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ISIS’ Expedition Into Central Asia: A Spoiler or Boon for the Taliban?

Al-Qaeda concerned itself with establishing the “base conditions” for the Caliphate through its various franchised affiliates (i.e. AQIS, AQAP, AQIM, etc.). Other Islamist movements speak about establishing an Islamic State but are essentially national Islamist movements (such as the Chechen Islamists, Palestinian Hamas, Hezbollah in Lebanon and various Ansar al-Sharia franchises); these groups are pan-Islamist[…]

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CIA Drone Campaign Demonstrates Need for Greater Intelligence Oversight, Accountability

A year ago SISMEC pointed out that, although most of the victims of U.S. drone strikes have ostensibly been “militants,” the White House definition of “militant” is extremely vague (generally, any fighting-aged male). Moreover, the purpose of the program isn’t to target any and all possible combatants, but instead to eliminate high-value targets from international terror[…]

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Why Mideast Elections Are Overrated and Often Counterproductive

In his 1997 piece “Was a Democracy Just a Moment?” Robert Kaplan predicted that like Christianity, democracy would not create a more moral or peaceful world, but rather, a more complex one. Right now the erstwhile young democracies of Pakistan and Afghanistan are finding this out the hard way. In Pakistan, the past three months[…]

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Using Non-State Actors to Undermine a Non-State: China, the Taliban and ISIS

A rift may be opening up between jihadist groups in Pakistan that do the bidding of Pakistan’s ISI and want to launch attacks in the Indian Sub-Continent and those bitterly opposed to the ISI who wish to avenge the perceived humiliation of Muslims in China, Central Asia and Myanmar. Included in this latter category is[…]

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Barbarians at the Gate: ISIS, Al-Qaeda and India

On September 3rd, Ayman al Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaeda Central (AQC) announced the establishment of a new branch: al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). Zawahiri, often described as “long on words and short on charm”  delivered a characteristically ambling and inchoate message. He explained how the new group was the “blessed result”  of[…]

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Continuing the Conversation: Afghan-US Student Dialogues

With the arrival of the long-awaited year 2014, the outlook for Afghanistan remains tentative.  Security deals wait to be signed, votes are still being counted from the recent election, and the withdrawal of U.S. troops continues without clarity as to how many will remain.  Though Afghans are concerned for the future of their country, many[…]

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Election Arts: Giving the Taliban the (Ink-stained) Finger

On Saturday, April 5th, 2014, the Afghan people delivered a resounding message to the Taliban and observers around the world. They voted not only for the presidential candidate and provincial council members of their choice but also for a democratic process in which citizens—both men and women—have a participatory role and can hold their leaders[…]

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Droning on about UAVs: A Metacriticism

“Before we can talk about what is ‘effective’ we have to talk about what the goal is of using military force at all. Is it to make Americans safer? Is it to keep Afghanis, Pakistanis or Yemenis safe? What’s the goal?  The question of being ‘effective’ – if you’re asking do drones work to kill[…]

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The Syrian Conflict – An Unnatural Resource

Participation in the Syrian Conflict, albeit token, provides the Tehrik-i-Taliban with important symbolic and material resources. Crisis creates opportunity. The chronic instability, governance vacuums, and bitter fighting characterizing large swaths of Syria has provided some Islamist militant groups a highly-public platform to reap the spoils of conflict. The participation of groups like the Islamic State of[…]

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Better Reputations, Better Results: “Perception Management” in Bahrain

The Kingdom of Bahrain is recruiting a veritable army of Mad Men, ensuring the brutal crackdown of its own citizens over the last two years stays out of international media headlines and the global consciousness. The constitutional monarchy wants the world to forget how it allowed its military to fire upon mourners at a funeral.[…]

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The Problem with Pakistan: Drones or Delusions?

The Drone Smokescreen On October 23, 2013, President Obama hosted a meeting with the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in order to discuss a bilateral relationship greatly strained by the killing of Osama Bin Laden on Pakistani soil. Subsequent to the U.S. Navy Seal raid in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011, the U.S. suspended $800[…]

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Hearts for Sale! A Buyer’s Guide to Winning in Afghanistan (Excerpt)

A beloved and well-respected Afghan civil society leader, Dr. Mohammad Saeed Niazi once said, “The hearts of the people are for sale—but not for money.” Genuine caring, respect, and service “buy” hearts; and those hearts freely offer the legitimacy governments embroiled in counterinsurgency so crave. Dr. Niazi’s words suggest that neither the secret to earning[…]

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Drones: The New American Way of War

SISMEC’s research on drones in Middle East Policy: “Drone Warfare in Yemen: Fostering Emirates through Counterterrorism?” Dr. Leila Hudson, Colin S. Owens, David J. Callen. Middle East Policy, Fall 2012. “Drone Warfare: Blowback from the New American Way of War,” Dr. Leila Hudson, Matt Flannes and Colin Owens. Middle East Policy, Fall 2011.   SISMEC Presents “Drones: The[…]

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

Winners and Losers in the Pakistani Political Sweepstakes It is often said in Pakistan that the only way for a government to survive in is to please all of the real powers in that country – Allah (i.e. the religious establishment), the Army, and America. That was much simpler in the days when the Army[…]