10 December 2018

India’s First Homegrown Aircraft Carrier to Begin Sea Trials in 2020

By Franz-Stefan Gady

India’s first domestically built aircraft carrier is expected to be inducted into the Indian Navy in 2020.

India’s first domestically built aircraft carrier, the future INS Vikrant, designated IAC-1, is expected to commence sea trials in 2020, the head of the Indian Navy, Admiral Sunil Lanba, told reporters in New Delhi on December 3rd. The new carrier is reportedly slated for induction into service with Eastern Naval Command in the same year.

Notably, a 2016 assessment published by the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) — the Indian government’s principal oversight body—stated that the carrier would only be ready for induction in 2023. That analysis, however, was rejected by the Indian Navy earlier this year. “That was CAG’s version, as far as Navy is concerned, we are confident,” of meeting the earlier deadline, Commodore J. Chowdhary, the Indian Navy’s principal director of naval design, said in January.

String of Pearls Redux: Increased Concern for India

Key Points
The so-called “String of Pearls” construct has been dismissed as a threat to India by Indian and other analysts alike.

China’s acquisition of Kyaukphyu Port in Myanmar after years of negotiation must now give those individuals some pause for thought.

China has, simultaneously, persuaded Thailand to revisit the idea of constructing a canal across the Isthmus of Kra that would connect the South China Sea to the Bay of Bengal.
If that were to eventuate, China would have immediate and virtually unfettered access to the Indian Ocean.

That would also complete the encirclement feared by India, giving New Delhi cause to reconsider its options and strategy.

General McChrystal Told Pompeo To ‘Muddle Along’ In Afghanistan, Leaked Audio Reveals


Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he did not know what to do in Afghanistan but offered his “best suggestion” was for a small number of troops to remain and “muddle along” in the country, the retired four-star Army general told a small group last month during his book tour.

Although McChrystal, 64, mostly kept to a prepared presentation analyzing different military leaders through history during an hour-long talk in New York City on Nov. 26, he offered the surprisingly candid admission in response to an audience member’s question on the path forward in Afghanistan, according to an audio recording of McChrystal’s talk obtained by Task & Purpose.

Dilemmas in Afghanistan’s paradoxical peace drama

Abbas Farasoo

Last month, Moscow hosted a peace conference on Afghanistan and provided an opportunity for the Taliban to participate at the international level. The Afghan government did not participate in this conference officially, although the country’s High Peace Council, first established in 2010 to negotiate with the Taliban, sent a delegation.

The parallel processes indicate the lack of regional consensus on Afghanistan’s future, along with an entry into a new phase of regional and international disagreements.

This parallel development follows an order by US President Donald Trump in July for direct peace talks with the Taliban. Trump’s envoy to lead the talks, diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, met members of the Taliban in Qatar in October, but the Afghan government was neither consulted nor informed. Khalilzad met with a Taliban representative in Qatar again with a proposal of an interim government under a neutral leadership to pave the way for a further intra-Afghan agreement.

Afghanistan’s Taliban Is in It to Win It


Afghan security forces and investigators gather at the site of a suicide bomb attack outside a British security firm's compound in Kabul, a day after the blast on November 29, 2018.  (NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP/Getty Images)Like three of his predecessors, U.S. President Donald Trump is now reportedly seeking Pakistan’s assistance in bringing Afghanistan’s Taliban to the negotiating table. But the history of American negotiations with the Taliban, going back to the mid-1990s, shows how large the perceptual gap between the two sides is. Even when Pakistan has facilitated dialogue, those efforts have been frustrated by the chasm between America’s and the Taliban’s worldviews.

Zalmay Khalilzad, America’s negotiator in the new talks, is an able and experienced diplomat, uniquely qualified to navigate the treacherous politics of Afghanistan. Trump has tapped the right person for a tough job, but even Khalilzad may not be able to overcome the difference in outlook—and commitment—between the United States and the Taliban.

A Game as Old as Empire: The Return of Proxy Wars in Afghanistan

Tamim Asey

History is repeating itself in Afghanistan. Proxy wars and great power politics is returning to the country. It is putting Afghanistan once again at the center stage of regional and global rivalries over influence for a variety of geo-strategic interests and the quest for resources. This time, unlike the past, there are many players including almost all of Afghanistan's neighbors - with the prominent players being Pakistan, Iran, China and India.

Afghanistan at its origin, observed Lord George N. Curzon, was an empty space on the map which was neither Persian nor Russian nor British. It was purely a geographical space which emerged and used as a buffer zone as a result of great power politics between the British Empire and Russian Tsar. Some scholars and historians term Afghanistan as an accidental nation. The nomadic, semi nomadic and settled ethnic groups living in this rugged but vitally strategic land were used as tools to extend the influence and interests of one Empire against the other. The monarchies and militia groups trained and funded by these two empires emerged as a result of these great rivalries used to take turns in preparing the ground for government collapse and capturing Kabul’s centric power through assassinating monarchs and waging coups and rebellions to further the interests of their empire pay masters.

Planet China Beats This Rocky U.S. Market Orbit

Shuli Ren 

The U.S. is from Mars, China is from Venus – or at least, that’s the impression left by last weekend’s Group of 20 summit. 

Markets this week whipsawed as they digested the high-level dinner between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. A direct side-by-side comparison of the two statements that came out of that meeting couldn’t have looked more different, and investors have started to fret that Trump had overstated his successes, again. As of Wednesday morning, all we have from the Chinese is a vague acknowledgement that there is indeed a consensus that the two sides will restart trade talks within 90 days. Little concrete came about. 

How should investors position themselves when the world’s two largest economies look like they are from two planets? I would take Venus’s side. Emerging markets, including China, are now the safer bet. 

Ancient Chinese Secret: These 14 Phenomenal Photos Reveal There Were Indeed Black Chinese

Paco Taylor

Ina once-popular commercial for Calgon detergent in the 1970s, a curious housewife probes the Chinese owner of the local laundry for the answer to one of the world’s eternal mysteries: “How do you get shirts so clean, Mr. Lee?” After peering over his shoulder (so as to be sure that his not-so-discreet wife isn’t standing near) the man turns back around, raises a finger to his lips and says through a smile, “Ancient Chinese secret!”

While the answer to the question posed to the laundry owner by the woman was a closely guarded secret — one that his sweet, no-nonsense wife happily ruined — it was neither ancient nor even Chinese in origin. But the TV spot famously tapped into one of the most enduring legends about the country whose Ming Dynasty rulers had a 16-to-26 foot wall built around it: the age-old traditions of secrecy.

The “Tariff Man” President Is Stuck Between China and Wall Street

By John Cassidy

Donald Trump never admits when he screws things up, still less apologizes for it. But on Thursday morning, when he took his daily plunge into Twitter, he was clearly trying to repair some of the damage he’d done on Tuesday, when his skeptical tweets about the weekend’s ceasefire in the U.S.-China trade war had helped prompt a seven-hundred-and-ninety-nine-point fall in the Dow, the fourth-largest points drop in history.

“I am a Tariff Man,” Trump had written on Tuesday morning, and investors hadn’t hung around to find out if he was bluffing. Already concerned about the possibility of a sharp slowdown in the U.S. economy next year, they had dumped stocks across the board, particularly in companies that would be hit hard by another escalation in the trade war. Boeing had fallen almost five per cent, Caterpillar almost seven per cent.

US strikes at heart of 'Made in China' with Huawei arrest

BEIJING/WASHINGTON -- The arrest in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei Technologies, on the very day that the presidents of the U.S. and China dined together augurs rough seas ahead for the Sino-American trade talks.

"The Chinese side has lodged stern representations" with both Ottawa and Washington, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang said in Thursday's press briefing. Beijing has demanded that they "immediately clarify the reason for the detention" and release Meng, he said.

"According to my information, neither the U.S. nor Canada has made any clarification on the reason for the detention so far," Geng said.

Latest G20 Show Wins Mixed Reviews: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

by Doug Bandow 

The official statement was anemic and the bilateral meetings were formulaic, but the personal and policy embarrassments were few.

The “G” meetings are largely for show; it doesn’t matter how large the number. Indeed, the bigger the number the less serious the meeting is likely to be. The gatherings are largely used for public relations, an opportunity for world leaders to demonstrate their foreign policy bona fides to voters—subjects in undemocratic states—back home. The best definition of success at such a meeting is nothing bad happening.

This appears to be the case with the latest G20 conclave. World leaders affirmed their undying love for one another, committed to advancing all things wonderful, and avoided any dramatic political disasters. The official statement was anemic and the bilateral meetings were formulaic, but the personal and policy embarrassments were few.

China’s Crackdown on Hong Kong’s Freedoms Is Bad for Business

By Joel Sandhu and Jill van de Walle

China’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s democratic freedoms and its interference in the city’s independent judiciary are threatening to diminish Hong Kong’s appeal for international investment and trade. In his open letter to United States’ President Donald Trump the Hong Kong National Party’s convener, Andy Chan urged Trump to “suspend the differential treatments between Hong Kong and China.” He went on to write, “With the loss of autonomy and protection to fundamental rights, there is no longer any basis for the United States to give Hong Kong those treatments under the Policy Act.”

G20 In Buenos Aires: End Of US-China Trade War? – Analysis

By Su-Hyun Lee and Chia-yi Lee*

The 2018 G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, concluded amidst rising tensions between the US and China over trade. The G20 leaders’ final declaration this year addressed important issues like digitalisation, infrastructure, food security, and migration, besides some concessions to the US in trade.

The Group of Twenty (G20) Leaders Summit for 2018 took place over the last weekend in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Leaders of 20 members (19 countries plus European Union) and invited countries and key International Organisations got together to discuss an array of global issues. On the sidelines, leaders also engaged in bilateral meetings to coordinate on issues of importance to their countries, including the significant meeting between the US President Donald Trump and the Chinese President Xi Jinping on trade.

Jordan's King Walks a Fine Line Between Domestic and International Demands

Jordan's economic and nationalist protest movements are both gaining strength, demanding changes to Amman's policies that will create potential clashes with the country's international donors.

Jordan's key contributors — including the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — will want the kingdom to pursue policies that are unpopular with its citizens.

The divide between international and domestic desires could create a crisis for Jordan's monarchy if the country's sponsors attempt to push Amman too far.

The Saudi Economy Moves Closer to Russia and China

by Michael B. Greenwald

Since the Fracking Revolution, Saudi Arabia has embraced closer energy cooperation with non-Western powers, like China, Russia and India.

Since the October death of Jamal Khashoggi, Riyadh’s economic relationships have been the subject of intense international scrutiny. Most major governments have been distancing themselves from Saudi Arabia. In particular, the withdrawals from the Future Investment Initiative (FII) to the German freeze on arms exports, both governments and some in the private sector have been keen on distancing themselves from the country. In recent weeks, strong U.S. Congressional reactions have been discussed, and will soon be at the forefront of the narrative.

Brexit: How We Got Here

By George Friedman

The referendum happened over two years ago, but there’s still debate over how to implement the result.

The British Parliament is set to vote next week on the exit deal Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated with the European Union. The prime minister has faced much criticism from members of parliament who don’t like the terms of the deal or who don’t want Britain to leave the EU at all. Indeed, many MPs, as well as David Cameron, the prime minister who agreed to hold the referendum in the first place, were shocked by the outcome of the vote in 2016. Though they had authorized the referendum, they expected that it would be soundly defeated. But their expectation proved false, putting an end to the nonsensical claim that only a small minority of the British public wanted to leave. Nearly 52 percent, in fact, voted in favor of Brexit.

Brexit Is Falling Apart — Slowly


Could this week mark the moment when Britain turned against Brexit? Two developments in a day of high parliamentary drama seemed to mark a sea change in the political landscape as the U.K.’s Parliament embarked on five days of debate over the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.

First came the news that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is likely to rule that Britain may unilaterally suspend the exit process from the EU without consulting other members—or the ECJ itself. That undermines Prime Minister Theresa May’s argument that members of Parliament face a choice between the deal she had negotiated with Brussels or an economically disastrous no-deal exit. Soon, lawmakers will probably have a third option: to push back the March 29 deadline for Britain’s departure to allow time for more talks, or a second referendum.

The U.S. Supersizes Its Sanctions

By Matthew Bey

The United States has already imposed some of the broadest economic sanctions ever against Iran, but it is likely to turn up the heat even more in the year to come.

Given the United States' proclivity to go it alone in imposing sanctions under the current administration, the country could eventually impose significant unilateral sanctions on countries other than Iran.

Increasingly unilateral action by the United States is leading others, like the European Union, to explore ways to dilute the U.S. push, but as long as the U.S. financial system remains at the heart of the global financial system, that pushback will have limited success.

Center for Complex Operations (CCO)

NATO's Adaptation in an Age of Complexity
The Fight So Far
The Mandate to Innovate
Examining Complex Forms of Conflict: Gray Zone and Hybrid Challenges
Post–Conflict Stabilization: What Can We Learn from Syria?
Economic and Financial Sanctions in U.S. National Security Strategy
Learning and Innovation: Jordan at the "Crossroads of Armageddon"
The Machine Beneath: Implications of Artifical Intelligence in Strategic Decisionmaking
High North and High Stakes: The Svalbard Archipelago Could be the Epicenter of Rising Tension in the Arctic
Wildlife and Drug Trafficking, Terrorism, and Human Security
Sending in the Cavalry: The Growing Militarization of Counterterrorism in Southeast Asia

My Family Is At The Center Of My Life, And That’s Alright


First Lt. Douglas "Jolly" Foss, 95th Fighter Squadron F-22 Raptor pilot, hugs his fiancée, Abby, Feb. 13, 2016, at the Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., flightline.No. 19 in our contest says you don’t have to find meaning in your work, that there are other places that might be better.

Kevin LaCroix writes: “I did one enlistment in the Navy. I started in the Nuclear Power Program but did not finish it. I ended up doing what I wanted anyway, a machinist, Machinery Repairman, to be exact. I served in the relative peace between Beirut and the first Gulf War. Over-all I enjoyed my time in.

After separating, honorably, I went out looking for work as a machinist. After about two dozen applications, I was hired but was told my job experience was considered no better than a high schooler graduating from a vocational tech program.

That hurt. I had been a second-class Petty Officer, with plenty of experience on tin cans and a tender. The civilian world was very different. My Navy training did not really prepare me for a civilian job.

Europe must grab chance to make up ground lost to China

Julian Popov

Last week the European Commission launched its 2050 Strategy that shows a path to achieving “climate neutral” economy, or net zero greenhouse gas emissions, by 2050.

This goal, set out before the latest UN conference on climate change in the coal-mining centre of Katowice, Poland, is ambitious. Questions remain about how realistic this target is, what it could cost to achieve, and what would be its global impact on climate change — because Europe’s share of world greenhouse gas emissions is only 10 per cent and shrinking.

The answers provided in the analysis that accompanies the strategy statement are bold. They show that European climate neutrality by 2050 is possible and affordable. It would require, however, a different economic mindset.

Infographic Of The Day: How To Become A Google Drive Power User

Are you one of Google Drive's one billion active users? Are your files among the more than two trillion documents Drive now stores?

Google Drive is a fantastic resource. But some of its best features are relatively hidden – so we’ve put together a comprehensive infographic to illustrate the best of them and show you how to boost your productivity and become a Google Drive power user.

One example of a quick trick is to watch your uploaded videos through Google Drive. This can save a lot of time (and storage space) when collaborating on a moving image project. You just need to double-click the uploaded video file to bring it up in a YouTube-style player.

Or if you’re looking to spruce up your writing you can find over 800 fonts in Google Docs. Either create a doc, or upload an MS-Word doc to Drive and right-click > Open with Google Docs. You’ll find the font menu midway along the toolbar and just click ‘More fonts…’ in the dropdown.

Cyber security: Hackers step out of the shadows with bigger, bolder attacks

By Danny Palmer 

But increasingly, cyber attacks are now carried out in fully public view, and many attackers don't appear to worry so much about keeping under the radar. Some even seem to go out of their way to make sure they are spotted.

One example of the way cyberattacks have gone public: the WannaCry ransomware caused chaos and made headlines around the world, with many businesses locked out of their PCs by hackers who demanded a bitcoin ransom in exchange for restoring access to data.

But even if victims opted to give into the attack and pay the ransom -- which some did -- there was never any means of the attackers fulfilling their end of the deal.

WannaCry was attributed to North Korea, with Pyongyang having taken advantage of EternalBlue, a leaked NSA hacking tool, to help power the spread of the attack. It's still not clear whether it was a bungled attempt to make money or simply a show of force by the North Korean regime.

Sandia Labs trains AI to spot drones in time and space

By: Kelsey D. Atherton

ALBUQUERQUE — Sandia Labs, together with the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, is working on a novel drone-detection technique. Sandia’s method is video-based. Called “temporal frequency analysis,” it analyzes pixel fluctuations in recorded footage of a drone, and then applies machine learning to that footage to train the algorithm to recognize all drones like it in the future, and then anticipate their movements.

While drones today can be detected by everything from radar to visual confirmation to transmitted radio signals, most of these methods face some limitations. Radar has a difficult time discriminating between birds and gyrocopters, and struggles on its own with smaller drones. Radio signals are revealing for as long as the drone and its controller are sending them, but increased autonomy reduces the signals sent, eliminating signals as a viable tracking tool.

The Friendship That Made Google Huge

By James Somers

One day in March of 2000, six of Google’s best engineers gathered in a makeshift war room. The company was in the midst of an unprecedented emergency. In October, its core systems, which crawled the Web to build an “index” of it, had stopped working. Although users could still type in queries at google.com, the results they received were five months out of date. More was at stake than the engineers realized. Google’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, were negotiating a deal to power a search engine for Yahoo, and they’d promised to deliver an index ten times bigger than the one they had at the time—one capable of keeping up with the World Wide Web, which had doubled in size the previous year. If they failed, google.com would remain a time capsule, the Yahoo deal would likely collapse, and the company would risk burning through its funding into oblivion.

Antitrust’s Most Wanted

Tim Wu

The 10 cases the government should be investigating — but isn’t

Welive in a time of both extreme politics and extreme economics. The political side is familiar, but the economic side may be less so. It is represented by new concentrations of personal wealth and unprecedented levels of industrial concentration, both in the United States and globally. That means that an increasing number of industries are dominated by oligopolies and monopolies, with repercussions felt in terms of higher prices, poor treatment of consumers, barriers for entrepreneurs, and suppressed wages for employees.

In the United States, the classic antidote to such excessive concentration has been the antitrust law, enacted during the first Gilded Age to fight the monopolization of the American economy by the trusts. Yet it is a law whose enforcement has weakened over the last 40 years, prompting many to ask if the law has failed in its prime directive. These are the questions asked in my new book, The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age.

DARPA wants to know if it can do anything with blockchain

By: Kelsey D. Atherton 

DARPA is known for seeing futures first, and then making them real. The Pentagon’s blue sky projects agency laid the groundwork for everything from the internet to driverless cars, and continues to explore the edges of technologies such as battlefield autonomy and paradigm-shifting cheap space launches. All of which makes a recent DARPA request for information on blockchain almost an indictment of the technology itself. If DARPA can’t figure out a responsible, value-generating use for blockchain, who can?

People or organizations with ideas about how the national security community can use blockchain (or, as DARPA puts it, “permissionless distributed consensus protocols”) are invited to respond to the request until Dec. 20, and if selected, may present their ideas at a workshop in February.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution’s Impact on Smaller Militaries: Boon or Bane?

Even as smaller and less well funded armed forces are still grappling with incorporating computerisation into personnel, supply and other military functions for increased efficiency or effectiveness, this hallmark of the Third Industrial Revolution is already being eclipsed by developments from the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Developments like artificial intelligence, autonomous drones, three-dimensional printing and genetic engineering will deeply affect the profession of arms, with armed services from smaller or poorer nations being no exception. Without the deep pockets needed to fully exploit all these cutting-edge developments, small and mid-sized militaries will still have to adapt as best as they can to the changing winds of the Fourth Industrial Revolution while attempting to mitigate any harmful after effects. The industrial and technological impacts of this revolution on the human resource, intelligence, logistics and operational functions of smaller armed forces will be examined and their implications analysed. Accordingly, the overall military influence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be assessed and appropriate operational and policy-based advice for smaller armed services suggested.Download pdf

Why the Air Force is investing $100M in AI

Justin Lynch 

The Air Force plans to invest $100 million over three years to research automated cyber and signals intelligence processing, according to the service.

Automatically sorting through emails, phone conversations and other types of collected signals will help the Air Force because “time is critical” and the intelligence “analysts’ workload is high,” said the Dec. 4 initial announcement.

“Automated signal processing is a key component for net-centric warfare,” the Air Force Research Lab wrote, adding they were interested in areas of research that included commercial signal processing capabilities and improving systems already in the field. Information from the gathering and processing “provides the continuous decision-quality information necessary to successfully employ air, space and cyber operations.”

Blame Alfred Thayer Mahan for Pearl Harbor (and Thank Him for Its Failure)

by James Holmes

Americans have Alfred Thayer Mahan to blame for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. They also have Mahan to thank for the attack’s failure. The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) could have landed a crippling strategic blow against the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet, demolishing infrastructure indispensable to fleet operations in the distant Western Pacific. Instead, Japanese aviators concentrated their bombs, torpedoes and gunfire on U.S. battleships moored at Ford Island.

The results were spectacular but ephemeral. The raid accomplished little apart from delaying an American counteroffensive a few months and firing popular resolve in the United States to unleash that counteroffensive. If you decide to smite a sleeping giant, you had better kill him.