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 ...

There has been a lot of writing lately on Afghanistan as the new administration struggles with what do to there, just as the previous administration struggled mightily to define both the mission and the end game. In the absence of any good ideas, or any solutions, the last administration tragically ...

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 ...

As the Trump Administration struggles to develop a strategy in Afghanistan, Russia has surreptitiously inserted itself into the mix. In late July, reports once again surfaced that Russia has been providing material support to Taliban militants battling U.S., NATO, and Afghan forces. In some respects, this seems as though a ...

Over the last few months, Taliban orchestrated attacks have wreaked havoc across Afghanistan on a near-daily basis, leading to mounting deaths tolls for Afghan and U.S. forces as well as for Afghan citizens. To make matters worse, earlier this year, reports began to circulate in the U.S. that Russia is ...

Afghanistan is now President Donald Trump’s war, but it’s wider than just that country. Having refused to accept a strategy and operational plan presented to him last month by Defense Secretary James Mattis, Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford, as well as National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, all of whom have ...

Amid rising frustration in the White House about the war in Afghanistan, reports have emerged about two major dynamics: a disagreement between National Security Advisor LTG H.R. McMaster and the president’s chief strategist, Steven Bannon, over the way forward in Afghanistan, and, as part of that disagreement, the future of ...

As President Donald Trump struggles to find a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, The Cipher Brief’s Mackenzie Weinger spoke to two experts — retired Lieutenant General Guy Swan, and retired Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — to get their respective insights on ...

In addition to ethnic divisions and poor governance, the power projection of neighboring countries inside Afghanistan will continue to be a key factor in determining whether the U.S. and our allies will be successful in Afghanistan. The primary mission for the U.S. in Afghanistan continues to be denying ISIS and al ...

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 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 ...

If you take Defense Secretary James Mattis at his word, the United States in coming years will be doing nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan, once the ISIS and Taliban forces are defeated. That was the repeated message Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford gave last week to House ...

President Donald Trump made it abundantly clear at the recent NATO heads of State meeting in Brussels that he wants to see members of the transatlantic alliance boost their military spending. Denmark, the only Nordic country that is a member of both NATO and the European Union, has been a ...

President Donald Trump has to make a decision soon: what will he do in Afghanistan? The U.S. is now in its 16th year in the country, and top military and foreign policy advisors are advocating for an expanded military role. Experts told The Cipher Brief that the President must consider ...

On Thursday, the United States carried out an airstrike targeting ISIS in Afghanistan, dropping a Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb (MOAB) on a tunnel and cave complex. The strike marked the first time the MOAB, nicknamed “Mother of All Bombs” has been used in combat operations. Afghan defense officials announced ...

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 ...

Afghan defense officials announced Friday that 36 ISIS fighters were killed by a U.S. air strike on a tunnel and cave complex, with the possibility of a larger death toll. The strike was carried out on Thursday with a GBU-43 bomb, nicknamed the “Mother of All Bombs,” marking the first ...

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 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 ...

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 Cipher Brief sat down with John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, to discuss how the U.S. reconstruction effort should proceed in Afghanistan. According to Sopko, “Oversight has been a problem since day one in Afghanistan,” and “agencies should provide effective and honest oversight as the first line ...

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 ...

The United States is not a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Yet Americans could still be indicted by the Court for alleged crimes committed in Afghanistan. In a report by the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor released last month, the ICC states it is assessing whether to open ...

A number of countries are pushing back against the International Criminal Court (ICC). South Africa notified the UN-Secretary General in October that it is withdrawing from the Court. Russia may follow suit after finding out the Court plans to investigate Russian actions in Georgia in 2008. Even the U.S., which ...

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has, in many ways, had a strong year. Two new preliminary investigations have been opened, in Burundi and the Gabonese Republic, while eight situations remain under on-going examination, including Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Palestine, and Ukraine, to name a few. The Office of the Prosecutor has ...

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 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 ...

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 ...

Things aren’t going so well in Afghanistan these days. The Obama administration plans to reduce America’s presence there by only about half as much as it originally intended, from the current level of 9,800 to 8,400 instead of 5,500 by the end of 2016. The administration also expanded the rules ...

The death of the leader of the Islamic State in Afghanistan last month was another damaging blow to the hardline group seeking to usurp authority from the Taliban while facing stepped-up efforts by U.S. and Afghanistan forces to eradicate them.  Hafiz Saeed Khan and other senior commanders and fighters were ...

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 ...

U.S. President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that he will leave 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan through the end of his presidency, considerably slowing the drawdown he announced last fall.  There are currently 9,800 American troops in Afghanistan, and the President had planned to reduce the number to 5,500 by late ...

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 ...