30 November 2018

India walking a tightrope with US and Russian defense systems


India is aiming to modernize its strategic arsenal with the introduction of advanced US and Russian defense systems. However, some military experts say that while the South Asian giant needs foreign technologies to become a self-sufficient arms manufacturer – and autonomous global geopolitical player – technical problems could limit their coexistence.

The Indian government finalized the acquisition of Russia’s S-400 air defense missile system earlier this month and is said to be considering the purchase of the National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System-II(NASAMS-II) from the United States.

The War For Peace in Afghanistan Challenge posed by ISIS affiliate must be addressed


The message from Washington these days appears to be that severing the link between the Taliban and Pakistan is the silver bullet for peace in Afghanistan. It is, however, simplistic to portray the Taliban as the only insurgent group in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the only relevant outside actor. While the Taliban might be the insurgent group with the most sympathizers and members, there are other groups active in Afghanistan that may not be influenced by Pakistan. An enduring peace in Afghanistan is only possible if it involves a deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and addresses the challenge posed by these other insurgent groups.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to appoint Zalmay Khalilzad as his Afghan envoy, tasked with mediating between the Taliban and Kabul, might help bring Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government and at least some factions of the Taliban together. Khalilzad has walked a fine line between Afghanistan’s many ethnic groups in the past. He helped effectively form the country’s first post-Taliban government and organized the country’s first post-Taliban elections. 

Analysis: U.S. Military Grossly Underestimates Taliban, al Qaeda Force Levels in Afghanistan

by Bill Roggio –Long War Journal

Once again, the US military has grossly underestimated the size and scope of the Taliban, despite battling the group head-on for the last 17 years. In its latest quarterly report, US Forces – Afghanistan (USFOR-A) approximated the Taliban’s strength as between 28,000 and 40,000 fighters.

That number should be doubled, at the minimum, because the USFOR-A estimate is wildly unrealistic given the level and intensity of fighting in Afghanistan, as well as the number of Taliban casualties claimed by Afghan security forces.

This latest estimate of the Taliban’s strength was disclosed in the Department of Defense Inspector General’s quarterly report on Afghanistan, which covered July through September, 2018. USFOR-A estimated the Taliban to have 30,000 to 35,000 fighters, and the “Taliban Haqqani Network” another 3,000 to 5,000 [see chart above, reproduced from the inspector general’s report].

Why is Pakistan reluctant to bring Lashkar-e-Taiba to justice?

by Taha Siddiqui 

Ten years ago today, India's financial capital Mumbai was rocked by gunfire and explosions. The attack lasted four days and left over 160 people dead. In the subsequent investigations, Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi and Hafiz Saeed, two leaders of Pakistan-based armed group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), were named as the suspected masterminds of the attack.

In December 2008, the Pakistani authorities arrested Lakhvi and kept him behind bars until 2015, when a local court released him on bail due to "insufficient evidence" provided against him.

Saeed was put under house arrest following the Mumbai attacks but was set free in 2009. In 2012, the United States announced a $10m reward for any information that leads to his capture. 

China’s Untested Military Could Be a Force—or a Flop

Source Link

In February 1943, U.S. troops suffered a humiliating defeat in their first major battle with German forces during World War II. At Kasserine Pass, Tunisia, their inexperience was evident in the indiscipline and fragile morale of the troops; a dispersed, vulnerable deployment; and a rigid, inflexible approach to command and control. The United States paid for its inexperience with the lives of about 6,500 men.

Two decades later, a clash between inexperienced U.S. troops and another seasoned adversary produced a different outcome. In 1965, during one of the first engagements of the Vietnam War, outnumbered U.S. soldiers at Ia Drang fended off numerous assaults by North Vietnamese conventional forces over several days. Using accurate artillery fire, close air support, and novel doctrines of air mobility, the disciplined, well-led American forces fought skillfully against a resolute and capable adversary that had been at war for decades. Although U.S. forces eventually withdrew from the battlefield, they did so in good order and inflicted at least twice as many casualties as they incurred.

There Is No Grand Bargain With China

By Ely Ratner

In true showmanship fashion, U.S. President Donald Trump is keeping the world in suspense about whether he will soon double down on the United States’ trade war with China or call a truce. The big reveal will come after his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the margins of the G-20 in Buenos Aires later this week. Trump has at times been optimistic, telling reporters, “I think a deal will be made. We’ll find out very soon.”

Don’t believe the hype. Any agreement in Argentina will be a tactical pause at best, providing short-term relief to jittery stock markets and beleaguered U.S. farmers, but having no material or long-lasting effect on the slide toward a high-stakes geopolitical competition between the United States and China. The days when the world’s two largest economies could meet each other halfway have gone.

What America Can Do to Avoid War in the South China Sea

by Daniel R. DePetris

Is the world at a point of no return in the South China Sea? Judging by the comments coming from the mouths of senior U.S. and Chinese officials, that would certainly seem like the reality. Both sides have dug into their maximalist positions, with Beijing viewing the expansive blue waters off the coast of East Asia as sovereign territory and Washington regarding China’s militarization of the area as a transparent rewriting of the international rules.

Neither side is backing down —nor does either country seem interested in a compromise. During an interview on November 13, Vice President Mike Pence was asked about China’s failure to meet American demands over unfair trade practices, political interference, and military maneuvers in the South China Sea. Pence’s response was “Then so be it... We [the U.S.] are here to stay.” The People’s Liberation Army-Navy, it seems, can try to bully its Southeast Asian neighbors and construct artificial islands with anti-ship missile batteries all it wants. But, as far as Washington is concerned, America will continue flying and sailing in the open seas whether Chinese President Xi Jinping likes it or not.

The US and China Are the Closest of Enemies


After years of economic symbiosis in which the US purchased low-cost Chinese imports and China purchased US Treasuries, China has begun to pursue the prerogatives of a superpower, and the US has responded in kind. As a result, both countries are becoming more alike, particularly in their belief that there can be only one winner.

BERLIN – There has long been talk that the strategic rivalry emerging between the United States and China in recent years could one day give way to confrontation. That moment has arrived. Welcome to the Cold War 2.0.

Jack Ma, China’s Richest Man, Belongs to the Communist Party. Of Course.

By Li Yuan

HONG KONG — Jack Ma, China’s richest man and the guiding force behind its biggest e-commerce company, belongs to an elite club of power brokers, 89 million strong: the Chinese Communist Party.

The party’s official People’s Daily newspaper included Mr. Ma, executive chairman of the Alibaba Group and the country’s most prominent capitalist, in a list it published on Monday of 100 Chinese people who had made extraordinary contributions to the country’s development over the last 40 years. The entry for Mr. Ma identified him as a party member.

Saudi Arabia sought to buy Israeli hacking technology: report

An Israeli technology firm specialising in cyber intelligence offered Saudi Arabia a highly advanced system that hacks into mobile phones, months before Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a mass purge, according to Haaretz.

The Israeli daily reported on Sunday that representatives from NSO Group Technologies held negotiations with Saudi officials in Austria capital Vienna in June 2017.

The officials were identified as Abdullah al-Malihi, a close aide to Prince Turki al-Faisal - a senior member of the royal family and a former Saudi intelligence chief - and Nasser al-Qahtani, who presented himself as the deputy of the current intelligence chief.

Can Donald Trump Destroy The WTO?

by Dan Steinbock

In the past two years, the Trump administration has started trade wars against China, its major trade partners, and security allies. In the absence of united opposition by advanced and emerging economies, the next target will be the World Trade Organization.

As the White House began to escalate the U.S.-Sino trade war last April, President Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro was asked on CNN whether the United States is planning to leave the World Trade Organization (WTO).

A controversial advocate of American neo-protectionism known for his China-bashing books and documentaries, Navarro said that

“a lot of problem has been the World Trade Organization, which is over 160 countries, and a lot of them simply don’t like us and so we don’t get good results there."

The Coming War over Ukraine?

by Jonas Driedger

On November 25, Russian warships attacked and seized three Ukrainian navy boats that tried to cross the Kerch Strait. The Ukrainian navy reports that Russian vessels opened fire and wounded at least six Ukrainian naval officers.

On the same day, Ukrainian President Poroshenko and his Military Cabinet passed a resolution to impose martial law in Ukraine. The Ukrainian parliament is scheduled to decide on the resolution on November 26.

Russia’s aggressive actions in the Kerch straits and the unprecedented Ukrainian response highlights the increasing danger of military escalation between the two countries.

Russia’s latest attack on the Ukrainians is a warning to the Wes

By Anne Applebaum

Ukraine's president is introducing martial law after Russian ships fired at and seized Ukrainian navy ships. Here's what you need to know. (Sarah Parnass /The Washington Post)

On Saturday evening, three small Ukrainian naval vessels left the Ukrainian port of Odessa and headed for the Ukrainian port of Mariupol. Along the way, they had to pass through the Kerch Strait, a sliver of water that lies between the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula and the Russian mainland. The Ukrainian ships were well within their rights to be there — a similar group of ships went through the strait just a month ago, and a 2003 treaty guarantees the rights of both nations to use those waters. But this time, in a carefully arranged provocation, Russian ships fired on the Ukrainian ships — and then seized them, along with 23 crew members.

The Coming War over Ukraine?

by Jonas Driedger

On November 25, Russian warships attacked and seized three Ukrainian navy boats that tried to cross the Kerch Strait. The Ukrainian navy reports that Russian vessels opened fire and wounded at least six Ukrainian naval officers.

On the same day, Ukrainian President Poroshenko and his Military Cabinet passed a resolution to impose martial law in Ukraine. The Ukrainian parliament is scheduled to decide on the resolution on November 26.

Russia’s aggressive actions in the Kerch straits and the unprecedented Ukrainian response highlights the increasing danger of military escalation between the two countries.

The Kerch strait represents a major geostrategic asset. It is enclosed by Russian mainland to the east and by the Russian-occupied Crimea peninsula to the west. The Kerch Strait is the only water connection between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. Passage of the strait is crucial for the major port cities in the Sea of Azov, such as Russia’s Rostov-on-Don and Ukraine’s Mariupol, which Russian separatists had repeatedly tried to conquer.

Introducing the U.S. Army's New Plan to Wage War (Against Russia)

by Kris Osborn

Long-range surface-to-surface fires, many contend, could likely be of great significance against an adversary such as Russia - a country known to possess among most advanced air defenses in the world. Such a scenario might make it difficult for the US to quickly establish the kind of air supremacy needed to launch sufficient air attacks. As a result, it is conceivable that LRPF could provide strategically vital stand-off attack options for commanders moving to advance on enemy terrain.

The Army’s new “Vision” for future war calls for a fast-moving emphasis on long-range precision fire to include missiles, hypersonic weapons and extended-range artillery -- to counter Russian threats on the European continent, service officials explain.

ZONE DEFENSE Countering Competition in the Space between War and Peace


Over the past 27 years, the United States has often planned and operated as though competition has ended and that there would be an inexorable pull toward U.S.-led institutions and world views. The growing reemergence of state-based competition, even when it falls short of military conflict, signals that the optimism of U.S. policy has outpaced the reality of other countries’ own ambitions to create their own realities.

Events over the past decade have led to a growing realization by many in Washington that several states have been investing in the tools and concepts necessary to gain advantage—economically, politically, and geographically—in ways that do not involve the military. Some of the most well-known examples are Russian efforts to sow discord in national elections throughout NATO member countries and China’s building of military outposts in international waters in the South China Sea. Many other examples exist of states competing while avoiding the risk of war. It has taken Washington some time to realize that these activities are deliberate efforts to advance a country’s interest and are often at the expense of the United States or a U.S. ally.

Renewing U.S. Economic Engagement with the Developing World

This report describes how the development landscape has changed in recent decades and how the United States has responded to this new environment. It presents some initial recommendations on the next steps that the United States needs to take to better engage in trade and investment with developing countries. This report complements and builds upon prior CSIS publications on the topic.

The development landscape has dramatically changed over the past 25 years. A set of countries once considered “poor” or “third world” have become more prosperous, freer, and healthier. These countries seek international economic engagement in the form of infrastructure investments, increased trade, and exchanges in science, technology, and innovation. As countries move up the prosperity ladder, they will need less foreign aid (i.e., official development assistance—ODA) and demand more participation as equal partners in a diversified global economy.

Pollution by the Numbers


Our only hope of overcoming the environmental challenges we face is to use every tool we can. That means collecting detailed data on issues like air quality, and using what we learn to design the right rules and incentives.

MEXICO CITY – The Great Chinese Famine, which peaked in 1960, was the world’s largest on record. But the effects of that famine – including its toll of more than 30 million deaths – were not quantified until long after the fact. That was partly because government officials were afraid to bring whatever information they had to the attention of Mao Zedong, whose Great Leap Forward policy had played a role in causing the famine. But it was also because so few people actually understood the scale of the problem, owing to a lack of data. Is air pollution today’s great famine?

The Geopolitics of the Quad

Arzan Tarapore

In the wake of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, meeting in Singapore on November 15, Arzan Tarapore considers how this informal grouping of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States could mount a response to China’s revisionism.

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, met again in Singapore on November 15 on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit. An informal grouping of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, the Quad held its third meeting of officials since it was reformed in November 2017, after a decade-long hiatus. The meeting in Singapore covered a range of security and economic issues under the rubric of supporting a “free, open, and inclusive rules-based order”—in a veiled reference to China’s revisionist policies—and declared the group’s continued deference to “ASEAN centrality” in the region’s institutional architecture. Once again, the group stopped short of announcing any combined military maneuvers or measures that directly push back on Chinese military activities.

Google employees stand with Amnesty International in condemning Google

By Aisha Hassan

Google employees are calling on the company to cancel Project Dragonfly, its endeavor to create a censored search engine for China, in an open letter posted on Medium today (Nov. 27).

Amnesty International also published a statement condemning Google, warning that Dragonfly “would set a dangerous precedent for tech companies enabling rights abuses by governments.” Google employees have explicitly said they stand with the human-rights group.

The Google employees call company leadership’s response to the pushback from human rights organizations and journalists about the controversial search engine “unsatisfactory.” They want the company to commit to “transparency, clear communication, and real accountability.” Earlier this year, following The Intercept’s reportingthat exposed Dragonfly, a letter demanding the same things was signed by 1,400 Google employees and circulated internally.

Why cyber compounds Pentagon purchasing problems

By: Justin Lynch 

It takes roughly seven years, on average, for an idea to lead to a Pentagon contract, but the life cycle for automated equipment is just over three years. The long acquisition process and short lifespan means a Pentagon program that can impulsively scan an enemy’s network has technology that’s already more than two generations old on the first day that it is used.

This paradox is highlighted in a new report, “Cyber Acquisition," which describes the Department of Defense’s cyber acquisition process as “too slow,” a “support nightmare” and one that “puts the warfighter at risk.”

Because of the delay in acquiring cybersecurity equipment, “the military will be forced to utilize increasingly inferior capabilities,” the paper reads. It will appear in the upcoming Cyber Defense Review, an academic journal.

Why cyberspace demands an always-on approach

The U.S. government has determined it must remain constantly engaged in cyberspace in response to the steps other countries and non-state actors are taking online.

Enemies are participating in economic espionage, theft of intellectual property and sowing distrust in society and American institutions, all of which take place below the threshold of armed conflict.

“A lot of the actions in cyberspace fall well below the threshold of use of force or anything like that. That’s our day-to-day life,” Army Brig. Gen. Jennifer Buckner, director of cyber within the Army’s G-3/5/7, told Fifth Domain in a November interview.

The Coming Software Apocalypse A small group of programmers wants to change how we code—before catastrophe strikes


There were six hours during the night of April 10, 2014, when the entire population of Washington State had no 911 service. People who called for help got a busy signal. One Seattle woman dialed 911 at least 37 times while a stranger was trying to break into her house. When he finally crawled into her living room through a window, she picked up a kitchen knife. The man fled.

The 911 outage, at the time the largest ever reported, was traced to software running on a server in Englewood, Colorado. Operated by a systems provider named Intrado, the server kept a running counter of how many calls it had routed to 911 dispatchers around the country. Intrado programmers had set a threshold for how high the counter could go. They picked a number in the millions.

Securing the Digital Revolution


The world is hurtling toward a more decentralized digital future, characterized by unprecedented linkages among people, data, and objects. In order to reap the benefits of innovation, without creating massive vulnerabilities, we need to anticipate and address the threats now.

BRUSSELS – Pity the person who invests heavily in canals right before the railways start operating. You could understand, for example, why the sponsor of the Bridgewater Canal (perhaps England’s first) would vehemently oppose the planned Liverpool and Manchester Railway. But the march of technology could not be stopped – nor could the new challenges it raised. The same is true of today’s digital innovations.

When the L&M Railway eventually opened in 1830, it was a revolutionary success, kickstarting the age of steam and changing the world in ways that could not have been foreseen. As the railway age unfolded, with metal tracks spreading across the industrializing world like veins on a leaf, a new level of connectivity was achieved, which criminals were quick to exploit. Indeed, an entire police force eventually had to be created to manage railway security.

Examining Complex Forms of Conflict: Gray Zone and Hybrid Challenges

by Frank G. Hoffman – National Defense University’s Prism

The Joint Force, and the national security community as a whole, must be ready and able to respond to numerous challenges across the full spectrum of conflict including complex operations during peacetime and war. However, this presupposes a general acceptance of a well-understood taxonomy describing the elements that constitute the “continuum of conflict.” The U.S. security community lacks this taxonomy, despite its engagement in a spate of diverse conflicts around the globe from the South China Sea, to Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, and beyond. Partially as a result of this conceptual challenge, we are falling behind in our readiness for the future. As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford has admitted “We’re already behind in adapting to the changed character of war today in so many ways.” The U.S. national security establishment must devote greater attention to the range of challenges and adversaries it faces. The first step is recognizing the diversity of potential conflicts and understanding the relative risks of each.

The Army’s ‘new’ network isn’t actually new

By: Mark Pomerleau 

The Army has outlined a different network design based on a series of programs and systems making the Army more lethal and faster. (U.S. Army) 

Rather, the modernization effort, known as the integrated tactical network, is a concept that looks to use a series of existing systems – including radios, tablets and satellite communications capabilities – to enable greater connectivity to units battalion and below.

In a new approach the Army is calling the integrated tactical network, the service is seeking to enable greater mission command at lower echelons.

3-D Printer Body Armor is Great for the U.S. Army—and Terrorists

by Michael Peck

U.S. Army researchers have devised a method to produce ceramic body armor, lightweight but strong, from a 3-D printer. Except that 3-D printers are meant to print out knickknacks, not flak jackets. Which meant that engineers had to hack into the printer to get the job done.

Ceramic armor, light but hard, provides great protection but can also be difficult to manufacture, notably in combining materials to create a strong com composite. “For ceramics, that’s a bit of a challenge because with you can’t really do a one-step additive manufacturing process like you could if a metal or a polymer,” said Lionel Vargas-Gonzalez, a researcher at the Army Research Laboratory .

The Future of War: What the Syrian War Portends for Tomorrow’s Conflicts

Week by week, month by month, the horrific war in Syria grinds on, killing Syrian civil war combatants from many countries and, most tragic of all, Syrian civilians—the unintended or, in many cases, intended victims of the warring parties. It’s easy to look at the Syrian war as uniquely horrible, the catastrophic result of geography, Bashar al-Assad’s craven brutality, the spread of jihadism and its malignant ideology, and foreign intervention. But in reality, Syria represents a frightening window into the future of war. If, in fact, Syria is the model, future wars are likely to have several defining characteristics. 

The first and perhaps most defining characteristic of the Syrian war is its intricate and deadly complexity. Rather than two nations or alliances pitted against each other, multiple interconnected fights occupy the same space and time. Second, the Syrian war suggests that future conflicts will involve a situation-specific configuration of forces, rather than enduring alliances, as one insurgency blends into the next. Third, the conflict shows that despite the massive and well-publicized human costs of contemporary wars, the international community has lost its stomach for humanitarian intervention. Fourth, Syria demonstrates something that has been evident for decades: The United Nations is unsuited to play a major role in complex, modern wars, particularly when permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, each with a veto over its actions, are involved.

Synthetic Biology: An Emerging National Security Threat

By Joseph Zeman

Synthetic biology has become both a tool for disease mitigation and scientific exploration, as well as a national security concern. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has recently released a 2018 report on the threat synthetic biology presents to United States national security, its conclusions are alarming. Factors which were considered while building the analytical framework for this report consisted of the usability of the technology, its usability as a weapon, the requirements of actors, and the potential for mitigation; after considering all factors, the findings were subsequently assigned specific levels of concern based off of these elements.[i]In addition to these elements, the report further assessed the ease of access to both resources and expertise, the barriers of use, the production and delivery methods, and the actions that can be taken to mitigate these challenges.[ii] In conclusion, the report suggests that synthetic biology expands what is possible, it will become increasingly relevant, and it urges the United States Government (USG) to pursue partnerships with various government agencies to implement programs that mitigate this concern, primarily by creating new and appropriate monitoring mechanisms. Synthetic biology demands unconventional attention in ways that are dissimilar to the chemical and biological weapons domains.

Five Challenges Facing Trump’s Military

by Rebecca Kheel 

“It’s now a new force, a great force,” Trump said at a recent speech at the Washington Marine barracks. “We have the finest equipment, the finest planes, the finest missiles and rockets, ships.

“Some are being built. Just gave out a tremendous order for brand-new F-35s — fighter jets. They’re stealth. You can’t see them,” he added, reviving his often-repeated falsehood that F-35s are actually invisible.

But the military is facing a number of challenges, from continued efforts to restore readiness after years of Washington’s budget dysfunction to work on fulfilling Trump orders such as standing up Space Force.

Here are five challenges facing Trump’s military:

The budget

29 November 2018

India’s Development Aid to Afghanistan: Does Afghanistan Need What India Gives?

By Nandita Palrecha and Monish Tourangbam

Afghanistan has been a prime example of India’s aid and assistance programs. India’s contribution to Afghanistan’s civilian reconstruction efforts has been seen as one of the major factors leading to the famed goodwill for India among the Afghans. However, there has been a lack of critical and sober assessment of the tangible impact of Indian aid with respect to the priorities of security and development in Afghanistan. After more than 17 years of foreign security presence and multinational efforts to bring the war-torn country back to its feet and the evolving political space that requires talking to the Taliban while also fighting with them, Afghanistan is at crossroads. Amid such dynamic changes and continuities, the nature of India’s aid and assistance needs to undergo an assessment not only in terms of what India can offer but also in terms of what Afghanistan needs.

India-Singapore Relations and the Indo-Pacific: The Security Dimension

By Prashanth Parameswaran

Over the past week, India and Singapore have engaged in a series of defense-related interactions. While these are only a few of the interactions the sides currently have with each other, they have nonetheless spotlighted some of the ongoing activity in the security relationship amid wider regional and international developments in the wider Indo-Pacific region.

India and Singapore already enjoy a close defense relationship. Apart from the bilateral significance of the relationship, which includes not just exchanges, visits, and exercises, but also opportunities for the Singapore military to train in India, India-Singapore security cooperation is also among the key relationships being watched as patterns of collaboration evolve in the wider Indo-Pacific as well. Last year, the holding of the defense minister’s dialogue between the two sides was closely watched for developments on these fronts, with both sides inking a new naval pact and the headlines focused on the Indian Navy’s access to Changi Naval base.

Lost in Sudan

[The FOIA documents cited in this article can be viewed here]

Obama administration officials have been on the receiving end of much-deserved criticism for the decision to grant a one-time license to allow payment of taxpayers money to the Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA), a U.S. designated terror-financing charity in Sudan, once closely linked to Osama bin Laden.

However, as a July 2018 investigation by the Middle East Forum uncovered, World Vision, a large but controversial international Christian aid charity, was the primary recipient of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) grant that ultimately ended up funding ISRA. World Vision deserves much of the blame, but so far, its actions have escaped serious scrutiny.

Newly available information strongly suggests that World Vision was waylaid by the Sudanese regime, one of only four U.S. designated state-sponsors of terrorism in the world, into doing its bidding. What's more, to protect itself from bad publicity, World Vision has gone to great lengths to deceive the public about its actions.

Syria, Gaza, Afghanistan: The endless wars

by Seth J. Frantzman

In mid-November, Israel and Hamas fought a 24-hour conflict in which Hamas fired 460 rockets at Israel and the Israeli air forces responded with 160 air strikes. At the same time, the U.S.-led coalition and its Syrian Democratic Forces partners resumed the offensive against the Islamic State in Syria. The two operations, 500 miles from one another, appear distinct, but both are part of the new kind of conflict that is dominating this century. These are conflicts that tend to go through cycles, with no clear end in sight.

From Ukraine to Yemen to Afghanistan to Somalia, such conflicts are paramount. At a briefing on Nov. 14, U.S. Special Representative for Syrian Engagement James Jeffrey suggested the United States would remain in eastern Syria until all “Iranian-commanded forces” had departed. This could mean another open-ended engagement much like that in Afghanistan.

US-China trade war, or trade deal?

David Dollar and Eswar Prasad

In this first episode of the new Brookings trade podcast Dollar & Sense, Senior Fellow David Dollar speaks with Senior Fellow Eswar Prasad, the Tolani Senior Professor of Trade Policy at Cornell University and a leading expert on the Chinese economy, about a range of issues in the U.S.-China relationship. The conversation includes topics such as U.S. and Chinese trade practices, bilateral trade balances, China’s economy and currency, the U.S.-China trade war, and whether Presidents Trump and Xi can make a deal at their meeting during the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires.

Why Balochs Are Targeting China

By Muhammad Akbar Notezai

Over the years, China-Pakistan relations have evolved positively. The mainstream media of the two countries always features the mantra of friendship and brotherly ties. Despite that, however, from day one China has been concerned about one thing in Pakistan: security. Both religious extremists and Baloch separatists have reportedly killed Chinese citizens inside Pakistan in the past.

The most recent incident came on November 23, 2018, when three heavily armed militants from the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) targeted the Chinese consulate in Karachi. Two police officers and two visa applicants were killed. The Chinese officials inside the consulate remained safe, and the Baloch militants were killed in retaliatory firing.

China-US tensions rise ahead of Xi-Trump trade talk

by Katrina Yu

Beijing, China - Hopes this week's meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the G20 in Argentina will achieve a trade breakthrough are fading with analysts and business leaders expressing disappointment over intensifying tensions in the lead up to the summit.

The high-stakes encounter between the two leaders in Buenos Aires is seen as the last ray of hope that Beijing and Washington will resolve trade differences and avert additional US tariffs on Chinese exports in the new year.

So Henry Wang, president of the Beijing-based think-tank Center for China and Globalization, was surprised when last week US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer released a statement saying China had failed to alter "unfair, unreasonable, and market-distorting practices".

Europe arming itself against Chinese investment, despite denials


European Union institutions agreed on Tuesday to terms of a planned mechanism to screen foreign direct investment within the bloc. The EU has said several times that the new framework is not aimed at countering China’s acquisition of high-tech European businesses, but its efforts actually seem to go in that direction.

It remains to be seen if debt-ridden EU countries such as Italy, Greece or Portugal, which are all keen to attract Chinese investment to spur economic growth and balance their books, will support the proposed vetting system. Relevant legislation must be adopted by EU member states with a qualified majority and approved by the European Parliament before it can enter into force.

The Uighurs and China’s Long History of Trouble with Islam

Ian Johnson

Last month, I spent several days at the Forbidden City, the gargantuan palace in the middle of Beijing where China’s emperors ruled the land for nearly five hundred years. I was there to attend a conference on religion and power in imperial China, but my thoughts were drawn to more contemporary concerns: the plight of the Uighurs in China’s far western province of Xinjiang, including re-education camps aimed at breaking their faith in Islam.

I was struck by parallels between contemporary and imperial religious policy at the end of the conference, when our hosts took us to parts of the complex that are off-limits to tourists, such as the Hall of Imperial Peace. This was a Daoist temple built in the early 1400s to honor the Perfected Warrior, zhenwu, whom the first emperor of the Ming dynasty credited with helping drive the Mongols out of China. When another nomadic people, the Manchus, defeated the Ming in 1644, they razed many Ming structures but kept the hall and even worshipped there every Lunar New Year’s. What better way to lessen Chinese displeasure at being ruled by foreigners than to worship at their shrines? 

China Militarizes Its Influence in Africa

by Richard D. Fisher Jr.

Albeit from the limited perspective of South Africa’s bi-annual Africa Aerospace and Defense (AAD) exhibition, from September 19–23, it is apparent that most African states are ready to enthusiastically support China’s ambitions for militarizing its growing influence on that continent, heralded by the first June 26 to July 11 China Africa Defense and Security Forum (CADSF). Meeting at the People’s Liberation Army National Defense University (PLANDU) in Beijing, this first forum meeting was attended by delegations from forty-nine African countries and the African Union.

Though only speaking on background due to the sensitivity of China-related military issues, almost all at AAD queried about CADSF were unsure of the direction of this organization. However, none would discount the idea of the CADSF eventually becoming another China-centered proto-alliance like the well-established Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). As it derives from China’s decades of economic and political influence building in Africa, China’s formation and development of the CADSF could presage similar Chinese ambitions for Latin America.

Why a US-China Tariff Ceasefire Is Coming Soon


Donald Trump's negotiating style – “shout loudly and carry a white flag” – may seem incoherent and dishonest, but it has been spectacularly successful for him. And he's about to use it again with China.

LONDON – The meeting between US President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires this week is being viewed as a make-or-break moment for the world economy and financial markets. But even if no agreement is reached at the summit, there are at least four reasons to expect a de-escalation of the US-China tariff war.

China’s Four Traps


During its 40 years of reform, China has mastered learning by doing, engaged in bold policy experimentation, and become steadily more integrated into global economy. It will need to bring all of this experience to bear, as it attempts to avoid the pitfalls that could derail its effort to achieve high-income status.

HONG KONG – On the 40th anniversary of the launch of China’s “reform and opening up,” the country is well on its way to recapturing its former status as the world’s largest economy, having made substantial progress toward modernizing its agricultural sector, industry, defense systems, and scientific capabilities. But four major traps lie ahead.

The first is the middle-income trap. With a per capita annual income of around $9,000, China remains significantly below the threshold for high-income status, set at around $12,000-$13,000 by the World Bank. Only a few countries in history have managed this leap during the last half-century.

United Nations The Only Way to End the War in Yemen

By Jeffrey Feltman

The war in Yemen has been a disaster for U.S. interests, for Saudi interests, and above all for the Yemeni people. It has sparked the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe: tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and 14 million people are at risk of starvation. It has been a strategic blunder as well, producing the exact results the Saudi-led military campaign was designed to prevent. The Houthis are more militarily sophisticated and better able to strike beyond Yemen’s borders than they were at the start of the war; Iranian influence has expanded; and the relationship between the Houthis and Lebanon’s Hezbollah has only deepened. Although the United Arab Emirates has waged an effective battle against al Qaeda in Yemen, terrorism remains a grave threat.

For three and a half years, Saudi Arabia has insisted, with diminishing credibility, that military victory was imminent; and for just as long, the United States and other powers have largely turned a blind eye to the intervention’s consequences. But the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October has focused the world’s attention on the kingdom’s reckless conduct—including its disastrous war in Yemen.