17 December 2017

In One Corner of Afghanistan, America Is Beating Islamic State

Michael M. Phillips

The Afghanistan war is at a stalemate, but in Achin, on the Pakistan border, the U.S. and its Afghan allies have driven militants from farms and villages 

ACHIN, Afghanistan—The Special Forces captain gestured to the Takhto Valley, a brown-hued no man’s land of fallow fields and abandoned mud-brick compounds within easy reach of Islamic State gunners.

“Everything over there is bad,” he said.
Then the captain turned toward the Pekha Valley, an expanse of emerald-green fields of corn and wheat....

All That Could Go Wrong When Jihadists Return Home — to China

Once separatists, now jihadists, some Uighurs returning from the ISIS battlefield could threaten — and test — Beijing.

Most of the foreign fighters that flooded into in Syria during the past few years came from the West, but some jihadists also arrived from the Far East, including as many as 300 of Western China’s Uighurs, the Sunni Muslim indigenous ethnic minority. Now that the Islamic State’s caliphate is collapsing, it seems inevitable that some will return to China, bringing with them more of the jihadist ideology and influence that has leaders in Beijing worried.

Satellite imagery offers clues to China’s intentions in Djibouti

By: Mike Yeo 

MELBOURNE, Australia — Chinese President Xi Jinping has told People’s Liberation Army troops stationed at an overseas base in Djibouti to “promote international and regional peace and stability,” according to China’s Ministry of National Defense. However, satellite imagery reveals information that could further detail China’s intentions.

Speaking via video feed during a visit to a joint battle command center in Beijing, Xi encouraged the overseas force to promote a good image of China’s military.

The 36-hectare base is located to the southwest of the Doraleh Multi-Purpose Port under construction by China State Construction Engineering Corporation, and it is just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, currently the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa.

Where is China targeting its development finance?

China has emerged as one of the world’s largest providers of development finance. Between 2000 and 2014, China extended a total of $354 billion in loans, grants, and other resources to countries across the globe. As China continues to establish itself as a major source of development finance, it is important to consider how this spending intersects with Beijing’s growing political and economic interests.

“The Rise of a Not-So-New World Order”

Summary: The world’s nations are forming new alliances. Last month we looked at the Saudi-Israel alliance. Here Stratfor looks at major nations allying against America (other powers always organize against a hegemon), starting with Russia and China. How this plays out will shape the 21st century.

For decades the United States has sat atop a unipolar world, unrivaled in its influence over the rest of the globe. But now that may be changing as a new, informal alliance takes shape between China and Russia. The two great powers have a mutual interest in overturning an international order that has long advantaged the West at their own expense. And as the Earth’s sole superpower turns inward, they will seek to carve out bigger backyards for themselves. Will their marriage of convenience once more give rise to the bipolarity that characterized the Cold War, or will it unravel in the face of a natural rivalry rooted in geopolitics?

Sri Lanka, Struggling With Debt, Hands a Major Port to China


NEW DELHI — Struggling to pay its debt to Chinese firms, the nation of Sri Lanka formally handed over the strategic port of Hambantota to China on a 99-year lease last week, in a deal that government critics have said threatens the country’s sovereignty.

In recent years, China has shored up its presence in the Indian Ocean, investing billions of dollars to build port facilities and plan maritime trade routes as part of its “One Belt, One Road” initiative to help increase its market reach.

Chasing The Ghosts: Investigating The Attribution Of Transnational Cyber Attacks


Cyber attacks fall under a misty and gray area which could be best depicted as ‘below the threshold of armed conflicts’, a hard-to-recognize hole within the margins of international law. Thus, cyber tools extraordinarily fit well with hybrid warfare and espionage purposes. Although the bulk of contemporary hostile cyber activities are related with state actors, these intrusions mostly take place in the form of proxy war which enables the states to keep being concealed in complex secrecy. In fact, high–end computer, network and telecommunications technologies help states to sustain the abovementioned ambiguity in their cyber operations.
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China's Americanized Military

By Don Tse

The PLA is set to become the largest “American” military force to pose a threat to the U.S. 

Two Chinese armored brigades clashed in a week-long training exercise at the Zhurihe Training Base in Inner Mongolia in 2015. Both brigades were equipped with identical armored vehicles and weapons. The Blue opposing forces brigade (OPFOR), however, was organized and fought in the fashion of a United States brigade combat team. The Red friendly force was crushed. “Within an hour we were hit with airstrikes, enemy satellite reconnaissance, and cyberattacks … Frankly, I never imagined it would be this hard,” said Wang Ziqiang, the armored brigade commander of the Red force. Wang’s political commissar Liu Haitao was caught on camera sobbing after the defeat. In a documentary aired on state television days before the 19th Party Congress in October, Liu said that his unit was initially very confident of victory over the Blue team, which was formerly a sister unit. “But over the course of seven days, we were beaten … we lost because we didn’t meet realistic combat standards when training our troops,” he said.

Struggle Over Scripture: Charting the Rift Between Islamist Extremism and Mainstream Islam

Download the full report, Struggle Over Scripture.

Concerns about Islamist extremism are growing both in the West and in Muslim-majority countries as it continues to kill tens of thousands each year around the globe. Yet there is a deficiency in evidence-based research into how the supremacist ideology that drives this violence warps mainstream religious principles.

There must be greater consensus among policymakers and thought leaders that the battle against the extremism of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda is not against Islam, but rather against a perversion of the religion. This report aims to clarify the nature of that perversion, to enable a religiously grounded response to Islamist extremism, in both its violent and its nonviolent forms.

The Four Faces of China in Central and Eastern Europe

By Michał Romanowski

An American, a German, and a Chinese gentleman walk into a bar in Prague. The first two order a beer, and the bartender then turns to the Chinese man to ask, “What can I get you?” He simply replies, “The accounts please, I own the place.”

The joke is not entirely removed from reality. The Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI – an economic agenda billed as the Silk Road reincarnated – is putting meat on the bones of Chinese interaction with Central and Eastern Europe. BRI investments play a role in the increased priority attached to the “16+1” – a political format that brings China and the region together. The sixth meeting of heads of states of the Central and Eastern Europe countries and China in Hungary has revealed four faces of Chinese activity in the region: connector, shaper, investor and challenger.

Behind the Rapid Development of Russian Unmanned Military Systems

By Samuel Bendett

Over the last five years, the Russian Federation has made great strides in designing, testing, evaluating, and fielding a variety of unmanned military systems, including land, air, and sea-based models. Russian media is full of announcements and analyses of the use and specification of what I call red robots, while Russia’s foray into Eastern Ukraine and Syria afforded Moscow a rare opportunity to field and operate such machines in combat. The Western response to Russia’s entrance into the club of nations capable of building and using unmanned systems has varied from surprise to alarm to stoic objectivity. Much of this reaction stems from the realization that the United States and its allies are no longer unchallenged in the ways and means of using unmanned systems on the battlefield. With Russia rapidly gaining expertise in building and using unmanned air and land vehicles, many in the American policy, defense, and manufacturing establishment are concerned with the impending fight for elbow room with competitors who, only recently, were far behind the West in battlefield robotics. This essay will look at the major trends in Russia’s unmanned military systems to shed light on how they may influence Moscow’s military conduct and impact its potential adversaries in the next several decades.

Beyond the 2017 North Korea Crisis: Deterrence and Containment

1. Introduction

It may seem presumptuous to begin considering medium term strategic stability in the Korean peninsula when the 2017 crisis has not yet fully deescalated. Nevertheless, there is distinct difference between the urgency of crisis management – which is an appropriate characterization of the dramatic events surrounding North Korea’s sixth nuclear weapon test and incessant missile launches – and learning to live with the altered reality that these advances in its military prowess are ushering in.

Does Russia Bear Responsibility for War in Ukraine?

Vladimir Dzhabarov

“Actually, there is a civil war in Ukraine between the DNR [Donetsk People’s Republic], the LNR [Luhansk People’s Republic], and the rest of Ukraine. It is completely unclear why Russia should bear any responsibility for this.” On December 2, RT’s Russian-language Web site published a report on statements made by the U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Huntsman during his interview with the Russian St. Petersburg TV channel.

What Will ‘Actually Solve’ Terrorism Problem?


At the height of its powers several years ago, ISIS was attracting an estimated one thousand new foreign fighters each month. While U.S. officials always believed that the U.S.-led coalition would take back ISIS-held territory, they worried that as the caliphate collapsed, the tens of thousands of foreign fighters would spread across the world to wreak havoc on a mass scale.

Hard Lessons from America’s Longest Wars


This is one of two pieces by our contributor James Kitfield, who’s won more Gerald Ford Defense Reporting awards than anyone else (3), on the challenges and mistakes America has made in grappling with the complex threat of global terrorism. As James puts it in his summary sentence: U.S. counterterrorism forces continue to learn and adapt after fifteen plus years of fighting a global jihadist insurgency, as have our determined and adaptive enemies. Read on! The Editor.

Nuclear Deterrence In a New Age

By Keith B. Payne

Carl von Clausewitz writes that the nature of war has enduring continuities, but its characteristics change with different circumstances.[1] Similarly, the fundamental nature of deterrence has endured for millennia: a threatened response to an adversary’s prospective provocation causes that adversary to decide against the provocation i.e., the adversary is deterred from attack because it decides that the prospective costs outweigh the gains. The character of deterrence, however, must adapt to different circumstances. In one case, the necessary deterrent threat may be to punish the adversary; in another, to deny the adversary its objectives; in yet another, a combination of punishment and denial threats may be necessary to deter. Such specific characteristics of deterrence—its goals, means and application—change, but the fundamental threat-based mechanism of deterrence endures.

The Human Face of Trade and Food Security

Katrin Kuhlmann

The system of rules and regulations governing agricultural trade and market activity, or the enabling environment, directly affect global food security. In the summer of 2017, a team from the CSIS Global Food Security Project and the New Markets Lab traveled to Kenya and India to explore how policies shape agricultural trade and affect the lives of smallholder farmers, traders, and consumers. The team met with farmers, donors, and government and private-sector leaders to better understand connections in the market from production through export, focusing specifically on beans in Kenya, rice in India, and horticulture (fruits and vegetables) in both countries. The resulting study explores the different dimensions of trade and how the regulatory environment shapes the market. It provides targeted recommendations for U.S. policymakers to consider to strengthen support for food security, market-based regulation, mutually beneficial trade, and economic development worldwide. 

Will Robots Take Our Children’s Jobs?


Like a lot of children, my sons, Toby, 7, and Anton, 4, are obsessed with robots. In the children’s books they devour at bedtime, happy, helpful robots pop up more often than even dragons or dinosaurs. The other day I asked Toby why children like robots so much.

“Because they work for you,” he said.

What I didn’t have the heart to tell him is, someday he might work for them — or, I fear, might not work at all, because of them.

It is not just Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking who are freaking out about the rise of invincible machines. Yes, robots have the potential to outsmart us and destroy the human race. But first, artificial intelligence could make countless professions obsolete by the time my sons reach their 20s.

Here’s how to shut down the internet: Snip undersea fiber-optic cables

WASHINGTON - Hundreds of thousands of miles of fiber-optic cable lay on the ocean floors, a crucial part of the global internet’s backbone, and only rarely do ship anchors, undersea landslides or saboteurs disrupt them.

Still, a few voices now call for stronger global mechanisms and even military action to protect the cables against future malicious activity by states, saboteurs or extremists.

“The infrastructure that underpins the internet – these undersea cables – are clearly vulnerable,” said Rishi Sunak, a British member of Parliament and champion of more vigorous action to protect submarine networks. “They underpin pretty much everything that we do.”

Next-Gen Drones: Making War Easier for Dictators & Terrorists


The introduction of armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) permanently altered the modern battlefield. New technological advances in drone technology could do it again: from advanced materials that allow drones to fly, roll, run or swim in less forgiving environments, to thinking software than makes them more independent, to stealth technology that renders them even less visible. On the positive side, the intelligence that drones provide helps focus lethality on the intended target and limit the risk of civilian casualties and friendly fire incidents. But drone advances also will get cheaper to copy, so non-state actors will be able to employ them as well, giving insurgents or terrorists an outsized advantage. 

Army Reorganizes, Accelerates EW: Synergy Or Hostile Takeover?


ARLINGTON: Outgunned in the airwaves by Russian jammers, the US Army has a new plan for electronic warfare. The Army hopes to rebuild the long-neglected EW branch more quickly — in part, paradoxically, by partially submerging it in other branches, namely military intelligence and cyber. The ground-based portion of the Multi-Function Electronic Warfare (MFEW) program will be folded into the intelligence branch’s Terrestrial Layer Intelligence System (TLIS). The argument is both branches need to sense and understand the radio spectrum before signals intelligence (SIGINT) can eavesdrop on transmissions or EW can jam them. TLIS will have both sensing and electronic attack (jamming) capabilities, cyber branch chief Maj. Gen. John Morrison told reporters, saying the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) recently approved an Initial Capabilities Document (ICD) for this approach. 



Western military alliance NATO's recent decision to integrate cyber warfare into its command could be its biggest policy shift in decades and represents a stark 21st-century warning to foes, especially Russia, according to one of the leading officials to help draft the new strategy. Capitalizing on the multinational coalition's recognition of cyberspace as a theater of operations at last year's Warsaw Summit, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced last month the creation of Cyber Operations Center as part of an overall effort to update and adopt a more expansive and efficient command structure. Last week, retired Air Force Colonel Rizwan Ali revealed how the decision, which he helped write and implement, could affect the way NATO conducts operations and counters threats from abroad.

The power play in peacekeeping

Manmohan Bahadur

Media coverage of peacekeeping operations is an area with many gaps. Consider for example, an incident last week, where at least 15 peacekeepers and five soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were killed and numerous peacekeepers wounded by armed militants in one of the worst attacks on United Nations personnel. A local Islamist extremist group overran the remote base. Most of the dead and wounded are from Tanzania. Was there any media coverage in India? It would have been a different story had they been troops from the West. In the midst of this, one must focus on China as its grip on UN affairs tightens and it starts deciding policy, to the detriment of India.

How drone swarms could change urban warfare

By: Maj. John Spencer  

DARPA’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program envisions future small-unit infantry forces using small unmanned aircraft systems and/or small unmanned ground systems in swarms of 250 robots or more to accomplish diverse missions in complex urban environments. By leveraging and combining emerging technologies in swarm autonomy and human-swarm teaming, the program seeks to enable rapid development and deployment of breakthrough capabilities to the field. (DARPA) 

For the first time since the Korean War, the U.S. military has to worry about enemy bombs dropping on them in combat.



In the future, the American defense establishment’s engagement with the private sector will vary with the mission. The arms-length procurement requirements of a dedicated industrial base for big-ticket weapon systems are different from the requirements of frenetically paced software development through co-investment. In turn, sovereign “joint venturing” abroad through private enterprise can help solve thorny security issues or facilitate diplomatic openings. However, such relationships nevertheless morph because private and public-sector interests differ, especially when it comes to allocating risks and rewards.