25 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. 

‘They will beg us for talks but we will reject them,’ Taliban spokesman says


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.

China Transforms, and a Factory Owner Struggles to Follow

By Li Yuan

Shao Chunyou rose from the assembly line to the boss’s office. Now the old recipes for success don’t work, and he must reinvent himself again. 

Shao Chunyou and his wife, Yu Youfu, at their factory in Dongguan, China. Poor but ambitious when he arrived in southern China 30 years ago, Mr. Shao is now a successful factory owner.CreditLam Yik Fei for The New York Times

Shao Chunyou exemplifies the Chinese dream. Over three decades, he rose from an assembly line worker to an electronics business owner, following China’s rise from an economic backwater to the world’s No. 2 economy. He now owns two factories and employs over 2,000 workers.

Springtime for Strongmen


The year 2018 was springtime for strongmen everywhere. It was the year Xi Jinping put an end to collective leadership in China, made himself president for life, and put a final nail in the coffin of U.S. Sinologists’ credibility as predictors of Chinese behavior. (They’ve been prophesying liberalization for decades.)

Elsewhere in Asia, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un won the admiration of U.S. President Donald Trump because of the high quality of his dictatorial control. Poland’s dubiously democratic government became a favorite of Trump’s, as did Hungary’s proudly illiberal prime minister, Viktor Orban. Orban even got a hero’s welcome in Israel, where the prime minister’s son Yair Netanyahu called him the “best leader in Europe.” In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega solidified his position as the new Anastasio Somoza, whom he overthrew in the name of the people four decades ago.

China slaps anti-dumping duties on chemical from India, Japan

ODCB can be used for producing chemical products that are widely used in making pesticides, medicine and dyes.

China has imposed anti-dumping duties on ortho dichlorobenzene (ODCB) imported from India and Japan which will come into effect from Wednesday.

The domestic industry has been subject to substantial damages due to the dumping of these products, the Chinese Commerce ministry said on Tuesday in a final ruling after anti-dumping investigations into the imports.

Significantly, the anti-dumping duties announcement coincided with the trade talks between visiting Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan and Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen here on Tuesday.

The two sides also held a detailed discussion on the widening trade deficit which last year climbed to USD 57.86 billion in the total USD 95.54 total bilateral trade.

Chinese army now makes up less than half of PLA’s strength as military aims to transform itself into modern fighting force

Liu Zhen

State news agency says PLA has been cutting back on ground forces as part of ‘transformational change’ to military

Number of officers and non-combatants also falls as part of ambitious restructuring of world’s largest armed forces

In a feature report on Sunday highlighting the “transformational changes” made by the PLA, China’s official news agency said: “This new data is unprecedented in the history of the PLA – the army now accounts for less than 50 per cent of the total number of PLA troops; almost half of our non-combatant units have been made redundant, and the number of officers in the PLA has been reduced by 30 per cent.”

The statement indicated that the four other branches of the PLA – the navy, air force, rocket force and strategic support force, which is responsible for areas such as cyberwarfare – now together make up more than half of the Chinese military, overtaking the army, which has traditionally been the dominant unit of the PLA.

China’s “New” Academy of Military Science: A Revolution in Theoretical Affairs?

By: Joel Wuthnow

One of the overlooked but consequential features of China’s current period of military reform has been an overhaul of the research and doctrinal development system within the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). One key change has been a realignment of research institutes within the Academy of Military Science (AMS), which has emphasized blending AMS’s traditional focus on doctrine writing with new capabilities being developed by the science and technology (S&T) community. Whether or not a new generation of PLA doctrine will be able to leverage advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, and other high-tech fields will be a key test of the success of the new system.

Iran’s Deadly Puppet Master


The decision not to act is often the hardest one to make—and it isn’t always right. In 2007, I watched a string of vehicles pass from Iran into northern Iraq. I had been serving as the head of the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) for four years, working to stem the terrorism that had devastated the region, and I had become accustomed to making tough choices. But on that January night, the choice was particularly tricky: whether or not to attack a convoy that included Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force—an organization roughly analogous to a combination of the CIA and JSOC in the United States.

There was good reason to eliminate Suleimani. At the time, Iranian-made roadside bombs built and deployed at his command were claiming the lives of U.S. troops across Iraq. But to avoid a firefight, and the contentious politics that would follow, I decided that we should monitor the caravan, not strike immediately. By the time the convoy had reached Erbil, Suleimani had slipped away into the darkness.

Institution Of Violent Islamism: The Guilt Of Claiming The Truth – Analysis

The institution of extremism, radicalization and terrorism today in the name of Islamism seeds a fallacy of judgement amongst its students that they are purveyors of the purity of Islam. Their miseducation results in a sense of guilt. This guilt defines who they are and what they become.

Since the advent of the ideology of violent Islamism today, extremist groups and self-radicalised individuals have succumbed to a single fallacy of judgement. They are led to believe that they are purveyors of the purity of Islam. The circles of influence that these groups and individuals have immersed themselves in, be it through radical preachers, their underground networks, or shared materials online, have moulded them to become claimants to the truth of Islam.
The Brochure of Violent Islamism

While education informs and develops rationality, miseducation develops irrationality. Key to the irrationality of violent Islamist ideology is the development of hatred and intolerance resulting in the volition of indiscriminate violence such as suicide bombings and killings. A miseducated individual succumbing to this ideology fosters a de-sensitivity to crime and violence in the name of claiming the truth of religion.

Syria: An Islamic State Attack Muddies the Waters as the U.S. Plans Its Pullout

Although the tide of the Syrian civil war has shifted in Damascus' favor, the country remains a battleground for competing local, regional and global actors. As the United States mulls how and when to withdraw its forces from northeastern Syria, the pressing need to continue the fight against the Islamic State will be a major factor in Washington's calculations. Attacks like the Jan. 16 suicide bombing in Manbij underline the need for a long-term counterterrorism strategy in the area.

What Happened

The stakes over a northern Syrian city at the center of a tug of war between regional and global forces have just increased. On Jan. 16, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest outside the Kasr al-Umara restaurant in the city of Manbij, resulting in numerous casualties. According to local media, the blast killed nine civilians and a local fighter, while a U.S. official speaking to the media said the explosion killed four American troops and wounded three more. French and U.S. soldiers were reportedly meeting members from the People's Protection Units (YPG) inside the restaurant, although other reports suggested the U.S. forces were in the street just outside the restaurant. 

Metamorphosis of Central Europe


Many liberals are shocked by the rise in recent years of xenophobic nationalism in Poland and Hungary, given that both have made substantial economic progress since joining the European Union. But that simply means that Central Europe’s turn toward populism cannot be explained in economic terms.

VIENNA – In Franz Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis, the protagonist Gregor Samsa awakens one morning “from uneasy dreams” to find that he has “transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.” Needless to say, Samsa’s family is shocked and has no idea what to do with the ugly creature he has become.

Europeans know the feeling. In 2018, they were forced to acknowledge that Hungary and Poland have changed from promising models of liberal democracy into illiberal, conspiracy-minded majoritarian regimes. Now, the rest of Europe must decide what to do about the unfamiliar creatures residing in their house.

Brexit Demands a New British Politics


Now that British Prime Minister Theresa May's negotiated Brexit agreement has been soundly rejected by the House of Commons, the United Kingdom finds itself at a crossroads. The country's future depends largely on whether its political leaders can put cooperation and the national interest before adversarial partisanship.

BRUSSELS – The populist revolts in the United States and the United Kingdom have each reached a critical juncture. At the start of his third year in office, US President Donald Trump is presiding over the longest federal government shutdown in history. Having painted himself into a corner, he remains largely at the mercy of congressional Democrats to negotiate an end to a crisis he created.

Likewise, British Prime Minister Theresa May, having failed to secure parliamentary approval for her Brexit deal, now must negotiate either with the opposition Labour Party or with Tory Brexiteers and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionists who prop up her government.

Shaping Europe’s Present and Future


After a decade of economic and political crises, the project of European integration continues to face existential challenges. But while some observers worry about the EU’s future, its High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is confident that through continued cooperation, Europeans can secure their interests even in an era of global upheaval.

As the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini has overseen EU foreign and security policy since November 2014. With her term coming to an end in 2019, Mark Leonard of the European Council on Foreign Relations asked Mogherini about the state of European security, the future of the international order, arms control, migration, and a broad range of other issues.

Mark Leonard: So far, the European Union has demonstrated an ability to maintain its unity over key issues like Brexit and the maintenance of the post-Crimea sanctions on Russia. Is this unity likely to hold in 2019, particularly given the looming EU parliamentary elections and changes at the top of the European Commission and Council?

Russia’s Japan Policy on wrong side of Geo Political Realities:

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Russia seems in 2019 to have got its geopolitical realties wrong going by the condescending and arrogant statements of Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov made at an annual conference directed at Japan on the controversial issue of Japan’s claims on Russia to restore the Northern Islands which Russia had captured after Germany’s defeat in Europe in 1945 invoking Japan’s defeat subsequently.

Contemporaneous and potential geopolitical developments globally and specifically in Indo Pacific Region do not permit Russia to adopt condescending imperial postures towards Japan. Japan is today an Evolved Major Power in its own right and on its own geopolitical and economic strength. Russia drawing World War II equivalences as statements below w are flawed and out of place.

America Must Face Reality on China

For all the economic rivalry and political disagreement between the United States and China, a catastrophic outcome is unlikely, so long as the US faces reality in three ways. Above all, Americans should recognize that trying to defeat or contain China economically will not solve their problems at home.

BEIJING – The agreement in Buenos Aires last December between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, led many to assume that the two countries’ trade war would soon be over. Although such optimism is misplaced, so are fears of a global economic meltdown caused by a rupture in US-China relations.

Frequent bilateral skirmishes will no doubt continue, as we saw with the arrest in early December of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. But for all the economic rivalry and political disagreement between the United States and China, a catastrophic outcome is unlikely, so long as the US faces reality in three ways.

Is the World Prepared for the Next Financial Crisis?

The world in 2019 is still reckoning with the legacy of the global financial crisis, which is hardly surprising given its scale and lasting impact. Ten years on from the Lehman Brothers collapse, one question about the financial system keeps coming up: Are we safer than we were in 2008? The short answer is yes—but not safe enough. While there has been marked progress, more needs to be done, including keeping pace with potential new risks from a rapidly evolving financial landscape.

First, the progress. Banks have bigger and better capital buffers and more liquidity. Countries have taken steps to address systemic risks posed by institutions seen as too big to fail. Regulation and supervision have been strengthened; many countries have stepped up their focus on monitoring financial stability, and many now also conduct regular stress tests to check banks’ health. A substantial portion of trading in over-the-counter derivatives has shifted to safer central clearing systems.

Huge Backlog Could Trigger New Wave Of Shale Oil – Analysis

By Nick Cunningham

The number of drilled but uncompleted wells (DUCs) in the U.S. shale patch has skyrocketed by roughly 60 percent over the past two years. That leaves a rather large backlog that could add a wave of new supply, even if the pace of drilling begins to slow.

The backlog of DUCs has continued to swell, essentially uninterrupted, for more than two years. The total number of DUCs hit 8,723 in November 2018, up 287 from a month earlier. That figure is also up sharply from the 5,271 from the same month in 2016, a 60 percent increase. The EIA will release new monthly DUC data on January 22, which will detail figures for December.

Some level of DUCs is normal, but the ballooning number of uncompleted wells has repeatedly fueled speculation that a sudden rush of new supply might come if companies shift those wells into production. The latest crash in oil prices once again raises this prospect.

Long Live Globalization


GENEVA – Will global cooperation finally emerge from the doldrums in 2019? The international community’s recent agreement on a “rulebook” for implementing the Paris climate agreement seems to offer some hope. But opinion polls suggest that many remain concerned that a global economic recession or major geopolitical crisis will test the international system’s resilience. And it is not at all clear that the system will pass.

As it stands, perhaps the biggest barriers to international cooperation are political. In recent years, there has been an intensifying backlash against international cooperation, rooted partly in fears – stoked by populist political leaders in many countries – that transnational “elites” are trying to impose “globalism”: an “ideology that prioritizes the neoliberal global order over national interests.”

The founder of the World Economic Forum shares what he sees as the biggest threat to the global economy


Economist Klaus Schwab is the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum which will be holding it's Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland January 22-25, 2019.
Schwab explains the theme of this year's meeting, "Globalization 4.0: Shaping a New Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution."

When asked if we were currently in a trend of deglobalization he said no, "we have to make a differentiation between globalization, which is a fact, and globalism."

He says the biggest threat to economic stability is the imbalances in the world.

Schwab says he believes trade imbalances are a problem. He is not an unconditional advocate for free trade, which he says is great but only if there is equality.

Four ways we can fix economics in 2019

Saadia Zahidi

“It was a chance... for us to send pain the other way. And we took it.”

A Brexiteer’s statement in the wake of the referendum in 2016 captures the frustrations felt by many under the twin forces of globalization and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Never has the economy changed so quickly, nor with such glaring visibility of the gap between the winners and those left behind. The backlash is hardly surprising.

Although many advanced economies have reaped enormous benefits from globalization and technological advances in recent decades, they have also experienced a hollowing out of the middle class; growing market concentration within many sectors which means fewer employers and less power for workers; as well as a decoupling between productivity growth and wage increases.

Cyberwarfare alert: The new wired battlefields

On 1 December 2018, Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co.’s deputy chairwoman and chief financial officer Meng Wangzhou was arrested in Canada at the request of the US, which accuses the company of violation of US sanctions on Iran. At the time of writing, she is awaiting extradition to the US amid a diplomatic battle between China and Canada. More recently, Wang Weijing, a sales director at Huawei in Poland, was arrested on charges of spying. The company was quick to fire Wang, saying that the allegations against him had nothing to do with Huawei.

The core issue with Huawei is not Iran, but its close links with the Chinese military. The company, which ranked 72nd in the Fortune Global 500 List 2018, and is the world’s second largest smartphone manufacturer, was founded by Ren Zengfei, a former engineer in the People’s Liberation Army. Over the years, it has faced numerous charges of intellectual property theft and industrial espionage, and lawsuits from companies like Cisco, Motorola and T-Mobile. Under the Donald Trump regime, the company has more or less been called a national security threat.

Navigating a world of disruption

By Jacques Bughin and Jonathan Woetzel

Global trends are creating ever-larger winners and losers.

We live in an era of disruption in which powerful global forces are changing how we live and work. The rise of China, India, and other emerging economies; the rapid spread of digital technologies; the growing challenges to globalization; and, in some countries, the splintering of long-held social contracts are all roiling business, the economy, and society. These and other global trends offer considerable new opportunities to companies, sectors, countries, and individuals that embrace them successfully—but the downside for those who cannot keep up has also grown disproportionately. For business leaders, policy makers, and individuals, figuring out how to navigate these skewed times may require some radical rethinking.

Googlers headline new commission on AI and national security

By: Kelsey D. Atherton 

Is $10 million and 22 months enough to shape the future of artificial intelligence?

Probably not, but inside the fiscal 2019 national defense policy bill is a modest sum set aside for the creation and operations of a new National Security Commission for Artificial Intelligence. And in a small way, that group will try. The commission’s full membership, announced Jan. 18, includes 15 people across the technology and defense sectors. Led by Eric Schmidt, formerly of Google and now a technical adviser to Google parent company Alphabet, the commission is co-chaired by Robert Work. former undersecretary of defense who is presently at the Center for New American Security.

The group is situated as independent within the executive branch, and its scope is broad.

French defense chief touts offensive tack in new cyber strategy

By: Christina Mackenzie

PARIS — The French military plans to develop and deploy offensive cyber weapons and improve the protection of its networks from “security events," Defense Minister Florence Parly announced here this morning.

“Today, France is choosing to procure cyber weapons for its military operations. We consider the cyber weapon as a full-fledged operational weapon," she said.

“We will use it proportionately,” Parly added, noting at the same time, “We will not be scared of using it.”

“On average we have more than two security events daily,” Parly said, “some of which were aimed directly at us [whilst] others were aimed at our industries and partners.” She revealed a serious breach of security, which lasted from late 2017 to April 2018, that could have imperiled the navy’s entire fuel chain. “In case of a cyberattack against our forces, we reserve the right to retaliate, in a legal framework, with the means and at the moment of our choosing,” Parly said. "We also reserve the right, whoever the attacker is, to neutralize the effects and the digital means employed.”

USAF installs metallic 3D printed part on operational F-22 Raptor

By Hemanth Kumar

The US Air Force (USAF) has installed a metallic 3D printed aircraft part on an operational F-22 Raptor fighter.

The 3D aircraft printed part was installed by 574th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintainers during depot maintenance at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

574th AMXS director Robert Lewin said: “One of the most difficult things to overcome in the F-22 community, because of the small fleet size, is the availability of additional parts to support the aircraft.”

The printed part is designed to replace a corrosion-prone aluminium component in the kick panel assembly of the cockpit.

With the use of 3D printing, maintainers can now acquire replacement parts within short notice, saving money and aircraft maintenance time.

Autonomous weapons and the new laws of war

A technology that may prove hard to restrain

The harop, a kamikaze drone, bolts from its launcher like a horse out of the gates. But it is not built for speed, nor for a jockey. Instead it just loiters, unsupervised, too high for those on the battlefield below to hear the thin old-fashioned whine of its propeller, waiting for its chance.

If the Harop is left alone, it will eventually fly back to a pre-assigned airbase, land itself and wait for its next job. Should an air-defence radar lock on to it with malicious intent, though, the drone will follow the radar signal to its source and the warhead nestled in its bulbous nose will blow the drone, the radar and any radar operators in the vicinity to kingdom come.

Israeli Aerospace Industries (iai) has been selling the Harop for more than a decade. A number of countries have bought the drone, including India and Germany. They do not have to use it in its autonomous radar-sniffing mode—it can be remotely piloted and used against any target picked up by its cameras that the operators see fit to attack. This is probably the mode in which it was used by Azerbaijan during its conflict with Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2016. But the Harops that Israel has used against air-defence systems in Syria may have been free to do their own thing.

What the next 20 years will mean for jobs – and how to prepare

Stephane Kasriel

The next two decades promise a full-scale revolution in our working lives. Before we look into the next 20 years, let’s take a quick look at the present – and something once considered paradoxical.

We’re already living in an age of a lot of robots – and a lot of jobs.

As the number of robots at work has reached record levels, it’s worth noting that in 2018 the global unemployment level fell to 5.2%, according to a report last month – the lowest level in 38 years.

In other words, high tech and high employment don’t have to be mutually exclusive. We’re living the proof of that today.

How The Darknet Can Be Used By Terrorists To Obtain Weapons

Nikita Malik

Last week, I wrote about the overlaps between terrorism and criminality, drawing attention to the use of drug trafficking, kidnap for ransom, and document fraud.

As well as these trends, there have been cases of terrorists working with criminals to obtain weapons. The sales taking place on Darknet marketplaces deserve greater attention. To date, open source evidence of a direct link between weapons markets online and terrorism has been mostly anecdotal.

A week after the attacks in Paris in November 2015, for example, it was reported that the four assault rifles used in the attack had been originally obtained on the Darknet by a man in Germany, who was later arrested on suspicion of running an illegal arms business and selling firearms online. This claim has yet to be verified by French or German authorities, however, and remains unconfirmed. According to official documents from the prosecutor’s office in Stuttgart, Germany, the weapons used in the November 2015 Paris attacks were purchased on the Darknet from a German supplier going by the user name ‘DW Guns’.

The Avangard Threat: Is It a Game Changer?

By Adam Cabot

During the First World War, both sides dug trenches resulting in long periods of stagnation along the entire front. Defensive capabilities had overtaken offensive capabilities, preventing large scale mobile warfare. This is until factors including the introduction and mass use of the tank were implemented, changing the course of the war. In the missile arena, since the use of V2 rockets during the Second World War, offensive capabilities have overtaken defensive capabilities. Unlike the game-changing introduction of the tank, there has been no riposte to the strategic missile. Over time, technological advances have increased range, accuracy and proliferation of missiles, with little to no ability to counter them at a strategic level.

Missiles and delivery systems have continued to evolve alongside Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) technology, but it’s clear that the offensive missile is winning this race. The U.S. has pumped billions of dollars into the Ground-based Midcourse Defence (GMD) which, during controlled testing conditions since 1999 has only resulted in 10 successful intercepts out of 18 tests. The GMD was designed with strategic defense in mind, but as yet it has not been proven to be effective against ICBMs, which are extremely fast moving, let alone missiles with countermeasures such as MARVs and MIRVs.

The War Cycle: A Model for Managing War

By Albert Palazzo

Military commanders and their staffs rely on a variety of conceptual models to assist in their planning for and conduct of operations. Civilian defence thinkers and academics also employ the same tools to help illustrate their ideas. Among the those used are the Phases of Operations and the Spectrum of Conflict. While there is no standard design for each, they do have a certain style. In the U.S. system, the phases of battle model generally begins at Phase 0, which represents the period of shaping for the coming campaign, and ends at Phase 5, which covers enabling civil authority. Visual depictions of the Spectrum of Conflict usually place non-warfighting operations on one side and progress through increasing graduations of levels of violence and risk to the other side, culminating with nuclear war. Between these two extremes, war can be divided into a multitude of categories.

The Phases of Conflict, from U.S. Joint Doctrine (JP 5-0, 2011)