Bottom Line: Current U.S.-Pakistan relations remain strained as the U.S. maintains that Pakistan’s security and intelligence services are doing the minimum to hunt America’s militant enemies within its borders. Pakistani officials have told The Cipher Brief that they have been searching for a way to restart relations despite public humiliation ...

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 ...

Bottom Line: Afghanistan’s government and security forces are mired in a grueling struggle for survival, despite the relative lull the winter is supposed to provide ahead of the Taliban’s traditional spring offensive. The warmer months will likely only add to the violence as the Afghan state fights an open-ended battle ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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,” ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 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 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 ...

President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly said that fighting Islamic extremism is one of his administration's top priorities. Determining the path forward in Afghanistan, where the ongoing battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban was launched 15 years ago, is a challenge Trump’s national security team will face as soon as ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann to discuss some of the challenges that the incoming Trump Administration will face in Afghanistan and the steps the U.S. government can take to reaffirm its commitment to stability in Afghanistan. The Cipher Brief: What are some ...

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. ...

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 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 ...

Taliban fighters are pushing towards Tirin Kot, the capital of Afghanistan's southern Uruzgan province, while two other cities – Kunduz in the north and Lashkar Gah in the southern Helmand province – remain under threat. Since the start of summer, the Taliban has ramped up its campaigns across Afghanistan and ...

With Taliban and ISIS attacks occurring in Afghanistan almost daily, questions surrounding the direction of the country’s security apparatus loom large. Despite U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement in early July that 8,400 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan through the end of his presidency – an increase from the 5,500 ...

As the Taliban and ISIS continue to launch attacks across Afghanistan, U.S. and Afghan forces face the daunting task of bringing stability to one of the world’s most volatile countries. The Cipher Brief spoke with Ryan Crocker, former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, about the current security apparatus in ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Congressman Will Hurd of Texas about the increasing security challenges in Afghanistan. According to Hurd, U.S. objectives in Afghanistan have remained the same since 2001. Those objectives include creating “a stable and effective government and security apparatus” and preventing “terrorist groups, like al Qaeda from ...

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 ...

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 ...

This morning, the White House confirmed the death of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike on Saturday in southwest Pakistan. Mansour had assumed the position of Taliban leader in July 2015, replacing the group’s founder, Mullah Omar. The fallout of his death ...

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 ...

One week after announcing the start of its annual “spring offensive” – dubbed “Operation Omari” after the late Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar – the Taliban carried out a suicide attack in the Afghan capital city of Kabul, leaving at least 28 dead and more than 300 injured. This attack demonstrates the ...

As the Taliban causes havoc on the battlefield and with terrorist attacks, The Cipher Brief asked Daniel Markey, a former State Department official and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations to weigh in on the outlook for Afghanistan.   Markey says the Taliban’s car bombing in Kabul on Tuesday ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...