31 March 2021

India Joins the Afghan Peace Negotiations


This month, the Biden administration presented its plan for the future of Afghanistan. The strategy includes both the possibility of a power-sharing government between Kabul’s elected representatives and the Taliban and a recognition of the important role that regional countries should play after a withdrawal of U.S. foreign forces. In a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken proposed several steps, including a United Nations-level meeting with the foreign ministers of China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States to develop a “unified approach” to peace.

This formal inclusion of India in the peace deliberations, which until now had seen New Delhi participating only along the margins despite its strong interests in Afghanistan and its growing partnership with the country, may alter the calculus of other regional players as well as the Taliban and the Afghan government.

According to some reports, Russian interlocutors had been wary of including India, likely because of its warming ties with Beijing and Islamabad. Pakistan has, of course, been consistent in pushing back against any Indian involvement in Afghanistan due to fears of encirclement by a strong India. China’s relationship with India, meanwhile, has seen a dramatic downturn.

India, for its part, has been playing the long game when it comes to the peace process. It is eager to have a say but has been biding its time so long as other participants were aligned against it. Slowly but surely, New Delhi signaled it was ready to join and take a larger role.

China’s Dam Building Is a Security Risk for India’s Northeast

By Amitava Mukherjee

It may not be outlandish to conclude that the sanction given by China’s recently held National People’s Congress, the ceremonial legislature of the country, for construction of hydropower dams near the Great Bend of the Brahmaputra river (which the Chinese refer to as Yarlung Tsangpo) and a railway link from Yaan in Sichuan to Nyingchi in Tibet is an important component of Beijing’s overall security strategy in South Asia. Suggestions have come from important quarters that hydroelectric dams near the Great Bend are only parts of President Xi Jinping’s efforts to absorb in infrastructure projects parts of idle Chinese workforce. But China has its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), being implemented in different parts of the globe. This can absorb much greater numbers of the country’s labor force than what hydropower stations in Tibet can do. So why should China undertake such an environmentally risky venture near the Great Bend of the Brahmaputra except for security related advantages?

The plain answer is that China wants to maintain continuous pressure on India — be it all along the Himalayan range or the Indian Ocean region. It is plausible the Ladakh sector will witness a lull in hostilities between India and China at least for some time to come. True, a hydropower station near the Great Bend of the Brahmaputra had occupied its own space in official Chinese discourse since 2007-2008 when interested quarters had pushed for its inclusion in China’s 12th Five Year Plan. The proposal was shelved at that time, but Beijing undertook to develop the Bome-Medog highway, an infrastructure development initiative which always precedes construction of any big project. Obviously, this Chinese initiative carried meaning. The Great Bend of the mighty river is situated in the Medog county of Tibet.

Can India’s Carrot and Stick Strategy Decouple its Solar Revolution from China?

By Vibhanshu Shekhar

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s India is facing a difficult situation in which two of his core goals – clean and green energy, and the Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self-reliant India) – are at odds. The country cannot seem to meet one goal without compromising on the other. India’s shift toward renewable energy, driven by the strategy of merging domestic needs and global norms, has not only led to what some call a solar revolution but also made the revolution import-dependent and China-dependent. It seems an uphill task for India to fulfill its 2019 Paris commitment of producing 100 GW of solar energy by 2022 and 280 GW of solar energy by 2030-31 without importing a major percentage of the needed solar components from China. As of 2020, India produced 36 GW of solar energy out of 90 GW of renewables for which it imported nearly 85 percent of solar equipment from China. India’s current annual capacity of component manufacturing stands at 3 GW for solar cells and 10 GW for solar modules.

India’s 2020 initiatives to decouple its solar revolution from China dependency essentially reflect a blend of carrot and stick approaches. Its initial steps came in the form of stick approach through which the country sought to disincentivize cheap imports of solar components by imposing import duties. New Delhi imposed a 15 percent duty on the imports of solar components in July 2020 for the first six months that was extended to July 2021. India launched the second spate of stick strategy in the 2021-22 budget that would levy basic customs duty since April 2022 at the rate of 40 percent on solar modules and 25 percent on solar cells. In order to disincentivize imports and provide more security to the MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) solar businesses, the 2021 budget increased the duty on the import of solar inverters from 5 percent to 20 percent and on solar lanterns from 5 percent to 15 percent. These duties aim at making imports more expensive than domestic manufacturing. In addition, New Delhi has also mandated that all solar power projects under the government-sponsored schemes, such as KUSUM or New Roof-top Scheme, will have domestically manufactured solar modules and cells.

Why Won’t Pakistan Fully Recognize the 1971 War?

By Asif Muztaba Hassan

Lt. Gen. Niazi signing the 1971 Instrument of Surrender under the gaze of Lt. Gen. Aurora.

On March 26, Bangladesh celebrates 50 years since the day Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – considered the Father of the Nation – demanded the country’s independence from West Pakistan. Over the next nine months, the people of Bangladesh waged a guerrilla war against the Pakistani military. In the process, Bangladesh endured one of the worst series of human rights abuses in the world – acts considered genocide by many, yet widely undocumented. The campaign for independence was eventually victorious, dismembering Dacca (now Dhaka) from Yahya Khan’s centralist rule and cracking Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s treasured vision of Pakistan as a home for all of the subcontinent’s Muslims.

In the 50 years of its independence, Bangladesh never received full recognition of the war atrocities committed by the Pakistani military in 1971. Dhaka has repeatedly asked for official recognition, and an apology, from the Pakistani government – requests that were either turned down or not responded to. Politically, it is not rare for countries to deny the atrocities they commit. However, now that Pakistan seeks to build a sustainable peace with India, it is crucial to understand why Pakistan has never fully recognized the 1971 war in particular. I posit that fully recognizing the atrocities will be equivalent to acknowledging that the Two Nations Theory has failed, significantly altering Pakistan’s identity and voiding the grand strategy that has shaped the country’s political beliefs and aspirations for decades.

South Asia’s history is not written by the victor. It is not written by a neutral observer either. Colonial India in the 1900s either identified with Jawaharlal Nehru’s Congress or spoke of the “vindictive” subjugation of Muslims through the singing of the independence anthem “Vande Mataram” at national gatherings. In his seminal 1940 speech, “Quaid-i-Azam,” Jinnah clearly outlined that Indian Muslims are not a minority, rather a nation deserving of its own political structure and a united home. In his Lahore address to the Muslim League, Jinnah claimed that Muslims, because of their religion, have different “religious philosophies, social customs, [and] literatures” compared to Hindus. The two groups “neither intermarry nor interdine together, and indeed they belong to two different civilizations, which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions.”

Taliban celebrates 2002 battle in which it defended Al Qaeda


The Taliban eulogized Mullah Saif ur Rahman Mansoor, its commander who led both Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters against U.S. forces at the battle of Shahi Kot in Paktia province in 2002. The celebration of Mansoor and the battle of Shahi Kot is a reminder of the Taliban’s enduring relationship with Al Qaeda nearly two decades after the fact.

Mansoor and the battle of Shahi Kot (known as Operation Anaconda) were lionized in an English-language statement that was released by the Taliban on its official website, Voice of Jihad, on March 7.

“Today we are remembering this historical battle where the valiant and heroic Mullah Saif ur Rahman Mansoor (may Allah accept him) led his men in their symbolic resistance against the foreign invaders,” the Taliban statement said.

The Taliban described the battle as “the beginning of the sacred jihad against the occupation of Afghanistan.” Mansoor and his followers, which included Al Qaeda fighters, “boldly raised the banner of Jihad against the invaders.”

The Taliban noted that 19 years after the battle of Shahi Kot, “the invaders have fallen from their position of arrogance and false pride.”

The Geopolitics of Politics and Protest: Myanmar, China and the U.S.

By Emma Campbell-Mohn

The U.S.-China relationship is fraught with challenges and shot through with uncertainty. As last week’s summit between Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and their Chinese counterparts underscored, the relationship between the two countries will be defined on a number of fronts, ranging from trade, climate and norms governing technological transfer to human rights abuses, threats to financial stability and an inquiry into the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet one situation is presenting a conundrum that few anticipated: the coup in Myanmar, where the domestic protest movement strengthens, the risk of economic collapse heightens and the threat of drastic escalation persists.

It is a challenge unlikely to disappear anytime soon.

Myanmar was not only the first foreign policy surprise for President Biden, but it is also likely to be a revealing test for the new administration’s strategic posture—underscoring the possibilities and difficulties of reengagement in a part of the world where narrow visions of sovereignty prevail amid a growing fervor for democratic change.

Just a few years ago this democratic change still felt inexorable, not only in the region but also across the globe. President Obama lifted long-standing sanctions as Myanmar’s democratic transition gathered momentum. The opening up of the country appeared a success story for American engagement in the world. By 2018, though, this story ceased to be a romance. The persecution and mass exodus of the Rohingya led to a new round of targeted sanctions against the top brass of Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw. The transition grew tinged with tragedy—one that suggested more continuity than change with the country’s past of state-sponsored violence and cruelty against minority groups.

Bangladesh at 50


ITHACA – It feels strange to have known a country since its birth. For much of 1971, Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) was engaged in a war for independence. With US President Richard Nixon standing firmly behind Pakistan as President Yahya Khan’s army tried to crush the independence movement by resorting to rape and genocide, millions of Bangladeshi refugees poured into India. I was then an undergraduate in Delhi and joined a team of students to work in the sprawling refugee camps that had sprung up in the Indian states of West Bengal and Odisha.

Bold, specific, and usually alarming predictions about automation and coming job losses obscure a basic fact: the future remains uncertain. Whether technology is used to liberate or enslave us is always ultimately the responsibility of the humans in charge.2Add to Bookmarks

Full-fledged aerial war with Pakistan broke out on December 2. I vividly remember catching the night train in Kolkata to return to college during a curfew, under orders to keep all the lights off in the compartment.

This was the high point of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s career. She had opened India’s doors to the refugees and intervened militarily to support Bangladesh, refusing to cave in to US pressure, which included sending the Seventh Fleet into the Bay of Bengal. Khan’s army surrendered to an Indian-Bangladeshi allied force on December 16, 1971. Bangladesh had already declared independence on March 26, but it was effectively born that day in December.

‘Land Forces Are Hard To Kill’: Army Chief Unveils Pacific Strategy


An Army M109A6 Paladin armored howitzer under camouflage during wargames in Germany.

WASHINGTON: The future Army will fight as a tough, intractable “inside force” — a term usually associated with Marines — forward-deployed in adversaries’ backyards, says a new strategy paper from the service’s Chief of Staff. This approach, Gen. James McConville writes, has already shown promise in joint wargames.

In pop culture terms, the Army’s casting itself as Bruce Willis’s iconic action hero/survivor John McClane, in a new production you might call Die Hard In the Pacific.

Ranges of Chinese land-based missiles. (CSBA graphic; click to expand)

Huawei meets history: Great powers and telecommunications risk, 1840-2021

Rush Doshi and Kevin McGuiness

In late 2018, amid American concerns about whether Canada would welcome Huawei into its telecommunications networks, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a series of statements that captured conventional wisdom across much of the world. “It shouldn’t be a political decision,” he declared at the time, and Canada would not “let politics slip into decisions” about Huawei’s role in its network.[1]

The notion that power politics could be removed from questions over telecommunications was not only optimistic, it was also out of step with the history of telecommunications. This report explores that history, and it shows how power and telecommunications have almost always been closely linked. When states ignored those linkages and were cavalier with the security of their own networks, the results were disadvantageous and at times even disastrous.

This report examines several major cases of great power competition in telecommunications dating back to the earliest inception of electrical telecommunications in the 1840s. These cases demonstrate that many of the questions policymakers confront today have close analogues to the past. While the present debate over network security and 5G infrastructure may feel new, it in fact echoes forgotten disputes dating back to the dawn of electrical telecommunications some 150 years ago. Moreover, many of the familiar elements of telecommunications competition today — such as the use of standard-setting bodies, state subsidies, cable taps, information warfare, developing country markets, and encryption to gain advantage — were developed more than a century ago, with important lessons for present debates.

A list of these key lessons is provided below:

China’s Damaging Influence and Exploitation of U.S. Colleges and Universities

by Chad Wolf James Jay Carafano

Americans are increasingly wary of Chinese Communist Party influence on U.S. universities—and rightly so. Despite the Ivory Tower’s leftward slant, universities remain a wellspring of American scientific, technical, and engineering research and innovation.

China’s desire to tap that well is no secret. Its campus-based Confucius Institutes have received much attention of late, but that is just the ice cube on the tip of the iceberg. Several other Chinese programs also have the potential to influence and exploit American colleges and universities. Their activities—like those of the Confucius Institutes—are not fully known. But here is a snapshot of what we do know and why they are a problem.

Thousand Talents Programs. Beijing’s Foreign Thousand Talents Program aims to attract “high-end foreign scientists, engineers, and managers from foreign countries.” Invitations and advertisements to participate come directly from Chinese research institutions that manage individual programs. But those institutions report to and are overseen by the government and the party, which provides financial compensation for participation.

A 2020 State Department warning about Chinese Communist Party activities at U.S. universities noted that recruits to the Thousand Talents Program must sign “legally binding contracts that often compel recipients to conceal their PRC relationships and funding, facilitate the illicit movement of intellectual capital to duplicate ‘shadow labs’ in China, recruit other talent, publish in China-based science journals, engage in activities abroad that would violate export control regulations, and influence U.S. organizations.”

Can the US and China Agree to Disagree?

By Sara Hsu

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that in order to address issues that brought about the China-U.S. trade war, the countries should “carefully address these issues through a series of meetings between the U.S. and China.” I still believe that, but it’s getting more complicated by the day. After the Alaska meeting, which went awry during opening remarks, the relationship seems to be moving further apart. The United States announced sanctions on two Chinese officials involved in the repression of the country’s Uyghur Muslims, while moving closer to India militarily.

One reason that I have written about the necessity of talks is that there is a need to negate the anti-Chinese rhetoric that was so pervasive during the China-U.S. trade war under former President Donald Trump. For example, Trump referred to COVID-19 as the “China plague” and said that China has “ripped off the United States like no one has ever done before.” This rhetoric has led to a rise in anti-Asian bigotry and hate crimes in the United States in particular. It has also inflamed China’s government officials and foreign relations experts across the nation. As a result of the anger generated by this rhetoric, the populace in both China and the United States has become polarized against the other nation. A new series of talks, and more productive types of speech, need to be put into play to set the stage for real agreement between the two countries.

That being said, talks are necessary but not sufficient step for repairing the China-U.S. relationship. Before the China-U.S. trade war, few American firms had any illusions about the challenges of going into China: their IP could be stolen, or they could be exposed to data security breaches. However, at the time, it seemed there might be a way to work out these disagreements diplomatically. Four years into a messy trade war, in which the United States has lost $316 billion, it appears that this may not entirely be the case. There are two major reasons for this.

Water Wars: The Quad Squad

By Sean Quirk 

The Biden administration continues to focus its diplomatic energy on the Indo-Pacific, hosting a virtual summit for the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad) and deploying senior officials to Asia to repair regional alliances. Meanwhile, regional disputes over national and international law are driving tensions in the East China Sea and South China Sea. The United States is seeking to work with its allies and partners to confront an increasingly assertive maritime posture from the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Return of the Quad

On March 12, the four heads of state from the nations of the Quad convened virtually. It was the first-ever official meeting with leaders of all four Quad countries: Australia, India, Japan and the United States. Following the summit, a joint statement highlighted the nations’ shared concerns over “COVID-19, the threat of climate change, and security challenges facing the region.” The statement also explicitly stated the Quad’s “strong support” for unity among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that the Quad “committed to delivering up to one billion doses” of coronavirus vaccines to ASEAN, the broader Indo-Pacific and beyond by the end of 2022.

Don’t Fear the Future


For some, the future is unknown, foreign land that we cannot know until we arrive there—or rather, until it arrives here. But that’s not quite right, is it? Because while you can’t predict the future, you can catch glimpses of it right here in the present if you know where to look.

Optimists like to imagine a future in which today’s problems, difficult as they are, have been solved—and maybe we finally get our flying cars. Pessimists, on the other hand, maintain a darker view, one that’s extremes are replete with gray rhinos, black swans, and boiling frogs.

After a long, brutal year of endemic plague punctuated by widespread civil unrest, it’s easy for many U.S. citizens to understand and adopt the pessimist’s stance—that is, to see the future as a threat. Glued to our devices, we have grown accustomed to daily reports of the world’s unraveling. The information superhighways that were supposed to lead us into a glowing age of prosperity appear instead to have left us at dead ends or worse—in smoking pileups. After perhaps the most contentious—and worse, incompetent—presidency in U.S. history, the nation is as anxious, confused, and as dangerously divided as ever.

Europeans Fear Iran Nuclear Window Closing


In the weeks after U.S. President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January, British, French, and German diplomats approached the new administration with a plan to revive the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal. They proposed lifting some of the sanctions that had been removed by President Barack Obama and then reimposed by President Donald Trump. The idea was to bring the United States closer to compliance with the nuclear accord it had walked away from, and to put the onus on Iran to reciprocate, according to two European diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of negotiations.

Europe figured Biden could keep a raft of additional measures Trump had levied, to maintain some leverage over Iran and make progress on issues of concern to all sides, especially Iran’s ballistic missile program and its support for a host of regional militias.

“The advice of the Europeans to the Americans was do it quickly and immediately, because all the signals they had from the Iranian side was as soon as the Americans come back, we will come back,” said Gérard Araud, a former French ambassador to the United States and the United Nations who previously led France’s nuclear negotiations with Iran and other key powers. “The best way forward would have been to immediately come back to the [nuclear pact] with an executive order, and they didn’t do it.”

Are federal disaster policies making the harmful impacts of climate change even worse?

Sadie Frank, Eric Gesick, and David G. Victor

Over the last year, we have been studying how the physical impacts of climate change might affect the financial markets and Americans’ welfare. We were surprised to learn that even where municipalities know they are in harm’s way, they can readily borrow money for future infrastructure because the market knows that if climate-related disasters happen, the city or county will be bailed out. If true, this is a costly path. Not only will climate change hurt our welfare, but the practice of federal bailouts will amplify those dangers. We are already seeing warning signs. Natural disasters cost the United States $95 billion in 2020, double the 2019 level, in part because the country saw a record number of Atlantic hurricanes. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), on the front lines when disaster strikes, has plausibly become the nation’s most important administrative agency.

Effective disaster policy requires striking a balance. On the one hand, humanitarian responses are essential in a just society, and research shows those most affected by disasters have the least ability to absorb and rebound from shocks. When disaster strikes, government must stand ready to help. On the other hand, the act of helping can invite danger — when people know a government bailout is likely, they might build valuable houses near the ocean and avoid the full consequences of their choice if that house get flattened by a hurricane.

Getting that balance right is rapidly becoming a central political challenge surrounding climate change. In new research, we develop the foundation needed to strike a politically viable balance that can help make the country safer over the long haul. In particular, we look at the federal budget and the programs implicated by climate-related disasters. How much does the federal government spend rebuilding communities once they are hit, and how does that funding compare with investments in resilience that would actually lower the nation’s exposure to climate change? Simple rebuilding can create the perverse incentives that invite danger.

Defense Department Took 22 Days to Create 'Silly Bear' Meme to Roast Russian Hackers

By Stephen Losey

The command had identified two new pieces of Russian malware and was looking for a way to publicize the threat. A hoped-for bonus: Cyber Command wanted to land a sick burn on Russian hackers.

But according to internal communications obtained by the nonprofit open government organization MuckRock through the Freedom of Information Act, Cyber Command took more than three weeks to design and fine-tune the meme before posting it -- an eternity in the fleeting world of online feuding.

And though Cyber Command intended to create something to wound Russian hackers' egos and cause "their boss to ... [lose] their s*** on them" after seeing it, as an unidentified official told CyberScoop last year, what they posted was significantly less savage: A bumbling cartoon bear trick-or-treating in stereotypical Soviet get-up, tripping over itself and spilling candy labeled with Russian malware such as ComRAT and X-Agent.

The overall effect was that of an adult trying way too hard to engage online with a younger crowd and missing the mark. Or, as decidedly middle-aged actor Steve Buscemi says in a famous scene from the TV show "30 Rock," "How do you do, fellow kids?"

Peter Singer, a senior fellow at the think tank New America and expert on cybersecurity and cyberwar, told Military.com on Thursday that the episode shows the government is starting to take some necessary steps forward, but still has a long way to go "in the new battle of 'likes' that actually have real-world impact."

Gray is Here to Stay: Principles from the Interim National Security Strategic Guidance on Competing in the Gray Zone - Modern War Institute

by Kevin Bilms

An important essay today.America must embrace its irregular warfare capabilities and be able to compete in Great Power Competition where dominant ' 'fight" is best described as political warfare. Irregular warfare is the military contribution to political warfare (and by DODD 3000.7 and the IW annex to the NDS consists of CT, FID, UW, COIN< and stability operations).

Although I am heartened by the author citing some of Bob Jones important work on unconventional deterrence I am disappointed he did not point out one of the most important sentences in the interim guidance: "We will maintain the proficiency of special operations forces to focus on crisis response and priority counterterrorism and unconventional warfare missions." Unconventional warfare is the foundation of irregular warfare and conventional warfare is at the root of the two SOF trinities: irregular warfare, unconventional warfare, and support to political warfare and the second being the comparative advantages of SOF: influence, governance, and support to indefgeigenous forces and population.

UW thinking informs everything SF​/SOF​ should do​.

UW is fundamentally problem solving; using unique, non-doctrinal and non-conventional methods, techniques, people, equipment to solve (or assist in solving) ​un​.​

UW is fundamentally about influencing behavior of target audiences (which can include a population, a segment of ​a​ population, a political structure, or a military force); therefore, it is an integral action arm of IO/PSYOP.

​I am heartened to ​see the Biden administration use unconventional warfare when there are so many antibodies out there against it.

U.S. military launched over 2 dozen cyber operations before 2020 election

Jacob Knutson

Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 25.

The U.S. military conducted more than two dozen cyber operations before the 2020 election to prevent foreign threats from affecting the election, U.S. Cyber Command Commander Gen. Paul Nakasone told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

Why it matters: Nakasone could not describe the nature of the operations in detail but said they were conducted "to get ahead of foreign threats before they interfered with or influenced our elections."

Context: The disclosure of the operations comes a week after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released an assessment on foreign actors' campaigns to influence the election.

That appraisal found no indications that foreign actors attempted to alter any technical aspect of the U.S. voting process.

What they're saying: U.S. Cyber Command in recent months attempted to mitigate the threat to federal systems from the SolarWinds breach by Russian-backed hackers that became public in December 2020, Nakasone added.

Why Is U.S. National Security Run by a Bunch of Benchwarmers?


Welcome to Foreign Policy’s Security Brief, and happy International Procrastination Day. Feel free to laze around today, but when you get back to the grind tomorrow, remember the wise words of the great Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation: “There’s nothing we can’t do if we work hard, never sleep, and shirk all other responsibilities in our lives.”

The highlights this week: The perennial problem of vacant posts across the U.S. government’s national security agencies, lawmakers weigh in on Afghanistan withdrawal plans, and North Korea reminds Washington it’s still in the game.

If you would like to receive Security Brief in your inbox every Thursday, please sign up here.

Where’s Biden’s NatSec A-Team?

After two months in office, U.S. President Joe Biden has yet to name nominees for hundreds of senior national security positions across the federal government. Some American officials have begun ringing alarm bells about how all those empty posts—filled in acting capacities by lower-level, career government officials—will affect national security decision-making, according to new reporting in the Wall Street Journal.

Biden has nominated just 16 people for over 300 vacant spots across the State Department, Defense Department, intelligence community, and other federal agencies dealing with national security, according to the Journal and data from the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.

United States Seizes Websites Used by Foreign Terrorist Organization

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The United States has seized “r-m-n.net” and “Almaalomah.com,” two websites that were unlawfully utilized by Kata’ib Hizballah, a Specially Designated National and a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

“The internet must not be used as a recruitment tool for terrorist organizations to promote violent extremism and spread their hateful rhetoric,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “We stand committed with our law enforcement partners to use all available resources to combat terrorism.”

“Special Agents with the Bureau of Industry and Security’s Office of Export Enforcement will use all of the tools at our disposal to protect American citizens, including our military service members, from terrorist acts of violence inspired and directed via online platforms,” said Kevin J. Kurland, who is performing the non-exclusive duties of the Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement at the Bureau of Industry and Security. “We will continue to aggressively disrupt Foreign Terrorist Organizations such as Kata’ib Hizballah and their efforts to utilize U.S. cyber infrastructure to harm U.S. national security.”

On July 2, 2009, the U.S. Secretary of Treasury designated Kata’ib Hizballah, an Iran-backed terrorist group active in Iraq, as a Specially Designated National for committing, directing, supporting, and posing a significant risk of committing acts of violence against Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces. On the same day, the U.S. Department of State designated Kata’ib Hizballah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization for committing or posing a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism.

The UK’s new model forces

Defence in a Competitive Age’, published on 22 March, is the second in a triptych of defence and security policy documents to be released by the United Kingdom government. Previous defence reviews have been characterised as ‘over-ambitious and underfunded’, and the government’s message is clearly that things are different this time. However, despite an injection of extra money, balancing resource and demand may prove as difficult as ever unless defence procurement and particularly the control of cost growth improve.

This second document is intended to address how the UK armed forces will be ‘modernised’ to meet all the military elements of the government’s more overarching Integrated Review, grandly titled ‘Global Britain in a Competitive Age’, released last week. The 22 March Defence Command Paper, as it is also known, outlines plans to achieve this by implementing cuts to both personnel and ‘legacy’ equipment in the Army and Royal Air Force in particular, to be replaced in some areas by new capabilities in, for example, space and cyberspace.

While much of the analysis of developing challenges appears sound, and in line with the thinking of others, not least the United States, some of the proposals for transformational changes lack real detail, making judgements on the trade-offs involved difficult. A key element of the Integrated Review was a UK ‘Indo-Pacific tilt’. Here, China’s rising power and assertiveness are certainly highlighted as concerns, but the challenge from Russia gets at least as much attention, with the disruptive potential of Iran, North Korea and non-state actors also on the agenda.

More on the maritime

The Absent Voices of Development Economics


NEW DELHI – The lack of representation of marginalized groups in the corridors of power – political, financial, and cultural – is a growing source of global concern. Knowledge confers power, so who creates it matters. As the Nobel laureate economist Paul Samuelson famously said, “I don’t care who writes a nation’s laws…if I can write its textbooks.”

Bold, specific, and usually alarming predictions about automation and coming job losses obscure a basic fact: the future remains uncertain. Whether technology is used to liberate or enslave us is always ultimately the responsibility of the humans in charge.2Add to Bookmarks

Development economics focuses on improving the well-being of billions of people in low-income countries, but the Global South is severely underrepresented in the field. Unfortunately, a small number of rich-country institutions have appropriated it, with serious consequences. And the problem appears to be getting worse.

Consider the Journal of Development Economics, a leading outlet for research papers in the field. Neither the journal’s editor nor any of its ten co-editors are based in a developing country. Just two of its 69 associate editors are, with Africa and Asia completely unrepresented.

Hybrid: An Adjective Describing the Current War

by SFC Charles Reno

Asymmetric warfare, irregular warfare, unconventional warfare, protracted warfare, conventional warfare, and political warfare are just a few terms used to define conflict. Now, add hybrid warfare. War is continuously evolving and attempting to define war poses trouble. Opinions and personal preferences do appear in research, which further serves to increase the breadth of reasonable definitions for hybrid warfare. Hybrid warfare has many different definitions, but the importance must shift to having an in-depth knowledge of the activities conducted by our adversaries. We limit ourselves by continuously seeking definitions.

Meanwhile, our adversaries continue to make advances. We need to spend more time understanding than naming (Maxwell, 2021). This research paper not only serves to answer the question of what hybrid warfare is but also the Russian application. As well as recommendations for United States government (USG) action. Hybrid warfare uses all methods to create a favorable desired condition and is the holistic approach used by Russia. The United States Government (USG) must confront Russia’s methods by defining the operational environment and defining red lines for adversaries not to cross. The biggest threat is the lack of understanding of how many methods can be used by everyday media consumption and the advances in technology.

Defining Hybrid Warfare

Hybrid warfare is the use of all methods used to create a favorable desired condition. As an adjective, hybrid means having two or more distinct elements. Some argue that hybrid warfare is the blurred combination of regular and irregular components within the same battlespace (Hoffman, 2007). Or the integration of instruments of national power at the operational level. Another definition is using military, non-military, lethal, non-lethal, forcing the enemy to act in specific ways (Fridman, 2018). Additionally, hybrid warfare is the employment of political warfare that applies economic pressure, diplomatic pressure, information pressure, and subversive activities to achieve a pre-determined end state.

Most Email Isn’t Secure. Here’s How to Fix It.

By Kurt Alaybeyoglu, Alan Wehler 

Most of today’s digital messages are not secure. Only a small portion of email, the largest share of digital messages, is encrypted end-to-end—that is, configured so that only the user and the intended recipient can read the contents. Recent breaches, such as those perpetrated by Hafnium and the SolarWinds actors, show just how dangerous this can be.

In the SolarWinds breaches, a sophisticated actor, believed to be linked to Russian intelligence, was able to access the update mechanism in a widely used network management platform called Orion. Using this access, the attackers were able to burrow into targeted networks, gaining access to administrator credentials that could, among other things, provide them access to an organization’s email servers. Weeks later, news broke that a flaw in Microsoft Exchange Server, a widely used corporate email platform, had allowed attackers from a group known to researchers as Hafnium—which is believed to have ties to China—to remotely execute code that could afford them full access to the contents of the server. The group leveraging this method of attack was then able to exfiltrate the emails of at least 30,000 organizations—potentially allowing them to access large amounts of sensitive data and undertake other attacks, such as ransoming a company’s data.

The impacts from such breaches can be devastating. Imagine how much sensitive information is in your personal or corporate email—or worse, a Department of Justice or Defense account. Email can contain personal health information, financial records, intellectual property and many other types of sensitive data. Even when emails are stored on an encrypted corporate server, they can still be accessed by someone possessing an administrator credential—exactly the sort of information attackers in the SolarWinds and Hafnium breaches were able to obtain.

Don’t Rush To JADC2: Army Gen. Murray EXCLUSIVE


WASHINGTON: The military must avoid getting swept away in a “rush to lockdown requirements” for the Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) strategy, cautions Gen. Mike Murray, head of Army Futures Command. Resisting that urge will one of the two biggest challenges for the services in making that new strategy for managing All Domain Operations real, he says.

“I still believe that the best solutions never come from the top down,” Murray, the Army’s point man on JADC2, told us in an interview. “All four services coming together from the ground up, working solutions together in actual experimentation, will greatly inform and enhance whatever we end up with.”

“I also don’t want to get into a program of record where there’s a ‘B’ following the number, right, and we find out it doesn’t work,” Murray added.

As the Army learned with its ill-fated Future Combat Systems mega-program that ended up costing the service some $20 billion despite never coming to fruition, carving requirements in stone before proving the technology works can go disastrously, and very expensively, wrong.

30 March 2021

Defining China’s Intelligentized Warfare and Role of Artificial Intelligence

 Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd), Consultant, VIF

China feels that U.S. is its main adversary ... China is trying to match U.S. technological capabilities with its own strength in AI as a leap frog technology and a new concept of war ... But there will be lot of problems in implementing this concept of Intelligentization Warfare to reality. However, President Xi Jinping has thrown the gauntlet, and it is up to the U.S. the other adversaries and the rest of the world to follow this concept keenly.

Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh: Geopolitical Implications

 Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd), Consultant, VIF

The geostrategic sensitive region of region of Nagorno-Karabakh lies at an intersection of political, ethnic and religious borders of Iran, Turkey, Russia and Georgia. On September 27, 2020 the war broke out with Azerbaijan launching an offensive retake Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding previously Azerbaijani-populated regions. The war was won by Azerbaijan.

Russia brokered a peace deal with Armenia and Azerbaijan agreeing to a Russian-mediated settlement to end the six-week war. The cease-fire is seen as a victory in Azerbaijan and as a capitulation in Armenia. Russia’s leading role in stopping the fighting also shows that Moscow continues to be the most influential player in the southern Caucasus.

This monograph provides the background of the conflict, its geopolitical dimensions, details of the cease fire deal and the role of different stakeholders in this conflict.

India Joins the Afghan Peace Negotiations


This month, the Biden administration presented its plan for the future of Afghanistan. The strategy includes both the possibility of a power-sharing government between Kabul’s elected representatives and the Taliban and a recognition of the important role that regional countries should play after a withdrawal of U.S. foreign forces. In a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken
proposed several steps, including a United Nations-level meeting with the foreign ministers of China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States to develop a “unified approach” to peace.

This formal inclusion of India in the peace deliberations, which until now had seen New Delhi participating only along the margins despite its strong interests in Afghanistan and its growing partnership with the country, may alter the calculus of other regional players as well as the Taliban and the Afghan government.

According to some reports, Russian interlocutors had been wary of including India, likely because of its warming ties with Beijing and Islamabad. Pakistan has, of course, been consistent in pushing back against any Indian involvement in Afghanistan due to fears of encirclement by a strong India. China’s relationship with India, meanwhile, has seen a dramatic downturn.

Latest U.S. proposal for ending Afghan conflict runs counter to Taliban beliefs


The United States recently drafted and proposed a plan to end the conflict in Afghanistan, but it featured several proposals that are diametrically opposed to the Taliban’s ideology, opening the door for it to be dismissed out of hand.

The so-called “peace plan” called for the current Afghan constitution to serve as the framework for a future constitution, elections, and power sharing – all of which have been flatly rejected by the Taliban in the past.

The plan, which was published by TOLONews, was reportedly sent on Feb. 28 to the Afghan government and the Taliban by Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation.

The proposal included three parts: the “Guiding Principles for Afghanistan’s Future,” a “Transitional Peace Government and Political Roadmap,” and a “Permanent and Comprehensive Ceasefire.”

In the first part, the plan called for using the current Afghan constitution as a “template” for the future constitution and elections. In the second part, the plan calls for a transitional “Peace Government” where the two sides of the conflict will share power. The Taliban has also previously rejected any attempt at a cease fire, which comprised the third part. All three are antithetical to the Taliban’s interpretation of Islam.

[Items in bold below are directly from the text of proposed agreement.]

For Biden, an Anguishing Choice on Withdrawal from Afghanistan

By Robin Wright

There’s a prophetic scene at the end of “Charlie Wilson’s War,” the film that chronicles a flamboyant Texas congressman (played by Tom Hanks) and a rogue C.I.A. agent (Philip Seymour Hoffman) mobilizing what was then the largest U.S. covert intelligence operation in history. Operation Cyclone facilitated the training, arming, and empowering of the Afghan mujahideen—holy warriors—to fight the Soviet Union in the nineteen-eighties. America’s proxies prevailed, in the sense that the Soviets realized that their decade-long presence had become too costly—financially, politically, and militarily—and that they couldn’t achieve their goals. “What, are we going to sit there forever?” the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev reportedly told the Politburo in 1986. “Or should we be ending this war? Otherwise, we’ll disgrace ourselves in every respect.” In 1989, after losing more than fourteen thousand troops and spending at least fifty billion dollars, the Soviets withdrew. They just wanted out of an unpopular war. Afghanistan soon collapsed into a civil war that pitted rival warlords against one another, until the Taliban seized power, in 1996, imposed strict Islamic law, and welcomed other jihadis such as Al Qaeda. After Al Qaeda’s attacks in 2001, U.S. forces helped their Afghan allies to topple the Taliban. A new U.S.-backed government was ensconced in Kabul.

‘We Will Leave' Afghanistan Likely This Year, Biden Declar


Updated: This breaking news article has been expanded to include additional background information.

The United States will remove all of its troops from Afghanistan likely this year, President Joe Biden declared unequivocally on Thursday, but not by the May 1 deadline outlined in the peace agreement with the Taliban signed under the previous administration.

“We will leave. The question is when we leave,” Biden said at the White House, on Thursday.

When asked if the United States will have troops in Afghanistan, Biden said, “I can’t picture that being the case.”

The president said it would be hard to move U.S. troops by May 1, “just in terms of tactical reasons,” and any decision would be made in consultation with U.S. allies.

Biden first appeared to indicate the U.S. may stay in Afghanistan, saying, “If we leave, we’re going to do so in a safe and orderly way.” But he quickly stated with emphasis his declaration that the U.S. will leave.

The Quad Can End the Crisis in Myanmar


There’s currently no end in sight to the growing civil unrest that has gripped Myanmar since its military coup on Feb. 1. As protests grow by the day, Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, has turned to lethal violence to quell demonstrations. So far, the response from the international community has been limited to issuing sanctions and harsh statements condemning the military’s sudden takeover—without altering the situation on the ground. But the coup has taken place at a time when the pandemic has left many civilians in economic despair, and sanctions risk exacerbating a humanitarian crisis. Restoring the civilian government and getting the Tatmadaw to back down will require a much more imaginative response from abroad.

One overlooked solution to Myanmar’s crisis may be the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the “Quad”—the newly reinvigorated forum among Australia, India, Japan, and the United States to share and promote liberal and democratic values in the Indo-Pacific. Although the Quad is often viewed as an anti-China club, the recently concluded meeting hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden revealed it has an inclusive agenda: Quad members decided to launch an ambitious vaccine supply program and formed working groups to explore areas of cooperation on emerging technologies and climate change. Importantly, Quad leaders made it clear that finding an early and peaceful solution to the Myanmar crisis is a top priority.

At first glance, the Quad seems somewhat divided on Myanmar: While Australia and the United States have condemned the coup, India and Japan issued milder statements, perhaps because they were cautious of alienating Myanmar and pushing it toward China. Yet New Delhi and Tokyo could in fact be instrumental in finding a way to end the impasse in Naypyidaw. India and Japan were recently named by Burma Campaign U.K. as two of the top countries still training and cooperating with the Tatmadaw—a fact that also means they have strong leverage over the army.

Is China About to Deploy Private Military Companies in Central Asia?

By: Paul Goble

Over the past decade, Moscow has made regular use of private military and security companies to project power in areas where it wants to maintain at least limited deniability while taking advantage of the weaknesses of local governments (see EDM, March 16, 2017, March 22, 2017, March 27, 2018). It has employed such independent formations—or at least their simulacra—in Ukraine, Syria and especially in African states with relatively vulnerable or ineffective central governments (see EDM, January 21, 2020, April 29, 2020, January 20, 2021).

Other countries, including the United States, have themselves relied on private military companies, although they mostly acknowledge them as support elements for a formal military presence. China has done so as well in some African countries but only in a restricted way. Now, however, there appears to be a growing risk that Beijing may feel it can utilize such structures to defend its existing interests or project new power into at least one republic in Central Asia: politically unstable Kyrgyzstan (see EDM, March 3). Beijing already has significant investments there and has had serious problems with the government and local population in the past (see EDM, June 24, 2016 and March 3, 2021; see China Brief, August 12, 2020).

Chinese “private military companies” have not yet appeared in Kyrgyzstan, but some Russian experts are worried that they may show up soon and create problems for Moscow, for two reasons. First, there is Russia’s own security involvement in Kyrgyzstan—it has one military base in that country and has been talking about the possibility of establishing a second (see EDM, May 24, 2018 and February 22, 2019). Additionally, any such Chinese involvement might not only further destabilize that Central Asian republic but lead to clashes between the Russian Federation and China, something Moscow wants to avoid, especially at a time of growing tensions with the West. Stanislav Pritchin, a senior researcher at the Moscow Center for Post-Soviet Research in the Russian Academy of Sciences, has noted that the Russian government hopes China will not send private military companies into Kyrgyzstan, but it increasingly fears that anti-Chinese rhetoric by Kyrgyzstani politicians could unintentionally lead to that possibility in the future. At a minimum, he said, this is already “a risk” no one can afford to ignore (IA-Centr, March 15).