18 August 2018

Opinion | India’s narrative faces trouble in Afghanistan

Kabir Taneja

The Donald Trump administration has over the past few months seemingly started to work in a steadfast manner to come to some sort of a conclusion in Afghanistan—America’s longest running war, now in its 17th year. Trump is going to be the third US president to attempt to put an end to the American military’s quagmire in the country it entered after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. There is a palpable fear among diplomats in New Delhi and Nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) capitals that Trump may suddenly decide to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan and they might learn about this from his Twitter timeline. India, one of the most important stakeholders in the country, has little influence over Kabul’s future trajectory as far as security goes; much of it lies with Washington.

With ad-hoc regulation, India is missing out on a big opportunity in drones

Rahul Sachitanand

Until 2014, there was no sign of regulations around drones.
Earlier this year, Chennai-based drone-maker Aero360 was approached by an infrastructure company to carry out a topographical survey of a potential project site. The firm applied to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation(DGCA), the regulatory body, for permission to get this project airborne. DGCA gave its approval belatedly, but delays in approvals from agencies and the haze of confusion around the regulation on drones meant the plans remained firmly on the ground. This episode is typical for companies developing drones and drone-based applications in India. It can feel like building the technology of the future while being tied down by regulations from the past. As companies such as Aero360, Asteria Aerospace, Aarav Unmanned and Drona Aviation devise drones and a range of applications, ad-hoc regulations that many see as overly paranoid, are crippling growth. This, at a time when the world over, drones are being used in ever-rising range of applications, including many relevant to the developing world, such as health care interventions in rural areas. 

India’s evolving response to China’s ‘stealth threat’


New Delhi has been alarmed by China’s deployment of J-20 aircraft near India’s sensitive northeastern border. Last January the Chinese Air Force – officially known as the People’s Liberation Army Air Force or PLAAF – conducted extensive military exercises in Tibet with the Chengdu J-20 and other fighters, primarily the Chengdu J-10C and Shenyang J-11. The Chinese planes were using improved Tibetan airfields that China has made all-weather capable. There are now 14 important airfields in Tibet supporting PLAAF operations. Sometime in March, Indian SU-30MKI fighter jets were able to detect the J-20 stealth or low observable fighters on radar, according to senior Indian officials and even reported by Russian news agencies. India followed this up in April with a large-scale air exercise called Gagan Shakti 2018, covering the border with Pakistan, China and supporting maritime operations. (Gagan means GPS Aided Augmented Navigation; Shakti means power, ability and strength.) The Indian government said: “The aim of the exercise was real-time coordination, deployment and employment of air power in a short and intense battle scenario.”

Relations between Washington and Islamabad? It’s Complicated

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The Taliban Takes on Islamic State: Insurgents Vie for Control of Northern Afghanistan

By: Waliullah Rahmani
Source Link

Fierce fighting between the Taliban and Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), the Afghan chapter of IS, have seen hundreds of militants killed in Jowzjan and Faryab provinces, two provinces in northern Afghanistan considered to be IS-K strongholds. About 300 militants were killed in two weeks of clashes between IS-K and the Taliban, which began on July 25 in the Darzab district of Jowzjan. It was the Taliban’s third major offensive against their rivals, and saw about 200 IS-K fighters hand themselves over to government forces rather than face the Taliban. Video footage from August 1, released by the government, showed IS-K fighters demanding protection in return for their surrender (Khabarnama, August 2).

The Battle for Ghazni: A Wake-Up Call?

By Ankit Panda

Ghazni, Afghanistan’s twelfth largest city with a population of more than 150,000, is in crisis. On Friday, heavily armed Taliban fighters launched a major assault, reminiscent of previous assaults on major Afghan cities, including Kunduz in 2015 and Lashkar GahGhazni, while smaller than both those cities population-wise, isn’t peripheral—far from it. It sits on Highway 1, the Afghan national ring road, just about 150 kilometers from the capital city of Kabul, on the way to Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city. This month’s siege underlines just how precarious the Afghan government’s control of even the country’s major population nodes has become.

The Pakistan-China relationship is likely to maintain a familiar trajectory.

As economic pressure mounts for Pakistan, it is becoming clear that the new government under Prime Minister Imran Khan will have to borrow $12 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to ease pressure on dwindling foreign reserves and repay overseas loans. Pakistan is reeling from an economic crisis and the IMF is its savior of last resort. But there’s a twist in this tale. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced that Washington would block an IMF bailout package for Pakistan if it is used to repay Chinese loans borrowed under the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Pompeo underlined that U.S. taxpayer dollars were part of IMF funding and therefore the U.S. government would not allow a bailout package for Pakistan that could be used to repay Chinese creditors or the government of China.

Trump’s Afghanistan Strategy Is Falling Apart as the Taliban Surge on the Battlefield

WASHINGTON (AP) — A year after the Trump administration introduced its strategy for Afghanistan, the Taliban are asserting themselves on the battlefield even as U.S. officials talk up hopes for peace. That’s raising questions about the viability of the American game plan for ending a war that began when some of the current U.S. troops were in diapers. A Taliban assault on Ghazni, a key city linking areas of Taliban influence barely 75 miles from Kabul, has killed about 100 Afghan security forces and 20 civilians since Friday, the Afghan Defense Ministry said. That has demonstrated the militants’ ability to attack, if not hold, a strategic center on the nation’s main highway, and highlighted the vulnerability of Afghan security forces.

It’s Trump-Taliban Decision Time in Afghanistan: How To End America’s Longest War?

Donald Bolduc

In recent weeks, reports have surfaced in The Wall Street Journal and elsewherethat a senior State Department official, Deputy Assistant Secretary Alice Wells, has engaged in direct talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar. The State Department has confirmed only that she met in Doha with officials of the Qatar government. The Daily Beast also has reported on the months-long unofficial initiatives of retired U.S. Army Col. Chris Kolenda and Robin Raphel, a former U.S. ambassador, that helped open the way for these conversations. But talks need to be based on a plan and lead to a conclusion, and it is far from clear that any firm decision has been made by the United States government about what that should be, and how it might be reached. The missteps in Afghanistan have been significant and while we tread water trying to figure out what happened, or where to go, we are wasting precious resources: 2018 must be the year of change in our policy, strategy, leadership, and approach or we will never get off this road we have been on for the past 17-plus years.

Bangladesh- Protests of Students: Need for Caution?

By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan
A bad motor accident involving the death of two students, followed by violent protests by students, inept handling of the protests by the Government and an indiscreet statement by the shipping and transport minister making light of the accident- all added up to an explosive situation in Dhaka and other major cities in Bangladesh. And this was when the parties were gearing up for National elections towards the end of the year!

Inept Government Response:

The Government was certainly taken aback by the spontaneity and the rapid spread of the protests in other major cities, but it did not crown itself with glory when it allowed its student wing- the BCL and other pro government vigilantes to take on the students. Worse still, some journalists including photo journalists were assaulted by unknown thugs who evidently were supporting the government.

Xi Jinping's Path for China

Editor's Note: This article is written by a member of Stratfor's Asia-Pacific team and is informed by their most recent visit to China. Since assuming power, Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken many steps to reshape his country, de-emphasizing growth to build a more sustainable economy and engaging in more proactive diplomacy. He has also been rewriting political rules to establish himself as a strongman. But as China's economy slows while the United States escalates its trade attacks, policy debates inside the country are intensifying and testing core pillars of Xi's economic and foreign policies — as well as his own political strength. Despite the challenges, China cannot afford to dial back its progress in economic development and global involvement, especially considering its growing strategic competition with the United States.

The Coming Chinese Storm


Mark Kelton, the CIA’s Former Deputy Director for Counterintelligence writes that “the Chinese intelligence storm bearing down on the U.S. has long since announced itself, building from that portentous breeze to a truly gale force. It is a secret assault on America that is without parallel since the assault mounted by Moscow in the 1930’s and 40’s.[1] As was the case during that so-called “Golden Age” of Soviet espionage, Beijing’s ongoing intelligence campaign has garnered no more than episodic public attention, and then only when a spy is arrested or a high-profile cyber-attack is detected.”

Myanmar: China-Myanmar Economic Corridor- Another “Hambantota” in the Making?

By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan
Source Link

In the first week of July, Myanmar formally announced that China and Myanmar have agreed to a 15-point Memorandum of Understanding on building a China-Myanmar Economic Corridor as part of the Belt Road Initiative. Formal signing of the agreement is expected to take place soon. The Corridor will run from Yunnan Province of China to Mandalay in Central Myanmar, then proceed east towards Yangon and then west to the already established Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) on the Bay of Bengal. The two Governments have agreed to collaborate in many sectors that would include basic Infrastructure, Construction, Manufacture, Agriculture, Transport, Finance, Human Resources Development, telecommunications, Research and Technology. This would cover a wide spectrum of most economic and social activities. The real thrust is in developing a geo strategic infrastructure for the Chinese and the rest are mere dressings that will make it acceptable to the public.

A Reappraisal of China-Iran Ties After US JCPOA Withdrawal

By: Roie Yellinek
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On May 8, after weeks of negotiations with European leaders, US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal signed between Iran and several other world powers, citing concerns that the JCPOA had failed to constrain Iran’s progress in nuclear weapons development. Not all world leaders shared Trump’s approach. Apart from Iran’s leaders, who, naturally, objected to the imposition of renewed sanctions on their country, European and Chinese leaders both expressed discontent, and have since worked with Iran to preserve elements of the existing deal (Anadolu Agency, May 16). While Britain, Germany and France might find themselves adversely affected by US withdrawal, China and, to a certain extent, Russia, might gain. The reactions of each of the world powers following Trump’s announcement reflect this understanding.

Risky Business: A Case Study of PRC Investment in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan

By: Danny Anderson
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China’s “New Silk Road” or “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) has reached Central Asia in resounding fashion. As a result, the republics of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have seen large increases in Chinese presence and investment. Although both countries have overlapping needs, the degree and character of PRC involvement in each has differed. PRC investment in Tajikistan is characterized by expensive loans on infrastructure investment and energy projects that the country may be unable to repay (Avesta.tj, December 25, 2017). Kyrgyzstan, while having hosted similar projects, is also attempting to move the country into the twenty-first century by improving its transportation and digital infrastructure (Tazakoom.kg). Development experts classify both countries as “high-risk” for debt distress given public debt projections (cgdev.org). However, despite the risk of such an outcome, both countries appear inclined to welcome PRC investment with open arms, as a way of funding needed investment like power generation and logistical links with the outside world.

‘No Such Thing’: China Denies U.N. Reports of Uighur Detention Camps

By Nick Cumming-Bruce
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GENEVA — China issued a blanket denial on Monday of accusations from United Nations experts that it had detained more than a million ethnic Uighur Muslims in re-education camps in the western region of Xinjiang. Beijing has progressively tightened security in Xinjiang since an eruption of violence there in 2009, but the crackdown has escalated since 2016, when a new Communist Party secretary for the region began widely expanding security services and surveillance. Gay McDougall, a member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, spoke of the region on Friday as becoming “something resembling a massive internment camp,” with mass detention, re-education and disappearances.

China Advances Signals Intelligence

Kimberly Underwood

For the last decade, “informatization” of its national civilian and military infrastructure has been a top priority for the People’s Republic of China. The country’s efforts to become a global power in information and communications technology include a focus on signals intelligence. Out of its $150 billion total defense budget, the country is spending an estimated $15 billion on signals intelligence, said David Stupples, professor of electronic and radio systems, City, University of London, at an August 9 Association of Old Crows (AOC) online event. Not surprisingly, China has the most extensive signals intelligence (SIGINT) capability of any country in the Indo-Pacific region. With increasing tensions in the South China Sea, China’s significant military presence is supported by “unprecedented levels of SIGINT activity,” Stupples noted. The professor ventures that, in particular, China is preparing a major SIGINT facility on Woody Island in the Paracel Islands to “give Beijing an unprecedented reconnaissance overview” of the South China Sea region. 

From laboratory in far west, China’s surveillance state spreads quietly

BEIJING (Reuters) - Filip Liu, a 31-year-old software developer from Beijing, was traveling in the far western Chinese region of Xinjiang when he was pulled to one side by police as he got off a bus. The officers took Liu’s iPhone, hooked it up to a handheld device that looked like a laptop and told him they were “checking his phone for illegal information”. Liu’s experience in Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital, is not uncommon in a region that has been wracked by separatist violence and a crackdown by security forces. But such surveillance technologies, tested out in the laboratory of Xinjiang, are now quietly spreading across China. Government procurement documents collected by Reuters and rare insights from officials show the technology Liu encountered in Xinjiang is encroaching into cities like Shanghai and Beijing.

Plunge in Lira, Turkey’s Currency, Fuels Fears of Financial Contagion

By Jack Ewing and Alexandra Stevenson
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Turkey’s currency fell to another record low on Monday, hitting stocks in Europe and Asia and raising fears that the country is on the verge of an economic meltdown that could spread to other emerging markets. The crisis, caused by soaring inflation, economic mismanagement by the Turkish government and tensions with the United States, has raised concerns over whether emerging economies that have benefited in recent years from foreign investment may also be vulnerable. Rising interest rates in the United States and in Europe have made investors less tolerant of emerging markets. Foreign investors piled money into Turkish assets for years, lured by what appeared to be a stable economy and higher returns. But as interest rates rise in countries seen as safer, the relative attractiveness of riskier investments wanes. A crisis like the one in Turkey may be all it takes to send them fleeing.

Crisis and Conviction: US Grand Strategy in Trump’s Second Term

By Patrick Porter

In the spring of 2014, before Donald Trump’s presidency was even a rumor, I began an article about the sources of U.S. grand strategy. By “grand strategy,” I mean a state’s way of orchestrating means and ends to achieve security over the long haul. I argued that the habitual ideas and pervasive influence of the U.S. foreign policy establishment make the fundamentals of American statecraft hard to change. What former advisor Ben Rhodes called the “Blob” and what former National Security Council official Michael Anton called the “priesthood” defines and dominates the ecosystem in which foreign policy is made. It exerts its influence through its expertise and its advantageous structural position as a “revolving door” between government, academia, think tanks, foundations, and corporations, reinforced by the feedback loop of allies’ demands for American patronage. In turn, the establishment successfully advances the view that the only prudent and legitimate grand strategy for the United States is “primacy,” the pursuit and sustainment of unrivalled dominance.

Laws of Armed Conflict in Gaza

By John Toolan

For months now, recurring clashes between Israel and Hamas in Gaza have featured a mix of old and new. Always seeking innovative ways to target Israel, Hamas has debuted new tactics like indiscriminate airborne incendiaries and interspersing terror cells in crowds of civilians attempting to infiltrate Israel. But the purpose of such tactics follows a dangerous, underappreciated pattern of terrorist groups intentionally trying to delegitimize Israel’s lawful self-defense. In the case of Gaza, Hamas attacks Israel and violates the laws of armed conflict by forcing the deaths of civilians to trigger heated condemnations of Israel. From the outset of ongoing fighting in March, Hamas’s attacks on Israel’s border were ostensibly peaceful protests declared to be the “Great March of Return.” These demonstrations, organized under the pretext of Palestinians exercising their “right” to return to ancestral homes in Israel, in reality involved Hamas encouraging thousands of Gazans to storm and potentially break through Israel’s border fence en masse. Hamas implanted its military operatives within the onrushing crowds, effectively using civilians as human shields.

Take it from the military: Climate security is national security


President Trump has insisted that national security is his top priority, repeatedly pledging to protect Americans and equip our military to be the most effective in the world. However, Trump’s failure to act decisively on climate change puts Americans at more risk than ever before. Having spent over 30 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, I’m acutely aware that climate security is national security, a fact recognized by both Republican and Democratic administrations. Since 2010, the Department of Defense has released dozens of reports confirming the urgent threat of climate change to our national security. That’s because our military leaders, responsible for protecting Americans, don’t have the luxury of ignoring reality to score political points. They correctly recognize that climate change threatens vital American infrastructure, hampers our military’s readiness, accelerates instability across the globe, and puts American lives at risk.

How prepared is the U.S. to fend off cyber warfare? Better at offense than defense

“We spent years worrying about the giant cyber-Pearl Harbor,” says David Sanger, author of “The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age.” But, he argues, that has blinded us to more subtle uses, in which we are all collateral damage. Sanger joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the threats and realities, how the U.S. wages cyber warfare, and how prepared the U.S. is to stop attacks.

Nick Schifrin:

Last week, David Sanger of The New York Times reported that Russian intelligence hackers are now more focused on disrupting the U.S. electrical grid than on sowing chaos in the U.S. electoral system.

Cyberwar and Security in the Trump Era

By Jacob Weisberg

Jacob Weisberg talks to Clint Watts, the author of Messing With the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News, about the question of cyberwar. What is it? What counts? Does the United States have a clear strategy around it? And what's some basic internet hygiene we all can practice for safe surfing? Slate Plus members get extended, ad-free episodes of Slate’s Trumpcast every week. Membership costs just $35 for your first year. Sign up today and try Slate Plus free for two weeks.Join Now

German cyberwarriors assert right to ‘hack back’ when attacked

By: Sebastian Sprenger 
Source Link

COLOGNE, Germany – German authorities believe they are on firm legal footing to retaliate against cyber attacks by unleashing digital or conventional counterattacks, according to a series of recent written responses by government officials to lawmakers. The documents shed light on some of the legal considerations of cyber-warfare mulled in Berlin, just as the Bundeswehr moves toward full operational capability of a new command devoted to cyber operations. Some of the assertions outlined in a missive last month are surprisingly hawkish for a country reflexively averse to the use of military force. While acknowledging certain gray areas in responding to potentially crippling cyber attacks, officials also made clear that defending the country would afford the security services broad leeway under international law.

AI Will Change the Balance of Power

We live in the cognitive age—an era when we will begin replicating, and exceeding, the prowess of the human mind in specific domains of expertise. While the implications of artificial intelligence (AI) are broad, as we head deeper into this new era, we will find that AI combined with myriad exponential technologies will carry us inexorably toward a different form of warfare that will unfold at speeds we cannot fully anticipate—a form of warfare we call hyperwar. Historically, the balance of power between belligerents has been dictated in great measure by the relative size of their armies. Knowledge of terrain, skill, and technology all have been multipliers for smaller forces, but quantity has had a quality all its own. If one sets aside consideration of nuclear weapons, which allow small states such as Israel and North Korea to hold their opponents at bay, the outcomes of conventional conflicts are determined primarily by a country’s ability to field a larger force, sustained over a longer period of time—the costs of which are enormous.



FRESH FROM CHURCH on a cool, overcast Sunday morning in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, Alex Glover slides onto the plastic bench of a McDonald’s booth. He rummages through his knapsack, then pulls out a plastic sandwich bag full of white powder. “I hope we don’t get arrested,” he says. “Someone might get the wrong idea.” GLOVER IS A recently retired geologist who has spent decades hunting for valuable minerals in the hillsides and hollows of the Appalachian Mountains that surround this tiny town. He is a small, rounded man with little oval glasses, a neat white mustache, and matching hair clamped under a Jeep baseball cap. He speaks with a medium‑strength drawl that emphasizes the first syllable and stretches some vowels, such that we’re drinking CAWWfee as he explains why this remote area is so tremendously important to the rest of the world.

Google wants to know everything about you: Google tracks your movements, even when you tell it not to

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to. An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so. Computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the AP’s request. For the most part, Google is upfront about asking permission to use your location information. An app like Google Maps will remind you to allow access to location if you use it for navigating. If you agree to let it record your location over time, Google Maps will display that history for you in a “timeline” that maps out your daily movements.

Army CEMA Teams Advance Information, Electronic and Cyber Warfare

By Kimberly Underwood
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After completing 10 training rotations, the Army's Cyber-Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) teams are building on the experience of readying warfighters in information, electronic and cyber warfare. The U.S. Army’s efforts to bring electronic warfare, information warfare and cyber capabilities into expeditionary forces is succeeding, Army leaders report. To better support tactical commanders, the service developed a pilot program in 2015 to add such capabilities to brigade combat teams (BCTs). In addition to providing equipment, abilities and authorities to BCTs, the service deployed cyber electromagnetic activities (CEMA) teams to support the initiative known as CEMA Support to Corps and Below (CSCB). The CEMA teams, under the guidance of the U.S. Army Cyber Command, provide training to brigade combat teams (BCTs) through National Training Center (NTC) rotations at exercises and home-base training. So far the CEMA teams have completed 10 rotations at these combat training centers.

Why America Loses Every War It Starts

Larry Kummer

Since the official end of the Cold War in 1991, remarkably, the United States has been at war or engaged in significant military conflicts and interventions for over two-thirds of the intervening years. Tens of thousands of American soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen have been killed or wounded in these conflicts.
Wars and conflicts in Iraq in 1991;
Somalia, 1992–93;
the global war on terror,
Afghanistan, 2001–present;
Iraq, 2003–present; and
Syria and Yemen since 2016

— represent a total of nineteen of the past twenty-six years in which this nation’s armed forces have been engaged in combat!