8 July 2017

*** North Korea Successfully Tests Its First ICBM

At 9:10 a.m. local time on July 4, North Korea launched a new ballistic missile, the Hwasong-14, from the Panghyon Airport in North Pyongan Province. The Hwasong-14 was tested at a lofted, or steep, trajectory. This flight path maximizes the altitude of the missile and reduces its distance traveled in order to avoid overflying neighboring regions and countries such as Japan. Pyongyang further claimed that the Hwasong-14 missile was an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile — a statement that is thus far backed up by the available flight data.

The Hwasong-14 achieved the farthest distance traveled by a North Korean missile in tests so far. The previous longest shot occurred on May 14 with a test of the Hwasong-12. That missile reached an apogee of 2,111.5 kilometers (1312 miles) and a range of around 700 kilometers (435 miles) with a flight time of 30 minutes.

The July 4 Hwasong-14 flight characteristics show a clear improvement. According to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, the missile landed more than 930 kilometers (578 miles) away from its launch point. According to the Japanese Ministry of Defense, the observed apogee of the missile greatly exceeded 2,500 kilometers. Finally, the United States Pacific Command reported that the flight time of the missile was 37 minutes. Given these flight details, the North Korean missile should technically be able to reach a distance of more than 6,000 kilometers (3,278 miles) on a standard trajectory.

** China Tries to Buy Time From Foreign Investors

By Xander Snyder

China is trying to solve some of its short-term economic problems by attracting new investment. The government has opened the nearly $10 trillion Chinese bond market to foreign investors for the first time. This means that a number of international funds will be able to add Chinese bonds to their indices, thereby increasing the flow of foreign capital into mainland China and increasing demand for the yuan. The program, called Bond Connect, links markets in Hong Kong with markets in mainland China, but more important, it only allows capital to flow in one direction. Foreign investors can invest in Chinese bonds via the Hong Kong stock exchange but Chinese investors can’t invest in foreign bonds.

The Key Objectives

This move is part of the government’s attempt to pursue four economic objectives. First, it wants to attract more investment capital. That the plan allows greater inflows while many types of outflows remain constrained indicates that the Chinese are short of cash that can be used, among other things, to invest in productive enterprises. More investment capital would help the government move away from supporting inefficient state-owned enterprises so it can instead support more profitable and self-sustaining industries.

Second, China wants to reduce the risk of capital flight. Its foreign reserves fell by $1 trillion or roughly 25 percent between 2014 and early 2017, and while more recently it has been able to stem capital outflows, the government is nonetheless worried that this issue could become a serious vulnerability. Increased capital outflows decreased the value of the yuan relative to the dollar, which, on the upside, benefits the country’s exports. But capital flight also decreases the number of enterprises and decreases the country’s tax base. It also destabilizes exchange rates and reduces the government’s ability to effectively implement monetary policy, since it has to focus on capital retention.

** Drawing From The Past, Putin Plans His Future

Every leader in Russia's more than 1,000 years of history has faced the same problem: The unwieldy nation is inherently unstable, regardless of what type of system governs it. And for all his administration's bravado, President Vladimir Putin is no exception. The challenges he faces today, as he nears the end of his 17th year in power, are eerily reminiscent of those that heralded the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire before it. But Putin is a savvy pupil of history. Drawing from his predecessors' failings, he may be able to defer his administration's demise, or forestall it altogether.

Russia's Latest Savior

Putin rose to power as a savior in a time of chaos, a role not unfamiliar to past leaders in the country. Czar Mikhail I, founder of the Romanov Dynasty, and Vladimir Lenin alike emerged from tumult - the Time of Troubles in the 17th century and the 1917 Russian Revolution, respectively - to restore order. Putin likewise catapulted himself to prominence during the turbulent 1990s as Russia floundered in economic crisis under President Boris Yeltsin, the country's first post-Soviet leader. At the time, a handful of wealthy businessmen had pilfered most of the country's assets, secessionist movements were taking shape in many Russian regions, the military and security services were decaying, and another war in Chechnya was brewing. The government, meanwhile, was in disarray, a cacophony of clashing viewpoints.

How India Should Respond to China’s Belt and Road

By Suman Bery

In May 2017, India curtly and publicly declined to attend Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Forum (BRF) in Beijing. India’s snub was both uncharacteristic and controversial, although not unexpected.

On May 13, 2017, a day before the BRF plenary, a spokesperson for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) provided a formal explanation for India’s absence from the forum. From the statement it seems clear that there is a wide gap between the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as it was understood by many participants at the BRF, and as interpreted by India’s MEA and much of India’s policy elite.

The terminology is certainly confusing: the ‘Belt’ refers to east–west land connectivity between the Pacific and the Atlantic via central Asia and Europe, while the ‘Road’ refers to the maritime arc that connects the land spokes. India’s deepest concerns seem to be with a particular spoke on the ‘Belt’ — the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor — and various points on the ‘Road’, notably Gwadar port in Pakistan, and the Hambantota and Colombo ports in Sri Lanka. There is no question that the BRI is diffuse, amorphous and Sino-centric in both conception and orientation. Yet the Belt component is already providing land connectivity to a large, resource-rich swath of central Asia, which is as much in India’s hinterland as that of Russia and Turkey — whose presidents both chose to attend the BRF.

Over successive governments, India’s foreign policy’s core objective has been to fashion an external environment that supports the nation’s economic and social transformation. Since India’s historic decision in 1991 to seek deeper integration with the world economy, this environment has included an open trade and financial order, whose rules were typically set by the richer countries — essentially the G7 — and acceded to by India. As articulated by President Xi in his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January this year, China now presents itself as the flag-bearer for continued integration of the global economy at a time when support from richer countries, notably the US, is waning.

Pakistan Enhances Range of Controversial ‘Tactical’ Nuclear Weapon

ISLAMBABAD —Pakistan’s military announced Wednesday that it has successfully undertaken a series of flight tests of its battlefield nuclear-capable NASR missile this week, enhancing the rocket’s flight maneuverability and extending its range to 70 kilometers from 60.

“This weapon system will augment credible deterrence against prevailing threat spectrum more effectively, including anti-missile defenses. NASR is a high precision weapon system with the ability of quick deployments,” the Pakistan army’s media wing said when it released details of the flight testing process.

The development of Pakistani tactical nuclear weapons is a source of concern for the United States because their smaller size increases the risk of a nuclear conflict with rival India, non-proliferation experts say.

Pakistani officials say that smaller weapons would deter their bigger neighbor from imposing a sudden, limited and lightning assault with conventional forces under New Delhi’s “Cold Start” doctrine.

Pakistan army Chief General Qammmar Javed Bajwa, who has witnessed the Nasr flight tests, referred to the Indian doctrine.

The ISI and Kulbhushan Jadhav's Second “Confession”

Rana Banerji

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) seems to have gone into overdrive releasing Kulbhushan Jadhav’s second “confession” on 22 June. The main aim was perhaps to strengthen its case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague while tying up glaring loopholes in Jadhav’s previous story. The ISI has blamed India, clubbing other negative consequences which the Pakistani military establishment faces today from hostile terrorists looking inwards. Both confessions were evidently obtained under duress.

In March 2016, having somehow got their hands on a retired Indian naval officer, the Pakistani military establishment saw a golden opportunity to sustain its oft repeated allegations of the Indian hand stoking the long fomenting dissent in Balochistan. With notorious underworld criminal Uzair Baloch singing like a canary, they added for good measure charges of colluding in the sectarian and ethnic violence in Karachi.

Jadhav’s statement acknowledges he had access to services of a defence counsel during the military court proceedings. It notes his appeal before an Appellate Tribunal as well as its rejection. It records Jadhav seeking mercy from Pakistan's Army Chief under prescribed provisions of the country's Army Act. Not only are these steps designed to improve Pakistan’s image before the ICJ about ostensible reasonableness of procedural safeguards, but they prepare the ground for his summary execution, if it is eventually decided to cock a snook at a possible adverse verdict from the ICJ later on.

Ideology in the Afghan Taliban: A new AAN report

Anand Gopal and Alex Strick van Linschoten
The full report can be downloaded here.

Kherqa-ye Sharif (the shrine of the Holy Cloak) in Kandahar. The cloak belonged to the Prophet Muhammad and was displayed to a crowd by Mullah Omar when he was declared amir ul-mumenin in the spring of 1996.

The Taleban’s ideology has transformed over the past two decades. While the movement once typified a ‘traditionalist’ Islam – that is, it sought to articulate and defend a particular concept of Islam found in southern Pashtun villages – it is now, in its insurgency phase, closer to forms of political Islam espoused in the Arab world. This does not mean that the Taleban are less conservative or authoritarian, rather that the objects of their repression and the way they frame their mission have shifted in important ways. In a major new report, AAN guest authors Anand Gopal and Alex Strick van Linschoten examine the changes as well as the continuity in the Taleban’s ideology from the 1980s to the present day. The report is the product of years of interviews, fieldwork in Afghanistan, as well as their time working with the Taliban Sources Projectarchive, a significant collection of documents relating to the Taleban movement.

A Year of Bangladesh's War on Terror

By Siddharthya Roy

A year after the Dhaka bakery bloodbath, counter terrorism remains deeply political. 

On July 1, 2016, Bangladesh saw a bloodbath at the Holey Artisan Bakery, a ritzy eatery a stone’s throw away from the American embassy inside the heavily fortified diplomatic enclave of the country’s capital Dhaka.

The organization that claimed the attack has many names: Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham (Daesh), Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Islamic State (IS). The nomenclature depends mostly on who’s talking, but the names are usually used interchangeably. The Bangladeshi government however, refuses to use any of the above and instead called the attackers neo-JMB, referring to the Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh.

“What is in a name?” one might wonder. A terrorist organization by any other name would kill equally. But the year gone by since the attacks and the path down which Bangladeshi politics has gone, highlights the complex politics that lie behind what one calls the enemy.

“No Islamic State in Bangladesh”

Despite widespread acts of violence by Islamic extremists, officially Bangladesh had always denied the presence of international jihadist forces inside their borders.

“There’s no Islamic State in Bangladesh,” Bangladeshi Prime Minister and Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina had declared as recently as February 2016.

China’s Unabated Cartographic Aggression

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

China’s global cartographic aggression has no parallel. The periodicity with which China changes its territorial claims gives an indication that the Communist Party of China (CPC) treats maps like toilet paper; pulling out old rolls lying in cupboards sometimes and another time producing a newly hand-crafted one – all to suit China’s hegemonic ambitions.

What made China so pig-headed was due to the ease with which Mao Zedong annexed Tibet, Xinjiang, Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, occupying these territories illegally, while the world looked away. Ironically, instead of raising hell at the UN against Chinese genocide in Tibet (which continues to-date), Nehru made India supply rice to the PLA marauding the Tibetans.

So Mao went ahead and proclaimed “Tibet is the palm of China and Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and NEFA are its fingers”, repeated later by his midget copy Deng Xiaoping.

Surprisingly, Mao and Deng didn’t visualize Pakistan as the Spine of China leading to the Indian Ocean. But then began the Himalayan Plunder by China starting with capturing 38,000 sq kms of Aksai Chin. Later Pakistan gifted away the Shaksgam Valley to China, as the Pakistani hierarchy has done for Gilgit-Baltistan and Gwadar. Not without reason defence analyst and veteran Pakistani army officer Agha H Amin says that “There is no doubt that Pakistan will be a semi autonomous Chinese province by 2030 or so… Pakistani Baluchistan by 2030 would be a completely Chinese run show”. But while Amin said so in 2012, this may actually happen much earlier.

What ISIL really thinks about the future

In a conversation I had with a fellow university student in Damascus in 2000, he made curious remark. "Ana mubayie," he said. The sentence, which translates into “I owe a pledge of fealty”, was a reference to a supposed secret oath he made to Mullah Omar, then the emir of the Taliban in Afghanistan. In a secular country like Syria, the lack of context for young students meant nobody made much of it beyond observing its oddity.

When I wrote about the anecdote for The National three years ago, ISIL’s announcement of a "caliphate" was widely dismissed as comic and a delusional ambition. Many hoped that ISIL's military campaign soon would be reversed once the Iraqi army recovered from the initial shock. Even more than the military challenge, moreover, it was harder for politicians, clerics and observers to grasp the implications of the declaration on the region and the world, and the subsequent evolution of ISIL from a local insurgent group into a global organisation.

More than the appeal of an obscure emir in Afghanistan, ISIL would have a larger impact. The group operates in the heartlands of the Islamic world, and sectarianism will prove an exhaustible spring for it to endure and even prosper, as it did after it was thought defeated in 2008-2009 in Iraq. Its jihadist project will continue to inspire violence for years to come, regardless of how the group fares militarily on the ground in Syria and Iraq.

Russia Military Power report reveals what US is really worried about

RUSSIA’S military “kill chain”, nuclear arsenal and a network of secret tunnels beneath Moscow are among the military assets exposed in a US assessment of Russian power, ahead of a key meeting between presidents Putin and Trump.

The US Defence Intelligence Agency’s recently published Russia Military Power is the first of five reports into what the US regards as “no fail” issues including China, Iran, North Korean and transnational terrorism.

Defence Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart said the US “cannot afford to misunderstand” Russian intentions given recent activity in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria.

“Russia continues to modernise its extensive nuclear forces and is developing long range precision-guided conventional weapons systems,” he said. “Its ultimate deterrent is a robust nuclear force capable of conducting a massed nuclear strike on targets in the United States within minutes.

“Within the next decade, an even more confident and capable Russia could emerge. The United States needs to anticipate, rather than react, to Russian actions and pursue a greater awareness of Russian goals and capabilities to prevent potential conflicts.”

Russia and China Have a Common Line on Resolving the North Korean Problem

By Ankit Panda

On July 4, North Korea carried out its first-ever successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. While the reaction from the United States and South Korea was somewhat predictable, the reaction from China and Russia was unusually coordinated and telling — and came shortly after Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin met face-to-face in Moscow.

Xi and Putin had already declared their joint opposition to the U.S. deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea when the launch occurred.

They took the opportunity after the launch to issue a joint statement calling on the United States, South Korea, and North Korea to acquiesce to a “dual freeze” solution: North Korea would freeze its nuclear and ballistic missile testing in exchange for a cessation of conventional exercises by the United States and South Korea.

“The situation in the region affects the national interests of both countries,” the joint statement said. “Russia and China will work in close coordination to advance a solution to the complex problem of the Korean Peninsula in every possible way.”

In the aftermath of such a freeze coming into effect, Beijing and Moscow would welcome a return to multilateral talks — presumably through a resumption of the long-dead Six-Party Talks format that also included Japan.

North Korea's ICBM Test Isn't a Game Changer

Robert E Kelly

On July 4, doubtless to provoke the Americans on their Independence Day holiday, the North Koreans claimed to deploy an intercontinental ballistic missile. The missile launch was a “lofted” shot, meaning it was fired at an angle greater than 45 degrees. This allows it to travel higher but a shorter distance across the earth’s surface. Although the missile splashed down in the Sea of Japan, we can back-calculate from its altitude to how far it might have traveled if fired at an ideal, 45-degree angle. At the moment, the estimates are three to four thousand miles. That puts most of Alaska within range and is on the cusp of Hawaii.

This is a step forward in range to be sure, but there is dispute over whether to term this an ICBM rather than an intermediate-range or medium-range ballistic missile. Ultimately, though, the nomenclature is less relevant than the distance. The consensus is that this is now the longest-range North Korean missile we have yet seen in operation. Greater Anchorage, the largest urban agglomeration in Alaska, encompasses approximately four hundred thousand people. This new launch appears to decisively move those people into range. This is the first time a new nuclear power has been able to strike a major American city since the Chinese developed ICBMs during the Cold War. For a topic as prone to hyperbole as North Korea, this is bound to be read as a “game changer” by American audiences and drive the growing discussion about U.S. air strikes.

Russia Deploys a Potent Weapon in Syria: The Profit Motive


MOSCOW — The Kremlin is bringing a new weapon to the fight against the Islamic State militant group in Syria, using market-based incentives tied to oil and mining rights to reward private security contractors who secure territory from the extremists, Russian news outlets have reported.

So far, two Russian companies are known to have received contracts under the new policy, according to the reports: Evro Polis, which is set to receive profits from oil and gas wells it seizes from the Islamic State using contract soldiers, and Stroytransgaz, which signed a phosphate-mining deal for a site that was under militant control at the time.

The agreements, made with the Syrian government, are seen as incentives for companies affiliated with Russian security contractors, who reportedly employ about 2,500 soldiers in the country, to push the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, out of territory near Palmyra, in central Syria.

Most Middle Eastern wars are suspected of having some variant of this deal, but it is seldom made as explicit as in the Russian contracts.

“It’s all very simple,” Ivan P. Konovalov, director of the Center for Strategic Trends Studies, said by telephone of the deals, struck in December but just recently reported. “If a company provides security, then the country getting that service should pay. It doesn’t matter how the payment is made.”

Police seize servers of Ukrainian software firm after cyber attack

Ukrainian police on Tuesday seized the servers of an accounting software firm suspected of spreading a malware virus which crippled computer systems at major companies around the world last week, a senior police official said.

The head of Ukraine’s Cyber Police, Serhiy Demedyuk, told Reuters the servers of M.E.Doc - Ukraine’s most popular accounting software - had been seized as part of an investigation into the attack.

Though they are still trying to establish who was behind last week’s attack, Ukrainian intelligence officials and security firms have said some of the initial infections were spread via a malicious update issued by M.E.Doc, charges the company’s owners deny.

The owners were not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

Premium Service, which says it is an official dealer of M.E.Doc’s software, wrote a post on M.E.Doc’s Facebook page saying masked men were searching M.E.Doc’s offices and that the software firm’s servers and services were down.

Premium Service could not be reached for further comment.

Cyber Police spokeswoman Yulia Kvitko said investigative actions were continuing at M.E.Doc’s offices, adding that further comment would be made on Wednesday.

Ukraine says it foiled 2nd cyberattack after police raid

by Raphael Satter

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian authorities have avoided a second cyberattack, the country’s interior minister said Wednesday, an announcement that suggests the effort to wreak electronic havoc across the country is ongoing.

Ukraine is still trying to find its feet after scores or even hundreds of businesses and government agencies were hit by an explosion of data-scrambling software on June 27. In a Facebook post, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said there was a second stage to that attack, timed to hit its peak at 4 p.m. in Ukraine on July 4.

Avakov said the second strike — like the first one — originated from servers at the Ukrainian tax software company M.E. Doc, which sheds a little more light on Tuesday’s heavily armed raid on M.E. Doc’s office and the seizure of its servers.

The firm acknowledged Wednesday that it had been broken into and used by hackers to seed an epidemic of malware — an admission that came after a week of increasingly implausible denials.

It’s not clear what the thrust or scope of the second cyberattack in Ukraine was, but M.E. Doc is widely used across Ukraine, making it a tempting springboard for hackers. An executive at the company behind the software was quoted by Interfax-Ukraine as saying it was installed on 1 million machines across the country.

Why It's Time for the Carrier Battle Group

James Holmes

Let’s do away with the “carrier strike group.” Mind you, I don’t mean scrap the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers and logistics ships—the elements that comprise a carrier strike group. Heaven forfend! We need more hulls, airframes and gadgetry of all types to face down the Chinas and Russias of the world. What the service should jettison is the carrier strike group as an organizing concept. The navy leadership should replace it with the “carrier battle group” of old—a formation outfitted generously with warplanes, surface combatants and logistics ships to punish seaborne foes while warding off attack.

Why? Because the strike group is a concept designed for safe seas, where U.S. Navy forces can venture close to land with little fear of encountering opposition. Such hospitable surroundings prevailed for ten, maybe fifteen years after the Soviet Union’s fall in 1991. No more. The world’s oceans and seas are less and less hospitable by the day, as “peer competitors” build up imposing navies and back them with shore-based missiles and aircraft. As its moniker implies, the battle group is a concept fitting for the embattled age now taking form. And martial sages—the Niccolò Machiavellis and John Boyds of the world—remind us how crucial it is to keep pace with changing times.

New US Drone Project Could Change Asian Warfare Forever

By Tobias Burgers & Scott N. Romaniuk

Scan Eagle, an unmanned aerial vehicle, launches for a training mission from the flight deck of the afloat forward staging base USS Ponce.

In recent news, the United States Marine Corps (USMC) stated its intentions to develop a large, Group 5 – the largest class of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – vertical takeoff and landing drone (STOVL), with armed capabilities, that can be operated from amphibious ships. The new system, for the moment labeled “MUX,” has been designed as an offensive operating system, capable of attacking targets from varying distances but also capable of undertaking defensive roles such as protecting the V-22. It is also able to operate as an electronic warfare asset.

Though far from operational – the first test flight has been set for sometime in 2017 and an operational system will not be ready before 2026 if everything goes according to plan – the new system would significantly change the capabilities of the U.S. Navy (USN) and USMC. In short, it would represent a strident move for the U.S. armed forces, stepping away from the era of manned (strike) aircraft, and possibly from the era of aircraft carriers. If stationed on the America-class amphibious assault ships, the most recent class, this new generation of UAV could transform naval operations in the Asia Pacific. In a previous article, we wrote about how UAVs are ideal for a number of tasks in the Pacific, from offensive operations to hybrid warfare missions. The development of this system and its subsequent applications underscores this view.

Counter-Terrorism Strategic Communications: Back to the Future, Lessons from Past and Present

Read the Report.

This Report explores the lessons that can be learned from past communication experiences to aid Counter-Terrorism Strategic Communications (CTSC) campaigns targeting the current propaganda threat from so-called “Islamic State” (IS). It will do this by highlighting four lessons from the past from two different areas of communication practice – the history of propaganda and political communication – that are relevant for the current information war against IS. These are i) the need for multiple mediums of communication, ii) the say-do-gap, iii) defensive and offensive messaging, and, finally, iv) market research and targeting.

This Report was originally published as part of the book “Terrorists’ Use of the Internet: Assessment and Response”. This book compiles revised versions of a selection of papers delivered at an Advanced Research Workshop on ‘Terrorists’ Use of the Internet’ supported by the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme and held at Dublin City University on 27–29 June 2016. The event was co-organised by Swansea University’s Cyberterrorism Project and the EU FP7-funded VOX-Pol project.

Today’s Terror Threat Poses Array of New Challenges


When a suicide bomber in Manchester, England detonated a backpack full of explosives in May, killing 22 people at a concert venue, the National Counterterrorism Center took more than a passing interest.

Officials from NCTC, as it’s more often referred to, immediately began reaching out to their British counterparts via representatives in London, with the intention of making sure that every U.S. counterterrorism resource, from the FBI to the NSA, was available to assist in gathering information on the culprit and potential planners of the attack. That was mission number one. Mission number two hit a little closer to home.

“From a selfishly, narrowly U.S. perspective, we are of course at the same time trying to think about what links do those individuals potentially have to anybody who has traveled to the U.S. or who may be in the U.S.” said Nick Rasmussen, Director of NCTC.

Rasmussen was at NCTC in its earliest days. The Counterterrorism Center was established as a direct result of the 9/11 Commission Report, with the intention of making sure that information was more widely shared among federal, state, and local counterterrorism officials. In part, to ensure to the highest extent possible, that the intelligence mistakes leading up to 9/11 didn’t ever happen again. 

Global War on Terrorism: How Does the United States Military Counter and Combat the Worldwide Spread of Islamic Extremism?

by Richard K. Snodgrass

Reviewing the events of the decades preceding the devastating attack on the Homeland on September 11, 2001, reinforces the fact the world in general, the West and the United States in particular, have been subjected to the constant threat of terrorist attacks by groups and individuals espousing a twisted version of Islam through bombings, shooting sprees in public locations and suicide attacks against mostly soft targets. These attacks have been perpetrated by a wide range of state sponsors of terrorism, groups and individuals with varying motivations and aspirations. But they all have one thing in common: Islam. The United States and its partner nations in the battle against Islamic Extremist terrorists must discover new and improved courses of action to combat these extremists and their ability to recruit, brain-wash and train continuing waves of future terrorists.

In the foreseeable future, the dominant challenge facing the United States is the asymmetrical threat of terrorism, especially in the form of Islamic extremism. From the original attack on the Twin Towers in 1993, to the African embassy attacks in 1998, to the devastating destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11, and more recently the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and overthrow of the Yemeni government, the United States military apparatus has proven incapable of adequately addressing this threat through the application of predominately conventional warfare. To combat this ever worsening rise of Islamic extremism requires the focused dedication to the creation of hybrid joint forces that are culturally sensitive, religiously respectful and possess enhanced language skills.

Vulnerability Assessment Method Pocket Guide

PDF file 1.9 MB 

Technical Details » 
The U.S. Army Asymmetric Warfare Group has used the Vulnerability Assessment Method (VAM) for a variety of large-scale interagency exercises at the operational and theater levels and previously commissioned a handbook for that purpose. Because the group also advises deployed tactical units, it asked RAND Arroyo Center to revise the existing handbook to make it more useful at the operational and tactical levels, with a primary audience of brigade combat team commanders and staffs. The resulting document is designed to fit into a cargo pocket. It explains how the VAM can be embedded into doctrinal planning processes and describes a process for identifying adversary, friendly, and other key stakeholder centers of gravity to support the development of plans that will exploit adversary vulnerabilities while protecting friendly ones. It can help commanders and staffs, and other leaders and planners, identify what is most important in the adversary and nonadversary systems to avoid wasting resources by pursuing less-productive courses of action.

Multi-Domain Battle

This is the first of three articles discussing the impact of multi-domain battle through the lens of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. This article frames the ideas taking shape for how land forces might conduct future operations under the multi-domain battle concept being developed by the Army Capabilities and Integration Center. In recognition of the centennial of American Expeditionary Forces entering World War I, the articles will incorporate relevant historical observations and lessons to help drive home the new and differentiate it from the old.



This is the 50th time that our “Strategic Outpost” column has appeared at War on the Rocks. When we published our first piece on January 27, 2015, we had no idea how long our column would last or how it would be received. On this notable occasion, we’ve chosen to share some reflections about these past two and a half years for readers who may have joined us along the way.

Why did we choose to write this column? We saw the potential of a new startup called War on the Rocks to shape the debate on a wide range of defense and foreign policy issues, and we wanted to add our voices to this new and creative endeavor. Our column initially ran every two weeks, and then, to maintain our sanity, every three weeks. It has been an immense and energizing challenge to generate so many new ideas on important national security issues and turn them into short, thought-provoking commentary.

Our 50 columns have covered everything from the changing character of war to the oddities of service cultures to a letter to Santa from the secretary of defense. When we started, we had no idea how much work it would be (a ton) — but it has all been worth it. Our reach and impact has vastly exceeded our expectations. In our inaugural year, one of our columns was the sixth most-read article at War on the Rocks. In 2016, we were gratified that three of our columns ranked among the 10 most-read articles of the year, with a fourth in the top 25.

Layers of bureaucracy block Army from technological advancement, say experts

ARLINGTON, Va. — Excess bureaucracy is holding the U.S. Army back from efficiency and technological development, experts and defense leaders said at an Association of the U.S. Army forum on Thursday.

“The challenge is not technical; the challenge is in this room,” said Joshua Marcuse, executive director of the Defense Innovation Board, referring to the dozens of U.S. Army logistics officials attending the forum on Army sustainment. The Defense Innovation Board was created by former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to bring Silicon Valley technologies to the Department of Defense. 

Marcuse criticized the U.S. Army for the layers of bureaucracy and inefficiency that innovation must pass through to be implemented. 

As Lt. Gen. Aundre Piggee spoke about implementing today’s technology to fix problems, like a lack of dash manuals, the Army deputy chief of staff asked rhetorically, “Every soldier today has a smartphone in their pocket. Why don’t we put a manual on their smart phone?”

“This is something you could do tomorrow and probably should,” Marcuse responded. “The issue is the bureaucracy, or the culture … or the Hill.”

Cyber Flag exclusive: What goes into validating a cyber team?

by Mark Pomerleau

What goes into validating a cyber team? Fifth Domain was provided exclusive access to U.S. Cyber Command’s premier annual training exercise, Cyber Flag, in which 12 teams were used as the capstone toward reaching full operational capability.

The entire cyber mission force reached initial operational capability in October 2016. Prior to that, this exercise was partly used to validate teams for IOC.

The full spectrum of cyber teams participated in training — from defensive to offensive. These teams squared up against a live and free-thinking opposing force that operated in the same cyber terrain as blue teams, or friendlies.

The teams are evaluated by an assessment group that certifies teams meet or check off certain events during the exercise. The assessment team lead, who, like many, spoke to Fifth Domain during the exercise on the condition of anonymity, said these assessment teams are made up of no fewer than five individuals who grade the exams given to cyber teams.

Within that construct, a team controller sits within what is called the white cell, or the brain of the exercise, understands the team’s objectives and controls the pace of the exam, the team lead said. No fewer than three individuals are embedded with participants to observe their actions and input them into a database. A training analyst works with the opposing force, or OPFOR, to create a visualization to show the blue team how it performed.

Staying humble is key to staying safe, says Israel’s cyber chief

Map locates top 20 countries affected in the first hours of the global ransomware cyberattack in May 2017. (AP)I

srael’s cyber chief Eviatar Matania was not too concerned about the cyber attack that infiltrated computer systems in Israeli hospitals last week.

“We see attacks like this all the time,” Matania, who heads the National Cyber Bureau, in charge of setting out the nation’s cybersecurity policies and strategies, said in a wide-ranging interview on Thursday evening. “We mitigate [their damage] all the time, and this is one of them. It is not too difficult or dangerous.”

The Increasing Salience of 3D Printing for Nuclear Non-Proliferation

A growing number of defense-industrial 3D printing fairs, print-a-thons and the amount of defense dollars, particularly in the US, going into the technology of 3D printing speak to the fact that the defense industry and some countries’ armed forces recognize the great potential of the technology. 3D printing indeed allows the quicker, cheaper, and easier development of weapons, and even entirely new weapon designs. This applies to the full range of weapons categories: Small arms and light weapons (e.g. guns, guns, guns and grenade launchers), conventional weapon systems (drones, tanks, missiles, hypersonic scramjets) – and possibly even weapons of mass destruction.

3D printing, or additive manufacturing (AM), is increasingly adopted by various industries for rapid prototyping, the production of very complex objects in small numbers, and even the rapid production of end parts. Because of the features associated with 3D printing, particularly the high flexibility, the technology is, in a sense, the epitome of dual-use: One and the same 3D printer can produce both tools and weapons. A growing concern in the international security realm is that 3D printing could help a proliferating state in its quest for a secret nuclear weapons program.

News Article – Center for Security Studies

The advent of multiple independently-targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) in Southern Asia can be quite consequential in terms of the unfolding triangular nuclear competition involving China, India, and Pakistan. The three nuclear-armed neighbors have demonstrated their MIRV capabilities, with China being the earliest entrant, having reportedly placed them on its DF-series missiles.1 In decades ahead China’s MIRV programs would be sure to mature. In the absence of confidence-building and nuclear risk-reduction measures (NRRMs), the advent of MIRVs will exacerbate concerns for the respective national security policies of all three countries and for the regional strategic balance. Although the presence of MIRVs in Southern Asia will not be as pernicious as it was during Cold War2 they will have ripple effects in threat-perception, doctrine, and the perceived need for counter-measures.3 The complicated nuclear interactions among China, India, and Pakistan are about to become even more complex.

As was evident during the Cold War, MIRVs undermine strategic stability and invite an intensified nuclear arms race. President Richard Nixon’s National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, opposed a ban on MIRVs during the first Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. He came to regret this soon afterward, when he said, “I wish I had thought through the implications of a MIRVed world more thoughtfully in 1969 and 1970 than I did.”4 Reiterating his stand during the debate over the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he said: “In retrospect, I think if one could have avoided the development of MIRVs, which means also the testing of MIRVs by the Soviets, we would both be better off. What conclusion then I would have come to I don’t know.”5 With the passage of time, Kissinger became more conclusive. Writing in Time magazine in 1983, he opined that, “there can be no doubt that the age of MIRVs has doomed the SALT approach.”6


Hacking Group “Shadow Brokers” Threatens To Unmask Former NSA Hacker; But, This Threat May Well Be Part Of A Sophisticated Russian Information Operations Campaign Designed To Further Weaken U.S. Intelligence Collection Relationships And Capabilities

The hacking group behind the leaks of NSA hacking tools online – known as the ‘Shadow Brokers’ – is now threatening to publicly reveal the identity of the former NSA employee whom presumably provided the group with the purloined NSA offensive cyber weapons. The July 2, 2017 edition of the Dark Web News, had an article by ‘Richard,’ notes that “prior to the execution of two lethal NSA cyber weapons in the form of ransomware, the Shadow Brokers hacking outfit had been struggling to be taken seriously.” But, “after [the] WannaCry, and Petya, or NotPetya, everyone is clamoring for a piece of the remaining exploits being offered by this hacking outfit.”

Richard writes that “they [Shadow Brokers] have now stopped selling individual exploit dumps;” and are, “instead opting to release new ones only to those who subscribe to their monthly program.” In light of all the notoriety the group received in the aftermath of the recent cyber pandemic outbreaks noted above, Shadow Brokers “raised their monthly membership fee to $64,400, by creating a VIP membership service for people who would like to communicate with the hacking group on matters pertaining to the leaked NSA exploits.” Richard adds that to join this new VIP module, a one-time initiation fee of $128,800, which is in addition to the monthly subscription fee.