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Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Other Extremist Groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan

May 24, 2011

Senator Kerry, Senator Lugar and other members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today.

My testimony will attempt to answer nine questions:

1. Why should the United States continue to fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan almost a decade after 9/11 and now that Osama bin Laden is dead?

2. Is progress being made in Afghanistan, both generally and against the Taliban?

3. What effect might the killing of bin Laden have on near- and long-term U.S. global security interests, and on core al-Qaeda’s goals and capabilities?

The Battle for Afghanistan: Negotiations with the Taliban

  • By Thomas Ruttig
May 23, 2011

The debate about “reconciliation” between Taliban insurgents and the Afghan government started moving again in 2010. What remains unclear is whether a process of reconciliation has already commenced and meaningful contacts with the insurgents have been established. Substantive talks, however, are clearly not yet underway.


  • By Stephen Tankel
April 27, 2011

Lashkar-e-Taiba (the Army of the Pure or LeT) is one of Pakistan’s oldest and most powerful jihadi groups. Yet despite its long and bloody history, LeT only began generating significant attention outside South Asia after launching a multi-target attack on the Indian city of Mumbai in November 2008.

The Enemies of Our Enemy

  • By
  • Brian Fishman,
  • New America Foundation
  • and Joseph Felter, Hoover Institution
March 30, 2011 |

In September 2007, U.S. soldiers raided a desert encampment outside the town of Sinjar in northwest Iraq, looking for insurgents. Amid the tents, they made a remarkable discovery: a trove of personnel files -- more than 700 in all -- detailing the origins of the foreign fighters al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) had brought into the country to fight against coalition forces.

Why Afghanistan Is Far from Hopeless

  • By
  • Peter Bergen,
  • New America Foundation
March 18, 2011 |

In winter, a noxious fog sometimes descends on Kabul that is so acrid, you can actually taste it. It's a toxic brew of fumes from traffic jams and thousands of charcoal fires, and it's a testament to the fact that in the decade since the fall of the Taliban, Kabul's population has gone up sixfold, from 500,000 to about 3 million.

Not Mincing Words

  • By
  • Fred Kaplan,
  • New America Foundation
March 7, 2011 |

And so it seems, Robert Gates really will be leaving the Pentagon soon.

He's been going around to the military academies—West Point last week, the Air Force Academy today, Annapolis sometime soon—bidding farewell to the cadets, pointedly noting at the start of each speech that it will be his "final" address to them as secretary of defense. But Gates is not indulging in valedictory bromides. He's using the occasions to lay out his vision of what each branch—and each future officer—of the U.S. armed forces must do, and not do, to meet the threats of the 21st century.

Al Qaeda the Loser in Arab Revolutions

  • By
  • Peter Bergen,
  • New America Foundation
February 24, 2011 |

Osama bin Laden must be sitting in his comfortably appointed hideaway somewhere in northwest Pakistan watching the events in the Middle East unfold with a mixture of glee and despair.

Glee, because overthrowing the dictatorships and monarchies of the Middle East has long been his central goal.

Despair, because none of the Arab revolutions has anything to do with him.

U.S.-Taliban Talks

  • By
  • Steve Coll,
  • New America Foundation
February 19, 2011 |

On August 22, 1998, Mullah Omar, the emir of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, made a cold call to the State Department. The United States had just lobbed cruise missiles at Al Qaeda camps in his nation. Omar got a mid-level diplomat on the line and spoke calmly. He suggested that Congress force President Bill Clinton to resign. He said that American military strikes “would be counter-productive,” and would “spark more, not less, terrorist attacks,” according to a declassified record of the call. “Omar emphasized that this was his best advice,” the record adds.


Coll in The New Yorker: U.S. in Direct Talks with Taliban

February 18, 2011

For Immediate Release: In the forthcoming issue of The New Yorker, New America Foundation President Steve Coll breaks the news that the Obama Administration has entered into direct talks with the Taliban.  Coll's article is available now on www.NewYorker.com.


  • By
  • Fred Kaplan,
  • New America Foundation
February 8, 2011 |

Donald Rumsfeld's memoir has a great title: Known and Unknown is a play on his famous remark that there are "known knowns," "known unknowns," and "unknown unknowns." Apart from that, there's little to be said for this book, which stands to mark Rumsfeld as not only the most destructive secretary of defense in American history (a title already bestowed by man

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