23 August 2023

Afghanistan’s next generation must rise above the Taliban’s ‘reality’

Nasir Andisha

This month marks the second anniversary of the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s military takeover of the country. The devastating images of Kabul in mid-August 2021 depicting despair, chaos, and abandonment are still vivid in our memories. These images also symbolized the collapse of democracy in Afghanistan. Despite evident shortcomings, this democratic state, for which I served as deputy foreign minister from 2015 to 2019, unleashed an unprecedented era of socioeconomic progress in Afghanistan’s history.

For the majority of Afghanistan’s new generation—those who worked, fought, and aspired for a free, democratic, and prosperous country—it has been a harrowing two years. It has been two long years of processing grief and overcoming the anguish of abandonment and collapse, but also two years of engaging in self-reflection, reorganization, and resistance.

The country is in a deep crisis; the status quo is not sustainable. The challenges ahead are enormous and multidimensional, but all is not lost. Afghanistan’s most precious asset, developed over the past two decades, is its professional and well-connected youth. More than 60 percent of Afghanistan’s population is under the age of twenty-five. The burden of resolving this crisis by spotting and exploiting opportunities amid this calamity falls on this generation. They are slowly but surely rising to the task.

The challenges ahead are indeed colossal. Afghanistan faces a deeply divided society, a demoralized elite, a broken economy, an exhausted civil society, and an extremist ethnoreligious group in control of the country. The Taliban reneged on the promises they made during the Doha negotiation process to form an inclusive government and provide women and girls with access to education. Instating exclusively male and essentially Pashtun mullahs, they failed to gain domestic and international legitimacy. They continue to impose draconian and regressive laws, which are pushing the country into a downward spiral in every socioeconomic, human-rights, and fundamental-freedoms index. After systematically erasing women and girls from public life, the Taliban administration is on the brink of being designated as a gender apartheid regime by United Nations–appointed rights experts. Its symbiotic relations with foreign terrorist groups, drug production and trafficking, and systematic promotion of violent extremist ideology pose imminent threats to the immediate region and beyond.

Who Promised to Remove the Grounded Philippine Ship on Second Thomas Shoal?

Mong Palatino

Philippine officials are denying the claim of the Chinese Foreign Ministry that there was a previous pledge to tow away its ship in the Second Thomas Shoal, known to Manila as Ayungin Shoal and to Beijing as Ren’ai Jiao.

In 1999, the World War II-era ship BRP Sierra Madre was deliberately grounded in the shoal’s shallow waters in response to China’s occupation of nearby Mischief Reef in 1994. The decrepit ship has since become a symbol of the Philippines’ assertion of sovereignty in the contested waters of the South China Sea. The Philippines insists that the Second Thomas Shoal lies well within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

But China has refused to recognize this and considers the grounding of the ship to be illegal. It added that as part of its humanitarian gesture, it has made a temporary special arrangement with the Philippine government for the delivery of necessary life supplies to the crew of the grounded ship. It accused the Philippine government of breaking its commitment to remove the ship and called on it to abandon any plan of building a permanent station in the shoal.

Chinese diplomats mentioned this after their coast guard used water cannons to prevent Philippine vessels from delivering supplies to BRP Sierra Madre on August 5. The incident was widely condemned not just by Philippine officials but also by countries such as the United States, Canada, and South Korea.

Asked about the comments made by Chinese officials, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said that he was not aware of any deal concerning the removal of the ship.

“I’m not aware of any such arrangement or agreement that the Philippines will remove from its own territory its ship, in this case, the BRP Sierra Madre from the Ayungin Shoal,” Marcos said. “And let me go further, if there does exist such an agreement, I rescind that agreement now.”

This effectively nullifies the supposed promise given by Philippine officials in the past since the country’s incumbent commander-in-chief has clearly stated the government’s position.

But who made the promise in the first place? Newspaper columnist Rigoberto Tiglao, who also served as spokesperson of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, wrote that it was former President Joseph Estrada who made the commitment to remove the ship in 1999.

This was denied by Estrada’s two sons, who currently serve in the Senate. “During my phone conversation with former Senator Orly Mercado, who held the position of defense secretary during my father’s tenure, he confirmed that there was ‘no agreement or promise’ whatsoever made to the Chinese government,” said Senator Jinggoy Estrada in a press statement.

Added Senator J.V. Ejercito in a separate statement, “Mr. Tiglao’s column is patently inaccurate and distorts the reality of President Estrada’s decisive actions against Chinese aggression.”

He added that succeeding administrations should be blamed for failing to build a permanent base in the West Philippine Sea, as Manila refers to its portions of the South China Sea. “Partly at fault are the subsequent administrations that failed to follow through on establishing a permanent base in that part of the West Philippine Sea and advancing our claim over these disputed waters,” he said.

Estrada was president from 1998 until his ouster in January 2001. He was replaced by Arroyo who served as president until 2010. During her term, Arroyo developed closer economic and political ties with the Chinese government.

Arroyo also issued a statement denying that her government made a deal with China. “First, I never made such a promise to China or any other country. Second, I never authorized any of my government officials to make such a promise. Third, I only became aware of such claims recently, when the matter surfaced in public discussions,” said the former president who is currently a deputy speaker at the House of Representatives.

China did not identify the Filipino official who promised to remove the grounded ship. And even if a name is mentioned, it will only prompt flat-out denials.

The supposed broken promise should also not distract public attention from what’s going to happen this week and the succeeding months as the Philippines prepares another mission to deliver supplies to its stranded ship, the reported joint naval drills of several countries in the disputed waters of South China Sea, and the filing of diplomatic protests against Chinese activities and presence in Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Beyond Borders: Navigating Asia’s Water Challenges

Farwa Aamer and Susanne Schmeier

Once an abstract concern, water stress in Asia is now an undeniable reality exacerbated by rapid population growth, urbanization, and climate change. The region is largely failing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on water, with almost 500 million people still lacking access to at least basic water supply services and more than 1.1 billion without adequate sanitation.

The transboundary nature of many of the region’s watercourses adds an additional layer of complexity and conflict potential. This crisis ripples through South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia, transcending borders and demanding a united response. This challenge, with its far-reaching implications, reiterates the critical role of water diplomacy, transformative measures, and cooperation.

In this landscape, the approaching World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, serves not only as a pivotal juncture but also as a reminder of the ongoing commitment required to address these pressing issues.

Water Insecurity and Regional Dynamics

South Asia is home to over 1.9 billion people, but only accounts for 4 percent of the world’s annual renewable water. This glaring disparity creates a wide chasm between the demand and supply of water resources.

A further complicating factor is that the region is home to some of the world’s most prominent transboundary rivers, which flow across the borders of nations that have a history of political mistrust and animosity.

The Yarlung-Tsangpo/Brahmaputra River, for example, is shared between China, India, Bangladesh, and Bhutan. The two main co-riparians, India and China, have maintained strained political relations over their disputed border, and concerns over a potential water conflict persist as upstream China has no formal water-sharing agreements with its downstream neighbors.

The greatest Chinese threat is an economic implosion

Harlan Ullman
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Today's Paul Reveres have been sounding the alarm "the Chinese are coming" for at least a decade.

Given more aggressive Chinese actions to steal intellectual property; establish "police stations" to surveil its citizens residing in U.S. cities; and to fly over the United States with "spy balloons," more Americans are heeding these warnings of impending danger.

The expansion of China's military and militarization of tiny islets in the various surrounding seas, along with the threat to retake Taiwan by force if necessary, are also powerful signs of growing Chinese assertiveness and intent of imposing greater influence regionally and globally.

China's "no limits" partnership with Russia and its support of Moscow in its "special military operation" in Ukraine likewise challenges nations that are committed to assisting Kyiv in defeating the illegal and unwarranted invasion now in its 18th month.

And China's growing economic might is set to disrupt the rules-based international order imposed by the United States and its Western and Asian allies and fellow democracies. Thus, it is easy to accept that China is far more than just a competitor as the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the U.S. and Chinese Communist Party no doubt will ultimately conclude in its findings.

Two Chinese J-16s Control "Armed" Recon Attack Drone in Latest "CopyCat" Effort


Two Chinese J-16 fighter jets were able to fly alongside, control and operate with an armed Chinese GJ-2 reconnaissance drone in what People's Liberation Army essays describe as breakthrough manned-unmanned teaming and multi-domain operations.

This may sound quite familiar, as the Chinese have for years exhibited an observable tendency to essentially "copycat," "replicate" or simply "steal" US military tactics and strategies. This concern is of course quite well known and documented by Congressional and military leaders when it comes to Chinese "theft" of US military technologies, yet there is a lesser known yet equally recognizable Chinese tendency to follow, copy and replicate US military tactics, training operations and concepts of operation. The armed GJ-2 reconnaissance drone looks a lot like a US-Army Gray Eagle and the PLA exercises appear aimed at developing new manned-unmanned teaming attack tactics and operations.

Prominent members of Congress and Pentagon leaders have for years expressed significant worry about Chinese efforts to steal and "copy" US military technologies and tactics. For example, Chinese government back newspapers have for years been detailing joint air-sea-ground training exercises in a manner nearly identical to the US military's Joint Air Ground Task Force multi-domain training units. More specifically, the People's Liberation Army Navy conducted "dual" carrier training operations in the Pacific to show extended, coordinated air campaign attack very quickly after the US Navy demonstrated "dual" carrier operations in the Pacific.

The Chinese government backed Global Times newspaper explains that the fighter-jet - armed drone connectivity represents PLA Army - PLA Air Force joint service integration.

The Chinese paper quotes military experts detailing some of the tactical possibilities this kind of manned-unmanned teaming can generate. Perhaps the drone is an early reconnaissance node designed to find and light-up or paint targets for high-speed fighter jets to attack, or perhaps the fighter jets seeks to establish air superiority to enable a longer-endurance armed drone to conduct extended surveillance and attack in a low threat environment.

China-US Tech War Spirals Over Smart Devices


China has responded angrily to calls by a U.S. Congress committee for scrutiny of Chinese-made internet modules that are increasingly embedded in devices that range from vital U.S. first responder systems to electronic cars to smart refrigerators.

The Chinese comments follow Newsweek's exclusive reporting on the presence of the modules in the systems used by firefighters and police as well as on the congressional demands for investigation of their ubiquity in the so-called Internet of Things. The quarrel over the devices has opened another front in the increasing war over technology between the United States and China.

"World Burns on US Stake of Political Correctness" said the headline in the English-language China Daily, a mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party of China that criticised the congressional investigation.

Newsweek had reported that a House committee scrutinising relations with China wrote to the Federal Communications Commission on August 7, asking it to address security concerns over the modules, which are made by about a dozen Chinese companies and sold widely around the world including in the U.S. The letter named Quectel and Fibocom Wireless, the two biggest Chinese companies in the sector.

The House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the U.S. and the Chinese Communist Party is concerned that the modules are vulnerable to interference – not only spying but possibly also degrading communications systems or even switching America off.

China, Lawfare, and the Contest for Control of Low Earth Orbit

Glenn Chafetz and Xavier Ortiz

People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force officers Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui Wang argued in their 1999 book, “Unrestricted Warfare,” that to win a war with the United States, China must mass its intelligence, economic, and political resources where U.S. defenses were weakest: its private sector. The book today reads like a plan for the past two decades of non-military warfare waged against the Western private sector by Beijing and its business surrogates.

The U.S. government and its allies have recently shown increasing concern about the broad scope of the China’s intellectual property (IP) theft and critical infrastructure attacks. However, Western businesses remain vulnerable, and even largely unaware of the threats they face. Moreover, democratic governments seem incapable of mounting an effective response. The following case study from the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite industry illustrates both the problem and the difficulty of finding solutions.

Our analysis begins with a summary of LEO satellites’ value and a review of the PRC interest. The study then illustrates the methods that the PRC employs to achieve its stated goals: deception, predatory investment, intimidation, and lawfare. We conclude with recommendations for how democratic governments can help deter and mitigate these kinds of attacks.

Why LEO Satellites?

Commercially, LEO satellites offer affordable, global access to high-capacity internet. Militarily, such satellite provide improved abilities in intelligence, tracking, and warning; communications; navigation; ground support, and command and control. Until recently, the cost and technical constraints required to launch the thousands of small satellites needed for a LEO “mega-constellation” prohibited any serious effort. However, advances in onboard computing and the commoditization of hardware components allow manufacturers to build and launch LEO satellites much more quickly and cheaply, and to operate them more easily than higher orbiting satellites. A LEO mega-constellation is therefore also much more resilient than a higher orbiting, more expensive, more capable, single satellite. Such groupings render current anti-satellite weaponry cost ineffective, because destroying even multiple LEO satellites does not degrade the function of the system.

Is China a Leader in Quantum Technologies?

Under Xi Jinping, China is redoubling its efforts to compete and lead in cutting-edge strategic technologies. China is investing heavily in the emerging field of quantum technologies, which exploit properties of quantum mechanics to enable breakthroughs in sensing, communication, and computing. Many of these technologies are still developmental, but Chinese researchers are making rapid progress and have become major players in quantum technologies. In some areas—especially quantum communication—China has positioned itself as the global leader.

Quantum Technologies Explained

Quantum technologies are a loose set of nascent technologies that harness the principles of quantum mechanics to enable revolutionary breakthroughs across various fields. Quantum technologies can be grouped into three main areas—sensing, communication, and computing.Quantum Sensing: In the field of quantum sensing, researchers are pushing to develop ultra-sensitive devices capable of measuring minute changes in motion and electromagnetic fields. As these technologies advance, they could lend unprecedented levels of precision to medical imaging and diagnosis, navigation, radar, geophysics, and more.Quantum Communication: Quantum communication promises to enable ultra-fast and highly secure data transmissions. With conventional electronics, data is typically encrypted and then sent as bits representing 1s and 0s. However, quantum bits—or qubits—can be transmitted in a state of superposition in which they can represent combinations of 1 and 0 simultaneously. This allows for virtually un-hackable communications—a highly sought after capability for governments, militaries, financial firms, and others. Quantum Computing: The third area of quantum technologies—quantum computing—has garnered the most attention globally and promises to be the most transformative of the three. Like quantum communication devices, quantum computers exploit the properties of superposition, which enables many calculations simultaneously. Theoretically, quantum computers equipped with enough qubits can perform complex calculations at speeds exponentially faster than even the most advanced supercomputers in use today.

While quantum technologies are immensely promising, many of the more advanced capabilities still remain largely confined to research and development work. Most quantum devices require complex and precise engineering in order to work. Some quantum computers, for example, must be chilled to extremely low temperatures to avoid disturbances and information loss.1 As a result of these limitations, certain quantum technologies face major obstacles to commercialization and are unlikely to see widescale adoption for years or even decades.

Militia clashes in Libyan capital have killed 45, in city’s most intense bout of violence this year


CAIRO (AP) — The death toll in this week’s clashes between rival militias in Libya’s capital rose to 45 on Wednesday as troops fanned out across Tripoli to restore calm after a 24-hour bout of fighting that was the city’s most intense violence this year.

The clashes erupted late on Monday between militiamen from the 444 brigade and the Special Deterrence Force, and continued into Tuesday evening. Tensions flared after Mahmoud Hamza, a senior commander of the 444 brigade, was allegedly detained by the rival group at an airport in Tripoli, according to local media reports. Hamza was later released as part of deal aimed at quelling the violence, the reports said.

The death toll rose Wednesday to 45, up from the 27 dead reported Tuesday, as more casualties were confirmed, said Malek Merset, the spokesperson for Libya’s Emergency Medicine and Support Center. An additional 146 were injured, up from 106 on Tuesday. It remains unclear how many of the dead were militiamen or civilians.

Libyan security forces patrolled the streets and fanned out across Tripoli on Wednesday. The country’s Interior Ministry said security forces were deployed to areas where the fighting was most intense, including the southern Fernaj neighborhood and the al-Shouk Road. A situation room had been set up to monitor developments, but by Wednesday a tentative calm had returned to the city.

The violence underscored the fragility of war-torn Libya following the 2011 uprising turned civil war, which toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Amid the chaos, militias grew in wealth and power, particularly in Tripoli and the west of the country.

The Power of Resilience What America can learn from our partners in Ukraine

Jen Easterly

In the late afternoon of December 23, 2015, residents in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Western Ukraine were wrapping up their workdays and getting ready to head out into the frigid winter streets on their way to the warmth of their homes. But on this day, as one worker at the Prykarpattyaoblenergo control center was organizing his papers, he suddenly noticed that the cursor on his computer started moving quickly across the screen, completely on its own, manipulating the circuit breakers at a power substation in the region.

As he tried desperately to regain control of his computer, he was suddenly logged out. The attackers had changed his password, preventing him from logging in again.

The attackers didn’t stop there. At the same time, they struck two other power distribution centers, leaving more than 230,000 Ukrainians in the dark. They had not been ready for a cyberattack of this magnitude.

But in the days, months, and years that followed, Ukraine took concrete steps to build resilience into the fabric of the country. In 2016, Ukraine launched their National Cyber Strategy, and Ukrainian cybersecurity organizations continuously evolved to defend themselves from Russian campaigns.

Fast forward to 2022 and Ukraine would not be unprepared again. Prior to the expected Russian invasion, the private sector in Ukraine joined together with the government, as well international allies, to be ready.

Tracking Japan’s Defense Modernization

Since 2017, Japan’s spending on defense has been rising faster than its gross domestic product. The 2023 budget for the armed forces, known as the Japan Self-Defense Forces, was 26 percent higher than the previous year’s sum – the largest nominal increase in the country’s military spending since at least 1952. It was the first since Tokyo unveiled its new National Security Strategy, which includes a target to bring military spending up to 2 percent of GDP by 2027. The introduction of this new target is a significant shift from Japan’s postwar defense policy, which capped military spending at 1 percent of GDP and significantly restricted the JSDF’s capabilities.

The main reason for this fundamental change is the worsening security environment in the Indo-Pacific region, specifically China’s assertive activities and the nuclear threat North Korea poses. Russia’s increased aggressiveness is also unsettling Japanese officials. To prepare for these growing threats, Tokyo plans to acquire new counterstrike capabilities, update the JSDF’s maritime and air systems, and improve self-reliance by encouraging the Japanese arms industry to expand its domestic manufacturing and maintenance capacity. Currently, Japan is capable of producing all of its planned military ships and almost 90 percent of its planned land systems, but it relies on the United States for many aircraft and missiles.

U.S. intelligence says Ukraine will fail to meet offensive’s key goal

John Hudson 

The U.S. intelligence community assesses that Ukraine’s counteroffensive will fail to reach the key southeastern city of Melitopol, people familiar with the classified forecast told The Washington Post, a finding that, should it prove correct, would mean Kyiv won’t fulfill its principal objective of severing Russia’s land bridge to Crimea in this year’s push.

The grim assessment is based on Russia’s brutal proficiency in defending occupied territory through a phalanx of minefields and trenches, and is likely to prompt finger pointing inside Kyiv and Western capitals about why a counteroffensive that saw tens of billions of dollars of Western weapons and military equipment fell short of its goals.

Ukraine’s forces, which are pushing toward Melitopol from the town of Robotyne more than 50 miles away, will remain several miles outside of the city, U.S. officials said. U.S., Western and Ukrainian government officials interviewed for this report spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military operations.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.

Melitopol is critical to Ukraine’s counteroffensive because it is considered the gateway to Crimea. The city is at the intersection of two important highways and a railroad line that allow Russia to move military personnel and equipment from the peninsula to other occupied territories in southern Ukraine.

Ukraine launched the counteroffensive in early June hoping to replicate its stunning success in last fall’s push through the Kharkiv region.

But in the first week of fighting, Ukraine incurred major casualties against Russia’s well-prepared defenses despite having a range of newly acquired Western equipment, including U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicles, German-made Leopard 2 tanks and specialized mine-clearing vehicles.

Joint war games conducted by the U.S., British and Ukrainian militaries anticipated such losses but envisioned Kyiv accepting the casualties as the cost of piercing through Russia’s main defensive line, said U.S. and Western officials.

Troop Deaths and Injuries in Ukraine War Near 500,000, U.S. Officials Say

Helene Cooper, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eric Schmitt and Julian E. Barnes

The total number of Ukrainian and Russian troops killed or wounded since the war in Ukraine began 18 months ago is nearing 500,000, U.S. officials said, a staggering toll as Russia assaults its next-door neighbor and tries to seize more territory.

The officials cautioned that casualty figures remained difficult to estimate because Moscow is believed to routinely undercount its war dead and injured, and Kyiv does not disclose official figures. But they said the slaughter intensified this year in eastern Ukraine and has continued at a steady clip as a nearly three-month-old counteroffensive drags on.

Russia’s military casualties, the officials said, are approaching 300,000. The number includes as many as 120,000 deaths and 170,000 to 180,000 injured troops. The Russian numbers dwarf the Ukrainian figures, which the officials put at close to 70,000 killed and 100,000 to 120,000 wounded.

But Russians outnumber Ukrainians on the battlefield almost three to one, and Russia has a larger population from which to replenish its ranks.

Ukraine has around 500,000 troops, including active-duty, reserve and paramilitary troops, according to analysts. By contrast, Russia has almost triple that number, with 1,330,000 active-duty, reserve and paramilitary troops — most of the latter from the Wagner Group.

The Biden administration’s last public estimate of casualties came in November, when Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that more than 100,000 troops on each side had been killed or wounded since the war began in February 2022. At the time, officials said privately that the numbers were closer to 120,000 killed and wounded.

America’s Window of Opportunity in Asia

Andrew Yeo, Mireya Solís, and Hanna Foreman

Later this week, U.S. President Joe Biden will host Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol at Camp David. The summit comes at a now-or-never moment in relations among the three countries. Missile threats from North Korea and deep concerns about Chinese military capabilities and intentions have motivated the three allies to band together in recent months. But those mutual concerns have existed for decades, and domestic politics—particularly in Seoul and Tokyo—have often prevented the three countries from successfully coordinating their strategies. Right now, however, there is an internationalist American president, a bold

Should the West Keep Arming Ukraine or Push for Peace?

Emma Ashford

Emma Ashford: Aloha, Matt! I’m here on vacation in Hawaii, but glad we can still chat. Of course, I hadn’t expected the eyes of the world to be on Hawaii when I booked my holiday, but it’s been a horrifying week for the people of Maui, where wildfires ripped through the town of historic Lahaina, destroying most of the community and killing more than 100 people.

Putin must not be allowed to turn the Black Sea into a Russian lake

Melinda Haring

On July 17, Russia withdrew from the UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative, striking a devastating blow to Ukraine’s economy and undermining global food security. Yet the grain shutoff is just one symptom of a much broader strategic problem. The bigger issue is that Moscow is well on its way to turning the Black Sea, which is shared by seven countries, into a Russian lake.

Allowing Putin to get away with this will have disastrous consequences for the entire region, not only for Ukraine. Ben Hodges, the former commander of US forces in Europe, has it right: “The future of the West may be decided on the Black Sea and Washington isn’t prepared. We must get in the game.”

There can be no mistaking Russia’s intentions. Moscow is determined to cut off Ukraine’s access to world markets, and aims to assert its own dominance over the entire Black Sea region. For the past few weeks, Russian forces have been staging airstrikes on granaries in Ukraine’s main port city of Odesa, as well as ports on the Danube River that serve as Ukraine’s most important alternate export route. One of these Danube attacks came perilously close to NATO member Romania.

Meanwhile, Russia continues to export large amounts of grain and fertilizer from its own Black Sea ports to the outside world, often using trickery to evade sanctions. To keep this going, Putin is determined to bully and intimidate the other countries who share the Black Sea.

Two credit downgrades in the US are a much-needed warning

Hung Tran

On August 1, 2023, Fitch Ratings announced its decision to downgrade the US long-term credit ratings to AA+ from AAA, but maintained the country credit ceiling at AAA (meaning other borrowers in the US can still receive AAA ratings). The reaction was swift but varied. Officials, including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen as well as several well-known economists, criticized the downgrading decision. They argued it was “unwarranted” since the near-term prospects of the US economy look better than many of its peers, and “oddly timed” because the US government has just managed to suspend the debt ceiling at the last minute to avoid a default.

Market participants, on the other hand, largely viewed the downgrading as not adding any new information to the body of facts markets have already incorporated in asset prices. In their view, the impact of the rating move was negligible. With a touch of complacency, many observers also claimed that the rating decision’s effects would be limited because the rest of the world simply does not have many alternatives to US Treasury securities as high-quality liquid assets to satisfy their reserves, collateral, and investment needs.

Missing the bigger picture

Both reactions miss the bigger picture. The downgrading decision is another warning sign, and the only question is why it took twelve years for Fitch to follow the move by S&P to remove the AAA rating on US long-term debt. Neither the complacency of markets nor the forced optimism of officials reflects the seriousness of the rating agencies’ concerns.

Both agencies basically used similar reasoning to support their rating decisions: the US fiscal decision-making process has become increasingly dysfunctional as the Republican Party has been willing to use the debt ceiling as a political tool, holding the US sovereign credit quality hostage in order to realize its agenda, instead of following well-established Congressional procedures. The fact that the two parties have managed time and again to reach compromises at the last minute to diffuse artificial government debt crises, after forcing the Treasury to resort to “extraordinary measures” to avoid default, does not mean that the US has re-established a normal and predictable process of managing its fiscal affairs. Until recently, the question of a possible technical default even for a few days by the US had never been raised. The repeated use of debt ceiling stalemates and threats of default have turned such a dysfunctional and irresponsible governance practice into a “new normal”—not consistent with the prudent conduct expected of a AAA sovereign borrower. In fact, another budget wrangling and potential government shutdown is looming: Republicans are looking to use similar debt-limit tactics to get their way as Congress has to pass twelve annual appropriation bills for the government to function in the new fiscal year starting October 1.

The United States and its allies must be ready to deter a two-front war and nuclear attacks in East Asia

Markus Garlauskas

“If hostilities were to renew on the [Korean Peninsula] it is not a matter of ‘if’ the Chinese Communist Party will intervene, it is when … This has been a very difficult topic for us to address as an alliance.”— Retired Gen. Robert Abrams, former commander of US Forces Korea (USFK)1

“I’ve wargamed conflicts with China and with North Korea dozens of times. If we look at a map and consider the forces involved, it is almost impossible for either to occur without some form of simultaneity.”—US defense official, name withheld

“If the political survival of Xi Jinping or Kim Jong Un is at stake in [a] military conflict they are losing, escalating to a limited nuclear strike would be rational … hesitating to use nuclear weapons would be the irrational act.”—US intelligence official, name withheld

The challenges to deterrence in East Asia have begun to change fundamentally in recent years, putting them on track to present grave risks to US national security interests over the coming decade. This report summarizes the results of a study focused on two of these emerging and interrelated challenges to deterrence in East Asia. The first is the potential for a conflict with either the People’s Republic of China (PRC) or North Korea to escalate horizontally and become a simultaneous conflict with both. The other is the possibility that either or both adversaries would choose to escalate vertically to a limited nuclear attack—rather than concede defeat—in a major conflict.

US thinking about war in East Asia often neglects the possibility that the United States would have to fight the PRC and North Korea simultaneously rather than separately. Furthermore, conventional wisdom in the United States underestimates the risk that either the PRC or North Korea would resort to a limited nuclear strike in the event of a conflict in the region. However, the recent behavior of the United States’ adversaries in East Asia suggests that this thinking may be off the mark; the PRC military has reorganized itself to prepare to fight a two-front war, while both the PRC and North Korea continue to develop the sophistication and size of their tactical nuclear arsenals.

In Vivek Ramaswamy, the Republicans Have Something New

Benjamin Wallace-Wells

The Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy is thirty-eight years old and slender, with thick black hair, receding a bit at the temples, swept up into something approaching a pompadour. On the campaign trail, he often wears a black suit and an open-necked white shirt, and he has an unusually theatrical style, holding a clenched left fist out in front of him as he speaks. Ramaswamy’s approach on the stump is pitch-deck aphoristic: “There actually wasn’t a rise and fall of Rome—there were many rises and falls,” he told the crowd at a stop this week in Rochester, New Hampshire. Rather than engage in knotty Washington debates, he prefers to find a ladder onto a more abstract plane, on which politics is an elemental conflict. His lawn signs say simply, “Truth.”

Ramaswamy isn’t above using Fox News talking points (a favored line on Joe Biden’s support for Ukraine is that it’s “repayment for a five-million-dollar bribe,” a reference to Hunter Biden). But he likes to point out that he is annoyed with both parties (“You don’t hear me talking about Republicans and Democrats—it’s boring. Actually we have the managerial class in both of them”). He claims that the theatre of Washington politics is meaningless (“Congress is a joke”) and conceals the real action, which is taking place in the regulatory agencies. In some ways, he is taking a Trumpian insight—that elections are a reflection of emotions not ordinarily captured by politics—even further than Donald Trump. A religious audience might applaud if you say that Roe v. Wade is an abomination, and might applaud a little louder if you say that you’d permit state laws that criminalize abortion. But why not just say what all but the most programmatic among them really want to hear, which is that God is real, even if yours is a Hindu god and theirs is Christian? Rather than get trapped in endless questions about when you did and didn’t support Trump’s January 6th uprising, why not call for a revolt of your own? In Rochester, Ramaswamy said, to cheers, “Do you want incremental reform or do you want revolution? I stand on the side of revolution.”

The Democratization of AI: How Open Source is Fueling the AI Revolution

Ryo Sakai

Artificial intelligence is transforming industries and changing lives as we know it. As AI becomes more powerful and widespread, there are growing calls to make it more accessible and transparent through open source technologies. In this article, we’ll explore the rise of open source AI approaches, their benefits, and some of the initiatives working to fulfill their promise of democratizing access to AI.


AI is one of the most transformative technologies of our time. From facial recognition to autonomous vehicles and predictive analytics, AI is automating tasks and enabling breakthroughs across sectors. Much of the recent innovations in the field of AI has come from large tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft who have the resources to invest heavily in research and development.

While this centralized model has produced rapid advancements, there are also valid concerns about the risks of such powerful technologies being controlled by a handful of corporations. Issues around bias, accountability, and transparency have led some to call for a more open AI ecosystem.

The open source movement aims to make AI more accessible by creating free, public resources and technologies. Proponents argue that open source spurs innovation through collaboration while also building trust by showing how AI systems work under the hood. As AI becomes integrated into more aspects of our lives, ensuring it aligns with shared values becomes increasingly important.

In this article, we’ll look at the key benefits open source offers for AI development and adoption. We’ll also highlight some notable open source AI projects working to fulfill the promise of transparent and participatory AI.

The future of AI lies in open source

Matt Barker

I'm almost getting sick of hearing about AI and its ability to change the world for the better, for the worse, for who knows what? But when you get to the heart of what AI is and how it can be applied to unlock value in businesses and everyday life, you have to admit that we're standing on the edge of a revolution. This revolution is likely to change our lives significantly in the short term, and perhaps tremendously so in the medium term.

It wasn't that long ago I felt short-sold by the promise of AI. About eight years ago I saw someone demonstrating a machine's ability to recognise certain flowers. Although impressive, it was a clunky experience, and while I could imagine applications, it didn't excite me. Fast forward a few years, my real moment of surprise came when I found thispersondoesnotexist. My brain couldn't work out why these were not real people, and it stuck with me. My next big moment was podcast.ai and their first AI generated discussion between Joe Rogan and Steve Jobs. But just like everyone else on the planet, the real breakthrough was ChatGPT and the conversation I had with the 'Ghost in the Machine'.

Having worked in the open source space for the best part of a decade, I was interested to explore where AI development is going and what does it mean for open source?

Open source is already inherent in the foundations of AI

Although many of the major visible breakthroughs have come from proprietary models, open source is foundational to how they run. Kubernetes, for example, underpins OpenAI.

But following the Facebook release of LLaMA in February, an open source version was launched by RedPajama which has created an explosion of exploration and growth in progress. Consequently, this led to an incredible memo that was leaked by Google which admitted 'We Have No Moat and neither does OpenAI'. Whether you believe in open source models or not, you can be sure that open source will have a part to play in the development of the ecosystem going forward.

A behind-the-scenes look at the IDF's secret underground intel center


A couple of dozen computer analysts, editors, and graphics personnel typed and clattered away deep inside “the pit” of Israeli military intelligence. Located in a labyrinth of subterranean tunnels under the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, I-NET is the 24/7 operations center that synthesizes open-source intelligence for Israel’s defense establishment.

The Jerusalem Post Magazine’s visit to I-NET was the first by an English-language news publication.

The room pulsated with charged energy as the staff kept their eyes trained on 15 large video screens running news and other coverage of Israel, the Middle East, and other countries across the planet.

I-NET is the IDF and Israeli intelligence community’s largest internal online resource. Established in 2013, I-NET focuses on following and curating open-source information for Israel’s intelligence community. It was created when top officials realized that their standard traditional apparatus could not handle the massive volume of data from the billions of items coming in.

AI-Powered Security Tools and DARPA’s New Challenge for Open Source Developers

John Palmer

TL;DR Breakdown
DARPA launches AI Cyber Challenge (AIxCC) to advance AI-based security tools, offering $20M in prizes.
AI's impact on security remains uncertain, but experts warn against ignoring its potential.
Multimodal AI, evolving from generative AI, will soon interpret chat, video, and body language.

Artificial intelligence (AI), particularly large language models (LLMs) like GPT, has been the focus of discussions at the recent Black Hat and Def Con conferences in Las Vegas. However, experts are divided on how AI will impact the security posture of companies, from protecting internal data to developing applications.

Maria Markstedter, an Arm reverse engineer and exploitation expert, paraphrased OpenAI CEO Sam Altman’s statement that “AI will most likely lead to the end of the world, but in the meantime, there’ll be great companies.” Markstedter, during her keynote speech at Black Hat, recommended the motto “Move fast, break shit,” emphasizing that products often initially lack security functions and companies have to be forced to invest in security.

Generative AI and multimodal AI

Generative AI, which currently focuses on text, is evolving into multimodal AI, capable of handling chat, live video responses, sentiment analysis, and even body language interpretation, according to Markstedter. She stressed the importance of maintaining anonymity in these systems and rethinking data security.

From reactive to proactive: The next evolution of threat intelligence

Jason Harrison

As the world becomes increasingly digital, the need for cyber threat intelligence (CTI) is growing in parallel. Current estimations project that 120 zettabytes of data will be created, captured, copied, and consumed worldwide in 2023. From that wealth of information, Microsoft tracks 65 trillion security signals every day to discover new and emerging threats across the global threat landscape. These data signals are just one piece of the larger CTI puzzle customers need to sift through to discover the ultimate threat.

By analyzing these Rapidly growing volumes of information creates an opportunity for cyber defenders to better understand and protect our global attack surface. As individual pieces of data are translated into CTI, security teams will use that insight to identify existing security vulnerabilities and gain a deeper understanding of cybercriminal activity.

When thinking of analyzing not 1 but a120 zettabytes is an overwhelming amount of data for human operators to try to consume and analyze to generate a high fidelity signal of CTI. Organizations need a better way to connect these disparate signals to achieve a state of comprehensive, real-time threat intelligence. Keep reading to learn how automation and AI are coming together to launch CTI into a new, increasingly proactive state.

Understanding threat intelligence and its benefits

Threat intelligence is often mistakenly labeled as nothing more than a feed of indicators of compromise (IOCs). But true CTI is much more than a feed.

CTI comes from multiple data sources, including open-source threat intelligence, threat intelligence feeds, and even in-house analysis. Organizations need this intelligence to flow constantly to keep up with the transient, short-lived nature of the internet and its associated risks.

What's more, digital sprawl and a growing interdependence on third-party technology partners have created an extensive enterprise attack surface for cyber defenders to monitor and protect. Visibility into these attack pathways helps defenders act more strategically, providing visibility into where a business' attack surface exists, and which threats are most relevant to its operations.

When analyzing their current threat intelligence, organizations should look for a way to combine IOC data with other relevant security signals. In doing so, they can better correlate current events and adjacent attacks; create an understanding of threat group and nation-state tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs); identify security gaps; and more. Businesses should also look for ways to aggregate all their CTI data into a unified view, helping security teams make more informed decisions about how to prepare for, detect, and respond to cyberattacks as early as possible. The key is injecting as much passivity into the CTI process as possible. That's where automation and AI come in.

Integrating threat intelligence into your security environment

Security products are typically designed to protect against a specific threat or target. However, cyberattacks are often multi-threaded and can go undetected for weeks or even months before there is a serious breach. Organizations can overcome this risk by using automation to incorporate threat intelligence into their existing security gaps.

Automation and AI will help lighten the load on security teams by processing and sorting through raw threat intelligence data to surface only the most relevant insights. Businesses can then use this information to identify weaknesses in their current defense strategy and uncover their most likely attack vectors. Automating the collection and initial analysis of your security signals is key to proactively discovering and responding to threats in real-time.

In the past, CTI has been treated as a reactive defense measure used mainly after the fact. Security teams would collect and store threat intelligence to analyze an attack that had already happened, hoping to glean insights for future similar attack scenarios. However, as technology advances, defenders can now unlock the power of automation and AI--enabling companies to move into a new era of proactive threat intelligence in which cyber defenders can take advantage of security signals in near real-time.

The British Army’s chief of the general staff: How to build an all-volunteer force fit for the twenty-first century

Patrick Sanders

“I have never heard anyone advocate conscription for the sake of conscription.”

So were the words offered by Anthony Eden, former Foreign Secretary and future Prime Minister, during a 1948 parliamentary debate on the National Service Act, the United Kingdom’s last great peacetime conscription effort. From the Act’s passage until 1963, some two million people found themselves summoned into the service of the nation’s armed forces.

The concept was a novel one. As Eden recognized, the British Army and its fellow services had been volunteer forces throughout most of their history. It was only when faced with the necessities of World War I and World War II, together with the need to service imperial commitments post-1945, that the United Kingdom chose to follow many of its continental neighbors and institute a uniquely British levée en masse. When the army had previously undergone significant reform, such as during the Edwardian era under Secretary of State for War Richard Haldane, or when theorists such as Julian Corbett or Basil Liddell-Hart sought to define a “British way of war,” conscription was frequently rejected as either constitutionally, socially, or economically unviable. The British Army, which I currently am privileged to command as chief of the general staff, relied upon the spirit of the volunteer.

Yet our volunteers’ motives for service were often far from noble. Many who “took the King’s shilling” during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were often avoiding unemployment or incarceration. The reputation of the British Army and its soldiers during peacetime was poor, eternally encapsulated in Rudyard Kipling’s 1890 poem “Tommy”: “O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ‘Tommy, go away’ / But it’s ‘Thank you, Mister Atkins,’ when the band begins to play.”