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 ...

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 ...

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 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 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 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 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 ...

In the latest dispute between India and Pakistan, Islamabad has taken New Delhi to the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague over a longstanding water treaty. The move does not bode well for bilateral mediation between the two adversarial neighbors, and it underscores the greater difficulty of solving water ...

South Asia’s critical transboundary waterways are facing unprecedented pressures as a result of rapidly increasing populations, high demand for natural resources, and the consequences of climate change. These challenges, combined with ineffective and wasteful governmental management, are intensifying water scarcity conditions and stoking tensions in an already volatile region. The ...

A week ago, Indian armed forces killed Burhan Wani, the infamous 21 year-old commander of the Kashmiri militant separatist group Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). Burhan had joined Hizbul Mujahideen at the age of 15, helped resurrect the once dominant insurgent group from life-support, and gained influence through passionate anti-India speeches and ...

The leader of one of the deadliest factions within the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), Omar Mansoor, was killed in an airstrike in Afghanistan on Wednesday, U.S. officials and the Pakistani military announced. Mansoor was one of Pakistan’s most wanted and brutal militants and was the mastermind behind the 2014 attack on ...

A May 15 test of India’s anti-ballistic missile system fanned the flames of a nuclear standoff 45 years in the making. Pakistan voiced “serious concern” over the test that it believes could nullify its nuclear deterrent against its long standing enemy. Of the nine nuclear armed states, Pakistan and India ...

The adversarial history between India and Pakistan is compounded by each nation’s firm stance on the possession of nuclear weapons. As each country moves to expand its capabilities, it has become more important than ever before to bring both countries into agreement with international arms control norms. The Cipher Brief ...

South Asia is the region of the world at highest risk of suffering a nuclear crisis due to an explosive mixture of unresolved territorial disputes, cross-border terrorism, and growing nuclear arsenals. While the Middle East will remain a focal point for international nonproliferation efforts for the foreseeable future, the United ...

Last week the Taliban announced the opening of its annual spring offensive. The year ahead is going to be a difficult one for the Afghan government and the small cadre of American and NATO troops that remain in country.  For the past several years, the United States and its NATO ...

The latest devastating attack by the Taliban in Kabul raises the question about the ongoing capabilities of the insurgency.  Jeffrey Eggers, a former assistant to Presidents Bush and Obama and currently a senior fellow at New America, told The Cipher Brief that the car bombing does not mean the Taliban ...

Nawaz Sharif was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan for the third time in March 2013. The euphoria of the elections brought to light Sharif’s pro-business, India-friendly, and economic growth-centered approach to governance. But the “promise of Sharif” couldn't completely shake the old negative epithets about him: incompetent; too cozy with ...

One word sums up U.S.-Pakistan relationship: necessity.  The United States and the world have seen the instability that resulted from non-engagement in the 1990’s: Afghanistan became a safe haven for terrorist groups from which to plan the attacks on 9/11 and Pakistan became a nuclear power in the region. Pakistan ...

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 ...

As China, the current economic superpower of the East, becomes increasingly unstable and its markets unpredictable, many are focusing newfound attention southward on India. With its economy growing at a rate of seven percent, India is poised for an economic surge similar to that of China, with the benefit of ...

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 ...

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 ...

Former Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Teresita Schaffer, discussed with The Cipher Brief the continued importance of a close U.S.-India relationship.  Schaffer explained India’s tenuous security dynamic with China and Pakistan, and emphasized the importance of continuing active U.S.-Indian consultation and cooperation on East Asian security issues as India shapes its ...

Recent efforts by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have resurrected the idea of rapprochement between India and Pakistan. So successful were these efforts that Pakistani militants felt compelled to stage an attack on an airbase in Indian Punjab early last month to derail them. ...

On Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Iran, the last stop on a whirlwind tour of the Middle East, which included visits to Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well. There, Xi upgraded the two countries’ relations to a strategic partnership and signed an agreement to increase bilateral trade by ...

President Xi Jinxing’s visit to the Middle East last week appeared to be business as usual. Short and relatively low-key, his studious avoidance of controversy was in keeping with China’s longstanding approach to the region: focus on energy and economics, and keep your head down on security and political matters. ...

India and China, two of the oldest civilizations, had friendly relations and learned from each other in history. As Rabindranath Tagore put it, “China and India are very old and beloved brothers.” The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, or Panchsheel Agreement of 1954, was a milestone of India-China brotherhood and ...

At least since the end of the Cold War, U.S. policymakers and analysts have devoted considerable thought to the dissonance between existing international institutions and the shifting global order. It is now widely recognized that the emerging powers of the 21st century—such as China and India—have yet to be accommodated ...

The Himalayan mountain range separates the world’s two most populous states, India and China, whose rapidly expanding economies are instrumental in the ongoing shift of the global balance of power towards the East.  India and China have many things in common: both are developing Asian countries struggling to compete in ...

India and China agree that the global political architecture is undergoing a fundamental transformation with gravity increasingly shifting from the Atlantic to Indo-Pacific. Both have pronounced the 21st Century as India’s, China’s or Asian Century. However, the fate of this century will be determined by the relationship between the two, ...

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 ...

It’s one of, if not the most, dangerous border in the world.  Nuclear-armed powers, India and Pakistan, have a history of strained relations since their independence from Great Britain in 1947, fighting three wars and regularly exchanging fire across their heavily militarized border. Two of the wars were over their ...

Even though both India and Pakistan are members of the South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA), established in January 2006, trade between them is strikingly small. Total trade (exports plus imports) between the two countries in the last few years has been averaging only a little over $2.5 billion. Currently, ...

Nowhere on earth is an act of terrorism more likely to spark a nuclear war than in South Asia. This is by no means a unique or recent observation. In early 2010, I wrote a “Contingency Planning Memorandum” for the Council on Foreign Relations suggesting that in the aftermath of ...

Born from the territorial splitting of British India in 1947, India–Pakistan relations have been historically beset by disagreements, pressure, and conflict over the status of Kashmir on India’s north-western border but also issues of regional pre-eminence.  With the dispute over Kashmir leading to direct war between the two sides in ...

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 ...