17 January 2019

NATO does not want India at Afghanistan peace talks table


India has prominent place, but there are hundreds who have stake there, says NATO.

New Delhi: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has denied that India plays a crucial role in the Afghanistan peace and reconciliation process, and instead believes that Pakistan has the “most important role”, along with the US, in establishing truce with the Taliban.

Alejandro Alvargonzález, Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy, NATO, told ThePrint that the peace process is led by the Afghanistan government where the US is “playing a crucial role” along with Pakistan, but India cannot be party to those talks just because Pakistan is a player in it.

Is India ready? China steps up military build-up in Tibet as America passes law of Reciprocal Access

Srikanth Kondapalli

All provincial military commands were integrated with National Defence Mobilisation Department of the Central Military Commission, except for Tibet Military Command which was brought under the jurisdiction of the PLA.

In the light of India acquiring UAVs from the US, China appears to be already putting the anti-dotes. (IE)

Despite the recent bonhomie exhibited at Wuhan meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in April last year, China is quietly stepping up of military deployments and capabilities in Tibet with the intention to fight a war.

Firstly, after the late 2015 reorganisation of the armed forces (PLA) was announced, Chengdu Military Region (which has operational jurisdiction over most borders with India) and the Lanzhou Military Region (which has jurisdiction over Aksai Chin) were merged into the Western Theatre Command.


by Soraya Parwani

The United Nations Strategic Review of 2017 reclassified Afghanistan from a post-conflict state to an active conflict state. As we enter 2019, the conflict not only remains active, but rather it is worsening. In the past year, there have been an additional 550,000 civilians displaced and 3.3 million people pushed past emergency levels of food insecurity. Another 6.3 million people need some form of humanitarian and protection assistance. The battlefield has been less favorable to the Afghan forces who have already absorbed 46,000 casualties. Continuing into 2019, the weakening security situation, political stalemate, and tense ties between the United States and Afghanistan’s regional neighbors will act as stumbling blocks to any attempts to bring an end to the conflict.

‘The Taliban Made Me Fight’: What to Do With Child Recruits After They Serve Time?

By Rod Nordland

‘The Taliban Made Me Fight’: What to Do With Child Recruits After They Serve Time? 

KABUL, Afghanistan — The 14-year-old boy squatted on his haunches on the floor of the prison and, unbidden, began to chant the verses of a Pashto poem in a high, beautiful voice. It was an a cappella elegy in which a prisoner implores his family not to visit him on the Muslim holiday of Eid.

And do not come to us for Eid, for we are not free to welcome you.

I don’t want you to look at my chest, for there are no buttons on my shirt.

Don’t come to this asylum, for we are all lunatics in here.

If US troops exit Kabul, and the Taliban holds sway, Pakistan could unleash ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ against India


We could soon see America leave Afghanistan's brutal war half-finished. The implications of this will be dreadful for ordinary Afghans. This is no good news for India either.

Nearly forty years ago, on Christmas Day in 1979, Soviet tanks and troops were airlifted into Kabul — in what became a bloody battle between ‘godless’ Communists on one side, and Islamic mujahedeen backed by the West, Pakistan, the Emirates and Saudi Arabia on the other.

If the 1980s were the years of what ultimately came to be known as the Afghan jihad, the 1990s were the years of civil war, with the Taliban triumphant in Kabul.

The 21st century has seen the results of an unending US-led ‘Global War on Terror’, located in Afghanistan, among other Muslim countries. The Afghans were punished for their location — while Pakistan rewarded for its. This also makes it the longest war that any country has faced in modern times.

Rules of engagement

 By Mandira Nayar

THE LAST TIME Indian representatives sat across a table with the Taliban was in the bleak winter of 1999, at the spartan airport lounge in a snow-filled Kandahar. External affairs minister Jaswant Singh had escorted three Pakistan-backed Kashmiri terrorists, including the dreaded Masood Azhar who would later found the Jaish-e-Mohammad, to be exchanged for 100-odd passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC 814. The Taliban regime in Kabul was purportedly playing the honest umpire, but everyone knew who they were actually putting on the act for.

Singh described his decision to escort the terrorists as one of the most “emotionally draining’’ ones in his life. There are no pictures of that shameful flight, or of that meeting in Kandahar.

Pakistan’s invisible forces tighten grip on power


After fracturing Nawaz Sharif‘s mandate and injuring him politically, the invisible forces are now busy tightening the noose on the chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Asif Ali Zardari, and his aides.

Because of the way things were designed, it was not difficult to understand that sooner or later the Zardari-led PPP would face the music soon. The new doctrine of the military establishment revolves around the correction of the political structure in Pakistan, and in order to do so, it is thought that the two main parties should gradually be thrown off the political horizon.

What can we expect in China in 2019?

By Gordon Orr

The next stages of China’s transition away from economic equilibrium with the United States will likely create volatility in market growth and require conservatism in some areas and bold moves in others. 

The US–China economic equilibrium of the past 20 years has gone, and as we look into 2019, it is not yet clear when and where a new equilibrium will form. What level of economic separation will develop between the world’s two largest economies? How much will businesses need to change in their business model—from the customers they target, the products and services they offer, their overall supply chain, and even their capital structure and ownership? The next stages of this transition will play out over 2019 in ways that cannot be fully anticipated, but without doubt, uncertainties will lead to lower levels of long-term investment by businesses in 2019 and to greater levels of volatility in market growth and in the valuations of many kinds of assets. It will be a year for prudent conservatism in many areas, combined with a readiness to make big, bold bets if and when one-time opportunities arise. 

How the US and China collaborated to get nuclear material out of Nigeria — and away from terrorist groups

By: Aaron Mehta

WASHINGTON — At a staging ground in Ghana, a group of nuclear experts watched the clock and nervously waited for the news.

The team — a mix of American, British, Norwegian and Chinese experts, along with Czech and Russian contractors — were supposed to head into the Kaduna region of Nigeria to remove highly enriched uranium from a research reactor that nonproliferation experts have long warned could be a target for terrorists hoping to get their hands on nuclear material.

But with the team assembled and ready to go on Oct. 20, 2018, the mission was suddenly paused, with the regional governor declaring a curfew after regional violence left dozens dead. As American diplomats raced to ensure the carefully calibrated window of opportunity didn’t shut, the inspectors were unsure if the situation would be safe enough to complete the mission.

How China Is Using Quantum Physics to Take Over the World and Stop Hackers


The Nazis knew secret communication was the key to world domination. Their prize technology was the electromechanical Enigma machine, an encryption device that allowed German tank divisions, embassies and even submarines to send scrambled radio messages to the Reich during World War II. They believed their system was unbreakable. It was—until a young British mathematician named Alan Turing realized that the signal could be unscrambled if he could create a machine to systematically try thousands of key combinations that would eventually hit upon an intelligible message.

The result was the world’s first computer. Britain’s ability to read Germany’s secret codes was a crucial factor in the Allies’ victory.

What China’s Antarctic Behavior Tells Us About the Future of Space

By L.M Foster and Namrata Goswami

In his opening remarks to the 19th Communist Party of China (CPC)’s National Congress, Chinese President Xi Jinping specified that China aims to become a powerful country by 2050 based on modernizing socialism. Built in as a major component of Xi’s China Dream is China’s Space Dream aimed at turning the country into the most advanced country with space technology by 2045. The road map published by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASTC) indicates that between 2020 and 2045, China aims to achieve several significant milestones with regard to space technology to include a reusable carrier rocket by 2035, and a nuclear powered space shuttle by 2040, which would augment larger payloads to include human presence in space. These plans for a nuclear powered space fleet are supported by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), which in a report published in the People’s Daily front page stated that this development would enable China to commercially explore and exploit the natural resources available in spaceby 2040. Wang Chunghui, associate professor of aerospace propulsion at the School of Astronautics at Beihang University, stated, “The nuclear vessels are built to colonise the solar system and beyond.”

What Does Kim Jong-un Want From China?

by Scott A. Snyder

Kim Jong-un and his wife have planned a birthday getaway in Beijing this week with Mr. and Mrs. Xi Jinping. Media have speculated that China might use the occasion of Kim’s visit as leverage in managing U.S.-China trade talks. Two years ago the premise underlying a convergence between Trump and Xi on North Korea at Mar-a-lago was that if Xi were to put the sanctions squeeze on Kim as part of the administration’s maximum pressure campaign toward North Korea then Trump would ease off on economic demands of China. That understanding was quickly discarded and Trump subsequently escalated tariff pressure on China last year, around the same time he stopped calling Kim Jong-un “little rocket man.” Based on this abrupt reversal, Xi has little reason to believe that Trump would honor a renewed linkage between North Korea and the U.S.-China trade issue.

Sixty Years After the Revolution, Is a ‘New Cuba’ Emerging?

William M. LeoGrande

Is the Cuban Revolution reinventing itself at age 60? That was my unmistakable impression during a visit to Cuba last month. Change is in the air as the island celebrates the anniversary of the 1959 revolution.

Last year, Raul Castro stepped down as president in favor of his protégé, 58-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel, who promised a “new Cuba”—a government more open and responsive to people’s needs. In the ensuing months, three constituencies—the churches, the private sector and the arts community—took advantage of that promise to launch organized campaigns pushing back against government policies they opposed. And in each case, the government backed off.

The internet played an important role in these campaigns. Since 2009, when Cuban leaders decided that a wired nation was essential for a 21st century economy, internet access has exploded. The government has opened over 800 public Wi-Fi hot spots and cybercafés in the past five years, and home internet access became available in 2017. By the end of 2018, nearly half the Cuban population had personal cell phones—illegal until 2008—and there was 3G internet access for anyone who could afford it, though the price is still out of reach for many. These changes have made possible new forms of communication, networking and organizing via social media. 

The Syria deal Trump should strike

By Asli Aydintasbas

White House national security adviser John Bolton has a reputation for volcanic anger — but his temper is probably nothing compared to that of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In Ankara on Tuesday, the Turkish leader refused to meet with President Trump’s top aide because he was angry about Bolton’s comments on a stop in Israel about the need to protect the Syrian Kurds after a U.S. troop withdrawal. 

“It is not possible for us to swallow the message Bolton gave from Israel,” an irate Erdogan said as he repeated, once again, that Turkey was planning to take on Syrian Kurdish groups — allies to the United States but terrorists to Ankara — once U.S. troops leave. 

But despite Erdogan’s enthusiasm, a Turkish-Kurdish conflict in northern Syria would be a disaster for all sides. It would torpedo United Nations’ efforts to end the Syrian war, allow the Islamic State to revive in eastern Syria, and, worst of all, bog down Turkey and the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), both U.S. allies, in yet another iteration of a "forever war.” 

The Trouble With the “Working Hypothesis”

By James K. Galbraith

Oren Cass, domestic issues director for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign and a writer for National Review and other journals, has produced a conservative's treatise on the social and economic ills of America, and what might be done to repair them. The Once and Future Worker, published in November, holds that a social philosophy based on consumption, equality, the welfare state and quality of life achieved through regulation—the essential vision of a liberal century from the Roosevelts through Richard Nixon—should be scrapped for more solid values: work, family, country, one might say. Above all, Cass believes in a society and culture rooted in the pride and pleasures of productive labor. “[The] argument at its most basic," he writes, "is that work matters. More specifically, [the book] offers what I will call the Working Hypothesis: that a labor market in which workers can support strong families and communities is the central determinant of long term prosperity.”

Thus the labor market, in Cass’s view, is the proper medium for delivering a work-friendly world. And the trouble comes when politicians, especially Democrats,“trample” on the market. The Democrats’ “actual agenda,” according to Cass, 

How Close Should an Activist Icon Get to Power? An Interview with Malala Yousafzai

By Isaac Chotiner

“Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent,” George Orwell wrote, of Gandhi. Malala Yousafzai, the youngest person to win a Nobel Peace Prize, became a secular saint because she was judged guilty. In 2012, Yousafzai, who was fifteen, the daughter of an education activist, and an increasingly outspoken advocate for girls’ education, was shot in the head, by the Taliban, on a school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. By the time she recovered from her injuries, she had become a global icon of the human toll of Islamist extremism, meeting with Prime Ministers and Presidents. Now that blatant misogyny is part of the ruling ideology far beyond Pakistan and heads of state openly disregard the concept of human rights, Yousafzai’s pristine image and astonishing fortitude seem like a throwback to an earlier age.

Ukraine’s Crumbling Economy

By Ekaterina Zolotova

The country’s persistent economic strife is veering toward crisis.

Ukraine is in internal disarray. Driving the disarray is its deteriorating economic situation. While poor economic conditions predate the 2014 revolution, the subsequent Russia-backed insurgencies and annexation of Crimea exacerbated the underlying economic problems and forced Ukraine to attempt a rapid reorientation toward the West. Ukraine staved off potential disaster in December when the International Monetary Fund, as part of its four-year assistance program, approved a new $3.9 billion standby loan, $1.4 billion of which has been disbursed. (Ukrainian government debt is now approaching 70 percent of gross domestic product.) But the program is just a Band-Aid. This year will be a serious test for Ukraine, as millions of citizens – already hurting from the current conditions – will feel the pinch of economic reforms mandated by Ukraine’s creditors.

The Weaponization Of Artificial Intelligence


Technological development has become a rat race. In the competition to lead the emerging technology race and the futuristic warfare battleground, artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly becoming the center of global power play. As seen across many nations, the development in autonomous weapons system (AWS) is progressing rapidly, and this increase in the weaponization of artificial intelligence seems to have become a highly destabilizing development. It brings complex security challenges for not only each nation’s decision makers but also for the future of the humanity.

The reality today is that artificial intelligence is leading us toward a new algorithmic warfare battlefield that has no boundaries or borders, may or may not have humans involved, and will be impossible to understand and perhaps control across the human ecosystem in cyberspace, geospace and space (CGS). As a result, the very idea of the weaponization of artificial intelligence, where a weapon system that, once activated across CGS, can select and engage human and non-human targets without further intervention by a human designer or operator, is causing great fear.

Most of the world’s businesses are unprepared for grim reality of cyberattacks

by John Kennedy

How resilient are organisations to cyberattacks and other disruptive shocks? Not very.

The majority of firms around the world are unprepared for dealing with cyberattacks, a new PwC survey has revealed.

According to the Digital Trust Insights survey, just 39pc of executives are confident that they have sufficient cybersecurity controls and only 53pc practise proactive risk management of their digital transformation.

‘The importance of maintaining data integrity will only grow as companies make more data-driven decisions with the aid of artificial intelligence’

When it comes to the boardroom, only 27pc of executives say their boards are getting adequate metrics on cyber and privacy risk management. Only half of businesses across the world say they are building resilience to cyberattacks.

Cyberattack on Treasury bonds could be the missing ingredient for next economic crisis

Trust is the fuel that makes the global financial system work — yet thanks to sophisticated operations by foreign government hackers who are increasingly willing to target that system, the risk of deliberate systemic disruption has never been greater. Even worse, soaring sovereign debt accumulated by governments worldwide has created an especially weak link susceptible to attack.

A dramatic rise in borrowing, especially by governments, has set the stage for a cyberattack to cause disruption that could cascade throughout the global economy. According to reporting by Bloomberg, U.S. Government debt is near $22 trillion — 40 percent of GDP — up from $9 trillion in 2007. Global debt of all kinds now tops $247 trillion, a staggering 320 percent of global GDP. These greater levels of debt are linked to higher levels of systemic financial vulnerability, according to a study by Columbia University’s Project on Cyber Risk to Financial Stability.

Blockchain’s Occam problem

Blockchain has yet to become the game-changer some expected. A key to finding the value is to apply the technology only when it is the simplest solution available.

Blockchain over recent years has been extolled as a revolution in business technology. In the nine years since its launch, companies, regulators, and financial technologists have spent countless hours exploring its potential. The resulting innovations have started to reshape business processes, particularly in accounting and transactions.

Amid intense experimentation, industries from financial services to healthcare and the arts have identified more than 100 blockchain use cases. These range from new land registries, to KYC applications and smart contracts that enable actions from product processing to share trading. The most impressive results have seen blockchains used to store information, cut out intermediaries, and enable greater coordination between companies, for example in relation to data standards.

With China looming, intelligence community backs AI research

By: Justin Lynch 

The U.S. government wants to boost its artificial intelligence capabilities or risks being left behind by the private sector and China.

In the last two years, that’s meant new AI initiatives from the Pentagon, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the intelligence community. Now, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is requesting information about research efforts on “cutting-edge machine learning techniques.” IARPA posted the formal request for information Dec. 4. The deadline for industry to submit information is Jan. 17.

“Of specific interest is the respondent’s knowledge of, and experience implementing, current, cutting-edge machine learning techniques,” the intelligence community’s research arm said. Respondents are required to have top secret clearances to work on the project, according to the IARPA listing.

Re-establishing U.S. Space Command is a great idea

Frank A. Rose

Last year, much of the U.S. national security space community’s attention was focused on the Trump administration’s proposal to create a sixth military service, the Space Force, which would be responsible for training and equipping military space forces. While most experts agree that the changes in the threat environment, especially Russia and China’s development of anti-satellite weapons, require the United States to think differently about how we operate in space, no consensus has emerged as to whether creating a Space Force is the right solution to the problem.

However, in a December 18, 2018 speech at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Vice President Mike Pence announced that President Trump had signed an executive order establishing U.S. Space Command as the 11th combatant command in the U.S. military. Unlike the military services, which are responsible to training and equipping military forces, combatant commands provide command and control of military forces. Pence said that U.S. Space Command’s primary mission will be to “integrate space capabilities across all branches of the military. It will develop the space doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures that will enable our warfighters to defend our nation in this new era.” Establishing U.S. Space Command would be independent of a decision by Congress to create a Space Force.

5 Common FAFSA Mistakes

Federal Student Aid, an Office of the U.S. Dept. of Education, helps make a college education possible for every dedicated mind by providing more than $150 billion each year in grants, loans, & work-study funds. For more info, visit StudentAid.gov.

While you are focused on completing your college applications, don’t forget to fill out the FAFSA form! The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, and you should fill it out now if you plan to go to school between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020!

Just make sure you don’t make one of these common mistakes:

1. Not Completing the FAFSA Form

We hear all kinds of reasons: “The FAFSA form is too hard.” “It takes too long to complete.” “I’ll never qualify anyway, so why does it matter?” It does matter. For one, contrary to popular belief, there is no income “cut-off” when it comes to federal student aid. The FAFSA form is not just the application for “free money” such as the Federal Pell Grant, it’s also the application for Federal Work-Study funds and federal student loans. In addition, why would you say no to grants or scholarships from other organizations? Many states, schools, and scholarship organizations require a complete FAFSA form in order to provide aid to students. If you don’t complete the FAFSA form, you could lose out on thousands of dollars to help you pay for college.It doesn’t take too much time to complete, and now there’s the option to fill out the FAFSA form on your phone or tablet with the new myStudentAid mobile app!

Why the British army tested robots in muddy fields

By: Grant Turnbull 

Senior British army officers have signaled their intent to accelerate the fielding of several unmanned — and increasingly autonomous systems — following successful army trials at the end of 2018, but much like other forces around the world the United Kingdom faces challenges from how to modify archaic acquisition processes, to overcoming technical issues.

In December, the British army concluded its landmark experimentation exercise known as Autonomous Warrior, in which the service evaluated more than 50 unmanned systems from industry over a month-long period in the south of England.