5 May 2022

The United States Withdrawal from Afghanistan after Two Decades of a Global War on Terrorism

The United States completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 30, 2021, following a war on terrorism waged over for two decades. The September 11, 2001 attacks prompted a cognitive change within the US administration and in the foreign policy of the United States and its allies. The pursuit of the terrorist organizations responsible for the deadly attacks, and the countries and regimes that protected them, began during the term of President George W. Bush and continued under the presidents who succeeded him.

An examination of the policies on the war in Afghanistan followed by Presidents Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden shows prominent differences in their rhetoric, which was aimed at showing that their policy was superior to that of their predecessors. In practice, however, activity surrounding the war in Afghanistan featured mainly continuity. Administrations from the two opposing political camps encountered a dynamic situation and concrete events that demanded a response, and over the years additional approaches emerged in the strategy in the war on terror (Jenkins, 2017; Levitt, 2021).

Opening All Combat Positions in the IDF to Women

The issue of opening all positions in the IDF to women is currently under debate, following rejections of requests by female conscripts and trainees who dropped out from prestigious courses to try out for combat positions in assault forces, and High Court of Justice petitions submitted on the issue. An IDF committee was appointed to examine the issue. I appeared before the committee as a representative of Forum Dvorah: Women in Foreign Policy and National Security, along with additional representatives of the forum. The purpose of this article is to present a suitable policy for the IDF, while relating to official reports and studies on the issue of integrating women in combat positions in foreign militaries.

Conventional Warfare versus ‘Hybrid Threats’:

Tarik Solmaz

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has undermined the prevailing premises in the West about the character of contemporary warfare. Over the past decade, the Western world, generally speaking, had seemed to be convinced that actions that fall below the threshold of the outright act of war will be the most dominant form of conflict in the 21st century. As such, Western states and institutions had primarily focused on countering measures short of conventional war. The focus on ‘sub-threshold threats’ emerged primarily in reaction to Russia’s ‘unconventional’ operation against Ukraine in 2014.

Briefly speaking, in 2014, Russia achieved its strategic objectives in Ukraine by combining covert and indirect military actions such as employing masked soldiers called ‘little green men’, deploying private military contractors, and empowering local paramilitary forces, with a diverse range of non-military instruments, including coercive diplomacy, cyber-attacks, propaganda, disinformation, and economic pressure, without actually engaging in an overt war with Ukraine's armed forces.

An Assessment of Thinking Big About Future Warfare

Marco J. Lyons

Summary: There are critical, outstanding disconnects between U.S.-western military theory, forces, and doctrine that hamper linking military strategy to national policy. Big ideas about future warfare matter primarily around seizing and maximizing advantages over potential adversaries to compel favorable policy outcomes. The big ideas are useful and matter because identifying, developing, and deploying warfighting advantages unfolds over long periods of time.

Text: Far more than any particular revolution in military affairs, western powers are witnessing what may be called an extended revolution in strategic affairs. Such dramatic and wide-reaching change in warfare and how it is conceived involves 1) fundamental questions of the utility and most effective forms of power and diplomacy; 2) challenges to future force planning caused by advances in information technologies, long-range, precision fires, and hybrid combinations of symmetrical and asymmetrical capabilities, and whether these define a new warfighting regime and character of war; and 3) influences of globalization – or more specifically, the security environments created by the various forces making up social and economic globalization – on militaries. Bringing these three dynamics together – and more may be added to the list – in a deeply integrated way will almost certainly yield a new paradigm of warfare.

Artificial Intelligence And the Human Context of War

Avi Goldfarb Jon Lindsay

Excitement and fear about artificial intelligence (AI) have been building for years. Many believe that AI is poised to transform war as profoundly as it has business. There is a burgeoning literature on the AI revolution in war, and even Henry Kissinger has weighed in on “The Age of AI And Our Human Future.”

Governments around the world seem to agree. China’s AI development plan states that “AI has become a new focus of international competition” and “is a strategic technology that will lead in the future.” The U.S. National Security Commission on AI warns that “AI is deepening the threat posed by cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns that Russia, China, and others are using to infiltrate our society, steal our data, and interfere in our democracy.” China and the United States are in a race for AI supremacy, and both nations are investing huge sums into lethal autonomous weapons to gain an edge in great power competition.

Hacktivists Are Sharing Russian State Secrets With the World

Kyle Fendorf

The war in Ukraine has spurred a dramatic rise in hacktivism, or hacking by private individuals for a socially or politically motivated purpose, as groups mobilize to support their side in the conflict. Hacktivists have targeted Russian networks—in some cases coordinated by Ukrainian government officials through Telegram and other social media networks—and in other cases, they have acted without outside direction. Hackers have launched wiper attacks against Russian companies, which seek to overwrite critical data and thus render computers unusable, as well as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which aim to flood a network or website with so much traffic that it cannot function properly. Even ransomware gangs have gotten in on the action, with one group, NB65, using stolen Russian ransomware source code to encrypt data on Russian networks and demand payment for a decryption key. Ukraine has leveraged a groundswell of international support to create formidable offensive cyber capabilities virtually overnight.

AI Will Be a Double-Edged Sword in Future Cyber Conflicts

Max Smeets

“Artificial Intelligence and machine learning … [are] foundational to the future of cybersecurity. We have got to work our way through how we’re going to deal with this. It is not the if, it’s only the when to me,” Adm. Mike Rogers, former chief of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, remarked in an interview. During his presidency, Barack Obama shared his concerns about an attacker using artificial intelligence (AI) to access launch codes for nuclear weapons. “If that’s its only job, if it’s self-teaching and it’s just a really effective algorithm, then you’ve got problems,” Obama said.

AI opens up a set of new risks and opportunities for the military and intelligence community. It is, however, important to be more precise about how AI applications impact different types of military and intelligence activities. Discussing the use of AI in cyber operations is not about whether technology or humans will be more important in the future. It is about how AI can make sure developers, operators, administrators, and other personnel of cyber organizations or hacking groups do a better job. It is essential to understand some of the key applications of AI in future cyber conflicts—from both the offensive and defensive perspectives.

How Russia’s War in Ukraine Affects Its Meddling in Africa

Jalel Harchaoui, John Lechner

At the end of March, Russian fighters assisted local government forces in central Mali as they besieged the town of Moura and executed approximately 300 people, drawing no distinction between innocent civilians and armed extremists. The massacre was a stark reminder that Moscow did not leave Africa after launching its invasion of Ukraine in February. In addition to Mali, Russia currently possesses a clandestine military presence in Libya, Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR). All those missions continue, regardless of the redeployment of a modest number of Russian fighters and urban-warfare specialists from Libya to Ukraine.

Moscow’s approach to these countries often comes with horrendous human-rights violations, but is shrewd and tenacious. The United States, though, has shown little interest in implementing policies capable of thwarting Russian influence in Africa and defending civilians. The aggression in Ukraine and the Beltway’s resulting moral outrage against all things Russian have yet to produce an observable shift in U.S. policy in Africa.

This Is No Time to Disengage from Afghanistan’s War

Mirwais Balkhi

With the fall of the Afghan government and the rise of the Taliban throughout the country in August 2021, the Taliban and its supporters created the narrative that the conflict in Afghanistan was finally over after nearly half a century. But this was a false claim; it was merely an excuse for individuals and countries to disengage themselves from Afghanistan. Understandably, the international community is exhausted after its long engagement in Afghanistan’s conflicts, but the conflict is not over. Instead, it has only transformed into a new form, and this time, the extent of the damage to Afghanistan, the region, and the world is bloody, deep, and irreparable.

The fifty-year-old conflict in Afghanistan has undergone four stages. That is, the nature of the conflict has evolved every decade. The first stage (1973-1991) revolved around the ideological war. This had two parts: one was over ideological, academic, and scientific discourse, with rallies in the major cities, while the other involved the armed struggle against Socialist rule and the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The second stage, between 1991 and 2001, revolved around two main features: the ultra-rightists (the Hizb Islami and the Taliban) and the moderate rightists (the Islamic State of Afghanistan), and the war among Afghanistan’s ethnic groups to seize and balance power. In the third stage, which took place between 2001 and 2021, the war was for the fair and just distribution of power over monopolizing power. The U.S. and NATO intervention in Afghanistan created an environment of struggle through political means (in Kabul) and fighting (against the Taliban). And finally, in the fourth stage, from 2021 onward, the political means to struggle for the just and fair distribution of power brought Afghanistan into a state of total war.

Here’s How the West Can Help Facilitate Reconciliation Azerbaijanis and Armenians

Fuad Chiragov

Despite all its military advantages during Forty-Four Day War two years ago, the Azerbaijani army did not enter areas in Karabakh where Armenians are densely populated—avoiding unwanted casualties among civilians was an operational requirement. Military operations were narrowed focused only in those areas where, historically, Azerbaijanis were in the majority from where they were expelled twenty-eight years ago. Likewise, no critical infrastructure or residential buildings where Armenians are densely populated were seriously damaged. As was previously noted in this publication, these and other factors helped ensure that the Forty-Four Day War had the astonishingly lowest civilian casualty rate in comparison to all other wars in recent decades. This unusually low casualty rate might end up being one of the more important elements that can contribute to the speedy reintegration of both sides.

How Cyber Restraint Makes Us All Safer

Brandon Valeriano

At a broad, strategic level, restraint emphasizes doing less with less; protecting a narrow set of core interests in ways that respect the limits of power. In cyberspace, restraint pushes back against the inevitability of an offensively dominated “cyberwar” and seeks to avoid spirals of escalation and threat inflation.

Cyber restraint seeks to reduce the impact of digital harm through preventative measures such as target hardening and resilience to improve defense and foster stability. Restraint hopes to avoid the offensive cyber operations that are likely to spiral and harm civilians. Rather, focusing on building internal capacity, improving international communication, and creating more domestic and international defensive partnerships will allow the United States to avoid triggering the disasters often predicted in cyberspace and ensure its own stability.

Winning the Battle for Chinese Hearts and Minds

Seth D. Kaplan

AS THE United States counters the rise of China, it is taking steps to meet the challenge to its global leadership, boosting investment in technology and infrastructure, shifting military assets toward Asia, and strengthening alliances. But its efforts are defensive; they shore up its existing position and react to Chinese attempts to weaken it. There appears to be no clear idea of how to go on the offensive—how to sufficiently weaken support among the Chinese people and within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) so the regime falters from within. Such an offensive strategy was key to ending the Cold War.

This strategy undermined the Soviet regime at its most vulnerable point—its legitimacy at home. A robust military and set of alliances deterred direct aggression, but they were at best defensive measures that provided time and space for concepts like capitalism, the rule of law, democracy, and human rights to win the hearts and minds of people behind the Iron Curtain. These ideas gradually won over elites and populations in the Soviet Union as differences in what the two systems could deliver became more apparent. Eventually, belief in the communist system eroded, dissolving the regime from within.

The Core of Putin’s Weakness


OPINION — In 2017, I wrote a short piece for Foreign Policy asking if Putin was more a product of his KGB background and personal circumstances, or whether he could be better described as acting in the longer cultural and historical tradition of Russian Tsars and Soviet Party bosses. I came down on the former explanation.

However, since that time, Putin has justified his actions – to include the invasion of Ukraine – in increasingly nationalist and historic terms. He has inveighed Russian myths and historical grievances, quoted chauvinist Russian philosophers and even claimed that Ukraine doesn’t exist, except as part of a greater historical Russia.

The Next Step in U.S. Aid to Ukraine: Operational Contractors

Mark F. Cancian

The United States and NATO have recently ramped up their support to Ukraine by providing major weapon systems in addition to the munitions and supplies they have been providing from the beginning of the conflict. These systems―artillery, anti-aircraft weapons, tracked vehicles―will enhance Ukrainian capabilities for the ongoing fight in the east, and, perhaps, for an eventual counteroffensive. However, the maintenance and training demands of these particular systems, which the Ukrainian military has never used before, will overwhelm Ukraine's ability to cope. The next step in U.S. aid should be, and likely will be, to provide battlefield contractors in Ukraine to maintain these systems and train Ukrainians on their use.

There are excellent reasons for providing these new weapon systems. The United States is sending howitzers and armored personnel carriers, France is sending self-propelled howitzers, Canada is sending howitzers, and Germany is sending self-propelled anti-aircraft guns. The United Kingdom and others will likely send their own systems, and there is pressure on the United States to expand the kinds of systems provided to include anti-ship systems and long-range missile systems like HIMARS and MLRS.

Destruction, Subversion, and the Long War

Cynthia Cook

Russia’s continuation of the war in Ukraine against fierce resistance suggests that Russia must see the war as offering benefits. Russia has territorial designs on Ukraine, and Putin may be holding on for fear of looking weak. In response, Ukraine’s fight is an existential battle for freedom and independence. Ukraine’s partners providing equipment to Ukraine and imposing economic sanctions on Russia are defending the democratic order and sending the message that that aggression will not go unanswered.

At this point in the war, a simple explanatory lens offers a useful frame: cost-imposing strategies. And the longer the war goes on, the more important cost-imposing strategies become. Beyond conquering Kyiv, Russia is seeking to increase the costs of rebuilding Ukraine. The U.S.-led coalition supporting Ukraine is using the war to subvert Russia’s ability to generate combat power in the future.

Deterrence First: Applying Lessons from Sanctions on Russia to China

Gerard DiPippo

The United States and its allies have imposed a series of coordinated economic sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine. They are the most comprehensive sanctions aimed at a major economy—previously the 11th-largest in the world—in more than 70 years. Their use has raised questions in Western capitals and Beijing about what similar sanctions could do if aimed at the second-largest economy, China, particularly during a crisis over Taiwan. But an equally important question is whether Washington and its allies would use similar sanctions against China, including as a deterrent. Judging from Western actions and preferences during the Ukraine crisis, the answer appears to be no.

The sanctions targeting Russia cover finance, imports, exports, travel, and individuals. In the China context, the discussion has focused on what equivalent financial sanctions would do to China and global finance and trade. There is no doubt that banning major Chinese banks from the SWIFT messaging network, severing their U.S. dollar correspondent banking links, or freezing the central bank’s foreign exchange reserves would be massively disruptive.

We’re Thinking About the Indian Ocean All Wrong


The Indian Ocean has been a critical trade route for centuries, enabling the global shipping of spices, foods, metals, and now energy resources that fuel major economies. Of the ten countries that supply three-fourths of China’s crude oil, nine rely on a safe, secure, and stable Indian Ocean to transport their goods. Japan, South Korea, Australia, and India also rely on Indian Ocean shipping lanes to receive critical energy resources, and other important commodities like coal and seafood are transported across the Indian Ocean region.

Despite the Indian Ocean’s importance, there is limited understanding of the geography of the region and its key players. This shortcoming hinders our ability to fully assess its importance to global competition.

Why sanctions against Russia may not work


The unprecedented U.S.-led Western sanctions against Russia have been likened to economic weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) that would ultimately destroy the Russian economy. In reality, the sanctions are like a double-edged sword — they inflict pain on Russia but also impose costs on their imposers.

The West, in fact, is caught in a trap: The sanctions and the deepening conflict, by helping to raise global commodity and energy prices, translate into higher revenues for Moscow in spite of a significant decrease in its exports. And the higher international prices, by fueling inflation, mean political trouble at home for those behind the sanctions.

World Order Is A Geopolitical Orphan


No person with a conscience can abide the crimes against humanity Russia is committing in Ukraine today. But the moral myopia of those who sanctimoniously see the transgressions of others as unfathomably different from their own historical wrongs dilutes the outrage that would forge a liberal order the rest of the world can stand behind.

A few weeks ago when I wrote in this space condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I was surprised to see so many comments on Noema’s Facebook page from Africa, the Middle East or Latin America supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war of choice. In place of indignation, there was only cynicism about the hypocrisy of the Western powers.

Human Rights Are Under Attack. Who Will Protect Them?

Globally, human rights remain under attack, whether by populist movements desperate to gain power or authoritarian governments eager to maintain it. Technology has opened up new frontiers for sharing dissenting ideas across borders, but also for governments to curb their citizens’ ability to express them. And broad assaults are underway on institutions like the International Criminal Court, which was established not only to offer recourse for the victims of rights violations, but to establish an international human rights benchmark. Instead, respect for human rights is being replaced by a dangerous intolerance.

It’s Going to Be a Hot Summer for the U.S.-China Relationship

Reva Goujon

For all the economic turmoil stirred up by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there is one important step in the escalatory spiral that has been averted so far: China has gone out of its way to comply with the G-7-led sanctions regime. However, as the world moves into the next phase of the war and the U.S. administration’s China strategy, the uneasy detente between Beijing and Washington could break down, feeding a fresh cycle of U.S.-China tensions.

Blustery political rhetoric aside, both sides have exercised caution for good reason. Beijing, caught off guard by the nature of Russia’s aggression and the robustness of the G-7-led sanctions campaign, has prioritized access to dollar financing and critical technology at a time when the Chinese economy is facing headwinds at home. Washington, trying to avoid bruising allies with unilateral moves and aggravating trade tensions with China, has held back on expanding secondary sanctions while trying to tame inflationary pressures.

‘Stay Down Low’: Ukraine Fears Formidable Russian Air Defenses in the Donbas

Jack Detsch

The Ukrainian military is increasingly concerned that Russia is creating anti-access air zones in the contested Donbas region to keep Ukrainian aircraft from flying through the area, limiting Ukraine’s ability to support its ground forces. While U.S. officials believe that Russia’s progress in the region has been slow and uneven so far, with troops wary of fighting beyond their supply lines, the introduction of more Russian S-400 air defense batteries and drones, as well as low cloud cover in the region, has left Ukrainian pilots uniquely vulnerable.

“They created in the Donbas a powerful [anti-access/area denial] zone, and in these circumstances, it is really dangerous to fly over them,” one Ukrainian official told Foreign Policy in an interview, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. “In low altitude, the Russian air defense is waiting for us.”

The West vs. the Rest Welcome to the 21st-century Cold War.

Angela Stent

Russian President Vladimir Putin made four major miscalculations before he launched his invasion of Ukraine. He overestimated Russian military competence and effectiveness and underestimated the Ukrainians’ will to resist and determination to fight back. He was also wrong in his assumption that a distracted West would be unable to unite politically in the face of the Russian attack and that the Europeans and the United States’ Asian allies would never support far-reaching financial, trade, and energy sanctions against Russia.

But he did get one thing right: He correctly estimated that what I call “the Rest”—the non-Western world—would not condemn Russia or impose sanctions. On the day the war broke out, U.S. President Joe Biden said the West would make sure that Putin became a “pariah on the international stage”—but for much of the world, Putin is not a pariah.

Russians Are Getting Sick of Church

Alexander Baunov

An extraordinary protest unfolded in Russia’s fourth-largest city, Yekaterinburg, in recent weeks. Large crowds of locals gathered to demonstrate against plans to construct a big new church in a park in the center of the city. And despite facing intimidation, arrests, and the disapproval of both regional and federal politicians, not to mention the huge authority of the Russian Orthodox Church, the protesters prevailed.

The local governor, Yevgeny Kuyvashev, agreed in late May for the construction site to be moved after an opinion poll showed that 74 percent of city residents were opposed to the plans. President Vladimir Putin had said he would approve the verdict of a referendum—though he evidently did not expect the resulting vote, which was heavily against the construction of the church.

The Pope, the Patriarch—and a Little Bit of Putin

Reid Standish and Benjamin Soloway

The Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions split almost one thousand years ago — before anyone in Cuba knew about Christianity, before anyone in Europe knew about Cuba, and before Russia, let alone a distinct Russian Orthodox Church, existed.

But on Friday afternoon, an unlikely scene unfolded at José Martí International Airport in Havana: Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, respective heads of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches, embraced and kissed, and met for two hours before issuing a 30-point joint statement focused on Christianity’s future in Europe, the plight of Christians in the Middle East, and the two Churches’ divisive history in Ukraine.

Russia’s cyber warfare against Ukraine more nuanced than expected


Russia’s approach to cyber warfare against Ukraine has proved more subtle so far than many expected.

This week’s Microsoft report on the operations reveals that Moscow-backed hackers have launched more than 200 cyberattacks against Ukraine, including nearly 40 destructive ones that targeted the country’s government organizations and critical sectors.

Cyber experts say the analysis suggests hidden depths to Russia’s cyber operations in Ukraine because although it has the capability to launch more damaging cyberattacks, it has chosen to inflict less harmful ones for the moment.

Nobody Knows Where the Red Line Is for Cyberwarfare

Katrina Manson

A common explanation for why the Soviet Union never used nuclear weapons during the Cold War was the expectation that any attack would likely prompt a devastating nuclear response. The fear of mutually assured destruction was enough to keep both the USSR and the U.S. from launching a nuclear attack, even as they spent decades building up huge stockpiles of weapons.

Cyberweapons are different. Cyberattacks by both governments and private hackers have exploded in recent years. Many of these are financially motivated, but others involve espionage or, in several high-profile cases, the sabotage of physical infrastructure. There’s broad agreement that at some point a cyberattack would be considered an act of war. Yet no one knows quite where the line is.

Cyberwar Is a Two-Way Street for Russia

Robert K. Ackerman

Russia’s well-known cyber attacks on Western nations could be setting the country up for a powerful backlash, offers a retired U.S. Army expert formerly based in Moscow. After years of relentless penetrations and attacks on databases and infrastructure in U.S. and NATO countries, Russia now is finding itself as much—if not more—of a target of reciprocal cyber assault capabilities increasingly wielded by the West.

Two factors are at play in this scenario. First, western countries such as the United States have built up offensive cyber weapons and tactics to use as they choose. Second, Russia has focused for so long on using its own offensive cyber capabilities that it has not given as much consideration to the defensive side of cyber operations, not realizing the countries they might attack digitally have been developing their own capabilities to use on an increasingly vulnerable Russian cyberspace.

To Win the Next War, the Pentagon Needs Nerds

WHEN RUSSIA INVADED Ukraine, the US Department of Defense turned to a team of machine learning and artificial intelligence experts to make sense of an avalanche of information about the conflict.

“We have surged data scientists forward,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks told WIRED in a recent interview. These tech experts crafted code and machine learning algorithms, creating systems that are “especially valuable for synthesizing the complex logistics picture,” she said.