11 May 2019

With Launch of INS Vela Submarine, India’s Project 75 Gains Momentum

by Daniel Darling

At the time of the contract signing, a tentative delivery schedule called for the first submarine to be delivered within five years.

However, by April 2010, the Indian government publicly admitted that the Project 75 program had been hit by massive slippages, which, in turn, would adversely impact the Navy’s underwater combat capabilities.

Like many of India’s large-scale defense projects, Project 75 fell victim to defense inflation stemming from cost growth in crucial parts. The byproduct of these rising costs became a delay in procurement of necessary components. Coupled with problems in absorbing the new technologies and augmenting industrial infrastructure at Mazagon Dock, the end result became delivery schedule slippage.

Due to these repeated delays, the delivery of the first submarine – INS Kalvari – slipped by almost five years, pushing its handover out to September 21, 2017. The sub was finally commissioned into Indian Navy service on December 14, 2017.

China’s role in the India–Pakistan nuclear equation

Ramesh Thakur

The danger of a nuclear war, with catastrophic consequences for life as we know it, may be higher today than it was during the Cold War. The world got a sharp reminder of the threat in late February. For the first time in history, one nuclear-armed state attacked a target inside another and the two fought an air battle across the Line of Control in Kashmir.

The risk of another flare-up remains real because of the unresolved territorial dispute; Pakistan-based jihadist groups that wage hybrid war in India; growing nuclear stockpiles and expanding nuclear platforms; the dominance of the army in controlling Pakistan’s nuclear, security and Kashmir policies; the rise of militant Hindu nationalism in India; and a strategic reset in India’s default response matrix against terrorist attacks.

Most international analysts focus on the India–Pakistan nuclear equation as a bilateral issue, but it’s essentially triangular in its origin and core dynamics. China has largely escaped accountability for its cynical role in nuclearising the region. Beijing’s irresponsibility needs to be called out.

Beijing Eyes Afghanistan’s Intimate Wars


BAHORAK, Afghanistan—The valley is like many others in Afghanistan’s northeastern province of Badakhshan: verdant trees and fields dwarfed by dusty mountains. But for the exiled unit of the Afghan Local Police from the district of Warduj, it hosts the battlefield that separates them from their nearby homes, where the Taliban hold sway.

The Afghan Local Police was established in 2010 to formalize local groups that defended their villages. “I did not use to be a military commander,” the Warduj unit’s leader, Cmdr. Habib (who, like many Afghans, uses only one name), said during interviews in August 2018. “But when the Taliban attacked, we were forced to take up arms to defend ourselves.” Yet the valley doesn’t matter to just the locals. With a contingent of other exiles—Uighurs from the Chinese region of Xinjiang—fighting on the side of the Taliban, the eyes of Beijing are also on this small valley.

Pashteen: PTM Hurt Pakistan Military's Terror-Sponsoring Industry

Hasib Danish Alikozai 

In response to last week's accusation by the military that Pakistan's Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) has been receiving funds from Afghanistan's and India's intelligence agencies, its leader, Manzoor Pashteen, blamed the country's most powerful institution of turning the war on terror into a lucrative business in their region.

Pashteen alleged to VOA in a telephone interview from Islamabad that Pakistan's military has been trying to sow confusion among people about PTM.

"These are baseless accusations that we receive funding from foreign intelligence agencies. They cannot produce a single evidence," Pashteen said. "There is an English saying that if you cannot convince them, confuse them. That's exactly what the military has been doing against us.

"They [military] train militants here and then the militants carry out attacks in my country and other countries of the world. With PTM's emergence as a movement, the military can no longer operate with impunity to do that and their so-called business has been faced with difficulties," he added.

China’s Role in Post-Conflict Afghanistan

Janan Mosazai

China has over time become Afghanistan’s largest investor and stepped up its involvement as a conflict mediator in greater Asia. As peace talks with the Taliban continue and the United States gradually draws down its troops in Afghanistan, NBR spoke with outgoing Afghan Ambassador to China Janan Mosazai about what future role China might play in Afghan affairs.

As the United States makes a commitment to not only physically withdraw from Afghanistan but also leave the remaining two aspects of the peace process (the intra-Afghan dialogue and a comprehensive ceasefire) in the hands of Afghan stakeholders, how might China attempt to fill the gap to help ensure long-term peace?

Although the idea of a U.S. military withdrawal is on the table, it is too early to assume that the United States will also withdraw from Afghanistan politically and economically. In looking at the situation, there is a regional dimension of course, but there is also the international dimension. I think China and the United States, as global powers—and furthermore, with one being Afghanistan’s next-door neighbor and the other its foundational strategic partner—have important roles to play in both dimensions.

The Next Islamic State Battlefield Will Be in South Asia

by Lawrence Sellin

How did a small, fringe Wahhabi splinter group, led by a fiery speaker with a sixth-grade education, known mainly for defacing Buddhist symbols, carry out a coordinated and sophisticated terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka?

The answer is, it didn’t, not without external support, both direct and indirect.

The Sri Lanka attack reinforces the notion that the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attack, is more a brand around which forces with overlapping goals coalesce to exploit local or regional opportunities than an entity.

The Soviet Union announces that it will boycott the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Hernando de Soto reaches the Mississippi River and names it Río de Espíritu Santo.

How Chinese Spies Got the N.S.A.’s Hacking Tools, and Used Them for Attack

By Nicole Perlroth, David E. Sanger and Scott Shane

Chinese intelligence agents acquired National Security Agency hacking tools and repurposed them in 2016 to attack American allies and private companies in Europe and Asia, a leading cybersecurity firm has discovered. The episode is the latest evidence that the United States has lost control of key parts of its cybersecurity arsenal.

Based on the timing of the attacks and clues in the computer code, researchers with the firm Symantec believe the Chinese did not steal the code but captured it from an N.S.A. attack on their own computers — like a gunslinger who grabs an enemy’s rifle and starts blasting away.

The Chinese action shows how proliferating cyberconflict is creating a digital wild West with few rules or certainties, and how difficult it is for the United States to keep track of the malware it uses to break into foreign networks and attack adversaries’ infrastructure.

The X Factor in China-UAE Relations: The Horn of Africa

By Samuel Ramani

On April 26, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Makhtoum, the ruler of Dubai, signed $3.4 billion in investment deals between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and China. These contracts were hailed in Dubai-based news outlet, Khaleej Times, as a catalyst for a UAE role in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Overall, annual trade between China and the UAE is expected to increase to $106 billion by 2022.

While this major boost to the China-UAE economic partnership follows years of strengthening trade links, the foreign policies of both countries are not aligned in numerous respects. The most commonly cited obstacles to a durable China-UAE partnership stem from Beijing’s deepening economic links with Iran and Qatar, but conflicting interests on the Horn of Africa could also emerge as a cleavage between the two countries. The primary areas of contention between China and the UAE in the Horn of Africa relate to trade policy and the status of Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia that has independence aspirations.

What’s in China’s New Belt and Road Recalibration?

By Prashanth Parameswaran

As expected, China’s hosting of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) in Beijing, which lasted from April 25 to 27, saw Beijing deliberately seek to recalibrate how it is approaching the much-ballyhooed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a signature initiative of President Xi Jinping first unveiled in 2013, amid lingering concerns and challenges. Although this recalibration is not insignificant and bears careful analysis, its extent and impact on the evolution of the initiative and the regional reception to it remains to be seen.

While China’s efforts to recalibrate its BRI approach has in fact been at play over the past few years amid serious regional concerns that remain, the second BRF provided an opportunity for Beijing to officially showcase this effort. In his remarks, Xi predictably touted progress on the initiative but also addressed some of the concerns about the BRI, including exclusivity, sustainability, and standards. The series of outcomes released by the Chinese foreign ministry also reflected this, with the deliberate downplaying of focus on individual projects and Chinese-driven initiatives and inclusion of a list of broader agreements, multilateral frameworks, and people-to-people and cultural initiatives.

The Chinese military’s exploitation of Western tech firms

Alex Joske

For more than a year, debate has raged over allegations that the Chinese military is taking advantage of Google’s research and expansion into China. General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a senate committee in March that Google’s work in China indirectly benefits the Chinese military, an accusation echoed by President Donald Trump. Google’s response was unequivocal: ‘We are not working with the Chinese military.’

There is no evidence that Google has a direct relationship with the People’s Liberation Army, but, as with the collaboration seen between many Western universities and the PLA, artificial intelligence researchers from the Chinese military have worked with Western technology firms’ employees on research that could advance China’s military capability.

The situation reflects the lack of a clear policy on engagement with Chinese entities across universities, companies and governments.

How Dangerous Are U.S.-Iran Tensions?


Just days after the Trump administration put the final chokehold on Iranian oil exports, part of its plan to apply maximum pressure on Tehran, U.S. officials added to the tension over the weekend by sending an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf region and describing the move as a way to deter Iran from taking any aggressive action against U.S. interests.

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said Sunday night that the carrier group and a bomber task force were being dispatched to the region in response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” about Iranian reprisals for U.S. sanctions pressure. Bolton said that “we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces.”

“Stabilising” the Middle East: A Historical Perspective

Lorenzo Kamel*

The relevance of “continuities” in relation to the history of the region and its inhabitants has been evident throughout most of its millenary past, and from a wide range of different angles. For instance, the Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 2100 BCE), a literary product of Mesopotamia, encompasses a number of themes and motifs (including, among others, the flood myth adopted in the narrative of Noah’s ark) later included in the Bible and other religious books.

The history of Jerusalem (5000 years old) represents another powerful example. As noted in a study published by the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies at Bar-Ilan University, “Canaanite Jerusalem had two holy sites; both were above and outside the city walls. Shalem was probably worshipped in the area of the Temple Mount, which later became the holiest site for the Jews and the third most holy site for Moslems.”[1]

These and a plethora of other possible examples are hardly surprising. Every “invader”, in fact, has, to some extent, left its mark upon the region and its inhabitants. In Jacques Weulersse’s words, “Hittites, Arameans, Assyrians, Sea Peoples […] didn’t vanish, they changed their capitals, sometimes altered languages and customs, they hardly touched the rural population, already bound to the soil [déjà lié au sol]”.[2]

Hot Issue – War Without End in Yemen: The Saudi-UAE Rivalry to Prolong the Conflict

By: Michael Horton

March 26th marked the end of the fourth year of the Saudi led war in Yemen. Four years of devastating aerial bombing and tens of billions of dollars have borne few results. The Houthis retain control of the northwest and most of Yemen has devolved into warring fiefdoms controlled by an ever-growing number of armed factions. The presence of outside powers—namely Saudi Arabia and the UAE—and the money and arms they supply are fueling interlocking conflicts in Yemen. At the same time, Saudi Arabia and the UEA are increasingly in competition with one another in Yemen as the two countries support factions that oppose one another.


How John Bolton Became Trump's Attack Dog on Foreign Policy


The tip came in from Israeli intelligence: Iran was preparing to attack U.S. or allied forces in Iraq and Syria. U.S. military commanders’ responded by rushing a flotilla of American warships and bombers to the Persian Gulf — enough firepower to do lasting retaliatory damage.

But the Americans wanted to ensure that Tehran’s leaders knew just what was headed their way. “We wanted that message delivered in the loudest volume possible,” a U.S. defense official told TIME on the condition of anonymity. “The Iranian regime needed to hear it loud and clear.”

The solution? Have John Bolton deliver it.

In a May 5 statement, the National Security Advisor announced that, “Any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.” The deployment of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln and bomber jets, Bolton said, was intended “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime.” Said Bolton: “The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack.”

US Drones May Soon Run on Open-Source Software


The Defense Innovation Unit is exploring whether a popular commercial platform could help the military keep up with the rapidly advancing drone industry.

Rapid advancements in the commercial drone industry are pushing the Pentagon to rethink how it operates and upgrades its own unmanned aircraft.

On Tuesday, the Defense Innovation Unit announced a $2 million deal with the Swiss-based startup Auterion to enhance its open source drone software. The PX4 platform, which would standardize the operating system for different drone models, could one day power the Army’s entire fleet of small unmanned aircraft.

The contract will support the Defense Department’s broader effort to advance the small unmanned systems—think backpack-sized quadcopters—available to troops in the field.

Slow and Steady

By Ilan Goldenberg, Nicholas Heras and Kaleigh Thomas

Executive Summary

Since 9/11 the United States has struggled with how to respond to the challenges posed by ungoverned spaces in the Middle East, from which terrorist attacks and destabilizing mass refugee flows emanate. The collapse of state authority in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya has created security vacuums that extremist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al Qaeda have used to develop local presence, to organize, and eventually to conduct attacks both inside these countries as well as in Europe and the United States. Meanwhile, the refugee flows that have resulted from these conflicts have put tremendous pressure on neighboring countries and also caused a massive wave of refugees into Europe. The question facing the United States and other Western allies is how to deal with these challenges without getting sucked into complex and costly civil wars that the United States has little ability to end on its own.

The question facing the United States and other Western allies is how to deal with challenges in the Middle East without getting sucked into complex and costly civil wars.

Full-scale American-led counterinsurgency, stabilization campaigns, or other resource-intensive nation-shaping interventions attempted in Afghanistan and Iraq have proven to be unsustainable models given the high costs, indecisive outcomes, and lack of political support at home. However, completely withdrawing U.S. forces and counting purely on intelligence collection to monitor threats and local partners to address them has been ineffective, as this approach leaves the United States vulnerable to attacks. The most successful effort the United States has launched to deal with these challenges in recent years has been the counter-ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria, where it has succeeded in protecting U.S. interests at a reasonable cost by working “By, With, and Through” local actors. In this model the United States generally: (1) uses a comparatively small number of troops to train, equip, advise, assist, or accompany local forces with legitimacy on the ground; (2) provides airpower and some enablers and logistics; (3) uses its limited military investment as leverage for a broader diplomatic effort; or (4) invests in building local governance and providing aid on the ground.

If Nobody Knows Your Iran Policy, Does It Even Exist?


What is the Trump administration’s objective with Iran? We’ve all been watching its efforts for months now—including National Security Advisor John Bolton’s announcement on Sunday that the United States had sent an aircraft carrier to the Middle East in response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Tehran—and I still can’t figure out what it is trying to achieve. That’s partly because President Donald Trump prizes being unpredictable, and his chaotically run administration is either unable or unwilling to provide clear and coherent justifications for many of its policy decisions. If you never tell anyone exactly what you’re trying to do, it’s harder for outsiders to hold you accountable later.

We are forced, therefore, to divine the administration’s objectives for ourselves. Here’s my best guess at some of the possibilities.

After the Caliphate: Factors Shaping Continuing Violent Extremism and Conflicts in the MENA Region

By Anthony H. Cordesman

This is the third report in a three-part survey of metrics that address the fighting in Iraq and Syria, the ongoing challenge of extremism, and the trends in key causes of that extremism and regional instability. This series is titled After the “Caliphate”: The Metrics of Daesh and the Ongoing Challenge of Extremism.
Part One - Daesh, Syria and Iraq – contained some 60 different metrics covering the trends in war on Daesh in Syria and Iraq, the outcome of the fighting, and the remaining threats to stability in Syria and Iraq. It is available on the CSIS web site athttps://www.csis.org/analysis/after-caliphate-metrics-daesh-and-ongoing-challenge-extremism.

Part Two - The Changing Threat – surveyed the broader trends in Islam, and in Islamic extremism. It then focuses on these trends in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and the scale of the continuing threat they pose to the stability of the MENA region. Part Two is now available on the CSIS web site athttps://www.csis.org/analysis/metrics-daesh-and-ongoing-challenge-extremism.

Who Owns South Africa?

By Ariel Levy

There is a good paved road that runs into McGregor, a pastoral village at the foot of South Africa’s Riviersonderend Mountains, but it stops at the edge of town. When the road was cleared and paved, in the nineteen-twenties, the plan was to keep going through the mountains toward Cape Town, but that project, like many other public works that followed, was abandoned before completion. Consequently, McGregor has a sleepy, almost otherworldly feel. Summers are long, winters are mild, and the soil is fertile: fences along the dusty roads crawl with hot-pink Zimbabwe creeper and orange Cape honeysuckle. The sun is so strong that, when clouds go by, the sky turns not gray but almost white.

There are a handful of flourishing vineyards in the vicinity, but even small plots teem with growth. On a half acre behind his house, a seventy-year-old retiree named Gawie Snyders grows pumpkins, onions, green beans, lettuces, grapes, stone fruit, and roses. “I am a farmer without a farm,” Snyders, a voluble man with brown skin and a bald head, declared one afternoon, looking at his garden. “I know how to prune apricots, peaches, plums—you name it. I worked on a contract basis: forty people on a truck and I prune your farm. That is how I make my money. I harvest your farm.” He was sitting at a picnic table, surrounded by chickens, a litter of puppies, several neighbors, and two men he employs to help with his crops: they were sorting through plastic buckets of pears harvested from Snyders’s half-dozen fruit trees. “They are not working hard now,” he grumbled, gesturing toward the workers. “They are looking at you, because they have never seen a white woman sitting next to me. It’s apartheid, my girl—apartheid never dies. Apartheid will be with us for a very long time.”

Why America Will Face Even Deadlier Insurgents in the Future

by Steven Metz 

The United States, especially the American military, hates counterinsurgency. It is ethically and politically difficult, at times impossibly so. To do it, American troops and government officials must prod a problematic ally to undertake deep reforms while facing off against an often ruthless enemy. Terrorism, assassination, subversion and sabotage are persistent and more common than the type of pitched but conventional battles that the U.S. military prefers, in which it can assert its technological advantages. 

Whenever the United States becomes involved in counterinsurgency, it eventually wishes that it hadn't. As Judah Grunstein wrote this week, the recent counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan were just "the latest episode in the U.S. military's long cyclical history of fighting counterinsurgencies—known variously as small wars, unconventional warfare and asymmetric warfare—as they arise, then tossing aside the operational lessons learned when they were no longer needed." Yet the U.S. military keeps repeating this pattern, believing that the defeat of an ally would be worse than attempting counterinsurgency, or that it can keep its involvement limited. Afterwards, American officials often vow that they will never do large-scale counterinsurgency again, but then they do.