If the United States is to hold a military parade, as President Donald Trump witnessed last year in Paris, it should be the right kind of parade. Our true power is not, and has not been for a long time, just fearsome weapons and trained and experienced warriors. Secretary of ...

Bottom line: After the mass shooting at the Parkland, Fla., school this week, the Trump administration’s focus on tackling mental health issues may produce legislation that empowers law enforcement to identify troubled would-be attackers. But such action may fail to stem the tide of gun-related mass shootings if not coupled ...

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 U.S. coalition says in defending its own troops, it killed an estimated 100 pro-Assad regime fighters on Wednesday. This clash, which took place in Khusham near the Euphrates River, is the largest reported to date between U.S.-backed forces and pro-regime forces in Syria. Here’s what happened, according to public ...

Is the U.S. drawing down its military presence in Iraq, following a declaration of victory over ISIS? Messages from Iraqi and U.S. spokesmen are muddled: An Iraqi government spokesman said Monday the U.S. has begun to reduce the number of its troops in-country. An unnamed senior official close to Iraq’s ...

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 ...

Cipher Brief experts found President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union speech light on detail and substance. Trump promised to defeat ISIS, keep pressure on North Korea, and keep Guantanamo Bay open, among a grab bag of briefly mentioned national security issues – ideas which most of our experts ...

“Our foreign policy is a complete and total disaster. No vision. No purpose. No direction. No strategy.” Then-presidential-candidate Donald Trump said that in his first foreign policy speech in April 2016, when he was attacking President Barack Obama’s track record. Candidate Trump distorted the situation then, but his words certainly ...

President Donald Trump became the first U.S. president to visit the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, since President Bill Clinton in 2000. His message: America’s new tax measures are good for business, as long as it serves the “America First” agenda of his administration. Cipher Brief expert and former ...

A failure to shut down North Korea’s nuclear program would not only pose a threat to U.S. territory, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told a congressional panel. It would encourage other countries to develop their own atomic arsenals, perpetuating a dangerous spread of the world’s deadliest weapons. “If North ...

At it again. This week’s government shutdown is an all-too-familiar refrain for those of us with lengthy government service. Shutdowns – and the impact of the supposedly temporary sequestration deal of 2013 – are annoying, diverting of precious time and attention from the national security missions of the United States, ...

In the version of Aesop’s fable, “The Farmer and the Viper,” as recounted by Roman fabulist Gaius Julius Phaedrus, a farmer finds a viper freezing in the snow. Taking pity, he picks up the snake and puts it inside his coat to warm it up. True to its nature, the ...

“Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii . . . this is not a drill.” Now that we know what it feels like for Hawaii to be under ballistic missile attack, perhaps it’s a good time to ask how well the island is actually defended from such an attack. It’s a ...

“We have to deal with North Korea as it is, not as we wish it to be.” Does President Trump understand those words? They were spoken less than two months ago by former Defense Secretary William Perry, who twice conducted negotiations with the North Koreans nearly 20 years ago. A new ...

Bottom Line: Since 2016, the North Korean regime has shown its hand as a state sponsor of cybercrime by targeting international financial institutions, engaging in broad ransomware campaigns, and illegally accruing and laundering cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. This pattern of behavior supports Pyongyang’s objective of self-financing the ruling Korean Worker’s ...

The United States owes its existence as an independent nation partly to objections over excessive searches by British colonial authorities. Yet today, it is possible for an individual to go to prison as a result of evidence the U.S. government has deliberately kept hidden and that it may have gathered ...

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 ...

Donald Trump’s ascendency to the presidency has led to a flurry of interest in not only his mental health, but more generally, in the mental health of world leaders. This past week’s commentary regarding Trump’s state of mind highlights the perils and challenges – both ethical and methodological – of ...

Don’t be diverted by gossip and bizarre tweets. The most important record of events shows that President Donald Trump and his allies are taking the U.S. federal government down a road toward authoritarianism, starting with their early attempts to destroy the integrity of the Justice Department, FBI and the intelligence ...

During my career as an operations officer in the CIA’s Clandestine Service, I was fortunate to have served in a number of out-of-the-way places. Where I lived and worked—the Balkans, Latin America and Eurasia—the term “developing world” did not just refer to economics. It also accurately described the political circumstances ...

President Donald Trump’s new national security strategy foreshadows a more muscular projection of U.S. interests abroad and defense of its people, businesses and borders at home, through a strengthened U.S. military and more aggressive trade negotiations, diplomatic outreach and military maneuvering. Its hawkish approach signals a switch to “gray zone” ...

For this year’s Thanksgiving Day column, The Cipher Brief revisits a unique column by Michael Morell, the former acting director and deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He agreed to The Cipher Brief’s request to play the role of a senior Chinese intelligence analyst responsible for making assessments about ...

The U.S. and Russia could soon come to an agreement on next steps in Syria, as the Islamic State, or ISIS, nears defeat in the country. The agreement would focus on “deconfliction” between the U.S. and Russian militaries, reducing violence in the Syrian civil war and reinvigorating UN-led peace talks, ...

President Donald Trump is currently on his first trip to China and East Asia. The visit comes at a time when America's allies in the region are increasingly anxious about their security—which should rightfully be a major focus of the trip. But it is critical that our economic future with ...

U.S. President Donald Trump responded to a flamboyant welcome by Chinese President Xi Jinping with effusive praise, as the two leaders presented a united front in the face of a belligerent North Korea. However, inconsistent statements on trade and other key issues in the relationship reflect a seemingly incoherent U.S. ...

There is little doubt that Putin’s foreign policy centers on reviving Russia as a major international power, which seeks to undermine the global American alliance that has underwritten international security since the end of the Cold War. Stretching across Europe, Asia and the Middle East, this alliance has continually thwarted ...

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 ...

President Donald Trump’s trip to the region comes at an opportune time. The subject of North Korea will dominate much of the discussion in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing. Let’s begin in Japan. Prime Minister Abe comes to these discussions after an election victory that gives him greater domestic support and ...

Most discussions about the North Korea nuclear threat focus on the risk of conflict between the U.S. and North Korea. Serious as that is, an even more important issue is what the crisis will mean for the U.S. and China – the world’s most consequential relationship. Great risk and great ...

The end of the Islamic state puts the United States in an uncomfortable geopolitical situation. When it comes, the United States will enter a new phase of the conflict. The Syrian regime is back in full force in the east of the country, and the Iranian corridor from Iran and ...

Five months have passed since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5 over allegations that Doha is supporting terrorism and that it embraces Iran and its regional agenda. The dispute is not only the most significant of its kind ...

The longest war in U.S. history enters its 17th year on Saturday, with approximately 11,000  American forces still stationed in Afghanistan.  The campaign began on October 7, 2001 in response to the devastating September 11 terrorist attacks . On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and General Joseph Dunford, the ...

The concept of regime change – toppling a hostile or distasteful foreign government and replacing it with a friendly one – has long tantalized U.S. policymakers, inspiring covert actions like the U.S.-supported Iranian coup in 1953 to U.S. military invasion and occupations, such as Iraq in 2003. Under the Trump ...

Renewed calls for more stringent gun control legislation echoed throughout Washington on Monday, following Sunday night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas. “It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something,” Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said Monday. Murphy has been one of the most vocal advocates for gun ...

The worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history raises tough questions about how to guard against attacks on open crowds – and puts more responsibility on the crowd itself to look out for threats and escape routes in any public setting, former NYPD Detective Sergeant Joseph Giacalone told The Cipher ...

Firing from 32 stories up at a crowd a block away, a lone gunman killed at least 59 people and injured hundreds more, in a devastating attack that has law enforcement rethinking how to keep Americans safe. The 64-year-old retiree opened fire on a Las Vegas country music festival, from ...

The United States has long sought to export its system of liberal democracy abroad. In places where military juntas and dictators have risen – and U.S. national interest aligns – American intelligence, particularly the CIA, has sought to effect regime change through covert measures to include information campaigns and direct ...

It is easy to see why regime change could be appealing to foreign policymakers. Why bother to persuade, bribe, or threaten a defiant foreign country when you could support opposition groups who promise to align their policies with the goals of the U.S. leadership? The issue of regime change has ...

President Donald Trump called negotiations with North Korea a waste of time Sunday morning, directly contradicting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statement only one day prior. “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man…” Trump tweeted. ...

The new U.S. ambassador to Russia will go to Moscow at a grim time for U.S.-Russia relations, but his biggest challenge won’t come from the Kremlin — Washington will be the source of Jon Huntsman’s headaches. The new ambassador, confirmed by the Senate Thursday, faces a difficult balancing act between ...

Puerto Rico may well be the most unusual and paradoxical situation in world affairs, and now it ranks among the most tragic. The existence of more than 7 million Puerto Ricans would rank Puerto Rico among the 15 most populous U.S. states, except that more than half of these Puerto ...

The U.S.-led coalition has achieved significant success this year in the battle against ISIS, first in Mosul and now in Raqqa where nearly 80 percent of the city has cleared of ISIS fighters. However, there has also been a worrying spike in civilian casualties under the Trump Administration. U.S. Central ...

The U.S.-led coalition’s battle against ISIS in Iraq and Syria has crossed significant milestones this year, supporting the final liberation of Mosul by Iraqi forces this July, and helping allied Syrian Democratic Forces to make swift gains in Raqqa with nearly 80 percent of the city now cleared. However, there ...

The fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq is nearing its second major victory this year as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – an allied anti-ISIS militia umbrella group – close in on the last remaining pockets of ISIS forces in their self-proclaimed “capital” of Raqqa. The success of the ...

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 ...

How governments view powerful tools like the internet often determines how they treat them. In the West, governments have sought to let citizens freely and openly engage with cyberspace – for trade, culture, and civic discourse. Others, such as Russia and China, see the internet as a powerful tool to ...

The administration of President Donald Trump has focused very little on the promotion of U.S. values – particularly international human rights – in its first nine months. At times the president and his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, have appeared to belittle the use of human rights in foreign policy ...

In remarks to his staff at the State Department this May, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to announce a departure from decades of U.S. foreign policy. While lauding the fundamental American values of “freedom, human dignity, and the way people are treated,” Tillerson went on to say that “those ...

Most casual students of U.S. history and foreign policy consider the beginning of the Carter Administration (1977) as the point at which concern for human rights became a factor in American foreign policy decision-making. Often overlooked is the fact that the U.S. led efforts to draft the UN’s Universal Declaration ...

In miniature, President Trump’s impetuous attempt to ban transgender individuals from military service illustrates why he is not qualified to be Commander-in-Chief of America’s armed forces. Start with his initial surprise announcement via Twitter at 6:55 a.m. on July 26th. Trump began his tweeting with a false statement: “After consultation ...