2 December 2017

The Battle for Advantage in Afghanistan

The war in Afghanistan, which has embroiled U.S. and NATO forces in battle with Taliban insurgents for the better part of two decades, remains locked in a stalemate that both sides are trying to figure out how to break. Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the U.S. forces in the country, acknowledged the impasse in a Nov. 23 interview, but added that he thinks a coming surge of U.S. troops into the country will help the Afghan National Security Forces conduct major offensives over the next two years that will turn the tide of the war in their favor. Meanwhile, on the other side of the conflict, the Taliban have been busy shoring up their positions and looking for ways to intensify their insurgency. For both sides, however, breaking the stalemate is much easier said than done, especially given the complexities inherent to the Afghan battlefield.

Handing Advantage to the Taliban

Rohingya militancy poses a regional threat


In Myanmar, one of the world’s most diverse, multiethnic nations, there is a rare consensus — the much-persecuted Rohingya Muslims are outsiders and not part of the country. A military operation to flush out Rohingya militants waging a hit-and-run campaign has led to an exodus of Rohingya residents from Rakhine state, creating a refugee crisis for Bangladesh and, to a smaller extent, India. India, over the years, has generously admitted asylum seekers or refugees from a host of places, including Tibet, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and China. But the illegal entry of tens of thousands of Rohingya is seen in India as an internal security challenge, in part because of the threat the Indian government perceives from Rohingya jihadist activities. Rohingya militants have a long history of violent jihadism, including recent attacks on non-Muslim civilians in Rakhine state.

The Crisis of the Iraqi State


The liberation on November 17 of Rawa, the last significant Iraqi town held by the Islamic State, promises the end of a particularly dangerous phase in the history of a country that has experienced three especially destructive wars since 1980 and almost incessant armed conflict in between. But rather than an era of peace and stability, what Iraq faces next is a far more complex and potentially fateful struggle. For three years since the Islamic State’s dramatic surge and capture of the northern city of Mosul, the military campaign to defeat it has obscured the three challenges that truly threaten the cohesion and integrity of the Iraqi state from within.

China’s ‘Three Warfares’ In Xinjiang

Author: Michael Clarke, ANU

There has been extensive analysis of China’s use of ‘three warfares’ — public opinion, psychological warfare and legal warfare — in the context of external issues like the South China Sea dispute and the Doklam standoff with India. But China has also deployed elements of the ‘three warfares’ to counter a primarily domestic security challenge: the threat of Uyghur militancy, radicalisation and terrorism in Xinjiang. This is consistent with China’s conception of information warfare as a non-kinetic instrument to not only contain the capabilities of adversaries but to ultimately degrade their will and capability to initiate or sustain political or military struggles contrary to China’s interests.

China racing for AI military edge over U.S.: report

Phil Stewart

A research arm of the U.S. intelligence community just wrapped up a competition to see who could develop the best facial recognition technology. The challenge: identify as many passengers as possible walking on an aircraft boarding ramp. Of all the entries, it was a Chinese start-up company called Yitu Tech that walked away with the $25,000 prize this month, the highest of three cash awards. The competition was one of many examples cited in a report by a U.S.-based think tank about how China’s military might leverage its country’s rapid advances in artificial intelligence to modernize its armed forces and, potentially, seek advantages against the United States.

Funding Policy Research at Washington’s Most Influential Institutions


Former Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa speaks during a press conference in Hong Kong on September 3, 2014. Tung supported the standing committee of China's rubber-stamp parliament who on August 31 ruled out public nominations for Hong Kong's next chief executive in 2017, with candidates for the city's top job to be approved instead by a Beijing-backed committee.The Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), located just a short walk from Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., is one of the top international relations schools in the United States. Its graduates feed into a variety of government agencies, from the State Department to the CIA, and the military. Its China studies program is especially well known; many graduates come away with expert knowledge of the language, culture, and politics of the United States’ most important strategic competitor.

The jihadist Plan To Use Women To Launch The Next Generation Of ISIS

By Joby Warrick, Souad Mekhennet,

The woman’s secret flight from the caliphate took place more than six months ago, aided by a smuggler who helped her sneak across the Syrian-Turkish border one spring night. But in spirit, this red-haired exile from the Islamic State never truly left. She covered herself in black from head to toe to greet a recent visitor to the small Moroccan house where she stays, and removed her veil only when assured that her guest, also a woman, was alone. Over sips of mint tea, she spoke admiringly of her militant husband and the comrades she met in the Islamic State’s all-female brigade. Calling herself Zarah — she declined to give her family name because she had traveled to Syria in secret — she vowed that her children would someday reclaim the Islamist paradise she believes was stolen from her family.

Iran Reshapes the Middle East

By George Friedman

Iran has always seen itself as being in competition with the Arab states for domination of the Persian Gulf. Its ambitions were put on hold in the late 1980s, at the end of an eight-year war with Iraq that cost Iran more than a million casualties. The war ended in a military draw, but strategically it blocked Iran’s hopes for expanding its power westward. The war against the Islamic State, particularly in Iraq, has opened that door again.

The Iranian Surge

Sinai Peninsula – from Buffer Zone to Battlefield

By Lisa Watanabe for Center for Security Studies (CSS)

The this article was originally published by the Center for Security Studies (CSS) as part of the CSS Analysis in Security Policy series in February 2015. The neglect of the Sinai and growth of a security vacuum on the peninsula has transformed Egypt’s backwater into a stronghold of militancy, with implications of not only national, but also regional and global significance. On 10 November 2014, the deteriorating situation in the Sinai was thrust into the spotlight when the most capable and active Salafist jihadi group on the peninsula, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (“Supporters of Jerusalem”, ABM), pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State (IS) and renamed itself the “Sinai Province”. However, it has really been at least a decade since the alienation of the local population from the central state and the erosion of the latter’s authority in the peninsula began to provide fertile ground for such groups to emerge on the Sinai. The security vacuum created by the fall of the Mubarak regime in 2011 provided a further impulse for the transformation the Sinai into the site of a full-blown insurgency and a haven for jihadi groups, some of which have links to global terrorist networks. The Egyptian military and security services in particular have been targeted by Sinai-based violent Islamist groups since the 2013 coup.

Search is on for North Korean missile debris

Bill Gertz

U.S. and Japanese warships sailed to the waters near northwestern Japan this week to support American intelligence agencies in a search for the debris of North Korea’s latest long-range missile test. The searchers hope to find clues to the makeup of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental-range missile launched Wednesday that is believed to be a variant of the Hwasong-14 fired off in two flights in July. The missile was fired around 3 a.m. Wednesday local time and flew 50 minutes and with an estimated range farther than all previous missile tests. It flew some 2,500 miles into space but only a distance of just over 600 miles from the launch site on the Korean Peninsula.

Deradicalizing, Rehabilitating, and Reintegrating Violent Extremists

By Feriha Peracha and Raafia Raees Khan for United States Institute of Peace (USIP)

According to Raafia Raees Khan and Feriha Peracha, recidivism remains common among former terrorist group members who have undergone deradicalization and reintegration programs. So what can such programs do to improve their effectiveness? To help find out, our authors here look at lessons learned from the Sabaoon Center’s rehabilitation and reintegration programs in Pakistan. Their findings include that such programs should 1) focus on providing psychosocial support; 2) promote skill building prior to reintegration; and 3) guarantee monitoring after reintegration.

Deterring North Korea: A Reckless Gamble We Cannot Afford

By Kevin R. James

Choosing to deter North Korea is to engage in a gamble: you avoid the costs of a preventive war today when North Korea is relatively weak, but you run the risk of an accidental nuclear war later when North Korea is vastly more powerful. Using plausible estimates of the probability of accidental nuclear war derived from the U.S.-Soviet experience during the Cold War, I find that gambling on deterrence will lead to 7.5 million U.S.-South Korean-Japanese deaths on average (under optimistic assumptions) while a preventive war now will lead to 1.4 million deaths (under pessimistic assumptions). So, not only is deterrence a gamble, it is a reckless and foolish one. Preventive war is the wise and prudent response to North Korea's nuclear threat. 

Dealing with North Korea's Nuclear Threat: The Options

In Israel, Danger Is on the Horizon

By Jacob L. Shapiro

The fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq put a number of issues on hold in the Middle East. But the Islamic State is now all but defeated, and with the loss of a common enemy has come the loss of a common purpose for the anti-IS coalition. Concerns that dominated the region before IS are dominating the region once more. That means Israel, which mostly sat on the sidelines in Syria and Iraq, will become a more active player. Whoever emerged as the victor in the war in Syria would have been an enemy to Israel, and all things being equal, the Israelis preferred the Assad regime to IS. But Assad is still an enemy, and the more his regime consolidates its power, the more of a threat Syria becomes.

Recognize the Real Possibility of Conflict in North Korea

By François Godement

In a hurricane, there is a peaceful lull when the eye of the storm arrives, but it is just an illusion. This is where we are with North Korea. We think we have been seen the worst: Pyongyang tested an H-bomb and launched missiles over Japan; America has flown its bombers off North Korea’s coast; and both sides have traded insults and threats. Now the eye of the storm has arrived. We hear that American and North Korean diplomats are in contact, and Trump is talking up China’s positive but unspecified role. 

What are the European Union’s eastward expansion plans?

by M.S.

NO ONE has ever been quite sure where Europe ends and Asia starts. In the Middle Ages geographers drew the border along various rivers, including the Dnieper and the Volga. By the 1950s the Soviet Union settled on a line running down the Ural mountains, and along the ridge of the Caucasus between the Black and Caspian Seas. But this excludes Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, which tend to think of themselves as European. It also includes a number of countries that the European Union is not ready to accept as candidates for membership. To address these countries’ aspirations, in 2009 the EU launched an initiative called the Eastern Partnership, which covers (in west-to-east order) Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. On November 24th EU leaders held a summit with these partners in Brussels to discuss the Eastern Partnership.

Deradicalizing, Rehabilitating, and Reintegrating Violent Extremists

By Feriha Peracha and Raafia Raees Khan for United States Institute of Peace (USIP)

Over the years since 9/11, transnational violent extremist movements have become a global phenomenon. Governments worldwide are trying to understand what drives violent extremism and how the growing number of related programs can best prevent proliferation. Despite the increasing body of research on these issues (to understand the causes and to develop programs to mitigate them), questions remain about why individuals join such groups and why recidivism remains common among those who have undergone deradicalization and reintegration programs. This Peace Brief discusses lessons learned from a Pakistani case study that focuses on psychosocial support and monitoring to answer some of these questions.

Are we at cyberwar?

By: Mark Pomerleau  

From a military perspective, the Air Force is at war all the time given that adversaries are trying to deliberately affect their missions, Frank Konieczny, the service’s chief technology officer, said at the CyberCon conference in Arlington hosted by Federal Times. The Air Force, he said, has gone beyond the point of trying to defend the network because defending the entire network is not feasible. The Air Force is now trying to defend missions as opposed to “the network.” Adversaries are seeking to disrupt missions doing things as simple as disrupting data from sensors, making leaders question the validity of data they are getting. Something as simple as altering the data of air pressure in a tire of a tank could lead officials to take that asset out of battle, which could eventually lead officials to question all data coming in.

We Need Cyberspace Damage Control

Naval losses during World War I and the lessons learned in the Battle of Jutland underscored the importance of damage control to a U.S. Navy resolved to improve survivability. Analysis of German warships and procedures, combined with the attention of Navy leadership, resulted in the widespread adoption of German damage-control procedures and influenced ship construction toward more survivable designs. 1 Since the inception of modern damage-control practices during the interwar period, the Navy has demonstrated a strong tradition of rapidly reconstituting damaged ships’ seaworthiness and combat effectiveness, so they might prevent cascading damage, survive, and continue to fight. It is said if every Marine is a rifleman, then every Sailor is a damage controlman. Building on this foundation of damage control, the Navy must incorporate 21st-century practices to ensure the combat effectiveness of future naval units in all domains, including cyberspace.

In Defense of Tapping the Internet to Keep You Safe


In one month, the authorities provided under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA) are due to expire unless reauthorized by Congress. Lawmakers are expected to renew FISA, but may put another expiration deadline on the bill, and also may add limitations on how the government is allowed to use the information it collects, according to the experts that attended The Cipher Brief’s Cyber Advisory Board meeting on Tuesday. 

For professional wiretappers, technology brings challenges and opportunities

Aaron Gregg

Some people regard government surveillance as a necessary evil at best. But in the District’s outer suburbs, covertly listening in on Americans’ phone calls is considered a stable line of business by at least one local company. Steve Bock, the chief executive of wiretapping contractor Subsentio (Latin for ‘to notice secretly’), views his work as a public service in the fight to protect national security. He became part of a generation of entrepreneurs who retooled their careers in the years after the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, when the government boosted funding for defense and intelligence efforts.

Air Force Eyes Next-Gen Electronic Warfare


The Air Force will begin a concept of operations study that will explore how to best dominate the electronic warfare spectrum, an Air Force general said Tuesday. “We’ve started our next enterprise capability collaboration team, what we call as ECCT,” said Gen. Stephen Wilson, Air Force vice chief of staff at the Pentagon. The third one we’re going to focus on electronic warfare,” the general said, met by applause from the EW community during the Association of Old Crows’ annual International Symposium & Convention in Washington, D.C.