17 April 2021

The US Must Help Afghans Who Helped It


By James Schwemlein and Earl Anthony Wayne
April 08, 2021

While working for sustainable peace, the U.S. must also recognize that withdrawing from Afghanistan should not mean abandoning the many Afghans who supported its mission.

Limited War and Nuclear Deterrence- Part I and II

 Major General PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

On 15 June 2020, in a brutal, savage skirmish, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) used fists, rocks, rods, baton, spikes, knuckle-dusters, nail-studded clubs and wooden clubs wrapped in barbed wire at a post at Galwan on the Indian side of Line of Actual Control(LAC) in Ladakh sector at an altitude of 4,250 meters. India lost a Commanding Officer of an infantry battalion and 19 other ranks. China did not divulge its casualty figures. There is a famous saying that no two nuclear-powered states have ever fought a war. William S. Lind, who developed Manoeuvre Warfare and Fourth Generation Warfare theories, is sceptical about two nuclear weapon capable countries ever to fight a conventional war. Continue Reading.....

India readies for future warfare

Sarosh Bana

‘When nations go to war, the nation with better technology will win,’ India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said in 2019, and perhaps taking that cue, the country’s defence planners are embarking on their next-generation modernisation program in a quest to be future-ready.

The transforming geopolitical landscape is driving preparations the world over for future wars that will be waged less with the bullet than with cyber technology, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, quantum computing, augmented and virtual reality, robotics, big-data analytics, unmanned drones, small-satellite constellations for 5G and 6G telecommunications, information acquisition, 3D printing, nanomaterials and human augmentation devices.

Multi-domain, or cross-domain, operations will comprise ‘centaur’ teams, where human will bind with machines to optimise the performance of both. These human–machine teams will harness AI for military applications that will transform decision-making on the battlefield.

The Indian Armed Forces’ demand for just such a ‘connected’ soldier may be met by a public–private partnership under the government’s defence public sector undertakings (DPSU) program between Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Hyderabad’s Grene Robotics, a niche private-sector player in AI and robotics, which are jointly developing an advanced man-portable surface-to-air missile.

Troops are Leaving Afghanistan. Can the U.S. Still Advise Afghan Security Forces?

By Alexander Powell & Jonathan Schroden

The Biden administration has made the decision to extend the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan past the May 1, 2021 deadline agreed to with the Taliban. However, all U.S. forces will be withdrawn by September 11, 2021, bringing to a close America’s longest war. Yet as strong as the urge may be to move on, the U.S. still has a security interest in Afghanistan that it must safeguard. As stated repeatedly over the years, that interest is for Afghanistan to never again be a safe haven from which terrorists launch attacks against the United States or its allies. Relative to the future of U.S. policy on Afghanistan, securing this interest is typically associated with two options: leaving behind a residual counterterrorism force in perpetuity as an “insurance policy” against terrorist threats, or withdrawing forces and relying on the threat of future U.S. military action to deter the Taliban from breaking their commitments to prevent terrorist groups from using Afghanistan to conduct international attacks. With the Biden administration’s decision to withdraw by September irrespective of conditions on the ground, it would seem as though it is taking the latter course.

However, a third option exists. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Afghanistan, U.S. forces there have shifted to a primarily virtual posture to advise Afghan security forces. Even prior to this, the United States was providing “fly-to-advise” support to some Afghan partner units. These experiences open the door to the possibility of conducting long-term, over-the-horizon advisory support without a sustained U.S. presence in Afghanistan. While this topic has been discussed in general terms, it has yet to be closely examined in the context of Afghanistan. Here we introduce and explore the concept of a remote advisory cell designed to help secure the primary U.S. security interest in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan: Too Much Is Enough

There is no good way that the U.S. can withdraw from Afghanistan. It cannot claim victory, and it cannot wait indefinitely for some cosmetic form of peace. It is all too clear from the reports to Congress by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) and the Lead Inspector General (LIG) for Operation Freedom Sentinel that it will take years to bring Afghan security forces to the point where they can stand on their own if peace fails.

It is equally clear from these official sources as well as from media reporting and reporting by Transparency International and the World Bank that the Taliban is still slowly winning and that the Afghan central government is hopelessly divided, corrupt, and ineffective. The IMF, World Bank, commercial risk analysts, and the media make it all too clear that the Afghan economy is in a state of collapse and that Afghanistan cannot survive without massive outside aid – aid that can only buy time, not development or Afghan forces that can stand on their own.

Pressing on with open-ended peace and security assistance efforts now offers little more than a forlorn hope, especially after President Ghani’s unwillingness to even try to move forward on a negotiable form of peace. Peace negotiations under his terms are little more than a way of extending Afghanistan’s misery and the fighting. Media report after media report make it clear that he clearly has no mandate from either Afghanistan’s other leaders or its public.

It will be a tragedy, but the time has come for the strategic equivalent of a mercy killing. This does not mean immediately abandoning Afghanistan. Even a forlorn hope should be given for some kind of change, but it is time for an ultimatum and a ruthless, uncompromising withdrawal if Afghanistan’s leaders do not fully respond. The Biden administration has inherited a nearly hopeless mess from both Afghan leaders and President Trump.

Why America Can't End Its 'Forever Wars'


Apeace agreement with the Taliban and a May 1 deadline for American withdrawal of troops. A new pledge by President Biden to end the war. A Congressional step toward revoking the 20-year-old consent to use military force in Iraq. Talk, even, of rescinding the post-9/11 authorization to pursue Al-Qaeda. You might think America's forever wars are finally coming to an end. They're not—because everything we've learned from the past two decades at war has made it more difficult to actually end the wars.

Though the new administration seems intent on ending America's oldest war and there is growing fatigue over endless wars in the Middle East, and though the Pentagon is scrambling to refocus resources and attention away from counterterrorism to big war pursuits against the likes of Russia and China, war isn't going to actually end. That's because there is something about the way the United States fights—about how it has learned to fight in Afghanistan and on other 21st-century battlefields—that facilitates endless war.

This transformation of the American military happened gradually as the armed forces shifted the preponderance of tasks away from boots on the ground, away even from dependence on regular soldiers. The new American way of war moved even the means of bombing and killing—mostly through aircraft and drones, but also virtually in cyberspace—out of the actual war zones.

Troops shrunk in importance. There were no more armies to fight, no countries to occupy, and no appetite even to engage in hand-to-hand combat that put American lives at risk. What emerged is a certain kind of fighting, sustained by a flexible and reliable global network. The traditional measures of troop presence have become irrelevant while the means of actual warfare became invisible.

Lawmakers React to Biden's Plan to Remove Troops from Afghanistan By 9/11


President Joe Biden is facing pushback from some members of Congress who say they weren't briefed on his upcoming announcement that he'll remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11 and have more questions about what will happen in the region under the new timeline.

Some lawmakers have pushed to remove thousands of remaining military members earlier, while others worry about destabilizing the region without a path to progress.

"I want to hear the administration's rationale for it," Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday, adding that he understands the push to end America's longest war two decades after the terrorist attack that led to it.

"I just am concerned that after so much blood...that we don't lose what we were seeking to achieve," he added, referring to the more than 2,000 soldiers who have died in the war there.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the Biden administration of making a "grave mistake" to "turn tail and abandon the fight" in Afghanistan.

"It is retreat and abdication of American leadership," the Kentucky Republican said from the Senate floor Tuesday shortly after news broke that Biden will unveil his proposal Wednesday.

Under Biden, Pakistan and the US face a dilemma about the breadth of their relationship

Madiha Afzal

After the unpredictability of the Trump years, Pakistan approached Joe Biden’s win and the new administration with both expectation and apprehension. It hoped that the administration would buy its pitch for a reset and for broadening relations beyond Afghanistan, but it worried about “baggage” that the Biden team could bring from its experience during the Obama years — the second half of which was a relative low point in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Nearly 100 days into the new administration, it appears that redefining U.S.-Pakistan relations isn’t going to be quite as easy as Islamabad had hoped, even as Pakistan concertedly pushes a new geo-economic vision.

President Biden has not yet spoken to Prime Minister Imran Khan. Nor did Biden invite Pakistan to a planned leaders summit on climate change later this month, though the leaders of India and Bangladesh will be there, and Pakistan was the only country among the world’s 10 most populous to not receive an invitation. Its absence is all the more pointed given Pakistan’s efforts to mitigate climate change, including its commitment to plant a billion trees. Khan claims he’s not bothered. Biden’s Special Envoy for Climate Change John Kerry, meanwhile, is currently in the region — visiting India and Bangladesh, but not Pakistan. Separately, Pakistan continues to play a key role in the Afghan peace process.

Trump took a transactional approach to Pakistan, which worked well in some ways. What Pakistan wants now is a relationship with the U.S. that is broader in scope, and includes trade and investment. Will Biden deliver?


NATO Confirms Its Troop Withdrawal From Afghanistan

By Steven Erlanger

NATO foreign and defense ministers agreed on Wednesday to begin withdrawing forces from Afghanistan on May 1 following the announcement from President Biden that U.S. forces will leave by Sept. 11.

“Currently, we have around 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, the majority from non-U.S. allies and partner countries. We have been closely consulting on our presence in Afghanistan for the last weeks and months. In the light of the U.S. decision to withdraw, foreign and defense ministers of NATO discussed the way forward today, and decided that we will start the withdrawal of NATO support mission forces by May 1.” “Twenty years ago after the United States was attacked on 9/11, this alliance invoked Article 5 for the first time in its history. An attack on one is an attack on all. Together, we went to Afghanistan to root out al Qaeda, and prevent future terrorist attacks from Afghanistan directed at our homeland. Now, we will leave Afghanistan together and bring our troops home.” “Our troops have accomplished the mission that they were sent to Afghanistan to accomplish. And they have much for which to be proud. Their services and their sacrifices, alongside those of our resolute support of Afghan partners, made possible a greatly diminished threat to all of our homelands and homelands of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.”

BRUSSELS — Following the news that the United States was pulling all its troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, NATO’s foreign and defense ministers agreed on Wednesday to begin withdrawing NATO forces on May 1 and finish “within a few months,” the alliance said in a statement.

The withdrawal will be “orderly, coordinated and deliberate,’’ the statement said, adding: “Any Taliban attacks on allied troops during this withdrawal will be met with a forceful response.”

The allies support efforts for “an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process,” the statement said, and called the withdrawal “the start of a new chapter.’’

At the moment, of the 9,600 NATO troops officially in Afghanistan, about 2,500 of them are American, though that number can be as many as 1,000 higher. The second-largest contingent is from Germany, with some 1,300 troops.

In a news conference after the meeting with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that the NATO troop withdrawal by Sept. 11 did not mean an end to the American commitment to Afghanistan, which would include aid and advice to the military and to the government. Today, he said, NATO “began to hammer out what ‘out together’ looks like.”

Afghanistan’s Situation Didn’t Change. American Politics Did


The Earth did not change its shape. Southwestern Asia did not change its borders. No additional terrorists laid down their arms. But suddenly we’ve resolved one of the most important reasons for keeping U.S military forces in Afghanistan?

Distance. That was among the top justifications that U.S. defense and military leaders have given — through three presidential administrations — for putting and keeping thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The argument was simple: Afghanistan is landlocked and located far from any major U.S. military bases. If U.S. leaders wanted the military to find, capture, and kill terrorists there, then U.S. forces needed jumping-off points in country and the kind of secure supply lines that come from heavy footprints. If they wanted to chase al Qaeda into Pakistan, as they did Osama bin Laden, they needed bases like the special operations lily pad at Jalalabad and the gigantic logistics hub at Bagram Air Base.

Afghanistan is not Iraq or Syria, within easy reach of Middle East bases that house tens of thousands of U.S. troops, not to mention bodies of water large enough for carrier strike groups. It is too remote for routine airstrikes on al Qaeda or in-and-out special ops missions against ISIS.

Last Exit from Afghanistan

By Dexter Filkins
Source Link

On the night of August 14th, Fawzia Koofi was on her way home to Kabul from the funeral of family friends. Koofi, forty-five, is one of Afghanistan’s leading advocates for women’s rights—a former parliament member who, in the twenty years since the United States and its allies toppled the Taliban, has carried on a ferocious public fight to reverse a history of oppression. She and her twenty-one-year-old daughter, Shuhra, were riding in an armored car, as they often do. A second car, filled with security guards, trailed behind. The guards were necessary; in 2010, Taliban gunmen had attempted to kill her.

As they neared Kabul, her driver pulled over to get gas, and Koofi decided to switch cars. “Sometimes the armored car feels like a prison,” she explained, when I visited Afghanistan in December. As they left the gas station, she saw a car behind hers, seeming to track its moves; she was being followed. While she watched, a second car veered into the road, blocking the lane. Koofi’s driver accelerated and swerved onto the shoulder, but, before he could get clear of the blockade, men in the other car opened fire. Bullets smashed through the windows and tore through her upper arm. The assailants sped away. Koofi was rushed to the nearest safe hospital, forty-five minutes away, where surgeons removed a bullet and set her shattered bone.

The Quad (finally) delivers:Can it be sustained?


On 19 March, the leaders of four important democracies of the Indo-Pacific region – the United States, Japan, Australia and India – held (virtually) their first-ever “Quad Summit.” This meeting at the leaders’ level of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue was significant on two counts.

It showed, for one, that the extent of frustration with Chinese behaviour has reached a pitch where all four countries have overcome past reservations to deliver a potent message of solidarity. Following border clashes between Chinese and Indian soldiers in the Himalayas and export sanctions meted out as punishment by China to Australia, the new Biden administration’s determination to rally this grouping as a show of strength in the region was more easily realised than it otherwise might have been.

Perhaps more importantly, though, the Quad was finally able to show the substantive utility of the grouping in its collaborative effort to provide a badly needed global public good: more vaccines. Provided that the deal hatched for the summit is realised, the world will now be up another billion Covid-19 vaccines, based on Indian production and financial, technical and logistical assistance from the other three players.

This development probably would not have happened without this Quad summit as an “action-forcing event”, but now provides a template for possible future projects. This promising start has boosted enthusiasm on both sides of the Pacific about the Quad’s finally coming together; Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison hailed the meeting as ushering in a “new dawn”.

Biden faces day of reckoning on China and Taiwan


The Biden administration continues to impress advocates of a strong, clear-eyed U.S.policy on China and Taiwan — and to anger Chinese communist officials who had planned for a return to the accommodationist policies of the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations.

President Biden has put Beijing on its back foot by adhering rigorously to the Trump administration’s historic shift to a policy of defiance against China’s onslaught on Western interests and values. Since the inauguration, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan have embraced, and greatly expanded, their predecessors’ sporadic efforts at multilateral cooperation and emphasis on human rights in meeting the China threat.

The State Department (DOS) called Taiwan “a critical security partner”;

The USS McCain (DDG-56) transited the Taiwan Strait on its way to yet another Freedom of Navigation Operation in the South China Sea;

The USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) made its third visit to the region under Biden;
DOS released new, relaxed guidelines for official U.S.-Taiwan interactions replacing the restrictive ones Blinken’s predecessor, Mike Pompeo, had canceled;

The administration issued a statement of “rock solid” support for Taiwan and a condemnation of China’s threatening behavior;

The Commerce Department banned the sale of U.S.-made chips to Chinese technology giant Huawei;

The Other Sides of Renegotiating the JCPOA Iran Nuclear Agreement

So far, most of the debate over the JCPOA agreement has been a repetition of the original debates that took place before the agreement was reached in 2015 and while the current agreement was first being negotiated. The public side of this debate focused almost exclusively on preventing Iran from getting enough fissile uranium and plutonium for a nuclear weapon, and it made no effort to describe what kind of nuclear weapon or nuclear force posture would be involved, what delivery systems would be involved, or what level of nuclear weapons yield and nuclear force Iran would or could acquire in a breakout effort.

These negotiations largely took place more than a half decade ago, and they took place at a time when few estimated how quickly Iran’s missile and UCAV/drone forces could develop, how quickly it could acquire precision conventional strike capabilities, how much it could expand its regional ties and influence, and what the potential effects could be of new Russian and Chinese arms transfers to Iran’s other forces.

They did not attempt to address the overall stability of the future military balance in the Gulf and MENA region or to reach compromises that were valid at the time – assuming that the agreement would be the first step in achieving a broader level of stability in the region.

The U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA, Iran’s development progress, Israel’s new attacks on Iran’s underground centrifuge facility at Natanz, and the increasing level of instability in the region have all changed these conditions. This does not necessarily mean that the JCPOA should not be revived, but it does mean that the JCPOA should be addressed in very different terms.

Exit Strategy

Eliot A. Cohen

In important aspects of foreign and national-security policy, the Biden administration is really the Trump administration but with civilized manners. In no respect is that more true than in the president’s announcement of a complete military withdrawal from Afghanistan by September 11 of this year, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that brought the United States to that country’s stark mountains, fruitful valleys, and dusty towns.

There is little point in debating whether the move is correct: There is no abstract ideal of a policy, only that which can be successfully executed by those charged with so doing at a given moment. The Afghan War has lacked high-level American commitment for years now. If there is any surprise, it is that for eight years of Barack Obama and four years of Donald Trump, the United States persisted in a conflict that most senior officials in those administrations regarded with pessimism and distaste.

This cannot be a moment for final judgment about America’s Afghan war—we are simply too close to make measured assessments. But we can make preliminary, if uncomfortable, judgments, and embark on morally and strategically prudent policies.

This is not the end of the war; it is merely the end of its direct American phase. The war began more than four decades ago, with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and its first American phase, in the 1980s, featured indirect United States intervention on behalf of the anti-Soviet mujahideen. The war will assuredly last well beyond the American exit. There will be no power-sharing, no reconciliation, no peace of the brave.

Mysterious blackout in Iran threatens to undermine nuclear talks

By Ramin Mostaghim, Tamara Qiblawi, Andrew Carey and Mostafa Salem, CNN

Tehran (CNN)Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has vowed revenge against Israel after an apparent attack on an Iranian nuclear site caused a blackout at the facility over the weekend.
The incident threatens to undermine recently revived diplomatic efforts between Washington and Tehran to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

Newly inaugurated centrifuges at Iran's Natanz facility, a centerpiece of the country's contentious nuclear program, appeared to have been badly damaged in Sunday's incident, which Tehran has described as an act of "nuclear terrorism."

Israel's army chief hinted at possible Israeli involvement in the attack in comments on Sunday. Several Israeli media outlets, quoting unnamed intelligence sources, said Mossad, the national intelligence agency, was behind the operation but offered no other details.

The most high-profile condemnation from Tehran came on Monday, according to Iran's state-run IRNA news agency, when Zarif reportedly accused Israel of seeking "revenge" over Iran's efforts to lift US sanctions on the country during last week's indirect negotiations to return to the nuclear deal.

"Our stance will be stronger, and our sides in the negotiations must know that our enriching installations were so far the first generation," Zarif said, according to IRNA. "But from now on, we will fill Natanz with further advanced centrifuges with many more folds of power of enrichment."

Meet the future weapon of mass destruction, the drone swarm

By Zachary Kallenborn 

In October 2016, the United States Strategic Capabilities Office launched 103 Perdix drones out of an F/A-18 Super Hornet. The drones communicated with one another using a distributed brain, assembling into a complex formation, traveling across a battlefield, and reforming into a new formation. The swarm over China Lake, California was the sort of “cutting-edge innovation” that would keep America ahead of its adversaries, a Defense Department press release quoted then Secretary of Defense Ash Carter as saying. But the Pentagon buried the lede: The Strategic Capabilities Office did not actually create the swarm; engineering students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) did, using an “all-commercial-components design.”

MIT engineering students are among the best engineering students in the world, and they have the exact skills for the task, but they are still students. If drone swarming technology is accessible enough that students can develop it, global proliferation is virtually inevitable. And, of course, world militaries are deploying new drone technology so quickly that even journalists and experts who follow the issue have trouble keeping up, even as much drone swarm-related research is surely taking place outside the public eye. With many countries announcing what they call “swarms,” at some point—and arguably that point is now—this technology will pose a real risk: In theory, swarms could be scaled to tens of thousands of drones, creating a weapon akin to a low-scale nuclear device. Think “Nagasaki” to get a sense of the death toll a massive drone swarm could theoretically inflict. (In most cases, drone swarms are likely to be far below this level of harm, but such extremes are absolutely possible.)

Africa’s ‘Demographic Dividend’ Won’t Pay Off Without Purpose and Policy

Howard W. French 

For anyone interested in understanding the global economy of the recent past or in projecting the shape of things to come in world affairs in the near future, there are few fundamentals that condition the lives of nations more powerfully than population dynamics.

The past 50 years have served up this lesson repeatedly, most recently with the rise of China. Riding on the back of a dramatic bulge in the number of freshly educated young people who teemed onto the workshop floors of the innumerable industries that were just then being thrown together, China turned itself into the so-called factory of the world.

Biden’s Infrastructure Plan: Who Are the Winners and Losers?

The American Jobs Plan (AJP) proposed by President Biden on March 31 would spend $2.7 trillion and raise $2.1 trillion dollars over the 10-year budget window of 2022–2031, according to the Penn Wharton Budget Model (PWBM), a nonpartisan initiative that analyzes the economic impact of public policy proposals.

The AJP’s tax and spending provisions would increase government debt by 1.7% and reduce GDP by a quarter percentage point by 2031, the study projected. By 2050, however, government debt would fall by 6.4% and GDP would decrease by 0.8%, according to its estimates.

“The decline in GDP isn’t necessarily going to mean that we are worse off as a society,” Alex Arnon, associate director of policy analysis at PWBM, said in an interview on the Wharton Business Daily radio show on SiriusXM. (Listen to the podcast at the top of this page). Much of the spending is to keep existing infrastructure in running condition and to provide insurance against unforeseen setbacks, he added.

“A lot of the investments [will be] in resilience, and as a form of insurance against, say, catastrophic climate change or a future pandemic,” Arnon continued. “Those investments in the most likely outcome don’t pay out in full [if] things go okay. But if we get unlucky and things turn out much worse than we expect, we’ll be glad we have that insurance.” Some benefits of those investments are not captured in GDP measurements, such as “better roads, safer and faster trains, or more regular bus services,” he added.

How Biden Will—and Won’t—Battle the Pentagon


Early in his term as president, Donald Trump famously called America’s military leadership “my generals.” It was a description that might have rubbed the military the wrong way were it not for his decision to increase defense spending by some $100 billion over three years. The spending spree, which included pay raises for those in uniform, solidified Trump’s standing at the Defense Department and in the field. Many in the military, even in its most senior and skeptical ranks, supported Trump and celebrated his off-the-cuff derision of progressives.

The love affair didn’t last. Trump’s reproachful and mocking manner—“You’re all losers,” he said during his first full meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in July 2017. “You don’t know how to win anymore.”—so undermined his standing as commander in chief that, by the end of his term, the military was sick of him, with 2020 election polls showing a preference for Joe Biden among all ranks, an astonishing slippage in Trump’s support among a group that voted overwhelmingly for him four years prior. “I was really shocked by how many of my former colleagues voted for the former president and openly supported him,” said retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who pointedly refused to mention Trump by name. “But when he [Trump] turned on the military, well, the military turned on him.”

The FBI wanted to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone. It turned to a little-known Australian firm.

Ellen Nakashima and Reed Albergotti

The iPhone used by a terrorist in the San Bernardino shooting was unlocked by a small Australian hacking firm in 2016, ending a momentous standoff between the U.S. government and the tech titan Apple.

Azimuth Security, a publicity-shy company that says it sells its cyber wares only to democratic governments, secretly crafted the solution the FBI used to gain access to the device, according to several people familiar with the matter. The iPhone was used by one of two shooters whose December 2015 attack left more than a dozen people dead.

The identity of the hacking firm has remained a closely guarded secret for five years. Even Apple didn’t know which vendor the FBI used, according to company spokesman Todd Wilder. But without realizing it, Apple’s attorneys came close last year to learning of Azimuth’s role — through a different court case, one that has nothing to do with unlocking a terrorist’s device.

Five years ago, Apple and the FBI both cast the struggle over the iPhone as a moral battle. The FBI believed Apple should help it obtain information to investigate the terrorist attack. Apple believed that creating a back door into the phone would weaken security and could be used by malicious actors. The FBI sought a court order to compel Apple to help the government. Weeks later, the FBI backed down after it had found an outside group that had a solution to gain access to the phone.

New ODNI Report Sees Growing Cyber Threats, COVID-Related Instability


The pandemic will heighten economic and geopolitical insecurity as some countries struggle with the fallout and China and Russia attempt to use it to their geopolitical advantage, according to the new worldwide threat report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The report also forecasts increasingly destructive and destabilizing cyberattacks as militaries make more use of them.

The yearly report examines various threats to the United States from specific actors — China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and Islamic terrorists — and in areas such as emerging technology, climate, and cybersecurity.

This year’s report includes a section on the worldwide effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is “prompting shifts in security priorities for countries around the world.” Governments are increasingly faced with calls to slash military funding, resulting in “gaps...in UN peacekeeping operations; military training and preparedness; counterterrorism operations; and arms control monitoring, verification, and compliance.” Without a rapid recovery, the report projects that the pandemic will make it harder for governments to manage conflict “particularly because the pandemic has not caused any diminution in the number or intensity of conflicts.”

Russia and China play a central role in the report, as they typically do. “Beijing, Moscow, Tehran, and Pyongyang have demonstrated the capability and intent to advance their interests at the expense of the United States and its allies, despite the pandemic,” according to the report, which also mentions China and Russia’s attempts to score geopolitical points through so-called vaccine diplomacy (despite mounting safety concerns around Russia’s vaccine).

Drone Fleets and Robots are the Future of War. Can Humans Keep Up?

by Kris Osborn

Drone fleets, robotic vehicles, and multi-domain manned-unmanned connectivity are changing the future of warfare.

Ever faster-increasing application of artificial intelligence (AI) and drones are altering maneuver formations, concepts of operations and war plans at such a pace that some are struggling to keep up. In fact, strategists and futurists are working hard to make sure that technological advances do not outpace any comparable human capacity to keep up.

On land, many see a fast-emerging modern Combined Arms Maneuver concept based upon greater networking, drone operations and autonomous systems such as tanks and helicopters. In the air, the concept of “loyal wingman” wherein a manned fighter jet controls small groups of drones from a cockpit to minimize latency and maximize operational reach, is basically here. At sea, the Navy’s Operational Overlord, or Ghost Fleet, continues to break new ground with advanced algorithms enabling groups of surface, air and undersea drones to coordinate missions, share information and conduct operations with one another autonomously while supervised by humans operating in a command and control capacity.

The advent of new forms of autonomy and large numbers of increasingly capable unmanned systems, and the growing extent to which they can integrate with human decision-makers in war are playing a large role in the services’ respective modernization strategies. The Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations strategy, for instance, envisions a more dispersed yet greatly networked fleet of manned and unmanned air-sea-surface platforms operating in a coordinated fashion. A similar concept is being applied by future Army and Air Force war planners now contributing to the Pentagon’s Joint All Domain Command and Control program to advance multi-domain networking concepts.

Drone Swarms Could Be Too Fast to Handle. Is AI the Answer?

by Kris Osborn

Here's What You Need to Remember: AI-capable drone defenses can already gather, pool, organize and analyze an otherwise disconnected array of threat variables, compare them against one another in relation to what kinds of defense responses might be optimal and make analytical determinations in a matter of milliseconds.

What if waves of hundreds of autonomous, integrated artificial intelligence (AI)-capable mini-drones were closing in upon a forward Army unit, Air Force base or Navy ship at staggering speeds, presenting unprecedented complexity for defenders? Perhaps they are programmed with advanced algorithms such that they operate in close coordination with one another? Perhaps hundreds of them are themselves engineered as explosives to close in upon and explode on target?

Simply put, what happens when computerized swarms of enemy drone attacks exceed any human capacity to respond in time?

“When you have little drones operating in different patterns and formations, all talking to each other and staying in sync with one another...imagine that with the ability to create lethal effects on the battlefield. There is no human who will be able to keep up with that,” Gen. John Murray, Commanding General, Army Futures Command, told The National Interest in an interview.

Drone and hypersonics weapons defenses, among other things, are taking on new urgency among Pentagon technology experts who increasingly recognize the growing urgency with which high-speed, computer enabled attacks need to be defended.

Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Warfare

By Clive Williams

Artificial intelligence is changing the world we live in. It will redefine the workplace and have significant implications for everything we do, probably by the end of this decade. Some AI applications are already a part of our everyday lives, such as intelligent car navigation systems.

So, what is artificial intelligence? AI can be defined as ‘the ability of machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence’.

AI has in fact been around for several decades. The IBM chess-playing computer called ‘Deep Blue’ defeated world chess champion Garry Kasparov as far back as 1997. But the development of AI has been accelerating rapidly in recent years with a substantial increase in the number of real-world applications where AI is now practical.

According to the US Department of Defense’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, the reasons for this are more massive datasets, increased computing power, improved machine-learning algorithms, and greater access to open-source code libraries.

Let’s look at these in turn.

First, massive datasets. Today, computers, digital devices and sensors connected to the internet are constantly producing and storing large volumes of data, whether in the form of text, numbers, images, audio or other data files.

Second, increased computing power has come from graphics processing units, or GPUs, that are highly parallelised, which means they can perform large numbers of calculations at the same time. Massive parallelism is speeding up the training of AI models and running those models operationally.

Third, better algorithms have made machine-learning models more flexible, more robust and more capable of solving different types of problems.

Games States Play in Cyberspace

Indictments can be a useful signaling mechanism to states and foreign hackers working on their behalf. But if the time it takes for hackers to be publicly charged exceeds a year, does that diminish the value of indictments in promoting responsible state behavior in cyberspace? Put differently, understanding that state hackers could potentially face a timeline of a year or longer before being indicted by the United States, could that incentivize states to take more aggressive action?

As a creative scaffold for understanding the strategic geopolitical value of indictments, consider Walter Mischel’s famous willpower experiment at Stanford University in the 1960s —the so-called Marshmallow Test. In the test, preschool-aged children were offered one marshmallow to eat immediately, but if they could refrain from eating it for 15 minutes, they would then be rewarded with two. The study found a positive connection between children who could delay instant gratification and indicators of “success” in their future adult lives. Superimposing the design of this test also offers a unique perspective for reexamining the logic of states who risk having their skilled cyber operators indicted, arrested, and arraigned before a U.S. magistrate judge. How? In a “go-big-or-go-home” transactional analysis game between states, waging a two-marshmallow cyber campaign could appear as the more rational decision.

Timeline and Strategy

First, consider a concrete example: The Justice Department’s October 2020 indictments of six Russian military intelligence officers.

Towards an AI-Based Counter-Disinformation Framework

by Linda Slapakova

Disinformation has become a defining feature of the COVID-19 crisis. With social media bots (i.e., automated agents engaging on social networks) nearly twice as active during COVID-19 as opposed to past crises and national elections, the public and private sectors have struggled to address the rapid spreading of false information about the pandemic. This has highlighted the need for effective, innovative tools to detect and strengthen institutional and societal resilience against disinformation. The leveraging of Artificial Intelligence (AI) represents one avenue for the development and use of such tools.

To provide a holistic assessment of the opportunities of an AI-based counter-disinformation framework, this blog firstly discusses the various roles that AI plays in counter-disinformation efforts. Next, it discusses the prevailing shortfalls of AI-based counter-disinformation tools and the technical, governance, and regulatory barriers to their uptake, and how these could be addressed to foster the uptake of AI-based solutions for countering disinformation.
The Double-Edged Sword of Emerging Technologies and Disinformation

Emerging technologies, including AI, are often described as a double-edged sword with relation to information threats. On the one hand, emerging technologies can enable more sophisticated online information threats and often lower the barriers to entry for malign actors. On the other hand, they can provide significant opportunities for countering such threats. This has been no less true in the case of AI and disinformation.

AI provides various opportunities for strengthening responses to increasingly sophisticated and democratised disinformation threats.Share on Twitter