16 August 2018

The political stature and clout of the Taliban is rising in Afghanistan

Taliban’s political stature rises with talks in Uzbekistan 

ISLAMABAD (AP) — In a rare diplomatic foray and the strongest sign yet of increasing Taliban political clout in the region, the head of the insurgents’ political office led a delegation to Uzbekistan to meet senior Foreign Ministry officials there, Uzbek and Taliban officials said. Taliban political chief Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai represented the insurgents in the four-day talks that ended on Friday and included meetings with Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov as well as the country’s special representative to Afghanistan Ismatilla Irgashev. The meetings follow an offer made by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in March to broker peace in Afghanistan.

Inside Bangladesh’s Bloody War on Drugs

Arrested and killed: inside the Bangladesh prime minister’s war on drugs 

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh police arrested Riazul Islam as he was walking home from his in-laws’ house. At 3:15 a.m., he was shot dead in a sandy field beside a set of railroad tracks north of Dhaka. Police say he was killed in a gunfight with other drug dealers, and they recovered 20 kg of marijuana from the site. His parents say the officers extorted money from them and then killed him. “I knew my son was in police custody. All of a sudden my son was dead. I couldn’t believe it. The police took money and they still killed him,” said his mother, Rina Begum. Bangladesh is the newest frontline in state-backed drug crackdowns in Asia, and Islam is one of more than 200 people shot dead by police in Bangladesh since May, when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced the campaign.

China’s New Missile Force: New Ambitions, New Challenges

Adam Ni and Bates Gill

At the end of 2015 the missile branch of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Second Artillery Force (第二炮兵部队), was formally elevated to a full service and renamed the Rocket Force (火箭军; PLARF) part of a sweeping drive to improve the PLA’s joint operations, command and control, and combat effectiveness. The establishment of the PLARF signals the increasing importance of conventional and nuclear missiles to PLA warfighting and deterrence capabilities. It also foreshadows continued, substantial investment in missile force modernization at both tactical and strategic levels in the years ahead. Since its creation, the PLARF has made notable progress in upgrading missile capabilities, reorganizing command and control systems, developing realistic combat training for its troops, and growing its pool of talent. However, deep-seated challenges remain in all these areas. This two-part series will examine the rationale for the PLARF’s creation, its mission, and the challenges that stand in its way. The challenges are real, and could frustrate the PLARF’s aspiration of becoming a world-class missile force if not addressed effectively.

The Chinese GULAG: U.N. says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps

U.N. says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps 

GENEVA (Reuters) - A United Nations human rights panel said on Friday that it had received many credible reports that 1 million ethnic Uighurs in China are held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.” Gay McDougall, a member of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, cited estimates that 2 million Uighurs and Muslim minorities were forced into “political camps for indoctrination” in the western Xinjiang autonomous region. “We are deeply concerned at the many numerous and credible reports that we have received that in the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability (China) has changed the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internship camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of ‘no rights zone’,” she told the start of a two-day regular review of China’s record, including Hong Kong and Macao.

China, The Language Of Virtue, And The Global Order

by James Watt

From a Western viewpoint, never has the international scene looked more provisional, more uncertain. Some of the confusion is self-inflicted (Trump, Brexit). Some results from a century of political failure and social crisis inflicted for the most part by outsiders (the Middle East). Western weakness has been exploited (Ukraine, Crimea). Western control of global economic governance is challenged by the greatly increased size and trading weight of developing economies. Foremost among these of course is China. 

China Reveals Test of New Hypersonic Missile

BY: Bill Gertz

China has conducted a flight test of a new hypersonic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead against advanced missile defenses, according to U.S. officials. The flight test of the Xingkong-2 or Starry Sky-2 missile was disclosed by Chinese state media and touted as an ultra high-speed missile capable of thwarting missile defense systems. The officials confirmed the test was carried out over northeast China and reported in U.S. intelligence channels earlier this week. Such tests are closely monitored as part of the renewed focus by the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies on China’s growing military power. Video released by Chinese state television showed the new weapon being launched atop of a ballistic missile.

China Doesn't Want to Play by the World's Rules


U.S. President Donald Trump’s most recent threat to target all $505 billion in annual Chinese imports to the United States is only the latest development in the looming U.S.-China trade war. While Trump and his team are preparing for an economic competition focused largely on tariffs, policymakers must prepare for a multi-domain competition rooted in Chinese political posturing, domestic propaganda, and economic coercion targeting American firms operating in China. These unconventional challenges will demand a comprehensive U.S. response.

Critiquing Islamist Fundamentalism Is No 'Attack' on Muslim Women

By Munira Mirza

It is hard to know whether Boris Johnson’s comments about the burka would have provoked the same hysteria had they been made outside the August silly season, but one suspects they would not have received much notice if said by almost any other senior politician. Ken Clarke has argued for a ban on wearing the burka in law courts, describing the garment as “a kind of bag”. None of the people now lining up to attack Johnson were vocal about Clarke’s comments. Emily Thornberry said she wouldn’t want a woman in a burka looking after her child. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police didn’t seek guidance as to whether her remarks constituted a criminal offence. If Jeremy Wright and Ruth Davidson truly believe that anyone who describes the burka in derogatory terms is ‘crossing a line’, then we must ask why they have never criticised the many other senior politicians who have done so, such as Anna Soubry and Sadiq Khan.

The Potemkin Village Is Falling Down: The Kremlin’s efforts to pretend that the Russian military is a modern, capable force are not working

All Is Going According To Plan

Government efforts to project the image of a modern, professional and constantly improving armed forces is proving more difficult to sustain. During the decades of communist rule the state had complete control over the media, a massive internal security forces and, most important, no Internet or smart phones. Those last two items have crippled efforts to persuade Russians and foreigners that Russia was still a major developer and manufacturer of new weapons. The constant stream of press releases detailing new weapons the Russian forces will be equipped with are undermine by the reality, often documented vis smart phone video spread via the Internet. The new weapons often do not work at all and even if they do there is never enough money to produce them in the quantities implied. Russian development and manufacturing efforts are still crippled by shortages of cash and talent. Arms exports are hurt by this, especially with competitors like China continuing to produce Russian designs more efficiently (more effective, reliable and less costly in the long run). New gear that does get produced in significant numbers is usually for export customers who have cash for procurement that the Russian military still lacks.

Russia developing new tank warfare tactics in Syria

Russians Get Schooled In Syria

Russia has learned a lot about modern combat in Syria. Russian advisors were often called on to help devise new tactics to deal with problems Syrian troops were encountering. One of the more vexing situations had to do with the rebels using ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided Missiles), including Russian models like the Kornet or the American TOW. Russian armor experts drew on their own history and more detailed knowledge of Israeli innovations (developed during the 1973 war) when they encountered Egyptian troops using lots of older model ATGMs.

Why Germany Should Get the Bomb

by Christian Hacke

The U.S. president’s semi-authoritarian attitude and his willingness to make friends with the enemies of democracy has exacerbated doubts about whether the West is at risk of breaking up. President Donald Trump treats once valued allies with scorn and castigates them in public. Under the battle cry “America first,” allies have suddenly become a burden. President Trump is trampling on the core Western values and interests and in so doing, he is gambling away the role of the United States as the leading power of the West. Instead he is chumming up with dictators and squandering America’s reputation as a responsible global power. He is giving up crucial influence, which could lead to alarming shifts of power to the detriment of the free world.


by Mike Allen

For the past month, Axios has been interviewing people who have been trusted with the nation’s most sensitive secrets. The group includes seven former directors or deputy directors of the CIA, two former U.S. intelligence chiefs, a former Secretary of Homeland Security, two White House homeland security advisers, and a former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center.  We wanted to know, in this time of acute geopolitical stress, which global threat worried them most, and which threats they thought weren’t getting the attention they deserved. The project was led by David Lawler, Jonathan Swan and Evan Ryan. Given your overwhelming response to our Deep Dives, they’ll soon break into special editions, so you’ll also get a regular Saturday edition of Axios AM. 

Covert Action, Military Operations and the DoD–CIA Debate

By J. Robert Kane

Covert action is making its name again. Back on the strategic foreign policy stage, covert action is a way to achieve diplomacy without direct military confrontation. Kinetic operations by way of targeted killing have become a hot (and disputed) topic. Even though Presidents Ford in 1976, Carter in 1978 and Regan in 1981 signed Executive Orders to ban political assassinations, the U.S. has engaged in targeted killings through drone strikes to kill enemy combatants on the battlefield. Signature strikes that target behavior patterns and personal networks often result in increased collateral damage, namely to civilians. Some of these actions are overt while others are covert, or at least clandestine in some nature. So, who does these things? Is it the military, CIA or even both?

Europe's Trade Coup Leaves China Isolated Daniel Gros, Project Syndicate

At the core of the recent US-EU trade agreement is the understanding that the two sides will “work together" toward zero tariffs and non-tariff barriers. But the potential for a free-trade deal isn’t the point; the end to the escalation of tit-for-tat tariffs is what matters – and not just to the US and Europe. BRUSSELS – All has gone quiet on the transatlantic trade front, with last month’s agreement between US President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker having dispelled fears of an all-out tariff war. The deal was surprising, but perhaps it shouldn’t have been.

Is Germany's Heat Wave a Preview of the Future?

The country's recent dramatic heatwave has seen the water authority in Chemnitz impose a ban on pumping water out of ponds or other urban waters, with the Chemnitz River only 25 centimeters deep in some places. Those caught taking water can be slapped with fines of up to 50,000 euros. In Gotteszell in Bavaria, a regional railway line had to be shut down because the tracks warped in the heat. And in the city of Bochum, beer brewer Moritz Fiege had to appeal to customers to return their used bottles because he had run out of bottles and crates. Meanwhile, at the Berlin Zoo, zookeepers are freezing fish, apples and carrots, so they can provide polar bears with chilled food. And in Hamburg, the Hagenbecks Tierpark zoo has installed lawn sprinklers for its alpacas.

Can I Ruin Your Dinner Party? One of the two pillars of the West is in jeopardy.

By Thomas L. Friedman

ROME — I’ve found lately that I can ruin any dinner party. It’s like magic. Just get me going on Trump or Putin or climate change and I can put a frown on every face and a furrow in every brow. I do weddings and bar mitzvahs, too. So I thought I’d come to Italy for a little sun and risotto. I made the mistake, though, of spending a few days with Italian government and international experts trying to understand the refugee crisis that is fracturing the European Union, much of which originates in Italy. And guess what? Now I can ruin your dinner party — and breakfast! Because what you find when you take a close look at the situation here is something profoundly worrying. I was born in 1953 and have been living my entire life inside the community of democracies that came to be known as “the West” and eventually spread to include democracies around the world, such as Japan, Brazil, South Korea and India. At the core of this community were two pillars: the U.S. and the group of European democracies that became the European Union.

The Elites Refuse to Understand Why Brexit Won

by Matthew Goodwin

More than two years have passed since Britain voted for Brexit. Ever since that moment, the vote to leave the European Union has routinely been framed as an aberration; a radical departure from ‘normal’ life. Countless journalists, scholars, and celebrities have lined up to offer their diagnosis of what caused this apparent moment of madness among the electorate. Russia-backed social media accounts. Shady big tech firms like Cambridge Analytica. Austerity. The malign influence of populist ‘Brexiteers’ like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. The Brexit campaign exceeding its legal spending limit. Or a much-debated claim, written on the side of a bus, that Brexit would allow Britain to redirect its millions of pounds worth of contributions to the EU into its own creaking health service. Typical is a recent piece by a (British) columnist in the New York Times who argues: “Britain is in this mess principally because the Brexiteers—led largely by Mr. Johnson—sold the country a series of lies in the lead up to the June 2016 referendum.”

A Better Army? German Voters Don't Care For It

IF A war were to break out in Europe, its early stages might look something like NATO’s recent exercise on the Letzlinger Heath, some 100km (60 miles) west of Berlin. The war game imagined an enemy (Russia, say) sweeping across the northern European plain and into a NATO member state (Estonia, say). In the front line of resistance was NATO’s new Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), whose rotating leadership will pass to the Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces, next year. The scenario was earnestly rehearsed by an array of allied forces whose common language was English. A commander’s voice crackled over the radio, ordering troops to retake the town of Schnöggersburg and its airport. The air grew thick with dust and cordite as Leopard 2 tanks raced across the scrubby landscape, with howitzer fire providing cover and helicopters circling overhead. Fire-fights broke out across the rooftops, then Norwegian tanks rolled through the cleared streets and on to the airport. “I have spent 30 weeks in training with my troops and I can tell you: we will fulfil our mission,” affirmed Brigadier-General Ullrich Spannuth with evident pride.


Kelly Jackson Higgins posted an August 9, 2018 article on the security and technology website DarkReading.com, with the title above. For those of you not familiar, the most elite and talented cyber hackers and security sleuths have been gathering every year since 1997, in Las Vegas, Nevada, to discuss the latest cyber security threat landscape, as well as the latest technology designed to ferret out, mitigate, and prevent hacks, as well as how to quickly reconstitute networks, restore trust, reverse engineer, and build resiliency. This year’s 2018 Black Hat, which will conclude this weekend, has already revealed how DeepLocker, artificially-enhanced malware, can change its signature and pattern, hides and/or goes dormant when it believes it may be under surveillance, and is essentially a digital version of a chameleon. I posted an article yesterday on this blog on DeepLocker, if you want additional detail.

DeepLocker: Artificially Enhanced Malware Is Coming; And, It Is The Equivalent Of A Digital…Weapon Of Mass Disruption

I have written several articles in the past year on artificially-enhanced (AI) malware and the profound threat it will pose as we move deeper into late 2018 and into 2019. We are already seeing artificially-enhanced malware for sale on the Dark Web, though as of now it isn’t cheap to purchase — for the really special ‘stuff,’ around $25K per copy, in the digital underbelly of the Dark Web. Charlie Osborne posted an August 8, 2018 article on the security and technology website, ZeroDay, warning that some day soon, a visual image of our face, could become the trigger to launch artificially enhanced malware.”

Think Space Force is a joke? Here are four major space threats to take seriously

By: Joe Gould  

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday announced the Trump administration is laying the groundwork a new Space Force and eventually a separate military branch, dedicated to space. While the merits of a new organization are debatable, U.S. national security space systems are vulnerable to a wide array of threats, ranging from cyberattacks and jamming to anti-satellite missiles, according to a Center for Strategic and International Studies report published earlier this year. Russia and China, and to a lesser degree North Korea and Iran, are all threatening America’s military through its dependence on space. “Given our dependence and that of our allies and partners on space, the loss of critical assets today could prove decisive to our ability to monitor critical events like missile launches or nuclear tests, or to successfully prosecute a military campaign,” retired Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, the former chief of U.S. Strategic Command, said in the forward to the report. “Urgent action is needed.”

Rapid Equipping Force to deliver new electronic warfare platforms

By: Mark Pomerleau 

Sgt. Jessie Albert, an electronic warfare specialist assigned to 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, trains on the Wolfhound Radio Direction Finding System at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, on April 11, 2018. The electronic warfare specialists use direction finding to gain a line-of-bearing to the target. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)  Army Forces Command will receive a new fleet of tactical vehicles specifically outfitted for electronic warfare this fall. As part of the Army’s efforts to restore electronic warfare capability and respond to capability gaps, the service’s Rapid Equipping Force will provide Army Forces Command with what’s known as Electronic Warfare Tactical Vehicles. The vehicles will be self-contained and independent, a notice from the REF stated. Soldiers inside the vehicle would operate the advanced EW system, which was developed in response to a battlefield need to sense and jam enemy communications and networks.

The Great War’s greatest killer

Nurses care for victims of the Spanish Flu in tents at Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1918

A hundred years ago, at the tail end of the First World War, a deadly new strain of influenza emerged that would infect one in three people. The ensuing pandemic cut short the lives of between 50 million and 100 million human beings. It was the greatest tidal wave of death since the Black Death of the 14th century, and possibly in the whole of human history. The 1918 flu pandemic has been studied ever since it receded in the 1920s, leaving untold misery in its wake, and though scientists know a lot more about it than they did 100 years ago, many questions remain unanswered. Why was it so lethal? Why did it attack those in the prime of life – robbing families of their breadwinners and communities of their pillars? And could such a thing happen again?

The British special operators who terrorized Japanese forces

In 1943 and 1944, specially chosen units of the British Empire were sent into the jungles of Burma on “Chindit” expeditions that went deep behind Japanese lines and assaulted railways, logistic hubs, and bridges to cripple Japanese forces and force them to redirect forces from other fronts. Most soldiers sent into the jungle were wounded, killed, or fell ill, but they made the Japanese pay. British officers Brig. Gen. Mike Calvert, Lt. Col. Shaw, and Maj James Lumley discuss tactics after the capture of Mogaung in Burma in June 1944 during the second Chindit expedition. The first Chindit expedition, Operation Longcloth, was effected by the 77th Indian Infantry Brigade when they marched into Japanese-occupied Burma in 1943. They attacked Japanese supply depots as well as rail and communication lines.

The Battle of 73 Easting: The True Story Behind Desert Storm’s Most Intense Tank Battle

by Daniel L. Davis

When Army Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster was elevated to become PresidentTrump’s national security advisor in 2017, the media was awash with references to his role in the biggest tank fight of Desert Storm, the Battle of 73 Easting. While these stories conveyed the basic outcome of the fight, they did little to illuminate how the battle unfolded or what set the stage before the first cannon shot screamed out of his tank. What turned out to be an amazing and thrilling victory, could easily have been the biggest disaster of Desert Storm. Twenty-eight years ago this month I was at the Grafenwoehr training center in Germany where my unit, Eagle Troop of the 2nd Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (2nd ACR), was conducting a series of field maneuvers and live fire exercises. The 2nd ACR was one of three cavalry regiments then providing frontline defense against the Warsaw Pact,patrolling the borders between West and East Germany in the north and West Germany and Czechoslovakia in the south.