16 March 2024

How Hamas, Taliban Are Gaining From Russia-China’s Growing Influence – Analysis

Kabir Taneja

As the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas continues without any end in sight, an increasingly visible big-power(s) competition has afforded a few non-state armed militant groups some space that they can take advantage of. The US and its Western allies on one side and Russia and China on the other may be a widening geopolitical crevasse, a point of worry for many. But for the likes of Hamas and the Afghan Taliban, it’s an opportunity.

Post The Post-WWII Global Order

The slow disintegration of the post-World War II global order has given ample space to non-state armed groups to not just rekindle their own political and ideological aims but also get access to more institutional frameworks, such as those of the United Nations, as well as its clubhouse, the Security Council (UNSC). Recent reports in some sections of regional media in West Asia have suggested that a meeting took place in Doha between Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas’s political bureau, and Cao Xiaolin, China’s ambassador to Qatar. Haniyeh reportedly praised China’s role and stand in the UN on the ongoing war in Gaza and was in favour of the Palestinian cause, while also highlighting Beijing’s humanitarian assistance.

Meanwhile, Russia also recently hosted a congregation of Palestinian groups, which included representation from both Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, on the sidelines of this meet reiterated his country’s support for a unified Palestine Liberation Organisation, an effort that would see Hamas try to work with Fatah, a Palestinian movement it has fought against over political and ideological differences. Nonetheless, the question is not so much about Hamas here but Russia’s aim and role, considering this is not the first time Moscow has hosted Palestinian groups since October 2023.

The ‘Day After’ In Gaza: Bridging The American And Israeli Visions – Analysis

Leon Hadar

The divisions between Israel and the United States over the Gaza War seem to have deepened in the aftermath of the release of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan for post-war Gaza. The plan did not include reference to one of Washington’s key demands from Israel: that it accepts the idea of establishing an independent Palestinian state.

The Israeli plan was “at odds with US aims” and bound to lead to tensions between the two countries, predicted the Financial Times. The Economist concluded that “Israel scorns America’s unprecedented peace plan.”

Indeed, the American media narrative contrasted the American plan for the “Day After” in Gaza, advanced by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and backed by Saudi Arabia, with Netanyahu’s vision, putting into sharper focus “the widening gap between Netanyahu and the Biden Administration on the occupied territories and future of post-war Gaza.”

Are the Israeli and American visions for the “Day After” as irreconcilable as the pundits suggest?

More likely, they represent the tensions between an American position—that is aligned with the view of Saudi Arabia and other Arab-Sunni governments—and Israeli public concerns over the security threat that an independent Palestinian state would pose. American and Israeli policymakers can try to bridge these differences by setting Palestinian independence as a long-term goal.

Saudi-Israeli Normalization Without a Palestinian State

Saudi Arabia emerged as key to the Biden Administration’s strategy in the Middle East prior to the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2023 and even more significantly in its aftermath. The Hamas attack had put on hold an initial US diplomatic initiative that aimed at normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel: an outcome that would help form an Arab-Israeli strategic partnership to contain Iran. The plan also included a US security commitment to Riyadh and a green-light to Saudi efforts to enrich uranium.

How Biden Can Get Tough on Netanyahu

Jonah Blank

Throughout most of U.S. President Joe Biden’s political lifetime, conventional wisdom has held that there is no benefit—and enormous risk—to getting tough on Israel. But it is no longer that simple. After more than five months of devastating war in the Gaza Strip, there is also great risk in not getting tough. Americans overwhelmingly saw Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack as horrific, but many now see Israel’s military response as—to use Biden’s words—“over the top.” In late January, half of Americans thought Israel’s military campaign had “gone too far,” according to polling from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The president’s support for Israel’s invasion of Gaza has alienated much of his electoral base, including young people, progressives, Arab Americans, Muslims, and those who care deeply about human rights.

Biden has not yet proved willing to challenge Israel in a meaningful way, but there are signs that he is becoming increasingly frustrated with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In February, the president’s close associates told NBC News that Netanyahu is “giving him hell.” On March 10, Biden said Netanyahu’s military strategy was “hurting Israel more than helping Israel.” Netanyahu has chafed at Biden’s increasingly public calls for restraint, refusing the president’s repeated requests for an open flow of humanitarian aid, and has flatly rejected calls to support even a vague pathway toward an eventual two-state solution.

Biden has both personal and political reasons for continuing to accept these rebuffs. On a personal level, Biden’s strong support for Israel can be traced to the early decades of the country’s statehood and his acquaintance with Israeli leaders going back to Prime Minister Golda Meir. On a political level, Biden has seen U.S. elected officials including Democratic Representatives Donna Edwards and Ilhan Omar suffer painful payback for taking on the Israeli government, inflicted by groups including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a lobbying organization. But if the president wants to get tough with Netanyahu, he has an array of options, ranging from withholding military aid to recognizing a Palestinian state. Such moves may not be easy politically, but they could become more feasible as the war’s death toll rises and starvation spreads in Gaza.

Four more ships deploy to build Gaza humanitarian aid port

Meghann Myers

Four Army logistical support vessels are on their way to the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the Pentagon announced Tuesday, to build an offshore pier that will open a maritime corridor to flow humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

The Monterrey, Amoros, Wilson Wharf and James A. Loux left Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, on Tuesday, Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters, following the departure of the Gen. Frank A. Besson, Jr. over the weekend.

“We expect the pier to be fully operational in approximately 60 days, which will be able to facilitate the delivery of up to 2 million meals daily,” Ryder said.

President Joe Biden first announced the port construction plan during the State of the Union address on Thursday. The 7th Transportation Brigade, including roughly 1,000 troops, will use the Joint Logistics Over-The-Shore program to build a modular causeway off Gaza’s coast and then anchor it to the beach.

Cargo ships carrying aid will then be able to offload to an offshore platform, where troops will transfer it to smaller vessels and drive it to the causeway, where it will be loaded onto trucks and driven into Gaza ― all without U.S. troops having to set foot in the territory.

The pier’s location will likely not be disclosed ahead of time, Ryder said.

In the meantime, the U.S. is continuing to air drop aid into Gaza. Another joint mission with Royal Jordanian Air Force on Tuesday delivered 5,000 meals, Ryder said, bringing the total from U.S. airdrops to more than 204,000 meals, 48,000 bottles of water and more than 5,000 of other food.

Israeli forces make a lethal strike on a U.N. aid warehouse in Rafah.

Anushka Patil

The Israeli military confirmed that it had bombed an aid warehouse in Rafah in southern Gaza on Wednesday, saying it had “precisely targeted” and killed a Hamas commander in an attack that the United Nations said also killed at least one aid worker and injured 22 others.

The Israeli military said the Hamas commander, whom it identified as Muhammad Abu Hasna, was “involved in taking control of humanitarian aid” and coordinating “the activities of various Hamas units.”

UNRWA, the U.N. agency that supports Palestinians, said the strike in Gaza’s southernmost city hit one of its facilities that serves as both an aid warehouse and a food distribution center.

The agency, formally the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, is the largest provider of aid on the ground in Gaza and the chief lifeline for the enclave’s 2.2 million residents, more than half of whom have been forced by Israeli military orders or fighting to cram into Rafah.

The UNRWA facility was not distributing food to civilians on Wednesday, but more than 50 staff members were working at the facility when it was hit by Israeli forces around noon, according to Juliette Touma, UNRWA’s director of communications. Physical damage to the facility appeared to be minimal, but the human toll was “quite high” and some of the 22 wounded aid workers were “severely injured,” she said.

Israel Allows Aid Directly Into North Gaza, Raising Hopes for More

Adam Rasgon, Lars Dolder, Victoria Kim and Michael Levenson

Israel has allowed a small convoy carrying food to enter northern Gaza directly through an Israeli border crossing for the first time since the war began on Oct. 7, as global pressure intensifies to let more desperately needed aid into the territory, where hundreds of thousands are at risk of starvation.

The Israeli military said that it had allowed six trucks carrying supplies from the United Nations World Food Program to enter the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, not far from the Israeli village of Be’eri, where more people were killed in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack than in any other community. The World Food Program said that its delivery, containing food for 25,000 people, was its first since Feb. 20 to the northern part of the enclave.

For five months, aid groups had been able to reach northern Gaza only by entering through one of two southern border crossings, and then attempting a difficult and hazardous drive to the north. Few had successfully made the trip to distribution points. After the convoy on Tuesday cleared Israeli inspection, it crossed into Gaza through a gate on a security fence that had not previously been used for aid deliveries, the Israeli military said.

The food was only a sliver of what would be needed to feed hungry Gazans suffering from extreme food shortages, particularly in the north, where the Israeli army invaded in late October and where some residents have resorted to eating leaves and animal feed. Little aid has reached northern Gaza after major relief groups suspended operations there, citing lawlessness, poor road conditions and Israeli restrictions on convoys.

To avoid the risk of crowds jumping on trucks to grab supplies, the aid from the northern convoy was distributed quickly and close to the fence, said Abeer Etefa, a spokeswoman for the World Food Program. The convoy included one truck full of flour and five carrying food packages. The delivery came after six days of intensive negotiations, she said.

Pakistan’s New Cabinet Indicates Military’s Influence

Umair Jamal

Pakistan’s new federal cabinet, which was announced recently, is made up of technocrats, seasoned politicians, and a few new names of people who are not affiliated with any political party. The new cabinet appears to be the outcome of a compromise reached by key stakeholders, including the military, and political parties in power to find a way to get Pakistan out of the volatile post-election period that was tainted by allegations of electoral manipulation.

The federal cabinet’s formation suggests that there was significantly more to the election-rigging controversy than was previously thought. It wasn’t a simple case of votes being stuffed in favor of one side. Instead, the alleged manipulation effort was aimed at assisting Pakistan’s influential institutions to sideline some members of the newly-elected ruling coalition from gaining influence over the new administration.

Thus, although the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) emerged as the front-runner in terms of seats in the National Assembly, some within the party feel that the PML-N’s founder, Nawaz Sharif, was set up to lose, allowing his younger brother Shehbaz Sharif and his group to gain strength at the federal level.

The composition of the new cabinet makes it very clear that not even a handful of Nawaz’s supporters hold significant positions in the administration. For example, former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, a close ally of Nawaz, has not returned to assume leadership of the ministry. As I noted in a previous piece, Dar was unlikely to be put in charge of the finance ministry. Crucial discussions between Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) about a new loan arrangement are imminent, and the Fund is reportedly not comfortable engaging with him because of his purported inefficiency in negotiations. In addition, he may also have lost the portfolio due to his close ties with Nawaz.

America Can’t Isolate the Taliban

Asfandyar Mir and Andrew Watkins

At a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in late January, Chinese President Xi Jinping accepted the credentials of the Taliban’s newly appointed Afghan ambassador to China. Although the step did not amount to formal recognition of the Taliban, Xi’s upgrade of relations marks the most significant challenge to a United States-led consensus against normalization with the Afghan regime. “China believes that Afghanistan should not be excluded from the international community,” a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry said at a press briefing after the event.

In fact, it was only the latest example of the challenges the United States now faces in its handling of the Taliban. Since the conservative Islamist movement’s return to power in August 2021, the world has struggled to deal with a repressive regime that rules over 40 million Afghans in a strategically vital part of Eurasia. The approach that the United States and its allies and partners ultimately converged on was a commitment to continue engaging with the Afghan people—for example by providing substantial humanitarian aid—while at the same time withholding diplomatic recognition of the Taliban regime and the benefits that usually come with normal diplomatic relations.

Over the past two years, the United States has sought to build on this approach—not only by withholding its own recognition of the Taliban but also by sustaining an international consensus on nonrecognition. In part, this position is punitive in nature, intended to signal rejection of the Taliban’s legitimacy. But the approach is also rooted in the logic that, by maintaining a united front, international and regional powers could shame and pressure the Taliban into changing their ways. The Biden administration has made clear that it aims to use the threat of diplomatic isolation to induce the Taliban to improve their behavior in three core areas: respecting human rights, especially women’s rights; cracking down on terrorist activity on Afghan soil; and embracing a more inclusive governance structure that reflects the country’s diverse ethnic, religious, and tribal communities.

Understanding the Paradox of Japan’s Economy

Zhihai XIE

Recently two seemingly paradoxical headlines about the Japanese economy caught people’s attention. First, in 2023 Japan’s GDP was surpassed by that of Germany. Japan thus dropped to the world’s fourth-largest economy, 13 years after its long hold on the number two position was overtaken by China in 2010. And yet the Japanese stock market has continued to roar and even hit a historical record, with the Nikkei Index once climbing above 40,000. This was even higher than its peak in 1989, right before the bubble burst.

These two headlines taking place at the same time might be puzzling. Is the Japanese economy in good shape or bad? How should people understand these contradictory phenomena?

To be fair, it should be mentioned that the nominal GDP is influenced by the exchange rate. Given that the Japanese yen has depreciated against the U.S. dollar by nearly 30 percent in the past decade, its GDP calculation would certainly shrink.

That said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Japan’s economy is secretly doing better than Germany’s. Data from the IMF shows that Japan’s average real growth rate annually from 2000 to 2022 was only 0.7 percent, while that of Germany was 1.2 percent. As a result, during the past two decades, Japanese GDP only rose about 10 percent, while German GDP nearly doubled.

Meanwhile, Japan’s labor productivity – measured by the worth of goods or services a worker can produce per hour – ranked 30th among the 38 OECD countries as of 2022, and the lowest among the advanced G-7 countries. Japan’s labor productivity is just 60 percent of Germany’s, which ranks second, only behind the United States. This is why Germany’s GDP can catch up with Japan’s, despite having a population that is only two-thirds of Japan’s.

Egypt: Questionable Amnesty Deals For ISIS Members, Says HRW

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The Egyptian authorities appear to have made opaque amnesty deals in recent years with suspected members of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) affiliate in Egypt’s North Sinai without making the criteria public, Human Rights Watch and the Sinai Foundation for Human Rights said.

Evidence gathered by the two organizations and public statements by officials indicate that the authorities have granted some members of the ISIS affiliate Wilayat Sina’ (Sinai Province) amnesties for laying down their arms and turning themselves in. However, the authorities have not clarified whether they have a plan for prosecuting those suspected of serious abuses such as mass civilian killings and extrajudicial executions.

“Amnesties for members of armed groups who lay down their arms should never include those who intentionally carried out grave crimes such as targeting or deliberately killing civilians,” said Ahmed Salem, executive director of the Sinai Foundation for Human Rights. “Egyptian authorities should develop a national strategy for Wilayat Sina’ prosecutions, ensuring that those with direct responsibility for serious crimes do not enjoy impunity.”

Since 2020, the Egyptian authorities have been encouraging members of Wilayat Sina’ to surrender under security initiatives facilitated by North Sinai local clan leaders, based on media and human rights reports.

Wilayat Sina’ is a relatively small group that that has targeted the Egyptian military, other government forces, and civilians since 2013. The group pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2014. The armed conflict has gradually de-escalated as Wilayat Sina’ lost most of its strongholds in 2020 and appears to have been near completely eradicated by the end of 2022, according to media reports, residents’ accounts, and official statements. But the military, police, army-aligned militias, and Wilayat Sina’ have committed serious violations of international humanitarian law that in many cases may have amounted to war crimes.

Why the Middle East Still Needs America

Daniel Byman

If there is one aspect of foreign policy that U.S. Presidents Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden share, it is this: a desire for the United States to leave the Middle East. The Biden administration’s 2022 National Security Strategy, for example, focuses on the “pacing threat” of China and otherwise emphasizes great-power competition, not the squabbles of the Middle East. Obama and Trump similarly wanted to pivot to Asia and otherwise disentangle the United States from the region. 

Red Sea Blockade

Seth Cropsey

On 6 March, a Houthi missile attack on a merchant ship off the coast of Yemen, killed three crewmen and forced evacuation of the burning ship. The fatalities were the first in the Houthis’ ongoing attack on shipping in the international waters of the Red Sea.

Houthi disruption to maritime traffic in the region has continued nearly unabated for months, despite multiple rounds of U.S. and allied strikes to degrade Houthi capacity. The result should be a shift in policy from the Biden administration to one of blockade that cuts off the Houthis from their Iranian masters, and thereby erodes the threat. This would impose costs on both Iran and its proxy neither of which will stand down once the war in Gaza ends. But successful blockades require naval combatants: the U.S. continues to experience its decades long decline in naval capacity. And this, in turn, demands a more fundamental reassessment of the Anglo-American strategic construct.

The Houthis, an Iranian proxy organization that has fought a near decade-long war against the internationally recognized, Saudi-Emirati-backed Yemeni government, have demonstrated their geopolitical value since the Hamas-executed, Iranian-assisted 7 October 2023 attacks on Israel. Like Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq, various militia groups in Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis have turned to Iran’s best-known tool, a missile and drone arsenal, to squeeze Israel and the United States.

Yet the Houthis play a specific role in Iranian strategy, distinct from the other members of the Axis of Resistance. The Lebanese, Syrian, and Iraqi elements of Iran’s proxy alliance pressure Israel directly or stress the U.S.’ remaining, and critical, forward defense network in the Middle East. By driving the U.S. from its Syrian al-Tanf complex in particular, Iran hopes to shorten its supply lines, use the Baghdad-Damascus highway directly, and apply greater pressure to Jordan in tandem with the West Bank.

The Houthis, by contrast, have an international mission. Since 7 October, the Houthis have employed loitering munitions and ballistic missiles to attack civilian shipping transiting the Mediterranean-Indian Ocean route, the beating heart of the Eurasian trade system, while also launching sporadic ballistic missile raids on Israel. While initially claiming to target only Israeli-affiliated and Israeli-bound shipping, the Houthis, and their Iranian masters, lack such discrimination, with the partial exception of limiting attacks on Chinese shipping.

Ukraine’s New War Strategy: Dig In, Hold On, Find More Soldiers, Hope For US Weaponry – Analysis

Mike Eckel

Weeks after notching their biggest battlefield win in nearly a year, the capture of the industrial city of Avdiyivka, Russian forces are advancing — in some places, slowly, in other places, quickly.

Ukrainian commanders are rushing to lay out defensive lines — trenches, bunkers, “hedgehog” tank obstacles, dragon’s teeth, mine fields — defenses some experts say should have been built months ago. Military recruiters and logistics officers, meanwhile, are scrambling to find more men to replenish decimated and exhausted units.

The situation on the battlefield is grim for Ukraine, experts say, and the disruption of weaponry and supplies from the United States is making it grimmer. Russia has the momentum and nothing in the foreseeable future is likely to change that, according to military analysts.

“The situation for Ukrainian forces remains very difficult, marked by a multitude of factors such as delayed mobilization efforts, insufficient fortification construction, missteps during the 2023 campaign, and notably, a critical failure of partners to deliver promised ammunition despite previous commitments,” according to a Ukrainian reserve officer who oversees an open-source intelligence organization with ties to the Ukrainian military and cannot speak publicly due to military restrictions.

“It’s quite bad actually,” said Konrad Muzyka, a Polish-based defense analyst who visited several locations in Ukraine near the front lines last week.

“The Ukrainians are absolutely in no position to significantly degrade Russian forward momentum,” he told RFE/RL. “The Russians will slowly but steadily capture new villages and settlements. It definitely will not be blitzkrieg. But I think it’s fair to say that…currently the Ukrainians are at the weakest, probably since mid-2022.”

Army should permanently station armor brigade in Poland, report argues

Davis Winkie

The U.S. military should reassess its force posture in Europe and reduce its reliance on revolving door-style unit rotations, a major think tank’s analysts concluded in a Monday report.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ transnational threat team based their study on official documents, open-source materials and interviews with subject-matter experts.

The report’s authors recommend that the Army abandon the rotational armor brigade deployment model that “eats up ... the Army’s force structure and long-term readiness.” Currently, two armor brigades are deployed to Europe. Instead, the report said, the service should permanently station an Armored Brigade Combat Team in Poland to replace one rotational unit and eliminate the remaining rotation altogether.

An Army Times investigation found that tank brigades and enlisted tank crew members were at higher risk of suicide than other soldiers in recent years, due in part to a decade of high operational tempo fueled by such non-combat deployments. The service once had armor brigades in Europe, but they were removed in the early 2010s.

Currently, the Army maintains a large presence of rotational forces in Europe. V Corps’ forward headquarters in Poznan, Poland oversees the three temporarily deployed brigade combat teams, which includes one light infantry brigade in addition to the two armor brigades. Other rotational forces include division headquarters, a combat aviation brigade, fires assets and sustainment units.

But the short-tour model has consequences, the report’s authors argued. They cost more money in the long-term compared to permanent bases, and they are less integrated into the continent’s culture and defense network. The deployment-based model negatively impacts soldiers, too — the authors said evidence suggests they “separate military personnel from their families,” causing “low morale” that can spawn “discipline issues and increased divorce rates.”

Putin Warns Again That Russia Is Ready To Use Nuclear Weapons

President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia is ready to use nuclear weapons if its sovereignty or independence is threatened, issuing another blunt warning to the West just days ahead of an election in which he’s all but certain to win another six-year term.

The Russian leader has repeatedly talked about his readiness to use nuclear weapons since invading Ukraine in February 2022. The most recent such threat came in his state-of-the-nation address last month, when he warned the West that deepening its involvement in the fighting in Ukraine would risk a nuclear war.

Asked in an interview with Russian state television released early Wednesday if he has ever considered using battlefield nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Putin responded that there has been no need for that. Still, the remarks appeared to be a message to the West that he is prepared to use all means to protect his gains there.

In an apparent reference to NATO allies, he also declared that “the nations that say they have no red lines regarding Russia should realize that Russia won’t have any red lines regarding them either.”

In the interview, Putin described U.S. President Joe Biden as a veteran politician who fully understands possible dangers of escalation, and said that he doesn’t think that the world is heading to a nuclear war.

At the same time, he emphasized that Russia’s nuclear forces are in full readiness and “from the military-technical viewpoint, we’re prepared.”

Putin said that in line with the country’s security doctrine, Moscow is ready to use nuclear weapons in case of a threat to “the existence of the Russian state, our sovereignty and independence.”

US will send another $300M in weapons to Ukraine, thanks to ‘cost savings’


Unexpected savings on weapons purchases has enabled the United States to send a fresh $300 million package of much-needed weapons to Ukraine, officials said Tuesday.

The munitions include Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, HIMARS rockets, 155mm high-explosive and cluster-munition artillery round, 105mm artillery rounds, 84 anti-armor systems, and small arms ammunition, White House officials said.

“This is possible because of unanticipated cost savings in contracts that DOD negotiated to replace equipment we've already sent to Ukraine through previous drawdowns,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters. “When we sent Ukraine weapons last year, we negotiated contracts to replenish those weapons in US stockpiles. We budgeted the full amount of appropriated funds for those contracts. It turns out we negotiated well. Those contracts came in under budget. So we have a modest amount of funding available.

“And to put a fine point on it, we were able to use these cost savings to make this modest amount of new security assistance available right now, without impacting U.S. military readiness.”

For weeks, officials and others have warned that Ukraine’s munitions supplies are running low. Ukrainian officials say this has contributed to recent battlefield losses in Avdiivka and elsewhere.

Today’s battles happen at the pace of software. The Pentagon needs to hit the accelerator


The right software can dictate a battle’s outcome, and the Pentagon’s not changing fast enough to keep up, a panel of experts told lawmakers Wednesday.

“Can commanders access data to control highly distributed forces? Can we invent new ways of fighting that put the [People’s Republic of China] on the backfoot and dissuade aggression? These are the issues that the Department of Defense must tackle if it wants to compete. And now every one of these issues now depends on software,” Daniel Patt, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Cyber, IT, and Innovation on Wednesday. “Even changing a military unit's tactics now depends on a software update, not just a whiteboard planning session. And we need look no further than the battlefields of Ukraine to find evidence that units which are able to change their software more quickly see better outcomes.”

One of the culprits is the Pentagon’s authority-to-operate, or ATO, process, which is used to make sure software is safe before it’s used, Patt said.

“The ATO is about the risk of using the software, about deploying the software, and this gets aligned with mission risk,” he said. “If it's buying body armor, you can really separate these decisions of…is it safe to use this on a mission? Does this help support the mission? With software, though again, these lines get blurred.”

The idea to reform the authority-to-operate process isn’t new, and is often cited as a barrier to getting new tech ready to use. A recent Defense Innovation Board study took up the issue, recommending the Pentagon’s chief information officer issue policy to allow any approved software bought as a service for one cloud environment carry over to others—in addition to using the continuous ATO process for faster updates.

The US is not serious about aircraft carriers—or their industrial base


Last October, Hamas terrorists—acting with the sanction of their Iranian puppeteers—murdered over a thousand innocent Israelis (and Americans), taking hundreds captive. This attack was made against the backdrop of Iranian-backed attacks on U.S. forces elsewhere in the theater, attacks that had become routine. In response, the defense secretary ordered the carrier Gerald R. Ford to take station in the eastern Mediterranean as part of measures to deter further regional aggression.

He was able to do this, and the carrier was able to be there about a day later, because the ship was already in the Mediterranean. It was already there because for decades, defense planners have recognized that deterrence, assurance, crisis response, and naval diplomacy can best be accomplished by robust naval force, forward deployed. So important was the carrier presence there that Ford was extended on deployment and joined shortly thereafter by a second carrier strike group: Eisenhower and its escorts. Ford has since returned the United States, but Eisenhower remains in the Middle East, and its air wing—along with a number of destroyers—are carrying on the Battle of the Red Sea against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who are disrupting freedom of the seas on a daily basis.

Given the recent importance of aircraft carriers in the Defense Department’s response to real-world tasking—and the fact that such responses have been routine for administrations since World War II—one might assume that aircraft carrier construction and sustainment of the industrial base that supports it would be jealously guarded in the Fiscal Year 2025 Defense Budget. One would be wrong to do so.

Monday’s FY25 budget rollout revealed that the Navy plans to delay procurement of the next aircraft carrier—CVN 82—by at least two years, from 2028 to beyond the new five-year plan that ends in FY 2029. Had the last three years not occurred—Russian aggression in Europe, Iranian aggression in the Middle East, Chinese blustering in the Indo-Pacific—the Biden Administration’s lukewarm interest in naval forward presence and the continuing utility of aircraft carriers could be explicable. But the last three years did happen, and the value of mobile, lethal, carrier-based air power in addressing these developments has been obvious.

Biden Shrinks the U.S. Military

President Biden opened his State of the Union address last week invoking Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941. This week he rolled out a military budget fit for 1991, the twilight of the Cold War. Will Congress step up to defend the country amid compounding threats?

The President’s $850 billion request for the Pentagon in 2025 is a mere 1% increase over 2024. That’s a cut after inflation, the fourth in a row Mr. Biden has proposed. What’s happened in the past year? Israel was brutally attacked and is now fighting a war for survival. Iranian proxies have fired drones and rockets at U.S. troops in the region more than 100 times, and its terrorists in Yemen have taken a global shipping lane hostage.

Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine is a bloody slog that he could still win. North Korea is ratcheting up its belligerence toward South Korea, which the U.S. is bound to defend. China announced recently a 7.2% increase in defense spending. One recent think-tank report estimates Beijing is fielding high-end equipment five to six times faster than the U.S.

Mr. Biden thinks this is an acceptable moment to put American defenses on a diet, and the Administration says it’s merely complying with budget caps negotiated last year with Congress. Yet few priorities escaped the axe.

The U.S. Army will contract, and not because America is relying less on land forces, which are in high demand in Europe and the Middle East. The Army is asking for 442,300 troops, though the Biden Administration requested 485,000 as recently as 2022. The healthier number for the missions required is 500,000. Shrinking the force is no substitute for fixing the underlying problem, which is a struggle to find recruits.

A-50 AWACS: Ukraine Adds Salt To Russian Wounds; Bombs Taganrog Plant Repairing A-50 ‘Eye In The Sky’?

Sakshi Tiwari

On March 9, Vasiliy Golubev, the regional governor of Rostov, posted on Telegram about a major drone strike that was allegedly directed against Taganrog.

This information was later confirmed by the Russian Ministry of Defense. Four districts reported the downing of 47 drones early on March 9, of which 41 were claimed to have been detected and destroyed in Rostov.

Preliminary reports suggested that no significant damage or loss of life had happened at Taganrog. However, Russian Telegram channels were later flooded with claims — without providing specific details — that the Beriev aircraft factory in Taganrog may have been affected in the attack. Now, we know the scope of damage.

As per satellite imagery published by an open intelligence group, Frontelligence, the Beriev Aircraft Company, which was engaged in repair work on an A-50 AWACS aircraft, incurred significant damage in the drone attack.

Three strikes on industrial properties are seen in the photos, two of which landed on the main production workshop, where an A-50 airborne early warning and control system was being serviced at that time.

The researchers believe that an A-50 was present at the location before the attack and was being repaired at one of the hangars that were hit. There are speculations that the aircraft was critically damaged in the strike, but neither side has officially commented on the extent of damage at the time of writing this report.

According to Russian military bloggers, the Ukrainian forces were aiming at the production site of the Be-200 amphibious aircraft but got the A-50 instead. As per previous satellite images, the A-50 was spotted in the facility in late February and was most likely still present at the location at the time of the attack. EurAsian Times could not independently verify these claims.

TikTok’s Security Threats Go Beyond the Scope of House Legislation

David E. Sanger

In a capital where Republicans and Democrats agree on virtually nothing, it was notable when the House overwhelmingly declared on Wednesday that TikTok poses such a grave risk to national security that it must be forced to sell its U.S. operations to a non-Chinese owner.

But that glosses over the deeper TikTok security problem, which the legislation does not fully address. In the four years this battle has gone on, it has become clear that the security threat posed by TikTok has far less to do with who owns it than it does with who writes the code and algorithms that make TikTok tick.

Those algorithms, which guide how TikTok watches its users and feeds them more of what they want, are the magic sauce of an app that 170 million Americans now have on their phones. That’s half the country.

But TikTok doesn’t own those algorithms; they are developed by engineers who work for its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, which assembles the code in great secrecy in its software labs, in Beijing, Singapore and Mountain View, Calif. But China has issued regulations that appear designed to require government review before any of ByteDance’s algorithms could be licensed to outsiders. Few expect those licenses to be issued — meaning that selling TikTok to an American owner without the underlying code might be like selling a Ferrari without its famed engine.

The bill would require a new, Western-owned TikTok to be cut off from any “operational relationship” with ByteDance, “including any cooperation with respect to the operation of a content recommendation algorithm.” So the new, American-based company would have to develop its own, made-in-America algorithm. Maybe that would work, or maybe it would flop. But a version of TikTok without its classic algorithm might quickly become useless to users and worthless to investors.

‘Jamming’: How Electronic Warfare Is Reshaping Ukraine’s Battlefields

Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Yurii Shyvala

The Ukrainian soldier swore and tore off his headset. His video monitor had gone blurry at first, the landscape of shattered trees and shell craters barely visible, before blacking out completely. The Russians had jammed the signal of his drone as it was flying outside the town of Kreminna in eastern Ukraine.

“Some days everything goes smoothly, other days the equipment breaks, the drones are fragile and there is jamming,” said the soldier, who goes by the call sign DJ and was speaking from his underground outpost a few miles from the front line.

For a while, the Ukrainians enjoyed a honeymoon period with their self-detonating drones that were used like homemade missiles. The weapons seemed like an effective alternative to artillery shells for striking Russian forces.

Now, the bad days are starting to outweigh the good ones: electronic countermeasures have become one of the Russian military’s most formidable weapons after years of honing their capabilities.

Electronic warfare remains a hidden hand in much of the war, and like Ukraine’s disadvantage in troop numbers and ammunition supplies, Ukraine suffers in this area as well in comparison to Russia. Russia has more jamming equipment capable of overpowering Ukrainian signals by broadcasting on the same frequencies at higher power. It also exhibits better coordination among their units.

New Telecommunications Era: Dawn of Terahertz and Quantum Communication

Michael Rodriguez

Are we on the cusp of a communication revolution? Imagine a world where data is transmitted at mind-boggling speeds using the invisible spectrum of terahertz waves, and information is exchanged with unbreakable security using the principles of quantum mechanics. This isn’t a piece of science fiction; it’s the dawn of an era where terahertz and quantum communication technologies are turning the once-impossible into reality, promising to transform the digital landscape and redefine global connectivity.

Researchers worldwide, pushing the envelope of the electromagnetic spectrum, have harnessed the power of terahertz frequencies — a sweet spot between microwaves and infrared light — to bring us one step closer to ultra-fast wireless communication, potentially unleashing the true potential of 6G networks. But what does this mean for our future? With experiments conducted by institutions like Tohoku University in Japan, we’re not only re-envisioning wireless communication but also redefining its capabilities in advanced imaging and scanning technologies.

Meanwhile, quantum communication is shattering the boundaries of secure data transfer, as scientists from Russia and China demonstrate with their 3,800-kilometer quantum key distribution success, facilitated by the pioneering Mozi quantum satellite. The implications are vast — from transforming the way we protect national infrastructures to laying the groundwork for a cybersecurity paradigm shift in the fast-approaching quantum computing era.

As these experiments unfurl and the technologies mature, we stand at the threshold of a world where the invisible becomes the indomitable. Could these advances be the key to a future where cyber threats are nullified by quantum encryption and terahertz waves channel the flow of data at unprecedented rates? Join us as we delve into the exhilarating juncture where the mysteries of terahertz and quantum realms collide, heralding a new age of communication and redefining the world we live in.

The big AI research DARPA is funding this year


In its most recent budget request, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, is asking for increased spending for a handful of key AI projects focused on human-machine teams, AI reasoning, and highly autonomous AIs that follow the Defense Department’s AI ethics principles.

Perhaps the most important AI program DARPA is looking to fund in FY 2025 is the Rapid Experimental Missionized Autonomy, or REMA, which seeks to “enhance commercially available and stock military drones with a subsystem to enable autonomous operation.” In other words, it would give remotely piloted drones purchased anywhere new powers to make decisions. DARPA is asking for $13.8 million for the program this year, up from a request for $5 million last year, in order to “continue to develop software, integrate with other performers, test, refine, and retest REMA solution,” through multiple development cycles.

Another program, called Autonomy Standards and Ideals with Military Operational Values, or ASIMOV, will test how well Defense Department autonomous weapons adhere to the department’s safety and ethics principles.

They are requesting $22 million this year, up from $5 million last year, to test autonomous weapons software against complex scenarios involving ethical decisions.

A big theme among all the AI programs getting first funding or increased funding this year is the idea of human-machine interaction, or “symbiosis,” as DARPA calls it. In one example, a new program called Access in AI and Human-Machine Symbiosis will seek to make chatbots “capable of realistic and positive dialog,” and “initiate designs for [large, pre-trained models] supplemented with legal sources to propose legal actions to deter adversaries.” DAPRA is requesting $13 million for it.

Army requesting more than $120M for LASSO kamikaze drones in fiscal 2025


The Army is asking lawmakers for $120.6 million to procure Low Altitude Stalking and Strike Ordnance (LASSO) production systems in fiscal 2025 as the U.S. military moves to beef up its arsenal of loitering munitions.

LASSO is a new-start program for fiscal 2025 that’s part of the service’s vision for a family of low-altitude UAS that are “semi-autonomous (human-in-the-loop) unmanned aerial systems that improves the Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) lethality in terms of stand-off and destruction against dismounted formations, armored vehicles, and tanks,” according to newly released budget justification documents.

The goal of the project is to make infantry brigades as lethal as armored brigades, according to the Army.

Unlike traditional munitions, loitering munitions — also known as kamikaze drones or one-way attack UAS — can fly around until they identify a target. And unlike armed unmanned aerial systems that launch missiles, kamikaze drones destroy their target by crashing into it. They can be armed with a warhead to enhance their potency.

The Army describes the LASSO capability as a lightweight, man-portable weapon that can operate day or night. It includes all-up rounds with a launch-and-delivery system and payload.

It also comes with a fire control system that consists of the fire control unit, ground data link and terminal, and other ancillary equipment.

“LASSO can range less than or equal to 20km (straight line with auxiliary antenna) with a flight endurance that enables the Soldier to make multiple orbits within the IBCT typically assigned battlespace, to acquire and attack targets within and beyond current crew served and small arms fire. The range/endurance enables the unit to utilize reach back capability and maximize standoff … from enemy fires, significantly reducing risk to the Soldier,” according to budget justification documents.