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Afghanistan's "peace deal" has been blown up. The government has resumed fighting the Taliban after a horrifying attack by gunmen on a maternity ward run by Doctors Without Borders in Kabul. Mothers and nurses were the main victims in the first attack, with 16 killed. Two of the dead were newborns.

Although the Taliban denied being responsible for the attack, Afghanistan's national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, stated on Twitter that "their attacks this spring against Afghans are comparable to the level of fighting in past fighting seasons ...This is not peace, nor its beginnings," and that there is "little point in continuing to engage Taliban in 'peace talks.' …  Seguir leyendo »

Afghan police inspect the site of a suicide attack in northern Parwan province, Afghanistan, on Sept. 17 in which a Taliban suicide bomber on a motorcycle targeted presidential guards at a campaign rally. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

Late last month, Afghan and U.S. forces targeted Asim Umar, chief of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), at a Taliban compound in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. While the fate of Umar is unknown, several militants were reportedly killed during the operation, including the Taliban’s local explosives expert and Umar’s courier, who transported messages to al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

This development raises serious questions about the Taliban’s promises, made during the now-frozen U.S.-Taliban talks, to break ties with its longtime partner al-Qaeda. It suggests that the American hope of detaching the Taliban from its al-Qaeda allies, before making a deal with the Taliban, is nowhere near to being fulfilled.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai headed a Taliban delegation at meetings with Afghan opposition leaders in Moscow this week.CreditCreditMaxim Shemetov/Reuters

The United States and the Taliban made progress in peace talks in late January after coming to a basic understanding about withdrawing American troops in return for Taliban commitments to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for transnational terrorists. An agreement between the United States and the Taliban has been long overdue — as part of a broader settlement also involving the Taliban's Afghan opponents — and is the way out of a war without victory.

The fear of Afghanistan-based terrorists attacking the United States has been the key reason for keeping American troops in the country and keeping the Taliban out of power, but it is rooted more in perception than in reality.…  Seguir leyendo »

American military advisers at an Afghan National Army base.CreditCreditJames Mackenzie/Reuters

President Trump may be a controversial and disruptive president. But in regard to Afghanistan, his frustration with the 17-year war differs little from the sentiments of President Barack Obama or most of the rest of us. Reportedly, he has asked for a precipitous cut of up to half the 14,000 American troops serving there, early this year.

That would be a mistake. There is still a strong case to sustain America’s longest war — especially if we redefine it, away from nation-building and toward something more like an enduring partnership with the Afghan people against regional and global extremism. Indeed, Washington should stop looking for an exit strategy and view Afghanistan as one pillar in a broader regional web of capabilities against Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and related movements that show few signs of dissipating.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Cost of Escalating Violence in Afghanistan

Over one week, as many as 130 people, the overwhelming majority civilians, were killed in twin attacks claimed by the Taliban in Kabul. On 20 January, five Taliban suicide bombers attacked the Intercontinental Hotel, killing at least 22 people, mostly foreigners, after breaching the security of the heavily guarded building. Almost half the dead were employees of Afghan airline carrier, Kam Air. Families and friends of civilians trapped in the fourteen-hour siege spent the night in the sub-zero temperature outside the hotel waiting for news of their loved ones.

A week later the Taliban launched a deadlier attack, killing over 100 people, again mostly civilians.…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of the Afghan security forces hold men suspected of suicide bomb attacks, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in October. Credit Ghulamullah Habibi/European Pressphoto Agency

Conventional wisdom holds that withdrawing all or a significant number of American troops from Afghanistan would lead to a Taliban takeover and the creation of a new safe haven for militants bent on attacking the United States. This threat was cited by President Trump during a speech in August where, in laying out his strategy for the war, he asserted that “a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum which terrorists, including ISIS and Al Qaeda, would fill, just as happened before Sept. 11.” It was also echoed in numerous National Security Council meetings I attended during the Obama administration.

But such dire consequences are far from certain.…  Seguir leyendo »

Smoke from a battle between Taliban and Afghan forces, Kabul, Afghanistan, March 1, 2017

Since assuming office President Donald Trump has barely mentioned Afghanistan, a country where US forces have been engaged in the longest war in American history. Perhaps this is because, after more than fifteen years and $700 billion, the US has little to show for it other than an incredibly weak and corrupt civilian government in Kabul and a never-ending Taliban insurgency. Now Afghanistan faces a new horror—as a testing ground for what can only be called a US weapon of mass destruction.

Trump’s silence on Afghanistan was finally broken on the evening of April 13—not with the announcement of a new political strategy but with the dropping of a monster bomb, the GBU-43, nicknamed the “Mother of All Bombs,” on an ISIS base in a rural area of the country near the Pakistan border.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Afghan security official during an operation against Taliban militants in Laghman province, Afghanistan, this month.Credit Ghulamullah Habibi/European Pressphoto Agency

This year, America’s war in Afghanistan will pass a grim milestone as it surpasses the Civil War in duration, as measured against the final withdrawal of Union forces from the South. Only the conflict in Vietnam lasted longer. United States troops have been in Afghanistan since October 2001 as part of a force that peaked at nearly 140,000 troops (of which about 100,000 were American) and is estimated to have cost the taxpayers at least $783 billion.

Despite this heavy expenditure, the United States commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., recently called for a modest troop increase to prevent a deteriorating stalemate.…  Seguir leyendo »

ISIS, Afghanistan’s Accidental Broker

On a recent afternoon, I found myself squeezed into the back seat of a car, one of about 50 vehicles in a procession recklessly speeding through the Afghan capital. The passengers — all men, all members of Afghanistan’s Shia Muslim minority — were headed toward the Kart-e-Sakhi shrine, where the previous night a suicide attacker loyal to the Islamic State, the radical Sunni group, had killed more than a dozen Shias.

In the front, three men occupied the passenger seat, limbs splaying out of the open door. The cars raced through the streets, forcing traffic to halt and make way. The black-clad men thumped their chests in religious fervor, shouting “Ya Hossein” in allegiance to the Shias’ third imam and waving flags depicting children in green headbands that said the mourners belonged to the “House of Hussein.”…  Seguir leyendo »

An Attack on Afghanistan’s Future

On the morning of Aug. 24, I awoke to a nightmare that had become a reality. The American University of Afghanistan — an oasis of intellect, education and optimism in the heart of Kabul — was under attack.

As I frantically emailed and called friends and former colleagues I knew from when I worked at the university and scoured social media and news sites for updates, the gravity of what was happening began to take hold: gunmen opening fire on classrooms, students jumping out of windows to escape. The place I knew as a peaceful community of learning and camaraderie, beloved by the Afghans who work, teach and study there, had become a battlefield.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Taliban and al-Qaeda have killed more than fifty journalists in Afghanistan since 2001. But until this year, nobody had tried to massacre an entire busload of journalists in the center of Kabul, all working for the country’s largest and most successful broadcaster. That changed on January 20, when a suicide bomber drove a car laden with explosives into a minibus taking forty journalists and staff of Tolo TV home after a day at the office.

At least seven people were killed including several women in their early twenties; some of the victims were burnt and scarred beyond recognition. Another twenty-six were injured, some so seriously that the death toll is expected to rise.…  Seguir leyendo »

Taliban militants in eastern Afghanistan last week. Credit Reuters

“Allah has promised us victory and America has promised us defeat,” Mullah Muhammad Omar, the first head of the Taliban, once said, “so we shall see which of the two promises will be fulfilled.” When his colleagues admitted this summer that Mullah Omar had died, Al Qaeda and affiliated groups around the globe remembered those words — victory is a divine certainty — in their eulogies. And in Afghanistan today, though the majority of Afghans still do not identify with the Taliban or Al Qaeda, Mullah Omar’s bold defiance in the face of a superpower is beginning to look prescient.

Since early September, the Taliban have swept through Afghanistan’s north, seizing numerous districts and even, briefly, the provincial capital Kunduz.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Afghan Taliban’s acknowledgment of the death of their leader Mullah Omar and the ensuing secession struggle between supporters and opponents of peace efforts presents an opportunity that should be seized upon by the United States, Afghanistan’s neighbors, and the Afghan government itself.

Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who has been chosen as the new leader (in very murky circumstances) by the Taliban political leadership, favors peace efforts. His opponents, including the top military commander Mullah Abdul Qayuum Zakir, oppose any settlement. Mullah Zakir had in fact supported Mullah Omar’s son, Mullah Yaqoub, who is said to have opposed peace efforts. Mullah Yaqoub, according to Afghan media sources, has been killed.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pakistan members of the Jamiat Nazriati party pray for Afghanistan's Taliban chief Mohammad Omar at a gathering in Quetta on August 1. (Banaras Khan/AFP via Getty Images)

The world learned last week that Taliban leader Mohammad Omar is dead and may have been dead since April 2013. The announcement was bad news for peace talks and good news for the Islamic State.

Omar was a major figure in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In my years in Afghanistan as a civilian adviser to the U.S. military, I learned that this rarely seen and poorly educated man had won the respect of many Afghans. One well-known former member of the Taliban described Omar as a “true mullah, a true Pashtun and a true Afghan.” Even Abdul Raziq, Kandahar’s infamous police chief and no friend of the Taliban, once told me: “All Taliban obey Mullah Omar.…  Seguir leyendo »

U.S. troops arrive at the site of a suicide bomb attack in Kabul on Tuesday. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

For a leader who has been criticized for trying to rush out of wars to satisfy campaign promises, President Obama has been relatively resolute in Afghanistan. To be sure, he reduced U.S. forces there faster than some (including us) believed optimal starting in July 2011 — but only after having tripled the number of troops there during the first two years of his presidency. And the drawdown did not begin until he worked with coalition partners at the 2010 NATO Summit in Lisbon to extend the mission from 2011 to 2014, a horizon extended again last year. Beyond that, while he declared an end to the NATO combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of last year, he also authorized Americans to continue to participate in numerous difficult and dangerous operations, including counterterrorism activities in support of Afghan forces, when needed.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Barack Obama says that the last American troops will leave Afghanistan at the end of 2016. This happens to roughly coincide with the end of his second term in office and also fulfills his campaign promise to wind down America's post-9/11 wars.

But is it a wise policy?

Short answer: Of course not.

One only has to look at the debacle that has unfolded in Iraq after the withdrawal of US troops at the end of 2011 to have a sneak preview of what could take place in an Afghanistan without some kind of residual American presence. Without U.S. forces in the country, there is a strong possibility Afghanistan could host a reinvigorated Taliban allied to a reinvigorated al Qaeda.…  Seguir leyendo »

Le 28 décembre 2014, au quartier général de l’OTAN à Kaboul, le drapeau vert de la Force internationale d’assistance à la sécurité (FIAS) a fait place à un autre drapeau vert, celui de la mission Resolute Support, permise par la signature par le président Ashraf Ghani, dès sa prise de fonction fin septembre 2014, de l’accord bilatéral de sécurité avec Washington et de la convention sur le statut des forces de l’OTAN.

Quelque 12 500 hommes resteront en Afghanistan, dont 10 000 Américains, pour poursuivre la formation des forces de sécurité afghanes, alors que les attaques des talibans et autres attentats-suicides se poursuivent.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Saudi war in Iraq and lessons for PakistanIrak parece estar desmoronándose a pedazos con el rápido avance del  Estado Islámico de Irak y el Levante (ISIS, por sus siglas en inglés) que amenaza con llevar al país hacia una división entre chiíes, suníes y entidades kurdas, mientras que simultáneamente difumina la frontera con su turbulento vecino en el oeste. Por otra parte, la insurrección ahora amenaza con extenderse a otros dos países vecinos, Afganistán y Pakistán, que ya se enfrentan a innumerables desafíos internos. Para la India, el mensaje es claro: sus intereses de seguridad nacional están en riesgo.

Después de casi cuatro décadas de guerra, Afganistán está, una vez más, tambaleándose al borde de un abismo.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tema: En 2011 el número de civiles afganos muertos a consecuencia atentados perpetrados por los talibán y sus aliados será unas cuatro veces superior al de militares de la coalición internacional abatidos por la violencia de esos mismos insurgentes.

Resumen: En Afganistán se perpetran actualmente, cada mes, aproximadamente el 10% de los atentados terroristas ocurridos en todo el mundo. Entre julio y octubre de 2011, la media fue de 175 mensuales. Este terrorismo, llevado a cabo por organizaciones yihadistas de origen no solo autóctono sino también foráneo, se ha incrementado y continúa evidenciando no tanto una forma de oposición a la presencia de tropas extranjeras en el territorio del país, que también, como una estrategia insurgente de control social en la que los talibán ven complementadas sus actuaciones con las de otras entidades yihadistas afines, sobre todo aunque no exclusivamente de procedencia paquistaní.…  Seguir leyendo »

America needs a new policy for dealing with Pakistan. First, we must recognize that the two countries’ strategic interests are in conflict, not harmony, and will remain that way as long as Pakistan’s army controls Pakistan’s strategic policies. We must contain the Pakistani Army’s ambitions until real civilian rule returns and Pakistanis set a new direction for their foreign policy.

As Adm. Mike Mullen, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate committee last month, Pakistan provides critical sanctuary and support to the Afghan insurgency that we are trying to suppress. Taliban leaders meet under Pakistani protection even as we try to capture or kill them.…  Seguir leyendo »