Peter Bergen

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Just days before Christmas in 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 flying from London to New York blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people – including 190 Americans. Thirty-five victims were Syracuse University students going home for the holidays after studying abroad. It was the most lethal terrorist attack against American civilians until the September 11 attacks of 2001.

On Sunday, the US Department of Justice announced it had taken custody of a Libyan man, Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi, who is alleged to have been involved in making the bomb that blew up the passenger jet. The DOJ described him as a former senior intelligence officer in the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.…  Seguir leyendo »

This week Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will host world leaders for a Chinese-Arab summit.

The timing could not have been sweeter for Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Just hours before China’s President Xi Jinping was due to arrive in the Saudi kingdom for a state visit, a US judge essentially announced what much of the world has come to realize in 2022: the immunity of the comeback Crown Prince.

Just four years ago the Saudi Crown Prince, widely known by his initials MBS, was a pariah on the world stage after officials in his entourage dismembered the US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, according to a US intelligence assessment.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Vladimir Putin had a plan to seize Ukraine quickly. Those plans dissolved from the first days of the Russians’ invasion with their failure to capture Kyiv.

Putin’s problems have only deepened in recent days with the surging Ukrainian counteroffensive that has seized key pockets of Russian-controlled territory, such as the transportation hub city of Lyman.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. Putin lost Lyman just as he was publicly declaring that the Donetsk region – in which Lyman sits – was now annexed by Russia.

At home, Putin is also facing growing criticism from Russians on both the left and the right, who are taking considerable risks given the draconian penalties they can face for speaking out against his “special military operation” in Ukraine.…  Seguir leyendo »

In a world that at times seems obsessed with the Windsor dynasty that occupies the British throne, a political dynasty with a history deeply

Pakistan, a country with nuclear weapons that neighbors Afghanistan, China, Iran and India, has been long dominated by its powerful military, which in recent years has put increasing pressure on independent media and dissenting voices.

Pakistan’s Bhutto family dynasty, in recent decades, championed a more liberal democratic approach to politics and has provided two of the country’s most important leaders – and today, its youngest foreign minister ever.

I met last week with Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who was visiting Washington.…  Seguir leyendo »

Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest last week at Windsor Castle, home to monarchs for the past thousand years. What was not laid to rest with the Queen’s internment was an important question: What does the future look like for countries of the Commonwealth, where the British monarch remains the head of state?

Charles III is the King today of 14 “realms” outside of the British Isles. In some of those realms, such as Australia, Canada and Jamaica, there are now calls to jettison the monarchy and instead install a republic, just as Barbados did last year.

A related question is also surfacing now: What is the legacy of the British Empire writ large?…  Seguir leyendo »

In August 2021, all US soldiers left Afghanistan, enabling the Taliban to take over the country. Since then, the Taliban have installed a theocracy that bans women from most jobs and bars girls over the age of 12 from attending school, while maintaining close relationships with terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda.

The Taliban today control more of Afghanistan than they did the last time they were in power before the 9/11 attacks. And they are better armed since they now possess American armored vehicles and M16 rifles left behind as the US military headed for the exits.

For the past year, a group known as the National Resistance Front has waged a guerrilla war against the Taliban.…  Seguir leyendo »

Has Vladimir Putin's assault on Ukraine outrun the resources he's committed to it? That's the view of retired US Army Major General Mike Repass, who has an informed vantage point on the conflict, having worked in the Ukrainian security sector since 2016. The former commander of the US Special Operations Command in Europe, Repass provides education and advisory support to the Ukrainian military on a US government contract.

In discussions Thursday and Friday, I spoke to Repass about why new leadership and the improved training of the Ukrainian military has markedly improved its performance in recent years, the kind of anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons the Ukrainians hope that the US and its NATO allies will supply them with and what he sees happening next as the war in Ukraine grinds on.…  Seguir leyendo »

Breshna Musazai

Five years ago, Breshna Musazai was studying law at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul. Her future seemed bright. She was attending the best university in Afghanistan, a coed institution offering an American-style education and was on a full scholarship provided by the US government.

Then, on August 24, 2016, Taliban gunmen stalked the campus killing anyone who moved. One of them shot Musazai in the leg. She pretended to be dead and the gunman shot her again to finish her off. A bullet struck her in the foot. For the next six hours, as the terrorists rampaged on the campus Musazai lay motionless in a hallway.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ahmad Massoud, center, speaks with a young Afghan on the street on September 15, 2019, in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Many headlines over the past day have trumpeted the notion that the Afghan War is over. Yes, it's true the American troops are gone, but the country's decadeslong civil war continues. In fact, the war is entering a new phase in which the Taliban control almost all the country, but resistance to them is beginning to form.

That resistance is led by Ahmad Massoud, 32, a graduate of Sandhurst, the British equivalent of West Point, who is the son of the legendary Afghan commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. The elder Massoud was instrumental in forcing the Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan in 1989 and he led the resistance to the Taliban the last time that they controlled much of Afghanistan, before the 9/11 attacks.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nothing says you are renouncing al Qaeda quite like appointing a member of al Qaeda to a top cabinet position in your new government.

The Taliban on Tuesday appointed Sirajuddin Haqqani to be Afghanistan's acting interior minister, a job analogous to running the United States Department of Homeland Security, with the FBI thrown in for good measure.

The United Nations in a report issued in June noted that Haqqani "is a member of the wider Al-Qaida leadership, but not of the Al-Qaida core leadership". (In 2011, Haqqani gave a rare interview to the BBC and was asked whether he had links to al Qaeda.…  Seguir leyendo »

Roya Rahmani is the first woman to serve as Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, a position she held from 2018 until last month. Bergen spoke to her over the weekend about the fall of much of Afghanistan to the Taliban. Rahmani who is in the United States, says she worries that with the Taliban taking over, the civil wars that have wracked Afghanistan will continue. She is also concerned that the rights of Afghan women will disappear under their rule.

Rahmani was born in Kabul in 1978, a year before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, thrusting the country into a cycle of wars that has continued for more than four decades.…  Seguir leyendo »

No se puede exagerar la importancia del ataque estadounidense del jueves contra Qasem Soleimani porque él dirigió las operaciones militares de Irán en todo el Medio Oriente.

La televisión estatal iraquí informó el jueves que Soleimani, comandante de la Fuerza Quds del Cuerpo de la Guardia Revolucionaria Islámica de Irán (IRGC), fue asesinado por cohetes que golpearon su vehículo cerca del Aeropuerto Internacional de Bagdad. El Pentágono confirmó que fue un ataque estadounidense ordenado por el presidente Donald Trump el que mató a Soleimani.

Así fue como el general Joseph Votel, el entonces comandante del Comando Central de Estados Unidos, que supervisaba las operaciones militares estadounidenses en el Medio Oriente, explicó el papel de Soleimani en 2018: “Donde sea que veas actividad iraní, verás a Qasem Soleimani, ya sea en Siria, ya sea en Iraq, ya sea en Yemen, él está allí y es la Fuerza Quds, la organización que lidera, la que creo que es la principal amenaza mientras miramos esto y que son los principales que están avivando esta actividad desestabilizadora”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Can anyone make sense of President Donald Trump's Syria policy, other than Donald Trump?

Not much will bring senior Republicans to push back against Trump, but his decision to pull American forces out of Syria has drawn condemnation from three grandees of the GOP: Sen. Lindsey Graham, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.

And for good reason: Pulling the 1,000 or so American forces out of Syria makes no sense.

Those troops are not there on a combat mission but only in an advisory role to prevent the return of ISIS and also to provide some US leverage over events in Syria, whose regime is supported by Russia and Iran.…  Seguir leyendo »

In a tea room in Sulaimani's old bazaar that's dense with the smoke of scores of cigarettes, bunches of grizzled, middle-aged men -- some wearing traditional Kurdish baggy trousers, other wearing suits without ties -- are arguing furiously about the great question of the day:

What happens to Iraq after ISIS loses the key Iraqi city of Mosul?

For the moment, the Iraqi army, Kurdish peshmerga forces, Shia militias and Sunni tribal units are all united in fighting ISIS. But even in Sulaimani, an Iraqi-Kurdish city close to the border with Iran that is one of the most stable corners of a very unstable Middle East, there is considerable worry about what comes next.…  Seguir leyendo »

In his final days hiding out in a compound in Pakistan, Osama bin Laden was still trying to control his global terrorist enterprise, while also taking an intense interest in the welfare of his some two dozen children from his five wives.

It's another side of the al Qaeda leader that was revealed in 49 documents released Thursday. The new material, which comprises many hundreds of pages, is the fourth group of bin Laden documents to be released by the US government since 2012. They were seized from bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad during the raid by US Navy SEALs that resulted in his death five years ago.…  Seguir leyendo »

So it begins: The long-envisioned assault on Mosul, the hugely symbolic Iraqi city where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared ISIS' self-styled "caliphate" more than two years ago.

Not only is Mosul Iraq's second largest city, it is also a key to ISIS' claim to have installed for the first time since the collapse of the Ottoman empire a genuine caliphate with millions of subjects and territory that once encompassed lands the size of the United Kingdom.

There is little doubt that ISIS will lose Mosul and likely before the next US president takes office. On Monday, the commander of the anti-ISIS coalition, US Lt.…  Seguir leyendo »

There have been eight lethal terrorist attacks in Europe since 2014, five of them in France alone, carried out by ISIS or by "lone wolves" inspired by the terror group or by al Qaeda.

What do these attacks have in common? The terrorists are almost invariably criminals who have either served time in the French or Belgian prison systems, or they have been convicted for lesser offenses but have avoided jail time.

Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, who killed at least 84 people Thursday in Nice, France, had a long record of petty crimes. Bouhlel assaulted a motorist last year for which he received a six-month suspended sentence.…  Seguir leyendo »

Why Do Terrorists Commit Terrorism?

After a terrorist attack like the one in Florida on Sunday, one of the first questions people always ask is: Why? Why would someone take the lives of innocent civilians who are total strangers? That is a question to which I have long sought an answer. But my search has led me instead to another question: Is an answer even possible?

To try to figure out why terrorists do what they do, researchers at the think tank New America and I reviewed court records in more than 300 cases of people charged with jihadist terrorism in the United States since Sept.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Tuesday morning, Brussels was hit by terrorist attacks at transportation hubs -- at the airport and at a subway station. Sadly, we have seen such multiple, deadly assaults on transportation targets in Europe before.

In London on July 7, 2005, four al Qaeda-trained British citizens bombed commuters traveling on three trains on the city's Underground and on a bus, killing 52. In Madrid the previous year, a group of largely first generation North African immigrants to Spain detonated bombs on commuter trains, killing 191.

A key to understanding to such attacks -- including Tuesday's in Brussels -- are the explosives used in the bombings.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the last months of his life, an isolated Osama bin Laden was in a serious dispute with the two brothers who had been pretty much his only connection to the outside world for the previous eight years.

The brothers -- two longtime members of al Qaeda whose family hailed from northern Pakistan, not far from where bin Laden was hiding in the city of Abbottabad -- did everything for bin Laden.

Worried about the CIA hunting for him, bin Laden was confined to one building inside the large compound in Abbottabad, which the brothers had moved him to in 2005.…  Seguir leyendo »