26 August 2022

Understanding Russia's Motivations, and Using Them

Khrystyna Holynska and Pauline Moore

Russia's attack on Ukraine's sovereignty is unprecedented (PDF) in the 21st century. So what is Moscow's rationale for the move? Is Russian President Vladimir Putin confronting a perceived threat to his country's security? Does he see himself as following examples from history and standing up for Russian greatness? Does he seek perhaps to establish a sense of order by maintaining an adversarial relationship with the West?

International relations literature has a vast body of research that seeks to explain leaders' judgments and their decisions to go to war. Some have characterized Putin's war on Ukraine as a return to a realist perspective, in which states in the international system are driven to action by concerns for their own survival. The realist theory suggests leaders consider which actions might help them pursue their interests, dealing with the consequences even when their behavior violates the appropriate boundaries.

Afghanistan One Year Later: Consequences & Responsibilities

August 15, 2022, marks the one-year anniversary of the fall of Kabul to the Taliban. CSIS will be hosting a series of events virtually and in-person reflecting on this event. At this panel experts will discuss how to manage the many consequences of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, how to honor US commitments and obligations to Afghanistan, and current US interests in Afghanistan and the broader region.

China’s Demographic Trends in the Context of Economic Competition  

Julia Fadanelli

The United States and China are competing for economic dominance. China has experienced decades of rapid growth due to its integration into the global economy, mobilization of its massive work force, and economic reforms. Yet, as of last year, U.S. GDP was about 30 percent larger than China’s at market exchange rates, while U.S. GDP per capita was more than three times larger than China’s at purchasing power parity exchange rates. Just before it reaches high-income status, China is on the cusp of a large demographic shift—a shrinking population of working-age adults coupled with an increasing population of retirees—and its economic growth prospects will be negatively impacted. Based on political, social, and technological circumstances, China’s limited ability to react to this demographic shift will likely lead to slower growth outcomes in the next twenty to thirty years and impact its ability to compete on the world stage with the United States. The United States, despite its own political gridlock and low fertility, is comparatively less constrained than China to address future population shifts.
The Problem

Economic prosperity is the most effective contraceptive for population growth. Countries moving through the Demographic Transition Model of economic growth—how a country’s economic development is linked to its population—often see a sharp decline in birth rates as they become richer. This patterned population decline is ideally coupled with an increase in innovation and total factor productivity (TFP), or output produced with a certain set of inputs, to offset the shrinking workforce with heightened per-worker productivity. Japan and South Korea experienced rapid economic growth along this pattern and achieved a high-income status before their fertility dropped sharply. Unfortunately for China, each of these economic powers have yet to employ a successful solution: no precedent exists to reverse the demographic challenge. For China, the lack of a clear solution for its soon-to-be-shrinking population will likely be met with slower growth rates: its population is “growing old before it grows rich.”

Porcupine Strategy: Taiwan Is Learning Lessons From Ukraine On How It Could Stop A China Invasion

Alia Shoaib

Taiwan is learning lessons from Ukraine on how it could defend itself against a possible Chinese invasion, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

Since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in February, the country has effectively used smaller weapons to fight back and humiliate Russia’s larger army.

This method of defense aligns with Taiwan’s “porcupine strategy,” also known as asymmetrical warfare, which it uses to prepare for a possible Chinese invasion.

The strategy was first introduced by then-chief of the Taiwanese military forces Lee Hsi-Ming in 2017 and involved stocking up on anti-air, anti-tank, and anti-ship weapons rather than larger equipment.

“The porcupine strategy is really when a smaller military tries to defend itself from a larger military, which is the attacker, and it uses lots of smaller weapons,” Alastair Gale, the Wall Street Journal’s Asia security correspondent, said in a video.

White House launches new war on secrecy


The government keeps way too many secrets, the Biden administration asserts. The sprawling spy community — made up of 18 separate intelligence agencies — sees it quite differently.

But despite differing worldviews, the White House is quietly gearing up to pierce the veil, according to eight government officials, secrecy experts, and internal documents. And it is enlisting a leading advocate for greater government transparency in the effort.

The National Security Council initiated a review this summer to determine how to overhaul the elaborate and often arbitrary classification system that Democrats and Republicans contend is undermining democracy and national security.

China Is Now Courting Thailand, A Key US Ally, With Joint Military Drills & Massive Arms Sales

Sakshi Tiwari

In a new development, China is courting a staunch US ally – Thailand – by supplying arms and sharing best military practices.

On August 14, the Chinese and Thai Air Forces kicked off the 11-day ‘Falcon Strike 2022’ drills at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in northern Thailand. This came after a US$380 million deal to buy a Chinese-made S26T Yuan-class submarine for the Royal Thai Navy was revived last week, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

This assumes significance as the joint annual exercise between the United States and Thailand, called the ‘Cobra Gold,’ was scaled down this year with the traditional war games absent from the two-week module. However, they are expected to be back to full-scale next year.

The military drills between China and Thailand also come during increased tensions between Beijing and Washington in the Indo-Pacific. Both sides have upped their deployment and have sharpened their rhetoric on Taiwan. Some experts believe a war in the region could just be a matter of time.

Star American Professor Masterminded a Surveillance Machine for Chinese Big Tech

Yuichiro Kakutani

A star University of Maryland (UMD) professor built a machine-learning software “useful for surveillance” as part of a six-figure research grant from Chinese tech giant Alibaba, raising concerns that an American public university directly contributed to China’s surveillance state.

Alibaba provided $125,000 in funding to a research team led by Dinesh Manocha, a professor of computer science at UMD College Park, to develop an urban surveillance software that can “classify the personality of each pedestrian and identify other biometric features,” according to research grant documents obtained via public records request.

“These capabilities will be used to predict the behavior of each pedestrian and are useful for surveillance,” the document read.

Alibaba’s surveillance products gained notoriety in 2020, when researchers found that one of its products, Cloud Shield, could recognize and classify the faces of Uyghur people. Human rights group believe these high-tech surveillance tools play a major role in the ongoing Uyghur genocide in Xinjiang.

Taliban circulates video of Haqqanis plotting 2010 suicide raid against U.S. troops

Bill Roggio

The Taliban released a video showing its deputy emir and interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani and other top terrorist commanders finishing preparations for a large-scale suicide assault against U.S. forces based in eastern Afghanistan in 2010.

The video, which was circulated by Taliban supporters on social media, shows the whose who of the Haqqani Network, the powerful Taliban faction that is listed by the U.S. as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, seeing off the team of suicide bombers who attacked Forward Operating Base (FOB) Fenty on Nov. 12, 2010. FOB Fenty was located at the Jalalabad City airport in the Behsud district in Nangarhar.

The attack was ultimately repelled by a quick reaction force of U.S. and Afghan troops. Six attackers were killed and two suicide vests were recovered.

In the video, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who at the time was the operational commander of the Haqqani Network, was joined by his brother Badruddin Haqqani, Qari Zakir, the Taliban’s chief of suicide bombers, Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a dangerous Haqqani leader, and Ghani Muhammad, an Al Qaeda-linked military commander based in Pakistan.

Military Drone Swarms and the Options to Combat Them

Ryan Bridley and Scott Pastor


The tactical use of drones is expanding as demonstrated from the past 100 years. Drones were first created in the U.S. and United Kingdom during World War I, though neither country employed them during the war.1 In World War II, the Nazis created the V-1 to serve as a missile.2 The U.S. employed drones for surveillance missions during the Vietnam War and utilized them frequently for counter-insurgency surveillance and strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Drones are now developed in and utilized by over 100 countries and non-state actors.3 Drone capabilities, manufacturers, and customers will likely continue increasing and a tactical shift in utilizing drone swarms is emerging. This article provides a broad overview on the current state of drones for commercial and military use, the impact drone swarms can play in the military environment, and the options available to combat swarms.

The Current State

DJI is a privately-owned Chinese company that manufactures more drones than any other company. In 2021, DJI produced 54% of all commercial drones worldwide and accounted for nearly 80% of commercial drones ordered by the U.S.4 Many American DJI customers are safety-based organizations like police departments and the National Park Service.5 Regardless of whether these organizations understand that China is a global competitor of the U.S., they purchased DJI’s drones due to their affordability and suitability for mission needs.6

Nineteenth Century Grand Strategy Wargaming May Explain the Twenty-First Century War in the Ukraine

Jim Rohrer

Russian aggression in the Ukraine has all the earmarks of 19th century geopolitics. Prior to the first Great War, war was an extension of diplomacy. Nations took territory or otherwise expanded their spheres of influence without regard to whether the targets of their aggression had stronger claims to autonomy and control. Some commentators expressed shock when Russia invaded Ukraine, saying they believed the world had outgrown war to achieve national objectives. How they arrived at that assumption is not clear. This essay aims to apply the core concepts of a 19th century computer simulation war game to the current war in the Ukraine. The drivers appear to fit the situation and may allow analysts to model developments over time.

Prior to the Great War, military aggression on the part of a Great Power (GP) usually did not trigger strong reactions from other GPs. If the target of the aggression was an ally of a GP, then a larger war might result, but if the target was not allied with a GP, as in the case of the Ukraine, then usually GPs would not intervene. Intervention on the side of a small nation that had not started the war was an option, but not likely unless the aggressor was on a rampage. After all, the other GPs were pursuing their own objectives through armed aggression or, perhaps, resting and recovering between wars.

The Changing Character of War: IS’ Military Tactics

Montassar Adaili


War is usually understood as 'two countries arraying their military forces against each other'[1]. Even if war can involve more than two parties, they are ' typically separated and aligned as two sets of allies'[2]. Yet, this pattern has been declining since the end of the Second World War. The last three decades witnessed an escalation of the irregular wars in many parts of the world[3]. This rise in unconventional warfare has been accompanied with changes in where war is fought, by whom and over what issues.

Some scholars have concluded that the technological revolution 'may generate a much broader revolution in military affairs'[4] and will affect how armies are organized, civil-military relation, and the conduct of international conflicts. In fact, technology and urbanization have been key elements in changing the character of war. Yet, little attention has been given to the military tactics as a major factor in changing the character of war.

The military effectiveness shown by the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant made us rethink of the military tactics of the terrorist group. The paper examines the military tactics of ISIS and their influence on the character of war. To do so the research answers the following questions: Did the military tactics of ISIS change the character of war? What are these tactics? How can they impact the character of war?

Ex-Twitter exec blows the whistle, alleging reckless and negligent cybersecurity policies

Donie O'Sullivan, Clare Duffy and Brian Fung
Source Link

Twitter has major security problems that pose a threat to its own users' personal information, to company shareholders, to national security, and to democracy, according to an explosive whistleblower disclosure obtained exclusively by CNN and The Washington Post.

The disclosure, sent last month to Congress and federal agencies, paints a picture of a chaotic and reckless environment at a mismanaged company that allows too many of its staff access to the platform's central controls and most sensitive information without adequate oversight. It also alleges that some of the company's senior-most executives have been trying to cover up Twitter's serious vulnerabilities, and that one or more current employees may be working for a foreign intelligence service.

The whistleblower, who has agreed to be publicly identified, is Peiter "Mudge" Zatko, who was previously the company's head of security, reporting directly to the CEO. Zatko further alleges that Twitter's leadership has misled its own board and government regulators about its security vulnerabilities, including some that could allegedly open the door to foreign spying or manipulation, hacking and disinformation campaigns. The whistleblower also alleges Twitter does not reliably delete users' data after they cancel their accounts, in some cases because the company has lost track of the information, and that it has misled regulators about whether it deletes the data as it is required to do. The whistleblower also says Twitter executives don't have the resources to fully understand the true number of bots on the platform, and were not motivated to. Bots have recently become central to Elon Musk's attempts to back out of a $44 billion deal to buy the company (although Twitter denies Musk's claims).

China's ASEAN Silk Road gets slippery as other powers move in


HO CHI MINH CITY -- Chinese blue-and-white porcelain first hauled along the Silk Routes to Europe proved so popular with British consumers that by the late 1800s the phenomenon spawned a nickname: "Chinamania." Today, the China obsession has a darker shade, as European and Pacific powers compete with Beijing's "new Silk Road" infrastructure projects -- and offer their Asian trade partners an alternative.

The battle is intense on China's doorstep in Southeast Asia, where bridges and ports have sprung up to meet the infrastructure needs of some of the world's fastest-growing economies and key supply chain hubs. Tokyo has long been the main donor behind the region's truck and train routes, but Beijing changed the game when it struck out on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) nearly a decade ago to build its own trade networks.

Now the puzzle pieces are shifting again as Beijing's billions trigger a response from democratic adversaries. These rival powers have announced a string of ambitious and overlapping hybrid state and commercial projects. Australia's new government is expected to increase development aid, the European Union wants to sign an infrastructure deal with Southeast Asia, and the U.S. has led a Group of Seven riposte to the BRI -- a $600 billion infrastructure aid fund launched in June. Some suggest unleashing Indian conglomerates as well.

New weapons for Ukraine suggest preparation for closer combat

 Alex Horton

The Pentagon is sending new weapons and equipment to Ukraine that will better prepare its military to fight Russian troops at closer ranges, potentially signaling that Kyiv and its backers see an opportunity to retake lost ground after weeks of grinding artillery duels along the front lines.

Ukrainian officials have been openly discussing an offensive on the Russian-held strategic port city of Kherson, but there is little evidence along the front lines that Ukraine is prepared to execute an operation that would require large numbers of troops, armored vehicles and powerful close-range weapons to overcome the numerically superior Russian military.

The latest package appears to be a first step toward addressing some of the shortfalls in the weaponry Ukrainian forces would need to launch a counterattack, particularly across mined areas in the approach to well-entrenched Russian positions. A successful offensive would include an ability to attack from a variety of distances.

Ukraine cites risk of 'brutal strikes' by Russia on Independence Day

Max Hunder

KYIV, Aug 23 (Reuters) - With Ukraine set to mark its independence from Soviet rule in 1991 and six months since Russian forces invaded, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned of the risk of "brutal strikes" by Russia and said any attack would provoke a powerful response.

Zelenskiy, who has led his country's resistance since Russian troops poured over the border on Feb. 24, also said Ukraine would restore its rule over the Crimea region - annexed by Russia in 2014 in a precursor to this year's invasion.

Zelenskiy had warned at the weekend that Moscow might try "something particularly ugly" in the run-up to Wednesday's Independence Day.

"They will receive a response, a powerful response," he told a news conference on Tuesday. "I want to say that each day ... this response will grow, it will get stronger and stronger."

To Fight Election Falsehoods, Social Media Companies Ready a Familiar Playbook

Stuart A. Thompson

The election dashboards are back online, the fact-checking teams have reassembled, and warnings about misleading content are cluttering news feeds once again.

As the United States marches toward another election season, social media companies are steeling themselves for a deluge of political misinformation. Those companies, including TikTok and Facebook, are trumpeting a series of election tools and strategies that look similar to their approaches in previous years.

Disinformation watchdogs warn that while many of these programs are useful — especially efforts to push credible information in multiple languages — the tactics proved insufficient in previous years and may not be enough to combat the wave of falsehoods pushed this election season.

Ukraine’s Russian ‘Liberators’ Are Seeing That We Live Better Than They Do

Yegor Firsov

In early April I walked into Andriivka, a village about 40 miles from Kyiv, with my battalion in the Ukrainian territorial defense forces. We were among the first Ukrainian troops to enter the village after a Russian occupation that had lasted about a month. Shell casings and boxes of ammunition were scattered everywhere, and the houses were in various states of ruin. In one of the yards we passed there was an abandoned burned-out tank sitting on the grass.

The Russians killed civilians in Andriivka, and they ransacked and looted houses. The locals told us something else the Russians had done: One day they took mopeds and bicycles out of some of the yards and rode around on them in the street like children, filming one another with their phones and laughing with delight, as if they’d gotten some long-awaited birthday present.

A few days earlier we were in Bucha, a suburb northwest of Kyiv that was subjected to an infamously brutal occupation. The people there told us that when the first Russian convoy entered the town, the troops asked if they were in Kyiv; they could not believe that such idyllic parks and cottages could exist outside a capital. Then they looted the local houses thoroughly. They took money, cheap electronics, alcohol, clothes and watches. But, the locals said, they seemed perplexed by the robotic vacuum cleaners, and they always left those.

China’s Semiconductor Breakthrough

Che-Jen Wang

Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), the largest chipmaker in China, has reportedly achieved a major breakthrough. TechInsight, a Canadian tech media outlet, revealed that SMIC had advanced its technology to a quasi-7-nanometer (nm) process, which might be a stepping stone for a true 7nm process. According to TechInsight, SMIC products made from the quasi-7nm process had been shipped for a year. Some media argued that the SMIC’s advancement showed that the U.S. blockade was too little, too late, and out of date.

SMIC’s most advanced chip process node successfully made in the past was 14nm, although it has always made strong attempts to move toward an advanced process node (below 10nm). However, due to SMIC’s inclusion on the Entity List by the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security in December 2020, which was designed to limit SMIC’s ability to reach advanced technology nodes of 10 nanometers or below, it has been blocked from obtaining the necessary Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography (EUV) machines from ASML of the Netherlands.

Is Pakistan the bad boy of South Asia? Its military Deep State hurts neighbours


Is Pakistan the bad boy of South Asia?

The question is being asked as the country celebrates 75 years of independence and some introspection about its journey finds its way into news as well as social media. Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Imran Khan has been charged with a terrorism case by the Shahbaz Sharif government — he is waiting to be arrested.

Polarised polities are not unique to Pakistan. Both India and Bangladesh have bitterly contested political spaces today; Nepal is only marginally better. Nor was Pakistan’s decision to award pole position to military dictatorships at home inevitable; India, its divided twin, championed democracy under Jawaharlal Nehru, and whatever the state of internal siege today, remains decidedly in favour.

Perhaps the dismal state of the economy is adding to the sense of despair in Pakistan. Two perceptive Pakistani lawyers writing in Business Recorder over the weekend said that while India makes judgements that its “national interests dictate” — buying oil from Russia while allying with the US in the Quad — “Pakistan is in the shackles of foreign debt and dependence…(its) near-default economy can no longer be characterised merely as a financial issue but one that puts our national security and sovereignty at stake.”


MUTT- Multi-Utility Tactical Transport: MUTT accompanies the soldiers and carries equipment that eases travel while traveling on foot in difficult terrains. It can carry 1200 pounds of weight and provide up to 3000 watts of power, and travel 60 miles on a single fill.

RISE: RiSE, a climbing robot by Boston Robotics, has micro-clawed feet that allow it to deftly scale rough surfaces, including walls, fences, and trees. The RiSE project aims to build a bioinspired climbing robot with the unusual ability to walk on land and climb vertical terrain.

DOGO: DOGO, was developed to function as a watchdog for soldiers in battle. This robot, created by General Robotics, is the terrestrial version of the common combat drone. The most intriguing aspect of DOGO is that a fully armed commando can carry.

The U.S. Can’t Help Afghans Without Engaging the Taliban

Scott McCann

One year after the fall of Kabul and the subsequent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the impoverished country faces increasingly desperate conditions. After two decades of leading an insurgency against the United States, the Taliban now face the challenge of running a functioning government.

The economy is in shambles. Nearly 90 percent of the population is experiencing food insecurity, with the World Food Programme (WFP) declaring that almost half the population is suffering from level-3 “crisis” or level-4 “emergency” insecurity. Some families have resorted to marrying off their teenage daughters to collect a “bride-price” to eat.

The Taliban is subject to heavy sanctions from the United States and United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which leave businesses and aid organizations reluctant to engage with Afghanistan despite the U.S. Treasury offering guidance to alleviate legal confusion. The difficulty of supplying assistance to a country without dealing with the government, de facto or legitimate, is real. Additionally, the United States froze $7 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan Central Bank, fearing how the Taliban would use that money.

Beyond the Taliban: Afghanistan’s Future Lies Outside Kabul

Tariq Basir

Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban was not an ordinary regime change through an elite-led coup or a takeover of the government offices through a popular revolution. Rather, it was a total collapse of the political order, state machinery, and police and military apparatus. Further, the Taliban’s seizure of power put women's rights in jeopardy and removed them from work and public spaces, sidelined other ethnicities and religious minorities, and led to the abolition of civil liberties and freedom of speech. In short, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan represented a social and institutional apocalypse, a complete shattering of an infrastructure that was the product of two decades of hard work, international expertise, thousands of Afghan and international soldiers’ lives, and billions of Western taxpayer dollars.

On the one-year anniversary of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Biden administration's treatment of Afghan citizens and approach towards the Taliban regime shouldn’t be myopic. Rather, it must be developed against this background of a social apocalypse. An apocalyptic change requires an apocalyptic treatment, guided by strategic policy and devoid of shortsighted solutions and quick remedies. The current situation in Afghanistan is a critical juncture in the history of the country, similar to the one in 2001 that facilitated the laying out of a new democratic order, with the advantage that this time, the Taliban will not be excluded from any potential power-sharing mechanism. The United States and the international community are in the position to support a deal much more inclusive and sustainable than the 2001 Bonn Agreement, should they not fall prey to hasty engagement with or recognition of the Taliban regime for the sake of quick remedies and, possibly, election campaign goals. As similar historically critical junctures have set countries on either prosperous or miserable trajectories, this opportunity for Afghanistan could be seized to create sustainable peace and a truly inclusive system of governance. On the other hand, it could end with the consolidation of an ethno-religious regime with no respect for human and women’s rights that poses an ever-increasing threat to the future of peace in the world. Such an extraordinary opportunity calls for a more thoughtful, strategic, and patient approach, as well as more sustainable solutions on the issues of the legitimacy of power and governance in Afghanistan.

When Dealing With the Taliban, Remember That Central Asia Matters

Akram Umarov

One year after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the international community is still facing enormous challenges in dealing with the new reality in Central Asia. The withdrawal of international military forces, and the evacuation of only a small number of the Afghans who previously collaborated with them, considerably damaged the reputation of the United States and its Western allies. The chaos of the evacuation shocked millions of people around the world and Taliban rule has not brought long-expected peace, sustainable development, and prosperity.

The Taliban cannot be blamed for all the current problems facing Afghanistan given that they inherited an underdeveloped state with high rates of poverty, an over-dependence on foreign aid, and an inefficient governing apparatus. The Taliban could improve the internal security situation but it is encountering substantial problems in governing effectively. The lack of an inclusive government and respect for the rights of women are the largest disagreements between the Taliban and the majority of the international community, which so far has not officially recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

Ukrainian General Says 9,000 Military ‘Heroes’ Killed in War with Russia

Ethen Kim Lieser

The chief of Ukraine’s armed forces has confirmed that roughly 9,000 Ukrainian military personnel have been killed in the ongoing war against Russia, according to a new Reuters report.

The information disclosed by Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi is believed to be the first provided by the country’s top military brass since Russia's invasion in late February.

In a news conference on Monday that honored military veterans and the families of those killed, Zaluzhnyi contended that children needed more protection in many regions of the country, including the capital city of Kyiv.

“They really do not understand anything that is going on and definitely need protection ... because their father has gone to the front and possibly is among the almost 9,000 heroes who have been killed,” said Zaluzhnyi, who provided no further details on whether the figure he cited included all service personnel killed in action, such as border guards.

How Metaverse Will Revolutionize the Battlefield

Girish Linganna

Metaverse is not just technology for the giants of Silicon Valley. Artificial intelligence and virtual and augmented reality can also be used in military training, which is well known to the U.S. Army. Pilots in the country are turning to augmented reality glasses like the Microsoft HoloLens for training in combat, aerial refueling, formations, and maneuvers.

Metaverse is a “Common digital world that combines physical, augmented and virtual realities.” It is a virtual-reality environment in which users may interact with a computer-generated environment and other users. As we know, the Metaverse might be the next generation of the internet, a one-stop shop where you can play games, purchase digital goods, go to school, read the news, and meet new people.

It will most likely require significant computing power to avoid crashes. Current solutions rely on a massive number of servers or big human teams at a considerable cost. Metaverse depends on cutting-edge design in virtual reality, augmented reality, and extended reality. The gaming skills acquired may be transferred to military capacity.

Drone Explosion: The Navy Is Going Big on Unmanned Ships

Kris Osborn

The chief of naval operations' newly released 2022 Navigation Plan calls for a large “hybrid fleet” consisting of a mixture of large surface ships, submarines, drones, and unmanned platforms of all kinds. Of greatest significance, perhaps, is the Navigation Plan’s call for a 500-ship fleet—combining manned and unmanned vessels. This is by no means surprising given the pace and scope of Chinese naval expansion.

The use of the term “hybrid” by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday seems to define the plan, given that it describes the Navy’s growing blend of manned and unmanned ships, which forms an increasingly networked fleet capable of executing dispersed, disaggregated missions across a vast operational envelope.

“The Navy must become a hybrid fleet. Manned, multi-mission platforms will remain at the core of our future fleet, but augmented with new platforms and new capabilities. We will add to our current fleet a host of manned, unmanned and optionally-manned platforms operating under, on, and above the seas,” Gilday writes in the plan.

Whose Country? Why Some Afghans Support the Taliban

Prakhar Sharma

Experts have offered several explanations for the collapse of the Afghan state in August 2021, ranging from Kabul’s dysfunction to the shortsightedness of the U.S. government. However, they do not sufficiently explain why the Afghan security forces, which were funded by the United States, would cede territory to the Taliban in several provinces without even putting up a fight.

When I first went to Afghanistan in 2006, my research in different provinces led me to a question that troubled my understanding of the country: What explained the puzzling silence among Afghans, especially Pashtuns living in rural areas, to atrocities inflicted by the Pashtun-dominated Taliban? During twenty years of war, journalists, scholars, and policymakers have sought to explain Afghans’ support for the Taliban. But the more fundamental question of why millions of Afghans tolerated, if not accepted, the routine massacre of fellow Afghans by the Taliban was rarely asked.

Annual opinion polls and commentaries routinely suggested that the Taliban were deeply unpopular in Afghanistan. If the Taliban were selectively eliminating targets of popular public derision, such as foreign forces, corrupt politicians, and predatory strongmen, the collective silence among Afghans to the Taliban’s atrocities could have been considered an acceptable response. But Taliban violence was mostly indiscriminate, killing more civilians than government agents, targeting both Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns, and sparing neither women nor children. What, then, explained the tolerance of their violence among Afghans?

Has Xi Jinping Stopped Caring About China’s Economy?

Christopher Carothers Huan Gao

For decades, capable management of the economy and policies that promote strong growth have been the cornerstones of the Chinese Communist Party’s strategy to maintain social and political stability. But President Xi Jinping’s policy decisions, especially since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, show that this era is likely over.

Slaughtering one sacred cow after another, Xi has destroyed profitable industries with a word, shut down major cities for months at a time, and sought to cut China off from international markets. Analysts have often portrayed these moves as blunders that open Xi up to challenges from within the party. Yet it is time to embrace the reality that Xi prefers it this way. His vision for maintaining stability calls for extreme political and ideological control, and he is more than willing to sacrifice economic progress to achieve it.

Last year, the party leadership surprised observers by launching a sprawling regulatory crackdown on China’s tech sector, real estate, cryptocurrencies, the private tutoring industry, and much more. The silencing of billionaire Jack Ma and investigations against his company, Ant Group, was just the first salvo in a clampdown on tech giants that has cost investors over $1 trillion and left the industry stagnant. A blizzard of fines, purges, and regulations has led to a funding crunch in the property sector, dragging down overall growth numbers. Harsh and unexpected decrees preventing tutoring companies from pursuing profits, going public, or raising foreign capital wiped out much of the value of leading companies and created an “existential crisis” for the entire industry.

Broken Promises: America Must Hold the Taliban Accountable

Trevor Filseth L Natiq Malikzada L

On August 17, 2021, two days after the Taliban conquered Kabul and ended the United States’ twenty-year war in Afghanistan, a Taliban spokesmen held a press conference and made a series of promises to the international community. Taliban leaders vowed to their former enemies that they would bring lasting peace, pardon those who had fought against them, and form a governing coalition with representatives from all of Afghanistan’s political, ethnic, and religious groups. They also guaranteed that the new government would protect basic human rights, including women’s rights to education and participation in public life, and pledged that they would not allow Afghanistan to be used as a base of operations for international terrorist groups.

One year later, the Taliban’s optimistic assurances have given way to a violent, parochial, and inept form of clerical rule. The group has failed to restart Afghanistan’s stagnant economy, responded ineffectively to a series of natural disasters and a humanitarian crisis, and answered growing civil and military resistance—particularly within the Panjshir Valley, where the National Resistance Front (NRF) of guerrilla leader Ahmad Massoud is based—with brutal repression.

Mourning a Lost War: Why Nation-Building Failed in Afghanistan

Adam Weinstein

The outcome in Afghanistan “came down to a lack of American strategic patience,” General David Petraeus wrote in an essay recently published in the Atlantic. His is not an uncommon view; many of the architects and cheerleaders of the twenty-year mission in Afghanistan refuse to accept that the United States lost the war.

We lost. Full stop.

Reflections, congressional inquiries, lessons learned, and future policy will remain hollow until the United States internalizes this simple but dismal fact. It is perhaps difficult for so many to accept it because the United States lost a very different war than the one it started. As Gen. Frank McKenzie recently told NPR, “I think we took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan [and] why we were there, to prevent Al Qaeda from striking our country … it grew into something much larger: an attempt to impose a form of government, a state, that would be a state the way that we recognize a state.” Some of the generals get it.