7 September 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.

The PLA’s Developing Cyber Warfare Capabilities and India's Options

 Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made it clear that his objective for China is to emerge as a ‘cyber superpower’. China wants to be the world’s largest nation in cyberspace and also one of the most powerful. The information technology revolution has produced both momentous opportunities and likely vulnerabilities for china. China is home of largest number of ‘netizens’ in the world. It also hosts some of the world’s most vibrant and successful technology companies. It also remains a major victim of cyber crime. 

Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) believes that with the rise of the Information Age future wars will be contests in the ability to exploit information. Wars will be decided by the side who is more capable to generate, gather, transmit, analyse and exploit information.

Pakistan’s Support to the Taliban is One of the Greatest Feats of Covert Intelligence

N.C. Asthana

The presence of the Inter Services Intelligence chief in Kabul this week is an in-your-face reminder of Pakistan’s role in protecting and promoting the Afghan Taliban during the course of the latter’s war with the United States.

Pakistan’s aim throughout was to use the Taliban as a proxy to curtail Indian influence in Afghanistan. and, circumstances permitting, to perhaps escalate violence in Kashmir.

During this period, India invested $3 billion worth of goodwill in Afghanistan – building civilian infrastructure like dams and schools – but its efforts came to naught in a matter of few days. This is because the Indian strategic establishment’s military assessment of the war in Afghanistan – which relied on ‘wisdom’ borrowed from the United States – was wrong from the very beginning. It should have been clear to New Delhi that something was fundamentally flawed in the American strategy when the 21,600 pound MOAB (Mother of All Bombs), the 15,000 pound Daisy Cutter and 2,000 pound Thermobaric bombs failed to break the will of the Taliban to continue fighting. However, India persisted with American blinkers on its vision.

Noncombatant Evacuation Operation - Afghanistan

The Biden administration was caught by surprise with the speed of the Taliban offensive across the country and how rapidly the insurgents occupied Kabul. It had to quickly put together a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) to rescue its Kabul embassy personnel, American citizens, foreign diplomats, Afghan interpreters, and other Afghans associated with the U.S. effort in Afghanistan. Other nations quickly joined the effort to evacuate their citizens and Afghan workers.

Hundreds of AMCITs and LPRs Left in Afghanistan. Veteran-led rescue groups say the Biden administration's estimate that 'around a hundred' U.S. citizens were left behind in Afghanistan is too low and also overlooks hundreds of other people they consider to be equally important: permanent legal residents with green cards. The State Department said that those AMCITs and LPRs left behind have been contacted and told to expect further details about routes out once those have been arranged. See "Rescue groups: US tally misses hundreds left in Afghanistan", AP News, September 3, 2021. There are more than a thousand evacuees (some reports say 2,000) in at the Mazar-e-Sharif airport waiting to board at least six planes lacking clearance to take off - the wait has been more than a week for some.

Don’t Abandon Afghanistan’s Economy Too

Adam Tooze

As Western powers pull out of Afghanistan, they have begun to ask themselves what their remaining sources of leverage over the Taliban are. In forums like the G-7 meeting chaired by the United Kingdom, conversations rapidly turn to the possibility of using funding as a means of pressure. This is a dangerous approach.

Afghanistan is critically dependent on foreign aid. In recent years, it was not unusual for it to have received aid amounting to 43 percent of its GDP. That flow of funds has now been suspended, giving the West leverage. But if the West exercises pressure indiscriminately, it will pull Afghanistan’s last remaining support at the same time it’s abandoning the country. The Taliban may threaten Afghan freedom and rights, but it is the abrupt end to funding from the West that jeopardizes their material survival.

The single clearest index of this dependence-based relationship is its balance of trade. Afghanistan is in deficit to the tune of 25 to 30 percent of its GDP. At $7 billion in 2020, Afghanistan’s imports exceeded its exports of $1.7 billion by a factor of four.

Exclusive: Anas Haqqani Discusses Taliban Plan to Secure Afghanistan, Win World Recognition


Senior Taliban official Anas Haqqani has shared with Newsweek his group's plan to secure Afghanistan, including the defiant renegade province of Panjshir, and gain world recognition for the Islamic Emirate that has been reestablished across the nation.

Anas Haqqani is the youngest son of the late, powerful guerilla leader Jalaluddin Haqqani and the brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, who serves as a deputy leader of the Taliban and currently commands the influential Haqqani network operating across the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The group has been listed by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization for nearly a decade and has been accused of both militant and criminal activities but it retains an influential position now drastically elevated by the U.S. withdrawal and Taliban victory against a rival Kabul-based government that quickly collapsed.

Now comes the hard part.

Afghanistan’s ‘Liberal’ History: Back to Year Zero?

Martin Duffy

Among Afghan psephologists, a rare and currently highly endangered species, the country’s 1949 parliamentary elections are oftentimes regarded as a golden age of electoral freedom. Edwards (2002) explores this post-1949 period through the lives of three giants of Afghanistan’s history – Nur Muhammad Taraki, Samiullah Safi, and Qazi Amin Waqad. He shows how the promise of progress and prosperity that animated Afghanistan from the late 1940s, and again in the 1960s crumbled and became the present tragedy of discord, destruction, and despair (Ibid.) The political leaders whom Edwards profiles were engaged in the key struggles of the country’s recent history. They hoped to see Afghanistan become a more just and democratic nation. But their visions for their country were radically different, and in the end, all three failed and were killed or exiled. They have inspired a sense of liberal tolerance which occasionally still makes an appearance in the years after 1949. As the recent news from Afghanistan has been so bleak, it is interesting to reflect on an earlier, more liberal, Afghanistan which possessed strong female figures and dynamic student societies in a civil society accustomed to the concept of protest.

Afghanistan: Looking Back to Move Forward

Joseph Ingram

In 2005, a group of senior political leaders from conflict-affected and post-conflict countries met at the Greentree Estates on Long Island to analyze the policy measures taken to bring about security and stability, and their links to economic and social development. Co-organized by the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Institute for State Effectiveness (ISE), the meeting’s goal was to try to identify what had succeeded, what had failed and why, and whether there were policy elements common to success or failure across countries that governments and the donor community could apply in future post-conflict situations. Among the participants were José Ramos-Horta, the first president of East Timor, Joaquim Chissano, the former president of Mozambique, Jessie Duarte, deputy chair of South Africa’s African National Congress, Lord Paddy Ashdown, the former high representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH) and Ashraf Ghani, the current president of Afghanistan. Hanan Ashrawi, then the principal spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority, was not present, but as one of the event’s organizers, I was able to consult with her by phone.

Among the key success factors common to all the countries represented, though in different combinations depending on the local context, were:



We are in the midst of one of the largest and most rapid humanitarian evacuation missions in U.S. history. On August 15, 2021, the Taliban reclaimed the Afghan capital city of Kabul, and the priority of both the U.S. and NATO became securing the Kabul airport in order to evacuate individuals out of the country. By August 25, the White House claimed that the U.S. had facilitated the evacuation—in collaboration with coalition forces, international organizations, and private donors—of approximately 80,000 people from Kabul airport since August 14, although it is not clear how many of those individuals were American versus Afghan citizens.

US, China dueling for power on the Mekong


When China announced in early August a new US$6 million for new development projects in Myanmar, the sum was trifling in Beijing’s wider $1 trillion global Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

China’s Foreign Ministry said the funds will be used for animal vaccine projects, agricultural development, science, disaster prevention and, surprisingly given the absence of foreign visitors amid a raging Covid-19 outbreak and political crisis, tourism.

But while the funds are a rounding error in the financial context of the two sides’ wider relationship, replete with multi-billion dollar plans for rail, road and port development, they represent a potential game-changer for Mekong nations including Myanmar.

The funds will be earmarked for projects under the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation (LMC) framework, China’s rival answer to the Western-initiated and funded Mekong River Commission (MRC).

Hamas has its Own Logic. What is Israel's Logic?

Udi Dekel

On Saturday, August 21, 2021, thousands of Palestinians attempted to climb the security barrier at the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip in a demonstration organized by Hamas and the factions in Gaza to mark the anniversary of an arson attack at the al-Aqsa mosque by a young Australian in 1969. Hamas thereby fulfilled its threat to reignite the border with Israel and hold violent demonstrations alongside the security barrier. Hundreds of Palestinians clashed with the Israel security forces, hurling Molotov cocktails and stones at IDF forces. A Border Police soldier was critically wounded by Palestinian fire through an opening in the wall and later succumbed to his injuries, and fire by IDF soldiers killed a young Palestinian and injured 40. Since then, the harassment from the Gaza Strip has continued, including incendiary balloons launched at the Jewish communities around the Gaza Strip and demonstrations close to the security barrier. Hamas Political Bureau Deputy Chairman Khalil al-Hayya said that Hamas was not afraid of Israel, and that the Arab nation would reinforce its efforts to end the "occupation." He spoke of the renewal and continuation of the campaign following the most recent round of conflict.

The Taliban Takeover: Iranian Interests in Afghanistan

Bat Chen Feldman

Iran regards the American withdrawal from Afghanistan as a positive development. At the same time, Iran now confronts a complex situation that compels it to reassess its policy on Afghanistan in general, and its relations with the Taliban in particular. During the first period of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, Iran, together with other countries, including Russia and the United States, supported the Northern Alliance opposition to the Taliban. The tension between Iran and the Taliban peaked in 1998, when the Taliban executed 11 Iranian diplomats and staff members, a measure that nearly resulted in a military conflict between the two sides. One consequence of the poor relations between Iran and the Taliban was military coordination between Iran and the United States during the US invasion of Afghanistan. This cooperation ended, however, following a speech by then-US President George W. Bush in 2002, which referred to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as the "axis of evil."

The Afghan Fiasco Will Stick to Biden

Peggy Noonan

August changed things; it wasn’t just a bad month. It left a lingering, still head-shaking sense of “This isn’t how we do things.”

We don’t make up withdrawal dates that will have symbolism for photo-ops with the flinty, determined president looking flinty and determined on the 20th anniversary of 9/11; we don’t time epic strategic decisions around showbiz exigencies. We wait for the summer fighting season to pass; we withdraw in the winter when Taliban warriors are shivering in their caves. We don’t leave our major air base in the middle of the night—in the middle of the night—without even telling the Afghan military. We don’t leave our weapons behind so 20-year-old enemies can don them for military playacting and drive up and down with the guns and helmets. We don’t fail to tell our allies exactly what we’re doing and how we’re doing it—they followed us there and paid a price for it. We don’t see signs of an overwhelming enemy advance and treat it merely as a perception problem, as opposed to a reality problem. You don’t get the U.S. military out before the U.S. citizens and our friends. Who will protect them if you do that?

Unavailable Options

William S. Lind

As I’ve said before and will probably say again, I support President Trump’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan and President Biden in carrying that decision through. Our withdrawal should have taken place 60 to 90 days after we first entered, but better late than never. We could stay one hundred years and Afghanistan would remain what it is.

On the other hand, the conduct of our withdrawal has been a mortifying mess. Yesterday we lost thirteen American servicemen dead and more wounded, doing what the U.S. military does so well: occupy fixed positions, follow predictable routines and get surprised when an enemy walks through the door we leave wide open. The military responds, “What other options did we have? All we hold is the airport, we have to defend that and try to get Americans and Afghan allies out through it. We have no option other than being sitting ducks.”

In fact, there were options and there should have been more. The first and most important was at the strategic level. As soon as the Biden administration decided to follow through with President Trump’s decision to leave, it should have sent a loud, clear message to the Taliban that we will leave only on our own terms. Those terms should have been, first, a “decent interval” of perhaps a few months before the Taliban took Kabul. I’m well aware we did not expect the Afghan government and army to collapse as quickly as they did, but that possibility should have been recognized early in our planning. Quisling regimes seldom last very long after the occupying Power that created them leaves, and Afghans are well practiced at going over to the winning side as soon as one is clear.

U.S. Unsure Who Is on Planes Held in Afghanistan, Warns Taliban to Keep Its Word on Evacuees


The U.S. State Department warned the Taliban to keep their word on allowing evacuees to depart Afghanistan amid reports that several planes are not being allowed to leave the country on Sunday.

In a statement to Newsweek, a State Department spokesperson said they do not have personnel on the ground, air assets in the country and do not control the airspace, so they "do not have a reliable means to confirm the basic details of charter flights" including who is organizing them, the number of people on-board, and where they plan to land, "among many other issues."

"We will hold the Taliban to its pledge to let people freely depart Afghanistan," the statement said. "As with all Taliban commitments, we are focused on deeds not words, but we remind the Taliban that the entire international community is focused on whether they live up to their commitments."

21st-Century Storms Are Overwhelming 20th-Century Cities

IN JUST A few hours on Wednesday night, between 6 and 10 inches of rain fell on New York City—more than has fallen on San Jose, California, in the past year. Water rose in basement apartments and leaked through roofs. Rain streamed into subway stations and pooled on the tracks. The remains of Hurricane Ida, which had thrashed the Gulf Coast earlier in the week, brought floods to the Northeast. Across the region, the death toll reached 40 by Thursday evening. Subway delays and suspensions continue.

The city’s infrastructure, you see, was built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to withstand the sort of storm that comes every five to 10 years. Now brutal, record-breaking storms are an annual occurrence. What was left of Ida transformed the scene of everyday commutes into a disturbing reminder that climate change comes for us all. Wildfire thunderclouds in the West, blackouts in Texas, hurricanes in the South, torrential downpours in the East: “It's all the stuff we said would happen 20 years ago,” says Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist and the director of climate and energy at the Breakthrough Institute. “It's just a little crazy to see it all happening at once.”

The Lessons of Defeat in Afghanistan

Steve Coll

Early in 2001, scurvy broke out in western Afghanistan. Typhoid and, possibly, cholera spread, along with malnutrition, a crisis exacerbated by three years of drought and five years of Taliban misrule. That May, Ruud Lubbers, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, visited the country and warned of a “humanitarian disaster.” Then Osama bin Laden unleashed the September 11th attacks, and, during the counterstrike, American warplanes dropped almost eighteen thousand bombs. At year’s end, the Taliban fell, but Afghanistan lay destitute; the average life expectancy there, the U.N. estimated, was forty-three years.

It seemed intuitive that fixing Afghanistan’s broken state should be part of the response to 9/11. Yet ambitious reconstruction and humanitarian aid did not figure initially in President George W. Bush’s “global war on terror.” His Administration pivoted to invading Iraq, and it was only in 2006, after the Taliban’s comeback became highly visible, that the United States ramped up aid to strengthen Afghan state institutions and to fight the opium trade. President Barack Obama also made large investments, in Afghanistan’s military and civil society, yet the escalating scale of Western assistance exacerbated corruption, undermining the Kabul government’s credibility. By the time Joe Biden arrived at the White House, achieving Afghan self-sufficiency seemed likely to require many more years, if it was possible at all.

Not clear yet if US is withdrawing or regearing


Caution isn’t fashionable, but it is too early to know the implications of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. That hasn’t stopped debates from getting louder and more energetic, with emotion substituting for evidence, clarity for reality and projection for facts.

On one end of the spectrum, developments herald the end of US global leadership. On the other, Biden’s decision is part of a strategic vision that prepares the United States for the most pressing geopolitical challenges.

Typical of the pessimists is commentary by a group of Canadian luminaries, former foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy among them, who argue that events in Afghanistan are more proof that “the US has lost the primacy it once enjoyed in international affairs,” and are another demonstration of “faltering resolve for global leadership” that challenges “America’s commitment to work with allies in upholding the international order.”

NATO's Responsibility to Save Afghans


TIRANA – There are few more honorable pages in Albania’s history than its lonely example of heroism in the face of the destruction of European Jewry during World War II. Nobody asked our grandparents to risk, and often sacrifice, their lives to save people from the Holocaust, yet countless Albanians – Muslims, Christians, and atheists – did just that. Thanks to the Albanian code of honor, which demands all of us to offer shelter to strangers in need, Albania was the only country in Europe with more Jews at the war’s end than at its start.

Immediately afterward, we experienced persecution firsthand. After prevailing over our external enemies, we encountered an equally vicious one at home: an oppressive totalitarian regime that jailed, tortured, and murdered those it perceived as enemies.

We lived what the people of Afghanistan now face as the Taliban consolidate power throughout the country. We lived in a state that sealed its border and persecuted dissidents and their families, just like the Taliban are expected to do with their adversaries. For nearly 50 years, we aspired to have the freedom that Afghans tasted over the last 20 years and which they now seem certain to lose.

Green Hydrogen in a Circular Carbon Economy: Opportunities and Limits


As global warming mitigation and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduction become increasingly urgent to counter climate change, many nations have announced net-zero emission targets as a commitment to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Low-carbon hydrogen has received renewed attention under these decarbonization frameworks as a potential low-carbon fuel and feedstock, especially for hard-to-abate sectors such as heavy-duty transportation (trucks, shipping) and heavy industries (e.g., steel, chemicals). Green hydrogen in particular, defined as hydrogen produced from water electrolysis with zero-carbon electricity, could have significant potential in helping countries transition their economies to meet climate goals. Today, green hydrogen production faces enormous challenges, including its cost and economics, infrastructure limitations, and potential increases in CO2 emissions (e.g., if produced with uncontrolled fossil power generation, which would be hydrogen but would not be green).

Will the next Afghanistan be in Africa?

The Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan last week — or at least the speed by which they did so — took many by surprise. The debate over who bears the ultimate responsibility — President Biden, the Afghan military or previous U.S. presidents — may never be fully resolved. But that the present situation is a devastating outcome for both the U.S. and Afghanistan alike is hard to deny. Likewise, the ramifications of the Taliban's victory are likely to extend beyond Afghanistan to the rest of the world. Will militant groups in other countries emulate the Taliban's strategy? Will vacuums left by the U.S. and other Western countries leave other weak states vulnerable to jihadist conquest? Nowhere are these risks more potent than in Africa.

A continent at risk

Americans typically associate terrorism with the Middle East. But in recent years, the rise of jihadist groups in Africa has seen the continent become "the heart" of global terrorism. Seven African countries rank among the top 10 nations facing the greatest terrorism threats, according to the 2020 Terrorism Index published by the global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft. Burkina Faso, Mali and Somalia were rated 0 on the list (the lowest possible score), placing them alongside Afghanistan and Syria as the world's highest-risk countries. Cameroon, Mozambique, Niger, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which are all afflicted by violence from al-Qaeda or ISIS-affiliated jihadist groups, also appeared in the index. Countries not on the list but also home to Islamist insurgencies include Algeria, Chad, Libya, Kenya and Nigeria.

Japan finds a huge cache of scarce rare-earth minerals


Enough rare earth minerals have been found off Japan to last centuries

Rare earths are important materials for green technology, as well as medicine and manufacturing

Where would we be without all of our rare-earth magnets?

Rare earth elements are a set of 17 metals that are integral to our modern lifestyle and efforts to produce ever-greener technologies. The "rare" designation is a bit of a misnomer: It's not that they're not plentiful, but rather that they're found in small concentrations, and are especially difficult to successfully extract since they blend in with and resemble other minerals in the ground. China currently produces over 90% of the world's supply of rare metals, with seven other countries mining the rest. So though they're not precisely "rare," they are scarce. In 2010, the U.S. Department of energy issued a report that warned of a critical shortage of five of the elements. Now, however, Japan has found a massive deposit of rare earths sufficient to supply the world's needs for hundred of years.

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The AI Revolution and Strategic Competition with China


NEW YORK – The world is only starting to grapple with how profound the artificial-intelligence revolution will be. AI technologies will create waves of progress in critical infrastructure, commerce, transportation, health, education, financial markets, food production, and environmental sustainability. Successful adoption of AI will drive economies, reshape societies, and determine which countries set the rules for the coming century.

This AI opportunity coincides with a moment of strategic vulnerability. US President Joe Biden has said that America is in a “long-term strategic competition with China.” He is right. But it is not only the United States that is vulnerable; the entire democratic world is, too, because the AI revolution underpins the current contest of values between democracy and authoritarianism. We must prove that democracies can succeed in an era of technological revolution.

Putting the “War” Back in War CollegesOur nation’s senior-officer educational institutions no longer teach warfighting—and that must change.

Thomas Bruscino, Mitchell G. Klingenberg

We must reckon with the hard truth that the United States has lost another war. Though errors made by policymakers certainly played a part, our military lost in Afghanistan because it no longer knows how to fight and win wars. This wasn’t because our military professionals lack will or effort but because they have forgotten the real purpose for which militaries exist. Nowhere is this truer than in America’s war colleges—the schools our nation established to teach officers how to fight and win wars. The plain fact is that these schools no longer teach warfighting. This may sound incredible—even unbelievable—but it is true.

In May 2020, the Joint Chiefs of Staff published guidance for the education of future senior military leaders that repeatedly emphasized the need for all senior officers to learn how to fight wars and campaigns as a joint force. The various services are specialized to fight and win battles on land, at sea, and in the air, but campaigns and wars require building, supporting, and commanding formations that fight in all three environments simultaneously, often far from the United States. The Joint Chiefs issued their guidance because our senior-officer education system does not prepare its students for joint warfighting, which is enormously complicated.