30 September 2017

To ‘Act East’, Act in the North East India First!

By Col Anil Athale

As China rises and acts aggressively on our Northern borders laying claim to the whole of state of Arunachal Pradesh, establishing contact and strengthening our ancient ties with South East Asia is a strategic necessity. South East Asia is China’s soft underbelly. Our North East is a bridge to South East Asia to further our economic, cultural and strategic ties with that region. However despite all this obvious logic, we have been generous with words and short on action.

Special Operations and Intelligence Agencies: India’s Incapability

By Air Marshal Dhiraj Kukreja

Wikipedia defines Special Operations as “military operations that are ‘special’ or unconventional and carried out by dedicated special-force units using unconventional methods and resources. Special operations may be performed independently of, or in conjunction with, conventional military operations. The primary goal is to achieve a political or military objective where a conventional force requirement does not exist or might adversely affect the overall strategic outcome. Special operations are usually conducted in a low-profile manner that aims to achieve the advantages of speed, surprise, and violence of action against an unsuspecting target. Special operations are typically carried out with limited numbers of highly trained personnel that are adaptable, self-reliant and able to operate in all environments, and able to use unconventional combat skills and equipment. Special operations are usually implemented through specific, tailored intelligence.”

The Issue of Rohingyas

By Prakash Nanda
The opposition parties and the habitual critics of the present dispensation have now made the presence of about 40000 Rohingyas in India a political issue. With the usual and unthinking support of the human rights activists and the National Human rights Commission, the issue has now become communal.

In fact, now there are demands that seem to suggest that legal status have to be accorded to these Rohingyas of Myanmar as they happen to be Muslims! In other words, there is now the wider realisation among the NDA government’s critics that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s thesis is right that minorities in general and Muslims in particular have got the “first rights” over India’s resources that include land and jobs.

The Islamic State's Support Base in Pakistan Continues to Grow

Last week, an Islamic State (IS) flag was seen hoisted above one of Islamabad’s main highways. The flag, which sprung the capital’s law enforcement agencies into action, bore the message “The caliphate is coming.” While the capital police have not been able been able to find the people behind the incident, the hoisting of the flag in Pakistan’s capital offers a chilling reminder that support for militant groups such as IS is growing in Pakistan.

China's Presence in Djibouti is Not a National Security Threat—Yet

Erica S. Downs Jeff Becker

On September 22, Chinese troops staged their first live-fire exercises at China’s first overseas military base, which opened in Djibouti on August 1. Ever since Beijing publicly acknowledged in November 2015 that China was building a logistical support facility in Djibouti, the home of the only permanent U.S. military installation in Africa, much ink has been spilt detailing China’s growing involvement in the Horn of Africa nation. 

Why China Will Never Crackdown on North Korea

This has been a potentially momentous week in U.S.-China relations, particularly as they relate to the growing threat of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

In his address before the United Nations General Assembly, President Trump used unusually direct and powerful language in warning Pyongyang that it would be “completely destroyed” if it precipitates a conflict with the United States or its allies.

How America Is Losing the Battle for the South China Sea

Bill Bray

What a difference a year makes. In late summer 2016, there was some hope the July 2016 UN Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling in favor of the Philippine interpretation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea regarding the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal would curtail Beijing’s subsequent activity in the South China Sea (despite China’s refusal to even participate in the arbitration case or recognize the court’s jurisdiction, let alone accept the ruling).

No, North Korea Isn't Dependent on Russia and China For Its Rocket Fuel

By Ankit Panda

North Korea is clearly getting quite good at long-range missile engineering. It’s Hwasong-12 and Hwasong-14 missiles have made that clear this year with their multiple successful flight tests, demonstrating what is by far the best-performing family of missiles North Korea has ever flight-tested.

Despite this, several observers refuse to believe that North Korea could have achieved this level of performance primarily through indigenous research-and-development. In August, we saw reports that alleged that the RD-250-variant engine that sits at the heart of both missiles’ first stage was likely stolen or imported illicitly from the former Soviet Union.

Trump's Expanded Drone Wars

Daniel R. DePetris

Throughout U.S. history, presidents have been known to blame their predecessors if things in the country aren’t going particularly well. To explain away America’s awful economic outlook in 2009 and the slow economic recovery of 2010 and 2011, Barack Obama pointed to George W. Bush as the main culprit for the fiscal disaster. He told Americans repeatedly in his first year that he “inherited” the worst economic recession since the Great Depression—true enough, but a statement that still seemed to many people in America’s middle and working classes as a passing of the buck.

The Turkish Military Base in Doha

By Md. Muddassir Quamar

Turkey’s reaction to the rift among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries—the June 5, 2017 embargo imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt against Qatar for its alleged support to terrorism—has been significant. Within two days of the Saudi-led quartet announcing the severing of ties with Qatar, Turkey’s parliament approved a bill for deploying troops in the Turkish military base at Doha. The bill had been pending for approval since early May 2017 and its approval was hastened by the surprise developments in the Gulf. 

As the War of Words With North Korea Escalates, So Does the Risk of Real War

In a brief news conference in New York on Sept. 25, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong said that U.S. President Donald Trump's recent statements to the U.N. General Assembly were tantamount to a declaration of war. Therefore, he argued, Pyongyang has a right to self-defense under the U.N. charter and would be justified if it were to shoot down U.S. strategic bombers, even outside North Korean territory.

Will artificially intelligent weapons kill the laws of war?

Herbert Lin

On September 1, Vladimir Putin spoke with Russian students about science in an open lesson, saying that “the future belongs to artificial intelligence” and whoever masters it first will rule the world. “Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind,” he added. “It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”

Small Satellites, Big Missions The Implications of the Growing Small Satellite Market for Launch and Key Applications

On June 21, 2017, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) hosted a two-panel event on opportunities emerging from new space technologies, particularly small-scale satellites. Panelists discussed the implications of new small satellite technology and small satellite market dynamics, not only for the government space sector, but also for private-sector users of satellite technology and the growing cohort of commercial space systems suppliers. That small satellites will continue to grow—in use, market share, capability, and overall importance—is now widely accepted. Appreciation for the direction, pace, and implications of this growth, however, remains limited. The June CSIS event and the report that follows represent an effort to understand and describe the shape and consequences of the growth ahead. For a complete record of the session, please access the full video file at https://www.csis.org/events/small-satellites-big-missions.

Weapons in Space: Conventional War in the Cosmos?

By Allyson Rimmer

Outer space has been called the last frontier, but could it become the battleground of the future? Warfare in space seems difficult to imagine outside works of science fiction, but the concept and advantages of weapons in space have been under serious deliberation by global powers in the recent past. Though the international community in years past has made great strides in addressing and eliminating the nuclear threat emanating from outer space, additional threats have yet to be addressed. As it stands now there exists an international consensus banning the placement of strategic Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in outer space and on celestial bodies. 

Beyond the Battlefield: Towards a Better Assessment of the Human Cost of Armed Conflict

By Erik Alda and Claire Mc Evoy for Small Arms Survey

For Erik Alda and Claire McEvoy, prevailing methods for measuring conflict deaths are inadequate. They believe that the current understanding of conflict related deaths is too narrow and that mortality measurement methods must change to address this problem, particularly when it comes to deaths among forcibly displaced populations. As a result, they here examine 1) opportunities provided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 16.1 to broaden the scope of recorded conflict deaths; and 2) the importance of developing a better understanding of the relationship between direct and indirect conflict deaths.

29 September 2017

Redeploying U.S. Nuclear Weapons to South Korea

Recent advances in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have led to speculations about the possible redeployment of U.S. nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. The United States deployed nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula between 1958 and 1991. The only warheads remaining in the U.S. stockpile that could be deployed on the Korean Peninsula are B61 bombs. Before redeploying these to South Korea, where they would remain under U.S. control, the United States would have to recreate the infrastructure needed to house the bombs and would also have to train and certify the personnel responsible for maintaining the weapons and operating the aircraft for the nuclear mission.

Redeployment of U.S. nuclear weapons has the following advantages :

Send a powerful deterrent message to the North and demonstrate a strong commitment to the South

Weapons could serve as a “bargaining chip” with North Korea 

Presence of nuclear weapons would allow for a more rapid nuclear response to a North Korean attack.


The weapons would present a tempting target for North Korea and might prompt an attack early in a crisis

Nuclear weapons based in the United States are sufficient for deterrence

It is not cost effective

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has advocated for more muscular defense options, but does not support the redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons.


Likely to view the redeployment of U.S. nuclear weapons as provocative;

Might respond by putting more pressure on North Korea to slow its programs, 

Might increase its support for North Korea in the face of a new threat and, possibly, expand its own nuclear arsenal


Reaction could also be mixed. 

Japan shares U.S. and South Korean concerns about the threat from North Korea, but given its historical aversion to nuclear weapons, Japan could oppose the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons near its territory. 

Any adjustment of the U.S. military posture on the peninsula could create additional security concerns for Tokyo.

USA is conducting a Nuclear Posture Review that is examining both the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security policy and ongoing plans to modernize the U.S. nuclear enterprise.It is considering increased deployments of U.S. nonnuclear strategic assets to South Korea, changes in military exercises and the expansion of U.S.-ROK consultation strategic consultations

For further studies Read here

** How to Protect Yourself From Simple Terrorist Attacks

Scott Stewart
Source Link

Simple attacks by grassroots jihadists have become a fact of life in the West. Indeed, we saw three such incidents on Sept. 15: the bombing attempt against a subway train in London, a knife attack against a French soldier at a Paris subway station and a hammer attack against two women in Chalon-sur-Saone, France. These incidents are among the latest in a long string of incidents across the globe that featured attackers armed with simple weapons such as knives, vehicles and crude bombs.

** How ISIS Is Transforming

A little more than three years after the Islamic State (or ISIS) stormed onto the world stage by violently capturing large swaths of territory throughout Iraq and Syria, the campaign to counter the group has made significant progress. But predictions of the group's ultimate demise are premature. What the world is witnessing is the transition, and in many ways degeneration, from an insurgent organization with a fixed headquarters to a clandestine terrorist network dispersed throughout the region and the globe.

No garbage duties please: India must deploy its Armed Forces personnel for combat alone

Ajai Sahni

The instinctive response to the latest folly emanating from the Ministry of Defence – from Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman herself – has been outrage. On September 16, Sitharaman said that the Army would clean upthe garbage left behind by irresponsible civilians in high-altitude tourist spots.

What Were China's Objectives in the Doklam Dispute?

by Jonah Blank
Source Link

At 14,000 feet above sea level and with a perpetually harsh climate, the Doklam Plateau is an enormously difficult place to defend. Meanwhile, those launching an attack face exponentially greater challenges—and that's before the Himalayan winter sets in. This helps explain why China and India last week ended a military standoff there that had been festering since June.

Gray Zones in the Middle East

By Nicholas Heras for Center for a New American Security (CNAS)

In this article, Nicholas Heras explores how state and non-state actors in the Middle East are turning to ‘gray zone’ strategies to defeat their opponents without extensive or sustained military activity. In particular, he focuses on 1) the gray zone activities of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps expeditionary Quds Force and its proxy network forces in Syria, Iraq and Yemen; and 2) how the so-called Islamic State and al Qaeda are using gray zone strategies in the governance vacuums across the Greater Middle East to develop indefinite, state-like authority among local populations.

China's Presence in Djibouti is Not a National Security Threat—Yet

Erica S. Downs

On September 22, Chinese troops staged their first live-fire exercises at China’s first overseas military base, which opened in Djibouti on August 1. Ever since Beijing publicly acknowledged in November 2015 that China was building a logistical support facility in Djibouti, the home of the only permanent U.S. military installation in Africa, much ink has been spilt detailing China’s growing involvement in the Horn of Africa nation. The conventional wisdom holds that China has spent billions of dollars building infrastructure in Djibouti, which might prompt the government to prioritize China’s interests over those of the United States and other countries with a military presence in Djibouti. Moreover, it is suspected that China will use its military facility in Djibouti for more than just logistics, and that this facility will be the first of many overseas outposts for China’s military.



At this crucial point in the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, as it hemorrhages territory across Syria and Iraq, the latest analytical fad in the study of this movement may be leading policymakers to repeat the mistakes of a mere decade ago. The term “virtual caliphate” has grown in popularity as a way to describe the future trajectory of the Islamic State. More than just a catchy sound bite, it has emerged as a way to conceptualize how the Islamic State will recalibrate.:

100 Days and Counting of Pointless Arab Self-Destruction

By Anthony Cordesman

No American can criticize Arab states without first acknowledging that the United States has made a host of mistakes of its own in dealing with nations like Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. The fact remains, however, that the word "Arab" has come to be a synonym for disunity, dysfunctional, and self-destructive. Regardless of issuing of one ambitious "Arab" plan for new coalitions after another, the reality is failed internal leadership and development, pointless feuding between Arab states, and an inability to cooperate and coordinate when common action is most needed.

What Total Destruction of North Korea Means


As Trump considers military options, he’s drawing unenforceable red lines.

North Koreans watch news report showing North Korea's Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile launch on an electronic screen at Pyongyang station in Pyongyang, North Korea, on September 16, 2017.Kyodo via Reuters

The World That Awaits The Next German Leader

Now that the 2017 German elections have wrapped up, the process of forming a government and determining exactly who will lead the country is underway. Negotiations to determine the members of the governing coalition could take weeks or even months, but to some extent, it doesn't matter who is named chancellor in the end. The challenges that the next leader of Europe's largest economy must tackle will broadly be the same, whether Angela Merkel returns to the chancellery or not. The country's next government will have to satisfy the same set of national imperatives while dealing with the same outside pressures that shape its options in setting a national strategy. To understand the strategy, it's first necessary to explore these imperatives and surroundings.

SIPRI Yearbook 2017

This text summarizes the findings of SIPRI’s Yearbook 2017. As in the past, the Yearbook provides original data on world military expenditures, international arms transfers, arms production rates, the size and composition of nuclear forces, armed conflicts and multilateral peace operations. The volume also offers insight on the latest trends in arms control and disarmament, the UN’s sustaining peace framework, the links between climate change and violent conflicts, and more.

The Problem with 'the Best of Intentions' Foreign Policy

Robert D. Kaplan

The tragedy of American foreign policy is seen when the intention to improve human rights 

The nineteenth-century Germans focused so much on philosophy partly in order not to compete with the protean genius of Goethe, who had dominated all the other literary genres in Germany for so long. And so we have Hegel, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer defining, among other things, the concept of tragedy. But it is Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel who concerns me here, because he formulated some concepts apt to our foreign policy debates regarding armed intervention, particularly in the Middle East.

Hypersonic Missile Nonproliferation

by Richard H. Speier, George Nacouzi, Carrie Lee, Richard M. Moore
Source Link

What are the implications of the proliferation of hypersonic missiles to additional nations? That is, why should the United States and the rest of the world be concerned with such proliferation, and why should it be addressed now?

What are the possible measures to hinder such proliferation? That is, is it feasible to hinder the spread of this technology, and who should buy into such an objective and with what measures?

Poland Challenges the European Identity

By George Friedman

I am writing this from a hotel room in Warsaw, surrounded by memorials to Frederic Chopin, the great Polish composer and champion of self-determination for the Polish people. This is a particularly appropriate time to be here, since Poland is locked in a battle with the European Union over the question of Polish national self-determination – more than two centuries after Chopin was born.


At different historical periods, weapons emerged that changed how armies fought. Four millennia ago on the flat plains of Mesopotamia, the Assyrians employed the chariot—predecessor of the tank—to dominate all opposing tribes.1 In the twelfth century A.D., Genghis Khan’s horsemen swept out of Mongolia, employing highly mobile firepower—superb riders equipped with short bows—to terrify the more civilized peoples living along the western edges of Europe. World War II brought the ultimate destructive weapon—nuclear bombs—along with massive air power. Just as the Assyrians and Mongols applied their weapons to the slaughter of both warriors and innocent civilians, so too did Germany, Italy, the Soviet Union, England, and America employ aerial bombing.

Navy Returns to Compasses and Pencils to Help Avoid Collisions at Sea


Urgent new orders went out earlier this month for United States Navy warships that have been plagued by deadly mishaps this year.

More sleep and no more 100-hour workweeks for sailors. Ships steaming in crowded waters like those near Singapore and Tokyo will now broadcast their positions as do other vessels. And ships whose crews lack basic seamanship certification will probably stay in port until the problems are fixed.

28 September 2017

What is Geopolitics?

In Greek, “geo” means “earth” and “politika” means “affairs of the city.” The “earthly affairs of the city” is a more elegant definition of geopolitics than what the dictionary offers: “politics as influenced by geographic factors.” But neither of these definitions does much to explain what geopolitics is and how we use it at Geopolitical Futures. For us, geopolitics is a tool, a way of thinking about the relationship between what states can and cannot control. It is not focused on any one thing but on all things; not on any one moment but on all moments, past and future; above all, it is not judgmental. It is concerned with describing what is and leaves what should be to theologians and think tanks. Geopolitics is not something you can learn from books alone,

Geopolitics is more akin to common sense than to international relations theory. It requires you to understand why men die for their country as well as a country’s grand strategy. It requires that you know how much a loaf of bread costs at the grocery store as well as what kind of guidance system an ICBM needs to be effective. It requires that you see the world not as you would want it to be, but as it really is. Geopolitics is never disconnected from reality; it is reality at its grittiest. 


So geopolitics is the study of human communities living in a defined space. To survive, a community must have access to some basic resources like food, water and shelter. The way these things are acquired varies. Some communities live in places where it is hard to grow food, so they develop other resources to trade with nearby communities in order to provide for their well-being, and so economics springs into being. The larger the community, the more resources it needs. But resources are finite and competition for them is fierce – and that means defense of a community’s resources and members must be ensured.These types of basic needs are what we call imperatives. Geography defines what these imperatives are for each country.


Imperatives are what a country must do to survive. But not all countries survive, not all nations have their own countries (e.g., Scotland), and not all those that do are able to satisfy their imperatives (e.g., Japan in World War II). This is because there are limits to what a country can do. In the same way that a country’s geography defines its imperatives, it also defines its constraints. Russia, for instance, has an imperative to secure an area in Eastern Europe that buffers it from invasion. This is because Russia is located on the North European Plain, the invasion superhighway of Europe. The fall of the Soviet Union meant in practical terms that Russia lost control over its buffer zone. Russia’s imperative is to control this territory, but it’s an impossible task for Moscow. Russia’s military is incapable of conquering and holding Ukraine. Russia’s imperative is to change the status quo in Ukraine, but the imperative outstrips Russian capabilities. Russia is constrained. It cannot achieve its imperative. 


Consider the case of modern China. China has become an immensely powerful country. It is true that Xi is a powerful leader, one who is attempting to consolidate control over the country to prevent it from breaking apart. China’s most pressing issues is poverty and wealth disparity. The coast is wealthy and the interior is poor. Xi is caught between the masses of the interior who will revolt if wealth isn’t redistributed, and the wealthy power centers along the coast that are the source of China’s economic power. Xi is the most powerful man in China, but even he cannot solve China’s domestic issues. Or consider China’s position in the world. China has been modernizing its military at an impressive rate, but its capabilities are still fundamentally limited. China is hemmed in by various islands that allow an outside power with a strong navy to block China’s expansion. China’s navy has made great strides, but China is still not in the same weight class as the United States, and that affects China’s ability to project power in its own backyard, let alone beyond. For all of China’s strength, for instance, it has not been able to consider an amphibious assault on Taiwan. China also depends on its ability to extend its maritime boundaries because its economy has grown to its current size on the back of foreign trade. That means there are limits to how far China can push the United States, because if a real conflict between the two breaks out and the U.S. moves to block Chinese trade, it would exacerbate the domestic issues that make ruling China so difficult.

From the point of view of geopolitics, we have to understand :

Chinese geography, and the way it makes China a de facto island, to the benefit of the coast and the detriment of the interior. 

Chinese people and how Chinese history oscillates between strong, centralized control and regionalized civil war. 

China’s geography defines China’s imperatives, but also that it limits just how powerful China can become. 

we have to be able to view all of this through the eyes of China’s leader, and recognize that in many ways he is an expression of China’s imperatives and constraints. He is as shaped by them as China is itself. When you put these pieces together, you begin to arrive at a geopolitical understanding of China, and therefore a sense of what China’s future must look like


Geopolitics explains and predicts how different groups of people interact. The nation-state is the basis upon which human communities are organized today. Nation-states have imperatives – things that must be done to survive. They have capabilities – resources to help ensure survival. They have constraints – realities that cannot be overcome that set limits on what is possible. Without those limits, prediction would be impossible – without constraints, there is no horizon.

You may click on this for further reading.

*** The Constraints That Define Donald Trump

By George Friedman

One of the core principles of geopolitical forecasting is the idea that political leaders have far less personal power than they are assumed to have. They live in a universe of constraints that not only limit what they can do but also shape their agendas and actions.

When leaders take office, they are faced with complex and competing interests. As a result, the distance between what they say they want to do, what they actually intend to do and what they ultimately do can be dramatic. This is doubly true in the United States, where the founders created a system of government designed to constrain the powers of the president through several institutions: a Congress divided into two houses, running by different rules and populated by representatives who answer to their own constituencies; a Supreme Court answerable to no one and itself divided into factions; and sovereign states that are frequently free to disregard the federal government. Combine that with a dangerous world and an economy out of everyone’s control, and the president can do relatively little. This is the way the world is, and the founders compounded its complexity.

*** How North Korea Could Pull Off a Pacific Nuclear Test

With the steady escalation of both multilateral and U.S. sanctions against it, North Korea is threatening once again to ratchet up its response. The week began with U.S. President Donald Trump telling the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 19 that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was on a "suicide mission" and the United States would "totally destroy" North Korea if necessary to protect itself and its allies. Trump followed up his remarks by signing an executive order on Sept. 21 that will allow the U.S. Treasury Department to go after entities trading with North Korea. On Sept. 22, Kim responded by promising countermeasures.

Even with the measures North Korea could take to minimize the damage of an atmospheric nuclear explosion, the risk of such a test is always substantial. An accident or miscalculation could result in a nuclear explosion at a location and altitude that differs from the original intent. Depending on the exact yield of the warhead, a very high-altitude nuclear test demonstration could also result in a significant electromagnetic pulse effect that would damage or at least disrupt radar, satellite and radio networks.

India and Germany: A Partnership to Be Reckoned With

By Christoph Senft

Earlier this year, the leaders of Germany and India announced that they had taken their countries' relationship "to a new level." And to be sure, over the past few decades collaboration between the two has deepened on many different fronts. But Germany's interest in India isn't merely a byproduct of the Asian century, as the 21st century is now so frequently called. Rather, it has been building gradually over time, laying a sturdy foundation for the partnership that both countries are beginning to take more and more seriously.



In 1999, India’s then-foreign minister, Jaswant Singh, travelled to Tokyo to smooth ruffled feathers after India’s nuclear tests of that year. “Relations between Japan and India are basically good,” declared Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, damning with faint praise. “But the nuclear issue remains a thorn in the throat. India’s signing of the CTBT would remove that thorn.” India did not sign the CTBT, but the thorn quickly disappeared.

The General in charge of the surgical strikes

As the highest ranking officer in Jammu and Kashmir during the September 28-29, 2016 surgical strikes, the buck literally stopped with Lieutenant General Deependra Singh Hooda.

General Hooda was the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Northern Command, in charge of the planning and execution of the top secret operation across the Line of Control.

Most officers and soldiers in the Northern Command -- responsible for the security of J&K and Line of Control -- were not aware of the strikes being planned.

What Were China's Objectives in the Doklam Dispute?

by Jonah Blank
Source Link

 At 14,000 feet above sea level and with a perpetually harsh climate, the Doklam Plateau is an enormously difficult place to defend. Meanwhile, those launching an attack face exponentially greater challenges—and that's before the Himalayan winter sets in. This helps explain why China and India last week ended a military standoff there that had been festering since June. Beyond the sheer misery of preparing to fight on such a forbidding battlefield, however, both nations had every reason to deescalate one of the most serious showdowns since their sole war in 1962. The status quo ante has been essentially restored, but the dispute raised important questions about the balance of power in Asia, China's grand strategy, and what Washington can learn from the episode.

Trump’s ‘new’ Afghanistan Strategy & Indo-U.S. Strategic Partnership

Shanthie Mariet D’Souza

Donald Trump’s strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia announced on 21 August, was intended to highlight the novelty and surprise elements of a roadmap that purportedly sought little short of the decimation of terrorism. For all that, the ‘new’ strategy, its overheated semantics and studious ambiguity notwithstanding, in reality is but a continuation of the American trial and error method that has kept insurgent aspirations of a victory alive these 16 years since the US intervened in Afghanistan. After spending much blood and treasure, has the US learnt from its mistakes? Is the present strategy a break with the past? Or is it a mere continuation of a policy with no defined objectives and outcomes?

India Does Not Need Boots on Afghan Ground

NEW DELHI — President Trump has pivoted toward India and away from Pakistan. Calling upon India to help in Afghanistan, “especially in the area of economic assistance and development,” Mr. Trump was holding up the prospect of a major Indian presence to goad Pakistan to crack down on the Taliban and deny them sanctuary.

Indian policy makers were pleased with Mr. Trump’s blunt warning to Pakistan to stop “housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” but Indian officials know the American president is neither measured nor consistent.

Wei Qi or Won’t Xi The Siren Call of Chinese Strategic Culture

By Lauren Dickey

These days, in the study of Chinese strategy, a fixation upon Sun Tzu’s Art of War, the chess-like game of “weiqi” (known colloquially as Go) or the concepts of shi (strategic advantage) and shashoujian (assassin’s mace) appear increasingly en vogue.[1] From the pages of The Strategy Bridge to the corridors of U.S. military academies, many are turning to ancient Chinese edicts seeking insight into the realm of strategy and statecraft.[2] The study and adaptation of Chinese strategic culture offer an antipode to Western thought, defining strategy in contextual terms of historical experience, strategic geography, and cultural traditions in a manner that appears at loggerheads with the operation of strategy in the Western sense of the term.

Pentagon Tests Lasers and Nets to Combat a Vexing Foe: ISIS Drones


WASHINGTON — At the vast, windswept White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico earlier this year, nearly a dozen military contractors armed with laser guns, high-tech nets and other experimental systems met to tackle one of the Pentagon’s most vexing counterterrorism conundrums: how to destroy the Islamic State’s increasingly lethal fleet of drones.

Options for the Ground-Based Leg of the Nuclear Triad

The Air Force is on the cusp of beginning a new major defense acquisition program (MDAP) to replace the ground-based leg of the nuclear triad. This program, known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), will be one of the Air Force’s largest acquisition programs throughout the 2020s and will likely compete for funding with other acquisition priorities, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the B-21 bomber, and the KC-46A aerial refueling tanker. The new missiles acquired under the GBSD program are projected to remain in the inventory through the 2070s and serve as the backbone of the U.S. nuclear arsenal for a generation. Before the Air Force embarks on this effort, policymakers should consider the need for a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the timing of the program, and the broader context in which this acquisition is occurring. The purpose of this report is to provide an independent assessment of the options available; including the impetus for the program, a review of the Air Force’s analysis of alternatives for the GBSD, alternatives to modernization, and key questions for policymakers to consider as the MDAP moves forward.

David versus Goliath – US irrationality and nuclear war in the Korean Peninsula

Authors: S. Chandrashekar, Rajaram Nagappa and N.Ramani

The available evidence from all the nuclear weapon and missile tests conducted by North Korea between May and September this year suggest that Kim Jong Un is no irrational madman who will resort to nuclear war for some idiosyncratic or stupid reason. Rather, each test is part of a carefully calibrated set of signals that together establish that North Korea has in place an assured retaliatory capability directed at the US and its allies in the Asia Pacific region. Accepting this reality may provide a more viable approach for realizing stability in the Korean peninsula than resorting to the shrill and often ludicrous war of words that is currently going on.

To read the complete report click here

Retaining the Army's Cyber Expertise

by Jennie W. Wenger, Caolionn O'Connell, Maria C. Lytell

In 2014, the Army established the Cyber career field as a basic branch, which includes the 17C military occupational specialty for enlisted cyber operations specialists. These soldiers require extensive training, and Army leadership is concerned that they will be lured away by lucrative jobs in the civilian labor market. This report describes findings that will help inform the Army's strategy for retaining these 17C soldiers. Our findings indicate that soldiers who qualify for 17C are more likely than others to remain in the Army through their first term; however, they also appear to be somewhat less likely to reenlist. In the civilian sector, information security analysts perform similar duties to 17Cs in the Army, and many information security analysts are veterans. Given that, 17C soldiers who do not reenlist may pursue civilian careers as information security analysts. 

The bloody battle to wrest Mosul from ISIS was the world’s largest military operation in nearly 15 years.


The bloody battle to wrest Mosul from ISIS was the world’s largest military operation in nearly 15 years. 

The Mosul offensive began on October 17, 2016, when a variegated body of more than 100,000 troops—local volunteers, regular soldiers, elite Iraqi and Western special forces—collapsed on the country's second-largest city. The force, believed to overmatch ISIS 10-to-1, moved under the cover of airpower provided by a half-dozen nations.

Advancing from the south, east and the north, Baghdad and its allies needed just 14 days to make it to Mosul’s doorstep. Iraqi special forces raced about 15 miles in those two weeks, and became the first to knock on that door. But such large-scale, coordinated assaults would prove much more difficult in the months to come. 

The Army reading list: Annoying habits, bad choices and very woolly thinking

The various Army Chiefs of Staff issued six different professional development reading lists between 2009 and 2017 (Casey I, Casey II, Dempsey I, Odierno I, Odierno II and Milley I). All these lists are completely different — Dempsey’s brief list consists of 26 books while Milley’s massive list clocks in at a staggering 115 books. These six reading lists cumulatively contain the names of 240 different books, yet not a single one shows up on every list and only one book (Makers of Modern Strategy 2nd ed.) shows up on five of the six lists. In fact, 80 percent of the books on the most recent list are not mentioned on any of the previous lists.

27 September 2017

Engaging Religion and Religious Actors in Countering Violent Extremism

Interest and space for including religious actors in policy on countering violent extremism (CVE) has grown over the past few years, but debates over the degree to which ideological, religious, or structural factors contribute to violent extremism have not yielded clear guidance for policymakers and practitioners. 

The role of religion as a potential driver of violent extremism is significant, but religion usually interacts with a wide range of other factors and causality is not linear. 

An alternative approach that focuses on the role or function of religion in violent extremism—facilitating mobilization, providing a counternarrative, providing a justification, and sanctifying violent acts—shows promise. 

Religious leaders are integral members of civil society and key contributors to public and political discourse. Engaging them in all spheres of government work, carefully and with sensitivity to power asymmetries and potential risks, is needed. 

Understanding how religious factors affect violent extremism can help inform the design and implementation of CVE solutions that engage the religious sector. 

The track record highlights ways in which religious actors can be partners, including when and how to engage them, how to design effective training, and how to ensure effective partnerships across sectors through inclusivity and addressing potential political obstacles. 
Recommendations for policymakers and practitioners include a focus on CVE roles for faith actors beyond the religious sector, practical approaches for avoiding undue governmental entanglement in religion, and suggestions for how to ensure appropriately sized and inclusive engagement with religion and religious actors in the CVE context. 


Ensure alignment between counterideology or counternarrative efforts and work focused on other drivers of violent extremism. 

Think beyond theology when assessing potential roles for religious actors in CVE. 

Think beyond old men in churches and mosques. 

Do not let CVE become a pretense for proscribing religion. 

Avoid endorsing particular interpretations of religion or using religious language and symbols in official government statements. 

Those interested in countering Violent Extremism by engaging Religion and Religious Actors in Countering may please read United States Institute of peace report .