7 December 2020

JeM: Intensifying Efforts

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.

The Afghan Peace Process: Negotiating amongst smoke as a country burns

By Rory Andrews

The violence that tears apart Afghanistan was not born from a simple conflict between two parties, yet the West believes that bi-lateral negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan National Government can bring some level of meaningful and lasting peace.

This piece argues that the West has entirely mishandled the peace process because of a fundamental misunderstanding of Afghan politics, history and society, which has led to a binary view of the war and an overly simplistic view of Afghanistan as a nation. Utilising extensive primary and secondary research from a number of experts in the field, this essay will help demystify the illusion of the war in Afghanistan and the peace process which has come subsequently in order to offer tentative insight into the people, tribes, groups and states which all have a stake in peace in Afghanistan and who should be included in the process.

Drawing together a wide array of perspectives, it is hoped this piece will highlight some of the major stumbling-blocks to peace, and their historical or military lineage, with the hopes that it may help broaden our understanding of why peace has eluded us for so long.

Network Connections and the Emergence of the Hub-and-Spokes Alliance System in East Asia

Yasuhiro Izumikawa


Why did the hub-and-spokes alliance system, and not a multilateral alliance, emerge in East Asia after World War II? A social exchange network approach explains how three U.S. allies—Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan—contributed to the emergence and shape of the hub-and-spokes system, which came into being as an unintended consequence of their interactions. Understanding the origin of this system enables scholars and policymakers to identify how and why the U.S. alliance system in the region is changing, as well as devise appropriate policy responses.


Slow Justice

S. Binodkumar Singh

On October 22, 2020, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) issued a death warrant against Jatiya Party leader and former State Minister Syed Mohammad Qaiser over crimes against humanity he committed during the Liberation War in 1971. The death warrant was sent to the Dhaka Central Jail, Keraniganj, secretaries of the Home Ministry and Law Ministry, and District Magistrate. However, Qaiser was given 15 days to appeal the decision. Qaiser was sentenced to death on December 23, 2014, when the prosecution proved seven charges against him. On October 29, 2020, Qaiser filed a petition with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court seeking review of its verdict that upheld his death sentence. In the review petition, Qaiser mentioned a total of 18 grounds for which the apex court may consider his prayer. His lawyer Tanvir Ahmed Al Amin argued that Qaiser was 82 years old and sick. He moves on a wheel chair. There is no precedent of sentencing such an old sick man to death in the world, he said. Qaiser is now in Keraniganj jail.

Thus far, the War Crimes (WC) Trials, which began on March 25, 2010, have indicted 125 leaders, including 50 from the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI); 27 from the Muslim League (ML); 11 from Nezam-e-Islami (NeI); five from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP); two each from the Jatiya Party (JP) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); 27 former Razakars; and one former Al-Badr member. Significantly, out of 125 leaders indicted, verdicts have been delivered against 95 accused, including 69 who have been sentenced to death, and 26 to imprisonment for life.

Thailand’s Military Is Getting Ready for Another Crackdown


The leaders of Thailand’s military-royalty complex are growing restless. The attempt to satisfy popular demands for a return to democracy by offering a military-controlled facsimile has failed. Thailand’s students and other young people have risen up, calling for genuine democratic reform, including popular control over the heretofore untouchable monarchy.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the clownish yet arrogant general who seized power six years ago, has dropped his pretense of accommodation with the protestors. After refusing demands to resign and using the appointive senate to defeat proposals for constitutional reform, he blamed pro-democracy activists for his own moves, claiming that “the government has been straightforward and earnest in trying to find a solution.” On the ground, with demonstrators harassed, beaten, and arrested, the government doesn’t look very earnest.

Joe Biden Will Lead the US Back to International Cooperation

Jeffrey Frankel

Like the Joni Mitchell song puts it, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” For example, classroom education was often deemed boring by students and obsolete by tech visionaries. Then, Covid-19 made it difficult or impossible to meet in person. Now we yearn for in-class experiences.

Perhaps the same is true of international economic cooperation. Multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the UN agencies have long been unpopular among much of the public for supposedly encroaching on national sovereignty. But then Donald Trump came along and made international cooperation well-nigh impossible. While other G20 leaders discussed pandemic preparedness at their recently concluded summit, for example, Trump evidently tweeted more false accusations of electoral fraud and then played golf.

When the president-elect, Joe Biden, enters the White House on January 20, 2021, he will face an urgent agenda of international issues crying out for attention. The top items include the pandemic, the climate crisis, and the global recession, which will require joint action by advanced economies on fiscal stimulus, debt restructuring, and trade.

Opinion: With Biden, America Is Back — But Not At The Head Of The Table


Joe Biden has assembled one of the most experienced and talented national security and foreign policy teams in decades. They grasp that the world has changed and that they can't hit the rewind button to 2016. Most important, they understand that the primary challenge their boss confronts is fixing America's broken house — the key to the success, or failure, of his presidency. If the administration wants to succeed, it will have to establish a more cooperative and less imperial style of leadership, choose its battles wisely for promoting democracy and human rights, and not automatically discard the few things that President Trump got (mostly) right on foreign policy.

Biden has called this the "American century." He has said, "America is back — we're at the head of the table once again," and has noted that "the world does not organize itself." But how does the U.S. lead a world it no longer rules? Not simply by declaration. After four years of Trump's unrelenting attacks on norms and institutions, both domestic and foreign, America is going to have to persuade others that it can lead again.

How Gen Z Will Shake Up Foreign Policy


Many Americans in Gen Z (who are colloquially known as Zoomers) saw the 2020 election as their first opportunity to help shape the future of the United States and its role in the world. Young Americans turned out to vote in record numbers—at nearly double the rate from 2018 and 8 percent more than in 2016. But despite Gen Z’s growing electoral power—the generation now comprises one-tenth of the U.S. electorate—Zoomers still don’t have a real seat at the policy table.

Facing an unforgiving international landscape and a devastating pandemic, older generations of Americans are charting a new course in U.S. foreign policy: redefining America’s interests, reinventing its strategic toolbox, and reimagining its global role. But it is Gen Z that will live with the consequences of today’s decisions and that has the most stake in their success. Zoomers have starkly different policy impulses than leadership in Washington, and at this inflection point for the United States’ role in the world, policymakers must consider the perspectives and priorities of America’s next generation—or risk widening the gap between the country’s present and future.

Setting the Biden-era cybersecurity agenda

Zach Dorfman

The Biden administration will face a wide array of cybersecurity challenges but can take meaningful action in at least five key areas, concludes a new report by the Aspen Cybersecurity Group.

Why it matters: Cybersecurity policy is a rare refuge from Washington's hyperpartisan dysfunction, as shown by the recent work of the bipartisan Cyberspace Solarium Commission. President-elect Joe Biden should have a real opportunity to make progress on shoring up the nation's cybersecurity and cyber capabilities without bumping up against a likely Republican-controlled Senate.

Where it stands: Per the report, these opportunities include creating a more cyber-ready workforce, fortifying the “public core” of the internet, boosting supply chain security, developing new systems to measure cybersecurity, and enhancing public-private collaboration on shared cybersecurity interests.

Biden Expected to Put the World’s Kleptocrats on Notice

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to make a crackdown on illicit finance both at home in the United States and abroad a centerpiece of his administration, a move that could have profound implications for anti-corruption efforts around the globe.

Biden, who as vice president spearheaded the Obama administration’s fight against corruption and kleptocracy, has repeatedly vowed to make it a focus as president. Two years ago, Biden and his former advisor Michael Carpenter warned in Politico about the threat posed by foreign money of unknown origins to the integrity of U.S. elections. He echoed those concerns in a Foreign Affairs essay this spring.

“I will lead efforts internationally to bring transparency to the global financial system, go after illicit tax havens, seize stolen assets, and make it more difficult for leaders who steal from their people to hide behind anonymous front companies,” he wrote. And Biden’s pick for national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, told Politico that one of his chief goals was to “rally our allies to combat corruption and kleptocracy, and to hold systems of authoritarian capitalism accountable for greater transparency and participation in a rules-based system.”

Ethiopia Needs the United States to Act as an Honest Broker in the Nile Dam Dispute


In August, the United States decided to cut its foreign aid to Ethiopia during a period of unprecedented crisis for the region, affecting up to $130 million in funds. Construction continues on Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile River, with negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan at a standstill. Despite U.S. mediation since November 2019, the countries haven’t reached an agreement over the dam—leading the United States to penalize Ethiopia.

East Africa is already facing a triple challenge this year: the coronavirus pandemic; a plague of desert locusts; and flooding that has affected more than 1.3 million people. Ethiopia has recorded more than 110,554 cases of COVID-19 and 1,709 deaths as of Dec. 2. The locust swarms, which began in Yemen and have reached Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, are likely to cause a regional food security crisis that compounds the effects of the pandemic. The World Bank estimates that the swarms could cost $8.5 billion in East Africa and Yemen this year. In Ethiopia alone, the locusts have damaged 200,000 hectares of crops.

The temperature is rising, the fever white hot: The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam as flashpoint between Egypt and Ethiopia

by Christopher D. Booth

Once considered unlikely by regional experts, military confrontation along the Nile is a growing possibility, as a diplomatic solution to the Egyptian-Sudanese-Ethiopian stand-off recedes. Outside observers may not understand why Egypt considers the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) an “existential threat” to its existence, but, regardless, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and his advisors see it as such.

A new Atlantic Council issue brief, “The Temperature is Rising, the Fever White Hot: The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam as Flashpoint between Egypt and Ethiopia,” authored by Christopher D. Booth, describes the relationship between water scarcity and government stability in Egypt. The current Egyptian government is aware of the the role that water scarcity may have played in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, and of the continuing threat that water issues pose nearly ten years later, particularly in light of Egypt’s political and economic challenges. 

Booth warns that, given the inconclusive diplomacy of the West regarding the threat the GERD poses to Egypt, the Egyptian regime may determine that it has no other choice but to take up arms against its “oppressors” and roll the dice in an attack against the dam.

France’s Security Law Debacle Shows the Dangers of Macron’s ‘Le Pen-Lite’ Agenda

Judah Grunstein

It’s been a long time since anyone in France thought of Emmanuel Macron as a centrist politician bridging the left-right partisan divide, as he has often portrayed himself. But after the events of the past few weeks, the French president is fending off charges of being an authoritarian wolf in liberal sheep’s clothing.

His latest misstep involves the now-infamous security bill that his government was forced to partially withdraw this week due to popular protests against some of its sweeping measures. The entire episode has put Macron’s attempts to co-opt the far right in the spotlight, even as it highlights the amount of distrust he has generated across the political spectrum.

Macron famously campaigned for the presidency in 2017 as “neither left nor right.” After taking office, however, he pursued structural reforms to France’s economy and labor market as the core project of his presidency, which he entrusted to the renegade members of the center-right Republicans party he successfully poached for his Cabinet. That won him the reputation for being “the president of the rich,” and made it clear that, as former French President Francois Mitterrand once put it, the center is neither left nor left.

How the West should deal with Russia

by Alexander Vershbow, Daniel Fried

Getting along with Russia, as then-candidate Donald J. Trump suggested, would indeed be a good thing. But, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama tried and failed; US-Russian relations are not much better under Trump, and Russia is not on especially good terms with Europe either.

Dealing with Russia “as it is,” as some capable Russia experts (including the authors’ former colleagues) recommend in their “open letter” urging that the United States rethink its Russia policy, sounds unarguably realistic.2

But, Russia “as it is” is a stagnating authoritarian kleptocracy led by a president-for-life who has started wars against its neighbors, assassinates opponents inside and outside of Russia, interferes in US and European elections, and generally seems to act as an anti-US spoiler at every opportunity. Its leadership expects the West to grant Russia a free hand in “its” half of Europe, and to look the other way when it seeks to deprive its former neighbors—and its own citizens—of the right to chart their own futures.

Where Do Things Stand With the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout?


The United Kingdom on Wednesday became the first Western country to approve a coronavirus vaccine, a decision the European Union condemned as “hasty” and potentially unsafe. Though Britain is no longer part of the EU, it is still privy to EU regulations until the end of the month; under normal circumstances, London would have to wait for Brussels’ approval before distributing a drug. But the pandemic has activated rules that allow EU member states to act unilaterally if necessary, a distinction lost on hardcore Brexiteers.

The news out of Britain—which plans to start vaccinating nursing home residents and frontline workers with Pfizer’s drug as soon as next week—has upped the pressure on countries around the world, each burdened with different regulatory regimes and different distribution plans. That threatens to make the global vaccine rollout disjointed, and potentially unequal.

Here’s where things stand with the major players.

The Top Five Reasons to Still Feel Thankful About the World

Stephen M. Walt

This is a hard year in which to feel thankful. As disasters go, 2020 may not rank with 1914 or 1939, to pick just two famously bad years, but it is still likely to be remembered as one of the more lamentable periods in modern history, and few people will be sorry to see it end. It is easily the worst year I've ever lived through, and I count myself as luckier than most.

Yet as Americans prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, I am striving to be grateful for those aspects of life that give me hope. Being thankful for small mercies, appreciating there were bad things that might have occurred but didn't, and highlighting the positive developments that have helped us get through this annus horribilis is a way of reminding ourselves that the present crisis will not last forever and that it is within our power to make things better.

The Stopping Power of Norms: Saturation Bombing, Civilian Immunity, and U.S. Attitudes toward the Laws of War

Charli Carpenter,  Alexander H. Montgomery

Scott Sagan and Benjamin Valentino's landmark survey of U.S. attitudes toward the laws of war found that Americans are relatively insensitive to the targeting of civilian populations and to international norms and taboos against the use of nuclear weapons. Charli Carpenter and Alexander Montgomery replicate a key question in this study and introduce variations into the experiment. The findings are more optimistic than Sagan and Valentino’s: Americans believe strongly that targeting civilians is wrong, and in a real-life scenario, a majority would likely oppose such action.

Mindfulness is useless in a pandemic


I’d been looking forward to the meal for weeks. I already knew what I was going to eat: the rosemary crostini starter, then the lamb with courgette fries. Or maybe the cod. I planned to arrive early and sit in the window at the cool marble counter and watch London go by. In the warm bustle of the restaurant, the condensation would mist the pane. As a treat, I would order myself a glass of white wine while I waited for my friend.

It won’t surprise you to hear that the meal never happened. Coronavirus cases started rising exponentially and eating out felt less like indulgence and more like lunacy. Then it became illegal to eat together at all. Soon it became illegal even to eat at a restaurant by yourself. Then everything shut.

The cost of these lost lunches has been totted up many times: the trains not taken, the taxis not flagged down, the desserts not eaten, the waiters not tipped. Then there is the emotional toll, too. Spirits are flagging, the lonely are getting lonelier, the world is wilting. Covid has already disrupted so much of how we live. It has altered something else, as well – time itself.

Pandemic Persuasions?

by Naima Green-Riley

In the Pew Research Center’s annual poll of Americans this year, respondents reported the highest percentage of “unfavorable” views toward China since the poll began asking about China in 2005. The survey was conducted in March during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, and 66% of those who took part held unfavorable views of China. Moreover, 62% of respondents said that Chinese power and influence posed a major threat to the United States. This trend of declining public sentiment toward China comes at a time when bilateral ties have eroded in multiple domains, ranging from the trade relationship to people-to-people exchange.

This essay will examine the trajectory of U.S. public opinion about China since the start of the pandemic and consider the implications for the U.S.-China relationship.


The U.S.-China relationship was already becoming more antagonistic before the onset of the pandemic, most notably due to the trade war. With the emergence of Covid-19, the schism between the two countries became even more severe. Shortly after the virus began to spread in the United States, President Donald Trump insisted on calling it the “Chinese virus” or the “Wuhan virus,” and he made every effort to link the growing sense of despair in the United States directly to the Chinese state. China responded to criticism by ramping up both its overt public diplomacy campaigns and covert disinformation efforts in order to boost its image and cast doubt on Western narratives.

Emerging cyber threats in 2021 require a new approach to security

HP has released its 2021 predictions on how security threats are likely to develop during the next 12 months. Human-operated ransomware, thread hijacking, unintentional insider threats, business email compromise, and whaling attacks are all highlighted as areas which will grow.

HP’s cyber security experts including – Julia Voo, Global Lead Cybersecurity and Tech Policy; Joanna Burkey, CISO; Boris Balacheff, Chief Technologist for Security Research and Innovation at HP Labs; Dr. Ian Pratt, Global Head of Security for Personal Systems; and Alex Holland, Senior Malware Analyst – and experts from HP’s Security Advisory Board – Justine Bone, CEO at MedSec; and Robert Masse, Partner at Deloitte – all contributed to the following predictions for the year ahead.

Weakened organizational security will lead to more unintentional insider threats

The dramatic changes to how we work in 2020 and the shift to remote working will continue to create challenges, says Julia Voo: “COVID-19 has weakened organizational security. Remote access inefficiencies, VPN vulnerabilities and a shortage of staff that can help the business adapt means data is now less secure.” From a cybercriminal’s perspective, the attack surface is widening, creating more opportunities, as Joanna Burkey explains: “We can expect to see hackers identifying and taking advantage of any holes in processes that were created, and still exist, after everyone left the office.”

5G WIRELESS: Capabilities and Challenges for an Evolving Network

Fifth-generation (5G) wireless promises not just to increase speeds but to enable new applications like automated cars and smart factories.

We reviewed U.S. 5G development. It's still early, with efforts focusing on increasing speed and connecting more devices. Technologies that enable 5G's full potential are expected within the next decade.

We also highlight key challenges to 5G and present policy options to address them. For example, 5G is expected to greatly increase data transmission, which would require more radio frequency spectrum—a scarce resource. To help, policymakers could promote research into more efficient use of radio spectrum.

Forecast of total worldwide mobile data usage

Death Dust: The Little-Known Story of U.S. and Soviet Pursuit of Radiological Weapons

Samuel Meyer,  Sarah Bidgood, William C. Potter


The pursuit of radiological weapons by states has received little scholarly attention. Yet several countries, most prominently the United States and the Soviet Union, developed and tested these weapons before ultimately abandoning their programs. A comparative analysis of these underexplored programs identifies the drivers behind their rise and demise. The findings also illuminate the factors likely to affect the pursuit of radiological weapons by other states in the future.

Lead the Way: Defence Transformation Strategy

The 2020 Defence Strategic Update identifies that Australia’s security environment has deteriorated. Major power competition, military modernisation, disruptive technological change and new threats are all making our region less safe. As the strategic environment changes around us, we have to change with it.

Defence, as a matter of necessity, must continue to improve its ability to deliver on its current commitments while retaining the organisational capacity to anticipate and respond effectively to strategic challenges.

We recognise that the Defence enterprise is a strategic national asset, and we are responsible for it.

Just as we raise, train and sustain our military capabilities and our uniformed people, we must also ensure our enterprise can always adapt to our changing strategic environment.

This requires a high-performing One Defence enterprise with a culture that embraces continuous improvement.

What Will China Do With Its New Golden Eagle Drone?

by Kris Osborn

China’s new CR500 Golden Eagle helicopter drone now being prepared for war. It looks like a mini-drone helicopter built to fly at high speeds with coaxial, counter rotating blades and a small, sensor-carrying body structure. The drone is likely intended to find and paint hostile targets ahead of advancing armored units.

The new ready-for-production drone has been cleared for export by Chinese authorities, raising the already large concern that dangerous drone technologies will continue to advance in sophistication and proliferate quickly around the world. Those seeking advanced drones range from large nation states looking to offer reconnaissance support to large mechanized armored units to small groups of rogue, stateless insurgents or even terrorists.

While many of the specifics of the platform, such as its speed or sensor payload, may not be fully known, a Chinese government-backed newspaper writes that the drone is ideally suited to support tanks, self-propelled artillery and other ground combat units advancing to enemy contact.

Could China's Hypersonic Missiles Sink an American Aircraft Carrier?

by Kris Osborn

Here's What You Need to Know: Hypersonic weapons could deny the U.S. any ability to operate in the vicinity of strategically significant areas near the Chinese mainland.

The Air Force is aggressively accelerating its hypersonic weapons development effort, following findings from a recent service report identifying Russian and Chinese ongoing hypersonic weapons testing.

A recent Air Force Studies Board report identified that the U.S. is not alone in its quest for this increased speed, an Air Force statement said.

The statement went on to say that China and Russia are already flight testing hypersonic weapons, and several other countries have shown interest in pursuing many of the underlying technologies for hypersonic flight. 

“We must push the boundaries of technology in every area," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said in a statement. "Our adversaries aren’t standing still. They are looking for every advantage they can get.”