12 September 2021

Deterrence Theory– Is it Applicable in Cyber Domain?

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


The Deterrence Theory was developed in the 1950s, mainly to address new strategic challenges posed by nuclear weapons from the Cold War nuclear scenario. During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union adopted a survivable nuclear force to present a ‘credible’ deterrent that maintained the ‘uncertainty’ inherent in a strategic balance as understood through the accepted theories of major theorists like Bernard Brodie, Herman Kahn, and Thomas Schelling.1 Nuclear deterrence was the art of convincing the enemy not to take a specific action by threatening it with an extreme punishment or an unacceptable failure.

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.

India’s Military Outreach: Military Logistics Agreements

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

India and Russia are set to sign a bilateral military logistics agreement in the coming months. The India-Russia bilateral agreement is called the Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics Agreement (RELOS), similar in title to an India-U.S. agreement called the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA). Like all logistics service agreements, the RELOS is meant to be a reciprocal arrangement by which the two nations can use the military logistics facilities while on visit to each other’s ports, bases, and military installations.

It took a decade for India to debate the pros and cons of signing such an agreement with the United States, but since the signing of the LEMOA, India has become more comfortable in concluding such arrangements with other countries. Today, India has such military logistics agreements with Australia, Japan, the United States – the Quad countries – as well as with France, Singapore, and South Korea. India is currently in the process of finalizing such an agreement with the U.K. and in talks with other partners like Vietnam.

Who Is Mullah Hasan Akhund? What Does the Taliban’s Choice of Interim Prime Minister Mean for Afghanistan?

Ali A. Olomi

Who is Mullah Hasan Akhund?

Mullah Akhund is a fascinating but relatively enigmatic figure in the Taliban. He has been an influential figure in Afghanistan since the inception of the militant group in the 1990s.

But unlike other Taliban leaders from that period, he was not involved in the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980s. While Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar and his deputies fought with the mujahedeen – a loose network of anti-Soviet Afghan fighters – Akhund did not.

Instead, he is seen much more as a religious influence in the Taliban. He served on the Taliban’s shura councils, the traditional decision-making body made up of religious scholars and mullahs – an honorific given to those trained in Islamic theology.

Akhund is probably best known as one of the architects of the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the giant cliff statues destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

The Evolving Taliban-ISK Rivalry

Amira Jadoon & Andrew Mines , Abdul Sayed

With the U.S. withdrawal, the Taliban must decide if cooperating with an old enemy could risk losing to a new one.

The attack on evacuation efforts at the Kabul airport by the Islamic State- Khorasan Province (ISK, ISKP, or ISIS-K) triggered much speculation about the Afghan Taliban’s ability to constrain terrorism in the country. But it also served as a reminder of the intense rivalry between the Taliban and ISK; while the attack’s lethality shocked many, the two organisations have engaged in intense clashes as militant organisations since ISK’s emergence in 2015.

However, as the Afghan Taliban now transition into a legitimate political entity, the nature of their clashes is likely to change as ISK will tackle the Afghan Taliban as more of a state actor – whose credibility can be undermined domestically and internationally. In order to understand this new phase of the Taliban-ISK rivalry, it’s important to look forward, but also to frame the recent attack by ISK within the context of the original clash between the two groups’ ideologies and agendas; there are important lessons from the past that can help us assess how the two groups may compete for dominance in Afghanistan, and the associated security implications.

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.

A Shadow War on the Taliban?

Amalendu Misra

Alarm bells are ringing in various capitals following the appointment of ultraradicals and listed terrorists in the Taliban’s new government in Afghanistan. One particular capital that feels rattled by this government formation is New Delhi, India. As many Western powers follow a wait-and-see policy, New Delhi is taking a proactive role in reaching out to like-minded friends to cobble together a narrative that is likely to be anti-Taliban and may lead to some heavy-handed approaches in dealing with this new regime.

While the Taliban were busy announcing the formation of their new government, in the backdrop there was a crucial meeting between the United States’ CIA Chief Williams Burns and India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. There was no official announcement on the nature of their discussion. However, one could assume, the nature and character of the new interim Taliban government in Afghanistan and the attendant security issues were the top priority.

What the Taliban’s Interim Government Means for Afghanistan’s Neighbors

Zeeshan Salahuddin

Shortly after capturing Kabul, the Taliban were quite careful and positive in their messaging. This thin veneer seems to be slipping now.

In the second week of September, the Taliban announced the initial structure of their government setup. Despite the many promises to be inclusive and bring all relevant stakeholders on board, the regime is a who’s who of hardliner Taliban loyalists and stalwarts. There are no women. The Hazara minority is painfully missing. Even the prominent powerbrokers from previous regimes, like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Hamid Karzai, and Omar Zakhilwal are missing.

There have been protests since the fall of Kabul, primarily by women, demanding equal rights as the country switches back to Taliban rule. The Taliban have used aerial firing and physical violence to disperse crowds. In the latest development, these protests have been arbitrary and summarily banned. Women’s sports have reportedly also been banned.

Pentagon Chief Says Hopes Fading for More Open Taliban Government in Afghanistan

Nancy A. Youssef

On Tuesday, the Taliban named a transitional government and declared the restoration of their Islamic Emirate, three weeks after claiming control of Kabul. The new cabinet elevated the traditional hard core of the Taliban leadership, and was made up almost exclusively of ethnic Pashtuns. The interim government also excluded women and other political factions, prompting protests that were violently dispersed.

Haibatullah Akhundzada was named top leader with overall oversight of state affairs and Mullah Hassan Akhun —who served as foreign minister in the previous Islamic Emirate, which harbored Osama bin Laden and was forced from power by the 2001 U.S. invasion—as the new prime minister.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, whom Washington designates a global terrorist because of close links between al Qaeda and his Haqqani network, was named minister of interior, overseeing Afghanistan’s police and internal security. The FBI currently offers a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest.

Taliban’s government includes designated terrorists, ex-Guantanamo detainees


The Taliban has announced the formation of an “interim government” to rule over Afghanistan. The Taliban’s regime will be known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. This is entirely unsurprising. The first emirate was toppled during the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001. The jihadis, members of both the Taliban and al Qaeda, waged jihad for the next two decades in order to resurrect it. The Taliban was clear about its political goal all along.

Many of the newly appointed leaders in the Islamic Emirate are actually old Taliban leaders. More than a dozen of them were first sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council in early 2001. Some new faces have joined them.

Brief profiles for 22 of the Taliban men who will govern under the emirate are offered below. This list does not include all of the figures appointed to lead. FDD’s Long War Journal will likely add to this list in the future. Many of the Taliban leaders discussed below have either current or historical ties to al Qaeda. Indeed, some of them worked closely with al Qaeda throughout their careers. Some them are U.S.-designated terrorists.

American diplomats recall 20-hour days, sleeping in Kabul airport while helping those desperate to flee

Joe Davidson

With insurgent forces closing in quickly, Foreign Service officers John Johnson and Evan Davis fled their Kabul apartments so urgently that they left some possessions behind.

“I suspect there’s a Taliban who’s wearing my suits right now” if the militants occupied the embassy compound where the diplomats lived, Johnson said.

But both also left their abbreviated tours in Afghanistan with things that they may never shed.

Johnson and Davis were among the last U.S. personnel to flee Kabul after it fell to the Taliban. Both expected to be there for one year, but the Taliban got in the way.

Right up until the end, they were surprised that the situation deteriorated so quickly. They didn’t know they would be evacuated until the day before. On Aug. 15, the day the Taliban captured Kabul, Johnson said the need to evacuate “was communicated over the P.A. system in increasingly urgent tones … as the Taliban moved closer and closer to the city and into the city.”

How a Great Power Falls Apart

Charles King

On November 11, 1980, a car filled with writers was making its way along a rain-slick highway to a conference in Madrid. The subject of the meeting was the human rights movement in the Soviet Union, and in the vehicle were some of the movement’s long-suffering activists: Vladimir Borisov and Viktor Fainberg, both of whom had endured horrific abuse in a Leningrad psychiatric hospital; the Tatar artist Gyuzel Makudinova, who had spent years in internal exile in Siberia; and her husband, the writer Andrei Amalrik, who had escaped to Western Europe after periods of arrest, rearrest, and confinement.

Amalrik was at the wheel. Around 40 miles from the Spanish capital, the car swerved out of its lane and collided with an oncoming truck. Everyone survived except Amalrik, his throat pierced by a piece of metal, probably from the steering column. At the time of his death at the age of 42, Amalrik was certainly not the best-known Soviet dissident. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had published The Gulag Archipelago, won the Nobel Prize in Literature, and immigrated to the United States. Andrei Sakharov had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which he was forced to accept in absentia because the Soviet government denied

David Shambaugh on China’s Political Personalities, From Mao to Xi

Shannon Tiezzi

Since Xi Jinping officially ascended to the head of the Chinese Communist Party in late 2012, he has tightened his personal control over both party and country in a way not seen since the founding leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Mao Zedong. Understanding Xi the person is important to understanding China the country. But even under Xi’s more understated predecessors, understanding the PRC’s top ruler helps explains the choices made in Beijing that have shaped the country, and the world.

In “China’s Leaders: From Mao to Now,” David Shambaugh, an internationally acclaimed expert on contemporary China, provides an in-depth look at the widely divergent personalities and ruling styles of the PRC’s five main leaders: Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, and Xi Jinping. In tracing their differences, Shambaugh also illuminates the true power in China: the bureaucracy, which has remained surprisingly consistent in its culture and institutions since the PRC’s founding.

Iran to Benefit from U.S. Equipment Military Left in Afghanistan

Mohammad Javad Mousavizadeh

Back when American officials thought Iran would remain an important ally, Iran bought sophisticated arms and defense equipment from the United States for both political and economic reasons. In fact, Iran was the largest single purchaser of U.S. military equipment before the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and U.S. military sales to Iran increased dramatically between 1972 and 1976. But since the Islamic revolution, Iran has been sanctioned by major powers and has not purchased modern equipment from the West.

Some analysts believe that the collapse of the Afghan government, the Taliban takeover, and the U.S. withdrawal have created an opportunity for Iran to pursue its regional goals in Afghanistan.

Recently, some controversial pictures published on social media appear to show a convoy of trailer trucks allegedly transporting U.S. military equipment taken from Afghanistan into Iran.

Biden Is Running a Hostage Negotiation With the Taliban

Saeed Ghasseminejad, Matthew Zweig and Richard Goldberg

In late August, CIA director William Burns met with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar in Kabul, presumably to negotiate the evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies. For all intents and purposes, the Biden administration is running a hostage negotiation with a terrorist organization. The question for policymakers: What is U.S. President Joe Biden offering to pay now that the last remaining U.S. forces have withdrawn?

Thousands of U.S. and other Western citizens, along with their Afghan allies, remain trapped in Taliban-controlled territory in the wake of Biden’s decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from the bases and airfields that could have been used to protect and evacuate them. These stranded individuals are wholly dependent on the Taliban’s cooperation to enter and depart Kabul and other airports.

The prospect of thousands of U.S. and allied hostages remaining in Afghanistan without U.S. military assistance leaves the United States and its fellow democracies vulnerable to extortion. International recognition as Afghanistan’s legitimate government will be the Taliban’s critical first step toward gaining additional concessions and resources, such as direct economic assistance. Official recognition would, in turn, likely help the Taliban achieve another demand: access to hard currency, including Afghan government assets that have been blocked by the United States and others.

After 9/11, the U.S. Got Almost Everything Wrong


On the Friday after 9/11, President George W. Bush visited the New York City site that the world would come to know as Ground Zero. After rescue workers shouted that they couldn’t hear him as he spoke to them through a bullhorn, he turned toward them and ad-libbed. “I can hear you,” he shouted. “The whole world hears you, and when we find these people who knocked these buildings down, they’ll hear all of us soon.” Everybody roared. At a prayer service later that day, he outlined the clear objective of the task ahead: “Our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.”

Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press two days later, Vice President Dick Cheney offered his own vengeful promise. “We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will,” he told the host, Tim Russert. “We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful.” He added, “That’s the world these folks operate in, and so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal.”

General Failure: How the U.S. Military Lied About the 9/11 Wars

Peter Maass

PRETTY MUCH EVERY day since 9/11, the U.S. military has disciplined soldiers who failed to do their jobs properly. They have been punished for minor offenses, like being late for duty, and for serious crimes, such as murder or assault. Since 2001, there have been more than 1.3 million cases of discipline in the armed forces, according to the Pentagon’s annual reports on military justice.

But the generals who misled Congress and the American public about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have not needed to worry about negative consequences for their careers. After 20 years of conducting a disinformation campaign about what was really happening on the ground, not a single U.S. general has faced any punishment. The reverse happened — they were praised for their deceptively upbeat assessments and given more stars, and when they retired with generous military pensions, they landed high-paying jobs on corporate boards, further profiting from their disingenuousness.

America’s High-Tech Problem in Low-Tech Wars

Michael Ferguson

In 1997, between two very different wars with Iraq, military historian Williamson Murray highlighted what he saw as a disturbing trend in the US Department of Defense. A newfound obsession with supposedly revolutionary military technologies was sidelining history and strategic studies in professional military education programs. He believed this fascination was preparing the US officer corps “to repeat the Vietnam War” in the twenty-first century, only more “disastrously.”

These new tools, such as the highly accurate Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM), F-117 Nighthawk stealth aircraft, and AH-64 Apache attack helicopter were so successful in Operation Desert Storm (1990-1991) that the defense community dubbed that conflict the 100-hour war. Gen. Colin Powell, who oversaw the operation as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, even got his own philosophical doctrine out of it: The Weinberger-Powell Doctrine.

After the 9/11 attacks, intelligence officials began exploring the possibilities of hunting down Osama bin Laden using specialized teams augmented with the most sophisticated equipment and intelligence platforms. Commander of US Central Command, Gen. Tommy Franks, bought into the idea of emerging technologies supplanting the need for a large ground force. In his memoirs he envisioned a coming “revolution in warfare” that would look like science fiction compared to military operations a decade prior.

The Army Needs to Understand the Afghanistan Disaster

Frank Sobchak and Matthew Zais

The U.S. war in Afghanistan was a costly failure. More than 2,400 Americans died during the two-decade conflict. Tens of thousands more returned home with life-altering wounds. The Kabul government collapsed before American forces had withdrawn and the Afghan Army simply evaporated. The Taliban marked its victory with celebratory gunfire and parades.

This disastrous outcome deserves an honest reckoning. Such introspection is especially needed within the U.S. Army, which provided most of the mission commanders and a majority of the troops. Unfortunately, there is little incentive for either the service’s leaders or bureaucracy to conduct such an inquiry.

Iraqi forces similarly collapsed after the U.S. departure. We helped draft the Army’s historical inquiry of the Iraq war from 2013 to 2019. This effort was championed by Gen. Ray Odierno, at the time the Army chief of staff, and Gen. Lloyd Austin, who then ran Central Command and is now defense secretary.

U.S. Postal Inspection Service Oversight of Its Use of Cryptocurrency

Our objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of U.S. Postal Inspection Service policies and procedures for managing cryptocurrency in its law enforcement activities.

Cryptocurrency is a decentralized form of digital currency that uses a blockchain, or public ledger, to record transactions. The anonymity of cryptocurrency transactions and the significant fluctuations in the value of cryptocurrency create opportunities for abuse or theft when used during law enforcement activities. We evaluated the Postal Inspection Service’s use and seizure of cryptocurrency in cases closed in fiscal years (FY) 2019 and 2020. The Postal Inspection Service established the Cryptocurrency Fund Program (the Program) in 2017 to establish standards and policies to account for cryptocurrency transactions and reduce operational risk.

Report: Data Brokers and Sensitive Data on U.S. Individuals

Overview: This report examines 10 major data brokers and the highly sensitive data they hold on U.S. individuals. It finds that data brokers are openly and explicitly advertising data for sale on U.S. individuals’ sensitive demographic information, on U.S. individuals’ political preferences and beliefs, on U.S. individuals’ whereabouts and even real-time GPS locations, on current and former U.S. military personnel, and on current U.S. government employees. It first describes the problem of virtually unregulated data brokerage in the United States. It then describes the findings of research conducted for this paper on data brokers openly and explicitly advertising sensitive data on U.S. individuals, including a specific analysis of data relating to military personnel. It then concludes with policy implications for the United States—including ways this data collection, aggregation, selling, and sharing threatens civil rights, national security, and democracy.

Key Findings:

All 10 surveyed data brokers openly and explicitly advertise data on millions of U.S. individuals, oftentimes advertising thousands or tens of thousands of sub-attributes on each of those individuals, ranging from demographic information to personal activities and life preferences (e.g., politics, travel, banking, healthcare, consumer goods and services)

How to Make the Most of Online Courses to Boost Your Career

MORE THAN 200 million people lost their jobs over the course of the pandemic, and with coronavirus variants on the rise and new Covid cases swelling, it's possible that businesses that started hiring may cut back or stop hiring in order to follow new guidelines or save money.

While this is certainly a global crisis, it’s also an opportunity for you to close the gap between where you are now and where you want to be, professionally.

“Many job seekers focus on getting degrees that take significant time and money,” says Madeline Mann, a career strategist and founder of Self Made Millennial. “What is better in today’s world is to take online classes for the sake of building highly marketable skills.”

The first step is to create a career roadmap, where you decide what kind of job, promotion, or career you want to pursue. Think about short-term as well as long-term goals. There are no right or wrong answers, and you can always change your mind. Clarity is power, however, so having a desired outcome will help you move in the right direction. Next, research the job market to find out what’s available that matches your interests. After that, explore the qualifications of those positions to identify any gaps in your knowledge and skills. If you need help, this course from FutureLearn can help you build your roadmap, and this one from Coursera can help you learn those skills.

Swarms May Offer Next Level Artificial Intelligence

John Breeden II

Swarms of drones have gotten a lot of time in the spotlight lately, mostly for their use in potential military operations. The U.S. military is testing out swarm operations in simulations, while the British Army is using live drones operating in swarms during actual training operations. Other militaries are also interested in deploying swarms.

One of the biggest advantages a swarm of drones has when performing military operations is its resiliency. If a swarm enters combat and several individual drones get shot down or otherwise incapacitated, it really doesn’t reduce the combat effectiveness of the swarm, nor the tactics that it uses. A swarm of 550 drones is just about as powerful and flexible as a swarm of 600, even if the former has “lost” almost 10% of its initial strength.

And while that is noteworthy, it’s probably the least interesting aspect of swarms. What makes them really amazing in both military and civilian applications is their so-called swarm intelligence, a term first coined by Gerardo Beni and Jing Wang in 1989 when describing the potential for cellular robotic systems.

Pro-PRC Influence Campaign Expands to Dozens of Social Media Platforms, Websites, and Forums in at Least Seven Languages, Attempted to Physically Mobilize Protesters in the U.S.

Ryan Serabian, Lee Foster

In June 2019, Mandiant Threat Intelligence first reported to customers a pro-People’s Republic of China (PRC) network of hundreds of inauthentic accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, that was at that time primarily focused on discrediting pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Since then, the broader activity set has rapidly expanded in size and scope and received widespread public attention following Twitter’s takedown of related accounts in August 2019. Numerous other researchers have published investigations into various aspects of this activity set, including Google’s Threat Analysis Group, Graphika, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the Stanford Internet Observatory and the Hoover Institution, and the Centre for Information Resilience.

Since we began tracking the campaign in mid-2019, we have observed multiple shifts in its tactics, many of which have been reported on publicly elsewhere, including the use of artificially generated photos for account profile pictures and the promotion of a wide variety of narrative themes related to current events, including multiple narratives related to the COVID-19 pandemic, narratives critical of Chinese dissident Guo Wengui and his associates, and narratives related to domestic U.S. political issues. However, other evolutions in the network’s activity do not appear to have been reported widely, and our aim with this blog post is to provide early warning of two significant developments that we believe are important to monitor despite the limited impact of the network so far:

Algorithmic Warfare: How AI Could Go Disastrously Wrong

Yasmin Tadjdeh

As researchers and engineers race to develop new artificial intelligence systems for the U.S. military, they must consider how the technology could lead to accidents with catastrophic consequences.

In a startling, but fictitious, scenario, analysts at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology — which is part of Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service — lay out a potential doomsday storyline with phantom missile launches.

In the scenario, U.S. Strategic Command relies on a new missile defense system’s algorithms to detect attacks from adversaries. The system can quickly and autonomously trigger an interceptor to shoot down enemy missiles which might be armed with nuclear warheads.

“One day, unusual atmospheric conditions over the Bering Strait create an unusual glare on the horizon,” the report imagined. The missile defense system’s “visual processing algorithms interpret the glare as a series of missile launches, and the system fires interceptors in response. As the interceptors reach the stratosphere, China’s early-warning radar picks them up. Believing they are under attack, Chinese commanders order a retaliatory strike.”

The Information Warfighter Exercise Wargame

Christopher Paul, Ben Connable, Jonathan Welch, Nate Rosenblatt, Jim McNeive

The Marine Corps Information Operations Center (MCIOC) conducts an Information Warfighter Exercise (IWX) — an event designed to provide training on operations in the information environment (IOE) — one to two times per year. MCIOC asked RAND to help develop a structured wargame for IWX with a formal adjudication process. This document contains the ruleset developed, playtested, and implemented during the 2020 IWX cycle.

The IWX wargame is an opposed event in which two teams of players compete in and through the information environment to better support their respective sides in a notional scenario. Teams represent an Information Operations Working Group (IOWG) or information-related Operational Planning Team (OPT), or its adversary force equivalent, as dictated by the scenario. During the game, each team generates a plan for OIE, and players are then called on to add details to their plan, amend that plan dynamically in response to in-game events, prepare discrete game actions as part of plan execution, and make cogent arguments in favor of their team's actions and against the actions of the opposed team. A panel of expert judges uses a structured process and a random element (dice) to adjudicate the success or failure of actions drawn from the players' plans.

This document presents the full ruleset for the IWX wargame, including a host of optional rules to allow tailoring the game to specific preferences, needs of the training audience, or scenarios. Handouts and aids for playing the game, as well a brief Player's Guide, are also available for download.


Phillip Surrey

As a cargo aircraft jettisons flares as a countermeasure against any would-be missile attacks at Kabul’s international airport, the fragility of America’s single line of communication stands in contrast to the sea of Taliban flags encircling the airport. Here is America trying to extricate itself from twenty years of nation building in order to transition to strategic competition with China and others, and learning an important lesson for gray zone competition—the vulnerability of America’s air mobility lifeline. Rather than the final paragraph in a largely unfulfilled war on terror announced just days after the 9/11 attacks, the Dunkirk-like evacuation of Kabul is just the prologue to many great power competition adventures ahead.

To be relevant for gray zone competition, the United States must expand its global airfield access, strengthen its civilian airlift augmentation, and integrate air mobility equities more judiciously into its planning and execution. In a political environment where getting to the fight quickly with minimal casualties is the competitive advantage the United States must maintain, there will be no time to waste waiting for last-minute diplomacy or scrambling to find available aircraft and aircrews. Overwhelmingly, America’s military operates in competitive interactions that fall between open warfare and peace and airports are the jugular vein to almost every operation. Accordingly, while political decisions may constrain the optimal military options, DoD should prioritize strengthening its air mobility resiliency to minimize the danger that it cannot persevere against other great powers and their proxies.


Diane Zorri and Gary C. Kessler

The grounding of the container ship Ever Given in the Suez Canal in March 2021 caused a complete blockage of the maritime passageway for more than six days delaying an estimated $9.6 billion in goods each day. The cause of the accident has been attributed to a combination of environmental factors like high winds and human error in navigational inputs by the bridge team. While this event was not an intentional or malicious attack, it is prudent to consider the potential for a malign actor to orchestrate a similar incident in the Suez Canal, Panama Canal, Kill Van Kull, or any other narrow transit point. To that end, understanding the increasingly complex challenges presented by cross-domain threats and cybersecurity vulnerabilities in the maritime domain is important for irregular warfare policymakers and practitioners alike.

The twenty-first century has seen near-coastal waters become the most active setting for discord in the maritime domain. The littoral zone is the frontier where territorial claims are tested, nations confront one another, and major political affairs unfold. Instead of major sea battles between capital ships, conflict in the littorals typically involves irregular adversaries, especially as smaller forces act as proxies for larger nation-states and near-peer competitors. This trend was on display in a July 2021 drone attack on an Israeli tanker off the coast of Oman that left two dead, the latest in a series of such incidents that the United States and Israel have attributed to Iranian proxies.

The US military changed for the war on terror. Now, it has to change again, experts say


The adaptations required of the U.S. military for its irregular warfare since 9/11 have created a risk that American forces will lose in an armed conflict against a major power, and now the country must reacclimate to more traditional foes, some experts warn.

American combat after 9/11 did not feature conventional warfare against massed units, but instead pitted the U.S. and its allies against small bands of insurgents lacking air forces, navies or jamming technology of note. These fighters could simply melt into the populace after a clash.

As a result of battling guerrillas for almost two decades, the skills the U.S. needs to fight a major power with modern technology have atrophied, government officials and analysts say.

“You have whole generations of soldiers with firsthand experience in fighting wars that probably won’t look very much like the wars you’d be fighting in the future,” said Karl P. Mueller, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corp.

Will Lasers Change War?

Jacob Parakilas

Directed energy weapons – lasers – are a good example of a defense technology that has flitted around the edges of possibility for decades. The prospect of a weapon that needs no ammunition, and whose effects travel at the speed of light, remains tantalizing for militaries, despite numerous technical challenges, which have so far prevented lasers’ meaningful use.

Long a staple of science-fiction, directed energy weapons were mooted as part of a space-based missile defense system in the 1980s, before the end of the Cold War returned them to back-burner status. In the early 2000s, the U.S. Air Force revived the concept, going so far as to retrofit a Boeing 747 into an airborne laser platform called the YAL-1, designed to shoot down ballistic missiles in the launch phase. The program, beset by cost overruns, range limitations, and concerns about operational feasibility, was eventually abandoned.