16 July 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 ...

12 Are Killed in Pakistan Bus Explosion, Including 9 Chinese

Salman Masood and Mike Ives

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — At least nine Chinese nationals were killed in Pakistan on Wednesday when their bus fell into a ravine after an explosion, officials said.

Two Pakistani paramilitary soldiers and one Pakistani laborer were also killed, local officials said, and 41 others were wounded. At least some of the Chinese passengers were engineers working at a hydroelectric project in Dasu, an area in the country’s rural northwest.

The exact cause of the explosion was not immediately clear. In a statement, Pakistan’s foreign affairs ministry said the bus had fallen into the ravine “after a mechanical failure resulting in leakage of gas that caused a blast.” It said an investigation was underway.

China’s embassy and a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs initially described the explosion as a bomb attack but later modified their statements to leave open the possibility of an accident. The embassy’s statement called for a thorough investigation and warned Chinese citizens in Pakistan to be vigilant and to go outside only if necessary.

Afghanistan on brink of humanitarian crisis-UN refugee agency

July 13 (Reuters) - More Afghans are likely to flee their homes due to escalating violence, the U.N. refugee agency warned on Tuesday, as the Taliban take control of more territory in response to the withdrawal of U.S.-led foreign forces.

"Afghanistan is on the brink of another humanitarian crisis. This can be avoided. This should be avoided," Babar Baloch, spokesman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a Geneva news briefing.

"A failure to reach a peace agreement in Afghanistan and stem the current violence will lead to further displacement within the country, as well as to neighbouring countries and beyond."

The UNHCR said an estimated 270,000 Afghans had been newly displaced inside the country since January, bringing the total population forced from their homes to more than 3.5 million.

Those forced to flee blamed the security situation, incidents of extortion by non-state armed groups and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on major roads, as well as a loss of income and interruptions to social services, Baloch said.

Afghanistan stunned by scale and speed of security forces’ collapse

Emma Graham-Harrison

Last autumn, with the departure of American troops from Afghanistan looming after the US signed a withdrawal deal with the Taliban, several of the most senior security officials in Kabul urged President Ashraf Ghani to make some hard choices.

The Afghan army and police needed to retrench, figures including the then defence minister, Assadullah Khalid, told Ghani. Remote outposts, and rural areas where troops held little more than the cluster of government and security buildings that make up a “district centre”, should be abandoned.

Troops and ammunition drawn back from these areas could focus on the fight for more important assets, such as key roads and border crossings, as forces adapted to the loss of the US air force and other technical support that had been critical to fighting the Taliban, they argued.

Biden’s Afghan Blunder


NEW DELHI – Afghanistan is on the brink of catastrophe, and it is US President Joe Biden’s fault. By overruling America’s top generals and ordering the hasty withdrawal of US troops, Biden opened the way for Taliban terrorists to capture more than a quarter of Afghanistan’s districts. Now, the Taliban is pushing toward Kabul, and the United States is looking weaker than ever.

The US effectively ended its military operations in Afghanistan on July 1, when it handed over to the Afghan government the sprawling Bagram Air Base, which long served as the staging ground for US operations in the country. In fact, “handover” is too generous a description. In a sign of what is to come, US forces quietly slipped out of the base overnight after shutting off the electricity. The resulting security lapse allowed looters to scavenge the facilities before Afghan troops arrived and gained control.

Biden has vehemently defended his decision to withdraw, arguing that the US “did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build” and that “staying would have meant US troops taking casualties.” He has also stood by his rushed approach, insisting that “speed is safety” in this context. “How many thousands more of America’s daughters and sons are you willing to risk?”

Before Balochi Insurgents, Imran Khan Needs To Talk To Army – OpEd

Nilesh Kunwar

It’s no secret that Pakistan army has been brutalising and terrorising the people of Balochistan ever since it illegally occupied this region in 1948. Those who think otherwise, just need google search “kill and dump policy” and perusal of the top 20 results have one thing in common- they all pertain to Pakistan army’s vicious role in Balochistan due to which Rawalpindi owns exclusive copyright of this terrifying phrase. Hence, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s willingness to talk with Baloch insurgents is indeed a welcome step that was long overdue.

Besides achieving political stability and substantial economic advantages that would accrue if dialogue resolves this long festering issue, the biggest takeaway would be the end of a humongous human tragedy of gargantuan proportions. An amicable settlement would also pave way for the oppressed Balochis to start re-living a dignified life without the ever-looming fear of being ‘snatched’ by Pakistani security forces and ending up as battered corpses dumped by the roadside or secretly buried in mass graves. It will hopefully also end exploitation of the region’s natural resources and recompense locals by using part of the income from such commercial activity for development of Balochistan.

Activists in Balochistan Face a New Threat: Cyber Harassment

Arbaz Shah

Naheema Zehri, 26, belongs to a tribal society from Khuzdar, Balochistan and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree from Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University in Quetta. Her feminist activism came to light when she campaigned for and participated in the Women Azadi March in Quetta in late 2019 via her social media.

Now, however, Zehri sits alone in her home, still reeling from the events of last week. A breach of her online privacy brought her attempts at feminist activism and mobilization in Pakistan to a despairing halt. A fake Instagram account operating under her name and using her data was being used to threaten her into silence. She was left with no option but to suspend her activism for the women of Balochistan, the demographic with the highest mortality rate in the world. She has since de-escalated her online presence and stayed at home.

Zehri is visibly distressed as she recalls what happened. “My colleague sent me the screenshots of the fake Twitter and Instagram accounts that were operating under my name, and I immediately checked to see if this was true.”

China’s Afghanistan Gambit

Barbara Kelemen

As the United States approaches the final deadline to withdraw its last troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban are rapidly overrunning districts and gaining control of large swaths of the country. The group is doing so faster than anyone had imagined, to the point that the U.S. military has reportedly moved its forecasted timeline for a possible collapse of the civilian government to only six months after its pullout.

Indeed, with June being the deadliest month in Afghanistan in two decades, the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai now openly calls the Western deployment a “failed mission” underlying the rise in terrorist attacks both by the Taliban, as well as the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP), which is also active in Afghanistan.

This worry is now particularly echoed when looking at potential scenarios of regional spillovers. Last week, at least 1,000 Afghan security service members fled into Tajikistan. More importantly, the Afghan government has now abandoned the Wakhan district in Badakhshan province, one of the most strategically important areas for China. Badakhshan province, and the Wakhan corridor, in particular, are now all but lost to the Taliban. Unless the group is able to keep a lid on rising tensions, China will be pushed to once again modify its long-standing principle of non-interference.

Is Duterte squandering The Hague victory to appease Beijing?

Ted Regencia

In the days leading up to the fifth anniversary on Monday of The Hague’s 2016 ruling that rejected China’s historical claim to most of the disputed South China Sea, the Philippines’ often abrasive Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr sounded celebratory, hailing the occasion as “a milestone in the corpus of international law”.

“The Philippines is proud to have contributed to the international rules-based order,” he said of Manila’s role in challenging Beijing before the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

In a dig at China, Locsin said that the decision “dashed among others a nine-dash line; and any expectation that possession is nine-tenths of the law.”

Locsin then cited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s videotaped message at the UN General Assembly, in which the Filipino leader said the case was now “beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon”.

A Dynamic Player in East Asia

David Merkle

How Taiwan Takes Responsibility in the Shadow of the International Community

Although diplomatically recognised by scarcely more than a dozen countries, Taiwan still pursues an active, values-based foreign and development policy. Taipei deliberately counters Beijing’s hard power with its “warm power”. Whether it is health, the economy or disaster management, creativity and innovation are the common threads that run through Taiwan’s approach to development cooperation.

Taiwan on the International Stage – Between Isolation and Healthy Pragmatism

Confronted by intensifying political, diplomatic, and military pressure from its neighbouring giant, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Taiwan has little visibility as an international development actor in its own right. Under the One-China policy, any country maintaining diplomatic relations with the PRC cannot have official relations with the government in Taipei. Beijing understands the One-China principle to mean that Taiwan is an integral part of China, which in turn is represented solely by the People’s Republic. Beijing is doing its utmost to ensure the international community is following this interpretation. In turn, those states that maintain official relations with Taipei recognise Taiwan as the legitimate representative of China under the One-China policy, even if this interpretation is gradually evolving towards recognising Taiwan as a separate political entity, detached from the shackles of a Chinese unitary state.

Why US-China Rivalry Might Be Good for Singapore’s Semiconductor Industry

James Guild

In June, the major U.S.-based semiconductor manufacturer GlobalFoundries announced that it would be investing $4 billion to expand its chipmaking facilities in Singapore, with the new capacity expected to be up and running by 2023. Singapore – with its favorable tax and regulatory environment, and pool of competent, high-skilled workers – has long been an attractive destination for investment in high value-added manufacturing. But this announcement by GlobalFoundries is about more than just dollars and cents and return on investment. It’s about diversifying global supply chains as geopolitical competition between the U.S. and China heats up.

As reported by Bloomberg, in announcing the investment CEO Tom Caulfield felt it necessary to note that around “70 percent of all foundry manufacturing takes place in Taiwan, a couple of hundred miles away from China, from one company. It’s put a huge risk to the world economy.” China’s increasingly aggressive geopolitical posturing, President Donald Trump’s bumbling trade war, and the COVID-19 pandemic have underscored certain realities of global supply chains that maybe we weren’t really paying attention to a few years ago.

Myanmar Junta Imposes Fresh Charges on Aung San Suu Kyi

Sebastian Strangio

Myanmar’s military junta has heaped more legal charges onto the head of the country’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, nearly six months after it overthrew her government in a coup. Yesterday, Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyer Min Min Soe said that the head of the Nobel laureate and leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) was facing four additional criminal charges, filed in a court in the country’s second biggest city, Mandalay.

Min Min Soe said that the politician’s legal team had little information about the latest charges, except that they relate broadly to corruption. He said that two charges have also been leveled at Min Thu, a former minister in her government.

Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested during the coup on February 1 and has since been held in an undisclosed location, most likely in the capital Naypyidaw. Since then, the junta has pasted her with a raft of charges, including causing “fear and alarm,” the illegal importation and possession of walkie-talkie radios, violating COVID-19 protocols, and unspecified breaches of the colonial-era Official Secrets Act. She has also been accused of illegally accepting $600,000 cash and 11 kilograms of gold from the former chief minister of the Yangon Region, a political ally.

China says it 'drove away' U.S. warship on anniversary of tribunal ruling

BEIJING -China’s military said it “drove away” a U.S. warship that illegally entered Chinese waters near the Paracel Islands on Monday, the anniversary of an international court ruling that held Beijing had no claim over the South China Sea.

The Chinese comments resembled the usual reaction from Beijing following freedom of navigation operations by U.S. warships held almost every month in the South China Sea.

The U.S. Navy destroyer Benfold entered the waters without China’s approval, seriously violating its sovereignty and undermining the stability of the South China Sea, the southern theatre command of the People’s Liberation Army said.

“We urge the United States to immediately stop such provocative actions,” it said in a statement.

On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that China had no historic title over the South China Sea, a ruling that Beijing said it would ignore.

Assessing Chinese-Russian Military Exercises: Past Progress and Future Trends

Richard Weitz

This paper reviews the evolving Chinese-Russian military exercises, assesses their purposes and results, forecasts their future evolution, and evaluates the policy implications for U.S. military planners. The Chinese and Russian armed forces have become each other’s most important foreign exercise partner. Since the mid-2000s, China and Russia have conducted an increasingly frequent number and more diverse range of Sino-Russian bilateral and multilateral military exercises. These have included a long-standing series of land drills and, somewhat later, novel maritime maneuvers. Recent years have also seen joint aviation patrols in the Asia-Pacific region, Chinese participation in Russia’s annual strategic exercises, and command post exercises simulating combined missile defense tasks.

Unlike the Russian arms sales to China—which have experienced abrupt ups and downs—or their unremarkable defense dialogues, these exercises have remained a prominent and recurring feature of the Sino-Russian defense partnership for more than a decade. They have aimed to improve both forces’ capabilities, enhance interoperability, encourage defense industrial collaboration, send signals to third parties, and promote mutual reassurance and confidence building. The drills have become an important tool for the institutionalization of Sino-Russian defense ties without establishment of a formal alliance. Though the United States lacks the capacity to prevent these drills, U.S. planners can prepare for unanticipated scenarios while working with allies and partners in mitigating potential adverse impacts.

China Is Killing Its Tech Golden Goose


CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – US politicians from both congressional parties are worried that China is overtaking America as the global leader in science and technology. In a rare display of bipartisanship, the normally gridlocked Senate passed a bill in early June to spend close to $250 billion in the next decade to promote cutting-edge research. But lawmakers may be fretting unnecessarily, because the Chinese government seems to be doing everything possible to lose its tech race with America.

The latest example of China’s penchant for self-harm is the sudden and arbitrary regulatory action taken by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) against Didi Chuxing, a ride-hailing company that recently raised $4.4 billion in an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. On July 2, just two days after Didi’s successful offering, which valued the firm at more than $70 billion, the CAC, a department of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) masquerading as a state agency, announced a data-security review of the company. Two days later, the CAC abruptly ordered the removal of Didi from app stores, a move that wiped out nearly a quarter of the firm’s market value.

Data, not arms, the key driver in emerging US-China cold war

Robert Reich

This week, shares in China’s giant ride-hailing app Didi crashed by more than 20%. A few days before, Didi had raised $4.4bn in a massive IPO in New York – the biggest initial public offering by a Chinese company since Alibaba’s debut in 2014.

The proximate cause of Didi’s crash was an announcement by China’s Cyberspace Administration that it suspected Didi of illegally collecting and using personal information. Pending an investigation, it had ordered Didi to stop registering new users and removed Didi’s app from China’s app stores.

China’s state-owned Global Times noted in an editorial Monday that Didi has the “most detailed personal travel information” of users among all large technology firms, and that the company posed a potential risk for individuals because it could conduct big data analysis of users’ habits and behavior.

The UN Vote on Aid in Syria

Natasha Hall, Will Todman

On July 9, 2021, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2585, allowing UN agencies to continue to coordinate and deliver aid cross-border from Turkey to northwestern Syria without Syrian government consent. Russia had threatened to veto a renewal of the cross-border mandate, but it agreed to a compromise the day before the mandate was set to expire on July 10.

Q1: What does this vote mean?

A1: The new resolution allows UN agencies to use the Bab al-Hawa crossing for six months and authorizes an additional six-month extension of the mandate after the UN secretary-general issues a “substantive report” that focuses on “transparency in operations, and progress on cross-line access in meeting humanitarian needs” to northwestern Syria from Damascus.

Iranian-Azerbaijani Relations Under the New Raisi Administration

Omid Shokri

Despite a rapprochement of sorts in 2019 (see EDM, March 20, 2019), Iran’s relations with the Republic of Azerbaijan faced new strains and challenges during the final year of Hassan Rouhani’s presidency (set to end on August 3, 2021), especially following the outbreak of the Second Karabakh War in late September 2020. Azerbaijani officials and the media repeatedly protested and criticized Tehran’s foreign policy amidst the 44-day Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict (see EDM, October 21, 2020). While, domestically, Iran’s ethnic Azerbaijani population expressed outward support for Baku’s battlefield successes, much to Tehran’s discomfort (see EDM, October 22, 2020 and November 5, 2020); even local officials, members of parliament and clerics at Friday prayers in Iran’s Azerbaijani-populated northwestern border region demanded that the central government do more to back Baku’s position (Al Jazeera, October 5, 2020)

The 2021 Iranian presidential election, thus, naturally attracted intense media coverage inside Azerbaijan, reflecting the importance of the Islamic Republic and its political future for the South Caucasus region at large (Irna, June 22). The winner ended up being conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who is considered a close ally of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev quickly congratulated Raisi on the latter’s victory (Yazeco, June 22). And following the election, the officials of both countries expressed expectations that efforts to improve bilateral relations would remain on track under the next administration in Tehran. Iranian Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Farhad Dejpasand, in a meeting with Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Tehran, Bonyad Hosseinov, stressed that both sides would promote mutual cooperation. And the sentiment was echoed by Iran’s ambassador to Baku, Seyed Abbas Mousavi (Bim, June 20).

Matthew McConaughey Bid for Texas Governor Taken 'Very Seriously' by Greg Abbott


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott isn't taking Matthew McConaughey's run for governor lightly. Abbot made an appearance on Fox News and spoke with Chris Wallace regarding McConaughey's bid for governor and his thoughts on the matter.

"It doesn't matter what the name is, I take everybody very seriously, and it shows," Abbott said. "I will tell you two things, and that is if you look at my polling numbers, they are very, very strong. In addition to that, I have $55 million in the bank already, and I'm a very aggressive fund-raiser. So, I will have the resources and the backing of a lot of people across the state of Texas to ensure that whoever decides to run against me, we will be able to win."

Abbott also spoke about other pressing concerns, more importantly, the power grid issue that's been plaguing Texas since February. The power grid failed during a winter storm in Texas where over 50 people lost their lives and some were without power for weeks.

US Build Back Better World’s (B3W) Anti-BRI Plan – OpEd

Nadia Shaheen*

The world’s seven wealthy economies (US, France, Germany, Canada, UK, Italy, and Japan) have articulated a plan to encompass Chinese exceedingly boosted economic clouts across the globe. In G7 Summit in Cornwall, England, they reached a consensus and presented a new proposal for developing countries an infrastructure venture which would be contending China’s gigantic multi-billion dollar project of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This B3W project proposed President Biden with the collaboration of other major like-minded democracies. This venture has three key components such as; infrastructure development, Free and Open Indo-Pacific, gender equality, and climate-related issues. However, besides this, it would also try to tackle Covide-19 health-related crises in developing countries by providing them vaccine. But, in the initial phase, G7 states only presented this containment strategy to prevaricate China’s economic and political influence, but these nations yet do not demonstrate their commitments on how they will mobilize resources for B3W and which type of strategy they would adopt to implement their plan.

Russian Energy Companies Halt Oil Supplies to Naftan Refinery in Belarus Because of US Sanctions

Rauf Mammadov

On June 24, Russia’s state-owned oil transit system operator Transneft announced that hydrocarbon producers Rosneft and Surgutneftgaz had not reserved any pipeline volumes for transporting oil to the Belarusian refinery Naftan for the third quarter of 2021 (TASS, June 24). Transneft’s announcement did not come as a surprise. Following the United States’ decision to revoke its moratorium on implementing sanctions against Belarus’s state-owned refinery enterprises within 45 days, media sources had reported that Russian companies planned to comply with the reapplied restrictions (Neftegaz.ru, June 1; see EDM, May 18).

Transneft informed that it would still transport 2.36 million tons of crude from its suppliers, including Rosneft, Surgutneftegaz, Tatneft and Lukoil, to Belarus’s second large refinery, Mozyr, which the US sanctions had not targeted. Unlike Naftan, a 100 percent state-owned company, Belarus co-owns the Mozyr refinery with Russia’s Slavneft, a 50-50 joint venture between Rosneft and Gazpromneft. Naftan’s management, in return, claimed that Russian companies would continue to supply oil to the refinery (TASS, June 24).

Are US Corporations Above the Law


NEW YORK – Adam Smith, the founder of modern economics, argued that the pursuit of private interests – profits – will invariably promote the common good. That may be true in some situations, but obviously not always. Just as banks’ pursuit of profit led to the 2008 financial crisis, it was Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies’ greed that produced the opioid crisis, and Texaco’s support of the Franco regime that helped the fascists triumph in the Spanish Civil War.

This litany of perfidy could easily be extended. But among the worst abuses committed by greedy corporations today is childhood slavery. Chocolate lovers around the world may not know it, but some of their guilty pleasures may have been produced by child slaves.

Nestlé, Cargill, and other food companies facing such allegations have avoided answering for them in open court. Because they or their subsidiaries are headquartered in the United States, they have been able to argue that they are not accountable for misdeeds committed in faraway Africa. They do this knowing full well that there is no effective legal system in the countries where children are being exploited.

Information Warfare Looms Larger in Russia’s New Security Strategy


The Russian government sees itself as increasingly vulnerable to foreign and domestic subversion, according to a July 3 update to the Kremlin’s 2015 national security strategy, and is moving to shield Russian citizens from outside voices and improve its influence-warfare capabilities.

“A notable change from 2015 is the greatly expanded definition of subversion, including a long list of behavior by non-state actors that are said to be undermining Russian values and the stability of the state,” Dartmouth professor William Wohlforth said in an interview.

These include also humanitarian organizations like Human Rights Watch and Western tech companies like Twitter and Facebook.

The new document expresses concern over Western governments’ manipulation of Russian affairs. “The declaration of a ‘safe information space’ as a core national interest underscores the importance of information war to the Russian government,” said Ivana Stradner, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute specializing in law, Eastern Europe and hybrid warfare. “This is a continuation of the Russian government’s pathological self-victimhood. These claims, like Russia’s threats to ban Twitter this past spring, are aimed at bolstering Russian claims of ‘digital sovereignty’ through which President Vladimir Putin believes he can stave off the types of ‘color revolutions’ that have toppled other dictators in post-Soviet nations.”

New German space command to tackle Russian, Chinese threat, overcrowding

Sabine Siebold

UEDEM, Germany, July 13 (Reuters) - Germany opened a new space command on Tuesday, following the lead of other Western countries amid growing concerns over Russian and Chinese military advances in outer space and a surge in satellite launches.

In the last two years, the United States, France and Britain have all established space commands - military bodies with responsibility for space operations - to address what they see as a threat from Russia and China at a time when relations between West and Moscow are at a post-Cold War low.

Military sources see Russia and China as capable of waging a war in space and damaging even very advanced adversaries badly, putting them on par with the West in space.

At its summit in June, NATO warned it was ready to retaliate militarily if attacked in or from space, after designating space as a fifth domain of operations in 2019, alongside land, sea, air and cyberspace.

TikTok's Next Big Gen Z Trend Might Be Viral Protests


Videos of teenagers dancing or miming along to music is what springs to mind for most people when they think of TikTok, the social video sharing app that has taken younger generations by storm.

From harmless trends to more dangerous ones—such as the recent "fire challenge" which left at least one participant hospitalized—the power to influence Generation Z through the platform is clear.

But TikTok's memetic power isn't confined only to the digital space. Raucous parties in the U.S. that were coordinated on TikTok demonstrate the platform's formidable ability to inspire the gathering of large crowds in a short period of time.

In a febrile political atmosphere, this function offers TikTok's impassioned activists an organizational tool to spark the kind of swift, unpredictable, and chaotic street protests that are a challenge for authorities

Revisiting a Framework on Military Takedowns Against Cybercriminals

Peter Pascucci, Kurt Sanger

In an April Lawfare post, Jason Healey offered a five-part test to determine the appropriateness of using U.S. military cyberspace operations to respond to criminal cyber activities. The test counsels that the military should operate against criminal cyber threats based solely on their imminence, the perils they pose, their magnitude, and their link to major nation-state adversaries.

If implemented, Healey’s five-part test would significantly disadvantage the United States and take major assets out of the president’s hands. The self-restraint imposed by this test is ill fit given the nature of cybercrime, the nature of cyberspace targets, and the threats cybercrime poses to the nation and its interests. It is also worth considering whether such self-restraint is exactly what U.S. adversaries hope for when committing lawfare and engaging in gray zone operations.

In the months following Healey’s post, ransomware events have demonstrated that what initially may be categorized as crime may be better thought of as a national security threat. The Colonial Pipeline hack, in particular, highlights the broad and severe impacts criminals can inflict through cyberspace. Such malicious cyber events are geopolitical events with a clear criminal aspect, but this is not a determinative factor when assessing which federal organization is in the best position to take action. If the United States is to defeat these cyber threats, traditional notions regarding the division between criminal and national security matters must be reevaluated.

The Time to Build America’s 'Smart' Military is Now

Mari K. Eder

Recently, the Pentagon released its 2022 budget, which provided Americans a look into what the Biden administration plans to prioritize and the steps we are taking to bolster our nation’s defense.

A crucial part of the budget and the Department of Defense’s strategy to modernize is Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2), a revolutionary program that aims to increase communication between the Armed Forces by connecting sensors from all the military services – Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Space Force – into a single network. This promise of greater interconnectivity between the branches of the military will revolutionize how the Department of Defense manages, secures, and leverages data as a strategic defense asset and help create a “smart” military.

Discussions of the JADC2 have been incremental over the last couple of years, but now we have our first look into some concrete details. As Lieutenant General Crall said in a June 4 press conference, “It's now implementation time. Planning is good. Talk is good. Now it's delivery time. And we've been given the clear signal to begin pushing these outcomes to the people who need them.”

Marines Train With Handheld Swarming Drones That Can Also Be Fired From 40mm Grenade Launchers


Images shared online by the United States Marine Corps this week show Marines conducting training exercises with the Drone40, a miniaturized, low-cost, expendable drone that can be deployed by hand or launched from a 40mm grenade launcher. While other nations have deployed the Drone40 in overseas operations, this is the first time U.S. troops have been seen training with the versatile, potentially game-changing unmanned systems, which can carry a wide variety of payloads, including various sensors or small high-explosive warheads.

The Drone40 tests were conducted by the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, part of the 2nd Marine Division, and took place at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on July 7, 2021. According to the captions accompanying the pictures shared by the USMC, this unit is an “experimental infantry battalion to test new gear, operating concepts and force structures.”

The Drone40 was previously deployed earlier this year by British Army forces carrying out peacekeeping missions in the northwest African country of Mali. As we noted at the time, the Drone40 could fit inside launchers designed to fire 40mm rounds, such as variants of the Heckler & Koch AG36 under-barrel grenade launcher, used by both U.K. and U.S. forces, among others. So far, the British forces that brought the drones to Mali have used only hand-launched versions configured for surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners

Quotes of the Day:

"Insurrection by means of guerrilla bands is the true method of warfare for all nations desirous of emancipating themselves from a foreign yoke. It is invincible, indestructible."
- Giuseppe Mazzini

"In such a society as ours the only possible chance for change, for mobility, for political, economic, and moral flow lies in the tactics of guerrilla warfare, in the use of fictions, of language."
- Kathy Acker

"The art of teaching consists in large part of interesting people in things that ought to interest them, but do not."
- Robert M. Hutchins