5 May 2019

After 'caliphate' collapse, jihadists head to Afghanistan to plot attacks


IS claimed responsibility for an attack on a government ministry in Kabul that killed at least seven civilians and three Afghan troops IS claimed responsibility for an attack on a government ministry in Kabul that killed at least seven civilians and three Afghan troops (AFP Photo/STR)

Islamic State fighters who waged a bloody campaign in Syria and Iraq are heading to Afghanistan to continue their jihad and help plot "spectacular" attacks against America, a US official has told AFP.

The warning comes as IS seeks to assert a regional influence after the loss of its self-proclaimed Middle East "caliphate", and as South Asia reels from a series of devastating attacks.

"We know some have already made their way back here and are trying to transfer the knowledge, skills and experience they learned over there," a senior US intelligence official in Kabul told AFP in a recent interview.

America Cannot Save Afghanistan

by Robert Gaines Scott Horton

After nearly two decades of bloodshed, meaningful progress is finally being made towards a conclusion of the war in Afghanistan. Negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar have achieved an uncommon consistency. On the domestic front, a bipartisan resolutionmatching the Taliban’s proposed timeline has emerged in the U.S. Senate. The main voices opposing peace originate from within the Pentagon and the Afghan National Unity Government. In a departure from their constitutionally mandated subordinate role, top generals are calling for yet another extension on murky grounds. Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has also urged against a timely withdraw, claiming that the government in Kabul lacks the strength required for independence. Whether by incompetence orcorruption, neither contingent should have the credibility to dictate the plan for removing U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

The conditions Washington and Kabul point to as requirements for a withdraw cannot be met. The National Unity Government does not represent a plurality of the Afghan people, and with former warlords in its ranks, it will continue to lack the requisite legitimacy to govern. In spite of the nearly $900 billion dedicated to reconstruction and governance efforts since 2001, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) suffer from infiltration,ineptitude, and high casualty rates. It is unclear how additional years, lives, and billions of dollars will guide Afghanistan toward a stable future. The peace talks in Doha represent gradual yet genuine progress, and they warrant all the support Washington can muster. Alternatives to this current opportunity for peace represent a continuation of the same failed strategies toward an even more shameful, inevitable departure.

Asia is the new ground zero for Islamist terror | The Strategist

by Brahma Chellaney

The Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka rank among the deadliest terrorist attacks in modern history, and underscore the metastasising scourge of Islamist violence in Asia. Radical Islamist groups, some affiliated with larger extremist networks, have been quietly gaining influence in an arc of countries extending from the Maldivian to the Philippine archipelagos, and the threat they pose can no longer be ignored.

In fact, the grisly Sri Lankan bombings are a reminder that Asia—not the Middle East—is the region most afflicted by terrorist violence. Home to the vast majority of the world’s Muslims, it is also host to multiple ‘terrorist safe havens’, owing to the rise of grassroots radical movements and years of complacency on the part of policymakers.

With a total of 359 people dead (and hundreds more wounded), the Sri Lanka bombings were seven times deadlier than the 15 March massacre by a white supremacist at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The death toll is also more than double that of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which involved 10 Pakistan-based militants in one of the modern world’s longest-ever terrorist sieges.

China’s Risky Middle East Bet


Beijing believes it can focus on economic development and avoid any role in political affairs—but that assumption will likely prove naive.

China is making a risky bet in the Middle East. By focusing on economic development and adhering to the principle of noninterference in internal affairs, Beijing believes it can deepen relations with countries that are otherwise nearly at war with one another—all the while avoiding any significant role in the political affairs of the region. This is likely to prove naive, particularly if U.S. allies begin to stand up for their interests.

In meetings I attended earlier this month in Beijing on China’s position in the Middle East, sponsored by the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center, Chinese officials, academics, and business leaders expressed a common view that China can avoid political entanglement by promoting development from Tehran to Tel Aviv. China may soon find, however, that its purely transactional approach is unsustainable in this intractable region—placing its own investments at risk and opening new opportunities for the United States.

Mao Redux: The Enduring Relevance of Self-Reliance in China

Neil Thomas

Pundits are particularly fond of likening Xi Jinping to Chairman Mao. Xi’s accumulation of personal political power, purging of opponents, and removal of presidential term limits all lend credence to the comparison. Some of the latest evidence that “Xi is the new Mao” is his supposed “revival” of the Maoist concept of “self-reliance” (zili gengsheng).

But talk of a rapid revival of Maoism under Xi is off the mark. Xi is hardly the first head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to be inspired by Mao Zedong Thought. In fact, self-reliance is a good case study of the abiding relevance of certain ideas in CCP thought.

While self-reliance was championed by Mao, it is a concept that has been supported by all subsequent leaders, even if its application has evolved over time. That’s because self-reliance fundamentally means that the CCP will retain ultimate control over China’s economic development—an enduring consensus that has heavily influenced policy across generations of leaders.

Is China Really Becoming a Current Account Deficit Country? (Part 1 of 2)

Houze Song

For 25 years, China has been running a current account surplus, and the world grew accustomed to “China the exporter” of last resort. So when The Economist recently made the case that China would soon become a current account deficit country, eyebrows were raised. The implications of the end of such an era are significant, piquing market interest and engendering debate.

That debate has centered on the relationship between savings and investment, since a country’s trade balance is simply the difference between the two. So what happens to China’s trade balance depends entirely on whether savings or investment declines faster.

On the one hand, economists have emphasized the impact of China’s declining savings rate on its trade balance. They argue that as savings continue to dwindle, a current account deficit will become a permanent feature of the Chinese economy.

Tear down the 'Great Firewall' to win the war with China


America and China are confronting each other on several battlefields at once: global trade, military might, the war of ideas. On each of these front lines, China constantly searches for America’s Achilles’ heel — the vulnerabilities through which China can undermine U.S. power and position on the world stage. While the trade war and potential military confrontations with China rightfully receive attention, we have yet to recognize fully the threat from China’s ideological warfare against the United States.

This has intensified under President Xi Jinping, and we ignore this threat at our peril. The key source of America’s power and greatness is the belief in the importance of individual liberty, which is inherent in our Constitutional rights.

The individual liberty that Americans cherish permits a free and open society in which people can question and challenge authorities, are free to innovate, and even to dissent. Belief in the importance of political freedom results in limited government, entrepreneurial spirit with a strong protection of private ownership, economic prosperity, cultural diversity and the protection of minority rights, with the capability to reform and change society to correct mistakes.

China’s Digital Silk Road: A Game Changer for Asian Economies

By Chan Jia Hao

The Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation that took place April 25 to 27 saw 37 world leaders gather in Beijing to discuss more bilateral project opportunities with China. On the sidelines, however, the emerging Digital Silk Road was featured during the “Belt and Road CEO Conference” — a first, which brought representation by global Fortune 500 companies and other Chinese firms as a sign of their interest.

Since 2013, Beijing has inked 173 deals with 125 countries and 29 international organizations under the massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Boosting connectivity has been the overarching concept of the BRI. So far, the bulk of Chinese investments have been crowded around physical infrastructure projects in BRI host countries.

The Coming Technological Cold War


The conflict between the United States and China over trade and technology is an increasingly high-stakes zero-sum affair. And it is not just about amassing data and talent to achieve economic and geostrategic primacy; like the original Cold War, it is also about the future of liberal democracy.

MADRID – Lurking behind the Trump administration’s trade conflict with China lies an abiding fear that the United States could be losing its advantage in the global technology race. And it’s not just Trump. In US policymaking circles more broadly, China’s “Made in China 2025” policy – intended to ensure Chinese dominance in cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence (AI), aeronautics, and other frontier sectors – is viewed not just as an economic challenge, but as a geopolitical threat. Everything from US telecommunications infrastructure and intellectual property to America’s military position in East Asia are considered to be at risk.

The fact that technology is driving geopolitical tensions runs against the predictions of many scholars and policymakers. As recently as the mid-2000s, some suspected that geography would no longer play a meaningful role in the functioning of global markets. Globalization and technology would lead to a “flat” world with perfect competition, where talent would automatically spread evenly across regions and frontiers; skilled workers would connect to productive processes remotely and only when needed.

China to take over Kenya’s main port over unpaid huge Chinese Loan

Kenyan government risks losing the lucrative Mombasa port to China should the country fail to repay huge loans advanced by Chinese lenders.

In November, African Stand reported on how Kenya is at high risk of Losing strategic assets over huge Chinese debt and just after some few month the Chinese are about to take action.

The loans have been granted for the development of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

Also at stake is the Inland Container Depot in Nairobi, which receives and dispatches freight hauled on the new cargo trains from the sea port.

Implications of a takeover would be grave, including the thousands of port workers who would be forced to work under the Chinese lenders.

Management changes would immediately follow the port seizure since the Chinese would naturally want to secure their interests.

Is Israel Ready For War?

An Israel Merkava main battle tank fires during training

TEL AVIV: Years of fighting Iranian-backed adversaries in Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza has strained the vaunted Israeli Defense Force, even as neighboring nation-states modernize their regular militaries, often with Russian equipment. After months of intensifying debate over military readiness, the new IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, has proposed 10 billion shekels (about $2.76 billion US) in high-priority improvements. And that’s just part of recently reelected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s push for long-term increases in defense spending.

Then-Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, later promoted to Lt. Gen. and IDF Chief of Staff, briefs US Gen. Joseph Dunford.

ISIS Relaunches as a Global Platform


The Sri Lanka bombings were a preview of the Islamic State’s future.

Two days after the bombings in Sri Lanka, the Islamic State came out and said it was behind them. It backed up its claim with video evidence that showed the attackers gathering in front of its flag to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s current leader. The attack had been coming for some time, and others like it are almost certainly being planned—and not just in Sri Lanka. That’s because terrorism has long been a crucial promotional tactic for ISIS. This won’t change just because the organization, which tried to build a proto-state on territory it held in Iraq and Syria, was militarily defeated earlier this year.

In the aftermath of an attack like the one in Sri Lanka last weekend, we need to ask what purpose it serves for those who claim responsibility. What’s in it for them? For ISIS, it’s quite clear: The strategic utility of terrorism has never been greater. That’s because, to navigate through its loss of land over these past few years, ISIS’s propaganda has been claiming that the group gave up on the material reality of its state long ago, having already achieved a “victory.” In this telling, its proto-state was a way to build a global platform that would ensure the movement’s future by mobilizing tens of thousands of supporters, imbuing them and their kin with its creed and its mission.

Second-life EV batteries: The newest value pool in energy storageApril 2019 | Article

By Hauke Engel, Patrick Hertzke, and Giulia Siccardo

During the next few decades, the strong uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) will result in the availability of terawatt-hours of batteries that no longer meet required specifications for usage in an EV. To put this in perspective, nations like the United States use a few terawatts of electricity over a full year, so this is a lot of energy-storage potential. Finding applications for these still-useful batteries can create significant value and ultimately even help bring down the cost of storage to enable further renewable-power integration into our grids.
Potential to spark a second life

EV batteries have a tough life. Subjected to extreme operating temperatures, hundreds of partial cycles a year, and changing discharge rates, lithium-ion batteries in EV applications degrade strongly during the first five years of operation and are designed for approximately a decade of useful life in most cases. Yet, these batteries can live a second life, even when they no longer meet EV performance standards, which typically include maintaining 80 percent of total usable capacity and achieving a resting self-discharge rate of only about 5 percent over a 24-hour period. After remanufacturing, such batteries are still able to perform sufficiently to serve less-demanding applications, such as stationary energy-storage services.

The Metrics of Daesh and the Ongoing Challenge of Extremism

The Burke Chair at CSIS is issuing the second report in a three-part survey of metrics that address the fighting in Iraq and Syria, and the ongoing challenge of extremism. This series is titled After the “Caliphate”: The Metrics of Daesh and the Ongoing Challenge of Extremism.

Part One - Daesh, Syria and Iraq – contained some 60 different metrics covering the trends in war on Daesh in Syria and Iraq, the outcome of the fighting, and the remaining threats to stability in Syria and Iraq. Part One was issued on April 20, 2019 is available on the CSIS web site at https://www.csis.org/analysis/after-caliphate-metrics-daesh-and-ongoing-challenge-extremism .

Part Two - The Changing Threat – is now being circulated. It surveys the broader trends in Islam, and in Islamic extremism. It then focuses on these trends in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and the scale of the continuing threat they pose to the stability of the MENA region. Part Two is now available on the CSIS web site at https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/190429_After_the_Caliphate_part_two.pdf.
Part Three - Key Factors that Seem Likely to Lead to Continuing Violent Extremism, and Conflicts in the MENA Region – will be issued on May 6, 2019. It surveys metrics that portray the broader causes of instability and possible future conflict in the region.
Part Two: A Survey of the Changing Threat

United States nuclear forces, 2019

At the beginning of 2019, the US Department of Defense maintained an estimated stockpile of 3,800 nuclear warheads for delivery by more than 800 ballistic missiles and aircraft. Most of the warheads in the stockpile are not deployed, but rather stored for potential upload onto missiles and aircraft as necessary. Many are destined for retirement. We estimate that approximately 1,750 warheads are currently deployed, of which roughly 1,300 strategic warheads are deployed on ballistic missiles, 300 at strategic bomber bases in the United States, while another 150 tactical bombs are deployed at air bases in Europe. The remaining warheads – approximately 2,050 – are in storage as a socalled hedge against technical or geopolitical surprises. 

Several hundred of those warheads are scheduled to be retired before 2030. (See Table 1.) Through 2018, the Trump administration followed the Obama administration's practice of declassifying the size of the stockpile and number of dismantled warheads. In April 2019, however, the Defense Department – presumably under guidance from the White House – rejected declassifying the numbers. The decision reverses US nuclear transparency policy and will, if not reversed, create uncertainty and mistrust about the size of the US nuclear arsenal (Kristensen 2019). In addition to the warheads in the Department of Defense stockpile, approximately 2,385 retired – but still intact – warheads are stored under custody of the Department of Energy and are awaiting dismantlement, giving a total US inventory of an estimated 6,185 warheads.

Asynchronous Warfare part 3: How Conventional Strategies and Tactics Are Applied to Cyberwarfare

by Dr. Bjoern Dennis Prange 

By Dr. Dennis Prange and edited by Andy Norton

NOTE: This is part 3 of a 4-part series on Asynchronous Warfare.

In part 1 of this blog series, we described the roots of the cyberwar that we’re already fighting, which lie in proven, historic conventional warfare tactics that give the advantage to what appears to be an underpowered enemy. In part 2, we described the strategy behind asynchronous warfare usage and the three phases of protracted conflict that lead to ultimate victory.

In today’s post, we’ll shift gears and discuss how the asynchronous warfare strategies and tactics developed in conventional warfare apply to the cyber realm. We discuss the overall objective of the criminals waging this cyberwar, and revisit the three phases of asynchronous warfare as they apply to cyberwarfare: 1) preparing the online battlefield, 2) conflict in the cyber “gray zone,” and, 3) the coup de grace.
Asynchronous Warfare 2.0

The cyber realm has attracted a variety of revisionist actors who do not have the means to win in a conventional conflict against the West, but who do have a good understanding of the possibilities afforded by the Internet.

Hypersonics and Modern War

By George Friedman

Hypersonics could introduce a radically new type of war.

The media has been filled with stories recently about Chinese and Russian hypersonic missiles and how these weapons are changing the military balance of power. The U.S. Department of Defense has said it is struggling to keep up with the Chinese and Russian programs. The United States, however, has been working on developing hypersonic missiles since the 1990s; I even wrote an entire chapter in my 1996 book “The Future of War” on the U.S. hypersonics program. In the time since, it’s hard to believe that the U.S. has made little progress on this program, while the Chinese and Russians have surged ahead. Nonetheless, it’s possible that the U.S. has dropped the ball here. It’s also possible that the Defense Department is using this issue to leverage more money out of Congress while obscuring the progress it has made. The Chinese and Russians, meanwhile, are looking for any means to appear powerful and intimidating. But regardless of whether the U.S. has actually fallen behind on this matter, the real question is why hypersonic missiles are an important evolution in the first place.

How Do Hypersonics Work?

Petroleum Powerhouse: Why America No Longer 'Needs' the Middle East

by Willis L Krumholz

Energy is vital to America’s security and prosperity. During the Cold War, the United States had strong interests in ensuring the Middle East was not dominated by the Soviet Union—we couldn’t risk a major disruption to the global oil market, which was once dominated by the Persian Gulf. But today, there is no threat to the region from any hegemon. Not only that, but also the world energy balance of power has shifted dramatically. With a vastly different geopolitical reality, U.S. foreign policy should modernize and recalibrate, starting in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia’s massive state-owned oil company, Saudi Aramco, just issued debt—about $10 billion worth—in the form of bonds sold to investors. But before investors lined up to buy, they had to kick the tires, and the documentation banks have provided offers a rare look at the state of oil production in Saudi Arabia.

The “stand out” of the bond prospectus is that the Ghawar oil field, once the world’s most productive, is dwindling. Today, it produces only a quarter of its capacity from fifteen years ago. This means that Saudi Arabia’s overall capacity to produce crude oil is likely declining.

A New Map for America

By Parag Khanna

THESE days, in the thick of the American presidential primaries, it’s easy to see how the 50 states continue to drive the political system. But increasingly, that’s all they drive — socially and economically, America is reorganizing itself around regional infrastructure lines and metropolitan clusters that ignore state and even national borders. The problem is, the political system hasn’t caught up.

America faces a two-part problem. It’s no secret that the country has fallen behind on infrastructure spending. But it’s not just a matter of how much is spent on catching up, but how and where it is spent. Advanced economies in Western Europe and Asia are reorienting themselves around robust urban clusters of advanced industry. Unfortunately, American policy making remains wedded to an antiquated political structure of 50 distinct states.

To an extent, America is already headed toward a metropolis-first arrangement. The states aren’t about to go away, but economically and socially, the country is drifting toward looser metropolitan and regional formations, anchored by the great cities and urban archipelagos that already lead global economic circuits.

Is there such a concept as ‘cyber deterrence?’

By: Mark Pomerleau  

As the U.S. Department of Defense increasingly worries about damage that could result from a massive cyberattack, national security leaders are debating the best strategy to prevent such incursions. Should they adopt a philosophy that aims to stop an attack of any kind or should they try to dissuade enemies from specifically pursuing a cyberattack?

“Just because you have an issue in cyber you don’t have to respond in cyber. We use all the instruments of power,” Donald Bray said April 29 during an event hosted by the New America Foundation. Bray formerly led the Army’s Cyber Protection Brigade and is now director of cyber initiatives of global training solutions at Raytheon. “How you formulate your particular deterrence plan for the issue just depends on what’s the best approach for that particular problem.”

Killer Apps The Real Dangers of an AI Arms Race

By Paul Scharre

The nation that leads in the development of artificial intelligence will, Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed in 2017, “become the ruler of the world.” That view has become commonplace in global capitals. Already, more than a dozen governments have announced national AI initiatives. In 2017, China set a goal of becoming the global leader in AI by 2030. Earlier this year, the White House released the American AI Initiative, and the U.S. Department of Defense rolled out an AI strategy.

But the emerging narrative of an “AI arms race” reflects a mistaken view of the risks from AI—and introduces significant new risks as a result. For each country, the real danger is not that it will fall behind its competitors in AI but that the perception of a race will prompt everyone to rush to deploy unsafe AI systems. In their desire to win, countries risk endangering themselves just as much as their opponents.

AI promises to bring both enormous benefits, in everything from health care to transportation, and huge risks. But those risks aren’t something out of science fiction; there’s no need to fear a robot uprising. The real threat will come from humans.

The AI Race Is Wide Open, If America Remains Open

Joy Dantong Ma

Much ink has been spilled on the artificial intelligence (AI) race between the United States and China, leading to a whole lot of hand-wringing on how America can maintain its edge.

The answer actually isn’t that difficult. America ought to double down on what it’s best at: importing foreign talent. That’s because among the main building blocks of a competitive AI ecosystem—data, policy, companies, and hardware—talent is the one area in which the United States definitively leads over China.

Let’s take a closer look at where America stands in terms of AI talent globally and the foundation of its current advantage.

Figure 1. NIPS Oral Presentation Author Current Location

Source: NIPS 2018 and author research.

Mitigating Security Risks to Emerging 5G Networks

Keynote Speech

James Andrew Lewis: Good afternoon. Welcome to CSIS. Our event today is “Mitigating Security Risks to Emerging 5G Networks,” a topic that continues to gain interest. We have a great panel and an amazing opening keynote speaker, Commissioner – sorry – (laughs) – Jessica Rosenworcel. I’m a little disorganized.

James Andrew Lewis: The format today will be Commissioner Rosenworcel will give opening remarks. She’ll be followed by a panel of speakers that will be moderated by CSIS Fellow Clete Johnson, Senior Fellow Clete Johnson.

James Andrew Lewis: I’m going to introduce Commissioner Rosenworcel briefly. She was named as one of Politico’s 50 politicians to watch over the next couple of years. That’s pretty impressive. She has long experience prior to serving at the FCC in telecommunications and public service, public policy.

James Andrew Lewis: Prior to joining the agency, she was the senior communications counsel for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which is really a perfect background for this stuff.

James Andrew Lewis: So we’re very fortunate to have her here to give us opening remarks today.

Needed: A Workable and Affordable Defense Strategy

By Harlan Ullman

If Congress approves, the Trump administration will spend about $750 billion on defense in fiscal year (FY) 2020. The unanswered question is whether that considerable sum will make America and its friends and allies any safer. I fear not.

One reason for this concern is that 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) sets military objectives that are unobtainable, inexecutable, unnecessary, and unaffordable. The Pentagon’s strategy is “to compete, deter, and win" in an “increasingly complex security environment” with China and Russia atop the list of potential adversaries. But how China and Russia are to be defeated is unstated, a deficiency pointedly noted in the report by the Commission on the NDS. “. . . the NDS too often rests on questionable assumptions and weak analysis, and it leaves unanswered critical questions regarding how the United States will meet the challenges of a more dangerous world.” It goes on to say, “. . . it does not articulate clear approaches to succeeding in peacetime competition or wartime conflict against those rivals. Resource shortfalls, unanticipated force demands, unfilled capability gaps, and other risk factors threaten DOD’s ability to fulfill the central goals of the NDS . . .” 

The Pentagon’s long-term spending plan includes: plus-ups for the Army and Marine Corps of some twenty thousand personnel; 355 ships for the Navy; seventy more aircraft squadrons for the Air Force; and expensive Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines and the B-21 stealth bombers to modernize the nuclear deterrent force.

Decision Maneuver: the Next Revolution in Military Affairs

By: Bryan Clark, Dan Pratt, and Harrison Schramm

U.S. military leaders expressed alarm during Congressional hearings last month about the erosion of American military superiority against great power rivals China and Russia. To arrest the slide, they proposed an expensive “kitchen sink” of potential solutions, including growing the force, buying new weapons, improving training for operators, increasing maintenance, and fielding more autonomous systems. But the United States cannot simply spend its way to sustained military advantage. The costs for equipment, sustainment, and personnel are rising much faster than inflation and growing deficits will constrain future budgets. Moreover, likely targets of China and Russia like Taiwan and the Baltic nations are so close that simply having a larger, more ready U.S. force won’t be enough to stop them. Instead, the U.S. military will need to pursue a fundamentally different approach to warfare, as it did during the Cold War with nuclear weapons and, later, networks and precision guided munitions.

Put Concepts Before Tech