30 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.

Chinese Cyber Exploitation in India’s Power Grid – Is There a linkage to Mumbai Power Outage?

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


On Feb. 28, 2021 The New York Times (NYT), based on analysis by a U.S. based private intelligence firm Recorded Future, reported that a Chinese entity penetrated India’s power grid at multiple load dispatch points. Chinese malware intruded into the control systems that manage electric supply across India, along with a high-voltage transmission substation and a coal-fired power plant.

The NYT story1 gives the impression that the alleged activity against critical Indian infrastructure installations was as much meant to act as a deterrent against any Indian military thrust along the Line of Actual Control as it was to support future operations to cripple India’s power generation and distribution systems in event of war.

Taliban Plus: Afghanistan a Terrorist Haven After 20 Years Of US ‘War on Terror’


There is so much ineffectual falsehood in US statements on Afghanistan in the wake of the chaotic final stages of the withdrawal of troops; it was underlined by President Joe Biden’s statement after the attacks at the Kabul airport, when he declared, “We will not forget. We will not forgive. We will hunt you down and make you pay.” But Biden appears already to have forgotten and forgiven the deaths of the 2,448 service members and 3,846 American contractors, most of whom were killed by the Taliban, to whom the US surrendered Afghanistan and whose “cooperation” Biden now hopes for.

Before this, Biden had justified the hasty and ill-planned withdrawal from Afghanistan on a manifestly specious argument: “We [the US] went to Afghanistan for the express purpose of getting rid of al Qaeda in Afghanistan … What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with al Qaeda gone?”

What is ISIS-K? Two terrorism experts on the group behind the deadly Kabul airport attack and its rivalry with the Taliban

Amira Jadoon

Who is ISIS-K?
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.

ISIS-K was officially founded in January 2015. Within a short period of time, it managed to consolidate territorial control in several rural districts in north and northeast Afghanistan, and launched a lethal campaign across Afghanistan and Pakistan. Within its first three years, ISIS-K launched attacks against minority groups, public areas and institutions, and government targets in major cities across Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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By 2018, it had become one of the top four deadliest terrorist organizations in the world, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Terrorism Index.

The Roots of American Failure in Afghanistan

Ivan Eland

The rapid collapse of Afghanistan has led to predictable finger-pointing about who is to blame for “losing Afghanistan.” Both President Joe Biden and his predecessor, Donald Trump, laudably wanted to end the quagmire. Both made blunders.

Most recently, under Biden, Trump’s deadline for withdrawal was ignored, a Trump-era crisis response plan aimed at avoiding chaotic evacuations was halted, and a massive intelligence failure missed adroit Taliban negotiations with local governing structures to pre-cook a rapid takeover of the country. Also, Biden’s effort to quietly warn U.S. citizens to leave and offer them the price of the air ticket out of the country—all designed to avoid inducing panic—delayed the start of an airlift by months, leaving thousands of Americans stranded. Then, the Biden Pentagon abandoned the critical Bagram Air Base, which could have increased capacity and the rapidity of evacuation. Throughout, Biden’s White House and Pentagon have been concerned more with things other than assembling and implementing a sound disengagement campaign.

However, the best way to avoid this chaos in the future is to think twice, and even three times, before getting involved in counterinsurgency and nation-building missions in developing countries.

How Long Before Pakistan Is, Once More, NATO Governments' Favoured Friend?

Shyam Bhatia

London: As foreign embassies in Kabul reduce their personnel, or even shut down, Pakistan is ideally placed to function as a ‘listening post’ for the policies implemented by the Taliban, far more than other neighbours like Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Pakistan is easily the best location to watch the daily developments in Kabul. The reasons for this are the long and porous Afghan border, the multiple contacts between the Taliban and Islamabad and the presence of more than three million Afghan refugees in and around Pakistani cities.

Collected information is pooled in the Pakistani border city of Peshawar which offers a unique, daily insight into how Afghanistan is being governed. Euphemistically described as a ‘melting pot’ of different ethnic groups, the city is actually a human exchange where Afghan warlords, journalists and Pakistani government agents, spies and aid workers all meet and trade information. Whisky masquerading as tea is available in copious quantities; so too are automatic weapons, grenades and rocket launchers.

Why Biden’s Lack of Strategic Patience Led to Disaster

Ryan C. Crocker

As Americans, we have many strengths, but strategic patience is not among them. We have been able to summon it at critical times such as the Revolutionary War and World War II, where, for example, Congress did not threaten to defund the war effort if it wasn’t wrapped up by 1944. In Korea, nearly seven decades after an inconclusive truce, we still have about 28,000 troops. But our patience is not the norm. And it certainly has not been on display in Afghanistan as the world watched the Taliban storm into Kabul.

As the enormity of the events in Afghanistan this past week sinks in, the questions start. How did this happen? How could we not have foreseen it? Why didn’t Afghan security forces put up a fight? Why didn’t we do something about corruption? The list goes on. There is one overarching answer: our lack of strategic patience at critical moments, including from President Biden. It has damaged our alliances, emboldened our adversaries and increased the risk to our own security. It has also flouted 20 years of work and sacrifice.

History and the Recognition of the Taliban

Scott R. Anderson

In recent weeks, Afghanistan’s political landscape has undergone some seismic changes. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan that had governed the country for the past two decades is now gone, its security forces having largely surrendered and its last president, Ashraf Ghani, having conceded defeat as he fled the country. The Taliban forces that surged in the wake of the U.S. military withdrawal are now in control of most of the country and have declared their intent to re-establish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan founded by an earlier generation of Taliban. Leaders of the Taliban’s various factions are now stationed in Kabul, where they are discussing what exactly this new government might look like both among themselves and with a handful of other prominent Afghans, including officials from the former government. By contrast, the United States and its allies have had to shutter their once sprawling embassies and are now engaged in an urgent effort to evacuate through Kabul’s international airport, which the Taliban has agreed to leave in U.S. military control through the scheduled withdrawal date of Aug. 31, but no longer.

The Limits of Leverage in Taliban-Led Afghanistan

Elizabeth Threlkeld

Following the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, the United States has pursued a two-track approach to dealing with the group: Pressure when possible, and negotiate when necessary. While a logical strategy, the specifics of the situation on the ground complicate both efforts. The pressure campaign must contend with the need to cooperate with the Taliban on evacuations and to avoid inflicting further suffering on Afghans. Negotiations, meanwhile, are made more challenging by attempts to maintain maximum leverage over the group. How policymakers balance these competing objectives will determine the trajectory of outside engagement with the Taliban over the near term. Despite public statements to the contrary, the Taliban are likely to cede little ground on their core interests, rendering cooperation possible only on limited, mutually acceptable terms.

International Pressure Campaign

Afghanistan, Policy Choices, and Claims of Intelligence Failure

David Priess

An old adage in foreign policy circles—heard most often from policymakers at the White House or the State Department or the Pentagon—is that there are no policy failures, only intelligence failures.

This, of course, is a landfill-sized garbage take. The origins of poor policy decisions go much deeper and much wider than that; intelligence has always been merely one input in a complicated, multifaceted policy process.

Yet, it’s fair to admit a serious problem when intelligence is both a crucial factor in national security decision-making and inaccurate, not objective, untimely, or poorly communicated. In these cases, “intelligence failure” fits the bill.

Without knowing the details of intelligence that had reached President Biden, observers have nevertheless been deploying the phrase regarding the situation in Afghanistan. “This is an intelligence failure,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., told NBC News on Aug. 15—just after the network’s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, tweeted about it as “a huge US intelligence failure.” The next day, Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, called it not only “an intelligence failure of the highest order” but also the “biggest intelligence failure” since the missed Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War.

Taliban Takeover: World Bank and IMF Halt Aid; US Freezes Afghan Assets

Catherine Putz

For the past 20 years, Afghanistan has been one of the most aid-dependent countries in the world. With the Taliban takeover and the collapse of the U.S.-backed government, which donor countries had supported with pledges in the millions, international donors are halting the flow of aid for the time being.

On Wednesday, the World Bank reportedly halted aid to Afghanistan. Marcela Sanchez-Bender, a World Bank spokesperson said, “We have paused disbursements in our operations in Afghanistan and we are closely monitoring and assessing the situation in line with our internal policies and procedures.”

She added, “We are deeply concerned about the situation in Afghanistan and the impact on the country’s development prospects, especially for women.”

Why Is Pakistan Cautious in Extending Recognition to the Taliban Regime?

Umair Jamal

Pakistan has decided against going it alone with regard to extending recognition to the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate government.

It would take a decision on the matter “in consultation with regional and international powers, especially China, Turkey and the United States of America,” Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said at a recent media briefing,

While it has not officially announced a government yet, the Taliban, which captured Kabul on August 15, have been quietly appointing their leaders to different administrative and political offices in the country.

The Pakistan government’s statement relating to recognition of the Taliban regime is significant, not only because it is one of the closest allies of the Taliban in the region, but also because it indicates that Islamabad has its own apprehensions over Taliban rule.

What If America Had Never Invaded Afghanistan?

Robert Farley

What if the United States had never invaded Afghanistan?

The question is not as absurd as it sounds. Popular support for military retribution against Al Qaeda following the 9/11 attacks was high, but this retribution did not need to take the form of a campaign for regime change. Indeed, some senior officials in the Bush administration were notably unenthusiastic about invading Afghanistan, seeing it as a strategic backwater and far too remote to make an effective demonstration of American military might. What if the United States had taken a different path?

The Counter-Terrorism Mission

It is almost certainly unthinkable that the United States would not have responded militarily in some fashion to the 9/11 attacks, but the specific form of intervention was not pre-ordained. Instead, the US could have undertaken a combination of punishment-style attacks against Taliban targets designed to cause pain to the regime, while at the same time launching counter-terrorism operations intended to capture or kill as much of Al Qaeda as possible. The Taliban had no obvious means of resisting the United States military or preventing it from accessing whatever part of Afghanistan it wanted to attack in 2001. The US could have landed and supported substantial forces without Taliban permission, similar to how the US has operated in Syria and Somalia.

Afghan Addiction

Andrew Schwartz: I'm Andrew Schwartz and you're listening to the Truth of the Matter, a podcast by CSIS where we break down the top policy issues of the day and talk with the people that can help us best understand what's really going on. To help us get to the truth of the matter about the geopolitics surrounding Afghanistan, we have with us Dr. Jon Alterman, one of my long time and closest colleagues, who is a senior vice president at CSIS. He's the Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy and the director of our Middle East program. Jon, thanks so much for joining us today. We've got a lot to talk about, but let me start first with Iran. Where are Iran's interests in Afghanistan? They don't necessarily align in terms of religion with the Taliban, but what are their interests in Afghanistan, and what are they hoping to get out of the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal?

Jon Alterman: Thanks Andrew, it's always good to be with you. Iran has a lot of interests Afghanistan. Not only is it a neighboring state. There are some things they are afraid of in Afghanistan. Drug smuggling is something that has been a long problem, and drug addiction is a big problem in Iran. I think they're concerned with some of the terrorist groups. They have worked out a modus vivendi with some of the terrorist groups in Afghanistan over time. I think they see some economic opportunities in Afghanistan. If you have an Afghan state that is isolated from the world—and Iran is isolated from the world—then Iran can sell things in Afghanistan. They see Afghanistan as an embarrassment to the United States. That's good for Iran, which sees itself locked in a competition with the United States.

What we know about Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISIS-K)

The Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K), has claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks outside Kabul airport that killed at least 175 civilians and 13 US soldiers and left dozens injured.

ISKP said its suicide bombers singled out “translators and collaborators with the American army” in the attacks on Thursday evening.

Also among the dead were at least 28 Taliban members, according to the group that is now ruling Afghanistan.

ISKP is known as an offshoot of the ISIL (ISIS) armed group that claimed to be seeking to establish an Islamic “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria.

Khorasan refers to a historical region under an ancient caliphate that once included parts of Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan.

Three Aircraft Carriers. Dozens Of Stealth Fighters. A Powerful Allied Battle Group Has Gathered Near China

David Axe 

Three aircraft carriers embarking two different models of F-35 stealth fighter have assembled in the waters around Okinawa.

The three-carrier group, with two American flattops and one British one, is among the most powerful naval formations to appear anywhere in many years
And it’s not hard to understand the timing and location. The Chinese navy in recent weeks has been rehearsing an invasion of Taiwan. The three carriers are a warning—that an attack on the island democracy could have profound consequences.

The three flattops converged from separate directions. HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy’s new conventionally-fueled carrier, along with her British, American and Dutch escorts for several weeks now has been crisscrossing the Western Pacific
The 919-foot carrier with two squadrons of F-35B jump jets aboard—one from the Royal Air Force and another from the U.S. Marine Corps—departed the United Kingdom for her maiden cruise back in May, sailed through the Mediterranean and across the Indian Ocean to reach the Pacific via the Singapore Strait.

Xinhua Infiltrates Western Electronic Media, Part 2: Relationships with News Agencies and Distribution Services

John Dotson

Xinhua, the state news agency of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), serves a role very different from that of its nominal counterparts in democratic states, such as Britain’s BBC, Germany’s Deutsche Welle, or Taiwan’s Central News Agency. Xinhua (新华 or “New China”) functions as the official mouthpiece of China’s ruling party: Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping, reinforcing a long-standing party dictum, has declared that “journalism is the mouthpiece of the party and people” (新闻事业是党和人民的喉舌, xinwen shiye shi dang he renmin de houshe), possessing an “important mission to guide public opinion” (引导舆论的一个重要任务, yindao yulun de yige zhongyao renwu) (Renmin Wang, September 18, 2019). Operating abroad, the primary role of the PRC’s propaganda system is the imperative to “tell China’s story well” (讲好中国故事, jiang hao Zhongguo gushi) by promoting the CCP’s narratives to international audiences.

According to research by the Center for Responsive Politics, the PRC’s declared expenditures on public opinion influence activities (including lobbying, public relations and media support) expanded dramatically in the United States in 2019-2020 and reached over $63.78 million in 2020.[1] As a component of this, Xinhua has explored multiple avenues to “borrow foreign newspapers” (借用海外报刊, jieyong haiwai baokan) by inserting paid content into foreign publications, in both hardcopy and electronic form (China Brief, April 12). This practice continues—as evidenced by a spring 2021 legal filing indicating that Xinhua’s subsidiary China Daily had paid more than $1.96 million dollars over the preceding six months for “advertorial” advertising in five prominent North American publications, including $700,000 to Time magazine.[2]

Early Warning Brief: Implications of Xi’s Revival of the Maoist Slogan “Common Prosperity”

Willy Wo-Lap Lam

The Chinese President Xi Jinping has masterminded a major policy shift for the world’s second largest economy by underscoring the imperative of “common prosperity” (Gongtong fuyu). At a recent meeting of the Central Finance and Economic Affairs Commission (CFEC), which he leads, Xi said that a relatively equal income distribution across disparate sectors of the populace and geographical areas was “an essential requirement of socialism and a key feature of Chinese-style modernization” (Xinhua, August 17). Xi has apparently made seminal revisions to reform-era chief architect Deng Xiaoping’s philosophy that “to get rich is glorious.” Deng’s quasi-capitalist strategy helped to produce 1,058 billionaires in the Greater China Region last year, compared to 696 in the U.S. and 171 in India (Hurun List 2021, March 2). Common prosperity has also been cited by Xi and his fellow ideologues as the “original quintessence” ( chuxin) of socialism.

As the Central Party School professor Zhang Zhanbin (张占斌) recently noted, “pushing forward common prosperity for all citizens is a bright banner of Marxism.” Zhang added that, “It reflects the chuxin mission of the CCP and the fundamental demand of socialism” (People’s Daily, August 20). This is despite the fact that immediately after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took power in 1949, Mao Zedong pursued a kind of rough egalitarianism with Chinese characteristics that included experiments such as the liquidation of capitalists and their properties as well as the establishment of people’s communes, resulting in common poverty for all and mass starvation.

Why the American Military’s Greatest Strength Wasn’t Enough in Afghanistan


There’s a military adage, often attributed to Gen. Omar Bradley: “Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics”—which may explain why America’s military strategies often fail, but our logistics succeed brilliantly.

Case in point: Afghanistan, where our strategy was ill suited to the country but our logistics—seen most vividly in the ongoing evacuation—have been stunning. Whatever President Joe Biden’s failings in planning the withdrawal, once it got going, the inflow of planes and outflow of passengers—more than 100,000 people evacuated since Aug. 14 (as of midafternoon Aug. 25)—have been impressive. (I’m referring simply to the speed and timing of planes landing, loading, and taking off inside the airport, not the violent mayhem going on outside the gates, which is another matter.)

This sort of inflow and outflow—moving troops, weapons, ammunition, as well as the food, water, fuel, and spare parts to sustain them for a long time from one place to another, quickly— has long been the United States military’s most formidable strength.

Marine commander relieved over his viral video calling out military leaders for Afghanistan withdrawal


On Thursday, a Marine infantry officer and battalion commander took to social media to air his frustrations with senior military leadership over their handling of the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and what he says is a lack of accountability for mistakes made by those charged with managing the final stages of America’s longest war.

“I’m not saying we’ve got to be in Afghanistan forever, but I am saying: Did any of you throw your rank on the table and say ‘hey, it’s a bad idea to evacuate Bagram Airfield, a strategic airbase, before we evacuate everyone,’” asked Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller in a recent video shared to Facebook and LinkedIn.

“Did anyone do that? And when you didn’t think to do that, did anyone raise their hand and say ‘we completely messed this up.’”

Them and Us: How America Lets Its Enemies Hijack Its Foreign Policy

Ben Rhodes

No twenty-first-century event has shaped the United States and its role in the world as much as 9/11. The attacks pierced the complacency of the post–Cold War decade and shattered the illusion that history was ending with the triumph of American-led globalization. The scale of the U.S. response remade American government, foreign policy, politics, and society in ways that continue to generate aftershocks. Only by interrogating the excesses of that response can Americans understand what their country has become and where it needs to go.

It is difficult to overstate—and in fact easy to understate—the impact of 9/11. By any measure, the “war on terror” was the biggest project of the period of American hegemony that began when the Cold War ended—a period that has now reached its dusk. For 20 years, counterterrorism has been the overarching priority of U.S. national security policy. The machinery of government has been redesigned to fight an endless war at home and abroad. Basic functions—from the management of immigration to the construction of government facilities to community policing—have become heavily securitized, as have aspects of everyday life: travel, banking, identification cards. The United States has used military force in

So Much for a ‘Foreign Policy for the Middle Class’


The fall of Kabul is a major disaster.

It is a major disaster for the people of Afghanistan, who will now have to live under a theocratic regime that suppresses their most basic liberties, ruthlessly punishes dissenters, and proudly oppresses women. It is a major disaster, in particular, for the tens of thousands of Afghans who helped Western journalists and diplomats in an attempt to build a better country, then looked on in impotence as promises of harbor were shamefully abandoned, and now face the deadly wrath of the Taliban. It is a major disaster for many countries in the region, which will now have to deal with the deeply destabilizing effects of yet another massive refugee crisis. It is a major disaster for the credibility of the West, whose promises to stand up for the safety of allies threatened by authoritarian competitors such as Russia and China will now sound even more hollow. And it is a major disaster for the United States, which will be much less secure now that the Taliban has freed a significant number of al-Qaeda operatives, and may once again allow terrorist groups to establish training grounds in Afghanistan.

Winning Ugly: What the War on Terror Cost America

Elliot Ackerman

My first mission as a paramilitary officer with the CIA was against a top-ten al Qaeda target. It was the autumn of 2009, and I had been deployed in my new job for a total of two days. But I was no stranger to Afghanistan, having already fought there (as well as in Iraq) as a Marine Corps officer over the previous six years. On this mission, I was joined by the Afghan counterterrorism unit I advised and a handful of members from SEAL Team Six. Our plan was to conduct a raid to capture or kill our target, who was coming across the border from Pakistan for a meeting in the Korengal Valley.

The night was moonless as we slipped into the valley. The 70-odd members of our raid force hiked under night-vision goggles for a couple of hours, taking on hundreds of feet of elevation in silence until we arrived at a village on a rocky outcropping where the meeting was being held. As surveillance and strike aircraft orbited the starry sky, a subset of our force sprinted toward the house where an informant had told us the target was staying. There was a brief and sharp gunfight; none of our men were hurt, and several of our adversaries were killed. But the target was taken alive. Then we slipped out of the valley as expeditiously as we had arrived. By early morning, we had made it safely to the U.S. Army outpost, where our prisoner would soon be transferred to Bagram Air Base.

Biden made the hard choice in Afghanistan, and the right one

Jake Auchincloss

Before serving in Congress, I was an infantry platoon commander in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. In the summer of 2012, we patrolled three Taliban-contested villages on the Helmand River. On each patrol I would visit a tribal elder. They would serve me hot, sweet goat-milk tea. I would sip it in the 100-degree heat and smile politely. They would listen to me talk about the American mission and smile politely. Neither side could stomach it.

These Pashtun elders, veterans of the Soviet invasion and the civil war, were in a familiar bind. Taliban to their south, Americans to their north. Taliban conscripting their sons to plant IEDs; Americans demanding to know who planted them. My platoon and I were there for a summer, but the villagers would live with their decisions. One elder conveyed their wariness in an often-used expression: “You have the watches, but they have the time.” The Taliban could not outfight Americans, but it could outlast us, because we had no political endgame.

Counterinsurgencies are a political initiative with a military component. They require the regime in power to counter the insurgents with better governance. The Western-backed government in Kabul offered corruption and incompetence instead.

Masters and Commanders: Are Civil-Military Relations in Crisis?

Kori Schake; Peter D. Feaver; Risa Brooks, Jim Golby, and Heidi Urben 

The Process Is Working
Risa Brooks, Jim Golby, and Heidi Urben (“Crisis of Command,” May/June 2021) level serious charges against the U.S. military’s leadership, contending that its influence has grown to the point where “presidents worry about military opposition to their policies and must reckon with an institution that selectively implements executive guidance.” “Unelected military leaders,” they argue, “limit or engineer civilians’ options so that generals can run wars as they see fit.” And “even if elected officials still get the final say, they may have little practical control if generals dictate all the options or slow their implementation—as they often do now.” The authors’ grim assessment of the problems leads them to an equally grim conclusion: “Without robust civilian oversight of the military, the United States will not remain a democracy or a global power for long.”

If the military were acting the way Brooks, Golby, and Urben describe, then it would indeed be egregiously violating cherished norms of U.S. civil-military relations. Fortunately for the republic, however, their allegations are not substantiated.

The Media Manufactured Biden’s Political ‘Fiasco’ in Afghanistan “Straight news” has chosen sanctimony over circumspection.

Eric Levitz

America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan has yet to cost our nation a single casualty. Evacuations of U.S. citizens and allies from Kabul’s airport are proceeding at a faster pace than the White House had promised, or than its critics had deemed possible. Afghanistan’s decades-long civil war has reached a lull, if not an end. On the streets of Kabul, “order and quiet” have replaced “rising crime and violence.” Meanwhile, the Taliban is negotiating with former Afghan president Hamid Karzai over the establishment of “an inclusive government acceptable to all Afghans.”

In other words, Joe Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan has been a “disastrous” and “humiliating” “fiasco,” in the words of the mainstream media’s ostensibly objective foreign-policy journalists.

This may be an accurate description of what recent events in Kabul have meant for the president, politically. The latest polls have shown sharp drops in Biden’s approval rating, driven in part by widespread opposition to “the way” his administration handled its (otherwise popular) exit from Afghanistan. Yet this political fiasco is not a development that the media covered so much as one that it created.

The Good Enough Doctrine

Daniel Byman

In the 20 years since the 9/11 attack, U.S. counterterrorism policy has achieved some striking successes and suffered some horrific failures. On the positive side, jihadi organizations such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) are now shadows of their former selves, and the United States has avoided another catastrophic, 9/11-scale attack. The worst fears, or even the more modest ones, of U.S. counterterrorism officials have not been realized. With terrorism less of an immediate concern, U.S. President Joe Biden has turned Washington’s focus toward China, climate change, and other issues—even withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan as part of an effort to end the so-called forever wars.

At the same time, however, many of the United States’ more ambitious foreign policy efforts done in the name of counterterrorism since 9/11, such as effecting regime change in the Middle East and winning the goodwill of Muslims around the world, have failed and even backfired. Although al Qaeda and ISIS are far weaker than they were at their peak, they have persisted in the face of tremendous pressure, and their reach, albeit at times more ambitious than their grasp, has only grown since 2001. Today, other countries face potent terrorist threats, and al Qaeda, ISIS, and their various affiliates and allies remain active in civil wars around the world.

Japan Keeps Intercepting China Military Drones and Spy Planes


Japan says it has scrambled fighter aircraft to intercept Chinese military drones and accompanying surveillance aircraft on three consecutive days this week as its defense forces took part in a series of readiness exercises with regional allies.

Thursday marked the third straight day of Chinese unmanned aerial vehicle sightings reported by the Japanese Defense Ministry's Joint Staff Office. Images of the drones were captured by fighters of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.

According to illustrated flight paths released by the office, Japan detected a Chinese TB-001 reconnaissance drone loitering in the East China Sea on Tuesday. The following day, Japan intercepted a BZK-005 UAV and two People's Liberation Army Y-8 support aircraft of the maritime patrol and intelligence-gathering variants.

Wednesday's three Chinese aircraft transited the Miyako Strait into the Western Pacific through the international airspace between the islands of Okinawa and Miyako, said the Joint Staff Office press release.

The Future of Work Is Flexible


Federal employees and national security workers are returning to the office with the delta variant fast on their heels. When it comes to managers and workers who hold security clearances, the good news is many employers appear to be prepared for the new normal in the workplace. A March 2021 ClearanceJobs survey of defense industry professionals showed 82% of employers plan to continue offering remote work post COVID-19. That’s a significant figure, considering all employers who participated in the survey are in the security-cleared space.

Understanding and Defending Against Russia's Malign and Subversive Information Efforts in Europe

Miriam Matthews, Alyssa Demus, Elina Treyger, Marek N. Posard

The increasing frequency and intensity of information aggression targeting the United States and its European allies demands more thorough consideration of concepts and practices for protecting against, resisting, and mitigating the effects of psychological manipulation and influence.

Russia in particular appears to use messaging and intimidation as part of its efforts to influence multiple actors and countries, including the United States and its European allies. Unfortunately, concepts and practices for understanding and resisting the potential effects of efforts conducted by Russia and its agents are few. To address this, United States European Command (USEUCOM) asked the RAND Corporation to identify strategies for defending against the effects of Russia's efforts to manipulate and inappropriately influence troops, government decisionmaking, and civilians.

The authors describe apparent efforts conducted by Russia and its agents involving the use of information to shape Russia's operating environment, focusing on the European context; review and apply existing research on influence and manipulation to these efforts; and draw from existing practice to describe possible defensive approaches for USEUCOM and its various partners to consider using when defending against these actions. The framework the authors apply offers a way to conceptualize the objectives, tactics, and tools of Russian information efforts in Europe.

How Taliban's Feud with ISIS Could Doom Its Push for International Recognition


An explosion today outside Kabul's airport inflamed the desperation of the thousands of Afghan allies anxiously awaiting evacuation, adding pressure to the United States and its NATO allies as they work around the clock to get as many people out of the country as possible by the August 31 deadline.

Intelligence reports indicate the explosion may have been carried out by a wing of the Islamic State known as ISIS Khorasan, or ISIS-K, with a British Armed Forces Minister telling BBC radio that the intelligence is now "much firmer."

The Taliban moved quickly to deny responsibility for the explosions, a move that came as no surprise to a U.S. official in the region.

"[The Taliban] do not conduct suicide bombings," the U.S. official told Newsweek, "and are attempting to rebrand their image, so they'll distance themselves from the bombings."

Lessons for Russia From the U.S. Leadership Crisis

Alexander Baunov

U.S. President Joe Biden’s first speech following scenes of chaos and tragedy as the Taliban retook control of the Afghan capital Kabul contained some important implications for Russia. It presented a new format for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and other countries where Washington has taken it upon itself to oversee a transition to democracy. The United States has absolved itself of responsibility for the end result, since, in Biden’s words, U.S. soldiers “cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.” Biden also redefined the U.S. mission, stating that its aim was exclusively to ensure its own security following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on American soil, rather than nation building or creating democracy.

So, what conclusions can Russia draw from this new, self-restrained interpretation of the U.S. mission abroad? The Soviet Union conducted its own disastrous war in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, but it didn’t just pull out because it was unable to win the war. It withdrew at a time of deep internal crisis for the USSR, when people had become bitterly disappointed with their own country. Both the Soviet and U.S. strategies of “winning the hearts and minds” of the Afghan people were similar, except that instead of the Soviet values of “socialism,” “equality,” and “development,” the U.S. buzzword was “democracy.” Beyond the military action, the construction sites of schools and hospitals that rose up were strikingly similar, along with programs for thousands of students at universities; weapons for the armed forces; and concerts, libraries, and museums for the intelligentsia. But it’s hard to win over the hearts and minds of a foreign nation right when you’re losing those of your own people, and the United States is also leaving Afghanistan at a time of deep internal reflection.

The Future of the International System

Heather A. Conley, James Andrew Lewis

The great American baseball player and “philosopher,” Yogi Berra, famously said that if you come to a fork in the road, you should take it. Today, the international system stands at Berra’s fork and is heeding his advice by taking two roads simultaneously. The first road is the well-trodden one: the international community continues to practice multilateral diplomacy and follow the post-1945 international patterns of cooperation—but with fewer productive results. The second is an as-yet unchartered path of new patterns of behavior marked by technological competition and coercion, the revitalization and modernization of industrial policies, and a radical rethink of the role of governance and diplomacy.

The terrain of this new road is explored with the help of three authors: Ayse Kaya, associate professor of political science, Swarthmore College; James A. Lewis, senior vice president, CSIS; and David Victor, professor, School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California at San Diego. Each author was asked to write a short, imaginative essay that examined the three issues that will significantly shape the future international system: 1) global trade and inequality (Kaya), 2) the role of cyber and emerging technologies (Lewis), and 3) climate change and the global energy transition (Victor). The authors were tasked to answer what they believed the future nature of competition and conflict would be in their respective topic and what they considered the role or limitations of the nation state in addressing those challenges. Who will hold power in this new international system, and who may lose preferential status? What are the consequences of failure or resilience of national governments to address these global challenges?

Meet the Year’s Biggest Technological Breakthrough

Ella Alderson

The breakthrough was a quiet affair, escaping the light of many major media outlets. Up until this year any research behind this technology was highly secretive; details were ushered out of the public eye and bound behind closed doors. It was only a few weeks ago that we became aware of the brilliant strides one company had made. Their announcement to the world may have been subtle and unassuming, yet the impact this technology will have is tremendous, affecting the course of humanity and the future of our society as a whole. Though the company behind this innovation isn’t well known, it is now in a position to win one of the most important technological races on the planet. At stake? A substantial amount of wealth, power, and a hand in solving one of Earth’s most formidable problems.

The company’s name is Form Energy. It’s backed by a number of elite investors such as Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, as well as multi-billion dollar oil companies and material manufacturers. After raising hundreds of millions of dollars and improving on a decade of research, Form Energy may have just gifted the world a holy-grail of energy technology.

Why America Can’t Build Allied Armies

Rachel Tecott

The United States’ effort to strengthen the Afghan security forces has come to an ignominious end. The U.S. military spent 20 years and $83 billion building up a force that melted away in a matter of weeks, ceding the country to the Taliban over that period with barely a shot fired.

The swift collapse of the Afghan security forces is not an outlier. In fact, it is closer to the norm for local security forces built up with U.S. military assistance. The United States’ three largest efforts to build partner militaries—in Vietnam, Iraq, and now Afghanistan—have all failed spectacularly. There is good reason the images coming out of Kabul conjure up Saigon in 1975 and Mosul in 2014.

What the military calls “security force assistance,” “building partner capacity,” or “train-and-equip operations” remains a pillar of U.S. defense strategy. Setting Afghanistan and Iraq entirely aside, the United States spends billions of dollars every year and deploys thousands of personnel to train and assist foreign militaries from countries all over the world. Although the purpose of such assistance varies, its main goal is to increase the capacity of partner militaries to shoulder local security burdens so that the United States can