31 August 2017

*** The Patterns in Global Terrorism: 1970-2016

By Anthony Cordesman

Terrorism has become one of the dominating national security threats of the 21st century. It is also one of the most complex — mixing the actions of states, extremists, and other non-state actors in a wide range of threats and types of conflicts. Terrorists range from individuals carrying out scattered terrorist acts, to international terrorist networks of non-state actors, to state terrorism including the use of conventional forces and poison gas to terrorize portions of a civil population. Terrorism has also become a key aspect of civil war, insurgency/counterinsurgency, and asymmetric warfare, as well as ideological, ethnic, and religious warfare.

There is no easy way to categorize the resulting patterns of violence, to measure their rise, or to set national security priorities. For more than a decade, the U.S. has focused on the threat of terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it has dealt increasingly with the expansion of the threat into North Africa, other parts of the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the rest of the world. Key warfighting threats like the Islamic State and its affiliates, and the Taliban and Haqqani Network, are only a comparatively small part of the rising threat in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia.

It is clear from the current trends in other regions that the threat of religious extremism may soon expand rapidly into the rest of Asia, and there are many other causes of terrorism in Africa, Europe, Latin America, the United States. Terrorism is often heavily driven by ideology, but it also is often a reaction to major shifts in population, ethnic and sectarian tensions, failed and corrupt governance, and the failure to broadly develop a given economy and offer employment and a future. No area is immune to the threat, and internal instability can drive terrorism anywhere in the world.

*** Deciphering the Taliban

By Diego Solis

Afghanistan embodies geopolitics in a way that few nations can. Its breathtaking mountains, vast steppes and harsh deserts have obstructed the influence of would-be rulers since ancient times. Yet these topographical impediments have protected and sheltered so much of what defines Afghanistan today, forming zones of refuge that harbor ethnic patchworks living in defiance of easy categorization or governance. Interpreting the complexities of the human and physical terrain from the lines and colors on a map is almost impossible. It is only when gazing over the deserts and mountains from 35,000 feet that the intricacies of the country become clearer. And only by walking in the shoes of everyday Afghans can you begin to comprehend their mindset. Very quickly you learn that Afghanistan is a country that rejects easy solutions.

An Afghan village overlooks a trail running through a mountain pass. (Diego Solis/Stratfor)

Flying in over this arresting land, it's impossible to forget that the mountains drifting by are the same ones that constrained the armies of Alexander the Great, challenged Genghis Khan and blunted numerous empires from the Moguls to the British. The Soviets rolled the dice (unsuccessfully) in the 1980s, and now the United States and some of its allies are returning to America's longest war, supposedly for the end game. But Afghanistan accepts outside influence like granite accepts water. And deeper than the nation's impermeability, perhaps, is a common missive that revealed itself to me through the people I spoke with: The country is not simply a space to be inhabited, or presided over. Rather, it is a forge. 

India’s Air Force Interested in 36 More Rafale Fighter Jets From France

By Franz-Stefan Gady

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is interested in placing a follow-up order for 36 additional fourth-generation Dassault Rafale multirole fighter jets, according to Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) sources.

The Indian government and French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation signed a 7.87 billion euros agreement for the sale of 36 Rafale fighter jets in September 2016, following four years of protracted negotiations. Delivery of the Rafale fighter jets is expected to begin in November 2019 and will likely be completed in the middle of 2022.

Sources have now revealed to The Times of India that the IAF has made “some presentations” on the operational need for an additional 36 Rafale fighter jets arguing that a follow-up order would just cost around 60 percent of the original acquisition and induction price.

The IAFs first Rafale fighter jet squadron will be based in West Bengal, whereas the second squadron is slated to be based in Haryana. Both IAF bases will be able to accommodate an additional squadron of 18 aircraft each. “This will cut down the induction costs of the 36 additional fighters,” IAF sources said.

The twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft can be armed with nuclear weapons and will be part of India’s nuclear triad. According to the IAF, the Rafale fighters, armed with Meteor air-to-air missiles, Scalp air-to-ground missiles, and possibly the air launched variant of the BrahMos cruise missile, will be “a huge deterrent” vis-à-vis China and Pakistan.

Can India and China use BRICS to build a house?

by Ravish Bhatia

Fourteen thousand feet above the sea level, at the Nathu La Pass on the India-China border, morbid danger signs warn visitors of dated land mines that might have remained from the war of 1962. Reflective of artful diplomacy from both sides, India and China have managed to metaphorically avoid stepping on another such land mine in the Doklam plateau, at the trijunction of India, Bhutan and China. Come September 3, another opportunity for the two Asian giants to take a step in the right direction will come up, when prime minister Narendra Modimeets Chinese president Xi Jinping, along with other leaders from Brazil, Russia and South Africa at the 9th annual BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China.

What began as an acronym coined by investment bankers at Goldman Sachs in 2001 to symbolise the engines of economic growth in the twenty first century, BRICS has evolved into something much bigger — a representation of the changing geo-political and geo-economic world order. India and China lie at the helm of this new order and they realise the importance of it.

The fact that the two countries released statements indicating disengagement at Doklam just a few days before the summit shows a realisation on both sides that the opportunities in cooperation for a greater say on the world stage far outweigh individual territorial ambitions that either of them might have. It can be argued that in intensive political disequilibria such as this, economics tend to be a stabilising force – which is the raison d’etre for BRICS.

Doklam standoff resolution: India's greatest diplomatic victory in decades

Abhijit Iyer-Mitra

The Ministry of External Affairs on Monday announced that following a diplomatic breakthrough Indian troops had begun disengaging at the Doklam border site. Later in the day, reports confirmed that the disengagement exercise had been completed, after a nearly two-and-a-half-month standoff, and the Chinese side had decided to withdraw road-construction equipment from the disputed site.The end of the Doklam standoff heralds quite possibly one of India’s most spectacular diplomatic victories in decades, and like any real victory it does not need shouting from rooftops. From beginning to end, the execution of India’s strategy here has been flawless and has achieved what India always wanted – Status Quo Ante -- and a much-needed counter to China’s salami tactics. The magnitude of the victory is only understood when we realise how crushing a personal defeat for Xi Jinping this actually is.

Xi, clearly identified as the mastermind of this Bhutan gambit, had made a number of assumptions, all of which turned out to be erroneous. The first was the belief that India could be punished for its OBOR Lèse-majesté by weaning Bhutan away from India. The logic was, if Bhutan were sufficiently pressured, it would have to open direct talks with China through embassy, and thereby open itself up to OBOR. The opinion in Beijing seems uniform as to the genesis of this particular showdown – it was in fact Xi putting personal pique over national interest. The net result of him personalising policy has been one of the biggest setbacks that China has faced in recent memory.

Trump says Pakistan ‘harbors terrorists.’ The real story isn’t so simple.

By Peter S. Henne 

Announcing a new Afghanistan strategy on Aug. 21, President Trump accusedPakistan of “housing the very terrorists we fight” and said the situation “must change immediately.” 

Yes, Pakistan’s counterterrorism record is frustrating, but Trump’s harsh words are unlikely to have much effect. My research suggests that Pakistan is not following a conscious policy of “harboring terrorism.” Instead, its leaders are constrained by a long and complex history that intertwines Islam and Pakistani security. 

Ultimately, Pakistani leaders are more worried about domestic backlash than U.S. threats, so any U.S. effort to stabilize Afghanistan will find that Pakistan continues to be a problematic partner. 

Pakistan has long been a complicated counterterrorism partner 

U.S. frustration with Pakistan goes back to the 1990s, when Pakistan supported Islamist militants in India-held Kashmir — and saw these groups as important allies in the country’s struggle with India. Pakistan also supported the Talibanin the 1990s, looking to exert influence over Afghanistan. The United States, by contrast, saw both Kashmiri militants and the al-Qaeda-supporting Taliban as terrorists. U.S. criticism at the time — and Pakistani foot-dragging — led to considerable tensions in the bilateral relationship. 

Afghanistan-Pakistan-US: Radical Redirection – Analysis

Ajai Sahni

There has been a tremendous and polarizing response to US President Donald Trump’s announcement of a “new integrated strategy for the U.S. approach to South Asia”, in particular, his approach to the Afghanistan-Pakistan conundrum. However, most commentary, other than that of Trump’s committed partisans, has been dismissive of this new approach, abruptly writing it off as ‘old wine in new bottles’; pointing to its commonalities with past and demonstrably failed strategies – particularly including those of the precedent administration of President Barack Obama; criticizing it for its excessive reliance on use of force, when ‘history’ has apparently demonstrated that ‘military solutions don’t work’, and so forth.

But Trump’s strategy deserves close attention because it does, in fact, contain radically original elements, and also because, irrespective of its actual implementation and eventual probabilities of success, it will – indeed, has already begun to – dramatically alter the geo-strategic environment of South Asia and the wider Asian region.

Broad-stroke counter-terrorism options with regard to the AfPak region are, of course, limited. Simply put, they are exhausted by the choice between reliance on use of force, on the one hand, and negotiated settlements, on the other. Both have been tried fitfully – or have been indiscriminately mixed in – over the past decades, and it is not just the ‘military solution’ that has been unsuccessful; negotiations have gone nowhere as well.

President Trump’s Decision Re Afghanistan – Intellectually Honest & Potentially Feasible

This week President Trump took the only decision he could take. There is no way he could have withdrawn from Afghanistan & let it become revert back into a haven for Islamic terrorism. He knows what happened after a premature withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan is much more like Vietnam than Iraq ever was.

So he decided to add a few thousand more troops to maintain today’s stalemate in which the virtually non-existent “Afghani government” has ceded control of much of the countryside to Taleban insurgents and in which the Talebani insurgents are incapable of either winning their war with Kabul or even mounting a joint campaign.

This is a strategy to not loose and it is the only sensible strategy President Trump can pursue. The reality is that every one on every side of this conflict is tired of it. America is certainly tired of it as every one knows. But the Taleban may actually be more tired of it. That movement has splintered & now the splinters are getting further splintered. They know they have no hope of victory if America decides to stay on ad infinitumwith say 10,000 troops. It will be a low intensity inexpensive conflict that America can wage for decades if necessary. Heck, even NaPakistan is tired of it because they are now getting a Talebani blowback from Afghanistan back into NaPakistan.

9/11 Brought America to Afghanistan. The Fear of Another One Keeps It There.

Arif Rafiq

As the Trump administration was finalizing its Afghanistan strategy last week, the son of an Afghan governor-warlord was literally chewing on the ear of a provincial council member who threatened his father. Meanwhile, the country’s vice president is abroad, having fled charges that he had a political rival dragged from a buzkashi match and sodomized.

In his recent address, President Donald Trump rightly disavowed nation-building in Afghanistan. The goals he announced—preventing mass casualty attacks on America, eliminating Al Qaeda and ISIS, and preventing a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan—are essentially the same pursued by the Obama administration. But he failed to make any mention of the political reforms necessary for the current system in Afghanistan to survive.

Afghanistan's domestic politics have taken a turn toward barbarism. And the post-Bonn framework that has kept Afghanistan together since 2001 is unraveling. The country's warlords, who donned tailored suits in the years after 9/11, fashioning themselves as statesmen, are reverting to their natural dispositions, bringing their country closer toward civil war. And on preventing this, President Trump had nothing to say.

A new chapter in the US’s South Asia policy?

Harsh V. Pant

In a dramatic reversal from his earlier position on the war in Afghanistan, US President Donald Trump has recast the Barack Obama era’s “Af-Pak” policy dramatically. “Let’s get out of Afghanistan,” Trump had tweeted on 11 January 2013. “Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis (sic) we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.” Now as president, Trump is having to revisit his earlier assumptions. The Obama administration was intent on drawing down American troops and that too within a specified time frame, thereby allowing the Taliban to wait out the American forces.

Trump’s plan will lead to the deployment of an additional 4,000 soldiers to train and buttress Afghan forces. Contrary to official US data, there are already 12,000 Americans serving in the country, and not 8,400, a number bandied about since the Obama administration. With Trump signing off on a larger deployment to Afghanistan of around 4,000 troops, this number would jump to around 16,000. The new strategy, we are told, will be dictated by “the conditions on the ground” not “arbitrary timetables”. The Pentagon deems such a move necessary to avoid the collapse of the US-backed government in Kabul but it would hardly be a force capable of dramatically changing facts on the ground a few years after a surge to some 100,000 American troops at the beginning of Obama presidency failed to do so. Trump acknowledged that although his “original instinct was to pull out ... a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists,”—an outcome Washington clearly wants to avoid even when disenchantment with Afghanistan’s polity is strong.

Chinese Navy Holds Rare Live-Fire Drill in Western Indian Ocean

By Ankit Panda

Three PLAN vessels participated in the drill, including the destroyer Changchun, guided-missile frigate Jingzhou, and supply vessel Chaohu.

According to Xinhua, China’s state news agency, the vessels “carried out strikes against ‘enemy’ surface ships and completed transverse replenishment of fuel and drinking water during an exercise that lasted for several days.”

“The drill is aimed at improving the ships’ performance under real combat circumstances,” said Chen Denan, chief of staff of the Chinese fleet, according to Xinhua.

The exercise comes as China continues to operationalize its first overseas naval base in Djibouti.

Moreover, the exercise comes as India and China remain locked in a tense standoff in the Himalayas.

Since mid-June, Indian Army and Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops have held positions on the Dolam plateau, which is disputed by Bhutan, an Indian ally, and China.



The early morning hours of July 11, 2017, marked a watershed moment for the People’s Republic of China. In an official ceremony at the port of Zhanjiang, the commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), Shen Jinlong, “read an order for the construction of China’s first replenishment base in Djibouti, and conferred military flag on the fleets.” With a salute and a wave of his hand, Shen then ordered the ships carrying Chinese military personnel to set sail on their mission.

Since early 2016, there has been speculation and much concern about a potential Chinese military base in Djibouti. At first, Chinese commentators denied the development, but later admitted that Beijing was indeed considering setting up a logistical facility in the Western Indian Ocean. As the first contingent of Chinese military personnel sailed out of Zhanjiang last month, China insisted the facility was merely for logistical and support purposes. An official release from Beijing said the facility was meant to assist the PLAN in the discharge of its “international obligations” by facilitating Chinese escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and humanitarian rescue missions in Africa and West Asia.

Closer Ties: China And Saudi Arabia Sign $70 Billion in New Deals

By Charlotte Gao

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli made a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia from August 23 to August 25. During his visit, China and Saudi signed a series of deals worth nearly $70 billion. Zhang said that China-Saudi Arabia cooperation was going to enter a new, more robust, sustainable, and fruitful era.

China and Saudi Arabia’s relationship is getting significantly warmer recently. Days Before Zhang’ visit, Saudi Minister of Energy, Industry, and Mineral Resources Khalid Al-Faleh had just visited Beijing and met with Zhang on August 18. In the meeting, both sides vowed to strengthen economic ties.

Soon, Zhang met Khalid Al-Faleh again in Jeddah on August 24. During the meeting, Al-Faleh revealed that China and the Kingdom had signed 60 various agreements and memoranda of understanding worth nearly $70 billion, according to Saudi Arabian news agency SPA. China’s news agency Xinhua said the agreements covered investment, trade, energy, postal service, communications, and media.

Besides Al-Faleh, the two most important figures Zhang met were Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Asia must get serious to counter China’s hegemonic rise


A book published last year by Angela Duckworth called Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance points to the preoccupation the West, and United States in particular, has with the underdog or the person who overcomes all odds to succeed. American icons Steve Jobs and Tom Brady are the archetypes of the gritty success that many Westerners value.

China, on the other hand, could not care less about American grit, and if the US, members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or the European Union, Southeast Asian countries and anywhere else China takes a national interest in don’t understand this equation, they are doomed to be enveloped in the Chinese stratosphere.

The American post-World War II liberal order isn’t perfect, but nations that fall under the sway of China and the Communist regime’s whims should jettison their infatuation with Donald Trump and wake up to a new, Chinese hegemonic reality.

These illiberal thoughts were best explained by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi’s response to complaints over his country’s military assertiveness in the South China Sea at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations conference when he said: “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact.” He said this in front of former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who at the time was the frontrunner to be the next US president.

Hunting the Leaders of ISIS

Three years after ISIL(Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) surprised a lot of people, especially the Iraqis by quickly seizing Mosul in mid-2014 American intel analysts believe that attacks against key ISIL personnel since then played a major and largely unreported role in the defeat of ISIL. These attacks became more frequent and more effective as ISIL lost most of its territory in Syria and Iraq. This gave key people fewer places to hide and even more importantly forced them to move more frequently and often without the careful planning and preparation they had learned was essential for survival. By early 2017 the impact of the damage was pretty obvious.

While the hunt for the senior leadership got the most publicity these men, especially ISIL founder and leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, were not the most important target (unless you goal was headlines and maximum media audiences). The key to crippling ISIL as an organization were those leaders responsible for finance, logistics and media. These were harder to replace and the senior ISIL leaders knew that success at raising huge amounts of cash (mainly via looting and smuggling, but also extortion and ransoms paid to free kidnapping victims and slaves) and maintaining effective communications for the finance and recruiting operations were more important. The logistics included obtaining weapons and explosives and moving them to where they would be most effective.

Is Spain About To Break Up? – Analysis

By Conn Hallinan*

When voters in Spain’s Catalan region go to the polls on October 1, much more than independence for the restive province will be at stake.

In many ways the vote will be a sounding board for Spain’s future. But it’s also a test of whether the European Union — divided between north and south, east and west — can long endure.

In some ways, the referendum on Catalan independence is a very Spanish affair, with grievances that run all the way back to Catalonia’s loss of independence in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). But the Catalans lost more than their political freedom when the combined French and Spanish army took Barcelona. They lost much of their language and culture, particularly during the long and brutal dictatorship of Francisco Franco from 1939 to 1975.

The current independence crisis dates back to 2010, when — at the urging of the right-wing People’s Party — the Spanish Constitutional Court overturned an autonomy agreement that had been endorsed by the Spanish and Catalan parliaments. Since then, the Catalans have elected a pro-independence government and narrowly defeated an initiative in 2014 calling for the creation of a free republic. The October 1 vote will re-visit that vote.

The Real Danger of Sending U.S. Arms to Ukraine

Brian Milakovsky

Putin could regard U.S. arms transfers as a symbolic test of who dictates conditions in the Donbass warzone.

In 2015, after spending several months in the frontline zone I wrote that Ukraine desperately needs a “lousy peace” and not an arms race. Two years and several thousand deaths later, the idea of supplying Ukraine with U.S. arms has resurfaced.

As a humanitarian worker whose greatest desire is to see the intolerable misery of Ukrainian civilians come to an end, I grapple with these questions: Would American arms increase the price of Russian aggression, causing Moscow to scale back its military project in the Donbass and saving civilian lives? Or would they incite a new round of escalation and a flood of new arms into the region?

The stakes of this question are incredibly high for Donbass civilians. With both sides placing their heavy artillery adjacent to residential areas (according to the head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring mission in the region), every escalation means more death and destruction for a population already traumatized by three years of war and civil strife.

How Trump’s new approach to Pakistan might pan out

Shashank Joshi

Perhaps the most notable part of President Trump's new Afghanistan 'strategy' is its treatment of Pakistan, with Trump saying out loud what was once largely debated and threatened in private:

The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan. We can no longer be silent about Pakistan's safe havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.

Trump's comments were met with predictable glee in India, which was singled out for praise in the speech on 21 August, and angry defiance of a 'false narrative' in Pakistan.

A number of experts have already weighed in on the viability of this approach. Several observers have praised Trump's willingness to threaten Pakistan in more forthright terms than ever before, potentially forcing it to re-consider the costs of sponsoring the Taliban and other groups.

Others, including those under no illusions about Pakistan's double game, have been more cautious. Christopher Clary outlined the risks in an excellent War on the Rocks essay, concluding that 'Pakistani support of groups that have targeted US forces…may well be a moral travesty, but geopolitically it may be less costly than losing Pakistan's cooperation in other areas'. Stephen Tankel, who has published some of the very best work on how the US should handle Pakistan, warned that there was 'little evidence that coercion on its own will work'. Both sets of views deserve careful consideration.

The Qatar Standoff and US Interests

By Kristian Coates Ulrichsen 

The rupturing of diplomatic relations with Qatar and imposition of economic measures against Doha on June 5, 2017 by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) has brought to a head a long-running dispute about Qatar’s distinctive approach to regional affairs. Tensions between Qatar and its neighbors go back a long way, and predate considerably the Arab Spring in 2011 and Qatar’s subsequent high-profile support for Islamist transitions in North Africa and Syria. A previous withdrawal of the Saudi, Emirati, and Bahraini Ambassadors from Qatar in 2014 lasted nine months, but the current standoff is more serious and threatens the very fabric of the Gulf Cooperation Council (G.C.C.). Both sides in the dispute – Qatar and the so-called ‘Anti-Terror Quartet’ (A.T.Q.) have, moreover, sought to mobilize political support in Washington, DC and other Western capitals for their cause; this places the Gulf’s international partners in a delicate position given the dense web of strategic and commercial ties that have, for years, formed a cornerstone of their approach to regional affairs.

The Great US-China Biotechnology and Artificial Intelligence Race

By Mercy A. Kuo

Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into the U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Eleonore Pauwels – Director of Biology Collectives and Senior Program Associate, Science and Technology Innovation Program at the Wilson Center in Washington D.C. – is the 104th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.” 

Explain the motivation behind Chinese investment in U.S. genomics and artificial intelligence (AI).

With large public and private investments inland and in the U.S., China plans to become the next AI-Genomics powerhouse, which indicates that these technologies will soon converge in China.

China’s ambition is to lead the global market for precision medicine, which necessitates acquiring strategic technological and human capital in both genomics and AI. And the country excels at this game. A sharp blow in this U.S.-China competition happened in 2013 when BGI purchased Complete Genomics, in California, with the intent to build its own advanced genomic sequencing machines, therefore securing a technological knowhow mainly mastered by U.S. producers.

Parallel Crises

By Michael Krepon

Crises are usually singular events, but on rare occasions they come in pairs. This has happened twice in the Nuclear Age, by my count. A third pairing might be in the offing. My intention here is not to further overload circuits. The U.S.- North Korean standoff will more than suffice, but I believe a heads up is warranted.

We know that the possibility of another war on the Korean peninsula cannot be wished away. Conflict could occur if President Trump means what he says – that the United States cannot accept a mutual deterrence relationship with North Korea. War could also happen by miscalculation. As this extended crisis plays out, relations between other nuclear-armed states have serious friction points. U.S.- Russia, U.S.-China, China-India, and India-Pakistan relations could deteriorate rapidly. On top of this, Trump might nullify an agreement negotiated during the Obama administration that verifiably limits Iran’s nuclear capabilities – even if Tehran remains in compliance with its terms.

Because of these friction points, nuclear war-fighting capabilities are being refined. The United States and Russia are recapitalizing their nuclear forces, while China, Pakistan, India and North Korea are increasing theirs. Concurrently, treaties are unraveling, thanks to the actions of Republicans on Capitol Hill and Vladimir Putin. Nuclear war-fighting capabilities are pursued to “strengthen” deterrence, but deterrence alone has not kept the nuclear peace; a combination of deterrence and diplomacy has, and can again. At present, diplomacy to reduce nuclear dangers is nonexistent for every troubled pairing. There is a distinct possibility that friction between one of these pairings could flare into a confrontation while the United States and North Korea are at loggerheads. It’s happened before.

Zapad 2017: Should We Fear Russia’s Latest Military Dress Rehearsal?

Peter Zwack

The Russian military is now a sharpened policy tool of choice for an emboldened but strategically defensive regime that relies on preemption.

In mid-September, Russia will conduct Zapad “West” 2017, a major quadrennial military exercise that takes place near the borders of the Baltic States and Poland as well as inside independent Belarus and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. Not since the end of the Cold War has a modern-day military exercise prompted as much speculation and concern as this Western-oriented display of Vladimir Putin’s machines of war.

The prospect of Zapad 2017 raises tantalizing and worrisome questions. Will it turn out to be a traditional preparedness operation, in which a wide array of heavy, light and specialist forces train for higher readiness? Or, will it prove to be a well-calculated first step toward inserting Russian forces permanently into its prickly ally Belarus? Or, could it be, as some fear, the dark prelude to a surprise invasion of neighboring NATO’s Baltic States?

Four years ago, I witnessed Zapad 2013. I was the senior U.S. Military Attache to Russia and part of a large contingent of Moscow-based international military attaches who were invited to observe the proceedings by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

After flying from Moscow in an aging Ilyushin aircraft, our attaché group arrived in tiny Kaliningrad, the former East Prussian Konigsberg, a militarized wedge of Russia between NATO allies Poland and Lithuania. There, we settled into bleachers overlooking broad beaches to watch the grand finale of Zapad 2013—a large “anti-terrorist” amphibious operation.

The Ugly Rhymes of History?

By Thomas McDermott

Insurgency is an old concept. If you were to travel back to Iraq between 2334 and 2279 BC, you would find a man called Sargan. Sargan ruled a vast empire spanning from Southern Iraq to Southern Turkey, enforced by overwhelming military power. His Akkadian hordes, armed with high-tech composite bows and sophisticated logistics, laid waste to all before them. Their strategy was a simple one; ‘mass slaughter, enslavement, the deportation of defeated enemies, and the total destruction of their cities.’ For years their technological edge and brutal strategy allowed the Akkadians to dominate. When they inevitably fell, however, they did not fall to a superior empire. They were victim to a new phenomenon: a tireless, guerrilla-style attack from the unsophisticated barbarian hordes all around them. In 2190 BC the city of Akkad, near modern Baghdad, finally fell.

Max Boot believes that the defeat of the Akkadians was the ‘birth of insurgency’.[1] If he is right, it was the start of an inauspicious history for a style of conflict that continues to thrive today. The places are even the same. Four thousand years after the fall of Akkad, not two hours drive away in the town of Fallujah, a combined force of 10,000 US Marines, British Highlanders, and Iraqi soldiers engaged in a brutal fight against a violent group of insurgents. Since then the counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign in Iraq has expanded into a clash that seems to pit the developed world against an extremist ideology. From ancient beginnings, insurgency now has a global face.

Defense Technologists Divided Over Killer Robots

By Sandra Erwin

Artificial intelligence experts shook up the tech world this month when they called for the United Nations to regulate and even consider banning autonomous weapons.

Attention quickly gravitated to the biggest celebrity in the group, Elon Musk, who set the Internet ablaze when he tweeted: “If you're not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.”

The group of 116 AI experts warned in an open letter to the U.N. Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons that “lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare.” Speaking on behalf of companies that make artificial intelligence and robotic systems that may be repurposed to develop autonomous weapons, they wrote, “We feel especially responsible in raising this alarm.”

The blunt talk by leaders of the AI world has raised eyebrows. Musk has put AI in the category of existential threat and is demanding decisive and immediate regulation. But even some of the signatories of the letter now say Musk took the fear mongering too far.

What this means for the Pentagon and its massive efforts to merge intelligent machines into weapon systems is still unclear. The military sees a future of high-tech weapon systems powered by artificial intelligence and ubiquitous autonomous weapons in the air, at sea, on the ground, as well as in cyberspace.

War Books: Something Missing From the CSA's Reading List

By Miranda Summers Lowe

At their best, professional development reading lists form a canon of respected work that creates shared understanding and common background knowledge in military professionals. These books become a cultural standard, a reflection of not just what we want our soldiers to read, but who want our soldiers to be. An unfortunate side effect is that, in setting a high standard for selection and respecting tradition, many worthy voices, subjects, and experiences are included, yet many more are excluded. The recently released 2017 edition of the Chief of Staff of the Army’s Professional Reading List includes just one female voice, the stalwart World War I historian Barbara Tuchman. At present, 17 percent of the Army is female and 40 percent identify as a racial or ethnic minority, figures that themselves are strong arguments for greater diversity among authors highlighted in professional reading lists. But an equally strong argument can be made on merit: there are simply a lot of great books written by women that deserve a place on the list.

What happens when we accept the canon alone and fail to look beyond the reading lists we’ve been handed? Dr. Jill S. Russellrecently led a series, with pieces from myself, Eric M. Murphy, Andrea Goldstein, and Kate Dahlstrand, which probed the consequences. Having one’s work selected for an official reading list is prestigious. By not including women, we signal that their work, no matter how respected in academic circles or journalistic practice, is not as valuable to military professionals as other work. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy: women may perceive that that they are not welcome in the “man’s world” of national security, and when they don’t see work by other women, it reinforces the idea they don’t belong. Ironically—a list meant to broaden professional knowledge and perspective may lead to an echo chamber of the same voices and ideas.

How to hack a Navy vessel


The U.S. Navy at first said they would consider the idea, but then said that the possibility was eliminated.

Likewise, the retired admirals serving as talking heads for cable news stations have said such systems are closed and thus can't be hacked into.

As someone hired by some of the largest companies in the world to infiltrate the companies, both physically and technically, I can tell you that they can be hacked into.

To be clear, I have no direct knowledge of the security or configurations of the systems involved. 

However, what follows is not a secret to U.S. hackers or adversaries. I would be shocked if those such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea are not actively weaponizing the attacks that I describe. 

It is the ignorance of such vulnerabilities that makes these attacks possible. The fact that retired admirals do not see these attacks as not just possibilities, but inevitabilities, is the greatest vulnerability to U.S. naval vessels. Most of these attacks have already been launched in other venues as I describe below.



When I departed the Defense Department last month, I delighted in receiving a now-traditional farewell gift: a photoshopped magazine cover with fake headline zingers about cyber policy topics. The largest headline, dead center, parodied my participation in at least three separate studies on the future of U.S. Cyber Command: “Is it time to elevate? Maybe now? How about now?” So, the president’s announcement last Friday to elevate Cyber Command to a unified combatant command was a welcome one for me, and no doubt for many former colleagues. But, far more importantly, it is a positive step for the United States and its international partners — one that reflects growing, global threats in cyberspace.

Though long-in-coming, the move is no surprise. Congress, growing impatient last year, directed in legislation that the President establish a unified combatant command for cyber operations. Nor is elevation, as Michael Sulmeyer has written, that big a change in how Cyber Command will do business. But there is still plenty to unpack on the specific decisions the Defense Department and White House announced on Friday.

Homeland Security Council Urges Action Before ‘Cyber 9/11’ Strikes


It’s likely only a matter of time before a major cyber attack hits U.S. civilian infrastructure, but the nature of that digital violation and the means to respond remain uncertain, as many of the most sensitive systems operate under private sector control.

There is a “narrow and fleeting window of opportunity before a watershed, 9/11-level cyber attack” against U.S. critical infrastructure, warned a new report issued last week by the Department of Homeland Security’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC).

“We call on the Administration to use this moment of foresight to take bold, decisive actions,” wrote the report’s authors.

The council released the report just before a number of members resigned, citing concerns that President Donald Trump was not taking cybersecurity risks seriously, despite his May executive order emphasizing the threat.

But while such an attack might significantly disrupt daily life and the economy, the actual tangible effects would be far less than a physical attack such as Pearl Harbor of 9/11; thousands of deaths are unlikely. And the true cyber threat to critical infrastructure would likely come from multiple campaigns – “death by a thousand cuts” – not just one singular event.

India and Pakistan hit by spy malware - cybersecurity firm

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Symantec Corp, a digital security company, says it has identified a sustained cyber spying campaign, likely state-sponsored, against Indian and Pakistani entities involved in regional security issues.

In a threat intelligence report that was sent to clients in July, Symantec said the online espionage effort dated back to October 2016.

The campaign appeared to be the work of several groups, but tactics and techniques used suggest that the groups were operating with “similar goals or under the same sponsor”, probably a nation state, according to the threat report, which was reviewed by Reuters. It did not name a state.

The detailed report on the cyber spying comes at a time of heightened tensions in the region.

India’s military has raised operational readiness along its border with China following a face-off in Bhutan near their disputed frontier, while Indo-Pakistan tensions are also simmering over the disputed Kashmir region.

A spokesman for Symantec said the company does not comment publicly on the malware analysis, investigations and incident response services it provides clients.

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