26 August 2021

Cyber Weapons – A Weapon of War?

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

The character of warfare has changed fundamentally over the last decade. In the past, it was essential for an adversary nation or insurgent to physically bring weapons to bear during combat. That requirement is no longer a necessity. In cyber operations, the only weapons that need to be used are bits and bytes. In this new era of warfare, logistics issues that often restrict and limit conventional warfare and weaponry are not impediments. This new weaponry moves at the speed of light, is available to every human on the planet and can be as surgical as a scalpel or as devastating as a nuclear bomb.

Cyber attacks in various forms have become a global problem. Cyber weapons are low-cost, low-risk, highly effective and easily deployable globally. This new class of weapons is within reach of many countries, extremist or terrorist groups, non-state actors, and even individuals. Cyber crime organisations are developing cyber weapons effectively. The use of offensive Cyber operations by nation-states directly against another or by co-opting cyber criminals has blurred the line between spies and non-state malicious hackers. New entrants, both nation-states and non-state actors have unmatched espionage and surveillance capabilities with significant capabilities. They are often the forerunners for criminal financial gain, destruction and disruption operations. Progressively, we see non-state actors including commercial entities, developing capabilities that were solely held by a handful of state actors.

China’s Cyber-Influence Operations

   Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

… With its growing assertiveness in the international arena, China uses new technologies to achieve its foreign policy goals and project an image of responsible global power … spending billions on influence operations across the world ... fits in with China’s larger aim of expanding its soft power alongside its growing economic and military power … reach of Beijing’s overseas media is impressive and should not be underestimated. But the results are mixed ...

How a Technology Revolution Powered the Taliban's Return

Tim Culpan

When the Taliban was last in control of Afghanistan, the world used cellphones for voice calls, the Internet was accessed from desktop computers over copper phone lines, and digital photography was in its infancy.

But within a few years of defeat by the U.S. military in 2001, the militant Islamists who’d once eschewed technology were deploying makeshift surveillance drones and coordinating their political and operational messaging through a network of mobile handsets. The decision to embrace, rather than reject, the trappings of the 21st century went on to become a key to the movement’s survival and eventual retaking of the landlocked central Asian nation.

“They moved into much greater technology sophistication by about 2007. It's a sign of the group's capacity to adapt and learn and that's one of the reasons why they won,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow and director of the Initiative on Nonstate Armed Actors at the Brookings Institution. “One of the things that they learned was to focus on communications, and away from the model of the 1990s, which was to move the country away from any kind of modernity.”

Protests in Pakistan erupt against China’s belt and road plan

Shah Meer Baloch 

Protests have erupted in Pakistan’s port city Gwadar against a severe shortage of water and electricity and threats to livelihoods, part of a growing backlash against China’s multibillion-dollar belt and road projects in the country.

This week, demonstrators including fishers and other local workers blocked the roads in Gwadar, a coastal town in Balochistan. They burned tyres, chanted slogans and largely shut down the city, to demand water and electricity and a stop to Chinese trawlers illegally fishing in the nearby waters and then taking the fish to China. Two people were injured when the authorities cracked down on the protesters.

On Friday a suicide bomber killed two children, in an attack on Chinese nationals driving along the main expressway to the port, according to a senior Pakistani official. “The suicide bomber was able to hit the last car of the convoy as it passed,” he said, confirming that two children died and a Chinese engineer was injured.

The Withdrawal From Afghanistan Is a Stain on Our Nation


We have to go back about a week, which was the culmination of the Taliban's advance following our gradual and precipitous withdrawal, beginning in May and culminating in July. We saw a profound amount of fighting around provincial capitals culminating in the seize of Kandahar, which compelled the Biden administration to re-engage in the region to again and execute airstrikes, which they stopped doing.

That was ineffective: Kandahar fell, and then subsequently, every other provincial capital fell over the weekend, proceeding Kabul's collapse. Friday night, the Afghan National Army essentially dissolved, and we witnessed Taliban fighters take the capital city basically unmolested—an open city, practically.

In the days that have followed, we have seen a nightmarish series of consequences due to this policy. I would take a 30,000-foot perspective and say that advocates on the right and the left for American retrenchment from Afghanistan have seen what many of us who opposed that policy warned: more war, not less; larger troops deployments to Afghanistan, not fewer; a vastly better-armed terrorist-supporting state, not more than American Security; advanced offensive weaponry in Taliban hands, which has not renounced ties to Al Qaeda and which American planners now believe will become home and host to insurgent groups; and terrorist groups that want to export terrorism.

Is Afghanistan the Capital of a New Terrorist Empire?

Adam Lammon

The Taliban’s rapid conquest of Afghanistan has taken many by surprise, but the commentariat has moved just as expeditiously in assessing its impact on U.S. national security. Conversations have largely concentrated on whether the Taliban will aid or abet another 9/11 “mega-terrorist attack” against the United States, thereby forcing Washington to once again assault the “graveyard of empires.” Given the U.S. experience with both Afghanistan and Al Qaeda—which retains a significant presence in the country and reciprocal loyalty to the Taliban—this fear is understandable, but it is equally specious.

After twenty years of war, the Taliban appears to have learned some lessons about the value—or at least the appearance—of moderation. The group is explicitly promoting its intention to respect women’s rights, within the bounds of Sharia law, of course; engaging with female journalists and stopping others from being harmed; and promising to engage with the international community on the basis of “peaceful relations.” Those advising skepticism towards the avowed terrorist group do not need to belabor the point, but we should not overlook the fact that, like America, the Taliban, too, is not interested in more war—especially if it wants to run its country as its very own Islamic Emirate.

David Petraeus on American Mistakes in Afghanistan

Isaac Chotiner

David Petraeus, the retired four-star Army general, served in the military for nearly four decades, eventually becoming the most famous and revered member of the armed forces during the war on terror and the war in Iraq. Known for developing a new theory of counter-insurgency, which emphasized winning the support of civilians rather than seizing territory, Petraeus was placed in charge of all troops in Iraq by President George W. Bush in 2007 and oversaw the so-called surge of forces meant to turn around a faltering war effort. In 2010, President Barack Obama, who had ordered a surge of troops in Afghanistan—a move opposed by then Vice-President Joe Biden—appointed General Petraeus the commander of forces in that country. Petraeus retired from the military the following year, and went on to serve as Obama’s C.I.A. director. He resigned from that post in 2012, after providing classified information to his biographer, Paula Broadwell, with whom he was having an affair. Petraeus later pleaded guilty to one count of mishandling classified information. He is now a partner in the global investment firm K.K.R. and chairman of the K.K.R. Global Institute.

Pakistan’s Problematic Victory in Afghanistan

Bruce Riedel

The Afghan Taliban and their Pakistani army patrons are back in Kabul before the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Pakistan’s army Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) has backed the Taliban since the group’s origin in the mid-1990s. Under intense pressure in September 2001, the ISI briefly removed its experts and assistance, creating the same panic and flight to the Taliban that the U.S. withdrawal just did to the Afghan army. But the ISI quickly renewed its support and that aid continues today. The Taliban/ISI victory in Afghanistan will have significant consequences for Pakistan, some of which may be dangerous and violent.

Mullah Omar, the founder of the Taliban, was trained by the ISI during the war against the Soviets in the 1980s. When he was wounded, he got medical attention in a Pakistani hospital. After the Soviets retreated out of Afghanistan, he was one of many warlords fighting for control of the country. As he created the Taliban, the Pakistani army gave him support for the drive on Kabul in 1996 that gave the Taliban control of most of the country. Pakistan provided experts and advisers for the Taliban military, oil for its economy and was their supply route to the outside world.

The Taliban Are Promising Inclusivity and Amnesty in Afghanistan. But Some Officials Predict Bloodshed

Kimberly Dozier

As the black-turbaned mullahs of the Taliban gather in Kabul and Kandahar to hash out how they’ll govern, the decisions they make will offer the world clues to whether they remain the same brutal regime that controlled Afghanistan before the U.S. invasion in 2001 or adopt a less extreme version of Islamic rule.

Change was not originally in the mullahs’ plans. While they declared an Islamic emirate in name Thursday, it was not clear they would bring back the rules and regulations of their former 1990s government, according to current and former U.S. and Western officials, that repressed women and used public amputations, beheadings and stonings as not only criminal punishments but also entertainment for a population denied access to television or music.

But in recent years, as the Taliban held peace talks with the U.S. in Doha, its leaders were offered counsel by international and regional officials, who urged the group to temper its fundamentalist practices in the interest of winning international political recognition and aid and securing support from young and fairly sophisticated Afghans who bristle at their version of Islam.

The US is gone, the Taliban are back, and China is ready at the door

The speed and scope of the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan has prompted introspection in the West over what went wrong, and how, after billions of dollars spent on a 20-year war effort, it could all end so ignominiously. China, though, is looking forward. It is ready to step into the void left by the hasty U.S. retreat to seize a golden opportunity.

While Beijing has yet to formally recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s new government, China issued a statement on Monday saying that it “respects the right of the Afghan people to independently determine their own destiny” and will develop “friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan.”

The message here is clear: Beijing has few qualms about fostering a closer relationship with the Taliban and is ready to assert itself as the most influential outside player in an Afghanistan now all but abandoned by the United States.

Opinion – What If Afghanistan Had Its Own Gandhi?

Jaimin Parikh

As I celebrated India’s 75th Independence Day on 15th August a sudden thought arose of whether Afghanistan could have been free and independent had they had someone like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in their homeland. To complete this thought experiment I will not go into diplomatic, social, and cultural reasons of what happened and how it happened in Afghanistan as the Taliban returned to power, but will explore the probable way an “Afghan Gandhi” (which could be an individual of any gender, or even an organization) would have led the struggle. Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle against political tyranny was based on two elements which were always a part of whatever decisions and struggle he had carried – satyagrah or path of truth and ahimsa or non-violence. From non-cooperation to civil disobedience – and from personal life to the political sphere – these are the yardsticks of understanding Gandhi’s methods to deal with peace and conflict resolution.

Seeking Global Recognition, Taliban Take a New Approach: Making Nice

The Taliban may occupy Afghanistan’s border crossings and government offices, but what they control falls far short of a fully functioning country.

Services like water, electricity and trash pickup are faltering as state employees hide out at home. Ministries overseeing everything from diplomacy to public health have become little more than idle office buildings. The central bank sits effectively empty, with Washington having frozen Afghan government reserves held in U.S. bank accounts.

And the group faces a parallel threat: that Afghans, foreign governments and even interested security or intelligence services might not fully accept their rule, undermining their ability to consolidate power.

But to the Taliban, these problems all share at least one possible solution: making nice.

The People of the PLA 2.0

Roy Kamphausen Mr

The 27th annual People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Conference—“The People in the PLA” 2.0—revisited a theme first explored at the 2006 conference but understudied since. This volume examines how the structure, education, training, and recruitment of PLA personnel have changed in the last decade and in the Xi Jinping era.

Structural changes in the PLA have centered around two poles: improving the warfighting readiness of the PLA and strengthening Communist Party of China (CPC) control of the PLA. Reforms to the political work system, the evolution of the Second Artillery into the Rocket Force, and expansion of the PLA’s foreign-based force posture all indicate that the PLA is accelerating its drive to become a world-class military.

To succeed in future “informatized” wars, the PLA recognizes it must improve its members’ education level. It seeks to leverage better China’s civilian education system while also addressing legacy issues that frustrate professional military education and the care of its veterans. The PLA is also reforming joint education and seeking insight from its exchanges and interactions with other nations’ militaries. The revamping of its academic institutions to support better its most technical and advanced entities for network warfare and other operations is indicative of the PLA’s fast-paced evolution.

Rare earth trillions lure China to Afghanistan's new Great Game

James Stavridis

For most of the 19th century, the Russian and British empires contended over Afghanistan in what was known as the Great Game.

The geopolitical competition recognized the strategic position of Afghanistan, and its potential to influence what is today Pakistan and India. Both the Brits and the Russians, of course, were defeated over time in Afghanistan, the so-called "graveyard of empires."

Today, following the spectacular collapse of the American-trained Afghan army, the triumph of the Taliban, and the humiliating withdrawal under combat conditions of the remnants of the U.S. diplomatic mission, Afghanistan seemingly reverts to 2001 -- run by hardline religious zealots determined to follow strict Sharia law. Will anything change, and a new Great Game emerging?

Managing China’s Rise: Lessons from 1914

Andrew Latham

That China is a power seeking to move to the center stage of world politics, no one can doubt. That this will inevitably result in war is a much more dubious proposition. This is not to suggest that China’s rise will necessarily be peaceful. The argument that the economies of both powers are so intertwined as to make war unthinkable is reminiscent of similar fairy tales that people – including prominent intellectuals like Norman Angell – were telling themselves about Europe’s great powers in the summer of 1914. Nor are any of the other soothing sounds emanating from the sirens of splendid globalism terribly convincing. But neither is it to suggest that China’s rise will inexorably result in a global conflagration. Thucydides argued over two millennia ago that wars are not merely the result of big structural forces like tectonic shifts in the balance of power. Instead, they are the product of the interaction of these big structural forces and with events: political decisions, diplomatic signaling, military moves, alliance dynamics, and so on. In China’s case, the tectonic shifts have already occurred. The PRC has arrived at a point where, structurally, it poses a real challenge to US hegemony. Systemic, hegemonic, or world war is, therefore, a real possibility. But it is not a foregone conclusion. The specific outcome will be determined by the concrete actions taken by political leaders in the US, China, and elsewhere – actions that will either amplify the structural tendency toward war or flatten the curve in ways that allow war to be avoided.

China’s Power Grab in the South China Sea

Bonnie S. Glaser and Gregory Poling

The United States faces a conundrum in the South China Sea: China is radically changing the status quo in the sea in its favor. But since 2016, the Southeast Asian states whose legal rights are being trampled have been reluctant to push back firmly against Beijing.

The United States and like-minded countries cannot alter China’s behavior at sea without the active participation of these regional claimants. Yet in much of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines and Vietnam, elites and the broader public judge Washington’s commitment to the region based in part on whether it defends their maritime rights.

U.S. President Joe Biden and his team have largely continued the Trump administration’s policies in the South China Sea. The current U.S. administration has endorsed the Trump-era position that all Chinese maritime claims inconsistent with the 2016 ruling by a special arbitration tribunal are illegal. Furthermore, the Biden administration has affirmed that its treaty obligations require the United States to respond in the case of an attack on Philippine forces in the South China Sea and has continued the accelerated pace of U.S. naval operations in the region that was set under President Donald Trump.

After Afghanistan, where next? Biden must show resoluteness

Michael E. O’Hanlon

With the tragedy of Afghanistan’s collapse mitigated only by the relative lack of violence in the process of the Taliban takeover to date, the Biden administration faces a major foreign policy and strategic challenge. The decision to leave when we had a reasonably stable, if indefinite, presence of only 3,000 or so U.S. troops was a poor strategic calculation, since we already had dramatically downsized our presence in Afghanistan from the 100,000 troops of a decade ago, squaring the scale of our commitment with the magnitude of our interests.

The way it was done helped to precipitate the complete collapse of the Afghan security forces by allowing virtually no time or preparation for an orderly process that gave the Afghan government time to develop a “triage strategy” for holding onto at least part of the country. The uncertain status of so many friends of the United States who are still stuck in Afghanistan brings a poignant human rights dimension to the miscalculation as well.

But all that is, alas, already history. Where do we go from here? From a foreign policy perspective, there are two chief questions. First, what should our Afghanistan policy now become, in terms of counterterrorism and also human rights? Second, how can President Biden and his team recover their sea legs and convey to the world that the United States is not somehow weak, irresolute, or undependable in parts of the globe where the consequences of war could be even greater than in Afghanistan — to include Korea, Taiwan, and eastern Europe?

The intelligence community's silence is deafening


National security is the federal government’s most basic responsibility, laid out in the first sentence of our Constitution’s preamble: “provide for the common defense.” But what was once the exclusive domain of the public sector now depends upon a range of actors, individuals, corporations and entities who —unlike the government — are not beholden to the public interest. Their voices are noisy, voluminous and often ill-informed. The public knows little about how our government protects us, and even less about the role of the intelligence community in national security. This offers them no meaningful presence in the democratic discourse, and limited recognition of the intelligence community’s most precious commodity: its objectivity.

From its beginning, the intelligence community (IC) was modeled on and grounded in secrecy. It was forced to mature rapidly as a mechanism to deal with the Soviet Union and quickly evolved into a closed system that required secret collection methods to obtain information on our enemies. But in its persisting eagerness to ensure that information does not slip into the wrong hands, the IC has forgotten that the hand that feeds it belongs to the American public. They are the greatest consumer of the public good that is national security. Democracy and democratically accountable institutions, such as the intelligence community’s 19 members, require the public to have knowledge, not just faith.

Will the Next American War Be with China?

Benjamin Wallace-Wells

The images from Afghanistan circulating in Washington this week have been of collapse and evacuation: the interior of a military cargo plane, filled with more than six hundred Afghan evacuees sitting on the floor and grasping straps; a little girl with a pink backpack being handed over a wall, with hopes of escaping; hundreds of Afghans chasing a departing cargo plane on the runway at Hamid Karzai International Airport, as if they might grab hold of it and be lifted away. “Please don’t leave us behind,” an Afghan Air Force pilot pleaded, via the news network the Bulwark, speaking on behalf of many who were undeniably being left behind. “We will be great Americans.” In the U.S., some of the deepest lamentations came from people who had poured themselves into this project. “We were overly optimistic and largely made things up as we went along,” Mike Jason, a retired Army colonel who trained Afghan police, wrote in The Atlantic last week. “We didn’t like oversight or tough questions from Washington, and no one really bothered to hold us accountable anyway.” The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, anticipating that the lamentations might grow even deeper and more catastrophic, sent out a suicide-prevention blast: “Veterans may question the meaning of their service or whether it was worth the sacrifices they made. They may feel more moral distress.” These feelings, the V.A. noted, were normal. “You are not alone.”

Where’s Biden’s Plan to Stop Terrorism?

Seth G. Jones

U.S. and other Western intelligence agencies have long known the Taliban continue to have close ties to al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. In a June 2021 assessment, the United Nations Security Council concluded that a “large number of al Qaeda fighters and other foreign extremist elements aligned with the Taliban are located in various parts of Afghanistan.” The Taliban this week released thousands of them from prisons in Bagram, Kabul, Kandahar and elsewhere.

The Taliban and al Qaeda enjoy longstanding personal relationships, intermarriage, a shared history of struggle and sympathetic ideologies. Al Qaeda leaders have pledged loyalty to every Taliban leader since the group’s establishment. It is shocking, then, that U.S. officials have brushed off the implications of a Taliban victory, even as intelligence analysts said that a Taliban victory would likely be a boon for jihadists.

The Taliban has well-established ties with other regional and international terrorist groups, such as the Pakistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba. In addition, there are roughly 2,000 Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan, and the group has conducted mass-casualty attacks across the country.

Biden Insiders: Our Afghanistan Exit Is a Part of a Much Bigger Reset

David Rothkopf

In world affairs, first impressions can be misleading. Soviet and American generals were photographed toasting the triumph of a great alliance in 1945 but in the blinking of an eye the Cold War was underway and we were great enemies. Crowds pressed against the U.S. embassy gates as Saigon fell and America lost a long, bloody war mere decades before Vietnam embraced a market economy and became a top tourist destination for Americans.

Statues are toppled, regimes collapse, city squares are thronged with tens of thousands of people demanding change, “Mission Accomplished” moments occur, and yet what follows is not what the pundits caught up in the drama and imagery of individual events predict. With time, members of the Biden administration anticipate, we will come to see the events of the past week very differently.

Can the Biden presidency survive the impact of Afghanistan?

William A. Galston

Survey research often produces ambiguous or contradictory results, but not in the case of Afghanistan. The American people decided years ago that the war in Afghanistan was not worth the cost, and nothing they have seen during the past few weeks has changed their minds. Support for ending America’s military involvement remains high, despite the public’s belief that the withdrawal will increase the threat of terrorism and diminish our national security.

Nevertheless, the people distinguish between the decision to withdraw and the way this decision has been carried out. About three in four Americans believe that our exit has gone badly, and only 33% think that there is a clear plan for evacuating U.S. civilians.

Americans’ concern extends to the Afghans who supported and worked with our soldiers and diplomats and now fear for their lives at the hands of the Taliban. Eight in 10 Americans support rescuing these Afghans and bringing them to the United States, and six in 10 have concluded that we are not doing enough to help them. These views are shared by majorities across lines of age, education, ideology, party identification, race, and ethnicity.

The west’s nation-building fantasy is to blame for the mess in Afghanistan

Simon Jenkins

Britain’s MPs this week uttered one long howl of anguish over Afghanistan. Their immediate targets were Joe Biden and Boris Johnson, politicians who just happened to be on the watch when Kabul’s pack of cards collapsed. But their real concern was that a collective 20-year experiment in “exporting western values” to Afghanistan had fallen into chaos. MPs wanted someone other than themselves to blame. A politician is never so angry as when proved wrong.

Like their fellow representatives in Congress, MPs somehow hoped the end would be nice and tidy, with speeches and flags, much like Britain’s exit from Hong Kong. Instead, tens of thousands of Afghans who had lived in an effective colony under years of Nato occupation had come to believe the west would either never leave or somehow protect them from Taliban retribution. They were swiftly disabused.

Experts react: What the fall of Afghanistan means for Europe

As policymakers in Washington grapple with the stark reality of losing Afghanistan, their counterparts across Europe are no less flummoxed over what happens next. What of the streams of refugees that may well pour onto the continent? And will Brussels be as ready to support future US foreign policy initiatives? Our experts from the Europe Center answer these questions—and much more.

Europe has ‘nothing to expect’ from Washington

The US debacle in Afghanistan, however spectacular it is, doesn’t fundamentally change the balance of power in the world. The war-torn country holds only minor strategic significance and will become the concern of neighboring powers Iran, Russia, China, Pakistan, and India. The parameters which make the United States the preeminent power in the world have not changed. Furthermore, the credibility of a country is undermined when it is obliged to give up essential interests: Like Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s, Afghanistan was a peripheral US interest. Fighting al-Qaeda didn’t require such a heavy and long-lasting investment. We are seeing the end of textbook mission creep.

It’s Not Too Late for the United Nations to Act in Afghanistan

Charli Carpenter

The images of humanitarian chaos and the deteriorating situation for women after the swift Taliban takeover of Kabul have left the international community grasping for options. In the face of Afghan women’s desperate pleas for support, women’s rights NGOs in the United States recently called for a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan. There is no question that such an operation, if mounted earlier, would have been beneficial to Afghan civilians and particularly to women. As David Cortright and I have written before, and as much scholarly research shows, U.N. peacekeeping operations work better than Western counterinsurgencies at maintaining durable peace, protecting civilians and building human rights culture.*

According to some experts, peacekeeping efforts could have done far more to support an inter-Afghan settlement than a continued U.S. presence. Roya Rahmani, the former Afghan ambassador to the United States, also expressed regret on CNN this week that “Unfortunately, the international community did not broker and enforce a settlement leading to the establishment of a new inclusive government in time, which could have been held together with the help of a peace-keeping mission.” ...

Has Japan’s policy toward the Taiwan Strait changed?

Adam P. Liff

Japanese leaders in 2021 have made an unusual series of high-profile statements and comments concerning Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait. These appeared to crescendo last month, when global headlines asserted that July 5 remarks by Japan’s deputy prime minister meant “Japan pledges to defend Taiwan if China attacks” or marked a fundamental change in Japanese policy.

Given increasing U.S.-China frictions and tensions across the Taiwan Strait, the unusually blunt remarks regarding Taiwan from a cabinet minister of Japan — a key U.S. treaty ally, close neighbor of Taiwan, and host to about 50,000 U.S. military personnel — attracted significant global attention.

But the meaning and implications of the deputy prime minister’s remarks — which were delivered at a private political fundraiser — for Japan’s official policy are easily misconstrued. Japan’s government has never made an explicit commitment to defend Taiwan or to necessarily assist a possible U.S. military response if a cross-strait conflict occurs. My ongoing research on Japan-Taiwan relations and the U.S.-Japan alliance suggests that recent developments do not indicate a major change in Japan’s official posture toward the Taiwan Strait.


Why integrated, interoperable tech is critical for overmatch
To maintain decisive overmatch against increasingly tech-savvy adversaries, the U.S. Army is committed to providing soldiers with state-of-the-art technologies on the future battlefield—increasing warfighters’ lethality and agility while reducing the weight they must carry. This commitment has created a new paradigm: the infantry soldier as a fully integrated weapons platform and the squad as a combat platform. Soldiers must be equipped with technology that’s reliable on every landscape where they’ll fight, with interoperability based on an open architecture, integrated across formations for lethal, coordinated action.

An Integrated Vision

The Army needs a fully integrated architecture design process for equipping soldiers today—with flexibility for the innovations of tomorrow. Unlike other major battlefield weapons platforms, which include a unifying architecture and interface standards, the soldier’s inventory has evolved with the acquisition of various pieces of equipment—many with different power sources, interfaces, standards, and connectors—creating an unwieldy burden which can weigh 100 pounds or more. Moreover, while individual pieces of equipment might provide high-tech capabilities, many are proprietary and hard to upgrade. The overall result increases complexity, logistics work, and the physical load each soldier must carry onto the battlefield.

Preparing Japan's Multi-Domain Defense Force for the Future Battlespace Using Emerging Technologies

Jeffrey W. Hornung, Scott Savitz, Jonathan Balk, Samantha McBirney

Rapidly advancing and emerging technology areas — such as artificial intelligence, autonomy, big data, cyber warfare, electronic warfare, low-cost satellites, directed-energy weapons, and unmanned systems — will likely shape how defense operations are conducted in the future. As a result, governments and defense organizations must determine how to allocate investments to prepare their forces for future conflicts. In this Perspective, RAND researchers explore considerations for shaping Japan's defense technology portfolio, in light of both technological developments themselves and how other countries may employ them. Key trends include the increasing pace of warfare, the enhanced criticality of network security and disruption, the central role of unmanned systems, the increasing accuracy of long-range targeting, the growing ability of aggressors to achieve plausible deniability, the expanding importance of emerging warfare domains, and the elevated importance of deception.

Natural Language Processing

Peter Schirmer, Amber Jaycocks, Sean Mann, William Marcellino

This reference document presents a collection of lessons learned by practitioners from RAND Corporation projects that employed natural language processing (NLP) tools and methods. NLP is an umbrella term for the range of tools and methods that enable computers to analyze human language. The descriptions of lessons learned are organized around four steps: data collection, data processing (i.e., NLP-specific text processing in preparation for modeling), modeling, and application development and deployment.

These NLP practitioners spend or spent a majority of their time at RAND working on projects related to national defense, national intelligence, international security, or homeland security; thus, the lessons learned are drawn largely from projects in these areas. Although few of the lessons are applicable exclusively to the U.S. Department of Defense and its NLP tasks, many may prove particularly salient for the department, because its terminology is very domain-specific and full of jargon, much of its data are classified or sensitive, its computing environment is more restricted, and its information systems are generally not designed to support large-scale analysis.

Army must overcome these two primary electronic warfare challenges

Mark Pomerleau

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The U.S. Army has worked to rebuild its electronic warfare arsenal in recent years, growing new forces to operate it. There are two critical challenges ahead as the Army looks to maintain or, in some cases, gain parity with adversaries: delivering systems and soldiers on time and affording its plans.

The Army is “still on the clock” to get forces and capabilities to the tip of the spear, Col. Daniel Holland, Army capability manager for electronic warfare, said during an Aug. 17 presentation at TechNet Augusta.

The second challenge Holland outlined is that the Army won’t be able to afford all the capabilities electronic warfare forces will need. As a result, he wants to articulate the Army’s emerging requirements so that when senior leaders need to make a funding decision, they are informed.