24 April 2019

Critical Shifts in India’s Outer Space Policy

By Namrata Goswami and Peter Garretson

While the world has been focused on China’s impressive space firsts, notably the Chang’e-4 landing on the far side of the moon, and U.S. proposals for a Space Force, India is seeing steady progress on its own comprehensive space program.

A number of important policy changes have been made and are in the works. These changes reflect both a changing international environment where nation states are competing across categories of prestige, military capability, and economics, as well as India’s increasing material wealth and technological capability. A Standard Chartered report forecasted that India will overtake the U.S. economy ($31 trillion) in nominal GPD terms by 2030, to become the world’s second largest economy at $46.3 trillion, only behind China ($64.2 trillion), projected to be the top economy.

Afghanistan: Prospects and Challenges to Regional Connectivity

By Mariam Safi and Bismellah Alizada

Afghanistan’s strategic location has for a long time been touted as a competitive advantage for the country. The National Unity Government (NUG) has emphasized that Afghanistan’s economy will be transformed and economic growth achieved if the country can utilize this advantage and turn itself into a regional hub for trade and transit. To materialize that ambition, however, Afghanistan needs extensive infrastructure development internally and connectivity externally. To that end, Afghanistan can tap into the potential of regional connectivity projects like China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Russia, India, and Iran’s International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) that have come onto the scene in recent years.

Nevertheless, the prospect of these initiatives in setting Afghanistan on the path to self-reliance remains unpromising, at least in the short run, as the country continues to face a multitude of interdependent challenges. This was confirmed by the findings of a recent study by the Organization for Policy Research and Development Studies (DROPS), a research think tank based in Kabul.

Doha Talks Postponed After Taliban Objects to Presence of Afghan Officials

By Bill Roggio

A three day conference between the Taliban and a delegation of Afghan that was to be held in Doha, Qatar has been postponed after the Taliban objected to the presence of Afghan government officials. The Taliban has consistently refused to negotiate with the Afghan government and said the composition of the delegation to Doha indicates that it represents the Afghan government.

Afghan officials and Western diplomats told Reuters the Doha conference has been delayed until the composition of the Afghan delegation is reworked to the Taliban’s liking

“The government will have to change the composition of the delegation to make this meeting happen,” an anonymous Western diplomat told the news service.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters that the “presence of some participants was completely against the list of what was agreed upon,” and indicated that the inclusion of Afghan government officials was unacceptable.

Lessons From Vietnam on Leaving Afghanistan

By George C. Herring

The prospect of an end to the conflict in Afghanistan has led many U.S. foreign policy experts to ponder the ignoble conclusion of another war, now a half century past. Vietnam reportedly offers a cautionary tale for some Pentagon officials who worry about reliving the ignominious events of 1975, when the North Vietnamese and the National Liberation Front (NLF) marched triumphantly into Saigon and the last Americans, along with some South Vietnamese allies, struggled frantically to escape by helicopter. Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker and others who worry about the humanitarian and geopolitical consequences of withdrawing from Afghanistan warn of a “Vietnam redux” and hear “echoes of America’s retreat from Vietnam.” They seem to fear an Afghanistan syndrome, like the so-called Vietnam syndrome before it, that could cripple the United States’ ability to intervene militarily.

Just how similar was the war in Vietnam to the war in Afghanistan, and how similar are their endings likely to be? What will be the consequences of U.S. withdrawal for Afghans and Americans—and what lessons might the United States take from Vietnam to mitigate them?


The Only Way America Could Beat Russia or China in a War

Victory in combat — as well as a successful transition to an enduring peaceful future — remains possible only with the most lethal, disciplined, physically fit, well-equipped, well-supported, well-led, and well-trained infantry in the world.

The 2018 U.S. National Defense Strategy (NDS) suggests our biggest national security threats come from "near-peer" rivals such as China and Russia. In order to adequately prepare the U.S. for a military conflict with one of these major global powers, the recently announced 2020 national budget prioritizes the rapid development of next-generation, high-technology initiatives in the nuclear, cyber, autonomous systems, and outer space arenas.

While these initiatives are important and worthwhile, they underestimate the importance of America's foundational and most critical military capability: the infantry.

Japan’s Self-Defence Forces are beginning to focus on China

On a cold spring day, crowds of Japanese gather to peer at the hulking grey ship moored in the port of Yokosuka, just south of Tokyo. The Izumo, the country’s largest warship, has attracted attention at home and abroad since December, when Japan’s government announced that it would upgrade her. Her deck, and that of her sister ship, the Kaga, will be reinforced to accommodate up to a dozen of the 147 f-35 fighter jets Japan recently ordered from America.

The refitting of the Izumo is one sign of Japan’s shifting defence posture. The changes are small, by necessity. Japan is constrained by its constitution, written by occupying American forces after the second world war. It bars Japan from maintaining armed forces or settling disputes by war. Despite these strictures, Japan has long had an army in all but name: the “Self-Defence Forces”. The sdf has focused, aptly enough, on defence—hunting submarines and warding off warplanes, for example—while relying on American troops based in Japan to go on the offensive, should that be required. Little by little, however, that formula is changing.

5G is a bigger deal and China is a bigger threat than you think, think tank says

By Brooke Crothers 

The effect of 5G technology will be profound – and China could be setting itself up to lead, a conservative think-tank has found.

“Think about going from a garden hose with a weak pump to a fire hose,” former House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-MI) said at discussion recently hosted by the Heritage Foundation, entitled “China, 5G Technology and Global Security.”

The promise of 5G is exponentially higher speeds than 4G. In the U.S., major carriers such as Verizon and AT&T are doing limited rollouts in select big cities but full-bore, widespread 5G won’t arrive until 2020.

For consumers, 5G will bring lots of advancements, including the potential to replace home Wi-Fi networks, smarter artificial intelligence on phones and self-driving cars, among other products.

China’s Belt and Road: The new geopolitics of global infrastructure development

Amar Bhattacharya

The growing strategic rivalry between the United States and China is driven by shifting power dynamics and competing visions of the future of the international order. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a leading indicator of the scale of China’s global ambitions. The intent behind the initiative—either economic or strategic—has raised significant concern in the United States and elsewhere. While Beijing portrays the infrastructure development initiative as a benign investment and development project that is economically beneficial to all parties—and in certain cases clearly has been—there are strategic manifestations that contradict this depiction. Washington is skeptical of the initiative, warning of the risks to recipients and the harm it will cause to America’s strategic interests abroad. But many of America’s partners reject the U.S. interpretation and are forging ahead with Beijing. Ahead of China’s second Belt and Road Summit in late April 2019, Brookings Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy Bruce Jones convened seven Brookings scholars—Amar Bhattacharya, David Dollar, Rush Doshi, Ryan Hass, Homi Kharas, Mireya Solís, and Jonathan Stromseth—to interrogate popular perceptions of the initiative, as well as to evaluate the future of BRI and its strategic implications. The edited transcript below reflects their assessment of China’s motivations for launching BRI, its track record to date, regional responses to it, the national security implications of BRI for the United States, as well as potential policy responses. The highlights:

You Need to Study the Opium Wars (They Changed China and Asia's History Forever)

by Sebastien Roblin

Past history does not always determine future actions. Chinese sentiments toward the United Kingdom today are generally positive despite the Opium Wars. The escalating military confrontation over the South China Sea is a reality of our times, but that doesn’t mean China’s leaders will forever be committed to a strategy of expansion and confrontation.

In 1839, England went to war with China because it was upset that Chinese officials had shut down its drug trafficking racket and confiscated its dope.

Stating the historical record so plainly is shocking — but it’s true, and the consequences of that act are still being felt today.

The first ever National League baseball game is played in Philadelphia.


Alex Emmons

SINCE THE BRUTAL murder of Saudi dissident and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi last October, Congress has increasingly pressured the Trump administration to stop backing the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting in Yemen and halt U.S. arms sales to Riyadh. In response, President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that if the U.S. does not sell weapons to the Saudis, they will turn to U.S. adversaries to supply their arsenals.

“I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States,” Trump told reporters in October, referring to a collection of intent letters signed with the Saudis in the early months of his presidency. “You know what they are going to do? They’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China or someplace else.”

The Dangerous Dregs of ISIS

By Robin Wright

Afew days before the collapse of the Islamic State’s caliphate, I visited one of the new “pop-up prisons” that had been hastily converted to hold thousands of surrendering isis fighters in Syria. The numbers wildly exceeded all expectations, including estimates by U.S. intelligence. The most striking sight at the prison entrance was a mound of human hair lying on the raw concrete floor. Clumps of it—some brown, some graying, most of it greasy or matted—had been shaved off the heads and faces of fighters before they were taken to group cells. “Lice,” one of the guards told me.

The prison at Dashisha, in eastern Deir Ezzor province, had been an oil-storage facility. In just four days, the compound of modest brick and stucco buildings had been filled with fifteen hundred fighters from countries on four continents, including France, Libya, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Iraq, and the United States, the warden told me. Average-sized rooms had been fitted with metal doors; each cell had a small barred window that I had to stand on my tiptoes to peer through. Each one was crammed, wall to wall, with dozens of men squatting on the floor. The isis fighters wore new T-shirts, in army green, and whatever trousers they had on when they were captured.

What Brexit Is Doing to Europe


Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, assuming it will happen, coincides with fundamental geostrategic shifts that will have a profound impact on Europe’s future. Germany’s role will be critical for shaping the bloc’s response to these transformations. It’s not certain, however, that Berlin will provide the leadership needed to cope with such changes.

It’s easy to blame U.S. President Donald Trump for undermining the special security pact that has made Europe strong, democratic, and prosperous since 1945. But even before Trump entered the White House, the Europeans were criticized for not pulling their weight inside NATO. They took America’s security guarantee for granted.

The issue is not just about the need for the European allies to spend more on defense. The issue is about how to come to terms with the end of the post-1945 era. The multilateral institutions that the Americans built—which were also about the West setting global norms and standards—need a radical overhaul. Just consider the paralysis of the UN Security Council or the World Trade Organization. Neither is equipped to deal with the growing role of China or Russia’s disruptive foreign policy in Europe and the Middle East.

In Venezuela, the Tide Is Turning on the Opposition

The continued allegiance of high-ranking military officials remains the main obstacle to opposition efforts to unseat Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.  Encouraging officers to desert Maduro and support opposition leader Juan Guaido will be difficult, given the government's ability to threaten or bribe them into remaining loyal.  To expedite Maduro's exit, the United States will increase sanctions against his government and directly dissuade foreign energy companies from doing business in Venezuela.  Maduro's government has also begun laying the foundation for Guaido's arrest, which would complicate and potentially stall the opposition and U.S. push for regime change.

For the first time since opposition leader Juan Guaido announced his bid to unseat President Nicolas Maduro in January, efforts at regime change in Venezuela face the real risk of failure. Though Guaido is free to move about the country and rally crowds against Maduro, there are still no signs he has the support of the key military commanders needed to initiate a prompt and relatively peaceful political transition, despite the United States and the opposition's best efforts. As long as his military remains loyal, Maduro's government will remain in Caracas — leaving Guaido, as well as other prominent opposition figures in Venezuela, vulnerable to a crackdown that could end his bid for power altogether. 

The Catholic Church’s Biggest Crisis Since the Reformation

By Massimo Faggioli

The Catholic Church is facing its most serious crisis in 500 years. In these last few months, a new wave of clerical sexual abuse revelations left the world in shock. From Australia to Chile to Germany to the United States, horrifying reports revealed thousands of cases of child molestation by members of the clergy. One U.S. grand jury report documented1,000 children abused by 300 priests in the state of Pennsylvania alone over seven decades.

The new wave of revelations in 2018 was disturbing not only because it exposed the persistence of abuse but also because it implicated high level church officials in the abuse and its cover-up. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, resigned from the College of Cardinals in July when credible accusations came to light that he had sexually abused a minor and harassed seminarians he supervised. The McCarrick revelations were particularly troubling because the former archbishop had played a leadership role in the Catholic Church’s response to the last U.S. clerical sexual abuse scandal in 2002. In late August, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a former papal diplomat, published a letter accusing Pope Francis of knowing about McCarrick’s sexual abuses for years and helping to cover them up. Viganò concluded by calling on the pope to resign.

Former White House economist: U.S. 'shooting ourselves in the foot' in trade war

Aarthi Swaminathan

A former White House official believes that President Donald Trump’s art of the deal is akin to “shooting ourselves in the foot” when it comes to the U.S. economy

As the U.S.-China trade negotiations drag on without a firm end date, “the Trump administration's gotten themselves into a bit of a fix where the options don't look terribly good,” Chicago Council on Global Affairs senior fellow Phil Levy told Yahoo Finance’s On The Move (video above). “This all has to do with their desire to keep their options open to strike at the Chinese whenever they want, or whenever they think the Chinese have done something wrong.”

Levy, who was formerly a senior economist for trade on former President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, said that the administration’s strategy in trying to solve the various issues America has with China — which range bilateral trade deficits to unfair trade practices — had already been talked about by “at least two administrations.”

Make America Strategic Again

by David V. Gioe

PRESIDENT DONALD Trump’s recent decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria (and a dramatic reduction from Afghanistan as well) may signal a 2019 that sees a contraction of the American empire, but it may equally enable and communicate a redistribution of the U.S. military to focus on European security. As political science professor Zachary Selden has argued, “rather than weakening, the U.S. military commitment to Europe has actually increased during Trump’s presidency...” For instance, Polish president Andrzej Duda reportedly offered to name an American base in Poland after President Trump during his visit this past September. Given Poland’s fraught history of being caught between hammer and anvil, it is understandable that Duda would seek hard and permanent American combat power on his territory. Duda stated he was “convinced that such a decision lies in the Polish interest and in the interest of the United States.” This may make sound strategic sense from Warsaw, but is it in America’s interest?

We need a reskilling revolution. Here's how to make it happen

Børge Brende

Valuing human capital not only serves to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills to respond to systemic shifts, it also empowers them to take part in creating a more equal, inclusive and sustainable world.

Education is and will remain critical for promoting inclusive economic growth and providing a future of opportunity for all. But as the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution create new pressures on labour markets, education reform, lifelong learning and reskilling initiatives will be key to ensuring both that individuals have access to economic opportunity by remaining competitive in the new world of work, and that businesses have access to the talent they need for the jobs of the future.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is causing a large-scale decline in some roles as they become redundant or automated. According to the 2018 Future of Jobs Report, 75 million jobs are expected to be displaced by 2022 in 20 major economies. At the same time, technological advances and new ways of working could also create 133 million new roles, driven by large-scale growth in new products and services that would allow people to work with machines and algorithms to meet the demands of demographic shifts and economic changes.

Hybrid Threats: A Strategic Communications Perspective

This report is the product of a research project undertaken by the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence (NATO StratCom COE), at the request of the governments of Lithuania and Estonia. The project was designed to deepen our understanding of the wide range of measures which come under the umbrella of ‘hybrid threats’. Such measures aim to influence the political decision-making of a targeted nation in a way which hurts their national security interests, predominantly conducted in the ‘grey zone’ between peace, crisis and war. 

The project broadens the framing of current debates on hybrid threats beyond the most common empirical reference points, which tend to relate to the Russian Federation. A standardised framework is used to analyse case studies which are assessed to offer examples of hybrid threats. Analysis has been conducted from the perspective of ‘Strategic Communications’, which is articulated for this report not simply as a suite of capabilities disseminating messages to explain actions or intentions in support of strategy but as a basic function of statecraft. Strategic Communications is therefore considered both as an overarching philosophy to be inculcated into organisational culture and as a cross-government process, central to integrating the instruments of national power. The research focuses on the national level, where the primary responsibility lies for understanding, identifying and responding to hybrid threats. In this main volume, summaries of 30 cases are provided, of which a representative selection of 10 cases are analysed in detail in a separate annex. In order to limit the scope of the project, this phase of research focuses solely on state actors. 

Breaking Down The Wipro Breach -- And What It Means For Supply Chain Security

Kate O'Flaherty

Supply chain security is certainly a hot topic. The Target breach and more recently, the British Airways hack were both caused by weaknesses in the supply chain.

Yesterday, it emerged that Indian outsourcing consulting giant Wipro is investigating reports that its own internal IT systems have been hacked. Sources told Krebs On Security that adversaries are using Wipro’s systems to launch attacks against “at least a dozen” of the firm’s customers.

It came after two sources told Krebs that an assumed nation state actor had been inside the system for multiple months, looking for opportunities to target Wipro’s customers.

Then another two sources came forward. The first, familiar with the forensic investigation at a Wipro customer, told Krebs they thought at least 11 other firms had been attacked after viewing file folders on the adversaries’ back end infrastructure containing client names.

Wipro conducting forensic investigation into cyberattack, says COO

IT outsourcing giant Wipro is conducting a forensic investigation into the motive and modus operandi of the phishing attacks on some of its employees' accounts.

The company's Chief Operating Officer Bhanumurthy BM said: “We came to know of a potentially abnormal activity from our network, which was related to very few employee accounts. These employee accounts were subjected to very advanced phishing activity.” Bhanumurthy BM was addressing the media after the company's fourth-quarter results.

“We have contained the attack. We are conducting forensics, what is the motive and modus operandi and all of that takes time. That is an ongoing activity,” he added

On April 16, when Wipro was set to announce its financial results, reports of a cyberattack on some of its employee accounts were exposed on cybersecurity blog KrebsOnSecurity. The website stated that the intrusion is from a state-sponsored attacker and targeting at least a dozen Wipro customer systems.

Using Security to Enable, Rather Than Block, Business

By Scott Stewart

Avoiding all risk is the best way to stay safe, but a risk avoidance model of corporate security can be at odds with a company's business goals. Instead, they must develop security programs that help employees understand, anticipate and mitigate risks. 
This type of program enables businesses to operate despite risks and remain resilient in the face of adversity.  I recently received a call from a friend who had some security questions about Mexico. As a company security director, he wanted to know if it was safe for employees in his charge to travel on a particular stretch of highway. The Stratfor Threat Lens team frequently fields queries like this, and we duly discussed the cartel dynamics in the area and some ways employees could mitigate the threats along that route.

But then my friend made a comment that really resonated with me: "You know, if we strictly followed the U.S. government's travel advice, we'd never be able to operate in Mexico." He's right, and he's not alone.

The Big Picture

Qualcomm Ends Its Fight With Apple, but an Antitrust Threat Still Looms

Apple and Qualcomm have resolved their litany of global legal disputes, which will likely allow Apple to introduce a 5G iPhone by 2020 and without having to partner with a rival to do so. But other legal challenges to Qualcomm's business model and preeminence in telecommunications remain, including a pending antitrust lawsuit from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  Behind Qualcomm, China's Huawei and South Korea's Samsung are the next most influential leaders in the telecommunications space.  Should the FTC ruling result in the breakup of Qualcomm's monopoly, it risks damaging the United States' dominance of the tech sector by opening the door for China to set standards for the future development of telecommunications technologies. 

After years of litigation involving a number of countries and myriad disputes, Qualcomm and Apple agreed to put aside their differences and settle. As part of their accord, the two U.S. tech giants have also agreed to a new six-year supply agreement for Apple to buy Qualcomm chips, including its 5G modems. However, while the agreement may have freed Apple to develop 5G-capable iPhones using Qualcomm's chips, Qualcomm is still fending off other legal challenges from global regulators that could place the United States' current tech dominance in peril. 


Chase Spears

Media outlets have lately begun reporting on a reduction of press briefings at the Pentagon. The stories note that it has been over three hundred days since the Defense Department last held a formal press briefing. These reports acknowledge that military leaders and public affairs officials continue to work with reporters to inform the public, but take issue with the lack of formalized press conferences this year. Theories for the change in routine vary from matters of security to matters of politics. What these reports fail to consider is the culpability that some journalists share in creating legitimate concerns about going on camera in a period of increasingly divisive politics. That divisiveness has contributed to a blurring of the lines between professional journalism and punditry, putting at jeopardy the journalistic ethics to which the national-level press corps has traditionally abided.

French Army eyes robots, change in force size as it prepares for future wars

By: Christina Mackenzie  

PARIS — Innovation and a sufficiently populated Army that can fulfill the service’s strategic needs are key factors in whether France will be prepared for a high-intensity conflict, the military’s strategic thinkers said at a forum held April 16 in Paris.

“Mass,” or the capacity to generate and maintain an ample number of soldiers, is one of eight factors of operational superiority identified by the French Army, according to a speaker at a seminar on how the service will fight in future high-intensity wars. The event was held under Chatham House rules, which means the speaker can not be identified for this story.

A smaller ground force of 77,000 — compared to 220,000 or so in 1996 when conscription was mandatory — could be supported by robots, but French officials insist there will always be a man in the loop.


Nick Alexander

At Grounded Curiosity we’re passionate about sharing the work of, and linking with, the broader professional military education (PME) network within Australia and overseas.

To this end, you may have already seen our Track II PME network Prezi. This curated collection of international PME resources – regularly reviewed and updated – puts the minds of some of the world’s best military thinkers right at your fingertips. This PME network has grown exponentially since we first started collating these resources – we’re here to help if you’re finding it tricky to know where to start.

This is the first of a new monthly serial titled ‘My Curious Month’, where we will explore common themes that pop up across the PME network, summarise them and signpost resources if you’d like to explore the topic further.