29 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 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.

In Pakistan we cultivated the Taliban, then turned on them. Now we can only hope they forgive us

Mohammed Hanif

Not too long ago, Pakistan and Afghanistan were called Af-Pak: two countries joined at the hip, doomed to live and die together. You didn’t get to choose your neighbours, we were told. Geography, we were taught, was our destiny.

There was a lot of talk about geostrategic significance – which was the Pakistan military’s way of saying there were great advantages to be derived from our unfortunate neighbours.

More than four decades ago, our leaders insisted we had to help the Afghan mujahideen fight the Soviets because that would help us ward off communism in our own country. Having lived most of my life in Pakistan, I have probably come across half a dozen communists – and even they never agreed with each other.

That first jihad made generations of Afghans homeless but it also made some people in Pakistan very rich. The Soviet-Afghan war also sustained our brutal military dictatorship, brought us abundant supplies of cheap and high-quality heroin, and introduced something called “Kalashnikov culture”, which made it easier to settle political and personal disputes by killing each other.

The Roads Not Taken in Afghanistan

Kori Schake

Since the fall of Kabul on August 15, U.S. President Joe Biden and his top advisers have advanced four main claims to justify the decision to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan and to deflect criticism of the disastrous outcome. They have said that the mission in Afghanistan was unsustainable without a dramatic escalation of U.S. forces. They have argued that they had no choice but to honor an agreement that the administration of President Donald Trump reached with the Taliban that required the United States to withdraw its military forces from the country. They have lamented that Afghanistan’s military was unwilling to fight the Taliban. Finally, they have claimed that the administration “planned for every contingency” but that chaos was unavoidable.

None of those things are true—and Biden knows it. His cynical defense of a failed policy and its inept execution are only adding to the damage caused by this catastrophe.

Who Is ISIS-K?


An attack on a crowd gathered outside Kabul’s airport on Aug. 26, 2021, has left at least 60 people dead, including at least a dozen U.S. Marines. ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the coordinated suicide bomb and gun assault, which came just days after President Joe Biden warned that the group – an affiliate of the Islamic State group operating in Afghanistan – was “seeking to target the airport and attack U.S. and allied forces and innocent civilians.”

Amira Jadoon, a terrorism expert at the U.S. Military Academy West Point, and Andrew Mines, a research fellow at the George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, have been tracking ISIS-K for years and answered our questions about who the terrorist group is, and the threat it poses in a destabilized Afghanistan.

The Islamic State Khorasan Province, which is also known by the acronyms ISIS-K, ISKP and ISK, is the official affiliate of the Islamic State movement operating in Afghanistan, as recognized by Islamic State core leadership in Iraq and Syria.

Americans never understood Afghanistan like the Taliban did

Shadi Hamid

The United States never understood Afghanistan. American planners thought they knew what the country needed, which was not quite the same as what its people wanted. American policy was guided by fantasies; chief among them was the idea that the Taliban could be eliminated and that an entire culture could be transformed in the process.

In an ideal world, the Taliban wouldn’t exist. But it does exist, and it will exist. Western observers always struggle to understand how groups as ruthless as the Taliban gain legitimacy and popular support. Surely Afghans remember the terror of Taliban rule in the 1990s, when women were whipped if they ventured outside without a burka and adulterers were stoned to death in soccer stadiums. How could those dark days be forgotten?

America saw the Taliban as plainly evil. To deem a group evil is to cast it outside of time and history. But this is a privileged view. Living in a democracy with basic security allows citizens to set their sights higher. They will be disappointed with even a relatively good government precisely because they expect more from it. In failed states and in the midst of civil war, however, the fundamental questions are ones of order and disorder, and how to have more of the former and less of the latter.

Mission Afghanistan: Advice for A US Special Operations Unit

The following notes have been prepared from a sense of moral responsibility and duty (as a former U.S. Army Special Forces NCO/officer) to comrades standing on the threshold of opportunity. The crux from which these notes are expressed are founded in my experience working with indigenous populations and host government security forces in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, careful study and first/second person interaction with various threat elements related to the theatre and an appreciation of the task presenting itself to the soldiers of SOF. It is understood that several points herein are in direct contrast and incongruent with current strategic and operational paradigms relating to Afghanistan. I will leave it to the readership of this document to assess if, and/or how, the advice provided is woven into the fabric of a concept of operations.

15 November 2009

Part I – US

To Be or Not to Be…the Once and Future Lawrence

In Afghanistan, how India missed the bus

Dr. Shanthie Mariet D’Souza

Despite sizeable investment in Afghanistan by the international community for the last 19 years, the task of stabilizing Afghanistan seems farfetched. Dwindling international financial assistance, talks of troop withdrawal and lack of economic stability in Afghanistan is leading to a constant flow of refugees out of Afghanistan, rise in unemployment, and increase in criminal, narco and insurgent activities. Most of the development projects initiated by the international community in post-2001 Afghanistan are winding down or have been abruptly closed, leading to an economic crisis in the aid dependent country.

In this context, Germany and India who have made huge investments in Afghanistan are uniquely positioned to help preserve and build on the gains achieved thus far. This is critical not only for Afghanistan but also for Germany and India as they aspire to play a major role in the international arena. The new “Policy guidelines for the Indo-Pacific region”1 issued by the German government in September 2020 is an important development to take cognizance.

As I travelled to Kandahar on October 4, 2011, the day India signed the Agreement on Strategic Partnership (ASP) with Afghanistan, I could feel a sense of optimism and achievement among Afghan officials, politicians, business and women’s groups in the province. There was overwhelming hope that India would be an enduring and reliable friend. ASP was meant to institutionalise the decade long gains India had made through its development assistance policy.

Don’t Blame the Afghans

Kishore Mahbubani

Why does the United States, arguably the world’s most successful society, expend so much blood and treasure on foreign ventures—from Cambodia and Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq—and fail so spectacularly? Americans search for explanations in events and personalities. Actually, there may be deeply structural reasons for these spectacular failures. The reasons can be captured in three Cs: control, culture, and compromise.

U.S. society’s greatest strength is its can-do spirit. When Americans strive for an ambitious goal, such as sending a man to the moon, they take full control and charge full speed ahead. This works wonders on U.S. soil. It creates disasters on foreign soil.

I got my first glimpse of Washington’s problem with the first C—control—in Phnom Penh in 1973. Serving then as a young, single diplomat in the Singaporean Embassy in the war-torn Cambodian capital, I dated a young female diplomat from the U.S. Embassy. She had an easy job. Each morning, she would get clear instructions from Washington on what Cambodia should do with its troubled economy. She would personally drive over and deliver the instructions to the Cambodian minister of the economy. Since Washington had some of the world’s best economists, this made sense. But it also deprived the Cambodian government of any sense of agency or control over its own destiny. Hence, when the United States left, the hapless government collapsed.

A Taliban Challenge: To Learn the Lessons of History

Lynne O’Donnell

There was a time, long ago, when Kabul sat at an axis of global power, its rulers enthroned in a vast citadel, surrounded by Buddhist monasteries, on the crossroads of trading routes that took wealth and learning to all points of Asia and beyond. Today, the remains of that citadel tell the story of thousands of years in the history of what is now a very different Afghanistan.

The site is called Bala Hissar or “High Fort.” It’s located just to the south of the modern city of Kabul. What remains of the citadel are some ancient walls and crumbling fortifications, home now to feral dogs and—at least until the Taliban took power—teams of archaeological excavators. Pottery shards dating back to the fifth century have been unearthed deep below the surface. But above ground are mostly modern artifacts, including the rusting hulks of burned-out tanks from the Soviet occupation of the 1980s. A military base later built by the Americans, now inherited by the Taliban, is situated just below the site.

A place of settlement since the Bronze Age, Bala Hissar has been witness to the long ebb and flow of fortunes in Afghanistan. It has seen many invaders come and go and countless dynasties rise and fall.

OPINION: The changing landscape for women under Taliban rule

Vanda Felbab-Brown

The Taliban’s takeover will result in a significant decline in women’s rights in Afghanistan. There is no chance that the rights and opportunities Afghan women had over the past two decades both formally and, for many, in their daily experience, can be preserved.

The question is how extensive the losses will be and what tools there are for the international community to reduce the losses.

A Taliban spokesman announced last week that women’s rights will be preserved within the context of Sharia law – an Islamic legal system derived from the Quran. But Sharia interpretations range from more permissive systems (like in Indonesia or Malaysia) to highly restrictive ones (like in Saudi Arabia) or the outright brutal laws and practices of the Taliban in the 1990s.

There are already many distressing reports of the Taliban’s behavior. In various parts of the country, women are being told they can no longer work in some jobs, such as banking. Female TV newscasters in Kabul have been told they are no longer wanted. In parts of the country, female students can no longer study at local universities. In parts of the country, women cannot leave their home without a male guardian.

The Resurgence of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan

Dr Antonio Giustozzi

The TTP has experienced a reversal of fortunes, in part thanks to the changing circumstances within Afghanistan.

Since its inception in 2007, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been the largest and most active armed opposition group in Pakistan. It was formed by several small groups operating in the tribal areas of Pakistan and to a lesser extent in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and has always been almost entirely Pashtun in composition. The repression carried out by the Pakistani army has been ruthless, and the TTP has developed a record of extreme violence, including against civilians who are only remotely associated with the Pakistani state.

Signs of a TTP resurgence were already emerging in 2020, when it carried out over 120 attacks, but in recent weeks the group was able to launch its long-trailed ‘offensive’ in Waziristan. In July alone, the TTP carried out 26 attacks.

How Will the Taliban Rule?

Carter Malkasian

The Taliban’s advance into Kabul and the collapse of the democratic government of Afghanistan unfolded with stunning speed over the course of a few weeks. The dizzying turn of events and the scenes of chaos and desperation that followed have understandably led to a torrent of questions about how things went so wrong so quickly. But the Taliban’s rapid success also has much to tell us about the prospects of their rule—both the considerable freedom the Taliban will likely have to enact their vision over the next few years and the steep challenges that will emerge as time goes on.

The Taliban have shown themselves to be the most effective political organization in Afghanistan. For two decades, while Afghan politicians have bickered and democracy has faltered, the Taliban’s values, organization, and cohesion have proved enduring. Girded by their notions of unity and Afghan identity, the Taliban surmounted two leadership transitions, the rise of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), and a 20-year U.S. military presence. They are now in charge and likely to stay in charge for some time.

For the Taliban, Building a New Afghanistan Won’t Be Easy

Amalendu Misra

For the Afghans, the international community, and the Taliban itself, the pace at which Afghanistan unraveled totally was unexpected. All the actors and stakeholders in Afghanistan are seized by a paralysis. The international community’s wait-and-see attitude is a testimony to its own incomprehension with the Taliban and what it actually means for the Afghans and the global community. Yet the facts on the ground are shifting already.

After making spectacular vows that they are going to fight the Taliban tooth and nail, the two key Tajik opposition leaders of the Panjshir Resistance, former vice-president Amrullah Saleh (who has since declared himself as the “true” legitimate president of Afghanistan) and Ahmad Massoud, are not so sure of their objectives. Only last week, Massoud proclaimed in The Washington Post, “I write from the Panjshir Valley today, ready to follow in my father’s footsteps, with mujahideen fighters who are prepared to once again take on the Taliban. We have stores of ammunition and arms that we have patiently collected since my father’s time, because we knew this day might come.”

What do the Taliban Really Want?

Cheryl Benard

I predict that five or ten years from now, studies will be conducted, and books written about the Great American Afghanistan Hysteria of 2021.

How was it possible, we will ask in retrospect, that a superpower threw facts, reason, its own national interest, the pursuit of peace, geopolitical considerations, and simple common sense to the curb? And instead engaged in reckless, perfectly counterproductive actions while wallowing in panic and rumors.

As I write this, I am reading that “the Taliban are feeding women’s bodies to the dogs” and watching a video of a woman filming herself running from nothing in a deserted area while screaming “Afghan women are running for their lives.” I am reading that “the Taliban are shooting into the crowd.” Former President George W. Bush is on TV talking about rape. General David Petraeus, who failed to make a dent on the Taliban when he was in charge, is in the Wall Street Journal calling for the U.S. military to go back in. Reason has fled and facts don’t matter.

Act Now to Save and Learn the Lessons of the Afghan War

Anthony H. Cordesman

It will be all too easy to lurch from crisis to crisis in leading with the collapse of Afghanistan and its aftermath. It will be all the more easy to fail at preserving the data and institutions necessary to learn as much from that collapse as possible. The U.S. made this mistake in dealing with its first withdrawal from Iraq. It let the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) collapse, did not create any official independent body to replace SIGIR to learn from the war, let much of the official open source data disappear from the web, and never established a process for declassifying masses of key data that would have helped analysts and historians learn the right lessons with as much information as possible.

The U.S. made equally serious mistakes in learning from the first Gulf War. It rushed out a report to Congress called the Conduct of The Persian Gulf War: Final Report to Congress that grossly exaggerated the level of success in using airpower, understated the problems in creating an effective coalition, did not address the serious intelligence and policy mistakes that led to premature conflict termination without the proper conditions, failed to address the legacy and relevant lessons of the Iran-Iraq War, and failed to examine the post-conflict costs of failing to have an effective plan for conflict termination. Some excellent studies have since been written by outside analysts, and separate efforts by bodies like the U.S. Air Force Studies and Analyses Agency (AFSAA) have corrected many of the mistakes in the first official report, but much of the data and facts have been lost.

Can Central Asia Help Russia Cajole the Taliban?

John Ruehl

Thirty years after the last Soviet tank left Afghanistan, the Kremlin is openly exploiting the power vacuum caused by the abrupt U.S. departure. Though Russia is cooperating with the Taliban and other regional powers in Afghanistan, it is so far keeping them at arm’s length.

Russia’s renewed interest in Afghanistan comes in several forms. The potential for instability to spread into the post-Soviet Central Asian states and into Russia itself is an obvious concern. As in Syria, the Kremlin is keen to prevent a breeding ground fostering ISIS and Islamic extremism. The prospect of a sharp rise in drug trafficking and a refugee crisis has also made the issue of Afghanistan’s border security paramount to Russia’s.

Beyond that, Afghanistan’s plentiful natural resources have always had considerate appeal. While Russia no doubt wishes to exploit such reserves, it also wants to prevent Afghanistan from emerging as a resource powerhouse that could undermine revenue streams for Russian energy companies. A stronger influence over Afghanistan would also give the Kremlin significant geopolitical leverage at the crossroads of China, the Indian subcontinent, and the Middle East.

Perspectives | Taliban’s triumph threatens Beijing’s Eurasia plans

Srdjan Uljevic

The great powers’ shifting interests in Afghanistan can be dizzying to behold. Washington says its retreat will allow it to counter an assertive China in Asia. Beijing, for its part, is using the chaotic withdrawal to poke holes in America’s promises to its Asian allies as it seeks regional supremacy.

If China has learned anything from its recent experiences in Pakistan, it will proceed cautiously with a small footprint in Afghanistan.

Until recently, Beijing had been ambivalent toward the American presence in Afghanistan. China benefited from NATO counterterrorism efforts. As recently as 2018 U.S. forces destroyed a militant training camp in Badakhshan, a mountainous province that borders Tajikistan, Pakistan and China. The camp was allegedly used by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a Muslim separatist group fighting for independence in Xinjiang.

Afraid of China’s Missiles Forces? Thank Ukraine

Charlie Gao

Here's What You Need to Remember: Given all the different vectors through which rocket and missile technology are flowing from Ukraine to China, it’s reasonable to say that Ukraine has provided considerable aid to the Chinese ballistic missile program.

While Ukraine renounced its own possession of nuclear weapons in 1994, many scientists and design bureaus in the country still have the know-how required to manufacture important components of strategic weapons. China has often been particularly keen on this knowledge, acquiring Ukrainian help in designing their first phased-array radar system. Chinese poaching of Ukrainian aerospace, tank, and naval engineers is also a common phenomenon, most notably Valerii Babich, designer of the Varyag aircraft carrier. There are even rumors of “Ukrainetowns” in some Chinese cities founded by the large number of expats hired by Chinese firms. Ukrainian and Russian businessmen even sold Kh-55 nuclear cruise missiles (without the warheads) from Ukrainian stockpiles to China in the 2000s. As China continues to modernize its ICBM fleet, it begs the question: how much help is Ukraine providing, willingly and unwillingly?

Behind the Scenes of the Biden Team’s Botched Afghanistan Exit

Candace Rondeaux

Debacle. That is the only right and proper way to describe President Joe Biden’s handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden lost every point he’s dropped in national polling this week entirely of his own accord, and history will not be any kinder to his foreign policy legacy. Most Americans might agree with the White House decision to exit Afghanistan. Regardless, August 2021 will remain an indelible stain on the United States’ reputation.

That was already the case before yesterday’s horrific suicide bombing outside Kabul’s international airport, which left at least 100 dead, including 13 U.S. servicemembers, and 150 injured, according to the latest reports. It is even more so today. ...

General John R. Allen: the US must be realistic about its influence over the Taliban

As Afghanistan’s humanitarian catastrophe continues to unfold, US leadership faces a series of major challenges. The crisis that has now engulfed us, our allies and the Afghans is urgent. While the decision to withdraw was correct, history will be harsh in its judgment of the manner in which we did it. Much of that judgment will depend on how the evacuation in Kabul is resolved. Nevertheless, essential policy debates must follow quickly if the US is to play a meaningful role in Afghanistan’s future and preserve some semblance of our national security interests in the region.

The form taken by the nascent Taliban government will be one of the most important geopolitical developments of 2021. Their decisions — from supporting the departure of eligible evacuees, to the potential harbouring of jihadis and criminals, to international relations — will be critical. So will how the democratic world chooses to recognise them.

So far the Taliban have sought to portray themselves as moderate. The facts on the ground tell a different story, however, and we will probably see a new, violent phase in the struggle for Afghanistan. Given the Taliban’s weak command and control, and its inexperience with real governance, its ultimate regional and global identity is far from certain.

Apple, Microsoft and Amazon chiefs to meet Biden over critical infrastructure cyber attacks

Liam Tung

US President Joe Biden has invited Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and Amazon president and CEO Andy Jassy to the White House to discuss how the private sector can help combat ransomware and software supply chain attacks.

The forthcoming meeting, reported by Bloomberg, concerns America's resilience to major cyber attacks on critical infrastructure, which Biden has told Russian president Vladimir Putin should be "off limits".

In July, Biden said he believed that if US engaged in a "real shooting war" it would be in response to a major cyber attack. US government agencies and critical infrastructure providers have faced numerous ransomware and espionage attacks during the pandemic, including the SolarWinds software supply chain espionage attack, and ransomware attacks against Colonial Pipeline, Kaseya, and meat packer JBS.

How Biden Can Save His China Strategy After Afghanistan

Michael J. Green and Gabriel Scheinmann

In June, we argued that a rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan would complicate the Biden administration’s pivot toward countering China in the Indo-Pacific rather than enabling it, as proponents were claiming. That is now manifestly obvious. Resources are being withdrawn from the Pacific to cover the withdrawal. The Japan-based aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, for example, is now on a sustained deployment in the Arabian Sea, leaving the U.S. Navy and its allies in the Western Pacific with none to replace it. Beijing has already warned Taiwan that the abandonment of Afghanistan proves Taipei cannot count on U.S. protection, prompting Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to address the nation to urge greater efforts at self-defense. While not as critical in public as Washington’s European allies, senior national security officials in Tokyo and Canberra have quietly expressed to us their consternation not only at the lack of consultation on Afghanistan but also at the poor execution by what they had been led to believe was a U.S. national security dream team after the tumultuous years of the Trump administration.

Yet as chaotic and tragic as the Afghanistan withdrawal has been thus far, it should not change the logic of the Biden administration’s strategy on China. Domestic backing remains high: There is strong support among Americans for defending Asian allies against attack, which is unlikely to go down given the bipartisan backlash in the U.S. Congress against President Joe Biden for abandoning both Afghan and coalition allies in Afghanistan. Nor is there any evidence that Afghanistan has given U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific cause to give up on their own strategies of aligning more closely with Washington to counter Chinese hegemony, as the Stanford University lecturer Daniel Schneider writes.

The U.S. Must Approach China With Humility


China has been around for 5,000 years. The United States has been around for 250 years. And it's not surprising that a juvenile like the United States would have difficulty dealing with a wiser, older civilization.

So the troubles that the United States is having in dealing with China are perfectly understandable. What the United States doesn't understand is the longer arc of human history.

There's a British historian called Angus Maddison who pointed out that if you look at the history of the world over the past 2,000 years, the two largest economies of the world have always been those of China and India. It's only in the last 200 years that the West took off, Europe in the 19th century and North America in the 20th century. The past 200 years of world history have been a major historical aberration and all aberrations come to a natural end.

It's perfectly natural to see the West retreat to its normal share of global power. And there are some things in the longer arc of human history that cannot be stopped. So the return of China, and subsequently India, are perfectly natural developments.

China Is an Existential Threat to the U.S.


I believe that China is a threat to the United States and to the international community. I also believe it's more than just a competitor, as president Biden has said, and it's more than just an adversary. It is actually our enemy.

We don't need to speculate about that because in May 2019, People's Daily, the most authoritative publication in China, declared a "people's war" on the U.S. That's more than just rhetoric. We know that the tactics against us have been malicious and they have pursued them relentlessly.

For instance, we know that last year, and perhaps the beginning of this year, that China was inciting violence on American streets with a purpose of overthrowing our government. That's more than just subversion. That's an act of war. We have seen, perhaps, China actually organize demonstrators on American streets. There is credible evidence of that—especially May 31, one block north of the White House, the night that St. John's Church was burned.

Joe Biden Must Ignore the Taliban’s August 31 Withdrawal ‘Red Line’

Michael O'Hanlon

Apparently, President Joe Biden feels under pressure to complete the troop-assisted evacuation of Americans, and modest numbers of friends of America, from Afghanistan by August 31. The Taliban has declared that the date represents a “red line.” But the very fact that it has used such language reinforces the importance of not being bound by such an artificial and meaningless deadline. So, of course, do the tens of thousands of Afghans still at risk, and perhaps some Americans that we have not yet found as well—people who would, with their families, very much like to leave rather than trust the promises of amnesty from a supposedly kinder and gentler Taliban.

Biden seems to feel obligated to honor his promise to get U.S. forces out of the country by the end of the month. In reflecting on his options, however, Biden should remember that the Taliban has violated the February 29, 2020, agreement with the Trump administration in two major ways—and continues to do so. The first, the requirement that it break ties with Al Qaeda, has been consistently ignored—as demonstrated by the presence of high-ranking Haqqani network figures within Taliban leadership, and as documented by the United Nations in reports issued earlier this year. The second, the demand that the Taliban engage seriously in peace talks with the Ghani government and other Afghans to create a roadmap for power-sharing was never taken seriously.

A Top U.S. Military Officer Finally Admits He Was Wrong About Afghanistan


Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military officer under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who strongly supported the “nation-building” war policy in Afghanistan, now says we should have pulled out our troops a decade ago, soon after Osama bin Laden was killed.

Mullen is thus far the only senior officer from that period who has publicly admitted that the U.S. policy—and he personally—was deeply mistaken. “It’s hard to deny the evidence in front of you,” Mullen said to me in a phone interview Monday morning.

Mullen—who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 2007 till September 2011—first admitted his mistake on this past Sunday’s episode of the ABC News show This Week. On the show, he also gave credit to then–Vice President Joe Biden, who at the time opposed the troop surge and a switch to a nation-building strategy. Biden “had it right back then,” Mullen said, and “I give him credit for that.”

New EU’s cybersecurity package: ambitious proposals, daring tasks and deeper cooperation

Michaela Prucková

As it did in 2017, the European Commission gave EU member states an early Christmas present on 16 December 2020 by publishing a cybersecurity package. This time, the package consists of three documents: (1) the Cybersecurity Strategy for the Digital Decade, (2) a proposal for the Directive on measures for a high common level of cybersecurity across the Union, and (3) a proposal for the Directive on the resilience of critical entities.
Cybersecurity, a multi-level issue

The Cybersecurity Strategy for the Digital Decade aims to respond to the cyber-related challenges posed by increasing digitalisation, the dependence on modern technologies and various complex threats. According to the document, cyberspace ‘is increasingly exploited for political and ideological purposes’ and the EU ‘lacks collective situational awareness of cyber threats’ (pp.2-3). It thus describes the daunting task of improving the EU’s cybersecurity to safeguard fundamental rights and freedoms and to boost effective and systematic cooperation.

The Political Fallout From the Afghanistan Debacle Is Reaching Europe

Frida Ghitis

The abrupt collapse of Afghanistan’s NATO-backed government in the wake of the departure of U.S. forces cast a sharp, critical spotlight on U.S. President Joe Biden. But the American president was not the only Western leader who came under enormous political pressure as the scenes of mayhem outside of Kabul’s international airport played out live on television around the world. The fall of Kabul has already riled the waters across Europe, where multiple governments are struggling to defend themselves against waves of criticism.

In the Netherlands, currently still governed by a caretaker coalition months after the most recent elections, there was widespread anger and outrage at news that the Afghan employees of the Dutch Embassy in Kabul showed up at work on the day after the Taliban swept to power, only to find the offices dark and empty. Nobody had even bothered to call them as embassy staffers fled. ...

The Middle East Is Becoming Literally Uninhabitable

Anchal Vohra,

This summer, several picturesque countries in the Middle East became tinderboxes. As extreme temperatures and severe droughts ravaged the region, forests burned, and cities became islands of unbearable heat. In June, Kuwait recorded a temperature of 53.2 degrees Celsius (127.76 degrees Fahrenheit), while Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia all recorded over 50 degrees (122 degrees). A month later, temperatures in Iraq spiked to 51.5 degrees (124.7 degrees), and Iran recorded a close 51 degrees (123.8 degrees).

Worst of all, this is just the start of a trend. The Middle East is warming at twice the global average and by 2050 will be 4 degrees Celsius warmer as compared with the 1.5 degree mark that scientists have prescribed to save humanity. The World Bank says extreme climatic conditions will become routine and the region could face four months of scorching sun every year. According to Germany’s Max Planck Institute, many cities in the Middle East may literally become uninhabitable before the end of the century. And the region, ravaged by war and mired in sectarianism, may be singularly ill-prepared to face the challenges that threaten its collective existence.

Britain’s Uncertain Future After Brexit

In July 2019, three years after British voters narrowly voted to leave the European Union in a 2016 referendum, Boris Johnson assumed the office of prime minister amid a political environment characterized by anger, turmoil and confusion. But despite initial stumbles that led some observers to predict he would suffer the same dismal fate as his predecessor, Theresa May, Johnson managed to deliver on his promise to renegotiate the U.K.’s transitional withdrawal agreement with the European Union. His subsequent decisive victory in December 2019 parliamentary elections, built in part on successfully wooing traditional Labour party voters, gave Johnson the ample majority he needed to see his deal through.

Before Johnson’s triumph, Brexit had been a disaster for both of the country’s two main political parties. The referendum outcome immediately brought down the Conservative government of former Prime Minister David Cameron, who had called for the vote in the first place. His successor, May, was felled by her inability to get the transitional withdrawal agreement she negotiated with Brussels through Parliament, mainly due to opposition by extremist Brexiteers within her own Tory ranks. For his part, Johnson achieved what May couldn’t, arriving at a transitional Brexit deal that a majority of Parliament could agree on—and then building on that majority in December 2019.

Cybersecurity Czar Richard Clarke Tells PYMNTS ‘New Mindset’ Needed To Win Cyberwar

“When I was a kid, criminals robbed banks and had guns. Now they’re not even in the same country. They sit in Eastern Europe on a computer and they make large sums of money,” said Richard Clarke, former national coordinator for security and counterterrorism, during a recent talk with Karen Webster.

And the threat and scope of cybercrime have only gotten worse.

The reality is stark and it’s clear that the traditional lines of defense — one-time passwords and SMS sent by banks and other firms — are not effective.

As Nok Nok Labs CEO Phillip Dunkelberger said during the conversation, biometrics are among the best lines of defense against an evolving threat that crosses borders, targets consumers, threatens businesses of all sizes, and disrupts supply chains.

The T-Mobile hack earlier this month is but the latest example of ransomware attacks that are making headlines. Cyber raids on cryptocurrency exchanges are also growing in number and sophistication, all at a time when $9 billion was invested into cybersecurity startups in the first half of 2021 alone.

Taiwan Has A Master Plan To Destroy China’s Missiles In A War

Peter Suciu

A dangerous game of brinksmanship continues in the Pacific as China has touted its amphibious capabilities and highlighted the abilities of its missile technology, while Taiwan has countered with its own claims of having superior anti-missile technology.

This week, the Republic of China’s (Taiwan) President Tsai Ing-wen talked up her country’s missile deterrence Newsweek reported. The island nation, which Beijing adamantly maintains is a breakaway province that will be returned to mainland control and by force if necessary, recently increased a special budget by $7 billion to bolster its precision strike capabilities.

Tsai’s remarks on the capabilities of Taiwan were made to mark the 63rd anniversary of the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis. While visiting a ROC Air Force missile command headquarters and the Defense Ministry’s arms manufacturing center, she stressed the importance of self-defense to maintain autonomy from Beijing.

Military Drone Testing Could Lead to Future Deployments and Roles

John Breeden II

Drones, unmanned vehicles and autonomous robots of all shapes and sizes are starting to make big strides into government service. They help local governments with search and rescue, fight COVID-19 infections at public venues and even serve as explorers on other planets. Almost nobody has a problem with autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles taking on those roles. But when it comes to military service, it’s a little bit more of a complicated issue.

Theoretically, autonomous vehicles and drones could play a decisive role on the modern battlefield. They could do everything from scouting the landscape before an attack to evacuating wounded soldiers. And they could also be tasked with going into actual combat against enemy troops or vehicles.

The British Army recently held a massive wargame that involved thousands of drones and vehicles with varying levels of autonomy. Many different types of drones were tested, including groups operating in a swarm, and those that could transition from flying to swimming and back to flying. Individual soldiers were able to send orders or make requests of different autonomous vehicles or drones during the exercise to test out how a human and robotic partnership might operate on the battlefields of the future.

There May Be a Way to Destroy "Unstoppable" Hypersonic Missiles

Kris Osborn

There may actually be a way to destroy "unstoppable hypersonic" missiles. As a matter of fact, there may be several emerging ways to track and destroy hypersonic weapons. But are they realistic, knowing the speed, maneuverability, and potential destruction associated with hypersonics?

Responding to the seriousness of the existing Russian and Chinese hypersonic threat, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency has presented a challenge to the industry to develop a multi-layered defensive concept.

“China continues in pursuit of advanced weapon systems with really novel attributes and capabilities, such as a hypersonic weapons dual-use capability that transcends the formal and normative delineations between domains,” Adm. Charles “Chas” Richard, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, recently said at the Space and Missile Defense (SMD) Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.