30 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 ...

The Taliban Is Taking Over Afghanistan: Here’s How to Stop Them

Rafi Khetab

In a companion article published this week by the National Interest, I discussed four tactical, operational, strategic, and political factors that explain the rapid loss of territory to the Taliban in the wake of U.S. military departure from Afghanistan. In this writing, I lay out a four-part plan for the defeat of the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan. This plan requires, above all else, political unity among Afghan leaders for its success.

Following the capturing of over 120 Afghan districts, the Taliban have committed atrocities that constitute serious war crimes, as reported by Human Rights Watch. They have burned to the ground public buildings, schools, and private property; forcibly removed women and children from their homes; demanded families offer their young daughters for forced marriage to Taliban fighters; vandalized houses, and massacred civilians as well as prisoners of war. On July 14, 2021, former President George W. Bush reacted to the Taliban’s advances by calling the U.S. withdrawal a mistake: “Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm. They’re going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people, and it breaks my heart.”

Afghanistan on the brink of an abyss

William Maley

Australia’s recent closure of its embassy in Kabul, and the withdrawal of all US forces from Afghanistan after 20 years by 11 September 2021, casts a deep shadow over Afghanistan’s future prospects.

In this paper, leading expert on Afghanistan, William Maley, examines the implications of the US withdrawal. He discusses how the ‘peace process’ that was supposed to flow from the US-Taliban agreement of February 2020 went horribly wrong, destroying trust in the United States and weakening the Afghan government. He warns that if the Taliban regain control, Afghanistan faces two risks: theocratic totalitarianism and civil war. He also notes that whilst the United States is confident it can prevent the re-emergence of terrorism in Afghanistan, the spectacle of the US abandoning a long-term moderate Muslim ally risks inspiring and reinvigorating anti-Western extremist groups in other nations.

The paper concludes by pointing to the likelihood of large flows from Afghanistan of vulnerable refugees, arguing that in the kind of environment that is looming no Afghan is safe. These refugees are likely to seek out Western countries where freedom, democracy and human rights are valued, presenting a humanitarian challenge that could overwhelm governments unless timely measures are put in place now.

Afghanistan, Failure And Second Thoughts – OpEd

Binoy Kampmark

It is a country other powers simply cannot leave alone. Even after abandoning its Kabul post in ignominy, tail tucked between their legs, Australia is now wondering if it should return – in some form. The Department of Trade and Foreign Affairs has been sending out a few signals, none of them definitive. “We will not comment on intelligence matters,” a spokesman for foreign minister Senator Marise Payne stated tersely earlier this month.

The spokesman was, however, willing to make general remarks about a belated return. When, he could not be sure, but Canberra’s diplomatic arrangements in Afghanistan “were always expected to be temporary, with the intention of resuming a permanent presence once circumstances permit.” Australia continued “to engage closely with partners, including the Afghanistan government and coalition member countries.” Rather embarrassing remarks, given the sudden closure of the embassy on June 18.

Project Taliban: An Anti-Pashtun Initiative?

Bilquees Daud

The dramatic spike in violence in the run-up to the final withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces from Afghanistan has set afire speculations concerning the future of Afghanistan should the Taliban return to power and its implications for the region. A disturbing trend that runs through much of the commentary is the casual linkage made between the Taliban, Pashtun nationalism, and religious fanaticism.

Such discourse represents a gross falsification of the lived Afghan sociopolitical realities at worst, and an inability to grasp the same at best. It contributes little to furthering our understanding of the complex sociopolitical matrix of Afghanistan. Undeniably the Taliban’s core leadership is made of Pashtuns; however, to translate that into the Taliban by default representing Pashtun social, cultural, and political ethos is empirically flawed.

Seeds of war in the South China Sea


War between China and the US is not inevitable. But it is becoming increasingly likely, and the South China Sea bears its seeds.

In their meeting on Monday in Tianjin, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reportedly told US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman that China had three bottom lines: “The United States must not challenge or seek to subvert China’s model of governance; it must not interfere in China’s development; and it must not violate China’s sovereignty or harm its territorial integrity.” The US continues to do all three.

Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Xie Feng “expressed [China’s] strong dissatisfaction towards the wrong remarks and actions of the US” regarding the origins of Covid-19, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.

China Increasing Its Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Silos By A Factor Of Ten: Report


Recent satellite imagery shows that China appears to be building another major intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, silo field, the second of its kind to have been identified by analysts in the space of a month. This is a major development, with the analysts responsible for locating it describing it as “the most significant expansion of the Chinese nuclear arsenal ever.” However, while Beijing now seems to be rapidly building up a previously neglected arm of its strategic missile forces, exactly why it is doing this now remains something of a mystery.

The new field of silos was identified as such by Matt Korda and Hans Kristensen from the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) and it’s located near the city of Hami in the eastern end of Xinjiang province, in the northwest of China. The analysts’ findings were first published in the New York Times.

China’s numbers game harms us all


Speaking before a crowd at Tiananmen Square that gathered in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Xi Jinping triumphantly declared that the goal of building China into a “moderately prosperous” society had been completed.

Though without a clear measurable threshold, Xi’s proclamation was consistent with how his government has chosen to promote its “New Era of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”, emphasising an approach to development that seeks to curb the excesses that have marked the country’s previous three decades.

According to the narrative of state media mouthpieces, with Xi at the helm, the Party has rooted out corruption within its ranks, eradicated extreme poverty within the world’s most populous country, brought some of the world’s most powerful tech companies to heel, and set a course for rejuvenating China’s infamously ailing natural environment.

FAST THINKING: Is the Iraq War over… again?

First Afghanistan, now Iraq. Seven years after US troops returned to the country to fight ISIS, US President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi announced on Monday that the American combat mission in Iraq will wrap up by year’s end. As the US military formally transitions to an advisory role with Iraqi forces, what’s next for the fights against ISIS and Iran-backed militias? Will anything really change? Our Iraq experts weigh in.


It’s natural to compare Biden’s simultaneous military pullouts in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Kirsten says that in contrast to the full withdrawal from Afghanistan, “in Iraq the drawdown is more of a rebalancing, removing fighting forces and replacing them with trainers who will continue to build the capacity of Iraqi security services.”

Andrew calls the announcement “useful diplomatic sleight of hand” for the Biden administration. “Of course the US should be advising the Iraqis, and not sending combat troops on patrols through Baghdad. But they don’t [patrol Baghdad] now.”

The Search for a Syria Strategy

Andrew J. Tabler

In recent weeks, Washington’s Middle East watchers have been abuzz with talk of U.S. President Joe Biden’s ongoing Syria policy review. During its first months in office, the Biden administration’s approach to Damascus has been notably cautious; unlike his predecessors, Biden has yet to appoint a high-level Syria envoy or to sanction a single person or entity connected to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s authoritarian regime. But even though Biden would clearly prefer to pursue other foreign policy goals, Syria will increasingly demand his attention.

The decadelong Syrian conflict began as a popular uprising against Assad’s rule before morphing into a civil war dominated by U.S.-designated terrorist organizations. Today, it has become a truly global battlefield, where military forces from five countries—Iran, Israel, Russia, Turkey, and the United States—conduct operations against different foes in pursuit of disparate goals.

The First and Now the Last Best Hope of the Arab Spring Is At Risk

Bobby Ghosh

Amid Tunisia’s political upheaval, it is easy to hear echoes of the events in Egypt eight years ago. In the summer of 2013, widespread protests against an unpopular Islamist government allowed General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to take power in what amounted to a coup.

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied may not wear military fatigues, but he’s doing a pretty good Sisi impression nonetheless: Taking advantage of demonstrations against an unpopular Islamist-backed government, he has suspended the country’s elected parliament and sacked the prime minister, effectively assuming dictatorial authority over the country.

Only months ago, Tunisia was being celebrated anew as the only country that remained a democracy in the decade after the Arab Spring. There is a real risk the gains secured then may now be lost, just as they were in Egypt. The task of forestalling that dreadful outcome falls again to the Tunisians who overthrew their dictator in January 2011, and to the two institutions that played pivotal roles back then: the military and the labor unions.More from

Does America Like Losing Wars?

Michael C. Davies

Afghanistan will soon be chiseled into the history books as another in the long list of strategic failures for the United States of America. This ever-growing collection of losses would typically be a cause for concern for a global superpower. Yet, it engenders no radical reaction amongst the populace, the military, the national security bureaucracy, or elected leaders. Only gentle concern is expressed along with desperate attempts to claim even “a modicum of success” for this state of affairs. For all the hand-wringing that will occur as the Taliban claim victory, the lack of concern, let alone action, to avoid this fate again is conspicuous. The question must therefore be asked: does America like losing wars?

It's not just the failure of the big wars of Iraq and Afghanistan that matter here either. Numerous other interventions of the past 20 years, direct and indirect, are all failures too. Yemen, like Libya, has fractured into warring mini-states. Uganda has become a source of terror itself. Al-Shabaab in Somalia has created an efficient, geographically diverse, predictable and ruthless "mafia-style" taxation system. The Islamic State is poised to make a comeback regardless of the military destruction wrought. The Philippines remains incapable of defeating its threats after a century of intervention. Bashar al-Assad is slowly reasserting political control across most of the country. Al-Qaeda is “unlikely” to be defeated. And of course, the War on Drugs has long been considered “discredited,” using “failed and counterproductive strategy[ies].” Furthermore, on closer inspection, even the Gulf War should be moved to the loss category. Asking whether America likes losing wars should be normally provocative, yet, in reality, it becomes more of a legitimate analytical inquiry as the failures mount up for all to see.

Preserve America’s Cyber Infrastructure

Chris Carney

The United States, EU, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and other influential nations and organizations came together this week to confront the Chinese government for its alleged involvement in a multitude of hostile cyber activities. The attacks included a cynical and far-reaching ransomware attack on a major American technology company – an action that has serious and lasting ramifications on the global cybersecurity landscape.

According to a report by the Washington Post, this collective condemnation is noteworthy: it amounts to the largest group of international actors coming together to publicly denounce alleged Chinese cyber aggressions. In a statement released Monday, the White House accused China of destructive cyber activities, claiming, “China’s pattern of irresponsible behavior in cyberspace is inconsistent with its stated objective of being seen as a responsible leader in the world.”

As China's technological influence continues to grow, so do threats against America's increasingly vulnerable cybersecurity infrastructure. Ransomware has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry, and cyberattacks continue to increase in intensity as foreign ransomware criminals remain unchecked. Recent cyberattacks, such as the May 7 attack on the Colonial Pipeline and the July 2 attack on the technology firm Kaseya, comprise some of the most advanced and devastating digital warfare America has ever seen.

Biden Should Be Wary of Erdogan's Afghanistan Gambit | Opinion


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he wants to help the United States secure Afghanistan after the departure of American troops, but one has to question the reliability of an ally who admitted last week that Turkey, "does not have any conflicting issues with [the Taliban's] beliefs." Erdogan cast further doubt on his allegiance by suggesting the U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan has been illegitimate from the get-go. "Imperial powers entered Afghanistan; they have been there for over 20 years," the Turkish president said.

These comments ought to serve as red flags amid ongoing negotiations between Ankara and Washington over Erdogan's offer to deploy Turkish troops to guard Kabul's international airport after U.S. departure. The airport is Kabul's lifeline to the outside world, providing access for aid workers and foreign diplomats.

"The president has made it very clear we're going to maintain a diplomatic presence in Kabul," Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said earlier this month. "We know that in order to do that, you have to have adequate security at the airport."

Japan Challenges Russia in Antarctic, Sparking Concern in Moscow About West’s Plans

Paul Goble

The Japanese government’s National Institute for Polar Research (NIPR) released four reports so far this month (July 2021) outlining Tokyo’s view that Japan should be among the countries allowed to exploit the oil and natural gas resources lying below the surface in Antarctica and to make territorial claims there once the current treaty regime expires or is modified (Nipr.ac.jp cited by Rambler, July 24). That has sparked outrage in Moscow. Russian commentaries have characterized the NIPR proposals as a threat to Russian rights in the Antarctic; as a challenge to the 1959 international accord that governs the activities of countries there; as a new move on the geopolitical chessboard intended to put pressure on Moscow to sign a peace treaty with Tokyo and return the Kurile Islands; and even as a trial balloon to test out analogous plans the United States may try to employ against Russia in the Arctic in the immediate future (Izvestia, Politros.com, iReactor, Ren.tv, July 24; Expert.ru, July 25).

The NIPR reports, in fact, do not speak about any immediate Japanese actions but rather appear designed to set the stage for Tokyo’s participation in talks planned to revise the 1959 international accord, which limits the activities of the signatory countries to only scientific research in the Antarctic. That accord is set to expire in 2048; but already, Russia and other countries have been talking about its revision so as to permit exploitation of oil and gas reserves there (see EDM, June 9, 2020, June 24, 2020, January 19, 2021).

The Road to 2040: A Summary of Our Forecast

In this glimpse into the next 19 years, we forecast several significant changes and disruptions in the global structure, which will be summarized here. However, one fact that will not change is the United States’ position as the sole global power. Over the next 19 years, it will adopt a new strategy to maintain power at the lowest possible cost. This strategy will resemble isolationism, in that the U.S. will not be drawn into regional military conflicts in any significant capacity. The U.S. will support its allies with supplies, training and some air power, however, it will contain regional problems in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, rather than directly and forcibly engaging. This will prove to be a prudent strategy and help the U.S. sustain its global dominance.

In Europe, the European Union as an institution will collapse or redefine itself as a more modest trade zone encompassing a smaller part of the continent. The current free trade structure is unsustainable because its members, particularly Germany, have grown overly dependent on exports. This dependency makes these economies extremely vulnerable to fluctuations in demand outside of their own borders. Germany is the most vulnerable country and will experience economic decline due to inevitable fluctuations in the export market. Consequently, by 2040, Germany will be a second-tier power in Europe. Other countries in Western Europe will be affected by its decline, leading Central Europe, and Poland in particular, to emerge as a major, active power.

Common Ground: Why Russia and Canada Should Cooperate in the Arctic

Andrea Charron

Of all the Arctic states, Canada and Russia’s Arctics are the most similar in terms of geography, climate, and development potential. Very large, founded on ancient basement rocks, holding record temperatures (at both ends of the thermometer), and with an abundance of natural resources, there is much that Canada and Russia can learn from each other. But there are also differences that are stark, concerning, and growing in intensity. Now is the time to seize common ground.

In terms of what they have in common, Canada and Russia are firm supporters of fora and institutions that have promoted good governance in the Arctic, from the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy to the Arctic Council and its subsidiaries, the Arctic Economic Council and the Arctic Coast Guard Forum. That said, the mining and resource extraction industries have had a poor environmental record in both countries’ Arctics, and Climate Action Tracker currently ranks Russia’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as “critically insufficient,” and Canada’s as “insufficient.”


Cyber threats pose a significant and complex challenge due to the absence of warning, the speed of an attack by an adversary, the difficulty of attribution, and the complexities associated with carrying out a proportionate response. Space systems face many well-known types of attack, including orbital, kinetic, and electronic warfare, but are also vulnerable to other forms of cyber threat. Applying defense-in-depth principles throughout each segment is imperative to defending our space assets.

Cyberattacks can occur across multiple segments within the architecture — space, link, and ground — and space systems are often overlooked in wider discussions of cyber threats to critical infrastructure. All critical national space systems must be appropriately hardened against cyber threats; forgoing preventative measures is not an option.

Anti-China Sentiments Grows in Kazakhstan as Economic Cooperation Stalls

Serik Rymbetov

On July 6, Kazakhstan celebrated Capital City Day in commemoration of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev’s 1994 decision to move the capital from Almaty in the south to Akmola in the north. The capital was subsequently renamed Astana but, following Nazarbayev’s sudden resignation, it has been known as Nur-Sultan since March 2019. July 6 is also Nazarbayev’s birthday. Despite relinquishing the presidency in favor of his anointed successor, Senate speaker Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, the former head of state has retained the title of Leader of the Nation and the post of chairperson for life of the National Security Council. Unsurprisingly, Nazarbayev is still widely considered, both at home and abroad, as the power behind the throne to whom President Tokayev defers for all key decisions (Inform.kz, March 19, 23, 2019).

The Capital City Day celebrations in Almaty were marred this year by a protest organized by a long-time critic of Nazarbayev’s regime, Zhanbolat Mamay. A small group of people led by Mamay, who were later forcibly dispersed by the police, called on Nazarbayev to leave the political scene for good, vented their anger at rising inflation and criticized Kazakhstan’s economic dependence on China. The latter point has been a recurrent theme of Kazakhstani domestic politics in recent years, to almost complete silence from the corridors of power. Most recently, in late March 2021, opposition activists, including the aforementioned Mamay, held a pre-authorized rally in Almaty with some 300 participants protesting “Chinese expansion” into Kazakhstan, namely the two governments’ old plans to build a network of industrial enterprises on Kazakhstani territory (Exclusive.kz, July 7; Mediazona.ca, July 6; Radio Azattyk, March 27, July 6).

France Has A Military Generals Problem: Why There’s A Fray In Civilian-Military Relations – OpEd

James W. Carden*

The sensitive question of civilian control of the armed forces is one which Western democracies like the United States and France must continue to confront so long as they wish to be considered functioning democracies.

The principle of civilian control has been challenged in very public ways over the past few months.

This spring the French political establishment was rocked by two open letters from current and former members of the French military, both warning that France was on the brink of civil war.

It is worth considering this same matter in contexts far afield from France—not least ours in America. What is the relationship among the Western democracies between their armed forces and the institutions that are supposed to impose political authority over them?

Air & Space Power Journal

Thinking about Thinking: Training Aircrew to Make Decisions in Complex Situations

Game-Theoretic System Design in the Development of Space Power

Coming to a Theater near You: Evolving Air Combat to Counter Anti-Access and Area-Denial

OverSTEMulated: The Science and Art of Space Power Leadership

A Concept for Next-Generation Combat Search and Rescue

Every Airman and Guardian a Technologist: Reinvigorating a Disruptive Technology Culture

Harvesting the Rewards of Multinational Cooperation: The Royal Air Force’s Project “Seedcorn”

The British Army’s Greek Tragedy

Dr Jack Watling

The British Army has spent £3.2 billion on its Ajax family of vehicles, but as major problems beset the programme and its role in the force remains poorly defined, the Army faces a stark choice between doubling down or moving on.

Speaking at RUSI’s Land Warfare Conference on 2 June, Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin stated that the British Army’s Ajax vehicles were ‘bringing a step change in versatility and agility’ and that while ‘there are issues that need to be addressed, they are being addressed, in partnership with industry’. The Ministry of Defence was adamant that Initial Operating Capability would be declared at the end of the month.

Within weeks all trials on the vehicle had been halted after crews reported injuries due to excessive noise and vibration. The programme is now in crisis, with ministers briefing that they had not been informed about the problems by senior officers and Mr Quin telling the House of Commons Defence Committee that ‘we cannot be 100% certain that’ the salvation of the programme ‘can be achieved’. The two fundamental questions are whether the vehicle can be fixed, and whether it is worth saving. With the Army in the midst of working out how it will fight following the Integrated Review, the consequences of the decision to proceed with or cancel Ajax will be far-reaching.

The Role of Russia's Military in Information Confrontation

Joe Cheravitch

Executive Summary
Between the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and Russia’s annexation of Crimea over two decades later, international attention toward Russia’s military waned significantly from its apogee during the Cold War. Russia’s military, however, hardly remained static and underwent significant changes as it strove to adapt to perceived shifts in contemporary warfare. While rapid evolutions in digital communications technology during the late 20th and early 21st centuries were certainly seen as a critical threat in Russian defense circles, they also offered a new means of undermining adversaries from virtually unlimited distances. Conflicts of the future, according to many Russian analysts and observers, hinged on control of “information resources,” which involved everything from jamming enemy battlefield communications to using mass media to turn a population against its leadership. The West was therefore caught by surprise in 2014, when Russia’s military and security services began to use a wide array of computer network operations, electronic warfare, and digital influence platforms to help facilitate kinetic activities in Crimea and eastern Ukraine while disrupting Ukraine’s new government and its international partners. Since then, a litany of cyberattacks—many of which have been attributed to Russian military intelligence—and seemingly novel approaches to military operations in Russia’s periphery and abroad have reinvigorated studies in Russian military affairs, attracting a growing number of analysts tasked with deciphering Russia’s motivations and methods.

Unbelievable: China Is a Generation Ahead on Missile Technology

David Axe

Key Point: The Chinese military is apparently working on a solution to the identification problem, and has proposed building a targeting network around the high-flying Divine Eagle sensor drone. A Divine Eagle could pass targeting data to a VLRAAM-armed fighter — and potentially even to the missile itself, provided any operational version of the munition incorporates a datalink. In concept, China’s potential sensor-shooter network is similar to the U.S. Navy’s own Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air network, which ties together various sensors platforms with fighters and ships firing AMRAAMs and sea-launched air-defense missiles. NIFC-CA first deployed with a carrier battle group in 2015.

The Chinese military has apparently test-fired a new — and potentially powerful — very-long-range air-to-air missile. If reports are accurate, the new weapon could hit U.S. aircraft at twice the range at which the Americans can shoot back.

Images depicting the new missile under the wing of a Chinese air force J-16 fighter circulated in November 2016. The J-16 reportedly fired at least one of the missiles, successfully striking an aerial target.