28 October 2018

There’s No Path to Victory in Afghanistan


This month, for the first time, the U.S. armed forces are recruiting young men and women who weren’t yet born when the invasion of Afghanistan took place. The war has been going on for 17 years now (17-year-olds can enlist with parental consent), making it the longest war in American history. Yet we are no closer than we have ever been to accomplishing our objectives, in part because those objectives have been so sketchily, inconsistently, and unrealistically defined. In fact, the Taliban is gaining strength; other jihadist groups, including ISIS and a revivified al-Qaida, are joining the fight (against the Afghan government, Western forces, and the Taliban); the Afghan Army is suffering casualties at an alarming rate; the chaos is spiraling to unsustainable levels. Just Thursday, a gunman wearing an Afghan Army uniform opened fire at a security meeting in a government compound, killing two top provincial governors, wounding three U.S. officers, and just missing the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, who was the apparent target of the attack.

'Series Of Oversights’ Reportedly Contributed To Recent Death Of US Soldier In Afghanistan


A number of oversights may have contributed to the Oct. 4 death of a U.S. Army National Guard explosive ordnance disposal technician in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, the New York Times reportsThe Times investigation into the improvised explosive device strike that killed Army Spc. James A. Slape found that his unit repeatedly used the same patrol routes during its daily operations, “prompting Taliban militants to bury explosives nearby,” military officials toldthe Times. On the day Slape was killed, a platoon with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment left Camp Dwyer and drove seven miles to a ridge, which the unit frequently used as an observation post from which to intercept Taliban radio and phone traffic, the Times reports.

Ballots and bullets in Afghanistan

Vanda Felbab-Brown

Despite Taliban threats of violence to disrupt last Saturday’s parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, many Afghans showed up in large numbers to vote. Their commitment once again debunked the myths and caricatures so readily put forth by Western commentators that Afghans do not want democracy. Over and over the Afghan people have shown that they want accountability from their leaders, inclusion, and justice. And, once again, the long-delayed elections showed how the commitments and desires of the Afghan people are frustrated by dysfunctional political processes and systems that often render their voices meaningless, further exacerbating the steadily worsening security situation.


Trump’s Plan to Leave a Major Arms Treaty With Russia Might Actually Be About China

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President Donald Trump’s proposal to pull out of a major U.S. arms control agreement with Russia is not just about Moscow, or nuclear weapons. The move also clears a path to boost America’s conventional forces in China’s backyard, according to arms control experts as well as current and former administration officials. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, signed in 1987 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, prohibits the use of nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km (300 to 3,400 miles). But since China has never been a signatory, it has been able to build up a vast arsenal of conventional weapons that now threaten freedom of navigation in the region, such as the DF-21 “carrier killer,” experts say.


By Christopher Balding

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an enormous international investment project touted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, was supposed to establish Chinese soft power. Since late 2013, Beijing has poured nearly $700 billion worth of Chinese money into more than sixty countries (according to research by RWR Advisory), much of it in the form of large-scale infrastructure projects and loans to governments that would otherwise struggle to pay for them. The idea was to draw these countries closer to Beijing while boosting Chinese soft power abroad.

China-US ties sinking amid acrimony over trade, politics

BEIJING (AP) — "Both ignorant and malicious" was how the official China Daily newspaper recently described comments by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, offering a stinging insight into the current bitter tone of discourse between the countries. The White House's move to expand Washington's dispute with Beijing beyond trade and technology and into accusations of political meddling has sunk relations between the world's two largest economies to the lowest level since the Cold War. A major speech by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Oct. 4 was the clearest, highest-level sign that U.S. strategy was turning from engagement to confrontation. Pence accused China of interfering in the midterm elections to undermine President Donald Trump's tough trade policies against Beijing, warned other countries to be wary of Beijing's "debt diplomacy" and denounced China's actions in the South China Sea.

The Sino-American cold war’s collateral damage

Minxin Pei
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The escalating trade feud between the United States and China is increasingly viewed as the opening campaign of a new cold war. But this clash of titans, should it continue to escalate, will cost both parties dearly, to the point that even the winner (more likely to be the US) would probably find its victory Pyrrhic. Yet it is the rest of the world that would pay the steepest price. In fact, despite the low probability of a direct military clash between the US and China, a new cold war would undoubtedly produce collateral damage so far-reaching and severe that the very future of humanity could be jeopardised. Already, bilateral tensions are contributing to an economic decoupling that is reverberating across the global economy. If the end of the Cold War in 1991 launched the golden age of global economic integration, the beginning of the next cold war between the world’s two largest economies will undoubtedly produce division and fragmentation.

China: President Xi’s Digital Prison – OpEd

By Felix Imonti

As Mao Zedong saw his control over the Communist Party challenged, he unleashed the Cultural Revolution. The Great Leap Forward and other failed economic policies were of little importance. Only his continued leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the survival of the Party as the sole source of power and thought was what Mao considered to be the essence of Chinese society. The Communist Party was the brain and the soul of the people; the state was the muscle.

Watching the violence of the swarming teenagers was the thirteen-year-old Xi Jinping. Today, Xi is applying the lessons learned during the Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976 to a society known only in the imaginations of George Orwell in 1984 and Aldous Huxley in Brave New World.

Have The Chinese Reached A Tipping Point? – Analysis

By Todd Royal*

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell asserts that, “Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.” This year small, innocuous events are building towards possible big changes for the Chinese government, it’s citizens, Southeast Asia and globally as well if geopolitical and economic events continue down this path. And with the United States (US) forging a new path confronting China – financial markets and geopolitics could be in for turbulence – that hasn’t been seen since the Cold War.

President Trump’s early October speech to the United Nations (UN) and Security Council where he accusedthe Chinese of, “attempting to tamper with US election,” and where Trump stated, “it’s not just Russia, it’s China and Russia” caused a stir at the UN. While the US media was fixated on the Judge Kavanaugh confirmations and burgeoning US-China trade tussle, the Trump administration is taking a harder stanceagainst Chinese intelligence encroachments against US businesses. A report in early October from Bloomberg BusinessWeek exposed, “a sprawling multi-year investigation into China’s infiltration of US corporate and defense infrastructure.” The Report also:

Trump's INF Treaty Termination Puts China on Notice—At Last

by James Carafano

Most of the debate over the administration’s decision to leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is missing the point. Thus far, the commentary has focused on whether the decision bodes good or ill for arms control and nuclear proliferation.

That’s small ball. By pulling out of the INF Treaty, President Donald Trump is making a big statement about great-power competition.

From Checkers to Chess

Why Are US Academics Attending a Conference Led by a Terror Supporter in Erdogan’s Turkey?

by A.J. Caschetta

Why are American professors of Middle East studies attending an Istanbul conference chaired by former Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) board member Sami Al-Arian, who pled guilty to conspiring to provide services to PIJ – a U.S.-designated terrorist organization – while teaching at the University of South Florida?

And why, as if Al-Arian’s presence weren’t bad enough, are they cozying up to Turkey’s authoritarian Islamist regime that kidnaps Americans for its hostage diplomacy, threatens to conduct “operations” against opponents in the U.S., and dispatches thugs to beat up Americans as they peacefully protest in the streets of Washington, D.C.?

Because, like so many of their colleagues in the discipline, they are apologists for Islamism or – worse – Islamists themselves. They gathered in Istanbul this week to participate in the Second International Conference on the Muslim Ummah at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University (IZU) on October 14-16.



Rita Katz is the Executive Director and founder of the SITE Intelligence Group, the world’s leading non-governmental counterterrorism organization specializing in tracking and analyzing the online activity of the global extremist community. YouTube’s problem worsened with the rise of ISIS and its resilient propaganda machine. In a May 2017 study, I detailed the ways groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda were sneaking their media onto YouTube and the massive extent to which they were doing so. In recent years, YouTube was among the most recurrent platforms used by terrorist groups. In link compilations issued by terrorist propagandists, the first item listed was often a YouTube URL.

MbS: For Better Or For Worse? – Analysis

By James M. Dorsey

Embattled Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could prove to be not only a cat with nine lives but also one that makes even stranger jumps. King Salman’s announcement that Prince Mohammed was put in charge of reorganizing Saudi intelligence at the same time that the kingdom for the first time admitted that journalist Jamal Khashoggi had been killed in its Istanbul consulate signalled that the crown prince’s wings were not being clipped, at least not immediately and not publicly. With little prospect for a palace coup and a frail King Salman unlikely to assume for any lengthy period full control of the levers of power, Prince Mohammed, viewed by many as reckless and impulsive, could emerge from the Khashoggi crisis, that has severely tarnished the kingdom’s image and strained relations with the United States and Western powers, even more defiant rather than chastened by international condemnation of the journalist’s killing.

Pompeo’s Dangerous Delusions

By Colin H. Kahl

In the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlines President Donald Trump’s strategy for “confronting Iran.” Pompeo describes an Iranian regime hell-bent on dominating the Middle East, and he argues that Trump is determined to overturn the supposed inclination of past U.S. administrations—especially the Obama administration—to accommodate the mullahs in Tehran. In particular, Pompeo reiterates the Trump administration’s critique that the 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiated between the Obama administration, other members of the so-called P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom), and Iran failed to permanently prevent the Islamic Republic from pursuing nuclear weapons. Pompeo also asserts that the loosening of U.S. sanctions under the deal enriched and enabled the Iranian regime—and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in particular—to more aggressively pursue its destabilizing agenda in Afghanistan, Gaza, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere. In contrast, Pompeo contends that Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure”—including the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement in May, the re-imposition of economic sanctions, credible military threats, and efforts to expose the regime’s corruption and human rights abuses—will reverse all this, producing a better nuclear deal, isolating Iran, and rolling back Iran’s nefarious activities across the Middle East.


The Trump administration is preparing a major mistake on the INF Treaty

Steven Pifer


Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty, which banned all U.S. and Soviet land-based ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The landmark agreement resulted in the destruction of nearly 2,700 missiles as well as their launchers and gave a boost to the broader U.S.-Soviet relationship as the Cold War wound down. Concern about the treaty’s future arose in 2014, when the Obama administration charged Russia with violating the treaty by testing a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile of intermediate range. Trump administration officials in 2017 charged that Russia had begun deploying the missile, known as the 9M729. The Obama administration and, at least initially, the Trump administration set the goal of bringing Russia back into compliance. In December 2017, Washington announced an “integrated strategy” to press Moscow to return to compliance.

Army Futures Command Wants YOU (To Innovate)

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NDIA: The Army’s new Futures Command is creating multiple pilot projects to bring tech geeks in hoodies, defense contractors in suits, and soldiers in uniform, the command’s chief innovation officer said this morning. The goal? Instead of heartwarming but inconclusive “outreach” to innovators in Silicon Valley and beyond, Adam Jay Harrison wants to actually turn their neat ideas into mass-produced, military-grade tech. That requires hybridizing outside creativity with insider expertise to get promising projects across what’s called the “valley of death” between conception and production. “I get really irritated when I’m in the audience and I hear ‘startup, startup, startup,'” Harrison said this morning at the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA).

Pence Defends Space Force Costs: ‘What Price Freedom?’

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WASHINGTON: It’s unclear how effective the gambit will be, but Vice President Mike Pence called out to lawmakers on Capitol Hill today, urging them to fund the nascent Space Force, which Air Force officials say will cost $13 billion for the first five years. Pence, asked by a Washington Post reporter if the Space Force was worth it, offered this: “I would just ask my colleagues in Congress, what price freedom?” The effort to create a Space Force took a step forward today as the National Security Council approved the administration’s nascent plan. My Space News colleague, Sandra Erwin, said the NSC plan “will be part of a new space policy directive, SPD-4, that will be sent to Trump’s desk for approval in the coming weeks.”

Russian Intel Chief: Internet Should be Controlled By ‘Proper Authorities’

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“Fighting terrorism” is how the Kremlin explains its latest effort to broaden its surveillance of Russian society and increase its control over internet content. But the program is also Moscow’s latest step toward digital isolationism. “For us professionals, it has long been obvious that cyberspace should be under the control of the competent authorities,” Sergei Smirnov, the First Deputy Director of the Federal Security Service of Russia, or FSB, told state-run media. “Without this, we can’t guarantee proper information security and successfully counter modern terrorist threats.” Smirnov spoke after a meeting of a high-level working group that includes China, Pakistan, and some former Soviet republics, called RATS SCO. He said the group had decided to expand governmental control over the internet in their respective countries.

Iran in Syria: Securing Regional Deterrence

Hassan Ahmadian 

Iran is primarily concerned with preserving Syria’s prominent role in the Axis of Resistance and its overarching goal of securing its regional deterrence. Accordingly, the collapse of Damascus was intolerable because it would have negatively affected Iran and its allies in the region. This includes securing supply routes to Lebanon; enhancing the deterrence capabilities and operational experience of the Axis of Resistance against Israel and the United States, especially with Trump’s renewed hostility; and balancing Turkey in northern Syria. In addition, preserving Syria’s significant position within the Axis of Resistance serves to showcase Iran’s effectiveness in supporting allies and in its leadership role in the axis.


The Army turns its attention to aerial electronic warfare

By: Mark Pomerleau  
The Army’s rapid procurers are turning their focus to aerial electronic warfare solutions in response to ongoing needs in the European theater. The Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office has been working to deliver EW capabilities to Europe in phases that build upon each other, providing deployed forces with needed capabilities against a real threat now while also informing longer-term programs of potential requirements. A new effort “includes an aerial capability that extends the range of signal detection and will be used to inform the program of record, [Multifunction Electronic Warfare] Air Large,” Pete Manternach, EW lead for the RCO, said in written responses to C4ISRNET.

The role of AI in education and the changing U.S. workforce

Elizabeth Mann Levesque

This report is part of "A Blueprint for the Future of AI," a series from the Brookings Institution that analyzes the new challenges and potential policy solutions introduced by artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies. The growth of artificial intelligence (AI) and emerging technologies (ET) is poised to reshape the workforce.[1] While the exact impact of AI and ET is unclear, experts expect that many jobs currently performed by humans will be performed by robots in the near future, and at the same time, new jobs will be created as technology advances. These impending changes have important implications for the field of education. Schools must prepare students to remain competitive in the labor market, and postsecondary institutions must provide students and displaced workers with relevant education and retraining opportunities. Innovations in technology will also create new tools to support educators, students, and others seeking retraining and employment.

Here’s The Pentagon’s Initial Plan For Creating a Space Force

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The U.S. Space Force will include uniformed service members drawn from the Air Force, Navy and Army — but it is not expected to include the National Reconnaissance Office mission, according an internal draft of the Pentagon’s plan to create a sixth branch of the military. Defense One reviewed a copy of the 13-page document, which will be further developed in coming months before the Pentagon sends it to Congress in February along with its 2020 budget request. This early draft provides a glimpse into a 21st-century approach to creating a new service branch, an endeavor not undertaken since 1947. Among other things, it reveals divergent views among senior Pentagon officials about how to structure it.

The Rest Of The Story: Trump, DoD & Hill Readied INF Pullout For Years


Russia’s 9M729 ground-based cruise missile, a key reason US considered leaving INF Treaty. WASHINGTON: Unreleased Pentagon documents and Congressional demands for information reveal that Washington has long planned for the day when the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia would be ripped up. The report by the Joint Staff and Strategic Command, exclusively obtained by Breaking Defense, make clear that as far back as 2013 — a year before the Obama administration first publicly complained about Russian violations of the treaty — the Defense Department was considering which technologies the US could develop should Washington walk away from the INF. The report points to four ways the US could quickly develop and field missiles with a range between 300 and 3,400 miles, banned under the 30 year-old treaty.

The Politics of Post-Conflict Reconstruction


Reconstruction following the devastating wars and state failure which followed the Arab uprisings of 2011 has become an increasingly pressing issue. In Iraq, the liberation of territories from the Islamic State came at great human and infrastructural cost. In Syria, the reconquest of territories by the regime of Bashar al-Asad has been accompanied by international discussions of modest steps towards reconstruction, after a war which generated more the half of the world’s refugees and internally displaced whilst sowing devastation across much of the country. Yemen has endured the near complete destruction of its infrastructure and economy, leaving much of the population at risk of starvation and disease. Libya is devastated by its multiple conflicts and the successive disintegration of what is left of its institutional structures. While none of these wars has yet fully ended, international and expert attention is increasingly focused on the impending challenges of reconstruction, repatriation and reconciliation.

How Javelin-Armed Robots Could Render The Tank Obsolete


A prototype variant of the Titan unmanned ground vehicle, or UGV, mounts a Javelin anti-tank missile as well as a .50-caliber machine gun. Estonian firm Milrem Robotics makes the Titan—a sort of jack-of-all-trades mechanical mule. It’s a 1.6-ton, 8-foot-long tracked robot that stands four feet tall, travels at twelve miles per hour, and can haul about a ton of cargo. The Titan can be fitted with various modules for tasks such as IED clearance, casualty evacuation, and hauling cargo. The U.S. Army is now evaluating it to haul the equipment of an infantry squad. Meanwhile, Norwegian defense firm Kongsberg makes the Protector remote weapons station, typically mounted on vehicles to enable the crew to fire external weapons, such as turret-mounted machine guns, while remaining inside the protection of the vehicle. The U.S. military already uses about 15,000 of Kongsberg’s Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS) systems on vehicles such as the Humvee and Stryker.