24 January 2019

Why Afghanistan's Peace Talks Won't Really Start Until the U.S. Leaves

If peace talks fail to materialize, the primary reason will be the United States' hesitation in acceding to the Taliban's demand that Washington order the complete withdrawal of all NATO and allied forces from Afghanistan.

Continued U.S. involvement in Afghanistan as part of its broader counterterrorism operations will divert the country's attention from its main strategic priority of focusing on the great power competition with Russia and China. 

The continuing war will hamper investor activity in Afghanistan, harming plans to use the country as a land bridge linking nearby regions.

The United States is redoubling its efforts to achieve peace in Afghanistan. In September 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appointed Zalmay Khalilzad as the U.S. special envoy for Afghan reconciliation, but the 63-year-old, Afghan-born diplomat faces a daunting task in convincing the Taliban to agree to a cease-fire and participate in peace talks with President Ashraf Ghani's administration, all in a bid to end the 17-year war. 

Will Pakistan's Wall Work?

By Muhammad Akbar Notezai

Pakistan is building a wall along its border with Afghanistan. Will it actually make the country safer?

Bramcha (sometimes spelled Bramacha) is a tiny town in Pakistan’s far western Balochistan province, situated in a corner of the province’s Chaghi district on the border with Afghanistan. There used to be an extension of the same town on the Afghan side of the border, too. After the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan, the Afghan side of the town was wiped from the map due to bombing campaigns – the town not only housed the Afghan Taliban but also drug traffickers. Some called Afghan Bramcha the epicenter of drug trafficking, and it’s not hard to see why. Even today, Bramcha is situated in one of the remotest and most lawless corners of the world.

Taliban: 'They Will Beg Us for Talks but We Will Reject Them.'

By Bill Roggio

One of the Taliban’s top two spokesmen bragged that the group called off negotiations with the US after the latter pleaded for peace talks. Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, suggested that this very situation was predicted by Mullah Omar, the group’s founder who died in 2013. The statement was issued only days after the Taliban canceled talks with the US over attempts to include the Afghan government in negotiations.

Mujahid attributed the statement to Omar on his Twitter account on Jan. 20 which also included a photograph of the Taliban founder and first emir. According to Mujahid, the statement was a “prediction” by Omar that was issued sometime before his death. Omar died of natural causes in Pakistan in 2013; his death was hidden by the Taliban for two years before it was announced.

“We are currently calling them towards talks however a time will arrive when they will beg us for talks but we will reject them,” the text accompanying Omar’s image says.

China’s Looming Crisis: A Shrinking Population


Chinese academics recently delivered a stark warning to the country’s leaders: China is facing its most precipitous decline in population in decades, setting the stage for potential demographic, economic and even political crises in the near future.

For years China’s ruling Communist Party implemented a series of policies intended to slow the growth of the world’s most populous nation, including limiting the number of children couples could have to one. The long term effects of those policies mean the country will soon enter an era of “negative growth,” or a contraction in the size of the total population.

A report, issued this month by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, is the latest recognition that while China’s notorious “one child” policy may have achieved its original aim of slowing population growth, it has also created new challenges for the government.

New year, new weapons: Are China's latest science fiction or battle ready?

Brad Lendon

Hong Kong (CNN) Since the beginning of January, the Chinese military has revealed a dizzying array of sophisticated and powerful new weaponry.

The testing of some of these devices has been accompanied by great fanfare. But just how plausible is the new technology in a battlefield situation?

With Tuesday's report from the US Defense Intelligence Agency that China "leads the world" in some weapons systems, a closer look at Beijing's latest claims is in order.

China’s leaders must learn from Soviet Union’s fatal mistakes, says heavyweight communist liberal Hu Deping

Jun Mai, Frank Tang

Hu Deping, son of late party General Secretary Hu Yaobang – whose 1989 death ultimately led to the Tiananmen Square crackdown - says China must stick to reform

Speech to seminar on reform and opening up warns China to avoid Soviet errors such as centralising power and rigid planned economy

“One of the fatal errors [made by the Soviets] is that they followed a political system with highly centralised power. Not every socialist country does that,” said Hu Deping, son of the late reformist General Secretary Hu Yaobang, whose death ultimately led to the infamous Tiananmen Square crackdown.

“Another [mistake] was their rigid economic system. By the same token, not all socialist countries must practise a planned economy,” he said.

History shows the folly of China’s paranoia about Islam

It is a shame that so few Chinese remember General Bai Chongxi, a brilliant tactician during the war against Japan in 1937-45. He showed China that it is possible to be at once a patriot and a devoted Muslim. Bai was a complicated figure. A warlord capable of ruthlessness, he was also a reformer who wanted education to free his fellow Chinese Muslims from isolation and poverty. As a commander of Kuomintang (or Nationalist) troops, he was involved in massacres of Communists. Still, when Chaguan this week visited Bai’s home town in Guangxi province, in the south, locals praised his victories over the Japanese. The Bai family mansion is a protected historical site. Austere and grey-walled, it sits amid rice fields and limestone peaks straight from a scroll painting. Its empty interior offers no explanation as to why Bai matters.

The Age of Uneasy Peace Chinese Power in a Divided World

By Yan Xuetong

In early October 2018, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence delivered a searing speech at a Washington think tank, enumerating a long list of reproaches against China. From territorial disputes in the South China Sea to alleged Chinese meddling in U.S. elections, Pence accused Beijing of breaking international norms and acting against American interests. The tone was unusually blunt—blunt enough for some to interpret it as a harbinger of a new Cold Warbetween China and the United States.

Such historical analogies are as popular as they are misleading, but the comparison contains a kernel of truth: the post–Cold War interregnum of U.S. hegemony is over, and bipolarity is set to return, with China playing the role of the junior superpower. The transition will be a tumultuous, perhaps even violent, affair, as China’s rise sets the country on a collision course with the United States over a number of clashing interests. But as Washington slowly retreats from some of its diplomatic and military engagements abroad, Beijing has no clear plan for filling this leadership vacuum and shaping new international norms from the ground up.

China’s first steps before going to battle

Mark Pomerleau

Before engaging in a battle that features carriers or fighter jets, China will try to gain an advantage in the information sphere and to reduce confidence in the military systems of its adversaries, such as GPS and sensors, a new Department of Defense report asserts.

The new report, released by the Defense Intelligence Agency, provides an assessment of the Chinese military and states that China views controlling the “information domain” as a prerequisite for victory in modern war. This tactic is essential for countering outside intervention in a conflict.

More broadly, the People’s Liberation Army’s concept of the information domain and information operations includes “the network, electromagnetic, psychological, and intelligence domains.” The Chinese version of the “network domain” and corresponding “network warfare” is similar to the U.S. concept of the cyber domain and cyberwarfare, the report said. To improve in these areas, the Chinese created the Strategic Support Force in 2015 and reorganized many of these disciplines under this single entity. This structure includes all information related capabilities such as cyber, space, communications, electronic warfare and psychological operations.

Islamism Flourishes in Darkness

by Sam Westrop

The Washington Post insists on presenting hardline Islamist authors of articles in its opinion section as moderate spokespersons for moderate Islamic movements.

In a Post piece published on January 8, Istanbul-based commentator Yehia Hamed discusses the ostensible violence and repression of the current Cairo government, led by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, and bewails the scarcity of free expression in today's Egypt. Although Hamed discloses that he served in the government of President Mohamed Morsi, the Washington Post fails to delve a little further and mention that he has served much longer as a prominent operative and spokesperson for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood – a dangerous anti-Semitic, anti-Western, violent Islamist movement -- both before and after his brief spell near the top of Egypt's short-lived theocratic regime.

Rahaf Case Exposes Some Inconvenient Truths About the Islamic World

by Tarek Fatah

Saturday morning, the arrivals area of Terminal 3 at Toronto Pearson Airport witnessed a throng of over 100 Canadian and foreign journalists jostling for the right position.

Most of them had hitherto avoided any substantial coverage of the person who was now being treated as a celebrity — Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed, who had fled her country and abandoned Islam to seek freedom in Australia, but fate brought her to Canada.

As I waited on the sidelines to catch my first glimpse of this awesome 18-year-old, I reminisced about my own experience 50 years ago as an 18-year-old in 1968, when I too had been taken away in handcuffs to spend time in jail for an "indefinite period" after standing up to radical Islamists and the military dictators of Pakistan.

North Korea, U.S.: Trump and Kim Hope to Get Detente Back on Track

What Happened

A second Trump-Kim summit is on the way. Following a 90-minute meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's lead nuclear negotiator, Kim Yong Chol, in Washington, the White House confirmed that a much-anticipated, second summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would take place "near the end of February." At the same time, U.S. special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun and North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui are meeting in Sweden for talks that will continue through the weekend. Pyongyang and Washington have yet to provide any details as to the location of the big summit, but Hanoi or Danang in Vietnam could host the talks, as could Singapore – the site of their first summit – or Stockholm.

No Sweeping Free Trade Deal, Brussels Tells Washington

By Keith Johnson

Six months after U.S. President Donald Trump proclaimed he’d already reached a trade deal with the European Union, Brussels has only now laid out its preliminary conditions for talks. And they don’t point to a quick or a comprehensive trade pact, or, more importantly, one that could ever pass muster with the U.S. Congress—adding to two years of Trump administration failures when it comes to trade.

The European Union on Friday released its objectives for trade talks with Washington, which are, by design, focused and narrow. Brussels hopes to slash the existing tariffs on trade in industrial goods between two of the world’s biggest economic blocs, and to harmonize some regulations, but made clear it has zero interest in a full-fledged free trade agreement with the United States.

“We are not—and I want to be very clear—we are not proposing to restart a broad free trade agreement negotiation with the United States,” said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom at a press conference on Friday.

Europe: A New Player in the Indo-Pacific

By Eva Pejsova

Can traditional regional powers find a place for a new, “odd” friend?

French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for the creation of a “real European army” last November revived a lively debate both outside and inside Europe. Is it the end of the transatlantic romance? How will it impact NATO? Who is supposed to be the enemy? What does it mean for the global strategic chessboard? And is it even feasible?

While the dream of a European “army,” in a traditional sense, is probably not likely to materialize overnight, the European Union’s ambition to boost its strategic autonomy is real and shaping up.

A Border Wall Won’t Improve America’s Security—but That’s Beside the Point

Steven Metz 

American politics today is consumed by a debate over the security of the nation’s long southern border with Mexico, driven by President Donald Trump’s determination to build a barrier wall along its full length. While Trump has hammered on about this idea since announcing his presidential campaign in 2015, he did not push Congress on it during the first two years of his administration, when his Republican Party controlled both chambers of Congress. Only last month, with control of the House of Representatives about to shift to the Democrats, did Trump decide that funding a border wall was imperative—so much so that he forced a destructive partial government shutdown over it. 

Democrats in Congress have refused to back what they see as a waste of money. This impasse has kept the shutdown going into its fourth week and eroded confidence in America’s global leadership.

Trump’s Foreign Policy Is No Longer Unpredictable Gone Are the Days of a Divided Administration

By Thomas Wright

It has become a commonplace to describe the foreign policy of U.S. President Donald Trump as unpredictable. But doing so mischaracterizes the man and the policy. In fact, although Trump’s actions may often be shocking, they are rarely surprising. His most controversial positions—questioning NATO, seeking to pull out of Syria, starting trade wars—are all consistent with the worldview he has publicly espoused since the 1980s.

The unpredictability of this administration originated not in Trump’s views but in the struggle between the president and his political advisers on the one hand and the national security establishment on the other. Until recently, these two camps vied for supremacy, and it was difficult to know which would win on any given issue.

America’s Long Goodbye The Real Crisis of the Trump Era

By Eliot A. Cohen

In the end, 2018 was not the year of U.S. foreign policy apocalypse. Normally, this would not be a cause for celebration. But given the anxiety about President Donald Trump and what his administration might do—pull out of NATO, start a war with Iran or North Korea—it was something to be grateful for. In fact, Trump’s first two years in office have been marked by a surprising degree of stability. The president has proved himself to be what many critics have long accused him of being: belligerent, bullying, impatient, irresponsible, intellectually lazy, short-tempered, and self-obsessed. Remarkably, however, those shortcomings have not yet translated into obvious disaster.

But the surface-level calm of the last two years should not distract from a building crisis of U.S. foreign policy, of which Trump is both a symptom and a cause. The president has outlined a deeply misguided foreign policy vision that is distrustful of U.S. allies, scornful of international institutions, and indifferent, if not downright hostile, to the liberal international order that the United States has sustained for nearly eight decades. The real tragedy, however, is not that the president has brought this flawed vision to the fore; it is that his is merely one mangled interpretation of what is rapidly emerging as a new consensus on the left and the right: that the United States should accept a more modest role in world affairs.

Trump’s Muscular New Plan to Fend Off Russian and Chinese Missiles

By Lara Seligman

The United States is seeking potentially the most serious expansion of its missile defense capabilities since the Cold War, with President Donald Trump putting his weight behind an ambitious new plan that explicitly states America’s intent to defeat missiles fired from Russia or China.

In his fifth visit to the Pentagon since he took office two years ago, Trump rolled out the results of the administration’s long-delayed Missile Defense Review, which was initially anticipated by the end of 2017. Putting his presidential clout behind the new strategy, Trump tied a stronger missile defense posture to his long-promised wall along the southern border, saying that, as president, his first duty is “the defense of the country.”

“All over, foreign adversaries—competitors and rogue regimes—are steadily enhancing their missile arsenals,” Trump said in an address at the Pentagon auditorium. “I will accept nothing less for our nation than the best, most cutting-edge missile defense systems.”

These are the biggest risks to the global economy in 2019

Kenneth Rogoff

“It ain’t what you know that gets you, but what you think you know for sure that just ain’t so,” as the old adage goes. Over the next two years, the biggest risks to the global economy lie exactly in those areas where investors believe recent patterns are unlikely to change. Major risks include a growth recession in China, a rise in global long-term real interest rates, and a crescendo of populist economic policies that undermine the credibility of central bank independence, resulting in higher interest rates on safe, advanced-country government bonds.

A significant Chinese slowdown may already be unfolding. President Trump’s trade war has shaken confidence, but this is only a downward shove to an economy that was already slowing as it makes the transition from export and investment-led growth to more sustainable domestic consumption-led growth. How much the Chinese economy will need to slow is an open question, but given the inherent contradiction between an ever-more centralized political system and the need for a more decentralized consumer-led economic system, the long-term growth slowdown could be quite dramatic.

These 13 charts show what the world really thinks about Globalization 4.0

Mark Jones

The rise of populism, nationalism and protectionism are all associated with waning support for globalization, but a new poll for the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2019 shows high levels of support worldwide for international collaboration, immigration, and the personal benefits from globalization.

The survey, conducted in January by polling firm Qualtrics, was taken by more than 10,000 people in 29 countries who answered questions about globalization 4.0, including the impact of technology, the future of work, education, and social mobility. These are the main findings:

1. Countries should help one another

Concerns about the rise of nationalism and isolationism dominate the global political agenda. But the survey suggests there’s a bedrock of support for international collaboration with majorities in every region agreeing that countries should help one another. That sentiment is particularly strong in South and East Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa.

These are the biggest risks facing our world in 2019

Joe Myer, Kate Whiting

What keeps you up at night?

For leaders surveyed for the latest edition of the World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report, environmental threats dominate the list for the third year in row - both in terms of impact and likelihood.

“Of all risks, it is in relation to the environment that the world is most clearly sleepwalking into catastrophe,” the report warns.

What are the biggest risks?

The report offers a unique perspective on the threats facing our world, by looking at not only those risks that are most likely, but also those that would have the biggest impact.

Does the U.S. Face an AI Ethics Gap?

By Benjamin Boudreaux

Members of Congress, the U.S. military, and prominent technologists have raised the alarm that the U.S. is at risk of losing an Artificial Intelligence (AI) arms race. China already has leveraged strategic investment and planning, access to massive data, and suspect business practices to surpass the U.S. in some aspects of AI implementation. There are worries that this competition could extend to the military sphere with serious consequences for U.S. national security.

During the prior Cold War arms race era, U.S. policymakers and the military expressed consternation about a so-called “missile gap” with the USSR that potentially gave the Soviets military superiority. Other ‘gaps’ also infected strategic analysis and public discourse, including concerns about space gaps, bomber gaps, and so forth.

New research shows how Iranian hackers have collaborated to become one of the world’s most fearsome hacking forces

Kate Fazzini

New research shows how Iranian hackers have collaborated to become one of the world's most fearsome hacking forces

Cybersecurity company Recorded Future conducted a research study on the history of Iran's hacker culture, its ties to the country's government and mistakes the loosely tied-together group has made along the way.

Forums started in 2002 have provided a launch point for a series of sophisticated attacks against world governments and companies throughout the past two decades, according to the report.

Iranian hackers have congregated since at least 2002 in online forums to share tips on the best ways to create successful cyberattacks.

Those conversations have given birth to some of the most significant global cybersecurity incidents, including devastating attacks on Saudi Aramco, attacks against the public-facing websites of large banks and espionage campaigns on a wide range of Western targets, according to new research by cybersecurity intelligence firm Recorded Future.

Deepfakes and the New Disinformation War

By Robert Chesney and Danielle Citron

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but there is nothing that persuades quite like an audio or video recording of an event. At a time when partisans can barely agree on facts, such persuasiveness might seem as if it could bring a welcome clarity. Audio and video recordings allow people to become firsthand witnesses of an event, sparing them the need to decide whether to trust someone else’s account of it. And thanks to smartphones, which make it easy to capture audio and video content, and social media platforms, which allow that content to be shared and consumed, people today can rely on their own eyes and ears to an unprecedented degree.

Therein lies a great danger. Imagine a video depicting the Israeli prime minister in private conversation with a colleague, seemingly revealing a plan to carry out a series of political assassinations in Tehran. Or an audio clip of Iranian officials planning a covert operation to kill Sunni leaders in a particular province of Iraq. Or a video showing an American general in Afghanistan burning a Koran. In a world already primed for violence, such recordings would have a powerful potential for incitement. Now imagine that these recordings could be faked using tools available to almost anyone with a laptop and access to the Internet—and that the resulting fakes are so convincing that they are impossible to distinguish from the real thing.

Trump Unveils Ambitious Missile Defense Plans

President Trump unveiled a sweeping plan Thursday to defend the U.S. and its allies from missile attack.

The plan is the first update to the nation's missile defense strategy in nearly a decade, but in many ways it is reminiscent of President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, a pie-in-the-sky program that was later dubbed "Star Wars."

The report outlines a battery of new technologies — including lasers and space-based systems — that the Pentagon wants to combat what it deems to be a growing missile threat. It also calls for adding 20 interceptor missiles to an existing system of 44 interceptors based in Fort Greely, Alaska.

"Our goal is simple," Trump said at a Pentagon briefing on Thursday. "To ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, anytime, anyplace."

The Pentagon is worried about getting jammed by Russia and China, so it's testing lasers to go off the grid


The US military is getting ready for a potential conflict against a powerful adversary whose capabilities may nearly match those of the US.

In addition to more lethal weaponry, such an adversary would have greater electronic warfare capabilities, meaning it could intercept communications and use them against US forces
The Pentagon is looking at ways to fend off such interference, and one way to do that is to get of the radio-frequency spectrum altogether.

As the Pentagon reorients toward great-power competition with adversaries like Russia and China, its preparations go beyond learning to ski and practicing to drive across Europe.

US military units rely on wireless networks and radio-frequency communications to talk on the battlefield, sharing intelligence, targeting data, and orders.But concern is growing that rivals like China and Russia could pick up those transmissions and jam them, change them to confuse or deceive, or track them to target the people sending and receiving them - tactics Russia and Russian-backed forces are believed to have used before.

US Must Be Ready for Cyberwar


WASHINGTON—The United States is at the beginning of an era of cyberwarfare with China and several other adversaries, and needs to take vigorous actions to fight and win this war, two Justice Department (DOJ) experts said.

Referring to the national security threats in cyberspace the United States is facing, John Carlin, former assistant attorney general in the DOJ’s National Security Division, said: “We are at the beginning of this space. And we are still feeling out what red lines look like. But it’s begun.”

John Demers, assistant attorney general, National Security Division, said: “There is a lot going on in this space. Just keep your eyes open. We are not talking about history. We are talking about the present and the future.”

Cyberweapons: A Growing Threat to Strategic Stability in the Twenty-First Century

Vassily Kashin

Current changes in the military sphere—in particular, the integration of artificial intelligence into weapons systems and military technology, as well as the prospects for the emergence of autonomous weapons systems—have made cyberspace a far more important arena of military operations. The strategic relationship between the United States and China, the leading rival powers of the twenty-first century, is a good illustration of this.

The major military powers, above all the United States and China, increasingly see cyberweapons as a factor that could potentially have a decisive impact on military operations.

The United States may already view cyberweapons as a key element in any “non-nuclear strategic attack” that could trigger an American nuclear response. This principle is enshrined in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review.

Pentagon 2019 Missile Defense Review

Over the course of the past half-century, the armed services of the United States have made material contributions to international stability and global prosperity. While the costs and burden of that role were not insignificant, the benefits in terms of peace and prosperity have been enormous, both for ourselves and all who share our values and ideals.

Yet, we must remind ourselves that our technological advantages can be fleeting. Military superiority is not a birthright granted to us; it is the product of diligence, creativity, and sustained investment. We must now apply the same level of effort and ingenuity to pass on to future generations the same relative security and military advantages that have been the bedrock of peace and prosperity.

Connected Warfare

The possibilities and challenges for future security, military operations, and warfare associated with advancements in AI are proposed and discussed with ever-increasing frequency, both within formal defense establishments and informally among national security professionals and stakeholders. One is confronted with a myriad of alternative futures, including everything from a humanity-killing variation of Terminator’s SkyNet to uncontrolled warfare ala WarGames to Deep Learning used to enhance existing military processes and operations. And of course legal and ethical issues surrounding the military use of AI abound.

Source: tmrwedition.comYet in most discussions of the military applications of AI and its use in warfare, we have a blind spot in our thinking about technological progress toward the future. That blind spot is that we think about AI largely as disconnected from humans and the human brain. Rather than thinking about AI-enabled systems as connected to humans, we think about them as parallel processes. We talk abouthuman-in-the loop or human-on-the-loop largely in terms of the control over autonomous systems, rather than comprehensive connection to and interaction with those systems.