15 February 2024

Sri Lankan Leftist Coalition’s India Visit Raises its Profile

Rathindra Kuruwita

Sri Lanka’s National People’s Power (NPP), a leftist coalition led by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), recently visited India at the invitation of the Indian government. The visit is significant; it underscores the emergence of the NPP as a major political force in Sri Lanka, one that is being courted by major powers.

During its five-day official visit to India, which began on February 5, the NPP delegation held meetings with senior Indian officials, including External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, toured key agricultural and industrial hubs, and visited key business giants like Tata Motors and the Indian multinational cooperative society, Amul. The delegation visited New Delhi, Ahmedabad, and Thiruvananthapuram.

Formed in 2015 with the JVP as its core, the NPP comprises around 28 political parties and workers unions, women’s organizations, etc., and is led by JVP chief, Anura Kumara Dissanayaka.

Since its formation, it has been considered by its political opponents as a fringe political alliance with no prospects of coming to power. The NPP performed poorly in the 2019 presidential election and the 2020 general election: its presidential candidate, Dissanayaka, secured just 3 percent of the votes, and it won just three seats in the Sri Lankan parliamentary election.

However, its political fortunes seem to be improving over the last couple of years.

Even its adversaries admit that the NPP has emerged as the most successful force in post-aragalaya (the powerful anti-government protests of 2022) Sri Lanka. A recent opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Health Policy (IHP) indicated that if elections were to be held now, the NPP would have a significant lead over the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), Sri Lanka’s main opposition party, in terms of voter preference.

Indian Ocean Leaders Warn of Threats to Shipping, Stability

Grant Wyeth

On Friday and Saturday last week the seventh Indian Ocean Conference was held in Perth, Western Australia. The conference was an opportunity for Indian Ocean rim countries – and those that rely on the region – to discuss the pressing issues within the Indian Ocean, and float ideas to address emerging problems. The theme of the conference was “Towards a Stable and Sustainable Indian Ocean” and the keynote addresses were delivered by Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong and India’s Minister for External Affairs, S. Jaishankar.

While stability and sustainability could be interpreted in a multitude of ways, the more direct, yet undeclared, theme of the conference was China. Although the official government representatives speaking at the conference were reluctant to mention China by name, all who advocated for an agreed-upon set of rules and norms in the Indian Ocean region were discussing Beijing in practice. There are, of course, other threats to regular trade and safe passage in the region – like Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea – but these don’t pose the structural challenges that China does.

The primary concern is that Beijing’s willful violations of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in the South China Sea may lead to China ignoring UNCLOS in the Indian Ocean as well. As Wong stated in her address: “The countries gathered here are no strangers to strategic competition – and you are also no strangers to its costs. As expanding military powers take a greater interest in our region, we each need to sharpen our focus on what our interests are, and how to work together to uphold them.”

The Race to Govern Pakistan

Riazat Butt

The final results of Pakistan’s elections are out. But there’s still no winner.

Allies of imprisoned ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan won the most number of seats in the National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, in last Thursday’s controversial vote. It was a shock outcome given the problems his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) faced — no campaign rallies, no polling agents on election day, and internet restrictions. They won 93 out of 265 National Assembly seats. It’s not enough to form a government, however.

The other two mainstream parties, led by Khan’s rivals, also failed to secure enough seats to form a government on their own. They are the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), led by political dynasty scion Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. They won 75 and 54 seats respectively.

It’s Pakistan’s parliament that chooses the next prime minister, so having a majority is crucial.

Who’s in the Running?

Not Imran Khan. He’s in prison and barred from holding public office. The PTI said it doesn’t want or need an alliance, claiming it has enough seats. It doesn’t. The party has public support — as shown by the number of seats that candidates scooped up — but it doesn’t have the backing of political peers.

Analyst Azim Chaudhry said the other parties have “grievances and grudges” against Khan from his time in office and that they’re not ready to shake hands with him because he’s made it clear he doesn’t want to talk to them.

How Does The Baloch Insurgency Fuel Iran-Pakistan Tensions? – OpEd

Aishwarya Sanjukta Roy Proma

The recent Iranian drone and missile attack in Pakistani Baluchistan has reignited tensions that have further worsened the ties between the two governments. The reciprocal retaliation between a nuclear-armed nation and another engaged in the development of warheads is a very significant intensification of tensions between these two neighboring countries, who have historically had strained ties.

Iran conducted airstrikes on Pakistan’s Balochistan area on January 16, 2024, with the stated objective of targeting the strongholds of Jaish al-Adl, a Sunni separatist organization responsible for carrying out assaults inside Iran. The airstrikes resulted in the deaths of two children and caused injuries to several individuals in Pakistan. The Pakistani government denounced the attack as a breach of its sovereignty. Pakistan responded on Thursday, January 18, 2024, by conducting airstrikes on Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan regions. The stated objective was to bomb the training camps of Baluch terrorists, who had been responsible for attacking Pakistani security personnel and government officials. The airstrikes resulted in the deaths of nine individuals, including four children, three women, and two men, all of whom were non-Iranian nationals. Iran condemned the assault, labeling it an act of aggression.

The Baloch territory, located at the intersection of Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan, has been a persistent cause of instability and violence for many years. The Baloch people harbor strong resentment at being governed by both Islamabad and Tehran and want self-governance or independence. The area also has several terrorist factions, some of whom maintain affiliations with regional or global entities, such as the Taliban, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, or Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, it is crucial to acknowledge that the conflict encompasses not just the Shia-Sunni schism but also geopolitical, economic, security, and identity factors. However, a more intricate storyline emerges among the noise of military exercises and diplomatic criticisms.

Indonesia Police to Charge 2 Chinese Nationals in Furnace Explosion at Nickel Plant on Sulawesi

Mohammad Taufan

Indonesian police on Monday named two Chinese nationals as suspects in the explosion of a smelting furnace at a Chinese-owned nickel plant on Sulawesi Island that killed 21 workers and injured dozens of others.

Four Chinese and nine Indonesian workers died instantly on December 24 when the furnace at PT Indonesia Tsingshan Stainless Steel, or PT ITSS, exploded while they were repairing it. Eight others died in the following days while being treated at hospitals, bringing the total number of fatalities to 21, including eight workers from China.

The furnace was located inside a nickel processing-based industrial area under the management of PT Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park, known as PT IMIP, in Morowali regency of Central Sulawesi province.

Following their investigation, police have enough evidence to designate the two Chinese nationals, identified only by their initials, ZG and Z, as suspects, said Djoko Wienartono, the Central Sulawesi Police spokesperson.

ZG was the furnace supervisor and Z was his vice supervisor, Wienartono said.

“ZG and Z were the persons in charge of the furnace when the explosion occurred,” Wienartono told a news conference in Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi province, “They have violated the company’s operational standard.”

He said police will bring a criminal charge of negligence leading to death or serious injury. The maximum penalty under the charge is five years in prison.

The police investigation showed that the furnace was under maintenance and not operating at the time of the explosion, which was triggered by fire from “residual slag in the furnace” that flowed out, causing an explosion when the fire came into contact with nearby oxygen cylinders used for welding, Wienartono said.

A New Era is Dawning For the People of Myanmar’s Rakhine State

Kyaw Hsan Hlaing

On February 8, the rebel Arakan Army (AA) seized Mrauk-U, the former capital of the Arakan kingdom in Rakhine State, western Myanmar, along with the towns of Minbya and Kyauktaw. In fact, since the resumption of war between the AA and the country’s military junta on November 13, the AA has now successfully taken over six cities in the state, as well as two cities in neighboring southern Chin state, while destroying at least seven navy vessels and a helicopter. These ongoing victories have invigorated the long-standing dreams of Rakhine nationalists for an independent Arakan.

The victory of February 8 was highly symbolic. It is the first time that Mrauk-U has fallen since the Arakan kingdom fell to the Burmese Mandalay kingdom in 1785, although there have been numerous uprisings and rebellions against Burmese rulers in the intervening years. Even during the periods of British and Japanese occupation, the people of Rakhine State fervently resisted these colonial powers. Following Myanmar’s independence from Great Britain in 1948, the Rakhine people were among the earliest to challenge the central government. Nevertheless, these past achievements have been overshadowed by the considerable strides made by the AA in more recent times.

The emergence of the AA in 2009 under the charismatic leadership of Maj. Gen. Twan Mrat Naing and Brig. Gen. Dr. Nyo Twan Awng kindled a new hope for the people of the state, as the existing leadership of the Arakan Liberation Army/Arakan Liberation Party had failed to make much headway in creating an independent Arakan. Despite entering Rakhine from Kachin State, on Myanmar’s border with China, where the AA was established, in early 2014, the AA gained a popular following after publishing a political roadmap called the “Arakan Dream 2020” in late 2016.

Bangladesh’s Serious Foreign Exchange Crisis Gets Worse – OpEd

Subir Bhaumik

Finally the cat is out of the bag. After months of self-denial, Bangladesh has finally sought support from Saudi Arabia to tackle the country’s ongoing foreign crisis.

“We get 45 days to pay for fuel imports from Saudi Arabia. But, due to the dollar situation, we told them that it would be good for us if they could give us a year,” Salman F Rahman, the private industry and investment advisor to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said after a three-day trip to the kingdom. “They [Saudi] said they will consider the matter.”

There are indications that if energy prices get worse and money laundering continues unabated, PM Hasina may seek Chinese help to shore its forex reserves which in July 2022 had stood at $40 billion but is now below half that figure.

Rahman, whose Beximco conglomerate is seen as one of the worse bank defaulters and stands accused of extensive money-laundering, has used his position as Hasina’s adviser to nor only deflect repayment calls by banks on his corporation but has secured an additional loan of 22000 crores BDTaka before the Jan 2024 parliament elections.

That confirms the worst fears of Bangladesh businesspersons who have being running around banks seeking to open Letters of Credits (LC) for critical imports and facing continuous refusal — that “dollars are more difficult to find than a passage to heaven”, as one baby food importer Khalil Ahmed said.

“Why can’t Hasina take the services of a solid economist of integrity snd competence to handle her finances rather than employ controversial figures like Salman Rahman,” said a top garment exporter who did not wish to be named for fear of vendetta. “The Rahmans are the problem and not the solution to our crisis.”

Threats to America’s critical infrastructure are now a terrifying reality


On Jan. 31, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress, explaining how Chinese government hackers were trying “to find and prepare to destroy or degrade the civilian critical infrastructure that keeps us safe and prosperous.”

These hackers, Wray continued, “are positioning on American infrastructure in preparation to wreak havoc and cause real-world harm to American citizens and communities, if or when China decides the time has come to strike.”

Wray’s testimony offered a glimpse into the frightening possibilities attacks on U.S. critical infrastructure might unleash. But the truth is actually scarier: The American homeland has been under attack for the past two decades, with little in the way of meaningful response.

Policymakers must, then, begin to strengthen private sector and local preparedness for these ongoing attacks, as well as developing and resourcing the federal interagency for complex emergencies, with an emphasis on societal resilience.

As early as 2009, Chinese and Russian hackers infiltrated America’s electrical grid, installing malware that could be used for future attacks. One year later, Russia hacked the NASDAQ stock exchange and not only attempted to steal data but left behind what experts described as a “digital bomb” that could, when detonated, damage financial networks.

In 2013, disaster was narrowly averted after Iranian hackers infiltrated the control systems of the Bowman Avenue Dam in New York and nearly flooded a small town.

A 2017 hack of the Wolf Creek nuclear power plant in Kansas was later revealed to be the work of Russian hackers, as was a 2022 attack on an international food company, which temporarily closed all of its meatpacking plants in the United States.

US Official Warns of China’s Growing Offensive Cyber Power

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

China’s offensive cyber capabilities have been under the scanner for a few years now. Even though China does not have a formal cyber offensive strategy, the capability mix and the changing approach that China has developed in the cyber offensive realm remain quite consequential.

A recent U.S. House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) hearing disclosed a lot about China’s growing offensive cyber prowess. The hearing titled “The CCP Cyber Threat to the American Homeland and National Security” revealed Beijing’s interests in targeting U.S. infrastructure, the disruption of which would “wreak havoc,” creating enormous harm to American society at large. The hearing included statements from Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Jen Easterly, and U.S. Cyber Command Chief General Paul Nakasone.

In his opening statement, Wray said that “the CCP’s dangerous actions – China’s multi-pronged assault on our national and economic security – make it the defining threat of our generation.” He added that the threat posed by the CCP to the United States’ critical infrastructure – including water treatment plants, the electrical grid, oil and gas pipelines, and the transportation sector – has received very little public focus. Wray remarked that “China’s hackers are positioning on American infrastructure in preparation to wreak havoc and cause real-world harm to American citizens and communities.”

According to Wray, China’s cyber offensive is not merely about planning for future conflict. Rather, he said, “today, and literally every day, they’re actively attacking our economic security – engaging in wholesale theft of our innovation and our personal and corporate data.” Also, Wray asserted that China plans to not merely target the U.S. military, but attack “across civilian infrastructure… Low blows against civilians are part of China’s plan.”

Navigating the Political Economy of Cold War 2.0

Ronald U. Mendoza

In December 2017, the U.S. National Security Strategy introduced the notion of a “new era of strategic competition,” describing its once-close economic partner, China, as an “adversary,” “rival,” and “strategic competitor.” Foreign policy analysts point to a new cold war between the United States and China, possibly ushering in a period of economic disintegration and the formation of regional trade, investment, and national security blocs.

Navigating this new economic and geopolitical terrain will be critical for many countries that seek to chart stable and sustained pathways for both economic development and national security. Some lessons from the first cold war may be useful in that regard – even as this impending cold war is going to be vastly different from the previous one.

Battle of Ideas

One key aspect of the Cold War involving the United States and its Western allies and the Soviet Union and its sphere of influence referred to the “Battle of Ideas,” i.e. the competition of economic and political ideologies and policies: democratic and free markets vs. socialist/communist and centrally planned governance systems. The strength, stability, and sustainability of the economies of the U.S. and Soviet Union, respectively, were seen as critical in recruiting allies and partners on both sides of the Cold War divide.

The nuclear, military, and space races placed the respective economies of the U.S. and the Soviet Union under significant pressure, revealing what many considered to be the stronger efficiency and credibility of the democratic and free market governance systems. With the eventual fall of the “iron curtain,” the introduction of key reforms to restructure politics and economics (glasnost) as well as promote greater transparency and openness (perestroika), and the period of technological growth that ensued, soon fueled a wave of democratization and free market economics that began to reshape not just the former Soviet Union, but also many countries under a period of integration and globalization.

The Cold War With China Over AI Dominance Is Already Here | Opinion

Gordon G. Chang

Officials from China and Russia met in Beijing this month and had "a detailed exchange of assessments" on the use of artificial intelligence for military purposes. "The meeting confirmed the closeness of the Russian and Chinese approaches," said Russia's foreign ministry.

The meeting, according to Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, was "part of broader strategic coordination between Beijing and Moscow on traditional and emerging areas—from military and foreign policy to space security and critical materials."

Yes: China and Russia are ganging up on the U.S. on AI, and China in particular has a reason to do so.

The Chinese regime is trailing in the AI-powered Fourth Industrial Revolution and needs help. "On their own, it's unlikely that either China or Russia can best America in the race for artificial intelligence," technology analyst Brandon Weichert told me. "Together, however, they can."

"Thus, China is increasingly looking to Russia for assistance in competing with—and defeating—the Americans in the Great Tech War," Weichert, also author of Biohacked: China's Race to Control Life, says. "Already Chinese and Russian firms are cooperating more than they have in decades. They are exploring joint ventures, especially in AI."

Many analysts expect the future of AI to be Chinese. Beijing, wrote Amy Webb in Inc. in 2018, has been "building a global artificial intelligence empire, and seeding the tech ecosystem of the future." "China," she says, "is poised to become its undisputed global leader, and that will affect every business."

Webb is not the only China booster. "China's advantages in size, data collection, and national determination have allowed it, over the past decade, to close the gap with American leaders of this industry," wrote Graham Allison of Harvard's Kennedy School in December 2019. "It is currently on a trajectory to overtake the United States in the decade ahead."

Chinese Military Studying ‘Cognitive Attacks’ Against U.S. Population

The Chinese Communist Party’s military is studying “cognitive domain operations” to sow a mentality of defeat among the American people. 

Researchers for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are engaging in “cyber-enabled influence operations” against the United States with the goal of influencing the U.S. population to psychologically accept surrender, according to Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga, a policy researcher at the RAND Corporation.

“There is a group of PLA researchers, often focused on [influence operations], who argue that the cognitive domain is the new focus of warfare,” Beauchamp-Mustafaga said in prepared testimony to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on Thursday. 

These cognitive domain operations (CDO) are meant to create “a psychological or cognitive decision to surrender,” he added. 

Specifically, the tactics include the use of technologically enhanced propaganda such as AIgenerated deepfakes, “synthetic information”, “information cocoons” and “precision cognitive attacks” to polarize the American people. 
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Beauchamp-Mustafaga said that by using these measures, the CCP hopes “to win a conflict with as little kinetic destruction as possible and force the adversary to accept defeat short of total destruction.” 

Can the Houthis be Stopped?

Mary Beth Long

To almost everyone only a short while ago, the Houthis of Yemen were considered a violent political and military group with strong tribal underpinnings, comprised mainly of Shia Islamists opposed to the ruling class. The insurgency was not considered a particularly sophisticated military menace, although it did present a danger to Yemen’s legitimate government and its neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia.

Few would have listed the Houthis as a threat to global concerns, even taking into consideration the increasing evidence of Iranian military cooperation with the insurgents.

After October 7, everything changed. The Houthis are now a serious threat to the global economy, and it’s unclear what can be done to stop them.

What happened? Initially, the Houthis used Israel’s response to Hamas and sympathy for Palestinians as a welcomed excuse for attacks on civilian vessels transiting the Red Sea, which hosts over 12 percent of global trade and 30 percent of container traffic. The ongoing assaults against vessels, many of which have no clear linkage to Israel, have forced shippers to take alternative routes and some producers to suspend production to avoid goods getting stuck at sea or incurring exorbitant additional fuel and insurance costs.

In addition, the Houthis now launch daily drone and missile attacks against some of the most sophisticated military assets a coalition of Western and regional countries has to offer. In response, the United States and the United Kingdom recently conducted a third round of joint strikes on thirty-six targets in thirteen locations, followed by a series of U.S. strikes on five Houthi missiles targeting Red Sea traffic. Even the European Union has become involved. Last week, the German frigate Hessen began positioning itself to defend cargo passing through the Red Sea.

But despite the deployment of some of the world’s most advanced maritime weaponry, there appears to be very little the West and others can do about the Houthi campaign.

CENTCOM’s ‘Sandtrap’ hackathon targets drones amid Middle East barrage

Colin Demarest

More than a dozen coders handpicked from across the U.S. Department of Defense spent a week chipping away at data and software challenges associated with swatting down drones in the Greater Middle East, Central Command said.

The effort, dubbed Sandtrap, produced prototypes that improved the speed and accuracy of unmanned aerial system countermeasures, according to a Feb. 9 announcement from CENTCOM, the Pentagon’s combatant command whose area of responsibility includes Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Downing a drone or other aerial threat requires spotting, classifying, tracking and targeting it in a process that is increasingly digital.

The U.S. military has in recent months faced a barrage of drone and missile attacks, including in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. A one-way drone strike at the Tower 22 installation, near the al-Tanf garrison and Syrian border, killed three soldiers in January. Iranian-supplied militants were blamed.

Schuyler Moore, the chief technology officer at CENTCOM, in a statement said the command is committed to “leveraging every talented individual, technical solution and innovative process available” to advance counter-drone efforts.

Debating the US presence in Syria: The ISIS factor


Roughly ten years ago, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, swept across Mesopotamia. At its peak, it controlled large swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territory, equivalent in size to Great Britain, subjecting more than 10 million people to its brutal governance. Although the “caliphate” lost its state apparatus years ago, ISIS remains a destructive force by operating sleeper cells and waging deadly ambushes in Iraq and Syria.

The remnants of ISIS have recently been conducting hit-and-run attacks in the Syrian governorates of Deir Ezzor, Homs, and Raqqa. The targets have been the Kurdish-led Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), and Iran-backed militias aligned with President Bashar al-Assad’s government, including the Afghan Shi’a Fatemiyoun Brigade.

ISIS continues posing a “considerable threat in Syria,” Danny Makki, an analyst covering Syria, told Responsible Statecraft. “The group maintains the capacity to conduct deadly guerrilla attacks and sabotage operations which, despite the group’s diminished presence, have inflicted significant loss of life on Kurdish and Syrian government areas in the country.” ISIS, Makki explained, does “not operate out of a specific area — there’s no big town or base they have, so it’s a difficult war to fight [against] them.”

Al-Sukhnah, located in the Homs Governorate of Eastern Syria, is a strategic town that has repeatedly been the target of ISIS attacks. According to Makki, ISIS has recently come close to capturing it. A year ago, ISIS waged its deadliest terrorist attack since January 2022, slaughtering 53 Syrians who were gathering desert truffles near al-Sukhnah. In the Homs Governorate, ISIS forces killed at least 14 SAA soldiers near the ancient city of Palmyra just last month.

The U.S. Strikes in Iraq and Syria Don’t Go Far Enough

Joe Buccino

Last weekend's bombing campaign against Iranian proxies in Iraq and Syria enacted by U.S. Central Command in response to the January 28th drone strike that killed three American troops in Jordan did not go far enough. Because they did not target any Iranians, any assets inside Iran, or any of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) vessels in the Persian Gulf, these strikes will ultimately fail to reestablish American deterrence and credibility in the Middle East.

In the months since the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in response to the gruesome October 7th attack, American troops have been under near-constant fire from rockets, artillery, and drones launched by Shia groups operating under the control of and resourced by the IRGC. More than 180 such attacks have injured dozens of American service members. Meanwhile, the Houthis, an Iranian-backed group based in Yemen, have unleashed chaos on the global supply chain and sent shockwaves through international markets by firing rockets and drones at commercial vessels navigating the Red Sea.

Up until the deadly drone attack in Jordan, the response has been tepid at best – a handful of pinprick strikes on warehouses and facilities in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. After each such response, the attacks by these groups resumed within days.

The response to the attack in Jordan was supposed to be different. Three American Soldiers were killed. Though this drone attack on a remote American outpost in northeast Jordan was consistent with the many that came before it, President Biden promised a more forceful response. That response strike began with Central Command launching 85 strikes in the border region between Iraq and Syria, targeting these militia groups. Then, on Wednesday, February 7th, an American precision drone in Baghdad killed a senior commander from Kataib Hezbollah, a militia force which the White House holds responsible for the attack in Jordan. Concurrently, the U.S., along with the U.K., continue to conduct strikes on locations associated with Yemen's Houthi rebels.

Why is the U.S. Navy Running Out of Tomahawk Cruise Missiles?

Mackenzie Eaglen

Beyond America’s snacks, the White House should be worried about the U.S. military’s “shrinkflation” problem. Year after year, inadequate budgets that don’t keep up with inflation cause Pentagon civilians to propose retiring more aircraft than are being delivered to the force, sending more ships to the ghost fleet than are being built, and now firing off more precision weapons than can be replaced anytime soon.

As retaliatory strikes against Iran-backed rebels and terrorists continue, anxiety is rising in Washington. Not just about growing threats but also about dwindling American stockpiles of select munitions and concerns that production lines are “maxed out.”

While concern is widely shared about the rising cost of defense in the Red Sea, a transition to offensive strikes has now raised a similar concern as the U.S. Navy (and Air Force) continue to expend powerful and expensive ordnance on a broad swath of targets.

Recent operations repeatedly deplete years’ worth of missile production overnight.

Since initial strikes began on January 11, Navy ships have repeatedly employed both carrier-launched aircraft and sea-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles to strike Houthi radar, drone, and anti-ship missile sites.

The Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) is one of the Navy’s premier capabilities and has been a deep strike weapon of choice for many commanders across conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. As a sea-launched cruise missile designed for land attack, it can be fired from submarines or ships with a range of over 900 miles. Tomahawks, therefore, serve as the Navy’s primary land-attack capability without putting aviators at risk.

While the Navy does have a large existing stockpile of Tomahawks to sustain its land-attack capability, it has recently been firing the missiles faster than it can replace them. According to the Navy, opening day strikes alone expended more than 80 Tomahawks to hit 30 targets within Yemen.

Equipment losses in Russia’s war on Ukraine mount

Yohann Michel & Michael Gjerstad

Despite intense armoured vehicle losses since Russia launched its unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine about two years ago, there are few signs they will cause an end to the fighting anytime soon. The IISS will publish its assessment of Russian equipment losses on 13 February with the release of The Military Balance 2024. The losses are estimated to include more than 3,000 armoured fighting vehicles in the past year alone and close to 8,800 since February 2022.

Russia’s losses over the past 24 months raise a key question: how long can Moscow sustain these equipment-attrition rates?

Russia’s offensive on Avdiivka, which began in autumn 2023, is only one example where the assaulting force has suffered heavy equipment and personnel attrition. Still, Russian troops have been able to make inroads there, aided by an advantage in artillery.

Defogging war

Tracking the active fleets of main battle tanks (MBTs), armoured personnel carriers (APCs), infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) and other equipment for either side in the war in Ukraine is an imprecise science. Unlike the high-profile Black Sea Fleet losses or those Russia’s aerospace forces have suffered, the inventory evolution in the land domain comes with far more variables. Refurbishment and production rates can vary greatly, as can the intensity of losses.

The Military Balance 2024 reflects figures up to November, though the IISS has continued to update its data. The numbers for Ukrainian- and Russian-equipment changes reflect a range of inputs, including visually confirmed losses drawn from a variety of sources, the preponderance of which are based on images from the battlefield, especially those collected by uninhabited aerial vehicles. These inputs generally reflect the impact of tactical skirmishes and understate the scale of losses; they tend not to capture the full scale of long-range engagements and associated destruction of equipment, particularly of weapon systems mostly operating further behind enemy lines than tanks and infantry-fighting vehicles, such as artillery and air defences.

Russia recruits 15,000 Nepalis to fight in Ukraine

Alexander Khrebet

Russian army recruited 15,000 Nepalis to fight against Ukraine, CNN reported on Feb. 11, citing multiple sources.

As Russian casualties on the battlefield mount, the government in Moscow has announced the recruitment of foreigners into its army for a salary of $2,000 and quickly obtaining Russian citizenship.

Meanwhile, the Nepali government claims only about 200 of its citizens are fighting in Ukraine on the Russian side, with at least 13 having been killed in action and four captured as prisoners of war.

The opposition Nepali lawmaker and former foreign minister, Bimala Rai Paudyal, said that between 14,000 and 15,000 Nepalis are fighting in Ukraine, citing testimony from men returning from the front line.

CNN geolocated two training centers in Russia where Nepalis and other foreigners are training before being deployed to the front line in Ukraine.

Nepal urged the Russian government to stop recruiting Nepalese citizens into its army in December after at least six of its nationals were confirmed killed. The authorities then uncovered a domestic smuggling ring that recruited youths as foreign fighters for the Russian military.

Starlink's Dual Role: Aiding Ukraine's Defense and Assisting Russian Invaders?

Quincy Jon

Russia's utilization of SpaceX's Starlink communications service in Ukraine has raised concerns about the unintentional backing of invaders by SpaceX, owned by Elon Musk.

Ukrainian sources, speaking anonymously, revealed that the use of Starlink terminals by Russian forces was first detected several months ago, with an observed increase in usage, according to Defense One. Currently, tens of Starlink terminals are operational across the extensive frontline, adding challenges for the Ukrainian military, which is already grappling with ammunition shortages. Ukrainian artillery units, firing around 2,000 shells daily, face a significant disparity compared to their Russian counterparts.

Reports of Russian forces employing Starlink surfaced through Ukrainian media and social media posts. Volunteer groups supporting the invasion of Ukraine showcased Starlink terminals purchased for army units. The Pentagon acknowledged awareness of the reports, directing inquiries to Ukrainian partners for operational details.

A Ukrainian serviceman stands next to the antenna of the Starlink satellite-based broadband system in Bakhmut on February 9, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Elon Musk Responds

In response, SpaceX asserted in a February 8 tweet that it does not engage in any business with the Russian government or military. The company clarified that Starlink is not operational in Russia, emphasizing that it has neither sold nor marketed the service in the country.

Speaker Johnson should see what I just saw in Ukraine - Opinion

Max Boot

I wish House Speaker Mike Johnson and other MAGA Republicans who have been holding up desperately needed aid to Ukraine could see what I just saw there. In particular, I wish they had been with me on Wednesday morning in Dnipro, a bustling city of about 1 million people in eastern Ukraine. If they had been, they might be less willing to betray the people of Ukraine in their desperate struggle for survival against a barbaric invader.

The day began when air-raid alarms sounded at 5:15 a.m. Roused out of sleep, I stumbled down to the hotel bomb shelter along with other members of a U.S. delegation of policy analysts and former government officials invited to Ukraine by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. We were in Ukraine to see the important work UNHCR is doing to help the millions of people displaced by war.

That morning, as we spent hours in a bomb shelter, we saw why so many have been forced to flee their homes: Vladimir Putin keeps deliberately attacking civilian targets in the hope of breaking Ukraine’s will to resist. On Wednesday, the Russians launched 64 drones and missiles at Ukraine. Most were intercepted, but some got through. A few days later, we saw the damage to an apartment building in Kyiv where four people had been killed, 39 injured and hundreds of others forced out of their homes.

In Dnipro, we visited an apartment building where at least 46 people had died in an earlier Russian missile strike. Eerily enough, we could still see clothes hanging in a top-floor closet — visible because the entire front wall of the building was gone. Other Russian missiles have struck hospitals, schools and shopping malls in the area. These are targets of no military value whose destruction amounts to crimes against humanity.

The situation is even grimmer in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, which is located only about 20 miles from the Russian border. Russian forces are constantly bombarding Kharkiv with short-range rockets. The city’s best hotel, once favored by Western journalists and aid workers, was destroyed on Dec. 30. Most other businesses remain open, but many have boarded-up windows. We visited a “subway school” held underground, because it’s too dangerous for children to go to their normal classrooms. (Most of the city’s pupils are forced into the pedagogical purgatory of online learning.) I marveled at Ukrainian ingenuity in converting five subway stations into schools but was heartbroken by the necessity to do so.

The Neurotic Fixations of U.S. Foreign Policy

Stephen M. Walt

Rich and powerful countries like the United States can do the same things over and over, even when they aren’t working, without facing immediate and severe consequences. The White House can change hands, presidential appointees can come and go, and new crises can erupt without warning, and the same well-worn responses get pulled out of the drawer, dusted off, and put into practice once again. Sometimes familiar approaches are so deeply entrenched that they become almost reflexive: People in power rarely question them and dissenters face an uphill battle if they try to convince superiors to do something different. In extreme cases, nobody even questions them. It’s foreign policy on autopilot.

Priorities of the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative for 2024

Today, CISA—on behalf of the collective group of industry and government partners that comprise the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative (JCDC)—released JCDC’s 2024 Priorities. Similar to the 2023 JCDC Planning Agenda, JCDC’s 2024 Priorities will help focus the collective group on developing high-impact and collaborative solutions to the most pressing cybersecurity challenges.

Resulting from the trusted partnerships the collaborative has fostered, the focused goals of the 2024 priorities are to:
  • Defend against Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) operations.
  • Raise critical infrastructure’s cybersecurity baseline.
  • Anticipate emerging technology and risks.
CISA encourages organizations to review JCDC’s 2024 Priorities and the related blog post by CISA Associate Director Clayton Romans. Visit CISA.gov/JCDC for more information on the work the collaborative is doing to secure cyberspace.

Does Joe Biden Have a Deterrence Problem?

James Holmes

Would you be deterred by an antagonist you believe to be incompetent, irresolute, or both? That question has become part of daily discourse about U.S. foreign policy, if seldom phrased in such stark terms. Contemporary events—in particular Russian aggression against Ukraine and the rise of a domineering China—explain why. The past couple of years, for example, it has become commonplace for rightward-leaning politicians to claim that the U.S. military’s flight from Afghanistan in August 2021 egged on Russian president Vladimir Putin to order the invasion of Ukraine mere months later, in February 2022.

Exhibit A: On the eve of war former president Donald Trump told Fox News: “How we got here is when [Putin and Xi Jinping] watched Afghanistan, and they watched the most incompetent withdrawal in the history of probably any army let alone just us. . . .” Trump contended that the Eurasian despots “watched that, and they said: ‘What’s going on? They don’t know what they're doing.’ And all of a sudden I think they got a lot more ambitious.”

Exhibit B: At a press conference on the day of the invasion, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lambasted the Biden administration in similar terms: “I think the precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan in August was a signal to Putin, and maybe to Chinese president Xi as well, that America was in retreat. That America could not be depended upon.” The bottom line for Senator McConnell: “A combination of perception of weakness, and yearning for empire, is what led to the war in Ukraine.”

Now, clearly some of this is political expediency. It suits Republican magnates’ political interests to blame a Democratic administration for seismic misadventures like the Russian onslaught. And to be sure, it’s impossible to state with any measure of confidence that the Afghanistan pullout emboldened the Kremlin. Putin & Co. have no incentive to reveal the inner workings of Russian policy and strategy, for fear of handing the United States and NATO an advantage in some future imbroglio. So they will keep mum.

Camouflage 101: How to Move Through Space Undetected


Humans aren’t great at blending in with their environment. In the 20th century—after we ditched the rather barbaric style of fighting wars in fields, with line formations charging at one another—camouflage would become a vital tool. This has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry meant to keep soldiers hidden on the battlefield, offering a significant tactical advantage.

Here’s everything you need to know about U.S. military camouflage systems, as well as the camouflage techniques taught from basic training all the way up to the advanced U.S. Army Sniper Course.

What Is Camouflage?

Camouflage is a technique that involves the use of color, texture, and illumination to blend in with the surrounding environment. “It’s any type of pattern that will help make you indiscernible or blend into nature … rather than trying to look like a bush or look like a tree, you’re just simply trying to look like nothing,” Staff Sgt. Michael Biza, a U.S. Army Sniper Course instructor with the 316th Cavalry Brigade, tells Popular Mechanics.


It’s a much more three-dimensional concept than just patterns on combat uniforms or snipers in ghillie suits. For instance, cover and concealment are obvious camouflage considerations, but there’s more to them than meets the eye.