27 March 2017

*** China's Urbancide in Tibet

By Rinzin Dorjee

China’s urbanization policies have a particularly telling impact on Tibet.

The State Council of China unveiled the National New Type Urbanization Plan (NUP) in 2014 to increase the percentage of urban residents in the total population of China from 52.6 percent in 2012 to 60 percent by 2020. The ratio of citizens with urban hukou (resident permit) will increase 35.3 percent to approximately 45 percent. After many decades of deliberations and halt in reforms to the strict urban hukou system, the Chinese government has finally loosened procedures for rural migrants to transfer their household registrations to urban areas.

This policy has a unique impact on Tibet, where urbanization has become a major burden. Ethnically Chinese migrants coming from China’s densely populated coastal provinces have started moving to Tibet and the reformed hukou system has made it easier to transfer their household registration in Tibet.

By “urbancide,” I refer to the extinguishing of Tibetan culture and identity through an influx of millions of Chinese migrants in Tibet. At the same time, Tibetans in rural regions are made landless through expropriation of their land. As suggested by Emily T. Yeh in her book, Taming Tibet, this is part of China’s state territorialization of Tibet.

*** Assessing and Evaluating Department of Defense Efforts to Inform, Influence, and Persuade

To achieve key national security objectives, the U.S. government and U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) must effectively and credibly communicate with a broad range of foreign audiences. These activities also represent a significant investment: DoD spends more than $250 million per year on inform, influence, and persuade (IIP) efforts. It is clearly important to measure the performance and effectiveness of these efforts, but assessment has remained a challenge for DoD. To better support IIP planners and assessment practitioners, this report presents a realistic but fictional scenario as context for a step-by-step example of how assessment planning should work in practice. In the process, it demonstrates several core principles of effective assessment articulated in previous RAND research, along with insights and best practices for developing assessments that can accurately measure progress toward campaign objectives and directly support decision-making.


Ensure that the objectives of an IIP effort are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). 

Break objectives into smaller subordinate objectives or sequential steps for a clearer picture of progress toward larger objectives. 

** Beware the rhyme of history

by Arun Prakash
It is “Peace for our time”, declared British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on September 30, 1938, as he returned from the Munich Conference having tamely agreed to the German annexation of Czechoslovakian territories. This was to be the penultimate act of appeasement before Germany triggered World War II by invading Poland on September 1, 1939.

Well before it sparked this global conflagration, Germany had provided enough evidence of its hegemonic intent and utter disdain for the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, crafted for the purpose of preventing German re-militarisation. In contravention of its provisions, Adolf Hitler introduced conscription, sent his military to gain combat experience in the Spanish civil war and then, in 1936, re-occupied Rhineland. Emboldened by the passivity of Britain and the European powers, this was followed, in 1938, by the forcible union (Anschluss) of Austria with the Third Reich because of its German-speaking majority. Craven appeasement and hopeless optimism had set the stage for the Gotterdammerung that was to follow, exactly a year after Munich.

History, according to Mark Twain, “does not repeat itself but it rhymes”. On the 100th anniversary of World War I, Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan had pointed out uncanny similarities between the contemporary geopolitical landscape and the Europe of 1914. She argued in an essay that the same structural forces that led to the Great War a century ago could be in action in 2014. Mercifully, the centennial of WW I came and went peacefully, but MacMillan endorses Mark Twain with her advice: “If we can see past our blinders and take note of the telling parallels between then and now… history does give us valuable lessons.”


Source Link 
by Manpreet Sethi

Imminent use of nuclear weapons by Pakistan will make India go first, carry out a comprehensive first strike, and take out Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. So said an MIT scholar at a recent conference on nuclear policy. He opined that India will mount a “full comprehensive and preemptive nuclear counterforce strike” that could “completely disarm Pakistan of its nuclear weapons so that India does not engage in iterative tit-for-tat exchanges and expose its own cities to nuclear destruction.”

There are several problems with this hypothesis. Firstly, there never is any guarantee that “imminent” use of nuclear weapons is not an exercise in coercive diplomacy by the adversary. By doing preemption then, the first user would have guaranteed retaliation on oneself. Secondly, carrying out a full, comprehensive counterforce strike requires a credible first-strike-capable nuclear force. This means large numbers of nuclear-tipped missiles of very high accuracy, an early warning and intelligence capability of a very high order given the mobility of the adversary’s nuclear assets, nuclear targeting coordination, and logistics of a very high capability to obviate all chance of retaliation. The demands of such capabilities require deep pockets and a full panoply of high-end technology. India neither has nor will have spare cash of this kind in the foreseeable future. Therefore, complete disarming of Pakistan is just not possible. And if that doesn’t happen, then despite the first strike, Indian nuclear use would only have ended up exposing its cities to nuclear destruction, the very scenario Narang presupposes India would go nuclear first to avoid.

America Can't Terror-Proof Afghanistan

Barnett R. Rubin

More U.S. troops in Afghanistan may result in more direct combat with the Taliban.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a conflict in possession of no military solution must be in want of more troops. Or so one would think from the recommendations on how to succeed in Afghanistan made by Gen. John Nicholson, the force commander in Afghanistan; Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of Central Command; and Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. More troops with “greater authorities” will “break” or “end” the stalemate that all agree exists. “Greater authorities” means putting U.S. troops back in direct combat with the Taliban and authorizing them to risk killing more Afghan civilians.

More troops may shift the terms of the stalemate slightly and make it last longer, though it will probably last as long as the United States wants to pay for it. With or without more troops, under the present strategy, the U.S. commitment would have to be eternal, because it does nothing to mitigate the geopolitical conditions that created an enabling environment for global terrorism in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and which can be addressed only by political means. Terrorism is not caused by the existence of “terrorists,” and killing “terrorists” does not eradicate terrorism. The United States may define counterterrorism as its core interest in the region, but both those we label terrorists and those fighting them have political objectives rooted in the history of their societies. The Taliban were a product of the decades-long collapse of the Afghan state under the pressure of Cold War and regional rivalries. Al Qaeda, a product of the Arab world, developed in the ungoverned space created by war and support for, first, Afghan mujahidin fighting the Soviet Union and then the Taliban. The Islamic State, a product of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, has gained a foothold in Afghanistan by exploiting these same conditions.

The Graveyard of Empires and Big Data


The only tiki bar in eastern Afghanistan had an unusual payment program. A sign inside read simply, “If you supply data, you will get beer.” The idea was that anyone — or any foreigner, because Afghans were not allowed — could upload data on a one-terabyte hard drive kept at the bar, located in the Taj Mahal Guest House in Jalalabad. In exchange, they would get free beer courtesy of the Synergy Strike Force, the informal name of the American civilians who ran the establishment.

Patrons could contribute any sort of data — maps, PowerPoint slides, videos, or photographs. They could also copy data from the drive. The “Beer for Data” program, as the exchange was called, was about merging data from humanitarian workers, private security contractors, the military, and anyone else willing to contribute. The Synergy Strike Force was not a military unit, a government division, or even a private company; it was the self-chosen name of the odd assortment of Westerners who worked — or in some cases volunteered — on the development projects run out of the guest house.

The Synergy Strike Force’s Beer for Data exchange was a pure embodiment of the techno-utopian dream of free information and citizen empowerment that had emerged in recent years from the hacker community. Only no one would have guessed that this utopia was being created in the chaos of Afghanistan, let alone in Jalalabad, a city that had once been home to Osama bin Laden. Or even more unlikely, that the Synergy Strike Force would soon attract the attention of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Will China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ Initiative Deliver?

One-Belt-One-RoadAs advertised by Beijing, the “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative, China’s grand scheme for knitting a network of roads, ports, railways and other links from East China through Southeast and South and Central Asia all the way to Europe exceeds both in scope and ambition the Marshall Plan used to rebuild Europe after World War II.

The “belt” of land-based links is paired with a 21st century “Maritime Silk Road” stretching from Australia to Zanzibar. Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the OBOR initiative in 2013, two years after then-U.S. President Barack Obama initiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trading bloc across the Pacific region. Now that Obama successor Donald Trump has carried out his pledge to withdraw from the TPP, the expectations are that Chinese-backed strategies like the OBOR will gain momentum. China experts say that this is a positive development, but there is skepticism over whether Beijing will follow through with the gargantuan amount of funding needed, whether big debt-financed projects bankrolled by China will benefit the recipient countries, and whether those projects will actually make sense in the long run.

For many countries in the region, China is by far the biggest source of financing: Beijing’s Export and Import Bank of China alone lent $80 billion in 2015, compared with more than $27 billion from Asian Development Bank. Chinese involvement in building railways, ports, roads, dams and industrial corridors is helping to expand its economic and geopolitical sway across Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

The Shocking Way a War Between China and America Could Begin

Chen Pokong

In the air, the American and Japanese pilots reigned supreme. Chinese fighters proved no match for American fifth generation F-22 and F-35 fighters. Below the seas, the Los Angeles-class submarines overwhelmed the Chinese navy. Tomahawk missiles, fired from the USS Ronald Reagan, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, wrecked and ruined virtually all Chinese military airfields in the theater of conflict.

The turning point of the war came with the sinking of the Chinese aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. During early days of the new Sino-Japanese war, a Chinese fleet consisting of the Liaoning, four destroyers, four corvettes and other support vessels had played a key role in the East China Sea, destroying any Japanese warship it chanced upon, and forcing the retreat of Japan’s main naval force.

But the Liaoning-led Chinese fleet was soon repelled by continued assaults from American and Japanese aircraft and warships. One Chinese destroyer was sunk after being hit with a barrage of guided missiles, while two other destroyers were so badly damaged that they were rendered combat ineffective. The Liaoning was stripped of protection as the other Chinese warships were deployed for other sorties. During a bout of bitter fighting, a Lanzhou-class destroyer even broke formation and tried to escape the fighting altogether.

Caught between the dragon and the elephant

Rajrishi Singhal

Two large beasts cramp our geostrategic mindspace. One, China’s dragon refuses to vacate our imagination. The second one stirring about in the same space is expected to further cramp room for manoeuvrability. The current US administration, much like the Republican Party’s elephant symbol, is steamrollering global multilateral negotiations. Both these heavyweights present India with a difficult balancing act.

The first inkling of India’s expected high-wire act came from Chile last week when 11 members of the floundering Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), all founding nations barring the US, met to revive the plurilateral agreement. An added twist was China’s presence at the meeting.

It is expected that China will step into the US’ large shoes. America’s withdrawal from the TPP was seen as a parting kiss of death since its stewardship had kept negotiations alive. Having invested time, resources and political capital—especially on beyond-the-border issues like labour standards, environment rules and intellectual property laws—many developing countries are loath to let all that work go to waste.

The coming Iran-US confrontation in Iraq

Zakiyeh Yazdanshenas

In June 2014, Mosul was seized by the Islamic State (IS), whose leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi soon afterward announced a caliphate from the city’s grand mosque. Now the caliphate is seemingly coming to an end.

Iraqi government forces took the eastern part of Mosul from IS on Jan. 24 after three months of fighting. On March 15, a spokesman for Iraq's Counterterrorism Service said 60% of the western part of Mosul is under the control of Iraqi security forces. The day before, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had said the operation is in its final stage, pledging the defeat of IS.

But military victory in Mosul is just the beginning of a more complicated phase for Iraq. Disparate forces have so far come together to pursue the common objective of expelling IS from Iraq. With the imminent achievement of this goal, many underlying and preceding power struggles will likely re-emerge. Moreover, it should be borne in mind that various external powers — including Iran and the United States — have become greatly involved in Iraq’s security-related affairs and expanded their spheres of influence within the country since IS' 2014 onslaught.

Malaysia’s Future Role in Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Military Alliance

by Giorgio Cafiero and Daniel Wagner

Saudi King Salman is currently on a three-week tour across six Asian countries. The duration of the trip underscores the commercial and geopolitical importance which Saudi Arabia attributes to Asia. It comes at a time when the kingdom is promoting Vision 2030—an ambitious agenda aimed at ending the country’s reliance on oil and creating a prosperous and sustainable knowledge-based economy—and seeking to strengthen its geopolitical influence across the Asia-Pacific region. While Riyadh assesses the Trump administration’s policies, it is hedging its bets on the future of its post-War alliance with the West by continuing the “Asia Pivot” initiated by King Abdullah in the mid-2000s.

Significantly, the first leg of the king’s Asia tour was in Malaysia, which no Saudi monarch had visited since 2006. While in Kuala Lumpur, King Salman sought to identify new markets for Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports and secure more Malaysian investment in Vision 2030. The two governments signed several agreements to enhance bilateral cooperation in sectors including construction, aerospace, halal products, and hajj services. Most importantly, Aramco agreed to invest $7 billion in a Petronas refining and petrochemical project, marking the kingdom’s largest downstream investment outside of Saudi Arabia.

Europe at 60 Can Europe be saved?

ON MARCH 25th 1957, with the shadow of the second world war still hanging over them, six European countries signed the founding treaty of a new sort of international club. The European Union, as the club came to be called, achieved success on a scale its founders could barely have imagined, not only underpinning peace on the continent but creating a single market as well as a single currency, and bringing into its fold ex-dictatorships to the south and ex-communist countries to the east, as it expanded from six members to 28. Yet even as today’s European leaders gather in Rome this weekend to celebrate the 60th anniversary, they know their project is in big trouble.

The threats are both external and internal. Internally, the flaws that became glaringly evident in the euro crisis have yet to be fixed. Prolonged economic pain has contributed to a plunge in support for the EU. Populist, anti-European parties are attacking the EU’s very existence—not least in France, where Marine Le Pen is doing uncomfortably well in the presidential campaign, even if the National Front leader is unlikely to win in May. The most dramatic result of the anti-EU backlash so far is Brexit. Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, will not be in Rome for the birthday party; on March 29th she plans to invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty to start the Brexit process. Negotiations over Britain’s departure will consume much time and energy for the next two years; losing such a big member is also a huge blow to the club’s influence and credibility.

Holding Bashar al-Assad Accountable for Chemical Weapons Use in Syria

Natasha Lander

Efforts to hold the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accountable for persistent chemical weapons use were dealt another major blow recently when the UN Security Council failed to pass a resolution punishing Syrian officials for their roles in chlorine attacks in 2014 and 2015. Absent UN action, the United States and its allies have only the findings of a joint Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN investigation to sustain the drumbeat for punishing Syria.

Despite a concerted U.S. Government-led effort to establish an accountability mechanism in the UN, previous resolutions passed by the UN Security Council contained watered-down language meant to appease Syria-friendly countries like permanent Security Council members Russia and China. It was “no” votes by Russia and China that sank the latest resolution.

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) would have to be bolstered if theAssad regime is to be rebuked for its use of chemical weapons. Leadership from the United States on this issue could send a message to allies that despite a change in government, the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to holding those who use chemical weapons accountable. For example, the United States could encourage its allies to levy sanctions against individual perpetrators the way the U.S. Government did in January. As the Trump administration continues to develop its Middle East policy, efforts to implicate Assad and his government for chemical weapons use should be part of their considerations.

BRICS paradigm breaks new grounds in geopolitical order

By Swaran Singh
US President Donald Trump's "America First" rhetoric and the complications of Brexit are making supporters of the old world order more and more anxious. More specifically, with US withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and expecting its partners and allies to take care of their own security arrangements, the onus now lies on emerging economies to take the lead in ensuring peace and stability in their immediate peripheries. 

In the aftermath of a decade-long global economic slowdown, where the old G7 has already given way to G20, new groups like BRICS have been successfully creating a whole set of innovative new strategies in addressing various development challenges. 

Others like the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association - which include many emerging economies - are also revamping their regional institutions and policies. 

BRICS is also breaking new grounds in sustaining cross-continental partnerships among countries that were once ridiculed for their economic and socio-political policies.

BRICS was once coined as an investment term by British economist Jim O'Neil of Goldman Sachs who described the member countries as investment destinations for G7 economies with promise of better per-dollar return. 

Political Discipline and a Strategic Void

Paul R. Pillar

Recent press reports have described the Trump White House shaping its relationships with federal departments and agencies, especially the Department of Defense, in two different directions. On one hand, the administration reportedly is giving freer rein to the Pentagon to decide on its own about changes in, including expansion of, military operations. An example of this method of decision was the insertion of Marine artillery and an Army Ranger unit into fighting in northern Syria with no interagency review and no discussion at the level of the National Security Council as to how these deployments did or did not fit into larger U.S. objectives in Syria and what risks the deployments might entail.

On the other hand, the White House has installed a system of political commissars in all departments and agencies. This arrangement involves individuals who have been inserted into the high-level executive suites of each department but who do not report to the department head or chief of staff and instead answer to a deputy chief of staff in the White House. Their job is to enforce orthodoxy by monitoring what is said and done in the department, especially by its head, to ensure consistency with White House talking points.

Taken together, these two approaches to managing the executive branch, especially the national security portion of it, embrace the worst ways of executive leadership and omit the best.

Bernard Fall and Vietnamese Revolutionary Warfare: A Missed Opportunity for Counterinsurgency Doctrine?

by Nathaniel Moir

The work of Bernard Fall converges with two contemporary events, one recent and one soon to commence. Fredrik Logevall’s spirited New York Times Op-Ed reminded readers, on the fiftieth anniversary of Fall’s death, that studying Fall merits the effort due to the persistent relevance of his prolific scholarship on matters pertaining to war. The second event scheduled for March 18 consists of the United States Army’s Heritage and Education Center’s roundtable, “Cassandra in Oz: Counterinsurgency and Future War,” with Conrad Crane, David Petraeus, and current Secretary of Defense, James Mattis. At this event, the development, implementation, and legacy of the United States’ Counterinsurgency doctrine provides the focus for a forum that deserves significant attention.

However, as shown in a memorable War On the Rocks article, the legacy of the United States’ Counterinsurgency doctrine includes a contentious foundation. Bernard Fall, in contrast with proponents of French military doctrine known as la guerre révolutionnaire, upon which key components of the United States’ Counterinsurgency doctrine was based, provided a more circumspect corpus of work from which the United States’ Counterinsurgency doctrine may potentially still benefit. Fundamentally, Bernard Fall believed that successful resolution of the Vietnam War could occur through negotiations informed by more judicious understanding of the cultural and historical realities of the Vietnamese Revolution, particularly in the construction of foreign policy related to Southeast Asia. The military-focused efforts Fall personally observed in Indochina – during his first research trip to Hanoi and much of Tonkin in 1953 - did not appear to work despite the superior military advantage of the French Army over the Viet-Minh. Fall’s contention proved impossible to ignore after the decisive French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954. As a result of the Viet-Minh victory, French proponents of la guerre révolutionnaire appropriated Viet-Minh tactics – tactics which had been successful against them – for France’s growing conflict against the FLN in Algeria. Problematically, however, as the introduction to the United States Counterinsurgency Field Manual, FM 3-24 makes clear, proponents of this doctrine, especially David Galula, provided a conceptual basis for FM 3-24 utilized in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Balancing Force Modernization and the Most Likely Future Wars We’ll be Fighting

Today, military planners focus intensely on countering Russian revanchism in Europe and containing Chinese expansionism in Asia. After more than a decade and a half of fighting “small wars” In Iraq and Afghanistan and conducting counterterrorism strikes in many more countries, our national security focus and increasingly prevailing wisdom suggest the international system may be returning to an era of great power war.

Except, it is not.

Despite predictions to the contrary great power conflict will not dominate global security issues in the twenty-first century. Wars between great powers have steadily declined since WWII with the influence of nuclear weapons upon the international system, a trend that pre-dates American hegemony and argues against unipolarity as the sole causal factor. However, while great power war is unlikely to emerge in the near future, war itself will remain a constant feature of the international system. Instead of large-scale, inter-state conflicts, though, the prevalent form of conflict for the foreseeable future will be civil wars. Nationalism, or even fragmented and atomized derivative identities, will be the driving factor behind these conflicts, manifesting principally as insurgencies.

Chief: Army Will Need Smaller Units for Megacity Combat

by Matthew Cox

The Army's chief of staff said Tuesday that in about 10 years, the service must be ready to fight in megacities, a type of warfare that will require future units to resemble today's special operations forces.

Speaking at the Future of War Conference 2017 hosted by New America in Washington, D.C., Gen. Mark Milley said that the character of warfare will likely go through a fundamental shift over the next decade.

The world's population is steadily moving toward living in megacities. Currently, there are about a dozen of these huge urban areas with populations of more than 10 million. By mid-century, "we are going to have at least 50 or more," Milley said.

If war is about politics, it is going to be fought where people live, and "it will be fought, in my opinion, in urban areas," he said. "That has huge implications for the United States Army."

The service has been primarily designed to fight in woodland and desert environments with rolling terrain, the chief said, adding that the service has the capability but is less suited for jungle, mountain and urban warfare.
Urban Warfare



When you find yourself at the bottom of a hole, stop digging — especially when you will need a century (or two) of hard work to scramble out of it. This bit of wisdom is likely what the commander of Air Combat Command, Gen. Mike “Mobile” Holmes, had in mind when he once described the regretful state of the effort to modernize the service’s combat aircraft fleet:

Since Desert Storm, we’ve been on a recapitalization schedule of somewhere between 100 and 200 years, if you’d see how many airplanes we’ve been [through] and the size of the total fleet. If we can get to 48 F-35s a year, that would put us on a 40 year recapitalization schedule. So we’ve got to find a way to acquire more airplanes. We’ve got to work to make the airplanes we’re acquiring affordable, and then we have to make sure we’re getting the right things for the CAF [combat air force] too.

If this were the movie Jaws, it would be the equivalent of the unheeded revelation that “we’re going to need a bigger boat.”

In the first installment, we discussed what is known in the defense aircraft industry as the “high-low mix.” The idea, put forward in the 1970s by a group known as “the reformers,” embodied the notion that a small number of highly complex aircraft should be augmented by a larger number of less-complex assets. One would be forgiven for jumping directly to the conclusion that this is purely a function of economics: If we cannot afford to go “all-high,” we should fill out the ranks with lots of low-cost, easy-to-build aircraft. However, before making that leap, it is helpful to understand the vector by which complexity infects an aircraft program. If complexity is the disease, then high cost, low production rates, low readiness, and low adaptability are the symptoms.

What Trump's Budget Reveals about His Military Strategy

Christopher A. Preble
Donald Trump’s crusade against the inside-the-Beltway elite proceeds apace. Or, at least, that is what he wants you to believe. The latest foray is his “skinny budget,” an unabashed assault on a bevy of pet projects and sacred cows, combined with an equally brazen bid to grow the Pentagon’s budget.

As the saying goes: the White House proposes and the Congress disposes. This budget will not become law. It is hardly a worthless exercise, however, it provides yet another window into the president’s thinking, especially with respect to how he intends to conduct foreign policy. On balance, the priorities revealed by the budget suggest that President Trump wishes to use the military more often and engage in diplomacy less often than his predecessors. The mystery is why he thinks that that approach will be more effective.

The president and his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, get points for symmetry. The budget proposes $54 billion more for defense than under current law, and $54 billion less for nondefense discretionary spending. The apparent offsets maintain the fiction of fiscal responsibility. But the budget doesn’t touch mandatory spending or tax revenues and looks mostly at 2018. “By focusing only on discretionary spending, this budget effectively ignores 70 percent of spending and 90 percent of its growth over the next decade,” notes the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The Trump administration is also taking full advantage of Overseas Contingency Operations funds, which are excluded from fiscal caps: the administration wants $70 billion for the remainder of 2017 (a $5 billion increase), plus another $65 billion for 2018.

Using Special Forces Against Terrorism, Trump Seeks to Avoid Big Ground Wars

From Yemen to Syria to here in Central Africa, the Trump administration is relying on Special Operations forces to intensify its promised fight against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups as senior officials embrace an Obama-era strategy to minimize the American military’s footprint overseas.

In Africa, President Trump is expected to soon approve a Pentagon proposal to remove constraints on Special Operations airstrikes and raids in parts of Somalia to target suspected militants with the Shabab, an extremist group linked to Al Qaeda. Critics say that the change — in one of the few rejections of President Barack Obama’s guidelines for the elite forces — would bypass rules that seek to prevent civilian deaths from drone attacks and commando operations.

But in their two months in office, Trump officials have shown few other signs that they want to back away from Mr. Obama’s strategy to train, equip and otherwise support indigenous armies and security forces to fight their own wars instead of having to deploy large American forces to far-flung hot spots.

“Africans are at war; we’re not,” said Col. Kelly Smith, 47, a Green Beret commander who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and was a director of a counterterrorism exercise in Chad this month involving about 2,000 African and Western troops and trainers. “But we have a strategic interest in the success of partners.”

On the Internet, Nobody Knows That You’re A Russian Bot

Following the hacking of the U.S. Democratic National Committee and the revelations that Russian-affiliated groups seem to have conducted online influence operations in the lead up to the 2016 U.S. election, multiple commentators have speculated that large numbers of Russian social media bots were backing Trump in the lead up to his “unpresidented” victory. Similar concerns have been expressed about the forthcoming German and French elections, with experts and even government agencies issuing warnings about the impending possibility of Russian influence exerted online via bots and other techniques.

Political bots are part of a nebulous and nefarious digital media ecosystem that our team at the University of Oxford is calling computational propaganda, a term which covers automated systems that spread disinformation, certain types of trolling, and various data-driven efforts to shape public opinion online. These bots—social media identities that use automated scripts to rapidly or strategically disseminate content—are rapidly becoming an important element of online politics, and seem to blur the lines between political marketing, algorithmic manipulation, and propaganda.

However, our current ability to accurately trace bot activity back to those controlling and deploying them is limited. Although it is possible—and perhaps even probable—that there has been Russian-linked bot activity on major social media platforms in the lead up to the U.S. election (and that this could occur again in the lead up to the various elections happening in Europe this year), it is important to keep in mind the following caveats, many of which apply not just to bots, but also other forms of computational propaganda.

The Compromising Of America

By Edward Jay Epstein,

Edward Snowden’s theft of files, whatever good it accomplished in igniting a national conversation on surveillance, also opened the door to more aggressive Russian intrusions in cyberspace. How could it not? According to the unanimous report of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Snowden removed digital copies of 1.5 million files; 900,000 of them originated not with the NSA but Department of Defense documents, and concerned, among other things, the newly created joint Cyber Command. Other stolen files contained documents that originated with the British signal intelligence service, known as GCHQ, which Snowden had used his special access to obtain. One NSA file, a 31,000-page database, included requests to the NSA made by the 16 other agencies in the Intelligence Community for coverage of foreign targets. NSA Deputy Director Rick Ledgett, who headed the NSA’s damage assessment, described this database as the “keys to the kingdom” because it provided a roadmap to all of the gaps in coverage of Russia and other adversaries.

When sensitive compartmentalized information (SCI) is removed without authorization from the NSA’s secure facilities, as it was by Snowden, it is, by definition, compromised, regardless of what is done with it. Whether Snowden gave these files to journalists, Russians or Chinese intelligence, erased them or threw them in the Pacific Ocean, all the sources in them had to be considered compromised and shut down. So did the methods they revealed. The Pentagon, which did a more extensive damage assessment than the NSA, assigned hundreds of intelligence officers, in round-the-clock shifts, to go through each of the 1.5 million files to find all of the fatally compromised sources and methods in them. The self-destruct button then had to be pressed to close them down. Doing so punched a deep hole in the capabilities of the NSA, the Cyber Command, the British GCHQ, and other allied intelligence services—so deep that Booz Allen Vice-Chairman Michael McConnell, who had previously headed both the NSA and the office of National Intelligence, said, “An entire generation of intelligence was lost.” One measure of the seriousness of the ensuing blindness was the NSA’s failure to detect Russia’s preparations for the invasion of Ukraine in early 2014, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Vodafone-Idea Merger Is Signal To Government That It Can No Longer Play Shylock To Telcos

R Jagannathan

Vodafone-Idea ‘merger’ is a pointer that the government needs to change policies from being a rent-seeker to a gardener who sows to reap over a lifetime.

What it will lose in terms of short-term revenues it will gain from annuities and income taxes on healthy profits.

The Vodafone-Idea Cellular “merger” should be seen by the government as a wake-up call. The merger, which may well come unstuck at some point of time over the next 18 months if things don’t pan out, is more a cry of distress than a celebration of future success. It is the clearest pointer yet that the government’s policies towards the industry are weakening it rather than nurturing it.

The telecom industry is flying without fuel, and the only reason it has still not crashed is its in-built momentum. A paper plane can fly as long as there is some air current holding it up, but once that stops, it comes down. The force that keeps telecom still flying is the growing customer base; the forces dragging it down are debt (government-induced debt resulting from high spectrum prices) and regulatory overload. The government’s policies are simply not conducive to consolidation or long-term industry health. It is not even in its own best interests as it is about to kill the golden goose.

Infographic Of The Day: Chart: Can Uranium Be Great Again?

Uranium's spot price had a rough ride throughout the course of 2016, but for many investors there is suddenly a new aura of optimism around the troubled metal.

It all starts with Donald Trump’s “America First” strategy, which is being perceived by many as a potential boon to the uranium sector. Official details are slim, but industry executives are currently speculating that the Trump administration will be better for nuclear power than the previous government.

If that’s true, then it would mean far less regulatory hurdles for nuclear power, and likely even funding to bring more power plants online in the United States.

Perhaps such a catalyst is just what the metal needed. Both the spot price and the share prices of uranium miners have been in a gruesome bear market ever since the 2011 Fukushima incident in Japan. The prolonged pain has weathered down investors and companies alike, but everything has to bottom at some point.