25 October 2019

ISIS Terror Plans for Asia are Scary: Is India Ready to Foil Them?


The threat of the Islamic State (IS) in Asia has reached a new high after the fall of the physical Caliphate, with the loss of Baghouz, Syria on March 23 this year. Although IS lost its territorial control, its leadership—headed by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi—is alive. It is entering a new phase to spread its influence and operations worldwide.

With 63 percent of Muslims living in Asia, the region is a big target for IS, in both the Asian physical and cyber space. Asian governments are underprepared or unprepared to fight the threat. With its losses in Iraq and Syria, IS decentralized by dispatching nearly 100 operatives, both Iraqi and foreign, to its wilayahs (provinces) and other countries with support networks.

Afghanistan: IS Will Soon Make it an Important Base

The Logic of Staying in Afghanistan and the Logic of Getting Out

By Carter Malkasian 
Editor’s Note: Afghanistan is America’s longest war, and recent attempts to negotiate an end with the Taliban appear to have failed, at least for now. Many Americans are asking whether it is worth staying in Afghanistan as the war drags on. Carter Malkasian, one of America’s premier Afghanistan experts, examines the most important argument for staying—that Afghanistan might again be a haven for anti-American terrorist groups—and from there raises questions that should guide policymakers considering a withdrawal.

Why is the United States in Afghanistan today, 18 years after it first intervened on Oct. 7, 2001? As much as nation-building features in the news, the straightforward answer from senior U.S. officials has been the terrorist threat, as Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated in 2017 Senate hearings: “We must always remember, we are in Afghanistan to make America safer and ensure South Asia cannot be used to plot transnational attacks against the U.S. homeland or our partners and allies.” Yet the U.S. strategy to achieve this goal, for many, is unconvincing. Sen. Elizabeth Warren bluntly argued in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary debate: “What we’re doing right now in Afghanistan is not helping the safety and security of the United States. It is not helping the safety and security of the world. It is not helping the safety and security of Afghanistan.” This post seeks to better explain the logic of U.S. presence in Afghanistan and thus clarify the cases for whether or not American troops need to stay in the country indefinitely.

Terrorism and Counterterrorism in Afghanistan

Islamic State Affiliate Seeks to Expand in Afghanistan

By Andrew Mines, Amira Jadoon 

Afghan intelligence officials reportedly captured a deputy leader of the Islamic State-Khorasan (the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan, also referred to as ISK) near the city of Herat in September. Herat is more than 1,000 kilometers west of ISK’s stronghold in Nangarhar province, and much of Herat province and the surrounding region is contested by the Taliban. While details on the captured ISK leader remain vague, it is highly likely that his presence in Afghanistan’s west signals that the group is attempting to expand into Taliban-contested areas and draw defectors under the shadow of Taliban-U.S. negotiations.

ISK’s influence and size have persevered if not grown, despite intense fighting with its Taliban rivals and efforts by the United States and its Afghan and NATO partners to crush the group throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan. The group’s resilience in the face of extensive leadership targeting is due partly to its ability to forge alliances with other local and regional militant groups. Sending a high-ranking leader on a recruitment mission far from its base of support was a risky gamble and indicates both ISK’s sustained organizational capacity and its ambition to expand beyond the confines of Afghanistan’s east.

Taliban Say New Intra-Afghan Peace Talks to be Held in China

by Kathy Gannon 
Source Link

A fresh round of intra-Afghan peace talks will be held in China next week, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said Tuesday, raising hopes for renewed negotiations, even as violence surges in Afghanistan's 18-year war.

The talks planned for Oct. 28 and 29 will be the first meeting between Taliban and prominent Afghans from Kabul since a July round of talks held in Doha, the capital of the Middle Eastern State of Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office.

On Monday, the U.S. State Department said its peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, started a fresh round of talks with European, NATO and U.N. allies about ending the war…

Compromise Is Still (Just About) Possible in Hong Kong

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With the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China now past, the period of greatest danger is upon Hong Kong.

Beijing, no longer worried about spoiling the festivities, might be more inclined to use force against Hong Kong. Of course, there are many good reasons for Beijing to resist that urge, including damage to China’s “peaceful rise” narrative and a high probability that long-term protests are unsustainable. So long as Hong Kong remains in crisis, however, the possibility of Chinese military intervention cannot be dismissed. The beleaguered chief executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, acknowledged as much herself by refusing to rule out the possibility of Chinese military intervention.

At the heart of the protest movement are “five key demands, not one less”: permanent withdrawal of the draft extradition law that sparked the protests; an end to describing the protests as riots; a full and independent inquiry into alleged police brutality against the protesters; unconditional release of all imprisoned activists; and political reforms to achieve genuine universal suffrage.

Why America must boldly win the technological race against China


We are in the midst of a heated global competition. The race to take leadership in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and 5G networks will determine the future balance of geopolitical power. Where the United States and its partners once enjoyed a clear edge, that advantage can no longer be assumed. China is racing ahead at full speed and trying to steal a march on a distracted United States in order to claim unrivaled technology leadership during the 21st century. We cannot afford to lose this critical competition.

The Chinese model for achieving technological superiority is a clear and present danger. Through a sheltered domestic market, forced technology transfers by Western companies, outright industrial espionage, and intellectual property theft, China is forging technology champions designed to compete with and surpass their international competitors. Through legal mandates that force corporate cooperation with security and intelligence organs, Chinese technology companies serve as the eyes and ears of Beijing in a digital global economy. This model appeals to despots around the world, while cheap prices appeal to everyone else. Make no mistake of the existential stakes as to whether open societies or authoritarian regimes will set the course of the technological future.

China’s Economic Growth Slows to a 30-Year Low. But Is It the U.S. Trade War?

By Eamon Barrett

China released a raft of economic data Friday morning, but the headline figure was 6%. That’s the rate of GDP growth in the third quarter as compared to the same period last year, and it’s lower than the 6.1% growth analysts polled by Reuters had anticipated. In fact, it’s China’s lowest quarterly economic growth since records began 27 years ago in 1992.

However, the data wasn’t all bad, a result that Beijing touted in its announcement of the numbers. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s industrial output rose 5.8% in September, up from a 17-year low in August, and retail sales jumped 7.8% year-on-year last month, too.

“The national economy is generally stable, the economic structure is continuously optimized, and people’s livelihood and welfare are continuously improved,” Mao Shengyong, the spokesperson for China’s National Bureau of Statistics said during a news briefing, adding that the economy is still facing “downturn pressure.”

But is that pressure—and China's slowing growth—coming from the trade war?
Don't mention the White House

Restraint and the Rise of China

By Peter Harris

Two big ideas threaten to overturn decades of conventional wisdom about how U.S. power should be used overseas. The first idea is a general admonition that the United States should give up its role as guardian of the liberal international order and adopt a more circumscribed grand strategy of restraint. The second is an emerging consensus that America’s leaders should reverse the trend toward economic integration with China and should instead implement a policy of economic, political, and military containment of Beijing’s growing geopolitical clout. Each idea seems to be gaining traction with elected officials in both parties. The only problem is that the ideas might be incompatible.

Calls for restraint

The argument that the United States should severely curtail its overseas commitments is gathering steam in America’s foreign-policy community. It is easy to see why. After 9/11, the United States began a significant program of military interventionism meant to stamp out foreign threats to U.S. national security. Around 7,000 U.S. soldiers have died in those wars -- most of them in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also in warzones such as Syria, Libya, and Yemen. These wars have also cost taxpayers more than $5.9 trillion. Despite these efforts, international terrorism remains an enduring and evolving threat, raising serious doubts about whether endless warfighting has done anything to improve U.S. national security.

How a Chinese Invasion of Taiwan Could Destabilize Japan

By Travis Sanderson

Taiwan’s reclamation has been a cornerstone of Beijing’s mission for “national rejuvenation” since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) successfully assumed power over mainland China in 1949. Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated the point in his National Day Address on October 1, 2019. Due to both Taiwan’s highly-developed military defenses and preparedness, many analysts have indicated that successful reunification by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in a hypothetical invasion is far less certain than is commonly assumed – even without U.S. intervention to defend Taiwan. Yet while commentators have analyzed the likelihood of forced reunification, few have written about one consequence of such an attempted reunification: a Taiwanese refugee crisis. 

In the event of an invasion, as soon as the Chinese army moves and Taiwan’s government declares an emergency state, Taiwanese citizens with financial resources will begin to flee the island. Recent polls illustrate that 65.4 percent of Taiwanese citizens do not believe Taiwan can repel a Chinese invasion, despite evidence to the contrary. Arguably many will write off Taiwan’s military capabilities and flee immediately; others, even in the event of a PLA failure, would depart in the ensuing weeks to avoid further danger. 

China’s Missile Might: Strategy Power Projection

By Mercy A. Kuo

Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into the U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Dr. Antoine Bondaz — program director and research fellow at the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS) and associate professor at Sciences Po – is the 209th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.” 

Assess the symbolism and substance of China’s 70th anniversary military parade. 

Since Xi Jinping came to power, there has been an increase in the frequency of military parades, which are increasingly used to remind the Army’s loyalty to the Party, exalt the population’s nationalist sentiment, and introduce new military equipment. This October 1st parade is no exception and we have described it, in a recent publication, as “a revealing example of Chinese strategic power.”

What Trump Gets Wrong About War Against the Islamic State

by Robert Burns 
Source Link
President Donald Trump has made several incorrect or misleading statements about the five-year battle against the Islamic State group as he seeks to end what he calls "endless wars" and explain an abrupt abandonment of America's Kurdish partners in the face of a Turkish offensive.

He has gotten his facts wrong on at least five key points about the conflict…

Great Powers Invest in Infrastructure. The West Was the Prime Example.

By Ian Morris

How the West responds to its eroding strategic lead in building, updating and replacing infrastructure will do much to shape the 21st century.

As Western governments struggle to find ways to invest in infrastructure, China talks of spending up to $8 trillion in overseas projects through its Belt and Road Initiative.

The associated infrastructure costs of new technologies are great, the investment risky. But the payoffs are greater and the failure to invest is riskier.

For the past 250 years, it has been easier to move people, goods, capital and ideas around the West than anywhere else on earth. Western Europe and North America have led the way not just in inventing new technologies of transport and communication, but also — and equally importantly — in building the infrastructure without which these technologies would be useless. The West has sunk astonishing amounts of energy and capital into updating and replacing its infrastructure, over and over again, as new technologies have emerged.

Having the best infrastructure has been a key to global dominance since the 18th century, but in the early 21st, there are alarming signs the West is losing its strategic lead. Everywhere, infrastructure is creaking and crumbling. Every part of the system seems to be getting old at the same time. How the West deals with this challenge — or, perhaps, opportunity — will do much to shape the geoeconomics and geopolitics of the 21st century.

The Frustrations of Aging Infrastructure

Fragments Through a Straw, Darkly: #Reviewing Drone

Olivia Garard
Source Link

A title, like a cover, is a book’s first impression. It sets the tone, orienting the reader in a particular conceptual frame. It evokes analogies and suggests expectations that authors may then subvert. Naming a work, a piece, or a child is essential to the vital act of creation.


Here—locked between its denotation and connotation—I found myself trapped. Don’t judge a book by its cover, we are cautioned. Equally, we have a corollary: Don’t judge a book by its title. 

Well, I did. 

I should have written this review over a year ago when I had finished Kim Garcia’s 2016 poetry collection. Even then, I was delinquent, dragging my feet, as I was, to even begin reading Drone. I needed the extra time. My thoughts about this work and the world to which it refers are unruly. All symptoms, perhaps, of writer’s block. But I’m here now, carrying my baggage, ready to unpack.

I hated it. Or—let me be clear—I did at first. 

Turkey’s Crackdown on Kurdish Mayors Could Backfire

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In the run-up to Turkey’s ongoing operation against Kurdish nationalist forces in northern Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan presided over a sweeping crackdown on Kurdish mayors in Turkey, justified by the same impetus: connections to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

In Turkey, support for the PKK, which Ankara and Washington consider a terrorist group, has long been grounds for dismissal or imprisonment. But what exactly constitutes support is subject to the state’s discretion, and the line is by no means fixed. Instead, it ebbs and flows, determined by developments in the ongoing conflict between the government and Kurdish separatists—or by the election cycle. Now, among members of the mainstream opposition, objections to these erratic policies, and the damage they have done to the country’s democracy, have begun to mount—for good reason. For the first time, politicians with no ties to Kurdish politics have begun to express fear that Erdogan might apply the same tactics more broadly, against anyone who opposed him. And pushing out popularly elected Kurdish politicians could backfire, making peace even harder to achieve.

How a Weaponized Dollar Could Backfire


CAMBRIDGE – The language of international monetary policy has turned militaristic. The phrase “currency war” has now been popular for a decade, and the United States government’s more recent “weaponization” of the dollar is generating controversy. But ironically, a martial approach could end up threatening the US currency’s global dominance.

This is a good time to gauge the relative strengths of the dollar and rival international currencies (meaning currencies that are used outside their home countries). In September, the Bank for International Settlements released its triennial survey of turnover in global foreign-exchange markets. The International Monetary Fund’s statistics on central-bank holdings of foreign-exchange reserves have become much more reliable since China began reporting its holdings. And the SWIFT payments system issues monthly data on the use of major currencies in international transactions.

The bottom line is that the US dollar remains in first place by a wide margin, followed by the euro, the yen, and the pound sterling. Some 47% of global payments currently are in dollars, compared to 31% in euros. Furthermore, 88% of foreign-exchange trading involves the dollar, almost three times the euro’s share (32%). And central banks hold 62% of their reserves in dollars, compared to just 20% in euros. The dollar also dominates on other measures of currency use in trade and finance.

Assessing past and future strategies for reducing poverty in Africa

Louise Fox

Assessing past and future strategies for reducing poverty in Africa

When the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were announced in 2015, it was clear that success on SDG1—eradication of extreme poverty—depended on Africa’s performance. Recent forecasts from the United Nations and the World Bank suggest that Africa is not going to make it.

We should all be concerned, but what can be done? The recent World Bank study, Accelerating Poverty Reduction in Africa, offers governments and stakeholders both new suggestions as well as new takes on old recommendations, providing a clear if bumpy road map for future strategies and intervention designs. Despite its length, the report is well worth our time. I have no doubt that it will serve as a key reference volume in the coming years.

Former Chief Economist - USAID

Why has poverty in Africa stayed so stubbornly high despite record economic growth? According to the report, three main reasons: (i) less of Africa’s growth translates into poverty reduction because of high initial poverty, including low asset levels and limited access to public services, which prevent households from taking advantage of opportunities; (ii) Africa’s increasing reliance on natural resources for income growth rather than agricultural and rural development excludes the 85 percent of the poor population living in rural areas; and (iii) Africa’s high fertility and resulting high population growth mean that even high growth translates into less income per person—a point too often ignored in discussions on the sub-continent and in Washington.

US Marines Try Using Drones to Bring Blood to Battle

Source Link

The light unmanned aircraft made hundreds of supply drops during recent Australian live-fire wargames.

In August, over the dusty fields of Australia, highly autonomous drones made more than 380 deliveries of blood and other medical supplies to troops amid a live-fire exercise with U.S., Australian, and other forces.

The drones were from a small startup called Zipline, hired by the Defense Innovation Unit and the Naval Medical Research Center’s Naval Advanced Medical Development to show how next-generation delivery drones could bring medical and other supplies to the front lines. Over a set of four exercises — Bundey I, Koolendong-19, Bundey II, and Crocodile Response — the Zipline drones flew under live rounds to drop small parachute bundles at their destinations. All told, they flew 461 day and night sorties and made 381 drops. It was the first time a U.S. Marine Air-Ground Task Force had incorporated autonomous drone delivery into their high availability, disaster recovery planning

Fighting Continues in Syria Despite Cease-Fire Agreement

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The United States and Turkey agreed Thursday to a temporary cease-fire in northern Syria that appeared to hand Ankara a major victory in its campaign to remove Kurdish fighters from its southern border. 

But just hours after the announcement, reports emerged that Turkey continues to attack Kurdish fighters and civilian settlements in the border town of Ras al-Ain, apparently in violation of the ceasefire. Turkish-backed forces targeted a Kurdish medical convoy and an American aid organization trying to get into the town to evacuate wounded civilians, according to a Syrian conflict monitor.

Nine days into Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria, Ankara agreed to pause military operations for 120 hours while the United States facilitates the withdrawal of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from a 20-mile safe zone along the border, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announced in a press conference in Ankara on Oct. 17. Once the Kurdish fighters, which Turkey views as terrorists, are removed from the area, Ankara will implement a permanent cease-fire, Pence said. 

10 Ways America’s Situation in the Middle East Will Get Worse

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The twin crises in Syria and Iraq are altering the region’s battlefields and geopolitical dynamics. Russia, Turkey, Iran, the Assad regime, and ISIS are sweeping in as U.S. troops withdraw from northeastern Syria. In neighboring Iraq, widespread popular protests are creating military and political opportunities for Iran and its proxies. Here are some of the grim implications for U.S. national security: 

The United States will be less able to target terrorists planning external attacks from Syria. The American military withdrawal cedes greater control over Syria’s airspace to the Russian military. Airstrikes have been the primary weapon the U.S. employs against terrorists in Syria plotting attacks against the West. The time it takes to de-conflict airspace with the Russians, when combined with the loss of on-the-ground visibility, will limit the efficacy of future airstrikes. The U.S. will cede the information space as well, enabling terrorists to communicate more freely. Jihadists will have greater freedom of action as they guide regional affiliates and direct global attacks. 


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Paul Krugman has never suffered fools gladly. The Nobel Prize-winning economist rose to international fame—and a coveted space on the New York Times op-ed page—by lacerating his intellectual opponents in the most withering way. In a series of books and articles beginning in the 1990s, Krugman branded just about everybody who questioned the rapid pace of globalization a fool who didn’t understand economics very well. “Silly” was a word Krugman used a lot to describe pundits who raised fears of economic competition from other nations, especially China. Don’t worry about it, he said: Free trade will have only minor impact on your prosperity.

Now Krugman has come out and admitted, offhandedly, that his own understanding of economics has been seriously deficient as well. In a recent essay titled “What Economists (Including Me) Got Wrong About Globalization,” adapted from a forthcoming book on inequality, Krugman writes that he and other mainstream economists “missed a crucial part of the story” in failing to realize that globalization would lead to “hyperglobalization” and huge economic and social upheaval, particularly of the industrial middle class in America. And many of these working-class communities have been hit hard by Chinese competition, which economists made a “major mistake” in underestimating, Krugman says.

How to Protect America After the Syria Withdrawal


We warned two weeks ago about the danger of abandoning America’s Kurdish-led partner force in Syria, even as thousands of suspected ISIS fighters remain in detention and ISIS attacks steadily increase. This week, with a U.S. withdrawal from northern Syria well under way, and after days of a Turkish assault on the region that’s now supposedly paused despite reports of serious cease-fire violations, we’re facing a new set of problems. Today, though, the U.S. has far less control over what happens—and the continued fighting and uncertainty will benefit ISIS and ISIS alone.

So what now? The U.S. still needs to keep ISIS from threatening U.S. interests, even as it manages the departure of American troops and tries to help create a path forward through the new dynamics on the ground. But what can the U.S. do to mitigate any potential for ISIS resurgence or escape? And what pressure can the U.S. bring to truly halt the Turkish offensive and promote a peaceful dialogue?

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been maintaining a network of prisons in northern Syria that keep suspected ISIS fighters off the battlefield. Since the Turkish incursion against Kurdish forces, though, incredibly alarming media reports say dozens of ISIS detainees and family members have escaped from these facilities in the chaos, and the potential for an ISIS resurgence or insurgency—in areas only recently liberated from the group’s control—is the top threat facing the U.S. and its coalition partners.

Japan in a New Northeast Asian Security Environment

Yacqub Ismail and Eleanor Shiori Otsuka Hughes

In September 27th, Japan’s Ministry of Defense published its annual defense white paper, which reflects Tokyo’s strategic views into the current security environment, developments and challenges to Japan’s geopolitical position and also indicates Tokyo’s strategic priorities. What made the headlines in the press was Japan’s decision to position China as a ‘strategic threat’ to Tokyo ahead of North Korea, which despite the ongoing, but unproductive U.S.-North Korea dialogue to achieve denuclearization continues, Pyongyang still continues to test short-range ballistic missiles that have the potential to threaten Japan’s homeland. But this was not a surprise. While North Korea remains an imminent threat to Japan, it is not a real surprise that Tokyo considers China a threat, due to Beijing’s military modernization, economic development for the last few decades, and the nature of the bilateral Sino-Japanese relationship. This piece will focus on Japan’s outlook in the security environment of Northeast Asia as the Defense White Paper states, with a particular focus on Japan’s relations with North and South Korea, as well as China and Russia.

North Korea



In the age of Huawei, the Belt and Road Initiative, and China's state-sponsored companies, we need the U.S. Export-Import (EXIM) Bank more than ever.

The EXIM Bank, an independent agency, provides government-backed financing for those looking to export goods and services from the United States. Since the 1930s, it has helped grow the U.S. economy and foil unfairly aggressive foreign competitors. However, due mostly to recent politics, it hasn't been fully functioning since 2014. This needs to change—for many reasons.

First, according to Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, the country's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is absolutely a part of its military plans. This comes after years of the Chinese Communist Party insisting the worldwide infrastructure scheme is only focused on economics and international cooperation. Wei plainly said future Chinese military cooperation would fit "within the framework of BRI."

This is a big deal. According to EXIM Bank reports, the BRI system includes about 30 percent of the world's gross domestic product and impacts more than 66 percent of the world's population. China's Export-Import Bank alone has participated in more than 1,800 projects with a loan value in excess of $149 billion. If China links the economic might of the BRI with its military (the Communist Party-controlled People's Liberation Army boasts 2 million troops), U.S. national security would be seriously threatened.

As I discuss in my upcoming book Trump vs. China: Facing America's Greatest Threat, one way that the Chinese Communist Party imposes its will through the BRI is through so-called "debt-trap diplomacy." It is a clear strategy to gain leverage and influence over countries that owe China for massive infrastructure loans.

Assessing past and future strategies for reducing poverty in Africa

Louise Fox

When the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were announced in 2015, it was clear that success on SDG1—eradication of extreme poverty—depended on Africa’s performance. Recent forecasts from the United Nations and the World Bank suggest that Africa is not going to make it.

We should all be concerned, but what can be done? The recent World Bank study, Accelerating Poverty Reduction in Africa, offers governments and stakeholders both new suggestions as well as new takes on old recommendations, providing a clear if bumpy road map for future strategies and intervention designs. Despite its length, the report is well worth our time. I have no doubt that it will serve as a key reference volume in the coming years.

Former Chief Economist - USAID

Why has poverty in Africa stayed so stubbornly high despite record economic growth? According to the report, three main reasons: (i) less of Africa’s growth translates into poverty reduction because of high initial poverty, including low asset levels and limited access to public services, which prevent households from taking advantage of opportunities; (ii) Africa’s increasing reliance on natural resources for income growth rather than agricultural and rural development excludes the 85 percent of the poor population living in rural areas; and (iii) Africa’s high fertility and resulting high population growth mean that even high growth translates into less income per person—a point too often ignored in discussions on the sub-continent and in Washington.

How Recent Protests Exposed the Authoritarian Fragility of Sisi’s Egypt

Timothy Kaldas

The protests may have ended, but the past few weeks in Egypt have indicated that, rather than a model of authoritarian stability, the regime that President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has built is one of authoritarian fragility. And the regime’s actions make clear that it knows it.

On Sept. 20, nationwide political protests broke out in Egypt for the first time since a brutal crackdown on demonstrators following the 2013 coup d’etat against President Mohamed Morsi that brought Sisi to power. The protests were sparked by a series of viral videos by an Egyptian actor and contractor named Mohamed Ali, who had worked on construction projects with the military for over a decade. In the videos, Ali, who now lives in self-imposed exiled in Spain, accused Sisi and the military of wasting state funds on building luxury hotels and lavish presidential palaces. The accusations resonated with Egyptians, at least one in three of whom live in poverty. Since Sisi signed a bailout with the International Monetary Fund in 2016, Egyptians have also been enduring years of austerity. ...

Rethinking Encryption

By Jim Baker 

I. Embrace Reality and Deal With It

From 2012 to 2014, I worked for Bridgewater Associates, a hedge fund located in Connecticut. Bridgewater seeks to operate consistent with a set of principles articulated by its founder, Ray Dalio. Over the years, Dalio has written hundreds of principles and has now put them into a book. The first principle described in the book—one that has had a significant impact on me even after leaving Bridgewater—is “[e]mbrace reality and deal with it.”

What follows are reflections on my efforts to embrace reality with respect to some aspects of several interrelated subject areas that have comprised a substantial part of my career: national security, cybersecurity, counterintelligence, surveillance, encryption and China. Those efforts have caused me to rethink my prior beliefs about encryption and to better align those beliefs with the reality that (a) Congress has failed to act—and is not likely to act—to change relevant law notwithstanding law enforcement’s frequent complaints about encryption, and (b) the digital ecosystem’s high degree of vulnerability to a range of malicious cyber actors is an existential threat to society.

Rochester, NY, and the Rise and Fall of Technology

By George Friedman

Last weekend, my wife and I visited our grandson (children were subsidiary to this visit) who lives in Rochester, New York. He and his family live close to the Erie Canal. The canal is now a placid body of water, the mechanics of a canal no longer intrusive except for the overhead guard gates and the canal a bare reminder of the time in which it represented the height of technological sophistication and in which it seemed a permanent feature of American life. It is now a picturesque body of water, made lovely by the decision a few years ago to recover its dignity, and where tour boats will take you on a tour to learn about its history. (A couple of years ago, one could even have caught sight of an enormous shipment of beer tanks from China that were too large to be transported by road, traversing the canal.) But it is also a reminder that in technology, all that towers passes away.

Construction on the canal began in 1817 and was completed in 1821. It connected the Great Lakes, and therefore what is now the American Midwest, with the Hudson River, which flowed south to New York Harbor, and distributed the agricultural products and minerals of the Midwest to the world. The land to the west was the future of the United States, but it was difficult to access. The Appalachian Mountains are extraordinarily rugged, and building roads across them was difficult. Even finished roads were difficult to use, despite the best efforts of Daniel Boone and his colleagues. The United States had to create economic links to the west in order to settle it and to allow it to prosper.

Artificial Intelligence Will Detect Hidden Targets In 2020 Wargame


The Army wants AI to detect hidden targets, like this M109A6 Paladin armored howitzer camouflaged during wargames in Germany.

AUSA: The Army has developed AI to spot hidden targets in reconnaissance photos and will field-test it in next year’s massive Defender 20 wargames in Europe, the head of the service’s Artificial Intelligence Task Force said here.

It’s just one of a host of AI applications the Army is exploring with combat applications, Brig. Gen. Matt Easley said. Shooting down drones, aiming tank guns, coordinating resupply and maintenance, planning artillery barrages, stitching different sensor feeds together into a single coherent picture, analyzing how terrain blocks units’ fields of fire and warning commanders where there are blind spots in their defenses are all uses that will be tested.

The most high-profile example of AI on the battlefield to date, the controversial Project Maven, used machine learning algorithms to sift hours of full-motion video looking for suspected terrorists and insurgents. By contrast, Easley said, the new application looks for tanks and other targets of interest in a major-power war, he said, in keeping with the Pentagon’s increasing focus on Russia and China.

Top 10 technology trends for 2020 include hyperautomation, human augmentation and distributed cloud

by Teena Maddox 

The top 10 technology trends for 2020 presented at the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo included hyperautomation, multiexperience, human augmentation and distributed cloud.

The key trends have a people-centric approach, explained David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow, during a conference session today. The Orlando, FL conference runs through October 24, with more than 9,000 CIOs and IT leaders in attendance. 

Cearley described each of the 10 trends.

Hyperautomation - This is where we're taking automation and automating tasks and processes and integrating processes across organizations. It's the combination of multiple machine learning, packaged software and automation tools to deliver work. It refers to not just the breadth of the pallet of tools, but also all of the steps of automation itself. This trend kicked off with robotic process automation (RPA). But RPA alone is not hyperautomation. Hyperautomation requires a combination of tools to help support replicating pieces of where the human is involved in a task. 

USAF Moving Ahead with Biggest Change to Promotion System in Decades


The Air Force is moving forward with changes to the way officers compete for promotions, beginning with the next lieutenant colonels board in March 2020. That board will see eligible majors compete not against the vast pool of officers who could be promoted, but instead within six new categories.

The change means officers in smaller, specialized communities, such as cyber, space, or intelligence, will no longer compete against combat-experienced pilots and other airmen in the Line of the Air Force category, but instead compete against peers whose skills, career progression, and experience more closely align with their own.

More, smaller categories means promotion opportunities for each can be tied to the number of openings in that category, minimizing the potential for officers to be placed in positions where they must oversee work they haven’t ever done themselves.