25 July 2019

China's Chump: Why America Can't Trust Pakistan

by Michael Rubin

Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan hopes that his visit to the White House today will jumpstart relations with the United States after years of tension. Within the U.S. political context, President Donald Trump is a polarizing figure and his political opponents usually blame him exclusively for all ills on the international stage. When it comes to Pakistan, however, they should not. Pakistan’s problems are made in Pakistan and Trump should continue the recent bipartisan consensus to hold Islamabad responsible.

Those who seek a revitalized U.S.-Pakistan relationship can say history is on their side. Pakistan became a U.S. ally shortly after its 1947 creation, largely because Jawaharlal Nehru rejected U.S. partnership. As India drifted closer to the Soviet Union, Pakistan grew in U.S. strategic calculations. Between 1954 and 1965, Pakistan received more than $1 billion in arms sales and defense assistance, a huge amount for the time. Cooperation only increased after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It was not long until Pakistan became the third largest U.S. aid recipient, after Israel and Egypt.

Trump: US, Pakistan Cooperating to Try to End War in Afghanistan

By Steve Herman

Ayaz Gul in Islamabad contributed to this report.

WHITE HOUSE - The United States and Pakistan are jointly seeking a way to end the war in Afghanistan, U.S. President Donald Trump said alongside Pakistani Prime Imran Khan in the Oval Office on Monday.

“We’re working with Pakistan and others on getting an agreement signed” with the Taliban while the United States continues to “very slowly and very safely” reduce the number of its troops in Afghanistan, said Trump during his initial meeting with Khan at the White House.

The Pakistani prime minister declared “this is the closest we’ve been to a peace deal in Afghanistan. There’s no military solution in Afghanistan.”

In the coming days, Khan added, there are hopes of getting “the Taliban to speak to the Afghan government.”

What's Behind the Pakistani Prime Minister's Public Address in Washington DC?

By Daud Khattak

Just a day before his long sought-after meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed a gathering of thousands in Washington, D.C., where he launched into his usual tirade against the opposition and their alleged corruption being the only reason for his country’s poverty and other problems.

While Capital One Arena, the venue for Imran Khan’s public meeting located around a dozen blocks away from the White House, was ringing with zealous songs, patriotic anthems, and party slogans, his government back in Pakistan’s Punjab province had stopped an opposition leader from holding a public meeting in the city of Faisalabad.

That was the second attempt in less than a month. Earlier, the local administration had created hurdles in Mandi Bahauddin district to stop Maryam Nawaz, daughter of the jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, from holding a public meeting. Maryam, the most charismatic leader in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) party, is struggling to build up pressure for the release of her father.

China to Release New White Paper on National Defense: What to Expect

By Ankit Panda

For the first time in four years, China’s Ministry of National Defense will release a white paper on the country’s overall national defense strategy. A short report published on the MND’s website on Monday said the report would be published on Wednesday.

“The white paper on national defense titled ‘China’s National Defense in the New Era’ will be released on Wednesday at 10 a.m,” the report said. “The Information Office of China’s State Council will hold a press conference at the same time.”

Beijing last released a defense white paper in 2015. As I discussed in The Diplomat at the time, the document was notable for what it represented in terms of change to the country’s overall defense posture and what remained consistent.

The headline from the 2015 white paper was a strategic shift toward embracing an increasingly global mission for the People’s Liberation Army. In particular, the 2015 white paper reserved its most drastic shifts for the role of the PLA Navy and the maritime domain, which was identified as one of four “critical security domains.”

China's Efforts To Control Their Technology Future And Its Far Reaching Impact

Tim Bajarin

I find it interesting that two of the biggest themes happening in the tech world in 2019, which will carry well beyond this year, have to do with government involvement and politics. The themes I’m referencing are trade and regulation. Over the years I have written about regulation and will continue to cover that in future columns, but I want to go deeper on the trade issue and how I see a broader technology schism emerging.

Having spoken with more technology executives and investors so far this year, I think what is happening is more a broad technology schism that goes beyond the Internet. 

The US and China trade war are accelerating China’s efforts for complete verticalization and thus control of their technology future. This, however, at least for the moment, is a strategy that largely works in China. There has been some interesting debate around the potential for a third mobile operating system, and one Huawei plans to make that is an offshoot of Android, that could succeed in many parts of the developing world as a billion or more humans still get their first computer (a.k.a smartphone). 

China First



A drone attacked Iraqi Security Forces on Friday that were deployed 180 km. north of Baghdad, near the city of Tuz Khurmatu. Initially reported as an attack on Iranian-allied forces, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the mysterious drone incident is still being investigated, and it is not clear where it came from or who carried out the attack that left several wounded.
What we know is that something happened. The US-led anti-ISIS coalition put out a statement on July 19 saying they were aware of reports “of an attack against the Iranians and a Popular Mobilization Force unit in Salah a-Din [governorate]. Coalition Forces were not involved, and we have no further information at this time.” The coalition responded because of rumors circulating on social media and in Iraq seeking to blame the US for the incident.

Trump Says US Bracing for 'Absolute Worst' With Iran

By Jeff Seldin

VOA Persian’s Katherine Ahn and White House Correspondent Steve Herman contributed to this report.

WASHINGTON — The United States and Iran pushed full steam ahead, each country launching a new round of verbal volleys, as military tensions between Tehran and the West rose to new heights Monday.

U.S. President Donald Trump did his part to ramp up the rhetoric, telling reporters at the White House that Washington was ready for “the absolute worst” from Iran.

“They are really the number one state of terror in the world,” Trump said during a photo-op with Pakistani President Imran Khan in the Oval Office Monday.

Trump added Iran’s actions and lack of respect were making it more difficult for him to negotiate with Tehran.

“They shouldn’t have done that,” he said. “It could go either way.”

The Rise and Fall of the Islamic State: A Fifth-Year Assessment

Yoram Schweitzer

In March 2019, nearly five years after its founding, the Islamic State suffered its final military defeat when it lost control over its last stronghold in al-Baghuz, in eastern Syria. At its peak, the Islamic State controlled an area the size of Britain and a population of about six million people. Despite the fact that its attempt to establish an Islamic state, followed by an Islamic caliphate, was halted, the Islamic State and its affiliates, together with al-Qaeda and its allies - who share their ideology while themselves seeking the leadership of the Salafi jihadist camp - will continue to threaten to spread terrorism and guerrilla warfare throughout the world. This article surveys the emergence and departure of the Islamic State, which swept through the Middle East like a hurricane, leaving death, destruction, and a broad humanitarian disaster in its wake. Its actions and their aftermath spilled over to other regions of the world, and despite its defeat, the threat that it posed, even if not in territorial terms, remains.

Why North Korea Won the Handshake Summit

by Sukjoon Yoon

On June 30, 2019, President Donald Trump, accompanied by Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea, crossed the border at Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). In doing so, Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to step onto North Korean soil. Also present was South Korean president Moon Jae-in, who is keen to help mediate between America and North Korea in hopes of reviving the denuclearization talks which stalled during the Hanoi summit.

This unprecedented three-way summit appears to have been essentially a made-for-TV spectacular designed for Trump and Kim’s domestic audiences. Trump’s publicity machine constantly emphasizes the feel-good one-to-one personal relationship between Trump and Kim, but a fundamental question remains: is there or will there be any actual progress on denuclearization? 



Israel expects to encounter urban warfare and terror tunnels in a future conflict in Syria, a senior IDF officer said Monday. “We are looking toward future challenges in the next war – tunnels and urban combat – which could be in Gaza, Lebanon or Syria,” the officer said at the Lotar Counterterrorism School base at Adam Facility, 5 km. west of Modi’in.

While the military is still perfecting underground warfare techniques, the Lotar school is “a wealth of knowledge in all aspects of tunnel warfare,” the senior officer said, explaining that after Operation Protective Edge in 2014, the IDF understood the need for troops trained to fight in tunnels.
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Climate Change: An Omitted Security Threat in Central Asia

By Khamza Sharifzoda

Central Asian countries have a long list of potential security challenges: economic recession, the return of foreign fighters from Syria and Iraq, ethnic and political violence, and the spillover of the conflict in Afghanistan. This list is not exhaustive, and over the years it has only increased in length. Most recently, scholars and policymakers have also emphasized the increased Chinese presence in the region, the crisis in Xinjiang, and imminent transitions of power in countries of the region as potential causes of instability. Frustratingly, discussions on Eurasian security often omit another growing threat: climate change.

For the third year in a row, Central Asia has been hit by an anomalously hot summer. This June, Turkmenistan reached temperatures of 44 C (111 F). The temperature in Tashkent has steadily hovered around 42 C, whereas residents of the southern parts of Uzbekistan have suffered under 44 C heat. Tajikistan does not lag behind, with the temperatures rising to 43 C in July. Similarly, in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the temperature is expected to rise to 45 C in some regions this month.

The new front of great power conflict: Russian gray-zone aggression

By Spencer Berning 

Spencer BerningSince the end of the Cold War, the U.S. military has been in flux. The Cold War military was organized to counter and defeat the large-scale army of another great power, the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the USSR, the military began the search for another great power rival. This of course all changed with the attacks on 9/11, and the military oriented itself to counterterrorism operations. This change was not wholly successful, and for the past 17 years the military has been trying to fight against insurgents with a conventionally built army.

Now, with the return of threats from a re-emergent Russia, the U.S. military will have to reorient itself back to countering another great power. Unfortunately, the blueprint for this is not clear. The great power threats from the Cold War are not the same threats as today. The most acute threat emanates from Russian gray-zone aggression. While an ambiguous concept, gray-zone aggression is hostile action that falls below the threshold of war, including the use of armed forces with ambiguous ties to nation-states. It was the usage of disguised Russian soldiers, referred to as “little green men,” that played a key role in Russia’s successful annexation of Crimea in 2014. These unmarked forces occupied key parts of Crimea and facilitated the Russian annexation of the peninsula.

A feckless response

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. 

Russian Warfare

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.

Despite Looming U.S. Sanctions, the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline Will Likely Proceed

Competition over energy supplies in Europe has become a key component of the U.S.-Russia standoff, as evidenced by Washington's threats to derail the Nord Stream 2 pipeline by imposing harsh economic sanctions. However, the United States has yet to follow through on these threats, and it remains unlikely that it will for fear of irking Germany and the major European energy companies that have heavily invested in the project. Thus, the White House is more likely to pursue measures that result in delays in the pipeline's construction rather than a complete cancellation, while continuing to back diversification projects and efforts to increase its own energy supplies to Europe. 

Seoul and Tokyo Stare Each Other Down

By Evan Rees

Japan's move to impose unprecedented trade measures against South Korea to retaliate against its increasingly hard-line stance toward Tokyo's wartime conduct will leave Seoul with few options to respond effectively. Domestic political drivers in both South Korea and Japan will make it difficult for the two sides to reach a compromise on their outstanding wartime tensions. Both the United States and China will push the pair to de-escalate their impasse. 

Economic progress might alleviate historical trauma, but it's unlikely to solve it. Today, South Korea and Japan are vibrant democracies that enjoy robust economies and protection under the U.S. military umbrella, yet Japan's wartime actions continue to cast a long shadow over its relations with its neighbors in Northeast Asia. South Korea's 35 years under Japanese rule, status as a fellow U.S. ally and vulnerable geopolitical position between Japan and China ensure that Japan's imperial legacy is particularly contentious on the peninsula.

The Big Picture

Are Russia’s Mercenaries a Threat to U.S. Interests?


The Wagner Group emerged from the Kremlin’s need for off-the-books fighters in its wars in Ukraine and Syria. In both conflicts, Wagner’s mercenaries helped the Russian military avoid official casualties and reduced the political risk for President Vladimir Putin’s regime. Since then, Wagner has evolved. It now helps the Kremlin build influence by providing training and protection services in at least two African countries. This covert, unacknowledged group of mercenaries is emblematic of the Kremlin’s foreign policy ambition, assertiveness, and penchant for denying responsibility.

Numbering between 3,600 and 5,000 fighters, the group trains at a secret base next to a Russian military intelligence (GRU) facility. Its commander is Dmitry Utkin, who retired from the GRU’s special operations troops. Some of its members have strong military backgrounds. Others are former convicts or have no professional military experience and little training. Most seem to be Russian citizens, but no ideology drives the group as a whole. Money is a major draw for those who join. Their combat pay in Syria was roughly six times the average wage in Russia.


Japan and Australia Set the Stage for a Security Alliance Independent of the U.S.

By Matthew Edwin Carpenter

Japan and Australia laid the groundwork for a security relationship years ago, but recent geopolitical currents are prompting them to build it out. The countries would act as cornerstones in a future regional security alliance that could include European and Asian partners, but not depend on U.S. support. Concerns about the direction of U.S. foreign policy in the region is catalyzing action on a tighter defense partnership.

Despite their locations on opposite ends of the Pacific, Australia and Japan share many concerns: the safety of their shipping via sea lanes, the increased pressure put on them by China's rise in power and a complicated alliance with the United States. As Washington's reliability and effectiveness as an ally diminish, it's logical that a more robust relationship between Australia and Japan would extend beyond the economic realm into the security sphere. To that end, Australia and Japan have been working to develop a security structure independent of their alliance with the United States intended to eventually bring in additional allies, both Asian and European.

Australian-Japanese Relations

Three Ways to Break the Stalemate With North Korea


Five U.S. presidents have tried to persuade three generations of North Korean leaders to abandon their nuclear weapons program. None have succeeded. The top brass in Pyongyang cannot imagine how it would survive and keep its leverage over others without a nuclear arsenal. Despite this deadlock, there still are ways to meaningfully constrain and eventually roll back North Korea’s nuclear pursuits, ways that Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un might reluctantly accept and that the United States and others should be willing to reward, including with some sanctions relief.

Give U.S. President Donald Trump credit. His fire-and-fury tweets and theatrical charm offensives have produced a halt in some of the most egregious forms of North Korea’s nuclear progress: long-range missile and nuclear tests. But, predictably, that halt has come only after North Korea has accomplished a breakthrough in its program, and Pyongyang steadfastly refuses to hand over its nuclear weapons outright or even lay out a timetable and sequence for doing so. The current halt on testing is also precarious, given Pyongyang’s track record and threats to escalate without diplomatic progress. Washington needs to clarify realistic interim objectives in the upcoming negotiations.

Fighting Next to U.S. Commandos, but Without the Same Training and Gear

by Thomas Gibbons-Neff and John Ismay

The Army has failed to adequately train and equip the military bomb technicians and infantry troops who are increasingly accompanying American commandos on high-risk missions in war zones, according to interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times.

As the Pentagon draws down the number of troops in combat, including in Afghanistan and Syria, it is largely relying on Special Operations forces to keep up the fight. Those American commandos depend on support from remaining conventional troops for extra firepower, security and logistics.

But the documents and interviews with seven military officials show that the backup forces — including explosive ordnance disposal, or E.O.D., soldiers — often do not have the necessary gear for protection nor the same level of training as the commandos they join on Special Operations raids and patrols…

Ep. 49: Cyberwarfare tomorrow

Last week we reviewed how cyberwarfare has shifted from worry about other organizations and big companies to folks like you and me — to the stuff in our cell phones and our wallets, and how well we protect those things with a healthy dose of skepticism and discipline and patience. Don’t click on phishing links, or put random thumb drives into your computer, for example. We learned how nefarious hackers are pivoting from massive data breaches to more targeted leaks, down to specific individuals. And how some marketing companies are adopting some of those same tactics as well, strangely enough. 

This week, we’re gonna inform and possibly scare you just a little bit more. Because our discussion this week turns more toward nation state hackers — programming teams from America’s so-called great power competitors like China and Russia. 

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.

A Look At The Vulnerabilities And Capabilities Of American Cybersecurity

NPR's Ari Shapiro talks with former U.S. counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke about his new book, The Fifth Domain, co-written with Robert Knake.


In military speak, the fifth domain of warfare is cyberspace. Unlike the others - land, air, sea and outer space - it is made by humans and can be altered by them, too.


Former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke's new book is called "The Fifth Domain." It raises a lot of terrifying scenarios. Some of them have already happened in the U.S. and other countries. There's election hacking, taking down the power grid, holding a city hostage with ransomware. I asked Richard Clarke to describe the scenario that keeps him awake at night.

RICHARD CLARKE: Well, what I fear is that somehow, the U.S. is dragged into a war - and perhaps again in the Middle East. But we're up against somebody who has a cyber army, and they're able to attack our conventional weapons. So we spend all of this money on the fancy F-35 or the fancy new Freedom class Navy ships, and they're hackable. So we go to war, and the enemy pushes the button, and none of our weapons work.


David Wooding

BRITAIN’S defences have been eroded by the Government’s failure to keep pace with fast-changing threats to national security, a shock report reveals.

Theresa May is accused of “shying away” from urgent action to protect us from tech-savvy jihadists, cyber-attacks, the rise of China or rogue states like Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s Iran.
7Theresa May is accused of 'shying away' from urgent action needed to keep pace with national security threatsCredit: PA:Press Association

The outgoing PM has done little to combat risks she was alerted to almost a year ago, senior politicians say.

The Joint Committee on National Security concludes “government talks a better game than it plays”.

And it warns: “A reality check is urgently required.”

What's Keeping Generals up at Night? Cyber Threats


The Pentagon is recruiting a new cadre of computer geeks to address a threat that the military's top intelligence officer says keeps him up at night.

At the Aspen Security Forum, Pentagon leaders and industry chiefs said the biggest arms race that America faces might be in cyberspace, where even smaller nations such as North Korea and Iran could bring havoc to U.S. soil. The annual forum draws security experts from around America and the globe to address threats and policy conundrums during a three-day confab.

The big topic Friday was how America could be losing its lead in computer warfare.

"When people ask me what keeps you up at night, that is kind of the thing that keeps me up at night," admitted Defense Intelligence Agency boss Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley.