4 August 2021

Social Media in Violent Conflicts – Recent Examples

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Alan Rusbridger, the then editor-in-chief of the Guardian in his 2010 Andrew Olle Media Lecture, stated, “News organisations still break lots of news. But, increasingly, news happens first on Twitter. If you’re a regular Twitter user, even if you’re in the news business and have access to wires, the chances are that you’ll check out many rumours of breaking news on Twitter first. There are millions of human monitors out there who will pick up on the smallest things and who have the same instincts as the agencies—to be the first with the news. As more people join, the better it will get. ”

The most important and unique feature of social media and its role in future conflicts is the speed at which it can disseminate information to audiences and the audiences to provide feedback.

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.

Taliban’s Violent Advances Augur Bleak Future for Afghan Women

Belquis Ahmadi

Mere days after the United States failed to meet the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline stipulated in its 2019 deal with the Taliban, the militant group began launching major attacks on Afghan security forces and taking control of administrative districts. While disputed, some estimates suggest the Taliban now have control of half of the districts across the country. The violence has already wrought a heavy toll — and women and girls have borne the early brunt. I recently spoke with Afghan women who told me of the indignities they are already facing and their fears for the future. The immediate and long-term implications for Afghanistan, and the progress made in the last 20 years, are dire. We are seeing a preview of what could come if the Taliban takeover.

The Taliban’s Violence and Intimidation

‘Complete disaster’: Inside the Biden team’s chaotic bid to evacuate Afghan interpreters


President Joe Biden had just announced plans to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan in April when, during a classified briefing with top national security officials on Capitol Hill, one lawmaker stood up and asked a pointed question.

What was the Biden administration’s plan to evacuate the thousands of Afghan nationals who aided the U.S. war effort, and expedite their visas?

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin didn’t have an answer. “We’ll get back to you on that,” Austin said, according to two people in the room and a defense official familiar with the interaction.

Austin’s response shocked them — and it foreshadowed what many members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, now see as a failure by the Biden administration to sufficiently prepare for the avalanche of visa applications and the need to quickly evacuate those Afghans from the country as the Taliban make steady territorial gains.

Everything America did wrong in Afghanistan, according to the top US government watchdog


The Taliban currently have a knife to the throat of the Afghan government in Kabul. While the Afghan military still has a chance to succeed, it will lose if it keeps on its present course, said John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The precarious situation facing Afghanistan’s government and security forces is the result of two decades of mistakes by American civilian and military officials, Sopko told reporters during a Defense Writers Group event on Thursday.

Sopko, who consistently pointed out the failings of the U.S. government’s program to redevelop Afghanistan, provided reporters with a detailed explanation of why Aghan security forces are in such poor shape.

Amid China's military pressure, Taiwan prepares for cyber war

Taipei [Taiwan], July 25 (ANI): Cyber attacks are a growing global threat and a number of countries are now focusing on the mounting threat of cybercrimes, Taiwan being at the forefront amid China's military pressure and crippling cyberattacks.

Taiwan's head of cybersecurity told CNN Business this month that it is using dramatic measures to guard against technological vulnerabilities -- including employing roughly two dozen computer experts to deliberately attack the government's systems and help it defend against what Taiwanese authorities estimate are some 20 million to 40 million cyberattacks every month.

Taiwan says it has been able to defend against the overwhelming majority of attacks. Successful breaches number in the hundreds, while only a handful are what the government classifies as "serious."

Myanmar: Urban Insurgency Takes Root

Dr Bibhu Prasad Routray

Since the 01 February 2021 coup, the civilian non-violent resistance to the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) has changed its character. In the civil disobedience movement, placard-bearing protesters appealed to the conscience of the international community, only to be crushed by the military. Since the end of March, in many parts of the country, collaborators and sympathizers of the regime have been systematically targeted by attackers who may have been trained by the ethnic armed organisations. An urban insurgency has raised its head. While it may not be enough to shake the regime, forcing it to reverse the coup, it will certainly drain the military off vital resources and delay its project of stabilizing the country.

Series of Attacks

In the morning of 2 June, a group of anti-military resistance fighters ambushed a convoy of four vehicles carrying police and military personnel near a hill in Kanbalu of Sagaing Region. Using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and hunting guns, they killed a police sub-inspector and fled leaving behind their firearms after military personnel arrived in the area from a nearby location.1 On 27 May, eight explosives went off in Yangon’s Thaketa Township in police stations, a local market, a primary school, and on the streets. While the damages were minimum, in another incident on the same day, three unidentified gunmen shot dead a local ward administrator.2 On the same day, in the southern Mon state, two unidentified gunmen shot dead U Myint Swe, a regional lawmaker belonging to the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) – aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).3 In yet another incident, five people including an official administrator were injured in a homemade bomb blast at the village administration office in Ye township of the same state.

How the U.S. Learned to Stop Worrying About the Pacific and Love the ‘Indo-Pacific’

Jack Detsch

In early 2017, U.S. and Japanese strategists were poring over maps on the top floor of the U.S. State Department. Satoshi Suzuki, a Japanese official, and Brian Hook, his U.S. counterpart, zoomed in on almost every touch point in Asia: the honeymoon between then-newly elected U.S. President Donald Trump and then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the emergence of India, and a potential flare-up on the Korean Peninsula. And then Suzuki widened the lens.

The Japanese side presented a series of maps, labeled “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.” Suzuki told Hook that Tokyo wanted to radically redraw the geography of the region, from the north-south orientation of the World War II era focused on the first and second island chains of the western Pacific Ocean to a two-ocean strategy that envisioned Japanese policy in Asia stretching to India and even as far as the Persian Gulf.

“It wasn’t the old and more narrow Asia-Pacific. It was the broader Indo-Pacific, and it recognized the significance of India in particular,” said a former senior Trump administration official. “It was a sense that, you know, we weren’t going to get what we wanted by asking Beijing nicely.”

Philippine, US Troop Pact In ‘Full Force Again’

Aie Balagtas See

The 70-year-old defense alliance between Manila and Washington is back on track after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he would fully restore a key bilateral military pact following his meeting with Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin in Manila, officials announced Friday.

The U.S. defense secretary visited the Philippine capital as he wrapped up a weeklong tour of three Southeast Asian countries located in the heart of the contested South China Sea, a geopolitical issue that headlined the agenda during his stops in Singapore, Hanoi and Manila.

On Friday, Austin’s Philippine counterpart, Delfin Lorenzana, who challenged recent incursions by Chinese ships into Philippine-claimed territory in strategic waterway, announced the decision about the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement.

China moves swiftly to exploit the void in Afghanistan

Brahma Chellaney

China has long shielded Pakistan from international pressure over its harboring of terrorist groups, including blocking United Nations Security Council sanctions against Pakistani terrorists and opposing moving its close ally from the gray to black list of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, the global terrorist-financing watchdog. In fact, China has often praised Pakistan's commitment to the fight against terrorism.

But after nine of its dam engineers were killed this month in a terrorist-triggered bus explosion in Pakistan, China changed its tune. It has demanded that Pakistan, in the words of Premier Li Keqiang, "use all necessary means" against terrorists and bring "the perpetrators to justice." Beijing has squarely blamed America's "hasty withdrawal" from Afghanistan for creating cross-border volatility and insecurity.

A Chinese Perspective on the Future of Cyberspace

Peixi Xu

July 7, 2021 – The Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC) and The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies is pleased to announce the launch of the first Cyberstability Paper Series.

Since the release of the final GCSC report in November 2019, the concept of cyberstability has continued to evolve. A number of new ‘conditions’ are emerging: new agreements on norms, capacity building and other stability measures have solidified. The constellation of cyber initiatives is expanding, underlining the need to connect the traditional state-led dialogues with those of the Internet communities. Gaps continue to close, not only between the global north and south and between technology and policy, but also between the stability in and the stability of cyberspace.

The first Paper Series explores these “New Conditions and Constellations in Cyber” through twelve papers from leading experts, each providing a glance into the challenges and contributions to cyberstability. The papers are released on a rolling basis from July until December 2021, culminating in an edited volume.

The Folly of China’s Hard-Tech Strategy


Xi may see consumer software as trivial, but it is a key driver of the hard-tech leadership he desires.

Chinese president Xi Jinping is unleashing the full force of the state against the country’s tech sector. First it was Jack Ma’s quasi-disappearance, then the removal of rideshare company Didi from all mobile-app stores. Most recently, the government went after China’s online-tutoring companies, barring any education business from making a profit or receiving foreign capital.

Most observers have interpreted it as a power play: Xi’s asserting state dominance over increasingly powerful multinational companies. Others, such as Beijing-based tech researcher Dan Wang, give the party more credit, seeing the regulatory crackdown as a deliberate tactic in China’s technological grand strategy.

Xi Jinping’s Politics in Command Economy


Executive Summary
“All enterprises must persevere in putting proletarian politics in command and ideological and political work first.”1 —Document of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party, September 2, 1975

China’s leadership has embarked on a new and risky path in economic policy making, one that has huge implications for the Chinese people and for the world. It stands in marked contrast to the emphasis on market opening and engagement with the world that defined the first decades of the post-Mao period that started in 1978. Instead today Beijing is intent on strengthening control over private companies and foreign investment, reserving set shares of its market for indigenously produced technologies like semiconductor chips and electric vehicle batteries, and boosting the role of state-owned firms

It is all part of what can be considered a new form of state capitalism, defined by a top-down approach to the economy featuring government-directed and supported industrial policies with the goal of creating a far more self-sufficient country, and critically, one that continues to grow rapidly. At the same time, it aims to be more egalitarian, overcoming some of the inequalities associated with the earlier approach of growth at all costs while avoiding the social instability that might result from too large a gap. Beijing sees it as providing a new model of growth for developing countries around the world and as directly competing with a Western free market model that China’s leaders believe is becoming increasingly broken. In a speech earlier this year to top provincial and national officials, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), described the rest of the world

Why a post-US Afghanistan poses a litmus test for China as a military power

David Dodwell

Whether because of hubris or naiveties, it seems there are some lessons global hegemons rarely learn. One is that certain corners of the world not for taking – like Afghanistan.

As President Joe Biden ends a forlorn 20-year effort at nation-building, the United States joins a line of aspiring conquerors and peacemakers that stretches back centuries. Hearts can only bleed for the modernising Afghans left behind, in particular their women and those seen to have assisted American occupying forces, as the Taliban wreak havoc, provide safe haven to Islamic extremists, and weave around a tribal mosaic that has made Afghanistan ungovernable for a millennium.

Before Biden, the Russians suffered a similar humbling Afghan fate, along with British colonial forces, Tamerlane, the Moghuls and Genghis Khan. Even before the last Americans are airlifted out, speculation has begun on how long the Afghan government will survive, and which naive hegemon will next be sucked in.

Beyond Security: The Quest for a Sustained, Strategic U.S.-Iraq Partnership

Sarhang Hamasaeed

On Monday, President Joe Biden received Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi at the Oval Office to strengthen bilateral relations and discuss matters of mutual interest, key among them being the future of U.S. troops in Iraq. Despite widespread thinking that Iraq and the Middle East do not rank high in the mix of the Biden administration’s priorities, there have been clear signals that Iraq remains important enough to the United States and that Kadhimi and his government are partners that the United States can work with and should support. While most of the media attention focused on the announcement of the change in U.S. force posture in Iraq, the key takeaway from this week’s meeting is that the United States and Iraq seek to maintain their strategic partnership — and build on it.

This was Kadhimi’s second visit to the White House in less than a year and he also met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress. His visit follows last week’s round of U.S.-Iraq strategic dialogues under the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement and reaffirmed their cooperation in many areas including security, public health, economic cooperation, energy independence, humanitarian aid, human rights and cultural and educational exchanges, among other things.

FBI probe shows amount of chemicals in Beirut blast was a fraction of original shipment

William Maclean

July 30 (Reuters) - The amount of ammonium nitrate that blew up at Beirut port last year was one fifth of the shipment unloaded there in 2013, the FBI concluded after the blast, adding to suspicions that much of the cargo had gone missing.

As the first anniversary approaches on Aug. 4, major questions remain unanswered, including how a huge quantity of ammonium nitrate - which can be used to make fertiliser or bombs - was left unsafely stored in a capital city for years.

The blast was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, killing more than 200 people, wounding thousands, and devastating swathes of Beirut. read more

The FBI's Oct. 7, 2020 report, which was seen by Reuters this week, estimates around 552 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded that day, much less than the 2,754 tonnes that arrived on a Russian-leased cargo ship in 2013.

U.S. scheme to hype South China Sea issue sanctimonious

Xinhua writer Yan Jie

MANILA, July 31 (Xinhua) -- Hyping up the so-called "China threat" is Washington's habitual trick as it needs excuses for transforming the South China Sea into a hunting ground for its geopolitical self-interest.

Geared up to form an anti-China clique, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has recently visited three nations in Southeast Asia, during which he kept pointing an accusing finger at Beijing with groundless charges, stirring up new waves in the regional waters.

Speaking in Singapore on Tuesday, Austin vowed to challenge what he called China's aggression, reiterated Washington's support for nations involved in disputes with China in the South China Sea, and accused China's claims in the regional waters of having "no basis in international law."

Moreover, during later trips to Vietnam and the Philippines, Austin spared no effort in advocating the so-called "freedom of navigation" in the South China Sea.

DoD really has no idea who it’s hired to do private security, report finds

Meghann Myers

Private security contractors, often referred to as mercenaries, have made a poor reputation for themselves throughout the Global War on Terror. And it turns out the Pentagon isn’t really monitoring whom it’s hired, or verifying their backgrounds and compliance.

A Government Accountability Office report released Friday calls on the Pentagon to create an internal definition for security contractors, make them trackable in databases and assign an oversight position for private security contractors.

“For example, GAO reviewed data for deployed contractor personnel with the job title of ‘security guard’ and found that about 12 percent of those individuals were employed by companies not on a DOD list of certified PSC companies.”

Can AMLO Deliver on His Vision for Mexico’s Future?

Two and a half years after taking office in December 2018, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, or AMLO, has struggled to make good on his campaign promises to deliver radical transformation, including tackling corruption and reforming the country’s drug war. Meanwhile, he often found himself playing catchup to former U.S. President Donald Trump, whose quixotic threats linking trade and immigration forced AMLO’s hand when it came to Mexico’s efforts to block immigrants from crossing into the United States. Now AMLO will have to reboot relations with the U.S. under President Joe Biden, whose more conventional approach to a full range of bilateral issues could prove to be more of a challenge than Trump’s dual fixation on migration and trade.

Trump did not entirely upend AMLO’s agenda. The Mexican leader has taken steps to rethink Mexico’s drug war, while also calling for the decriminalization of all drugs in Mexico. But from cracking down on migrants passing through Mexico on their way north to successfully renegotiating the updated NAFTA trade deal, AMLO’s presidency in many ways became inextricably linked to Trump, with whom he developed surprisingly amicable ties despite their many differences. That friendliness, combined with a series of recent moves that undermined security cooperation with the U.S. on drug enforcement, has many observers wondering whether AMLO will pay a political cost under the Biden administration.

Lithuania leads in defying China

Jerome Keating

The small Baltic nation of Lithuania last week announced that it would accept a Taiwanese representative office in its capital, Vilnius, and that it would establish its own trade office in Taiwan by the end of the year.

This was more than a welcome announcement to Taiwan and goes far beyond the normal establishment of trade relations.

Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis summed it up succinctly, boldly saying: “Freedom-loving people should look out for each other.”

With these words, Landsbergis was purposefully going beyond normal diplomacy; he was also presenting a moral challenge and reminder to other democratic nations.

A look at Lithuania’s recent past reveals what lies behind the new trade offices.

Russia-Japan Tensions Rise As Moscow Eyes Kuril Development – Analysis

Dr. Theodore Karasik

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin’s visit to the Kuril Islands last week was an important message to Japan, but also to other audiences. The island chain has been claimed by Russia since the end of the Second World War, but Tokyo does not acknowledge Moscow’s claim. The debate is not new and the islands are a constant thorn in Tokyo’s side. Russia and Japan have previously struggled over property rights surrounding the archipelago.

The Kuril Islands, for the most part, fall under Russian administration, but Japan claims the four southernmost islands, including two of the three largest islands, Iturup and Kunashir, as Japanese territory (known as the Northern Territories). Russia’s governance of the Kuril archipelago drives its claims. Over the years, Russo-Japanese talks on resolving the dispute have been off and on. The latest round is likely to lead to tensions, with Tokyo possibly taking a stronger position than usual. Mishustin’s visit occurred as the Tokyo Olympics were underway, telegraphing a particular message to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Suga’s approval rating is dropping and the timing of the Russian prime minister’s visit was a clear power play over the islands and their use.

DIA Medical Sleuth Busts China Biowarfare Plot Theory

Jeff Stein

Denis Kaufman, a former top infectious diseases analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency’s obscure National Center for Medical Intelligence, says that the conspiracy theory circling the Internet that China invented the Covid-19 virus as a biological warfare weapon is, well, stupid.

“There's a spectrum of hypotheses about where it came from and why it got released,” Kaufman said in a SpyTalk podcast interview this week with co-host Jeanne Meserve.

“I think you can take almost all of this idea that this was some kind of nefarious action off the table,” Kaufman said.

“It would probably rank, in terms of monumental stupidity, as high as you could get—to release an organism that you have no countermeasures against, that was highly infectious, highly dangerous and highly lethal.”

Jamestown Foundation

Historic Chinese Flooding Highlights Outstanding Infrastructure Problems

Early Warning Brief: Xi Jinping Issues Tough Warnings to Enemies Within the Party

What the 2020 Chinese Census Tells Us About Progress in Hukou Reform

Recent Trends in Sino-Israeli Relations Bely Lasting Warm Ties

China’s Hypersonic Missiles: Methods and Motives

Global Britain in a Competitive Age and Defence in a Competitive Age: A Critique

Anthony H. Cordesman

The white papers Britain issued in 2021–Global Britain in a Competitive Age and Defence in a Competitive Age–do not serve their claimed purpose. They do not provide a meaningful “integrated review” of British defense, and they fail to properly address most of the challenges raised in the House of Common’s commentary–In Search of Strategy—The 2020 Integrated Review. Instead, they are filled with vague good intensions, rhetoric, and goals, but they lack any of the specifics. Both documents mention the need for serious study and analysis, but they are 109- and 71-page vacuums when it comes to providing such content.

Global Britain in a Competitive Age touches on idea after idea without defining specific courses of action, and it sometimes seems to be more of a catalog of strategic options focusing more attention to full color photos than a real effort at strategy. The closest it comes to specifics is listing the areas of added spending in Annex A: Integrated Review priorities funded in Spending Review 2020, but this annex provides no real specifics as to how and when this money will be spent and does not even show that the money will be adequate to meet its intended purpose.

The Technology 202: Chinese disinformation "much more subtle, much more insidious" than Moscow's, former cyber chief warns

Aaron Schaffer

Countering baseless claims online has become a global challenge, former Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) director Chris Krebs told my colleague Ellen Nakashima at a Washington Post Live event on Thursday.

“Every government out there — U.S., European, elsewhere — has to be thinking about disinformation as a strategic threat,” Krebs said, calling disinformation one of two key priorities he would flag for his successor, Jen Easterly.

Krebs is no stranger to rebutting baseless online claims.

Former president Donald Trump fired Krebs in November after he refuted Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen. (In January, Krebs and former Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos founded the Krebs Stamos Group.)

In his conversation with Ellen, Krebs doubled down on the importance of combating misinformation, even at a local level. He praised officials in Maricopa County, Ariz., who have denied claims that the election was stolen.

The Future of NLD SOF: Towards an All-Domain Force

Rob de Wijk, Frank Bekkers, Tim Sweijs, Stephan De Spiegeleire and Dorith Kool.
Special Operations Forces (SOF) are designed, organized, equipped and trained to achieve critical objectives that typically combine (potentially) high risks and high pay-offs through low-visibility operations in politically sensitive and militarily risky environments.

The changing nature of interstate competition has increasingly pushed states to make use of the grey zone between peace and (overt) war. Special operations forces form an ideal vehicle to perform clandestine, covert and ambiguous military and non-military activities to attain their objectives. Such activities may create, either intended or accidental, faits accomplis that place the adversary between the unsatisfactory alternative of acquiescence or escalation. Russia’s actions in Crimea are a case in point, forcing Ukraine and NATO to concede to Russia’s influence or to escalate.

DoD needs to get a handle on quality of life at remote, isolated U.S. bases, report finds

Karen Jowers

Some troops and families are having to drive three hours to get routine medical care during pregnancy, or commuting 53 miles to work on an installations that are remote or isolated in the U.S., according to a new government report, highlighting the need for Defense officials to look at the full picture of support services for troops and their families at these bases.

DoD needs to gauge the risks of not providing those support services, and develop a strategy to meet those needs of troops and families, according to the report from the Government Accountability Office, which took a deep dive into life some of these U.S. installations.

Since 1989, 43 installations in the United States have been given that “remote or isolated” status for the purposes of morale, welfare and recreation, by either DoD or Congress, auditors said. Three of those were designated by DoD between 2011 and 2020 — Naval Support Activity, Crane, Ind.; Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif.; and Fort Hunter Liggett, Monterey, Calif. While there are more than 207 remote or isolated installations worldwide for MWR purposes, this congressionally-mandated report focused on those in the U.S.

Overmatch by other means: integrating Irregular Warfare into Joint Force Wargaming

Steve Ferenzi, Christopher J. Hickey, and Christopher Hossfeld

Wargaming is an essential component of professional military education, but is it obsolete for the irregular challenges of competition today? Revelations of the “miserable failure” of the emerging Joint Warfighting Concept in a wargame revolving around a battle for Taiwan, as well as Russia’s recent massing of 100,000 troops outside Ukraine, seem to justify a focus on traditional military capabilities. But can wargaming also address the indirect aspects of adversary approaches — like social media influence campaigns and dual-use infrastructure acquisition, that incrementally advance their positions of strategic advantage? The time and resources available for military education are relatively fixed, driving an evolution of classic teaching methods to produce leaders who can achieve intellectual overmatch against the nation’s adversaries.

Despite progress in using games to explore emerging concepts and capabilities, wargames still overwhelmingly focus on the traditional fight. However, tailoring wargaming specifically to hone irregular warfare competencies may mitigate the unintended consequences. One approach with great promise is updating wargaming in a way that drives classroom dialogue and learning to develop the student’s ability to recognize and avoid blinders connected to the application of strictly traditional military power.

‘How Does One Process Defeat?’

Eliot A. Cohen

A few days ago I heard from a former student of mine, whom I will refer to as Scott. He began by assuring me that he, his wife, and their three children were all well, and filled me in on his career since a period of extended service in Afghanistan as a civilian. He wrote the following:

You might have seen the news earlier this week that Spin Boldak, the Afghan border town in Kandahar, is now under Taliban occupation. After spending a bit of time in the Arghandab River Valley (which still induces nightmares) I spent a year in Spin Boldak (which induces slightly fewer nightmares).

I got home from a thirteen month deployment almost a full decade ago … but ten years later the place I spent a year on patrol with the three different cav squadrons, and on the back of Afghan Border Police pickup trucks, now has the Taliban flag flying at the border crossing.

However I feel conflicted on how to feel. Part of me is sad, part of me is enraged, and part of me just doesn’t care any more—and it is a weird way to feel. How can I be mad while also shrugging it off? Or trying to shrug it off?

China’s Hypersonic Missiles: Methods and Motives

Richard Weitz

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is pursuing various hypersonic delivery systems to augment its already impressive arsenal of precision strike capabilities. Hypersonic missiles are emerging as a highly valued weapon system for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and other advanced militaries due to their unique combination of attributes, which include: 1) sustained high speed (by definition flying at least five times the speed of sound after separation from launcher); 2) increased maneuverability, either through powered flight or during gliding descent toward a target; and 3) altitude—many hypersonic missiles fly in the upper atmosphere for much of their trajectory, which is higher than most cruise missiles but lower than the apogee of standard ballistic missiles.

China’s new hypersonic delivery vehicles, which could be armed with either conventional or nuclear munitions, could better attack many time-sensitive, mobile, or high-value targets compared with non-hypersonic missiles as well as crewed or uncrewed planes. Such capabilities would impact the existing security balance in the Indo-Pacific and potentially contribute to escalating regional tensions. Hypersonics’ attributes make them especially difficult to intercept for the existing air, sea, and land-based missile defense systems of the United States and its allies, which have been designed to counter ballistic missiles flying more predictable trajectories in outer space or slower cruise missiles flying closer to the earth’s surface.