11 October 2020

At Afghan Peace Talks, Hoping to End Their Fathers’ War

By Mujib Mashal

On both sides of the negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban are nearly a dozen children of men who played key roles in the Soviet conflict in the 1980s that set off four decades of violence and loss.

Some of their fathers have since died of old age, insurgents to the end. Some faced more violent deaths, blown up in suicide bombings that have become a trademark of the war’s brutality. Many of the ones who have survived, their chests decked out in the medals and insignia of a conflict that has inflicted misery on millions, grew rich — enjoying palaces, political fortune, massive wealth. But they still play hide and seek with death.

Those fathers fought alongside each other to drive out the Soviets, then turned their guns on each other in the power vacuum that followed, waging an atrocity-filled civil war.

Now, their children know all too well what is at stake as the United States military continues its withdrawal with the peace talks in Qatar still up in the air: If the Afghan warring sides fail to agree on a formula of power-sharing, Afghanistan could break into another civil war, the conflict dragging on for another generation, with new enemies and new patrons.

Returning to the Shadows: China, Pakistan, and the Fate of CPEC

Andrew Small

The CPEC Slowdown

The troubles faced by the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)—the flagship of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)—are perhaps the most conclusive demonstration that the BRI model that has been in place for the last few years is no longer sustainable. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, CPEC had stalled. Not only are the figures commonly cited for the total package of projects under this framework since its launch in 2015—which run as high as $62 billion—no longer accurate, investments of that magnitude are not under consideration either. The projects that are already underway or that have been completed are far from negligible, however. CPEC represents a marked expansion of China’s economic presence in Pakistan, with approximately $25 billion in investments to date—but this is already pushing close to the framework’s limits rather than the foundations of a more ambitious plan. 

Ahead of a visit by the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, CPEC has ostensibly been going through a modest revival. This will see the addition of a couple of hydro-electric power plants and the upgrading of the ML-1 railway line between Karachi and Peshawar. But the pandemic has further weakened Pakistan’s already poor economic situation. Islamabad is embroiled in renegotiations with China over doubling the payback period on the existing CPEC energy projects and addressing its worsening debts. While CPEC may be a partial beneficiary of the immediate need for spending to revive the struggling economy, the government’s financing capacity has diminished significantly. 

Chinese Discourse Power

by Alicia Fawcett

New methods of information operations, in the form of interference campaigns and disinformation, outline China’s shift toward adopting the principle of “discourse power.” China’s traditional foreign policy of “non-intervention” into foreign nations is no longer viable, as it has envisioned a different world order with itself ascending to the central role. Discourse power is the concept that a country can attain increased geopolitical power by setting agendas internationally through influencing the political order and values both domestically and in foreign countries. The information space offers China an effective alternative to its prior “non-intervention” stance by allowing the country to project the “China Story”—i.e., to project the positive image through storytelling in the media landscape, both domestic and abroad. Information perception tactics such as the removal, suppression, and downplay of negative information, as well as gamification of certain hashtags, are tools with which China intends to convince foreign audiences that it is “a responsible world leader” and leading power in reforming the international political system. 

This study examined the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) use of both Mandarin-language and Western social media platforms as tools for discourse power projection. The DFRLab found China to be effective on Mandarin-language sites that target both Chinese citizens and the Chinese diaspora, employing the use of strict censorship and favorable CCP messaging prioritization. On the other hand, while attempting to engage foreign actors through Western social media platforms, the information operations found to date have resulted in ineffective influence, relied on outsourcing the operation to third parties, and utilized “astroturfing” and “sock puppets.” 

America's Allies See China, Not U.S., As World's Leading Economy Amid Coronavirus Crisis: Poll


Public opinion of China in the Western world has collapsed amid the coronavirus pandemic and increasing scrutiny of the human rights abuses being committed by the Chinese Communist Party, according to a Pew Research Center poll published Tuesday.

The 14-country survey found surging negative opinions of Beijing in most included nations, plus growing skepticism that President Xi Jinping can be relied on to do the right thing on the world stage. Most also believed that China had poorly handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the poll—involving nationally representative groups of 14,276 adults between June 10 and August 3—makes for grim reading for the U.S. too. Most respondents believe that China has handled the coronavirus pandemic better than its American adversaries, and now see China as the world's leading economy—even those in countries that remain staunch American allies.

Overall, Western respondents are far more skeptical of Beijing than a few years ago. A majority of those surveyed by phone in all 14 nations—the U.S., Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the U.K., Australia, Japan and South Korea—all had an unfavorable opinion of China.

Taiwan says military under pressure from China as missions mount

TAIPEI--Taiwan’s military has launched aircraft to intercept Chinese planes more than twice as much as all of last year, the island’s defense ministry said, describing Taiwan as facing severe security challenges from its huge neighbor.

China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, has stepped up its military activities near the island, responding to what Beijing calls “collusion” between Taipei and Washington.

In the past few weeks, Chinese fighter jets have crossed the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, which normally serves as an official buffer between the island and the mainland and have flown into Taiwan’s southwestern air defense identification zone.

In a report to parliament, a copy of which was reviewed by Reuters, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said so far this year the air force had scrambled 4,132 times, up 129 percent compared to all of last year, according to Reuters calculations.

China “is trying to use unilateral military actions to change the security status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and at the same time is testing our response, increasing pressure on our air defenses and shrinking our space for activity,” it said.

Israel must partner with US in power competition with China - opinion


Israel and the United States are nearing an agreement to exclude Chinese technology from the former’s 5G networks – another indication that Jerusalem is heeding Washington’s demand for a tougher stance against Beijing. As US-Sino ties continue to fray, Israel must decisively support Washington’s efforts to face down Beijing. This would serve not only America’s interests, but Israel’s as well.

Amid China’s race to overcome American regional and global dominance, there have been growing concerns in Washington over Beijing’s access to Israeli technologies. The involvement of Chinese companies in major infrastructure projects in Israel – such as the Tel Aviv Light Rail, the Carmel Tunnels, and the Ashdod and Haifa ports – have also drawn American scrutiny for potentially handing China surveillance opportunities. For instance, the decision to tap a Chinese firm to operate the Haifa Port has raised security concerns for the US Navy, whose Sixth Fleet occasionally docks nearby.

Like others, Israeli companies dealing with China risk having their intellectual property stolen, and their technology used to bolster China’s military capabilities. The Pentagon noted in 2019 that China supplemented its military modernization efforts with “the acquisition of foreign technologies and know-how,” including through “imports, foreign direct investment, industrial and cyberespionage, and establishment of foreign R&D centers.”

The Future of Chinese Power


What kind of superpower will China be? That’s the question of the 21st century. According to American leaders such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, China will be a rapacious authoritarian nightmare, intent on destroying democracy itself. Beijing, needless to say, doesn’t quite agree.

Fortunately for those of us seeking answers to this question, China was a major power for long stretches of history, and the foreign policies and practices of its great dynasties can offer us insights into how modern Chinese leaders may wield their widening power now and in the future.

Of course, Chinese society today is not the same as it was 100 years ago—let alone 1,000 years. But I’ve long been studying imperial China’s foreign relations, and clear patterns of a consistent worldview emerge that are likely to shape Beijing’s perceptions and projection of power in the modern world.



China is the world's most populous country (1.4 billion people in 2019) with a fast-growing economy that has led it to be the largest energy consumer and producer in the world.1 Rapidly increasing energy demand has made China influential in world energy markets. Despite structural changes to China’s economy during the past few years, China’s energy demand is expected to increase, and government policies support cleaner fuel use and energy efficiency measures.

China’s official data reported that its economy grew by 6.1% in 2019, which was the lowest annual growth rate since 1990. After registering an average growth rate of 10% per year between 2000 and 2011, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth has slowed or remained flat each year since then.2 The 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and resulting economic effects has adversely affected industrial and economic activity and energy use within China and are likely to push GDP growth much lower than 6% in 2020, according to numerous analysts.3

China is transitioning away from an economy that relies on growth in the manufacturing and export sectors to one that is more service oriented. In 2018, the government attempted to enact financial regulatory reforms, reduce high local government debt levels, and cut air pollution levels from the industrial sector. However, the subsequent economic slowdown has put unemployment levels at risk of rising. The trade conflict with the United States, which began in 2017 and led to an increase in tariffs on most of China’s goods exported to the United States, poses a downside risk to China’s economic growth in the next few years.

Understanding China’s Digital Yuan

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), China’s central bank, is expected to publicly launch a digital version of the yuan as soon as late 2020. The project is being fast-tracked, partly in response to Facebook’s Libra and the COVID-19 pandemic. The PBOC has rolled out pilot tests in at least four cities, reportedly with the participation of U.S. businesses. While various countries are conducting research and development on central bank digital currencies, China is significantly ahead and appears poised to be the first large economy to issue such a currency.

The digital yuan is 100% programmable and trackable, meaning the Chinese government can monitor capital flows in great detail and impose limitations or preconditions on the currency’s use.

The digital yuan poses meaningful threats to the diplomatic, informational, and economic interests of the United States and its allies. Among them, the digital yuan will help China internationalize its currency, promoting the yuan as a rival or alternative to the U.S. dollar; enable China to expand and export its surveillance capabilities by providing a window into and control over the economic activity of users within its borders or abroad; and allow China to circumvent sanctions, arms embargos, and money laundering regulations by providing an alternative to the existing dollar-based system of international payments, which is policed by Western financial institutions.

Facebook, COVID-19, and the Digital Yuan

Chinese Nuclear Missile Guidance Systems: Spotlight on the Xian Institute of Microelectronics Technology

Microelectronics are driving China’s expanding and increasingly sophisticated space and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force. Integrated circuits are core components in ICBM and space guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) sub-systems, which are instrumental for delivering aeronautic vehicles and missile payloads to designated targets. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) Ninth Academy, also known as the China Academy of Aerospace Electronics Technology (CAAET), is responsible for detailed design and manufacturing of missile-borne computers, missile guidance sets, and associated components. The CASC Ninth Academy’s 771 Research Institute is perhaps the most important supplier of military-grade chips that guide People’s Liberation Army (PLA) ICBMs to their intended targets. This article features the 771 Institute as a critical node in the PLA ballistic missile supply chain.


CASC is the sole supplier of intermediate- and intercontinental-range ballistic missiles to the PLA Rocket Force (PLARF) and Navy. The PLARF Equipment Department is responsible for planning, programming, and budgeting China’s ICBM force modernization. Among other systems, the PLARF currently is equipped with the liquid-fueled DF-5, including a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) variant, solid-fueled DF-31A ICBM, and mobile and solid-fueled MIRV DF-41 ICBMs. More specifically, the Equipment Department develops technical requirements, manages major acquisition programs, and oversees repair and maintenance of ICBMs and other weapon systems. The PLARF Equipment Department relies heavily upon the PLARF Research Academy and at least seven subordinate research institutes.

Tibet Leadership in Exile and the Indo-Pacific Strategy

In this publication, Ellen Bork, Visiting Fellow at the Project 2049 Institute, examines the historical basis for Washington’s Tibet policy to demonstrate that America’s position on Tibet originates from misguided strategic assumptions about the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its ambitions in Tibet, the Indo-Pacific region, and the liberal world order. The author asserts that the time has come for Washington to revise the United States’ policy toward Tibet and its democratic government-in-exile, as a critical component of America’s free and open Indo-Pacific strategy. Leading the way, Bork provides a roadmap of recommendations for Washington, including the adoption of democratic legitimacy as the basis of Tibet policy, the enlistment of supportive democracies in establishing a unified position, prioritizing the issue at international organizations, and engaging Tibetan leadership, among others.

The Abraham Accords: The View from the Gulf

On September 15, 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump hosted the leaders of Israel and Bahrain, as well as the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates at the White House to sign normalization agreements, ending the UAE and Bahraini non-recognition of the Jewish State. To discuss the agreements, Aaron Stein, Director of Research at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, spoke with Michael Stephens, Senior Fellow at FPRI, about the implications of the normalization agreements and the Abraham Accords. 

Aaron Stein: First off, thanks for doing this: I think the place to start is to just describe what happened a few days ago at the White House?

Michael Stephens: What happened was an important moment in the history of the Middle East. Let’s make no mistake, two Arab states normalizing relations with Israel is a big deal no matter what way you look at it. The reason that it hasn’t taken up pages and pages of our major newspapers is simply because neither the UAE, nor Bahrain (the states which signed the agreements) are really all that important when it comes to the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They don’t share borders with Israel, never fired at shot at Israel, and the Palestinian refugee populations that live in these countries are relatively small in number. So when it comes to “peacemaking,” there’s not much peace to make, and so it’s not a Begin and Sadat moment in 1979, or a King Hussain and Rabin moment in 1994. It is something quite different, and in a way, more interesting.

From Blurred Lines to Red Lines: How Countermeasures and Norms Shape Hybrid Conflict | Countering ISIS Propaganda in Conflict Theatres

Conflicts between states have taken on new forms and hybrid operations play an increasingly important role in this volatile environment. Belligerent powers introduce a new model of conflict fought by proxy, across domains, and below the conventional war threshold to advance their foreign policy goals while limiting decisive responsiveness of their victim. 

Given these hybrid threats, how should Western states respond? Are there any tools available Western states have that can draw red lines into blurred lines of hybrid conflict? 

In 2014, ISIS began embarking on a massive propaganda campaign primarily aimed at foreign audiences. This campaign notably abused new social media technologies to reach millions. Responding to such a campaign is tough for Western authorities, especially as rivals like Russia were hoping to exploit any precedents the West may set. How should they respond? How can they avoid setting undesirable precedents? 

The Undiminished Threat of the Islamic State

Dr Shanthie Mariet D’Souza and Dr Bibhu Prasad Routray

The Arrests Arrests of two persons associated with the Islamic State (IS), within a week, has brought back attention on the undiminished threat of the global jihadist organization to India’s national security. While the 28-year-old Abdul Rahman, working as an ophthalmologist in a Bangalore medical college, was arrested on 18 August, Mohammed Mushtaqeem Khan, aged 36, was arrested in New Delhi with IEDs and explosives following a brief exchange of fire with the Delhi Police on 22 August. Rahman had reportedly visited an IS camp in Syria to treat injured fighters. Khan had never left Indian shores and had reportedly taken up the role of being a lone-wolf fighter on the advice of an IS recruiter. 

A Failed Attempt Since its founding in 2014, the IS in Iraq and Syria has posed a rather subdued threat to India. Its repeated calls to the Indian Muslims have largely been ignored. Close to 200 people have either left the country or have attempted to do so to join the group. This has been interpreted as a failure of the global Jihadist force, whose appeal to the Muslims of Europe, Africa and even Southeast Asia have been far more successful than the South Asians. Even in Kashmir, where anti-India sentiments are high, the IS as well as the al Qaeda phenomenon has failed to emerge as a major security threat. Cyber wing of intelligence agencies as well as those of the state police establishments have done well to arrest self-radicalized individuals and bust modules. Individual state police wings have been able to infiltrate into chat rooms, social media groups to track online communication, activities and exchanges of IS recruiters. While government does not stress much on either unleashing a counter-messaging to the IS propaganda or engaging in a de-radicalization initiative, adequate promotion seems to have been given to tracking and neutralizing the online recruitment efforts. And till now, this approach has been successful.

worldsVirtual realities

Virtual realities: Computer-generated realities are becoming ubiquitous

Simulation: Virtual environments are being used everywhere

Hardware: Headset technology is cheaper and better than ever

Health care: Health care is already benefiting from VR

Brain scan: A novelist’s vision of the virtual world has inspired an industry

The rest of the world is taking advantage of a distracted America

The United States in its season of political torment acts as though the rest of the world is on hold. The fact that foreign policy wasn’t mentioned in the fracas of the first presidential debate is one small example of our myopia.

Unfortunately, the international order is not on autopilot. Leaders around the world see that the United States is enfeebled, at least temporarily, and they are aggressively pursuing their interests. While the cat’s asleep, the rats are at play.

America is absent. A bloody war erupts between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and both sides look to Russia for a solution. Iranian militias destabilize Iraq, and the State Department prepares to close our embassy there for self-protection. China draws “red lines” to assert dominance over Taiwan, and U.S. military experts privately concede that Chinese power in the area outmatches that of the United States.

The structure of U.S. alliances, perhaps our greatest national asset, has become wobbly. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commendably has been traveling abroad and meeting with key U.S. partners, such as Japan, India, Australia and, before that, Greece and Italy. But when it comes to big issues such as the Iran nuclear agreement and the Paris climate accords, the United States stands awkwardly alone.

Combating Terrorism Center (CTC)

· Stepping Out from the Shadows: The Interrogation of the Islamic State’s Future Caliph 

· The al-Mawla TIRs: An Analytical Discussion with Cole Bunzel, Haroro Ingram, Gina Ligon, and Craig Whiteside 

· The Future Role of the U.S. Armed Forces in Counterterrorism 

· The Crisis Within Jihadism: The Islamic State’s Puritanism vs. al-Qa`ida’s Populism

Study Finds ‘Single Largest Driver’ of Coronavirus Misinformation: Trump

By Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Noah Weiland

WASHINGTON — Of the flood of misinformation, conspiracy theories and falsehoods seeding the internet on the coronavirus, one common thread stands out: President Trump.

That is the conclusion of researchers at Cornell University who analyzed 38 million articles about the pandemic in English-language media around the world. Mentions of Mr. Trump made up nearly 38 percent of the overall “misinformation conversation,” making the president the largest driver of the “infodemic” — falsehoods involving the pandemic.

The study, to be released Thursday, is the first comprehensive examination of coronavirus misinformation in traditional and online media.

“The biggest surprise was that the president of the United States was the single largest driver of misinformation around Covid,” said Sarah Evanega, the director of the Cornell Alliance for Science and the study’s lead author. “That’s concerning in that there are real-world dire health implications.”

The study identified 11 topics of misinformation, including various conspiracy theories, like one that emerged in January suggesting the pandemic was manufactured by Democrats to coincide with Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial, and another that purported to trace the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China, to people who ate bat soup.

But by far the most prevalent topic of misinformation was “miracle cures,” including Mr. Trump’s promotion of anti-malarial drugs and disinfectants as potential treatments for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. That accounted for more misinformation than the other 10 topics combined, the researchers reported.

War on Autopilot? It Will Be Harder Than the Pentagon Thinks


MCLEAN, Virginia — Everything is new about Northrop Grumman’s attempt to help the military link everything it can on the battlefield. One day, as planners imagine it, commanders will be able to do things like send autonomous drones into battle, change attack plans midcourse, and find other ways to remove humans and their limitations from decision chains that increasingly seem to require quantum speed. Northrop’s Innovation Center in McLean, Virginia, looks so new it could have sprung up in a simulation. Its Washington metro rail stop doesn’t even appear on many maps yet.

Northrop is hardly alone. Over the last few months, various weapons makers have begun showing off all sorts of capabilities to reporters, while military officials detail their own efforts to link up jets, tanks, ships, and soldiers. As they describe it, it’s a technological race to out-automate America’s potential adversaries. 

But real questions remain about the Pentagon’s re-imagining of networked warfare. Will it ever become more than glitzy simulations? And have military leaders thought through the implications if it does?

"Bash the Expert": Expertise Amid the Covid-19 Crisis | Conference Summary

Daphne Inbar

The coronavirus pandemic has generated an additional crisis, joining the healthcare and economic crises – the public’s lack of trust in the credibility of experts. Many prefer to rely on “Dr. Google” and ignore scientists, physicians, and economists who offer professional opinions on news broadcasts and at Knesset hearings. What are the reasons for this lack of trust, and how can this situation be rectified? To find out, read the insights from a recent INSS conference

Alongside the escalating Covid-19 crisis, another crisis with a widespread effect poses a major challenge in the post-truth era: the diminished public and political trust in experts. On September 8, 2020, the question of the status and role of experts was discussed in an online conference held in the framework of the INSS Lipkin-Shahak Program on National Security and Democracy in an Era of Post-Truth and Fake News. The discussion focused on two main concerns: the role that experts play in decision making processes, and their status among the general public. The conference speakers included researchers, senior experts, and decision makers in the fields of national security, economy, and public health, as well as figures from the traditional media and representatives of social media. This article summarizes the main ideas raised in response to the principal issues discussed: What changes have occurred in the concept of the "expert" and the perception of expertise in today’s world? What are challenges and opportunities to the inclusion of experts in the decision making process on various issues – whether regarding national security in general, or in the management of a concrete crisis, such as the Covid-19 crisis in particular? What role do media outlets and social networks assign to experts in the public discourse, and how is this affected by various considerations, including viewer ratings and personal preferences?

How Can the Lockdown Be More Effective? Summary of a Conference at INSS

Tomer Barnett, Itai Brun

Politicians who manage the coronavirus crisis in a failed and unprofessional fashion, and a public that has lost faith in its leadership and repeatedly ignores guidelines – this is Israel’s situation early in the second lockdown, and no one is sure how long this lockdown will last. How can what is now a steadily rising rate of morbidity be reduced? What is the best way to pursue a “routine in the presence of the coronavirus” without plunging into a third lockdown? How can the government regain public trust? Answers to these questions were proposed at a special INSS conference – read the summary here

Special Publication, October 2, 2020

A conference at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) on September 30, 2020 was held against the backdrop of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the decision to impose a new lockdown, and the evident inability by decision makers to formulate and implement a consistent and effective policy. The primary questions addressed at the conference were how might the lockdown be made more effective, and how might morbidity be reduced. The conference emphasized the need to balance public health and socioeconomic considerations, which in turn would enhance the public’s compliance with the imposed restrictions and guidelines. The discussion centered on two principal problems: the lack of public trust in the government, and the absence of a dedicated mechanism, or “system,” to manage the crisis. There was a consensus among participants about the need for the lockdown, as well as the need to emerge from it gradually. At the same time, participants were divided on a number of issues: using the IDF to manage the crisis, the value of scare tactics to increase civil obedience, and the actual level of public compliance with the rules and directives.

The consequences of COVID-19: reduced chances of achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?

In the second in a series of papers analysing the ways COVID-19 is affecting stability across the world, this paper explores how the pandemic has affected the implementation of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and undermined progress towards global economic, social and political stability.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a major setback on the path towards achieving the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 ASD), making the challenge even greater for international organisations, governments and all relevant stakeholders. Moreover, when the health crisis hit, progress towards development goals was already patchy. The impacts of the pandemic and the consequences of the lack of progress in certain areas are mutually reinforcing, and require a combination of immediate responses to the damage done by COVID-19 and broader, longer-term efforts aimed at increasing resilience to future crises of similar proportions.

Key messages

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult to implement the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and has exacerbated the very challenges the Sustainable Development Goals aim to eliminate.

Can AI Detect Disinformation? A New Special Operations Program May Find Out


For all the U.S. military’s technical advantages over adversaries, it still struggles to counter disinformation. A new software tool to be developed for the U.S. Air Force and Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, may help change that.

“If you don’t compete in the information space, regardless of how good your operations are, your activities are, you will probably eat a shit sandwich of disinformation or false reporting later on,” Raymond “Tony” Thomas, a former SOCOM chief, said in an interview. “We certainly experienced that at the tactical level. That was the epiphany where we would have good raids, good strikes, etc. and the bad guys would spin it so fast that we would be eating collateral damage claims, etc. So the information space in that very tactical space is key.

It even “stretches to the strategic space,” said Thomas, meaning that disinformation can spread until it affects larger geopolitical realities. 

Thomas now serves as an advisory board member for Primer, a company that on Thursday announced a Small Business Innovation Research contract to develop software over the next year to help analysts better—and much more quickly—survey the information landscape and hopefully detect false narratives that show up in the public space.

Treat AI As Intelligence — Not Technology


The US military is rolling out AI-enabled projects like the Air Force’s Airborne Battle Management System or the Army’s Project Convergence. But the novelty of these demonstrations and the effort required to pull them off suggest that—unlike Silicon Valley—DoD is struggling to incorporate AI into its combat systems, aircraft, ships, and other equipment. 

DoD promulgated an Artificial Intelligence Strategy, established the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, and the services all stood up their own AI offices, so we know they’re trying hard. The problem is these initiatives treat AI as a tool rather than a method for using a tool. For example, copying past efforts to field nuclear weapons and nuclear propulsion, the Defense Innovation Board advised the JAIC to be made the central manager for all DoD AI efforts; the vice-chair of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence proposed creating a Naval Reactors-like organization to accelerate introduction of AI into the US military. 

Recently the JAIC changed course and announced a series of moves that break with the flawed “AI is a thing” paradigm. By transforming itself into an enabler of AI adoption across the US military, the JAIC will treat AI like a technique that is bought as a service, complete with new contracting mechanisms for the continuous data management, model refinement, software development, and testing needed for defense organizations and vendors to incorporate AI into their products and processes.

Artificial Intelligence and Countering Violent Extremism: A Primer

According to popular belief, artificial intelligence (AI) will revolutionise everything, including national security. To what effect the internet facilitates radicalisation remains an unanswered question, but the latest terror attacks, in Halle in eastern Germany, Christchurch in New Zealand and at Poway synagogue in California, are just three recent examples of the online sphere playing a significant role in radicalisation today.

How can AI help to counter radicalisation online? Expertise on the matter is divided into different disciplines but can be found among researchers and experts from security and counterterrorism backgrounds, as well as policymakers and tech‑experts, who increasingly come together to investigate this domain. Currently, the existing landscape of information makes it difficult for decision‑makers to filter real information from the noise. This report wants to shed light on the latest developments in AI and put them in the context of counter‑radicalisation efforts in liberal democracies.

This publication contributes to the topic by highlighting some limits and possibilities of AI in counter‑radicalisation online. The second chapter briefly explains the key concepts and ideas behind AI. In a ‘Deep Dive’ at the end of the chapter, special attention is given to the quality of data and bias and manipulation in datasets. The third chapter discusses the potential provided by and limitations of AI‑based technological innovations for a ‘healthy’ online space, free from terrorist content, propaganda material and fake engagement. The assumption is that this healthy online environment contributes to the prevention of radicalisation. The chapter assesses a range of popular AI‑based concepts, ranging from Deepfakes to bot armies spreading fake news, and explains why search engines, recommendation systems and, in particular, natural language processing (NLP) have the potential to contribute to this objective in one way or another. The fourth chapter looks solely at a hypothetical ‘general AI’, the omniscient system that identifies individuals undergoing radicalisation and can consequently help law enforcement to prevent crime before it happens. This chapter also argues, however, that such AI technology will remain solely in the realm of science fiction for the foreseeable future. This leads to a discussion of the reasons behind such a position. Big data debates, especially regarding traditional security, cannot take place in liberal democracies without safeguarding and prioritising privacy. Another ‘Deep Dive’ in chapter four provides more information for the interested reader. The fifth chapter concludes the report.