28 May 2017

*** The World That World War II Built

By George Friedman


On June 4-7, it will be 75 years since the Battle of Midway, the battle in which the United States won the war in the Pacific and prevented the defeat of Britain and Russia. Guadalcanal, El Alamein and Stalingrad followed, all mostly fought in the second half of 1942. Over two years of horror would remain – neither Japan nor Germany was prepared to concede the point – but the war was won by the beginning of 1943.

These were extraordinary battles in an extraordinary war. I want to devote some time this year to considering the battles on their anniversaries and, I want to try to explain how these battles were an interlocking whole – really a single, rolling, global battle that collectively decided the war. By the end of the year, my goal is to show that a single global battle, beginning at Midway and ending at Stalingrad, defined the fate of humanity.

Systemic Wars

This is not simply antiquarian interest, although surely June 1942 to February 1943 must rank with Salamis, where the Greeks stopped the Persian surge into Europe; Teutoburg, where the Germans halted the Roman advance; or Lepanto, where Christian Europe halted Muslim Ottoman expansion. These battles defined the future of a civilization; June 1942 to February 1943 defined the future of the entire world.

World War II defined the global civilization in which we now live. It ended Europe’s imperial project, opened the door to American global power, created what was called the Third World and set the stage for the emergence of the Asian mainland as a significant global player. The war also bred a distrust of nationalism, gave rise to multinational institutions and turned an interest in technology into an obsession with its redemptive powers. We live in the shadow of World War II and are now in a global revolt against the world it created.

*** Manchester, Political Upheaval, and the Desertion of the Global Left

By Peter Zeihan

A terror attack in the United Kingdom May 23 killed at least 22, and injured dozens more. As the attack targeted a youth pop concert, a high proportion of the deaths were among children and teenagers. United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May immediately cancelled all her ruling Tory Party’s campaign events — national elections are June 8 — so her government could focus on the crisis. The country’s other parties quickly followed suit.

As of yesterday, the Tories had this election locked up to the degree that a generational shift in UK politics was in the offing. If the polls are accurate, the Tories would have eaten deeply into the holdings of other parties not just in England, but in Wales and Scotland as well. Ongoing Brexit talks have justified and energized the Brits separate-and-superior mindset, and Theresa May has been using that energy to reshape the UK political space. That means, among other things, the British Labour party moving into the political wilderness, the de facto absorption of the anti-EU UK Independence party into the Tories, the Liberal Democrats’ return to the fringes of British power, and the evisceration of the Scottish National Party’s stronghold on Scottish politics and an end (for now) of talk of Scottish independence.

*** Guarding the Guards at the CIA

By George Friedman

Over the weekend, The New York Times published a report detailing the discovery and systematic degradation of the U.S. espionage network in China from 2010 to 2012. The report cites 10 officials, former and current, who describe the penetration of the network and speculate on the reason for its failure. Some claim there was a Chinese mole in the CIA. Others claim that lines of communication between assets and the agency had been breached.

The timing of the report is as interesting as the content itself. CIA officials, after all, have already been accused of leaking information designed to weaken President Donald Trump. And now, not only have a handful of officials revealed a massive intelligence failure, but they have done so, apparently in concert, five years after it happened.

One explanation is that a faction in the CIA means to weaken the agency’s credibility by revealing the failure. (I have no evidence for this, but then again, evidence to substantiate charges is optional in Washington.) This would, in effect, undermine the credibility of those claiming to know about secret Russian plots. “You claim to know about them, but you are actually not very good at intelligence,” or so the argument would go.

** Stratfor untangles the web of Russia’s cyber operations



Summary: 2016 was the breakout year for cybercrime, a revolution largely ignored by journalists. Here Stratfor looks at one aspect that has gotten attention lately — hackers operating from Russia. It is a natural match – a nation with a first class educational system and high rates of poverty. The West can’t suppress Russian hackers without Russia’s help. That becomes less likely with every volley between Trump and Putin. Watch this story for further news.

If the Russian state falls into another period of crisis, the cyber operatives working for the Kremlin could turn against it, much as Moscow’s criminal contacts have in the past. 

Still, the benefits of hiring criminal hackers to conduct cyber operations abroad will continue to outweigh the risks for the Russian government. 

As investigators around the world keep working to dismantle Moscow’s hacking networks, digital meddling in foreign elections will remain a mainstay of Russian intelligence operations. 

Analysis

Russia’s interest in foreign elections didn’t end with the U.S. presidential race. Two days after the first round of the French presidential election on April 23, a cybersecurity firm based in Japan reported that Russian hackers had targeted Emmanuel Macron’s campaign in the runup to the vote. Macron, one of two candidates who advanced to the runoff slated for May 7, had accused the Kremlin of discrediting his campaign, and his staff complained of constant, sophisticated phishing attempts throughout the race. Phishing, though not the most advanced technique, has proved highly effective for conducting criminal activity and espionage; the Kremlin allegedly used the same tactic to interfere in the U.S. vote. Recent developments have shed light on the apparent ties between Russia’s state security apparatus and the world’s most sophisticated cybercriminals.

* The Battle for Yemen: A Quagmire for Saudi Arabia and the UAE

By: Michael Horton

The Saudi- and Emirati-led war in Yemen has been ongoing for 26 months. The war, which began on March 26, 2015 and was ambitiously named “Operation Decisive Storm,” has achieved none of its stated intentions (al-Arabiya, March 26, 2015). The primary aim was the reinstallation of Yemen’s deeply unpopular president, Abd Raboo Mansur Hadi. However, Hadi, who many Yemenis view as a traitor, remains in exile in Saudi Arabia along with most of his government.

Its other goal was to defeat Yemen’s Houthis, a Zaidi Shia organization that is now allied with many of the most capable units of what was the Yemeni Army. While the Houthis and their allies were pushed out of the port city of Aden and, most recently, the small Red Sea port of al-Mocha, the Houthis have retained control of the capital of Sanaa and most of northwest Yemen (Gulf News, February 10). For months, the frontlines in what is a complex multi-actor civil war have remained fixed. This is despite the fact that both Saudi Arabia and the Emirates have spent billions of dollars on unrelenting and devastating — at least for Yemen’s civilians — airstrikes, and backed a disparate mix of anti-Houthi forces and ground forces made up primarily of mercenaries.

Why New Delhi has toughened its stance against Pakistan on Kashmir situation


New Delhi has come down hard on stone pelters and protestors in militancy-hit Kashmir and adopted a tough posture towards Pakistan trying to foment unrest in the region


Defence analysts are of the opinion that tough-talking is now imperative to the Kashmir narrative given the fact that Pakistan has been cashing in on this civil unrest. Photo: Hindustan Times

New Delhi: For the past many months, New Delhi has been seen as adopting a hardline stance towards the situation in Kashmir—coming down hard on stone pelters and protestors in the militancy-hit region as well as adopting a tough posture towards Pakistan trying to foment unrest in the region or push in terrorists to stoke insurgency there.

Sample this: a tough talking Indian army chief General Bipin Rawat reportedly warned in February that locals who try and disrupt anti-terror operations in Kashmir will be treated as “overground workers of terrorists” and can be fired on.

Afghanistan Has Truly Become America’s Never-ending War


The Pentagon’s move to deploy more troops to Afghanistan, should U.S. President Donald Trump approve it, would be aimed at empowering the Afghan National Security Forces to eventually inflict enough casualties on the Taliban to encourage them to negotiate. 

Until the factors that contribute to the conflict — including the Afghan forces’ weakness and Pakistan’s support for the Taliban — have been addressed, the prospects for ending the war will be dim. 

Lax border enforcement between Afghanistan and Pakistan will ensure that militants continue launching attacks into both countries from the border regions, further complicating efforts to end the war. 

The invasion routes into Afghanistan are well worn at this point in history. The pathways leading out of the country, on the other hand, are far less clear. This is the predicament U.S. President Donald Trump faces as he weighs the Pentagon’s proposal to send up to 5,000 troops to Afghanistan to support the struggling Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in their 15-year war against the Taliban. If Trump approves the measure, Washington will escalate its involvement in a conflict that has so far lasted through two presidencies. The move would entail granting U.S. troops greater authority on the battlefield, and may well invite a commensurate personnel contribution from Washington’s allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Afghanistan: Losses, setbacks and impending challenges


Ahead of the critical NATO Summit in Belgium on 25 May Dr Sajjan Gohel discusses the security conditions and challenges in Afghanistan which have been exacerbated by the emboldened Taliban who now control more territory in Afghanistan than at any time since October 2001. He also outlines proposals by U.S. General John W. Nicholson Jr. to stem the deterioration, contextualising why the political and military decisions made by NATO leaders in 2017 could well decide Afghanistan’s future direction in what remains one of the longest protracted conflicts in the world.

Part 2 of Dr Gohel’s analysis, on the challenges posed by Haqqani Network and the ISIS-affiliated Wilayat Khorasan and the geo-strategic agendas of Afghanistan’s neighbours, is available here.

On 21 April, 2017, ten men wearing the uniform of the Afghan National Army (ANA), returning from what seemed to be the front lines against the Taliban and carrying the bodies of wounded comrades entered the base of ANA’s 209th Corps in Balkh Province, in northern Afghanistan, regarded as one of the safer parts of the country. Upon passing several checkpoints in the base, they came across hundreds of unarmed soldiers who were emerging from Friday prayers and preparing for lunch. However, those ten men were not from the ANA, but in fact part of the Taliban, who had been sent on an insidious fedayeen mission, in effect to kill as many Afghan soldiers as possible whilst dying in a hail of bullets. For several hours, the Taliban fighters unleashed carnage, some as suicide bombers, killing 150 Afghan soldiers and thus setting the unpalatable record of inflicting the deadliest single attack in one day against the military.

BACK TO FIRST PRINCIPLES: FOUR FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS ABOUT AFGHANISTAN

STEPHEN TANKEL

“We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let’s get out!” That was Donald Trump tweeting in November 2013. Fast forward and President Trump is considering sending 3,000 to 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Although the precise troop numbers and particulars of their deployment are still being mapped out, all indications are that these additional forces would not directly contribute to the counter-terrorism mission. Rather, they would be sent to shore up the Afghan government forces fighting against the Taliban. As the White House reviews the proposed increase, there are numerous questions it should address. Four are paramount.

1. Is shoring up the Afghan government forces necessary to enable an ongoing counter-terrorism mission, and, if not, then what U.S. interests are at stake?

For the past three years, the U.S. mission in Afghanistan has focused on targeting al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and any other terrorists that could directly threaten the American homeland or U.S. persons and infrastructure overseas. The narrowness of the mission makes it easier to achieve and to sustain. However, the ability to conduct this mission — at least in its current form — is contingent on a friendly Afghan government remaining in control of its territory.

China’s Imperial Overreach


BRAHMA CHELLANEY

HONG KONG – Chinese President Xi Jinping’s tenure has been marked by high ambition. His vision – the “Chinese dream” – is to make China the world’s leading power by 2049, the centenary of communist rule. But Xi may be biting off more than he can chew.

A critical element of Xi’s strategy to realize the Chinese dream is the “one belt, one road” (OBOR) initiative, whereby China will invest in infrastructure projects abroad, with the goal of bringing countries from Central Asia to Europe firmly into China’s orbit. When Xi calls it “the project of the century,” he may not be exaggerating.

In terms of scale or scope, OBOR has no parallel in modern history. It is more than 12 times the size of the Marshall Plan, America’s post-World War II initiative to aid the reconstruction of Western Europe’s devastated economies. Even if China cannot implement its entire plan, OBOR will have a significant and lasting impact.

Of course, OBOR is not the only challenge Xi has mounted against an aging Western-dominated international order. He has also spearheaded the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and turned to China’s advantage the two institutions associated with the BRICS grouping of emerging economies (the Shanghai-based New Development Bank and the $100 billion Contingent Reserve Arrangement). At the same time, he has asserted Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea more aggressively, while seeking to project Chinese power in the western Pacific.

Beyond The San Hai

By Dr. Patrick M. Cronin

The United States has enjoyed largely uncontested naval supremacy across the blue waters, or open oceans, for decades. The rapid emergence of an increasingly global People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) suggests that this era will soon come to a close. China’s ability to conduct power projection and amphibious operations around the world will become a fundamental fact of politics in the near future, with significant consequences for the United States and its allies, all of which need to begin preparing for a “risen China” rather than a “rising China,” especially in the realm of maritime security. China’s expanding naval capabilities have implications that are difficult to grasp, and more importantly, consequences that will be impossible to ignore, and it is therefore all the more necessary for U.S. and allied planners to reckon with it now. This study has resulted in several key judgments and recommendations for policymakers.

Key Judgements

China will be a Blue-Water Naval Power by 2030: China is rapidly transforming itself from a continental power with a focus on its near seas to a great maritime power with a two-ocean focus. The PLAN is looking beyond the san hai – the Yellow Sea, South China Sea, and East China Sea – and out toward the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

China seeks Military Influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR): China’s dependence on energy and commodity flows transiting the IOR gives it large interests in maintaining the region’s maritime trade routes and political stability. China so far has prosecuted these interests through diplomacy and massive infrastructure development – notably the “One Belt, One Road” initiative – but it seeks military influence, too. Its dual-use port projects, construction of a military base in Djibouti, and increasing deployments to the region strongly suggest it will become a military power in the IOR by 2030.

China Reaches into its Cyber Toolkit to Wage Economic Warfare

SAMANTHA F. RAVICH

When Beijing got the word that the United States was accelerating the deployment of its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to South Korea as a response to North Korea’s latest missile tests, senior Communist Party officials went, no pun intended, ballistic. The official Chinese news agency Xinhua wrote that the deployment of THAAD will lead to an increased arms race in the region and threatened that more “missile shields of one side inevitably bring more nuclear missiles of the opposing side that can break through the missile shield.”

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has increased the pressure on South Korean private firms operating in China as a punishment and warning for Seoul’s decision. Lotte, a South Korean conglomerate that sold the government a golf course to be used for THAAD, felt the pain almost immediately upon the announcement of its role in the defense battery’s positioning. Chinese authorities shuttered dozens of Lotte stores on the mainland, using the flimsy excuse that the government had just discovered that the stores did not comply with fire regulations. Beyond the closure of the physical stores, Lotte’s website was brought down and Lotte Duty Free suffered a distributed denial-of-service attack originating from Chinese internet addresses. Initial estimates of lost business and damage from these cyber attacks are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

How The Belt And Road Could Change The 21st Century

by Dan Steinbock, Difference Group

Until recently, globalization was led by the West and benefited only a few advanced economies. After China’s three decades of rapid growth, the Belt and Road initiatives hold potential for more inclusive globalization.



During the weekend, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation flooded Beijing with almost 30 heads of state and government leaders, 1,500 delegates from over 130 nations, and over 70 international organizations.

As the forces of globalization are lingering in the advanced world, the Forum reflected new commitment to more inclusive globalization, particularly by emerging and developing economies. By 2050, their contribution to global GDP growth is expected to climb from 68 percent to 80 percent.

Geography and the Coming US-China War at Sea

By Jerry Hendrix and Robert Bateman

Soon, steel-hulled ships will clash in battle. Missiles belching fire will rise quickly from launch tubes, rapidly gathering speed and maneuverability before slamming into enemy vessels at supersonic speeds. Sailors will die, ships will sink, and nations will either rise or fall. Although the time of the battle remains hidden, the site of the battles are known all too well.

Geography is determinate in military plans, a fact that planners understand at all levels, from tactical to strategic. While tailored combat elements may traverse difficult environments on land and at sea, heavily laden logistics craft that follow and enable them can rarely do the same. This is what pushes armies and fleets toward certain immutable routes, resulting in battles occurring at the same locations, over and over, throughout recorded history. Much as the ridge at Megiddo, better known as “Armageddon,” played witness to strife no less than 13 times since the 15th century BCE because it stood astride the route from Mesopotamia to Egypt, key maritime straits such as the waters of the South China Sea and the Sunda and Malaccan Straits will provide the backdrop for future naval battles. Geography and geopolitics are intermeshed and unavoidable. Unfortunately for China, they sit upon the wrong side of the former and are rather poor at the latter. Western advantages in both must not be squandered.

ISIS in East Asia: Strategic Shifts and Security Implications

By Jasminder Singh and Muhammad Haziq Bin Jani for S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS)

As the Philippines battles with militant groups in Mindanao, Daesh supporters have both rechristened and reimagined the latter area as “Wilayah Asia Timur.” This step, observe Jasminder Singh and Muhammad Haziq Jani, is part of a strategic shift by the murderous group in East Asia. The alteration deemphasizes controlling territory in favor of banditry and crime, all in the name of jihad.

As the Philippines battles with militant groups in Mindanao, ISIS supporters have reimagined the area as “Wilayah Asia Timur” as part of ISIS’ strategic shift in East Asia. ISIS terrorists in Southeast Asia may revert to crime and banditry as part of their so-called jihad.

Commentary

In June 2016, ISIS released a video that recognised the pledges of allegiance of various miltant groups in Mindanao. In that video Isnilon Hapilon, leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was recognised as amir of the ISIS groups. It also alluded to the conglomeration of ISIS elements in the Philippines. The A’maaq News Agency, an ISIS mouthpiece acknowledged the presence of ten such groups in six locations throughout Mindanao. This would include the four featured in the video, ASG, the Maute Group (MG), and Katibah al-Muhajir, a cell consisting of migrants from Malaysia and Indonesia.

Why the Trump-Led Islamic Summit in Saudi Arabia Was a Disaster for Pakistan

By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

The Donald Trump-led Arab Islamic American summit, held in Riyadh this weekend, was supposed to be Pakistan’s moment to cash its first check on the diplomatic investment it has made in the Saudi-led Islamic military coalition – which former Army Chief Raheel Sharif militarily heads. After all, the long standing U.S.-Saudi relationship has helped Islamabad ally itself with both, and at a time when the duo was spearheading an “Islamic” summit it was natural for Pakistan to expect a share of the spotlight.

With this in mind, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spent the entire duration of his flight to Riyadh rehearsing his address to the summit, which included leaders of 55 Muslim-majority states. It was time to drive home Islamabad’s perspective on countering Islamist terrorism – the theme of the event – considering Pakistan’s unique role as both victim and counterterrorism proponent. Raheel Sharif heads the counterterror militia, and the country is fourth on the Global Terrorism Index in terms of the most affected states.

Yet Nawaz Sharif wasn’t invited to address the summit. Neither was Raheel Sharif.

It was bad enough that Pakistan didn’t get a say in what was predictably reduced to a Gulf gathering, rather than an “Islamic” summit. Trump’s speech itself further added salt to the wounds.

Will Ukraine Ever Change?

Tim Judah

President Petro Poroshenko with soldiers in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, April 2017

Denis Voronenkov, a former member of the Russian parliament, was walking out of the Premier Palace Hotel in Kiev on March 23 when he was killed in a hail of bullets. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko immediately blamed the Russian state for his murder. Voronenkov, a former supporter of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine who was accused of corruption in Russia and then fled to Kiev last year, had been a controversial figure. After his defection, he was given Ukrainian citizenship, denounced Putin and his policies, and, perhaps crucially, testified against Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s former president, who had fled to Russia when he was driven from power during the Maidan revolution of 2014. 

Russian officials denied involvement in Voronenkov’s death, but made clear they had little sympathy for a man they regarded as a traitor. He was just one more casualty of Ukraine’s revolution and its continuing war with Russia. 

Japan’s Military

By Isabel Reynolds

Bombed-out and poverty-stricken after World War II, Japan disbanded its military and renounced war. Seven decades later, moves to reclaim powers for the armed forces are stirring passions inside and outside the country. Japan’s relations with its Asian neighbors soured over the last few years as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushed ahead with laws to reinterpret its U.S.-drafted pacifist constitution. After his latest election victory, he has a chance to actually amend the document. While Abe avoids pointing the finger directly at China, Beijing's growing military prowess and territorial claims have inflamed tensions in the region. Abe’s moves have stoked the long-simmering debate about whether Japan has come to terms with its wartime atrocities.

With a general election due by the end of 2018, Abe is rushing to change the pacifist Article 9 while he still has the necessary two-thirds majority to start the process. Polls show voters have mixed feelings about his plan to legitimize the armed forces. In 2015, Abe pushed bills through parliament allowing the armed forces to defend other countries. Opposition members tried to physically delay the legislation as thousands demonstrated outside parliament. Many Japanese remain concerned that the country will become entangled in U.S.-led wars like those in Iraq. But as threats simmer closer to home, Japan has approved a series of defense spending increases. And Abe’s own Liberal Democratic Party has proposed that Japan arm itself with offensive weapons for the first time since World War II amid growing fears over North Korea and a desire to avoid any U.S. accusations of “freeloading.” The election of Donald Trump, who had threatened to withdraw U.S. troops from Japan, initially sparked fears that the alliance was weakening and may prompt calls for a still stronger military. 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II, a time when Asian nations recalled the Imperial Army’s brutal invasion and colonization. There has been public bickering on portrayals of the war in textbooks and memorials for decades. Japanese officials have triggered diplomatic flare-ups over the years by downplaying, defending or challenging the evidence of wartime abuses such as the 1937 Rape of Nanking. Still, Abe apologized to Korea over so-called “comfort women” coerced into military brothels and has visited Pearl Harbor, site of Japan's attack that pushed the U.S. into World War II. 

Recalibrating Deterrence to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism

by Robert S. Litwak

Pakistan and North Korea are both on the verge of significantly increasing their stocks of nuclear weapons and weapons-usable materials, necessitating a recalibration of deterrent strategies. Nevertheless, effective strategies of deterrence on the state level remain the prerequisite for countering the non-state threat of nuclear terrorism.

'Swimming, in the morass of information': Special Ops battles with big data

By: Jen Judson

TAMPA, Fla. – U.S. Special Operations Command is struggling to develop and implement technology that will help get a handle on the large amount of information it must sift through to stay informed, make decisions and execute operations.

And SOCOM is not alone in the struggle. It’s a problem that plagues U.S. Armed Forces as a whole.

But mastering “big data” is imperative for special operations activities that rely on real time intelligence and very early indicators to make crucial life or death maneuvers. Leaders from around the command called upon industry for help mastering the seemingly endless data pouring in to be used for intelligence at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference Tuesday.

The message echoed that of USSOCOM Commander Gen. Raymond Thomas in recent testimony: “We’re dealing, literally swimming, in the morass of information and intelligence, a mixed bag,” he told a House Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee hearing earlier this month.

“But how we sort through that in terms of business solutions – we’re on the cusp of it,” Thomas said. “And the good news is, we’re starting to marry up the right people with our operators and our problem solvers to get at this wicked problem of information management and deep data, all the things that go with it that, arguably, corporations have already addressed.”

CYBER HACKERS HAVE RE-PURPOSED A SECOND STOLEN CLASSIFIED U.S. CYBER WEAPON & HAVE MADE IT AVAILABLE ON THE DARK WEB; UIWIX BELIEVED TO BE MUCH MORE DANGEROUS THAN WANNACRY — ‘U.S. NOT READY FOR CYBER PEARL HARBOR’


In the aftermath of the ‘success; of the cyber worm, WannaCry, the Financial Times is reporting this afternoon, May 15, 2017, that “criminal hacking groups have re-purposed a second, stolen, classified U.S. cyber weapon; and, have made it available [for sale] on the Dark Web.” 

According to BREAKING NEWSs this afternoon, the New York Times is reporting that the WannaCry hack appears to have originated in North Korea — more to follow later.

Financial Times reporters, Sam Jones in London and Max Seddon in Moscow, write “the hacking tool, developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and code-named, EsteemAudit, has been adapted and available for criminal use,” according to cyber security experts whom the Financial Times spoke to. “As with the NSA’s Eternal Blue — the tool on which the WannaCry hack was based — EsteemAudit exploits a vulnerability in older versions of Microsoft’s Windows software, in the way in which networked machines communicate with each other,” Mr. Jones and Mr. Seddon wrote.

“At least a dozen other NSA [hacking] tools are currently being discussed and worked on, as the basis of potential cyber weapons on hacking forums on the Dark Web, parts of the Internet not accessible via normal search engines,” Mr. Jones and Mr. Seddon warned.

Defence industry on guard against new cyber threats

by Mark Abernethy

The growing importance of the internet has played out in many industries, most notably retail, real estate and financial services.

But the extraordinary advances being made in defence-related cyberspace and communications may have a greater impact as Australia's ADF is developed into a fighter of cyber and electronic warfare.

The Defence White Paper 2016 introduced cyber and space warfare as a priority for the ADF, not just in the use of cyber technologies to better manage its own combat capability, but as a vulnerability through which adversaries could attack Australia and its defence forces.

"The Australian Signals Directorate detected over 1200 cyber security incidents in 2015, including attacks on government agencies and non-government sectors," the White Paper said.

"Cyber attacks are a direct threat to the ADF's war fighting ability given its reliance on information networks. State and non-state actors now have ready access to highly capable and technologically advanced tools to target others through internet-connected systems and we are seeing greater use of offensive cyber operations."

NORTH KOREAN HACKERS ARE SCARIER THAN NORTH KOREAN NUKES


BY KEVIN MANEY

An epic catastrophe threatens to rain death and destruction across the world, but it’s not the danger most of us fear—not the missile that an overinflated autocratic North Korean might launch. If you want to get really terrified, think of this month’s global ransomware hack as a warmup for the kind of complete digital shutdown that might—and some say will—come.

This moment has echoes from 100 years ago. In 1918, the first mechanized world war seemed like the worst thing that had ever happened to humanity. It killed 17 million people in war zones. Starting just as World War I was ending, a Spanish flu pandemic raced around the planet, killing as many as 100 million people in every big city and small town. Nobody anywhere was safe from it, and nobody anticipated it.

Chinese technicians work at the Recovery Key Laboratory of Sichuan province in Chengdu, China on May 15, where anti-ransomware software was released to recover files encrypted by the international ''WannaCry'' cybersecurity attack, which may have been launched by North Korea.IMAGINECHINA/AP

Is the US military too antiquated to win modern wars?


By: Mark Pomerleau

Experts in technology and warfare gathered Wednesday to discuss the U.S. military's efforts to innovate in response to rapidly changing threats and its place in modern warfare.

Bernadette Johnson, a chief science officer at the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, spoke at the forum hosted by the Center for a New American Security, where he wondered why domains of warfare are separate.

“One thing that has struck me as someone who has tried to solve [Department of Defense] problems for 30 years: Why is it separated the way it is? Why is there a land, a sea, air?” Johnson said. “We were a fresh, brand-new country; standing up today we wouldn’t design the military that we currently have the way we have it, not when we have so many crosscutting problems and capabilities from cyber and air and so forth”

Johnson offered an unconventional notion that members of each service rotated through the others for a period in order to gain a perspective on the operational environments, the problems and the capabilities, acknowledging this is done at some small level, especially within the joint offices.

Net neutrality 2.0: Perspectives on FCC regulation of internet service providers

Stuart N. Brotman

This week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is scheduled to release a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking titled “Restoring Internet Freedom.” This initiative, proposed by the new FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, is expected to receive support from Commissioner Michael O’Reilly, also a Republican appointee. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat is likely to dissent from moving ahead.

Before the partisan noise rises to the level of screeching decibels, it might be useful to provide some much-needed context.

In a speech last month at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., Chairman Pai previewed his rationale for the withdrawal of common carrier regulation of the internet, which is governed by Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended. If enacted by the FCC as a final order after all public comments and replies are filed by mid-August, this change would reverse the detailed rules put in place by the Commission’s Title II Order under former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit subsequently affirmed those so-called “net neutrality” rules in June of 2016—though opponents of the Title II Order considered that ruling just the first battle in an ongoing judicial war.

27 May 2017

*** U.S. Policy in Afghanistan: Changing Strategies, Preserving Gains

ASHLEY J. TELLIS

Although considerable security, political, and economic progress has been made in Afghanistan, much remains to be done to attain long-term stability and extinguish the Taliban insurgency. In this respect, while the conflict in Afghanistan is no longer consistently in the public eye, it remains of great importance to the United States. Going forward, U.S. policy should aim to protect the integrity of the Afghan state and, toward that end, attempt to end the conflict in ways that mitigate the threats of terrorism, instability, and conflict in the region.

The Current Situation

The security environment in Afghanistan is still precarious, evidenced by the uptick in violence in 2016 and the diminishing government control in rural areas.

Factions of the Government of National Unity remain divided, and a corrupt patronage system continues to impede reform.

Economic growth has shrunk since the drawdown of international forces, while the government remains heavily dependent on foreign aid.

Afghan-Pakistani relations have frayed due to widening differences on security at a time when regional competition in and over Afghanistan persists.

The United States’ willingness to indefinitely subsidize Afghanistan with some $23 billion per year is uncertain, especially when al-Qaeda’s core has been reduced to incoherence.

*** Strategic Realities: Re-Thinking Afghanistan

By Jeff Goodson

Afghanistan may be the most complex theatre of irregular warfare in the world . The country is a black hole of physical, religious, social, ethnic, cultural, political, economic, military and historical cross-currents, rendering conventional strategy there awkward at best and impossible at worst. In re-thinking Afghanistan—and assessing the Pentagon’s new Afghanistan strategy—we need first to confront some hard strategic realities head-on. Four, in particular, stand out. 

First, there is just one war: the global holy war that the Salafists are waging against us and the rest of the world. This is not one of our fathers’ 20th century wars. This is Islamic religious war, fought using 7th and 21st century tactics in a dozen major theatres from Mali to Mindanao. Afghanistan is an Islamic state surrounded by Islamic states, and an emerging epicenter in the global jihad. Our Afghan strategy cannot be divorced from our strategy for the Salafist holy war, nor from our strategy for Pakistan—the other half of the Af-Pak theatre of the war. 

*** The View From Olympus: Strategic Idiocy–and an Alternative

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In a column in the May 3 Cleveland Plain Dealer Eli Lake reported that the Trump administration has decided to redouble our efforts in Afghanistan. We are to send in more troops–5000 initially is the figure I’m hearing–and commit ourselves once again to nation building based on the corrupt and ineffectual government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. This was all decided in a White House meeting where the principle voice for stronger intervention came from the new national security advisor, General H.R. McMaster.

Once again, we see everything Trump promised during the campaign go out the window as typical Establishment policies prevail. Worse, McMaster, who is a tactical genius, is revealed as a strategic idiot (the combination is not unusual; Rommel was another example). So we appear doomed to four more years of strategic failure in Afghanistan and everywhere else McMaster is in charge. Where is Count Witte when we need him?

** What Drives Terrorism Part 4: Technology


What drives terrorism? By looking at the forces that influence trends in terrorist tactics, targets and tradecraft, attacks can be placed in context, enabling observers to anticipate the next evolution in terrorism.

The first part of this series examined the importance of ideology and terrorist theory. The second focused on how political and economic developments influence these dynamics. The third looked at how counterterrorism efforts make their mark on the terrorists they are trying to stop. These factors are distinct from the psychological and social forces that lead an individual to become radicalized, which will not be discussed here.

But another question to be asked and answered is how does technology impact the advancement of terrorism? This installment of the series will examine that very topic. Of course, while we are examining all the various factors that drive terrorism individually, not one factor operates in isolation. They are all interconnected, and they almost always work together (or at cross purposes) to transform the dynamics of terrorism.

Technology as a Weapon

When I used to travel with my former boss, Dell Technologies founder Michael Dell, he would often say that technology is like a weapon lying on a table. Either a business picks it up and uses it, or their competitors will. While he was referring to the competitive advantage technology provides for businesses, such advances are equally important to terrorist planners in their efforts not only to outmaneuver counterterrorism forces, but also to launch new kinds of strikes that their targets are not prepared for.

** The Naxal movement burst to life 50 years ago on this day. A revolutionary remembers May 24, 1967

 Sudeep Chakravarti

There really is a place called Naxalbari. It’s a small town with its own tiny railway station and state highway, straddling the route that links northern Bihar to northern Bengal, through forest, farmland and tea gardens. But the Naxalbari of revolutionary grammar is really a cluster of villages and hamlets with quirky names from nature and history: Hatighisa, after elephants; Phansideoa, literally, hanged; Bagdogra, derived from bagh or tiger. These are places on the way to Naxalbari from Siliguri.

Abhi [Abhijit Mazumdar, Charu Mazumdar’s son] and I get on to a small bus at Hospital Mor. We’re off to a place just shy of Naxalbari. From Hospital Mor all buses lead through a slice of the region known as Dooars to Panitanki – literally, water tank – at Nepal’s eastern border. A sliver meanders on to Khoribari for a dip south towards Katihar in Bihar.

It takes an age to negotiate Siliguri’s former pride and joy, Hill Cart Road, the sedate avenue of my childhood, now a smoking, honking mayhem of pedestrians, rickshaws, auto rickshaws, buses, scooters and motorcycles, and all manner of cars, sub-compact to luxury sedan.

** Why The Decline Of Europe's Center-Left Matters

by Adriano Bosoni

The leaders of the European Union are breathing sighs of relief. Elections in France and the Netherlands resulted in the defeat of candidates who threatened to upset European integration. In Germany, where general elections are upcoming, the far-right is internally divided and weak, and while nationalist and Euroskeptic forces in Italy and Austria are polling well, centrists still have a chance to retain power.

The resilience of moderate forces has been a cause for celebration in Brussels and other European capitals. However, their successes cannot hide a significant fact: The European center-left is in crisis. Some of the Continent’s largest social democratic parties, which were instrumental in the establishment of stable political systems and prosperous economies over the past seven decades, are struggling to remain relevant today. Their weakness could create fertile ground for virulent social and political crises in the future.

The Taliban’s Spring Offensive: Afghanistan Faces a Crucial Year


By: Abubakar Siddique

With its spring offensive this year, the Afghan Taliban is seeking to add momentum to its insurgent campaign to topple the country’s Western-backed government. For its part, Kabul hopes a peace deal with the notorious Islamist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and the renewed resolve of Washington and its NATO allies, will see it remain resilient.

But while the Afghan government enjoys international legitimacy and support, it faces a robust insurgency and the increasing involvement of great power interests suggests the situation will remain troubled.

Taliban Strategy

The Taliban strategy combines efforts to overrun the countryside with a relentless terrorism campaign in the cities. The aim is to topple the current Afghan government, which has pledged to create a moderate, inclusive and democratic state, and replace it with the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate (the formal name of the movement).

CPEC might create geo-political tension between India and Pakistan: UN report



A report by the United Nations has said the bilateral China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) might create geo-political tension between India and Pakistan and ignite further political instability.

The report is produced by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific (ESCAP) at the request of the Chinese government and aims to inform the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The report expresses concern over the Kashmir dispute since the CPEC crosses over the region and might escalate tension between India and Pakistan.

The political instability in Afghanistan could also limit the potential benefits of transit corridors to population centres near Kabul or Kandahar, as those routes traverse southern and eastern Afghanistan where the Taliban are most active.

PLA Vows to ‘Build an Indestructible Combat Force’ Subservient to Xi

By Arthur Dominic Villasanta 

The generals commanding the five major services of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) have promised their unstinting support for Chinese president Xi Jinping's effort to reshuffle and reorganize the PLA, which is the armed force of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Xi met with commanders of the 84 corps-level units he earlier reorganized or established and issued instructions to them. He ordered all these units to adhere to the CPC's leadership and obey the CPC Central Committee and the Central Military Commission (CMC), which he heads as its chairman.

Xi said the 84 units as crucial parts of a "new system," and called on these units to safeguard China's sovereignty, security and developmental interests.

Chinese state-controlled media said all PLA officers and soldiers pledged to obey the CPC Central Committee, the CMC and Xi to enhance combat readiness and "build an indestructible army."

The Islamic State and the End of Lone-Wolf Terrorism

BY JEN EASTERLY, JOSHUA A. GELTZER

Once again, the world has awoken to news of another terrible terrorist attack — this time in Manchester, England, where a man detonated a bomb in the foyer of an Ariana Grande concert, killing at least 22 people. And, once again, the so-called Islamic State has claimed responsibility. Amid this continuing stream of terrorist attacks around the globe associated with the Islamic State, much has been made of the phenomenon of so-called lone-wolf terrorism. From the killing of 49 nightclub revelers in Orlando, Florida, to the murder of a police officer and his partner in the suburbs of Paris to the assault on holiday shoppers at a Christmas market in Berlin, individual terrorists have wreaked havoc, seemingly removed from plotters in faraway safe havens.

During our time at the White House, the U.S. government remained intently focused on detecting and disrupting the Islamic State’s ability to centrally plan, resource, enable, and coordinate external attacks from its physical safe haven in Syria, but the group’s unique capability to inspire attacks online became a key concern. This is largely how the Islamic State has been able to penetrate our borders: not through flows of refugees intent on conducting attacks against Americans but through the bits and bytes of today’s digital age.