8 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.

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.

The Afghan tragedy and the age of unpeace

Mark Leonard

The images of desperate Afghans scaling the perimeter fence at Kabul’s airport in an attempt to flee Taliban rule provide a heartbreaking record of our geopolitical moment. The brutal way in which the West’s former allies in Afghanistan are being left to their fate encapsulates the determination of US President Joe Biden’s administration to shed old international commitments as it embraces a new strategy.

There is much to criticise about the United States’ hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, not least the lack of concern for the rights of Afghan women and girls, intelligence failures, and the absence of planning. But underlying many of the critiques is an unshakeable nostalgia, even grief, at the passing of an era. The US-led intervention in Afghanistan that began 20 years ago was the last vestige of a different world, defined by the quest for a liberal international order and the stated mission of bringing democracy and the rule of law to far-flung regions. Many in the West who attack Biden’s policy are in fact upset about the return of brutal geopolitical competition.

The Afghanistan Papers review: superb exposé of a war built on lies

Julian Borger

In the summer of 2009, the latest in a long line of US military commanders in Afghanistan commissioned the latest in a long line of strategic reviews, in the perennial hope it would make enough of a difference to allow the Americans to go home.

There was some excitement in Washington about the author, Gen Stanley McChrystal, a special forces soldier who cultivated the image of a warrior-monk while hunting down insurgents in Iraq.

Hired by Barack Obama, McChrystal produced a 66-page rethink of the Afghan campaign, calling for a “properly resourced” counter-insurgency with a lot more money and troops.

It quickly became clear there were two significant problems. Al-Qaida, the original justification for the Afghan invasion, was not even mentioned in McChrystal’s first draft. And the US could not agree with its Nato allies on whether to call it a war or a peacekeeping or training mission, an issue with important legal implications.

Why the West must stay engaged in Afghanistan


It’s been a glum welcome for the return of Taliban rule in Kabul: desperate crowds at the airport hoping to join the American-led airlift out, fearful women staying at home, men letting their beards grow, chaos as cash runs out.

Contrast that to the joy in the Western city of Herat in November-December 2011, after the city’s money-changers ousted the Taliban – perhaps the first case of armed bankers liberating a city – at a meeting of the local writers’ society.

Then, Mohammed Nasir Kafesh came out as the author of a satirical poem that had infuriated the Talibs, and Leila Razeqi told of how, after being expelled from university as a woman, she’d organized tutorials for herself and friends under the guise of a sewing circle.

After the United States, Canadians, Europeans and Antipodeans spent two decades trying to build up an alternative government of liberal Islamic persuasion, only to see it promptly collapse as the final military support was removed, should these powers have anything more to do with Afghanistan?

Milley: Afghan forces ‘not designed appropriately’ to secure nation in ‘lessons learned’ following withdrawal

Jennifer Griffin , Caitlin McFall

Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin speaks with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman on vetting Afghan refugees

In an exclusive television interview with Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin, General Mark Milley said that one of the "lessons learned" from the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was the pitfalls realized in the Afghan security forces.

"The Army itself – the army and the police forces were a mirror image in many ways – and we created and developed forces that looked like Western forces," Milley explained. "I think one of the big lessons learned here is maybe those forces were not designed appropriately for the type of mission."

The general, who spoke to Fox News at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany, said the fall of the Afghan government occurred much sooner than officials had expected, despite thorough planning in the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Forget ‘Asia-Pacific’, it’s the Indo-Pacific we live in now. Where is that, exactly?

Anthony Galloway

Mermaids and monsters ply the seas in a colourful map belonging to former diplomat Rory Medcalf. The map was created by Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius in 1571, just decades after the globe had been first circumnavigated, and yet it is strikingly modern, says Medcalf, “monsters and mermaids aside”.

The map frames a section of the world: the Persian Gulf is at left, a sprawling India and China are in the centre and North America is at top right. Australia is a little mauve island at the bottom, labelled “Beach”.

Quaint it may seem but, in some respects at least, the map shows what we know today as the Indo-Pacific.

Indo-Pacific, a term once used mostly by marine biologists and bio-geographers, has become common parlance among diplomats, bureaucrats and politicians, finding particularly free and full expression at events such as G7 meetings. In Cornwall in June, talk of the Indo-Pacific was there at every turn. “A free and open Indo-Pacific is essential to each of our futures,” said US President Joe Biden. “The Indo-Pacific is the epicentre of strategic competition,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “Nowhere,” said Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, “is change happening more rapidly than in our region, in the Indo-Pacific.”

How Taliban's Win Might Influence Radical Muslims in Southeast Asia

Ralph Jennings

ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA - The Taliban victory in Afghanistan could inspire radical Muslim groups in Southeast Asia to take up arms once more against their own governments, analysts say, and officials are on alert for potential violence.

Scholars say Muslim rebel fronts, such as the Philippine-based Abu Sayyaf, a violent rebel organization known for kidnapping tourists, and the Indonesian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, a suspected plotter of the deadly Bali bombings of 2002, will feel empowered by the August 15 ascent of the Taliban to carry out localized attacks such as bombings.

"Taliban or no Taliban, we have always considered local extremism as a big concern," Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told the Philippine News Agency on August 27. He noted agreements with Indonesia and Malaysia to share information and protect their sea borders.

China Is Laying Climate Traps for the United States

Gabriel B. Collins and Andrew S. Erickson

Special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry, representing the United States in China-based talks this week, faces a formidable opponent: a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) responsible for nearly one-third of current global carbon dioxide emissions. China burns more coal than the rest of the world combined—and pushes the United States to compensate for its own planet-poisoning ways. This is a major challenge for the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden as it seeks to promote the “Road to Glasgow,” where the United Kingdom will host the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) from Nov. 1 to Nov. 12.

Hopes of coaxing China into lowering emissions before COP26 are a dead end. The only sustainable solution is an U.S. climate competition strategy, leveraging the threat of carbon taxation to incentivize a timely Chinese energy and policy transition to safeguard the atmosphere and oceans for future generations. But first, Kerry needs to make it through his China meetings.

China, Russia Look to Outflank U.S. in Afghanistan

Colum Lynch and Robbie Gramer

As U.S. forces beat a hasty retreat from Afghanistan, surrendering the country to an uncertain future under the Taliban, U.S. President Joe Biden and his top national security advisors preached the importance of diplomacy over military intervention. “We will lead with our diplomacy, our international influence, and our humanitarian aid,” Biden said last month.

But Washington is running headlong into the limitations of diplomacy in a country with no Western boots or even a U.S. ambassador on the ground and an array of regional powers, principally China and Russia, seeking to undercut whatever remaining leverage the United States might exercise over the country’s new rulers. In recent weeks at the United Nations, China, Russia, and Pakistan have openly challenged three central pillars of a potential U.S. diplomatic pressure effort: the threat of international sanctions, the withholding of diplomatic recognition, and the restriction of reconstruction aid for the Taliban as they try to form a new government.

China and the Taliban – confidence and caution

Valarie Tan

As the United States began its military retreat from Afghanistan, commentary after commentary in China, on both state and social media, scholars and socio-political bloggers hammered home the narrative that the fall of Kabul exemplified the demise of America’s global leadership. The speed at which Kabul ceded to the Taliban, the chaotic withdrawal and evacuation of American troops and officials, the harrowing scenes of Afghan civilians scrambling to escape have all been highlighted by China’s commentators as examples of America’s failure.

“Despite pulling out the guns, spending huge sums of money and wasting so many human lives, the end result was still a huge mess,” jibed a commentary on state media Xinhua. “Everything was lost in just nine days. The retreat from Kabul was a complete embarrassment”, mocked a Chinese scholar. “Is this US government still capable of leading the Western bloc to respond to global challenges?”
US is the destroyer, China will rebuild Afghanistan

China opts for optimism in 2021 Russian security strategy reading

It is not until quite far on in the Russian Federation 2021 National Security Strategy (NSS) that China is first mentioned. In Clause 101, sub-clause 7, under Russian foreign policy goals, it states: “developing the relationship of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction1 with the People’s Republic of China, special and privileged strategic partnership with the Republic of India, including for the creation in the Asia-Pacific region of reliable mechanisms for ensuring regional stability and security on a non-bloc basis.”

This formula is significantly humbler than the one in the previous Strategy of 2015. As Igor Denisov explains in his Diplomat article, “Cooperation with China is no longer seen as a ‘key factor in maintaining global and regional stability’ – at least, this is not emphasized publicly. The deletion of the ‘key factor’ formula, which featured in the two previous versions of the NSS, will have political implications, but it is premature as of now to measure the reach of this changed narrative.”

Beijing revs up South China Sea domination strategy


China enacted a new maritime law on September 1 requiring multiple classes of foreign vessels traversing Beijing-claimed waters to provide detailed information to state authorities and take aboard Chinese pilots. Analysts say the legal requirements are clearly aimed at the United States and its allies’ military presence in disputed waterways.

The US Pentagon has called the new law a “serious threat” and violation of international law. It is unclear how aggressively and how widely the new law will be enforced, and over how wide of a geography, or indeed If China’s “territorial waters” will be interpreted to include nearly all of the hotly contested South China Sea.

Asia Times’ correspondent Richard Javad Heydarian shared his insights on China’s multi-phased strategy to dominate the South China Sea with the Southeast Asia Insider.

To defeat adversaries in cyberspace, America must go on offense

John Yoo and Ivana Stradner

Following our humiliating Afghanistan retreat, America’s rivals will amplify their assaults on our credibility and defenses. China could attack Taiwan; Russia might further encroach against Ukraine; Iran or North Korea may seek more extortion over their nuclear programs. It’s also possible that adversaries will launch their first jabs where America is most vulnerable: cyberspace.

While President Joe Biden has warned the Kremlin that Washington will “respond with cyber” if Moscow’s cyberattacks affect critical infrastructure, he also wants to cooperate with the Russians. This contradictory approach fails to notice that Beijing and Moscow have exploited the international order by coopting key institutions in their low-intensity cyberwar against the United States.

To make good on his promise to curb cyberattacks, Biden should adopt a strategy of deterrence rather than of international cooperation. Today, the most effective path forward for the United States is retaliation. If Biden takes such a step, it would be a striking, and welcome, departure from the soft policies he has adopted.

Understanding the foreign policy doctrine of the Biden era

Ashutosh Varshney

The Afghanistan war has formally ended. Its end has led to a new foreign policy doctrine for the Biden era. In a speech of clarity, conviction and force, President Biden laid out the principal components of the doctrine.

First, containing China and Russia will be the focus of US foreign policy under him. Second, cyber security is a new mode of warfare and must be given prime attention. Third, America’s counter-terrorism project will not be pursued via boots on the ground. Instead, “over the horizon” capabilities, meaning satellites and unmanned drones, will be the predominant instruments. Fourth, nation-making or democracy-building will not be the purpose of external military deployment which, if used, will have clear and achievable goals strictly limited to security, not extendable to larger politics. Security will not include counter-insurgency, meaning long-term military involvement in a civil war. Fifth, democracy and human rights will continue to be key drivers of foreign policy, but economic tools and diplomacy will be the main methods for achieving such goals. Countries cannot be forced to be free via military means.

Supply Chain Regulation in the Service of Geopolitics: What’s Happening in Semiconductors?

Dieter Ernst

Supply chain regulation can be a formidable tool to protect a country’s resilience against unexpected disruptions of trade, investment and the supply of skilled labour. Its utility, however, may erode when geopolitics rather than economics becomes the primary objective. This paper examines the implementation problems and the unintended consequences of a new supply chain doctrine in the service of geopolitics, with a focus on US President Joe Biden’s Executive Order on America’s Supply Chains to protect US technological leadership and national security against China. With semiconductors as a primary target, America’s supply chain controls are designed to exploit China’s most glaring weaknesses as supply chain chokepoints that the US Commerce Department can block, thus impeding timely and cost-effective access to essential products, services and technologies. The paper also highlights a second defining characteristic of America’s supply chain doctrine — regulatory supply chain controls are combined with a big push in domestic semiconductor manufacturing. Three propositions are presented as guideposts for further research. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the implications for future US supply chain control against China: Will the quest for improved supply chain resilience succeed in mobilizing enough forces to shift the focus of US policy away from supply chain regulation in the service of geopolitics?

How Hackers Hammered Australia After China Ties Turned Sour

Jamie Tarabay

A few days after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an independent international probe into the origins of the coronavirus, Chinese bots swarmed on to Australian government networks. It was April 2020.

The bots ran hundreds of thousands of scans, apparently looking for vulnerabilities that could later be exploited. It was a massive and noisy attack with little effort made to hide the bots’ presence, said Robert Potter, chief executive officer of Internet 2.0, an Australian cybersecurity firm that works extensively with the federal government.

“It was just a door knock, like someone walking up and ringing your doorbell,” he said.

Most recent battle in the internet's longest war


The internet has had many wars since the Netscape Navigator opened the Web to popular, global use in the mid-1990s. Internet policy wonks know all about “The War on Internet Terrorists,” “The War on Cyber Crime,” “The War on Internet Election Interference,” “The War on Internet Disinformation” and others. But a new battle emerged recently in the internet’s oldest war when Apple announced an initiative to help combat child predation by automatically examining photos taken by iPhone users. The war between activists who are trying to stop internet-based child predation and activists for strong individual privacy has been underway for 25 years and — as this latest battle shows — it has no end in sight.

Parents have successfully controlled what their children are allowed to experience since before the stone age, and as children grow into their teens, struggles between parents and children have always emerged. Among the most important reasons for this parental control — as any parent knows — has been to prevent a child from being abused or molested by an adult predator.

This amazing breakthrough in fighting dengue is taking flight

Bill Gates

When it comes to killing humans, no other animal—not sharks, snakes, or crocodiles—is as deadly as the mosquito.

But in the fight against dengue fever, one kind of mosquito has been transformed into a surprisingly powerful ally to save and improve lives.

Dengue fever is a virus spread through bites by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Nicknamed “breakbone fever” because of the severe pain it causes, dengue infects about 400 million people every year and kills more than 20,000. Warming temperatures due to climate change have expanded the geographic range of the mosquitoes, driving up the number of dengue cases in recent years.

Researchers with the World Mosquito Program, however, have been working on a breakthrough that just might defeat dengue for good.

Flexing the Quad


It is 7,000 miles from Washington to Beijing, but it is only a little more than 1,000 miles from Tokyo to Beijing. If it sometimes seems that Japan is taking China seven times more seriously than is the United States, the explanation may be as simple as that.

Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, is on his way out, and his most likely (though not certain) successor is a former foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, who embodies the increasingly assertive national-defense mentality of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Kishida has suggested that Japan requires, among other armaments, missiles that could be used to preemptively disable Chinese missiles that might be directed at Japan.

If you will forgive a little inside baseball, here is an anecdote that might be instructive: A Japanese diplomat, in a conversation reported by China analyst Gregory Kulacki in the Diplomat, expressed skepticism about the credibility of the so-called nuclear umbrella offered by Washington, and declared that “the only cooperative nuclear arrangement that would satisfy him would be for the United States to supply Japan with U.S. nuclear weapons, train the Japanese military to deliver them, and give the Japanese government the authority to decide how and when they will be used.” That diplomat, a Kishida ally, went on to become vice minister of foreign affairs with a portfolio that included the issue of “extended deterrence,” suggesting that his ideas are not seen as off-the-wall.

Terrorism Research Initiative (TRI)

Perspectives on Terrorism, August 2021, v.15, no. 4

Counter-Terrorism as a Public Policy: Theoretical Insights and Broader Reflections on the State of Counter-Terrorism Research

Rival Consolidation in Nascent Insurrections: Why Some Militant Groups Wage Sustained Insurgencies

The Terrorism Recidivism Study (TRS): An Update on Data Collection and Results

The Dead Drops of Online Terrorism

Connecting, Competing, and Trolling: “User Types” in Digital Gamified Radicalization Processes

International Links and the Role of the Islamic State in the Barcelona and Cambrils Attacks in 2017

Evidence to Explain Violent Extremist Communication: A Systematic Review of Individual-Level Empirical Studies

Frictional Security Governance: Policing the Crime-Terror Nexus in Denmark

Tracing the Fate of Central Asian Fighters in Syria: Remainers, Repatriates, Returnees, and Relocators

From Spandau to Guantanamo: Prisons as Propaganda Instruments for Extremists and Terrorists

Counter-Terrorism Studies: A Glimpse at the Current State of Research (2020/2021)

Counter-Terrorism Bookshelf: 5 Books on Terrorism & Counter- Terrorism-Related Subjects

Bibliography: Terrorism by Country - United States

Bibliography: Hamas

Recent Online Resources for the Analysis of Terrorism and Related Subjects

Best Theses on Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism Award 2019-2020

The US military needs a seventh branch: The Cyber Force


A U.S. Army unit in Syria comes under heavy fire from the forces of the Islamic State. As the company commander and his men hunker down, he reaches for his radio to call for back-up. When he touches the button, nothing happens. His radio has been hacked.

At a local electric utility in Ohio, the controller gets a routine notice that power from other companies’ generators will be cut back in 10 minutes. No problem. This happens every day at this time. Power companies share responsibility for generating electricity for the grid. So, according to company policy, the controller activates the generators within his own system. As he pushes the control switches, nothing happens. The utility has been hacked. Minutes later a blackout occurs. The community is in total darkness. No heat. No lights. No internet. Uncle Joe’s dialysis machine shuts off. Aunt Jane’s respirator stops.

Special operators are already dealing with a shady piece of Chinese technology the US has been warning about.


In an increasingly interconnected world, the US military is facing new challenges in old stomping grounds.

Even though the US isn't at war with China, competition with Beijing is already raging, and conventional and special-operations troops deployed around the world are exposed, either directly or through proxies, to Chinese technology that could hinder them in a conflict.

The worst offender is 5G, the same mobile communications technology ordinary people use or will be using in the future.

What's 5G?

US Special Operations Command has given up on its 'Iron Man suit,' but it's still looking for other high-tech upgrades for its operators


The Pentagon is looking to keep its edge over rivals by giving US troops the best tech out there.

US Special Operations Command has been leading the way, often providing real-world testing for various weapon systems and technology.

With its Hyper Enabled Operator program, SOCOM aims to equip special operators with technology to better understand the battlefield without impairing their ability to fight.

For years, the Pentagon has been looking to maintain its competitive edge over its near-peer competitors by outfitting US troops with the best technology out there.

The US Special Operations Command, known as SOCOM, has been a pioneer in this effort, often providing real-world testing for various weapon systems and technology that eventually is widely distributed among conventional forces.

Responsible and Ethical Military AI

Zoe Stanley-Lockman

Since the U.S. Department of Defense adopted its five safe and ethical principles for AI in February 2020, the focus has shifted toward operationalizing them. Notably, implementation efforts led by the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) coalesce around “responsible AI” (RAI) as the framework for DOD, including for collaboration efforts with allies and partners.1

With a DOD RAI Strategy and Implementation Pathway in the making, the first step to leading global RAI in the military domain is understanding how other countries address such issues themselves. This report examines how key U.S. allies perceive AI ethics for defense.

Defense collaboration in AI builds on the broader U.S. strategic consensus that allies and partners offer comparative advantages relative to China and Russia, which often act alone, and that securing AI leadership is critical to maintaining the U.S. strategic position and technological edge. Partnering with other democratic countries therefore has implications for successfully achieving these strategic goals. Yet the military aspects of responsible AI that go beyond debates on autonomous weapons systems are currently under-discussed.