16 February 2018

When should India employ hard power? There’s an urgent need to answer the question thoughtfully

Nitin Pai

I write this after the president of the Maldives has arrested judges of the Supreme Court instead of following its orders to release all political prisoners arrested under trumped up charges. It’s only the latest turn in a drama that started exactly six years ago when the country’s first democratically elected pro-India president was ousted in a coup. Among others, his successor repudiated an airport development contract that had been awarded to an Indian company. The $270 million in damages that international arbiters forced the Maldives to pay was financed through funds injected by Chinese and Saudi investors.

An Idea or a Threat? Islamic State Jammu & Kashmir


In early February 2016, the Islamic State announced its intention to expand into Kashmir as part of its broader Khorasan branch.1 One of the causes of concern associated with the spread of the Islamic State affiliate in Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK) is the existing instability within the region due to the controversial Line of Control (LoC) that divides the region into Indian and Pakistani controlled areas. The highly militarized Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) region constitutes a long-running territorial dispute between India and Pakistan, which has triggered at least three wars. The region also hosts three prominent militant groups—the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM)—which historically have been linked to elements of the Pakistani state and largely favor Pakistan. If successful, an Islamic State-inspired movement may have severe negative consequences in the already volatile environment of Jammu and Kashmir, such as increased rivalry amongst militant groups and sectarian violence. This would not only exacerbate Pakistan’s current instability but also antagonize relations between the two nuclear-armed countries.

The Major Flaws in Afghanistan’s Intelligence War

Javid Ahmad
The National Interest

As the dust settles after the latest string of ghastly bombings in Kabul that took nearly 150 lives, including foreigners, the failure to prevent the attacks should be debated through one important prism: fixing the Afghan intelligence.

By any measure, the new wave of violence across Afghanistan is a forceful response by the Taliban—and, arguably, by Pakistan—to President Donald Trump’s new Afghanistan strategy, indicating that any American attempt to pressure them is not only ill-advised but it would fail. For Afghanistan, the recent spate of violence signifies important intelligence failures.

In Afghanistan, Hard Is Not Hopeless—but Time Is Running Out

By Mike Gallagher

Two weekends ago, a Taliban bombing killed more than 100 and injured over 200 more in Afghanistan. The bombing took place in the heart of Kabul in an area considered among the country’s most secure. Along with a recent flurry of terrorist violence, the attack demonstrates the magnitude of the challenges facing the coalition effort in Afghanistan.

When he announced a new way forward in South Asia, the President made clearthat he was going against his initial instincts to withdraw American forces. Instead, after listening to his senior advisors and military leaders, he decided to modestly expand our footprint in the country. In light of the President’s reservations, this may be our last chance to get Afghanistan right. Seventeen years into the longest war in our nation’s history, we still have enduring interests in South Asia—but securing them requires an honest look at our goals and the resources we are willing to spend in pursuit of those goals.

Chinese Projects in Pakistan Prove Tempting Targets for Terrorist Groups

By: Sudha Ramachandran

On December 8, 2017, the Chinese embassy in Islamabad warned its nationals of possible terrorist attacks targeting “Chinese-invested organizations and Chinese citizens” in Pakistan (Dawn, December 8, 2017). It gave no details of how it had come by this intelligence or who the potential attackers might be. However, attacks on Chinese nationals in Pakistan are not uncommon, and a range of possible actors have put China in their crosshairs.

What Is China’s Military Doing on the Afghan-Tajik Border?

By: Paul Goble

Perhaps few places on earth are as wrapped in mystery and intrigue as the northern reaches of Afghanistan, where, 150 years ago, Russia and the United Kingdom played the great game against one another and where, most recently, Moscow and the West were locked in geopolitical competition with each other and then with insurgent Islam. Now, China has entered the fray as a major player. Although, as has historically been the case with most activities in this almost inaccessible region, Chinese actions thus far have allowed for ample misrepresentations or denials.

What happened in Mauritius

Britain took over Mauritius from France in 1810. In 1968, Mauritius became free from the United Kingdom. However, the UK carved the Chagos Islands out from Mauritius three years before Mauritius's independence. It subsequently evacuated Mauritian residents from the Chagos Islands. Then, the United States of America leased Diego Garcia in Chagos Islands from the UK to set up its Indian Ocean military base. The UK renewed the lease for another 20 years in 2016.

The 'globalisation' of China's military power

Jonathan Marcus

China's modernisation of its armed forces is proceeding faster than many analysts expected.

Now, according to experts at the International Institute for Strategic Studies - the IISS - in London, it is China and no longer Russia, that increasingly provides the benchmark against which Washington judges the capability requirements for its own armed forces.

This is especially true in terms of air and naval forces - the focus of China's modernisation effort. Events in Europe mean that for the US Army, it is still largely Russian capabilities that provide the benchmark threat.

Seven Chinas A Policy Framework

The debate about China’s changing role in global affairs is often framed as a dichotomous choice between a peacefully rising China that seeks to be a constructive stakeholder and an increasingly dangerous China that is challenging the status quo, both in terms of its norms and the place of the United States. The reality is more complicated. There are not only signs of both elements, but the foundations shaping Chinese behavior is multifold. Most international relations scholars examine China through one or another version of realism or liberalism. David Kelly, head of research at China Policy, offers an alternative approach that examines the nature of Chinese identity, or rather, Chinese identities, plural, and how they exhibit themselves in Chinese foreign policy. Using his renowned skills in reading Chinese-language official documents and the broader commentary, Kelly teases out seven narratives that Chinese tell themselves and the world, and he provides a codebook for explicating shifting Chinese behavior in different arenas. Kelly concludes that some of these narratives facilitate cooperation, but most point toward deep-seated tensions between China and the West in the years ahead.

Rejecting The Grey Zone

By Angie Gad

For most of my life, terrorism and Islam have occupied overlapping spaces in the public consciousness. It goes without saying that the attacks on September 11 dramatically changed the world, and the West’s relationship with Islam took a turn along with it.

I recall the week after 9/11, a boy at school asked me if I was Muslim. It was the first time anyone had asked me; religion never came up in a conversation before then. I was ecstatic about a chance to finally talk about Islam. I abruptly and jubilantly said “yes!” Before I could finish taking a deep breath to start my next sentence, he said with a twisted face and condescending tone, “so just like the terrorists that killed people with planes?” I was never able to muster a response because what does an eleven-year-old say to that? I was too young and oblivious to comprehend his comment. What terrorists? What is a terrorist? What did they have to do with Islam? We had never discussed planes or terrorists during our weekly lessons at the mosque. 

Japan’s North Korea Strategy: A Solid Defense

By Phillip Orchard

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe isn’t having the best Olympics. Over the weekend, at a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in ahead of the opening ceremonies, Abe’s goal was to secure a commitment that Seoul would resume joint military drills with the U.S. after the Paralympics end in March and to sustain sanctions pressure on Pyongyang, while refraining from spiking a 2015 accord intended to resolve lingering animosity over Japanese abuses in World War II. According to South Korean media, Moon told Abe not to meddle in the South’s “sovereignty and internal affairs,” and essentially sent Abe to his room to think about Japan’s past bad behavior.

Ukraine’s Grey-Zone Conflict: What Lies Ahead?

by David Carment

On Jan. 18, 2018, Ukraine’s parliament voted in favour of a controversial full draft of a new law on the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.1 The law has gained a lot of attention, despite the fact there is no final document yet, because it identifies Russia as an aggressor and occupying state. The new law is important for a few other reasons. First, its primary purpose is to stymie Russia’s geopolitical aspirations by having Ukraine retake the disputed territories by force. Second, it makes no mention of the Minsk agreements, the acceptance of which was a provision for the lifting of sanctions against Russia. Nor does it recognize the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) and the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) as legitimate parties to the conflict. Indeed, there is no reference to the peace agreement brokered by France and Germany in 2015, which obliged Kiev to develop legislation regarding autonomy and amnesty for its minorities. Instead, the trade and transport blockade between Ukraine and the Donbass will be strengthened. And last, the law dramatically realigns Ukraine’s military forces by granting extra powers to the Ukrainian president, commander of the country’s united forces.

Israel Lost a Jet, but Proved it would Win the War


It was no surprise when two strategic vectors clashed this weekend on Israel’s northern front: The Iranian determination to build an advanced military force in Syria collided with Israeli determination to prevent that from happening.

On a broader strategic level a conflict of this sort was expected, though the timing and tactics were set by the Iranians in the latest round. The context of this particular incident was the Iranian led-axis’ rising self-confidence in light of its success in the Syrian civil war, and this led Teheran to field test a new UAV (based on reverse engineering a U.S. model) as well as Israeli air defense by sending the drone into Israeli skies.

America’s Strategy, or Absence of a Strategy, in Syria is Failing

Institute for the Study of War

Key Takeaway: America’s adversaries in Syria are using military force to undermine U.S. forces and their partners. The Russian and Iranian military coalition backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad coordinated a major attack against the U.S.-led Anti-ISIS Coalition in Eastern Syria. The U.S. responded tactically by striking its attackers in self defense, stopping the offensive. But this tactical success demonstrates that U.S. strategy in Syria is failing. Russia and Iran seek ways to capitalize on U.S. failures and act to constrain, disrupt, and ultimately expel the U.S. from Syria and the Middle East. Turkey, meanwhile, has invaded Syria to challenge Kurdish forces, some of which the U.S. backs. The U.S. risks losing the gains it has made fighting ISIS to Russia and Iran. 

A war that began with peaceful protests against Bashar al-Assad has morphed into a global scramble for control over what remains of the broken country of Syria

Liz Sly and Loveday Morris
Washington Post

BEIRUT — A war that began with peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad is rapidly descending into a global scramble for control over what remains of the broken country of Syria, risking a wider conflict.

Under skies crowded by the warplanes of half a dozen countries, an assortment of factions backed by rival powers are battling one another in a dizzying array of combinations. Allies on one battlefront are foes on another. The United States, Russia, Turkey and Iran have troops on the ground, and they are increasingly colliding.

South Africa Moves Beyond Zuma

The new president of South Africa's ruling party, Cyril Ramaphosa, is set on ousting South African President Jacob Zuma.

Zuma's eventual removal will benefit the African National Congress in upcoming 2019 general elections, as it will strip the opposition of the ability to use the president's many corruption scandals as political fodder.

Ramaphosa wants to steer the party away from its recent history of corruption and mismanagement, but pulling it out of its long-term decline will be a challenge.

Tit for Tat? The Shape of U.S. Restrictions on Chinese FDI

In hopes of forcing China to open further, the United States is considering investment restrictions that would mirror those imposed by China.

China’s investment goals are to cement its position in the stable, developed U.S. economy and fuel growth in sectors key to its economic transition.

As such, China has two concerns: Sectors where its own restrictions will mean harsh U.S. measures and those sectors of high priority to Beijing.

Assessing the Conventional Force Imbalance in Europe Implications for Countering Russian Local Superiority

by Scott Boston, Michael Johnson, Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga, Yvonne Crane
PDF file 2.9 MB 

This report outlines how NATO and Russian force levels and capabilities have evolved in the post–Cold War era and what recent trends imply for the balance of capabilities in the NATO member states that border Russia in the Baltic Sea region. It is intended to inform debate over appropriate posture and force structure for NATO forces to respond to the recent growth in Russian military capability and capacity and to increased Russian assertiveness in the use of force. Given NATO's current posture and capability, including European battalions and a rotational U.S. armored brigade combat team, Russia can still achieve a rapid fait accompli in the Baltic states followed by brinksmanship to attempt to freeze the conflict. Nothing about this analysis should suggest that Russian conventional aggression against NATO is likely to take place; however, prudence suggests that steps should be taken to mitigate potential areas of vulnerability in the interest of ensuring a stable security relationship between all NATO members and Russia. NATO has sufficient resources, personnel, and equipment to enhance conventional deterrence focused on Russia; a more robust posture designed to considerably raise the cost of military adventurism against one or more NATO member states is worthy of consideration.


IT WILL START with a flash of light brighter than any words of any human language can describe. When the bomb hits, its thermal radiation, released in just 300 hundred-millionths of a second, will heat up the air over K Street to about 18 million degrees Fahrenheit. It will be so bright that it will bleach out the photochemicals in the retinas of anyone looking at it, causing people as far away as Bethesda and Andrews Air Force Base to go instantly, if temporarily, blind. In a second, thousands of car accidents will pile up on every road and highway in a 15-mile radius around the city, making many impassable.

Moore's law has ended. What comes next?

by Adam Dove

The speed of our technology doubles every year, right? Not anymore.

We've come to take for granted that as the years go on, computing technology gets faster, cheaper and more energy-efficient.

In their recent paper, "Science and research policy at the end of Moore's law" published in Nature Electronics, however, Carnegie Mellon University researchers Hassan Khan, David Hounshell, and Erica Fuchs argue that future advancement in microprocessors faces new and unprecedented challenges.

Fake News: National Security in the Post-Truth Era

Fake news is not a new issue but it poses a greater challenge now. The velocity of information has increased drastically with messages now spreading internationally within seconds online. Readers are overwhelmed by the flood of information, but older markers of veracity have not kept up, nor has there been a commensurate growth in the ability to counter false or fake news. These developments have given an opportunity to those seeking to destabilize a state or to push their perspectives to the fore. This report discusses fake news with regard to the ways that it may manifest, how its dissemination is enabled through social media and search engines, how people are cognitively predisposed to imbibing it, and what are the various responses internationally that have been implemented or are being considered to counter it. This report finds that efforts to counter fake news must comprise both legislative and non-legislative approaches as each has its own challenges. First, the approaches must factor in an understanding of how technology enables fake news to spread and how people are predisposed to believing it. Second, it would be helpful to make a distinction between the different categories of falsehoods that are being propagated using fake news as the medium. Third, efforts should go hand in hand with ongoing programmes at shoring up social resilience and national consensus. Fourth, efforts need to move beyond bland rebuttal and statements, as these may be counter-productive. Fifth, counter-narratives that challenge fake news must be released expeditiously as fake news is able to spread en masse at great speed due to technology. In sum, collaboration across the whole of society, including good public-private partnership, is necessary in order to unravel fake news and ensure better synergy of efforts in countering it.

Cyber peacekeeping: A cyberwar issue businesses need to consider now

By Michael Kassner

Enterprise C-level execs might ask soon: What is cyber peacekeeping, and how will it affect our business? Here's what you need to know, including adaptations to some UN peacekeeping doctrines.

Military strategists, academics, politicians, and government officials have debated the inevitability, ethics, and even the "how it will happen" of cyberwarfare for years. What, curiously, is not being discussed is what takes place when cyber hostilities stop or, more to the point, how "cyber-normal" is restored and maintained after a cyberwar. Both points are of interest with the world's ever-increasing reliance on digital computing and the internet to augment or enable critical services.

Soldiers will inevitably put devices in their bodies. Then what?

By: Kelsey Atherton

When the military asks for fiction, it’s for the purpose of sketching out the landscape of future war. Not the exact players - fickle elements prone to political circumstance and random accident - but the stuff of war: the tools, the people, the kinds of locales that will see battles and the use of force.

Today, the blog of the Army’s Mad Scientist Laboratory (part of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command) is showcasing an entry on how AI will shape the future of the Army itself, down to the electro-mechanical organs of individual soldiers. In his short story “Sine Pari,” senior concept developer Howard R. Simkin of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command imagines a typical day recruiting for Special Operations in the middle of the 21st century.

Improving the Understanding of Special Operations A Case History Analysis

by Linda Robinson, Austin Long, Kimberly Jackson, Rebeca Orrie
PDF file 1.1 MB 

This report examines major U.S. decisions related to the development or employment of special operations forces (SOF). The purpose of the report is to analyze how change has previously occurred in Army, Joint, and U.S. Department of Defense policy regarding SOF to inform future development of options for policymakers and to better articulate the ways in which the varied Army Special Operations Forces capabilities can help to meet U.S. national security objectives. The report aims to assist the special operations community to better understand the policy process; formulate appropriate, sound courses of action; and engage with other members of the U.S. government interagency community in a constructive manner.

5 Reasons The Army Must Keep Modernizing Today's Weapons While It Tries To Leap Ahead

Loren Thompson

Back in the 1920s when most aircraft were biplanes, wing-walking became a favorite stunt of daredevils at air shows. People would actually get out on the wings of planes as they were flying, holding onto spars and wires to avoid falling to their deaths. The first rule of wing-walking was to not let go of what you already have in hand until you have a firm grasp of something else.

The U.S. Army would do well to keep that rule in mind as it plans how to modernize combat equipment over the next few years. Having just received their first sizable increase in funding since the beginning of the decade, the Army and its sister services are looking forward to replacing Cold War weapons with a new generation of more mobile, lethal and survivable systems.