3 December 2018

India and the Maldives: Back on Track?

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

With a new government under President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in office, the Maldives appears ready to get its relationship with India back on track.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his maiden visit to the Maldives earlier in the month for the swearing in ceremony of Solih. A joint statement signed by the two leaders noted the “importance of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean and being mindful of each other’s concerns and aspirations for the stability of the region,” a clear reference to recent controversies in their relationship.

Solih also used the opportunity to apprise Modi of the urgent assistance needed in the areas of housing and infrastructure as well as setting up water and sewerage systems in the remote islands.

Afghanistan’s Most Powerful Person Announces Bid for April Presidential Elections

By Ahmad Shah Katawazai

Todya, former Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar announced his candidacy for next year’s presidential elections. Atmar has been a central figure in Afghanistan for years. He signed the 2014 Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States and inked a 2016 peace deal with Hizb-i-Islami (Islamic Party), an extremist insurgent faction that had been fighting with Afghan and later U.S. forces for decades. The Hizbi-i-Islami accord was the first successful peace deal between the Afghan government and insurgents.

Atmar resigned from his NSA position three months ago, citing concerns over the security situation, political instability, and differences with President Ashraf Ghani on major policy issues. Western diplomats stationed in Kabul and Afghan citizens were concerned about Atmar’s resignation, fearing that his absence would cast a shadow over the country’s fragile National Unity Government at a time when it was already reeling from Taliban attacks and emerging presence of Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). Moreover, Atmar’s presence was sorely needed for brokering a peace deal with the Taliban.

What are U.S. Soldiers Dying for in Afghanistan?

How much more blood must be spilled in Afghanistan before Washington acknowledges reality and ends the war?

Three more American troops were killed in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb on Tuesday and three others wounded; their names are being withheld pending notification of next of kin. These deaths, along with Sgt. Leandro Jasso who was killed in a firefight last Saturday, bring the number of troops killed in Afghanistan this year to thirteen. Unless major changes are made in U.S. strategic policy, they will not be the last to die.

During my second combat deployment to Afghanistan in 2010-2011, I traveled around the country extensively in the conduct of my duties. The base where I stayed endured more than a dozen rocket attacks. I once narrowly missed being hit with a mortar bomb, I was in a convoy that got hit with an IED, was on a forward combat outpost that was subjected to a Taliban machine gun attack, and narrowly avoided stepping on an IED during a foot patrol.

Chinese Interference Casts a Dark Cloud Over Local Elections in Taiwan

Elliot Waldman

Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, suffered a historic defeat in local elections last weekend that were overshadowed by an extensive Chinese interference campaign. Taking responsibility for her party’s midterm drubbing, President Tsai Ing-wen resigned as DPP leader on Saturday night, casting doubt on her prospects for winning a second term in national elections set to take place in early 2020.

Many observers had expected the opposition Kuomintang, or KMT, which favors closer ties with China, to make a comeback after losing both the presidency and a legislative majority in 2016. Anti-incumbency was in the air in the months leading up to election day, with opinion polls showing some of Tsai’s lowest approval ratings so far in her four-year term. But voters surpassed those expectations to deliver a stunning rebuke to the independence-leaning DPP, which managed to win only six of the 22 key races for mayoral and county magistrate positions. The party previously held 13 of those seats.

China Stays Tough on Xinjiang Policy Despite Growing Global Outcry

By Charlotte Gao

China’s harsh Xinjiang policy — particularly the mass detentions of Muslim minorities in so-called “vocational education and training centers” — has brought about increasingly strong outcry from the world community in recent weeks. However, China appears to be holding fast to its hard stance despite the global rebuke.

On November 26, a total of 278 scholars in various disciplines from dozens of countries jointly issued a statement, calling for the international community to take action against China over its “mass human rights abuses and deliberate attacks on indigenous cultures presently taking place in China’s XUAR [Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region].”

Earlier this year, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination cited estimates that up to 1 million Uyghurs may be held involuntarily in extralegal detention in Xinjiang. But China has repeatedly denied any mass imprisonment of Uyghurs or other Muslim minorities.

Israelis to US: Take On China Around Djibouti


PLA troops at Djibouti base opening

TEL AVIV: The United States should boost its military presence in Djibouti and the region surrounding the Bab al-Mandab Strait to counter an increasingly assertive — and belligerent — China, say Israeli intelligence officials and independent experts.

China’s use last May of lasers to interfere with U.S pilots will be the least of problems the U.S faces in the region, they argue. (According to the Pentagon, two US military pilots suffered minor eye damage from lasers hitting the cockpit of their C-130 transport aircraft.) In fact, the US is already being forced to play catch up in the region, says Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, and a senior researcher at the Center for Iranian Studies, both at Tel Aviv University. Rabi told Breaking Defense that the U.S faces a major strategic problem: “The Chinese chose Djibouti because of its strategic location in Africa and mainly because it gives foreign military forces that built bases in this country control of one of the most important water ways – the Bab Al Mandeb Strait. The U.S understood the move very late and now there is very little Washington can do.”

Trade deal or not, the long-range prospects for US-China relations are growing more troubling

Ryan Hass

As significant as the trade discussion will be—particularly for investors, farmers, factory workers, and consumers sensitive to price increases on goods—it may end up being a sub-plot to a larger story. The lasting import of the meeting between Trump and Xi may be whether it leads to a resetting of ties between the world’s two largest powers, or whether it serves as a way-station toward entrenched enmity.

Recent trends in the bilateral relationship do not provide cause for optimism. The U.S.-China relationship arguably is more strained now than at any point since the normalization of relations in 1979. In recent months, the relationship has accelerated along a continuum from rivalry toward adversarial antagonism.

The Dark System

Li never truly left the prison camp. He returns to it regularly in his sleep. Two dreams in particular keep coming back. In the first one, Li Yiwen is squatting on the floor. In his left hand, he holds a bowl of rice, in his right, a pair of chopsticks. His eyes are locked on the floor as a guard stands behind him counting down from 10. Once he reaches zero, he'll tear the food out of Li's hands.

Li inhales as much hot rice as he possibly can. He can feel his esophagus burning, but he keeps shoveling.

A foggy reservoir is nestled between rice terraces and bamboo forests in the hills of central China, not far from Chongqing, one of the world's largest metropolises. This is where Li's hometown was once located. During their relocation, he and 52 of his neighbors felt they had been treated unfairly. When they objected to their local government, they were thrown into a prison camp.

Yemen's Long Road to Peace

Alexandra Stark is a pre-doctoral research fellow at the Belfer Center for International Affairs' Middle East Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School and a PhD candidate in international relations at Georgetown University. 

After more than three years of conflict, the humanitarian consequences of the war in Yemen are staggering. UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock warned, “There is now a clear and present danger of an imminent and great big famine engulfing Yemen: much bigger than anything any professional in this field has encountered during their working lives.” While the road to peace talks will be difficult and uncertain, the United States and its allies and partners can play an important role in supporting negotiation efforts and helping the parties find a workable, sustainable solution to the conflict.

A New Phase in Israel-Gulf Relations

by Seth Frantzman

Intelligence and Transportation Minister Israel Katz pushed for cooperation between Israel and the Gulf states in a speech in Oman on November 7. “In my view, cooperation between Israel and the Gulf states can and should be expanded,” he said. “Israel also has a lot to offer when it comes to water desalination and irrigation, agriculture and medicine.”

The trip bookended several high profile visits to the Gulf by Israeli officials. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman in late October. Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev and Communications Minister Ayoub Kara also traveled to the United Arab Emirates, one to attend a sporting event and another for a conference.

The visits represent a significant breakthrough in connections between Israel the Gulf states. Since the 1990s, when Israel signed the Oslo Accords and made peace with Jordan, there were increasing ties to several Gulf countries. This included the opening of trade offices. However, relations became frozen during the Second Intifada (2000-2005).

What 1979 Can Tell Us About Iran Today

By George Friedman

History never repeats itself exactly. Or does it?

It’s no secret that Iran’s economy has faced severe strain this year, with the country’s currency plummeting and consumer prices soaring. Inflation has been one of the top concerns. It spiked once again last month, reaching 35 percent. Inflation has reached this level, and even higher, before. Still, at 35 percent, income growth starts to fall behind, basic commodities are priced out of the reach of the poor, and tremendous pressure is placed on the middle class. Hunger may not be a concern for this group, but access to basic goods and services needed to maintain their lifestyles becomes a struggle. Last month’s numbers were not a sudden shift; inflation has been a growing problem, gnawing away at crucial segments of society for quite a while. Certainly, U.S. sanctions are part of the problem, but Iran’s own internal dynamic has been the main contributor.

What Deters and Why

PDF file 4.3 MB

Research Question
What are the requirements of effective extended deterrence of large-scale military aggression?

The challenge of deterring territorial aggression, which for several decades has been an afterthought in U.S. strategy toward most regions of the world, is taking on renewed importance. An increasingly belligerent Russia is threatening Eastern Europe and the Baltic States with possible aggression, conventional and otherwise. China is pursuing its territorial ambitions in the East and South China Seas with greater force, including the construction of artificial islands and occasional bouts of outright physical intimidation. North Korea remains a persistent threat to the Republic of Korea (ROK), including the possibility of large-scale aggression using its rapidly advancing nuclear arsenal.

EU Unveils Plan to Cut Emissions to Zero, in Bid to Save Planet

By Marine Strauss

The European Union unveiled its long-term vision on combating climate change in a push for more ambitious action on the environment just days after U.S. President Donald Trump rejected his government’s warning on the economic costs of global warming.

The 28-nation bloc, responsible for 10 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions, set a 2050 perspective to help give direction to member states, companies and citizens to anticipate costs in fighting temperature increases. The EU’s updated strategy comes a week before representatives from almost 200 countries are due to meet in Poland for an annual conference on addressing climate change.

Why Ukraine Challenged Russia at the Kerch Strait

Stratfor has noted that Ukraine-Russia skirmishes like the recent clash at the Kerch Strait would become more likely and that the Sea of Azov remains a flashpoint between the two countries. In addition, Ukraine is emerging as a key battleground between the United States and Russia as part of the wider great power competition.

What Happened

The Russian-Ukrainian dispute over maritime access through the Kerch Strait escalated on Nov. 25 when paramilitary forces from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) disabled, boarded and captured two small Ukrainian naval vessels and a tugboat attempting to pass through the strait. Six of the 24 Ukrainian crew members detained by Russia were injured in the forced boarding. The strait, positioned at the eastern end of Crimea, connects the Sea of Azov with the Black Sea. The Ukrainian government in Kiev immediately denounced the Russian actions and accused Moscow of military aggression. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also declared that a state of martial law would begin Nov. 28 and last for 30 days (but could be subsequently extended). Ukraine and Russia requested an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

Somalia's Thorny Problems on the Horn of Africa

Renewed relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea will boost stability in the Horn of Africa and create opportunities for greater political and economic integration in the region.

Somalia's deep internal problems will severely limit the country's ability to take charge of security within its borders.
Somalia's enduring challenges mean that the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) will remain a key force in the country for years to come in some form.

Editor's Note: This assessment is part of a series of analyses supporting Stratfor's upcoming 2019 Annual Forecast. These assessments are designed to provide more context and in-depth analysis on key developments in the coming year.

Will the Geneva Convention Cover Robots?

Thomas McMullan

When Dr. Richard J. Gatling designed his gun, it was meant to save lives. The American inventor designed the rapid-fire, spring-loaded, hand-cranked weapon with the express purpose of reducing the number of people needed on the battlefields of the American Civil War, thereby preventing deaths. Instead, he unleashed a forerunner of the machine gun that would scale the level of killing by several orders of magnitude, leading eventually to the horrific suffering in the trenches of the First World War.

Is history repeating itself with the development and application of artificial intelligence in warfare? Pressure has been steadily building on governments to address the nascent field of autonomous weapons; a nebulous term, but one largely agreed to involve systems capable of killing without human intervention. Could A.I.-directed precision lead to fewer civilian casualties, and ultimately less need for human soldiers? Or will it, like the Gatling gun, herald a new scale of slaughter?

The Future of Internet Governance? Comments on IGF 2018 Speech by French President Emmanuel Macron

By Klaus Stoll

Macron has declared the Internet to be under threat. Without stepping back to question and explore the underlying causes of those threats, he uses them as a justification to propose a different approach to, albeit limited, current Internet Governance processes. Here we explore his proposals and some of the issues they generate.

He acknowledges that Civil Society and the private sector have been core drivers in the creation of the Internet. He argues that its benefits and existence are endangered by predatory practices. He proposes that, in order to maintain the Internet and save it from itself, governments must assume leadership through the instrument of regulations.

An outcome-based analysis of US cyber strategy of persistence and defense forward

The new U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) vision and the Department of Defense Cyber Strategy embody a fundamental reorientation in strategic thinking.

With the publication of these documents, as well as 2017 National Security Strategy and the 2018 National Defense Strategy, there is a general conception among expertsthat the U.S. has, for the first time, articulated a strategy that truly appreciates the unique “symptoms” of cyberspace. The documents recognize that there is a new structural set of dynamics associated with the new domain of cyberspace that has incentivized a new approach to power competition—in particular, that hostile or adversarial behavior below the threshold of armed attack could nevertheless be strategically meaningful (that is, change the balance of power).

The Growing Importance Of Cybersecurity Skills

Cybercrime costs the U.K. several billion pounds per year. Indeed, a recent government report showed that 46% of all businesses identified at least one cyber attack in the last year, with 74% of directors regarding cybersecurity as a high priority issue for them.

Despite this level of priority, organizations struggle to attract the talent they need to keep up with the constant arms race they face with hackers and other cyber criminals. The Czech Republic may not be the first place you think of when it comes to finding these skills.

After all, a recent report from the OECD highlighted the relatively low levels of digital sophistication in the country, whilst a McKinsey report highlights the challenges this represents for the country, with productivity at 60% of the levels of peers in western Europe.

How to Save Social Security Systems


Providing benefits to support a comfortable standard of living for retirees with just a modest rate of tax on the working population depends on there being a small number of pensioners relative to the number of taxpayers. That is no longer the case. CAMBRIDGE – Every society faces the difficult task of providing support for older people who are no longer working. In an earlier era, retirees lived with their adult children, providing childcare and helping around the house. But those days are largely gone. Retirees and their adult children alike prefer living independently.

In a rational economic world, individuals would save during their working years, accumulating enough to purchase an annuity that finances a comfortable standard of living when they retire. But that is not what most people do, either because of their shortsightedness or because of the incentives created by the government social security programs.

Three ways artificial intelligence can improve cybersecurity

By: Jeffrey I. Cooper

This past summer, the Internal Revenue Service issued a request for information to learn more about how artificial intelligence can improve cyber security.

The request went beyond just using machine-learning technologies to improve cyber operations. The agency wanted to know how to create a system that continuously learns its environment, triages alerts, identifies previously unknown trends and analyzes data to provide actionable context for officials.

Artificial intelligence has been one of the most prominent buzzwords in the federal government over the past year. The federal government has made strides to bring artificial intelligence into agencies, but it has only begun to scratch the surface of its capabilities and use cases.

How to Avoid an Avoidable War

By Kevin Rudd

This November, we will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of what was called “the war to end all wars” between the great powers of the early twentieth century. Of course, the war to end all wars turned out to be anything but. Because of a catastrophic series of unintended consequences, more wars followed in its wake, and the geopolitical map of the world has been redrawn three times since then.

When future generations look back on 2018, it could well be as the year in which the relationship between the two great powers of the twenty-first century—the United States and China—shifted from peaceful coexistence to a new form of confrontation, although its final trajectory remains far from certain.

Defense officials taking advantage of new cyber authorities

By: Mark Pomerleau  

Department of Defense officials say new authorities and policies have allowed cyber operators to move faster and execute new operations in recent months.

“Over the last six months we’ve been given sufficient authorities that allow us to implement the approach of defending forward,” Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, deputy commander of Cyber Command, said during a presentation at the CyCon conference in Washington Nov. 14. “We can no longer have policy that runs all the way to the very senior levels of our organizations before we can take action. We need the flexibility to act as we see emerging threats and opportunities in this space.”

The Army is rapidly regrowing electronic warfare

By: Mark Pomerleau  

Following intense focus on building its cyber force for the last several years, the Army now wants to ensure every level of battlefield leadership has electronic warfare capabilities at their disposal.

“We have really focused on ... bringing cyber, electronic warfare and information operations capabilities across all echelons of the Army,” Brig. Gen. Jennifer Buckner, director of cyber within the Army’s G-3/5/7, told reporters during a media roundtable at the CyCon conference in Washington Nov. 15.

The growth of the electronic warfare force will include planners on staffs at all echelons who will provide commanders both cyber and EW plans as well as electronic warfare operators.

The Yemen War: A Proxy Sectarian War?

By Maartja Abbenhuis

The diffusion of protests against authoritarian regimes across the Arab world in 2011 reinvigorated Yemen’s marginalized social movements and united different geographical and political factions in Yemen, such as the northern Houthi movement and the southern secessionist movement Hiraak.1 The Saudi Kingdom, along with other Gulf monarchies, swiftly designed a transitional plan for the country to ensure that President Ali Abdullah Saleh wass replaced with a friendly government led by President Abd Rabo Hadi. Disillusioned by the transition, the Houthis took military control of the capital Sana’a in September 2014, and Yemen descended into a civil war. On 26 March 2015, Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes on Yemen with the aim to restore the Saudi-backed Hadi government and destroy the Houthi movement. What was initially planned as a limited operation degenerated into a war of attrition without a conclusion insight. Scholars and policy analysts moved quickly to examine the Yemen war as a by-product of Saudi-Iranian rivalry and another manifestation of a region-wide war between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims. Yet, the crisis in Yemen is more complex; it is neither an international proxy war nor a sectarian confrontation.

These grunts recommended a 15-Marine rifle squad ‘at a minimum.’ The top Marine went with 12.

By: Shawn Snow 

Marines participating in the first phase of an experimental series of exercises known as Sea Dragon 2025 had recommended a 15-Marine rifle squad model roughly a year before the top Marine decided to make it smaller.

In an article published in the Marine Corps Gazette, some of the leadership within 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines had characterized the 15-Marine rifle squad as being “at a minimum, the way to go” for Marine infantry operating on the future battlefield.

The additional support was necessary for Marines to hone skills in new technology, drones and fire support to handle a fight with more sophisticated near-peer rivals, Marines with 3/5 detailed in the Gazette article.

Army imagines automation as seamless as in a strategy game

By: Kelsey D. Atherton

The slide clicks into place like a screen from an early 2000s video game, the audience peering over a contested valley through the perch of a tank commander.

Another click, and the unknown tanks and infantry are clear, as our tank-commanding avatar holds a tablet with the enemy positions illuminated in red. Finding these enemies are an array of systems, from satellites to drone swarms to uncrewed reconnaissance vehicles on the ground.

Another click, and the hostile forces on the screen are replaced by scorch marks, the tank commander’s tablet illuminated with the range of strikes called in from air and land forces.

Army AI Task Force Comes To Pittsburgh, c/o CMU


DETROIT: The Army’s brand-new Artificial Intelligence Task Force — just launched last month — has set up its main office on the Pittsburg campus of Carnegie Mellon University, Gen. John “Mike” Murray announced here this morning. The task force’s deputy commander, a colonel, is already working out of CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center, I was told. The task force will use CMU as a hub to reach out to academia and civilian industry, Murray said, as well as coordinating existing Army AI efforts, starting new experiments, and reforming bureaucratic policies that impede innovation.

With Murray’s own HQ, Army Futures Command, stood up this August in Austin, the notoriously hidebound Army is making a concerted effort to change its ways. Reaching out beyond its comfort zone of the Pentagon, big military installations, and traditional defense contractors, the Army hopes to embed its officers, scientists, and civil servants in a wider world of civilian innovation, where hoodies are more in vogue than uniforms.

The Fight So Far

By LTG Michael K. Nagata

Achieving significantly greater strategic success against terrorism remains within America’s grasp, but only if we are willing to be as adaptive and flexible—indeed more so—than our terrorist adversaries have proven to be. Achieving this will require us to make investments, adopt practices, and make choices we previously have not. The purpose of this narrative is to encourage a larger and more effective discussion about these investments, practices, and choices. Although the U.S. Government (USG) has frequently claimed to take a whole-of-government approach in utilizing all elements of national power to fight terrorism, our struggle against the Islamist State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has demonstrated that we must strengthen our emphasis and resourcing of non-kinetic counterterrorism (CT) efforts to match the strengths that we and our allies have developed since 9/11 in kinetic efforts.
Where We Have Been

The U.S. Military’s Drone Swarm Strategy Just Passed a Key Test

By Patrick Tucker

The U.S. military’s strategy for winning the next major war is to throw a bunch of highly autonomous, deeply interconnected drones, jets, ships, and other things at the enemy. But this massive, coordinated strike across air, land, sea and cyberspace is sure to run headfirst into electronic warfare defenses designed to disrupt the networks that make it possible..

This week, officials with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced that a series of tests at Arizona’s Yuma Proving Ground had shown that live and virtual drones could work together, with high degrees of autonomy, to complete missions even when their communications and GPS were under heavy electronic attack.