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October 24, 2019

Rise and decline of Al-Qaida in Syria


During 2014-18 my research team repeatedly contacted members of organisations linked to Al-Qaida in Syria for interviews about recent developments. In total 15 full interviews were carried out, mostly with members of Al...

December 22, 2018

President Trump’s decision to pull US troops of Syria within a month and of halving the level of US troops in Afghanistan were not wholly unexpected, but their timings were. Only weeks before his decision, senior and not-so-senior US officials alike were repeating that...

The relevant questions Much has been written and said about the foreign Shi’a volunteers fighting for the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria. While Iranian and Syrian propaganda describe them as entirely motivated by the desire of defending Shi’a communities from hostile...

October 28, 2018

There has been speculation during the summer of 2018 that Russia might be positioning itself for getting Iran out of Syria in exchange for some grand bargain with Washington. Such speculation arose in the first place because of western and especially American diplomats...

October 20, 2018

The mining reality


Much has been said about the economic potential of mining in Afghanistan and what it could contribute to the coffers of the Afghan state. Most recently US President Trump was convinced to move ahead with plans to invest in extracting thos...

September 11, 2018

As external funding declines, IS-K looks for more money in Afghanistan


When IS-K was established in early 2015, it was almost entirely dependent on funds sent from IS-Central and from donations agreed by IS-Central, but sent directly by the donors (largely...

August 13, 2018


From November 2017 onwards American forces in Afghanistan, with support from the Afghan government, have engaged in a campaign of strikes (mostly aerial) against drug labs. The campaign was predicated on the claim that the Taliban had been taking over the...

June 27, 2018


There are different accounts of how the opium poppies made their way to Afghanistan originally: some say that it was Alexander the Great’s armies who brought it in the fourth century BC, others that it was Gengis Khan’s armies in the twelfth century; more...

March 19, 2018

The recent offer by President Ghani to the Taliban to start reconciliation talks has received no positive answer despite containing a few new elements: some promise of the Taliban taking part in a future review of the Afghan Constitution, a Taliban political office in...


The Afghan National Unity Government (NUG) had a difficult birth, and its life has so far been no easier. The diarchy Ghani-Abdullah proved very difficult to manage in the first year of existence of the NUG. In addition, in 2015, former President Karzai was coag...

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