1 January 2023

America Must Understand the Taliban to Change It

Qamar-ul Huda

While in Kabul recently, I sipped a ginger chai at the Safi Landmark Hotel as I waited for Zabiullah Mujahid, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s deputy minister of information and culture, to arrive for an interview. In the mall, customers were hustling for sales support at wedding shops, and mobile phone stores had lines of customers outside while mostly men perused store windows. Mujahid only took a few sips of his chai, but he was attentive to my questions about Taliban governance and the global community’s isolation of Afghanistan. “Listen,” he firmly said, “this country has a long way before a renaissance [occurs], but it will happen in front of the whole world. You’ll see.”

Mujahid’s optimism is not an anomaly; government officials I interviewed had well-choreographed responses claiming that better times are being seeded by the Islamic Emirate. Outside of the Taliban’s estranged bubble, teachers, lawyers, college students, and a few fledging civil society groups couldn’t feel differently about Afghanistan’s future. “There are no jobs; we have no money,” said a lawyer recently fired from the Ministry of Education. Men, women, and children alike beg on the street, saying they haven’t eaten for days. A close friend of mine who was a researcher with a conflict and peace institute based in Kabul said the Taliban shut down his organization because they knew it was supported by USAID and the U.S. Institute of Peace and believed its work portrayed a negative image of Afghanistan.

Can Bangladesh Become A Trillion-Dollar Economy?

Aziz Patwary

Even a decade ago, Bangladesh’s political and economic significance was minimally regarded compared to its other South Asian neighbors. However, the last decade has been a critical departure from such stereotyped ideas as powerful countries nonchalantly often entertained. Bangladesh is now considered to be a new ‘Asian Tiger’ or ‘Fifth Asian Tiger’. Boston Consulting Group, a US-based business consulting firm, says in their recent report Bangladesh is on its way to move towards the club of trillion-dollar economy by 2040.

In terms of economy, the previous decade has been a golden one for the Bangladesh. The country is already on the way to its graduation from the Least Developed Countries (LDC) category by 2026. The country progressed from Low-Income to LMIC status in 2015, and now also targets to become an Upper-Middle-Income Country by 2031. The country made average GDP growth at a very consistent level of 6.4% between 2016 and 2021. Even in the COVID-19 pandemic when all of South Asian neighbors were struggling to manage or turn over their negative growth rate, Bangladesh was blessed to manage its growth rate even at 3.4% thanks to the continuous remittance support and booming RMG sector undamaged by the lockdown. In regards to BCG, Bangladesh is proving itself as the Fastest-Growing Economy than all of its major peers including Vietnam, India and Philippines.

Prices Rose and Protests Convulsed South Asia in 2022

Sudha Ramachandran

2022 was a tumultuous year for South Asia. Unprecedented protests and prolonged political and economic crises convulsed the region. Several countries witnessed leadership changes and there was even an attempt on the life of a former prime minister.

Under the impact of the COVID-19 lockdowns and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, South Asian countries struggled to cope with the fallout of depleting foreign exchange reserves. Bhutan’s reserves dipped from $1.27 billion in October 2021 to $819.30 billion in May 2022, prompting the government to adopt measures to curb imports, which pre-empted the eruption of a full-blown crisis.

Bangladesh, whose economy was doing well till recently, however, saw things go downhill rapidly in 2022. Declining foreign exchange reserves forced the government to turn to the IMF, and inflation and rising prices prompted protests that provided opposition parties with a strong plank to mobilize the masses against the Awami League government.

Sri Lanka was by far the worst hit by multiple crises in 2022. A severe foreign exchange crisis brought on by decades of economic mismanagement, mounting debt incurred on vanity projects, pandemic-related lockdowns and the Russian invasion of Ukraine forced the island-nation to declare sovereign debt default for the first time ever in April 2022 and bankruptcy soon after. Unable to pay for imports, the country ran out of food, fuel, fertilizer and medicine, causing enormous hardship to the people. This triggered unprecedented protests and calls for the exit of the Rajapaksa family from power.

PacNet #7 — China’s growing confidence in drone warfare

Loro Horta

After a decade of extensive research and development, China has begun demonstrating growing confidence in drones’ manufacture—and their use in warfare.

Although many militaries around the world use drones in military operations, none integrate them in such a comprehensive a manner as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). While US military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan limited drone use to specific targets and individuals, the PLA, particularly its air force and navy, considers drones to be as important as any other offensive combat system. It does not see drones as mere auxiliaries, but a crucial combat component to compensate for some of its weakness.

For example, even though China has begun deploying modern combat carriers such as the J-20 stealth fighter and nuclear-armed submarines, it does so in relatively small amounts, and many believe its capabilities remain inferior to the United States’. To compensate, the PLA has adopted an asymmetric strategy. Thousands of missiles are deployed near the coast of Taiwan that can strike US aircraft carrier battle groups and reach US military bases as far as Guam. Drones complement the strategy of missile strikes in combination with modern fighter jets, submarines, and surface ships operating closer to China’s coast, which would be deadly for American forces.

America is failing to fight chemical and biological weapons — but we can change that


Chemical and biological weapons pose a greater threat to global security today than at any point since the end of the Cold War. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the United States’s disastrous vulnerability to infectious pathogens, novel diseases continue to spread worldwide, and the norms against the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) are eroding. Without a concentrated effort to mitigate these risks, chemical and biological threats will continue to grow as state and nonstate actors gain access to new and more destructive technologies.

Despite these growing dangers, the U.S. defense establishment remains less-than-fully prepared to deter and defend against chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. In particular, the Department of Defense’s Chemical and Biological Defense Program (CBDP) — one of Washington’s most capable and effective programs to counter real-world WMD threats — remains woefully underfunded and slow to utilize existing resources.

In an age of reemergent great-power competition, interstate conflict, and potential WMD proliferation, CBDP merits renewed attention by policymakers and Congress. Plugging gaps in the program’s funding and properly speeding up the use of current cash for existing products and novel technologies shouldn’t be difficult. Without too much extra, roughly $3 billion in fiscal year 2024, the United States can make a significant dent in these potentially existential issues — simultaneously protecting U.S. troops while drastically reducing the risk of catastrophic chemical or biological incidents worldwide.

Government Contracting Insights: FCC Expands Ban on Chinese Telecom Devices

Trevor Bernardo, Yaron Dori and Joceyln Jezierny

As experienced operators in the U.S. defense industry are keenly aware, the U.S. government has taken several actions in recent years to counter the threat posed by adoption of Chinese technology and the impact on U.S. defense capability.

These actions include the prohibition on defense contractors utilizing telecommunications equipment or services produced by Huawei Technologies Co. or ZTE Corp., and the more recent requirement that defense contractors disclose certain activities in China.

The U.S. government has taken these efforts to another, broader level as the Federal Communications Commission has now effectively banned certain Chinese telecom and video surveillance devices from the U.S. market — demonstrating the power of its authority over virtually all electronics equipment, which until now had been exercised only to address technical, scientific and engineering concerns.

With congressional backing, the FCC now has established itself as a potent vehicle for excluding products from the U.S. market on national security concerns.

Max Boot Says Biden’s Policies Echo Truman’s–Let’s Hope Not

Francis P. Sempa

Max Boot, one of the armchair generals who championed the endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, in his most recent Washington Post column suggests that President Biden can go down in history as one of our greatest presidents if he mimics the policies of Harry Truman. The United States is being challenged for global preeminence by a great power in the Asia-Pacific, and Max Boot wants the Biden administration to take its cue from a president whose policies in the Asia-Pacific were nothing short of disastrous. There was a good reason why people once said, “To err is Truman.”

Truman, who became a U.S. Senator as a result of support from the notoriously corrupt Pendergast political machine in Missouri, and whose road to the White House was paved by Democratic political insiders who knew in 1944 that Franklin Roosevelt was dying and would not serve a full fourth term and feared that Vice President Henry Wallace was too pro-Soviet, deserves some credit for belatedly realizing the extent of the Soviet postwar threat to Europe and reversing FDR’s appeasement of Stalin (and here, Truman benefited from the advice of the so-called wise men --Averell Harriman, John McCloy, Dean Acheson, George Kennan, Robert Lovett, and Charles Bohlen). But Truman’s Asia policies are a different matter.

Biden’s Midterm Foreign Policy Report Card

David Rothkopf

Halfway through President Joe Biden’s first term, when assessing his foreign policy performance, the question should not just be “How’s he doing?” It should be “How did he become the most transformative, consequential foreign policy president in at least three decades?”

This isn’t to say Biden has aced every challenge, nor is it a guarantee his administration will adroitly manage the critical international challenges of the next two years. But a sober look at how Biden’s foreign policy has played out since Jan. 20, 2021, reveals a president who has improved the United States’ international standing in almost every metric, after the four-year calamity that was Donald Trump’s term.

George H.W. Bush is considered a great foreign policy president because he helped manage a monumental change in global affairs: the end of the Cold War. He and his team did a remarkable job ensuring that what could have produced chaos instead resulted in the orderly transition from one era to another. But they did not have time to develop or implement sweeping new strategies for the U.S. in this new world—to come up with a post-Cold War playbook. It is a problem that their successors have struggled with for three decades.

The Clinton years saw the post-Cold War world with naïve hope and a focus on free markets that compounded inequality.

Japan’s New Strategic Direction

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

In mid-December, Japan released three
important national security-related strategy documents. This is a reflection of Japan’s rapidly deteriorating security conditions, much of which is triggered by China. Increasingly, many countries that have traditionally maintained a defensive and pacifist posture, like Japan, are having to review their options, to consider new capability development and doctrinal shifts so as to address the growing regional insecurity. In Japan’s case, this changed security condition includes not just China but other challenges such as North Korea.

Japan’s latest National Security Strategy is the second such document by Tokyo, the first being issued in 2013. A decade later, the security environment surrounding Japan and other Indo-Pacific powers has significantly changed – China’s use and the threat of use of force have risen considerably. While there are several indirect references to China — such as to countries that do not have “universal values, or political and economic systems based on such values in common, are expanding their influences, thereby manifesting risks around the globe” — there are also several direct references to China’s increasingly threatening behavior. With its qualitatively and quantitatively augmented nuclear and missile capabilities, North Korea figures prominently in Japan’s threat perceptions, too. The paper notes with concern North Korea’s unprecedented frequency of missile tests, “launching missiles in new ways including missiles flying with irregular trajectories, and launching missiles from various platforms such as Transporter Erector-Launcher (TEL), submarines, and trains.”

How volunteers support Russian troops in Ukraine

The clanking sound of sewing machines resounded through a Moscow workshop where more than a dozen women were busy assembling tactical stretchers for Russian troops fighting in Ukraine.

The women were working under the auspices of Golden Hands of an Angel, a volunteer group founded by Lyudmila Sushetskaya and Natalia Prahova shortly after the war in Ukraine broke out earlier this year.

The organisation specialises in producing tactical stretchers, which are meant to serve as a compact but effective tool for evacuating wounded soldiers off the battlefield. Since launching, Golden Hands of Angel has delivered about 37,000 stretchers to the front lines and opened locations in nearly 100 cities across Russia.

Sushetskaya told Al Jazeera the group directly coordinates its stretcher provisions with Russian commanders on the ground. “We get so many requests from military units for help that we can’t keep up with all of them,” she said.

Zelenskyy Was Used By Joe Biden As A Pawn

Victoria Coates

Americans need President Biden to explain what his strategy is for Ukraine, and why they should pay for it – Broad, bi-partisan support for the bravery exhibited by Ukrainians in general—and President Voldomyr Zelenskyy in particular—remains strong in America, but it is in danger of being eroded. Unfortunately, President Joe Biden invited the Ukrainian leader to come to Washington in the final days of the 117th Congress. The purpose of the visit was not to shore up support for Ukraine but rather to ensure passage of the bloated omnibus spending bill, thereby making Ukraine a partisan rather than national security issue.

The Biden administration cynically decided to cast votes on this $1.7 trillion package of domestic pork as a referendum on the $46 billion for Ukraine it contains. This piece of political theater will only exacerbate the partisan divide Biden has created on this issue. Of course, none of this was Zelenskyy’s fault, as he was in no position to refuse when the American president issued an invitation that was for all intents and purposes a command.

President Biden has framed support for Ukraine as a binary choice between appeasing Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and providing unlimited support for Ukraine—hence Zelenskyy’s appearance on the eve of the omnibus vote. Americans should reject this false choice, regardless of their support for Ukraine or its president. The U.S. Congress cannot issue a blank, undated check to anyone for any purpose, and lawmakers have every right to ask questions about these large expenditures on a conflict to which we are not party, especially given Biden’s failure to articulate a clear strategy outlining America’s vital national security interests in the war, and how he is prepared to support Ukrainian victory.

Russia’s Cyberwar Foreshadowed Deadly Attacks on Civilians

FOR EIGHT LONG years prior to Russia's disastrous and brutal invasion of its neighbor in February, the Kremlin instead waged a limited war in the east of the country, throwing that eastern border region into a state of turmoil, all while raining down cyberattacks on Ukraine's critical infrastructure far beyond any war zone. Many military and cybersecurity observers around the world warned that Russia's scorched-earth hacking was demonstrating a playbook that would, sooner or later, be used outside of Ukraine too—a warning that soon proved true, with cyberattacks that struck everything from American hospitals to the 2018 Winter Olympics.

But looking back on nearly a year of Vladimir Putin's full-blown war in Ukraine, it's now clear that Russia's earlier cyberwar in the country also served as a different sort of harbinger: It foreshadowed exactly how Russia would carry out its full-scale physical attacks on Ukraine, with a vastly greater human cost. In 2022's war, just as in that earlier digital blitz, Russia's real playbook has proven to be one of ruthless bombardment of civilian critical infrastructure, with no tactical intention other than to project its power and inflict pain hundreds of miles past the war's front lines.

In the past two months, Ukraine's power grid has come under relentless bombardment by Russian bombs, taking down as much as half of the country's electric infrastructure and at times leaving the majority of the country without power. In Kyiv, more than 200 miles west of the ongoing fighting in the region known as Donbas, Ukrainians are reduced to hunting for generators, storing food outside to prevent it from spoiling, charging their phones and computers during the few hours a day of reliable power, and keeping backup food and water supplies in apartment building elevators in case someone is trapped inside during a blackout. Water supplies have been paralyzed at times, too, along with portions of the country's electrified rail system. And winter, with only a fraction of the country's heating systems operational, still looms ahead.

Terrorism Monitor

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How the Battle for the Donbas Shaped Ukraine’s Success

Rob Lee, Michael Kofman

As the Russian-Ukrainian War enters the winter, Ukrainians have reason to be cautiously optimistic about the course of the war. Following a strategic offensive at the end of August in multiple regions, Ukrainian forces have retaken nearly all of Kharkiv Oblast, parts of the Donetsk Oblast, and the right bank of Kherson Oblast. Several factors enabled Ukrainian offensives in Kherson and Kharkiv, but much of that success stems from the earlier Battle for the Donbas. Russia’s advances in the Donbas, from April to July, proved to be a pyrrhic victory, tactical successes at the expense of strategic vision. Russia expended valuable manpower and artillery ammunition, while Ukraine pursued a defense-in-depth strategy. By September, NATO arms deliveries had reduced Russia’s critical advantage in artillery and Moscow didn’t have sufficient forces or ammunition to hold the territory occupied, which set the stage for Ukraine’s successful offensives.

The battle for the Donbas bled the Russian military of manpower, at a time when it lacked the forces to both hold captured territory and continue offensives. The Russian military offset this deficit by dramatically increasing its rate of artillery fire. This burned through Russia’s second most critical resource, artillery ammunition. The net effect of both decisions showed itself in the fall, when Russia lacked the manpower to defend Kharkiv and the artillery ammunition to hold defensive lines in Kherson. Since then, Moscow has been able to compensate for the manpower deficit with mobilization, but recent fighting in Bakhmut suggests Russian forces are conserving ammunition, no longer firing at the rate they did in earlier phases of the war.

Three big surprises of 2022: Weakened Russia, weakened China, weakened American economy

Michael Barone

2022 was a year full of surprises. Important things didn’t work out as many people had expected on just about every point on the political spectrum.

The prime example: Ukraine. When Vladimir Putin’s Russian troops invaded on Feb. 24, it looked like an independent Ukraine was toast. Military experts on cable channels said Russia had overwhelming superiority. It would take Kyiv and occupy the whole country.

The Biden administration evidently shared this view, evacuating the U.S. Embassy and offering a plane to rescue the president (and former comedian) Volodymyr Zelensky, who at this point uttered the immortal words, “I need ammunition, not a ride.”

The Biden administration, to its credit, adjusted to the unexpected reality and provided Ukraine with vital military and economic aid. This week, Zelensky is visiting Washington voluntarily, not as an exile. And it is Putin who is describing his side’s position in Ukraine as “extremely difficult.”

The lesson is that morale can trump material. People will prove braver and more resourceful when protecting their freedom and their nation’s independence than firepower statistics suggest.

Russia hits key infrastructure with missiles across Ukraine


KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian missiles hit Ukraine Thursday in the biggest wave of strikes in weeks, damaging power stations and other critical infrastructure during freezing winter weather.

Russia fired 69 missiles at energy facilities and Ukrainian forces shot down 54, Ukrainian military chief Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi said. Local officials said attacks killed at least two people around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. The strikes also wounded at least seven people across the country, although the toll of the attacks was growing as officials assessed the day’s events.

Russia dispatched explosive drones to selected regions overnight before broadening the barrage with air and sea-based missiles, the Ukrainian air force said. Air-raid sirens rang out across the country, and the military activated air-defense systems in Kyiv, the regional administration said.

Ukraine’s defense ministry said the attack damaged 18 residential buildings and 10 pieces of critical infrastructure in 10 regions.

In the southeastern Kyiv district of Bortnychi, an explosion flattened at least one house and broke the doors, roofs and windows of several others nearby.

'We Fight With Our Brains. They Fight With Numbers': Ukrainian Paratroopers On The Battle For The Donbas City of Kreminna

Borys Sachalko

KREMINNA, Ukraine -- For the paratroopers of a Ukrainian airborne brigade, there’s only one way to describe the waves of Russian infantry who are relentlessly pressing the Ukrainian lines in and around this Donbas city: Meat.

"First, they throw in the mobilized soldiers for certain death, like meat," said one soldier who asked not to be identified due to military regulations. "Then, if they break through, the more experienced fighters move in."

With Russia's invasion of Ukraine now in its 11th month, the ferocity of the fighting in Kreminna is matched only by the intensity of the fighting 80 kilometers to the south, in the city of Bakhmut.

But according to interviews with Ukrainian soldiers and accounts published on Russian military blogger accounts on Telegram and elsewhere, the bloodshed is no less senseless and relentless. It's unclear how long it will last, though: One Ukrainian official claims that Kreminna is on the verge of being recaptured by Ukrainian forces.

Inside the Ukrainian counteroffensive that shocked Putin and reshaped the war

Isabelle Khurshudyan, Paul Sonne, Serhiy Morgunov and Kamila Hrabchuk

KHARKIV, Ukraine — After weeks of fighting for scraps of territory on the war’s bloodiest front, Oleh, a 21-year-old Ukrainian company commander, was summoned suddenly last August, along with thousands of other soldiers, to an obscure rendezvous point in the Kharkiv region.

At his last position, relentless Russian artillery fire had stalked his men’s every step. But here, in a patch of villages, farmland and streams in Ukraine’s northeast, the quiet was deeply alarming. “The silence bothered me the most,” Oleh said. “It seemed off. How could this be?”

Even more unsettling were the orders his superiors handed down: to charge as far as 40 miles into enemy territory at high speed in an audacious, top-secret counteroffensive — directly between the Russian-occupied stronghold of Izyum and Russia’s own Belgorod region dotted with military bases. It seemed preposterous. “Some kind of dubious operation,” Oleh said.

But after a summer of heavy Russian casualties and President Vladimir Putin’s refusal to conscript reinforcements, the Kremlin’s troops were badly depleted. A shift of units south — to defend the captured regional capital of Kherson amid talk of a big Ukrainian push there — had left the Kharkiv area exposed.

Russia’s New Winter War: Could Putin Go the Way of Napoleon and Hitler?

Antony Beevor

One of Russia’s greatest military victories came with the coldest European winter in 500 years. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Tsar Peter the Great struggled to repel the formidable forces of Charles XII of Sweden, advancing on Moscow. Then came the Great Frost of 1708–9. Birds were said to have frozen in midflight and dropped dead to the ground. Charles’s army of more than 40,000 men soon lost half its strength from exposure and starvation. In an attempt to escape the cold, the Swedish king led the remnants of his army south into Ukraine to join the Cossack leader, Hetman Ivan Mazepa, and his forces. But the damage was done. The following summer, Peter’s Russian army routed Charles’s weakened forces at the Battle of Poltava, bringing an end to Sweden’s empire and its designs on Russia.

The Swedes were neither the first nor the last European army to suffer the ravages of “General Winter” on Russia’s frontiers. Exacerbated by the vast expanse of the Eurasian landmass, winter fighting there has often proved to be the downfall of great armies. For centuries, this phenomenon has often worked to Russia’s advantage, as a succession of powerful militaries have succumbed to inadequate equipment, deficient supply lines, and poor preparation. But as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine enters the harshest months of the year, there are many indications that this time it may be Russia, rather than its adversary, that suffers the worst consequences.

Stephen Walt on the Underweighted Risks of 2023

Ravi Agrawal

Last week, FP columnist Stephen Walt gave the Biden administration a B- on its foreign policy in 2022—with an “A” for effort. In part 2 of a Foreign Policy Live discussion with me, Walt looked ahead to 2023 to game out the war in Ukraine, elections in Turkey and Poland, and how protests in China might pan out.

FP subscribers can watch the full video interview in the box above. What follows is a highly condensed and edited transcript.

Foreign Policy: So, this is the interview where one year from now everyone’s going to point to us and say, “Wow, they were so wrong.”

Stephen Walt: I always remind myself that if you look at the last several U.S. presidencies, almost all of them ended up having to wrestle with issues they never anticipated at all. George W. Bush did not see 9/11 coming. Barack Obama did not see the Arab Spring coming. Donald Trump didn’t see COVID coming. So, any attempt to forecast the future is fraught with peril, but I think we can tackle the risk ourselves anyway.

FP: Let’s begin with this: What risk are we underweighting the probability of occurring in 2023? In other words, what is the one thing you think we should be worried about, but we aren’t publicly talking about it much?

Emerging and disruptive technologies, nuclear risk, and strategic stability: Chinese literature review

Fei Su, Dr Jingdong Yuan

With emerging and disruptive technologies (EDTs) increasingly becoming a new field of military competition among great powers, serious questions have been raised about whether the emergence of EDTs and their integration into military doctrines, procurement, training, and operations will fundamentally change the ways modern warfare will be conducted, especially whether they will undermine the relevance of nuclear deterrence. Will the application of EDTs lead to a new revolution in military affairs? And how might this development affect the strategic stability between potential nuclear adversaries?

This literature review, by Fei Su and Dr Jingdong Yuan, introduces Chinese perspectives by annotating analyses drawn from Chinese academic and professional publications to explore new ways forward for mitigating the risks posed by EDTs (in particular, focusing on AI and automation, quantum technology, 5G and counterspace capabilities). To make a comprehensive assessment of current developments in China, the authors have focused on open-source publications in the Chinese language. These include primarily publications accessed through China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), a prominent comprehensive database of Chinese academic journals, newspapers, research papers, and other openly available documents and papers.

Based on the overall content and focus of the literature, the paper makes several general observations:While the Chinese literature indicates that science and technology have always been an area of focus, there was a noticeable surge between 2015 and 2016 in Chinese literature on EDT-related research. The majority of the research focuses on general conceptual rather than policy specific issues, especially on discussions directly related to China’s own military strategy.

Pentagon, intelligence community eye cloud collaboration

Courtney Albon

SAN ANTONIO — The Pentagon’s recently inked Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability contract sets the stage for greater collaboration between the U.S. Department of Defense and intelligence agencies, according to officials from both communities.

The department awarded the JWCC deal in early December to four companies: Microsoft, Oracle, Amazon and Google. Under the arrangement, the companies will compete for task orders worth up to $9 billion through June 2028. The vendors, each only promised $100,000, will provide cloud computing, storage and other services to users around the globe and across all classification levels.

Speaking this month at the Department of Defense Intelligence Information Systems Worldwide Conference in San Antonio, Texas, leaders from the military and intelligence agencies said the award of JWCC provides an opportunity for unprecedented collaboration as the organizations design an enterprise-wide architecture.

For Sale on eBay: A Military Database of Fingerprints and Iris Scans

Kashmir Hill, John Ismay, Christopher F. Schuetze and Aaron Krolik

The shoebox-shaped device, designed to capture fingerprints and perform iris scans, was listed on eBay for $149.95. A German security researcher, Matthias Marx, successfully offered $68, and when it arrived at his home in Hamburg in August, the rugged, hand-held machine contained more than what was promised in the listing.

The device’s memory card held the names, nationalities, photographs, fingerprints and iris scans of 2,632 people.

Most people in the database, which was reviewed by The New York Times, were from Afghanistan and Iraq. Many were known terrorists and wanted individuals, but others appeared to be people who had worked with the U.S. government or simply been stopped at checkpoints. Metadata on the device, called a Secure Electronic Enrollment Kit, or SEEK II, revealed that it had last been used in the summer of 2012 near Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The device — a relic of the vast biometric collection system the Pentagon built in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — is a physical reminder that although the United States has moved on from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the tools built to fight them and the information they held live on in ways unintended by their creators.

Troops Are Getting Cyber Training and Then Rapidly Leaving the Military, Report Finds

Drew F. Lawrence

The military has been competing with the private sector to recruit and retain a workforce with critical cyber skills -- a decade-long contest where pay, purpose and personnel management have driven the flow of talent, and the services appear to be losing, according to a government watchdog report.

Troops who receive extensive cyber training, lured by the lucrative private sector, are parting ways with the military services quicker than some branches can offset the cost of that training.

The Pentagon's efforts have been hamstrung by unclear service obligations and mistracked staffing data in some branches, according to a report from Congress' Government Accountability Office that was released Wednesday.

The GAO focused on what the military calls Interactive On-Net Operator, or ION, training -- a valuable skill set that revolves around "network reconnaissance" and analysis to identify adversary strongpoints and vulnerabilities, according to the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command.

It is one of three skills that U.S. Cyber Command identified as critical to its mission as the military announced plans this year to increase its cyber workforce over the next half decade.

The Worst Hacks of 2022

WITH THE PANDEMIC evolving into an amorphous new phase and political polarization on the rise around the world, 2022 was an uneasy and often perplexing year in digital security. And while hackers frequently leaned on old chestnuts like phishing and ransomware attacks, they still found vicious new variations to subvert defenses.

Here's WIRED's look back on the year's worst breaches, leaks, ransomware attacks, state-sponsored hacking campaigns, and digital takeovers. If the first years of the 2020s are any indication, the digital security field in 2023 will be more bizarre and unpredictable than ever. Stay alert, and stay safe out there.

For years, Russia has pummeled Ukraine with brutal digital attacks causing blackouts, stealing and destroying data, meddling in elections, and releasing destructive malware to ravage the country's networks. Since invading Ukraine in February, though, times have changed for some of Russia's most prominent and most dangerous military hackers. Shrewd long-term campaigns and grimly ingenious hacks have largely given way to a stricter and more regimented clip of quick intrusions into Ukrainian institutions, reconnaissance, and widespread destruction on the network—and then repeated access over and over again, whether through a new breach or by maintaining the old access. The Russian playbook on the physical battlefield and in cyberspace seems to be the same: one of ferocious bombardment that projects might and causes as much pain as possible to the Ukrainian government and its citizens.

An UNsafety Zone for the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant?

Henry Sokolski, Thomas D. Grant

As Ukrainians brace for a cold, dark winter and more Russian attacks against Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director Rafael Grossi is upbeat, working feverishly to secure Ukraine’s largest electrical generator—the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. His hope is that Russia and Ukraine will agree to create a demilitarized safety zone around the embattled plant. Grossi has spoken to both leaders; he believes he can reach an agreement by New Year’s.

There are only two problems. First, the three parties might not reach an agreement. Second, they might reach an agreement but in doing so fail to clarify who actually owns the plant. The second possibility, which few have thought about, could prove to be worse than the first.

Grossi says Russia and Ukraine have already agreed that neither side should “shoot at the facility, nor from the facility” and that the IAEA “represents the only possible way” to keep the plant safe. Rosatom chief Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s representative to the IAEA, says Russia supports creating a safety zone. The only thing holding things up, he claims, is Ukraine.

US Army goes on mission with Microsoft’s military Hololens in 2023

Matthias Bastian
Microsoft’s IVAS project, a military version of the commercial Hololens, reaches a milestone: In 2023, soldiers are supposed to put on the AR headset in the field for the first time.

Starting next year, servicemen and women will use Microsoft’s military Hololens IVAS (Integrated Visual Augmentation System) in the field for the first time. The US Army plans to deliver 5000 IVAS 1.0 and another 5000 IVAS 1.1 versions to troops.

The devices will go to operational and training units. The U.S. Army is not saying exactly where or for what the headsets will be used. It took its first deliveries from Microsoft in September 2022.
Military Hololens had a long way to go in the field

Originally, the headset should have been deployed in the field as early as September 2021. But technical problems, particularly with the screen, repeatedly delayed delivery. Microsoft also missed a deadline set for September 2022 because the technology was not yet advanced enough.


Theo Lipsky

The US Army is rightly focused on how to best ready for the next war. To that end it has launched a materiel modernization effort akin to that undertaken in the 1980s. But to make good use of that equipment, as Chief of Staff of the Army General James McConville recently observed, the Army must field leaders quick to take initiative and drilled in the fundamentals. Running counter to his guidance, present policy and regulation risks fielding an Army of bureaucrats, led by company commanders overburdened with administrivia and made strangers to hard, realistic training.

The bureaucratic burden on commands is not a novel problem. Frequently, the Headquarters of the Department of the Army (HQDA) announces measures to solve it, ending some ill-conceived requirement. HQDA reaffirms its commitment to mission orders but addresses only symptoms of the underlying problem. Thus, after fleeting relief, the problem returns. To solve that underlying problem the peacetime Army must understand itself as what theorist James Q. Wilson called a procedural organization.

Outcomes and Outputs

Wilson defines a procedural organization as a government agency that can observe its outputs, what work is being done, but not its outcomes, whether the organization is fulfilling its mission. Unable to see whether it is achieving the desired outcome, a procedural organization obsesses over outputs. It accrues procedures without evidence that they are necessary or beneficial. The peacetime Army does exactly that, collecting and codifying in regulation procedures for lack of evidence from battle that the procedures cost more in organizational energy than they deliver.


Kyle Atwell

Episode 2, Season 1 of the Social Science of War podcast examines the challenges posed by cyber threats to the United States and how the nation and Army are adapting to the cyber domain.

Our guests begin by outlining key characteristics of the cyber domain. Cyberattacks are ongoing and require a persistent presence, for instance, and there are both state and nonstate actors involved in cyber which can make attribution challenging. Our guests argue that cyber operations often favor the defense given how challenging and resource intensive planning cyber offensive operations can be. Following this, they discuss how the Army fits into the US national response to cyber threats to include the role of hunt-forward teams working with US partners and allies overseas. They conclude with recommendations for how noncyber military leaders should approach the cyber domain at the tactical and operational levels during both peacetime and in potential large-scale combat operations such as the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine.

Pelé Will Live Forever

José Miguel Wisnik

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Pelé once confessed that he had long been troubled by a conundrum, one he’d only be able to crack when he met God, face-to-face, and could demand an explanation.

What plagued him was a feeling of dual identity: There was “Pelé,” the world’s greatest living sports legend of the 20th century, but also “Edson Arantes do Nascimento,” the ordinary guy whose job it was to watch over Pelé, shouldering the weight of his quasi-supernatural existence. Pelé, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 82, felt, perhaps with some humor, that he was due some kind of answer as to why he had been given this double fate, upholding a godlike status in the world’s eyes, yet still feeling all too human. At his death, he wondered, who would die, given that both the incarnate demigod and the simplest of creatures coexisted inside him?

Anyone who saw him play will have no doubt God really did owe him an explanation. Pelé, the most consummate, luminous figure of perfection to ever grace a soccer field, was swept into fame at a very young age, unaware in the beginning of his own exceptionality. According to him, his most personal aim was to achieve the unrealized greatness he glimpsed in his father, who’d been an admirable but obscure player, to redeem him from a failed soccer career. Before he knew it, he was the top idol of the most popular sport on the planet, making his thunderous arrival at the 1958 World Cup, at the age of 17.