23 July 2019

India draws new ‘red lines’ for talks on Afghan peace process

by Shubhajit Roy 

In May this year, India said it is committed to “any process” which can help Afghanistan emerge as a united, peaceful, secure, stable, inclusive and economically vibrant nation, with guaranteed gender and human rights.

HAVING SOFTENED its position on engaging with the Taliban, India has now spelt out its three new “red lines” on the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

The first is that “all initiatives and processes must include all sections of the Afghan society, including the legitimately elected government”. This is important as, in the past, the Afghan government was often sidelined by international interlocutors when they engaged with the Taliban. This also means that there is acceptability in Delhi about talking to the Taliban — since they represent a “section of the Afghan society”.

The second is that “any process should respect the constitutional legacy and political mandate”. This means that the achievement of establishing democratic processes and human rights, including women’s rights, should be respected.

Taliban Kills 25 Afghan Commandos

By Bill Roggio

The Taliban killed 25 members of the Afghan National Army’s commandos during recent fighting in the northwestern province of Badghis. The commandos are the most effective Afghan military formation and are at the tip of the spear in the fight against the Taliban.

The governor of Badghis province told Radio Free Europe that the 25 commandos and 20 Taliban fighters were killed during a clash in the province on July 15.

The Taliban, in a statement released on Voice of Jihad, said the fighting took place in the district of Ab Kamari, and claimed that 39 Afghan security forces were killed and 16 more were captured. The Taliban also claimed it ambushed the Afghan forces in a “preplanned” attack.

Only two days prior, the Taliban launched an attack on a hotel Qala-i-Naw, the provincial capital of Badghis. Residents of the province recently protested the “increasing insecurity” in the province, including in the capital, and said that roads from Qala-i-Naw to the outlying districts have been severed by the Taliban.

The IMF Takeover of Pakistan

By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

On July 3, the International Monetary Fund approved a $6 billion bailout package to help “return sustainable growth” to Pakistan’s economy. Throughout the deal spanning 39 months, the IMF will review Pakistan’s progress on a quarterly basis. As part of the agreement, $1 billion has been released to Pakistan.

This is the 13th IMF bailout for Pakistan, with the Fund looking toward the correction of “structural imbalances” in the country. In this regard, the IMF had announced in the negotiations over the past couple of months that Islamabad would have to increase taxation in order to repay external debt and increase foreign exchange reserves.

Details of the agreement reveal the targets that have been set for Pakistan, requiring the country to increase the foreign exchange reserves from the current $6.824 billion to $11.187 billion next year. As a result, the country’s net reserves are expected to increase from negative $17.7 billion to negative $10.8 billion over the same period.

Belt and Road Initiative 2.0: ‘Qualitatively’ Different?

By N. Janardhan

Following five years of periodic controversies and criticism – some factual, others contrived – President Xi Jinping used the Belt and Road (BRI) Forum in April to set the agenda for the next five years of his hallmark project. At the forum’s second edition, meant to promote a “stronger partnership network,” the Chinese leader pledged to “clean up,” stressed “zero tolerance” to corruption, and emphasized readiness to adopt “internationally acceptable” standards in the bidding process of BRI projects in the future. This language indicates Beijing’s openness to constructive criticism and willingness to objectively tweak some inherent weaknesses in the strategy and implementation mechanisms for the BRI during the 2013-2018 period. It also sets the stage for the start of “BRI 2.0,” where the stress is likely to be on the qualitative, rather than just quantitative, attributes. The following are some analytical pointers on how BRI 2.0 is likely to be different from version 1.0, especially keeping in mind what Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi referred to as a “high-quality” shift from “big freehand” to “fine brushwork” in planning BRI’s future projects.

50 Years After Apollo 11, China Is on Deck to Land Next

By Justin Key Canfil

Almost precisely 50 years ago, people around the world huddled by their television sets to witness the first humans walk on the moon. The broadcast came live, save for a two-second delay. Unsurprisingly, the occasion is being marked by much fanfare this year;no fewer than 10 documentaries will soon air to commemorate the Apollo 11 semicentennial.

Tributes to Apollo 11 only slightly overshadow headlines this year that China, too, had accomplished its own lunar “first” by landing a robotic rover on the far side of the moon. Writing for the Washington Post, foreign correspondent Rick Noack proclaimed that “a new space power [had been] born” as a result. The Chinese space program shows no indications of slowing: Beijing recently alluded that it hopes to begin sending manned missions to the moon by 2030, prompting the Trump administration to announce plans for a 2024 return. The politics involve a mix of prestige and security concerns. Because space technologies can often be repurposed for military ends, and because those technologies are often difficult to distinguish from peaceful ones, U.S. defense planners also worry about growing Chinese capabilities.

Imran Khan Goes to Washington: What’s on the Agenda for US-Pakistan Security Relations?

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is set for his maiden visit to the United States in the next few days. The trip will include a stop at the White House as well. Reports indicate that the delegation will comprise of officials such as the foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the trade and investment adviser, Razzak Dawood, finance adviser Hafeez Pasha, and security officials including the army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the ISI chief, Faiz Hameed, and the head of the ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor.

As with these sorts of the visits, the composition of the delegation gives a sense of the potential agenda, particularly on the security side. This will likely include Afghanistan as well as trying to reset the “acrimonious relationship” between Washington and Islamabad which has been playing out of late.

Why Hasn't the ASEAN Economic Community Benefited From the US-China Trade War?

By Shah Suraj Bharat

The trade war between the United States and China has generated discussion in Southeast Asia about which countries will benefit from multinational companies moving production out of China, yet there has been a strange silence on the opportunities for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

With a population of 662 million, a median age of 28.8 years as opposed to China’s 37, as well as member states whose growth is dependent on international trade and finance, the trade war should have been a golden opportunity for the AEC, launched in 2015, to realize its ambitions as a regional production base. The trade war also should have provided a catalyst to drive greater integration. 

In the big picture, nobody wins from trade wars. However, Southeast Asia should benefit from capturing value-added production moving out of China in the interim. While ASEAN member states under the AEC would have continued to compete to attract production, the endowments of economic regionalism should have worked to make each member more attractive overall and promoted the development of regional value chains. 

What Rare Earths Tell Us about China's Competitive Strategy

by Ian Easton

The recent debate over whether or not China will carry through on its threats to stop exporting rare earth minerals to the United States is an important one. It raises deeply unsettling questions about the strength of America's defense industrial supply chain. But Beijing’s monopolization of the global rare earths industry gives it far more than a card to play in an escalating trade war. The game is far bigger and the stakes higher than even many national-security experts seem to realize.

In the minds of Chinese strategists, this issue is ultimately about which nation, China or America, wins the central struggle of the twenty-first century, the race for world leadership. Obviously, they intend to win and to win big.

Why the Strait of Hormuz Is Still the World’s Most Important Chokepoint

By Allen James Fromherz 

The Strait of Hormuz links the majority of the world’s people who live along the shores of Asia and East Africa to the heart of the Middle East. Long before the discovery of oil, it was the world’s carotid artery. Cut off the blood supply almost anywhere else and the world would adapt. Here, however, an interruption could be fatal: 90 percent of oil exported from the Gulf, about 20 percent of the world’s supply, passes through Hormuz. Shipping through the strait, which is a mere 21 nautical miles wide at its narrowest point, is concentrated and hazardous. In Musandam, the Omani exclave on the strait’s southern side, you can hear Persian radio from Iran as often as Arabic. Along the rocky shorelines, islets and peninsulas thrust precipitously into the sky. Heat, humidity, and a scorching wind make the climate inhospitable; many mountain ranges and valleys near Hormuz remain sparsely inhabited.

Muslim Causes Vs National Interest: Muslim Nations Make Risky Bets – Analysis

By James M. Dorsey

Saudi attitudes towards the plight of thousands of illegal Rohingya in the kingdom fleeing persecution in Myanmar and squalid Bangladeshi refugee camps help explain Saudi support for China’s brutal clampdown on Turkic Muslims in its troubled, north-western province of Xinjiang.

For more than half a year, Saudi Arabia has been deporting large numbers of Rohingya who arrived in the kingdom either on pilgrimage visas or using false travel documents, often the only way they were able to leave either Myanmar or Bangladesh.

The expulsions of Rohingya as well as hundreds of thousands of other foreign workers coupled with the introduction of fees on their dependents and restrictions on the sectors in which they can be employed are part of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts to reform the kingdom’s oil-dependent economy and increase job opportunities.

Will America and Iran's 'Drone War' Turn Into a Real War?

Matthew Petti 

The Trump administration claims to have destroyed an Iranian drone that was “threatening” a U.S. warship off the coast of Iran on Thursday, but it did not clarify whether the drone was armed. The incident was the latest in a series of incidents between the United States and Iran in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, pushing both countries to the brink of war. Unlike in past incidents, however, both sides carefully described the alleged drone shootdown.

President Donald Trump claimed that the U.S. Navy destroyed “an Iranian drone which had closed into a very, very near distance, approximately one thousand yards” from the USS Boxer in the Strait of Hormuz. Trump calling it “the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters.” The president claimed that the Iranian drone was “ignoring multiple calls to stand down and was threatening the safety of the ship and the ship’s crew,” but was “immediately destroyed.”

Pentagon Spokesman Jonathan Hoffman reiterated Trump’s claims: “At approximately 10 a.m. local time, the amphibious ship USS Boxer was in international waters conducting a planned inbound transit of the Strait of Hormuz. A fixed-wing unmanned aerial system (UAS) approached Boxer and closed within a threatening range. The ship took defensive action against the UAS to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew.”

Want Responsible AI? Think Business Outcomes

Mala Anand, author of this opinion piece, is president of intelligent enterprise solutions and industries at SAP.

The rising concern about how AI systems can embody ethical judgments and moral values are prompting the right questions. Too often, however, the answer seems to be to blame the technology or the technologists.

Delegating responsibility is not the answer.

Creating ethical and effective AI applications requires engagement from the entire C-suite. Getting it right is both a critical business question and a values’ statement that requires CEO leadership.

The ethical concerns AI raises vary from industry to industry. The dilemmas associated with self-driving cars, for instance, are nothing like the question of bias in facial recognition or the privacy concerns associated with emerging marketing applications. Still, they share a problem: Even the most thoughtfully designed algorithm makes decisions based on inputs that reflect the world view of its makers.

Lessons of the War in Ukraine for Western Military Strategy

By Niklas Masuhr for Center for Security Studies (CSS)

When Russian intervention forces occupied the Crimean peninsula in February 2014 in a coup de main, NATO was still committed in Afghanistan. After more than ten years of counterinsurgency and stabilization operations, the crisis in Ukraine triggered a reorientation towards its original purposes of defense and deterrence. During the same year, at the NATO summit in Wales, it was decided to enhance the speed and capability with which NATO forces could respond to a crisis. The subsequent Warsaw summit in 2016 added rotating multinational contingents in its eastern member states in order to signal the entire alliance’s commitment to their defense. Below these adaptations at the level of NATO, national armed forces are being reformed and rearranged because of the shift in threat perception. This analysis focuses on the military forces of the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany. The tactics and capabilities Russia has brought to bear in eastern Ukraine in particular serve as the benchmark according to which these Western forces are being shaped. 

Europe Is Back


For the past two decades, the United States has essentially ignored the European Union. Through Republican and Democratic administrations alike, Washington treated the union as an afterthought at best and, as under the current administration, sometimes even a foe. This is a profound strategic mistake. With the selection of Germany’s defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, to be the next head of the European Commission, the United States should seize the opportunity to build a new lasting partnership with the EU.

The recent European parliamentary elections have shown that Europe’s political center of gravity is shifting from national capitals to Brussels and the European Union. They saw turnout rise for the first time ever, surpassing 50 percent. The boost was driven by a highly charged debate about the EU’s future, pitting far-right nationalists looking to devolve power from the EU against unionists looking to strengthen it. In the end, a robust showing from pro-EU parties, particularly the Greens, staved off a feared far-right surge. As the Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum observed following the elections, “the continent is becoming a single political space.”

A People-Centered Approach to Conflict Resolution in Ukraine

By Cecilia Malmstrom

It’s rare to hear firsthand accounts of daily life amid the conflict in Donbass. But we do have a few. The photographer Paula Bronstein captured the broken bodies and tormented souls of elderly people. The documentary filmmaker Simon Lereng Wilmont shot the war through the eyes of a 10-year-old orphan boy living in a small village with “The Distant Barking of Dogs.” My colleague Ioulia Shukan, a French sociologist, keeps a blog on ordinary citizens affected by the war in Eastern Ukraine. She recounted the everyday life of three female villagers in the grey zone, their fear of shells and their cohabitation with soldiers. She also told the story of a young family that left the little Ukrainian town of Marinka — where there is still no heating and no drinking water — for the separatist-held city of Donetsk to escape immediate danger and precarious conditions. These Ukrainians’ stories highlight not only the human cost of the ongoing war, but also the perils of the Ukrainian government — and its Western partners — ignoring that cost.

Germany In Indo-Pacific: New Security Actor? – Analysis

By Dr. Frederick Kliem*

Germany and Japan have much in common. Both were undeniably the main culprits of World War II and both emerged in the aftermath as militarily shy, yet economically strong trading nations. In both cases, the United States’ military and economic support facilitated their rehabilitation. Essentially, both were free-riding on American protection.

Both countries subsequently suffer from a significant military antipathy, reflected in both public opinion and their respective constitutions. However, such sentiments are slowly fading with the “1975+ generation”. And, more importantly, at a time when the hitherto unquestionable American security guarantee appears less certain. Japan has already embarked on its journey to become a “normal nation”, Germany is only slowly catching up.
Opposing “Might is Right”

Lately, it has become apparent that free-riding on the US military may be over and that Germany has much to lose from a “might is right” attitude, not to mention war between the US and China over Taiwan or other Asian hotspots.

Trump’s Send-Them-Back Doctrine – OpEd

By John Feffer*

During the height of Stalin’s purges, the great Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich kept a packed suitcase near the door of his apartment. 

The Black Marias, the vehicle of choice for the secret police, would traditionally arrive in the middle of the night to ferry “undesirables” to interrogation cells. Shostakovich wanted to be ready at any moment for possible exile to Siberia. He was a much-celebrated figure in the Soviet Union, but Stalin had taken a dislike to his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District. The Soviet dictator was like that: unpredictable.

The Soviets executed more than a half a million people in 1937-1938, while about 18 million people were imprisoned in the gulags from 1929 to 1953. Shostakovich had good reason to be fearful. In the Soviet Union in the 1930s, a significant portion of the population lived in fear of arrest, then execution or internal exile. 

Today, in the United States, a vast population of the undocumented live in constant fear of arrest and exile, not to some far-flung area of the United States but back to their countries of birth. 

Cold War Success Cost America Its Place in the Global Order

by Wallace C. Gregson

“What will we do, now that we’re losing our best enemy?” As the collapse of the Soviet Union became clear, the Pentagon rumor mill alleged that the chairman, Gen. Colin Powell, posed this question to trusted staff members. Perhaps it was apocryphal, but it did indicate reality through a concise question. The Soviet threat provided the organizing framework not only for our military planning, but also our foreign policy and a good bit of our domestic policies throughout the Cold War. Given the current disarray in our foreign policy, the global decline of democracy, the confusion among our various trade policies, questions about our alliances, and domestic polarization, it looks like we have not answered the question. What can bring us together?

Past success provides one answer. Once upon a time we forcefully birthed an unprecedented international system that created momentum for the spread of democracy, established positive incentives for nations to work with the United States, and discomfited autocrats by championing the virtues and values of freedom and representative government. Our “shining city on a hill” imagery spoke eloquently to oppressed people. The result was an economic boom, a wave of democratization, and victory in an existential struggle against Communism without yet another great-power global war. 

America No Longer Needs the Middle East

by George Seay

One of the intriguing things about grand strategy and the great game is how slowly professional practitioners in the field clearly see material strategic changes when they occur. A compelling example is how alone Winston Churchill stood in Depression-era Great Britain against the rise of Adolf Hitler. He was mocked for years by the “experts” and his peers in the House of Commons.

Today in the Middle East the United States faces a material strategic change, one that should be capitalized upon with all due dispatch. The result is a policy pivot back to a primary focus on great power diplomacy, and not endless, mindless, mini-wars in the Middle East that cost far too many American lives and drain our country of its resources.

Remembering the Dark Side of the Space Race

NASA is commemorating the this month’s 50thanniversary of the Apollo moon landing with a full slate of activities at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and locations around the country. The lunar mission was a proud moment in American history, one that filled the world with awe as the first images of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon’s surface were beamed back to earth. But the decades leading up to that moment were marked by the political and cultural tensions of World War II and the Cold War. In his new book, Escape from Earth: A Secret History of the Space Rocket, Fraser MacDonald reminds readers about the shadowy aspects of the space race — including lying and spying — that ruined some careers while launching others. MacDonald, a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, joined the Knowledge@Wharton radio show on SiriusXM to talk about his book. (Listen to the podcast at the top of this page.)

An edited transcript of the conversation follows. 

Knowledge@Wharton: Can you tell us about your book?

How Cyber Weapons Are Changing the Landscape of Modern Warfare

By Sue Halpern

In the weeks before two Japanese and Norwegian oil tankers were attacked, on June 13th, in the Gulf of Oman—acts which the United States attributes to Iran—American military strategists were planning a cyberattack on critical parts of that country’s digital infrastructure. According to an officer involved, who asked to remain anonymous, as Iran ramped up its attacks on ships carrying oil through the Persian Gulf—four tankers had been mined in May—and the rhetoric of the national-security adviser, John Bolton, became increasingly bellicose, there was a request from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to “spin up cyber teams.” On June 20th, hours after a Global Hawk surveillance drone, costing more than a hundred million dollars, was destroyed over the Strait of Hormuz by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, the United States launched a cyberattack aimed at disabling Iran’s maritime operations. Then, in a notable departure from previous Administrations’ policies, U.S. government officials, through leaks that appear to have been strategic, alerted the world, in broad terms, to what the Americans had done.

Securing 5G Networks Challenges and Recommendations

Robert Williams


Fifth-generation (5G) telecommunications networks could revolutionize the digital economy by enabling new applications that depend on ultra-fast communications at industrial scale. Many of these new applications, such as driverless cars, telemedicine, factory automation, smart electric grids, and smart cities, will capitalize on advances in artificial intelligence (AI), and 5G networks themselves will be AI-enabled.

With these opportunities come major cybersecurity challenges. Western governments are grappling with the risks posed by Huawei and other Chinese vendors of 5G infrastructure equipment. On May 15, 2019, U.S. President Donald J. Trump issued an executive order laying the groundwork for a ban on Huawei equipment in U.S. networks, a long-anticipated move that was accompanied by the Commerce Department’s even more consequential decision to restrict the company’s access to U.S. components. Excluding Huawei from U.S. networks, however, is not the same as securing those networks. Instead, U.S. policymakers need to adopt a broader strategy that includes technical measures, regulatory adjustments, a sensible legal liability regime, diplomacy, and investments in research and cybersecurity skills training.

The Technology of 5G

Building Resilience in the Fifth Domain

by Robert K. Knake

Summer is supposed to be a quiet time in Washington, DC. But this year the Cyber Solarium Commission, a bipartisan national commission established to create a comprehensive U.S. cyber policy, is hard at work trying to “provide strategic guidance and policy recommendations on how to defend ourselves against cyber threats.”

The Solarium is the latest effort in a long list of similar commissions intended to come up with a new approach to solving our cyber insecurity. I know and respect many of commissioners and staff members working hard on the effort, but in our new book, The Fifth Domain (released today), Richard Clarke and I argue that the question of strategy in cyberspace was settled long ago.

Since my co-author penned PDD-63 in 1998, the cornerstone of our national strategy has been a public-private partnership in which private owners and operators of internet-connected systems are responsible for their own protection. Government, meanwhile, is in a supporting role, doing only the things that government can do like offensive operations, intelligence collection, making arrests, and setting regulations.

The Military and the Internet: Will War as We Know It Become Outmoded? – Modern War Institute

by Christopher Sims

In late 2017, a team of Polish climbers traveled to the Karakoram in an ambitious attempt to summit K2, the second-highest mountain in the world and the last of the fourteen great peaks higher than eight thousand meters to remain unclimbed in winter. Team cohesion was already fragile when the strongest climber departed the camp and set off on a forlorn solo push for the summit. Facing deteriorating weather conditions, the team accepted defeat shortly afterwards. Reflecting on the expedition, its leader Krzysztof Wielicki expressed skepticism regarding the role that internet access on the mountain played.

Photographs posted online showed climbers in tents on various laptop computers, the team had a social media page dedicated to the summit attempt, and the digital connection facilitated instantaneous personal communication with family and friends back home. “I don’t know if having internet on an expedition is a good thing or a bad thing,” Wielicki told National Geographic. “We never used to have it, of course, but now it is normal.” Internet access generated a particular tension. While physically located in the high-risk mountain environment, through the digital network the climbers were also experiencing intense, protracted interpersonal interactions far beyond their immediate environment that may have had disruptive effects on the expedition through reduction of morale and loss of focus.

Here's the New Marine Corps Weapon that Just Destroyed an Iranian Drone

By Gina Harkins

A new Marine Corps anti-drone system that attaches to all-terrain vehicles and can scan the skies for enemy aircraft from aboard Navy ships was responsible for destroying an Iranian drone, Military.com has learned.

The Marine Corps' Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System, known as LMADIS, jammed an Iranian drone that President Donald Trump said flew within 1,000 yards of a Navy warship in the Strait of Hormuz, a defense official said. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the mission.

The California-based 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed to the Middle East with the LMADIS, the defense official said. That unit, which includes about 2,200 Marines, is currently on a six-month sea deployment with the Navy's Boxer Amphibious Ready Group.

Trump said the amphibious assault ship Boxer took defensive action after giving multiple calls to stand down.