In August, President Obama laid out the rationale for stepping up the fight in Afghanistan: If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al-Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people. Obamas Af-Pak plan is, in essence, a countersanctuary strategy that denies safe havens to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, with the overriding goal of making America and its allies safer. Under Obama, the Pentagon has already sent a surge of 21,000 troops to Afghanistan, and the Administration is even weighing the possibility of deploying as many as 40,000 more

Story Highlights Source: Man hid bomb in underwear, believing he wouldn’t be searched there Saudis dismiss reports bomber hid explosive in rectum Saudis believe bomber used plastic explosive to pass through metal detectors From Peter Bergen CNN National Security Analyst (CNN) — The would-be assassin of Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Nayef hid his bomb […]

Friday, Sep 25, 2009 The Ultimate AfPak Reading List

What follows is the Ultimate AfPak Reading List — an amalgamation of syllabi from classes I’ve taught at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. I’ve included a variety of reading, from books I’ve found particularly insightful on the topic to significant reporting on everything from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to al Qaeda’s media strategy.

Friday, Sep 11, 2009 Where’s bin Laden?

By Peter Bergen, Helmand, Afghanistan Eight years after September 11, the “war on terror” has gone the way of the dodo. And President Obama talks instead about a war against al Qaeda and its allies. What, then, of al Qaeda’s enigmatic leader, Osama bin Laden, who has vanished like a wisp of smoke? And does […]

Wednesday, Sep 09, 2009 Helmand: bombs, drugs, and the Taliban

If the southern Afghan province of Helmand were a country it would be the world’s leading producer of opium and its derivative, heroin. More than half the world’s heroin originates here — much of it destined for the veins of junkies living in Europe.

In June 2005, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officials and Afghan police raided the office of Sher Mohammed Akhundzada, the governor of Helmand, and found nine tons of opium in his office. He is no longer the governor.

Tuesday, Sep 08, 2009 South to Kandahar

Over the loudspeaker system, a female voice announces, “ISAF flight number 44 from Kabul to Kandahar is leaving at gate 1.” Just like for any other flight we grab our hand luggage and boarding passes but what makes this boarding a little bit different is that all the passengers are wearing flak jackets and clutching helmets. We troop in double file to the whale-like C-130 transport plane operated by a crew of reservists out of Missouri and strap in for the ride.

Friday, Sep 04, 2009 The Afghan Phoenix

The first surprise is Kabul airport. The new terminal — “a gift of the people of Japan” — appears to have been airlifted in from a small American city; light-filled, modern and staffed by young men in uniforms of khaki pants and blue shirts who politely answer travelers’ questions as they direct traffic through the quiet, marble halls of the terminal.

Wednesday, Aug 26, 2009 Cheney’s Jihad

Since he left office former Vice President Dick Cheney has been waging a lonesome jihad to defend the practices of the Bush administration’s during the ‘war on terror’, saying in an emblematic interview in February: “If it hadn’t been for what we did — with respect to the terrorist surveillance program, or enhanced interrogation techniques for high-value detainees, the Patriot Act, and so forth — then we would have been attacked again. Those policies we put in place, in my opinion, were absolutely crucial to getting us through the last seven-plus years without a major-casualty attack on the U.S.”

Wednesday, Aug 19, 2009 How Realistic is Walt’s Realism?

Stephen M. Walt, fellow Foreign Policy blogger and professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and the co-author of the influential 2007 book The Israel Lobby has turned his sights on the Obama administration’s strategic justification for the ramped-up American efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Thursday, Aug 13, 2009 Hardly winning

“Taliban Now Winning” declared Monday’s headline in the Wall Street Journal based on its interview with Gen Stanley McChrystal. But the headline was a classic case of a editor hyping the substance of a story, which the reporters of the story themselves had already applied a little touch of their own gilding to when they characterized General McChrystal’s position in their interview to be that the Taliban now had the “upper hand.”