6 August 2019

India – C-17 Sustainment Follow-on Support

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2019 - The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to India of C-17 sustainment follow-on support for an estimated cost of $670 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on July 26, 2019.

The Government of India has requested to buy equipment for C-17 follow-on support, to include spares and repair parts; support equipment; personnel training and training equipment; publications and technical documentation; support and test equipment; U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical and logistical support services; and other related elements of logistics and program support. The total estimated program cost is $670 million.

This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to strengthen the U.S.-Indian strategic relationship and to improve the mobility capabilities of a major defensive partner, which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region.

Amrullah Saleh, the enemy of the Taliban

Ruchi Kumar

FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2008 file photo, former Afghanistan's intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh gestures during a press conference, in Kabul, Afghanistan. On Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani appointed hard-line opponents of neighboring Pakistan to two top security posts. Ghani announced that Saleh will be the next interior minister and Asadullah Khaleed will be defense minister. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File) 

The political campaign for the September 28 presidential election in Afghanistan got a bloody start on July 28 when the office of vice-presidential candidate Amrullah Saleh came under attack. Mr. Saleh, a former intelligence chief and President Ashraf Ghani’s running mate, survived the attack, which killed at least 30 people. He was rescued from the building when security personnel fought the gunmen for hours.

Pakistani Duplicity Caused the United States to Lose in Afghanistan

by Lawrence Sellin
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“The war in Vietnam was not lost in the field, nor was it lost on the front pages of the New York Times or the college campuses. It was lost in Washington, D.C.”

H. R. McMaster wrote that statement in his 1997 scathing critique of the Vietnam War, Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam. He was a major in the Army at that time. Now, he is a retired lieutenant general and former national security advisor to President Donald Trump.

It is indeed ironic that McMaster eventually contributed to what many people thought to be impossible by repeating the mistakes of Vietnam and losing the Afghanistan war—both in the field and in Washington, DC.

Possibly the biggest prison breakout in history occurs as 545 Japanese POWs attempt to escape outside the town of Cowra, New South Wales, Australia.

The Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting took place in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, killing six victims. The perpetrator committed suicide after getting wounded by police.

The death of Hamza bin Laden and the weakness of al-Qaida

Daniel L. Byman

U.S. officials claim that Hamza bin Laden, a favorite son of his father Osama and possible future leader of al-Qaida, was killed sometime in the last two years, with the U.S. role in his death not specified. When al-Qaida loses a potential leader, it is right to celebrate and to consider what is next for the group. Hamza’s rise, however, was a reflection of al-Qaida’s weakness, and with his death it is important to recognize what he was—and what he wasn’t—to the terrorist group.

Hamza never made his mark as an important al-Qaida leader in his own right. Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent and terrorism expert who wrote an excellent profile of Hamza, relates that Hamza spent much of his youth and early adulthood hiding out in Iran after al-Qaida was ousted from Afghanistan after 9/11. Iranian authorities held Hamza and other al-Qaida members as possible bargaining chips with the United States or to be released when the time was right. Hamza then returned to Pakistan in 2010, hiding out there and narrowly avoiding being killed in 2011, when U.S. Navy SEALS raided his father’s compound in Abbottabad. After several years of quiet, Hamza emerged in al-Qaida audio and video tapes, calling for attacks on the United States, Saudi Arabia, and other traditional targets. Al-Qaida appeared to be grooming him to be a leading spokesman, relying on his family pedigree to attract attention, and perhaps even considering him as a potential heir to Ayman Zawahiri, the Egyptian jihadi who has headed the group since 2011.

Afghanistan war: UN says more civilians killed by allies than insurgents

Media captionEarlier this year, the BBC was given exclusive access to Afghan ambulance workers

Afghan and US forces have killed more civilians in Afghanistan in the first half of 2019 than insurgents did, UN figures show.

The unprecedented figures for January to June come amid a ferocious US air campaign against the Taliban.

Some 717 civilians were killed by Afghan and US forces, compared to 531 by militants, the UN said.

The latest data has been revealed as Washington and the Taliban continue negotiations over US troop withdrawals.

Against the Tide: The Growth of China-Sri Lanka Trade

By Umesh Moramudali

The recent rise of China-Sri Lanka economic relations has been the subject of much discussion, debate, and analysis. Some of these discussions are also rich in misinterpretations, such as common misconceptions about Sri Lanka’s debt obligations to China and the link between that debt and the decision to lease Hambantota port to China for 99 years.

However, one significant part of Sri Lanka-China economic relations has not captured the spotlight: the fast-growing trade relations between two countries during the last decade or so. Similar to other countries’ trade relations with China, the expansion of trade with Sri Lanka was driven by a large influx of Chinese imports, resulting in an expanding trade deficit between the two countries.

The Right Way to Deal With Huawei

By Adam Segal 

Over the past year and a half, the Trump administration has waged an extraordinary campaign against Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, involving criminal indictments, trade sanctions, and diplomatic pressure on U.S. friends and allies. In May, the administration raised the stakes even further. President Donald Trump signed an executive order blocking U.S. businesses from using equipment and services made by companies controlled by “adversary governments.” Although the order did not name Huawei or China, it was clearly aimed straight at them.

The same day that Trump signed the order, the Commerce Department placed Huawei and 68 of its affiliates on a list of firms to which U.S. companies may not sell components without government approval. Huawei will suffer even more serious consequences from its inclusion on this list than it will from the executive order. Four major U.S. technology companies—Broadcom, Intel, Qualcomm, and Xilinx—almost immediately stopped working with Huawei, and Google announced that it would no longer provide the Android mobile operating system to Huawei smartphones. Although the Commerce Department later suspended the ban for 90 days, Huawei’s future remains uncertain. At an event at the company’s headquarters in Shenzhen, Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, said he expected revenues to decline by $30 billion over the next two years because of U.S. actions, down from an annual $107 billion in 2018.

Did Trump Just Scuttle US-China Trade Talks (Again)?

By Shannon Tiezzi

On Wednesday, the United States and China held trade talks in Shanghai. It was the first round of negotiations since talks fell apart in May, after U.S. President Donald Trump accused Beijing of reneging on its commitments and broke the previously declared “truce” by upping tariffs on Chinese goods. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to restart talks after a face-to-face on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka at the end of June. The Shanghai meeting, headed by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the U.S. side and Vice Premier Liu He and Commerce Minister Zhong Shan on the Chinese side, made good on that agreement.

But any sense of relief from external observers was short-lived. Less than a day after the White House called the Wednesday talks “constructive,” Trump took to Twitter to announce that he would be rolling out new 10 percent tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods – effectively placing tariffs on every single export China sends to the United States.

China’s New Carrier to Begin New Round of Sea Trials This Week

By Franz-Stefan Gady

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) first domestically designed and built aircraft carrier, the Type 002 (CV-17), which has yet to be named, is expected to begin another set of sea trials this Thursday, according to media reports.

The South China Morning Post cites a statement by the Liaoning Maritime Safety Administration saying that a naval exercise would take place in a designated zone in the north of the Yellow Sea between August 1 and 5. Given the proximity of the sealed off zone to the home base of the new carrier at the Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Company (DSIC) shipyard in the port of Dalian in China’s Liaoning province, naval analysts assume that it is indicative of a new round of sea trials that will likely test the carrier’s propulsion system and electronic communication systems, next to others.

It is assumed that the sea trials will be conducted by PLAN officers.

How Beijing and Others Weaponized Interpol and the Magnitsky Act

By Rob Edens

As the Hong Kong protests continue this summer, they have now clearly morphed into an expression of wider, deep-seated discontent about Beijing’s seemingly unstoppable encroachment on the former British territory. The authorities have geared up in anticipation of escalating violence, sparked by a controversial extradition bill that would have opened an avenue for detainees to be sent across the border into China’s opaque and politicized legal system. Though now shelved, the extradition bill offers a picture-perfect representation of Beijing’s approach to dealing with dissidents.

The Chinese government relies on legal institutions to not only enforce its version of the “rule by law,” but also to legitimize otherwise arbitrary and legally dubious measures. In a press conference on Hong Kong, Chinese authorities made Beijing’s red line clear: “unlawful acts are unlawful.” But well beyond Hong Kong’s borders, China has made prolific use of institutions like Interpol – meant to facilitate international policing cooperation and bring fugitives to justice – to instead track down and punish those who have fallen afoul of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

About that Counter-Iran Coalition…

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The Trump administration called for help, but Washington's friends have shrugged and calculated it is safer to stay away from "maximum pressure." There is a better way.

What if the United States threw a party and no one came? It is finding out in the Persian Gulf, where Trump administration’s calls to unite to counter Iranian aggression are being met with caution, circumspection and shrugs.

The reason is not fear of the Iranians. Instead, it is a calculus by Washington’s allies and partners that they may be safer staying far away from whatever the United States really intends and what they might be drawn into.

The Iranian government seems to be pursuing a policy that keeps tensions in the Gulf simmering but not boiling. The goal is to create a crisis but not a war. Iran is trying to force the world to engage with it and seeking to thumb its nose at the U.S.“maximum pressure” campaign that threatens any multinational that does business with the Islamic Republic. 

Houthi attack kills more than 30 in Yemen's Aden, Saudi blames Iran

Fawaz Salman, Mohammed Ghobari

ADEN (Reuters) - Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement launched missile and drone attacks on Thursday on a military parade in Aden, the seat of government and a stronghold of the Saudi-led military coalition, killing 36 people according to the interior ministry.

Soldiers carry the injured following a missile attack on a military parade during a graduation ceremony for newly recruited troopers in Aden, Yemen August 1, 2019. REUTERS/Fawaz Salman

An explosion hit a military camp belonging to the Yemeni Security Belt forces backed by the United Arab Emirates, which is a member of the Western-backed coalition battling the Houthis, a Reuters witness said.

Soldiers screamed and ran to lift the wounded and place them on trucks. Red berets lay on the ground in pools of blood as several soldiers cried near the body of a commander who was a leading figure among southern separatists.

Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed and Saudi Arabia’s envoy to Yemen accused Iran of being behind the parade attack and a separate blast at a police station, also in the southern port city on Thursday, involving an explosives-laden car.

How Raqqa Became the Capital of ISIS

Nate Rosenblatt, David Kilcullen

Syria’s northern city of Raqqa served as the seat of power for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) for four years, marking it as the center of one of the most bloody and complex proxy wars of the 21st century. During that time, multiple state sponsors, including Russia, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United States, lent support to armed groups seeking to wrest the ancient city from the Caliphate’s control.

Yet, to understand the war against ISIS in Raqqa, one has to understand how ISIS came to control the city in the first place. Based on field observations and hundreds of interviews conducted, we describe how Raqqa changed hands three times in 2013. First, it was controlled by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, then it became the first provincial capital captured by the Syrian opposition, and finally, it was seized by ISIS, which made it the capital of their short-lived Caliphate. This dramatic year illustrates key elements of the complexity of Syria’s ongoing proxy conflict.

Combating disinformation and foreign interference in democracies: Lessons from Europe

Margaret L. Taylor

This post is part of "Cybersecurity and Election Interference," a Brookings series that explores digital threats to American democracy, cybersecurity risks in elections, and ways to mitigate possible problems.

European democracies have been coping with foreign interference for longer than the United States, and the primary threat to European democracies comes from Russia. Following consolidation of his power within Russia in the early 2000s, President Vladimir Putin turned his attention to the former states of the Soviet Union and the former Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. His goal was to peel those countries away from Western-style democracy and return them to Russia’s coercive sphere of influence. Later, Putin turned to weakening the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU)—bringing Western European democracies and the United States squarely into his sights. Russian disinformation campaigns are used to discredit politicians and democratic institutions like elections and independent media.

Growing Tensions and Shrinking Affordability in Russia

In early July, the Moscow Election Commission denied the requests of several opposition politicians to register as candidates for the Moscow city council elections, which are scheduled to take place Sept. 8. Protesters took to the streets beginning July 14, but considering the state of the economy and politics in Russia, they have more than just local elections to protest. The opposition has stated that it will continue to hold marches each Saturday, with the next scheduled for Aug. 3. The Kremlin will likely continue responding as it has been – with force.

Russia’s Unusual Role in the Global Order

Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia has demonstrated that it has the capacity to destablize the international order, but not the capacity to fill the vacuum it is creating. Learn more when you subscribe to World Politics Review (WPR).

Russia occupies an unusual position on the world stage. Under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow has repeatedly demonstrated that it has the capacity to destabilize the international order, but not the capacity to fill the vacuum it is creating. While Russia lacks the military strength to challenge U.S. supremacy, no one—particularly not the NATO alliance—is ignoring its capabilities. Moscow’s use of arms sales and military engagements to build ties to countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America has also attracted attention. And its massive, and growing, exports of fossil fuels to Europe offers Russia additional leverage.

Even as Moscow maintains an outsized influence on the global stage, discontent is brewing at home. Putin has dominated the Russian political scene for more than two decades, but his popularity is waning amid a slowing economy and a deeply unpopular pension reform effort. That may open space for his long-suffering political opponents to call attention to the corruption and violence that have marked his tenure.

Student Feature – Advice on Writing for a Think Tank

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Editors of think tank publications in the Social Sciences often encourage students and professionals to develop and share original analyses and opinions on contemporary issues around the world. However, deciding which think tank to publish an op-ed or short essay with can be daunting even for the most experienced Social Science scholars. It is important to understand what a think-tank ought to do before deciding which think tank to publish with. 

What should a think tank do?

Every year the University of Pennsylvania publishes a global think tank ranking which sparks a massive debate. Successful NGOs see in the ranking a validation of their good work, others use it for promotional purposes, critics regard it as a cheat sheet, while media and commentators critically assess the limits and the merits of such rankings.

The Techies Turning Kenya Into a Silicon Savannah

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People hunched over greasy computer screens, crunching data, writing code: The scenes in Janek Stroisch’s photographic series Co.Ke are familiar to anyone who's ever been to a coffee shop in Silicon Valley. But this isn’t San Francisco. It’s Nairobi, in Kenya’s Silicon Savannah.

Kenya's $1 billion tech hub is home to more than 200 startups, as well as established firms like IBM, Intel and Microsoft. They're working to solve problems through tech, though here the problems are a little different than finding a parking spot or getting your laundry folded. The company BRCK, for instance, is connecting off-the-grid schools to the internet through solar-powered routers and tablets. AB3D turns electronic waste into affordable 3D printers that spit out artificial limbs. According to Stroisch, AB3D founder Roy Mwangi "wants Kenya to be understood as a country that has innovation and creative potential."

US urges Germany to reconsider Persian Gulf mission

BERLIN — Washington isn't happy that Germany has rejected its request to join a U.S.-led naval security mission in the Persian Gulf.

America’s ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell urged Berlin to consider its responsibilities, telling the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper that “America has sacrificed a lot to help Germany remain a part of the West." Pointing to the fact Germany is the largest economic power in Europe, he added: “This success brings with it global responsibilities.”

Washington has formally asked Germany to participate in its mission to secure the Strait of Hormuz alongside Britain and France.

But German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday during a trip to Warsaw that "the German government will not take part in the sea mission presented and planned by the United States," German media reported. Maas added that Germany is in "close coordination with our French partners."

CII urges govt. to lower base price for 5G spectrum auctions

High price will halt accelerated growth of the sector and deter adoption of telecom services by the masses, it says.

Industry body CII on Sunday urged the government to lower the base price for 5G spectrum, saying the high price of such radiowaves will halt accelerated growth of the sector and deter adoption of telecom services by the masses.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) cautioned that participation of Indian telecom companies may be severely constrained in the upcoming auction for 5G spectrum due to low average revenue per user, and added that high reserve prices could further subdue this.

In a representation submitted to the government, the CII made a case for a lower 5G spectrum reserve price, the auction for which is expected to be held later this year.

“India’s telecommunication sector has achieved global recognition for the speed of its growth and has the lowest tariffs in the world, ensuring access for poor users and in remote geographies. High reserve prices of spectrum will halt this accelerated growth and deter uptake of telecom services by poorer sections of society,” the CII said in a statement.

But What About China?


There was a post-superpower quality to this week’s Democratic debates. On both nights, foreign policy came up near the end, and the discussion focused mostly on the need to withdraw U.S.troops from Afghanistan, avoid war with Iran and, in Michael Bennet’s words, “invest in America again.” That’s fine, as far as it goes. But there was strikingly little discussion about America’s role in upholding a particular balance of power in the world. It was almost as if these Democratic candidates were running for prime minister of Canada.

That’s a problem, because the United States is trying to uphold a particular balance of power, even as the economic and military might of China keeps growing. Washington is now pursuing roughly the same grand strategy that ended in war with Japan in 1941: preventing any single Asian power from dominating the Western Pacific. China is challenging that effort. And unless the world’s two superpowers accommodate each other, that challenge could lead to war.

What kind of accommodations would Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, or Joe Biden make to avoid that? Would they fight for Taiwan or for American access through the South China Sea, the two places where World War III is most likely to break out? No debate watcher would have any idea. China came up 16 times during Tuesday night’s debate—every time in the context of trade. But in the section of the evening devoted to national security, it wasn’t mentioned once. Things were much the same on Wednesday night: eight mentions of China, seven about trade and one stray reference by Tulsi Gabbard to “nuclear-armed countries like Russia and China and North Korea.”

Hackers Could Use Connected Cars to Gridlock Whole Cities

In the year 2026, at rush hour, your self-driving car abruptly shuts down right where it blocks traffic. You climb out to see gridlock down every street in view, then a news alert on your watch tells you that hackers have paralyzed all Manhattan traffic by randomly stranding internet-connected cars.

Flashback to July 2019, the dawn of autonomous vehicles and other connected cars, and physicists at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Multiscale Systems, Inc. have applied physics in a new study to simulate what it would take for future hackers to wreak exactly this widespread havoc by randomly stranding these cars. The researchers want to expand the current discussion on automotive cybersecurity, which mainly focuses on hacks that could crash one car or run over one pedestrian, to include potential mass mayhem.

They warn that even with increasingly tighter cyber defenses, the amount of data breached has soared in the past four years, but objects becoming hackable can convert the rising cyber threat into a potential physical menace.

When Trump Threatens Google, Here’s What He Doesn’t Get

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Days after the Treasury Secretary cleared the U.S. tech giant of national security concerns, the president was rage-tweeting again.

Google’s relationship with China may threaten national security, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday, contradicting his own Treasury Secretary’s recent assurances that the limited work done by the U.S. tech giant on the Chinese mainland poses no such threat.

“There may or may not be National Security concerns with regard to Google and their relationship with China. If there is a problem, we will find out about it. I sincerely hope there is not!!”Trump tweeted.

That came two days after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that his department had determined that Google’s work in was “very minimal,” concerned only “open source” technology that it presented no national security concerns. 

Cyber Capabilities Are Not Weapons of War? A Closer Look at the Analogy to Biological Weapons

by David P. Fidler
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In an important contribution, Jeffrey T. Biller and Michael N. Schmitt argue that cyber capabilities are not “weapons” or “means of warfare,” but can be “methods of warfare” under international humanitarian law (IHL). These conclusions challenge the prevailing notion, contained in the Tallinn Manual 2.0 on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations, that cyber capabilities can be weapons and means of warfare. Biller’s and Schmitt’s claim is that, unlike other military technologies, cyber capabilities do not cause direct harm to people or property. “Having a damage mechanism with the ability to directly inflict the damaging or injurious terminal effect on a target is,” they write, “the litmus test for qualification as a means of warfare.” When computer code is deployed, “the harmful effects are . . . indirect; they are not terminal vis-à-vis the code.” Harmful effects directly arise from the operation of the target system infected with the code, rather than from the code itself. “Therefore,” they conclude, “computer code and associated systems cannot qualify as means of warfare.”

Two Ways to Ward off Killer Spacecraft


One is diplomatic; the other, technological.

If you worry that the recent near-collision between U.S. and Russian warships or Iran’s downing of an American drone could escalate into war, you should be even more worried about enemy actions against our U.S. satellites.

On June 7, an American guided missile cruiser and a Russian destroyer nearly collided in the Philippine Sea. Cmdr. Clay Doss, spokesman for the U.S. 7th Fleet in Japan said the Russian ship came from behind and “accelerated and closed to an unsafe distance” of about 50 to 100 feet. Russian state media retortedthat “the US cruiser Chancellorsville suddenly changed its course and crossed the Admiral Vinogradov destroyer’s course some 50 meters [160 feet] away from the ship.” The incident shows that the minimum safe distance of 3,000 feet enshrined in maritime law is necessary but insufficient to keep warships safe; also needed is a transparent rule to promptly determine who is at fault so that the at-fault party can take corrective action to avoid collision and the victimized party, defensive action to protect its ship. 

Cold War in Cyberspace

by Ky Krauthamer

The dramatic assertions in a U.S. Senate report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election got major play in the U.S. media. And no wonder: the report relayed intelligence assessments that Russian government hackers scanned electoral systems in all 50 states, looking for weaknesses to exploit.

The report also noted that U.S. intelligence suspected Russian hackers were prepared to launch a disinformation drive on social media in the event that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was elected.

Russian meddling reportedly continued as the 2018 midterm elections neared, when, according to the Department of Homeland Security, “numerous actors are regularly targeting election infrastructure, likely for different purposes, including to cause disruptive effects, steal sensitive data, and undermine confidence in the election.”

Lessons from Special Operations Command: Cyber training for the multidomain force

By: Jennifer McArdle

Since U.S. Cyber Command’s elevation to a unified combatant command in 2018, comparisons have been drawn to Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

Modeled on SOCOM, Cyber Command now possesses unique authorities, both for acquisitions and force deployments. SOCOM also provides instructive lessons, however, when conceptualizing how best to train and fight as an integrated force. As Cyber Command celebrates its 10th anniversary and reflects on its path ahead, cyber training should be updated to better reflect the U.S. military’s reorientation towards multidomain operations.

In 2012, Cyber Command announced the creation of its Cyber Mission Forces, tasking those future teams with safeguarding Department of Defense information networks, cyber support of military operations, and buttressing the defense of United States critical infrastructure from adversarial cyber operations.

Attracting, Recruiting, and Retaining Successful Cyberspace Operations Officers

by Chaitra M. Hardison
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Cybersecurity is one of the most serious security challenges the United States faces. Information networks are central to the functioning of all major weapons systems and critical to day-to-day operations in the Air Force. Offensive cyber capabilities are also central to the Air Force mission.

While many factors ultimately contribute to mission success in these cyberspace domains, one area that directly impacts the Air Force's ability to achieve its cyber mission is its officer workforce, and many are concerned with the current health and future state of that workforce.

The Air Force is facing a large shortage of field grade cyberspace operations officers, in the near and long term, raising concerns about retention now and in the future. In addition, the Air Force may face stiff competition from the private sector in attracting and retaining top cyber talent. Finally, because many receive highly technical training from the Air Force that further increases their marketability, the Air Force is concerned it may lose talented personnel to the private sector.

How to best protect military industrial control systems from cyberattacks

By: Mike Walsh 
Industrial control systems (ICS) enable the oversight of functions such as power, water supply and facilities at our military bases. Even more critically, they provide support that, without which, our mission systems simply would not work. And, more than ever, we’re recognizing that these systems are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Securing them in cyberspace is just as important to mission readiness as physically securing weapon systems on a flight line, in a sea port or at an ammunition depot.

I recently discussed this issue at the 2019 Defense Communities National Summit in a panel session titled “Protecting Industrial Control Systems and What You Need to Know.” The Department of Defense relies on an estimated 2.5 million industrial control systems in more than 300,000 buildings for the real-time, automated monitoring and management of utility and industrial systems which support military readiness and operations. It is in our national interest to ensure these systems are safeguarded. However, they are highly vulnerable.

Policy Failure and Unipolarity on the Eve of Operation Desert Storm


In this essay, I examine the build up to Operation Desert Storm (17 January 1991–28 February 1991), the war waged by a United States (US)-led coalition of 35 states against Iraq, arguing that its causes can be divided into primary and secondary factors. The primary cause, Iraq’s decision to invade Kuwait, should be viewed as the triggering factor, whereas the three secondary ones, namely the ambiguous United States (US)–Iraq diplomatic relations at the time, Gorbachev’s “new thinking” approach and the almost non-existent opposition from Near Eastern countries, were all instrumental either in speeding up the decision-making or in creating consensus around the campaign.

In the first section I address the primary cause for Desert Storm, giving a background on Iraqi economics and politics before Saddam’s decision to invade Kuwait together and its implications for the region. Then, I turn to the secondary causes. First, I illustrate US–Iraq diplomatic relations at the time, with specific reference to the infamous Glaspie cable, arguing that ambiguity on the part of the United States might have increased Saddam’s confidence and therefore accelerated his decision to invade Kurawi. Subsequently, I look at the USSR, pointing out how its identity crisis triggered by the 1989 revolutions gave rise to the “unipolar moment” (Krauthammer, 1990) in international politics, which removed Soviet opposition to military intervention. I then focus on the Near East, where, because of a complex interplay of strategic interests, strong public support for Saddam was thwarted by national governments, which either remained neutral or chimed in the criticism of Iraq. I argue that this unexpected development helped building consensus around the righteousness of the Gulf War.