24 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 ...

India Should Talk to China About Afghanistan

Mohamed Zeeshan

As U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan, multiple regional powers are descending upon the country to create ties with friendly factions of the Taliban and to secure their interests. Yet, one country stands to lose more than most.

For the past several years, India has made Afghanistan its pet project for state-building, pouring in close to $1 billion – and possibly more – to fund schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure in war-torn areas. India has also invested heavily in building Afghan democratic institutions. It provided funds to develop a robust media sector, built the Parliament building, and helped develop an election process.

But much of this was made possible by the security cover offered by U.S.-led coalition troops. During the Taliban’s five-year stint in power before the U.S. invasion of 2001, India had accused the Taliban of providing a safe haven to militants that were fighting India in Kashmir. In 2014, the Indian consulate in the city of Herat had come under fire from militant groups with suspected links to Pakistan.

Taliban Controls Afghanistan’s Northern Borders, Unsettling Countries Near and Far

Paul Goble

With the ongoing withdrawal of the United States’ military forces and the consequent weakening of the Afghan government, the Taliban now controls much of the territory of Afghanistan and most of its northern borders, posing a threat to its three immediate northern neighbors (Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), other countries in the region (Kazakhstan and China), and even the Russian Federation. The buffer zone these countries had enjoyed is gone. Despite Taliban promises about respecting borders and the difficulties the militant group still faces in establishing total control domestically, the governments and experts in other regional states are worried. Indeed, those nearby are already taking military moves, and those further away are issuing warnings or seeking to advance their own interests in Central Asia by playing up the Taliban threat; whereas, some argue that only an alliance with the Taliban can provide protection.

Even the voices in these countries discounting the possibility that the Taliban will move north, into former Soviet territory, say that the Islamist movement’s success in Afghanistan is driving others from that country to move to Central Asian states as far afield as Kazakhstan as well as to Russia and China, where there is the danger that they will destabilize the situation just by their presence or by linking up with home-grown radicals (Russian Monitor, July 7). Given the weaknesses of the three immediate neighbors and the fears of Islamism in both Russia and China, such concerns are understandable. However, they may be overblown in some commentaries, especially as both Moscow and Beijing have long presented themselves as guarantors of Central Asian security and are again doing so now, particularly after Washington asked Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan to take in some 9,000 anti-Taliban refugees (Informburo, July 2).

Afghanistan: No Peace Without A Clear Vision – OpEd

Prof. Dr. Djawed Sangdel*

Peace is the absence of war, while war is the absence of peace! A negotiated peace in Afghanistan presents a number of challenges. The duration of the war over several decades has created a number of situations, that requires an in-depth examination in light of the peace negotiations that took place between the United States and the Taliban leading to the signing of an agreement without inputs from the Afghan government in spite of their being a strategic partner of the United States.

The war has been a very costly undertaking both in financial and human terms.

On the human side, there has been a large number of civilian casualties and a flow of both internal refugees and those that have fled to neighbouring countries, Iran, and Pakistan in particular. Will the conditions of peace allow their return and what employment possibilities will they find? In particular will the professionals and corporate managers of the diaspora return?

US Peace Envoy Visits Islamabad as Pakistan-Afghan Ties Sour

Kathy Gannon

Washington’s point man in talks aimed at ending decades of war in Afghanistan made a brief visit Monday to Pakistan as relations between Islamabad and Kabul reached a new low.

Zalmay Khalilzad’s visit came just hours after Afghanistan withdrew its ambassador from Pakistan late Sunday after the diplomat’s daughter was brutally attacked last week. The U.S. envoy met with Pakistan’s powerful army chief of staff, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, but nothing was immediately known of their discussions.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have a long and troubled history, their relationship fraught with mistrust and suspicion. Each accuses the other of fomenting violence on its territory while also harboring its enemies. Pakistan also hosts nearly 2 million Afghans, refugees from four decades of war in their homeland, and many in Afghanistan have grown up as refugees in Pakistan before returning.

Expanding and Escalating the China-Bhutan Territorial Dispute

Sudha Ramachandran

At the 10th Expert Group Meeting on the Bhutan-China Boundary Issue, held from April 6 to 9 in Kunming, Yunnan Province, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Kingdom of Bhutan agreed to hold the 25th round of boundary talks at a “mutually convenient time as soon as possible” (PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), April 9). The last round of talks was held in April 2016, and the next round was apparently put off first due to the Doklam crisis in 2017 and then delayed because of Bhutan’s general elections and a change in government the following year (The Bhutanese, October 26, 2019).

Meanwhile, the Sino-Bhutanese border dispute has become more complicated, with China escalating its claims and taking robust steps to change the status quo on the ground. According to Smruti S. Pattanaik, an Indian analyst on South Asian security issues, “it is very likely that China will raise its new territorial claims [at the upcoming border talks] as a pressure tactic.”[1] The talks will be closely monitored not just in Beijing and Thimphu but also in New Delhi. Under the 2007 India-Bhutan Treaty of Friendship, India is virtually responsible for Bhutan’s security (India Ministry of External Affairs, March 5, 2007). Additionally, China’s claims to territories in Bhutan have major implications for India’s national security and territorial integrity.

A Fateful Moment for the CSTO on the Afghan Border

Shuhrat Baratov

The Taliban’s blitz in major cities in the Afghan provinces bordering Tajikistan, which resulted in more than 1,500 Afghan soldiers fleeing across the border, alarmed officials in Dushanbe. On July 5, Tajikistan’s Security Council decided to mobilize 20,000 reservists in response and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon reached out to his counterparts in Russia, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan to discuss the security concerns over the phone.

On July 7, Tajikistan’s representative in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) requested “an adequate response within the framework of the CSTO, including the adoption of measures to strengthen the capacity to protect the southern borders.” Addressing Tajikistan’s concern, the Chief of the Joint Staff of the CSTO Anatoly Sidorov stated that the situation does not require the CSTO’s involvement as the Tajik border forces are in control of it. He concluded so after urgently visiting Tajikistan, where he observed the situation in the border zone and held talks with Tajik officials on July 7-9.

Anti-imperial Subjects

Adom Getachew

As great powers clashed during World War I, another war raged in colonial Asia. In February 1915, Indian soldiers mutinied in Singapore following rumors that they would soon be sent to Egypt to fight fellow Muslims of the Ottoman Empire. Unable to control the rebellion, the British had to rely on European special constables and the support of the Japanese imperial consul to regain control of the city-island. This mutiny was part of a wider plot by the far-flung members of the Ghadar Party, an Indian anti-imperial movement started in California, to initiate a pan-Indian insurrection across the British Empire. A transnational network stretching from San Francisco to Kabul supported these efforts; Ghadarites worked in collaboration with German consulates, the Ottoman Empire, and Irish republicans to supply resources, especially arms, to Indian rebels. Imperial counterintelligence agents eventually managed to snuff out this revolution, but not before it shook the British Empire and its allies. The New York Times called the Singapore Mutiny the “greatest threat to British power in Asia” in over half a century.

In Tim Harper’s Underground Asia, a magisterial history of anti-imperialism in Asia in the first three decades of the twentieth century, this uprising constitutes one part of an Asia-wide assault on European empires. Asia seethed during World War I. Waves of labor strikes hit the urban centers and plantations of Java. A revolt against new land taxes broke out in Kelantan, on the Malay Peninsula. From Saigon to Sumatra, Singapore to Lahore, the spirit of rebellion spread like wildfire. Specific grievances fueled each uprising, and their participants espoused a range of political ideologies. But the rebellions shared a global outlook: a conviction that the tables would soon be turned in favor of subjugated peoples against their European masters.

Chinese State-Backed Hacking: Time To Level the Playing Field and Breach the Great Firewall

John Ferrari, Hallie Coyne

More than 30 countries across Europe, North America and Asia yesterday joined in revealing and condemning the Chinese government’s Ministry of State Security’s work with Chinese cyber hackers and cybercriminals to hack companies, governments and other organisations globally, stealing valuable intellectual property and even conducting ransomware attacks.

The grouping included Japan, the United States and, through NATO, 28 European nations, as well as New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

Far from being an issue involving only Beijing and Washington as part of strategic competition between two great powers, this behaviour from the Chinese state shows that China poses a systemic challenge to all open societies. So it’s not a surprise that this large and growing group of governments is working more closely together to face it. They’re the same grouping we saw coming together on China at the G7-plus meetings in Cornwall last month.

Chinese state actions and the government’s cooperation with China’s criminal hacker ‘ecosystem’ are damaging and flagrant. That’s not new news. So, what do we do?

Ramping the Strait: Quick and Dirty Solutions to Boost Amphibious Lift

Conor Kennedy

The threat of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) using military force to coerce or perhaps launch an amphibious invasion of Taiwan has received significant attention in the past year. Meanwhile, the recent commissioning of the PLA Navy’s first Type-075 amphibious assault ship has further highlighted China’s developing amphibious capabilities (South China Morning Post, May 9). At the same time, the apparent shortage of amphibious lift required to execute large-scale landing operations leaves many wondering whether China is serious about its threats against Taiwan. The U.S. Department of Defense’s 2020 China Military Power Report notes the PLA’s focus on ocean-going amphibious platforms rather than a large fleet of traditional landing ships and craft suggests that a direct beach-assault operation is less likely at the moment (Office of the Secretary of Defense, September 1, 2020).

But the PLA may have other plans for transporting troops and equipment across the Strait: the growing capabilities of its merchant roll on-roll off (RO-RO) ships (CMSI, December 6, 2019). These are vessels equipped with built-in ramps that enable wheeled and tracked cargo to load and offload under their own power. Such ships have the potential to deliver a significant volume of force, providing access to port terminals or other lighterage is available. They do not, however, provide solutions for launching waves of amphibious assault forces, for which dedicated landing ships are still lacking. Among the numerous critical components necessary for a successful cross-Strait landing, a failure to secure landing areas for follow-on forces in the initial assault would bring the entire endeavor to a screeching halt, likely inflicting severe costs on the part of the aggressor and resulting in a withdrawal.

The Massive Expansion of China’s Strategic Nuclear Capability

Mark B. Schneider

In late June 2021, The New York Times broke a very important story about Chinese construction of large numbers of ICBM silos for its new large DF-41 ICBM stating, “Researchers in the United States have identified the construction of 119 new intercontinental ballistic missile silos in a desert in northwestern China …" The analysis was conducted by Mr. Jeffery Lewis of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. According to Mr. Lewis, “If the silos under construction at other sites across China are added to the count, the total comes to about 145 silos under construction.” The U.S. Department of State voiced concern about China’s actions.

The Chinese DF-41 ICBM is not a small Minuteman-class missile but rather a large Peacekeeper-class missile and is generally reported as capable of carrying ten warheads. Peter Huessy of the Mitchell Institute has pointed out, “Just this deployment alone will provide China over one thousand new on-alert warheads—1,450—almost double the day-to-day U.S.A. on-alert force and by itself a nuclear force roughly equal to the entire current U.S. nuclear-deployed force of 1,490 sea- and land-based missile warheads.” Chinese media have talked about a DF-41 leveling New York City, but that is not its real function. The threat posed by such a large DF-41 silo deployment (and all we know at this point is the 145 launchers is what they are now building rather than the maximum number they plan to deploy) is its ability to destroy large numbers of U.S. military targets. Deployment of 1,450 warheads is about 75% of the U.S. Cold War ICBM force, and this does not count the other Chinese ICBMs and SLBMs, including the mobile DF-41. In light of the massive reduction in the number of U.S. ICBMs and military bases since the end of the Cold War, the silos-based DF-41 force could probably launch a coordinated attack against about all major U.S. military facilities. This is an extremely serious development.

China’s Looming Succession Crisis

Jude Blanchette and Richard McGregor

After nearly nine years in office, Chinese President Xi Jinping dominates his country’s political system. He controls the domestic policymaking process, the military, and international diplomacy. His unrivaled power within the Chinese Communist Party makes Xi as untouchable as Joseph Stalin or Mao Zedong after the brutal purges each carried out during the Great Terror and the Cultural Revolution, respectively. Without credible political challengers, any decision to retire will be at Xi’s discretion and on his schedule. The 2018 dismantling of presidential term limits allows him to rule indefinitely, if he chooses. If he steps down from his formal leadership posts, Xi will likely retain de facto control of the CCP and the People’s Liberation Army. The longer he remains in charge, the more the political structure will conform to his personality, his objectives, his whims, and his network of clients. Xi, in turn, becomes more important to China’s political stability every day he sits in office.

This accumulation of personal power comes at a cost to China. Xi has not designated a successor, casting doubt on the future of a system that increasingly relies on his leadership. Only a handful of senior party officials are likely

Will China Be the Great Power to Fail in Afghanistan?

Connor Dilleen

Since Washington’s February 2020 agreement with the Taliban to withdraw from Afghanistan, some commentators have suggested that China may step into the vacuum. Beijing may be watching recent events with some apprehension, but it will also see the US withdrawal as presenting opportunities.

China has significant strategic, security and economic interests in the region that give it a stake in Afghanistan’s future stability. Its direct economic interests in Afghanistan include a 30-year lease on the Mes Aynak copper mine, which it has held since 2007 but hasn’t been able to exploit due to the volatile security situation. Beijing also likely has an eye on Afghanistan’s vast mineral resources, which are estimated to be worth more than US$1 trillion and include significant quantities of rare-earth elements.

Over the past 20 years, China has benefited from American and NATO involvement in the region, which provided the security environment that enabled Beijing to pursue its Belt and Road Initiative across Pakistan and Central Asia. China has invested particularly heavily in both Pakistan and Tajikistan, which represent important elements of two key BRI corridors. But they also share long and porous borders and ethnic and tribal links with Afghanistan and are acutely vulnerable to instability in Afghanistan.

China's military reforms aimed at offshore expansion, Communist Party document says

TAIPEI – China’s military reforms are aimed at expanding its military might from the traditional focus on land territories to maritime influence to protect the nation’s strategic interests in a new era, according to an internal reader of China’s Central Military Commission obtained by Kyodo News.

If the reforms progress, the reader points to intensifying friction with neighboring countries, including Japan, in the East and South China Seas and elsewhere. It also suggests the willingness of China to overtake the United States in military strength.

The text was published internally by the Central Military Commission in February, for the purpose of spreading President Xi Jinping’s “thought on strengthening the armed forces.”

It makes clear at the outset that the People’s Liberation Army is loyal to the “core” leader of Xi and adheres to his thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era.

Russia, Turkey Compete to Entice Azerbaijan Into Their Geopolitical Plays

Rahim Rahimov

During the latest session of the Council of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), on July 1, in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, the participants effectively introduced the category of a CSTO “partner state” by setting the criteria and provisions for granting such a status to a third country (Paodkb.org, Duma.gov.ru, July 1). The speaker of the Russian State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, declared that a number of states have already expressed interest in becoming a “partner” of the alliance. And the head of the Duma Committee on Eurasian Integration, Leonid Kalashnikov, specified inter alia Azerbaijan as a potential partner state, before backtracking slightly: “It is not customary to talk about that, though” (RIA Novosti, July 1). In May, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said that the “doors of the CSTO are open” to Azerbaijan, with the major obstacle being the absence of diplomatic relations with Armenia, a member of the organization (Izvestia, May 24).

At present, Moscow and Yerevan are discussing the deployment of Russian border guards to protect Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan. Moreover, Yerevan has again appealed to the CSTO to evoke the article on collective defense against Baku. However, CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas has responded that the alliance will only assist in case of aggression, not in a “per se border incident” between Armenia and Azerbaijan (TASS, July 3). Although Yerevan was dissatisfied with that response (Kavkazsky Uzel, July 7), the incident served as a hint to Baku: joining the organization would shield Azerbaijan from potential CSTO involvement against the country in the future, and it might become an implicit condition for the Kremlin to facilitate the “grand peace treaty” that Azerbaijan wants to reach with Armenia.

Don’t Let China Get A Middle East Military Base

Daniel Samet

In May, the Wall Street Journal reported that the F-35 sale to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) may not go ahead partly out of concerns Abu Dhabi may grant Beijing a military base on its soil.

A China that can project more power anywhere overseas is a menacing prospect. Especially so in the Middle East, which is home to six of the ten countries with the largest proven oil reserves.

So far the Biden administration has staked its Middle East strategy on withdrawing from Afghanistan, striking a nuclear deal with Iran, and reengaging the Palestinians. Yet far more important to U.S. national security is preventing China from acquiring a base in the region. Above all else, Washington’s Middle East hands should make this one of their top priorities.

Russia, Turkey Compete to Entice Azerbaijan Into Their Geopolitical Plays

Rahim Rahimov

During the latest session of the Council of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), on July 1, in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, the participants effectively introduced the category of a CSTO “partner state” by setting the criteria and provisions for granting such a status to a third country (Paodkb.org, Duma.gov.ru, July 1). The speaker of the Russian State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, declared that a number of states have already expressed interest in becoming a “partner” of the alliance. And the head of the Duma Committee on Eurasian Integration, Leonid Kalashnikov, specified inter alia Azerbaijan as a potential partner state, before backtracking slightly: “It is not customary to talk about that, though” (RIA Novosti, July 1). In May, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said that the “doors of the CSTO are open” to Azerbaijan, with the major obstacle being the absence of diplomatic relations with Armenia, a member of the organization (Izvestia, May 24).

At present, Moscow and Yerevan are discussing the deployment of Russian border guards to protect Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan. Moreover, Yerevan has again appealed to the CSTO to evoke the article on collective defense against Baku. However, CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas has responded that the alliance will only assist in case of aggression, not in a “per se border incident” between Armenia and Azerbaijan (TASS, July 3). Although Yerevan was dissatisfied with that response (Kavkazsky Uzel, July 7), the incident served as a hint to Baku: joining the organization would shield Azerbaijan from potential CSTO involvement against the country in the future, and it might become an implicit condition for the Kremlin to facilitate the “grand peace treaty” that Azerbaijan wants to reach with Armenia.

Azerbaijani, Armenian Forces Exchange Fire Along Tense Border Section

(RFE/RL) — Azerbaijani and Armenian forces exchanged fire for several hours along a section of their border as tensions continue to simmer between the two countries after last year’s war over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The defense ministries of both countries accused the other side of provoking the flareup on the evening of July 19 along Armenia’s Yeraskh section of the border with Azerbaijan’s Naxcivan exclave, which is sandwiched between Armenia and Iran.

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry claimed that Armenian forces opened fire using weapons of various calibers at Azerbaijani positions in the Sadarak district of Naxcivan region. It said Azerbaijani forces fired back in retaliation.

Armenia’s Defense Ministry claimed Azerbaijani forces first fired on Armenian positions in the Yeraskh section, saying the “entire responsibility” for the skirmish fell on Azerbaijan.

Iran Energy Profile: Despite Abundant Reserves, Crude Oil Production Has Stagnated – Analysis

Iran holds some of the world’s largest proved crude oil reserves and natural gas reserves. Despite Iran’s abundant reserves, crude oil production stagnated and even declined between 2012 and 2016 as a result of nuclear-related international sanctions that targeted Iran’s oil exports and limited investment in Iran’s energy sector. At the end of 2011, in response to Iran’s nuclear activities, the United States and the European Union (EU) imposed sanctions, which took effect in mid-2012. These sanctions targeted Iran’s energy sector and impeded Iran’s ability to sell oil, resulting in a nearly 1.0 million barrel-per-day (b/d) drop in crude oil and condensate exports in 2012 compared with the previous year.[1]

After the oil sector and banking sanctions eased, as outlined in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in January 2016, Iran’s crude oil and condensate production and exports rose to pre-2012 levels. However, Iran’s crude oil exports and production again declined following the May 2018 announcement that the United States would withdraw from the JCPOA. The United States reinstated sanctions against purchasers of Iran’s oil in November 2018, but eight countries that are large importers of Iran’s oil received six-month exemptions. In May 2019, these waivers expired, and Iran’s crude oil and condensate exports fell below 500,000 b/d for the remainder of 2019 and most of 2020.

Regaining the Digital Advantage: A Demand-Focused Strategy for US Microelectronics Competitiveness

Bryan Clark & Dan Patt

Key Points
Microprocessors are a critical element of US national infrastructure and manage the country’s energy grids, transportation systems, and telecommunications networks. Without a reliable supply of computer chips and microelectronic components, most US economic and societal activity would grind to a halt.

The semiconductor manufacturing process is largely concentrated in East Asia, where manufacturers could be subjected to pressure or coercion by the People’s Republic of China. The semiconductor supply chain, and its inherent resilience and security, could be strengthened by US government investment to bring more steps of the microelectronics production and assembly process onto US shores.

To guide government policies, this study proposes a four-factor framework measured from the perspective of the US microelectronics customers and industry. These factors include: resilience of continued microelectronics supplies to the US market; assurance that US microelectronics reflect their intended design and are free of security vulnerabilities; the ability of the US microelectronics industry to meet current microelectronics demand, which shapes the ecosystem; and the value added from US firms, which supports future demand.

How Kissinger’s secret trip to China transformed the Cold War

This month marked the 100th birthday of the Chinese Communist Party, a centennial that President Xi Jinping celebrated by promising that China’s enemies will have their “heads bashed bloody against a Great Wall of steel.” It also marks the 50th anniversary of a more hopeful moment in Sino-American relations: Henry Kissinger’s secret trip to Beijing in 1971.

The meetings between Kissinger, then President Richard Nixon’s national security adviser, and Premier Zhou Enlai ended a generation of hostility and set the stage for a historic strategic partnership. Today, as China and the US careen toward confrontation, it is tempting to view the opening to Beijing as the beginning of nearly 50 years of errant engagement of a fundamentally hostile power. But it is worth remembering that the opening began as a smart, hard-headed policy that helped win the Cold War and transformed China’s relationship with the world.

The US-China rapprochement was both counterintuitive and a long time coming. China had been the world’s ultimate rogue state in the 1950s and 1960s — far more radical than its Communist ally, the Soviet Union. Chairman Mao Zedong’s policies led to the deaths of tens of millions of his own people in the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Beijing fought two undeclared wars against the US, in Korea and Vietnam; it promoted insurgency and revolution in the developing world.

Bitter Lessons From Afghanistan

Dominique Moïsi

"We can never win this war. The Afghans know that, unlike the Taliban, we are not here to stay." This is what one of my students, a senior French officer who had just returned from the NATO mission in Kabul, confided to me while I was teaching at Harvard University in 2009.

I have been thinking a lot about him these last few days, as the structure built by the USA and its allies in Afghanistan is about to collapse like a house of cards. Today, the Taliban are a stone's throw away from Kabul. A situation with striking resemblances to the North Vietnamese troops that gathered at the gates of Saigon in 1975. Whatever the Afghan government says, the Taliban are gaining ground faster than the most pessimistic observers could have feared.

More than a thousand Afghan soldiers have defected from their service, leaving their arms and equipment behind to seek refuge in Tajikistan. How are they supposed to withstand the determined Taliban without US air superiority or intelligence support? They lose heart even before they lose on the battlefield.

America’s Asian Military Bases Won’t Survive a U.S.-China War

James Holmes

Here's What You Need to Remember: PLA commanders have predicated their access-denial strategy on disheartening their U.S. counterparts or convincing the U.S. administration the military effort cannot succeed at a cost the country is prepared to pay. Allies and partners should devise strategies and operations that hold down the price of access for U.S. forces—and thus make it thinkable if not easy for an American president to order them into combat.

Last week the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Center (USSC) set policy circles aflutter when it issued a novella-length report that questions the staying power of U.S. military strategy in the Indo-Pacific theater while urging inhabitants of the region to take up their share of the defense burden vis-à-vis a domineering China. Read the whole thing.

In one sense the report presents little new information or insight. That the U.S. military has retooled itself for counterinsurgency warfare and must now reinvent itself again for great power strategic competition is old news. So is the notion that Washington suffers from strategic ADHD, taking on new commitments around the world willy-nilly while shedding few old ones to conserve finite resources and policy energy. Over the past decade-plus, it’s become plain that Communist China is a serious, strategically-minded maritime contender and has equipped itself with formidable shore-based weaponry to assail U.S. and allied bases in the region and supply firepower support to its increasingly impressive battle fleet. Beijing can now hope to fend off U.S. reinforcements from coming to the aid of regional allies, to slow them down, or to make the effort so expensive in terms of lives and hardware that no U.S. president would order the attempt. If it does any of these things it could spring a fait accompli on the region, accomplishing limited goals before powerful outsiders could intercede.

Who Will Intervene in the World’s Hot Spots?

As conflicts and crises persist around the world, there is growing uncertainty about how—or if—they will be resolved. The international order is fraying, generating uncertainty about who will intervene and how these interventions might be funded.

There are interminable conflicts, like the situations in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, which have produced years of violence, countless thousands of deaths and even more refugees. Then there are the emerging hot spots, including northern Mozambique and the China-India frontier, and any number of potential flashpoints, like the Eastern Mediterranean. Even in situations where there is some tenuous hope of reconciliation, there is also uncertainty—such as South Sudan, where a 2018 peace deal that put an end to years of civil war is for now holding, even as widespread violence continues to plague the country.


Terrorism Monitor, July 16, 2021, v. 19, no. 14

Pakistan Braces for U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan through Extra-Regional Partnerships

Indian Counter-Insurgency Operations and COVID-19 Limit Maoist Insurgency

Iranian-Backed Iraqi Militias Deter Turkish Intervention in Sinjar

UN Determined To Counter Cyber Crime And Ensure Peace And Security

J Nastranis

As digital advances continue to revolutionize human life, the United Nations has called for remaining “vigilant” about malicious technologies that “could imperil the security of future generations”. Currently, there are over 4.6 billion internet users around the world.

“Digital technologies are increasingly straining existing legal, humanitarian and ethical norms, non-proliferation, international stability, and peace and security”, the head of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA), Ms Izumi Nakamitsu, said in a recent Security Council meeting focused on peace and security.

Moreover, she continued, they are lowering access barriers and opening new potential domains for conflict—giving both State and non-State actors the ability to wage attacks, including across international borders.

Analyzing a More Resilient National Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Capability

Richard Mason, James Bonomo, Tim Conley

Because of the widespread use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) for positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT), concerns have been expressed that a disruption of GPS might require a national investment in backup capabilities. The authors assess the costs associated with realistic threats to domestic, nonmilitary uses of GPS, and review possible additions to the PNT ecosystem in light of those costs.

When the ability of individuals and organizations to adapt to and use existing alternatives and workarounds is taken into account, our analysis suggests that the costs of GPS disruption, while real, would not be as high as is sometimes assumed. When actual GPS jamming events have occurred in the past, users have felt the effects but generally managed to cope without disastrous consequences. Also, we consider it unlikely that any event short of nuclear war would deny all satellite navigation to the entire United States for more than a few days. At the same time, any system that could entirely replace GPS would be comparatively much more expensive than the damages it would mitigate.


Ken Mangin

Cyber is Ubiquitous
Global interconnectedness through cyberspace is an irreversible and all-encompassing fact of life that presents a multitude of benefits, as well as risks. The degree to which cyberspace and its vulnerabilities have permeated our lives is readily on display at various hacker conferences where white-hat hackers patiently try to gain root access to sample medical devices normally used in hospitals, industry experts discuss the process of remediating cyber vulnerabilities in domestic election infrastructure while other presenters talk about the current market for “zero days,” and experts explain dynamic evolution of the cyber insurance market. As our lives are on a seemingly irreversible glide path to becoming more interconnected, the likelihood of malicious foreign and domestic behavior in cyberspace similarly increases.

The United States—its public and private sectors—finds itself at a crossroads: we must improve our understanding of elusive, ever-changing threats, while simultaneously remaining agile in our capability to identify and respond to them. Such an approach requires the means to disseminate information rapidly to reduce the impact and increase timely awareness of these events. This paper lays out how the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) can build on this mission by briefly examining the critical intelligence community integration role it was assigned when it was originally formed, reviewing the Cyberspace Solarium Commission’s recommendations for the US government, and providing ideas for and examples of how ODNI, with other agencies, can effectively realize these recommendations.

Debunking the AI Arms Race Theory

Paul Scharre

In 2015, a group of prominent AI and robotics researchers signed an open letter warning of the dangers of autonomous weapons. “The key question for humanity today,” they wrote, “is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting. If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable.”1 Today, many nations are working to apply AI for military advantage, and the term “AI arms race” has become a catchphrase used by both critics and proponents of AI militarization. In 2018, then-Under Secretary of Defense Michael Griffin, calling for the United States to invest more in AI, stated, “There might be an artificial intelligence arms race, but we’re not yet in it.”2 In a 2020 Wired article, Will Roper, then chief acquisition officer for the U.S. Air Force, warned of the risks of falling behind in a “digital arms race with China.”3

The so-called AI arms race has become a common feature in news headlines,4 but the arms race framing fails to match reality. While nations are clearly competing to develop and adopt AI technology for military use, the character of that competition does not meet the traditional definition of an arms race. Military AI competition nevertheless does pose risks. The widespread adoption of military AI could cause warfare to evolve in a manner that leads to less human control and to warfare becoming faster, more violent, and more challenging in terms of being able to manage escalation and bring a war to an end. Additionally, perceptions of a “race” to field AI systems before competitors do could cause nations to cut corners on testing, leading to the deployment of unsafe AI systems that are at risk of accidents that could cause unintended escalation or destruction. Even if fears of an “AI arms race” are overblown, military AI competition brings real risks to which nations should attend. There are concrete steps nations can take to mitigate some of these dangers.

The PLA’s Critical Assessment of the Agile Combat Employment Concept

Derek Solen

From April to May 2021, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) conducted a second exercise to test the Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concept and also committed to training units to implement ACE (U.S. Air Force, May 15; Air Combat Command, May 12). ACE is the method by which the USAF intends to counteract the capabilities of adversaries such as Russia and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to strike its airbases and, ultimately, deny the USAF access to theaters of operations along their peripheries. These are generally referred to as “anti-access and area denial” capabilities. ACE, in combination with similar efforts by other U.S. military services, aims to improve America’s military advantage and its deterrence capability against Moscow’s and Beijing’s increasing aggression in Europe and East Asia.

It is important to understand how America’s adversaries are perceiving and planning to counteract ACE. This article analyzes the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) publicly available assessment of ACE. Although there is a dearth of sources, the available information shows that the PLA perceives exploitable weaknesses in ACE.

Unmanned Ships and the Future of Deterrence

James Wirtz

Although the origins of contemporary naval strategy are often shrouded in the mists of time, the notion of a “bimodal” Navy, whereby the fleet is divided into one force specializing in sea control and the other in sea denial, can be traced to a 2007 article published by retired Navy Captain Wayne Hughes in the Naval War College Review. In his essay, Hughes mostly concentrated on explaining how the U.S. Navy contributed to the Cold War strategy of containment; nevertheless, his analysis eventually turned to the prospect of great power competition looming on the strategic horizon and what that competition would mean for the fleet:

The existing Navy comprises large, efficient ships to project power ashore, principally in the form of air strikes, missiles, and Marine Corps elements. Against China, the need to threaten air and missile strikes will not change, but China has developed the means to attack large ships at sea. The Navy must now explore building a more distributed fleet that is offensively disposed yet can suffer losses and fight on, for no defense at sea can be perfect against a skilled opponent.1

China's Military Is Bouncing Back Rapidly

Michael Peck

Here's What You Need To Remember: Perhaps it's fear that the population can't be controlled without the backing of the military. Perhaps it's fear that the military itself could take over.

China has a plan: to expand Chinese power globally -- and to overtake the United States.

These are the tenets of a leaked Chinese military document obtained by Japan's Kyodo News.

The internal document, circulated within the Chinese military by the Central Military Commission in February, was intended to convey President Xi Jinping’s desire to strengthen the armed forces.

The document paints a dark worldview, with China confronting “antagonistic blocs of the Western world” that are encouraging separatists in Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, as well as terrorists and Falun Gong practitioners.

Grand Strategy Question: Is It Time to Scrap the U.S. Air Force?

Robert Farley

Here's What You Need to Know: The United States military is all about redundancy.

With the Iraq War over and the fighting in Afghanistan winding down, why does the United States need to maintain two large land armies, the Army and Marine Corps? The question seems perfectly reasonable given the apparent absence of large terrestrial threats, but it leads us down the wrong path.

The United States military is all about redundancy; in addition to two armies, it also fields two navies — the Navy and the Coast Guard — and five or six air forces, depending on how you count the aerial arms of the various branches.

The real problem isn’t that the Army is marginally more or less useful that it was 10 years ago, but rather that the institutions that were designed in 1947, when the Army and Air Force split, are insufficiently flexible to negotiate the modern security landscape.

Soviet Failure in Afghanistan Was Very Different From American Failure

Key Point: To pave the way for the invasion, Soviet advisers with the Afghan Army tricked their clients into incapacitating themselves.

In late 1979, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was torn apart by a civil war pitting the weak Communist government of Hafizullah Amin against several moderate and fundamentalist Muslim rebel armies. The war had been brought about by Amin’s incompetence and corruption, his vicious program of political repression, the massacre of entire village populations, and a ham-handed agrarian “reform” program that disenfranchised tribal leaders. Fearing that Amin would be defeated and replaced by a government of Muslim fundamentalists or—even worse—pro-American intellectuals, the Soviet Union launched an invasion on Christmas Eve aimed at removing Amin and replacing him with a more reliable strongman.

To pave the way for the invasion, Soviet advisers with the Afghan Army tricked their clients into incapacitating themselves. In one case, the Soviets told an Afghan armored unit that new tanks were about to be delivered but that, due to shortages, the gas in the old tanks would have to be siphoned out. The Afghans obligingly siphoned gas out of their tanks, rendering them useless. In another instance, Soviet advisers told an Afghan unit to turn over all their ammunition for inspection, something that likewise was done without question.