28 November 2019

Chabahar Port functional & Indian company handling cargo: MEA in Lok Sabha

Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury
NEW DELHI: Afghanistan has sent five consignments to India from Iran’s Chabahar port since February 2019, the ministry of external affairs told Lok Sabha in what can be viewed as rebutting reports alleging the port’s Phase-1 developed and run by India is dysfunctional after US decided to re-impose sanctions on Iran.

India Ports Global Limited took over port operations in December 2018 and has been successfully handling cargo since then, according to a written reply provided by MEA to Lok Sabha responding to a query on status of India’s role in the strategically located port.

Chabahar port is a major regional initiative by India to ensure connectivity to Afghanistan, Central Asia, Russia and other parts of Eurasia in the backdrop of Pakistan’s denial of connectivity through its territory. The port has also received consignments from India and elsewhere for Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s Air Force Receives Five More MD-530F Helicopters

By Franz-Stefan Gady

Arizona-based U.S. defense contractor MD Helicopters, Inc., announced the delivery of another batch of five MD-530F Cayuse Warrior light attack helicopters to the Afghan Air Force (AAF) on November 22. According to a press statement, the light attack helicopters were delivered to Kandahar via a Boeing 747 cargo aircraft on October 27 and reassembled for active service within ten days.

The five MD-530Fs are part of a follow-on batch of 30 helicopters ordered by the U.S. Army under a wider $1.4 billion Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract issued in September 2017.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the 2017 contract entails the “procurement of an estimated quantity of 150 MD 530F aircraft and required production support services to include program management, delivery support, pilot training and maintenance” by September 2022.

Pakistan: Bajwa, CPEC, and ‘acceptable opinion’


The famous American scholar Noam Chomsky once said, “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” It seems Pakistan’s current hybrid regime controlled by the invisible forces is doing the same thing. Opinions are made acceptable and unacceptable on the basis of the needs of the regime, and narratives have been built on misleading and distorted facts.

This has muzzled the already weakened press and freedom of expression and as a result, media and intellectuals instead of debating the real challenges faced by the country are only discussing the imaginary corruption of the opposition parties’ leaders. Such is the poor state of affairs that when on Tuesday the Supreme Court of Pakistan suspended the notification of the extension of General Qamar Bajwa’s tenure as Chief of Army Staff, the television channels were showing different news and the government acted as if nothing had happened.

The Supreme Court raised objections on the procedure of Prime Minister Imran Khan granting an extension to the army chief without the approval of all the cabinet members, and it also said the extension notification came from Prime Minister’s Office instead of the President’s Office.

What China has in common with Australia, Taiwan and the US: local and national priorities don’t always align

Yuan Jiang
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The Victorian state government recently took flak for its belt and road deal, which is at odds with Canberra’s position. But local leaders – in countries taking Chinese money, and in China itself – often prioritise provincial economic needs

Xi Jinping, then China’s vice-president, is welcomed by then-governor of Iowa Terry Branstad in the governor's office in Des Moines, in February 2012. Branstad, who has cultivated a decades-long relationship with China and with Xi, has nonetheless defended tough new policies as the Trump administration’s ambassador to China. Photo: Reuters

Since the Victorian state government in Australia released news of the signing of a second memorandum of understanding on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, state premier Daniel Andrews has 
been criticised for not aligning with Canberra and neglecting the potential strategic and security risks the belt and road plan may bring.

China’s Submarines May Be Catching Up With U.S. Navy

H I Sutton
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The comment resonates with me. As a defense analyst I am constantly reminded of the rapid modernization of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). China has had a few nuclear-powered submarines since the 1970s but for many years they were widely regarded as inferior to Western types. The latest Type-093 ‘Shang’ Class fast attack submarines and Type-094 ‘Jin’ Class ballistic missile submarines are a different matter. They are more numerous and, very likely, substantially more potent. They are not necessarily as capable as their western equivalents, but the gap is closing over time.

There are a few variables at play, but submarine warfare is largely a game of stealth. Two straightforward questions are whether they are as good at staying hidden, and whether they are as good at detecting others.

Russia’s AI Quest is State-Driven — Even More than China’s. Can It Work?

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More than Western governments and even more than China’s, the Russian government is trying to position itself as a facilitator of innovation in artificial intelligence, the technology that Vladimir Putin said will lead whoever masters it to global advantage. Russia seeks “to go our own way,” said Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, borrowing Lenin’s 1917 words about various anti-capitalist ideologies to describe his government’s 21st-century attempt to shake the world. 

Those who doubt that this uniquely state-heavy approach can succeed would do well to remember that today’s internet and mobile telecommunications grew out of Pentagon-funded research, that the Soviet Union led the Space Race for a decade, and that U.S. astronauts currently ascend to orbit atop Russian rockets.

And even as it was putting the finishing touches on its national AI strategy, which calls for funding data management, education, and science initiatives across the country, Putin’s government was increasing its six-year budget for the campaign from $1.3 billion earlier this year to the roughly $6.1 billion announced when the strategy was rolled out in October.

People of Hong Kong awarded 2019 John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service – an honour that comes at delicate time in US-China relations

Alvin Lum

The people of Hong Kong have won the 2019 John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service, providing a boost for the city’s struggle for greater democracy at a delicate time in US-China relations.

Two pro-democracy figures, former lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing and activist Figo Chan Ho-wun of Civil Human Rights Front, will accept the honour on Saturday on behalf of all Hongkongers.

The US Congress earlier this week passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which will introduce stringent monitoring and possible sanctions against individuals found to be diminishing the city’s freedoms.

President Donald Trump has yet to give a clear indication on whether he will sign the act into law.

From Model to Muddle: Chile’s Sad Slide Into Upheaval

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SANTIAGO, Chile—Chile’s most diehard protesters may be young people, but their grievances possess a long lineage, one decades in the making.

A previous manifestation of the present turmoil occurred nearly a decade ago. Thanks in large part to a new program offering government-backed student loans, in 2007, 70 percent of students in Chile’s expanding higher education system were the first generation of their families to reach college. It was a widely lauded achievement, one more sign that Chile was a cut above the rest in its Latin American neighborhood. But then a few years later, these same students began to realize that, even if they did graduate, they were headed for huge student loan debts and lousy, low-paid jobs, because most were unable to get into the top universities. In May 2011, their anger swelled into mass protest, exposing the downsides to privatized education and the stark inequalities in Chilean society.

Those student protests—until now—were the largest demonstrations the country had seen since the return of democracy 30 years ago. And Chile’s president then, as now, was Sebastián Piñera.

Will Iran Become the Next Soviet Union (As In Bankrupted by Massive Military Spending)?

by Michael Peck
While Iran’s rulers have no aspirations to be a superpower, they do seem to covet being a regional hegemon as the Persian Empire was. So far, Iran has waged war on the cheap by using proxies rather than massive troop commitments as the U.S. did in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. But as Hezbollah has discovered when its Iranian subsidies were slashed, even war on the cheap can be expensive.

That means more ballistic missiles to hit its enemies, as well as mines and other naval weapons to close the Persian Gulf to oil tankers, according to a new report on Iranian military power by the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s pet spy service.

But the question is whether Tehran can afford to develop these capabilities.

DIA expects that Iran will continue to use unconventional means such as terrorism, or supporting proxies such as Hezbollah to do the dirty work against perceived enemies such as the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia. But it is also determined to build up capabilities in more conventional arms.

New DIA Report Underscores Iranian Cruise Missile Threat

By Behnam Ben Taleblu, Bradley Bowman

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) last week released a landmark report analyzing the capabilities of Iran’s military. In light of Iran’s September attacks on the Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia, the report’s emphasis on Tehran’s expanding cruise missile capabilities has already proven to be prescient.

The DIA’s new report, titled Iran Military Power: Ensuring Regime Survival and Securing Regional Dominance, highlights Tehran’s development of land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs). The report notes that Tehran “has invested heavily in its domestic infrastructure, equipment, and expertise” to develop increasingly capable cruise missiles.

Tehran’s investment of its limited resources in LACMs is not surprising, given the challenges LACMs create for opposing air defense forces. The DIA notes that LACMs “present a unique threat profile from ballistic missiles because they can fly at low altitude and attack a target from multiple directions.”

This low and unpredictable flight path utilizes ground features for concealment and makes it more difficult to detect and track the cruise missile – essential precursors to intercepting it. The September attacks on Abqaiq and Khurais demonstrated the value of such concealment; Iran reportedly used seven cruise missiles (along with 18 drones) to target the Saudi installations from an unexpected direction.

Israel and the Emerging Crisis of the Secular and the Religious

By George Friedman 

Elections normally don’t interest us at Geopolitical Futures. The passage of personalities who preside over the realities of a nation does not usually affect our work. But there are times when electoral politics reveals something of the underlying reality of a nation. That is the case in Israel now. It is at a juncture where the nation is so divided on issues so fundamental to the nature of Israel that the normal political process has frozen and a crisis that can affect the entire region is being revealed.

The crisis revolves around two questions: What does it mean to live in Israel, and what does it mean to be an Israeli? Such questions are common in nations, particularly invented ones, like the United States or Israel. The American regime was invented by the founders, and inevitably, it failed to answer crucial questions, particularly around the issue of whether the states were governed by the federal government or were self-governing. This was tied to the question of whether the principles of the Declaration of Independence, particularly the claim that all men are created equal, are fundamental to American life. Even this was a flawed settlement that haunts the United States to this day. The debate was settled at Gettysburg and other small towns during the Civil War, which left over 600,000 dead.

Why North Korea Denuclearization Is Such a Long Shot

North Korea denuclearization efforts have been at the forefront of the international agenda for more than two years, but there is little progress so far. Critics say the Trump administration has a flawed approach to the negotiations—and the U.S. trade war with China isn't helping. Meanwhile, North Koreans continue to suffer.

Ending North Korea’s nuclearization efforts has been at the forefront of the international agenda for more than two years now. But despite improved relations between North and South Korea and two unprecedented face-to-face meetings between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, there has been no clear progress toward North Korea denuclearization.

Trump has framed the meetings and his personal relationship with Kim as a promising start to a potential breakthrough, but critics point to the lack of headway so far, which they blame on the Trump administration’s flawed approach to the negotiations. For his part, Kim refuses to even begin drawing down the program that is essentially his regime’s only bargaining chip unless the international community drops its sanctions. Hard-liners in Washington, on the other hand, would like to see meaningful steps toward denuclearization before they lift any restrictions.

Japan Is Modernizing Its Military, but Can It Do More?

Japan is accelerating its military normalization process by building up its offensive capabilities, especially those of its Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF). As a part of that push, the United States on Oct. 29 granted Japan's request for a major upgrade to its F-15J fighter aircraft. Installing advanced radar and cruise missile capability on 98 JASDF jets will mark a crucial step in Japan's move away from its post-World War II pacifist stance. And while the upgrades will enhance Tokyo's options, maintaining Japanese national defense as the country's aerospace industry declines and the regional threat environment — including an expanding Chinese military — becomes more complex will become increasingly difficult.

From Defense to Offense

Since its founding in 1954, the JASDF has focused on developing potent air defense and anti-ship capabilities. This largely meshed with Japan's postwar self-image as a pacifist country with an air force geared exclusively toward defending the home islands. While the JASDF built a considerable ability to intercept inbound enemy jets and warships, it couldn't mount offensive operations beyond the immediate waters around Japan. Instead, Tokyo relied on its security alliance with the United States to serve as its offensive capability: If need be, the Japanese military could be the shield, and the U.S. military could be the sword.

Huawei controversy shows US need for robust supply chain security strategy

By: Justin Sherman  

In this March 8, 2019, photo, a logo of Huawei retail shop is seen through a handrail inside a commercial office building in Beijing. Chinese tech giant Huawei’s tensions with Washington, which accuses the telecom equipment maker of being a security risk, stretch across four continents from courtrooms to corporate boardrooms to Canadian canola farms. 

5G technology, through enabling greater digital connectivity at faster speeds, promises to revolutionize everything from smart city internet of things devices to self-driving car communication. And as with any new technology, there are notable cybersecurity threats to be addressed. This includes some of the risks underscored by U.S. government concern about Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, a privately owned but state-subsidized firm that is widely considered to be a global leader in providing 5G technology.

No ‘End Date’ for U.S. Troops in Syria

MANAMA, Bahrain—Less than two months after U.S. President Donald Trump demanded all U.S. troops withdraw from northeastern Syria for the second time, the general in charge of all U.S. forces in the Middle East now says he has no orders to leave the region. 

“I don’t have an end date,” Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, told a small group of reporters in Bahrain on Saturday. 

Roughly 500 U.S. forces will remain in northeastern Syria with their Kurdish-led partners, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), to continue fighting the remnants of the Islamic State, McKenzie said during a visit to Bahrain for the Manama Dialogue security summit. Under Trump’s directive, the troops will primarily be stationed in the Deir Ezzor province to guard the region’s rich oil fields, but the Defense Department insists that the mission is part of the broader campaign to defeat the terrorist group.

Don’t Demand Protection Money from Japan. Do Ask Tokyo to Rethink Its Defenses


A well-fortified Japan could take the lead in its own security, with U.S. forces acting as a backstop rather than the primary combatants.

As part of the Trump administration’s efforts to persuade allies to pay more for U.S.-provided defense, American officials reportedly asked Japan to quadruple its annual payments to support the 54,000 U.S. troops stationed there—to $8 billion. Perhaps this was a negotiating tactic meant to shake complacent allies into boosting their own defense budgets, but security burden-sharing is not a monetary issue of balancing ledgers between nations. A much more valuable—and realistic—goal for the U.S. would be pushing Japan to spend the extra $6 billion to expand its military capabilities, making it a stronger and more reliable security partner.

More than any other U.S. ally, Japan is in a position to deter Chinese military aggression, something much of Washington fears. As the world’s third-largest economy, a hub for advanced technology and manufacturing, and a country that straddles choke points for the Chinese navy, Japan can develop better defensive capabilities to balance Beijing’s military power.

The Art of Command, The Science of AI


Lockheed Martin’s third Multi-Domain Command & Control (MDC2) wargame

DENVER: The Pentagon wants a combat network that can suck up sensor data from across the battlefield in seconds and automatically match targets with the best weapons to strike them, like Uber pairing passengers to drivers. But generals and civilian officials alike warn that AI-driven command and control must leave room for human judgment, creativity, and ethics. The question is how to strike that balance.

“You’re going to provide your subordinates the best data you can get them, and you’re going to need AI to get that quality of data,” said recently retired Gen. Robert Brown, “but then that’s balanced with, they’re there on the ground.” Military leaders must make their own judgment calls based on what they see and hear and intuit, not just click “okay” on whatever battle plan the computer suggests, as if they’re paging through the latest Terms & Conditions boilerplate on their smartphone.

Gen. Robert Brown, then-commander of US Army Pacific, speaks to allied officers in Thailand.

At DHS, an Exodus of Tech and Cyber Leaders


The rotating cast of officials in top tech and cyber jobs could hinder the department’s ability to develop and execute a consistent digital strategy.

The Homeland Security Department is facing an exodus of officials in its top tech and cyber roles, and that turnover could limit the agency’s ability to execute a coherent digital policy.

On Thursday, Jeanette Manfra, the assistant director for cybersecurity within the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, announced she would step down from her post by the end of the year. The decision, first reported by CyberScoop and which Nextgov later confirmed with CISA, will leave vacant one of the most important roles in the government’s civilian cyber operations.

The announcement came days after Homeland Security lost both its chief information officer John Zangardi and acting chief data officer Donna Roy, and the Trump administration continues to rotate officials through other top jobs.

Cyberwarriors lack planning tools. That could change.

By: Mark Pomerleau 

Cyber warriors still don't have a robust cyber planning tool that spans across all services and teams within U.S. Cyber Command. The Air Force and Strategic Capabilities Office is continuing DARPA's work to change that. 

For six years, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency worked on a program known as Plan X to help commanders plan and conduct cyber operations.

The goal was for leaders to see the cyber environment just as they would the physical world.

Now, the Air Force and the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office are continuing the program and have renamed it Project IKE. The move was first reported by Inside Cybersecurity.

“The Strategic Capabilities Office has continued the work begun by DARPA with the aim of maturing Project IKE technology for eventual operational use,” a Department of Defense spokesman told Fifth Domain. “Project IKE is an artificial intelligence-enabled tool which will provide a new way for cyber forces to understand the common operating picture.”

10 Predictions How AI Will Improve Cybersecurity In 2020

Louis Columbus
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Cybersecurity is at an inflection point entering 2020. Advances in AI and machine learning are accelerating its technological progress. Real-time data and analytics are making it possible to build stronger business cases, driving higher adoption. Cybersecurity spending has rarely been linked to increasing revenues or reducing costs, but that’s about to change in 2020. 

What Leading Cybersecurity Experts Are Predicting For 2020

Interested in what the leading cybersecurity experts are thinking will happen in 2020, I contacted five of them. Experts I spoke with include Nicko van Someren, Ph.D. and Chief Technology Officer at Absolute Software; Dr. Torsten George, Cybersecurity Evangelist at Centrify; Craig Sanderson, Vice President of Security Products at Infoblox; Josh Johnston, Director of AI, Kount; and Brian Foster, Senior Vice President Product Management at MobileIron. Each of them brings a knowledgeable, insightful, and unique perspective to how AI and machine learning will improve cybersecurity in 2020. The following are their ten predictions:

Warmaking by Remote Control Is a False Choice

by James Holmes
So it seems remote war is easy to wage, hard to win, and carries hidden moral hazards. Beware the allure of the latest gadgetry. It cannot exorcise the ghosts of wars past—or present.

War is a deeply human undertaking. Trying to take human beings out of it is fraught with unintended consequences. I had a similar inkling about the future after Desert Storm, where Swofford and I both deployed. In March 1991, to herald the armistice, a Navy Times headline blared out that the “ghost of Vietnam” had faded in the desert as U.S. expeditionary forces displayed “unrivaled military might.” That was a bold claim. It was also a plaintive way to announce a victory. Why situate a freshly won triumph in the context of a past defeat?

Because military folk still fretted constantly about losing in Southeast Asia. The ghosts of Vietnam, better known as the “Vietnam Syndrome,” had haunted the U.S. armed forces since the downfall and destruction of South Vietnam almost sixteen years before. President Richard Nixon, who presided over the denouement in Indochina, reputedly coined the phrase to describe a malaise afflicting the American armed forces, government, and society.

The Revolution in Military Affairs

By Jacek Bartosiak

The notion of a “revolution in military affairs” has created a sensation in recent years, as it could create a new phase in the way wars are conducted. RMA’s importance is likely to grow over the coming decades of great power competition and proxy wars across Eurasia and its neighbors. It is, therefore, worth spending some time on this concept.

The Dawn of RMA

In 1992, the U.S. Defense Department’s Office of Net Assessment published a report on the coming military-technical revolution – what it called the Revolution in Military Affairs. The concept wasn’t a new one. By the 1970s, Soviet military theoreticians were heralding the arrival of what they described as the 20th century’s third wave of the military-technical revolution. The first wave was the motorization of war – namely, the use of aviation and chemical weapons in World War I. As this phase matured in World War II, it came to incorporate the German concept of “blitzkrieg” (armored warfare operations with an air tactical support component), the British-American concept of strategic bombing, and the concept of replacing battleships with onboard aircraft taking off from aircraft carriers, as envisaged by both Japan and the United States.

For DoD Transformation, a Holistic Approach Is Needed

By George Franz, Scott Bachand

The U.S. Defense Department is at a crossroads Decades of innovation — driven almost entirely by DoD and the Defense Industrial Base — have kept the United States at the forefront of modern military capability. Now, however, it is the commercial sector that is defining the leading edge of technology and innovation. In this information-driven era, the military's conventional models of creating and metabolizing innovation are no longer optimal.

Given the military's need to adopt the fast-paced, innovative, and entrepreneurial practices of the commercial sector to maintain its technological edge, success will depend upon new, more holistic approaches to technology adoption and industry relationships.

New waves of emerging commercial technologies have caused quick advancement within the defense sector. But the effectiveness of these technologies can vary. It is not enough to provide a new capability — the intended end-users must be able to easily leverage that capability, solving the end-users' problems and making their lives easier.

Importantly, they must not only deliver greater security, but they must improve resilience to ensure mission success.

Is the Mighty NATO Alliance Dying? Three Ways It Can Be Saved

by Daniel R. DePetris 
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Rarely has a single moment of honesty caused such trepidation in the halls of power in Europe.

Sitting down with the Economist on November 7 for an exclusive interview, French President Emmanuel Macron talked about NATO as if it was a zombie slowly and mindlessly walking around without a care in the world, oblivious to its surroundings. 

Macron’s description of the transatlantic alliance as brain dead has ruffled feathers far and wide and caused the foreign policy establishments on both sides of the Atlantic to shiver in fear. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the dean of the European political elite, slapped Macron’s remarks as “inappropriate”—even pulling him aside to dress him down at a dinner to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall. Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister, condemned the Frenchman’s comments as “dangerous” to the alliance: “I think President Macron’s doubts about [Nato’s mutual defence clause] can make other allies wonder if perhaps it is France that has concerns about sticking to it,” Morawiecki told the Financial Times. Back stateside, the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Kori Schake wrote in the Atlantic that the sentiments expressed by Macron are indicative of a larger trend of Europeans increasingly questioning Washington’s commitment to the sacrosanct Article 5.

How the FCC’s new ban on Huawei benefits the military

By: Andrew Eversden

The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously Nov. 22 to prohibit its dollars from being spent on equipment or services from Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE, a move that will protect U.S. military bases in the rural parts of the country from Chinese espionage as 5G technology appears on the horizon.

The vote banned money from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund, which helps subsidize broadband access in rural areas of the United States, from being spent to obtain, maintain or support Huawei and ZTE products, as well as established a process to add companies to the banned list in the future.

Telecom providers, as well as government agencies, across the United States are preparing for the onset of 5G technology, which will transform communications, but will also introduce greater cybersecurity risks into U.S. networks. Concerns about the cybersecurity of Huawei and ZTE products are widespread across the U.S. government.