7 April 2019

China Thwarts India’s Central Asian Ambitions – Analysis

By Micha’el Tanchum*

A recent investigation revealed that Chinese troops are stationed on Tajikistan’s south-eastern border, 30 kilometres from Pakistan-administered Kashmir across Afghanistan’s Wakhan corridor. India has unsuccessfully sought to establish its own military base in Tajikistan for over 15 years. The discovery of Chinese troops constitutes a severe setback to New Delhi’s Central Asian ambitions.

Soldiers from the base reportedly wear the insignia of the Xinjiang units of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). In 2016, Chinese mine-resistant armoured vehicles bearing the logo of China’s paramilitary forces were photographed patrolling Baza’i Gonbad in the Wakhan Corridor. To respect Russian sensitivities — Moscow being Dushanbe’s main security provider — China’s forces in Tajikistan could plausibly be composed of paramilitaries under PLA command or perhaps PLA troops out of standard uniform.

U.S. India ASAT Test React May Backfire, Experts Say


WASHINGTON: The U.S. failure to speak out publicly and more forcefully against India’s anti-satellite (ASAT) tests may backfire, former U.S. government officials and space experts say, clearing a path for continued testing and development of debris-creating weapons that Pentagon leaders have been saying for years are unacceptable.

The United States has “more reasons than any other country to want to prevent creation of debris. We have the biggest economic and military and commercial interest in space, hands down, by a factor of two or three,” explains Doug Loverro, former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for space policy. “We should be in the forefront of calling for an international convention to outlaw debris-creating weapons, and anybody and everybody in this [space policy] community knows we should be doing more towards that outcome.” So far, he lamented, there has been no one in the United States with any real “gravitas” willing to pick up that baton.

Frank Rose, former State Department assistant secretary for arms control, verification and compliance, agrees. “We need to create a norm against debris creating events in outer space. If ever there is real conflict, those satellites [destroyed] won’t be at 300 kilometers, but at 800 or so kilometers – where there will be significant damage to the space environment.” While praising the Trump administration’s sharp focus on space security overall, Rose criticized the almost startling lack of a diplomatic element to the current strategy. “They quite frankly have not been at the table on the diplomatic front,” he told me in a phone interview today, “despite talking a good game about support for norms.” The India ASAT test, he said, could have provided an opportunity for leadership from the Trump administration.

Why Is Zalmay Khalilzad Such a Controversial Figure in Afghanistan?

By Sayed Ziafatullah Saeedi

When the name Zalmay Khalilzad appeared on the news as a potential nominee for President Trump’s Afghan peace initiative, different reactions surfaced. Some non-Afghan commentators, though not all, welcomed his appointment given his impressive background. Yet, inside Afghanistan, Khalilzad’s appointment was not much welcomed. Indeed, a group of Afghan political activists set up a petition to urge the U.S. government to reconsider their decision given Khalilzad’s “ethnonationalism motivated” prior conduct in Afghanistan, as the petition put it.

Khalilzad is widely acknowledged in the West for his exceptional diplomatic talent. Yet, this is not how he is received in his birthplace. In Afghanistan, Khalilzad is an extremely disputed figure. He played a constructive role in “reaching consensus” by “breaking impasses” while taking an equally troubling attitude in the Afghan ethno-politicking during his tenure in Afghanistan. This problematic background is Khalilzad’s Achilles heel and can potentially damage his reputation and ultimately any incomplete peace, even if he can successfully strike a deal with the Taliban. To understand why and how, we need a bit of history.

Left Out: Afghanistan Watches Its Own Peace Process From The Sidelines

Frud Bezhan 

When the United States' special representative for Afghan reconciliation arrived in Kabul this week amid ongoing peace talks with the Taliban, the country's national-unity government was in disarray.

Zalmay Khalilzad met with the leaders of the government, President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, separately on April 1: Ghani with his running mate in the upcoming elections; and Abdullah, the de facto prime minister, with the country's foreign minister, an electoral ally.

Meanwhile, Ghani's national-security adviser -- who is overseeing Kabul's ongoing war effort and recently had a much-publicized falling out with Washington -- was not in Kabul at all, but in the remote province of Nuristan.

The developments, analysts say, highlighted stark divisions within the government in Kabul that have been laid bare as the United States and the Taliban carry on negotiations aimed at ending the nearly 18-year war. The Afghan government, with no seat at the table, has essentially been shut out of its own peace process, relegated to lame-duck status as Washington talks of a military withdrawal and presidential elections approach in September.

Pakistani Estimates of the Eastern River Water Flows

Arvind Gupta

It may be recalled that the Indus Water Treaty, 1960 (IWT) between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World bank, allocated three rivers each, known as the Eastern Rivers (Ravi, Beas, Sutlej) to India, and the Western Rivers (Indus, Chenab, Jhelum) to Pakistan. India has the complete right over the waters of the Eastern Rivers and can also use the waters of the Western Rivers for consumptive uses like drinking, agriculture as mentioned in the Treaty.

Indus river basin includes these six rivers plus Kabul add Konar Rivers flowing from Afghanistan. The combined annual flow of these rivers is estimated to be 168 million acre feet (MAF). Kabul River accounts for about 27 MAF. This leaves about 141 MAF annual discharge through the Western and Eastern Rivers. Of these, 80 percent flows to the Western Rivers and about 20 percent through the Eastern Rivers. These estimates form the basis of the IWT between India and Pakistan. The World Bank brokered the Treaty, which has been highly beneficial to Pakistan.

Afghan army picked the camo pattern most likely to get its troops shot and we paid for it

Tom Vanden Brook

WASHINGTON – When it went shopping for new Afghan army uniforms, the Pentagon ending up outfitting soldiers in the most expensive and one of the least effective camouflage designs.

In a new report the U.S. military has sought to keep quiet, American taxpayers footed the $28 million bill for the poor choice of 430,000 uniforms.

“I’d hate to be an Afghan soldier wearing that uniform," said John Sopko, the U.S. Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. "It’s like having ‘shoot me’ written on the back.”

The report backs the finding in 2017 of the Inspector General that determined the Pentagon had wasted as much as $28 million buying uniforms with woodland camouflage pattern appropriate for about 2% of mostly arid Afghanistan.

The Risk of E-Commerce Provisions in the RCEP

By Eva Novi Karina

The world of digital economies, innovation, and global value chains (GVCs) is changing rapidly. Every day there are stories about new technologies, services, and products that present unexpected possibilities and unforeseen challenges. There is potential to harness these innovations to revolutionize development across ASEAN, especially through regional initiatives that support its small and poorer members. If ASEAN countries are to maximize these opportunities, they will need international, regional, and national rules that facilitate digital industrialization, close the digital divide, and correct the development asymmetries that currently favor developed countries and their corporations. The wrong rules will deny ASEAN writ-large those benefits.

Driven by this spirit, ASEAN countries have pushed for binding commitments from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) members on e-commerce. In February 2015, the Trade Negotiation Committee (TNC) of RCEP endorsed a proposal to establish a separate working group on e-commerce (WGEC) with the aim of formalizing a chapter on e-commerce in the final agreement. The agreement and the issues being negotiated have been kept confidential, but a few chapter drafts leaked including the “Terms of Reference (TOR)” for the WGEC. The leaked drafts showed that the e-commerce text tabled and promoted by Japan in RCEP largely mirrors the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), also known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP or TPP-11) template which promotes the American e-commerce model.

Huawei and Managing 5G Risk

By Herb Lin 

Based on cybersecurity concerns, the United States, Australia and New Zealand have staked out policy positions that prevent or strongly discourage the acquisition of Huawei 5G technology for use in the national communications infrastructure of these nations. Other U.S. allies have announced or are considering policy positions that do not go so far and would indeed allow such acquisition at least to some extent.

Both sides have their public arguments, but the arguments are largely incompatible with each other. The pro-Huawei side argues that Huawei equipment has never been shown to be compromised, and that inspections and testing of Huawei hardware and software will prevent the implantation of vulnerabilities that would compromise their products. The anti-Huawei side argues that because Huawei is ultimately subject to the control of the Chinese government, the security of a communications infrastructure based on Huawei 5G technology depends on choices made by the Chinese government, thus placing control of a critical national infrastructure in the hands of a foreign government that poses—or at least in their view, should pose—an unacceptable security risk.

China’s PLA Troops in Venezuela Is Game Changer

M.K. Bhadrakumar

China’s PLAAF conducted its first airdrop and air delivery training exercise using the Y-20 strategic transport aircraft last year circa May

The reported arrival of Chinese military personnel in Venezuela last weekend is undoubtedly a major event in world politics.

Unlike Russia, which has a history of force projection abroad, this is an extremely rare Chinese move. Although vital Chinese interests are at stake in the war against terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Syria, China refrained from publicising any such deployment.

The reports mention that the group of Chinese military personnel is 120-strong and arrived on the Margarita Island in the Caribbean Sea off the Venezuelan mainland on March 28 ‘to deliver humanitarian aid and military supplies to the government forces.’ After delivering the humanitarian supplies, the Chinese PLA troops were apparently transferred to a Venezuelan military facility.

For NATO, China is the new Russia


WASHINGTON — NATO has spent most of the past 70 years focusing on how to defend the Continent against Russia. To survive the decades ahead, it’s beginning to think more about a threat farther east.

China is top of mind as NATO officials gather in the American capital this week to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Washington Treaty, which established the alliance on April 4, 1949.

Questions about whether and to what extent alliance members should allow Chinese network supplier Huawei to operate in their countries, along with Italy’s move to join Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, have put the question of how NATO should respond to the Asian power front and center.

“China is set to become the subject of the 21st century on both sides of the Atlantic,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a speech in Washington on Wednesday. “China is a challenge on almost every topic. It is important to gain a better understanding of what that implies for NATO.”

Integrity at core of China’s modern military

During the seven years I was the spokesperson for China's Ministry of National Defense, I handled topics related to the country's peaceful development and modernization of its defense capabilities almost on a daily basis. 

Many foreign journalists, scholars, and others concerned with China's defense asked me questions about the development of the country's aircraft carrier, J-20 stealth fighters, and whether the PLA Rocket Force was equipped with new missiles. 

I provided objective information on defense and military development during and after press conferences and organized foreign journalists' visits to our troops. My colleagues also introduced the modernization of the Chinese military through various channels and platforms. Such endeavors contributed to developing an objective, balanced, and comprehensive view of China's military. 

However, some journalists were very interesting. If I didn't brief them on the latest development of China's military's buildup, they perceived the military as non-transparent and a threat. If I showed them conventional weapons, they said it was just for show and the military was still viewed as a threat. If I showed them advanced weaponry, they worried we were even more threatening due to the country's rapid development. 

The Evolving Israel-China Relationship

by Shira Efron

What is the current status of Israeli-Chinese ties in terms of diplomacy, trade, investment, construction, educational partnerships, scientific cooperation, and tourism?

What challenges do Israel's expanding ties with China present to Israel and the United States?

How can Israel continue to develop its relationship with China while safeguarding its vital interests?

Are there lessons that can be learned from other countries' interactions with China?
Can the United States help Israel manage its growing relationship with China?

Economic Warfare: The Most Effective Weapon in Chinese Strategy of Unrestricted War

Col Shubhankar Basu, SM, VSM

The Chinese characteristics in hybrid warfare can be traced to Sun Zu’s classic Art of War. “To fight and conquer in all battles is not the supreme excellence; the supreme excellence is in breaking enemy’s resistance without fighting.”1 This reflects the oriental thought that violence is the last step towards achieving the national aim. Five thousand years later, similar notes have been echoed in 1999 by two colonels in the People's Liberation Army of China, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, when they released a book on military strategy called ‘Unrestricted Warfare’, which according to Chinese translation reads as "Warfare beyond Bounds". In chapter 5 of the book, it says "The great masters of warfare techniques during the 21st century will be those who employ innovative methods to recombine various capabilities so as to attain tactical, campaign and strategic goals."2

In 2003, the Chinese Communist Party approved and the Central Military Commission adopted the concept of ‘Three Warfares’ to include ‘public opinion, psychological and legal warfare’. A study for Net Assessment Directorate, Office of Secretary of Defence, concluded that if the objective of the war is to acquire resource, influence and territory and to project will – China’s Three Warfare is war by other means.3 In the same study Commodore Uday Bhaskar has argued “that the core objective behind the Three Warfare concept is not to seek outright victory on any given matter, but to use its elements as a subtle, Trojan horse means to realise the desired end .”4 The Chinese strategy is thus now going back to the philosophy of Sun Zu, i.e., to win the wars without fighting. The use of economics is inherent in the ‘Three Warfares’ strategy, whether it is influencing public opinion or fighting a legal warfare.

Huawei Will Damage American Security and Prosperity

by Daniel Wagner

The Huawei saga has served to illustrate that, just as Beijing and Washington are crafting two stark political alternatives for the world to consider, they are doing the same in the technology and communications arena. China and the United States are in the middle of trade and national security battles, but they are also jostling to determine who will control the future of technology and communications. The Huawei dispute is as much about who has access to and—thus controls—the data of the future, as it is about superpower politics and the rule of law.

Huawei is the world’s largest supplier of telecommunications network equipment and second-biggest maker of smartphones. Unlike other big Chinese technology firms, it does much of its business overseas and is a market leader in many countries across Europe, Asia and Africa.

ISIS Has Not Been Defeated. It’s Alive and Well in Southern Syria.

By Sarah Hunaidi 

While Washington celebrates victory, the Islamic State is regrouping, and the Assad regime is letting it happen.

The world has been celebrating the Islamic State’s defeat since the final battle of Baghouz on March 23. In February, President Donald Trump celebrated the United States’ alleged victory claiming that the group had been “100 percent” defeated. The United States and Britain have meanwhile moved on to debate stripping the citizenship of their nationals who joined the Islamic State. But contrary to Trump’s declaration, the terrorist group has not been vanquished, and it is currently regrouping near my hometown, Suwayda, in southern Syria—an area it has long terrorized while the government of Bashar al-Assad stood by in silent complicity…

How Japan Must Pity the Land of the Setting Sun

Author: Niall Ferguson 

Despite the bitter war they fought in the 1940s, Japan and Britain (my native country) have much in common. Both are archipelagos off the vast Eurasian landmass. Both are among the most densely populated countries in the world. Both were once mighty empires. Both are still quite rich. Both are constitutional monarchies.

Yet while Britain today is in a state of acute political crisis, Japan seems a model of political stability. Is this a matter of personalities — the sad fact that Theresa May is a talentless leader, Shinzo Abe a gifted one? Partly. But there is more to it than that.

The Japanese, crushed in 1945, conceded only a superficial Americanization of their culture and institutions. To a remarkable extent, Japan did not change. It merely jettisoned the hysterical nationalism that had come to the fore in the 1930s. Not only did the Emperor survive, but so did the country’s social elite. They accepted land reform but retained political power.

The continuities of Japanese history are exemplified by Prime Minister Abe’s political pedigree. His great-great-grandfather was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army. His grandfather on his mother’s side was a member of Hideki Tojo’s Cabinet during World War II and prime minister in the late 1950s. His other grandfather was a member of Parliament (and an opponent of Tojo). Abe’s father was Japan’s foreign minister in the 1980s.

5 Very Important Things About the World Nobody Knows

Stephen M. Walt 

The future will be determined by a handful of big questions that don't yet have answers.

I spent much of last week in Toronto at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association. For those of you outside academia, this conference is an increasingly diverse gathering of scholars from around the world—mostly political scientists but also historians, sociologists, legal scholars, economists, and a few others—presenting papers or commentary on a wide variety of international, global, transnational, and other topics. There are a breathtaking range of subjects being studied, and the accumulated knowledge that participants display is impressive.

But as I read the program, attended panels, and toured the publisher's displays, I found myself thinking about questions that didn't get answered (at least, not in the sessions I attended). And not for the first time, I began reflecting about some important issues where I feel uncomfortably ignorant.

Which brings me to my top five things I'd really like to know....

Space Threat Assessment 2019

An interactive summary of Space Threat Assessment 2019, including interactive data repositories and featured photos, can be found here.

While the vulnerabilities of U.S. national security space systems are often discussed publicly, the progress other nations are making in counterspace systems is not as readily accessible. Space Threat Assessment 2019 reviews the open-source information available on the counterspace capabilities that can threaten U.S. space systems. The report is intended to raise awareness and understanding of the threats, debunk myths and misinformation, and highlight areas in which senior leaders and policymakers should focus their attention. 

Space Threat Assessment 2019 focuses on four specific countries that pose the greatest risk for the United States: China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. A fifth section analyzes the counterspace capabilities of select other countries, including some allies and partners of the United States, and some non-state actors. This report is not a comprehensive assessment of all known threats to U.S. space systems because much of the information on what other countries are doing to advance their counterspace systems is not publicly available. Instead, it serves as an unclassified assessment that aggregates and highlights open-source information on counterspace capabilities for policymakers and the general public.

Inside the Chaos Surrounding Britain's Brexit Boondoggle

by Peter Harris 

Britain’s departure from the European Union and the forging of a new cross-Channel relationship was supposed to be one of the “easiest” deals “in human history.” It has, instead, turned out to be a national nightmare and an international embarrassment.

At first, Britain was supposed to leave the European Union on March 29. But with the House of Commons repeatedly refusing to endorse Prime Minister Theresa May’s negotiated exit deal, the date got pushed back to April 12. Now, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, has said that there will be no more delays to the Brexit departure date unless politicians in London can agree upon a way forward soon.

As of right now, they show few signs of doing so, which means that Britain is careening towards a devastating “no deal” departure scenario.

Archaeologists in Knossos, Crete, discover a large cache of clay tablets with hieroglyphic writing in a script they call Linear B.

Scrutinize Strategic Assumptions on China

By Captain Kevin Eyer, U.S. Navy (Retired)

History is replete with examples of nations suffering catastrophic military defeat to adversaries who were able to achieve surprise at the strategic level. In retrospect, it seems clear that all the critical warning signs were available in advance. In considering these events, the worthwhile question ultimately becomes this: Why was the essential, known information either ignored or discredited? How was it, for example, that the Russians in June 1941, the Americans in December 1941, the United Nations Forces in October 1951, and the Israelis in October 1973 failed to correctly perceive reality? And, if lessons can be gleaned from these and other historic examples, what conclusions might be drawn by U.S. leaders today—particularly as the nation faces increased competition with China?

In explaining the phenomenon of successful strategic-level military surprise it may be useful to consider Roberta Wohlstetter’s perspectives on “signal” versus “noise.” In 1965, she wrote: “In discussing this information it will perhaps be useful to distinguish again between signals and noise. By the signal of an action is meant a sign, a clue, a piece of evidence that points to the action or to an adversary’s intention to undertake it, and by noise is meant the background of irrelevant or inconsistent signals, signs pointing in the wrong directions, that tend always to obscure the signs pointing the right way.”

Europe whole and free: Why NATO’s open door must remain open

Molly Montgomery

The Baltic states are the most frequent targets, as critics argue that Russian local military superiority and the ability to deny NATO operational access make them indefensible. In the event of a Russian incursion, they say, the Baltic states would be defeated before the North Atlantic Council could meet to invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.

NATO’s newest Allies from the former Yugoslavia—Croatia, and particularly Albania and Montenegro—have also faced questions about their ability to contribute military to the alliance, given their small size. How, critics ask, can a country of 600,000 people like Montenegro contribute to the collective defense of a 29-country alliance covering more than 800 million people?

There are seeds of truth in these criticisms, and there is ample room for reform—to speed up NATO’s crisis decisionmaking, to further improve the NATO response force, and yes, to ensure more equitable burdensharing.

NATO is the most successful military alliance in the history of the world.

Is Flawless Digital Anonymity Possible?

That’s the question David Balban explores in his April 2, 2019 online article on the cyber security and technology website, HackRead.com. He begins, “Let’s suppose you want to post the most anonymous comment on a social network imaginable. What kind of tools do you need for that? VPN? ToR? SSH Tunnel? In fact, none of the above,” he writes. “It suffices to purchase a burner SIM card and a used smartphone on a flea market nearby. Then, drive as far from your place of residence as you can, insert the card into the phone, and drown the device in the river. That’s it,” he wrote.

“But, what if you need to do more than just write a comment once, while concealing your IP address from some website?,” he asks. “Imagine,” he notes, “you want to reach a degree of anonymity that’s extremely hard, or impossible to compromise [breach], at any level; and, even conceals the fact of your using anonymization tools to a certain extent.” Mr. Balban then goes on to explain or advise what to do — to become digitally anonymous.

An Air Force for an Era of Great Power Competition

Mark Gunzinger

The report summarizes insights and recommendations developed during a CSBA study of the U.S. Air Force's future aircraft inventory. As required by the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, the report proposes a force planning construct and associated force structure necessary for the United States to support the 2018 National Defense Strategy. This construct would require the Air Force to size and shape its future force to sustain strategic deterrence, defend the U.S. homeland, and be prepared to defeat major acts of aggression by China and Russia as part of the Joint Force. 

The report recommends creating a future aircraft inventory that would be more lethal and better able to operate in future contested and highly contested environments compared to today's force. It also advises the U.S. Air Force to develop and field this force over the next fifteen to twenty years instead of attempting to reach a specific inventory target by 2030

Current, Former Pentagon Leaders Sound Alarm on Chinese Technology in 5G Networks

by Ellen Nakashima 

Current and former Pentagon leaders are warning about the risks to future military operations posed by allies in Europe and Asia using Chinese technology in their 5G wireless telecommunications networks.

In a statement Wednesday, six former officials note that the immense bandwidth and super-high speeds of the coming 5G systems — up to 100 times faster than current 4G platforms — will make them attractive for the U.S. military to share data with allies or transfer information in combat.

And they and U.S. defense officials warn that allowing Chinese firms such as Huawei to outfit these networks poses unacceptable risks of espionage and disruptive cyberattacks on military operations because of the firm’s alleged ties to the Chinese government and a 2017 Chinese law that requires companies, if directed, to cooperate in surveillance activities…

Global Consequences of Escalating U.S.-Russia Cyber Conflict

Lukasz Olejnik is an independent cybersecurity and privacy researcher, a research associate at the University of Oxford's Centre of Technology and Global Affairs, and a former scientific adviser on cyberwarfare at the International Committee of the Red Cross. Follow him on Twitter at @lukOlejnik.

Cyber conflicts involving state actors are quickly becoming a geopolitical reality. Perhaps the most cited example, the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, is a continued source of conflict in U.S.-Russia relations. The story took another turn last October when the U.S. Cyber Command conducted an offensive cyber operation against the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the “Russian troll factory” linked to using disinformation campaigns during the 2016 elections, and onwards. While the operation has yet to be confirmed by the U.S. government, media reports and U.S. officials’ commentary taken together suggest the event occurred. The U.S. action, which took place during the 2018 midterm elections, has been portrayed as a defensive warning against Russia and other U.S. adversaries online. But the result of the offensive operation may, however, in the end benefit Russia and possibly contribute to escalation in the cyber domain globally.

In the Era of Hacking, Bugs Remain a Crucial Espionage Weapon

By Scott Stewart

While cyberattacks offer a powerful means for corporate surveillance, it is important to remember that it is just one option in the espionage toolbox. Some information, such as in-person conversations, cannot be obtained through hacks and thus require the use of other tools, such as human intelligence collection insiders or covert audio and video recorders and transmitters (bugs). Today, bugs are cheaper, smaller and easier to obtain than ever — and the number being deployed and discovered is vastly underreported, masking the true scope of the threat. Therefore, in order to adequately combat corporate espionage, organizations must also implement security measures to protect against bugging. 

The threat of cyberattacks has garnered a lot of publicity in recent years — and rightfully so, as such hacks provide hostile actors with a powerful and convenient intelligence tool. Cyberattacks can be conducted from the relative safety of an offshore platform without having to place valuable assets in jeopardy of being discovered and arrested, and provide actors with some degree of plausible deniability as well. 

Anatomy of a Taiwan Invasion: The Air Domain

By Rick Joe

The threat of a Taiwan contingency is the most persistent and likely military confrontation that the Chinese military (the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA) faces, and much of the PLA’s modernization over the last few decades has been designed for such a scenario. Various articles, commentaries, and even videos over the years have considered how a PLA invasion of Taiwan may unfold and the degree of success or failure that each side may enjoy.

This piece will be the first of a three-part series discussing the main methods the PLA may use to prosecute a Taiwan invasion in a late 2019 time frame. The part is devoted to PLA air power; part two at the end of this month will examine PLA missile, naval, and ground elements. Part three will finally consider procurement and strategies the Taiwan armed forces (ROCArF) could take to counter PLA advantages, as well as to consider the PLA’s future trajectory and possible Taiwan-specific capabilities they may seek to procure.

Setting the Stage, Wildcards, and Acronyms

Report to Congress on U.S. Special Operations Forces

The following is the March 28, 2019 Congressional Research Service report, U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress.
From the report

Special Operations Forces (SOF) play a significant role in U.S. military operations and, in recent years, have been given greater responsibility for planning and conducting worldwide counterterrorism operations. U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has about 70,000 Active Duty, National Guard, and reserve personnel from all four services and Department of Defense (DOD) civilians assigned to its headquarters, its four service component commands, and eight sub-unified commands.

In 2013, based on a request from USSOCOM (with the concurrence of Geographic and Functional Combatant Commanders and the Military Service Chiefs and Secretaries), the Secretary of Defense assigned command of the Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOCs) to USSOCOM. USSOCOM now has the responsibility to organize, train, and equip TSOCs. While USSOCOM is now responsible for the organizing, training, and equipping of TSOCs, the Geographic Combatant Commands will continue to have operational control over the TSOCs. Because the TSOCs are now classified as sub-unified commands, the services are responsible to provide non-SOF support to the TSOCs in the same manner in which they provide support to the Geographic Combatant Command headquarters.

The Army is willing to spend big to support the cyber mission

By: Mark Pomerleau   

The Army issued awards March 15 on a cyber contract that could total up to $982 million.

The R4 contract is just for research and development — not materiel solutions — in support of the cyber mission, according to an Army spokesperson.

It is not immediately clear what the contract is focused on, but both Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics provided clues in announcements that they are companies awarded under the R4 vehicle.

Northrop said in a release that the contract will “enable the Army to procure an entire range of cyber electromagnetic activities (CEMA) aimed at advancing the force’s lethality in non-kinetic engagements across warfare domains.”

It will support cyber and electronic warfare research and technology development, studies and analyses, integration support, laboratory demonstrations, integrated systems development, testing, performance verification, fabrication, logistics, technical support services and cybersecurity, the Northrop release said.

Multi-Domain Networks: The Army, The Allies & AI


An Army soldier gets on his radio during exercises in Australia.

HUNTSVILLE: Working with Australia ought to be easy. It’s a longtime ally with a common language, shared traditions, and a lot of US-built technology and is a member of the Five Eyes. But when American artillerymen arrived in Oz for a recent exercise, the commander of US Army Pacific recounted, they discovered they couldn’t share data — not because of any technical problem, but because of an obscure policy on giving access to foreigners.

“Australia has AFATDS [Raytheon’s Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System] and we have it,” Gen. Robert Brown said. “We figured, ‘okay, that’s easy.’ Lo and behold, we get there and we realize there’s a policy that we can’t directly link with them, even though they have the same system we do and they’re an ally. We didn’t even know there was a policy!”

Gen. Robert Brown (left), commander of the US Army Pacific, stands at attention with two Australian two-stars, Maj. Gen. Roger Noble (center) and Maj. Gen. Daniel McDaniel (right).

Brown’s soldiers got a waiver to connect the artillery networks — “sometimes you’ve just got to ask” — but just asking was counter-cultural in an Army that’s long discouraged coloring outside the lines. You have to “push the system,” Brown said. “What we’d do for years was say, ‘we don’t have those authorities…. Policy says we can’t do that, so we can’t do that.’”

“One of the challenges is, we don’t know what polices to ask to be adjusted,” the general said, “because…. in some cases we’ve never tried to do some of this stuff, particularly in cyber and space.”