5 November 2020

What India’s military commentators don’t get about drones — AI can’t just be unboxed and used


Retired Lt Gen. H.S. Panag’s article — ‘High-tech drones could have neutralised Chinese intrusions at LAC’ — is unexceptionable in its lament. Only, it is more eloquent in what it fails to say than in what it does. The article, while critiquing the Indian Army’s neglect of a powerful piece of battlefield technology, echoes the very misperceptions that prevent the Army from embracing technology in any meaningful way.

It appears that when the Army’s institutional brain thinks of technological advancement, it imagines a patchwork of the latest battlefield systems that can easily be unpacked and deployed in battle. These systems are expected to be delivered by a manufacturer, foreign or domestic, in a ready-to-use condition. All that the Army would need to do is train its personnel in the system’s operation and maintenance.

That is simply not how technology works. Not anymore. Let’s take a closer look at the drone technology that the article speaks about to understand why this is so. Lt Gen. Panag presupposes – correctly – that any large-scale use of drones will be AI or Artificial Intelligence-enabled.

The question he does not ask is this: Where will this AI come from? Talking of which, what is AI?

AI needs continuous data

The India-China Rivalry Undermines the Emergence of a Multipolar World

By Emil Avdaliani

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: India has initiated a grand strategic shift away from active engagement with China and toward its outright containment. This evolution was long in coming, but recent military clashes in the Himalayas have accelerated the process. India’s emerging strategy undermines the notion of a multipolar world championed by Moscow and Beijing, putting into question the degree to which the liberal world order is in decline.

A grand strategic shift is taking place in India’s geopolitical calculus.

New Delhi has always been wary of Beijing’s growing economic and military power. But in the last couple of years, China’s moves in the Indo-Pacific region have entrenched the belief among the Indian political elite that their country has to pursue a more active foreign policy.

Beijing is pursuing many large infrastructure projects and military moves in the Indo-Pacific. The most critical of these includes China’s modernization of its military infrastructure in Tibet, which it is conducting at breakneck speed. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), involving some $46 billion of investment into Pakistan and especially into territories claimed by India, also increases New Delhi’s longterm animosity toward Beijing.

Further afield, China is increasing its influence among the smaller South Asian states that border India’s eastern provinces. This issue connects with China’s “string of pearls” strategy—the development of ports that it will likely use for both commercial and military purposes in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere. The resulting Indian fears of Chinese encirclement are translating into growing calls in India for a more robust and proactive foreign policy stance.

Terrorist Attack in Kabul Shatters Lives—and Illusions

By Stefanie Glinski

KABUL—Abdul Akbari was in his bed at Ali Abad Hospital in Kabul, nursing a gunshot wound in his left leg. He clearly remembered what happened in the terrorist attack on his university campus in Kabul on Monday.

“The terrorists came as suicide attackers and killers, murdering many. One of them, wearing a type of security guard uniform and no face covering, opened our classroom door and looked us straight in the eyes, shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ before starting to shoot,” Akbari said. “Many of my friends are dead. I saw them lying on the floor when I tried to escape.”

The 22-year-old student survived, but of the 13 students taken to Ali Abad, he’s one of the luckier ones. Across the hall, in a spartan intensive care unit, another student lay unconscious with four bullets in his belly and a growing pool of blood under his bed. The nurses were not optimistic.

At least 22 people were killed and dozens more injured in a terrorist attack Monday at Kabul University, Afghanistan’s largest, with a student body of about 22,000. The Islamic State in Afghanistan claimed credit for the attack. It was just the latest sign that the fragile peace deal inked this year between the United States and the Taliban is far from the final word on a conflict that has gutted Afghanistan for decades.

The attack is yet another Islamic State assault on education in just over a week.The six-hour siege started in the late morning and ended with Afghan forces and U.S. commandos killing three attackers. All afternoon, loud explosions and ongoing gunfire rocked the university campus, where many students were sheltering while the majority had managed to flee.

Living with the Taleban (1): Local experiences in Andar district, Ghazni province

Sahil Afghan

Today, we publish the first of three studies exploring how the Taleban rule, and the impact of that rule on residents. Given that the talks in Doha may presage an Afghan state with key positions held by the Taleban or that, at the very least, the pattern of the Taleban controlling particular localities will continue, understanding what it is like to live under Taleban rule is important. Our research explores the local dynamics of citizens/Taleban interactions, lays out how the Taleban structure their government and asks whether local people can affect policy or indeed are able to hold the Taleban to account at all. Our first case study is Andar, in Ghazni province, which has been under partial Taleban rule since 2006/07 and complete rule since 2018. Guest author Sahil Afghan* has visited the district numerous times and followed events there closely since 2001 and finds a Taleban administration which is well-structured, where military men have civilian roles and protest is unimaginable. A view of Andar town, where the Taleban have allowed telephone companies to operate 24 hours after the signing of the US-Taleban agreement. Photo: Sahil Afghan.

The ‘Living with the Taleban’ mini-series is a joint research project by the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). The AAN series editor is Reza Kazemi.

Andar was chosen as a case study partly because it is a district where AAN has conducted research on both security and political economy many times. (1) However, Andar is also fairly representative as a district in what the Taleban considers their heartland: it is entirely Pashtun, tribal (dominated by one tribe, the Andar) and the insurgency began very early on when, in about 2003, madrassa students began to organise. It has largely been held by the Taleban from 2006/7. An uprising by disgruntled members of the Taleban in 2012 led to some territory being retaken by what initially was perceived as pro-government forces, but meddling by politicians and US forces and abuses by what became Uprising Forces and Afghan Local Police (ALP) weakened the counter-insurgency and the Taleban gradually re-took territory. They captured the district centre in October 2018. 

Confidence in Chinese sovereign debt shows decoupling is a long way off

by Hung Tran, Nitya Biyani

China has just concluded a $6 billion US-dollar (USD)-denominated bond offering directly to US investors, drawing more than $27 billion of orders, thanks to the bond’s relatively higher yield than comparable US government bonds and its rarity value. International investors have also been attracted to China’s domestic Renminbi (RMB)-denominated bond markets, estimated to raise their holdings to 3 trillion yuan ($448 billion) by the end of this year from 2 trillion yuan ($298 billion) at the end of 2019—a 50 percent increase which is quite impressive during the pandemic crisis.

The attraction of Chinese domestic bond markets reflects a 2.5 percentage point yield advantage of Chines government bonds over US treasuries and a strengthening RMB versus the USD so far this year. The substantial inflows have been facilitated by China’s easing measures, including launching the Hong Kong-based Bond Connect program which allows foreign investors to buy domestic bonds without having to establish brokerage accounts in China. Also supporting inflows is the recent inclusion of Chinese RMB bonds in global bond indexes including those provided by JP Morgan, FTSE Russell, and Bloomberg.

China has also allowed several US securities and investment management firms to operate wholly-owned subsidiaries in China. All these opening measures are consistent with an important demand from the United States, highlighted in the Phase One Trade Deal, for China to open up their markets to United States and other players.

Generally speaking, China’s opening measures promoting further integration of its financial markets with global markets stand in sharp contrast with the de-coupling rhetoric coming out of Washington. This lack of cohesion in the US policy toward China must be fixed by the next administration, whoever wins in November.

Post-COVID-19 Central Asia and the Sino-American Geopolitical Competition

By Furqan Khan

COVID-19 is emerging as the geopolitical precursor to an ambitious struggle for influence in Central Asia between China and the United States. This competition, while not new, is finding novel expressions amidst COVID-19 while Central Asian states are faced with the socioeconomic and political challenges posed by the pandemic. The dire economic condition of the region’s states makes it even more necessary to attract short-term financial aid and long-term economic opportunities and investment in order for states to survive the pandemic and mitigate its impact. With these challenges in mind, this paper argues that COVID-19 catalyzes existing geopolitical hostilities between China and the United States. In such a geopolitical setting, Washington’s influence is declining as a result of a shift in its attention to emerging developments in the Indo-Pacific region, its reductionist approach towards Central Asia, and its domestic approach to handling the pandemic. China, on the other hand, is emerging as an economic savior of Central Asian states. This is because of China’s early success in defeating COVID-19 at home and its fostering of an ambitious COVID-centric diplomacy with relatively robust economic potential, as well as its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). With these factors in mind, China is more likely to retain an advantage on the post-pandemic Central Asian geopolitical chessboard vis-a-vis the United States. Conducting an argumentative analysis of Sino-US geopolitical competition in the region, this paper argues that the impact of COVID-19 will augment China’s geopolitical influence in post-pandemic Central Asia with a variety of ambitious long-term economic alternatives.

COVID-19 has emerged as the strategic enabler of a shifting power balance in major geopolitical hotspots. It has replenished Central Asian geopolitics with a renewed Great Game between China and the United States. The region, which is in a vital geostrategic position, is a source of a zero-sum gamble for both great powers, providing both countries with a chessboard on which to play out their geopolitical agendas against one another. This is especially true at a critical juncture in which Central Asian states are fraught with pandemic-related challenges.

Washington is determined to roll back growing Chinese socioeconomic and political influence, while Beijing is looking to formalize and broaden its gains in order to land a decisive blow to the United States’ long-held influence in its volatile and strategic backyard. In this scenario, Washington’s setbacks in its handling of the pandemic, along with Beijing’s assertiveness in its “COVID diplomacy,” indicates a shift in the power balance in Central Asia between China and the US[1]. In this geopolitical setting, with reference to the United States and Beijing’s handling of the crisis, China is visibly at an advantage in executing major economic projects: hence its influence in post-pandemic Central Asia[2]. To deal with these geopolitical challenges, in the latest United States Strategy for Central Asia 2019–2025: Advancing Sovereignty and Economic Prosperity, Washington emphasized economic development, energy security, stability in Afghanistan, and the use of the C5+1 platform to enable cooperation between the United States and Central Asia. It also provided Central Asia with USD 6.8 million and gave Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan humanitarian assistance to fight COVID-19. China, on the other hand, is also rushing forward to provide technical, medical, and monetary assistance to Central Asian states in order to enhance its geopolitical position vis-à-vis the United States. Its connectivity project, costing roughly USD 1 trillion, i.e., the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), finds more space in the region amidst the pandemic and offers opportunities for trading and investing as long-term solutions for some of the ongoing issues that affect Central Asian states.

Beijing’s Great Game in the Indo-Pacific: Future Dynamics

Saloni Salil

Key Points

The Indo-Pacific region connects large swathes of the globe and has become a major geopolitical theatre.

The consequences of China’s decision to “stand up” are being felt globally, with the Indo-Pacific being the most affected region.

Beijing must understand, however, that the Indo-Pacific is a multipolar region and is too large and complex to be dominated by any one power.

A plausible future for the region is one in which the strategic dynamic becomes predicated on pushback against China, leading to instability over an extended period of time.


The Indo-Pacific has become a locus of twenty-first century attention. It connects large swathes of the globe, which has made it a major geopolitical factor. The almost concurrent rise of China and India and the rapidly changing dynamics of the region now make this construct even more important. China’s escalated military presence and its aggressive policies, and the push-back by the United States, Australia, India and Japan add to that salience. The term “Indo-Pacific” denotes India’s significance in the region, since it marks its western boundary and recognises India as one of the key players in the twenty-first century. Any issues and events could, consequently, have an impact on India’s strategic and economic interests.

Looking Past China’s Rise for the Trends Shaping Asia

Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has begun to more aggressively challenge America’s role as the key economic and political power in Asia. Increasingly repressive at home, Xi has not shied away from asserting China’s regional influence, positioning Beijing as the powerbroker on everything from trade routes to the ongoing efforts to denuclearize North Korea. And with its Belt and Road Initiative, China’s influence is spreading well beyond Asia, into much of Africa and even Europe. China’s ascendance is also evident in how much attention other global powers are paying to Beijing and its policies. U.S. President Donald Trump made his trade war with China the centerpiece of his first term in office, and has publicly vilified China over its response to the coronavirus.

But while China’s rise often makes headlines, it is not the only trend shaping events in Asia. Nationalism has become a force in democracies like India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi rode the wave of Hindu nationalism to a massive victory in the country’s 2019 parliamentary elections, and the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte’s electoral gains in midterm elections in 2019 left even fewer checks on his increasingly autocratic behavior. Meanwhile, Myanmar’s government continues its persecutions of Rohingya Muslims.

Though democracy has taken a hit across parts of the continent, South Korea and Japan continue to offer models of liberalism. Both face challenges, though, primarily of the economic variety. South Korea is attempting to tackle corruption while deepening its ties with other parts of the continent, and Japan’s government is hoping to finally turn the corner on a period of flagging economic growth. But uncertainty over the trade war between the United States and China, as well as fallout from the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, have dampened the region’s economic prospects.

Regional flashpoints also remain. Tensions between India and Pakistan rose again after aerial skirmishes and tit-for-tat attacks in early 2019. More recently, a deadly border clash between India and China put residual tensions between those two powers back in the spotlight as well. Afghanistan faces an uncertain road ahead, as the U.S. seems determined to end its nearly two-decade-long military presence in the country whether or not the government in Kabul manages to secure a peace deal with the Taliban. And North Korea remains a perpetual wildcard.

The United States and Central Europe: A road map for a democratic post-pandemic agenda

by Daniel Fried, Jakub Wiśniewski, Denise Forsthuber, Alena Kudzko

A generation ago, the United States and Central Europe helped lead the West’s post-Cold War agenda of enlarging the democratic space. The peoples of Central Europe, with the support of the United States as well as Western Europe, overthrew their imposed communist regimes and enacted democratic, free-market reforms, seeking to become part of a Europe whole, free, and at peace. Alliance and integration with an undivided transatlantic community brought to Central Europe a generation of general peace and prosperity, to the benefit of Europe as a whole and the United States. We face different circumstances today and sharp challenges due to the novel coronavirus crisis, but the core principle for success—democratic solidarity—remains. As the transatlantic community faces the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, and policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic grapple with questions of recovery, the current moment represents both a challenge and an opportunity. The Atlantic Council and GLOBSEC’s second report, “The United States and Central Europe: A Road Map for a Democratic Post-Pandemic Agenda” outlines these themes and advocates for a common US-Central European agenda in seeking a better post-COVID-19 world.

The Illusion of Foreign Policy

By George Friedman

No matter who becomes America’s next president, certain things will follow. The world will wonder what President Donald Trump’s foreign policy will be in his second term, or it will wonder what President Joe Biden’s foreign policy will be. Alongside this will be the eagerness of those Americans who are interested in the rest of the world wondering what the old or new president’s intentions will be. Nowhere will the wonder be greater than in Washington, the one place in the United States that truly cares about foreign policy, in large part because many will be hoping to earn a living off the new – or old – foreign policy.

At best, a foreign policy is a list of intentions. At worst, it is a list of intentions hoping to appear to be a list of intentions, when in fact it is a list the president has no plans of following but which is put forth to hide the fact that the only real goal was winning the election. Taking this position on health care or taxes is dangerous for presidents; it is far less so on foreign policy.

The core problem with foreign policy is not hypocrisy. Rather, it is the irrelevance of a president’s intentions. President George W. Bush’s foreign policy was redefined on 9/11. His intentions before had nothing to do with his intentions afterward. President John F. Kennedy’s broad vision was narrowed considerably in April 1961, three months after his inauguration, at the Bay of Pigs. His failure there narrowed his policy to Cuba, not completely by any means, but as the center of his thoughts and nightmares. President Harry S. Truman’s foreign policy pivoted from Europe on June 25, 1950, when South Korea was invaded.

In each case, the president’s foreign policy was molded by another country. These are of course stark examples. In a broader sense, American foreign policy is an interaction between the United States and foreign countries. The United States, as a global power, has a vast network of allies, adversaries and others trying to decide which they intend to be. Foreign relations is the interaction of countries that may, and likely will, resist all or part of a foreign policy. Foreign policy, like a war plan, does not survive the first encounter with the world.

Combating Terrorism Center (CTC)

Back into the Shadows? The Future of Kata'ib Hezbollah and Iran's Other Proxies in Iraq

A View from the CT Foxhole: Drew Endy, Associate Chair, Bioengineering, Stanford University

Jihadi Insurgency in Mozambique Grows in Sophistication and Reach

Twenty Years after the USS Cole Attack: The Search for Justice

NATO 20/2020: Twenty bold ideas to reimagine the Alliance after the 2020 US election

By Christopher Skaluba
More than two decades after NATO’s inspired decision to invite former adversaries to join its ranks, the Alliance is in need of equally captivating ideas. The serious business of deterring adversaries and fighting this century’s wars has necessarily taken precedence over crafting a forward-looking vision. But developing that vision can’t wait any longer. Rather than getting mired in today’s debates about mundane issues like burden-sharing, NATO must build on its impressive track record of adaptivity, resilience, and achievement.

The essays in this volume are intended to push the Alliance to think boldly and creatively in the service of recapturing the public’s imagination. They are, by design, provocative, occasionally in conflict, and sometimes impractical, at least in the near term. By prescribing ideas that “NATO should” pursue—be it devising new initiatives, course-correcting current policies, or sunsetting troubled endeavors—the volume is an appeal for an Alliance that is more visionary, more capable, and more self-evidently valuable to the security of more people. To achieve that end, we’ve assembled a roster of 38 contributors who reflect a diversity that eludes the NATO community generally. We’ve enlisted nearly as many next-generation viewpoints as established ones, often in combination.

This volume comes on the cusp of the 2020 US presidential election—a natural inflection point that will bear on NATO’s future role and purpose. As the next US administration tackles relentless security challenges ranging from great-power competition to climate change, whether and how NATO contributes to solutions—and how it communicates its effectiveness—will rightly affect its standing with publics in the United States and beyond. By adopting these ideas, NATO can innovate its forms and functions to better accomplish both imperatives. If there is one overarching argument in this volume, it is this: As the complexity and pace of our world intensifies, policymaking and public diplomacy require originality, diversity, and audacity to achieve relevance in the 21st century.


Recently leaked proposals suggest the EU wants to use the EU-UK trade deal to help on-shore an electric vehicle supply chain. But this heavy handed approach risks undermining its claim to be a world leader on climate change and green technologies. 

In an ideal world, the EU’s trade policy would complement its other strategic, environmental and economic objectives. But this is not always the case. And despite the EU’s environmental ambition, its free trade agreements (FTAs) contain rules that discriminate against trade in lower-carbon electric vehicles (EVs). While normal cars readily qualify for tariff-free trade with the EU’s FTA partners, EVs struggle because the FTAs tend to include a local content, or rules of origin, threshold of 55-60 per cent, which is too high for EVs to clear. This is due to the battery of an EV accounting for a significant percentage of the final value of an electric vehicle (35 to 45 per cent), and invariably being sourced from outside the EU (usually Asia). Recently leaked European Commission proposals suggest the EU intends to tackle the issue in its trade negotiations with the UK. But rather than loosening the rules to accommodate trade in EVs, the proposed rules of origin suggest the Commission spies an opportunity to use the trade agreement to further its ambitions of ‘strategic autonomy’, and cajole European industry into hastily developing an on-shore domestic battery industry.


On 16 September 2020, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen set a clear goal for the European Union (EU) and its member states: We must make this ‘Europe’s Digital Decade’

Aiming to contribute to improved European policy-making, this report discusses (best) practices of Asian countries and the United States in the field of digital connectivity. It covers a wide range of topics related to digital regulation, the e-economy, and telecommunications infrastructure.

Findings show that the EU and its member states are slowly but steadily moving from being mainly a regulatory power to also claiming their space as a player in the digitalized economy. Cloud computing initiative GAIA-X is a key example, constituting a proactive alternative to American and Chinese Cloud providers. Such initiatives, including also the more recent Next Generation Internet (NGI), are a necessity to push European digital norms and standards, but also assist the global competitiveness of European companies and business models.

Download report.

Geopolitical Competition in Military Domain: How Should NATO Respond to Russia and China?

During the last six years, NATO has deeply modernized its command structure and force posture. Three consecutive summits have proven NATO’s adaptability to the new security environment set up by the Russian aggression on Ukraine and the increased assertiveness of Putin’s regime. Two important strategic documents, the Political Guidance and Military Strategy, have been adopted. Preparation of a third one, defining deterrence and defense policy, is underway. However, the security environment is further evolving. The adaptive process is not finished yet.

NATO’s topical challenges are manifold. The trans-Atlantic community faces a security challenge posed by the growing military might of China. The West is witnessing a substantive doctrinal gap between the USA and Europe with inevitable consequences for NATO. NATO Member States’ resilience in the cyber domain has become more complex issue than ever before.

Within this context, it is of paramount importance that the Alliance remains relevant for the United States in great-power competition, credible for members most exposed to the external threat, and politically cohesive at the same time.

Available in PDF.

Taking stock of the UN at 75: Highs and lows in the shadow of great-power competition



The UN has achieved its aims with variable results. Thus far, the world has been spared another devastating world war, but the UN is now expected to address varied existential threats. Without real commitment to multilateralism on the part of major powers, the organization faces a grim future.

The United Nations (UN) is often unswervingly supported by internationalists and humanitarians for the most part, whereas realpolitik pundits dismiss the organization as a discursive club. In its 75th anniversary year, it is all too easy to be gloomy when the world is plagued by climate change, a pandemic, growing numbers of refugees, the rise of autocracy, economic decline, and longstanding conflicts. Great-power rivalry has returned, causing the Security Council to be ineffective.

Times are certainly hard for the global organization, perhaps more than ever. Yet the UN must be seen as more than the Security Council, and preferably through a nuanced lens. The UN system includes numerous specialized agencies, funds and programmes. While many are willing to criticize the Security Council for failing to protect Syrians and Yemenis, for example, few are dismissive of the work accomplished for children by UNICEF.

The UN, with its network of international institutions and legal rules, can be claimed to have contributed to preventing another world war – the ultimate purpose for the creation of the organization. Its successful involvement in other goals mentioned in the UN Charter, such as the self-determination of peoples and human rights, is indisputable. When the UN was established, approximately one-third of the world’s population lived under colonial rule, unable to govern their own affairs. The decolonization process brought over 80 new states to the global landscape.

French Jihadism on the Internet: A Quantitative Overview

By Dr. Antoine Jardin

France has been one of the most-targeted Western countries by jihadist organisations in the past 5 years and one of the most concerned by its recent development (40% of Europeans who joined IS are French). France has first been attacked by groups operating in the civil war in Algeria, like the GIA in the 1990s, before being targeted by al-Qaeda’s global jihad networks in the 2000s. Since that date though, the country has increasingly faced homegrown activism and the threat of burgeoning national and local subgroups. Of course, these developments echoed major international events such as 9/11 in the U.S., 7/7 in the U.K., the war in Iraq, the rise of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia and North Africa, and the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

This experimental paper offers an overview analysis of requests related to jihadism on the French Google search engine.


We used French Google’s ‘Trends platform’ in order to identify historical evolution on how French relates to this matter. We examined the frequency of about twenty keywords referring to jihadi and radical Islam activism on Google searches between January 2004 to October 2020 (the longest period available).

We also looked for terms indirectly linked to these topics in the public debate such as the concept of French secularism or ‘laïcité’ and the use of the word ‘islamophobia’.

Jihadi Media and Online Secrecy as Doctrinal Values

By El Mostafa Rezrazi

The significant role of jihadists stationed in online battlefields was reflected as early as 2006 in the communicative philosophy of al-Qaeda, which states that “the mission accomplished by a virtual Mujāhid is no less important than what conventional Mujahidin do on a physical battlefield.”

“To the pious, hidden soldiers who are based on our Jihad forums and platforms, praying night and day to stand on Jihadi media frontlines, strive hard and race to deliver the Mujahidin news and publish their statements and films to the nation, hoping to bring the Ummah to their side in the ranks of the good Mujahidin” (Abu Sa’d al-Amili, al-Kitaab al-Mata’ al-Jama’).

Aiming to reach a wider audience and convinced by the importance of media and communication in achieving their political agenda, terrorist organisations are not only covered by official news channels. In fact, they have created their own “news” channels, as a step towards anticipating any changes that could affect media policies, by reducing terrorist news coverage or misrepresentations.

Over the first decade of the twenty-first century, Al-Qaeda developed its performance in the virtual world through a number of virtual forums such as Shumūkh al-Ezz Network, Shumūkh al-Islām, the Maʼāsadah Media Foundation, the Fallujah Network and the Islamic Tahaddī Network, in addition to other integrated media platforms such as the As-Sahāb Foundation, the Furqān, Al-Fajr, the International Islamic Media Front, the As-Somūd Media Company, Al-Andalus Foundation for Media Production, Al-Ansār Postal Corporation, Al-Ansār Media Foundation, Al-Malāhim Media Foundation, Jihadist Media Elite, Al-Yaqīn Media Center, Al-Katāʼib Foundation for Media Production, and others. At the same time, al-Qaeda has increased its efforts to adapt its media activities by upgrading its online presence on social media, and encouraging its followers to be increasingly active on Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, and other online social media platforms.

Macron’s Plan for Fighting Islamist Radicalisation – Offline

By Dr. Julian Junk and Clara-Auguste Süß

On 2 October French president Macron presented a 5-point plan to address Islamist radicalisation. It is one of the most ambitious agendas to tackle Islamist radicalisation and extremism in Europe. The long-awaited speech did strangely avoid any serious reflection on the role that the Internet and social media dynamics play in radicalisation processes. This is problematic – but even the measures Macron proposed are ambivalent: many of them are promising, others, however, and the overall framing of the speech might be counterproductive in terms of stigmatisation and securitisation.

Macron gave his speech in the suburb of Les Mureaux, north-west of Paris: A meaningful place, since it is one of fifteen cities where French authorities have been taking stronger action against radical Islamist tendencies – a fact to which Macron referred in his speech, pointing first and foremost to efforts by intelligence services, security forces and the judicial system since 2017. The extensive strategy presented in Les Mureaux is the result of three years of evaluating and reflecting on these joint efforts. It lays the groundwork for a range of regulatory initiatives – among them a draft law to be presented on 9 December that is said to aim at strengthening secularism as well as at consolidating and reinforcing republican principles. Since similar plans to rethink failed banlieues policies have been discussed for decades, Macron’s attempt might not be that novel – it is, however, in the European context, currently the most ambitious agenda.

Main Premises of the Speech 

For Macron, the underlying problem is “Islamist separatism” being a “conscious, theorised, politico-religious project that manifests itself in repeated discrepancies with the values of the Republic.” To counter this problem, Macron tries to both carve out the relevance of the problem in stark terms and introduce technocratic responses. This balancing act works only to some extent, since the two points tend to undermine each other: While in some parts, Macron soberly walks through key principles of the French republic and society (in particular, secularism and rule of law), the speech is quite combative at times: Macron stresses the necessity of “reconquering” specific districts with officials and civil servants serving as “fighters” against radicalism and of laying the groundwork for “[mobilising] the nation for a republican awakening”.

Revisiting the Ecosystem of Islamic State’s ‘Virtual Caliphate’

By Dr. Michael Krona

The current ‘post-caliphate’ era of Islamic State (IS) has been widely discussed in recent years, following the organisation’s loss of territory and administrative control. Prospects for IS to survive, transform, and regain prominence again can, to some extent, be evaluated through the significant amount of online supporters; who are willing to amplify the IS brand and contribute to exposure, outreach, and development of new recruitment methods. However, what is the current state of the IS online communities, and in which direction are they heading?

A quick search for academic contributions that focuses on the digital and social media aspects of IS – both in outreach and supporter network dynamics – provides a wealth of publications. The ‘virtual caliphate’ is defined as the mediatised version of the 2014 self-declared caliphate project. The online communities are consistent, persistent, and still attract a vast number of supporters today. Propaganda production and distribution, religious narratives, emerging and maintained ideological discourses through conversations among supporters, and as structures and hierarchies in the online communities are all included in the digital realm and ecosystem of the ‘virtual caliphate’. For years, it has served as a lens through which the physical caliphate – primarily Iraq and Syria – could be recognised and understood. However, since the destruction of the administrative and territorial state in 2018, the virtual universe surrounding and amplifying the caliphate has deviated from its original path. In the current post-caliphate era, the multitude of online spheres demonstrates a lack of direction entwined with common ground fragmentation.

From a media and communication studies horizon, there is often a keen interest in ascribing media platforms specific values in themselves, thereby simply framing a terrorist organisation like IS as an almost ahistorical entity driven by technology and social media. This approach is not only factually wrong but also severely misleading in any contribution to a nuanced, useful, and comprehensive understanding of contemporary terrorism. There is a myriad of human factors and behaviours involved in the actual utilisation of technology. It is vital to recognise the interplay between what technology offers the human intervention, an interplay which constitutes the actual ecosystem of the ‘virtual caliphate’.

5 Questions About the Antitrust Case Against Google That You Should Not Be Afraid to Ask

By Bhaskar Chakravorti

With so much ink spilled on the subject of reining in Big Tech, so many Silicon Valley executives summoned to Washington, so many government bodies with so many complaints, it was a fair question whether someone would eventually do something—and if so, what. But now, they have. The antitrust lawsuit filed this month by the U.S. Justice Department and 11 state attorneys general against Google marks a milestone: a specific plaintiff, with a specific complaint, against a specific company.

Antitrust lawsuits are notoriously hard to win. Whatever the outcome, though, they can reshape industry structures, markets, and even technologies that emerge on the other side. This is why it is essential to raise five key questions now.
Do we agree on what we mean by “antitrust”?

Not really. Gone are the days of Standard Oil, the Clayton and Federal Trade Commission acts of the early 1900s, and the 1940-1970 golden era of antitrust lawsuits, when competition was viewed as an antidote to fascism.

Present-day antitrust is caught between two schools. The first, dominant since the 1960s, considers impact on consumer welfare as the litmus test to determine a monopoly. The other, a newer interpretation, goes further, arguing that the underlying structure of the market matters and even the potential for powerful players to exploit is a violation of antitrust objectives broadly defined. In effect, the litmus test for this second school is the impact not just on consumers but on all stakeholders: employees, suppliers, potential competitors, and more.

The Digital Divide and COVID-19

by Laura Stelitano, Sy Doan, Ashley Woo, Melissa Diliberti, Julia H. Kaufman, Daniella Henry

RAND researchers investigate the relationship between teachers' reports of their students' internet access and their interaction with students and families during school closures related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. These data are drawn from the American Instructional Resources Survey, which was fielded in May and June 2020 and included questions to teachers regarding their instruction during school closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When teachers deliver remote instruction, their capacity to communicate with students and their families is shaped by home internet access. Researchers found that half of teachers estimated that all or nearly all of their students had access to the internet at home, and teachers in schools located in towns and rural areas, schools serving higher percentages of students of color, and high-poverty schools were significantly less likely to report that all or nearly all of their students had access to the internet at home. Researchers also found that gaps in internet access among students in higher-poverty versus lower-poverty schools—as reported by their teachers—varied greatly by state. These data suggest that existing inequities for students in rural and high-poverty schools might be exacerbated by students' limited access to the internet and communication with teachers as remote instruction continues.

Key Findings

Challenges with students' access to the internet and other technologies were intertwined with concerns about communication with students and their families

Teachers' responses to an open-ended question about the biggest instructional challenges during pandemic-related school closures suggest that their ability to communicate with students and their families was often constrained by students' lack of internet or appropriate technologies at home (e.g., devices).

U.S. Fires Up ‘All Government’ War on Cyber Election ThreatsBy

Kartikay Mehrotra

Haunted by Russia’s brazen effort to meddle in the last election, federal and state officials have erected what they believe are formidable barriers to thwart cyber-attacks ahead of Tuesday’s presidential vote.

Cybersecurity experts, including those authorized to deploy military cyber capabilities, have been brought together to form an ‘all of government’ effort to ensure voters decide whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden wins, without U.S. adversaries sabotaging the process. That means dozens of state, local, federal and private players, amounting to hundreds of people, will be linked to the Department of Homeland Security’s command center on election night.

The effort will be led by the DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, known as CISA, and will include representation from U.S. Cyber Command, the State Department, the National Security Agency, the FBI and the likes of Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc., as well as states, counties and private sector cyber surveillance teams.

That’s not all. Congress has distributed nearly a billion dollars to states to protect voting systems and procure paper trails -- that can be audited -- for each vote. And both non-profit and private sector companies have shared subsidized malware detection systems to watch for intruders seeking to topple voting systems or provoke chaos on and after Election Day.

Whether the new defenses are enough to keep nation-state hackers from disrupting the election may not be known for days, or even weeks, after the vote. But government officials and cybersecurity experts said they are optimistic the nation’s cumulative efforts can prevent a major breach.

“In 2016, when I asked government officials what they would do if Russia attempted to discredit the result of the election, they had no answer,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, then the chief technology officer of the cybersecurity company CrowdStrike. “Now, they’ve gamed out certain scenarios. They’ve at least thought about it.”

Building a Trusted ICT Supply Chain

Dependency on China and other adversary countries for some of our most critical supply chains threatens to undermine the trustworthiness of critical technologies and components that constitute and connect to cyberspace. This dependency also risks impairing the availability of these same critical technologies and components and compromises American and partner competitiveness in global markets in the face of Chinese economic aggression. 

To address these challenges, the Commission proposes a five-pillar strategy built on the firm foundation of public-private and international partnerships. Specifically, the Commission provides a roadmap and recommendations focused on: 

Identifying key technologies and equipment through government reviews and public-private partnerships to identify risk. 

Ensuring minimum viable manufacturing capacity through both strategic investment and the creation of economic clusters. 

Protecting supply chains from compromise through better intelligence, information sharing, and product testing. 

Stimulating a domestic market through targeted infrastructure investment and ensuring the ability of firms to offer products in the United States similar to those offered in foreign markets. 

Ensuring global competitiveness of trusted supply chains, including American and partner companies, in the face of Chinese anti-competitive behavior in global markets. 

Does Your Cyber Insurance Cover a State-Sponsored Attack?

by Jon Bateman

In 2017, Merck lost an eye-popping $1.3 billion when it got caught in the crossfire of a Russian cyberattack targeting Ukraine. The event, later dubbed NotPetya, was the largest cyberattack in history, costing $10 billion worldwide — economic damage akin to a medium-sized hurricane, or a small war. Western governments vowed to hold Russia accountable, yet none stepped forward to support the companies that were hit by the attack.

Insurance was more helpful — to a point. The insurance industry sells policies specifically designed for cyber incidents, but their scope and scale remain limited. Cyber insurance paid for just 3% of NotPetya’s global damage, leading some NotPetya victims to turn to other insurance policies with more ambiguous terms. For example, Merck invoked property and casualty policies that covered all manner of hazards without explicitly mentioning cyber incidents. These policies had so-called “war exclusions,” which barred coverage for damages due to “hostile or warlike actions” by governments or their agents. Many insurers cited these clauses to push back on the claims, triggering high-stakes legal battles that continue to this day.

NotPetya and the ensuing lawsuits made it clear that modern businesses face a level of cyber risk that vastly exceeds the protections they can rely on from either insurance or government relief. To address this shortfall, business leaders must work with insurers and policymakers to devise practical, long-term solutions. And in the short term, CEOs must prepare for cyber catastrophes as if no cavalry is coming — because for most businesses, there likely isn’t.
Prepare your company for today.