4 March 2019

While Two Nuclear Powers Were On The Brink Of War, A Full-Blown Online Misinformation Battle Was Underway

Pranav Dixit

Pakistani soldiers stand next to what Pakistan says is the wreckage of an Indian fighter jet shot down in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on Feb. 28.

India and Pakistan, both countries that possess over a hundred nuclear warheads each, came close to the brink of war this week. But even as fighter aircraft from both nations invaded each other’s air space, a full-blown misinformation war about the conflict raged on the internet.

“Misinformation has been used to start wars throughout history. It would be foolish to think that our time is the exception to the rule,” Aviv Ovadya, cofounder of the Thoughtful Technology Project, a San Francisco–based nonprofit dedicated to preventing harmful misinformation, told BuzzFeed News.

The Next India-Pakistan Crisis Will Be Worse

by Michael Kugelman

The last few days have been downright scary in South Asia.

India and Pakistan, the only two rivals in the world to be both neighbors and nuclear states, have suffered through their most serious crisis in nearly twenty years.

The crisis has featured multiple traumatic events that made escalation inevitable. Take the February 14 attack by Jaish-e-Mohammad, a Pakistan-based terror group, on Indian security personnel in India-administered Kashmir—one of the deadliest attacks on Indian forces in years. Consider India’s retaliatory strikes on Pakistan—launched not in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, but in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, further away from the border. And witness Pakistan’s decision to respond with its own strikes on Indian targets, and its capture of an Indian Air Force pilot.

Why the War for Kashmir Burns On

By Dexter Filkins

In the summer of 1998, I had a front-row seat to the border war between India and Pakistan. Following nuclear-weapons tests by both countries, the duelling Armies shelled each other for weeks along the disputed Himalayan frontier, called the Line of Control. I was staying in a shabby hotel named the Sangam, in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir, not far from the border. The Sangam—its name means “place where rivers meet”—sits near the confluence of the Neelum and Jhelum Rivers. For days, I ate dinner on the terrace out back and watched the artillery fire. The raging waters of the Neelum were so cold that I had to wear a sweater. The exploding shells lit up the sky with long, yellow streaks.

The world watched with trepidation as the two nuclear-armed countries blasted away at each other. For a time, it seemed that a wider war was entirely possible—that things would escalate, either by accident or design.

Could Sharing Live IAF Flight Locations Online Compromise Pilots' Security

Anand Kumar and Sandhya Ravishankar

Live locations of Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft moving to combat the Pakistani airstrikes on the morning of February 27 were watched keenly by bloggers, aviation enthusiasts and a large number of people on social media.

These live movements were recorded by websites like www.flightradar24.com which provide real time tracking facilities for almost every flight in the world. Unfortunately, this site also showed where the Indian Air Force jets and choppers were moving, sparking speculation, interest and concern across the globe as India and Pakistan engaged in air clashes.

How to End the Worst India-Pakistan Crisis in a Generation


Stepping back from the brink now will require political courage in New Delhi and reciprocity in Islamabad.

The standoff between India and Pakistan would be hard enough to resolve if the two countries did not have nuclear weapons. That’s before you factor in a jingoistic media scene; the rapid spread of rumors and disinformation on messaging and social media apps; and the fact that India’s nationalist prime minister is heading into parliamentary elections.

The result: their worst military crisis in nearly two decades. Stepping back from the brink now will require political courage in New Delhi and reciprocity in Islamabad.

The causes of this latest dispute lie on several levels. First, there’s the historical, territorial, and fundamental national identity issues that remain unresolved between them. Then there’s the Pakistani military-intelligence complex’s use of non-state actors against India over a span of several years. And finally, there’s the proximal cause of today’s crisis—that after years of absorbing terrorist attacks planned and conceived on Pakistani soil, India chose to say enough was enough.

US Influence Over India-Pakistan Crisis in Question


Trump officials are working the phones, but “the U.S. position seems to be ‘You guys figure it out yourselves.’”

It isn’t clear if the United States can wield the same diplomatic authority to resolve this week’s crisis in Kashmir that it has used to help defuse previous disputes between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, former officials and regional experts say.

Nor, say some former officials, does it appear that the U.S.is trying.

For several days, India and Pakistan have stood at the brink of a crisis in Kashmir. The current state of tension started after a Feb. 14 suicide bombing killed at least 40 Indian soldiers. Pakistan categorically denied responsibility for the attack, blaming local extremists. India responded by sending aircraft across the Line of Control for the first time since the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War, dropping two payloads. Skirmishes have flared along the border and on Wednesday, Pakistan shot down two Indian aircraft during an aerial dogfight, leading to the capture of an Indian pilot.

Opinion on India-Pakistan Confrontation

James Jay Carafano

The confrontation flared up again in direct military confrontation between the two countries. Frankly, we did not expect India to undertake a kinetic response. But we think our overall assessment remains valid. We think both sides are looking not to escalate. We also think this adds more drag to talks with Taliban - maybe a blessing in disguise. We will closely track and provide updates. Below is a very comprehensive update from our analyst Jeff Smith who has been cross-talking with all parties.

IAF strikes: Political triumphalism over tactical success makes India lose sight of strategic goals

Terrorist facilities in Pakistan have been bombed numberless times by the US, and there is little need to mention the 2011 Abbottabad attack, where US Navy Seals flew over 200 km into Pakistani airspace to “take out” Osama bin Laden from a location just a stone’s throw away from the Kakul Military Academy. This is a process that has continued for over 18 years, since the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US, and the ensuing Operation Enduring Freedom.

Pakistan’s support to terrorism, and specifically to the Taliban-Haqqani network campaigns in Afghanistan, in which at least 2,419 American soldiers have been killed, among a total of 3,561 Coalition soldiers, as well as tens of thousands of members of Afghan Forces and civilian fatalities. No amount of pressure has, however, forced Pakistan to back off from its support to terrorism against Kabul. Today, with the Americans suing for a face-saving flight from Afghanistan, Pakistan stands on the cusp of what it views as an inevitable victory.
The plot unravels

Pakistan’s War Fronts: Air And Cyber Space – OpEd

Pakistan has been fighting war on terror after 9/11 and stood at forefront with its allies in eliminating the extremism from the country. But it comes with no astonishment that external as well as internal proxy wars damaged the country more than any other threat. There is also no denying of the fact that Pakistan remained successful and capable enough to take control of external actors playing in the country. However, the pronged war Pakistan is being put into, at various fronts today is actually weakening the country’s ability to focus on its strategic role in the region.

Indian violation of Pakistan’s airspace puts forth a mark on the international rules but how about the complete compromise of Pakistan’s air force network systems? The International media confirmed the cyber attacks on Pakistan’s air force networks resulting in the complete compromise last year. More appropriately, it’s the critical infrastructure’s security which was damaged. The government announced no clarification about the incident.

In cyber terms, the incident may be considered a full-fledged failure on the part of military cyber space capabilities.

Under Peace Plan, U.S. Military Would Exit Afghanistan Within Five Years

By Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Julian E. Barnes

WASHINGTON — All American troops would withdraw from Afghanistan over the next three to five years under a new Pentagon plan being offered in peace negotiations that could lead to a government in Kabul that shares power with the Taliban.

The rest of the international force in Afghanistan would leave at the same time, after having mixed success in stabilizing the country since 2001. The plan is being discussed with European allies and was devised, in part, to appeal to President Trump, who has long expressed skepticism of enduring American roles in wars overseas.

The plan calls for cutting by half, in coming months, the 14,000 American troops currently in Afghanistan. It would task the 8,600 European and other international troops with training the Afghan military — a focus of the NATO mission for more than a decade — and largely shift American operations to counterterrorism strikes.

Saudi Investment Could Destabilize Pakistan’s Already Restive Border With Iran

Adnan Aamir

QUETTA, Pakistan—Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Pakistan last week and promptly pledged twice the amount of Saudi investment in infrastructure that observers had expected: $20 billion. Though it may not all be delivered, the promised money signaled the growing Saudi role in major infrastructure development in Pakistan. 

Until last year, such projects were being funded prominently, and almost exclusively, by China. But last fall, soon after Prime Minister Imran Khan took office, Pakistan unexpectedly invited Saudi Arabia to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC—the big-ticket Pakistan component of China’s huge Belt and Road Initiative, which was previously only a bilateral arrangement between Islamabad and Beijing. Riyadh was happy to accept the invitation, as it wants to expand its economic influence in Pakistan by helping fund a slate of ambitious infrastructure projects, including a major oil refinery on the Arabian Sea. ...

How the terrorist threat from Pakistan can be quelled


Brahma Chellaney is a geostrategist and award-winning author.

Pakistan’s current faceoff with India has come at an awkward time. All three of its main neighbours – India, Iran and Afghanistan – have accused it of complicity in recent terrorist attacks on their soil. The rising regional tensions, highlighted by Indian and Pakistani tit-for-tat aerial incursions, threaten to complicate U.S. President Donald Trump’s effort to finalize a peace deal with Afghanistan’s Pakistan-created Taliban.

The trigger for the current tensions was a Valentine’s Day attack – claimed by a Pakistan-based terrorist group – that killed 41 Indian troops in the Indian part of divided Kashmir, where the contested borders of India, Pakistan and China meet. That same week, 27 members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards were slain, prompting Tehran to threaten retaliation against Pakistan, while all 32 Afghan troops at a remote base were killed in a Taliban strike.

Rise of China’s private armies

The increasing use of private security companies and military contractors has changed the conduct of war in recent years. In Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and other fault lines across the world, small teams of elite operators – in units consisting of 15 men or fewer – are outperforming conventional troops. Increasingly arms and power are held in private hands, instead of the state. As a result, the authority of the state can be undermined and trust between governments broken. 

Central Asia is now emerging as a front line for operations by private security companies. The region will be a central transport conduit for China’s regional development project, the Belt and Road Initiative, which promises to revive connections between the East and West. Increased interest by Chinese private security companies in the region, if unregulated, would damage regional stability and cooperation.

The AI Race: China’s Aggressive Bid to Overtake US as Global Leader


In early February, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order promoting the development of artificial intelligence (AI) by directing federal agencies to devote resources to AI research.

Days later, the Pentagon unveiled an AI strategy to counter threats posed by China and Russia.

The Chinese regime has been developing AI at full speed. As Beijing aggressively develops AI technology for military and surveillance use, experts in U.S. government and think tanks are warning about China’s potential to narrow the United States’ lead in AI development.

In an October 2018 article published in Foreign Affairs magazine, policy analyst Michael Auslin noted that while the United States maintains a slight advantage in the AI arms race, a lack of investment in related fields may place Washington at a disadvantage in future research compared to China.

The Fight Against Jihadists Is Shifting to Africa

As the United States and its partners dial down operations against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and contemplate a withdrawal from Afghanistan, the focus of global jihadist activity will shift to Africa. Because external powers do not have the same interests in Africa as they do in the Middle East, counterterrorism operations there will likely draw in different actors who could fight at a different intensity. While the United States will likely maintain its pressure on al Shabaab in the Horn of Africa, other theaters such as the Sahel and Sahara will likely witness more counterterrorism operations from countries like France. The suppression of jihadist groups in the Middle East may, in turn, make African theaters a more appealing destination for foreign fighters and financiers.

Editor's Note: This assessment is part of a series of analyses supporting Stratfor's upcoming 2019 Second-Quarter Forecast. These assessments are designed to provide more context and in-depth analysis on key developments over the next quarter.

Climate Change Still Seen as the Top Global Threat, but Cyberattacks a Rising Concern


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report last year expressing serious concerns about the possible impacts of climate change, both in the near and distant future. Broadly speaking, people around the world agree that climate change poses a severe risk to their countries, according to a 26-nation survey conducted in the spring of 2018. In 13 of these countries, people name climate change as the top international threat.

But global warming is just one of many concerns. Terrorism, specifically from the Islamic extremist group known as ISIS, and cyberattacks are also seen by many as major security threats. In eight of the countries surveyed, including Russia, France, Indonesia and Nigeria, ISIS is seen as the top threat. In four nations, including Japan and the United States, people see cyberattacks from other countries as their top international concern. One country, Poland, names Russia’s power and influence as its top threat, but few elsewhere say Russia is a major concern.

Why an Abrupt Finale to the Trump-Kim Summit Won't Kill Negotiations

The second Trump-Kim summit ended suddenly and prematurely, reportedly due to an impasse over what North Korea was willing to trade for sanctions relief, along with other issues related to Pyongyang's weapons program, according to Washington. This, however, does not presage a return to the escalating tests and tensions that preceded the 2018 rapprochement, as progress and negotiations at a lower level are likely to continue.  In the wake of this summit breakdown, China and South Korea will move quickly to try to put the U.S.-North Korea relationship back on track and sustain diplomatic dialogue. 

Editor's Note: This assessment is part of a series of analyses supporting Stratfor's upcoming 2019 Second-Quarter Forecast. These assessments are designed to provide more context and in-depth analysis on key developments over the next quarter.

The EU’s Position on the Development of Artificial Intelligence

Marta Makowska

The EU’s Position on the Development of Artificial Intelligence

The United States and China are competing for the position of world leader in the field of artificial intelligence solutions, and the European Union is lagging behind. Ongoing work on the EU strategy in this field is aimed at harmonising the activities of individual Member States. EU legal and ethics regulations (protection of consumer rights and anti-discrimination regulations) and the non-commercial use of artificial intelligence (especially in medicine) will be important. The EU should also support all Member States in the development of digital technologies.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly used in industry, services, telecommunications, energy and medicine (diagnostics), but also in everyday life (for example, AI-based assistants). The term AI refers to information systems that behave in an “intelligent” manner similar to living creatures. This means performing tasks that require ongoing analysis of the external environment and making partially autonomous decisions that have not been pre-programmed in detail. AI may take the form of software and more complex hardware such as robots and autonomous cars. With technological advances, it can be used on a mass scale in place of human work. AI development means challenges for EU Member States, not only in terms of security (the risk of sensitive data being captured), but because advanced AI could cause social changes leading to unemployment or greater inequalities.
Investment Leaders in AI

President Trump’s Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence

By Jim Baker 

On Feb. 11, President Trump issued a new executive order regarding artificial intelligence (AI). Darrell West from Brookings wrote a brief analysis of the order, Caleb Watney from R Street critiqued it on Lawfare, and major media outlets have provided some reporting and commentary on the rollout. Rather than repeat what the order says or what others have said about it, below are three compliments and three concerns based on my initial review of the order.

First, here are three things I like:

1. The president actually issued the order. No one is really sure exactly how transformative AI will be—there is a lot of potential in AI, but there is also a lot of hype. But because AI might have major impacts on the economy, national security and other facets of society, society needs to stay focused on it. Other countries—especially China—are investing heavily in AI and related fields, such as high-speed computing, sensors and robotics (including autonomous vehicles and weapons systems). The U.S. Department of Defense and elements of the U.S. intelligence community seem to be fully seized of the AI issue and are actively pursuing an array of initiatives in the field.

Where’s The Gig Economy?

A new analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and other data, Nonstandard Work Arrangements and Older Americans, 2005-2017, published today by the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the Economic Policy Institute, finds that there has been surprisingly little change in work trends over the past 12 years.

Indeed, workers are more apt to have standard work arrangements in 2017 than in 2005. Furthermore, the gig economy only represents a very small (about 1 percent) share of workers. So, where is the much-hyped gig economy? (See also, We’re Not All Going to Be Gig Economy Workers After All)

Technically, gig work is electronically mediated work, that is, short jobs or tasks arranged and paid through websites or apps. Unlike traditional employer-employee relationships, gig workers — like other independent contractors — lack an employer.

What to Make of Cyber Command’s Operation Against the Internet Research Agency

By Ben Buchanan 

On February 26, Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post reported what had been speculated for some weeks: that U.S. Cyber Command undertook an offensive cyber campaign to protect the 2018 midterm elections. An unnamed government official told her that on the day of the 2018 midterm election, Cyber Command shut down internet access at the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Russian troll farm that ran an influence operation targeting Americans before the 2016 presidential elections. The American hackers “shut them down.” The purpose of doing so, Nakashima reported, was “to prevent the Russians from mounting a disinformation campaign that casts doubt on the results.”

While the public does not know exactly what kind of operation Cyber Command conducted, it is likely that it included an effort designed to degrade the Russian operational ability. By disrupting the IRA’s internet connectivity and/or interfering with their operators’ computers, the United States might have inhibited the Russian capacity to act during a critical moment. Indeed, the Post reports that the operation was timed “to prevent the Russians from mounting a disinformation campaign that cast doubt on the results.”

Chinese Brands Make Waves In Global Smartphone Market

by Felix Richter

After having ceded its second place in the global smartphone market to Huawei in the second and third quarter of 2018, Apple narrowly beat the Chinese upstart to retain the number one spot for the full year.

According to IDC, Huawei shipped 206 million smartphones in 2018, up 34 percent from 2017 and less than three million units short of Apple’s total shipments for the year. Both Samsung and Apple saw their shipments and market share slip in 2018, as Chinese brands continue to make waves in the low to mid-price segment of the market.

Companies such as Huawei, Xiaomi and OPPO have challenged the dominance of Samsung and Apple for years now, but 2018 marked the first time that one of them has actually broken into one of the two top spots, at least temporarily.

The Future of Learning

Niklas Göke

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.” — Bruce Lee

In the past four years, I have asked a lot of foolish questions:

Can I be a professional translator without any credentials?

If I want to be a published writer, should I still ghostwrite for money?

Do summaries of existing book summaries make any sense?

The seemingly obvious answer to them all is “no,” yet I did all those things anyway. And while some led nowhere, others now pay my bills. Often, the only way to get satisfying answers is to try, especially with foolish questions. The beauty of daring to ask them, rather than accepting the answers society gives you, is that you’ll have many more unexpected insights along the way.

The Navy’s vision in a new era of information warfare

By: Mark Pomerleau  

Sailors stand watch in the Fleet Operations Center at the headquarters of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet (FCC/C10F). Since its establishment, FCC/C10F has grown into an operational force composed of more than 14,000 Active and Reserve Sailors and civilians organized into 28 active commands, 40 Cyber Mission Force units, and 26 reserve commands around the globe. 

A new Navy document has outlined the service’s big picture imperative for the information warfare domain.

The Navy Cryptologic Cyber Warfare Community Vision, dated Feb. 8, is scant on details and rich in generalities, but makes clear the importance of information warfare in the future and the imperative of dominating in this space, which in many cases includes daily operations.

Protecting Weapon Systems through Improved Cyber Resilience

The same highly connected, automated cyber capabilities that give U.S. soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines an edge over potential adversaries also create critical vulnerabilities. Because of a decades-long effort by the Department of Defense (DoD) to automate and connect weapon systems, they are highly software-dependent and networked, creating vast and complex cyberattack surfaces, extending well beyond weapon systems and subsystems to include the many ancillary systems they connect to. Nearly all U.S. weapon systems functions are now enabled by computers, and they were not built with the complex cyber threats we face today in mind. This means all capabilities – from powering a system on and off, to targeting missiles, to flying aircrafts – are at risk of exploitation.

A recent GAO study confirmed the gravity of this threat, reporting that “the DoD faces mounting challenges in protecting its weapons systems from increasingly sophisticated cyber threats,” and finding that all major acquisition programs tested between 2012 and 2017 had “mission-critical vulnerabilities that adversaries could compromise.” The current situation can be explained partially by the DoD’s choice to prioritize the cybersecurity of networks and traditional IT systems in the past, rather than weapon systems, meaning “an entire generation of systems…were designed and built without adequately considering cybersecurity.”