9 November 2021

India in Space Domain - Pathbreaking Developments

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


India is now a major spacefaring nation. Initially, the Indian space programme was focused primarily on societal and developmental utilities. Today, like many other countries, India is compelled to use space for several military requirements like intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Hence, India is looking to space to gain operational and informational advantages.

India has had its fair share of achievements in the space domain. It includes the launch of the country’s heaviest satellite, the GSAT-11 which will boost India’s broadband services by enabling 16 Gbps data links across the country, GSAT-7A, the military communication satellite and the launch of the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV Mk III-D2, the GSAT 29. The Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test is an intrinsic part of today’s geopolitics and the national security context.

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 and China Expected to Buy Russia's New S-500 Missile Defense System

Peter Suciu

While Russia and China are not officially allies, the two nations remain partners when it comes to military hardware. Even as China has built up its domestic arms industry, Beijing has continued to turn to Moscow for aircraft engines and air defense systems.

That partnership is poised to continue. China and some former Soviet states could be among the first buyers of the advanced S-500 anti-aircraft missile system.

The mobile surface-to-air missile/anti-ballistic missile system was developed by the Almaz-Antey Air Defence Concern to replace aging A-135 missile systems currently in use. The S-500 is considered a step up from the S-400 Triumf, but would supplement that platform rather than replace it. It has a range of around six hundred kilometers and is reportedly able to target hypersonic cruise missiles as well as stealth aircraft. Analysts claim the S-500 could even target satellites in low-earth orbit.

It Took Less than a Month For India to Lose a War with China

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.

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 war resonates in both countries.

Who Fought?

While both the Chinese and Indian governments were relatively new (the People’s Republic of China was declared in Beijing in 1949, two years after India won its independence), the armed forces that would fight the war could not have been more different.

Taliban at the Border: A New Regime Neighboring Tajikistan

Mélanie Sadozaï

When the Taliban entered the Presidential Palace in Kabul on August 15, 2021, most of the northern border strip of Afghanistan had been under their control for over a month. By sharing approximately 1,344 km of border—the longest border shared by a Central Asian state with Afghanistan—Tajikistan has been at the forefront of the turbulence in Afghanistan for the past 40 years. The Taliban takeover symbolizes a historic landmark, as for the very first time, all the Afghan northern border districts are under their control.

In this paper, I suggest a three-scale analysis by focusing on the social, economic, and political resonance of the events unfolding in Afghanistan upon Tajikistan. First, I discuss the specific context surrounding the borderlands of Badakhshan to underline the historic nature of the Taliban’s arrival there before looking at the socio-economic impact on local communities at the level of the border. Then, I focus on how actors within Tajikistan have responded to the arrival of the new regime in Afghanistan. Finally, I argue that Dushanbe’s Afghan policy has put three crucial domains under stress. Ethnographic methods based on seven years of fieldwork experience along the border—including when the Taliban took control of the northern districts in July of 2021—and data collected in the Tajik and Dari speaking Internet sphere as well as local media provide the relevant tools for such a purpose. By looking at one precise borderland area, it is possible to understand the crucial role of Tajikistan in the future of Afghanistan, while highlighting the importance of international borders in times of crisis.


Murtaza Hussain

THE AUGUST 29 attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed Zemari Ahmadi, an innocent aid worker, and his family has become one of the most notorious drone strikes of the war on terror. It is also rapidly becoming one of the most revealing, forcing the U.S. government to disclose more about how it makes decisions about killing people in foreign countries by remote control, using aircraft high in the sky. The Kabul attack generated intense scrutiny from the moment it was launched, after journalists on the ground quickly contradicted the government narrative about who had been killed. What is now being revealed is that the evidence that can be used to carry out fatal strikes — like the one that killed Ahmadi and his family — is often razor thin.

A one-page summary of the findings of an internal investigation of the strike, led by Air Force Inspector General Lt. Gen. Sami D. Said, claimed that no violations of the laws of war had been committed and did not recommend that anyone be criminally disciplined for the killing of Ahmadi and his family. Said’s report concluded that the fatal strike was executed due to a mixture of “confirmation bias and communications breakdowns” — errors that occurred during an eight-hour period when Ahmadi was under aerial surveillance. Said did not share specific intelligence that had put Ahmadi into the sights of U.S. drones but suggested that certain actions — like picking up a laptop bag and driving a Toyota Corolla, common on the roads of Afghanistan — were enough for drone operators to justify pulling the trigger and killing him and his family in front of their home.

Sanctions by the Numbers: Spotlight on Afghanistan

Jason Bartlett

The United States has imposed sanctions on the Taliban since 1999, with the severity and breadth of sanctions designations rising markedly since 2001 as part of the response to the 9/11 attacks. These sanctions, which were primarily designed to address the Taliban as a non-state actor, remain in place today, raising questions about whether the current sanctions regime is sufficiently aggressive or tailored to address the fact that the Taliban is the de facto governing power in Afghanistan. The U.S. government has not created a country-specific sanctions program on Afghanistan. Instead, it is relying on existing sanctions and measures like asset freezes to respond to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, along with two new general licenses authorizing certain humanitarian aid, services, and relief items. While Taliban-related sanctions predominate in Afghanistan, a patchwork of other U.S. sanctions target Afghanistan-based individuals and entities through counternarcotics trafficking and counterterrorism authorities targeting other groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State, as well as Iran.

This edition of Sanctions by the Numbers provides an overview of the U.S. sanctions landscape in Afghanistan both before and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, followed by considerations for policymakers on future policy toward a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
Trends in Afghanistan-related Sanctions Designations

Will Bangladesh Benefit by Joining RCEP?

Asif Muztaba Hassan

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which represents almost 30 percent of the world’s population and GDP, is a triumph of multilateralism and ASEAN’s middle-power diplomacy.

And although the Wall Street Journal has dubbed it a “Paper Tiger,” it could script the future of Asia, bringing three of the continent’s four largest economies – China, Japan, and South Korea – under the same umbrella for the first time.

With the RCEP aiming to pull the global economic center of gravity towards Asia, Bangladesh expressed interest in joining the mega partnership. But with India pulling out, critics are now questioning whether Dhaka acted prudently by showing interest in the grouping.

Currently, Bangladesh is associated with just a few multilateral economic alliances like the D8, APTA, and SAFTA. Since 1976, the country has been experiencing sustained trade deficits because of low export volume. After graduating from the list of least-developed countries, Bangladesh’s export to the RCEP region will face tariff and non-tariff barriers, which will worsen the existing trade deficits.

Xi Is Running Out of Time

Daniel H. Rosen

How worried should observers be about China’s economy? As recently as midsummer, that seemed like an academic question geared to the long term. In recent months, observers who were already concerned were further dismayed whenever Beijing moved to reel in companies considered to be in the vanguard of the “sunrise industries” that China celebrated as the answer to future competitiveness, growth, and jobs. In response to fresh doubts about the wisdom of these policy campaigns, China’s private-sector entrepreneurs competed to demonstrate fealty to their leaders rather than complain, and many foreign investors waved away worries with the message that Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders knew what they were doing and should be trusted.

Writing in Foreign Affairs this past summer, I noted that Chinese President Xi Jinping seemed to believe that he has “another decade to tinker with the country’s economic model.” In reality, I pointed out, “there are at most a few years to act before growth runs out. If China’s leaders wait until the last minute, it will be too late.” Events in the past months demonstrate how the clock is running down. Property developers large and small ran out of liquidity to pay their bills, revealing the systemic risks of turning a blind eye to undisciplined property investments and causing a spillover of anxiety into bond markets at home and abroad, where investors had lent money to these firms and to indebted companies in other industries. Perceptions of the Chinese economy’s immunity to the dangers of stepping off the market reform path have changed, and concerns have grown that the CCP has missed the window for avoiding a hard landing.

China Consolidates Rare Earth Supply Chain

Annie Fixler & Louis Gilbertson

Peng Huagang, secretary general of China’ State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, confirmed last month that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will “promote the restructuring of rare earths to create a world-class company.” While it remains unclear what this “restructuring” entails, Peng’s declaration indicates the CCP will not stand by as the United States and its allies seek to diminish their reliance on China for rare earth elements.

Peng’s remarks come on the heels of China Minmetals Corporation’s September Shenzhen Stock Exchange filing, which announced a planned restructuring with China Aluminum Company (Chinalco) and the People’s Government of Ganzhou, a municipality in southeastern China. A merger would create China’s “second-largest rare earth producer by capacity,” according to Reuters, behind China Northern Rare Earth Group. The latter is the world’s largest supplier of rare earths.

China Minmetals, Chinalco, and China Northern Rare Earth Group are three of the “Big Six” corporations formed during a consolidation of the industry three years ago. Peng’s comments may confirm reports that China now plans to consolidate the Big Six into two mega-producers — one in the north, responsible for light rare earths, and one in the south, responsible for heavy rare earths.

China’s Hunt for Coal

In many ways, China’s ongoing electricity crunch is a mess of its own making. It’s due in part, for example, to an overly rigid regulatory system that compels local officials to act a bit too aggressively in complying with Beijing’s diktats – as has happened in this case in response to power consumption quotas handed down from the central government – even when it becomes abundantly clear that doing so is a bad idea. It’s also partially a result of dwindling reserves of thermal coal, which accounts for more than half of China’s energy mix.

The Taliban’s Man in Washington

Thomas Joscelyn

Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, is making his rounds in the media. As should be clear to everyone by now, Khalilzad’s servile diplomacy helped pave the way for a swift Taliban victory over the now deposed Afghan government this year. Nonetheless, Khalilzad is trying to defend his record. His arguments are self-serving piffle.

Consider what Khalilzad had to say during an appearance on CBS News’ Face the Nation on October 24.

First, Khalilzad tried to blame exiled Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for failing to reach a “political settlement” with the Taliban. Ghani’s tenure was an unequivocal failure, and few will rise to Ghani’s defense. But it’s nonsensical to claim that Ghani held the keys to peace. The Taliban never had any interest in a political compromise. The group’s leaders repeatedly made it clear that they were waging jihad to resurrect their Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the same totalitarian regime that was deposed in late 2001. This was a sacred duty for the jihadists and the principal motivation for their 20-year war.

State Dept. names new team to oversee ‘Havana Syndrome’ response

Missy Ryan

The State Department on Friday named two senior officials to lead its response to mysterious illnesses among U.S. personnel stationed overseas, as the Biden administration steps up efforts to help those afflicted by the shadowy “Havana Syndrome.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the appointment of veteran diplomats Jonathan Moore and Margaret Uyehara to oversee the department’s response to the poorly understood ailments — which have been reported by personnel from the State Department, CIA and the U.S. military and their families in countries from Cuba to Austria — signals the urgency with which officials hope to address a problem whose cause remains largely unknown.

“We will do absolutely everything we can, leaving no stone unturned, to stop these occurrences as swiftly as possible,” Blinken said in remarks at the State Department.

The announcement comes as some affected by what the State Department calls “anomalous health incidents” complain their ailments, including headaches, dizziness and neurological issues, have not been taken seriously enough. The phenomenon was first detected by officials assigned to the U.S. mission in Cuba’s capital in 2016.

Tech Advantage Critical to Prevail in Strategic Competition With China, DOD Official Says


At the 2021 Aspen Security Forum in Washington, D.C., Brown discussed preserving the United States' technological edge and quickly getting new technology into the hands of U.S. warfighters.

"We need technological advantage to prevail in this strategic competition with China," the DIU director said. "For the military, that means that we've got to modernize faster. We [have] got to use more commercial technology."

Brown added that requirements in acquisition and budgeting must again work for the Pentagon. "I've been leading DIU for three years now, and what I see is [that] we're not going fast enough. We're not transforming at the scale that we need to make changes to address the threat with China."

It’s Getting Dire in Afghanistan. Biden Can’t Walk Away.


In Afghanistan, young babies are now starving to death. Those parents who fear this fate are selling off their children to survive themselves. More than half of Afghanistan’s 39 million people do not have enough to eat and are “marching to starvation,” in the haunting words of the World Food Program. By next year, the United Nations warns, 95 percent of the country could be plunged into poverty.

Two months after the Taliban’s takeover, Afghanistan is reeling from the quadruple crises of conflict, coronavirus, climate change and economic collapse. Together, they have created a humanitarian situation that threatens to become more dire by the day — all of which happened under the watch of the international community. Meanwhile, international terrorist groups, like al Qaeda and the Islamic State, are reconstituting and could pose a threat to Western targets within the next year, according to counterterrorism officials. And yet, the Biden administration still has no real Afghanistan policy.

Should Congress close the revolving door in the technology industry?

Caitlin Chin

Bringing together six Democratic and six Republican co-sponsors, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA)’s newly-introduced American Innovation and Choice Online Act illustrates rising bipartisan momentum to regulate large technology platforms, notably Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. But in parallel with the increasing scrutiny from the Senate and House in recent years, another trend has emerged: enhanced investments in lobbying by these four companies. On October 5, Sen. Klobuchar expressed a related concern during the Facebook whistleblower hearing—that despite ongoing work on antitrust reform, many technology policy issues have stalled in Congress because “there are lobbyists around every single corner of this building that have been hired by the tech industry.”

To put Senator Klobuchar’s assertion in context, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Alphabet/Google currently work with approximately 320 in-house and external lobbyists—up from 189 in 2011—in addition to other policy and legal personnel. According to data compiled by OpenSecrets, these four corporations collectively spent over $53 million in lobbying expenditures in 2020, compared to approximately $16 million in 2011, making them some of the largest corporate spenders in this area.

China-US Tensions Put Nuclear War Back in the Spotlight

Jacob Parakilas

This week, the U.S. Department of Defense released its annual report on China’s military power. As usual, the report covers a comprehensive range of technological, tactical, and strategic assessments of Beijing’s goals and capabilities. But it comes at a time when tensions are rising – and even more frighteningly, nuclear weapons are emerging from the background to be a prime issue in the strategic competition between the two powers.

There is both more and less here than some of the breathless commentary might suggest. China has long been a slightly odd outlier among nuclear weapons states: Despite its near-superpower status, its arsenal has remained closer in size to those of middle powers like France, Britain, or India than to the United States’ or Russia’s. Until recently, China also seemed content with a much less diversified set of delivery systems, relying heavily on land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and a very limited fleet of missile submarines, compared to the full-fledged “triads” of bombers, submarines, and ICBMs fielded by Moscow and Washington.

American Defense Policy After Twenty Years of War

Jim Webb

The American scorecard for foreign policy achievements over the past twenty years is, frankly, pretty dismal. And without talking our way all around the globe, it’s clear that the most dismal score goes to the stupidest mistakes. We fought one war that we never should have fought and another war whose objectives grew so out of control that no amount of battlefield proficiency could overcome the naïve mission creep of the political and military leadership at the top that was defining what our troops were supposed to do. So, let me start with a couple of quotes from two pieces I wrote, one at the beginning of this twenty-year period and the other at the end.

On September 4, 2002, five months before the Bush administration ordered the invasion of Iraq, I wrote the following as part of a larger editorial for the Washington Post, warning that an invasion would be a strategic blunder:

Nations such as China can only view the prospect of an American military consumed for the next generation by the turmoil of the Middle East as a glorious windfall. Indeed, if one gives the Chinese credit for having a long-term strategy — and those who love to quote Sun Tzu might consider his nationality — it lends credence to their insistent cultivation of the Muslim world. An “American war” with the Muslims, occupying the very seat of their civilization, would allow the Chinese to isolate the United States diplomatically as they furthered their own ambitions in South and Southeast Asia.

Big U.S. Security Challenges Converge on the Caribbean

Sarah White

Few in Washington would have predicted until recently that the Caribbean would become a focal point of so many national-security challenges for the United States. But a series of recent events in Haiti, Cuba, and Venezuela, on top of long-standing political and humanitarian crises in each country, has propelled the region into the wider security conversation.

What is largely missing from the national conversation about these challenges, however, is the fact that multiple U.S. adversaries have established a political and economic foothold in the latter two, and the former is extremely vulnerable to the same type of exploitation.


There have been multiple concerning security developments coming out of Haiti of late. This year, the July 7 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse plunged the country into further chaos following an earthquake that killed nearly 3,000 people, and the arrival of Hurricane Grace immediately after.

Libya Is a Testing Ground for Russia-UAE Cooperation in the Middle East

Candace Rondeaux

In a little more than a month, on Dec. 24, Libyan voters will go to the polls to elect a new president, and after a decadelong civil war it is probably stating the obvious to say that they face tough choices. Among the candidates they can vote for are Gen. Khalifa Haftar, an accused war criminal backed by Russia and the United Arab Emirates, and Saif Gadhafi, the son of a murdered dictator and an accused war criminal himself, who has also been courted by Russia and the UAE.

The other three presidential candidates all have foreign backers of their own, including the U.S., U.K., Egypt, France, Italy and Turkey. But what makes Haftar and Gadhafi’s bids so much more worrying are their connections to the Wagner Group, a network of Russian-backed military contractors that has also reportedly received backing from the UAE. If either Haftar, Gadhafi or both advance to the second round of voting, there is a decent chance one of them could win the presidency. Either way, that sets up the very real prospect of the Wagner Group entrenching its position in Libya, and a possibility that Abu Dhabi and Moscow will deepen their cooperation across the Middle East.

What Europe's Energy Crunch Reveals


BRUSSELS – This month represents an important milestone in the fight against global warming – and not only because of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) currently underway in Glasgow. Although many countries announced ambitious emissions-reduction targets in the run-up to the gathering, these often extend a generation into the future, to 2050 or even 2060.

Meanwhile, governments in Europe and elsewhere face an immediate energy crisis in the form of surging gas and oil prices. And how they react to it will reveal much more than their long-term net-zero pledges do about their ability to manage the concrete challenges of the green transition.

The current energy-price spike is a classic case of an accident that was waiting to happen. Years of low prices, combined with regulatory pressure on banks to reduce their exposure to brown industries, have naturally depressed investment in fossil fuels. A faster-than-expected rebound from the COVID-19 recession, plus somewhat colder weather in the Northern hemisphere, were then enough to drive up prices to their highest levels in a decade.

Facebook's Foreign Disasters


CHICAGO – “The ugly American,” the title of a novel published in 1958 by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer, entered the language to refer to boorish American officials abroad who sought to improve the lives of natives without taking the trouble to learn their language, culture, or needs. A long line of ugly Americans, mostly politicians and government officials from both parties, have believed that applying simple formulas based on idealized versions of US institutions – democracy, markets, and human rights – could convert long-suffering places like Afghanistan and Iraq into Western-style consumer utopias. Inevitably, these Americans caused more harm than good.

Today, the ugliest of all Americans is not a government official but a private citizen, the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg has received an endless stream of criticism because of Facebook’s lamentable impact on American politics and culture. Less attention has been given to Facebook’s impact on foreign markets, which Zuckerberg recklessly penetrated with no evident concern about the possible consequences of conducting massive social experiments in countries with weak institutions and histories of instability.

Japan Pledges Support For Asia-wide Decarbonization

Thisanka Siripala

At the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio announced an additional $10 billion over five years to help Asia as a whole transition toward zero emissions.

The 26th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as COP26, aims to build consensus to end greenhouse gas emitting projects and pursue clean energy.

At a summit plenary session, Kishida emphasized Japan’s “determination to tackle the shared human challenge of climate change with all our strength.” He reiterated Japan’s aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 46 percent from 2013 levels by fiscal 2030.

The newly re-elected Kishida, who took office about a month ago, attended the summit two days after his governing Liberal Democratic Party won Japan’s lower house election with a stable majority. In June, the government headed by then-Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide announced it would provide $60 billion in public and private assistance over five years; Kishida’s pledge raised Japan’s funding commitment to $70 billion.

Jihadi Networks Are More Resilient Than We Think

Daniel Byman

With the departure of U.S. troops from Afghanistan this August, the post-9/11 era seems to be ending. Challenges such as climate change, a bellicose China, and the crisis of liberal institutions have crowded out jihadi terrorism as the primary American foreign-policy concern. Even in the narrow counterterrorism realm, white supremacist violence and anti-government extremism are the flavors of the day, and the occasional jihadi attack doesn’t seem to change things.

Yet a new book provides a stark reminder of the persistence of terrorist networks despite over 20 years of relentless counterterrorism. In Western Jihadism: A Thirty Year History, Jytte Klausen, a professor at Brandeis University and a highly respected scholar of terrorism, traces the origins of al Qaeda and the broader jihadi movement, and how the seeds they scattered throughout the West flourished in the 1990s and even in the post-9/11 era. What emerges is a portrait of a robust movement that, despite having suffered numerous setbacks, has learned from its mistakes, become more connected, and adapted its tactics and structures to keep the flame of jihad alive.

What Will End Russia’s Forever War in Ukraine?

Mark Temnycky

Seven years after Russia’s occupation of eastern Ukraine, the West’s hopes for peace are ostentatiously ignored by Vladimir Putin.

The eastern regions of Ukraine remain a warzone; Russia’s forces pepper Ukrainian lines with 120mm and 82mm mortars, small-arms fire, and light and heavy anti-tank grenades. Ukraine’s armed forces respond.

Ukrainian servicemen continue to die (most recently on November 2), as the ceasefire and de-escalation agreements about the withdrawal of heavy weaponry are routinely ignored. On October 20, the Organization for the Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) announced that 22 tanks and 48 armored vehicles had been deployed inside the supposed heavy weapons exclusion zone, while Ukraine’s defense ministry says some 90,000 Russian military personnel equipped with thousands of tanks and armored vehicles remain positioned about 260km (160 miles) from the frontier, including units from the 41st Army deployed during a buildup earlier in the year. That is in addition to an unknown number of Russian personnel and mercenaries fighting on the conflict’s frontline, armed and equipped by President Vladimir Putin’s government.

To Remake Multilateralism, Start With the Role of Africa

Zainab Usman

In early August, I watched the frenzied U.S. exit from Afghanistan from my hotel room in Accra, Ghana. I was not the only one in West Africa transfixed by the events in Kabul. Though Ghana is some 7,000 miles from Afghanistan, the chaotic scenes from the Kabul airport played on a loop in hotel lobbies, government buildings, restaurants and homes, broadcast not only by global networks like Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN, but also by local news channels.

The distressing images playing out on the TV came up repeatedly in my conversations with government officials, scholars and friends in Accra and later in Abuja, Nigeria. People were dismayed to see the throngs of people at the Kabul airport scrambling to make it onto departing planes, as well as those who clung to the wheels and wings of those planes without regard for their own safety

Harnessed Lightning: How the Chinese Military is Adopting Artificial Intelligence

Ryan Fedasiuk, Jennifer Melot, Ben Murphy

Executive Summary

Artificial intelligence (AI) is progressing at lightning speed. What 10 years ago would have been considered science fiction—self-adapting computer algorithms with billions of parameters—is now a central focus of military and intelligence services worldwide. Owing in part to AI’s fast-paced development, most analyses of its military promise tend to focus more on states’ future aspirations than present-day capabilities. This is particularly true for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which has routinely made clear its desire to harness AI for military advantage, and which prefers to keep a close hold over its actual, technical capabilities. But as tensions mount between the United States and China, and some experts warn of an impending crisis over Taiwan, it is crucial that U.S. policymakers and defense planners understand the commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) AI technologies already available to the Chinese military.



In recent years the word ‘hybrid’ has dominated the debates on security and defence. Much has been written about hybrid peace, hybrid conflict and hybrid warfare. Cyber-attacks, disinformation and election interference: these are just three often cited examples of hybrid threats. Western countries are struggling with the question of how to respond to these threats, in particular as military responses alone are insufficient and inappropriate to deal with such challenges. A whole-of-government or even a whole-of-society approach is required, as hybrid threats are targeted at wider governmental infrastructure, at privately-owned entities and at citizens at large or at specific organisations.

Countering hybrid threats has also become a priority on the EU and NATO agendas as both organisations and their member states are confronted with ‘sub-threshold’ or ‘grey zone’ challenges. In 2016, when both organisations agreed on a list of topics for EU-NATO cooperation, countering hybrid threats was selected as one of the important fields of action. Correspondingly, in 2016 and 2017 the EU and NATO drafted at least 22 concrete proposals for enhancing cooperation in the area of countering hybrid threats. Since then, both organisations have issued six progress reports with an overall positive assessment of their cooperation, but it remains unclear what has actually been achieved. This begs the question which concrete results have the EU and NATO produced? This report will analyse the progress made so far and will provide – based on the analysis – ideas and suggestions for further improving EU-NATO cooperation in the area of countering hybrid threats.

Russian Military Strategy: Core Tenets and Operational Concepts

Michael Kofman, Anya Fink

Executive Summary
Russian military leaders describe the current military strategy as one of “active defense.” This concept has a deep history in Soviet military thought, evolving from an operational discussion toward a strategic framework in the late-Soviet period. In Russia, military strategy represents the highest form of military art, offering general tenets on the theory and practice of war, preparation for national defense, ways of preventing conflict, managing forces in wartime, and delineation of strategic operations. Taken together, the military strategy and associated operational concepts shed light on the “Russian way of war,” and its influences. Russian strategy reflects choices in planning, operational concepts, and the force structure or capabilities to realize them. This study examines the choices made in Russian military strategy, under the rubric of active defense, their central tenets, and expression in strategic-operational concepts.

The notion of activity in Russian military strategy describes both preventive measures taken before a conflict breaks out, to deter it, and tenets for conducting the war. During a threatened period, or escalating crisis, Russian forces take preventive measures to neutralize threats, which can include preemptive use of limited force in a time of perceived imminent threat. A defensive strategy emphasizes maneuver defense and counterattack. It is a defensive-offense that envisions persistent engagement of an opponent throughout the theater of military action, to include critical infrastructure in their homeland, by executing strategic operations that affect an adversary’s ability or will to sustain the struggle. Consequently, Russian military strategy is composed of operational concepts that represent defensive and offensive constructs without clear distinction. Active defense devalues strategic ground offensives, instead privileging the aerospace domain, maneuver defense, and forms of noncontact warfare.

Robot wars: The battle for automated ground capability

Norbert Neumann

Military vehicle automation has proliferated in all domains. In the air or on water, vehicles can navigate relatively unimpeded. On land, especially off-road, uncrewed ground vehicles (UGVs) face difficulties steering away from obstacles and challenges posed by various terrains. The requirement for ground robotics to carry out tasks while ensuring an uninterrupted and uncompromised mission sets the bar high.

Ground automation technology is not quite at the stage where commanders could build operations around them, but the challenges have not stopped militaries from developing and testing UGV capabilities. The attraction of uncrewed vehicles lies in their versatility and capability to remove humans from harm’s way. They come in different sizes, shapes and capabilities to fulfil a range of functions.

Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft (FFG) and partner Israel Aerospace Industries/ELTA Systems (IAI/ELTA) took part in practical tests of the ELTA Systems REX MK-II combat UGVs by the German Armed Forces, Bundeswehr.