The Afterlife Is Not For Insurgents Firing At Women and Children

  She clutched her nine-millimeter weapon as insurgents fired into the house of women and children. A team of U.S. soldiers and Special Forces operators, including a woman who I’ll call Lisa, engaged in one of the worst firefights that took place in the blue-white mountains of Afghanistan. Trapped by intense hostile fire, U.S. forces fought off a local Afghan insurgent group named … [Read more...]

3 Lessons Learned From Teaching The Military

Training the American armed forces was one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences. In the classroom, participants (i.e., soldiers) helped me understand war by sharing their experiences of serving in a Muslim country. Here's what they taught me: 3 things I learned again: War is not black and white. But shades of gray, and every other color in-between. Although there is a real enemy in … [Read more...]

A Message To The Army: You Just Can’t Kill Anyone

A month ago, there was a siege in a village. A contact, who will remain unnamed for security reasons, gave me a horrific account of the military madness that took place in the pristine valley of Kashmir.  They did it again. They shot four boys in our neighborhood. One was fifteen-years old. Oh God, I thought. He is too young to die. He belongs to someone. I could not (did not want to) … [Read more...]

Islam Is Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Part Four

As I learned more about my faith, I began to look deeply at the profiles of violent extremists. The oft-repeated question of ‘why Muslims kill' forced me to look beyond the push and pull drivers of violent extremism.I had to humanize the boys and girls—who would become adult terrorists—to respond to the ‘why.’At work, I continued to remind other analysts and operators that most Muslims are not … [Read more...]

The Pakistan I Thought I Knew: Part Three

A frequent traveler to Pakistan, I had always known and seen different variations of Islam. Those who choose the Sunni (orthodox) way. Those who adopt the history and traditions of the Shia. Or the Sufi, known as mystics and/or New Age-ers, of Islam. Even among these three broad groups, there are add-on practices and born-again preachers in Pakistan, who have redefined Islam--a religion revealed … [Read more...]

Pakistan: The View From Abbottabad On A Recent Trip (Part One)

The old adage that some things never change is true of Pakistan. Or at least parts of the country remain stagnant, as locals continue to manage expectations in a black-and-white world. The same expectations that something bad is going to happen in a village, town, city--a country shattered momentarily by bomb blasts, natural disasters, and crude awakenings.Outside the capital city of Islamabad, … [Read more...]

Honoring the AFPAK Women For Speaking Up

It has been said that women are half of any society. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, women are the primary caretakers of their families. Women nurture their communities and countries. And yet, many women across the Islamic world, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, lag behind. Too often, they are isolated and insular. The common image of women in the AFPAK region is that they are abandoned and/or … [Read more...]

What Do We Think of The Pakistan Police?

Recently, I was asked to write a paper on the Pakistan police, which is a touchy topic. Years ago, the police had been labeled as corrupt, careless, and coddling with shadowy political elites and thugs. That perception continues to persist, although the police over time has scored a few successes in helping the Pakistan Army to combat and capture terrorists that pose a threat to the security of … [Read more...]

U.S. Defense Secretary Says We Will Defeat ISIS

On Sunday's GPS program with Fareed Zakaria, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter declared what we all want to hear. "I think we will defeat ISIS," he told Fareed. The more poignant question is this: how can America defeat a terror group that has seemingly greater capabilities to reach and recruit Muslims worldwide?  Carter offered an overly simplistic answer: We need capable, local forces to do … [Read more...]

An Inside Look At The Film “In The Footsteps of Bin Laden”

Last week, I tuned into CNN and watched the documentary, "In The Footsteps of Bin Laden." With a counter-terrorism background, I thought I had learned everything about Usama bin Laden or UBL, for short, the world's most wanted man before the rise of ISIS and UBL's death in Pakistan. Over the years, I had watched every video recording UBL had released; read every transcript and article from his … [Read more...]

Tashfeen Malik, The Female Terrorist We Should Have Known

Every time a woman participates in a terrorist attack, analysts and authorities (and curious journalists) look back. We search for clues, trying to find the 'tipping point' to explain how and when a seemingly normal-looking (girl or) woman turns rogue. In San Bernardino, when Tashfeen Malik gunned down 14 people, the media began to look for new ways to understand female terrorists. Some … [Read more...]

Who killed the Taliban leader and more

So much is happening in the AFPAK region that it feels like a dizzying spell. A Taliban top leader was killed in a drone strike on November 1st. Good-bye Hakimullah Mehsud. Welcome monster no. 2. More civilians were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. The famed Haqqani network in Afghanistan may be distancing itself from its Pakistan-based cousins. And I'm still asking 'where art thou … [Read more...]

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