9 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.

China’s Nuclear and Missile Capabilities: An Overview

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Since China first conducted a nuclear weapon test in 1964, its nuclear doctrine has remained unchanged and is underpinned by two principles: a minimum deterrent doctrine and a No First Use (NFU) policy. China’s 2019 defence white paper states, “China is always committed to a nuclear policy of NFU of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances, and not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones unconditionally.”

However, a recent U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) report claims that the scope of China’s nuclear modernisation and its lack of transparency “raise concern that China is not only shifting its requirements for what constitutes a minimal deterrence but that it could shift away from its longstanding minimalist force posture.” The data available show that China is modernising and expanding virtually every element of its nuclear forces, including each aspect of its nuclear weapons and missile, sea, and air delivery systems. What is not clear are China’s current and planned holdings of nuclear weapons, China’s future plans for deploying additional delivery systems, its commitment to some form of NFU, first preemption, or launch on warning, and the extent to which it will accept what might be called a form of ‘minimum assured destruction.

U.S. Airstrikes in Afghanistan Could Be a Sign of What Comes Next

Helene Cooper, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Eric Schmitt

WASHINGTON — The White House authorization of one more bombing campaign in Afghanistan, just weeks before the U.S. military mission is set to end, has a modest stated goal — to buy time for Afghan security forces to marshal some kind of defense around the major cities that are under siege by a surging Taliban.

But the dozens of airstrikes, which began two weeks ago as the Taliban pushed their front lines deep into urban areas, also laid bare the big question now facing President Biden and the Pentagon as the United States seeks to wind down its longest war. Will the American air campaign continue after Aug. 31, the date the president has said would be the end of combat involvement in Afghanistan?

The White House and the Pentagon insist these are truly the final days of American combat support, after the withdrawal of most troops this summer after 20 years of war. Beginning next month, the president has said, the United States will engage militarily in Afghanistan only for counterterrorism reasons, to prevent the country from becoming a launchpad for attacks against the West. That would give Afghan security forces mere weeks to fix years of poor leadership and institutional failures, and rally their forces to defend what territory they still control.

Can Uzbekistan and Pakistan Help Stabilize Afghanistan?

James Durso

A recent conference on connectivity between Central Asia and South Asia was notable for the warm relations between the host, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The leaders, an ex-Soviet technocrat and a sports-hero playboy, seem unlikely allies but the necessities of politics and economics have pushed them together.

Khan was most complimentary to his Uzbek host, who returned the encomiums, but the public bonhomie has a foundation in decisions by the two states to optimize the trade routes that will grow their economies and, hopefully, stabilize Afghanistan by making it part of the regional trade regime.

It is also the start of the home-grown approach to regional stability and economic growth in the wake of the U.S. and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan.

A Near Press Blackout in Afghanistan

Megan K. Stack

The exit of the last American commander from Afghanistan was marked by a strange and sombre ceremony. Standing outside the military headquarters in Kabul, among flagpoles left bare by nations that had already pulled down their banners and gone home, Austin Scott Miller, the longest-serving general of America’s longest foreign war, spoke to a smattering of Afghan and U.S. officials and a handful of journalists.

He gave no declaration of victory, nor promise of return. The brief, formal event sounded, at times, like a eulogy. “Our job now is just not to forget,” Miller said. “It will be important to know that someone remembers, that someone cares, and that we’re able to talk about it in the future.”

The mission flag was rolled and handed off from Miller to Marine Corps General Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., who will oversee the Afghan operation from Tampa. The guests wandered back into the city; the reporters peeled off. Miller’s travel plans were secret, and there had been quiet warnings against capturing images of the general boarding a helicopter. Gordon Lubold, who covers the Pentagon for the Wall Street Journal, circled back to the headquarters later that day for a meeting, so he happened to hear Miller’s Blackhawk churning up into the Afghan skies, followed by a Chinook carrying members of Miller’s staff.

Taliban Rampage Puts Afghan Journalists in Crosshairs

Lynne O’Donnell

HERAT, Afghanistan—Across Afghanistan, as the Taliban ramp up atrocities in the areas under their control, journalists are fleeing for their lives, terrified the insurgents will make good on threats to kill them and their families unless they start pumping out favorable copy.

The exodus is a potential death knell for one of the true success stories of the last 20 years, when Afghanistan fostered the region’s freest press. But in just the past four months, 51 media outlets have closed, according to Afghan journalism watchdogs, and hundreds of news professionals have left their jobs. In some parts of Afghanistan, newsrooms have been destroyed or looted, and many journalists say they receive messages threatening consequences unless they start reporting about the insurgents positively. Many believe it is only a matter of time before the Taliban make good on those threats.

Storay Karimi—the only Afghan woman working as a war correspondent—left her home in the western city of Herat this week after receiving death threats from the Taliban. Her reports for Pajhwok Afghan News—an agency that publishes in Pashto and Dari, Afghanistan’s two main languages, as well as in English—illuminated the conflict in Herat, an important and wealthy province bordering Iran that is facing a desperate fight to keep the Taliban out.

Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline: Russia’s Key to South Asia?

Sergey Sukhankin

Russian Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov and Pakistan’s ambassador to Moscow, Shafqat Ali Khan, signed a revised agreement on May 28 that initiates the construction of the planned Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline (PSGP) (Minenergo.gov.ru, May 28). Formerly known as the North-South Gas Pipeline, this infrastructural mega-project (1,100 kilometers in length) is expected to cost up to $2.5 billion and should be completed by 2023. The pipeline will secure the delivery of 12.3 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas per year from the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in Karachi and Gwadar to the large north-central city of Lahore. Importantly, this project will be the first such large-scale economic initiative between Moscow and Islamabad undertaken since the mid-1970s.

From an economic point of view, the PSGP promises to be highly beneficial to Pakistan. On the one hand, as a net importer of energy, Pakistan will be able to obtain new steady sources of natural gas indispensable for its economy and transport this gas to the densely populated industrialized north. At the same time, the project will enable the country—whose main industries are still dependent on the consumption of coal—to take a decisive step away from the use of this dirty and incredibly carbon-intensive fuel, gradually replacing it with relatively more ecologically sustainable natural gas (RIA Novosti, May 28).

Why the Quad Alarms China

Kevin Rudd

When former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe invited officials from Australia, India, and the United States to meet in Manila in November 2017, Chinese leaders saw little reason to worry. This gathering of “the Quad,” as the grouping was known, was merely “a headline-grabbing idea,” scoffed Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. “They are like the sea foam in the Pacific or Indian Ocean: they get some attention but will soon dissipate.” Beijing had some reason for such dismissiveness. The interests of the Quad’s members were, Chinese strategists assessed, too divergent to allow for real coherence. Anyway, the Quad grouping had already been tried more than a decade earlier, with little in the way of real results.

Within a few years of that November 2017 gathering, however, Beijing had started to rethink its initial dismissiveness. By March of this year, when the Quad held its first leader-level summit and issued its first leader-level communique, Chinese officials had begun to view the Quad with growing concern. Since then, Beijing has concluded that the Quad represents one of the most consequential challenges to Chinese ambitions in the years ahead.

Would a 'neighborhood watch' really deter China's Asia-Pacific aggression?


A recent report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) suggests a “neighborhood watch approach” to coordinate unmanned systems and sensors. This approach to multilateral security, described as “low risk” by the authors, is advocated as a means to deter China’s political and military moves in the Asia-Pacific.

While mostly technical and tactical in scope, the report’s approach touches on an issue of broader military and political import for the region — namely, is a multilateral security architecture the most effective way to deter China? And if so, are methods such as coordinated surveillance a good way to start building such an architecture?

The CSBA report comes at an interesting time, in view of the Wall Street Journal’s recent analysis of Japan’s efforts to develop an independent military capability to deter China. This capability, while explicitly connected to Taiwan’s security, does not depart from Tokyo’s firm commitment to alliance with the U.S. Similar investments are being made in India, where modernization of naval and other capability is driven by concerns about China’s aggression.

How a fake network pushes pro-China propaganda

Flora Carmichael

A sprawling network of more than 350 fake social media profiles is pushing pro-China narratives and attempting to discredit those seen as opponents of China's government, according to a new study.

The aim is to delegitimise the West and boost China's influence and image overseas, the report by the Centre for Information Resilience (CIR) suggests.

The study, shared with the BBC, found that the network of fake profiles circulated garish cartoons depicting, among others, exiled Chinese tycoon Guo Wengui, an outspoken critic of China.

Other controversial figures featured in the cartoons included "whistleblower" scientist Li-Meng Yan, and Steve Bannon, former political strategist for Donald Trump.

China and the Element of Surprise

George Friedman

A war between China and the United States would be a war between peer powers. That’s not to say they are identical powers; all nations differ in terms of geography, strategy, manpower, weaponry and so on. But they are peers in that at least on the surface each appears perfectly capable of defeating the other. Planning before war becomes all the more important as each side seeks to identify the weakness of its enemy and deploy the force needed to rapidly defeat him. The desire of the attacking power is to strike a blow so powerful and so damaging that the enemy will either capitulate or negotiate a satisfactory settlement. First strike is critical.

Central to striking a successful first blow is the element of surprise. If one side is aware of the intent and the plan of its enemy, a peer power will alert its forces and concentrate them to defeat or deflect the blow. During the 20th century, most major peer conflicts were cloaked in surprise. The German invasion of France through Belgium in World War I was unanticipated by the French, as was the German strike into France through the Ardennes in World War II. The Japanese hid their intent to strike Pearl Harbor operationally and diplomatically, carrying out peace talks with the United States in the hours before the attack. The Germans hid their intention of invading the Soviet Union in 1941, even as they massed their forces. The United States and Britain managed to confuse Germany as to the site of the invasion of France, even though it was clear to everyone that an attack was coming.

The Great COVID Stonewall of China


NEW DELHI – COVID-19 has now been with us for more than a year and a half. It has stopped societies in their tracks, triggered sharp economic downturns, and killed more than 4.2 million people. But we still do not know where the deadly virus came from, for a simple reason: China does not want us to know.

China first reported that a novel coronavirus had emerged in Wuhan weeks after its initial detection. This should not be a surprise. The ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) prefers to suppress information that might cast it in an unflattering light, and the emergence of COVID-19 within the country’s borders undoubtedly fits this description. In fact, the Chinese authorities went so far as to detain whistleblowers for “spreading rumors.”

By the time China told the world about COVID-19, it was far too late to contain the virus. Yet, the CPC has not learned its lesson. Understanding whether the coronavirus emerged naturally in wildlife or was leaked from a lab is essential to forestall another pandemic. But the CPC has been doing everything in its power to prevent an independent forensic investigation into the matter.

China Is Embracing a New Bind in Afghanistan

James Jennion

The United States’ withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan has thrown the future balance of power in the country into question. China, craving stability in its neighborhood, is widely anticipated to step up in Afghanistan and try to partner with the Taliban. As China attempts to fill the U.S.’ shoes, it could face an uncomfortable tension between its draconian policies in Xinjiang and its attempts to build influence with its Muslim majority neighbors.

However, a fruitful Beijing-Taliban relationship would have global resonance. Should this illiberal partnership become successful, it will become a success story of the authoritarian model that will only encourage further global backsliding from democracy and human rights. To prevent this and shore up human rights protection in both countries, democracies should focus their efforts in Afghanistan on a dual-pronged approach, by using diplomatic work to highlight Beijing’s hypocrisy on Xinjiang and building support for human rights and good governance on the ground in Afghanistan.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative in South Asia: An assessment and outlook

Muhammad Faisal

When China announced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) over seven years ago, South Asia was the region where its first large-scale plans were implemented (Yuan 2019). Through vast investments to upgrade dilapidated infrastructure, China sought to improve inter-regional and intra-regional connectivity. China’s objective was to stabilize its restive periphery through enhanced economic connectivity and trade between Western Chinese provinces and neighbouring countries (Holt 2020).

Yet it is in South Asia that BRI is confronting its most pressing challenges. China seems unprepared for the impact that regional politics and local political economies could have on national and local governments as they work to see through the implementation of projects. From India-Pakistan tensions, to the Maldives and Sri Lanka leveraging their relations with China to balance India, and local politics influencing economic decision-making, BRI is under increasing strain. Indeed, BRI projects in South Asia have emerged as another battleground in the broader US-China strategic competition, in which Washington and New Delhi are actively pushing back against Chinese investment projects (Sharma 2019).

What’s Driving China’s Nuclear Buildup?


China’s nuclear arsenal appears to be expanding substantially for the first time in years. Over the past few decades, China had maintained only about twenty silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). But recent evidence from independent U.S. experts shows that the country is likely constructing more than 200 new missile silos. China’s current program to modernize and update its nuclear weapons is moving at an unprecedented speed and scale.

This expansion is poised to change China’s traditionally small and mostly land-based arsenal across the board. Besides silo-based ICBMs, China also is building more road-mobile ICBMs and strategic nuclear submarines, even as it introduces air-based nuclear capabilities. The possibility that China could use fissile material produced in civil nuclear facilities to build up its nuclear warhead stockpile has raised further concerns because this would eliminate the biggest constraint on China’s warhead stockpiling capacity. The open-ended nature of this expansion, the abrupt departure from China’s long-standing minimalist nuclear policy, and the lack of any official Chinese confirmation or explanation have all contributed to confusion and suspicions about Beijing’s intentions.

ISIS remains a persistent 'low-level' threat in Iraq and Syria, US report says


The Islamic State group remains a threat seven years after it swept through Syria and Iraq, but it has not mounted any deliberate attacks on coalition forces in over two years, the U.S. military said.

This week marks the anniversary of ISIS’s slaughter of some 5,500 members of the Yazidi minority in northwestern Iraq and forced enslavement of over 6,000 others in 2014.

It’s been over two years since the terrorist group was ousted from the last of its territorial strongholds in Iraq and Syria, but it continues to exploit sectarian, political and security weaknesses in the region.

U.S. Central Command believes that the terrorists can likely “operate indefinitely in the Syrian desert” at current levels, the Defense Department Inspector General’s office said in a quarterly report to Congress published Tuesday.

Iraq, the United States, and the “New” Middle East

Anthony H. Cordesman

The U.S. “long war” in Afghanistan may be ending, although it is far from clear what will happen when U.S. forces fully withdraw, and there is no way to predict what kind of new government will emerge and what level of U.S. aid and assistance – if any – will continue. The story in Iraq, however, is very different. The “long war” in Iraq against ISIS and extremist movements has broken up the ISIS “caliphate” – although elements of ISIS remain all too active – but Iraq remains a major strategic interest, faces a serious threat of being at least partially dominated by Iran, and is a country where the U.S. needs to forge some form of a new strategic partnership if this proves possible .

Iraq’s strategic importance is all too clear. Iraq has the world’s fifth-largest proven crude oil reserves at 145 billion barrels, representing 17% of proven reserves in the Middle East and 8% of global reserves. It not only is strategically important in itself, but its position between a hostile Iran and a Syria tied to Russia will have a major impact on the stability of the Gulf and the Levant – so will Iraq’s Kurdish population that has long created tension with Turkey.

Iraq shares a border with Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and an Iraq that came under major Iranian (and Syrian) control or influence – or some hostile Shi’ite faction – would not only threaten two key American strategic partners, but it would greatly increase the potential regional threat to Israel – as would any major security and economic ties between Iraq and Russia and/or China.

Tehran’s Troubling Role in the Middle East Security Showdown

Paul R. Pillar

Ostracizing another state—isolating it and refusing to conduct normal business with it—to punish or debilitate the state or to try to coerce it into changing its policies inevitably involves self-denial. The diplomacy of the ostracizer, not just the target of the ostracism, is curtailed. It becomes difficult or even impossible for the ostracizer to accomplish anything positive that requires diplomacy and that by its nature inevitably involves the targeted state.

Iran as a target of the United States is a leading example. U.S.-Iranian diplomacy has been impaired or impeded to varying degrees through nearly all of the four decades since the Iranian revolution. The objective of nuclear nonproliferation, and more specifically closing all possible paths to the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon, was served only through diplomatic engagement with Tehran. It was not served during all the periods, before and after, when the United States shunned such engagement. As long as the diplomatic channel was open for nuclear negotiations it also served other U.S. interests, such as the speedy return of U.S. sailors and their vessels after they had strayed into Iranian waters.

Biden Leaves Afghanistan, Pulls Back in Iraq, But U.S. Troops Fight On in Syria


Just over six months into his tenure, President Joe Biden has overseen the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and pulled back the Pentagon's mission in Iraq amid domestic and regional pressure.

But in Syria, the U.S. military remains with no discernable exit plan.

"Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria are three completely separate issues and should not be conflated," a senior Biden administration official told Newsweek. "On Syria, we do not anticipate any changes right now to the mission or the footprint."

And that's because the administration says the strategy is working as is.

"As a reminder, in Syria, we are supporting Syrian Democratic Forces in their fight against ISIS," the official said. "That has been quite successful, and that's something that we'll continue."


David Brooks

The dispossessed set out early in the mornings. They were the outsiders, the scorned, the voiceless. But weekend after weekend—unbowed and undeterred—they rallied together. They didn’t have much going for them in their great battle against the privileged elite, but they did have one thing—their yachts.

During the summer and fall of 2020, a series of boat parades—Trumptillas—cruised American waters in support of Donald Trump. The participants gathered rowdily in great clusters. They festooned their boats with flags—American flags, but also message flags: don’t tread on me, no more bullshit, images of Trump as Rambo.

The women stood on the foredecks in their red, white, and blue bikinis, raising their Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys to salute the patriots in nearby boats. The men stood on the control decks projecting the sort of manly toughness you associate with steelworkers, even though these men were more likely to be real-estate agents. They represent a new social phenomenon: the populist regatta. They are doing pretty well but see themselves as the common people, the regular Joes, the overlooked. They didn’t go to fancy colleges, and they detest the mainstream media. “It’s so encouraging to see so many people just coming together in a spontaneous parade of patriotism,” Bobi Kreumberg, who attended a Trumptilla in Palm Beach, Florida, told a reporter from WPTV.

Like It or Not, Biden Will Have to Live With Russia’s Energy Exports

Nikolas Gvosdev

History does not repeat itself, as Mark Twain remarked, but it does rhyme. And when it comes to its policies on Russia, climate and energy, the Biden team is dealing with Obama-era echoes.

Seven years ago, in my then-weekly column for WPR, I called attention to the internal tensions in the Obama administration’s climate, energy and geopolitical priorities. Back then, the United States was trying to square several irreconcilable circles. One had to do with reducing Russia’s global influence by constraining its sales of energy. Another was putting the brakes on domestic U.S. energy projects that would both increase hydrocarbon usage and despoil the environment. Still another was making sure Americans weren’t paying the price for these two policies at the pump.

On top of all this, the Obama administration’s overriding foreign policy priority at the time was to put significant economic pressure on the Iranian regime in order to secure the nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. That meant that the U.S., in asking allies and partners to significantly reduce their energy purchases from Iran, could not easily object to them substituting Russian sources of supply. At the same time, Washington could also not afford to alienate Moscow, which played a key role in the multilateral negotiations for the nuclear deal.

All the Ways America Failed to Stop the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks


These are some of the most studied days in American history, and some of the saddest. From President George W. Bush receiving his first warning on August 6 until that Tuesday of September 11, 19 Middle Eastern men methodically moved forward towards implementing their diabolical plot: unmolested by any authorities, undetected by either intelligence agencies or airlines.

U.S. intelligence knew that something was coming—something big—but it was anything but methodical. Despite countless signs that some terrorist planning and preparations involved large commercial airliners, the CIA was never able to put the pieces together. But more important, neither the CIA nor the FBI (nor other agencies) effectively used the tools that were at their disposal. There was no nationwide manhunt, no definitive warning to airlines or airport security. The federal government moved forward—oblivious, lackadaisical, even incompetent—with leaders mostly on vacation and workers never able to assemble the mosaic.

The promise of open-source intelligence

The great hope of the 1990s and 2000s was that the internet would be a force for openness and freedom. As Stewart Brand, a pioneer of online communities, put it: “Information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time.” It was not to be. Bad information often drove out good. Authoritarian states co-opted the technologies that were supposed to loosen their grip. Information was wielded as a weapon of war. Amid this disappointment one development offers cause for fresh hope: the emerging era of open-source intelligence (osint).

New sensors, from humdrum dashboard cameras to satellites that can see across the electromagnetic spectrum, are examining the planet and its people as never before. The information they collect is becoming cheaper. Satellite images cost several thousand dollars 20 years ago, today they are often provided free and are of incomparably higher quality. A photograph of any spot on Earth, of a stricken tanker or the routes taken by joggers in a city is available with a few clicks. And online communities and collaborative tools, like Slack, enable hobbyists and experts to use this cornucopia of information to solve riddles and unearth misdeeds with astonishing speed.

Opinion: New congressional report says covid-19 likely emerged in Wuhan months earlier than originally thought

Josh Rogin

Nineteen months after the start of the pandemic, the Chinese government continues to actively thwart a real investigation into the origins of covid-19. Now, a new GOP congressional report alleges that Beijing was covering up the outbreak for months longer than previously assumed.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee minority staff, led by ranking Republican Michael McCaul (Tex.), released Monday an 84-page addendum to their previously issued report on the origins of covid-19. Their new research focuses on whether the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the world’s leading bat coronavirus research center, as well as other labs in Wuhan, could have been the source of the outbreak. The report also presents extensive evidence that the international community may need to revise its timeline of the outbreak.

“It is our belief the virus leaked sometime in late August or early September 2019,” McCaul said in a statement accompanying the release of the report. “When they realized what happened, Chinese Communist Party officials and scientists at the WIV began frantically covering up the leak. … But their coverup was too late — the virus was already spreading throughout the megacity of Wuhan.”

The World Needs a New Marshall Plan

Rizal Ramli

As the world enters a new – and potentially more deadly – phase of the pandemic, politicians must do more than only grapple with how to handle the public health crisis. People everywhere having become fatigued with illness, incessant surges, lockdowns and financial distress, and they are now beginning to express their discontent in the streets. Already, we have seen masses in Brazil, Cuba, South Africa and more recently Malaysia gather in protest demanding political change. The unrest will become more widespread, and much worse, before it gets better.

The reason for this is in plain sight. A relatively much smaller access to vaccines compared to the developed world means less affluent countries will suffer from COVID-19 much longer than North America and Europe. In developing countries the average vaccination rate is below 20 percent, and in many poorer African countries the average rate is less than 5 percent. In low-income countries the overall vaccination rate is an astonishingly low 1.1 percent.

How Terrorists Could Proceed with the Next Physical Attack on Energy Infrastructure

James Madia

Power outages across much of Texas and rotating blackouts in California over the past year are reminders of the critical importance of reliable electric power. Past large-scale outages in the U.S. have resulted in loss of life, serious injury, social unrest, and economic impacts in the billions of dollars. The 2003 Northeast and 1977 New York blackouts are examples of consequences on this scale. What about intentional attacks on critical infrastructure? Could a malicious attack of the power grid lead to these types of catastrophic consequences? Are threat actors even motivated to conduct physical attacks against electric infrastructure (EI)? If so, can the experts quantify that threat and possibly predict which actors are most likely to conduct such attacks? I spent five years exploring these questions, which ultimately led to the completion of my doctoral dissertation at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. The following summarizes a portion of what I uncovered during my journey.

CTRL, HATE, PRINT: Terrorists and the appeal of 3D-printed weapons

Dr. Yannick Veilleux-Lepage

This summer two separate individuals with links to the extreme right were arrested or convicted in the United Kingdom (UK) on charges including offenses related to 3D-printed firearms. On 14 June, Dean Morrice, a former Army driver and neo-Nazi was sentenced to 18 years in prison for ten terrorism related offences. A 2020 police raid of his home led to the discovery of chemical precursors to make explosives, two 3D printers, and instructions on how to manufacture 3D-printed firearms and parts. Police also found a non-viable 3D-printed weapon leading them to issue a warning over potential terrorist use of 3D-printed firearms. Two days later, it was announced that a 15-year-old was due to stand trial on six terrorism related offences after being caught with digital documents that provided information on how to make explosives from household material and firearms using a 3D printer.

Considering these developments, this perspective investigates whether 3D-printed weapons represent a game-changer for the manufacturing of improvised firearms, before briefly investigating the legality of these firearms in various jurisdictions. Instances of terrorist use of 3D-printed firearms are discussed along with factors that may impede and promote the adoption of this technology.

Battle Networks and the Future Force

Todd Harrison

The Issue
As the first in a two-part series that explores the future of battle networks in the U.S. military—what has become known as Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2)—this paper examines the importance of battle networks to modern military operations and presents a framework of five functional elements that make up a battle network. This framework provides a common basis for conceptualizing and comparing existing systems and proposed new capabilities in terms of how they contribute to JADC2. The second brief in the series explores factors the Department of Defense (DoD) must contemplate in designing battle networks for the future force, including operational constraints, strategy and policy issues, and alternative acquisition approaches.
Defining the Challenge

Militaries use battle networks to detect what is happening on the battlefield, process that data into actionable information, decide on a course of action, communicate decisions among forces, act on those decisions, and assess the effectiveness of the actions taken. Battle networks are sometimes referred to as the “sensor-to-shooter kill chain” (or just the “kill chain”), and they are widely acknowledged as an increasingly important element of modern warfare.

Robots With Missiles: Is This What 22nd Century Combat Will Look Like?

Michael Peck

Pity the poor tank. As if armored fighting vehicles didn't have enough problems, from missiles and rockets to IEDs lurking in the dirt.

Now they are going to be hunted by anti-tank robots.

A prototype variant of the Titan unmanned ground vehicle, or UGV, mounts a Javelin anti-tank missile as well as a .50-caliber machine gun.

Estonian firm Milrem Robotics makes the Titan—a sort of jack-of-all-trades mechanical mule. It's a 1.6-ton, 8-foot-long tracked robot that stands four feet tall, travels at twelve miles per hour, and can haul about a ton of cargo. The Titan can be fitted with various modules for tasks such as IED clearance, casualty evacuation and hauling cargo. The U.S. army is now evaluating it to haul the equipment of an infantry squad.

Be Wary of Hype: Futuristic Weapons Might Not Be What You Expect

James Holmes

Beware of minor word choices when interacting with representatives of the military-industrial complex. Syntax can shape or misshape deliberations about strategy, force design, or budgeteering. Something as simple as speaking about some potential future capability or widget in the present tense can mislead. Such phrasing implies that the capability or widget already exists, that engineers have vetted the technology under real-world circumstances, and that acquiring it involves little risk. The upshot: it constitutes a worthy investment of taxpayer dollars. QED.

Not so fast.

Portraying future as present capability is a common tactic in defense circles. Case in point: over at the War Zone, the redoubtable Tyler Rogoway and Joseph Trevithick report on an effort by defense manufacturer General Atomics to field the “Defender,” an unmanned escort fighter aircraft meant to ward off attacks against U.S. Air Force tanker aircraft. I don’t mean to pick on General Atomics in particular. Its salesmanship is neither unusual nor especially egregious. It simply fits into and illustrates a pattern.