15 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.

Afghanistan’s Collapse Begins at the Top

Candace Rondeaux

If we are to believe American intelligence assessments leaked this week, it is only a matter of time before Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, falls to the Taliban. Judging by the worrying news from several of my Afghan friends and colleagues who are now all clamoring to get out of the country, it could even be a couple of weeks. For some, it’s shocking to think that the city of roughly 5 million at the center of the country’s heartland could soon be the next to fall, after the Taliban’s aggressively swift push to seize control of provincial capitals in the north.

But for close watchers of the political churn that has unfolded all summer inside Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s Cabinet and the Afghan security agencies, the impending collapse of the seat of the Afghan government was entirely predictable. There is no sugarcoating the facts. Ghani’s government is in free fall, and the leadership ranks of Afghanistan’s security services are in complete disarray.

“Not Our Tragedy”: the Taliban Are Coming Back, and America Is Still Leaving

Susan B. Glasser

At least Joe Biden is owning it. “I do not regret my decision,” the President said this week, as provincial capital after provincial capital in Afghanistan fell to the Taliban while the Afghan government—propped up by two decades of U.S. support—looked soon to suffer its long-predicted post-American collapse. “Afghan leaders have to come together. We lost thousands—lost to death and injury—thousands of American personnel. They’ve got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation,” Biden said on Tuesday, making it as clear as he could that he would not revisit his decision to pull out. America is finally, definitively, done with the war in Afghanistan after two decades, never mind the consequences.

The words from the Biden Administration in the face of this unfolding disaster have been strikingly cold. Biden himself, normally the most empathetic of politicians, did not address the predictable and predicted human tragedy that his April decision to withdraw the roughly thirty-five hundred U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan has now unleashed. The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, followed his comments by blaming the Afghan military, which the U.S. funded, trained, equipped, and built over twenty years, for its fate. “They have what they need,” she said. “What they need to determine is if they have the political will to fight back.” The State Department, for its part, put out the word that it was making a last-ditch diplomatic push to convince the Taliban that their government will be an international pariah if they take over the country by force. Does anyone think that will stop them?

Afghanistan Videos Show Taliban Victories, Government Retreat As Collapse Looms


Videos emerging from Afghanistan show Taliban fighters advancing into and seizing some of the country's largest cities, while the Afghan National Army retreats into ever-shrinking areas of government control.

The Taliban have seized at least 10 provincial capitals in the past week, accelerating a nationwide offensive that began soon after President Joe Biden set August 31 as the deadline for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the country.

Afghanistan Updates: Taliban captures major cities, U.S. sends 3,000 troops to evacuate embassy

The militant group—undefeated through a 20-year insurgency against American, NATO and government forces—appears poised to seize control of the country for the first time since 2001.

The Taliban now control two-thirds of Afghanistan. How did it happen so quickly?

The Taliban on Wednesday seized three more Afghan provincial capitals and a local military headquarters in northern Afghanistan. The insurgents now hold some two-thirds of the nation as the U.S. and NATO finalize their withdrawal after decades of war. Bill Riggio, a senior fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the editor of their Long War Journal, joins Stephanie Sy to discuss.

Stephanie Sy:

William, the Taliban's seizure of nine provincial capitals and vast, surrounding lands now means that the insurgents hold loose control of two-thirds of Afghanistan. All this as the U.S. and NATO finalize their withdrawal by the end of this month, after two decades of war.

So what has been the Taliban's strategy? How have they conquered this territory so quickly?

For that, we turn to Bill Roggio. He is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the editor of their "Long War Journal."

Bill Roggio, thank you for joining the NewsHour.

The Taliban Captured Helicopters. Can They Capture an Air Force?


The Afghan National Security Forces has a long record of losing track of U.S.-supplied guns and rifles. But as the Taliban gains territory following the U.S. troop withdrawal, Afghanistan could lose far more lethal weapons: combat aircraft.

The Pentagon says that has not happened yet, and that the Afghan Air Force continues to fly missions and carry out airstrikes against the Taliban every day. But Taliban fighters reportedly have captured armored vehicles, small surveillance drones, and several unflyable helicopters. Could they capture more?

“We are always worried about U.S. equipment that could fall into an adversaries’ hands,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Friday. “What actions we might take to prevent that or to forestall it, I just simply won't speculate about today.”

As of June 30, the Afghan Air Force had just over 200 aircraft, but only 167 were available for missions, according to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Most of the planes operate from two bases, one in Kabul and the other in Kandahar. The Taliban took control of Kandahar earlier today, including the airfield.

Biden’s Optimistic Promises Are Collapsing in Afghanistan


The only surprise about the swift collapse of the Afghan army is that anyone should be surprised about it. Once U.S. and NATO troops pulled out entirely, the collapse was inevitable.

Still, many are startled, and not without reason. They assumed that, after 20 years of being armed and trained by U.S. troops and contractors, Afghan soldiers would have learned enough to stave off Taliban militias on their own, or at least slow them down. But the Taliban’s onslaught has been fierce, whole provinces are rapidly changing hands (three in one day earlier this week), and Kabul is all but certain to fall soon. When the Taliban’s assaults first began in late June, U.S. intelligence analysts worried that the Taliban might take over in six to 12 months; now they’re saying it could happen in 90 days. That estimate too may prove overly optimistic.

The problem is not the Afghan soldiers, many of whom are fighting valiantly. The problem is that the complete U.S. withdrawal has made it impossible for them to fight coherently. It has meant not just the disappearance of American troops, who, in any case, hadn’t engaged in direct combat for quite a while. (No U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan since early February 2020.) More crucially, it has meant the disappearance of close air support, logistics, intelligence and surveillance, repair and maintenance of weapons and vehicles, medevac units for the wounded, and rapid helicopter transport from one part of the country to another.

Ghazni City falls to the Taliban

Source Link

Ghazni City, the capital of a southeastern Afghan province with the same name, is the tenth provincial capital to fall to the Taliban in one week. It is strategically important terrain for the jihadists, as it sits on the road to Kabul.

Ghazni Province, which Osama bin Laden once described as a key safe haven for Al Qaeda, is now effectively under Taliban control. A senior member of al Qaeda’s global management team was killed during a counterterrorism raid in a Taliban-controlled area of Ghazni just last year.

The Taliban launched their final assault on Ghazni City yesterday, quickly capturing the governor’s compound, the police headquarters, the prison, and other key installations.
Ghazni’s governor, Dawood Laghmani, fled the city after cutting a deal with the Taliban. So did the police chief. Laghmani was “escorted” out of Ghazni City and was later arrested by Afghan security forces in Wardak province for “handing over the city to the Taliban,” according to Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary.

Why is the Taliban on such a winning streak, and can the tide be turned?


It’s been a punishing few days for Afghanistan’s U.S.-created and supported army.

Since Friday, the Taliban has overrun bastions of government control, snatching more than a quarter of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals on its way to controlling an estimated 65% of the country. On Wednesday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani raced to the north to rally a defense of besieged Mazar-i-Sharif, the country’s fourth-largest city.

With U.S. forces set to complete their pullout in less than three weeks, the Taliban’s breakneck advance has many observers asking: After two decades and billions of dollars spent by the U.S. and its partners to create effective Afghan fighting forces, what happened? And can they stop the Taliban from taking over the entire country?

Speed of Taliban Advance Surprises Biden Administration, Dismays U.S. Allies

Vivian Salama, Nancy A. Youssef and Gordon Lubold

WASHINGTON—When President Biden this spring announced the decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan, his administration expected the Afghan military to defend key cities and perhaps battle the Taliban to a stalemate.

Before the current Taliban offensive, U.S. officials said they didn’t expect the takeover of any provincial capital until fall at the earliest.

Instead, a carefully planned strategy carried out by the Taliban has produced swift battlefield advances, allowing insurgents to seize a succession of provincial capitals since Friday. Three more fell Tuesday, bringing the total to nine, including several major cities.

The latest U.S. intelligence assessment said Kabul could fall to militants in as soon as a month, officials said. U.S. officials now worry that Afghan civilians, soldiers and others will flee the city ahead of a Taliban assault.

The rapid collapse of regular Afghan forces has dismayed allies, including those that have contributed troops to the U.S.-led coalition, and revived worries about the value of U.S. commitments overseas. India closed a consulate and sent a plane to retrieve its citizens this week. The U.S. military and State Department this week accelerated plans to evacuate

Biden deserves blame for the debacle in Afghanistan

Peter Bergen

(CNN)A group of religious warriors, riding on captured American military vehicles, vanquish a US-trained military, which relinquishes much of its power without a fight.

Sound familiar?

That's what happened in Iraq after the US withdrawal of troops from the country at the end of 2011. Within three years, an army of ISIS fighters was only a few miles from the gates of Baghdad and had taken many of the significant cities in Iraq.

It was then-Vice President Joe Biden who had negotiated the Obama administration's drawdown from Iraq.

In 2014, after ISIS began ethnic cleansing in Iraq and murdering American journalists and aid workers, then-President Barack Obama reversed that decision and sent additional military support -- upping the troop presence to 2,900.

The Debacle in Afghanistan

Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates famously wrote that President Biden has been on the wrong side of every major foreign-policy issue in his long career. The world is getting another example as Mr. Biden’s hell-bent, ill-planned withdrawal from Afghanistan is turning into a strategic defeat and moral debacle.

The Taliban march to Kabul continues with the fall of more provincial capitals each day. The last count was 12 capitals, including Ghazni City on the road between the major cities of Kandahar and Kabul. Reinforcing Afghan forces defending Kandahar will become harder if the road is blocked.

The Afghan government is trying to mount a counterattack, and President Ashraf Ghani has sacked another army chief. But the Taliban now controls at least eight entire provinces, according to the Long War Journal, and its reach includes areas in the north that the Taliban didn’t control when it ruled the country before 9/11. The city of Herat also fell Thursday, and Kandahar could be next.

Many Afghan troops are fighting bravely, but they lack the air support that has been their main military advantage. Mr. Biden blundered in withdrawing all U.S. air power from the country, including private contractors who assist the Afghan air force in maintaining helicopters and planes. The contractors are now literally having to assist via Zoom calls, while the U.S. military flies too few sorties from the Persian Gulf region to slow the Taliban.

The grand illusion: Hiding the truth about the Afghanistan war’s ‘conclusion’

Craig Whitlock

President Barack Obama had promised to end the war, so on Dec. 28, 2014, U.S. and NATO officials held a ceremony at their headquarters in Kabul to mark the occasion. A multinational color guard paraded around. Music played. A four-star general gave a speech and solemnly furled the green flag of the U.S.-led international force that had flown since the beginning of the conflict.

In a statement, Obama called the day “a milestone for our country” and said the United States was safer and more secure after 13 years of war.

“Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion,” he declared.

Army Gen. John Campbell, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces, also hailed the purported end of the “combat mission” and embellished some of its achievements. Since the start of the war, he asserted falsely, life expectancy for the average Afghan had increased by 21 years.

Stunning Speed of Taliban Offensive Brings Afghan Government's Control Into Question


KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban captured a police headquarters Thursday in a provincial capital in southern Afghanistan teetering toward being lost to the insurgents as suspected U.S. airstrikes pounded the area, an official said.

Fighting raged in Lashkar Gah, one of Afghanistan’s largest cities in the Taliban heartland of Helmand province, where surrounded government forces hoped to hold onto the capital after the militants’ weeklong blitz has seen them already seized nine others around the country.

Afghan security forces and the government have not responded to repeated requests for comment over the days of fighting. However, President Ashraf Ghani is trying to rally a counteroffensive relying on his country’s special forces, the militias of warlords and American airpower ahead of the U.S. and NATO withdrawal at the end of the month.

What Went Wrong With Afghanistan’s Defense Forces?

Lynne O’Donnell

KABUL—Fighting forces dissolve in hot battle. The United States bombards insurgent positions to prevent the country from collapse. As the Taliban’s offensive risks becoming a rout, analysts and observers—as well as Afghans themselves—are asking, what went wrong with Afghanistan’s defense forces?

The United States and its allies have invested billions of dollars developing, arming and training Afghanistan’s Army, Air Force, Special Forces commandos and police. America alone has spent almost $83 billion on Afghanistan’s defense sector since 2001, when it led an invasion following the 9/11 attacks. NATO said it has donated more than $70 million in supplies to Afghanistan’s defense forces, including medical equipment and body armor, so far this year.

Yet in the past week, 10 provincial capitals have fallen in Afghanistan. According to security and regional sources, four of those capitals were effectively handed to the insurgents by national forces that refused to put up a fight. Experts are now predicting the national capital, Kabul, will come under attack as soon as next month.

Beyond Pakistan’s 2021-22 budget: The economy and growth

Uzair Younus

On June 29, 2021, Pakistan’s National Assembly passed the country’s 2021– 2022 budget, which had been prepared and tabled by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin. Recently appointed to his position, Tarin has positioned the budget as being growth oriented in focus, with significant increases to subsidies, public-sector development, and salaries of government employees. After successive budgets that had focused on austerity—in part due to the conditions imposed under the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) macroeconomic stabilization program—the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has signaled that it will increasingly focus on generating economic growth in the second half of its five-year term.

The budget, however, has raised concerns among domestic and international economic analysts, primarily due to its large spending increases and lack of focus on economic reforms that improve tax collection, rationalize energy tariffs, and reign in the burgeoning debt in the power sector, which has crossed the $14-billion level in recent months. Critics have also argued that, while the budget has created optimism in terms of growth prospects, it does not signal a commitment to taking credible steps to address major challenges that have created headwinds against sustainable growth. They also argue that the budget increases the risk of Pakistan abandoning its agreement with the IMF, potentially leading to higher borrowing costs in the international bond market and risking a repeat of previous economic crises that Pakistan has faced.

Inside the Biden administration as Afghanistan collapses

Jonathan Swan, Zachary Basu, Glen Johnson

The Taliban has stunned even some seasoned military and national security officials in the U.S. government with the speed of its conquests over the past week, sources with direct knowledge of the developments tell Axios.

Why it matters: President Biden isn't budging — resolved to get out by Aug. 31, no matter what — people briefed on his thinking say. He may not see much of a pause between his total withdrawal from Afghanistan and the country's total collapse into a bloody civil war.

Driving the news: "I do not regret my decision," Biden told reporters Tuesday. "We spent over a trillion dollars, over 20 years. We trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces ... they've got to fight for themselves."

But the Taliban has toppled nine provincial capitals in six days and now controls an estimated 65% of the country.

Afghanistan in the Era of Fentanyl

Victoria A. Greenfield, Bryce Pardo, Jirka Taylor

Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of illegal opium poppy and is a key source for heroin markets across Europe and Asia. For decades, illegal opiates have helped sustain farmers and workers in rural Afghanistan while funding nonstate actors and insurgent groups. Although many policymakers have sought to end this illegal production, few policy analysts have considered the broad impacts of a sudden, lasting end for Afghanistan. Given the rise and dominance of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids as they displace heroin in major drug markets in the Americas, the authors assess what might happen to Afghanistan if demand for its opiates dropped off sharply and permanently. A rapid collapse in the opiate market in Afghanistan could have devastating effects on rural populations and be disruptive to other sectors and actors in the economy. A more gradual decline in demand for Afghan opiates could ease the transition by giving Afghan households and the economy more time to adjust, but it might still result in lower living standards in an already-poor country and add to migratory pressures. The authors discuss how a collapse of the market for Afghan opiates could unfold and what role the international community may need to play should it occur. The loss of demand for Afghan opiates could have significant impacts on economic and political conditions, depending largely on the pace of change.

CCP outsourcing propaganda campaigns to content farms in Taiwan and Australia: Think tank

Liam Gibson

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A new report by Canberra-based think tank Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) reveals how audiences in Australia and Taiwan have been targeted by a common strategy of online manipulation via Chinese news content farms.

The report, Influence for hire: the Asia–Pacific’s online shadow economy, looks at cases of online manipulation in the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, and Australia, and shows how a range of commercial firms “from content farms through to high-end PR agencies” are implementing influence operations for state actors.

Researchers from the security-focused Australian think tank teamed up with Taiwanese civic group DoubleThink Lab to check two prominent Chinese-language content farms — Au123.com and Qiqis.org — for narrative alignment with Chinese state messaging surrounding the events of the Capitol Hill riot on Jan. 6.

China’s New Missile Fields Are Just Part of the PLA Rocket Force’s Growth


In recent weeks, the discovery of two large clusters of ballistic missile silos in western China forced observers to dramatically increase their estimates of China’s number of ICBM silos and even rethink beliefs about Beijing’s nuclear strategy. But this dramatic imagery—notably, captured by commercial satellites—is only the most visible part of a larger growth.

Until recently, the PLA Rocket Force had been known to maintain about 20 silos for its liquid-fueled DF-5 ICBMs. In late June, analysts at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies discovered about 120 more silos in a remote part of Gansu Province. This alone was huge news, representing a sudden six-fold increase. About four weeks later, analysts at the Federation of American Scientists announced the discovery of a second such area of almost equal size, this one located in a remote part of Xinjiang, about 240 miles from the small city of Hami. The second site is in an earlier stage of construction but appears large enough to eventually house about 110 silos. This puts the count at around 230, a more-than-ten-fold increase in the number of silos across an incredibly short period of time.

What We Got Wrong in Afghanistan

Mike Jason

Watching the rapid deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan—the Taliban have captured a third of the country’s provincial capitals in the weeks since the U.S. military pulled its troops out—has evoked a feeling of déjà vu for me.

In 2005, I was an adviser to an Iraqi infantry battalion conducting counterinsurgency operations in and around Baghdad, one of the most violent parts of Iraq during one of the most violent periods in that conflict. It was difficult to have any hope at the time. I returned to Iraq in 2009, this time in Mosul, where my unit advised and supported two Iraqi-army divisions, one Iraqi-federal-police division, and thousands of local police officers. This time, I sensed more progress: Leaving Iraq in 2010, I felt we had done a great job, turning a corner and building a capable and competent security force. A year later, I found myself in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, recruiting and training Afghan police units and commandos. After nine months there, I again rotated home thinking we had done some good.

Biden’s Allies Defend Afghanistan Withdrawal Amid Taliban Surge


Even as the Taliban captures large swaths of Afghanistan more quickly than predicted, some on the left are defending President Joe Biden’s order to pull out all American troops.

The Taliban on Thursday took control of Herat, Afghanistan's third-largest city, the latest win in an offensive that has seen the group take control of 12 provincial capitals. Though the intelligence community predicted in June that the Taliban could overrun Kabul within six to 12 months after the American departure on Aug. 31, officials now expect the Taliban will seize the capital within the next 90 days, the Washington Post reported.

In response, the Pentagon is sending 3,000 troops to Kabul to make sure the airport is safe to quickly evacuate U.S. embassy staff and Afghans who worked with American troops over the last two decades.

How Identity Propaganda Is Used to Undermine Political Power

Daniel Kreiss, Madhavi Reddi

Soon after Joe Biden chose California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate in the summer of 2020, the rash of attacks began. There was the typical rhetoric of then-President Trump on display in his calling her “nasty,” “disrespectful” and “phony.” There were also conspiracy theories about Harris’s parents’ immigration status and her eligibility for higher office, disingenuous and strategic questions about her Black identity, and stereotyped expectations of her racial and gender identity.

These attacks attempted to undermine the legitimacy of Harris’s candidacy by exploiting her identities and leveraging racist and sexist sentiments. In a recently published article in New Media & Society, we (along with Rachel Kuo) argue that these attacks on Harris should be understood as forms of “identity propaganda”—strategic narratives that target and exploit identity to maintain social and political orders and the power of dominant social groups. While there are many different types of identity that can be strategically mobilized, questioned and undermined, we focus our analysis on the particularly well-established forms of anti-Black racism, misogyny and xenophobia that were on display during Harris’s vice presidential run. These factors have long shaped American political culture and helped whites maintain their dominant group status. We argue that the attacks on Harris in 2020 reveal long-established patterns of “othering” nondominant groups and individuals, “essentializing” (assuming fixed traits) racial, ethnic and gender differences, and calling on nondominant people to “authenticate,” or prove, their group memberships. These patterns are designed to undermine the political standing of political figures from nondominant groups.

US official: US troops to help evacuate embassy in Kabul

Robert Burns and Lolita C. Baldor

WASHINGTON (AP) — With security rapidly deteriorating in Afghanistan, the United States is sending additional troops into the country to help evacuate some personnel from the embassy in Kabul, a U.S. official said Thursday.

The troops will provide ground and air support for the processing and security of Americans being sent out of the country, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss a plan not yet made public.

Afghan government forces are collapsing even faster than U.S. military leaders thought possible just a few months ago when President Joe Biden ordered a full withdrawal. But there’s little appetite at the White House, the Pentagon or among the American public for trying to stop the rout and it probably is too late to do so.

Easier to Get into War Than to Get Out: The Case of Afghanistan

Dr. Nazanin Azizian

Executive Summary
The dissolution of the Soviet Union effectively ended the Cold War and left the United States as the most powerful, secure, and prosperous nation in the world. The resulting military superiority, lack of rivals, and vast wealth provided the U.S. with unparalleled freedom to indulge in well-intended global missions to shape the world without seemingly incurring significant risks or consequences. In the 1990s, the U.S. advanced its interests to promote democratic governance and free market economies, foster individual freedom, and protect human rights. However, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, U.S. foreign policy focus shifted to combatting and defeating terrorism, predominantly in the Middle East and Africa. These missions would cost nearly $5.4 trillion and approximately 15,000 American lives.1

Unfortunately, the shortcomings of the U.S. war on terror policies over the last twenty years have repeatedly prevented the U.S. from achieving its envisioned outcomes of defeating terrorism and reshaping fragile regions in its own image. The United States’ inability to achieve its desired definition of success in its missions against terrorism has not been due to challenges by more powerful and strategically savvy enemies. Nor has it been due to insufficient expenditure of resources, nor to a lack of war-fighting experience. Instead, the lack of success has been far more due to shortcomings of U.S. foreign policies themselves. They have entangled the U.S. in protracted wars on terror and hindered its ability to secure its own interests in these conflicts.

How Has the Terrorism Threat Changed Twenty Years After 9/11?

Bruce Hoffman

The U.S. counterterrorism response to the September 11, 2001, attacks yielded some remarkable successes and disastrous failures in hunting al-Qaeda. The top terrorist threat today, though, is domestic rather than foreign.

How do al-Qaeda and its affiliates currently pose a threat to the United States and the rest of the world?

The al-Qaeda of today is nothing like it was on 9/11. Its founder and leader, Osama bin Laden, is long dead. With the notable exceptions of Ayman al-Zawahiri, a surgeon turned terrorist and the movement’s current emir, and Saif al-Adel, a former Egyptian army officer and al-Zawahiri’s most likely successor, every single senior al-Qaeda leader has been killed or captured. Seven of the movement’s top commanders have been eliminated since 2019. Today, al-Zawahiri himself is said to be in poor health.

But the ideology and motivation espoused by al-Qaeda is, unfortunately, as strong as ever. For instance, there are now four times as many Salafi-jihadi terrorist groups designated by the U.S. State Department as foreign terrorist organizations than there were on 9/11. And the most recent report from the United Nations’ monitoring team [PDF] points to al-Qaeda’s unimpeded growth in Africa, entrenchment in Syria, and presence in at least fifteen Afghan provinces, as well as its continued close relations with the Taliban.

Opinion: With a closer look, certainty about the ‘existential’ climate threat melts away

George F. Will

Journalism about climate change has a high ratio of certitude to certainty when reporting weather events or climate projections, such as this week’s U.N. report. There is a low ratio of evidence to passion in today’s exhortations to combat climate change with measures interestingly congruent with progressive agendas that pre-date climate anxieties.

Last year, CNN announced: “Oceans are warming at the same rate as if five Hiroshima bombs were dropped in every second.” True. However: “The earth absorbs sunlight (and radiates an equal amount of heat energy) equivalent to two thousand Hiroshima bombs per second.” That sentence is from “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters,” by physicist Steven E. Koonin, formerly of Caltech, now at New York University after serving as the senior scientist in President Barack Obama’s Energy Department and working on alternative energy for BP. His points are exclusively from the relevant scientific literature.

Because unusual weather events are routinely reported as consequences of climate change, Koonin warns: “Climate is not weather. Rather, it’s the average of weather over decades.” Of course the climate is changing (it never has not been in Earth’s 4.5 billion years), the carbon footprints of the planet’s 8 billion people affect the climate, and the effects should be mitigated by incentives for behavioral changes and by physical adaptations.

Media And Western Governments Give Little Chance To Non-Violence As A Tool Of Political Change – OpEd

Jonathan Power

By any reasonable measure violence should have had its day. Throughout our long history violence and war have solved little. In most cases, if not all, war could have been pre-empted by deft diplomacy and non-violent action.

Take Afghanistan where after America’s longest ever war the US and its allies are finally withdrawing their troops.

Like the British in the nineteenth century and the Soviet Union in the twentieth the invader has again been effectively defeated. The allied armies leave behind only a modest list of achievements. There is now a solid minority of educated girls and women. The infant mortality rate is down and the number of good roads up. But all this could have been achieved by well-thought-out development programs, bolstered with foreign aid, as it has been in a vast majority of Third World countries. It didn’t need an invasion to bring it about. Look at neighbouring Nepal, India, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Four Key Takeaways From the IPCC Climate Report

Christina Lu

The catastrophic impacts of human-induced climate change have perhaps never been clearer than they are this summer, as searing heat waves, record droughts, and deadly floods tear across the world.

It’s just the start of what experts forecast to be a worsening situation, according to the first new assessment in seven years by the U.N.-affiliated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. The report, released on Monday, is a stark compilation of the latest climate-change research. It details how profoundly humans have altered the climate and what the future could look like if harmful carbon emissions continue on their current trajectory. But the report also outlines a brighter future, where political will to create a low-emissions future could check runaway temperatures and limit the worst of the damaging impacts.

The report “is a code red for humanity,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres declared in a statement. “Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible.”

The UN climate report pins hopes on carbon removal technologies that barely exist

James Temple
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The UN’s long-awaited climate report, released on Monday, offered a stark reminder that removing massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere will be essential to prevent the gravest dangers of global warming. But it also underscored that the necessary technologies barely exist—and will be tremendously difficult to deploy.

Global temperatures will continue to rise through midcentury no matter what we do at this point, according to the first installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth assessment report. How much hotter it gets, however, will depend on how rapidly we cut emissions and how quickly we scale up ways of sucking carbon dioxide out of the air.

Climate scientists say we’ll need to do carbon removal, in part, to balance out the emissions sources we still don’t know how to eliminate or clean up, like flights and fertilizer. The other, more ominous reason is we may well need to pull the planet back after it blows through dangerous temperature thresholds.

Inside a future cyberwar: What will cyber warfare really be like?

Aspen Pflughoeft

The page takes a second to load. Or doesn’t load at all. Instead, an error message pops up onscreen: the connection timed out. Page after page, none load.

Bank website? Down. Online retailer? Down. News site? Down. Government webpage? Down. Vaccine appointment system? Down. A while later, all the sites load properly.

The lights flicker and the power goes off. The heat shuts off too. It’s December and cold. Around the city, the electricity grid goes down.

The blackout lasts an hour, maybe six hours. The power comes back on.

The backup safety system for monitoring chemicals at a manufacturing plant runs unnoticed in the background. The system gives no security warnings and sends no alerts. A routine maintenance check finds that the backup system was not actually functioning.

At another manufacturing plant, a machine with a spinning centrifuge has this repeated glitch. The centrifuge will spin so fast that it spins out of control, torn apart by the force. The IT team finally identifies the issue and the machine stops spinning out of control.

The Coming "Hyperactive Battlefield": Why Information Itself Is the Killer Weapon of the Future

Kris Osborn

Here's What You Need To Remember: When it comes to networking an attacking force to expedite sensor-to-shooter time and quicken the “kill web,” information is increasingly viewed as a defining weapon of war.

Information itself, when it comes to networking an attacking force to expedite sensor-to-shooter time and quicken the “kill web,” is increasingly viewed as a defining weapon of war. This premise, which relies often upon an AI-empowered ability to gather, analyze, organize and share time-sensitive data, forms the conceptual backbone of the Pentagon’s emerging Joint All Domain Command Command and Control program (JADC2).

This program, and cutting edge work to refine the ability to weaponize information and networking, is one of a few large focus areas for DoD and major industry science, technology, and weapons units such as Lockheed’s Skunk Works and Raytheon’s more recently emerging Advanced Concepts and Technology (ACT).

Responding to China’s Unending Grey-Zone Prodding

Dr Peter Layton

The best way to counter China’s grey-zone activities may be a measured forward-planning approach that proceeds step-by-step.

China remains hard at work using its innovative grey-zone tactics to further its ceaseless quest for strategic advantage over its neighbours. In March it sent some 220 fishing vessels to anchor in neat rows and crowd out Whitsun Reef, a territory claimed by the Philippines. In June, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force conducted a radio-silent formation flight of 16 strategic air transport aircraft across the South China Sea to within around 60 nautical miles north of the East Malaysian coast, sparking an intercept by two Royal Malaysian Air Force Hawk aircraft. More worryingly, in June 2020, as part of its salami-slicing grey-zone tactics on the India–China border, the PLA killed some 20 Indian soldiers.

In a new publication from Canberra’s Air and Space Power Centre, I examine Chinese grey-zone activities and possible responses in some detail. In general, grey-zone activities involve purposefully pursuing political objectives through carefully designed operations; moving cautiously towards objectives rather than seeking decisive results quickly; acting to remain below key escalatory thresholds so as to avoid war; and using all instruments of national power, particularly non-military and non-kinetic tools.

Army Command Posts Getting Mobile, Dispersed, Quieter; Division Exercise In October


ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND: The Army knows it needs to build new mobile command centers. The current system is too large, too slow to set up or move, emits a great deal of heat and noise and spectrum, and is hard to tear down. In other words, they will make excellent targets for an advanced military using electronic warfare and other means to find and target them.

So the Army has begun testing an interim solution — the Command Post Integrated Infrastructure (CPI2) System — which can be set up much more quickly, connect wirelessly, operate in a dispersed manner and then be taken apart and moved quickly to avoid being targeted.

The Army has been exercising new configurations of a group of vehicles since May, and last week, Breaking Defense was given exclusive access to Aberdeen Proving Ground to see CPI2 in action, as the service prepares for a divisional-level exercise in the fall.