killing twelve. On August 8, a suicide bomber dressed in a lawyer’s uniform attacked a hospital in Quetta, Balochistan, killing 74, mostly lawyers who had gathered at the hospital to protest the targeted-killing of a ...

I served as an undercover officer in the CIA in South Asia’s three largest countries: India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. While in Pakistan, I had the opportunity to drive along the road leading to the top of the Khyber Pass—that fabled mountain pass that serves as the gate to Afghanistan from ...