11 November 2018

A war in the Himalayas that the world can’t ignore


One of the first tasks of the Imran Khan government in Pakistan was to seal all offices of the South Asian Free Media Foundation (SAFMA).

On April 7, 2012, after an avalanche in Gyari trapped 140 Pakistani soldiers and civilians, SAFMA stated that Pakistan withdrew from Siachen without any agreement. SAFMA’s reason may have been the 139 killed in the 10th-deadliest avalanche in the world at Gyari.

However, the fact remains that all major passes in the entire Saltoro range, dominating the 76 km-long Siachen Glacier running east of Saltoro, are held by India while Pakistan holds low ground west of the Saltoro range, far away from the glacier. The Pakistani posts are located 900 meters below the 100 or so Indian Army posts on the Saltoro ridge.

After the Gyari tragedy, Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, asked his army to unilaterally withdraw from the area but the military remained adamant and sundry authors began to project Siachen as Pakistani territory. They began to assert fallaciously that claims India had “illegally occupied” the Siachen Glacier and that India demanded that Pakistan accept the current deployment along the Saltoro Range as a permanent border. It also claimed that India had signed an agreement in 1989 to withdraw from Siachen. They also argued that India wanted to sever the Karakoram Highway (KKH) advancing through the Saltoro Range. But all these contesting claims need to be viewed through the prism of a contentious history of the subcontinent emerging from colonial rule.

Taliban Pummel Security Forces Across Afghanistan

By Fahim Abed and Rod Nordland

KABUL, Afghanistan — Dozens of soldiers and police officers were killed or captured in nine Taliban attacks that overran security bases and outposts in different parts of Afghanistan during a 24-hour period that ended on Tuesday, officials said.

In perhaps the most severe blow, insurgents captured battalion headquarters of the Afghan Border Force in Farah Province, in western Afghanistan, killing or taking prisoner nearly the entire contingent of officers, with as many as 20 dead. In Kandahar Province, in the south, three separate attacks killed a total of 17 police officers. And in Ghazni, a central province, a joint military and police outpost fell only two days after it had been set up, with all 16 security officials there killed or wounded.

The attack on the headquarters in Farah, close to the Iranian border, destroyed the first battalion’s base in the district of Poshti Koh. Sgt. Gholam Mohammad, the senior noncommissioned officer, said from a clinic where he had been taken with a minor head wound that, in addition to the 20 border force officers killed, 25 had been taken captive by the Taliban. Three others escaped.

How a Taliban Assassin Got Close Enough To Kill A General

By Mujib Mashal 

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Minutes before killing one of the most important generals in Afghanistan, the infiltrator made a final call to the Taliban. Though only a teenager, the assassin managed to get hired as an elite guard, slipping into government service with a fake ID and no background check.

It put him so close to the center of power in Afghanistan that he was just paces away from Gen. Austin S. Miller, the commander of United States and NATO forces, when he suddenly raised his Kalashnikov and started firing in bursts.

The attack was a nightmare scenario for American and Afghan security planners: a Taliban operation months in the making that succeeded in breaching a high-level meeting, killing a powerful Afghan general and a provincial intelligence chief, wounding an Afghan governor and an American general — and barely missing General Miller and other officials standing nearby.

Joint Interests Against the U.S. Deepen the Sino-Russian Embrace


The strategic convergence between Russia and China has deepened in most arenas — the continuation of a long-term trend as both powers seek to reverse the U.S.-led dominance of the global order. Besides energy, Russia and China's economic relationship remains below its potential. Moscow and Beijing are misaligned in the geoeconomic plane because of core differences in their respective integration initiatives. The convergence between these two great powers will continue to deepen in 2019. Most crucially, security cooperation will gain traction, driven in part by Washington's growing squeeze on both Moscow and Beijing. 

The Russian-Chinese relationship is crucial in the evolution of the global order as the great power competition among the United States, Russia and China heats up. Assessing the relationship's path in the coming year involves analyzing its many facets: economic, political and military.

With Friends Like China, Who Needs Enemies?

China’s increasing global and regional influence with respect to the world economy, military modernization, and geopolitical interests has marked a dramatic shift in its engagement with the United States. The world’s great power and its rising power are engaged in a complex relationship that has been widely regarded as the most important bilateral relationship of the twenty-first century. Nonetheless, hegemonic rivalry and mutual suspicion of one another’s intentions have been exacerbated between the two states with detrimental effects. Many Americans encourage better relations between the two powers. Yet, there are some Americans, including President Trump, who believe that China’s strategic interests are simply incompatible with those of the United States. This incompatibility is illustrated in light of the American opioid crisis and China’s ‘re-education camps’.

The Opioid Crisis

China’s Beating the US to Market on Combat Drones, By Copying US Technology


The mockup of China’s CH-7 combat drone unveiled at Zhuhai Airshow this week looks a lot like one the U.S. Navy was developing — until it dropped the project, allowing China to position itself to beat the U.S. and other allies in fielding a long-range, high-altitude combat drone. That’s despite the fact that—in the words of one expert—the United States had a “ten-year head start.”

If the CH-7 makes its first flight next year and stays on track, it “will be the sole option for buyers wanting to field stealth combat drones” in 2022, crowed China Daily, citing “sources.” It will also be the sole option for buyers looking to purchase an aircraft carrier-capable combat drone (according to China’s state-run Global Times) that looks like the X-47B, an experimental drone that U.S. weapons-maker Northrop Grumman developed for the Navy.

Xi Jinping promises to expand imports and lower tariffs


SHANGHAI -- President Xi Jinping on Monday promised to further open China to foreigners by expanding imports, lowering tariffs and relaxing market access -- an apparent bid to counter criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump and others regarding Beijing's trade and business practices.

In a speech at the opening ceremony of the China International Import Expo, Xi predicted the value of the country's "imported goods would reach $30 trillion, while imported services would top $10 trillion over the next 15 years."

Xi's remark comes amid heightened trade tensions between Beijing and Washington. The U.S. government has imposed tariffs on Chinese goods worth $250 billion. China has retaliated by imposing tariffs on American goods worth $110 billion.

France: New Caledonia to Vote in an Independence Referendum

European governments are dealing with multiple secessionist movements, both on the mainland and in their overseas possessions. Should New Caledonia vote in favor of independence from France, other separatist movements will feel emboldened. The vote is also relevant at a time of growing geopolitical competition in the Pacific.

What Will Happen Nov. 4

Voters in New Caledonia, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean some 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) east of Australia, will go to the polls on Nov. 4 to decide whether they desire independence from France. With a population of roughly 270,000 people, the islands are heavily dependent on financing from Paris. But they are also home to around 15 percent of the world's reserves of nickel, a metal present in a vast line of products from steel to electronics, and host French naval and air forces. Secessionist groups in Europe, as well as New Caledonia's neighbors, will be watching the vote closely.

A new DoD task force addresses the growing threats to critical technology

By: Justin Lynch 

Amid an alleged campaign of hacking by the Chinese government, efforts are taking place to prevent the exfiltration of data and protect sensitive information that is stored in the U.S. government and the defense-industrial base. In a memo dated Oct. 24, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis announced the creation of the Protecting Critical Technology Task Force to safeguard critical American technology. “Each year, American businesses lose hundreds of billions of dollars while our military superiority is challenged,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan said in a statement. “Together with our partners in industry, we will use every tool at our disposal to end the loss of intellectual property, technology and data critical to our national security.”

The PCTTF will report to Shanahan and Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the joint chief of staff. It includes representatives from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Security Service, according to an industry official briefed on the matter.

The Illogic of the U.S. Sanctions Snapback on Iran

What’s new? A 40-year analysis of Iran’s economic performance and regional policy reveals little to no correlation between the two, as Tehran has continued to pursue policies it deems central to its national security no matter its degree of economic wellbeing at home.

Why does it matter? The Trump administration hopes that sanctions will force Iran to curb its regional activities. But data shows that outcome is uncertain as changes in Iran’s wealth have had little impact on the direction or capabilities of its regional policy. Sanctions risk empowering harder-line officials in the Islamic Republic and prompting them to lash out, exacerbating regional tensions.

What should be done? The U.S. optimally should leverage its sanctions to de-escalate regional tensions. That requires acknowledging Iran’s legitimate security concerns as long as Iran acknowledges those of its regional rivals. However unlikely at this time, the U.S., Iran and Gulf Arab states should take steps to build a more stable regional security architecture.


Why Leaving the Iran Nuclear Deal Won’t Work

Leaving the Iran nuclear deal is meant to put pressure on the Iranian government. But so far, most of the pressure is being felt by Iran’s citizens. 

Iran’s steeply depreciating currency has plunged the country into a potentially explosive economic crisis, with several waves of public protests since December. The situation was exacerbated by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to violate the terms of the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions. 

The Trump administration believes that by exerting “maximum pressure,” Iran will inevitably return to the negotiating table, or face implosion or even regime change. Economic strangulation is the core of this strategy. By sanctioning Iran’s oil industry and banking institutions, the United States plans to weaken Iran’s economy and provoke its sizable middle class, along with working and poor classes, to rise up against the state.

Saudi Arabia’s New Approach in Iraq

Saudi Arabia appears to be pursuing a policy of pragmatic diplomacy with Iraq by aiming to build ties across the sectarian landscape. After more than 25 years of disengagement from Baghdad, Riyadh is now attempting to repair relations in order to build greater influence and counter Iran’s presence. Saudi Arabia’s regional strategy emphasizes curbing Iran’s influence, and it has recently embraced a series of bold foreign policy moves with Yemen, Qatar, and Lebanon. By contrast, the strategy in Iraq is largely consonant with the approach of gradual cooptation that Saudi Arabia has often adopted in the past.

Saudi Arabia has a number of political and economic tools to use in Iraq. Politically, it has sought to limit the influence of pro-Iranian groups by exploiting a growing intra-Shi`a rift, as many Shi`ite leaders and citizens are growing weary of Tehran’s overreach. Economically, it seeks to strengthen integration and build interdependencies with Baghdad, as well as benefit from the potential export market and trade that has been dominated by Iran and Turkey. 

Oman Just Bought Israeli Insurance


A little more than a week ago, the drumbeat of news concerning Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was briefly interrupted by an extraordinary video coming from Oman’s state news agency. The footage showed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being greeted by and meeting with Sultan Qaboos bin Said at his palace in Muscat.

Contact between the Israelis and the countries of the Persian Gulf has taken place for some time, and the Omanis have been particularly “forward-leaning,” as they say in Washington—then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin visited Muscat in late 1994, when peace between Israelis and Palestinians seemed like a real possibility. Even so, the Omanis requested that the meeting be kept secret until its conclusion. Shimon Peres, who succeeded Rabin, hosted the Omani foreign minister in Jerusalem in 1995, and the countries established trade offices in 1996 that were shuttered after the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000.

The Eastern Mediterranean's New Great Game Over Natural Gas

The energy companies exploring the eastern Mediterranean are likely to make more discoveries after finding the massive Zohr natural gas field off Egypt in 2015. The overlapping political disputes of countries in the region — Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, Greece, Egypt and Cyprus — create a complex mosaic that will complicate development.  Each littoral state will seek to use its natural gas potential as a tool of political leverage against its neighbors.

Why People Are Worried That The Next Big Threat Will Come From Iranian Hackers Targeting American Oil Companies

Security experts are worried Iranian hackers may be preparing to attack against Western and Gulf oil companies in retaliation for US sanctions. FireEye said that APT33, a suspected Iranian hacking group, has been conducting a “spear-phishing” email campaign against organisations in the oil, gas, insurance and manufacturing sectors. An attack would not be unprecedented. In 2012 suspected Iranian hackers destroyed data on thousands of Saudi Aramco’s computers.

Businesses in Gulf countries allied to the US are under renewed threat from suspected Iranian hackers in what may amount to preparation for cyber retaliation against impending US sanctions on the country’s critical oil industry.

The Eastern European ‘Game Of Chicken’ – Analysis

By Dorka Takácsy*

Hungarian-Ukrainian relations seem to hit an all time low as a result of a series of poor choices. The clash over the minority language rights and dual citizenship led to a diplomatic scandal, and none of the parties show intentions to compromise. The conflict hits hardest the Hungarian minority in Ukraine, whose interests both governments claim to serve with their actions.

About a year ago, the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a new law on education. It was in the making since four years, yet being modified until the last moment. The law was presented as a reform bringing the educational system closer to the European Union’s Bologna system, but it contains something that the European neighbors do absolutely not approve: while leaving the opportunity for kindergartens’ and primary schools’ first four classes’ minority language usage untouched, the reform reduced minority language education in secondary schools to ‘special classes’.

Hackers obtain nuclear power plant plans in France

Hackers have accessed confidential documents about nuclear plants and prisons in a cyberattack on a French firm, media reported. Some of the data was found on a rented server in Germany, according to the reports. Thousands of sensitive documents pertaining to nuclear power plants, prisons and tram networks have been stolen from the servers of a French company in a cyberattack, German and French media have reported Friday. The data illegally accessed from the French company Ingerop back in June amounted to more than 65 gigabytes, according to reports by German public broadcaster NDR, the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung and French newspaper Le Monde.

Russia’s Cyberwar on Ukraine Is a Blueprint For What’s to Come

“Many global cybersecurity analysts have come to the same conclusion. Where better to train an army of Kremlin hackers in digital combat than in the no-holds-barred atmosphere of a hot war inside the Kremlin’s sphere of influence? ‘The gloves are off. This is a place where you can do your worst without retaliation or prosecution,’ says Geers, the NATO ambassador. ‘Ukraine is not France or Germany. A lot of Americans can’t find it on a map, so you can practice there.’ In that shadow of neglect, Russia isn’t only pushing the limits of its technical abilities, says Thomas Rid, a professor in the War Studies department at King’s College London. It’s also feeling out the edges of what the international community will tolerate. The Kremlin meddled in the Ukrainian election and faced no real repercussions; then it tried similar tactics in Germany, France, and the United States. Russian hackers turned off the power in Ukraine with impunity—and, well, the syllogism isn’t hard to complete. ‘They’re testing out red lines, what they can get away with,’ Rid says. ‘You push and see if you’re pushed back. If not, you try the next step.’”

The new threat matrix

John Mecklin

Scientists from the Manhattan Project launched the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1945 to focus world attention on a new technology that posed a truly existential threat to humanity. In the words of founding Bulletin co-editor Eugene Rabinowitz, the Bulletin wanted “to awaken the public to the full understanding of the horrendous reality of nuclear weapons, and of their far-reaching implications for the future of mankind; to warn of the inevitability of other nations acquiring nuclear weapons within a few years, and of the futility of relying on America’s possession of the ‘secret’ of the bomb.” But in that same article, Rabinowitch noted that the problems raised by the nuclear bomb were “but one aspect of a broader and more complex challenge with which the scientific and technological revolution confronted mankind” (Rabinowitch 1970Rabinowitch, E. 1970. “Twenty-Five Years Later.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 26 (6): 4–34. doi:10.1080/00963402.1970.11457818.

After Democracy What Happens When Freedom Erodes?

By Dan Slater

Across the world, including in the United States as midterm elections unfold, experts lament that democracy is eroding, or backsliding, or perhaps even dying. But this tells us little about what is most likely to arise, exactly, in democracy’s stead. When democracy erodes, what remains? When a democracy backslides, where does it wind up? When democracy dies, what is born?

The simple answer is authoritarianism. But authoritarian regimes are every bit as diverse as democracies. Authoritarianism is not simply the absence of democracy but its own political beast—really a menagerie of very different beasts—with multiple modi operandi. For this reason, it is safe to say that democracy is under serious threat but that the threat is not a singular one.


By Cris Lee

CIMSEC was pleased to be joined by Dr. Toshi Yoshihara of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA). Professor Yoshihara is a long-time expert and well-published author on Asian security topics, Chinese naval capabilities, and Chinese maritime strategy. We are interested in his thoughts on recent security trends and what kind of calculus should be taken into account when analyzing the military balance in the Western Pacific.

Cris Lee: Thank you for joining us, Dr. Yoshihara. Could you please tell us a bit more about yourself?

American Energy Policy In The Middle East – Analysis

By Matthew Parish*

Contemporary American policy in the Middle East is often known by the moniker “energy dominance”, but it is often not understood precisely what this means. One aspect is a long-standing US policy of energy independence: that is to say, promoting development of domestic US sources of hydrocarbon production to decrease reliance upon Middle Eastern and other sources of oil and gas. The Trump administration has continued this policy, through deregulation of environmental issues pertaining to the hydrocarbon industry, promoting shale oil production and hydraulic fracturing technology, and advancing the development of domestic refinery and LNG liquification capacity. In one sense energy independence has already been achieved: the United States now exports more hydrocarbons than it imports, and America is the world’s biggest oil producer. Nevertheless none of these policy innovations are particularly novel, save perhaps the extent of environment deregulation. They are the result of several decades of fairly consistent US energy policy.

Artificial Intelligence — Savior or Enslaver?

Exponential advancements in technology within the last half century have profoundly reshaped humanity and continue to do so continuously. Concepts which once seemed as fantasy Sci-Fi, visualized through Hollywood hits such as The Terminator (1984) and Eagle Eye (2008) have steadily and inconspicuously become a part of our reality. More recently, the futurist show, Black Mirror (2011) featured on Netflix gives us a glimpse of what the future may hold. One thing in common for all of these shows is the portrayal of possibilities with regards to advancements in computer technology — be it in the form of a highly intelligent, autonomous, sophisticated robot like the Terminator (with a massive capacity for destruction)or ARIIA, a supercomputer able to manipulate almost all connected devices and command its victims to fulfill its agenda.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is seen to be the core driver of current trends within the tech sector and has vastly developed since the term was first coined in the 1950’s. It is embedded in our phones, in the form of online chat bots and as phone operators to name a few contemporary use cases.

What is a quantum computer? Explained with a simple example.

Hi everyone!

The other day, I visited D-Wave Systems in Vancouver, Canada. It’s a company that makes cutting-edge quantum computers.

I got to learn a lot about quantum computers there, so I’d like to share some of what I learned there with you in this article.

The goal of this article is to give you an accurate intuition of what a quantum computer is using a simple example.

This article will not require you to have prior knowledge of either quantum physics or computer science to be able to understand it.

Okay, let’s get started.

Designing contemporary search experiences — less typing, more context

The evolution of search

Over the last few years there’s been an important paradigm shift in ‘search’ and understanding the end user has been crucial to evolving the search experience.

Historically ‘search’ was simply matching keywords from a search box to text indexed in a database. The resulting output a series of blue links, which may or may not reflect what the user is actually trying to find.

Since then ‘search’ has matured, moving beyond keywords to recognising concepts, providing answers and offering personalised suggestions. By employing a dialogue based experience, search engines attempt to understand the intent of users to return results that are much more relevant.
What’s a dialogue model?

Rather than viewing search queries as individual and unrelated, a dialogue model combines queries (occurring within a period of time) into ‘sessions’.


MAX KRAUSE WAS thinking of buying some bitcoin, as one does. But Krause is an engineer—mostly he works on modeling greenhouse gas emissions from landfills—so his first step was to run the numbers. He looked at price, of course, but also how fast the world’s bitcoin miners create new bitcoins and the ledger that accounts for them. And he looked at how much electricity that would seem to require.

“I thought, man, this is a lot of energy,” Krause says. “I thought, it can’t be true that people are using this much energy. But it is.”

Krause’s calculations aren’t just back-of-the-envelope noodling, cryptocurrency blog trolling, or white-paper crossfire. His calculations of how much energy—and planet-warming carbon emissions—the top four cryptocurrencies might be responsible for appears in an article in the journal Nature Sustainability today, joining a growing canon of peer-reviewed and rigorous work trying to put numbers to a problem the cryptocurrency world has been grappling with for years: How much energy blockchain-powered currencies consume, and how much does the answer matter?

Why People Are Worried That The Next Big Threat Will Come From Iranian Hackers Targeting American Oil Companies

by Alaco 

Security experts are worried Iranian hackers may be preparing to attack against Western and Gulf oil companies in retaliation for US sanctions. FireEye said that APT33, a suspected Iranian hacking group, has been conducting a “spear-phishing” email campaign against organisations in the oil, gas, insurance and manufacturing sectors. An attack would not be unprecedented. In 2012 suspected Iranian hackers destroyed data on thousands of Saudi Aramco’s computers.Businesses in Gulf countries allied to the US are under renewed threat from suspected Iranian hackers in what may amount to preparation for cyber retaliation against impending US sanctions on the country’s critical oil industry.

The apparent digital sabotage threat, which comes six years after energy companies in Saudi Arabia and Qatar fell victim to major Iran-linked cyberattacks, coincides with concern over hackers’ increased targeting of Gulf businesses. An annual regional cybersecurity survey revealed in May that over 40 per cent of the latter have had at least one breach in the last year, more than 10 per cent up on 2016 – though no mention of the likely source of the attacks was disclosed in reports on the findings.


Walker Mills 


Any infantryman will be familiar with this term. And for good reason. It’s a tried-and-tested feature of successful battlefield tactics. But what does it actually mean? The answer isn’t as clear as one might hope for a doctrinal term. And it invites a follow-on question that is deeply important on the battlefield of tomorrow: What are the most effective methods of suppression?

As an operational term, US doctrine is clear. “Suppression” is listed in DoD’s official dictionary, defined as “temporary or transient degradation by an opposing force of the performance of a weapons system below the level needed to fulfill its mission objectives.” It is commonly understood to be the result of either direct or indirect fire on the enemy—this is reinforced in MCRP 3-10A.4, Marine Rifle Squad. However the Army’s analogous manual, ATP 3-21.8, Infantry Platoon and Squad does not specify a method, implying that there can be other means of suppression. “A platoon or squad has suppressed an enemy when the enemy cannot prevent our forces from accomplishing their mission,” it says. “It is a temporary measure.” MCTP 3-01A, Scouting and Patrolling actually does offers an alternative method, suggesting that riot control agents can be used to suppress: “Fire support agencies can be utilized to suppress targets; riot control agents, can be employed to disrupt enemy movement.”

Brass Parachutes: The Problem of the Pentagon Revolving Door


A POGO investigation found that from 2008 to the present over 380 high-ranking Department of Defense officials and military officers became lobbyists, board members, executives, or consultants for defense contractors within two years of leaving the Department.Download the report

Major Findings

There were 645 instances of the top 20 defense contractors in fiscal year 2016 hiring former senior government officials, military officers, Members of Congress, and senior legislative staff as lobbyists, board members, or senior executives in 2018 (see chart below). Since some lobbyists work for multiple defense contractors, there are more instances than officials.

Of those instances, nearly 90 percent became registered lobbyists, where the operational skill is influence-peddling.

At least 380 high-ranking Department of Defense officials and military officers shifted into the private sector to become lobbyists, board members, executives, or consultants for defense contractors.

The implications of artificial intelligence for national security strategy

Mara Karlin

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.

Artificial intelligence is transforming the world, as Brookings President John Allen and Vice President Darrell West describe in their thoughtful piece on this topic. From how we educate our youth to how economies operate, there exists no shortage of arenas where experts believe artificial intelligence will have an outsized impact. National security strategy is among them.

To date, most discussions of artificial intelligence’s impact on national security strategy have largely focused on the operational level of war. This includes how future wars will be influenced by new military capabilities, and how those capabilities will, in turn, influence conflict on the battlefield. A substantial part of this dialogue at the operational level considers how artificial intelligence will influence ethics in national security, particularly the role played by decision-makers and how much autonomy they have in employing force, and how much they delegate to a machine.