25 March 2018

Why Peace Talks Are Washington's Best Bet in Afghanistan

By Vikram J. Singh

Every day, 15,000 U.S. forces deployed in Afghanistan fight Washington’s longest war. In 2018, their mission will cost Americans $45 billion in defense spending alone, almost enough to build U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico twice. Trump, who had campaigned on getting the United States out of Afghanistan, was well positioned to change course. Instead, he sent more troops to pursue a military victory that will never come.

Pakistan Is Feeling US Pressure. Now What?


After a short trip to Pakistan last week, I return to Washington convinced that the Trump administration’s new coercive approach toward Islamabad is working, at least in the narrow sense that it has grabbed the attention of Pakistani decision-makers and forced them to take notice of U.S. demands. So far, the core elements of the approach include tough talk and tweets by President Donald Trump, a suspension of military assistance, and most recently, a diplomatic move to place Pakistan on a “gray list” at the last meeting of the multilateral Financial Action Task ForceFor a Trump administration that is too often adrift, divided, or inept, this coercive effort should be appreciated as a rare foreign policy achievement. When it comes to Pakistan, U.S. policymakers across different agencies and departments have been remarkably united and consistent even in the face of Pakistani intransigence and probing.

US military will not pursue Taliban into Pakistan

A Pentagon spokesman said that the US military will not conduct hot pursuit of Taliban and allied jihadist fighters from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Additionally, the spokesman said that the military would be fine if the Taliban was operating on the Pakistani side of the border. “We have no authority to go into Pakistan,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews toldPajhwok Afghan News. US forces could ask for authority to chase Taliban fighters as they cross the border into Pakistan, but approval for such action “would certainly be the exception and not the norm,” he continued. “Say, for example, we have troops in contact and then the Taliban forces go across the border,” Andrews told Pajhwok. “They are clearly inside Pakistan then. There’s no change with regards to respecting the territorial sovereignty of Pakistan.”

Quad: The way ahead and the key challenges

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The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) consisting of India, Australia, Japan, and the US has been pitching in favor of a ‘Free and Fair Indo-Pacific’ ever since the first meeting between representatives of member states in November 2017. Shinzo Abe, the current Prime Minister of Japan, actually proposed this arrangement about a decade ago. Diplomatic engagement began, and joint military exercises were even held, but a change in guard in Australia, as well as Chinese complaints to member states, resulted in the end of the arrangement. Given the increasing focus on the ‘Indo-Pacific’ region and the strengthening of strategic ties between all four countries, reticence was finally shed and representatives of the four countries met in November 2017, on the eve of the East Asia Summit in Manila. The main aim of the alliance, thus in other ways, has been to check China’s assertiveness, especially in the South China Sea, and democracy has been one of the key binding factors between the Quad. The U.S. State Department, after the meeting in November 2017, issued a statement that the United States is “committed to deepening cooperation, which rests on a foundation of shared democratic values and principles.”

How Beijing’s Push for China-Centric Asia Impacts the Indo-Pacific

Monika Chansoria 

The latest China Security Report published by Japan’s National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS) in February aims to analyze China’s military and security affairs from a mid- to long-term perspective. It assesses the development of China’s foreign and security policy towards the United States and vice versa, and the overall China-US relationship in East Asia. Unfortunately, the NIDS report falls short in taking account of the emerging reality, such as the expansive breadth of the Indo-Pacific and the way its importance has re-imaged Asia’s map with great power and regional re-alignments. While the report concludes by arguing that any conflict leading to war between China and the US is undesirable for the US and for the Asia-Pacific as a whole, it does not discuss the determinants, or the dependent and independent variables, in the specific context of the larger Indo-Pacific region.

The End of the Petrodollar?

In a move that could portend massive shifts in the global oil game, the Shanghai International Energy Exchange will soon unveil an oil-futures contract denominated in Chinese yuan rather than U.S. dollars (product symbol: SC). Experts warn that the growing clout of Chinese currency in international financial markets could erode the primacy of the U.S. dollar, a long-term economic trend that should greatly trouble Washington. The International Energy Exchange conducted a final set of drills to test trading, settlement, and quote transmission back in December. China’s Securities and Regulatory Commission has announced that the crude-futures contract will launch on March 26.

MAPPED: China's most ambitious megaproject — the new Silk Road

Jeff Desjardins

China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative will cost between $4 trillion and $8 trillion and affect 65 countries. It's expected to stretch from East Asia to East Africa and Central Europe and be completed in 2049. Costing between $4-8 trillion and affecting 65 countries, China's ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative is the granddaddy of all megaprojects.  By the time of it's estimated completion in 2049, OBOR will stretch from the edge of East Asia all the way to East Africa and Central Europe, and it will impact a lengthy list of countries that account for 62% of the world's population and 40% of its economic output. 

The Return of the Iraq War Argument


The buzz about a summit this spring between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un has tamped down talk of war with North Korea. But the bellicosity bubbles just below the surface, and could boil over if the diplomatic gamble fails. Recall how George W. Bush’s press secretary once justified the war in Iraq: “The United States exhausted every legitimate and credible opportunity to resolve this peacefully.”

Al Qaeda 3.0: Turning to Face the Near Enemy

By Isaac Kfir

After the deaths of Osama bin Laden and several other leaders in 2011 and 2012, followed by the rise of Islamic State, many considered al-Qaeda ‘a spent force’. But in an important brief, (with an expanded version for the Lowy Institute), leading terrorism scholar Bruce Hoffman argues that Ayman al-Zawahiri has used the past seven years to rebuild al-Qaeda. So while counterterrorism specialists have celebrated the rolling up of Islamic State’s ‘caliphate’, al-Qaeda’s resurgence shows that much work remains to be done.

Turkey’s Middle East Aspirations Beyond Afrin

By Xander Snyder

The central question in Turkey’s invasion of Afrin has been whether it is a limited operation that will stop in northwestern Syria, or the first stage of what will become deeper Turkish involvement in the Middle East. Given that Turkey is intent on clearing the threat from its border, and that Kurdish forces extend far beyond the northwestern enclave of Afrin, there’s little reason to think that Turkey will stop after subduing Afrin.


Steven Aftergood

The number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. nuclear stockpile dropped to 3,822 as of September 30, 2017, down from 4,018 a year earlier. (Retired weapons awaiting dismantlement are not included in the totals.) Meanwhile, 354 nuclear weapons were dismantled in 2017, up from 258 the year before. These figures were declassified in response to a request from the Federation of American Scientists and were made public yesterday. The declassification of the current size of the US nuclear arsenal was a breakthrough in national security transparency that was accomplished for the first time by the Obama Administration in 2010.

Give North Korea All the Prestige It Wants


In Dorothy L. Sayers’s short story “Talboys,” the noble sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey at one point gives his young son Bredon an important lesson about adult behavior. “I’ll tell you a secret, Bredon,” he says. “Grown-up people don’t always know everything, though they try to pretend they do. That is called ‘prestige,’ and is responsible for most of the wars that devastate the continent of Europe.” I thought of that passage when I heard about U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to accept North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s invitation to a summit meeting. Like the “grown-up people” in Sayers’s story, Trump and Kim are both leaders who try to pretend they know everything. Moreover, the petty war of insults between “Little Rocket Man” and the “dotard” might have led to a war that devastated not the continent of Europe but the Korean Peninsula. In addition to the tangible conflicts of interest dividing the two states, issues of status, prestige, and ego are clearly involved as well.

Strategic Insights: Making Good on the NSS and NDS: Competing with Russia in Europe and Beyond

Dr. John R. Deni

In January, the Trump administration released its first National Defense Strategy (NDS), which closely followed the December 2017 release of the new National Security Strategy (NSS).1 Both of these documents call for a fundamental shift in the U.S. approach to security, emphasizing competition against Russia and China at the expense of what some may argue has been a myopic focus on eradicating transnational terrorism. What the NSS and NDS are less clear about is how the United States will compete against Russia. Instead, an array of arguably vague policy objectives are all these documents seem to muster. There may be good reasons why these documents provide us little in the way of substantive ways and means, but that shouldn’t prevent a public debate about the many tools Washington can and should employ in competition with Russia in order to generate potentially novel policy options for decision-makers, clearly signal Washington’s intent and reassurance to allies, and convey a stronger deterrent message to Moscow.

Inside Israel’s Secret Raid on Syria’s Nuclear Reactor


Even if President Donald Trump is able to reach an agreement with Kim Jong Un, with North Korea promising to freeze or even dismantle its nuclear program, there will always be uncertainty about possible cheating.Just ask Israel—which, despite having one of the world’s most competent and aggressive intelligence services, the Mossad—nearly missed the fact that North Korea was helping build a nuclear reactor in next-door Syria, a country long viewed by Israel as a dangerous threat. The American CIA missed it, too, and now, 11 years after Israeli air force jets bombed the clandestine Syrian facility, Israel’s military censor is finally lifting the veil of secrecy and permitting locally based reporters to publish interviews with participants in the operation for the first time. We spoke with dozens of former cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, as well as military and intelligence chiefs and commanders and even some of the pilots who took part in the operation. The codename for the Sept. 6, 2007, raid, conducted near the remote desert city of Deir ez-Zur: “Outside the Box.” Before today, Israel has never officially acknowledged its existence.



A group picture of all the IAF pilots that participated in the operation of bombing a Syrian nuclear reactor site in 2007. Up until now, the “secret security affair,” aka the Israeli attack on the Syrian nuclear reactor, has only been reported in foreign media due to censorship regulations. Now that it has been approved for publication in Israeli media, too, I am excited to recall that period 10 years ago when I served as head of the IDF Technological Intelligence Department in the Research Division and later as deputy head of the entire division. In essence, I was the leading IDF intelligence officer at the time of the attack. 



Israel was behind the 2007 destruction of a nuclear reactor that was being built in northeastern Syria, the IDF Military Censor has now cleared for publication. Until now, Israeli media have been blocked from publishing details of the reactor’s discovery and the decision- making process that led to its destruction – even as many of those details were being published in the foreign press and in the memoirs of former president George W. Bush and vice president Dick Cheney. The Mossad confirmed the existence of the Syrian reactor in March 2007, when the agency obtained photographs of the reactor that was being built in the northeastern Deir al-Zor province, close to the Euphrates River.


Eli Ben Meir

Up until now, the “secret security affair,” aka the Israeli attack on the Syrian nuclear reactor, has only been reported in foreign media due to censorship regulations. Now that it has been approved for publication in Israeli media, too, I am excited to recall that period 10 years ago when I served as head of the IDF Technological Intelligence Department in the Research Division and later as deputy head of the entire division. In essence, I was the leading IDF intelligence officer at the time of the attack. I have many and varied memories from that time. My department was the first to uncover the existence of the nuclear reactor, just a few months before the attack took place. We immediately alerted our superior officers and then continued to be involved in the progress of the affair. We participated in dozens of deliberations in which the situation was assessed and then reassessed and details about a possible attack were discussed. We carried out numerous simulations and articulated what the probable reactions from the Syrians and especially Bashar Assad could be.

On Seeing America's Wars Whole

By Andrew Bacevich

Congratulations on assuming the reins of this nation’s -- and arguably, the world’s -- most influential publication. It’s the family business, of course, so your appointment to succeed your father doesn’t exactly qualify as a surprise. Even so, the responsibility for guiding the fortunes of a great institution must weigh heavily on you, especially when the media landscape is changing so rapidly and radically. Undoubtedly, you’re already getting plenty of advice on how to run the paper, probably more than you want or need. Still, with your indulgence, I’d like to offer an outsider’s perspective on “the news that’s fit to print.” The famous motto of the Times insists that the paper is committed to publishing “all” such news -- an admirable aspiration even if an impossibility. In practice, what readers like me get on a daily basis is “all the news that Times editors deem worthy of print.”

The Era of Urban Warfare is Already Here

Margarita Konaev, John Spencer

Aleppo. Mosul. Sana’a. Mogadishu. Gaza. These war-ravaged cities are but a few examples of a growing trend in global conflict, where more and more of the world’s most violent conflicts are being fought in densely populated urban areas, at a tremendously high cost to the civilians living there. Despite their aversion to urban warfare, American and NATO military strategists increasingly acknowledge that the future of war is in cities. Concurrently, humanitarian agencies such as International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are adjusting their response to relief operations in urban centers in real time. This rise in urban violence and the resurgence of warfare in cities comes from three key factors: the global trend toward urbanization, increasingly volatile domestic political conditions in developing countries, and changes in the character of armed conflict.

The Army Needs to Go Big With Futures Command

By Daniel Gouré

“A big announcement is coming.”

This is how the Association of the United States Army’s (AUSA) website is introducing its Global Force Symposium and Exposition to be held March 26 to 28 in Huntsville, Alabama. According to AUSA, “the Army will use the Global Force Symposium and Exposition as a platform to formally introduce the new United States Army Futures Command and the why and how of changes to Army modernization.” To this end, the Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, will provide the keynote address. Following Secretary Esper will be the chief architects of the Army’s reform efforts, Under Secretary Ryan McCarty and the Vice Chief of Staff General James McConville. Also, there will be panel discussions focused on the six modernization priorities that are certain to involve participation by senior representatives of the relevant cross-functional teams.

The End Of The American Way of War; The Cold War Really Is Over


Iraqi vehicles on the “Highway of Death” in 1991

The American way of war — using overpowering industrial might, crushing firepower, and owning the sea and skies — may have come to an end, a top Pentagon official says. For the past two decades, “the Chinese and the Russians have been working to undermine that model,” said Elbridge Colby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development. By spending billions on modernizing their militaries and fielding new technologies like artificial intelligence and hypersonic missiles at a faster clip than the Americans, the two countries have changed the way the United States must approach future conflict. 

John Boyd on Clausewitz: Don’t Fall in Love with Your Mental Model

By Ian T. Brown

Carl von Clausewitz and John Boyd are familiar to the Strategy Bridge crowd. Serious students of strategy know that both men left their marks on military policy, theory, and discussions on the nature and character of war itself. Yet outside the sparsely populated halls of professional strategy, one finds an imbalance. Whether in the pages of joint doctrine, American war colleges where “the answer is always Clausewitz,” or even a Google search of pundits applying classical wisdom to modern crises, Clausewitz reigns supreme. As a mental framework for analyzing warfare, at least among Western thinkers, Clausewitz has outlasted all others as the enduring gold standard.

Relationships with God and Community as Critical Nodes in Center of Gravity Analysis

By Jessica Dawson

The formalization of systems-thinking into doctrine is a good step to help joint planners and strategists visualize and make sense of an increasingly complex and interconnected world. That said, failing to account for relationships with a god and community often results in inadequate center of gravity analysis. Social network analysis further hampers strategists’ ability to account for these significant relationships in people’s lives by only accounting for concrete nodes and links. Strategists should be unbound by academic restrictions and develop a formal accounting for subjective perspectives of religion and significant relationships with community and god that is separate from the current black box of social and cultural analysis. Relational Models Theory is one particular framework for analysis.

How is each country spending on their military forces?

A military expenditure also known as the defence budget is the amount of financial resources dedicated by a nation to raising and maintaining armed forces or other essential for defence purposes. As defence is a necessary evil, each country spends on their defence as per their economy and the time of necessity like border countries problem and other wars to strengthen their country and protect its people. At Rediff Labs, we analysed the data on military expenditure by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The military expenditure is shown as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product of the country, as a percentage of government spending and as per capita in $. The charts show the top three countries compared with India and its neighbouring countries over the period of time.

Army Patches Its Network For Near Term


The long-term solution may take "big, leap-ahead technology," said Maj. Gen. Pete Gallagher, head of the Cross Functional Team leading the network overhaul. But short-term solutions can be as simple as replacing bulky metal antennas with inflatable ones or loading new software on an off-the-shelf Android phone. So the service is trying to fix things. The long-term solution may take “big, leap-ahead technology,” said Maj. Gen. Pete Gallagher, head of the Cross Functional Team leading the network overhaul (more on that below). But, as Gallagher and other soldiers showed off here yesterday, short-term solutions can be as simple as replacing old server stacks with new ones one-third the size, replacing bulky metal antennas with inflatable ones, or loading new software on an off-the-shelf Android phone.