Taliban Are Rising Again in Afghanistan’s North

Afghan security officials inspected the site of a suicide bomb attack in Kunduz last month. Credit Jawed Karger/European Pressphoto Agency

CHAHAR DARA, Afghanistan — The last time Afghans in the northern province of Kunduz felt so threatened by the Taliban was in 2009, just before President Obama deployed thousands of troops to push the insurgents back from the outskirts of the province’s capital.

Now the Taliban are back, but the cavalry will not be coming.

With just two months left before the formal end of the 13-year international combat mission, Western officials insist that the Afghan security forces have managed to contain the Taliban’s offensives on their own. But the insurgents’ alarming gains in Kunduz in recent weeks present a different picture. Continue reading


A Review of Abubakar Siddique’s The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key to the Future of Pakistan and Afghanistan

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 12 Issue: 12
June 13, 2014 03:24 PM Age: 7 days By: Brian Glyn Williams

For decades, works on the Pashtuns of Afghanistan and Pakistan were limited to an aging generation of Western academicians tucked away in ivory towers. These scholars carried out their field research in the region prior to the 1979 Soviet invasion. Few of this generation of deskbound researchers took the time to learn an Afghan language, nor did they bother to renew their links to Afghanistan due to the perceived risks of traveling to this country.

Against this tradition stands The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key to the Future of Pakistan and Afghanistan by Abubakar Siddique. Siddique is a Pashtun who grew up in the Afghan-Pakistani borderlands speaking Pashto and personally experiencing the conflicts that convulsed his homeland from the 1980s through to today’s wars against the Taliban. As a Westernized Pashtun journalist who has worked for Radio Free Europe, Siddique is uniquely positioned to straddle the tribal world he grew up in and the modern Western world. The fact that he is able to critically analyze his own society using the skilled prose of a journalist (as opposed to the impenetrable “academese” of a scholar) makes his volume all the more useful. In fact the Pashtun Question is probably the most important work on the Pashtuns since Sir Olaf Caroe’s classic 1958 field study on the subject, The Pathans. Continue reading

Counterinsurgency, Local Militias, and Statebuilding in Afghanistan

30 May 2014

Afghan police force trains to serve, courtesy of NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/flickr
Creative Commons - Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons - Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

With an ongoing insurgency and the pending departure of ISAF forces, will the Afghan Local Police (ALP) have a positive impact the country’s politics and security? Jonathan Goodhand and Aziz Hakimi aren’t optimistic. They worry that the force may fragment into competing militias.

By Jonathan Goodhand and Aziz Hakim for United States Institute of Peace (USIP)

This report was originally published by the United States Institute of Peace on 18 December 2013.


In the context of the Afghan security transition of 2014, when the bulk of foreign military forces are due to withdraw, policy debates have focused on the role and capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).[1] Much effort has been devoted to building up and bureaucratizing the means of violence in Afghanistan with a view to establishing a legitimate monopoly over the means of coercion. Yet this has been paralleled by a series of government and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) experiments in arming local defense forces, including local militias under the ALP, to fight the insurgency and provide security at the local level. Frequently, notions of Afghan ownership, local solutions, and cost-effectiveness are invoked to justify such programs. This strategy is not without controversy, however. It has prompted concerns about the efficacy and impact of such interventions on the Afghan state’s capacity to rein in armed groups, impose a monopoly over the means of violence, improve security, balance civil-military relations, enforce the rule of law, create political stability, and end the internal conflict. These debates on the role of irregular forces tend to be driven by agency interests and based on limited or disputed evidence. Continue reading

SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW Weekly Assessments & Briefings Volume 12, No. 38, March 24, 2014

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal

Critical Cusp
Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management

With less than a fortnight to go for the all important Presidential Elections scheduled to be held on April 5, 2014, a wave of terror strikes has enveloped the length and breadth of Afghanistan. In the most recent of major incidents (each resulting in three or more fatalities) at least nine persons, including four foreigners and five Afghans (including two children and two women), were shot dead by Taliban terrorists inside the luxurious Serena Hotel complex in national capital Kabul, in the night of March 20, 2014. The attackers managed to smuggle pistols past security checkpoints and then hid in a bathroom, eventually springing out and opening fire on guests and hotel guards. All the four terrorists were killed in the subsequent operation by the Security Forces (SFs). The attack took place despite recent security reports rating Serena Hotel, guarded round the clock by dozens of security guards armed with assault weapons, among the highest-risk locales in the city. The hotel is frequented by foreign officials and the Afghan elite. Continue reading


Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 12, No. 31, February 3, 2014

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal





Terror Unbridled
Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management

Terrorism in Pakistan has already resulted in at least 460 fatalities, including 241 civilians, 86 Security Force (SF) personnel and 133 militants in just the first month of 2014, according to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP). 38 major incidents (each resulting in three or more fatalities) have inflicted at least 309 fatalities, and 70 explosions have also been recorded, accounting for 167 deaths. In one of the worst attacks of 2014 targeting civilians, at least 24 Shia pilgrims returning from Iran were killed and another 40 were injured in a bomb attack targeting their bus in the Khusak area of Kanak in the Mastung District of Balochistan Province, on January 21, 2014. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Clearly, the ‘terror industry’ that was established by Islamabad decades ago with the primary intention of exporting mujahideen into neighbouring countries, including India and Afghanistan, to secure Pakistan‘s perceived ‘strategic interests’, continues to thrive. This vast misadventure, however, turned progressively against its very creators, and, since 9/11, Pakistan has itself become the increasing target of several formerly state sponsored terrorist formations that have ‘gone rogue’, even as international pressure has forced Islamabad to undertake visibly reluctant operations against some of these groups. The process escalated after the creation of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the aftermath of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) operations in 2007, causing a spiral of violence that now threatens the very existence of the country. Pakistan’s undiminished tolerance for religious extremists has not just destroyed lives and alienated entire communities; it is destroying Pakistani society and the very idea and edifice of the nation.

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International Security in an Age of Austerity


11-13 June 2012.
Residence Inn by Marriott, Kingston Water’s Edge

Is it possible for western democracies to maintain military effectiveness while grappling with dramatic changes to the global economic and strategic environments? Western militaries face increasing challenges from the combined effects of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 and its continuing aftershocks together with the strategic consequences of the decision to draw down the military presence in Afghanistan and, for the United States, in Iraq. As a result of these interrelated developments, Western militaries are experiencing broad and consistently downward pressures on their defence budgets as governments seek to re-evaluate their international roles and strategies in the context of restraining the growth of government spending, addressing national debt concerns, and striving to meet budget goals. These factors will establish the broad parameters within which nations will resource their militaries and shape their national security strategies, and this in turn will affect national roles in maintaining the international security environment.

KCIS 2012 will examine how western countries are reshaping their national security strategies in an age of budget austerity. The discussion will explore the contemporary global system where there is no existential threat from other great powers but where there is an on-going threat to security from non-state actors, including anti-western extremists who are organized globally and willing to use terrorism to advance their goals; and globally organized criminal networks and organizations. It will also look at the domestic political environment in western countries that appears to be increasingly skeptical about the kind of protracted expeditionary operations that western democracies have been engaged in since the end of the Cold War, particularly in the wake of a global economy weakened by a series of shocks—the dot-com crash, the subprime crisis, pressures on budgets from overseas military operations, and difficulties within the euro zone.

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Terrorism Bookshelf: Top 150 Books on Terrorism and Counterterrorism


Books (Photo credit: vasta)

Vol 6, No 2 (2012)    Selected and reviewed by Joshua Sinai

Terrorist rebellions, in all their configurations, constitute first order national security threats facing the international community. This was especially the case following September 2001, when al Qaida demonstrated that it had world class ambitions to inflict catastrophic damages on its adversaries. Although substantially degraded militarily and geographically dispersed since then, al-Qaida, its affiliates and allies around the world continue to wage their insurgencies, whether localized or transnational. Of great concern is that not only have they succeeded in embedding themselves with terrorist networks that are spearheading internal conflicts in weak and failed states, such as in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, but as an ideological movement they have been able to radicalize new generations of adherents around the world using cyberspace, including social media.

In another development, terrorist targeting in other conflicts, such as the Palestinian-Israeli arena, is primarily localized against Israel, although as demonstrated by Hizballah‘s rocket guerrilla warfare against Israel in their summer 2006 war and Hamas’s firing of rockets against Israel’s southern towns since then, terrorist warfare continues to evolve, for instance, from suicide bombings to firing rockets over great distances. In other conflict zones, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorists are resorting to placing IEDs against their adversaries.

Even counterterrorism campaigns now span the spectrum of latest trends in warfare technology, from deploying specially equipped special operations forces to launching aerial drones that can remotely target terrorist operatives in far-away locations.

Moreover, the Internet has provided terrorist groups and their supporters a new virtual space to conduct activities that were previously restricted to “physical” space, such as radicalization, recruitment, fundraising, and even command and control of operations, thereby enabling them to bypass physical borders where national governments have vastly upgraded their defenses. As a result, the worldwide reach of groups such as al Qaida and its affiliates has led to what are termed “self-starter” home-grown cells in Western Europe, North America, and elsewhere, although foreign terrorist groups still retain some influence over their operations.

To gain an analytical understanding of the origins, magnitude, and evolution of the terrorist threats around the world and how to counteract them, the academic and public policy communities have produced a plethora of books on terrorism in general, the groups that engage in terrorist warfare, the extremist religious movements that drive individuals to join terrorist groups and employ terrorist tactics on their behalf, the conflict zones where such warfare is being waged, and the types of counteractions that governments are employing in response.

The books listed in this review essay are organized into seventeen sections, which are not intended to be mutually exclusive:

(i) encyclopedias and reference resources,

(ii) textbooks and general histories,

(iii) using the social, behavioral, and economic sciences to study terrorism,

(iv) journalistic case studies,

(v) case studies of terrorist groups,

(vi) root causes of terrorism,

(vii) radicalization and recruitment into terrorism,

(viii) funding terrorism,

(ix) suicide terrorism,

(x) international law and terrorism,

(xi) terrorism on the internet,

(xii) terrorism and WMD,

(xiii) counterterrorism,

(xiv) intelligence in counterterrorism,

and, under the general category of resolving terrorist rebellions,

(xv) de-radicalization and disengagement from terrorism,

(xvi) peace negotiations with terrorists, and

(xvii) how terrorist conflicts end.

Within each section, the nominated books are listed in order of their publication date.  Although the most recently published books obviously merit the most attention, the earlier published books still retain sufficient importance for inclusion in the listing. Every effort was made to list the most updated and revised editions of earlier published books.  Also, please note that the prices listed are the publishers’ official prices, with many of the books available for purchase at discounted rates at bookseller sites such as Amazon.com.

In the absence of consensus on the Romanization of Arabic names, the spelling of group names such as al Qaida have been left as published in their original title (e.g., “al Qaeda”), although the reviews spell it as “al Qaida.”

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