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

Testimony Presented Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
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?

4. What is the relationship between the Taliban and al-Qaeda? 

5. How might that relationship be changed by the death of bin Laden? 

6. What are the impediments to “reconciliation” with the Taliban leadership?

7. Given those impediments, why try and negotiate with the Taliban and are there reasons to think those negotiations might eventually work?

8. Might the Haqqani or Hezb-e-Islami (Gulbuddin Hekmatyar) factions of the Taliban be willing to consider a settlement? 

9. There is an agglomeration of extremist groups operating in the lawless region near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, including the Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other affiliated and sectarian groups.  How should policymakers prioritize which of these to work against?

For the rest of this Senate testimony, click here.

Peter Bergen is the Director of the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation, a senior fellow at New York University's Center on Law and Security, and the author of The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al Qaeda. He is a national security analyst for CNN.

Policymakers should prioritize those South Asian groups that now threaten the West. One of bin Laden's most toxic legacies is that even terrorist groups that don't call themselves "al-Qaeda" have adopted his ideology.