30 November 2020

India-Pakistan: JeM Intensifying Efforts – Analysis

By Ajit Kumar Singh*

Four Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists were killed in an encounter with the Security Forces (SFs) on November 19, 2020, at Nagrota in Jammu District, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Senior Superintendent of Police, Jammu District, Shridhar Patil stated, “Around 5 am some terrorists opened fire at security forces near Ban Toll Plaza in Nagrota area. They were hiding in a vehicle”. Two SF personnel suffered injuries in the operation. However, the driver fled from the spot as security personnel approached the vehicle. A large consignment of arms and ammunition, including six AK-56 rifles, five AK-47 rifles, three pistols, 16 AK magazines, a packet of RDX, 20 Chinese hand grenades, six UBGL grenades and 20 kilograms of explosive were recovered from the encounter site.

Investigations so far have revealed that the terrorists trained in ‘commando warfare’ walked nearly 30 kilometers from the JeM camp at Shakargah in Pakistan to the Samba (Jammu and Kashmir) border and then to the ‘pick-up’ point at Jatwal. There then boarded a truck (JK01AL 1055) between 2.30 and 3 am [IST] in the night and were seen crossing the Sarore toll plaza towards Jammu at 3.44 AM. The truck then moved towards Kashmir, using the Narwal bypass route. The SFs intercepted the truck around 4.45 AM at the Ban toll plaza in the Nagrota area.

Afghanistan: A Pervasive Darkness – Analysis

By S. Binodkumar Singh*

On November 21, 2020, eight civilians were killed and another 31 were injured in a series of rocket attacks in Kabul city. The Interior Affairs Ministry said 23 rockets were fired on different parts of Kabul.

On November 18, 2020, seven civilians were killed and six were injured in a Taliban mortar attack in the Taloka area in Kunduz city (Kunduz Province).

On November 10, 2020 the Taliban shot and killed three civilians while they were praying in a mosque in the Faizabad District of Jowzjan Province. On the same day, a mortar fired by the Taliban landed in a house in Zari District, Kandahar Province, killing four women.

On November 8, 2020, eight civilians were killed and seven were injured after three mortars fired by Taliban hit residential houses in the Naw Abad area in Ghazni city.

Will Joe Biden Push Iran and Pakistan Closer Together?

by Rupert Stone

Shortly after Joe Biden’s win in the U.S. presidential election, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif traveled to Islamabad for two days of talks. Political ties between Iran and Pakistan are warm, but their relationship has grossly underperformed in the economic and security domains.

That is partly owing to Donald Trump, who withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2018 and reimposed draconian sanctions, while adding a raft of new penalties relating to terrorism and human rights. But Trump will soon be gone, and his replacement, Joe Biden, has vowed to re-enter the JCPOA.

Zarif and his Pakistani counterpart discussed ways to expand trade and economic cooperation. In theory, sanctions relief resulting from a revived JCPOA could help to realize their goals. But there is reason to doubt that Iran-Pakistan relations will significantly improve during Biden’s presidency.

Islamic State Khorasan Province’s Peshawar Seminary Attack and War Against Afghan Taliban Hanafis

By: Abdul Sayed

On October 27, a major attack targeting a pro-Afghan Taliban religious seminary took place in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan. Although it remains unclaimed, there is strong evidence Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) was behind this attack (Dawn, October 29). In the attack, a seminary belonging to the Deobandi sect of Hanafi jurisprudence, which represents the Afghan Taliban’s school of Islamic law, was targeted by a bomb that killed ten students and injured more than 100 others.

This attack’s main target was the seminary’s head, Shaikh Rahim Ullah Haqqani, who is affiliated with the Afghan Taliban (IBC Urdu, October 27). Shaikh Rahim Ullah Haqqani leads a militant brigade affiliated with Afghan Taliban in the Pachir Aw Agam district of Nangarhar, Afghanistan, which is adjacent to the Tora Bora mountains (Twitter/abdsayedd, October 28). That area has been a frontline for brutal infighting between the Afghan Taliban and IS-K.

This article examines IS-K’s role in the Peshawar seminary attack from the angle of Salafist-Hanafi sectarian rivalry in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Can China Defend its South China Sea Bases? The Answer Is No.

by Robert Farley

Here's What You Need To Remember: The islands of the SCS have some military relevance, but are more important as a political claim to waterways and undersea resources. Militarily, they represent a thin crust on China’s A2/AD system. Under certain conditions this crust could disrupt U.S. freedom of action, but it won’t be hard for the United States’ Air Force and Navy to punch through.

China has built some islands in the South China Sea. Can it protect them?

During World War II Japan found that control of islands offered some strategic advantages, but not enough to force the United States to reduce each island individually. Moreover, over time the islands became a strategic liability, as Japan struggled to keep them supplied with food, fuel and equipment. The islands of the SCS are conveniently located for China, but do they really represent an asset to China’s military? The answer is yes, but in an actual conflict the value would dwindle quickly.

The Current Situation in China

Over the last two decades, China has expanded its presence internationally, including in conflict zones and fragile states of strategic interest to the United States. From civil wars in neighboring countries, such as Afghanistan and Myanmar, to more distant conflicts in Africa, China’s growing influence has a substantial impact on local, regional, and international conflict dynamics. Beijing is actively working to revise global governance institutions and norms to make them compatible with its authoritarian political model, and escalating tensions between the United States and China have reduced the space for cooperation and increased the risk of conflict between the two countries. Updating institutions and systems for cooperation among the United States and like-minded partners, and where possible, with competitors like China, could help stabilize the international system, manage conflicts, and tackle transnational challenges such as nuclear proliferation, climate change, and infectious diseases.


As part of its Bipartisan Congressional Dialogue series, USIP frequently hosts members of Congress from both parties to discuss issues such as U.S. policy toward China and China’s impact on U.S. national interests. USIP has twice hosted conversations with Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL) and Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), co-chairs of the House U.S.-China Working Group.

China’s Digital Silk Road: Economic and Political Significance

Damian Wnukowski

China announced the DSR in 2015 as part of its Belt and Road
Initiative (BRI). It is primarily intended to support the expansion of major Chinese companies such as Huawei, ZTE, and Alibaba into new markets and gaining access to big data. It complements the “Made in China 2025” strategy, which aims to make China the leader in modern technologies. DSR activities are not only initiated by the Chinese government but also by companies, which often seek to integrate their commercial projects into the DSR framework to obtain political and financial support.

Elements of the DSR

One key area is the development of telecommunications infrastructure, in particular 5G networks. Chinese companies, mainly Huawei and ZTE, are significant players in this market. Shenzhen, where Huawei has its headquarters, was the world’s first city fully covered by a 5G network. Huawei is involved in 5G projects in Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia, Serbia, Cambodia, Thailand and elsewhere. An important element is the expansion of the optical fibre system, supporting new connections between Asia, Africa, and Europe (the PEACE project).

Secret Flight Shows Netanyahu and Mohammed bin Salman Joining to Face Biden

By Jonathan H. Ferziger

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apparent trip to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday raises the tantalizing prospect of Saudi Arabia joining the new alliance of Gulf Arab states with Israel. It also seems to show how the former enemies are relying on each other to dispel the ill winds already blowing in their direction from the incoming Biden administration. As arguably the greatest beneficiaries of U.S. President Donald Trump’s foreign policy, Netanyahu and Mohammed bin Salman now seek to insulate themselves against indications they’ll soon be shunned by the Biden White House as rogue actors.

So Netanyahu canceled a cabinet meeting on Sunday and, according to multiple accounts, slipped into a private business jet for the one-hour flight across the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia’s western coast. In the desert city of Neom, under construction as a $500 billion showcase of technological innovation, the Israeli leader spent as much as five hours with Saudi Arabia’s heir to the throne, joined by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mossad Director Yossi Cohen.

Saudi Arabia Says Jeddah Fuel Tank Blast Caused By Houthi Missile

A missile fired by Houthi militants in Yemen sparked an explosion and fire at a fuel distribution site near Jeddah on Monday.

The blast took place at 3.50 a.m. and causing a fire in a fuel tank at the petroleum products distribution station, north of the city, Saudi Arabia’s energy ministry said. 

The blast was the result of “a terrorist attack with a projectile,” the ministry said.

Firefighting teams managed to extinguish the blaze, and no injuries or loss of life occurred as a result of this attack.

Saudi Aramco’s supply of fuel to its customers was not affected.

The Arab coalition fighting to restore the internationally recognised government in Yemen said those responsible would be held to account. 

“The terrorist, Iran-backed Houthi militia has been positively identified as the culprits of this cowardly terrorist assault,” coalition spokesman Brig.-Gen. Turki Al-Maliki said. 

Yemen’s War Tests Oman’s Neutrality: Focusing on the Saudi Footprint in al-Mahra

By: Michael Horton

Neutrality is one of Oman’s greatest assets. Under the leadership of the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Oman successfully navigated the fall of the Shah in Iran, the Cold War and its end, the U.S.-led War on Terror, and the Arab Spring. Through all these global and region shape events, Oman has maintained its neutrality and independence. Oman, for example, maintains longstanding relationships with the United States and Great Britain while, at the same time, it enjoys constructive relations with Iran. Moreover, although Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are aligned against Iran, Qatar, and Turkey, Oman has managed to work with all of these countries to address regional issues.

The foreign policy charted by the late Sultan Qaboos resulted in Oman’s becoming a valuable intermediary between rival countries in the Gulf and world powers with interests in the Gulf. In its role as an intermediary, Oman has facilitated negotiations between warring parties, and has secured the release of prisoners held in Iran, including three American hikers in 2010 and 2011 (Times of Israel, November 29, 2013). Numerous countries, including the United States, have availed themselves of Oman’s trusted position as an interlocutor for conducting backchannel negotiations with Iran as well as with political and military factions like the Taliban and Yemen’s Houthis (The National, October 16, 2017; Inside Arabia, October 12, 2018).

Central Asia’s Specter of Insecurity: The View from Badakhshan to Fergana

By: Sergey Sukhankin

Amid ongoing negotiations between the United States and the Afghan Taliban, the period between late September and November was marked by increasing violence in Afghanistan, which resulted in hundreds of casualties among the Afghan military and police as well as civilians (Stanradar.com, October 5). On September 27, the Taliban launched a massive offensive in more than ten provinces (Southasiamonitor.org, September 28). Badakhshan was especially targeted. The province is a strategically important part of Afghanistan, sharing a 450-kilometer border with Pakistan, 90-kilometer border with China, and an 800-kilometer border with Tajikistan. Among others, the police chief of Kohistan district in Badakhshan, Abdul Zahir, was killed (Tolonews.com, September 30).

Critical Cases in Badakhshan and Fergana

According to the commander of the second battalion of 217 Pamir Army Corps, Lotufullah Alizai, local militants in Badakhshan are mixing with fighters coming into the region, including from abroad, who represent a conglomeration of various group affiliations. Badakshani governor Zakaria Sawda also stated that, “They [extremists] want to reinforce their third base in Badakhshan” (Tolonews.com, April 21). Like Alizai and Sawda, Abdullah Naji Nazari, who is a member of the Badakhshan Provincial Council, asserted that the main long-term goal of the militants is “to get access to Tajikistan and China” (Thefrontierpost.com, October 17).

Biden Has the Team Obama Always Wanted

By James Traub

In the summer of 2007, when I spent many hours talking to presidential candidate Barack Obama about his view of world affairs, I was surprised to find that he looked to the administration of George H. W. Bush as a model of professionalism, prudence, and stewardship of American national interests. For all his own transformational impulses, he wanted to put together a team like the one led by Secretary of State James Baker and national security advisor Brent Scowcroft.

Unlike Bush, Obama arrived in the White House with scant experience in national security. He needed to demonstrate his seriousness. And so when it came time to choose his own team, Obama turned to a superstar, Hillary Clinton, for secretary of state, and to James Jones, an erudite general he barely knew, as national security advisor. Clinton turned out to be a fine choice; Jones was a disaster, soon replaced. Obama did finally put together the team he wanted, though it never meshed quite as smoothly as the Bush machine.

Donald Trump Has Been a Failure on Iran

by Paul R. Pillar

Given what originally drove Donald Trump’s policy on Iran, it is not surprising that the policy has gone badly and is ending badly. The policy was shaped not by any calculation about what would best advance the causes of nuclear nonproliferation, de-escalation of Middle East conflicts, or other U.S. interests. It was driven instead by Trump’s compulsion to do the opposite of whatever Barack Obama did. Obama’s leading foreign policy achievement was the diplomacy that led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the multilateral agreement that closed all possible paths to an Iranian nuclear weapon. And so the JCPOA had to go. 

Trump’s administration has moved beyond trashing the JCPOA and for the past two and a half years has waged unrestricted economic warfare against Iran. That is plenty of time for Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran to show positive results if it ever were going to show any. The policy has instead failed on every front. 

Kishore Mahbubani Says More…

This week in Say More, PS talks with Kishore Mahbubani, a distinguished fellow at the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore.

Project Syndicate: You’ve warned that “the international order has lagged dangerously behind shifting global power dynamics.” Will US President-elect Joe Biden’s administration improve prospects of reform?

Kishore Mahbubani: Sadly, the answer is no. The combination of intellectual laziness and political inertia has fueled the belief in Washington, DC, that weaker multilateral institutions are better for America’s national interests. But, while that logic may have had some merit in a unipolar world, it does not suit the multipolar world in which we live. As Bill Clinton put it in 2003, the United States should be trying to create the kind of world in which it would like to live when it is “no longer the military, political, and economic superpower.”1

America’s proclivity for constraining multilateral institutions goes back decades, perhaps as far as Ronald Reagan’s presidency. For example, the US has long fought to reduce its contributions to the United Nations, and has even withheld payments, even though the money saved is a drop in the bucket of the US budget.

Providing for the Casualties of War

by Bernard D. Rostker

War has always been a dangerous business, bringing injury, wounds, and death, and—until recently—often disease. What has changed over time, most dramatically in the last 150 or so years, is the care these casualties receive and who provides it. Medical services have become highly organized and are state sponsored. Diseases are now prevented through vaccination and good sanitation. Sedation now ameliorates pain, and antibiotics combat infection. Wounds that once meant amputation or death no longer do so. Transfers from the field to more-capable hospitals are now as swift as aircraft can make them. The mental consequences of war are now seen as genuine illnesses and treated accordingly, rather than punished to the extreme. Likewise, treatment of those disabled by war and of veterans generally has changed markedly—along with who supplies these and other benefits. The first book in this set looked at the history of how humanity has cared for its war casualties, from ancient times through the aftermath of World War II. This book takes up where the first left off, starting just before the Korean War and continuing through to the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. For each historical period, the author examines the care the sick and wounded received in the field and in hospitals, the care given to disabled veterans and their dependents, and who provided that care and how. He shows how the lessons of history have informed the American experience over time. Finally, the author sums up this history thematically, focusing on changes in the nature and treatment of injuries, organization of services on and off the battlefield, the role of the state in providing care, and the invisible wounds of war.

On the Offensive: The UK’s New Cyber ForceConrad Prince

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of a four-year funding deal for defence highlighted a number of technology-focused initiatives. Prominent among them was the establishment of the National Cyber Force (NCF), a new organisational construct bringing together skills, capabilities and resources from across government (predominantly, but not exclusively, GCHQ and the Ministry of Defence) to focus on offensive cyber – the use of hacking and other cyber techniques to have a direct effect on the UK’s adversaries. What does this mean in practice?


The first thing to say is that this is simply the next step in the UK’s long-standing work in this area. As far back as 2013, Philip Hammond, then defence secretary, announced that the UK was ‘developing a full spectrum military cyber capability, including a strike capability’.

The 2016 UK National Cyber Security Strategy acknowledged the existence of the government’s National Offensive Cyber Programme. In 2018, GCHQ director Jeremy Fleming said that GCHQ had been pioneering the development and use of offensive cyber techniques ‘for well over a decade’, and referred to the conflict in Afghanistan, and operations against the Islamic State.

Indicting Russia's Most Destructive Cyberwar Unit: The Implications of Public Attribution

On October 19, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed charges accusing six Russian military intelligence officers of an aggressive worldwide hacking campaign. According to the indictment, the officers, who are believed to be members of Unit 74455 of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), were responsible for some of the most high profile cyberattacks of the last few years, including the devastating NotPetya worm in 2017 that cost $10 billion in damages, the targeting of the French presidential election in 2018, the hacking of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, interfering with electric grid in Ukraine in 2016, and others.

Cybersecurity and national security experts [PDF] had long maintained that the attacks were Russia’s doing, and along with investigative journalists, were expecting this to become public sooner or later. The indictment is unlikely to change the way Russia operates in the cyber domain; however, it demonstrates clearly to like-minded countries that the United States will (eventually) hold Russia accountable for its devastating cyberattacks.

The Syrian Civil War’s Never-Ending Endgame

The Syrian civil war that has decimated the country for nine years now, provoking a regional humanitarian crisis and drawing in actors ranging from the United States to Russia, appears to be drawing inexorably to a conclusion. President Bashar al-Assad, with the backing of Iran and Russia, seems to have emerged militarily victorious from the conflict, which began after his government violently repressed civilian protests in 2011. The armed insurgency that followed soon morphed into a regional and global proxy war that, at the height of the fighting, saw radical Islamist groups seize control over vast swathes of the country, only to lose it in the face of sustained counteroffensives by pro-government forces as well as a U.S.-led coalition of Western militaries.

The fighting is not yet fully over, though, with the northwestern Idlib region remaining outside of government control. Earlier this year, the Syrian army’s Russian-backed campaign to retake Idlib from the last remaining armed opposition groups concentrated there resulted in clashes with Turkish forces deployed to protect Ankara’s client militias. The skirmishes were a reminder that the conflict, though seemingly in its final stages, could still escalate into a regional conflagration. The situation in the northeast also remains volatile following the removal of U.S. forces from the border with Turkey, with Turkish, Syrian and Russian forces all now deployed in the region, alongside proxies and Syrian Kurdish militias.

The Last, ‘Ultra-Cold’ Mile for Covid-19 Vaccines

Maryn McKenna

Two vaccines are nearly here—but their unusual storage requirements could deprive the rural areas that need them most. A tech fix might be coming.

The pace of countering the coronavirus in the US is about to pick up. Two manufacturers, Pfizer and Moderna, have announced that their formulas are up to 95 percent effective at preventing Covid-19; Pfizer officials backed up their statement with a full report on their Phase III data, and one from Moderna should follow soon. On Friday, Pfizer announced that company officials are asking the Food and Drug Administration for an EUA—an emergency use authorization—a shortcut around the standard lengthy approval process. An advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meets today, and another committee reporting to the FDA has scheduled a meeting to assess both formulas on December 10.

How to Revive Real Diplomacy Between Armenia and Azerbaijan

by Michael Rubin

STEPANAKERT, NAGORNO-KARABAKH - The Holy Mother of God Cathedral in Stepanakert, the largest city in Nagorno-Karabakh and the capital of the self-declared Republic of Artsakh, symbolizes the tragedy of recent fighting. Refugees—or “displaced Armenians” as UN bureaucrats call them—sleep in the basement with little hope of returning to Shusha, a mountaintop town, now controlled by Azerbaijani forces. The buildings of Shusha are visible when fog lifts, but Russian peacekeepers have blocked the road less than two miles away from the cathedral and warn that they cannot protect anyone who goes closer from the possibility of being shot by Azerbaijani snipers or the Syrian Arab mercenaries brought in by Turkey who support them.

Armenians are shell-shocked. The Nagorno-Karabakh dispute in its current iteration predates the fall of the Soviet Union when the largely Armenian region separated from Armenia proper by Josef Stalin and made an autonomous oblast within Azerbaijan. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Nagorno-Karabakh voted overwhelmingly for independence, a move Azerbaijan tried—and failed—to crush militarily. The local military trained to defend their mountainous terrain from Azerbaijani soldiers and a stalemate persisted for the past thirty-six years. But when air raid sirens sounded early on September 27, a Sunday morning when most residents were home or at church, the regional military found itself fighting not only Azeris, but also Turks, Syrian mercenaries handpicked by Turkey from amongst their most radical proxy groups, and Israeli-made drones. The Armenians managed to hold their Azeri adversaries at bay for almost six weeks but, in the end, the qualitative edge given to the Azerbaijanis by Turkey and Israel proved too much.

A Tale of Two Economies


NEW HAVEN – Suddenly, there is a credible case for a vaccine-led economic recovery. Modern science has delivered what must certainly be one of the greatest miracles of my long lifetime. Just as COVID-19 dragged the world economy into the sharpest and deepest recession on record, an equally powerful symmetry on the upside now seems possible.

If only it were that easy. With COVID-19 still raging – and rates of infection, hospitalization, and death now spiraling out of control (again) – the near-term risks to economic activity have tipped decidedly to the downside in the United States and Europe. The combination of pandemic fatigue and the politicization of public health practices has come into play at precisely the moment when the long anticipated second wave of COVID-19 is at hand.

Unfortunately, this fits the script of the dreaded double-dip recession that I warned of recently. The bottom-line bears repeating: Apparent economic recoveries in the US have given way to relapses in eight of the 11 business cycles since World War II. The relapses reflect two conditions: lingering vulnerability from the recession, itself, and the likelihood of aftershocks. Unfortunately, both conditions have now been satisfied.

Army War College

Challenging Prevailing Models of US Army Suicide

Gender Blindness in US Doctrine

Civilians, Urban Warfare, and US Doctrine

Stability Operations in WW II: Insights and Lessons

Contribution Warfare: Sweden's Lessons from the War in Afghanistan

Never Again? Germany's Lessons from the War in Afghanistan

India and Pakistan: Managing Tensions

Diverging Interests: US Strategy in the Middle East

On "Projecting Stability: A Deployable NATO Police Command

Streamline Cybersecurity Operations to Enable Decisive Action

In today’s evolving threat landscape, it is imperative to consider the art of the possible to streamline cybersecurity operations that would enable decisive action against our most advanced threats. At this year’s AFCEA Alamo ACE, the message from keynote speakers was clear: accelerate change in order to arm our nation’s warfighters to compete against our adversaries. Normally held in San Antonio or “Military City USA,” AFCEA Alamo ACE brought together military leaders, security professionals and industry supporters to address problems with current systems and discuss new and innovative ways to fight in the ever-present cyber war.

Change is constant and change must happen in order to stay ahead of attackers. One key tenet is embedding a culture of modernization in security teams and leaders by understanding the operational environment. Repeatedly, keynote speakers mentioned that cyber warriors must be organized, trained and equipped in order to achieve cybersecurity superiority over adversaries. But there are challenges that slow down progress.
The Challenges Facing Warfighters Today

Cyber’s uncertain future: These radical technologies and negative trends must be overcome

James Van de Velde

The fate of the world may literally hinge on which states develop and appropriately introduce the radical technologies that are likely to disrupt cyberspace and the world. What are they, and what disruption do they pose? Here are a few, split into two categories:

Radical-leveling technologies have leapt from linear to exponential capabilities and will shape the future competition:
Additive manufacturing (i.e., 3D printing): “Who can manufacture what” may no longer be decided by governments.

Human-machine interfacing: Where will this lead intelligence collection, privacy and security?
The Internet of Things' expanded attack surface: The IoT may invite a near-constant struggle between good and malicious cyberspace actors throughout our government, intelligence, defense and commercial lives.

US Cyber Command’s capability efforts lack clarity, says government watchdog

Mark Pomerleau

WASHINGTON — U.S. Cyber Command’s vision for developing its core cyber platforms and capabilities lacks clear goals and guidance, according to an audit by the Government Accountability Office.

The audit was directed by Congress — which has also expressed concern — and released Nov. 19. The government watchdog examined Cyber Command’s Joint Cyber Warfighting Architecture, which was created by the command to guide its capabilities.

JCWA was broken up into five elements: common firing platforms for a comprehensive suite of cyber tools; Unified Platform that will integrate and analyze data from offensive and defensive operations with partners; joint command-and-control mechanisms for situational awareness and battle management; sensors that support defense of the network and drive operational decisions; and the Persistent Cyber Training Environment, which will provide individual and collective training as well as mission rehearsal.

Is the F-35 Stealth Fighter Safe From Hacking?

by Kris Osborn

They call the F-35 a “flying computer” armed with artificial intelligence-like sensor fusion, 360-degree cameras, advanced data links, an extensive database of threat information and a complex computerized logistics systems. So what happens if the stealth fighter jet is hacked? Its threat data could be compromised, weapons guidance derailed or, perhaps worst of all, its entire flight path or data sharing systems could be destroyed. 

The greater the advantage afforded by advanced computing and a new-generation of processing speed and AI-enabled algorithms, the greater the need to “harden” the system and ensure it is sufficiently resilient. This reality is not lost, for example, upon Lockheed developers or Air Force cyber specialists who have in recent years been immersed in an accelerated effort to secure weapons systems and major platforms against cyber attackers. 

The Air Force has, for several years now, been taking new strides with an ambitious, yet crucial effort known as Cyber Resilience Office for Weapons Systems, or CROWS. The concept for the office, established by Air Force Materiel Command several years ago, is grounded upon the premise that countermeasures and cyber protections, such as emerging technologies such as Boot Shield or Countervail, need to be “baked in” early and “layered” into prototypes for weapons systems early in the developmental process. 

29 November 2020

India’s Protectionism Might Hinder Its Economic Growth — and Affect Global Partnerships

By Aparna Pande

Indians elated by projections of a post-COVID-19 economic recovery must remember that these projections are predicated on India maintaining an open economy. New Delhi may feel bullish about the recent projections by global investment conglomerates Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs that India’s economy will bounce back in 2021 and grow at over 5 percent in 2022.

But this optimism is only partly based on faith in the revival of animal spirits once the economy is reopened after months of closure. Another key assumption, however, is an Indian economy that trades more with the world and offers a level playing field to investors.

Rising protectionism, arbitrary taxation, and excessive regulation that target foreign investment do not project the image of an India that is open and welcoming. These factors could limit India’s potential and hinder growth.

U.S.-India Insight: Revisiting Good Ideas

Richard M. Rossow

When a U.S. administration changes, those focused on the U.S.-India relationship offer useful commentary on what initiatives should be started, what should change, what should end, and what will remain the same. These are important considerations, but there is another category of initiatives that should also be considered: older ideas that are dormant or are currently underperforming but can bridge gaps in the U.S.-India relationship. Some good ideas simply need a second chance or prioritization from leaders within the administration.

There are plenty of instances in U.S.-India relations of good ideas requiring patience and persistence before progress. The defense foundation agreements are a recent notable example. These agreements on logistics, communications, and geospatial intelligence were originally raised over 10 years ago but saw no movement and were dropped from government bilateral meetings. However, a fresh commitment was made to seeing them through, and the two countries’ governments signed all three agreements in the last four years. A fourth agreement was later included, which opened the door for sharing sensitive defense industry information with India’s private sector.

Here are three important initiatives rooted in prior government-to-government engagement that are timely but require renewed focus by the Biden administration:

Jean Dreze: Last-mile hurdles in NREGA payments puncture India’s techno-utopian delusions

Jean Drèze

Transaction failures in Direct Benefit Transfer payments have been widely discussed in recent times, notably in the context of wage payments under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which guarantees memebers of rural families 100 days of work a year. However, little attention has been paid to the hurdles faced by NREGA workers in accessing their wages after DBT payments are credited to their accounts.

These are known as “last mile” hurdles. A new report by LibTech India, Length of the Last Mile, paints a grim and startling picture of these last-mile hurdles, based on a careful survey of 1,947 NREGA workers in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan.

This timely wake-up call extends LibTech’s earlier work on delays and other flaws of DBT payments to NREGA workers, spanning a whole decade. In an insightful foreword to the report reproduced below, economist Jean Dreze places these new findings in the context of the elusive quest for timely and reliable payment of NREGA wages.

Gilgit-Baltistan as Pakistan’s New Province could be a Game-Changer in Indo-Pacific Geopolitics

Deepak Saini

Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), formerly known as the Northern Areas, is a sparsely-populated mountainous region in the north of Pakistan, landlocked between India, China and Afghanistan. Since a treaty signed in 1846 between the British and the ruler of the Dogra dynasty, Gulab Singh, GB had been a part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. In the present context and from an international perspective, however, it is disputed territory and has been under Pakistani control since the partition of British India in 1947. The 1949 secret Karachi Agreement gave the Pakistani Government direct control over the region and, despite the region relying entirely on Islamabad for its economic needs, GB has been neglected by Pakistan’s constitution to date. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has declared that he wants to elevate Gilgit-Baltistan’s legal status to that a province, which move would make the region fully autonomous and represented in the country’s parliament.

India has denounced Pakistan’s decision, claiming that GB is ‘illegally and forcibly’ occupied by Islamabad and that the latter has no locus standi to alter its status. India’s Ministry of External Affairs reiterated that ‘the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the area of so-called “Gilgit-Baltistan”, are an integral part of India by virtue of the legal, complete and irrevocable accession of Jammu and Kashmir to the Union of India in 1947’. India maintains its claim to the entire territory of Jammu and Kashmir that includes Pakistan-administered Azad (Free) Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), the Kashmir Valley, Ladakh, Aksai Chin and Gilgit-Baltistan.

How One Social Media App Is Beating Disinformation

Elizabeth Lange, Doowan Lee

For many Americans who work in tech, Taiwan has become a model for the fight against disinformation. Like the United States, Taiwan is sharply divided on major issues, including national identity, China policy, and the legalization of same-sex marriage. Urban-rural divisions have further split Taiwanese society, and two major parties, whose relations have grown increasingly acrimonious, dominate Taiwanese politics. Yet unlike the United States, Taiwan is getting disinformation under control.

Partly, that success is due to government crackdowns on groups that spread disinformation, Taipei’s initiatives to improve media literacy, and President Tsai Ing-wen’s decision to prioritize the problem, exemplified by her appointment of Audrey Tang, a software engineer, as digital minister in 2016. But the crux of Taipei’s approach lies elsewhere: namely, in its ability to harness the power of its civil society and tech industry through a robust public-private partnership initiative.

RCEP not to have a strong impact

By Yen Huai-shing

After more than eight years of talks, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed on Nov. 15, combining the individual free-trade agreements signed between ASEAN member states on the one hand, and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand on the other.

Under the leadership of ASEAN and China, most observers did not expect the RCEP to provide a high degree of openness, and the announced agreement lives up to these expectations, containing few surprises.

All products covered by the RCEP tariff reductions are agricultural and industrial products, but reductions of agricultural product tariffs are very limited, for example covering only 49 percent of Japan’s agricultural and fishery products. In addition, many of the RCEP members are only to implement the reductions over the next 10 to 25 years.

Tariff reductions on machine tools and plastics industry products, which are of Taiwanese concern, would not be very high, and while this might still have an impact, it would not be a chock.

China goes from strength to strength in global trade

Tianlei Huang, Nicholas R. Lardy 

China's economy has recovered sharply since the second quarter of 2020, while the rest of the world is still deep in the Great Lockdown Recession. China's economic output grew 0.7 percent in real terms January through September 2020, and it is projected to be the only major economy that will expand in 2020. Despite weak growth in the rest of the world, China's net exports still grew, contributing 15 percent of its growth in the first three quarters. Because global trade volume is forecast to fall 10 percent in 2020, China's share in global trade will almost surely rise substantially.


Merchandise exports, after declining in the first quarter, have rebounded since then. As figure 1 shows, China's exports in October rose 11.4 percent from a year earlier, higher than 9.9 percent in September and 9.5 percent in August. Cumulative year-to-date exports through October expanded 0.5 percent. Global trade also seems to have recovered, but more slowly than China's trade. The World Trade Organization lately forecast that global merchandise trade in 2020 would fall by 9.2 percent, while the International Monetary Fund is now projecting a 10.4 percent decline in world trade volume, including goods and services.

The Chinese Nightmare: Debt Risks Along the Silk Road

China has paid dearly for its geopolitical rise. The Corona crisis is the latest example of the risks involved with massive investment in the Silk Road. The megaproject, which is also known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), was launched in 2013 to underpin the rapid expansion of China’s economy by outbound investment beyond its own national borders. It encompasses infrastructure investments, development policies, investment and trade relations, and financial cooperation with the BRI partner countries. Moreover, it represents a crucial policy to foster China’s geopolitical rise, i.e., by internationalising China’s financial system and its currency, enabling a strong export-driven economy.

The recent pandemic has caused substantial economic downturn and led to an outflow of capital in many BRI countries. The outbreak adds a new hurdle to the trade and infrastructure programme by prompting delays and disruptions, e.g., through labour shortages caused by quarantine measures. This amplifies risks attached to financing investment projects in less politically and economically stable developing countries. However, not only are many countries caught in a Chinese debt-trap, but China itself needs a strategy for managing non-performing loans amid the crisis. Loan defaults on the Silk Road could jeopardise the Chinese mega-project.

China Launches Mission to Bring Back Material From Moon

By Sam McNeil

A Long March-5 rocket carrying the Chang’e 5 lunar mission lifts off at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Wenchang in southern China’s Hainan Province, early on November 24, 2020.Credit: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

China launched an ambitious mission on Tuesday to bring back rocks and debris from the moon’s surface for the first time in more than 40 years — an undertaking that could boost human understanding of the moon and of the solar system more generally.

Chang’e 5 — named for the Chinese moon goddess — is the country’s boldest lunar mission yet. If successful, it would be a major advance for China’s space program, and some experts say it could pave the way for bringing samples back from Mars or even a crewed lunar mission.

The four modules of the Chang’e 5 spacecraft blasted off at just after 4:30 a.m. Tuesday atop a massive Long March-5Y rocket from the Wenchang launch center along the coast of the southern island province of Hainan.

The China strategy America needs

The achievement of the Trump administration was to recognise the authoritarian threat from China. The task of the Biden administration will be to work out what to do about it.

Donald Trump’s instinct was for America to run this fight single-handed. Old allies were henchmen, not partners. As Joe Biden prepares his China strategy (see article), he should choose a different path. America needs to strike a grand bargain with like-minded countries to pool their efforts. The obstacles to such a new alliance are great, but the benefits would be greater.

To see why, consider how the cold war against China is different from the first one. The rivalry with the Soviet Union was focused on ideology and nuclear weapons. The new battlefield today is information technology: semiconductors, data, 5g mobile networks, internet standards, artificial intelligence (ai) and quantum computing. All those things will help determine whether America or China has not just the military edge (see article), but also the more dynamic economy. They could even give one of the rivals an advantage in scientific research.

To Compete, Invest in People: Retaining the U.S. Defense Enterprise’s Technical Workforce

Morgan Dwyer, Lindsey R. Sheppard, Angelina Hidalgo, Melissa Dalton

Investing in People
Geopolitical competition and the nature of modern warfare are increasingly shaped by technology. Recent modernization efforts across the defense enterprise—which created technical centers of excellence within the Department of Defense (DOD), built stronger relationships with Silicon Valley and other tech hubs, and included DOD’s largest investment in research and development in 70 years—embrace this technical future.1 However, to fully modernize and compete effectively, the U.S. defense enterprise also needs to invest in people.

For the purposes of this brief, the people in the defense enterprise include both civil servants and members of the armed forces who are employed by the U.S. military branches (i.e., the Army, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard), defense agencies (e.g., the Missile Defense Agency and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), and defense headquarters (e.g., the Office of the Secretary of Defense and combatant commands). Although the defense ecosystem—including companies, universities, and federally funded research and development labs—makes essential contributions to national defense, this brief focuses on people directly employed by the federal government.

America’s Strategic Play in the Pacific

By Michael Sobolik

While pundits and policymakers in Washington lock horns over a new strategic direction to counter China, the Department of Defense (DoD) is quietly working to blunt the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) advance into the Pacific Ocean. The plan is simple: work with allies and partners throughout the Pacific region to maintain America’s military presence and limit the PLA’s operational capacity therein.

The Pentagon’s strategy isn’t a grand plan to collapse the regime in Beijing. Rather, it’s a practical recognition of the PLA’s growing capabilities and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) appetite for global domination, as well as the actual barriers that stand in China’s way. Geography plays a key role here, for the Pacific Ocean is most unfavorable to China, hemming it in with successive land barriers, or island chains, as defense planners call them. Holding these island chains won’t save America from great power competition, but it would certainly constrain China’s advance. Conversely, bolstering these island chains undergirds America’s power projection into the Indo-Pacific, where, unlike China, it plays an “away game.”

Defense In Depth

By Kori Schake, Jim Mattis, Jim Ellis, and Joe Felter

The world is not getting safer, for the United States or for U.S. interests. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the 2017 National Defense Strategy described an international environment of increased global disorder, long-term strategic competition, rapid dispersion of technologies, and eroding U.S. military advantages. Protecting the United States requires a strategy of defense in depth—that is, of identifying and dealing with global problems where they occur rather than waiting for threats to reach American shores.

To achieve defense in depth, simply strengthening the U.S. military is not enough; nor the even more urgent task of strengthening U.S. diplomacy and other civilian elements of national power. Enhancing national security must start with the fundamental truth that the United States cannot protect itself or its interests without the help of others. International engagement allows the United States to see and act at a distance, as threats are gathering,

Will Biden Go Big or Go Backward on North Korea Diplomacy?

Van Jackson

When President-elect Joe Biden enters the Oval Office on Jan. 20, he is unlikely to have North Korea at the front of his mind, given the many other urgent crises he will confront. But the Korean Peninsula has a way of forcing American presidents to pay attention. Crucial decisions about how to approach negotiations with Pyongyang over its nuclear program, as well as how to manage the U.S. alliance with South Korea, are now overdue. If Biden chooses wisely, his administration could prove transformational for the Korean Peninsula. If he errs or defers meaningful decisions to his successor, he risks being responsible for tragedy.

The past four years have seen North Korea steadily improve its capabilities, to the point where it can now plausibly reach any location in the continental United States with nuclear weapons. Pyongyang has also diversified the delivery systems from which it can launch long-range missiles, making its arsenal more survivable against attack. And it has begun to use solid-fuel propellant in its projectiles, which improves its ability to conduct launches with little to no advance warning. As time passes without a deal to curb its nuclear and missile programs, North Korea’s arsenal grows ever more lethal, with no foreseeable endpoint.

Europe’s Faustian Bargain


NEW YORK – The second wave of COVID-19 infections has struck Europe harder than many expected. The hope of a V-shaped recovery has been replaced by the fear of a double-dip recession, implying that there will be no quick return to normal European Union budget rules. More worryingly, Europe now finds itself forced into a tradeoff between two objectives, both of which are critical to its long-term viability as a supranational political and economic bloc. Now more than ever, the EU’s commitment to the rule of law appears to be on the chopping block.

The news is not all bad. Owing to farsighted policy decisions by EU leaders, north-south relations within the Union are on a firmer footing than they have been for many years. One sign of this is that the spreads between German and Italian interest rates are at a record low, indicating that Italy’s position in the euro is now rock solid. “Spread anxiety” about the sustainability of the euro has abated across the entire southern tier of the eurozone.

Forget the political hurdles recently introduced by Central European member states with their threats to veto the EU’s budget and new COVID-19 recovery fund. Sustaining the long-awaited north-south political and economic convergence will be the EU’s top priority in the weeks and months ahead.

Turkey–Russia Partnership in the War over Nagorno-Karabakh

Daria Isachenko

By siding with Azerbaijan in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkey is primarily pursuing the goal of undermining the current status quo of the region. Ankara aims above all to secure a place at the table where a solution to the conflict between Arme­nia and Azerbaijan will be negotiated in the future. The Syrian scenario should serve as an example. Turkey thus wants to negotiate with Russia in the South Caucasus, preferably without Western actors. Ankara’s plans are not uninteresting for Moscow. However, because of the complexity of Turkish-Armenian relations, there is a risk that Armenia and Turkey might become the eventual opponents in this conflict, rather than Armenia and Azerbaijan. The EU’s engagement should not be determined by its tense relationship with Turkey, but rather by the UN Security Council resolu­tions on Nagorno-Karabakh.

‘It’s time to pay.’ With these words, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan backed Azer­baijan’s demand to Armenia to vacate the Azerbaijani territories occupied by Armenian troops as well as Nagorno-Kara­bakh, immediately after the start of the military escalation on September 27, 2020. Later, Erdoğan vehemently criticised the USA, France and Russia who as co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group mediate in the con­flict. From the perspective of Azerbaijan and Turkey, this format is neither neutral nor efficient, as no solution has been found for nearly thirty years. Turkey is explicitly on Azerbaijan’s side and is prepared to give Baku full support ‘both on the field and at the negotiating table’. At the same time, it has repeatedly stressed its interest in resolv­ing this conflict together with Russia.

A Plan to End the War in Syria: Competing with Russia in the Levant

Aaron Stein

The United States has an interest in allowing the Russian Federation to “win” an outright victory in Syria, so long as it secures from Moscow an agreement that is favorable to the Syrian Kurds, builds in negative consequences for an external actor targeting the Syrian Democratic Forces, and establishes a “deconflict plus”-type mechanism to continue to target Islamic State- and Al Qaeda-linked individuals in Syria. A forward-looking policy that the incoming Biden administration could consider is to deprioritize the nascent threat of the Islamic State as a key factor in driving U.S. national security strategy, and instead focus more intently on long-term competition with great powers. This approach would seek to shape how Moscow spends finite defense dollars—at a time of expected global defense cuts stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic—in ways that are advantageous to the United States. It also would seek to limit the cost of the U.S. presence in Syria—to include secondary and opportunity costs not accounted for in a basic cost breakdown of the U.S. war against the Islamic State. This approach is not without risk, particularly from a nascent Islamic State insurgency in Russian-controlled territory, but seeks to match U.S. strategic priorities with action and to impose upon a long-term competitor the costs of victory for its intervention in Syria.