22 February 2019

India’s Fight Against Terrorism: China’s Silence Speaks Volumes

By Prarthana Basu

The Pulwama attack has once again drawn attention to China’s equivocal stance on Pakistan-based terror outfits.

India has yet again become the victim of cross-border terrorism and insurgency. An attack in the Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir cost the lives of over 40 Central Reserve Police Force troops. Afterward, countries across the globe expressed deep condolences and resolutely spoke out against terrorism. While India continues to stand its ground firmly in denouncing terrorism, the Pulwama attack lays bare the difficulty of the fight against Pakistan’s state sponsored terrorism and the ineffectiveness of the measures India has been taking at the international level, in various multilateral organizations such as in the United Nations, BRICS, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. When terrorist and insurgent groups strike, India retaliates with counter measures and pre-emptive strikes but it continues to suffer the costs of terrorism domestically.

India’s Afghan Dilemma Is Tougher Than Ever


India has never been able to make up its mind about Afghanistan, and now the stakes are higher, and more pressing, than ever. Should it engage, officially or unofficially, with Pakistan-backed groups such as the Afghan Taliban—or not? An unfolding breakthrough between the United States and the Taliban, which seems to promise a full U.S. troop withdrawal in 18 months if the Taliban pledge an enduring cease-fire, makes this long-standing dilemma suddenly especially acute.

Officially, India maintains support for an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led reconciliation process. New Delhi wants the Kabul government to be the key player in the talks with the Taliban.

India’s Afghanistan policy is not driven by ideological or humanitarian concerns. It is driven by a desire to limit Islamabad’s influence in Afghanistan. This is because increased Pakistani influence in Afghanistan may not only lead to a reduced Indian presence but will also make India more susceptible to Pakistani-inspired terrorism and marginal in the wider region. As the most recent terrorist attack on Indian security forces in Kashmir, which claimed the lives of more than 40 personnel, underscored, India will be the first target of those who see in a U.S. withdrawal a Taliban victory. The suicide bomber was reportedly inspired by the “Taliban victory” in Afghanistan.

India’s daunting foreign-policy challenges

Brahma Chellaney

With the national election approaching, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s focus is squarely on domestic politics. After holding a secure grip on power for nearly five years, the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faces a tough election fight following defeats in three key state-level polls in December.

Foreign affairs are understandably low on the election agenda. But after the vote, India’s new government — whether led by Modi or not — will have to consider urgently the foreign-policy challenges, above all an ascendant China’s muscular revisionism.

For too long, New Delhi has taken a cautious and reactive approach. But with Beijing spreading its influence deep into India’s backyard, New Delhi needs to reverse its eroding regional clout.

The Red Flag Follows Trade China's Future as an Indian Ocean Power

by David Brewster

China’s military presence in the IOR is likely to grow significantly in coming years, principally driven by the country’s expanding economic interests. But China’s military presence will be limited. Achieving military predominance in the IOR would be a major undertaking requiring decades of sustained expansion of military capabilities and local security partnerships. Instead, in the short to medium term, China’s military capabilities on land and at sea will principally reflect its imperatives to protect nationals and assets. These capabilities will likely evolve over time to provide Beijing with options in respect to a wider range of contingencies.


China’s future military presence in the IOR will grow as a function of its unique strategic imperatives, which include the protection of its sea lines of communication and the protection of Chinese nationals and economic interests.

Slowly but surely, China is moving into Afghanistan


As the war in Afghanistan winds down, China looks to make Afghanistan a bigger part of its regional ambitions.

In 2013, Chinese president Xi Jinping inaugurated the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a vast network of infrastructure projects spanning more than 60 countries. But the BRI largely excludes Afghanistan, moving through Central Asia and Pakistan instead.

That may now be changing. China has steadily increased its involvement in Afghanistan in recent years, and a nascent peace process offers some hope that stability might return to the country, bringing with it the possibility of greater trade and investment.

This shift is reflected in a major new report on the BRI’s expansion into Afghanistan by the Organization for Policy Research and Development Studies (DROPS), a Kabul-based think tank.

The Rise of Islamic Finance on China’s Belt and Road

By Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat

The Gulf may not be highlighted on maps of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but the region has certainly experienced a rise in relations, particularly in the economic sphere on which the BRI is predicated. It is not widely reported that the BRI in the Gulf focuses on Islamic finance.

Since the launch of the BRI in 2013, Chinese banks, including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), have made efforts to establish outbound Islamic financing frameworks and to encourage relevant entities to provide Islamic financing products. This is perhaps not surprising as in the past few years, the Gulf, particularly the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has become one of the most prominent Islamic financial centers in the world and in recent years has made important strides toward becoming the capital of the world Islamic economy.

Trains, Planes, and Automobiles: Central Asia Is Reconnecting With Itself

By Austen Dowell

Mapping newly created, resurrected, and proposed transport routes across Central Asia provides insight into regional connectivity drives.

Much like the unhappy pair of travelers from the 1987 Steve Martin classic, the countries of Central Asia are discovering that the process of transportation can bring both tangible and more abstract benefits to even the most begrudging and cantankerous of relationships. The relatively bonhomie rhetoric between the leaders of the five nations (led by Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev) about bringing the countries together and developing good neighborliness in the last two years has been backed up by a raft of newly created or proposed transport routes between regional neighbors. A closer look at these routes points to a change geared primarily toward attempts to attract international tourism and stimulate economic growth, but also hesitantly allows for heightened movement and initiatives for long-separated family groups and cross-border communities.

How Can Terrorist Messaging Be Countered in Southeast Asia?

Christopher C. Harmon

2018 saw a notable continuation of terrorist activities in Southeast Asia. To put the past year’s attacks in context and gain greater insight into what can be done to preemptively counteract terrorist messaging in Southeast Asia, NBR spoke with Christopher Harmon, terrorism specialist and the Donald Bren Chair of Great Power Competition at Marine Corps University.

What impact do terrorist groups in Southeast Asia have on the United States’ regional interests? 

The Trump administration sounds an alarm bell as China forges ahead on AI

By Editorial Board

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S recently announced artificial intelligence initiativedoes not include the word “China.” But that country’s progress in the race to machine-learning supremacy has prompted calls for the United States to start running faster. Though Mr. Trump’s plan is light on actual planning, the Pentagon released its own report last week that provides more detail. Taken together, the documents are promising.

Mr. Trump’s order directs agencies to assess their spending, reprioritize existing funds toward artificial intelligence and consider that priority in their upcoming budget proposals. It also opens government data to researchers and the private sector. And it kick-starts a process for departments to consider how they might regulate machine-learning applications in their purview. Exactly how these things happen is up to agencies — but at least the president is asking them to start thinking, which so far few seem to have done. The Defense Department is an exception.

China Has Abandoned a Cybersecurity Truce With the U.S., Report Says

Alyza Sebenius

China largely abandoned a hacking truce negotiated by Barack Obama as President Donald Trump embarked on a trade war with Beijing last year, according to the cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike Inc.

A slowdown in Chinese hacking following the cybersecurity agreement Obama’s administration secured in 2015 appears to have been reversed, the firm said in a report released Tuesday that reviewed cyber activity by U.S. adversaries in 2018.

“By 2017 they started coming back and throughout 2018 they were back in full force,” said Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at Crowdstrike. “They have been very active and we expect to see that continue.”

The report comes as the Trump administration seeks to reach a trade deal with China, including provisions on intellectual property theft, ahead of a March 1 deadline. Trump has said he may extend that deadline and hold off on increasing tariffs on Chinese imports if there’s progress in the talks.

The Consolidation of Political Power in China Under Xi Jinping

Testimony presented before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on February 7, 2019.

Sunni Jihad Is Going Local

Hassan Hassan

For decades, Sunni jihadism has been characterized by transnational terrorism, suicide bombing, and excommunication. These three pillars not only attracted the ire of American and European governments, but turned off many of the jihadists’ target constituents, namely Sunnis living in the Muslim world. Yet there are signs that Sunni extremists are changing their ways, drifting away from the global agenda that reached its apotheosis in al-Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center, and toward a hyperlocal one.

The transformation is happening in various countries, including Afghanistan, Yemen, and Mali. Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s offshoot in Syria, provides an illustrative example of how the jihadist threat is changing across the region.

In 2016, Jabhat al-Nusra put together a lengthy training manual for its new recruits. In the roughly 200-page book, obtained by me, the group argues the merits of country-focused jihad over global jihad. It advises followers that al-Qaeda’s stated strategy of going after the “far enemy” was not set in stone, and that, in the current moment, a focus on anything other than the local fight would be an “unacceptable distraction.”

The Many Self-Delusions Behind the Breakup in Trans-Atlantic Relations

Judah Grunstein

The Munich Security Conference, which just wrapped up Monday, is like the Davos of trans-Atlantic security policy, replete with hollow pronouncements, cost-free posturing and, of course, gossip. But every once in a while, amid the conference’s bromides, real news happens. In 2007, for instance, Russian President Vladimir Putin used his speech in Munich to publicly declare the return of Cold War-style geopolitical competition. 

This year, too, something newsworthy happened at the conference, but newsworthy in the odd sense that something that has been obvious and apparent to everyone was suddenly acknowledged publicly. Like a couple that, after having slowly drifted apart over the years, wakes up one day to realize suddenly that even the pretense of love is gone, the U.S. and Europe discovered this past week in Munich that they’re just not into each other anymore. 

Syria’s Assad Is Coming In From the Cold

Iyad Dakka 

As the Syrian civil war grinds to an end, the government in Damascus, propped up by Iran and Russia, is regaining its footing, with important implications for the balance of power in the Middle East. Syria’s neighbors and powers outside the region are now attempting to determine the appropriate level of engagement, if any, to have with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. While Assad’s main foreign patrons will no doubt continue to deepen their military, political and economic ties, it is countries that stood against him over the past seven years that now have the most difficult decisions to make. If recent trends are any indication, it seems many of them are increasingly leaning toward at least some sort of engagement. The question is how to do this in a face-saving manner that doesn’t weaken their diplomatic and political standing, particularly after President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw the 2,000 American troops in Syria. 

Practical Terrorism Prevention

by Brian A. Jackson

Researchers examined past U.S. countering violent extremism and terrorism prevention efforts and explored policy options to strengthen terrorism prevention in the future. This document summarizes findings from the main report, including that current terrorism prevention capabilities are relatively limited and that there is a need for federal efforts to help strengthen local capacity. However, any federal efforts will need to build community trust to be successful.

Science-Based Scenario Design A Proposed Method to Support Political-Strategic Analysis

by Timothy R. Heath, Matthew Lane

Research Questions

How can nonmilitary factors be used in defense planning?

What is the different between political-strategic and military decisions in defense planning?
Why is the current approach to scenario analysis to support political-strategic decisions problematic?

How can recent findings in social science regarding variables related to crises and wars offer the potential to remedy defects of the current approach and aid the development of more rigorous, transparent, and politically realistic scenarios?

How can scenario designers incorporate these factors into more holistic, rigorous, and politically realistic scenarios?

Countering Russian Social Media Influence

by Elizabeth Bodine-Baron, Todd C. Helmus, Andrew Radin, Elina Treyger

Research Questions

How can we characterize Russian social media influence?

What tools and approaches are available to counter Russian social media influence?

What are the current efforts underway to counter this threat, and how effective are they?

What additional steps could be taken, and what would be required for them to be effective?

What are the unintentional consequences or drawbacks of these proposed approaches? Are they outweighed by the potential benefits?

Which approaches have the highest likelihood of success and target multiple links in the disinformation chain?

10 Conflicts to Watch in 2019


In a world with fewer rules, the only truly effective one is knowing what you can get away with. The answer today, it turns out, is: quite a lot.

As the era of largely uncontested U.S. primacy fades, the international order has been thrown into turmoil. More leaders are tempted more often to test limits, jostle for power, and seek to bolster their influence—or diminish that of their rivals—by meddling in foreign conflicts. Multilateralism and its constraints are under siege, challenged by more transactional, zero-sum politics.
Multilateralism and its constraints are under siege, challenged by more transactional, zero-sum politics. Instruments of collective action, such as the United Nations Security Council, are paralyzed; those of collective accountability, including the International Criminal Court, are ignored and disparaged.

The Coming Climate Crisis


Over the last couple of decades, as the impact of global warming has intensified, the discussion of climate change has spilled out of the scientific and technocratic circles within which it was long confined. Today, the subject has also become an important concern in the humanities and arts.

Discussions of climate tend to focus on the future. Yet even scientific projections depend crucially on the study of the past: Proxy data, such as tree rings, pollen deposits, and ice cores, have proved indispensable for the modeling of the future impact of climate change. Based on evidence of this kind, scientists can tell us a great deal about how trees, glaciers, and sea levels will respond to rising temperatures.

But what about the political and social impact of global warming? What effects might a major shift in climate have on governments, public institutions, warfare, and belief systems? For answers to these questions, we have to turn to history (keeping in mind that historical inferences are necessarily impressionistic).

The End of Economics?


In 1998, as the Asian financial crisis was ravaging what had been some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, the New Yorker ran an article describing the international rescue efforts. It profiled the super-diplomat of the day, a big-idea man the Economist had recently likened to Henry Kissinger. The New Yorker went further, noting that when he arrived in Japan in June, this American official was treated “as if he were General [Douglas] MacArthur.” In retrospect, such reverence seems surprising, given that the man in question, Larry Summers, was a disheveled, somewhat awkward nerd then serving as the U.S. deputy treasury secretary. His extraordinary status owed, in part, to the fact that the United States was then (and still is) the world’s sole superpower and the fact that Summers was (and still is) extremely intelligent. But the biggest reason for Summers’s welcome was the widespread perception that he possessed a special knowledge that would save Asia from collapse. Summers was an economist.

Can America Remain Number One?

by Ali Wyne

While it has become nearly axiomatic for observers of world affairs to contend that the U.S.-led postwar order is under growing, if not unprecedented, duress, there is little consensus about what architecture, if any, might replace it. A recent assessment ventures that

the successor to the global system of governance we have known since the Second World War [may be] not another order but the absence of one. It is possible that the world, squeezed between the incompatible visions of a retreating U.S. and a resurgent China, is already hurtling toward chaos .

Given this uncertainty about the path forward, it is not surprising that analysts seek to identify historical parallels to the contemporary era and distill what guidance those comparisons might offer to today’s leaders. Two of the analogies that have emerged from that undertaking have proven especially enduring: the 1930s and the Cold War.

Russia Still Cannot Combat Color Revolutions

by Nicholas J. Myers

At least since the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the Russian Federation has planned to counter the “color revolutions.” These uprisings involved the overthrowing of post–Cold War dictators in Yugoslavia 2000, Georgia 2003 (rose), Ukraine 2004 (orange), and Kyrgyzstan 2005 (tulip). Since then, the term has become somewhat passé in the West, but Russia remains obsessed with themeven in 2019. Given that all four of those case studies listed above reflected the fall of a Russia-aligned government, this fixation makes sense.

Since 2005, regime changes in semi- to un-democratic states with a pro-Russian policy have avoided the “color” label: the 2010 April Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, the 2014 Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, and the 2018 protests in Armenia could be considered spiritual successors to the original wave. In the ten years between the Orange Revolution and Euromaidan in Ukraine, Western commentators frequently claimed Putin had closely watched the progress of events in 2004 and was planning how to prevent them occurring in the future.

Cyber espionage warning: The most advanced hacking groups are getting more ambitious

By Danny Palmer

The most advanced hacking groups are becoming bolder when conducting campaigns, with the number of organisations targeted by the most biggest campaigns rising by almost a third.

A combination of new groups emerging and threat actors developing successful strategies for breaking into networks has seen the average number of organisations targeted by the most active hacking groups rise from 42 between 2015 and 2017 to an average of 55 in 2018.

The figures, detailed in Symantec's annual Internet Security Threat Report suggest that the top twenty most prolific hacking groups are targeting more organisations as the attackers gain more confident in their activities.

Groups like Chafer, DragonFly, Gallmaker and others are all conducting highly-targeted hacking campaigns as they look to gather intelligence against businesses they think hold valuable information.

The cyber attack on Parliament was done by a 'state actor' — here's how experts figure that out

By Daniel Miller

Key points:

The three broad categories of hackers behind attacks are: state actors, criminal groups or hacktivists

You can generally tell the different between them based on what they're targeting and the sophistication of the attack, an expert says

Australia may not be prepared for a large-scale cyber attack on civilian infrastructure, the military's cyber boss says

Deadly US Applications of Artificial Intelligence

Mary Wareham

In the United States and around the world, public concern is rising at the prospect of weapons systems that would select and attack targets without human intervention. © 2018 Campaign to Stop Killer Robots

As the United States Department of Defense releases a strategy on artificial intelligence (AI), questions loom about whether the US government intends to accelerate its investments in weapons systems that would select and engage targets without meaningful human control.

The strategy considers a range of potential, mostly benign uses of AI and makes the bold claim that AI can help “reduce the risk of civilian casualties” by enabling greater accuracy and precision. The strategy commits to consider how to handle hacking, bias, and “unexpected behavior” among other concerns.

UK defense think tank warns that allowing Huawei into 5G network is 'irresponsible'

Kelly Olsen

A British defense and security think tank has warned that it would be "naive" and "irresponsible" to let Chinese telecommunications company Huawei supply equipment for the U.K's ultra-high speed 5G mobile networks.

Huawei, the world's largest producer of telecoms equipment, has been under the spotlight over allegations that the Chinese government could use its equipment for spying.

The United States has urged its allies to boycott Huawei technology over the alleged security threats that might compromise foreign communications networks. But the Shenzhen-based company and the Chinese government say those concerns are unfounded.

"Allowing Huawei's participation is at best naive, at worst irresponsible," according to a report by the Royal United Services Institute. The Financial Times first reported on the story on Wednesday.

How to Regulate the Internet Without Becoming a Dictator


On Nov. 16, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump signed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act into law, which transformed the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security into the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

The change aims to bolster the United States’ defenses against physical and digital threats to critical infrastructure. The reasons for CISA’s creation are no mystery: Democracies are increasingly realizing that they cannot rely entirely on the unregulated market to protect citizens or even businesses from cyberharms. Now, the question for CISA is how to meet current threats while maintaining a free and open internet for Americans.

Democracies are grappling with the differences between the internet as idealized in their policy documents—with principles such as freedom and openness—and the internet in reality—an insecure, increasingly centralized, and increasingly restricted network. Democratic internet strategies face tensions that need to be resolved, including the need to find a balance between total network openness (which dangerously allows anything through) and total network control (an authoritarian model for the internet).

Authoritarianism in the Information Age

By Jacob Shapiro

The U.S.-led global order has a distinct aversion to authoritarianism, and with good reason. The centralization of political power in the hands of a single individual or political party offends liberal democratic sensibilities. It also often leads to political regimes that are oppressive at home and aggressive abroad. But that’s not always the case. There is nothing stopping authoritarian regimes from maintaining peace or ensuring the equitable application of the rule of law any more than a democratic government can guarantee that a particular country will be peaceful or ensure the liberty of all of its citizens equally. Critics of authoritarianism are actually thinking of something more sinister: totalitarianism, an authoritarian regime in which the leadership wants total control over not just the state but the individual.

Planning an Army for the 21st Century

by Joshua Klimas, Gian Gentile

In U.S. defense strategic guidance over the past several decades, one of the pillars of force planning has been the requirement for a highly ready and rapidly deployable Army. As a result, this basic imperative has long been a significant driver of U.S. Army force size, mix, and component distribution.

In this Perspective, the authors seek to provide criteria for an effective and efficient Army for the 21st century. They review the history of how the United States has adapted principles guiding Army force planning to meet strategic needs, examine the range of major missions that the Army must be able to perform to meet today's defense strategy, and lay out principles to help guide leaders in making contemporary force-planning decisions. Although the principles discussed may not be new, they represent principles that leaders, force planners, and others should keep in mind when considering changes or new investments in Army end strength and force structure. Furthermore, the principles reinforce the tenet that decisions on Army force size, mix, and distribution should flow from the defense needs of the present and future rather than preserve legacy decisions of the past.

The U.S. Department of Defense's Planning Process Components and Challenges

by Michael J. Mazarr

Research Questions

How many and what types of forces (and ground, air, sea, space, cyber, and other capabilities) are called for, and why?

What size and composition of force would best equip the Joint Force and, in particular, the Army to meet the set of demands presented by the security environment and the mission set outlined in defense strategy documents?

By what objective standard can the leaders of the U.S. defense enterprise be confident that the force they choose is best aligned with U.S. strategy and policy goals?