Peter Bergen

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A Ukrainian serviceman passes a damaged residential building in the front line town of Avdiivka, in November. Serhii Nuzhnenko/Radio Free Europe/Reuters

Two years into the Ukraine war, the tide has shifted, and Russian forces have some momentum, according to retired US General David Petraeus.

But he said the Russians have suffered staggering casualties and Ukraine can still hold its own in fighting off Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion if it gets the support it needs from the United States.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began disastrously for Putin, marks its second anniversary this coming weekend. To get a better insight into the state of the war, I spoke to former CIA director David Petraeus, who was the commanding general during the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and is co-author with Lord Andrew Roberts of the new book “Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on October 23 in Tehran. Murat Gok/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Henry Kissinger once observed that Iranian leaders must decide if Iran is a cause or a nation.

Iran seems to have decided that it’s both, exporting its militant Shia ideology to countries across the Middle East from Lebanon in the north, arming the Houthis 1,500 miles to the south in Yemen, supporting Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, propping up the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

Hamas receives funding for weapons from Iran, but Hezbollah is more like an arm of the Iranian government and has a much greater military capacity than Hamas. It has 150,000 rockets and is more militarily capable than the Lebanese army.…  Seguir leyendo »

Up to 150 hostages are being held in Gaza, according to Israeli officials. Meanwhile, 17 Americans are missing, and Hamas may be holding an unknown number of them, according to the White House.

Hamas has threatened to execute hostages and broadcast video of the execution if Israel strikes targets in Gaza without warning.

The approach with the likely lowest risk to the hostages is a negotiated release. Few governments have much leverage with Hamas, but Qatar does, as it has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to poor Gazan families in recent years.

Qatar also has a track record of brokering such releases; for instance, last month, Qatari officials helped to secure the release of five American prisoners held by Iran, which included $6 billion of Iranian oil revenues being unfrozen and sent to a Qatari bank to be used for humanitarian purposes in Iran.…  Seguir leyendo »

After the first wave of euphoria in the United States that five wrongly held Americans are coming home from prison in Iran, the predictable, mostly partisan, criticism of the deal that freed them is already beginning.

On Monday, former Vice President Mike Pence, who is running in the 2024 Republican presidential primaries, criticized President Joe Biden for agreeing to unfreeze $6 billion of Iranian funds in exchange for the five American prisoners. Also, as part of the deal, charges against five Iranians convicted of nonviolent crimes in the US were dropped.

Pence’s critique of the Biden administration ignores the fact that the $6 billion of Iranian funds belongs to Iran for its overseas oil sales, and the funds that are being unfrozen will not go to Iran but to Qatar, where the Qatari government will administer them to be used only for humanitarian purposes in Iran, according to Biden administration officials.…  Seguir leyendo »

China's President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden pictured on the sidelines of last year's G20 Summit in Indonesia. The Biden administration describes China as "the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to advance that objective.”

There isn’t much of anything that the polarized politicians of Washington, DC agree on, but there is a large degree of bipartisan consensus around one big, supposed threat: China. The purportedly rising nation with a plausible plan to replace the US as the dominant superpower.

The Biden administration’s 2022 National Security Strategy describes China as“the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to advance that objective”.

Similarly, the Trump administration said in 2020 that the United States was taking action to protect itself and its partners “from an increasingly assertive China”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Vladimir Putin made a speech Saturday condemning the mutiny by the Wagner group, comparing the uprising to the events sparked by Russia’s 1917 revolution. Putin claimed that the Russians were stabbed “in the back” by nameless enemies towards the end of World War I, which is why the Russians lost that war and that in turn led to “a civil war” in Russia, he said.

It was a strange but telling comparison for Putin to make. Not for the first time Putin’s account of Russian history was seriously off during his remarks on Saturday, but his invocation of the events surrounding the 1917 revolution shows where his head is at.…  Seguir leyendo »

Two decades ago, on March 19, 2003, then-President George W. Bush ordered the US invasion of Iraq. A week later, near Najaf, a city in southern Iraq, then-US Major General David Petraeus turned to the American journalist Rick Atkinson and asked him a simple question: “Tell me how this ends”. That remains an excellent question.

The Amna Suraka Museum, which was once a prison and torture site used by dictator Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agents in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, is a good place to try to contemplate the legacy of the US invasion and, perhaps, an ancillary question: Was it all worth it?…  Seguir leyendo »

Piro, right, with Todd Irinaga, a fellow FBI agent, in 2003. Piro questioned Saddam over seven months. Courtesy George Piro

Two decades ago, on March 19, 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the US invasion of Iraq. Bush and senior administration officials had repeatedly told Americans that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was armed to the teeth with weapons of mass destruction and that he was in league with al Qaeda.

These claims resulted in most Americans believing that Saddam was involved in the September 11, 2001, attacks. A year after 9/11, two-thirds of Americans said that the Iraqi leader had helped the terrorists, according to Pew Research Center polling, even though there was not a shred of convincing evidence for this.…  Seguir leyendo »

An expert from the prosecutor's office examines collected remnants of shells and missiles used by the Russian army to attack the second largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, on December 7, 2022. Aleksey Filipov/AFP/Getty Images

The war in Ukraine is at a stalemate, but that doesn’t mean it’s not changing. General David Petraeus predicts the war will look different this year with significant offensives likely staged by the two sides. Overall, the war continues to demonstrate basic weaknesses in Russia’s military, which was once thought to be one of the most capable in the world.

Petraeus has spent decades studying warfare and practicing its application. He was the US and coalition commander of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and later served as director of the CIA. He earned his Ph.D. from Princeton with a dissertation on the Vietnam War and the lessons the American military took from it.…  Seguir leyendo »

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 »