13 September 2018

India playing wily game with US, Russia and China

By Liu Zongyi

The twice-postponed two plus two ministerial dialogue between the US and India took place on September 6 in New Delhi, during which US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis held talks with their Indian counterparts - External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, over a string of issues including bilateral security cooperation, US sanctions against Iran and India's purchase of Russian air defense missiles. Before the dialogue, many analysts thought the US demand to halt India's oil imports from Iran and India's purchase of Russian S-400 air defense system, especially the latter, would hinder the progress of the US-India strategic defense partnership. Unexpectedly, Washington made concessions on these issues. An important step forward, the US and India signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), and agreed to hold joint exercises involving the air force, navy and the army off the eastern Indian coast in 2019. The dialogue yielded a satisfactory result for India. 

India: The Next Big Aircraft Carrier Power (or Paper Tiger)?

by Zachary Keck

As IHS Jane’s pointed out, INS Vikramaditya was supposed to be supplemented this year or next by India’s first indigenously built aircraft carrier. Not surprisingly, this has been pushed back considerably. India’s aircraft carrier ambitions just passed a major milestone. On August 2, India’s domestically built Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) conducted an arrested landing for the very first time. The naval variant of the LCA is India’s first indigenous carrier-based aircraft. The Teja didn’t land on a carrier deck. In fact, it didn’t land at all. The aircraft was simply practicing grabbing a tailhook of an arresting wire from the ground.

UIDAI’s Aadhaar Software Hacked, ID Database Compromised, Experts Confirm

By Rachna Khaira, Aman Sethi, Gopal Sathe

NEW DELHI—The authenticity of the data stored in India's controversial Aadhaaridentity database, which contains the biometrics and personal information of over 1 billion Indians, has been compromised by a software patch that disables critical security features of the software used to enrol new Aadhaar users, a three month-long investigation by HuffPost India reveals. The patch—freely available for as little as Rs 2,500 (around $35)— allows unauthorised persons, based anywhere in the world, to generate Aadhaar numbers at will, and is still in widespread use. This has significant implications for national security at a time when the Indian government has sought to make Aadhaar numbers the gold standard for citizen identification, and mandatory for everything from using a mobile phone to accessing a bank account.

9/11 and the Islamic Civil War

Jacob L. Shapiro 

It’s been 17 years since the al-Qaida terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center, and the U.S. has been at war ever since – with Afghanistan, with the Taliban, with al-Qaida, with terrorism, with the “axis of evil,” with Iraq, with the Islamic State. The events of that day revealed a great deal about America, but 17 years later, many of those revelations have been forgotten or were never realized. The most important that remains is that al-Qaida knew the U.S. better than the U.S. knew itself. Thousands died in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania on 9/11, and in a combination of grief, rage, vengeance and self-centeredness, the U.S. reacted as though the attacks were an end in themselves. The response was exactly what the terrorists had hoped it would be. They knew the U.S. would barge into the Muslim world with guns blazing to punish those who had dared attack it, who had shattered the post-Cold War dream of having achieved a more peaceful global order. Most of all, al-Qaida knew it could use the U.S. reaction in a much larger conflict: an Islamic civil war that has been raging across an 8,000-mile front for decades, and to which there is no end in sight.

Stuck Fighting the Last War

Hassan Hassan

Seventeen years after 9/11, the outcome of the War on Terror that followed seems indisputable. Al-Qaeda operates in many more countries and has a larger number of followers than it did before 2001. Other threats have emerged, as well. The Islamic State overshadowed its former patron in al-Qaeda in 2014, when it controlled vast areas in multiple countries, and has left behind misery, devastation, and hatred that could fuel conflicts for another generation. The war against extremism is not working. The problem lies in the persistent tendency to view the threat of jihadism through the post-2001 prism. The attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., still shape the way both policy makers and experts on jihad approach the subject. But the threat of extremism today is better understood through events that took place after 2011, when the Arab Spring and its aftermath overturned the established order in the Middle East and North Africa, and with it the world of extremism.

Afghanistan, Western Region: Drought Response 3Ws (15 July - 04 September 2018)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

Al Qaeda Won


This year marks the 17th anniversary of 9/11, an awkward number offering an awkward amount of hindsight. The day is not quite memory, not yet history. Subsequent events during those 17 years—not only the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq but also the arrival of the smartphone and social media—have transformed its significance. 9/11 was a defining moment in the history of war and terrorism, but it was also the first attack conceived for and executed through the means of digital connection. It was to the internet what the Challenger explosion was to cable television, an event defined by the arrival of the way it was related, an act of war suited to technologically enabled mass storytelling and media saturation. The Canadian scholar Marshall McLuhan once predicted that World War III would be a “guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.” 9/11 was the beginning of that war.

Our Troops Are Still Dying in Afghanistan. For What?

by Markos Kounalakis

Twenty-seven years ago, I was in Afghanistan to watch the Russians cut and run from a military quagmire and failed occupation that helped bring down the Soviet Union. In 2018, America is ready to walk away from a similarly failed military adventure. As Lt. Col. John W. Nicholson Jr., the exiting American and NATO forces’ commander in Afghanistan put it, “It is time for this war in Afghanistan to end.”

He’s right.

A Winning Strategy for Afghanistan

Stephen B. Young

The United States intelligence agencies and military commands can’t agree on whether to be “cautiously optimistic” or “cautiously pessimistic” on prospects for Afghanistan. What both do agree on, however, is that the United States and its Afghan partners have not defeated the Taliban either on the battlefield or by bringing them to negotiated terms of living in peace with other Afghans. The reasons for our failure are simple to understand but unacceptable for a great power. First was the eager rush to forget our Vietnam experience – even the successful CORDS counterinsurgency program in the villages of South Vietnam after 1968. Second was a narcissistic myopia at the level of strategic planning. In the 1990s our foreign policy and national security elites fixated on only two kinds of unilateral power – hard and soft. We suffered from the conceit that, after the fall of the Soviet Union and with the peaceful rise of China under Deng Xiaoping, the world was uni-polar, and we Americans were that single pole of international power with no need to cultivate other nations in alliances.

Weighing the Impact of Russian LNG in Pakistan

By: William H. Persing

Pakistan’s new prime minister, Imran Khan, announced, on September 5, the formation of a Cabinet Committee on Energy to address Pakistan’s growing energy demands (Dawn, September 5). Although Khan looks to distance himself from his predecessor, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, one policy he will likely continue is improving bilateral relations with Moscow. Exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) may prove to be another way for Russia to signal its expanding cooperation with Pakistan and for Khan to demonstrate his reformist energy agenda.

No Hindus will be left in Bangladesh after 30 years: professor

No Hindus will be left in Bangladesh 30 years from now if the current rate of “exodus” continues as on an average 632 people from the minority community leave the Muslim-majority country each day, according to an eminent economist. “The rate of exodus over the past 49 years points to that direction,” Dhaka Tribune quoted Dr Abul Barkat, a Dhaka university professor, as saying. There will be no Hindus left in the country three decades from now, Barkat said in his book ‘Political economy of reforming agriculture-land-water bodies in Bangladesh’ which was published on November 19, the paper said. From 1964 to 2013, around 11.3 million Hindus left Bangladesh due to religious persecution and discrimination which means on an average 632 Hindus left the country each day and 230,612 annually, he said at the book launch ceremony at the Dhaka University (DU).

Nobody Knows Anything About China


As a foreigner in China, you get used to hearing the retort “You don’t know China!” spat at you by locals. It’s usually a knee-jerk reaction to some uncomfortable modern issue or in defense of one of the many historical myths children in the mainland are taught as unshakeable facts about the world. But it’s also true. We don’t know China. Nor, however, do the Chinese — not even the government. We don’t know China because, in ways that have generally not been acknowledged, virtually every piece of information issued from or about the country is unreliable, partial, or distorted. The sheer scale of the country, mixed with a regime of ever-growing censorship and a pervasive paranoia about sharing information, has crippled our ability to know China. Official data is repeatedly smoothed for both propaganda purposes and individual career ambitions. That goes as much for Chinese as it does for foreigners; access may sometimes be easier for Chinese citizens, but the costs of going after information can be even higher.

China’s Gig Economy is Driving Close to the Edge


In the 1980s, free-marketeers, wielding pagers and zipping around the streets of China’s biggest cities in minibuses, boldly navigated the emergent gray zones of a novel economic frontier of “reform and opening.” In the 1990s and into the new millennium, a flood of migrant workers, braving semi-legal status and the contempt of city dwellers, left their provincial homes and poured into urban factories, becoming the human engine driving China’s continued growth. Now, in 2018, it is the millions of truck drivers, food delivery couriers, livestreamers, and freelancers—many still migrants—piecing together their livelihoods in China’s booming gig economy who are on the cutting edge of the country’s economic growth. Like their predecessors, these new economic pioneers highlight the tensions between engineering and sustaining growth in the world’s second-largest economy and maintaining ideological and political control over 1.4 billion people. Those tensions are manifesting in strikes and protests across the country, led by workers fed up with being at the bottom of the pile.

Google Is Handing the Future of the Internet to China


In May, Google quietly removed “Don’t be evil” from the text of its corporate code of conduct, deleting a catchphrase that had been associated with the company since 2000. Amid startling revelations of how social media and internet platforms can enable political interference and new forms of stealthy cyberwarfare, avoiding evil in Silicon Valley has turned out to be harder than it looks. In a world where Twitter’s terrorist may be Facebook’s freedom fighter, decisions over what content to algorithmically uplift or suppress can involve agonizing questions of interpretation, intent, and cultural context.

China and Russia in Global Governance: Long-Term Obstacles to Cooperation

By Marcin Kaczmarski

Russia and China play dissimilar roles in global governance and define their interests in this sphere in divergent ways. While the two states agree on certain international principles and norms, their engagement with global governance differs significantly. These differences pose the most serious long-term obstacle to closer cooperation between Moscow and Beijing. China’s growing participation in global governance is tightly linked to the increasing scope of its interests. China supports economic globalization and market openness and is interested in political and economic stability on a global scale. Beijing also aspires to have a greater say in international institutions. In comparison to China, Russia’s participation in global governance is significantly lower due to narrower interests on a global scale, fewer financial resources, and less advanced integration into the global economy. As a result, global political and economic stability is not crucially important for the current Russian leadership. On the contrary, uncertainty and volatility help Moscow broaden its influence.

What Do the Trump Administration’s Changes to PPD-20 Mean for U.S. Offensive Cyber Operations?

Erica D. Borghard is an assistant professor and Shawn W. Lonergan is a research fellow at the Army Cyber Institute at West Point. Lonergan is also a U.S. Army Reserve cyber officer assigned to 75th Innovation Command. You can follow them @eborghard and @Shawn_LonerganThe Wall Street Journal recently reported that the Donald J. Trump administration removed some of the restrictions governing the approval process for offensive cyberattacks conducted against U.S. adversaries under Presidential Policy Directive 20 (PPD-20). With the elevation of U.S. Cyber Command to a unified combatant command in May 2018—on par with the Pentagon’s other combatant commands—the logic behind the reported revisions was that the commander of Cyber Command should have authority to take action comparable to that of other combatant command commanders.

Security Brief: Pentagon Draws Up ‘Options’ for Striking Assad; Trump Expands CIA’s Drone Mission in Africa


The possibility of another U.S. military strike on Syria, where Assad has used chemical weapons against rebels, is looking more and more likely, as the military draws up options for the president. Meanwhile, Jared and Ivanka take the lead on the investigation into who wrote that anonymous New York Times op-ed, and use the crisis to go after an old foe, Chief of Staff John Kelly. Also, the CIA is expanding its drone war in Africa, Trump hails North Korea’s decision to pull missiles from this weekend’s parade, Russian spy intrigue, and more. Good Monday morning, and welcome to Security Brief. Please send your tips, questions, and feedback to lara.seligman@foreignpolicy.com.

The Failures of Globalism

By Molly Dinneen

For many years, the world hummed a sweet, optimistic tune about the benefits of globalization. Pundits like the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman noted the cascading advantages of an increasingly interconnected world with little appreciation for its uneven benefits. Only recently have a few prominent politicians and scholars in the West flagrantly voiced their opposition to the siren song of globalism. Despite living in a world evermore interwoven, the growing divides between globalization’s winners and losers are expanding. These so-called losers are becoming more vocal, especially now that it significantly impacts the developed world. Now everyone is beginning to sound the refrain from P!nk’s recent release “What About Us?” They’re asking, “What about us? What about all the plans that ended in disaster?”

Putin Pivots From Western Pressure, but Finds Scant Solace in the East

By: Pavel K. Baev

The annual Russia-hosted Eastern Economic Forum is about to open (September 11–13) in Vladivostok, and President Vladimir Putin has arrived there to greet the leaders of China, Japan, Mongolia and South Korea. This carefully prepared ceremony should provide relief for him from the mounting tensions in relations with the West and from the difficult bargaining in Tehran with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Kommersant, September 8). Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Asian dignitaries can indeed pretend that they have never heard of the “Skripal affair” (see below) and care little about the new escalation of the Syrian war. That said, they have their own concerns about Russia’s behavior under the pressure of expanding Western sanctions, even if South Korea had opted out of this regime and Japan is signaling possible relaxation if Moscow shows flexibility on the deadlocked issue of the South Kurile Islands (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 2).

The Global Economy Ten Years After


In the decade since the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the start of the global financial crisis, the world economy has registered stronger growth than many realize, owing in large part to China. But in the years ahead, global economic imbalances and troubling trends in the business world will continue to pose economic as well as political risks. LONDON – Much will be said about the tenth anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis, so I will focus on the global economy, which has not been nearly as weak as many seem to think.

Russian Propaganda’s Western Enablers


The Finnish author Sofi Oksanen once observed that Russia’s information warfare works because its targets are often willing participants. As noxious as the Kremlin’s information warfare may seem to democratic voters, Western governments often exhibit little interest in or ability to affect the status quo.  Every day seems to bring a new revelation about Russia’s political meddling in Western countries. From Twitter trolls sowing discord among voters, to the Kremlin’s alleged support for extremist groups, Russian propaganda is undermining trust in democratic governance. And although Western politicians may talk tough in response to the Kremlin’s efforts to upend the status quo, their actions often betray a weaker hand. Russia’s ability to influence journalism and literature is a case in point.

Security Brief: Pentagon Draws Up ‘Options’ for Striking Assad; Trump Expands CIA’s Drone Mission in Africa


The possibility of another U.S. military strike on Syria, where Assad has used chemical weapons against rebels, is looking more and more likely, as the military draws up options for the president. Meanwhile, Jared and Ivanka take the lead on the investigation into who wrote that anonymous New York Times op-ed, and use the crisis to go after an old foe, Chief of Staff John Kelly. Also, the CIA is expanding its drone war in Africa, Trump hails North Korea’s decision to pull missiles from this weekend’s parade, Russian spy intrigue, and more.

Good Monday morning, and welcome to Security Brief. Please send your tips, questions, and feedback to lara.seligman@foreignpolicy.com.

This Is Where Iran Defeats the United States


In foreign policy, as in life, it is always a good idea to be nice to your friends, because you never know when you might need them. Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Masoud Barzani, the leader of the largest Kurdish party in the Iraqi parliament, to ask for his support on an urgent foreign-policy goal: securing a second term for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, therefore blocking an Iran-backed alternative. Once upon a time, the answer would have been an automatic yes. But last October, the Trump administration allowed a Shiite militia leader (and convicted terrorist) to use U.S.-supplied tanks in an anti-Kurdish operation directed by Qassem Suleimani, the general who heads Iran’s Quds Force. Not surprisingly, the Kurds are today less inclined to accommodate what they see as a faithless ally.

DARPA, Army & Team Platypus: Big Boosts For Artificial Intelligence


Aerospace Corporation’s “Team Platypus” won $100,000 grand prize in an Army competition to apply artificial intelligence and machine learning to electronic warfare. WASHINGTON: This afternoon, DARPA announced a five-year, $2 billion “AI Next” program to invest in artificial intelligence, with 2019 AI spending alone jumping 25 percent to $400 million. It’s all part of a big Pentagon push to compete with ChinaThe vision is for future weapons and sensors, robots and satellites, to work together in a global “mosaic,” DARPA director Steven Walker told reporters. Rather than rely on slow-moving humans to coordinate the myriad systems, he said, you’re “building enough AI into the machines so that they can actually communicate and network (with each other) at machine speed in real time.”

Steven Walker

Why DHS needs better mobile security than other agencies

By: Justin Lynch

As hackers become more sophisticated, the top IT officer at the Department of Homeland Security says he needs better mobile security features compared to other U.S. government agencies. The Department of Homeland Security “really operates differently than [the Department of Defense]. We are a very mobile organization, so my attack vectors are out there,” said John Zangardi during the Billington Cybersecurity summit Sept. 7. “We are out there on our mobile devices all day long, and that’s not the case with DoD.” Zangardi would know. He previously served as the Pentagon’s acting chief information officer from October 2016 to November 2017.

Refining the Defense Department’s cyberwarrior ‘carrier’

By: Mark Pomerleau  

The Department of Defense cyber community knows it has a critical need for a centralized platform for cyberwarriors, so the joint community is collaborating to ensure the final system has everything everyone needs. The Unified Platform, as it’s known, will serve as the aircraft carrier, airplane or tank, so to speak, from which cyberwarriors plan and launch attacks. A proposal for the next generation cyber operations platform went out to industry recently, however, details are scarce. “We’re working with Cyber Command to make sure we’ve got the requirement right for Unified Platform,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Fogarty, commander of Army Cyber Command, said during a keynote presentation at TechNet Augusta in August.

Confidentiality, Integrity, Authenticity

By Justin Sherman

CIA—confidentiality, integrity, authenticity—is the core foundation of information security. Anyone who has taken an introductory class in network security or operating systems (or a cyberspace survey course) knows these principles. These principals define/illustrate a Western- or liberal-democratic-centric definition of cybersecurity or “information security.” Other countries certainly don’t see information—or even “cyber” itself—in quite the same way. Russian uses of “information security,” for instance, are far more philosophical, and the same goes for China, who has historically pushed censorship, surveillance, and other human rights abuses via the Internet under the guise of “information security.”

Journalism, International Affairs and the New Information Order

By Graeme Dobell

The shifting role of international media is akin to the changing-times tale told by the university economics professor retiring after 40 years of teaching. At his farewell, the prof confessed that for those four decades he’d set exactly the same questions in the economics exam each year. Wasn’t that boring as well as lazy? ‘Ah! That’s the point’, he explained. ‘The exam questions stayed the same, but every decade the correct answers changed!’ And that’s the story of the media in international affairs over the past 50 years. The questions—the obsessions—still tend to rhyme. Problem is, the correct answers—the journo’s reality—keeps transforming.

The Promise and Pitfalls of AI


The AI revolution will bring short-term pain before long-term gains. If that pain occurs against a backdrop of frustration with the unequal distribution of AI's benefits, it may trigger a backlash against technologies that could otherwise produce a virtuous cycle of higher productivity, income growth, and employment-boosting demand. Like any transformative trend, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) poses both major opportunities and significant challenges. But the gravest risks may not be the ones most often discussed.

The Houthi War Machine: From Guerrilla War to State Capture


Abstract: The Houthi rebels have been at war with the Yemeni government almost constantly since 2004. In the first six years, the Houthis fought an increasingly effective guerrilla war in their mountainous home provinces, but after 2010, they metamorphosed into the most powerful military entity in the country, capturing the three largest cities in Yemen. The Houthis quickly fielded advanced weapons they had never before controlled, including many of Iranian origin. The story of how they moved from small-arms ambushes to medium-range ballistic missiles in half a decade provides a case study of how an ambitious militant group can capture and use a state’s arsenals and benefit from Iran’s support.