5 March 2024

U.S. begins airdropping aid into Gaza, U.S. officials say

Three U.S. officials confirmed Saturday that airdrops were carried out by C-130 cargo plane and followed similar operations from countries including Egypt, France, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. President Biden announced the move Friday. Humanitarian aid has been scant in the northern part of Gaza, where aid groups are warning of imminent famine.

Here's what to know:

President Biden told reporters Friday that he’s still hoping a cease-fire deal will be reached between Israel and Hamas by the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which starts around March 10, but “we’re not there yet.” Asked what needs to happen in the negotiations, he said there has to be agreement on the timing, and the parties are “still far apart.”

After an aid convoy delivery turned deadly Thursday in Gaza City, resulting in the deaths of 115 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, Biden said the event would complicate negotiations over a potential pause in fighting that would allow the release of those hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

British-owned vessel MV Rubymar has sunk in the Red Sea after being damaged in a Houthi attack last month, Yemen’s internationally recognized government said Saturday, adding that “the sinking of the ship … will cause an environmental disaster.” The Feb. 18 attack caused an 18-mile oil slick and forced the crew to abandon the ship.

At least 30,320 people have been killed and 71,533 injured in Gaza since the war began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack and says 242 soldiers have been killed since the start of its military operation in Gaza.

The Looming Famine in Gaza

Hardin Lang and Jeremy Konyndyk

According to assessments by the Famine Review Committee, the gold-standard international body that analyzes famine risk, the Gaza Strip now stands on the brink of famine. On February 27, senior UN officials warned the UN Security Council that famine is now imminent in Gaza. If famine takes hold, the number of Gazans who die of hunger or disease could outstrip the Israel-Hamas war’s already breathtaking number of civilian deaths. It is still possible to prevent a famine. But the window for action is rapidly narrowing. 

Hamas In Lebanon – OpEd

Neville Teller

Hamas seems intent on building up a fighting force inside Lebanon.

Early last December news emerged of a large-scale recruitment drive by Hamas in and around the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. Dubbed “The Al-Aqsa Flood” – in line with the name given to the October 7 massacre – the recruitment program was aimed at young men aged between 17 and 20. There are 12 UNRWA refugee camps in Lebanon, housing some half-million Palestinian refugees as defined by UNRWA – namely a hugely inflated number of patrilineal descendants of the Palestinians originally displaced during the 1948 Arab-Israel conflict.

Evidence of Hamas activity within Lebanon came to light on November 21, when an Israeli drone struck a four-man Hamas squad in the Lebanese village of Chaatiyeh. All four were killed in the strike, including Khalil Kharaz, Hamas’s deputy commander in Lebanon.

Opinion is divided as to whether this new Hamas initiative is in opposition to Iranian/Hezbollah interests – an attempt to seize the initiative and ramp up the anti-Israel conflict – or in support of them. A third possibility is that Hamas, in anticipation of military annihilation in Gaza, is preparing to use Lebanon as a new base for continuing its fight against Israel.

That is the fear among mainstream Lebanese leaders and political parties. Many denounced Hamas when it put out its recruitment call on December 4, accusing it of violating their country’s national sovereignty. Wasn’t it enough that Hezbollah had established a political and military grip on the weakened and impoverished nation, without Hamas elbowing its way in? After all, Lebanon, on its knees economically speaking, was already supporting two military machines – its own national army and the even stronger Hezbollah militia. A third loose cannon, as it were, is the last thing Lebanon needs.

Israel-Hamas war: Anti-India disinformation campaign swell Arabic social media

Aakash Sharma

The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict has triggered a parallel war on social media in Arab nations with pro-Palestine accounts circulating copy-cat message about “rape” of Israeli soldiers by “Indian mercenaries” in Gaza.

In an analysis, India Today’s Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) team found a network of X (formerly Twitter) users spreading old and unrelated pictures of female reservists of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as part of a disinformation campaign to apparently fuel anti-Indian sentiments in the Middle East.

The fake messages were largely circulated in Arabic, barring a few posts in English.

The war, which broke out after the militant group’s deadly October 7 attack on Israeli towns, has seen many such disinformation campaigns driven by different ideological and interest groups in an attempt to sway public opinion. Rumours, unverified and imaginary stories, and fake news are an essential part of such online efforts.

The India-centric smear campaign was predominantly driven by sock puppet accounts – online identities created to manipulate public opinion in favour of an interest group.

NIA Dismantles Remaining Islamic State Cells in India

Animesh Roul

Executive Summary
  • India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested over 180 people in 2023 for involvement in jihadist terror cases, 65 of which were associated specifically with IS, as part of a broader strategy to disrupt IS’s influence in India.
  • In December 2023 alone, the NIA conducted widespread raids across the country, arresting dozens of individuals linked to Islamic State (IS) networks and seizing weapons, explosives, and propaganda materials.
In December 2023, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), India’s elite anti-terror organization, arrested several individuals during extensive search and sweep operations across India, which targeted nearly 60 hotspots. The operations sought to thwart clandestine Islamic State (IS) networks, charging the individuals arrested with promoting and executing IS-inspired plots (Mint [India], December 28, 2023). Security officials confiscated cash, weapons (such as improvised explosive devices or IEDs), and propaganda materials on digital devices. This series of crackdowns was part of the NIA’s broader strategy to disrupt transnational jihadist groups’ footprint and influence across India.

Targeting Islamic State’s Indian Affiliates

On December 9, 2023, the NIA raided nearly 40 locations and arrested members of IS cells in Maharashtra, which were operating from the Padgha-Borivali area of the city of Thane. This group was reportedly headed by Saqib Nachan, who pledged allegiance to IS. Under Nachan’s command, the group declared Padgha a “liberated zone” and named it “al-Sham,” which is a reference to the Levant. Nachan and his group were recruiting vulnerable Muslim youth to wage war against India (The Print [India], December 9, 2023). Nachan, an explosive expert and former leader of the banned Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), was already a convicted terrorist and reportedly offered his allegiance to IS under the guidance of foreign handlers (India Today, May 27, 2016; Times of India, November 22, 2017). The NIA believes that Nachan holds the key to the identities of overseas IS handlers who were in communication with both Nachan and Mohammad Imran Khan. Khan was the leader of the Pune-based IS network, or what was known as “IS in al-Sufa” (Hindustan Times, August 12, 2023; Daily Pioneer, December 10, 2023).

India’s GDP Growth Masks Economic Challenges – Analysis

Biswajit Dhar

Judging by its macroeconomic indicators, the Indian economy performed well during 2023. In January 2024, the country’s National Statistical Office estimated that the growth in India’s real GDP would be 7.3 per cent during the 2023–24 financial year — the highest among the major economies.

This estimate is higher than the IMF’s December 2023 projected growth of 6.3 per cent. Even if the IMF’s projections prove accurate, India’s GDP would still expand at least two percentage points more than China’s.

Substantially higher levels of capital formation are driving India’s growth during the 2023–24 fiscal year. The government prioritised capital spending in its recent budgets and supported the state governments for doing so. As a result, gross capital formation increased by over 11 per cent during the 2022–23 fiscal year and is expected to expand by over 10 per cent during the 2023–24 fiscal year.

The private sector’s response to the government’s investment push has been inadequate, contradicting the Finance Minister’s expectations that public investment would crowd-in private investment. Private investment fell from over Rs 14 lakh crore (US$168.6 billion) in February 2023 to below Rs 2 lakh crore (US$24.1 billion) in October 2023 before recovering marginally to Rs 2.2 lakh crore (US$26.5 billion) in December 2023.

Simultaneously, foreign direct investors reduced their participation in India. Between April–November 2023, gross foreign direct investment inflows declined by about 4 per cent compared to the corresponding period in 2022. Despite this decline, India seems to have performed better, as foreign direct investment inflows in developing countries declined by 12 per cent in 2023, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development. An area of concern for India is the high level of disinvestment — increasing nearly 29 per cent year-on-year.

TTP Activity Causes Continued Deterioration in Pakistani–Afghan Relations

Osama Ahmad

Executive Summary
  • Continued attacks from the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) out of Afghan territory have strained relations between Kabul and Islamabad over Afghanistan’s continued sheltering of the Islamist group. Tit-for-tat escalation and intensifying rhetoric between the two countries could possibly lead to war in the future.
  • Between September 2023 and February 2024, TTP terrorist attacks killed over 70 people. 75 percent of Pakistan’s suicide bombers in 2023 were identified as Afghan nationals.
  • Islamabad reacted to Kabul’s refusal to act against the TTP by forcibly expelling over 1.5 million Afghan refugees after November 1, 2023.
On September 6, 2023, the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), or “Pakistani Taliban,” attacked military check posts in Chitral, Pakistan from Afghanistan. In the incursion, four soldiers and 12 militants were killed (The Friday Times, September 6, 2023). On the same day, Pakistani military and Afghan border forces exchanged fire at Torkham, resulting in the closure of a key border crossing for nine days.

Pakistan had previously blamed Afghanistan for abetting TTP in Pakistan, and the Chitral attack by the TTP triggered a harsh reaction from Pakistan toward the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Soon after Pakistan’s response, the Afghan Taliban arrested 200 TTP fighters (The Express Tribune, September 29, 2023). Nevertheless, Pakistan does not consider this sufficient. It wants more action from the Afghan Taliban against the TTP. Additionally, some Pakistani analysts question the veracity of Kabul’s claimed arrests.

Pakistan’s Shattered Dream

The Afghan Taliban had cordial relations with Pakistan for the past two decades. Pakistan provided the group shelter and supported the Taliban in its insurgency against NATO forces in Afghanistan. In return, Pakistan expected that once the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, their government would be friendly, and Pakistan’s western border would be secured at last. However, this did not happen. Rather, the TTP renewed its insurgency against Islamabad from Afghanistan, and the Afghan Taliban have been unwilling to crack down on the TTP—its long-time ideological and organizational ally (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, April 21, 2022).

Nepal: Moving Forward With IMF Support – OpEd

Anne-Marie Gulde-Wolf and Tidiane Kinda

Nepal’s program to reform its economy, supported by the IMF, is about much more than money. It demonstrates to the rest of the world, including donors and investors, that along with policy advice and technical assistance from the IMF, the country’s economy is stable, and the government is making progress to implement its reform agenda in areas like government revenues and spending, monetary and financial policies, and governance.

Nepal has indeed already made important strides on its economic reform agenda, supported by its arrangement with the IMF, which approved a third tranche worth about $52 million in November 2023. To name a few examples, decisive and data-driven monetary policy by the Rastra Bank has helped replenish international reserves and rendered unnecessary the use of import restrictions that reduce tax collection and are costly for businesses. Budget discipline by the Ministry of Finance despite a large revenue shortfall has helped preserve one of Nepal’s major economic strengths: a sustainable debt level.

Looking ahead, Nepal needs to fully unlock the country’s potential. While the economy is on a recovery path, growth at present is below potential and everyone, including the government and private sector, is eager for a stronger pickup. A critical near-term government policy to support growth now is to increase capital spending in a fiscally responsible manner. The donor community is keen to support such spending with concessional lending, but execution rates must improve. The Planning Commission is producing a public investment strategy, building on plans laid out in the budget and IMF advice, which should help accelerate capital spending.

That said, the government fiscal discipline must also be maintained. Striking this balance means that the government should address a major challenge, low fiscal revenue, as a priority. The government is taking some steps in this direction by preparing a domestic revenue mobilization strategy, with support from the IMF. With many tax exemptions already identified, progress is possible, with consistent work to move ahead.

Security is still China's top priority, not the econom

Diana Choyleva

Diana Choyleva is founder and chief economist of Enodo Economics, a macroeconomic and political forecasting company in London focused on China and its global impact. She is also senior fellow on Chinese Economy at the Asia Society Policy Institute's Center for China Analysis.

Next week, China's annual National People's Congress session will convene in Beijing. Full of pageantry, the NPC is usually a time for the Communist Party to signal action on economic growth to thousands of provincial officials in attendance.

This time, though, local officials can expect to hear a mixed message that prioritizes security over growth -- a formulation that is bound to weigh on the economy over the coming year.

"Security" has been the mantra for Communist Party chief Xi Jinping since he took power in 2012 and he has doubled down on it since beginning his third term as general secretary in 2022.

For Xi, security does not just mean tight control over popular unrest as is common to authoritarian governments. It also encompasses financial, economic and infrastructure security, a conceptual package that Beijing hopes will ensure China's central place in the world economy and the Communist Party's hold on power.

But Xi's focus on security has so far held back economic development and will remain a drag on activity this year, even if his administration rolls out new growth policies during the NPC.

China's most innovative companies are under increased regulatory scrutiny, private entrepreneurs and well-off urbanites are depressed, the U.S.-led Western world is restricting China's access to its markets and knowhow and foreign investors are leaving China.

Is the United States overestimating China’s power

Dan Murphy

Which country is the greatest threat to the United States? The answer, according to a large proportion of Americans, is clear: China.

Half of all Americans responding to a mid-2023 survey from the Pew Research Center cited China as the biggest risk to the U.S., with Russia trailing in second with 17%. Other surveys, such as from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, show similar findings.

Senior figures in recent U.S. administrations appear to agree with this assessment. In 2020, John Ratcliffe, director of national intelligence under President Donald Trump, wrote that Beijing “intends to dominate the U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically.”

The White House’s current National Defense Strategy is not so alarmist, referring to China as the U.S.’s “pacing challenge” – a reference that, in the words of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, apparently means China has “the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the power to do so.”

As someone who has followed China for over a quarter century, I believe that many observers have overestimated the country’s apparent power. Recent challenges to China’s economy have led some people to reevaluate just how powerful China is. But hurdles to the growth of Chinese power extend far beyond the economic sector – and failing to acknowledge this reality may distort how policymakers and the public view the shift of geopolitical gravity in what was once called “the Chinese century.”

In overestimating China’s comprehensive power, the U.S. risks misallocating resources and attention, directing them toward a threat that is not as imminent as one might otherwise assume.

Shifting deck chairs to the Titanic’s Taiwan side


China now has 369 satellites, three times as many as in 2018, according to General Stephen Whiting, head of the US Space Command.

“China and Russia,” Whiting told the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 29, are “moving breathtakingly fast.” He warned in particular about “counterspace” weapons that can destroy American satellites

With perhaps 3,000 advanced anti-ship missiles in its inventory and the capacity to hit moving targets at great distances, China now has an overwhelming firepower advantage in its home theater.

Nothing in the American arsenal can defend US military assets against massed barrages of Chinese missiles. That makes the buzzword “prioritize Asia” – sending more weapons to Taiwan rather than Ukraine – a matter of shifting the deck chairs to the other side of the Titanic.

China has underfunded its large land army and concentrated military spending on coastal defense.

The US national security establishment is struggling to keep its credibility above water after the Ukrainian rout last month at Avdeevka, where Ukrainian units refused orders to deploy in the besieged towns and Ukrainian soldiers reportedly bolted, leaving their wounded as well as their weapons behind.

Volodymyr Zelensky’s government now warns that its defense could crumble by next summer; in fact, this could happen much sooner as the beleaguered Ukrainians run short of artillery ammunition, air defense missiles and frontline manpower.

To combat Chinese cyber threats, the US must spearhead a new Indo-Pacific intelligence coalition

Victor Atkins

When the highest-ranking US law enforcement official describes a concern as “the defining threat of our generation,” it should be taken seriously. On January 31, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress about China’s capability to threaten US national and economic security. In particular, he identified the imminent cyber threat that Chinese hackers pose to critical infrastructure. A China-sponsored cyber group called “Volt Typhoon,” Wray explained, has prepositioned cyberattack capabilities in the US communications, energy, transportation, and water sectors intended to “destroy or degrade the civilian critical infrastructure that keeps us safe and prosperous.” Alarming in its own right, Volt Typhoon is just the latest example of Beijing’s ongoing “cyber onslaught,” Wray added.

This story is not new. Since at least 2019, the US government has publicly sounded the alarm about the threat that China’s cyberattack and espionage enterprise poses to US national security and to regional stability in East Asia. The 2023 annual threat assessment by the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) states that China “uses coordinated, whole-of-government tools to demonstrate strength and compel neighbors to acquiesce to its preferences.” The assessment adds that China’s cyber capabilities are essential for orchestrating espionage, malign influence, and attack operations in support of Chinese interests.

To confront the threat to critical infrastructure posed by Volt Typhoon and other state-sponsored Chinese cyber actors, the United States should launch an expansive new multilateral cyber threat intelligence sharing coalition in the Indo-Pacific. This coalition should utilize some of the lessons learned from the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, and it would incorporate members of the Five Eyes alliance, US Indo-Pacific partners, and even some European states. The expanded reach and resources of such a coalition would help disrupt cyber threats, signal to the world that the United States and its partners are committed to protecting both cyber and physical infrastructure from malicious actors, and ideally help deter future cyber threats from China.

China Boosts Military Might: Tech Talents, Foreign Veterans, and Corporate Armies in Focus

In a strategic move to fortify its military capabilities, China is intensifying its recruitment efforts, bringing in not only its former officers but also highly skilled foreign veterans and technically qualified students. State-owned and private companies are being directed to raise their volunteer armies, highlighting a significant shift in China's approach to military modernization and preparedness under Xi Jinping's leadership.

Recruitment Drive: A High-Tech Army in Making

China's military recruitment strategy has undergone a major overhaul with the newly amended guidelines that came into effect on May 1, 2023. These guidelines emphasize war preparedness and prioritize the recruitment of highly skilled personnel. Moreover, China is extending its efforts beyond its borders, targeting US and NATO-trained military talent to bridge gaps in its military capabilities. This strategic move includes offering lucrative contracts to pilots, air operations personnel, and various technical experts, aiming to leverage their knowledge and skills.'

Corporate Warriors: China's Innovative Approach

Since last year, at least 16 major Chinese firms, including giants like Yili group, have established fighting forces known as the People's Armed Forces Departments. These units, consisting of civilians who retain their regular jobs, serve as a reserve and auxiliary force for China's military. Managed under the PLA's supervision and linked with the Communist Party, these corporate armies represent a novel approach to national defense, ready to be deployed for maintaining internal stability as well as in disputed regions.

The Real Culture Wars

Suzanne Nossel

Authoritarians know that controlling their societies takes more than the heavy hand of the police or the courts; it also requires shaping how their populations think and see the world, and how the world sees them. In 2020, China imposed a new national security law on Hong Kong in a bid to further tie the territory to the Chinese mainland. Alongside the law’s prohibitions on “secession” and “subversion” came tightened controls on museums and art institutions. Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed chief executives warned cultural leaders to police the line between “artistic expression” and works “really meant to incite hatred or

The truth about the Houthis


Over the past few months, Yemen’s Houthi rebels have been attacking container ships and energy tankers in the Red Sea. The Houthis say that these attacks are retaliation for Israel’s incursion into Gaza. This has delighted anti-Israel activists in the West, who have taken to the streets with a new chant: ‘Yemen, Yemen make us proud, turn another ship around.’

It’s clear that those Western leftists currently cheering on the Houthis know very little about this regressive movement.

Officially known as Ansar Allah (‘Supporters of God’), the Houthis have been in open rebellion against the Yemeni government since 2004. They now govern much of the populous west and north of Yemen. Since 2014, they have controlled the capital, Sanaa, forcing the internationally recognised Yemeni government to relocate to Aden, a port city on the southern coast. Today, the Houthis are the dominant force in a divided country.

To help us understand the rise of the Houthis, it is helpful to turn to Tribes and Politics in Yemen, a 2017 book by Austrian anthropologist Marieke Brandt. A product of extensive anthropological fieldwork in the Houthi stronghold of north-west Yemen, it shows that the Houthis’ rise owes more to the collapse of Arab nationalism in Yemen than any positive, internal dynamic in the movement itself. They have merely exploited the decay of the once powerful nationalist forces that drove the formation of the republic of North Yemen in 1962, before dominating Yemen proper after unification with Communist South Yemen in 1990.

The Houthis, like at least a third of Yemenis today, are Zaydi, which is a branch of Shia Islam. Like other Shia Muslims, the Zaydis believe that the position of state ruler, or Imamate, is hereditary. They trace their lineage back to Al-Qasim al-Rassi, who was a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammed’s son-in-law, Ali ibn Abu Talib.

Replicate Ordnance, Not Cheap Drones

Captain Sam Tangredi

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks has been given an impossible task: convincing the Department of Defense (DoD), Congress, the American people, and the nation’s allies and adversaries that large numbers of cheap, autonomous drones are the answer to the U.S. military’s shortfalls.

The Replicator Initiative was to be achieved by September 2025 with no additional money added to the defense budget.1 Hicks described the key to the project as “American ingenuity: our ability to innovate, change the game and, in the military sphere, to imagine, create and master the future character of warfare.”2 The objective is to offset China’s military mass.3

It is important to point out the incongruity of the premise behind the Replicator Initiative—that some thus-far-unattained advancements in miniaturized technology, procured at low cost, will create inexpensive, effective, and autonomous systems that can deter or defeat an opponent that is building a large, lethal, high-tech military force.

To make matters worse, that opponent is the very source of many of the cheap components needed for low-cost “replication.” Truly, the premise of Replicator is hope, not strategy.

Announcing the Replicator Initiative

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks announced the Replicator Initiative in August 2023 and introduced the term “all-domain, attritable autonomy” (ADA2), but the types of cheap drones that received a lot of attention from the battlefields of Ukraine will be insufficient for the range and destructive power needed for a war in the western Pacific. Department of Defense (Jack Sanders)

Secretary Hicks announced the Replicator Initiative in August 2023 at a Washington conference of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA). Its stated goal was to offset an expanding People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by fielding “attritable, autonomous systems at a scale of multiple thousands [and] in multiple domains within the next 18-to-24 months.” However, a key word in that statement is “systems,” not weapons. As one source writes, “Notably, Hicks also clarified that [the program] is ‘not synonymous’ with weapons systems.”4

The Man Who Now Controls the U.S. Border

David Frum

In early January, I drove along the Pan-American Highway in the scenic Mexican state of Oaxaca. On the opposite side of the road, the Mexican National Guard had erected a temporary roadblock. A line of cars heading north had halted. Uniformed officers walked down the line, questioning drivers. They were searching for migrants bound for the United States.

A few hours later, I returned by the same route. I braced myself for the obstruction and delay. There was none. The roadblock had vanished.

In the effort to contain unauthorized migration to the U.S., Mexico is an on-again, off-again partner. Sometimes it helps more; sometimes less.

In 2022, Mexico detained almost 320,000 migrants and expelled 106,000, according to a condemnatory report by Amnesty International. Detainees were held under conditions much harsher than would be allowed in the U.S. A migrant from El Salvador described the facility where he was held in Ciudad Juárez, the Mexican border town adjoining El Paso, Texas. As NPR reported in 2023:

There was no water and scant food. There was no toilet paper and no running water in the two open-air toilets. Sewage spilled onto the floor. The migrants were getting desperate, clamoring for help and pleading to not be deported home, but guards from Mexico’s immigration agency were increasingly dismissive. “I asked for water and a guard responded, ‘You want it, give me 500 pesos,’” the migrant from El Salvador recalls. That’s about $30. To migrants’ demands for water, another guard said, “Go back to your own country and complain there.”

To protest the conditions, some migrants from Venezuela set fire to a foam sleeping mat. The guards, subcontracted civilians, feared a mass breakout. They refused to open the doors. The fire spread. Of the 67 men and 15 women crammed into two cells, 40 perished—some immediately, others after days of suffering. Another 27 survived despite severe burns and other injuries. The migrant who spoke with NPR was one of those few survivors.

Brute force: Russia ‘doubled down’ on often-crude disinformation in 2023, says report


With all-out war in Ukraine entering its third brutal year, a new report says the Russian disinformation strategy online looks a lot like its battle tactics on the ground: launch wave after wave of low-skilled grunts and hope that somebody makes it through.

One alarming difference on the internet, however, is artificial intelligence. While both sides have struggled to apply AI to the physical battlefield, when it comes to information war, AI translation software, AI-generated narration for videos, chatbots like ChatGPT, and the rise of generative AI overall could give Moscow an essentially limitless supply of digital cannon fodder, according to a new report from the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.

“Russia has doubled down on its worldwide efforts to undermine Kyiv’s international standing in an attempt to erode Western support and domestic Ukrainian morale,” says the report, authored by a dozen international experts, mostly Europeans.

There is some good news for Ukraine, the authors emphasize. In 2023, “international sanctions, a damaged reputation, and the ban of state-sponsored RT and Sputnik in many Western countries” all took their toll on Russian disinformation efforts, the report found.

In response, in 2023 Russia shifted its efforts from official outlets to social media, the report said, with Moscow increasingly exploiting not only the established standby of Eastern Europe, Telegram, but also pro-Russian and/or inept moderators on Chinese-owned TikTok and Elon Musk’s “X,” formerly Twitter. While RT, Sputnik, and on-record statements from Russian diplomats remain a major tool of propaganda in the developing world, social media has become the number one weapon in the West.

U.S. Emergency Communications Are Vulnerable

Richard Weitz

Last Thursday’s abrupt collapse of the AT&T cell network, along with recent news reports of Russian nuclear attack weapons in space, underscore threats to satellite, cellular, and cyber networks. Americans must take urgent measures to protect emergency communications as a national security imperative.

Millions of Americans throughout the country lost cellular signals on February 22. Though the blackout lasted only one day, the incident should be a wake-up call for policymakers to make the U.S. telecommunications architecture more resilient. Wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters have repeatedly toppled cell towers and disrupted internet service that our first responders and emergency management officials depend on to broadcast urgent messages.

Though cellular systems are primed for problems, Thursday’s outage was an accident, apparently caused by a flawed procedure to expand the network. Still, the chaos underscored the vulnerability of cell phone networks to malign actors as well as mishaps.

Russia, China, and other U.S. adversaries, including terrorists, aim to blind and paralyze Americans in a crisis. The Russian armed forces have repeatedly disrupted Ukrainian phone systems through cyber and electronic warfare attacks. The Pentagon has also taken down adversary communications in foreign military operations.

This month’s news highlighted the threat from Russia’s newly developed space nuclear attack weapon. These are reportedly designed to disable entire satellite constellations through nuclear-power energy surges and electromagnetic pulses.

The Army’s cuts, force structure changes put it on the right path

John Ferrari

On Tuesday, following on the Army’s recent decision to terminate the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, the new Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Randy George, along with Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth, made a second hard call that affects the whole service in cutting force structure.

The cuts are designed to solve a problem: the Army had “spaces” for 494,000 soldiers but coming into this year only has the authority from Congress to have 445,000 “faces,” which represents a 10 percent hollowness of the force.

To cut thousands of positions was a tough call but the right one to make and shows that the new Army chief and the secretary are forming a cohesive and productive working relationship to address the myriad of problems for the Army. Along with the FARA decision, which I also supported in these pages, it’s evidence that Army leadership is focused on preparing the force for war in this decade. They are investing money, equipment, and structure to do this, and America’s adversaries should take notice.

The Army has traditionally not wanted to cut structure, causing it to historically generate unready troops from Task Force Smith, to the famous hollow force of the 1970s, to the March to Baghdad in 2003. There is a belief in the Army that once structure is cut, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy that it cannot be formed back when needed.

The Army leadership team should be praised for creating new units suited for drone warfare. The recent deaths in Jordan showed how unprepared the Army had become. These new units, with names such as Multi-Domain Task Forces, Indirect Fire Protection Capabilities, Counter-UAS, and Short-Range Air Defense show that the Army is willing and capable of pivoting to the threat that exists today. That the Army is investing in them by cutting cavalry squadrons, weapons units, and positions within security force assistance units is the right call from a military operations perspective because it reverses misapplied lessons learned from the 1990 Gulf War. Gone are the days where combat maneuver forces can operate without threat from rockets and drones. This is a very large first step in correcting this operational and tactical shortcoming that has been decades in the making.

Why More American Weapons Will Soon Be Made Outside America

Damien Cave

On the grassy plains of Australia’s vast interior, an industrial evolution in the American war machine is gathering momentum. In munitions factories with room to grow, Australia is on the verge of producing heaps of artillery shells and thousands of guided missiles in partnership with American companies.

Made to Pentagon specifications, the weapons will be no different from those built in the United States, and only some of what rolls off the line will stay in Australia. The rest are intended to help replenish U.S. stockpiles or be sold to American partners in an era of grinding ground wars and threats from major powers.

It is all part of an Australian push to essentially become the 51st state for defense production, an ambitious vision that is now taking shape with a giant yellow mixer for explosives and a lightning-protected workshop for assembling missiles known as GMLRS — or “gimmlers.”

“We’re not buying a commodity, we’re investing in an enterprise,” said Brig. Andrew Langford, the Australian director general responsible for domestic manufacturing of guided weapons and explosives. “And that’s where it’s really novel.”

The Benalla munitions factory makes a variety of ordnance, including artillery shells and large bombs.

The embrace of joint production reflects a wider awakening in Washington and other capitals: The United States by itself cannot make enough of the weapons needed for protracted warfare and deterrence. Vulnerable partners like Taiwan are already facing delayed orders for American equipment even as China’s military capabilities continue to grow.

Center for Security Studies, Georgetown UniversityGeorgetown Security Studies Review, February 2024, v. 11, no. 2

Of Lice and Men: America Needs to Rethink Its National Security Paradigm

What Made War Inevitable: Great-Power Competition and Civil War in Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War

Arms, Ideology, and Alignment: Analyzing U.S.-Soviet Realignment During the Ogaden War

Reining in the Iranian Nuclear Threat: The Unviability of a JCPOA Revival and the Need for a New Game Plan

The Double-Edged Sword of Diplomatic Immunity: The ICJ and the Case Studies of Germany v. Italy and Mohammed bin Salman

Russian Influence and Disinformation Operations in the Balkans

Malaya to Vietnam: The British Counterinsurgency Model and Its Replication Challenges

Tightening the Screws: Examining the Efficacy of U.S. Sanctions Against Russia Amid the Russo-Ukrainian War

It’s All Connected: The Impact of Russian Sanctions on Global Trade Relationships

Decoding Beijing: Book Review of Susan Shirk’s Overreach: How China Derailed Its Peaceful Rise

A Tale of Two Koreas: How the Diverging Korean Language Will Challenge Future Unification

The Decaying Superpower: A Review of the Russian Navy

Sharing Secrets: Why Do States Publicly Share Intelligence?

Air University PressÆther: A Journal of Strategic Airpower and Spacepower, Winter, 2023, v. 2, no. 4

Israel’s Begin Doctrine: Preventive Strike Tradition and Iran’s Nuclear Pursuits

Ten Propositions Regarding Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence

Russo- American Strategic Nuclear Arms Control: New START or a New Start?

Airpower: A Game Changer in an India-China Limited Conflict

A Commercial Space Security Dilemma? The Dynamics of Commercial Competition in Space

Moral Injury to the State: US Security Policy and Great Power Competition

Integrated Emotional Manipulation: Implications of Contemporary Emotion Regulation Science

BeiDou And Strategic Advancements in PRC Space Navigation

Jemima Baar

Executive Summary:
  • BeiDou enhances both the PRC’s strategic autonomy and its influence across the world. It has signed agreements with numerous countries to expand its use, including for military applications.
  • An interoperability agreement with the US government diminishes the strategic value of GPS by eliminating and altering the costs of switching over to BeiDou.
  • BeiDou could successfully insulate the PRC and partner countries in the event of a conflict scenario with the United States, while being instrumental in supporting the country’s counterspace capabilities.
  • The PRC’s BeiDou satellite navigation system is now perceived as superior to GPS. Xi Jinping has described the third generation of satellites as “one of the important achievements China has made in the past 40 years.”
For nearly half a century, the United States’ Global Positioning System (GPS) has been the undisputed gold standard for global navigation satellite systems (GNSS). Now, it has a challenger: BeiDou (北斗).

On February 23, 2024, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) successfully placed an experimental telecommunications satellite into orbit using its Long March 5 (长征五号) launch vehicle. This was PRC’s fifth launch of the current calendar year, which demonstrates its commitment to pushing the frontier of satellite technology (CALT, accessed February 26). The PRC’s activity in this domain follows several successes last year. In November 2023, the International Civil Aviation Authority recognized that BeiDou had met the criteria to be accepted as a navigation system for global civil aviation (State Council, November 16, 2023). In December, the PRC successfully launched two new satellites to augment its Beidou-3 (北斗三) constellation. This third generation of the PRC’s domestically developed GNSS now comprises 58 satellites, compared to GPS’ 31 (CALT, accessed February 26; USCG, February 14). The PRC also seeks to expand its presence in low-Earth orbit, where it is possible to launch satellites more cheaply and plentifully. The state-owned China Satellite Network Group (中国卫星网络集团) aims to challenge the dominance of the US company StarLink by establishing a megaconstellation comprising approximately 13,000 satellites. 10 percent will be launched between mid-2024 through 2029 (Sina, January 12).

Google Bringing Advanced AI Capabilities through Open Source

Aayush Mittal

The field of artificial intelligence (AI) has seen immense progress in recent years, largely driven by advances in deep learning and natural language processing (NLP). At the forefront of these advances are large language models (LLMs) – AI systems trained on massive amounts of text data that can generate human-like text and engage in conversational tasks.

LLMs like Google's PaLM, Anthropic's Claude, and DeepMind's Gopher have demonstrated remarkable capabilities, from coding to common sense reasoning. However, most of these models have not been openly released, limiting their access for research, development, and beneficial applications.

This changed with the recent open sourcing of Gemma – a family of LLMs from Google's DeepMind based on their powerful proprietary Gemini models. In this blog post, we'll dive into Gemma, analyzing its architecture, training process, performance, and responsible release.

Overview of Gemma

In February 2023, DeepMind open sourced two sizes of Gemma models – a 2 billion parameter version optimized for on-device deployment, and a larger 7 billion parameter version designed for GPU/TPU usage.

Gemma leverages a similar transformer-based architecture and training methodology to DeepMind's leading Gemini models. It was trained on up to 6 trillion tokens of text from web documents, math, and code.

DeepMind released both raw pretrained checkpoints of Gemma, as well as versions fine-tuned with supervised learning and human feedback for enhanced capabilities in areas like dialogue, instruction following, and coding.