10 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.

India and China Once Fought Over the Doklam Plateau. Could They Do it Again?

Robert Farley

Here's What You Need to Remember: In an important sense, the issues now surrounding the confrontation on the Doklam Plateau are essentially the same as those that the two countries left unresolved in 1962. The balance of power may have changed, however, as has the geopolitical situation. Hopefully good sense will prevail, and Beijing and Delhi will avoid a repeat of the events of October 1962.

In 1962, the world’s two most populous countries went to war against one another in a pair of remote, mountainous border regions. In less than a month, China dealt India a devastating defeat, driving Indian forces back on all fronts. Along with breaking hopes of political solidarity in the developing world, the war helped structure the politics of East and Southeast Asia for generations. Even today, as Indian and Chinese forces square off on the Doklam Plateau, the legacy of the 1962 resonates in both countries.

US, India To Co-Develop Military Drones


WASHINGTON: The Air Forces of the US and India have signed a new agreement to cooperate on the development of unmanned aerial vehicles, according to the Pentagon.

The goal, per a Sept. 3 announcement: “the Design, Development, Demonstration, Test and Evaluation of technologies including physical hardware such as small UAVs, avionics, payload power, propulsion, and launch systems through prototyping that meet the operational requirements of the Indian and U.S. Air Forces.”

The over $22 million price tag for the effort will be split 50/50, in what the Pentagon bills as the “largest-ever” RDT&E effort between the militaries.

“The United States and India share a common vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Kelli Seybolt, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for international affairs, said in the announcement. “This co-development agreement further operationalizes India’s status as a Major Defense Partner and builds upon our existing strong defense cooperation.”

Forever Friends? Pakistan and the Taliban Still Need Each Other

Zahid Shahab Ahmed

Pakistan’s relationship with the Afghan Taliban is an open secret, but it demands more analysis to understand the degree to which Islamabad controls the group, especially since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan on August 15, 2021.

After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Washington approached Islamabad to become its frontline ally in a proxy war against the Soviets. During the Afghan-Soviet War (1979-1989), thousands of mujahideen were recruited from around the world and trained in Pakistan, and then deployed into Afghanistan. In addition to receiving billions in economic and military assistance from the United States, Pakistan expanded its influence in Afghanistan through close relations with the Afghan mujahideen as they later united into the Taliban in the 1990s.

In 1994, Mullah Mohammed Omar founded the Taliban with fifty students in Kandahar. By 1995, the group’s control increased to twelve provinces and its size to 25,000 fighters. Due to its quick territorial gains, the Taliban managed to seize control of most of the country and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in 1996. To date, their first takeover of Kabul is attributed to Pakistan’s strong backing.

White House Disputes How Much Military Equipment the Taliban Seized

Peter Suciu

The top White House spokesperson said on Monday that the Biden administration’s objective was never to leave equipment behind in Afghanistan that could fall into the hands of the Taliban as U.S. forces pulled out of the country this month. However, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the billions of dollars in military equipment was originally given to the Afghan government, and that the United States had taken steps to “reduce the amount” that might fall into the insurgent’s hands.

“We had to make an assessment several weeks ago about whether we provide materials to the Afghan National Security Forces so that they could fight the fight,” Psaki stated on Monday. “Obviously, they decided not to fight, and we made the decision to provide them with that equipment and the material. We have not assessed that any group on the ground, whether it’s ISIS-K or the Taliban, has the ability to attack the United States.”

The Other Afghanistan – OpEd

René Wadlow*

Since 15 August 2021 and the start of the control of Kabul by the Taliban armed forces, there has been a good deal of commentary on whether the US and NATO methods of action were appropriate or adequate to the challenges they faced. The challenge faced was clear from the start even if not articulated by the US government as the reason for its intervention. The challenge has confronted all the central governments of Afghanistan. The struggle between the central government and the extremely independent tribal groups is a persistent theme of Afghan political life. Every Afghan government that has tried to centralize power has encountered this issue.

The value structure and social practices are permeated by tribal attitudes and loyalties even in urban settings. There are inter-tribal antagonisms of different ethno-linguistic backgrounds. The major antagonism is between the Pashtun and the non-Pashtun ethnic groups. The non-Pashtun have resented and resisted Pashtun domination.

Afghanistan: Ignominious Retreat – Analysis

Ajit Kumar Singh*

United States (US) Army Major General Chris Donahue, Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, became the last US service member to leave Afghanistan, when he boarded a C-17 transport plane at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 30, 2021. The last US troops thus left Afghan soil exactly 12-days before the September 11, 2021, deadline originally set by the US President Joe Biden, and a day before Biden’s revised date for the mission’s end and evacuation, August 31.

Indeed, in his ‘Remarks on the Way Forward in Afghanistan’ on April 14, 2021, Biden announced that all foreign troops, including US troops “will be out of Afghanistan before we mark the 20th anniversary of that heinous attack on September 11th [2001].”

Over 12 years before this announcement, Barack Obama, the then US President, in his remarks ‘The New Way Forward – The President’s Address’ on December 1, 2009, while announcing a ‘surge’ of “an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan” had declared that “after 18 months, our troops will begin to come home… I want the Afghan people to understand – America seeks an end to this era of war and suffering” and for this they would follow “a military strategy that will break the Taliban’s momentum and increase Afghanistan’s capacity over the next 18 months.” Obama asserted, further, “America will have to show our strength in the way that we end wars and prevent conflict – not just how we wage wars.”

Augury Of A ‘Failed’ Afghanistan – Analysis

Anondeeta Chakraborty*

Unidimensional predictions or conclusions have always been considered to be misleading and deceptive in the literature of International Relations, and rightly so. One cannot possibly fathom how a unilateral event might transpose the course of history, without getting to observe the multivarious branching of the event. But the recent Afghan crisis might just turn out to be the first exception to that norm. The bleak Afghani future is now strikingly visible to everybody, seer or not!

It’s safe to assert that the “celebrated” War on Terror, did not see its intended culmination. The US saw the worst outcome of its foreign policy in Afghanistan, severer than North Vietnam. Unlike the Vietnam crisis, the world lukewarmly supported the NATO invasion of Afghanistan as radical terrorism was perceived to be way more perilous than a foreign intervention. Moreover, the first Taliban regime (1996- 2001), was not exactly a model of self-rule, but very rapidly took on a dystopian character, giving the world another reason to oust them.

The heated debate around NATO’s exit, internal squabbles among NATO leaders on the Afghan issue or the ambiguous, contradicting response of the US on its decamping from Afghanistan, have tangled up the Afghan crisis into a gordian knot, where the delusive vision of a democratic, “liberated” Afghanistan, is being briskly obliterated. What remains crystal clear to all foreign policy analysts, irrespective of their political leanings, is the journey of Afghanistan into a “failed state”.

Reality bites for Imran Khan’s ‘New Pakistan’6 September 2021

Shuja Nawaz

Imran Khan became Prime Minister of Pakistan in 2018 after defeating entrenched dynastic political parties that had been alternating in government for decades. His Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had not been a strong force on the national scene but promised a ‘tsunami’ of change to produce a ‘New Pakistan’. It is struggling to fulfill that promise.

As Khan enters the second half of his five-year term, the situation does not augur well — partly because of the intrinsic weaknesses of his own government, and partly because of external factors that are hurting the economy. PTI retains a majority in the National Assembly but does not control the Senate, hindering Khan’s ability to fully enact his legislative agenda. Even though he faces a fractured and somewhat discredited opposition, an uncertain economy and turmoil in Afghanistan will affect his ability to manage Pakistan and prepare for a fresh election.

Dozens of Aircraft, Vehicles Sabotaged as U.S. Forces Leave Kabul Airport

Trevor Filseth

In his remarks
following American forces’ final withdrawal from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, confirmed that U.S. forces had sabotaged more than one hundred ground vehicles and aircraft before its departure, to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Taliban.

Prior to their final departure, U.S. troops sabotaged dozens of Humvees, seventy “MRAP” armored vehicles worth $1 million apiece, and seventy-three aircraft. McKenzie described the aircraft as “demilitarized,” adding, “Those planes will never be able to take off again.”

Before the Afghan government’s collapse, the Afghan Air Force operated more than 150 aircraft out of Kabul. The operation of its aircraft, however, was heavily dependent on U.S. technicians and maintenance crews. During the withdrawal, many of these crews were withdrawn, grounding Afghan pilots’ aircraft.

Kyrgyzstan Effectively Suspends Visas for Pakistan, India Amid Afghanistan Stress

Catherine Putz

Last week, Kyrgyzstan apparently suspended issuing tourist visas to citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and India. Local media cited a travel agency director and noted that the four countries had been taken off the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry’s visa regime information list. Previously, citizens of all four South Asia nations were eligible for e-visas and visas on arrival.

The ministry later stated that the issuing of such visas has been suspended to allow for technical work on the e-visa portal. As reported by 24.kg, the stated purpose is “to control the entry and stay of citizens of a number of foreign states, taking into account security and law and order issues.”

The move comes at the confluence of several unrelated currents.

Bangladesh: Latent Threat Of Neo-JMB – Analysis

S. Binodkumar Singh*

On September 4, 2021, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested four Neo-Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (Neo-JMB) cadres following an exchange of fire in Mymensingh District. RAB recovered arms and ammunition from their possession during the operation.

On August 10, 2021, the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit arrested three Neo-JMB cadres from the Kafrul area of Dhaka city. The arrestees were Jahid Hasan Raju aka Ismail aka Furkan, the group’s ‘military wing chief and bomb expert’ and his two associates Saiful Islam Maruf aka Bashira and Rumman Hossain aka Fahad.

Again, on August 10, 2021, Police arrested a Neo-JMB cadre from the Khilgaon area of Dhaka city. The arrestee, identified as Nazmus Shakib, was accused in a case filed for injuring a Policeman and involvement in anti-Government activities.

On August 1, 2021, a team of the Special Action Group (SAG) arrested two Neo-JMB cadres, identified as Shafiqur Rahman Ridoy aka Baitullah Mehsud aka Captain Khattab and Khalid Hossain Bhuiyan aka Afnan, from the Jatrabari area of Dhaka city. Bomb-making manuals, explosives and materials, including remote control devices, were recovered from their possession.

China’s technological challenge to European strategic autonomy

Dr Henrik Larsen

European policymakers only fully understood the implications of China’s tech dominance after the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, which underlined the risk of dependency on an illiberal power with no meaningful distinction between public and private enterprise. Other than lower costs, the enhanced risk of espionage or disruption leaves no compelling argument in favor of integrating Chinese technology into Europe’s critical infrastructure. 5G telecommunications networks remain the litmus test for Europe’s tech autonomy that will affect other areas, like artificial intelligence, in the years to come. It is too soon to be optimistic about Europe’s ability to guarantee the autonomy of its critical infrastructure: while most European countries are navigating around Huawei as a core provider of 5G, a number of key countries (Germany, Italy and Spain) are still on the fence, while a handful of smaller countries (Hungary, Greece and Serbia) likely will never phase it out.

A China-Taliban Alliance Brewing?

Trevor Filseth

In an interview published with La Repubblica, an Italian newspaper, on Thursday, longtime Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed that the group would rely heavily on trade and investment from China as it consolidated its control over Afghanistan.

Mujahid acknowledged that, with the United States gone and the previous Afghan government destroyed, the Taliban had taken control over Afghanistan’s economy, and its maintenance would be a key test of their ability to govern. Consequently, Mujahid stressed, the Taliban would push for an economic comeback in Afghanistan—and, in the absence of U.S. and Western aid, would seek financial help in Beijing.

Following the Afghan government’s collapse on August 15, the Taliban emerged victorious in their twenty-year war against the United States and NATO, which completed their withdrawal from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 31. However, the Western powers, which underwrote the Afghan government’s budget, has shown a clear unwillingness to do the same to a Taliban administration. Moreover, much of the government’s money remains inaccessible to the group; some of it was taken during the evacuation, while much of it is physically located in the United States, which is unwilling to return it.

US report lifts a lid on PLA fighting status

China possesses the world's largest military, but in many ways the People's Liberation Army (PLA) remains an opaque and enigmatic force. However, some of the aura of the PLA has recently been revealed in a new unclassified document published by the Headquarters, US Army Department.

The world only knows about the PLA what the paranoid Chinese Communist Party (CCP) carefully reveals. Part of that orchestrated narrative is that the PLA is a modern force for good, and that its rise is inexorable and irresistible. A number of China's neighbors, such as the Philippines, have already fallen for that portrayal.

Importantly, the US Army released its "Chinese Tactics" document, coded ATP 7-100.3, last month. This comprehensive 252-page report assesses the structure, tactics, capability and limitations of the PLA in minute detail. The document is designed for US Army training, professional education and leader development, but anyone interested in the PLA's capabilities, or charged with countering Chinese aggression, will find the nuts and bolts in the report extremely useful.

What Is The Goal Of Beijing’s New Stock Exchange?

Jesse Turland

A new Beijing Stock Exchange was announced by Xi Jinping at the Global Trade In Services Summit in Beijing last Thursday.

Xi said the exchange would “deepen reform of the New Third Board,” referring to the existing financing mechanism in Beijing for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs).

SMEs are firms with fewer than 500 employees. Traditionally they have struggled in comparison with larger companies to acquire loans from banks. The new stock exchange appears designed in part to make redress for that by connecting SMEs with retail investors.

It comes against the backdrop of increased regulatory scrutiny of some of China’s largest existing publicly traded firms.

China has curtailed the power of big tech companies with moves such as blocking ride-hailing firm Didi from app stores in July over data privacy issues and fining other e-commerce platforms including Alibaba over alleged monopolistic business practices.

How 9/11 Will Be Remembered a Century Later

Stephen M. Walt

How will 9/11 be remembered on its hundredth anniversary? Will it be seen as a dramatic but ultimately minor tragedy or as a turning point that altered the United States and the trajectory of world politics in fundamental ways? Will future generations see that day as a telling reflection of underlying trends, the catalyst for a series of catastrophic foreign-policy blunders, or as an isolated one-off event whose long-term impact was relatively modest?

It is impossible to predict exactly how 9/11 is going to be interpreted, of course; perhaps all we can say with confidence is that the meaning attached to it will vary depending on who is doing the interpreting. Americans will view 9/11 differently than Afghans, Iraqis, Saudis, or Europeans, and for many people around the world it is likely to be little more than a historical footnote. What looms large in our consciousness today is often irrelevant to others and especially once memories fade and more recent events command our attention.

Yet despite these unavoidable uncertainties, asking how 9/11 might be seen in 2101 is still a useful exercise because it helps place the event within a broader geopolitical context. I can think of at least two broad and radically different possibilities (plus a third wild card). Ironically, which possibility comes closest to the truth has little to do with what occurred on that sunny Tuesday morning 20 years ago and much more to do with what has happened in response to it. Moreover, what happens in the next few decades is going to determine how 9/11 is remembered a century later.

Where Did the US Go So Wrong in Afghanistan?

Dr Alon Ben-Meir

President Biden’s decision to finally withdraw US forces from Afghanistan was the correct decision and certainly overdue. However, the lack of preparation to do so orderly and safely was yet another terrible mistake in a string of mistakes that have plagued the US from day one.


In his address to the nation on 16 August, President Biden used the majority of it to try to justify the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, which needed hardly any justification given that after 20 years the US has not come any closer to defeating the Taliban permanently. The vast majority of the American people supported his decision when he first announced his intention to end the war based on the agreement concluded between Trump and the Taliban last February. Biden’s decision to withdraw was certainly the right one and was overdue by 19 years. His determination not pass the war onto a fifth president was wise, as it would spare the country from continuing to invest blood and treasure in an unwinnable war.

What Afghanistan Cost the CIA

REVIEW — Just months ago, Toby Harnden’s First Casualty: The Untold Story of the CIA’s Mission to Avenge 9/11, might have read as the tale of the tense first engagements with the Taliban and the lives of the men and women involved, particularly the life and death of Mike Spann, the first US casualty. No more. Frequently throughout the book, the echoes of lessons of the past jump out. There are stories of inter-tribal tensions; the critical role of air power against the Taliban; the American partnership with Afghan warlords; and the personal commitment of individuals from the CIA in the Fall of 2001, a reminder of the intrepid contributions of individual US military personnel who served during this forever war.

Harnden opens the book with an approach he returns to throughout the narrative, starting with gritty history — the days and weeks after the insertion of the first CIA team into northern Afghanistan — then adding in-depth stories of the personal lives of the officers who served and died there and the families they left behind. The book moves quickly through a survey of the decades in Afghanistan before 9/11 and the histories of some of the individuals who served then, from how they grew up to how they built careers, relationships, and families.

Operation Out of Time: America’s Sad History of Fleeing Its Flawed Strategies

Joseph Chinyong Liow, Sumit Ganguly

Even before the last C-17 Globemaster had departed from Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 30, people were focused on the hasty, haphazard, U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan with its equally ungainly departure from Vietnam in April 1975—primarily due to press coverage. Furthermore, critics argue that the United States simply cannot prevail in aiding counterinsurgency operations in distant, faraway places. At first blush, this comparison does appear appropriate. In both cases, the United States had pursued flawed counterinsurgency strategies, backed regimes that lacked popular legitimacy, and failed to win widespread support amongst much of the population composed of poor peasantry.

That said, this juxtaposition has distinct limits. Before the Afghanistan and Vietnam experiences assume the status of a shibboleth it may be worth recalling that the United States had successfully helped prosecute another highly successful counterinsurgency campaign in Southeast Asia, specifically in the Philippines in the early 1950s. The U.S. involvement came at the request of President Elpidio Quirino whose popularly elected government was faced with a violent internal rebellion. The insurgents belonged to a group, the Huks, who had originally fought on behalf of the Filipino peasantry during the Japanese occupation of the country during World War II. However, after the defeat of the Axis powers and the U.S. decision to grant independence to the Philippines in July 1946, the Huks trained their guns on the new government of President Manuel Roxas.

The Promise of Immersive Learning: Augmented and Virtual Reality’s Potential in Education

Ellysse Dick

Digital technologies are continually transforming the field of education. In a 2019 Gallup survey, 65 percent of U.S. public school teachers said they used digital tools every day, while 13 percent used them a few days a week—and 85 percent saw “great value” in using them in the future.1 As momentum for educational technologies continues to grow, educators and institutions are looking for new ways to integrate digital solutions into classroom experiences. Augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR)—immersive technologies that enable users to experience digitally rendered content in both physical and virtual spaces—offer notable potential for edtech innovation. These technologies expand the possibilities of learning environments from K-12 classrooms to medical schools by reducing barriers from physical space, enhancing collaboration and hands-on learning, and providing individualized learning approaches that can help students at all levels thrive.

AR/VR as an educational tool is hardly a novel concept. But immersive learning has only recently transitioned from small-scale experimentation to a multimillion-dollar market with rapidly growing use.2 Classrooms across the country use AR/VR for virtual field trips, science experiments, immersive simulations, and more. Many basic experiences are compatible with mobile devices, and advanced headsets simultaneously improve in quality and decrease in cost. The technologies necessary to develop and access immersive content are also becoming easier to use and more affordable.3 This report explores the current state and potential contributions of AR/VR in education and highlights a sampling of the solutions across subjects and learning levels that are building the foundation for the immersive classrooms of the future.

Hurricane Ida Shows the Increasing Impact of Climate Change Since Katrina

Jack L. Rozdilsky

Sixteen years to the day that Hurricane Katrina made landfall, Hurricane Ida struck at Port Fourchon, La., on Aug. 29, as a Category 4 hurricane with 240 kilometres per hour winds. Given the date and location of the area affected, Katrina and Ida comparisons are being made.

While no two disasters are the same, looking at differences between past and present disasters can help us to better understand what is needed to prepare for future disasters. As a professor of emergency management, I was on the ground in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, making observations to study aspects of the hurricane’s impact and hurricane evacuations.

Given the scope of the emerging impacts of Hurricane Ida, we see that while this is not a repeat of a Katrina disaster, questions are being raised about the effect of climate change and the resiliency of lifeline infrastructure like electricity.

Mapping China’s Place in the Global Semiconductor Industry

John Lee and Jan-Peter Kleinhans

The China-U.S. contest over digital technology is emerging as the organizing force in international politics for decades to come. Semiconductors – the “DNA of technology,” as put by a recent U.S. supply chain review – are at the heart of what U.S President Joe Biden has called “a competition to win the 21st century.”

Three years ago, China’s President Xi Jinping identified his nation’s greatest hidden danger as its external dependencies in “core technologies,” and changing this situation is key to the Chinese Communist Party’s program for the next century of its rule. U.S. export controls on semiconductors have proved the most effective weapon against the global expansion of Huawei and other Chinese digital technology champions, and the archetype of weaponizing interdependence.

With the US becoming a less reliable ally, Britain needs to make friends in Europe

Andrew Rawnsley

After the rout, the recriminations. British fingers furiously jab at the Americans for a shaming scuttle from Kabul that will embolden the west’s adversaries. Sir John Major yesterday called the withdrawal of western forces a “strategically very stupid” decision. Tony Blair, the prime minister who sent British forces into Afghanistan 20 years ago, goes so far as to call the precipitous exit “imbecilic”. Number 10 has been forced to deny that Boris Johnson refers to the US president as “Sleepy Joe”, the insult minted by Donald Trump. Supporters of Joe Biden counter-accuse the British and other European countries of expecting the US to continue to expend its blood and treasure in Afghanistan when most Nato members had wound down their commitments long ago.

In Whitehall, an ugly three-way blame game rages between the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office about why the government didn’t anticipate the swiftness of the fall of Kabul or make timely preparations to help vulnerable people to whom Britain owes obligations. We’d be in a better place if they’d devoted as much energy to planning for the evacuation as they are expending on excoriating each other. There will be more finger pointing when the Commons returns tomorrow. Yet it is not buck-passing between politicians desperate to save their careers that this country needs if anything useful is to be learned from this debacle. What is required is a cool reassessment of where this leaves Britain in a perilous and unpredictable world.

The Danger of an Inadequate Nuclear Threat Assessment

Peter Huessy

The vice commander of the U.S. Strategic Command told a Mitchell Institute nuclear seminar forum on August 27 that China may replace Russia as the top nuclear-capable adversary of the United States. Lt. Gen. Thomas Bussiere said he was concerned about the recent discovery that China is building up to four hundred new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) silos in Western China. This construction could be completed within the next two to four years if it is done at a pace not unlike that of the United States when it constructed its original Minuteman ICBMs. The missile slated for deployment in these silos would be the Chinese Dongfeng-41, which can carry six to ten warheads.

When is the crossover point? Is it when China actually deploys more nuclear weapons than Russia? “We believe, in the next few years,” Bussiere said. While the two nations have differing national objectives, there are indications that those nations are “cooperating across different spectrums and presenting a cooperative deterrence model,” he said.

Afghanistan Will Put Russia’s Regional Ambitions to the Test

Jeffrey Mankoff

While the failure of the United States’ two-decade campaign to reshape Afghanistan was a source of no little schadenfreude in Moscow, the collapse of Ashraf Ghani’s U.S.-backed government has thrust Russia into a challenging position. Even as President Vladimir Putin confirmed that Russia has no intention of deploying troops to Afghanistan itself, the potential for radicalization and violence around Russia’s borders is foisting greater responsibility for regional security on Moscow at a time of mounting domestic difficulties.

The Ghani government’s collapse and the departure of U.S. forces from central Eurasia, seemingly for good, also offers Russia a window of opportunity to bolster its role as a powerbroker both within and around Afghanistan, advance a vision of regional connectivity that boosts its own interests, and consolidate its political-military influence in neighboring Central Asia. All of these steps, however, would require more resources than Russia’s leadership has thus far been willing to invest, and greater risk than it has been willing to take on.

Iranian Drone Power: How Tehran Uses Armed Drones Across the Middle East

Sebastien Roblin

The Liberian-flagged tanker Mercer Street was transiting through the Gulf of Oman on July 29, bound for the United Arab Emirates, when it was attacked by two delta-winged drones packed full of explosives. The startled crew issued several distress calls.

But before help could arrive, a third drone slammed into the pilothouse early in the morning of July 30. The explosion ripping a six-foot-hole in the vessel and killing the ship’s Romanian captain and his British bodyguard.

The attack on the oil tanker, which was managed by the London-based Zodiac Maritime, followed a half-year of tit-for-tat acts of maritime sabotage between Iran and Israel, though this was the first incident to result in fatalities. Unsurprisingly, a subsequent investigation by U.S. Central Command found that parts of the drones recovered from the attack matched those photographed on Iranian delta-wing drones.

American Spies Are Fighting the Last War, Again

Amy Zegart

Twenty years ago, al-Qaeda hijackers carried out the worst-ever terrorist attack on American soil, killing nearly 3,000 innocents, terrifying the nation, and forever changing the course of history—ushering in America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Yet September 11 was also something else: our worst intelligence failure in more than half a century. It was a surprise attack that should not have been a surprise. The agonizing truth is that American intelligence agencies saw the danger coming but failed to stop it because they were hardwired to fight a different enemy from a bygone era. My research found that when the Cold War ended and the threats shifted in the 1990s, America’s intelligence community failed to adapt.

Today, we face a similar challenge. Since 9/11, spies have become adept at countering al Qaeda but al Qaeda is no longer the overarching problem it once was. The global threat landscape has become much more crowded and complex, encompassing escalating cyberattacks, a rising China, Russian aggression, nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea, the fallout from climate change, and more. And once again, spy agencies are struggling to keep up.

US Air Force’s First Software Chief Steps Down


Nicolas Chaillan—the Air Force’s first-ever chief software officer, and also a leader in multiple high-profile, Pentagon-wide technology initiatives—revealed that he is leaving his post, in a blunt letter he shared on LinkedIn Thursday.

Chaillan wrote a bulleted list of reasons for his departure. They include wanting to be more present for his children and family, but also, he wrote, a lack of support from senior Pentagon and Air Force senior leaders.

He did recommend a replacement for himself, Chaillan told Nextgov Thursday afternoon, but he does not yet know whether the AIr Force will take his advice. Also on Thursday, an Air Force press official confirmed that “Chaillan’s resignation was accepted today.” They added that “an acting chief software officer has not yet been identified.”