12 December 2022

The Taliban and Isis are in a battle for control

Joe Wallen

An insurgency has once again started in Afghanistan – and this time, the Taliban is the target. Since the Americans left Kabul last year, high-profile Taliban figures have been the victims of 220 remote explosive and suicide attacks, one of which took place the day before I arrived in the capital in October. A suicide bomber somehow managed to strike in a mosque inside Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry, which is responsible for security and law enforcement in the country. It was the type of attack that should have been impossible to carry out. Four people were killed and two dozen wounded. They were the latest victims of a war between the Taliban and Isis.

Isis and the Taliban both follow variations of jihadist Sunni Islam, but they are ideological enemies. The Taliban’s beliefs are drawn from the Deobandi branch of Islam – which is less extreme than the Wahhabi-Salafist form of Islam practised by Isis (and also by al Qaeda). Many of the Taliban’s beliefs come not only from Sunni Islam but also the traditional Pashtun tribal way of life in Afghanistan. Isis’s jihadi-Salafism places greater emphasis on the ‘purity’ of anti-idolatry than the Taliban. Crucially, the two groups also disagree over nationalism: Isis rejects it, which runs counter to the Afghan Taliban’s aims of ruling Afghanistan.


Bill Roggio

Since 2001, the Taliban has consistently claimed that Al Qaeda has no presence in Afghanistan. Even after the July 2022 U.S. drone strike in Kabul that killed Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, the Taliban continues this lie.
Zawahiri is just one of dozens of senior Al Qaeda leaders, military commanders, and operatives that have been killed or captured in counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan since 2010. FDD’s Long War Journal has compiled a detailed list and timeline of the most prominent leaders killed or captured across nine provinces in Afghanistan. Hundreds of lower level Al Qaeda commanders, fighters and operatives have been killed during operations in this time period.

As FDD’s Long War Journal has detailed over the last decade, and as files recovered from Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2011 confirmed, Al Qaeda has long maintained a presence in Afghanistan.

With Taliban leaders having openly called for foreign fighters to join their ranks, publicly mourned the death of Al Qaeda leaders, and flaunted an alliance with Al Qaeda, Washington must remain clear-eyed about the past and continued threat posed by the safe haven of a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

New Threats to Heritage in the Taliban’s Afghanistan

Melissa Gronlund

In Ghor province, in the west of Afghanistan, the 12th-century Minaret of Jam is tilting noticeably to the side. Each earthquake, heavy snowfall or flooding of the nearby Harirud River brings with it the risk of the 200-foot spire’s collapse. In Balkh, in the north, restoration work on the historic Haji Piyada Mosque has been on hold since the fighting that preceded the Taliban’s takeover in 2021. This mosque, the oldest in Central Asia, is now unprotected and vulnerable to looting, despite a series of internationally funded protective measures undertaken throughout the 2010s.

“Cultural heritage is our national priority,” said the Taliban’s deputy minister of culture and arts, Mawlawi Atiqullah Azizi, speaking to New Lines through an interpreter in an interview over the summer. “It is top of our mind to take care of our historic monuments, our cultural preservation. This is our responsibility. This is our obligation.”

Azizi’s policy is a clear about-face from the attitudes of the first Taliban government, which spectacularly destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas in the 2000s. But this doesn’t mean the heritage is safe — far from it. The threats under this new regime stem instead from a complex mix of economic hardship and practical feasibility, on top of the ruling government’s lack of conservation expertise, whatever its professed commitments.

Pakistan Could Take Its Fight Against the TTP to Sanctuaries in Afghanistan

Umair Jamal

On November 28, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) ended the months-long ceasefire with the Pakistani government and ordered its fighters to stage attacks across the country. Following the end of the ceasefire, the militant group has mounted attacks on Pakistan’s security forces nationwide.

Following the TTP’s announcement of the end of the ceasefire and the uptick in attacks, Pakistan’s newly appointed Chief of Army Staff Gen. Syed Asim Munir spent a day with troops deployed along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the Tirah area of Khyber district. In an apparent warning to the TTP, Munir reaffirmed that the army’s fight against terrorism will continue till the achievement of enduring peace and stability in Pakistan. “No one will be allowed to disrupt the hard-earned gains of war against terror made thus far,” he said in a message aimed at the TTP leadership and its supporters.

Arguably, the ceasefire, which was facilitated by the Afghan Taliban, was never strictly implemented as the TTP continued to challenge the state’s writ. As part of the deal, Islamabad may have allowed TTP fighters to return to Pakistan with their families from Afghanistan. However, the country never allowed the group’s fighters to return with arms to continue their terror campaign and run extortion rackets. This development largely forced Pakistan to continue its counter-terrorism operations against the group – a reason TTP used to abandon the ceasefire.

The chip industry and national security


One significant point that Chris Miller (and, incidentally, many policymakers) seems to miss in his book Chip War is that discussions of semiconductors and national security are emphatically not solely, or even primarily, about the fabrication plants where chips are built.

One response to the China challenge is to persuade Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) or Samsung to build a modern fab in the US, and operate it as a foundry. But this would only ensure access to a specific process node (for example 5-nanometer or 7nm) that happens to be leading-edge today.

The US needs to ensure secure, asymmetric access to the world’s best chips across multiple generations. Building the world’s best chips is not a matter of a single factory or a single company: It’s a product of maintaining an entire semiconductor ecosystem, at home and within the borders of allied and partner regimes.

There can be no chokepoints – fabrication and metrology tools, expert knowledge, chemicals, packaging, testing, design tools, or anything else – located solely in adversarial regimes. Maintaining semiconductor supremacy is about maintaining US and allied dominance across the entire ecosystem.

Turkey and Israel: 'On' Again, Only to Be 'Off' Again

Burak Bekdil

Turkey's Islamist strongman, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, appears to be on yet another hoax charm offensive: he is faking the restoration of diplomatic relations with Israel and Egypt, and even signalling peace with President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria.

He needs to look pretty to his Middle East nemeses to A) avoid further Western sanctions, B) wink at Washington, and C) raise some international cash flows into the badly ailing Turkish economy that threatens to end his reign after two decades of uninterrupted rule.

Erdoğan and his ministers pledged to isolate Israel internationally. Instead, it was Turkey that was isolated by the international community, including the European Union, the US, Israel, Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

There will always be the risk of Turkish-Israeli friction, including the possibility of a new break up, as long as any Islamist regime in Turkey refuses fully to respect the Jewish state's sovereignty and admit that Hamas is a terrorist entity that aims to annihilate Israel by any means necessary (see Hamas charter).

US Reengagement with Pakistan: Ideas for Reviving an Important Relationship

Husain Haqqani

The US-Pakistan relationship has gone through many changes. The relationship had a high point when President Dwight Eisenhower described Pakistan as the ‘‘most allied ally of the United States,” and another high point occurred when President Ronald Reagan said that “the American people support close ties with Pakistan and look forward to expanding them.”

The relationship has also had low points, such as when in January 2018 President Donald Trump said, “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

US administrations going back to President Eisenhower have pinned great hopes on their alliance with Pakistan only to be disappointed and frustrated. For policymakers in both countries, some of the most important recent issues have been Pakistan’s poorly veiled support for the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, its backing for jihadi groups targeting Kashmir, its close embrace of China, and its expanding nuclear arsenal.

The War Caucus Always Wins

Jeremy Scahill

THE DOMINANT POLITICAL STORY emanating from Washington, D.C., these days centers around the battles between the Trumpist movement and the bipartisan “adults in the room” caucus — the Democratic Party and fragments of the Republican Party consisting of lawmakers and politicians who have affirmed the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. Often obscured by the media focus on this clash is the enduring influence of a long-standing faction of the U.S. power structure: the bipartisan war caucus. Throughout the Trump and Biden administrations, the U.S. has been on an escalating trajectory toward a new Cold War featuring the prime adversaries from the original, Russia and China. The ratcheted-up rhetoric from U.S. politicians — combined with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the tensions between China and Taiwan, and Beijing’s major advancements and investments in weapons systems and war technology — has heralded a bonanza for the defense industry.

Congress will soon vote on a record-shattering $857 billion defense spending bill that authorizes $45 billion more than Biden requested. Included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023, finalized on December 6, is the establishment of a multiyear no-bid contract system through which Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, and other weapons manufacturers are being empowered to expand their “industrial base” and business. Lawmakers determined that “providing multi-year procurement authority for certain munitions programs is essential,” in part because it will “provide the defense industrial base with predictable production opportunities and firm contractual commitments” to “increase and expand defense industrial capacity.”

IntelBrief: U.S. Continues to Closely Assess Chinese Military Modernization

Last week, the U.S. Department of Defense released the 2022 China Military Power Report (CMPR), a Congressionally mandated report that assesses the military and security developments and directions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The report describes China as “the most consequential and systemic challenge to U.S. national security and the free and open international system,” an assessment also put forth in the October 2022 Biden-Harris National Security Strategy. The report details the global ambitions of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and how Beijing has frequently employed the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to further economic, security, and military objectives. The 197-page report covers a range of critical areas and insight into the challenge the PRC poses to not only the United States, but also allies and the future stability in the Indo-Pacific, indicating that the trendlines that were highlighted in previous CMPR reports continue to be pursued by Beijing. These include increases in key capabilities such as nuclear warhead stockpiles, ISR satellite fleet, and considerations for overseas PLA military logistics facilities.

With tension rising in the Pacific, US special operators have a new goal: Creating 'multiple dilemmas' for China


The Russian invasion of Ukraine has sparked the most significant conventional conflict in Europe since World War II.

Despite Moscow's attack, including threats to use nuclear weapons, US officials stress China remains the biggest long-term threat to US national security.

The US military as a whole is been reorienting toward what it sees as the potential for a war with China, but US Special Operations Command may be making the most profound shift.

After more than two decades of fighting insurgents and terrorists in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, SOCOM is moving into a new era in which kicking down doors to capture or kill high-value targets is not the main measure of success.

Now US special operators are focusing on working with allies and partner forces to shape the environment and support the rest of the US military in deterring and, if need be, fighting China.

US Needs to Play Larger Role as Swing Producer of Oil and Gas in the Current Crisis

Thomas J. Duesterberg

In response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, European nations have drastically reduced imports of crude oil, refined petroleum products, and natural gas from Russia. The 2021 levels of these energy imports were around 2.2 million barrels per day (mbd) of crude oil, 1.2 mbd of refined products, and 155 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas on an annual basis.In addition to extreme difficulties in obtaining new sources of natural gas and to a lesser extent oil, the price increases throughout Europe since the onset of the war have been of historic proportions. In the days following the invasion, natural gas prices shot up by 62 percent, and UK energy prices were up by 150 percent. The full impact of the war, along with the related need to rein in the highest inflation numbers in over 40 years, has pushed Europe into a recession that threatens households and small businesses as well as European manufacturers’ ability to remain competitive. As a result, if the region cannot quickly assemble alternative supplies, the European commitment to assist in containing Russian aggression may weaken.

Military sources: Ukraine missiles used US guidance


NATO sources as well as Russian military sources reject US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s claim Tuesday that the United States had nothing to do with Ukraine’s missile strike against Russian air force bases December 5 and 6.

“We have neither encouraged nor enabled the Ukrainians to strike inside of Russia,” Blinken told reporters during a meeting with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Australian officials.

Multiple military sources in NATO countries as well as Russia contradict him, reporting that the reconditioned Russian Tu-141 drones that Ukraine launched at Russian air bases downlinked US satellite GPS data to hit their targets.

The 1970s-vintage Russian recon drones were converted into cruise missiles, fitted with new guidance systems and directed by American satellites, the sources said. Ukraine does not have the capability to guide missiles on its own, they added.

The Pentagon Marches Off to Climate War

The war in Ukraine is draining U.S. arms stockpiles while geopolitical risks grow. Yet the Biden Administration is worried about—you can’t make this up—the climate impact of U.S. weapons and wants to impose costly green mandates on federal contractors.

A little-noticed rule-making proposed by the Department of Defense, NASA and the General Services Administration last month would require federal contractors to disclose and reduce their CO2 emissions as well as climate financial risks. The rule would cover 5,766 contractors that have received at least $7.5 million from the feds in the prior year.

Smaller contractors would have to publicly report their so-called Scope 1 and 2 emissions—i.e., those they generate at their facilities and from the electricity and heating they use. Firms with larger contracts would also have to tabulate their upstream and downstream Scope 3 emissions, including those from customers, suppliers and products used in the field.

For example, weapons manufacturers would have to quantify and disclose the amount of CO2 generated from their own facilities; manufacturers that produce steel, computer chips and motors used in their weapons; propellants and fuel; and even munition storage areas. It’s unclear if CO2 emissions will influence procurement decisions.

Ukraine's National Grid Could Collapse by Christmas


Ukraine's national energy grid could soon collapse, plunging millions of people into a humanitarian crisis this winter, an aid organization has warned.

In its eighth missile attack in eight weeks, Russia hit infrastructure on Monday causing power outages, as authorities said half of the Kyiv region would be without electricity in the coming days. Overnight on Monday, more missiles hit critical infrastructure near the southern city of Zaporizhzhya, officials said.

With an estimated 50 percent of Ukraine's energy infrastructure damaged due to continuous Russian missile strikes, Mercy Corps has said that the country's "entire national grid could collapse within weeks if the attacks continue."

War has tamed Ukraine’s oligarchs, creating space for democratic change

Kevin Sullivan, David L. Stern and Kostiantyn Khudov

BURSHTYN, Ukraine — Over two days in October, eight Russian cruise missiles screamed out of the sky and obliterated tens of millions of dollars’ worth of critical machinery at this city’s hulking coal-fired power plant.

The attacks were designed to leave Ukraine cold and dark this winter. But they also deepened a financial crisis for the plant’s owner, Rinat Akhmetov, the country’s richest man.

Akhmetov’s wealth has dived from $7.6 billion to $4.3 billion since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, according to Forbes. In 2012, before Russia annexed Crimea and backed separatists in Ukraine’s east, locations where Akhmetov also had numerous assets, the magazine estimated his wealth at $16 billion.

The losses are largely from Russia’s destruction and confiscation of his vast networks of power and steel plants, coal mines and agricultural operations. Most notable were his two huge steel plants in the port city of Mariupol, including Azovstal, where Ukrainian fighters staged a defiant last stand against Russian forces earlier this year. Akhmetov is suing Russia for up to $20 billion in the European Court of Human Rights.

Will an EU oil price cap limit Russian aggression?

Timothy Ash

Since the start of Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine, the West has struggled with the difficult question of how to curb Russia’s oil cashflows. How should they cut off Vladimir Putin’s energy profits – used to line Russia’s war chest – while also protecting their economies from price spikes?

After months of member state wrangling and debate, the European Union (EU) has finally agreed a plan which will ban seaborne imports of Russian oil and introduce an oil price cap at $60 a barrel.

The price cap, initially put forward by the G7 in September, is expected to be agreed on 5 December and will see sanctions take immediate effect. However the proposal has been met with mixed reactions by different EU member states, and all eyes are now on Russia to see how the country will react.

Ukraine Is Crushing Russia In A Drone War

Peter Suciu

The Drone Wars Shifts in Ukraine’s Favor: The Kremlin has been forced to “freeze” the use of its Iranian-made kamikaze drones in Ukraine as winter has set in.

Apparently, these drones are made of plastics and other materials that aren’t frost resistant.

As a result, the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) don’t operate all that well in cold weather.

The Iranian drones reportedly were last used in the middle of November, coinciding with the first significant snowfalls of the season. Given that winters in Ukraine can be cold, with temperatures below freezing between December and March, the drones are likely to be grounded.

Russia had been employing the drones in large numbers against Ukrainian urban centers and critical infrastructure throughout the fall as its stockpiles of missiles and rockets are being depleted faster than they can be replenished. Despite that fact, in recent weeks, the Kremlin has ramped up its missile strikes – seemingly to pound the Ukrainian civilian population into submission.

Advancing the Quantum Advantage: Hybrid Quantum Systems and the Future of American High-Tech Leadership

Arthur Herman

Executive Summary

Quantum computers mark a transformational revolution in information technology. Whereas most computers process data using bits that consist of either a zero or one, quantum computers can use those digits simultaneously through superposition.1

The many resulting benefits will include the discovery of new drugs, new processes for carbon capture and advanced battery research, and a new exactitude in weather prediction, including in dealing with climate change.2 All in all, experts expect the global quantum computing industry to grow to $450–850 billion in value in the next 15 to 30 years.3

Yet because of the challenges of engineering qubits—the physical basis of quantum computing—most authorities push the timeline for full-scale quantum computer commercialization beyond 2040 and as far as 2050. Even some quantum experts do not expect any big breakthroughs until the 2030s at the earliest.

The true path to the quantum future is the combination of quantum and classical digital technology, especially in computing, which will powerfully accelerate access to the potential benefits of quantum information science.

While key players in the industry, including IBM and Microsoft, have recognized the potential synergy of hybrid architectures and applications, the federal government needs to expand its attention and resources devoted to this aspect of securing America’s quantum future and its leadership in the twenty-first century.

FBI Director Raises National Security Concerns About TikTok

FBI Director Chris Wray is raising national security concerns about TikTok, warning Friday that control of the popular video sharing app is in the hands of a Chinese government “that doesn’t share our values.”

Wray said the FBI was concerned that the Chinese had the ability to control the app’s recommendation algorithm, “which allows them to manipulate content, and if they want to, to use it for influence operations.” He also asserted that China could use the app to collect data on its users that could be used for traditional espionage operations.

“All of these things are in the hands of a government that doesn’t share our values, and that has a mission that’s very much at odds with what’s in the best interests of the United States. That should concern us,” Wray told an audience at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

Those concerns are similar to ones he raised during congressional appearances last month when the issue came up. And they’re being voiced during ongoing dialogue in Washington about the app.

Russian Hackers Use Western Networks to Attack Ukraine

Phil Muncaster

Russian hackers are using their presence inside the networks of organizations in the UK, US and elsewhere to launch attacks against Ukraine, a new report from Lupovis has revealed.

The Scottish security firm set up a series of decoys on the web to lure Russian threat actors so it could study their tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs).

This included fake “honeyfile” documents leaked to cybercrime forums and spoofed to contain what appeared to be critical usernames, passwords and other information.

Other decoys included insecurely configured web portals designed to mimic Ukrainian political and governmental sites, and “high interaction and ssh services.” The latter were configured to accept the fake credentials from the web portals.

The exercise highlighted just how primed and ready Russian threat actors are to seize on any evidence of Ukrainian targets. Some 50–60 human actors interacted with just five decoys, with many of them reaching the honeypots within just a minute of them going live.

How Far Should Tech Companies Go to Neutralize Cyber Threats?

Emilio Iasiello

A recent article in Lawfare highlighted the increasing role of the private sector in a nation’s cyber defense posture during periods of armed conflict. Specifically, the article emphasized Microsoft’s role in defending not only Ukraine, but the larger global community, from the cyber attacks that have occurred since Russia invaded its neighbor. The message is clear: Microsoft’s unique position as an international tech company with global visibility into the activities transpiring in cyberspace has made it an integral partner for governments, and especially the U.S. government, in trying to get ahead of attacks. In the words of another Lawfare author, Microsoft’s role “represents an important change in the cooperation between the U.S. government and the tech industry.”

Private-public partnership has long been the mantra for U.S. cyber security strategies for several years and is often the clarion call after any significant cyber attack that has abused a critical infrastructure industry. The assumption behind such remarks is that the U.S. government with its vast intelligence apparatus has inside information that is stifled behind layers of classification, stove-piping, and whose agencies are generally reluctant to share with one another, no less the private sector. There has been a long-held perception from the private sector that the government wants their information but is slow to respond in quid-pro-quo kind. In effect, the flow of information has been overwhelmingly one-sided, and not in the favor of the private sector. A recent August 2022 Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security report generally found that there needed to be substantial improvements to improve cybersecurity-related information sharing. One of the acknowledgements made in that report was that the quality of information shared with private sector Automated Indicator Sharing participants was not always adequate to identify and mitigate cyber threats. That’s a pretty big shortcoming when attacks occur in seconds.

Don’t become an unwitting tool in Russia’s cyber war

Alex Scroxton

Russia-backed or aligned threat actors have compromised networks at multiple organisations in the UK and other countries, including at least one Fortune 500 business and more than 15 healthcare providers, and appear to be using them to launch cyber attacks on Ukrainian targets.

This is according to new analysis by researchers at Lupovis, a cyber security intelligence and data science specialist spun out of Scotland’s University of Strathclyde, and a graduate of the NCSC for Startups programme, which has developed a deception-as-a-service platform to counter threat actors by turning the tables on them.

Lupovis’s team deployed five chained decoys on the internet to engage Russian attackers and lure them in by making them appear to be related to Ukrainian government bodies, officials and critical national infrastructure (CNI) targets.

“The most concerning finding from our study is that Russian cyber criminals have compromised the networks of multiple global organisations,” said Xavier Bellekens, co-founder and CEO of Lupovis. “Russian criminals are re-routing through their networks to launch cyber attacks on Ukrainian targets, which effectively means they are using these organisations to carry out their dirty work.”

Taking lessons from Ukraine, British Army upgrades its radios


LONDON — The British Army has made its largest tactical radio procurement in more than a decade, as it seeks to upgrade the connectivity of dismounted units operating on the ground and incorporate lessons learned from the conflict in Ukraine.

On Nov. 25, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced it had selected L3Harris Technologies to fulfil its Multi-Mode Radio (MMR) requirement, part of the Land Environment Tactical Communications and Information Systems (LE TacCIS) program.

The £90 million ($103 million) contract includes the delivery of more than 1,300 AN/PRC-163 handheld and AN/PRC-167 manpack software defined radios (SDRs) scheduled for delivery to the Army over the next several years. SDRs will replace L3Harris’s legacy AN/PRC-152 and AN/PRC-117G radios respectively, which have been in service with the British Army for over a decade.

What is net zero?

If you follow sustainability and climate topics, you’ve probably heard the term net zero thrown around. Still puzzled?

A net-zero gain of GHG in the atmosphere is achieved when the level of GHG emissions released into the atmosphere is equal to the amount removed. This is also referred to as carbon neutrality.

CO2 is a gas found in the Earth’s atmosphere—and it’s part of the planet’s air, along with nitrogen, oxygen, methane, and other gases. CO2 helps to trap heat, but too much of it can cause problems, such as heat waves or flooding. It occurs both naturally and as a byproduct of human activities such as burning fossil fuels.

All industries—not just the energy sector—must achieve net zero to avoid a permanently warmer planet. Read on to learn more about what net zero means, and how it can be achieved.

The Moral Legitimacy of Drone Strikes: How the Public Forms Its Judgments

Paul Lushenko

Scholars often relate how the public views drone strikes to one of three moral norms: soldiers’ battlefield courage, the protection of soldiers, or preventing civilian casualties. But what explains variation in the public’s perceptions of what constitutes morally legitimate drone warfare? I contend that the public may combine moral norms to make such judgments. How drones are used — tactically or strategically — and whether strikes are constrained unilaterally or multilaterally to protect against civilian casualties can shape the public’s intuitions of what constitutes morally legitimate drone strikes. Use and constraint, then, make up informal moral rules that may condition the public’s perceptions of legitimacy. To test this claim, I conducted an original survey in March 2021. The results show that the public combines moral norms to cast judgment about drone strikes and that these moral considerations are shaped by shifts in why drones are used and how they are constrained.

In 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush authorized the first known use of an armed and networked unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, as it is commonly called, to kill an al-Qaeda leader in Yemen.1 Bush’s inaugural use of a drone for the targeted killing of a terrorist set a dangerous precedent. Over 100 countries and many stateless actors now possess drones.2 To contend with the emergence of so-called “drone warfare,” the literature has evolved from studying drone proliferation to measuring the effectiveness of strikes to investigating the legal and normative dimensions of these operations. Though the literature has been described as a “drone-a-rama,”3 there are nevertheless still several notable gaps.

USVs at Work in the Black Sea

H I Sutton

Ukraine’s attack on Sevastopol on 29 October 2022 will go down in history as the first major example of what many believe is a new era of drone warfare. The Russian Navy Black Sea Fleet found itself defending against both surface and aerial drones. Seven uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) were involved, along with nine uncrewed air vehicles (UAVs).

USVs have evolved quickly over the past few years, but only now have they truly gone to war. The surface drones approached the port in the early morning. They raced toward their targets, piloted remotely from hundreds of miles away using onboard electro-optical devices. On their bows, impact fuses would detonate the warheads.

The Russians were able to deal with some of the drones. Several drone’s-eye videos released by the Ukrainians and some spectator views shared on social media show a frigate firing its main gun at the drones. Some also show a helicopter using a door-mounted machine gun, which appeared at least partially effective. Yet at least one of the USVs—and likely more—penetrated the inner harbor.

Ultimately, the attack reportedly damaged two Russian warships. Although the fog of war is still thick (at least in the public domain), the USVs certainly did not sink any Russian ships. This does not mean the attack should be viewed as a failure. The Russian Navy now knows it is vulnerable in its main naval base, causing it to retreat further into its shell, increasing defenses and reducing activity outside.

BOOK REVIEW: Spies and Lies: How China’s Greatest Covert Operations Fooled the World

REVIEW — The Mueller and subsequent Senate investigations have familiarized Americans with some of the techniques of Russian influence operations. How do influence operations run by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) differ? In broad terms, the PRC tends to work on influential agents rather than populations and through a variety of cutouts.

Alex Joske’s book, Spies and Lies brings to life these PRC operations which have gone little noticed and remain poorly understood by both the public and even government officials.

Drawing upon a wide range of open source data and interviews with intelligence officers, Joske shines a light on the role the PRC’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) has played in promoting the ‘peaceful rise of China’ narrative in centers of decision making in the US and Australia. In presenting this argument, the author counters the myth that PRC intelligence operations rely on amateurs.

Joske also argues that the PRC has conducted a decades-long influence operation to convince Western countries that the PRC is seeking a ‘peaceful’ rise to great power status and that the operation targeted influential figures in or near centers of decision making in the United States.

Why modern wars cannot escape the trenches


As Ukraine heads into a long, cold winter, images from the front near Bakhmut are hauntingly reminiscent of European battlegrounds a century ago — more like Verdun than any vision of futuristic warfare. Such photos reveal an inconvenient truth that western nations have labored to escape for generations: War is still a hellish and mostly human endeavor. Nuclear weapons and information-age machines have done little to change that, but not for lack of trying.

Since the 1970s, defense policies that relied on technology to offset force imbalances between the United States and Soviet Union induced visions of a largely robotic future battlefield. “War Without Men,” published in 1988, and “Waging War Without Warriors?” published in 2002, examined the possibility of automated conflicts merely administered by distant human beings. Others have gone so far as to argue that the latest war in Iraq was a “war of robots.” My experience there compels me to disagree.

Still, narratives declaring an imminent mechanization of the battlefield remain popular. Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov proclaimed as much in 2013, but nearly a decade later we see the fruits of such thinking. Russia can barely field a tank on improved roads 100 miles from its border, much less a sophisticated robot army half a world away in adverse terrain. Granted, the automation of warfare has indeed increased since the turn of the century, but nature remains one of the most restrictive forces on mechanical devices.


John Nagl and Michael Posey

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

The character of war, as Clausewitz reminds us, is always evolving. The line between conventional war, conducted by uniformed service members representing the interest and the will of nation-states, and irregular warfare, conducted by forces not in uniform and often not representing conventional states, has blurred. After two decades of irregular conflict in the Middle East, the United States is recognizing this reality as it focuses on deterring any Chinese intimidation of Taiwan, even as Russia unjustly invades Ukraine in the bloodiest European conflict since World War II. In this blurred “hybrid war” environment, information operations are essential to ensuring the accomplishment of American and allied objectives and securing the support of populations around the globe. Keeping popular support at home and abroad—our center of gravity in this environment—effectively demands a reconceptualization of both war and the role of information in war. As we ponder information’s future role in hybrid war, we must consider social media’s immersive yet potentially misleading nature. Further, we must think through ways to work with information technology companies to achieve national and coalition objectives and how cyber-enabled information operations can amplify messages and target receivers to bolster our strategic narratives.

Is Ukraine’s new drone a game-changer in the war?

Mansur Mirovalev

Kyiv, Ukraine – A mysterious weapon struck a target deep in Russia’s heartland.

On Monday morning, a deafening roar that sounded like a landing jet plane woke up a town spreadeagled in the flat steppes of the Volga River region.

According to surveillance camera footage, a lightning-like flash followed by a thunderous explosion shook Engels, named after the philosopher and home to more than 300,000 people.

It hit one of Russia’s largest and most important military airfields that hosts strategic Tupolev Tu-160 and Tu-95 bombers.