25 June 2021

The PLA’s Developing Cyber Warfare Capabilities and India's Options

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made it clear that his objective for China is to emerge as a ‘cyber superpower’. China wants to be the world’s largest nation in cyberspace and also one of the most powerful. The information technology revolution has produced both momentous opportunities and likely vulnerabilities for china. China is home of largest number of ‘netizens’ in the world. It also hosts some of the world’s most vibrant and successful technology companies. It also remains a major victim of cyber crime. 

Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) believes that with the rise of the Information Age future wars will be contests in the ability to exploit information. Wars will be decided by the side who is more capable to generate, gather, transmit, analyse and exploit information.

China’s Cyber-Influence Operations

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

… With its growing assertiveness in the international arena, China uses new technologies to achieve its foreign policy goals and project an image of responsible global power … spending billions on influence operations across the world ... fits in with China’s larger aim of expanding its soft power alongside its growing economic and military power … reach of Beijing’s overseas media is impressive and should not be underestimated. But the results are mixed ...

The Taliban Are Winning the War of Words in Afghanistan

Lynne O’Donnell

KABUL—As Afghanistan’s armed forces cede and regain ground in the searing summer offensive against the Taliban, they are losing a propaganda war that is affecting the morale of a fearful population waiting for reassurance that the insurgents won’t overrun their country.

Over the weekend, Taliban militiamen stormed districts in the north of the country, furthering the widespread perception that the insurgents are winning against a government that lacks strategy and leadership. Since May 1, the Taliban have stormed 60 districts, with active fighting now going on in some 64 percent of Afghanistan’s territory, according to the Institute of War and Peace Studies, though eight districts have been retaken by Afghan forces. Security sources said that Afghan forces often retreat in order to save civilian lives.

The Taliban onslaught, coupled with the looming withdrawal by Sept. 11 of the remaining U.S. troops, is escalating concerns that Afghan government forces may not be able to prevent Taliban battlefield gains without the presence of international forces. Close air support, in particular, has given ground forces the edge over their enemy but could be significantly curtailed with the withdrawal of U.S. troops and private contractors who work with the Afghan Air Force.

Islamic State’s Pakistan Province Launches New Jihadist Magazine

Abdul Sayed

The first Urdu-language magazine of Islamic State’s Pakistan Province (IS-P) called Yalghar (Invasion) was published at the end of April 2021 on social media accounts that regularly disseminate IS-P propaganda materials. The magazine is IS-P’s first indigenous propaganda product. IS-P propaganda materials have otherwise not been nearly as attractive and original as the materials of its parent group, IS Khorasan (IS-K) Province. Rather, IS-P has mainly translated Islamic State’s (IS) central propaganda materials from Arabic and English into Urdu.

IS central established IS-P in May 2019 by dividing IS-K into branches for India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. [1] Since then, IS-P has struggled to establish footholds in Pakistan and has not capitalized on local dynamics to receive support in the country (BBC Urdu, January 15). [2]

Jihadist Magazines’ Utility for IS-P

The history of jihadist groups’ propaganda efforts in Pakistan shows that magazines have always been an effective part of their recruitment of potential support bases in the country. Although IS-P has not shown any significant presence in the urban centers of Pakistan, its propaganda efforts could provide it solid support in those areas in the long run. [3] For example, al-Qaeda unofficially released its first Urdu-language monthly magazine for Pakistan, Nawai Afghan Jihad (NAJ) (Voice of Afghan Jihad), in August 2008. Since then, NAJ has been published as an ‘independent’ jihadist magazine for Afghanistan and Pakistan. [4] [5]

Pakistan Must Not Become a Launchpad for America’s Afghan War

Arwin Rahi

Unconfirmed reports about Pakistan providing the United States with military bases on its soil have been floating around as of late. At such a crucial time, when regional and global stakeholders are trying to find a solution to the Afghan conflict, such a Pakistani offer will complicate things for Islamabad. Pakistan’s past military engagements with the United States should serve as an eye-opener to help it make the right decision this time around.

At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s and 1960s, Pakistan had a substantial amount of military cooperation with the United States, receiving generous military assistance from the superpower. While the United States intended its military assistance to Pakistan for use against the communist threat, Pakistan sought to take advantage of its partnership to bolster its offensive and defensive capabilities vis-à-vis India.

No wonder in 1965, when the Indo-Pakistani war broke out, the United States imposed an arms embargo on both India and Pakistan. The arms embargo remained in place during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War as well. Unlike India, Pakistan was dependent on U.S. arms, equipment, and spare parts; thus, the embargo impacted Pakistan’s military capability. Since the United States and Pakistan were pursuing different objectives, the military partnership was bound to end on a sad note for the one on the receiving end of the assistance.

There is No ASEAN Consensus on Myanmar

Oren Samet

On June 18, the United Nations General Assembly issued a stinging rebuke to the military junta attempting to consolidate control in Myanmar when it voted 119 to 1 in favor of a resolution that called for a return to democracy and urged all states to “prevent the flow of arms” into the country. The resolution also praised the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for what it described as its “important role” in supporting Myanmar’s democratization and called for the swift implementation of the five-point “consensus” drafted by ASEAN at a special summit in April.

But despite this endorsement – and the lopsided vote overall – ASEAN member states were divided in their response. Six voted in favor of the resolution: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam, as well as Myanmar itself, represented by an ambassador who has courageously rejected February’s military coup. Meanwhile, ASEAN Chair Brunei, along with Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand, abstained. It’s a stark contrast to the image of consensus that ASEAN consistently tries to promote, and it underscores the organization’s challenges in responding to the crisis, despite immense international investment in ASEAN’s leadership on this issue.

ASEAN’s Future Will Be Decided in Myanmar

Evan A. Laksmana

Can the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) thrive amid worsening regional flash points, from the South China Sea to the crisis in Myanmar? Set up in 1967 to promote regional stability and economic growth, ASEAN has never coalesced into a powerful, integrated community like the European Union, nor does it seek to become one. But the bloc has nonetheless been useful: It has largely kept the peace in the region, mainly through slow-burning dialogues and confidence building among its members, which, in turn, has allowed Southeast Asian countries to focus on domestic stability and economic development.

Now, the group is facing severe external and internal challenges. China’s growing power, its aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, and its brewing strategic competition with the United States are perhaps ASEAN’s greatest external challenges. Within the bloc, however, the unfolding crisis in Myanmar since the February coup may be its biggest challenge yet. Although ASEAN still has time to manage great-power politics, it urgently needs to deal with the Myanmar crisis, which could engulf the region and determine the bloc’s strategic future.

After expanding its membership to include Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar in the 1980s and 1990s, the bloc adopted the ASEAN Charter in 2007. Theoretically, the charter set up ASEAN as an institutionalized, multilateral group and gave it a framework for concerted action, turning what was only a loose intergovernmental forum into a nascent community of nations capable of strategic action.

Japan’s Defense Industry Faces Challenges as China Threat Looms

Jon Harper

Confronting economic and security challenges, Japan aims to boost its defense industrial base and sell more military equipment overseas to allies and partners. However, it must overcome a number of problems to realize its goals, analysts say.

Over the past decade, Tokyo has rolled out new guidance including: a new National Security Strategy (2013), Strategy on Defense Production and Technological Bases (2014), and a revised policy on defense exports (2014). In 2015, it also stood up a new Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency to enable more cost-effective acquisition and promote international outreach. The moves came amid growing concerns about China’s military modernization and aggressive behavior toward Japan and other nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

“In order to develop, maintain and operate defense capability steadily with limited resources in the medium- to long-term, Japan will endeavor to engage in effective and efficient acquisition of defense equipment, and will maintain and enhance its defense production and technological bases, including through strengthening international competitiveness,” the National Security Strategy stated.

Interregionalism Matters: Why ASEAN Is the Key to EU Strategic Autonomy

Oscar Eggleton

Since the signing of the Lisbon Treaty in 2007, the European Union has progressively developed a distinct foreign policy agenda with a principal ambition of “strategic autonomy”. This term refers to the EU’s desire to reduce its dependency on the trans-Atlantic alliance, as well as to diversify its diplomatic and economic relations in order to eliminate its vulnerability to particular shocks in the international system. Further, strategic autonomy entails the ability to act decisively and independently on foreign policy issues, and to leverage influence in global affairs. The notion of EU strategic autonomy, however, has been criticised on the grounds that the Union lacks the political unity and the military heft to act in the manner of an autonomous power. That is, strategic autonomy is impossible for an entity that remains an economic union first, and a political union second.

However, as this paper will argue, the EU is capable of realising strategic autonomy by leveraging its proven competencies in economic and trade negotiation. Particularly, this paper argues that strategic autonomy can be strengthened in the near term with an interregional Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

China Hates Crypto: Message Received

Sara Hsu

If it wasn’t clear before, Chinese regulators are looking even more disdainfully upon cryptocurrency at present. China recently ordered cryptocurrency mining operations in Sichuan province to shut down and told several payment firms and major lenders to crack down on cryptocurrency speculation. China had already banned cryptocurrency transactions and initial coin offerings (ICOs), and cracked down on mining operations in the provinces of Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and Yunnan.

On June 21, China’s central bank urged Alipay and major banks, including the Industrial and Commercial Bank, the Agricultural Bank of China, China Construction Bank, the Postal Savings Bank of China, and the Industrial Bank, to ban cryptocurrency speculation. Alipay, recently a target of government anti-trust and financial regulation, quickly announced on Weibo that it would immediately remove ties to anyone participating in virtual currency transactions.

Mining firms have also been forced to come to terms with new restrictions. The crackdown on mining in Sichuan is being carried out through electricity companies, which have been told to terminate mining operations. Twenty-six potential mining firms were targeted for inspection and rectification.

The dragon in the room


As Joe Biden rallied American allies and partners during his first overseas trip since taking on the presidency of the United States of America, China was present everywhere. From the G7 to Nato, it was China’s growing global footprint and aggression that were shaping the conversations as Western nations assessed the single most important global challenge in front of them. After downplaying the Chinese threat for decades, suddenly Western nations find that they are being overtaken by a rival in ways that they had forgotten to appraise in their ‘end of history’ moment. And, now, as Chinese power redefines geopolitics and geoeconomics, the West is responding with an alacrity that many think should have come sooner.

It was earlier this year that the US, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada imposed coordinated sanctions on China that included travel bans, asset freezes and targeting of senior officials in Xinjiang who have been accused of serious human rights violations against Uighur Muslims. Biden has made working with allies his trademark foreign policy move and China has emerged as a focal point of action.

Post-Reform Developments in Village and Neighborhood Party Building

Harry He

The Chinese President Xi Jinping (习近平) has repeatedly mentioned local governance capacity when reflecting on China’s successful management of the Covid-19 pandemic, crediting the active participation of grassroots organizations in the public health response and stressing the need to solidify the foundations of governance in neighborhoods and villages (People’s Daily, March 27, 2020; Xinhua News, March 31, 2020). More broadly, the party-state’s interests in local governance reform have been a key driver of China’s urban and rural policies in the post-reform era.

As changing economic, social, and political landscapes brought by the Reform and Opening campaign presented new governance challenges for central authorities, the party-state has sought to improve public service and encourage greater democracy and self-governance at the local level. Some examples of this include institutionalizing village elections and legalizing homeowners’ associations. At the same time, the fundamental principle of party leadership has not been challenged, and under Xi the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has directed greater attention to grassroots party building.

Iran Stops Pretending


Tipping points in the fortunes of opaque, authoritarian regimes are often predicted but never predictable. The rigged “election” of Ebrahim Raisi, an uncharismatic, 60-year-old hard-line cleric, as Iran’s next president has the potential to be such a moment, although its significance will be fully understood only in hindsight. Will Raisi’s anointment be remembered, as some historians have asserted, as a brazen authoritarian overreach that destroyed the Islamic Republic’s remaining legitimacy and hastened its demise? Or will it be just another milestone in the life cycle of a theocracy that has defied predictions of reform and collapse, potentially paving the way for Raisi to succeed his patron, 82-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as Iran’s next Supreme Leader?

For the United States, Raisi’s election, viewed through the prism of ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, heightens the Biden administration’s sense of urgency to conclude a deal before an inevitably more rigid Iranian administration is inaugurated on August 8. Although power in Iran will remain in the hands of the Supreme Leader and Revolutionary Guards, Raisi’s presidency will further complicate the Biden administration’s stated goal of negotiating a “longer and stronger” follow-on deal with Tehran.

Armenia Opts for Pashinyan, Democracy Despite Defeat in War

Liz Cookman

Acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan defied a disastrous defeat in last year’s war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh and months of calls for his resignation to win reelection in a surprising landslide Sunday.

In an election viewed as a test of whether voters would opt for democracy or security, voters went for the former, giving Pashinyan 54 percent of the vote, surpassing pre-election expectations, while an alliance led by his rival, former Armenian President Robert Kocharyan, came second with 21 percent. Both former leaders drew massive crowds in the runup to Sunday’s vote, with polarized debates featuring threats and insults exchanged both by the candidates and on social media. Yet many voters were undecided until the end, describing the poll as a choice between lesser evils, and the result was more decisive than polls had predicted.

Pashinyan came to power following the country’s first free and fair election in 2018, after he spearheaded peaceful protests dubbed the Velvet Revolution. At the time, he promised sweeping reforms to boost the economy and sideline the corrupt oligarchs and monopolies that had dominated previous governments. High, but unfulfilled, public expectations meant his popularity had already begun to wane before war broke out with Azerbaijan in September 2020 over the disputed mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. It sank after he signed a peace deal in November 2020 to end the six-week conflict, which killed at least 6,500 people on both sides, ceding swathes of territory to Azerbaijan in a peace agreement widely seen as favoring Baku. Months of protests broke out calling for his resignation before he officially stepped down in April, although he stayed on in a caretaker role.

Will Joe Biden and Lina Khan Cut the Tech Giants Down to Size?

John Cassidy

Of all the appointments that Joe Biden has made since becoming President, one of the most intriguing came last week, when he named Lina Khan, a thirty-two-year-old associate professor at Columbia Law School, as chair of the Federal Trade Commission, an agency with broad authority to police America’s biggest corporations, including its tech giants. After two decades in which both Democrats and Republicans have mostly taken a light-handed approach to regulating Silicon Valley, Khan’s appointment raises the prospect of a long-overdue drive to reinvigorate the enforcement of antitrust laws and inject more competition into a vital part of the economy that is dominated by a handful of gargantuan incumbents.

Biden elevated Khan immediately after the Senate voted to confirm her as one of the five commissioners who serve on the F.T.C. Despite her relative youth, she is a leading figure in the movement to crack down on abusive monopolies, particularly those in the tech sector, and other antitrust campaigners greeted her promotion with surprise and delight. “If you had asked me six or eight months ago if we could get someone like Lina Khan onto the F.T.C., I would have said, ‘Maybe,’ ” Matt Stoller, the author of the book “Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy,” from 2019, told me. “If you had asked me if we could get someone like Lina Khan to be chair of the F.T.C., I would likely have said, ‘Are you totally crazy?’ ”

US Companies Won’t Pay to Prepare for Cyber Attacks. Congress Must Step In


Even as ransomware and other attacks grow in frequency and severity, America’s corporations remain loath to spend money until they get hit. As foreign adversaries learn to paralyze ever-larger swaths of the online networks our society, economy, and defense rely upon, this is no longer a tenable approach.

Though they would never admit to it in public, many CEOs reckon that the certain cost of improving their firms’ cyber defenses is greater than the unknowable future financial pain of post-incident cleanup. In the absence of specific, direct threats to their businesses’ information technology assets, the most attractive option is often to do as little as possible. Compounding the problem, shareholders easily forgive and forget corporate cybersecurity negligence. There is an understandable, but incorrect public perception that businesses becoming victims of data breaches or ransomware attacks is somehow inevitable. Therefore, who could blame shareholders for overlooking what most cybersecurity professionals would otherwise label malpractice in firms’ IT departments?

Biden Is Back, America Isn’t


STOCKHOLM – America is back. That was the key message US President Joe Biden sought to convey during his first trip abroad since taking office in January. But while Biden himself has rejoined the mix of global leaders – having served as vice president in Barack Obama’s two administrations – past US policies might not get the same opportunity for a comeback.

We live in a different world today than we did just a few years ago. Geopolitical tensions are on the rise, and cooperation on shared challenges is more urgent than ever. China’s emergence as a global power, in particular, has sparked deep, almost existential, fears in the United States, driving a reassessment of policies across the board.

A comparison between the Biden administration’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, released in March, and the 2015 National Security Strategy, issued when Biden was vice president, provides a glimpse into the logic of that reassessment. The 2015 strategy paid considerable attention to China, noting, for example, that the US would “closely monitor” the country’s “military modernization and expanding presence in Asia.”

What Western Appraisals of Kenneth Kaunda Left Out

Howard W. French

When Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s former president and founding father, died last week at the age of 97, what followed in the Western media was a series of entirely predictable and desultory summations of an African leader’s long career in politics and public life.

There was mention of his upbringing in the church in a part of Africa then known as Northern Rhodesia, and its lasting effects on Kaunda’s moderating humanism. There were the unfailing descriptions of his affectations, like carrying a white pocket square, which he pulled out to daub his eyes when occasionally shedding tears in public, or his love of the songs that were popular in the era of independence on the continent in the early 1960s, marking Kaunda as a sort of ancient relic compared to younger audiences that have seemingly forgotten them. ...

Putin's right. There is no escaping the dollar.

The most effective weapon in America’s tussle with strategic and economic competitors may be 100 U.S. cents.

Countries like Russia and China chafe at the dollar’s dominance, but there’s little they can do other than posture and make relatively benign adjustments to their monetary arrangements. Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged as much recently, telling journalists that “we don’t want to do away with it, because it’s a universal currency.” China’s campaign to internationalize the yuan, which received backing from the International Monetary Fund in 2016, is going nowhere fast.

Putin spoke after Russia’s oil fund said it will eliminate holdings of dollars and shift them into euros, gold and the yuan. The transfers will take place within the central bank’s reserves and there was little impact on markets. The backdrop to all this is Russia’s objection to sanctions that Washington has applied since Putin annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

The country has since tried to reduce its exposure to the American asset. In 2019, state oil giant Rosneft moved its export contracts into euros. Russia’s share of exports sold in the U.S. currency fell below 50% for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Vladimir Putin Accuses U.S. Of Organizing Coup in Ukraine


Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the 2014 overthrow of Ukraine's then-President, Viktor Yanukovich, was the result of a coup organized by the U.S. and backed by the rest of Europe.

Yanukovich was removed from office following an uprising by his country's opposition, spurred by his rejection of a trade deal with the EU in favor of closer ties with Moscow.

In an op-ed in the German newspaper Die Zeit to mark the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, which ushered the Red Army's entry into World War II, the Russian president reiterated the position of the Kremlin and Yanukovich—a Putin ally— that the revolution had been facilitated by the West.

Putin wrote that the west had promoted "mutual distrust" with Moscow following the end of the Cold War with NATO expansion in which post-Soviet and eastern European countries were given a choice to side with the West or with Russia.

In the Wake of India’s Covid Crisis, a ‘Black Fungus’ Epidemic Follows

Emily Schmall

AHMEDABAD, India — In the stifling, tightly packed medical ward at Civil Hospital, the ear, nose and throat specialist moved briskly from one bed to the next, shining a flashlight into one patient’s mouth, examining another’s X-rays.

The specialist, Dr. Bela Prajapati, oversees treatment for nearly 400 patients with mucormycosis, a rare and often deadly fungal disease that has exploded across India on the coattails of the coronavirus pandemic. Unprepared for this spring’s devastating Covid-19 second wave, many of India’s hospitals took desperate steps to save lives — steps that may have opened the door to yet another deadly disease.

“The pandemic has precipitated an epidemic,” Dr. Prajapati said.

In three weeks, the number of cases of the disease — known by the misnomer “black fungus,” because it is found on dead tissue — shot up to more than 30,000 from negligible levels. States have recorded more than 2,100 deaths, according to news reports. The federal health ministry in New Delhi, which is tracking nationwide cases to allot scarce and expensive antifungal medicine, has not released a fatalities figure.

Three Years Is Too Long to Wait for a Global Vaccine Rollout

Katherine Aguirre, Gordon LaForge, Robert Muggah, Anne-Marie Slaughter

At first sight, the global vaccination rollout is mesmerizing. At least 2.4 billion people have already received at least one dose. But scrape a little deeper and the unevenness of vaccine distribution loses its luster. Just 480 million people have been fully vaccinated or 6.2 percent of the global population. What’s more, well over half of all administered doses have been injected into the arms of citizens from just two countries: the United States and China.

Following their summit in Cornwall, England, last week, the leaders of the G-7 nations committed to donating an additional 1 billion COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries in 2021 and 2022. The Biden administration said 500 million of those doses would be provided by the United States, mostly through COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX), a global vaccine facility managed by the Global Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. China is likewise distributing jabs to advance foreign-policy goals, having so far exported more than 250 million doses to other countries.

Less than 1 percent of the billions of vaccine doses administered to date have gone to low-income countries.

334. Keeping the Razor’s Edge: 4th PSYOP Group’s Innovation and Evolution Council

Innovation is increasingly crucial to achieving a competitive and sustained advantage over peer adversaries. The shift in foreign policy, declared competition, coupled with a shrinking defense budget, has required military leaders to be even more creative with developing solutions to complex problems: a task Special Operations Forces (SOF) organizations are best suited for — their ability to adapt and innovate in a timely fashion and in leveraging available human capital.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, among other watershed moments, revealed how influence operations have become hyper-transnational, technically driven, inexpensive, and democratized in the last decade. Furthermore, Russia and China have proven their ability to embrace technological platforms and companies, such as Cambridge Analytica, to engage audiences and undermine democracy worldwide. By 2020, 4th POG found itself challenged in an increasingly hot global arms race for influence dominance. Our adversaries often outnumber and out-invest us by orders of magnitude. While USG government offices are starting to recognize and sound the alarm, 4th POG leadership understood that barring massive and sustained innovative changes, the Group would have difficulty competing under the new paradigm.

All the Ways Amazon Tracks You—and How to Stop It

JEFF BEZOS HAS a hidden weapon: your data. While Amazon’s retail empire is built on a complex web of infrastructure and murky working practices, its selling success is based on an intricate knowledge of what millions of people buy and browse every day.

Amazon has been obsessed with your data since it was an online bookshop. Almost two decades ago the firm’s chief technology officer, Werner Vogels, said that the company tries to “collect as much information as possible” so it can provide people with recommendations. And, as Amazon has expanded, so has its data collection operation. “They happen to sell products, but they are a data company,” a former Amazon executive told the BBC in 2020.

Amazon knows a lot about you. That includes everything you do in Amazon’s ecosystem: from the thousands of searches you make on its app or website to your every individual click, scroll, and mouse movement. It’s a lot of data—and that’s just the beginning of it. People who have requested their data from Amazon have been sent hundreds of files, including a decade of their shopping history and thousands of voice clips recorded by Alexa devices.

Don’t replace the digital divide with the “not good enough divide”

Tom Wheeler

One of the lessons of COVID-19 was the need for speed in digital broadband connections. As more and more members of a household were online simultaneously doing schoolwork or working from home, the need for bandwidth increased. An August 2020 survey found that almost a quarter of broadband households planned to upgrade to higher speeds. It is for these, and many other reasons, that the broadband infrastructure program being considered by Congress must prioritize spending public funds for high-speed service, not simply good-enough service.

At a time when commercial broadband companies are investing private money in upgrading their networks to mega-high-speed broadband deployment, it is foolhardy for the government to spend public money for second class service. At a time when the nation is finally moving beyond talking about the digital divide to actually doing something about the problem, it is illogical to spend the taxpayers’ dollars for something that will only open the possibility of a “not good enough divide” as demand continues to rise.

Cyber agency says SolarWinds hack could have been deterred by simple security measures


The SolarWinds hack, one of the largest cybersecurity incidents in U.S. history, may have been deterred or minimized if basic security measures had been put in place, a top government official acknowledged earlier this month.

In a June 3 letter to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) provided to The Hill on Monday, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) acting Director Brandon Wales agreed with Wyden’s question over whether firewalls placed in victim agency systems could have helped block the malware virus used in the SolarWinds attack.

“CISA agrees that a firewall blocking all outgoing connections to the internet would have neutralized the malware,” Wales wrote.

He stressed, however, that while the agency “did observe victim networks with this configuration that successfully blocked connection attempts and had no follow-on exploitation, the effectiveness of this preventative measure is not applicable to all types of intrusions and may not be feasible given operational requirements for some agencies.”


Paul Erickson

Today the Army is spending great time and energy to adapt and innovate in the context of great power competition. A significant portion of that emphasis is occurring at the upper tactical and operational levels of warfare. A survey of the current operating environment, as well as our peer and near-peer threats, suggests that much of those reforms are occurring precisely at the echelon that will be specifically disrupted during a crisis or conflict. As such, the US Army’s maneuver brigades too must adapt. Change at this echelon will be just as vital for ensuring success in future conflict.

At the same time, there are also important lessons to remember from the last two decades of low-intensity conflict and counterinsurgency. The return of great power competition does not necessarily mean a return to large-scale conventional operations. In fact, the forms of conflict with other great powers that are most likely to emerge in the near future will not resemble the major combat engagements of the Cold War. This report analyzes current trends in warfare alongside the capabilities of the United States’ most powerful rivals, China and Russia. In doing so, it seeks to reconcile current American practices in training, reform, and modernization efforts with the realities that will be faced at lower echelons.

As Afghanistan war nears end, details emerge on how Predator drone revolutionized warfare


Alec Bierbauer could hardly believe his eyes as he stood before a floor-to-ceiling TV at CIA Headquarters in Virginia, watching live video stream from an outpost in Afghanistan. He was transfixed by footage of a tall man in a white robe.

A fragile, camera-toting surveillance drone built by San Diego’s General Atomics was stalking Osama bin Laden as it quietly looped over his compound near Kandahar on Sept. 28, 2000.

The remotely operated drone had a fearsome name — Predator — and it had unexpectedly found the terrorist leader during an experimental flight whose historic importance wouldn’t be fully realized in the moment.

The elation was quickly erased by exasperation.

The Predator had yet to be equipped with missiles. And it was unclear whether the U.S. had the legal authority to kill him. The al-Qaida leader got away, and a year later the terrorist group attacked the World Trade Center and other targets in the United States, killing nearly 3,000 people.

7,000 troops died in the Post-9/11 wars. A staggering 30,000 died by suicide


The number of veterans and service members who have died by suicide since Sept. 11, 2001 is more than quadruple the number who have died in Post-9/11 wars, according to a new study released on Monday by Brown University’s Costs of War project. The study estimates that 7,057 service members have been killed in post-9/11 war operations, while 30,177 active duty service members and veterans have died by suicide.

The 35-page study breaks down how traumatic brain injuries, better medical treatment of wartime injuries, an indifferent civilian public, and the protracted length of the post-9/11 wars have all piled on each other to drive the rate of military and veteran suicide numbers past civilian counterparts. The average suicide rate for post-9/11 veterans between 18 to 34 was 32.3 per 100,000 between 2005 and 2017, but it rose to 45.9 per 100,000 in 2018. That’s about 2.5 times the suicide rate of that of the general population, which is 18 per 100,000.

PRC, Russia Professionalize – Without Cloning US NCOs


WASHINGTON: “For both Russia and China, they lag far behind where we are in terms of an NCO corps,” Army intelligence analyst Ian Sullivan told me. “[But] the answer for both Russia and China might not be to build an NCO corps that is similar to the United States…. What if their way of war doesn’t necessarily require it?”

That’s an answer that “doesn’t necessarily resonate” for a lot of US leaders, brought up in a Western military tradition that absolutely depends on non-commissioned officers, Sullivan acknowledged in an interview: “We couldn’t go to war without ’em.” But it’s dangerous to mirror-image an adversary, and China and Russia have taken a very different approach to modern conflict, said Sullivan, the deputy intelligence office (G-2) for US Army Training & Doctrine Command (TRADOC). It’s an approach that could make it easier and less expensive for our competitors to professionalize their militaries than US observers might assume.