31 December 2017

Top Conflicts to Watch in 2018

Top Conflicts to Watch in 2018
-- Maj gen P K mallick,VSM (Retd)

Center of Preventive Action of Council on Foreign Relation has identified eight conflicts as"top tier" risks In this year 2017. These were:
  • military conflict involving the United States, North Korea, and its neighboring countries
  • an armed confrontation between Iran and the United States or one of its allies over Iran's involvement in regional conflicts and support of militant proxy groups, including the Yemeni Houthis and Lebanese Hezbollah 
  • a highly disruptive cyberattack on U.S. critical infrastructure and networks 
  • a deliberate or unintended military confrontation between Russia and North Atlantic Treaty Organization members, stemming from assertive Russian behavior in Eastern Europe 
  • an armed confrontation over disputed maritime areas in the South China Sea between China and one or more Southeast Asian claimants—Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, or Vietnam 
  • a mass casualty terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland or a treaty ally by either foreign or homegrown terrorist(s) 
  • intensified violence in Syria as government forces attempt to regain control over territory, with heightened tensions among external parties to the conflict, including the United States, Russia, and Iran 
  • increased violence and instability in Afghanistan resulting from the Taliban insurgency and potential government collapse 

Many of the contingencies identified in previous surveys remain concerns for 2018. Of the thirty identified this year, twenty-two were considered risks last year. Among the eight new contingencies in this year's survey are the risks of intensified clashes between Israel and Hezbollah, increased violence and political instability in the Sahel region of Africa, and escalating tensions or extremist violence in the Balkans. 

Two contingencies were upgraded to the top tier this year: an armed confrontation between Iran and the United States or one of its allies, and an armed confrontation over disputed maritime areas in the South China Sea between China and one or more Southeast Asian claimants. 

The 2018 survey downgraded the priority rankings of two contingencies, compared to last year: the intensification of violence between Turkey and various Kurdish armed groups within Turkey and neighboring countries, and the probability of greater violence in Libya.

Other scenarios in this category include a mass-casualty terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland, a major cyberattack on U.S. critical infrastructure, and two surprising contingencies given how quiet each front was in 2017: military confrontations between Russia and nato members, or between China and one or more Southeast Asian nations over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. 

Reds on the Tracks

Ajit Kumar Singh

In the night of December 19, 2017, at around 11 pm, an armed squad of about 15 Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres, including some women, carried out an attack at the Masudan Railway Station in the Jamalpur area of Monghyr District, Bihar. The Maoists set ablaze station property, including the signaling panel, hampering rail services, and abducted two railway employees present at the station - Assistant Station Master [ASM] Mukesh Paswan and porter Narendra Mandal. Though the movement of trains was restored after the fire was doused at around 5:30am, it had to be suspended again at 6:40am following a phone call, reportedly from the Maoists, threatening to kill the captives if traffic was not stopped. An unnamed railway official stated, “Assistant station master Mukesh Paswan and porter Narendra Mandal at Masudan were held captive and taken away to some undisclosed location at about 11:30pm. The panic-stricken ASM called the Malda [West Bengal] DRM [Divisional Regional Manger] to inform that the Maoists had threatened to kill them if the movement of trains continued [on Masudan track].” After the State Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) launched a joint search operation, the Maoists released the two men in a hilly area at Jamalpur. Train services were restored thereafter. Interestingly, there was no force deployment at the station, which falls within a Maoist-affected region, even when the Maoists had called for a 24-hour Bihar and Jharkhand bandh (shut down) on December 20, 2017, protesting police action against their (Maoist) cadres.

Pakistan’s risky experiment of mainstreaming extremism

BY Sameer Patil

As Pakistan prepares for general elections, its Army is working to bring terrorist and radical religious groups into the political mainstream. Its leisurely response to recent anti-blasphemy protests by the Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool group and release of terrorist mastermind Hafiz Saeed are a part of this strategy.

Pakistan has just been through another round of ‘sit-in’ protests, led by the Barelvi group, Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY): its demand was the revocation of an allegedly blasphemous amendment in the Election Act 2017 that was perceived to be questioning the finality of the prophethood.[1] The authorities’ and the military’s reluctance to take on the protesters showed a strong possibility of collusion between the Pakistani Army and radical religious groups.

In Tangled Afghan War, a Thin Line of Defense Against ISIS

By Mujib Mashal

KHOGYANI, Afghanistan — When the American military dropped the largest bomb in its arsenal on an Islamic State cave complex here in eastern Afghanistan in April, the generals justified it as part of a robust campaign to destroy the group’s local affiliate by year’s end.

Its force had been reduced to 700 fighters from 3,000, they said, and its area of operation diminished to three districts from 11.

But as the year comes to a close, the Islamic State is far from being vanquished in eastern Afghanistan, even as the group is on the run in its core territory in Iraq and Syria. It has waged brutal attacks that have displaced thousands of families and forced even some Taliban fighters, who had long controlled the mountainous terrain, to seek government protection.

Sharp Words From the United States Will Achieve Little in Pakistan

By Umair Jamal

It’s time for the United States to take note of some realities in Pakistan. 

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, during his recent surprise visit to Afghanistan, had sharp words for Pakistan. He not only accused Pakistan of providing safe haven to terrorists operating in Afghanistan, but also said that “President Trump has put Pakistan on notice” and “those days are over” when Islamabad can provide sanctuaries to militants in the country. Arguably, Pence’s statement directly threatening Pakistan of dire consequences unless the country changes its policy of allegedly sheltering terrorist organizations is perhaps the most serious warning that any U.S. regime has given to Pakistan since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

China, Pak to look at including Afghanistan in $57bn economic corridor

China and Pakistan will look at extending their $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday, part of China's ambitious Belt and Road plan linking China with Asia, Europe and beyond.

China has tried to position itself as a helpful party to promote talks between Pakistan and Afghanistan, both uneasy neighbours ever since Pakistan's independence in 1947.

Trade And Terror: The Impact Of Terrorism On Developing Countries

by Subhayu Bandyopadhyay , Javed Younas

Economists Walter Enders and Todd Sandler defined terrorism as the premeditated use of or threat to use violence by individuals or subnational groups to obtain a political or social objective through the intimidation of a large audience beyond that of the immediate victims. Central to this definition is the widespread sense of vulnerability that individuals or businesses in a venue nation - a country where the violence occurs - must feel.



Russia rarely comes up when Western analysts talk about Southern Asia. Sure, there was that war in Afghanistan, but the Soviet Union withdrew its forces nearly two decades ago. How is it then, that we’re hearing lately about Moscow talking to its erstwhile enemy, the Taliban, and holding military exerciseswith Pakistan, all while maintaining its role as India’s biggest arms supplier? What’s happened and who, if anyone, should worry?



It’s getting harder to sustain a reasonable discourse about North Korea.

The political left keeps resorting to pacifist tropes about diplomacy being the only solution or the United States being the problem, but without advancing any theory of the case. In what universe will sitting down with a nuclear state and saying some special configuration of words convince them to give up what they equate with their survival? Diplomats are not wizards.

When China woos, it usually wins


The president of Maldives, Abdulla Yameen, couldn’t have asked for anything more from his Beijing visit that turned into a love-fest. The president of the tiny archipelago, which has 4,39,000 people, got red-carpet treatment from the moment he set foot in China’s capital — including a ceremonial meeting with President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People. A thousand-page free trade agreement signed in China was rubber-stamped through the Maldives parliament soon afterwards.

Eye on China — 22/12/2017

Ni hao! Welcome to Eye on China, a weekly bulletin offering news and analysis related to the Middle Kingdom.

I. The Lead:

1. ‘Xiconomics’ takes shape: The three-day Central Economic Work Conference ended on Wednesday. More than 400 officials, from key party members to provincial governors and executives from state-owned firms and financial institutions, attended the conference. The annual, closed-door meeting sets the direction for economic policy for the coming year. Here’s what we’ve got this time around: 

Visualizing 2018: The Essential Graphics

From North Korea’s nuclear tests to global refugee flows, the rise or fall in numbers signals where the world may be headed in 2018. To help visualize what’s on the horizon, CFR editors asked ten of our experts to highlight the charts and graphs to keep an eye on in the coming year. 

1. U.S. Communities and the Climate Challenge

Balkans in 2017: Two Cheers for the Economy

Balkan economies made real progress in 2017 but media freedom ebbed in some countries, and the region remained hostage to East-West rivalry for influence. 

As 2017 draws to a close, most inhabitants of the Balkans could afford to raise a glass to a year that brought the region saw some economic benefits and saw no major conflicts between any states in Europe’s still fractured and potentially neuralgic southeast corner. 

Moreover, as Britain advanced its preparations to exit the EU, the first country to do so, interest grew into which of the five EU candidate countries – four in the Balkans – would be the first to take Britain’s vacant place. 

Views from the capitals: European dreams for 2018

The EU has seemingly survived the existential crises of the Brexit vote, the ascent of Donald Trump, and the rise of the far right across the continent. But the union and its international influence remain fragile. The populist wave may have peaked, but it has certainly not passed; refugee deals with Turkey and Libya are under threat, and the southern and eastern neighbourhoods remain turbulent. Against this backdrop, we asked our national offices to outline their governments' greatest hope and greatest fear for foreign and European policy in 2018. 

Power on the Periphery of Europe

By Antonia Colibasanu

British Prime Minister Theresa May visited Warsaw to sign a new defense treaty between Britain and Poland. May called the deal a “powerful symbol” of the two countries’ close cooperation; however, the agreement speaks less to the cooperation between the two countries and more to Europe’s slow regression to pre-EU realities through the fragmentation of the European Union.

America is on the brink of a historic break with Europe, thanks to Trump

Foreign service officers like me saw ourselves as guardians of this vital alliance. But Trump isn't interested in leading it or writing its next chapter.

The Trump administration’s newly unveiled national security strategy lists reinforcing America’s alliances as a major objective. Yet in the first year of his embattled presidency, Donald Trump has so undermined our ties to Europe that we could be on the verge of a break in the seven-decade trans-Atlantic alliance.

Seeing through a glass darkly

M.K. Narayanan

To deal with the terror threat, there must be far greater sharing of intelligence among agencies worldwide

Yet another anniversary of the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on multiple targets in Mumbai has come and gone. Much has changed since then and terror has evolved into an even more dangerous phenomenon. Recent variants represent a paradigmatic change in the practice of violence.

World's Wealthiest Became $1 Trillion Richer in 2017

Tom Metcalf and Jack Witzig 

The richest people on earth became $1 trillion richer in 2017, more than four times last year’s gain, as stock markets shrugged off economic, social and political divisions to reach record highs.

The 23 percent increase on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world’s 500 richest people, compares with an almost 20 percent increase for both the MSCI World Index and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

2 big warnings from Gen. McChrystal: War in Europe is possible & we’re going to have to give up rights for our security


After eight years at Foreign Policy, here are the ten most popular Best Defense posts.

U.S. Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan arrives at Combat Outpost Sharp in the Garmsir District. 

Next month, this column will be moving to another platform. But before we go, in celebration of eight happy and productive years at Foreign Policy, here are the most popular items ever to run on the Best Defense.

Cyberattack Targets Safety System at Saudi Aramco


Malicious software attacked a safety system in August at Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, in what is the first-ever example of malware targeting the computer systems designed to prevent a disaster at an industrial facility.

The attack was first described by the computer security firm FireEye in a blog post last week, which did not name the victim of the attack. But a confidential report obtained by Foreign Policy and authored by Area 1 Security, a computer security firm founded by veterans of the U.S. National Security Agency, identifies Aramco as the victim of the attack.


By Philipp Martin Dingeldey 


To stay ahead of competing ports and technological developments, automation has been heralded as inevitable. Major transshipment hubs and aspiring ports bet their future on automation, which raises the impact cyber risks could have in the long-run.

Russia is pushing the Army to move faster on electronic warfare

By: Mark Pomerleau 

The Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool is a command-and-control planning capability that allows commanders and soldiers to visualize what the effects of electronic warfare will look like on a screen. 

Air Force wants cyber to have impact, tools measuring how hard it can hit

By: Mark Pomerleau  

The effects of kinetic weapons, such as hand grenades, are widely understood. For nonkinetic effects, such as cyber or electronic jamming, it’s much more difficult to visualize their effects, making planning and employment more unpredictable and in some cases less likely. The Air Force are the RAND Corporation are working to address this difficulty in characterizing impact.

How Should International Law Treat Cyberattacks like WannaCry?

By Michael J. Adams, Megan Reiss

North Korea was behind the infamous WannaCry cyberattack, asserted homeland security adviser Thomas P. Bossert in a Dec. 18 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that echoes the CIA’s previously classified assessment and British government statements. And the United States, Bossert insists, will hold bad actors accountable—in this case, for the billions of dollars in harm caused by this widespread and indiscriminate ransomware attack. He cites as precedent the U.S. government actions taken against Russian, Iranian and Chinese hackers.

What three of the year’s biggest defense stories looked like from space

By: Mike Gruss

The news in the defense community in 2017 largely revolved around three international conflicts: North Korea’s attempts to become a nuclear power, the fight against the Islamic State and attacks in Syria.

The satellite imagery company DigitalGlobe captured events from each of these struggles and released them to selected media outlets for the end of the year. While satellite imagery can feel novel at times, high-resolution imagery has become a critical asset for military and intelligence agencies.

A New History of the Second World War

By Joshua Rothman

In 1936, Charles Lindbergh arrived in Berlin to inspect the Luftwaffe. The visit had been arranged by Truman Smith, an ingenious intelligence officer who knew that Herman Göring, the Nazi air marshal, would find the American aviator’s celebrity irresistible; Lindbergh flew to Berlin with his wife, Anne, as his co-pilot, and then, along with Smith and another officer, spent a few days meeting German pilots, inspecting operations, and even flying several German planes. (The group also had dinner at Göring’s house, where they met his pet lion cub, Augie.) Lindbergh was impressed by what he saw; Göring so enjoyed impressing him that Smith was able to arrange four more visits over the next few years. Drawing on them, Lindbergh sent a dire warning to General Henry (Hap) Arnold, the commander of the U.S. Air Force, in 1938. “Germany is undoubtedly the most powerful nation in the world in military aviation,” he wrote, “and her margin of leadership is increasing with each month that passes.”