9 November 2023

Israel's military operations will deal a huge blow to Hamas. But is it even possible to completely destroy them?

Mick Ryan

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) last Friday completed an important component of its operation in Gaza.

An armoured thrust across the middle of Gaza reached the sea. This has the effect of isolating northern Gaza from the rest of the territory. But it also heralds a new phase in the ongoing Israeli military action, Operation Swords of Iron.

The IDF now occupies a large section of middle Gaza and appears set to stay for some time. Open-source intelligence indicates that Israel has rapidly constructed a string of strong points across the trunk of Gaza. These strong points, constructed by the armoured bulldozers, will form a cordon that has several purposes in the next phase of Israel's Gaza operation.

The IDF now occupies a large section of middle Gaza, and appears set to stay for some time.

One reason for isolating northern Gaza is to ensure Hamas is cut off from external sources of support. The cordon will prevent support from southern Gaza moving north to Hamas terrorists. But it will also allow civilians to escape the combat occurring to the north, while preventing Hamas from fleeing south.

Hamas and the New Lessons of Irregular Warfare

Varsha Koduvayur

On Oct. 7, the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched its most audacious attack on Israel, catching the country by surprise. Militants poured into Israeli towns, leaving horrific carnage in their wake as a barrage of thousands of missiles complemented the land assault. While the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) initially mounted a sluggish response, the conflict is now conflagrating further, with a death toll of thousands that is sure to rise with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow that Hamas will be “crushed.”

Hamas’s offensive powerfully demonstrates the impact and importance of irregular warfare. Based on the group’s success in bleeding Israel, the conflict highlights several key lessons on this type of warfare—and how to counter it.

Irregular warfare, like hybrid warfare, gray-zone competition, and other nebulous concepts, has a hazy definition. U.S. military strategists and planners have struggled to define irregular warfare and have adopted a multitude of meanings, resulting in a lack of strategic focus that has hampered Washington and its allies from adequately addressing the spectrum of irregular threats.

That said, the characteristics of irregular warfare are fairly clear: the utilization of asymmetric, multidimensional, and indirect means to achieve a desired outcome, usually by a country or force that lacks the means to succeed in a conventional military clash. Asymmetric means are unconventional tactics that seek to close the gap between capabilities; multidimensional refers to simultaneous activities in military, political, informational, and other realms; indirect describes tactics that seek to avoid a conventional, head-to-head military clash. By these benchmarks, Hamas’s offensive against Israel is a classic irregular warfare scenario.

China’s Two-Faced Approach to Gaza

Michael Schuman 

A new pattern is emerging in Chinese foreign policy that bodes poorly for global stability: Chinese leader Xi Jinping pretends to favour peaceful resolutions to international conflicts while actually encouraging the world’s most destabilizing forces.

In the Middle East, Beijing has vociferously called for an end to the fighting between Israel and Hamas and claims to take an evenhanded approach to the belligerents. But the Chinese government is, in effect, backing Hamas—and therefore terrorism. Xi’s position on Gaza is identical to his stance on the world’s other major conflict, the war in Ukraine. There, too, Beijing has asserted principled neutrality and even launched a peace mission, while at the same time deepening ties to Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.

Beijing seeks to exploit both of these crises in order to undermine the United States and promote its own global leadership. To this end, Xi backs the aggressor, blames the United States for the resulting disorder, and then portrays himself as the more responsible peacemaker with better solutions to the world’s problems. China and Russia are in this game together: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had the chutzpah to call for a cease-fire in Gaza in discussions with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, while the Russian army was grinding up civilians in Ukraine.

Officially, China’s leaders have tried to appear impartial on the Gaza conflict. They have repeatedly made generic statements—for instance, that they “oppose and condemn all violence and attacks against civilians.” But Beijing has pointedly avoided condemning Hamas for the atrocities it committed against Israeli citizens on October 7, which touched off the current crisis. Denouncing that attack would be “illogical,” according to the Global Times, a news outlet run by the Chinese Communist Party, because the broader conflict was “partly caused by Western colonization and exacerbated by US biased Middle East policies.” Beijing won’t even mention Hamas in its official comments, asserting instead that the conflict is between Israel and Palestine.

How America can stop Iran


A recent edition of The Tehran Times carried a warning: “If the Zionist regime’s war crimes and genocidal attacks against civilians in Gaza do not come to an end, the region will move towards making a big and decisive decision.”

The message was delivered by Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s foreign minister, upon meeting his Turkish counterpart in Ankara. Modestly, he names the “region” as the protagonist, instead of his chiefs in Tehran. With Iranian-backed Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran’s Houthis in Yemen already launching rockets and missiles into Israel, it only remains for Iran’s militias in Syria and Iraq to add their bit.

And, yet, it seems like only yesterday that Jake Sullivan, Biden’s National Security Advisor, was working hard to further improve relations with Iran, after successfully obtaining the release of five detained US-Iran dual citizens in exchange for $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds. His relentless romancing, despite the failure of every attempt to kiss and make up with Iran’s angry prelates since 1979, makes me think that the Biden Administration has failed to absorbed the implications of Iran’s current stance: it holds itself so utterly secure that it can unleash its proxies to attack US allies and troops whenever it wants to.

Israel can defend itself. But the US-Kurdish garrison in North-East Syria, as well as America’s remaining friends in Iraq, Kurdistan, and, most important, in the Arabian Peninsula, are all threatened and continue to be — unless Biden switches gears to deter Iran instead of trying to appease it.

The President’s backbone is not in doubt. Biden’s immediate reaction to the October 7 assault and Hezbollah’s threat to launch its vast arsenal of rockets and missiles was to send the US Navy’s most advanced aircraft carrier and six guided-missile warships to the eastern Mediterranean, as well as a second aircraft carrier task force and US fighter bombers to a base in Jordan.

Can Our Leaders Avoid the Terrorism Trap?

Yousef Munayyer

As a devastating crisis continues to unfold with the horrific bombardment of Gaza, there is little sense of how it will end. As a lifelong student of Israel-Palestine, I found my mind racing through many historical dates to find parallels, meaning, and direction.

Perhaps the date that comes to mind for most people is Oct. 6, 1973, the start of an Arab war effort to regain land taken by Israel in 1967. The 1973 surprise attack, which was 50 years and a day from the Oct. 7 Hamas assault, caught a recalcitrant and hubristic Israel off guard and fundamentally changed the way it thought about its policies toward Egypt in the years that followed, paving the way for a historic peace agreement a few years later.

I thought about the 1968 Battle of Karameh. This battle, little known in Western narratives of the conflict but hugely consequential in Palestinian ones, came after the 1967 war, when Israel enjoyed an aura of invincibility. PLO fighters alongside Jordanian soldiers fought the Israeli military, destroyed some military equipment, and captured more. The battle sent the message that Israeli power was not what it seemed, and it helped swell the ranks of militant factions across the region.

But a more important date stands out: Sept. 6, 1972. The day prior, Palestinian guerrillas had killed an Israeli coach and athlete and taken nine other members of the Israeli team hostage at the Munich Olympic Village, where all the cameras of the world had assembled, and by the time a botched rescue attempt by the German police had concluded, all the hostages and most of the Palestinian guerrillas were dead.

There Might Be No Day After in Gaza


Initial reactions to Hamas’s October 7 bloody attack on Israelis and Israel’s declaration of war focused on the short term: how strongly would Israel react and what would its war aims be? It was precisely such short-term thinking—on the part of Israeli, Palestinian, American, and other leaders who sought to postpone rather than address issues—that contributed to the current crisis. Israel has finally spelled out war aims, but they are very ambitious: to oust Hamas from governance and to destroy its military capability. That new, yet limited, clarity has pushed public discussions and private, official meetings to begin arrangements for the day after.

But there is no sign of consensus, and even the most detailed authoritative statements lack clarity. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s October 31 comments were the most specific offered yet, but they only suggested that the United States and other countries are looking at “a variety of possible permutations.” He mused that an “effective and revitalized Palestinian Authority” (PA) should ultimately govern Gaza but offered no clues on how to make the PA effective or overcome Israeli opposition. He only suggested vaguely that in the meantime, “there are other temporary arrangements that may involve a number of other countries in the region. It may involve international agencies that would help provide for both security and governance.” The nominees floated for this interim role include Arab states and the United Nations, supported by other governmental and nongovernmental international organizations.


The lack of clarity has a cause: The question “How should Gaza be governed when the war is over?” will likely reveal itself to have no good answers and not even to be the right starting point. Instead, better questions ask: What does it mean to oust a party like Hamas from governance when it dominates all levels of Gaza’s government? What does it mean for Israel to attempt to end the military capability of Hamas, a social movement with a military wing that also oversees public security, administration, and other governmental functions—especially when it operates both above and below ground? What does victory mean? And whatever its goals, what will Israel actually achieve? How will anyone know that the war is over? These better questions show why it is a mistake for scenarios to assume a “day after” as if this were a conventional war that will clearly and cleanly give way to agreed or imposed postwar arrangements.

India’s Central Asia Outreach: Countering China’s Expanding Footprint

Prof. Dr. Shanthie Mariet D’Souza & Dr. Bibhu Prasad Routray

Common Security Threat: The Afghan Dilemma 

New Delhi appears to be relying on what it calls a ‘common security threat’ to establish a cooperative framework with the five Ceindntral Asian (CA) countries, [Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. This was evident in National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval’s address to the second NSA-level meeting between India and CA countries on 17 October in Kazakhstan. 

Doval underlined India’s concerns regarding the prevailing situation in Afghanistan. He blamed a “particular country” (i.e. Pakistan) for denying connectivity between India and the central Asian region. He also indirectly blamed China’s infrastructure projects in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) for violating India’s sovereignty and argued that such projects should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries. “They should also adhere to environmental parameters, ensure financial viability, and not become debt burdens”, he said. 

The concerns highlighted remained more or less similar to the ones mentioned during the first NSA-level meeting hosted by India in New Delhi on 6 December 2022. During that meeting, the NSAs discussed the challenges of extremism, terrorism, and radicalisation in the region. NSA Doval had said financing is the “lifeblood” of terrorism, and countering it should be a priority. 

India brought a bouquet of offers for the CA countries in Kazakhstan. This included ‘fully funded capacity building programmes in a range of areas to tackle both terrorism and drug trafficking’; ‘close cooperation to help CA countries build defences against cyber threats and create a secure cyber ecosystem’, invitation to the ‘heads of cyber security agencies of the CA countries to India for a “strategic cyber experience” and offer of providing India’s United Payment Interface (UPI) technology free of cost to facilitate the setting up of sovereign digital real-time payment systems in line with the needs of these countries. India has also proposed the setting up of an India-Central Asia Rare Earths Forum to explore partnerships in strategic minerals.

The Evolution of Indian Left-Wing Extremism in the Digital Era: Tactics, Impact, and Counter Strategy

Devika Shanker-Grandpierre


The trajectory of left-wing extremism (LWE) in India has fluctuated, transitioning from once being considered the foremost internal security threat to now appearing to be in decline. At its peak in 2006, the European Foundation for South Asia Studies estimated Maoists to be an estimated 20,000-strong group, occupying territory in states that comprised 20% of the country’s population. LWE incidents decreased from 2,258 to 509 between 2009 and 2021. What led to their rise and fall?

In this Insight, the focus will be placed on People’s March, a banned Maoist publication which played a crucial role in disseminating the ideologies, goals, and activities of the CPI (Maoist) Party and the broader Maoist movement in India. Since the CPI (Maoist) is designated as a terrorist organisation, understanding their communication strategies through the People’s March can provide insight into their efforts to gain influence in the subcontinent – both online and offline.

Roots and Evolution: Ideological Origins to Armed Struggles

Between 1965 and 1967, Charu Mazumdar, a dissenting voice among the CPI (Marxist) Party, articulated a theoretical framework for the Indian armed revolution in a series of documents now known as the ‘Historic Eight documents’. This framework evolved into guerrilla warfare aimed at undermining grassroots governance by assassinating lower-level government officials, law enforcement personnel and others to create a leadership void and mobilise the local populace.

China Resists Efforts to Free ‘Wrongfully Detained’ Americans

James T. Areddy

A crusading mother. Legal challenges. Human-rights campaigns. Corporate appeals. Congressional resolutions. Pressure from the White House. A United Nations agency plea.

For more than a decade, China has resisted impassioned requests to release a Texan imprisoned under murky and unusual circumstances, Mark Swidan. His case speaks to how the U.S., like other Western powers, has limited leverage in its efforts on behalf of citizens it says are arbitrarily detained in China’s opaque justice system.

The families of Americans detained in China, including some not imprisoned but blocked from leaving the country, hope that this year’s halting resumption of high-level Washington-Beijing engagement can spur the release of their loved ones. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is planning to travel to the U.S. for the first time since 2017 to meet President Biden in San Francisco. Sometimes summits have featured goodwill gestures by Beijing, including amnesty for detainees.

But families also worry the halting bilateral engagement has relegated individual Americans ever-lower on the long list of weighty issues that confront the rivals.

“It was very common in advance of a trip either way for prisoners…to be released,” said John Kamm, who heads San Francisco human-rights organization Dui Hua Foundation. “That’s the past.”

China’s government says it applies laws equally regardless of nationality and opposes what it calls foreign interference in its legal affairs.

China has acquired a global network of strategically vital ports

Liz Sly and Júlia Ledur

A decade ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the Maritime Silk Road, the oceanic component of his flagship Belt and Road Initiative aimed at improving China’s access to world markets by investing in transportation infrastructure. The initiative’s investments have since slowed as Chinese growth falters, the United States pushes back and countries question the indebtedness the projects brought.

But China has already secured a significant stake in a network of global ports that are central to world trade and freedom of navigation. Although the stated goal of the investments was commercial, the United States and its allies have grown increasingly concerned about the potential military implications.

Xi has frequently talked of his ambition to turn China into a “maritime superpower.” The port network offers a glimpse into the reach of those ambitions.

China’s ambitious sea route runs south from the coast of China through the major transit route of the Indian Ocean and the busiest maritime choke points of the Middle East, ending up in Europe.

When Xi announced his plan, China had stakes in 44 ports globally, providing a foundation for his strategy.

It’s Time to Talk About No First Use

Tong Zhao

On Monday, the Biden administration is holding talks with China on nuclear arms control, a rare departure from their otherwise tense relationship, ahead of the anticipated November summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The talks—the first of their kind since the Obama administration—will broadly cover arms control and nonproliferation, but could also include crisis communications as well as nuclear doctrine, policy, and spending, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The talks come at a time of heightened nuclear tensions—not only amid Russia’s saber-rattling in Ukraine, but also as China rapidly expands its nuclear capabilities, and the United States feels immense pressure to enhance its own arsenal. If trends continue, this buildup could potentially overturn the decadeslong trend of U.S. nuclear reduction and further exacerbate the unprecedented regional arms racing in the Asia-Pacific.

Beijing maintains that the policy of no first use of nuclear weapons (NFU), which China has long endorsed, should be the foremost topic for any discussion on nuclear weapons. In August, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs doubled down on this insistence. However, such a prerequisite would mark a significant divergence from U.S. declaratory policy and has thus been a nonstarter for Washington.

But the United States’ assumption that discussing nuclear issues with China requires it to be open to adopting a categorical NFU policy is mistaken. There is indeed an opening to start dialogue with China on substantive and mutually beneficial issues, all without requiring Washington to commit to significantly altering its existing nuclear policy.

SpaceX selling ‘Starshield’ will be a gamechanger

Logan Nye

Space Force and SpaceX announced that they've reached a deal for a brand-new military capability: Starshield. Is it a new laser defense shield against nuclear missiles? An Ultron for our time to destroy alien armadas? Or Starlink, but with new branding and (probably) a new fleet of satellites?

Yup, the last one. But with how clutch Starlink is in Ukraine, a military-controlled version of the network could change operations there. And it would dramatically improve U.S. and allied military communications in future conflicts. Now, the American military will lead military space-based communications with the start of Starshield. But expect allies to clamor aboard and other nations to try developing rival platforms.

Space Force's "Proliferated Low Earth Orbit" Program

Space Force has one of the most descriptive, succinct names in the modern military, but it appears to be even worse at naming its programs than the other branches. Still, its Proliferated Low Earth Orbit Program, or "PLEOP," for acronym addicts who want to hear the sound of a dump every time they discuss the program, is promising.

Space Force has set aside $900 million through 2028 to build "space architecture" in low Earth orbit. The first major contract has now gone to SpaceX. It's not surprising since SpaceX already has a civilian version, Starlink, of the "low-latency data transport" that Space Force needs.


Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, Riley Bailey, Christina Harward, and Frederick W. Kagan

Imprisoned ardent nationalist and former Russian officer Igor Girkin argued that Russian forces will be “even less capable of offensive operations than they are now” by spring 2024 given the current nature of Russian offensive operations along the frontline.[1] Girkin’s wife, Miroslava Reginskaya, published a hand-written letter from Girkin dated October 26, in which he summarized the frontline situation in Ukraine for the month of October. Girkin claimed that the situation for Russian forces is “gradually deteriorating” and that Russian forces are showcasing “growing weakness (compared to [Ukraine’s] capabilities,” despite Russia’s “generally successful repulsion” of the Ukrainian offensive over the summer and fall of 2023. Girkin argued that Russian forces were not only unable to start broad offensive operations at the beginning of the fall season but were also unable to complete even limited offensive operations to achieve operationally significant goals – namely around Kupyansk, Lyman, and Avdiivka. Girkin claimed that Russian forces failed to advance in the Kupyansk direction and are now impaled in battles on “the distant approaches to the city,” while also failing to change the situation in the Lyman direction. Girkin added that tactical advances around Avdiivka led to significant losses in Russian manpower and equipment and did not lead to the further development of the Russian offensive. Girkin observed that the Avdiivka offensive demonstrated Russian forces’ inability “to achieve superiority on a very narrow sector of the front” despite Russia’s careful preparations, good coordination of strike forces and means for the initial stage of the offensive, and the abundance of ammunition “unheard of since the assault on Bakhmut.”

Girkin suggested that Russian efforts to repel Ukrainian localized attacks across the frontline and simultaneous fall-winter offensive operations will likely degrade Russian offensive and defensive potential by spring 2024. Girkin noted that Russian forces would need to spend the rest of the fall-winter campaign on the defensive to try to eliminate emerging operational crises – such as the Ukrainian presence in the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast.

Zelensky is at war – with his generals


Volodymir Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, is at war – with his generals. He has admonished the head of the Ukrainian armed services, Valery Zaluzhny, who last week told The Economist that “just like in the First World War, we have reached the level of technology that puts us into a stalemate. There will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough.”

Even The New York Times, a US administration mouthpiece on Ukraine, has written about the clash between Zelensky and his generals.

Zelensky has insisted that Ukraine will win the war against Russia and drive the Russians out of the country. Kiev’s massive offensive, mostly concentrated in the Zaphorize area, failed, with heavy losses on the Ukrainian side. The renewed battle for Bakhmut, launched by Zelensky over the objections of his generals, also has not succeeded and has cost many lives and much equipment.

Meanwhile, Zelensky insisted on defending Avdiivka, a small city dominated by a huge coke plant. Coke is used for blast furnaces in steelmaking. The Ukrainians are steadily losing ground in and around the city. The Ukrainians had to transfer one of their best brigades, the 54th Mechanized, to Kupyansk, replacing it with a far less capable and trained territorial brigade tasked with holding Avdiivka.

Strategic Straitjacket

Seth Cropsey

The United States is pursuing a backward Middle East strategy, one in which it seeks to avoid conflict by restraining its allies, rather than deterring its adversaries. (Note, for example, Mr. Biden lecturing Mr. Netanyahu about avoiding civilian casualties while Hamas seeks to increase innocent Palestinians’ suffering as a spur to international protests). The issue is, the White House’s baseline strategic assumption, that Israeli aggression has prompted a crisis, is radically out of touch with reality. All policy stems from choice, but the U.S. must recognize that its options have narrowed. The war that is now underway must be fought and won.

Since Hamas’ 7 October attacks, Israel, the U.S., and Iran have been engaged in a bizarre diplomatic dance. There is no question that Iran’s hand supported Hamas’ massacres. Tehran has been Hamas’s major benefactor since 2018 and integrated Hamas into its Axis of Resistance in 2021. Hamas receives military and technical support from Iran – Iranian weapons and intelligence were undoubtedly used in the 7 October attacks.

All of Iran’s proxies in its Axis of Resistance share two interests: the destruction of Israel and the displacement of American power in the Middle East. Hamas is no different. The 1998 Hamas charter, still in effect despite former Hamas leader, Khaled Mashal’s obfuscations, states the only solution to the Palestinian issue is “Jihad.” That means Israel’s destruction.

The Iran and Hamas pieces fit together cleanly. Hamas staged the 7 October massacres at Iran’s behest to drag Israel into a brutal conflict in Gaza. As the IDF smashed into Hamas’ well-prepared defenses, Iran would then trigger an uprising in the West Bank – which it has seeded for months with its agents running arms – and execute an assault from Lebanon and Syria. This assault might well involve a ground invasion of the Golan, an eminently possible step considering that Iran controls Syria’s 4th Division and 5th Corps and can leverage at least 50,000 proxy fighters in Iraq who are willing to sacrifice themselves for al-Aqsa’s liberation. All the while, Hezbollah’s missiles can pummel Israeli infrastructure, destroying the economy, inflicting thousands of casualties, and, per Iran’s vision, shattering the morale of the Jewish state before its 80th birthday. A mass exodus of Jews to Europe and the U.S. will leave only a handful remaining, who can be dispensed with through the means on display 7 October.

Ukraine Is Using AI to Help Clear Millions of Russian Landmines


On the top floor of Kyiv's Cabinet of Ministers building, Ukrainian Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko and two advisers huddle around a laptop. A map of the country is on the screen, overlaid with a honeycomb pattern of hexagonal tiles, ranging from pale yellow to blood red. As the group types questions into a chatbot, filtering for areas close to schools or power lines, the model zooms into the satellite imagery until a field with individual trees becomes visible. A red bubble with an exclamation point marks a suspected landmine. A staffer clicks a button, creating a request to dispatch a demining team to clear it.

More than 600 days since Russia's invasion, Ukraine has surpassed Afghanistan and Syria to become the most heavily mined country on earth. A staggering one-third of its territory is thought to be littered with millions of unexploded mines and cluster bombs, as well as trip wires, booby traps, and shell fragments. The vast minefields have not only bogged down Ukraine’s military counteroffensive. They've endangered six million civilians and rendered parts of the nation's most valuable farmland unusable, impacting both Ukraine's economy and the global food supply.

"The scale of the contamination of Ukraine with mines and unexploded ordnance is the largest since the Second World War," Svyrydenko tells TIME. It would take Ukraine 757 years to undo the damage using conventional methods and their current resources, according to an estimate published by GLOBSEC, a think tank based in Slovakia, which called the outlook "little short of terrifying in terms of the scope of work that lies ahead."


Riley Bailey, Karolina Hird, Christina Harward, Grace Mappes, and Frederick W. Kagan

Ukrainian forces conducted a successful strike on a Russian shipyard in Kerch, occupied Crimea on November 4, likely damaging a naval vessel. The Ukrainian Amed Forces Center for Strategic Communications (StratCom) stated that Ukrainian forces conducted successful strikes on Russian marine and port infrastructure at the Zalyv Shipyard in Kerch on the evening of November 4.[1] Satellite imagery from November 4 shows that the strike damaged a Project 22800 Karakurt-class Kalibr missile carrier corvette at the shipyard, although the extent of the damage to the ship is currently unclear.[2] The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces intercepted 13 of 15 Ukrainian missiles targeting the shipyard and acknowledged that two missiles damaged an unspecified ship.[3] Ukrainian officials stated that Ukrainian cruise missiles damaged the Askold missile carrier, a Karakurt-class corvette that the Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) launched in 2021.[4] The Zalyv shipyard reportedly planned to construct 14 warships intended for the BSF between 2016 and 2021, including eight Project 22800 Karakurt-class corvettes.[5] ISW has only confirmed that three Project 228000 Karakurt-class corvettes have launched from the Zalyv shipyard as of 2023, however.[6] The Zalyv shipyard is the largest shipyard in Eastern Europe and is likely the main repair facility for the BSF in Crimea following a successful Ukraine strike on the Russian state-owned ship repair facility Sevmorzavod in Sevastopol on September 13, 2023.[7] The extent of damage to the repair facilities at the Zalyv Shipyard is unclear, although the available satellite imagery suggests that the Ukrainian strike has likely not caused damage that will disrupt its operations in the medium-to-long term, unlike the previous strike on the Sevmorzavod facility.[8] Radio Free Europe/Free Liberty (RFE/RL) has reported that Russian forces have three active shipyards, including the Zalyv facility, in occupied Crimea.[9] ISW assesses that Ukrainian forces have conducted an interdiction campaign against Russian military infrastructure in occupied Crimea, primarily BSF assets, since June 2023 to degrade the Russian military's ability to use Crimea as a staging and rear area for Russian operations in southern Ukraine.[10]

In a State of Denial: The Air War in Ukraine

Francesca Verville & Catarina Buchatskiy

Ukraine’s ability to repel one of the world’s leading military powers has surprised the world. Since the full-scale invasion in February 2022, neither Russia — despite its superiority in numbers and capabilities — nor Ukraine has been able to establish air superiority.

With fewer and less capable air domain assets, Ukraine has instead been obliged to adopt the less costly and inherently defensive strategy of ‘air denial.’ However, for it to remain successful will require Ukraine to sustain continuous air defence operations and the West to commit to a steady supply of military assistance. Mutual air denial is essentially an attritional form of warfare from which Russia is likely to draw greater benefits and a strategy which forces Ukraine to make difficult choices regarding the targets it wants to deny.

The F-16, albeit not a silver bullet, offers the prospect of enabling Ukraine’s air forces to more effectively exploit openings in Russia’s defences and to strike Russian forces and their logistics. However, unlike previous provisions of Western military assistance, the decision to give Ukraine F-16s moves past the more short-term view of helping it meet the immediate needs of the war. The effort spent training Ukrainian pilots, ground crews, and logisticians will have long-term value in supporting Ukraine’s air defence needs and deterring any renewed Russian aggression.

Air University Press Military Review, November- December 2023, v. 103, no. 6

Chief Priority! Ignite a Renaissance in Military Scholarship and Writing

Winning before the War: A Case for Consolidation of Gains

The Tank Is Dead … Long Live the Tank: The Persistent Value of Armored Combined Arms Teams in the 21st Century

Task Organizing the Combined Arms Battalion for Success in Eastern Europe

Counterpunching to Win: A Mindset and Method to Defeat First Battle Fears

Convergence and Emission Control: Tension and Reconciliation

Concepts for Security Force Assistance Brigade Company Task Forces in Large-Scale Combat Operations

At the Point of Friction: The Role of the Modern Command Sergeant Major in Today’s Army

Chinese Operational Art: The Primacy of the Human Dimension

Selective Service: Before the All-Volunteer Force

Mentorship Is a Mess

Responses to Gender Bias and Discrimination among Women Officers

Sleep and Performance: Why the Army Must Change Its Sleepless Culture

By All Means Available: Memoirs of a Life in Intelligence, Special Operations, and Strategy

Medal of Honor Sgt. Maj. Thomas P. Payne

Air University PressAir & Space Operations Review, Fall 2023, v. 2, no. 3

Failures of the Russian Aerospace Forces in Ukraine

Microgrids: Energy Security for Overseas Bases

The Silver Lining in Information Warfare

Optimizing Security Forces Operations: Employing Risk-Based Strategies

Remaining a Day-One Player: The French Air and Space Force and US Air Force

How AI Is Shaping Scientific Discovery

Sara Frueh

Physicist Mario Krenn sees artificial intelligence as a muse — a source of inspiration and ideas for scientists. It’s a description born from his past research and his current work at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, where he and his colleagues develop AI algorithms that can help them learn new ideas and concepts in physics.

His efforts began years ago, when a research team Krenn was part of struggled to come up with an experiment that would let them observe a specific type of quantum entanglement. Krenn, suspecting that their intuition was getting in the way, developed a computer algorithm that can design quantum experiments.

“I let the algorithm run, and within a few hours it found exactly the solution that we as human scientists couldn’t find for many weeks,” he said. Using the blueprint created by the computer, his colleagues were able to build the setup in the laboratory and use it to observe the phenomenon for the first time.

In a subsequent case, the algorithm overcame a barrier by reviving a long-forgotten technique and applying it in a new context. The scientists were immediately able to generalize this idea to other situations, and they wrote about it in a paper for Physical Review Letters.

“But, if you think about it, none of the core authors of this paper came up with the idea that is described in the paper,” said Krenn. “The idea came completely, implicitly from the machine. We were just analyzing what the machine has done.”

The Growing Use of Scamming Techniques and Social Media on the Battlefield

David Kirichenko

As warfare evolves from sticks and stones to nuclear armaments and beyond, digital tools like scamming and social media offer novel and significant impacts on the battlefield. New digital tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) developed by Ukraine in response to Russia’s February 2022 incursion mark the beginning of social media warfare, characterized not just by cyber confrontations but how the digital translates into action on the battlefield. The use of digital platforms will only grow and further expose how these technologies can both aid and compromise military efforts in modern warfare. Russia’s experience with Ukrainian-leveraged digital assets serves as a cautionary tale for both individuals and militaries about the perils and possibilities inherent in our connected world.

As irregular warfare (IW) gains prominence in modern military strategy, the role of digital tools like social media and cyber-enabled scamming cannot be overstated. Social media platforms serve as an ideal ecosystem for executing a wide range of IW activities, from disinformation campaigns aimed at sowing division among enemy lines to civil-military operations that gauge public sentiment and build community relations. In the digital world, the battlefront’s traditional geographic confinement disappears and the environment is persistently dynamic.

Digital tools are particularly potent for small-scale, non-state actors who might not have the resources for traditional warfare but can nevertheless exert a significant impact through well-coordinated online campaigns, such as Ukrainian activists who use scamming techniques to convince Russians to firebomb their own military offices. In the age of IW, the power dynamics on the battlefield are no longer solely determined by physical might; the impact of influence and information will continue to grow and allow for certain aspects of warfare to be crowdsourced, with ordinary civilians taking on a more prominent role in the era of irregular warfare.

The Evolution of Intelligence Operations in Support of Irregular Warfare

Sal Artiaga

Irregular warfare (IW), deeply interwoven with cultural, political, and sociological factors, has historically relied on the agility and adaptability of intelligence operations. As the fabric of warfare has evolved from the dense jungles of Vietnam to the digital frontlines of Ukraine, so too has the nature of intelligence shifted, from human-centric insights to technology-driven reconnaissance. Moving forward, the fusion of advanced technological innovations with intrinsic human understanding will redefine the essence of intelligence in IW, making it a more potent force in navigating the complexities of future unconventional conflicts. By delving into the distinct epochs of Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Ukraine, we can discern the shifting sands of intelligence in support of IW and envision what the future might hold. Many will claim that the future of intelligence lies in technology and this claim has taken the front stage in the past, but it was unequivocally refuted with many mishaps that could have been prevented. Let’s look at the evolution of intelligence and see what the future ahead looks like for it.

Intelligence in Support of Irregular Warfare

Intelligence, in the context of IW, can be envisioned as the eyes and ears that illuminate the shadowy, often nebulous landscape of unconventional conflicts. At its core, intelligence goes beyond mere information gathering; it encompasses the deep understanding, processing, and analysis of data to discern patterns, motives, and vulnerabilities of adversaries who often shun traditional battle lines. In IW, where the lines between combatants and civilians blur and adversaries use asymmetry to their advantage, precise and actionable intelligence becomes the linchpin of effective operations. It equips forces with the nuanced understanding required to navigate the complexities of non-linear battlefields, ensuring that actions are both strategically sound and tactically adept. Without robust intelligence, operations in IW are akin to navigating treacherous waters blindfolded, emphasizing its paramount importance in these intricate theaters of conflict.

Campaigning in the Grey Zone: Towards a Systems Approach to countering Hybrid Threats

Sean Monaghan & Tim McDonald

While the theory and practice of military campaigning has been refined for centuries, there is no dedicated guidance on how to design and implement campaigns to counter hybrid threats for modern security practitioners across government. Meanwhile, existing military planning guidance is not suited for planning complex, non-military counter-hybrid campaigns.

This paper by Sean Monaghan (CSIS) and Tim McDonald (Pardee RAND) develops an alternative approach to campaigning against hybrid threats based on systems thinking principles. Their key innovation is to characterise grey zone competition as a complex adaptive system. This allows the central tenets of military operational planning to be refined based on systems logic. The result is a series of principles for campaigning

in the ‘grey zone’ between peace and war, augmented by a guide to action based on three functions: understand, act, and adapt. The authors illustrate this approach and provide real-world context through example campaigns.

By applying systems thinking to grey zone competition, the transatlantic community can move away from a narrow, limiting military-centric doctrine towards a systems approach to countering hybrid threats in a complex world.

Special Operations Forces Reference Manual: FIFTH EDITION


Special operations encompass the use of small units in direct or indirect military actions focused on strategic or operational objectives. These actions require units with combinations of specialized personnel, equipment, and tactics that exceed the routine capabilities of conventional military forces. Special operations are characterized by certain attributes that cumulatively distinguish them from conventional operations. Special operations are often politically sensitive missions where only the best-equipped and most proficient forces must be deployed to avoid detection and possible mission failure. 

Four Factors for Successful Special Operations 

1. Clear national and theater strategic objectives 

2. Effective command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence support at the operational level 

3. Competent tactical planning and execution 

4. A force trained, equipped, and organized to conduct special operations 

Characteristics of Special Operations 

• Special operations normally require operator-level planning and detailed intelligence. 

• Special operations require knowledge of the culture(s) and language(s) of the geographical area where the mission is to be conducted. 

• Special operations require rigorous training and mission rehearsals. These are integral to mission success. 

• Special operations are often conducted at great distances from the supporting operational bases. 

• Special operations may employ sophisticated communications systems. 

• Special operations frequently require discriminate and precise use of force. This often requires development, acquisition, and employment of equipment not standard for other Department of Defense (DOD) forces. 

• Special operations employ sophisticated means of insertion, support, and extraction to penetrate and successfully return from hostile, denied, or politically sensitive areas.