27 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.

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.

Influential Taliban Commanders Added to Taliban Government

Bill Roggio

The Taliban tapped two important military commanders, one who is a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay and the other who worked closely with Iran’s Qods Force, to serve as deputies in the interior and defense ministries.

The Taliban appointed former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir as a deputy minister of defense, while Ibrahim Sadr (or Sadar) was named a deputy minister of the interior for security. The two powerful military commanders, who previously served as the head of the Taliban’s military commission between 2010 and 2020, were not given postings in the initial round of cabinet appointments that were announced on Sept. 7.

Sadr will serve under Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Minister of Interior, who is arguably the most powerful and influential Taliban leader in the country. Sirajuddin is also one of two deputy emirs, and leads the potent Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, which influenced the course of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.

Zakir will serve under Mullah Yacoub, the Minister of Defense who is the son of Taliban founder and first emir Mullah Omar. Yacoub is the other deputy emir of Taliban.

Their appointments to the important ministries of defense and interior end questions on whether the two commanders would be given significant positions within the Taliban’s new government.

Additionally, Zakir and Sadr join a long list of historical Taliban leaders, many whom have served the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s government from 1996 to 2001. The Taliban’s new government looks much like it did 20 years ago.


Laura Keenan

It was a former Afghan interpreter reaching out for help that pulled Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Torres to connect with other likeminded individuals to assist his former colleague out of Afghanistan in late August. My experience was similar to Torres’s, I found my way to a West Point alumni Signal chat group that was working to facilitate Afghan evacuations when I was trying feverishly to help a former colleague who was in Qatar receiving Afghan refugees in the absence of critical logistics. It was the human dynamic combined with a looming deadline that spurred action. Requests in online and messaging chats ranged from asking which gates were open at the Kabul airfield to requesting helo support. The speed and the collective, iterative knowledge were integral to the work of the virtual groups, especially when the catalysts were personal Afghan colleagues facing life-and-death consequences and needing help to evade and escape the Taliban.

The organic, voluntary, collaborative effort highlights an important lesson with implications well beyond Afghanistan. The Department of Defense can leverage similar enthusiasm, passion, and human capital by exploring the possibility of creating an auxiliary to help augment future missions.

Behind the Scenes of the Taliban’s Internal Power Struggle

Antonio Giustozzi

The Taliban’s announcement earlier this month that it had formed an all-male “interim” Cabinet in Afghanistan comprising only the movement’s members—many of them veterans of the Taliban’s last stint in power in the 1990s—took many observers by surprise. Members of the notorious Haqqani network, which controls southeastern Afghanistan, were placed in influential positions. While the Taliban appointed several outsiders and members of ethnic minorities to some additional Cabinet positions this week, none of them were given important portfolios.

The announcement of the main Cabinet lineup on Sept. 7 followed a trip to Kabul by Faiz Hameed, chief of Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI. That led to claims from multiple quarters that Islamabad had asserted its control over the new Taliban regime, marginalizing more independent figures like Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban and one of its most internationally recognizable figures who was nonetheless given the relatively modest role of deputy prime minister in the new Cabinet.

The Afghanistan Debacle: 5G And China

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How will the ripples from the Afghanistan debacle affect American policy on China? One potential metric will be the number of states that choose to welcome China’s Huawei into their 5G environments. With Washington demonstrating little competency or reliability, Beijing is likely to press countries to include Huawei and other Chinese telecommunications corporations in their 5G networks, lest they alienate Beijing. Should European and other states quietly reverse their previous positions, and choose to allow Beijing in, the ultimate price for the Afghan failure may reverberate for years to come.

Amidst the terrible news coming out of Afghanistan over the past weeks was a little noticed announcement that came out after Secretary of State Antony Blinken approached his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in late August. Even the bland American statement makes it clear that the United States was approaching the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to seek its assistance:

The Chinese version is far more caustic. According to the Chinese foreign ministry, Wang Yi castigated the US for its hostility to China, and made clear that any cooperation would be predicated on the United States changing its approach to China. Indeed, Wang took the opportunity to insist, again, that the United States implement the policy changes it presented to Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on her visit to Tianjin earlier this year.

Blinken’s imploring of the Chinese for assistance and support in Afghanistan, in combination with the diplomatic fiascos in Anchorage and Tianjin, are emblematic of how the United States is ceding ground to the People’s Republic of China. The debacle in Afghanistan only further opens doors for Beijing. Defeat has consequences.

Fortunately, China is unlikely to take advantage of this turmoil and invade Taiwan. While Taipei authorities have expressed concern about the consequences of the Afghanistan debacle, the pressure from the PRC is far more likely to be political than military. The collapse of the government and military in Afghanistan came so quickly that even the PRC is likely to have been caught off-guard. Given the difficulties of launching an amphibious invasion under the best of circumstances, it is unlikely that the PRC leadership would decide to throw together an invasion of Taiwan. Unlike the American decision to withdraw forces in the middle of “campaign season” in Afghanistan, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would have to think very hard about whether it would want to risk an amphibious assault in the midst of typhoon season. Instead, Beijing has redoubled its political warfare efforts, messaging Taiwan that Afghanistan demonstrates that the United States is unreliable.

Nor does it mean that Beijing is about to step into the Afghan quagmire. Wang Yi’s comments make very clear that the Chinese see no need to intervene themselves in the Afghan situation. Moreover, it is vital to recognize that Beijing has a trump card that the United States has never possessed: enormous influence over Pakistan, the prime sponsor and supporter of the Taliban. Indeed, the Pakistani security services had played a key role in the creation and sustainment of the Taliban, even before 9/11.

China-Pakistan ties have long been close, ever since Pakistan was the third country to recognize the fledgling People’s Republic of China in 1950. Pakistan has described China as its “all weather friend,” in sharp contrast to the United States, its “fair weather friend.” Pakistan is far more likely to press the Taliban to not make trouble for the Chinese (e.g., by training Uyghurs), if only to maintain good ties to the PRC. Such pressure is likely to be taken quite seriously by the Taliban leadership.

What Beijing gains from the American debacle is, first and foremost, a massive gain in its public opinion warfare efforts. One of the “three warfares,” “public opinion warfare” (sometimes also translated as “media warfare”) is the use of mass information channels, including the internet, social media, television, radio, newspapers and movies, to transmit selected news and messages to the intended audience. It occurs in accordance with an overall plan and defined objectives, and seeks to shift both mass and leadership views and opinions.

The goal is not simply to expose a particular point of view, but to actively generate support at home and abroad, alter the perceptions of both the adversary and third parties and eventually shift situational assessments (and consequently strategic decisions) by friends, enemies, and third parties. It is closely tied to “psychological warfare” and “legal warfare,” the other parts of the “three warfares” triad.

Beijing wasted no time signaling the implications of the chaotic American withdrawal to Taiwan. Various Chinese media outlets promptly began warning the Taiwan population that any expectation of American succor in event of a conflict was misplaced. After all, if the United States would not support Afghanistan, where it had spent trillions of dollars and thousands of lives, and fought for 20 years, why should Taipei believe that Washington would be more committed to its security?

Coincidentally, other Chinese security developments are reinforcing Beijing’s message. The discovery, for example, of three fields of nuclear silos in western China underscores that China is an expanding nuclear power. Over the past two decades, Chinese military officers have noted that China’s nuclear capabilities complicate American decisions over Taiwan, and have warned that China’s nuclear no-first-use policy may not be absolute. Undertaking a massive expansion of its nuclear weapons capabilities in a visible way underscores that any American support for Taiwan occurs in the shadow of China’s growing nuclear umbrella.

The chaotic American withdrawal unintentionally reinforces Beijing’s point. There is no reason to think that there is any deliberate relationship between these two events, but the impact is nonetheless reinforcing China’s message, helping intensify Chinese “public opinion warfare.”

This broader public opinion warfare message, aimed at the wider, global audience, is also in full swing. Xinhua declared that the defeat in Afghanistan, coming on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic and the earlier financial crises, signaled the end of American hegemonism. Similarly, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s comments that American-induced tensions in the US-China relationship were jeopardizing efforts to combat global climate change are clearly intended to resonate globally.

What is even more problematic is that these same questions are undoubtedly being asked, unbidden, in capitals around the world even where Beijing isn’t pressing the issue. The PRC doesn’t have to try and create an image of American unreliability and potential incompetence. It merely has to point to the chaos at Kabul airport and the inexplicable decision to pull American military forces out while there were still tens of thousands of civilians inside Afghanistan. The longer Americans remain trapped in Afghanistan (and American diplomats insist that there are no stranded Americans), the more Beijing’s points appear to be borne out.

The Afghans that Fought

Frank Sobchak

Since the disastrous fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, there have been a continuous series of reports that announce far-reaching observations and conclusions from the conflict. Two popular narratives are that cowardly Afghan forces collapsed with barely a shot fired and that the U.S. military is incapable of building an effective foreign partner force. On its face, each judgement would seem to have some threads of truth given the considerable debacle that played out over August 2021. But the reality is much more complex and requires nuance, something that is challenging in the current American political environment.

While there is little way to describe the overall effort as anything other than an abject failure, the U.S. did build several capable Afghan partner forces. The Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment created the KKA, commonly known as the Kta Khas, and elements of the U.S. intelligence community trained elite units for the National Directorate of Security, sometimes known as NDS Units or simply Unit 01 or 02. Both of those organizations were small but had solid reputations as capable and determined fighters. Because of their size, each no more than several hundred soldiers, their applicability to the discussion of building foreign armies is limited. The Afghan Commandos, however, totaled in the range of twenty to thirty thousand personnel: a force larger than the active-duty militaries of roughly seventy countries including Denmark and New Zealand. A discussion of their capabilities, therefore, yields more applicable lessons due to the scale of that effort.

Time for U.S. to unfriend Pakistan

Clifford D. May

Who’s to blame for America’s humiliating surrender in Afghanistan, the dishonorable abandonment of American citizens along with Afghans who sided with us against the Taliban and al Qaeda, the disgraceful treatment of NATO allies, and the lethal incompetence with which the retreat was carried out? The buck stops on the desk behind which Joe Biden sits. But we would be remiss to ignore the contributions of others to this historic fiasco. Prominent among them: Pakistan’s leaders.

I take no pleasure in saying this. I first visited Pakistan 38 years ago. Most of the people I encountered were gracious, hospitable, and tolerant. They were open to talking about anything – in English!

Of course, four years prior to my visit, angry mobs had stormed the American embassy in Islamabad, incensed over reports – entirely erroneous – that the U.S. had been involved in the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. But after that crisis passed, Muhamad Zia-ul-Haq – a four-star general who became the country’s president after deposing Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto – was eager to improve relations with the U.S.

Why the AUKUS Submarine Deal Is Bad for Nonproliferation—And What to Do About It


On Wednesday, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States announced the formation of a new trilateral security partnership, AUKUS. Its first project will be “to deliver a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for Australia.”

This initiative was hailed in the three countries themselves and in the Asia-Pacific—at least outside of China, whose growing power AUKUS seeks to offset. Nuclear-powered submarines offer various military advantages over the diesel-powered submarines that Australia had been planning to buy from France. More generally, AUKUS is seen in the Asia-Pacific as a steely manifestation of the United States’ commitment to the region.

Discussion of the nonproliferation implications of AUKUS has been largely relegated to a handful of nuclear experts who, like debate nerds at a high school party, are soberly arguing over the finer points of nonproliferation policy on Twitter while everyone else gets intoxicated on grand strategy.1 Among those experts, there is far from a consensus on how serious the nonproliferation implications of AUKUS are or, indeed, whether they are negative at all.

That Canada Prisoner Swap Reveals the Depth of Huawei's Beijing Ties

Tim Culpan

In scenes reminiscent of a Cold War prisoner swap, a senior executive at Huawei Technologies Co. was released Friday, just as China allowed two Canadians to return home after 1,000 days in jail. The exchange will be hailed as a victory both in Ottawa and Beijing. But the political maneuvering required to orchestrate this deal undermines Huawei’s claims of independence from government influence.

The company’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, had been holed up in her Vancouver mansion since December 2018, pending extradition to the U.S. over allegations of fraud. U.S. prosecutors accused her of lying to HSBC Holdings Plc about the company’s dealings with Iran as part of an attempt to violate trade sanctions. Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat and senior adviser to the International Crisis Group, and Michael Spavor, a tourism consultant, were detained in China days after her arrest. Last month, Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in prison for spying, while a verdict against Kovrig hadn’t yet been delivered.


Alex Richards
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In 1989, a team of American analysts presented an argument that the next generation of war would have blurred lines between war and politics, and civilians and combatants.[1] This has become increasingly true as corporations now have major stakes in global conflict and are able to influence outcomes of global politics and war. The Russo-Georgian War further blurred those lines when the Georgian government transferred Internet capabilities that were under attack to TSHost servers in the United States. Private cybersecurity firms and non-state sponsored hackers can influence diplomacy on a global scale due to the deep penetration of the internet into the military, critical infrastructure, and everyday society. This penetration has increased the effectiveness of information warfare and cyber espionage.

China’s interest in information warfare really began in 1995 shortly after the United States had a swift victory in the Gulf War. The United States was able to use information technology to gain dominance in the war. Major General Wang Pufeng, who is considered to be the father of Chinse information warfare, wrote “Information war is a crucial stage of high-tech war... At its heart are information technologies, fusing intelligence war, strategic war, electronic war, guided missile war, a war of ‘motorization’ [jidong zhan], a war of firepower [huoli]—a total war. It is a new type of warfare.” [2] They went on to list the five key elements which are Electronic warfare, Military Deception, Operational Secrecy, Substantive Destruction, and Psychological Warfare. The internet has allowed electronic warfare to evolve into the modern-day cyber warfare we see in the 21st century. Prior to a restructuring in 2015, China had three departments that dealt with Cyber operations: The People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Technical Reconnaissance Bureaus, and The Ministry of State Security (MSS). The PLA consisted of twelve operation bureaus with distinct missions, and under PLA leadership, each military region had its own Technical Reconnaissance Bureaus responsible for cyber espionage and military intelligence. The MSS was responsible for domestic and political security, non-military intelligence, and domestic counterintelligence.

AUKUS a game of musical chairs in Indo-Pacific


Much of the outrage around AUKUS, the new trilateral strategic technology-sharing framework involving Australia, the UK and the US in the Indo-Pacific region, has been on France’s part.

France was contracted by Australia to build a dozen units of a smaller conventional variant of its newest nuclear-propelled Barracuda class, christened the Attack class. The Attack-class program is now set to be canceled and will be replaced by a class of fast attack nuclear submarines built with the help of the US and the UK.

France sees the new AUKUS deal as its traditional allies US, UK and Australia undermining its interests in the Indo-Pacific with schemes of their own behind its back – in an almost adversarial, exclusionist and secretive way. According to some reporting in the Western press, the “secretive” aspect may indeed be true.

AUKUS sub deal splits ASEAN into pro and anti camps


MANILA – The Australia, United Kingdom and United States nuclear submarine deal and their announced new AUKUS trilateral alliance have sent shockwaves across the Indo-Pacific and beyond as fears rise the move could spark an armed conflict with China.

While US allies in India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have all been mainly mute on the announcement, the strategic tremors of the nuclear deal will be most acutely felt in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea.

Already, the region appears to be splitting into pro and anti camps. Indonesia and Malaysia have openly criticized the deal, portraying it as a potentially destabilizing development that rekindles age-old resentment of Australia acting as America’s “deputy sheriff” in the region.

Singapore and Vietnam, two countries with rising concerns about Chinese expansionism, quietly welcomed the deal without issuing any formal statements. The Philippines, a US treaty ally, stood out by openly backing the deal as a necessary “enhancement of a near-abroad ally’s ability to project power.”

China is filling an American vacuum in Pacific trade


The announcement of the new Australia-UK-US alliance, or Aukus, has had news wires around the world buzzing, not least because of the outrage from the French, whose own submarine deal with Australia was ditched as a result. Recalling his ambassadors from Washington and Canberra, as French President Emmanuel Macron has ordered, is unprecedented. French pique will subside eventually, but European worries about US President Joe Biden acting unilaterally and without consulting them, this time in the context of the Asia-Pacific, will persist.

But all the fireworks have obscured what may be a more significant story. And that was the day after Aukus was announced, China formally applied for membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP. This free trade agreement between 11 countries on either side of the Pacific is not just about establishing high standards and rules affecting 13.4 per cent of global gross domestic product. It is also the successor to the Trans Pacific-Partnership, or TPP, which was to be the signature achievement of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia”.

When it was signed in 2016, Mr Obama was explicit about its purpose: “TPP allows America – and not countries like China – to write the rules of the road in the 21st century, which is especially important in a region as dynamic as the Asia-Pacific.” His successor Donald Trump, however, issued an executive order withdrawing the US from the TPP on his first day in office.

Xi Jinping’s New Political Economy: Part 2

François Godement

The Risks
As explained in Part 1 of this analysis, the move against real estate, the tightening of budget and credit policies, and the new social policies all point to some very grand ambitions. China’s political economy under Xi Jinping is at a turning point. These changes come with a cost, yet, many other measures are said to be under consideration.

It appears that Xi Jinping is ready to incur risks beyond anything his predecessors had been willing to accept since Mao’s death. Indeed, one should look at the trade-off between the benefits of moving against existing financial risks, and the new risks that could come from the bubble-bursting policies and other regulatory moves put in place.

Perhaps the biggest risk faced by the new "common prosperity" set of goals, from bubble bursting to limiting inequality and fighting a market society, is that they might end up not being implemented at all, due to China’s multi-layered bureaucracy and its special interests. There are, after all, many recent examples. Xi Jinping’s 30/60 (2030 and 2060) targets for capping CO2 emissions and carbon neutrality have immediately been contradicted by actual trends. Coal consumption and thermal energy, steel production and the entire construction sector in 2020 and 2021 have made the official targets even harder to reach. In 2021, we can see the actual public budget cutting the very expenses that should be central to welfare and "common prosperity": education, health, agriculture and forestry.

The Battle for the Soul of Islam: Will the real reformer of the faith stand up?

James M. Dorsey

Saudi and Emirati efforts to define ‘moderate’ Islam as socially more liberal while being subservient to an autocratic ruler is as much an endeavour to ensure regime survival and bolster aspirations to lead the Muslim world as it is an attempt to fend off challenges rooted in diverse strands of religious ultra-conservatism.

The Saudi and Emirati efforts to garner religious soft power have much in common even though the kingdom and the United Arab Emirates build their respective campaigns on historically different forms of Islam. The two Gulf states are, moreover, rivals in the battle for the soul of Islam, a struggle to define what strand or strands will dominate the faith in the 21st century.

The battle takes on added significance at a time that Middle Eastern rivals are attempting to dial down regional tensions by managing their disputes and conflicts rather than resolving them. The efforts put a greater emphasis on soft power rivalry rather than hard power confrontation often involving proxies.

Iran Joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

Bradley Bowman

Members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) unanimously agreed on Friday to elevate Iran to full membership. The Islamic Republic of Iran’s entry into the SCO strengthens Tehran’s relationships with China and Russia and demonstrates the need for more unity among Israel, the United States, and its Arab partners about the challenges coming from China.

The SCO was formed in 2001 as an intergovernmental organization dedicated to addressing political, economic, and security issues across Eurasia. China and Russia dominate the SCO, whose member states also include India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Diverse security priorities and tensions among members, exacerbated by the addition of India and Pakistan in 2017, mean that the SCO functions more like a diplomatic forum than a unified security bloc.

Despite these limitations, Iran’s SCO membership underscores Tehran’s desire to build a deep and comprehensive partnership with the People’s Republic of China. Under Iran’s “Look to the East” foreign policy, Tehran sees China as its main long-term partner. Earlier this year, Iran and China signed a 25-year strategic partnership that will see China invest several hundred million dollars in Iranian projects, including nuclear power, energy development, and infrastructure. A leaked draft of the partnership agreement called for combined Chinese-Iranian military exercises, weapons development, and intelligence sharing. The final terms of the agreement remain secret.

The Islamic Republic has also been improving its relationship with the SCO’s other key power, Russia. Tehran has agreed to hold joint military exercises with Moscow and Beijing in late 2021 or early 2022, building on trilateral naval exercises in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman in late 2019.

Although it could take approximately two years to finalize the legal process of Iranian accession to the SCO, Iran’s acceptance by the body’s members reinforces the importance of enhanced cooperation between the United States and its allies and partners in the Middle East.

In particular, the growing political, military, and economic ties between Tehran and Beijing should ring multiple alarm bells in Washington, Jerusalem, and a number of Arab capitals.

Some Americans have wittingly or unwittingly consoled themselves with the vague notion that great power competition happens only in Europe and East Asia, allowing the United States to ignore the Middle East. As Iran’s SCO membership shows, China and Russia compete in the Middle East, too.

They have a better grasp of the region’s continuing importance.

That reality must inform Washington’s thinking when it comes to the U.S. military posture in the region. It may just be a matter of time until Iran builds or acquires (with Beijing’s or Moscow’s help) some of the same formidable anti-access and area-denial weapons that China and Russia are already fielding. The partnership could provide Tehran, for example, more advanced air defense, missile, cyber, anti-satellite, and electronic warfare capabilities.

The growing military and economic integration between Beijing and Tehran also forces Jerusalem, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and others to assume that technology shared with China may find its way to Tehran. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates should be more sympathetic to concerns regarding their own growing arms purchases from Beijing. The increasingly close economic and military links between China and Iran should also help solidify a growing consensus between Washington and Jerusalem regarding the potency of the Chinese military-civil fusion threat and the need to protect shared technology that may have military applications.

The Navy Gets Its Drone Fleet Into the Water

James Stavridis

U.S. Navy recently stood up a seagoing task force that it hopes will sail into not just the Arabian Gulf but also the future. The question is whether the service, and the Pentagon as a whole, can put its focus and money into the weapons of tomorrow and not those of the past.

Instead of the traditional collection of destroyers and cruisers, Task Force 59 is outfitted with unmanned vehicles powered by artificial intelligence. It is commanded by Captain Michael “Brasso” Brasseur, whom I met in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks in the Pentagon, which still reeked of smoke and jet fuel. I was a recently promoted rear admiral, in charge of a small group of officers chosen to create new ways of thinking about how to use marine forces in what we would come to call “the global war on terror.”

Known as Deep Blue, our team worked on new alignments of land-attack forces built around amphibious ships; alternating crew arrangements that allowed the Navy to keep ships forward in combat far longer; and integrating naval special forces with our conventional capabilities to fight in a landlocked country, Afghanistan.More from

One of the most energetic and creative members of that team was young Lieutenant Brasseur. Twenty years later, he is a commodore of a cutting-edge force more capable than anything we imagined after 9/11. We talked recently, and he emphasized how important it is to move these weapons into the field. “We want to accelerate getting these new capabilities in the hands of the operators,” he said. “They are the ultimate innovators because they are closest to the problems.”

Central Asia on the Front Lines

James Durso

The Central Asian republics – old cultures but young countries – are still competing the process of state formation started thirty years ago with the fall of the Soviet Union, so this is a challenging time to be on the doorstep of a threatening Afghanistan.

Central Asia aided the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during the war in Afghanistan by providing access to airfields (Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan), allowing aircraft overflights, and facilitating the resupply of NATO via the Northern Distribution Network (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan).

Among the states on Afghanistan’s border, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan previously met Taliban delegations, recognizing the movement would be a force regardless of the final outcome in Afghanistan. This was in line with Turkmenistan’s principle of “positive neutrality” and, despite its aversion to Islamists, the government hosted a Taliban delegation in July. Uzbekistan hosted a Taliban delegation in 2018 and encouraged peace talks between the Taliban and the Kabul government, continuing the country’s pragmatic approach to Afghanistan. (The former president, Islam Karimov, said “Tashkent is ready to recognize any government in Afghanistan, even if it is the Taliban government. It doesn’t matter whether we like that government or not.”) Tajikistan will likely continue its policy of opposition to the Taliban and has said it will not recognize a Taliban government that does not include all the country’s ethnic groups.

The Nagging Question in the Indo-Pacific

Phillip Orchard

Senior U.S. diplomats were fanned out across the Indo-Pacific last week. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin toured Southeast Asia, outlining to circumspect U.S. partners a vision for “integrated deterrence” and, in Manila, tending to a festering wound at the heart of U.S. regional strategy. This followed Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s visits to Seoul and Tokyo, indispensable U.S. allies whose resentment for each other is a big problem for the U.S. alliance structure. Her boss, Antony Blinken, dropped by India to continue transforming the “Quad” from a reluctant talk shop to a coalition with teeth. Meanwhile, at home, the annual bureaucratic donnybrook over the Pentagon’s budget is in full swing, with profound debates over how best to sustain U.S. naval supremacy in the Indo-Pacific (How many ships? What type? What role for unmanned ships?) appearing nowhere close to resolution.

The flurry of activity can be tied to a single, nagging question: Can China win? Or, can China’s developing capabilities – hypersonic missiles, warships, cyberweapons, space and information domain assets, and so forth – nullify Washington’s naval superiority, particularly in China’s front yard? What happens if China succeeds simply in making it too costly for the U.S. to risk a fight?

In truth, the question will probably never be fully answered. It would take a war to do so, and war would be disastrous for everyone involved. Yet the uncertainty itself will be a defining feature in the regional landscape likely for decades to come.

ASEAN and the Quad: Strategic impasse or avenue for cooperation?

Jonathan Stromseth

On Friday, September 24, the Biden administration will host the first in-person leaders’ summit of the “Quad,” a quadrilateral grouping comprised of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. Established in 2007 as an informal security dialogue, the Quad faded away over the years but was revived during the Trump administration owing to shared concerns over China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region. This week’s summit is expected to codify an expanded agenda and launch several new initiatives to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific. The gathering will be held at the White House with the prime ministers of Australia, India, and Japan all in attendance. Not surprisingly, China has slammed the Quad as an exclusive clique based on a zero-sum mentality, recently warning that the summit shouldn’t “target a third party or undermine its interests.”

The Biden administration’s embrace of the Quad is emblematic of its approach to China more broadly, framed as competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be. In addition to building up strength at home, the administration is carrying out this approach by working more closely with allies and like-minded nations to blunt China’s ambitions and temper its aggressive behavior on the regional and world stage. The most recent manifestation of this approach is the formation last week of the trilateral AUKUS security partnership in the Indo-Pacific — under which Australia will acquire nuclear-powered submarines, drawing on U.S. and British technology.

American Gentry

Patrick Wyman

American wealth and power usually have a certain look: glass-walled penthouse apartments in glittering urban skyscrapers, sprawling country mansions, ivy-covered prep schools, vacation homes in the Hamptons. These are the outward symbols of an entrenched oligarchy, the political-economic ruling class portrayed by the media that entertains us and the conspiracy theories that animate the darker corners of the American imagination.

The reality of American wealth and power is more banal. The conspicuously consuming celebrities and jet-setting cosmopolitans of popular imagination exist, but they are far outnumbered by a less exalted and less discussed elite group, one that sits at the pinnacle of the local hierarchies that govern daily life for tens of millions of people. Donald Trump grasped this group’s existence and its importance, acting, as he often does, on unthinking but effective instinct. When he crowed about his “beautiful boaters,” lauding the flotillas of supporters trailing MAGA flags from their watercraft in his honor, or addressed his devoted followers among a rioting January 6 crowd that included people who had flown to the event on private jets, he knew what he was doing. Trump was courting the support of the American gentry, the salt-of-the-earth millionaires who see themselves as local leaders in business and politics, the unappreciated backbone of a once-great nation.

It's time for Congress to act on WHO reform


This week, the Biden administration missed the deadline to nominate a candidate to challenge embattled World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in his quest for a second five-year term. This unforced diplomatic error, one welcomed in Beijing, all but assures Tedros’ reelection. It also confirms the Biden administration lacks a serious strategy to overhaul the beleaguered global health body. At a time of skyrocketing COVID-19 infection rates and still unanswered questions about the virus’ origins, the U.S. has a responsibility to address the WHO’s failings. Enter Congress.

The need for action has been building since the pandemic’s first days, when many began to question Tedros’ perceived deference to the Chinese Communist Party. After meeting with Xi Jinping in January 2020, Tedros praised China’s pandemic mismanagement, claiming that Beijing’s response had set a “new standard.” In the intervening months, the WHO chief hewed closely to China’s preferred political narratives about the pandemic and its origins. Over Washington’s objections, Tedros also excluded Taiwan from the WHO’s 2021 annual agenda setting meeting. This particular incident highlighted Beijing’s outsized influence over Tedros, even though China’s contributions account for less than 1.5 percent of the WHO’s budget.

US botched the response to COVID-19, McChrystal says

Meghann Myers

Retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal is about to have a new book out, and it has a big takeaway: We’re not doing a great job of protecting ourselves.

Risk: A User’s Guide,” out Oct. 5, takes a look at how leaders approach and handle risk. McChrystal has found they focus more on the likelihood that something will or won’t happen, and less on what to do when even the unlikely happens.

“Like many people, I’ve lived a life that touched risk and dealt with risk, tried to mitigate risk or defeat risk,” he told Military Times during a Sept. 7 interview. “And over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion, we don’t do it very well.”

Nowhere is that more stark than 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, as parts of the U.S. are ravaged by deaths and hospitalizations, while others have tamped their community transmission down to manageable levels.

Welcome to Russia’s New Reality

Stefan Meister

The elections to the Russian parliament, the Duma, that concluded on Sunday, September 19, have produced the expected outcome: A victory of the ruling United Russia party. This vote without a choice was the result of the most managed and least competitive election in post-Soviet history. With the most important Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny in jail, this Duma election was the expression of the fundamental transformation of the Russian state from a semi-authoritarian to a fully authoritarian state.

This parliamentary election was laying the groundwork for 2024 presidential election, when either President Vladimir Putin will be re-elected, or a hand-picked successor will win in a managed election. What we have observed in Russia in recent years is the suppression of any relevant opposition, the closing of the last independent media, and a systematic policy of repressing civil society. The branding of everybody who receives foreign funding or has foreign contacts as a “foreign agent,” has atomized the Russian civil society. The regime has learned how to manage the Internet, controls social media, locates people who participated in demonstrations, and has rendered any independent election observation nearly impossible.
Civil Society Under Pressure

Understanding China’s Draft Algorithm Regulations

Sapni G K and Mihir Mahajan

Data and algorithms are the fundamental blocks of cyberspace, but while data practices are increasingly being regulated around the world algorithm regulation is relatively untouched. The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), for example, remains the groundbreaking model for data protection regulations in most parts of the world. However, there is a void in the regulation of algorithms.

In August, China issued the Draft Internet Information Service Algorithmic Recommendation Management Provisions, with an interest in standard setting in this space.

The provisions provide a framework for the regulation of recommendation algorithms. The provisions apply to “search filters” and “personalized recommendation algorithms” as used in social media feed algorithms (Weibo), content services (Tencent Music, streaming), online stores (e-commerce, app stores), and so on. It also regulates “dispatching and decision making” algorithms, such as those used by gig work platforms (like transport and delivery services) and “generative or synthetic-type” algorithms used for content generation in gaming and virtual environments, virtual meetings, and more.

Evolving Cybersecurity Priorities in India

DSCI, in partnership with PWC has developed its latest report on ‘Evolving Cybersecurity Priorities’ to showcase the changing needs and demands of cybersecurity in India.

This report is developed in continuation to our report 'Cyber Security India Market' which was launched during AISS in December 2019, focusing on how the domestic demand for cybersecurity is growing in India. We are now endeavoring to gauge the new market sentiments around how cybersecurity priorities are evolving due to the pandemic.

Digitization has been on the board’s agenda, and implementation has been in progress over a few years. The onset of COVID-19 has fast-tracked the digitization agenda. This brings in a pressing need to address the new and existing risks of rapid digitization. In the past few months, business operations across India have faced massive disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Businesses have had to redesign their operating models and re-prioritize their business and cybersecurity requirements.

The report highlights the key trends observed for the future of business, the shifting cybersecurity priorities, and the various ways of optimizing the cybersecurity function.

Better Monitoring and Better Spying: The Implications of Emerging Technology for Arms Control

Jane Vaynman


How will emerging technology affect whether states are able to use arms control as a foreign policy tool to manage competition? Will advances in artificial intelligence (AI), for example, make it any easier for states to agree to limit conventional weapons, nuclear capabilities, or risky behaviors? Much attention has previously been paid to the role that international cooperation might play in controlling the spread of emerging technologies themselves. But irrespective of the prospects for such efforts, emerging technology is likely to also play an important role in arms control by affecting the capability of states to monitor and verify compliance. Analysts have already started to think about how technology can improve monitoring,1 leading to intuitions that having greater access to information about compliance will make states more likely to sign agreements. However, more information is not always better, and under some conditions, more effective monitoring may actually undermine cooperation efforts. In assessing the effects of emerging technology on arms control, it is important to consider the countervailing impacts of information collection on state security interests.

Arms control agreements allow states to avoid the costs of an arms race or, more generally, of a status quo in which both sides expend resources or take on risks in an effort to gain a security advantage over the other.2 As such, agreements can be beneficial even for competing states, especially in cases where arms racing essentially maintains the status quo. The most well-known “cost” of arms control — and the reason that is usually presented for why states fail to sign agreements — is the risk of cheating.3 States can face severe security threats if an adversary secretly violates a deal and gains a military advantage. In theory, the risk of cheating could be addressed through monitoring. If one side can see everything the other is doing, there is no way to gain a temporary advantage. Violations would immediately be detected and the other side could respond with its own arms build-up. The solution for getting countries to sign more agreements, it would seem, would be to increase monitoring and transparency in order to decrease the fear of cheating. However, this approach misses an often-unappreciated side effect: increased risks to a state’s security that are created through the effective implementation of a deal.

AI Algorithms Deployed in Kill Chain Target Recognition

Amanda  Miller

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall alluded to an event in which artificial intelligence helped to identify a target or targets in “a live operational kill chain” in his remarks at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., on Sept. 20.

Kendall offered the description as an example of his “No. 1 priority,“ which he said is investing in “meaningful military capabilities that project power and hold targets at risk anywhere in the world.”

Kendall said that in 2021, the Air Force’s chief architect’s office “deployed AI algorithms for the first time to a live operational kill chain” involving the Air Force’s multi-site Distributed Common Ground System and an air operations center “for automated target recognition.”

He said the event represented “moving from experimentation to real military capability in the hands of operational warfighters.”

Kendall did not provide details of the mission but said the broad intent of the new capability is to “significantly reduce the manpower-intensive tasks of manually identifying targets—shortening the kill chain and accelerating the speed of decision-making.”

Air Force spokesperson Jacob N. Bailey told Air Force Magazine in an email, “These AI algorithms were employed in operational intelligence toolchains, meaning integrated into the real-time operational intel production pipeline to assist intelligence professionals in the mission to provide more timely intelligence. The algorithms are available at any [DCGS site] and via the [DCGS] to any [air operations center] whenever needed, so they’re not confined to a particular location.”

The Defense Department has acknowledged further need to gather intelligence from afar as well—in addition to holding targets at risk—in pursuing its “over-the-horizon” strategy of monitoring Afghanistan for terrorist activities. Kendall said the evacuation from Kabul included “continuous surveillance from space and the air.”

In July, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said DOD had “significantly” stepped up its number of AI efforts over the prior year. The department preceded that acceleration by adopting five “ethical principles” for AI development and use.

Why I am fighting to end the rubber stamp for war


On August 17, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention spent the final hours of the week embroiled in debate over how to start a war. The debate focused on the phrase “to make war,” and its placement within the powers of the Congress. Pierce Butler and Charles Pinckney of South Carolina spoke in opposition, noting the sluggish nature of convening Congress and its subsequent proceedings. Mr. Butler, in particular, favored placing the responsibility on the shoulders of the president, noting a president’s possession of “all the requisite qualities,” and restraint to “not make war but when the nation will support it.”

Together, James Madison and Elbridge Gerry proposed a compromise, striking “make” in favor of “declare,” intentionally preserving a small window of latitude for a president to repel sudden attacks against the nation. The compromise succeeded on a vote of 8-1-1 with only New Hampshire opposed. Elbridge Gerry, evidently disturbed by the ease and confidence with which his fellow delegates proposed vesting such power in one office, said he “never expected to hear, in a republic, a motion to empower the Executive alone to declare war.”