20 March 2017

Beware the New Mujahideen: The Threat from Future Jihadist Networks

by Colin P. ClarkeChad C. Serena, Amarnath Amarasingam

The current wave of foreign fighters emerging from the conflict in Iraq and Syria will be larger and potentially more dangerous than the mujahideen guerrillas that were a byproduct of the Soviet-Afghan conflict in the 1980s, FBI Director James Comey warned last September.

That is an especially foreboding observation, since the foreign fighters borne from the Afghan conflict went on to form the core of Al Qaeda and fight in the internecine conflicts in Bosnia, Algeria and Chechnya during the 1990s.

When one conflict ends, these fighters often use their connections to move on and join another fight. This phenomenon is likely to worsen in the future.

The number of foreign fighters participating in the conflict in Iraq and Syria is significant compared to those who participated in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Even more concerning, jihadists have improved and facilitated their networking capacity—improved communication, eased transportation, and diversified access to sources of information and money can make even small cadres of experienced fighters a dangerous force. The foreign-fighter phenomenon is not new. Over the past two hundred years, they have appeared in more than a quarter of all civil wars. But now these fighters engage in foreign civil wars and insurgencies—and then export their expertise back to their home countries or to places they have newly immigrated.

Rumiyah: Jihadist Propaganda and Information Warfare in Cyberspace

By Remy Mahzam 

Since its debut as an online publication in September 2016, Rumiyah (or ‘Rome’ in Arabic) has provided a strategic distraction for the so-called Islamic State (IS), and reflected a fundamental shift in the group’s modus operandi. Indeed, by producing the text in 10 languages, IS has been able to tailor its propaganda to fit the interests of particular communities and regions, as Remy Mazak explains here.


Recognising that wars are no longer confined to the physical battlefields, the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group has since 2014 embarked on an aggressive propaganda campaign in cyberspace through the release of various online publications like Dabiq (discontinued since August 2016), Amaq News, Al-Naba and Rumiyah. Since its debut in September 2016, Rumiyah (‘Rome’ in Arabic), which draws its title from a Prophetic tradition foretelling the fall of the West, is a strategic distraction from the realities on the ground characterised by the considerable loss of territory and revenue, heavy casualties and low morale among fighters. The launch of Rumiyah came precisely at a time when the rhetoric to justify the final battle in Syria seemed counter-intuitive and signalled a strategic shift in IS’ modus operandi, with the battle against its enemies going not only beyond the Middle East but also into the realm of the digital.

European Defence 2016

By Zoe Stanley-Lockman

The first EUISS Security Monthly Stats (SMS) brings together defence data from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) from 2016. Aggregating figures from the 28 EU member states, the graphics answer a series of questions about defence spending levels and arms exports.

How much did the EU-28 spend on defense in 2016?

A More Public National Security Strategy Discussion

by Daniel M. Gerstein

President Trump has proposed a Department of Defense spending increase of $54 billion, or over 10 percent above the current Fiscal Year 2017 budget. The offsets for the increased defense spending have not been specifically identified other than coming from “greater savings and efficiencies across the federal government.” While the debate rages as to the wisdom and benefit of such a federal spending rebalancing, a fundamental question remains: What is the national security strategy that supports this reallocation of resources?

So far, President Trump has spoken publicly about defense priorities only in broad terms. He has said the U.S. military should project strength, not aggression, and that it should avoid unnecessary foreign interventions and focus on defeating terrorist groups. He has suggested U.S. allies should assume a fair share of the cost of their defense. In remarks March 2 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, he said the additional funding is necessary to pay for more ships, aircraft and other equipment, greater force levels and enhanced cyber capabilities.

Trump's first National Security Strategy, a congressionally mandated public report that lays out America's global interests, goals, and objectives, is not expected for months. But a broader public discussion of the strategies he hopes to advance through his proposed military build-up would be welcome.

Pentagon Wants to Declare More Parts of the World as Temporary Battlefields

Donald Trump’s administration is considering a military proposal that would designate various undeclared battlefields worldwide to be “temporary areas of active hostility”, the Guardian has learned.

If approved, the Pentagon-proposed measure would give military commanders the same latitude to launch strikes, raids and campaigns against enemy forces for up to six months that they possess in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

The proposal would in effect unravel a highly controversial bureaucratic structure for launching lethal assaults, such as drone strikes and counter-terrorism raids, set up by Barack Obama’s White House.

Under Obama’s structure, known as the Presidential Policy Guidance (PPG), the president and his counter-terrorism adviser at the National Security Council played a substantial role in approving life-or-death strikes on suspected terrorists on undeclared battlefields such as Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.

The Pentagon’s proposal would push those authorities down to military commanders during the 180-day lifespan of the temporary designations, according to an administration official familiar with the proposals, who described Obama’s PPG as, functionally, a dead letter.

Winning Indefinite Conflicts: Achieving Strategic Success Against Ideologically-Motivated Violent Non-State Actors

by Mark E. Vinson

“This broader challenge of countering violent extremism is not simply a military effort. Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they are defeated by better ideas...”

-- President Barak Obama, July 6, 2015

Elusive Success

If, as President Obama asserted, “ideologies are not defeated by guns,” but by “better ideas,” then how should the U.S. military be used to help achieve strategic success in the growing number of protracted, irregular conflicts with ideologically-motivated violent non-state actors (VNSAs)? In Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, the Philippines, and many more countries around the globe, VNSAs, motivated by religious, political, ethnic and other status-quo-challenging ideas, have been remarkably resilient, perseverant, and influential. By surviving and rapidly recovering from punishing attacks by the United States and its partners—while continuing to carry out violent agendas against local, regional, and even global adversaries—these VNSAs can credibly claim that they are succeeding strategically. With broad, ambiguous long-term strategic objectives, and an open-ended, evolving path to strategic success, the United States has generally conducted limited military operations intended to disrupt and degrade such VNSAs, followed by the hopeful but indefinite objective of “ultimately defeating” them. In view of the VNSAs’ resilience, persistence, and ideological basis for conflict, the path to strategic success for the United States has remained elusive. Although its military has achieved tactical and operational successes against such adversaries, the U.S. government has struggled to define, much less achieve, strategic success. If military success is not sufficient against ideologically-motivated VNSAs, then how can the United States achieve strategic success and what is the military’s role?

Developing Special Operations Forces in China and Russia


When Syrian government forces retook the ancient city of Palmyra from ISIS for the second time in early March, they had the assistance of one of the world’s elite special operations forces: Russia’s Special Operations Command (SSO). In coordination with U.S. and Russian air power, the combined forces killed or wounded 1,000 ISIS militants and destroyed more than 150 vehicles, according to a Russian military leader.

The development of the SSO is part of a larger shift by Russia to modernize and professionalize its military, and it is not the only one of the United States’ global competitors doing so. China is also in the midst of its own military modernization program, and chief among its goals is a larger and more capable complement of special operations-capable forces.

Both Russia and China have observed the successes of the United States’ Special Operations Forces (SOF) and have sought to incorporate successful elements into their own mission needs and concepts of warfare. While many of the missions and capabilities overlap with those of U.S. SOF, neither country can yet field SOF forces who can operate as robustly or independently as those of the United States.

Tank 2022: Demos & Decisions For Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle


Russia’s new T-14 Armata tank on parade in Moscow. Russian advances are driving the Army to explore new combat vehicles.

HUNTSVILLE, ALA.: 2022 will be the year of decision for the Army’s nascent Next Generation Combat Vehicle, officials told the Association of the US Army conference here today. That’s when “at least two” NGCV demonstrators get field-tested by real troops. Those soldiers’ feedback, in turn, will inform Army leaders’ decision: whether to fund a full-up program to field a new armored vehicle by 2035, or put off a fresh start — again — and just keep updating 1970s designs.

There’s a long and painful history of cancelled programs here, from the Crusader howitzer in 2002 to the Future Combat Systems vehicle family in 2009, to the Ground Combat Vehicle in 2014. Meanwhile, the M1 Abrams battle tank and M2 Bradley troop carrier designed in the 1970s have fought well for decades, and they’ve been repeatedly upgraded, almost beyond recognition, but there limits to what an old design can do. With Russia deploying its latest hardware to devastating effect in Ukraine, many Army leaders fear — in the words of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, now National Security Advisor — that “we are outranged and outgunned.”

Trump’s Defense Secretary Cites Climate Change as National Security Challenge

by Andrew Revkin

James Mattis’ unpublished testimony before a Senate panel recognizes a threat others in the administration reject or minimize. 

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has asserted that climate change is real, and a threat to American interests abroad and the Pentagon’s assets everywhere, a position that appears at odds with the views of the president who appointed him and many in the administration in which he serves. 

In unpublished written testimony provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee after his confirmation hearing in January, Mattis said it was incumbent on the U.S. military to consider how changes like open-water routes in the thawing Arctic and drought in global trouble spots can pose challenges for troops and defense planners. He also stressed this is a real-time issue, not some distant what-if. 

“Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Mattis said in written answers to questions posed after the public hearing by Democratic members of the committee. “It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.” 

Defence Expenditure: A Challenge for Defence Economists

Amit Cowshish

The only sub-theme that vies for pride of place alongside the debate on the alleged shenanigans of an inept civilian bureaucracy is the gross inadequacy of defence outlays. Governments have come and gone since 1947, but the sluggish trajectory of annual defence budgets continues, interrupted only by pay commissions and wars. It does not require any great power of prophesy to rule out a steep hike in the defence budget in the coming years. The history of the defence budget over the past seven decades should be enough to drive home this truth.

More specifically, the growth in annual defence allocations since 2014 only indicates that it is naive to expect that the gap between the demand projected by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the actual allocations made for defence in the union budget will soon be a thing of the past.

Defence analysts never tire of mentioning the year 2004 when the then outgoing government made a provision for a defence modernisation fund in the interim budget, seen till date as a bold step to address the problems besetting the modernisation of the armed forces. But it is the same political dispensation which, despite being in power now for almost three years, not only has not revived the defence modernisation fund but has also failed to cut the mustard when it comes to raising the defence expenditure.


The technology and computer security website, ZDNET.com has an article on their website today,March 13, 2017, with the title above. Zack Whittacker, a writer for Zero Day, writes that an “unsecured backup drive has exposed thousands of U.S. Force documents, including highly sensitive personnel files on senior, and high-ranking officers. Security researchers found that the gigabytes files were accessible to anyone — because the Internet-connected backup drive was not password protected.”

“The files reviewed by ZDNET contained a range of personal information, such as names and addresses, ranks, and Social Security numbers of more than 4,000 officers,” Mr. Whittacker writes. “Another file lists the security clearance levels of hundreds of other [active duty] officers, some of whom possess ‘Top Secret’ and other special access clearances. Phone numbers, and contact information of staff and their spouses as well as other sensitive and private information was found in other spreadsheets.”

Mr. Whittacker writes that “the drive is understood to belong to an [active duty] Lt. Col.”, whom ZDNET said that they would not reveal his identity since attempts to reach him by email — thus far — have not been successful.

Whistling Past the Cyber Graveyard

By Matthew Wein

It seems not a day passes that a new cyber security incident is not reported. Whether it is the breach of email accounts at Yahoo, the networks at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) or John Podesta’s digital recipe box, the revelations draw the attention of a wide variety of news organizations, and the stories each seem to approach a level of critical mass until a new story emerges. These incidents are all different in scope, and their targets are in the crosshairs of both criminals and hostile intelligence organizations - for motives that vary from political, to monetary, to just plain mischief. No matter the intent of the cyber criminal, the government’s response ought to prevent escalation along the cybercrime continuum. What Americans have seen to this point is network access and data exfiltration – or more simply said: breaking, entering, and theft. 

Data manipulation, the next step along the cybercrime continuum, was possible in each of the aforementioned scenarios. The ability of criminals to manipulate data through the Internet could have destructive and harmful long-term effects, particularly for an American public that is increasingly reliant on networked technologies and cloud computing. Yet, this is an eventuality for which American law enforcement entities need to deter against, and for which they are unprepared. As the incident allegedly perpetrated by the Russian Government leading up to the American 2016 Presidential elections demonstrates, now is the time for the U.S. to develop a comprehensive plan of action for cybercrime in the realm of data manipulation.


As if you needed any more evidence that the Internet of Things (IoT), and our networked devices have many vulnerabilities, this latest technique may well be the tipping point for you to disconnect and join the burgeoning off-the-grid movement. For the overwhelming majority of us, joining the off-the-gridders is not an option; so, we have to assume our devices aren’t ‘clean; but, if we practice best cyber hygiene practices, that will be good enough for many of us. Having said that…….

Mark Prigg writes in the March 14, 2017 edition of the Daily Mail Online, that a groundbreaking research effort at the University of Michigan has shown that “sound waves can be used to hack into critical sensors — in everything from phones, and medical devices, to fitness trackers and cars. The researchers discovered that millions of the gadgets/devices we use every day — have accelerometers, which can be compromised/breached via sound waves. The “researchers found the tiny sensors can be tricked, registering fake movement and, giving hackers a backdoor into these same devices,” Mr. Prigg wrote.

“The fundamental physics of the hardware allowed us to trick sensors into a false reality to the microprocessor,” said Kevin Fu, U-M Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering. “Our findings upend widely held assumptions about the security of the underlying hardware.”

Whistling Past The Cyber Graveyard

by Matthew Wein

It seems not a day passes that a new cyber security incident is not reported. Whether it is the breach of email accounts at Yahoo, the networks at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) or John Podesta’s digital recipe box, the revelations draw the attention of a wide variety of news organizations, and the stories each seem to approach a level of critical mass until a new story emerges. These incidents are all different in scope, and their targets are in the crosshairs of both criminals and hostile intelligence organizations – for motives that vary from political, to monetary, to just plain mischief. No matter the intent of the cyber criminal, the government’s response ought to prevent escalation along the cybercrime continuum. What Americans have seen to this point is network access and data exfiltration – or more simply said: breaking, entering, and theft.

Data manipulation, the next step along the cybercrime continuum, was possible in each of the aforementioned scenarios. The ability of criminals to manipulate data through the Internet could have destructive and harmful long-term effects, particularly for an American public that is increasingly reliant on networked technologies and cloud computing. Yet, this is an eventuality for which American law enforcement entities need to deter against, and for which they are unprepared. As the incident allegedly perpetrated by the Russian Government leading up to the American 2016 Presidential elections demonstrates, now is the time for the U.S. to develop a comprehensive plan of action for cybercrime in the realm of data manipulation.

States of cyber warfare: negotiating a cyber-weapons treaty

By Martin Courtney

The destructive effect of cyber disruptions between nation states is leading to calls for cyber-weapon agreements. Should we look to nuclear arms treaties as our guide?

Cyber-attacks are damaging and disruptive when orchestrated by criminals and hacktivists with a point to prove, but they take on a more sinister and potentially catastrophic significance when carried out or supported by government-funded military or intelligence units.State-sponsored cyber espionage and cyber terrorism have been steadily growing in frequency and diversity over the last decade as national authorities become increasingly reliant on digital information and expansive networks.

The situation is considered so serious in some circles that calls to establish agreed rules on the use of cyber weapons against the critical national infrastructure (CNI) of individual countries are getting louder. Yet, as befitting the murky world of spies, it is hard to assess exactly how much progress has been made on any cyber warfare proliferation deals to date. Some question whether digital arms controls that restrict the use of specific types of cyber weapon, such as advanced persistent threats, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks or malware, are feasible in the first place.


By Evan Osnos

In 2007, Admiral Mike McConnell, the wonky former head of the National Security Agency, became the director of National Intelligence, and soon discovered that many senior American officials were not remotely prepared for the advent of digital warfare. (Less than a year earlier, Senator Ted Stevens, of Alaska, who chaired the main Senate committee that regulates the Internet, had described the Web as a “series of tubes.”) To grab his peers’ attention, McConnell adopted the intelligence community’s version of a party trick: when visiting a Cabinet officer, he would pull out a copy of a memo that had been written by his host and then stolen. The Chinese, he might explain, hacked this from you—and we hacked them to get it back.

A decade later, nobody in Washington remains ignorant of such risks. The hacking that took place during the 2016 election, including attacks that exposed the inner workings of the Democratic National Committee and of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, has opened a new chapter in the long-predicted rise of cyber conflict. If the first fifteen years of the twenty-first century were dominated by the war on terror, we are now entering a period when the war on cyber—and war by cyber—will very likely loom as large in our discussions of national security. Last week, WikiLeaks released an archive of cyber tools stolen from the C.I.A.; it was hardly a surprise that the C.I.A. spies on phones and computers, even if it was news that the agency might hijack a Samsung television and use it as an eavesdropping tool. President Donald Trump’s aide Kellyanne Conway took advantage of that news to promote the myth that Barack Obama might have “wiretapped” Trump though household electronics. Surveillance can be conducted with “microwaves that turn into cameras,” she said on Sunday. “We know this is a fact of modern life.” (Faced with ridicule, she later said her microwave-Obama-Trump scenario was taken out of context.)

19 March 2017

*** Reimagining the Character of Urban Operations for the U.S. Army

Reimagining the Character of Urban Operations for the U.S. Army by Gian Peri Gentile, David E. Johnson, Lisa Saum-Manning, Raphael S. Cohen, Shara Williams, Carrie Lee, Michael Shurkin, Brenna Allen, Sarah Soliman, and James L. Doty III, RAND Corporation

Urban environments pose significant challenges for ground forces and have traditionally been avoided when at all possible, but increasing urbanization of the world's population seems to ensure that urban combat is in the Army's future. This report provides a historical analysis of the ways in which militaries have deployed light and mechanized infantry with armored forces during close urban combat, looking specifically at the U.S. Army in Mogadishu in 1993, the Russian Army in Grozny in 1994 and in 1999, the U.S. Army in Baghdad in 2003, the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army in Fallujah in 2004, and the U.S. Army in the Sadr City suburb of Baghdad in 2008. The authors assess the advantages and costs of this warfighting approach and identify lessons that can inform how the Army might confront similar foes in complex, urban environments in the future.

The authors find that urban combat operations have historically been among the most arduous challenges an army can face and that there are important gaps in the U.S. Army's capabilities to succeed in urban combat. The authors specifically discuss the critical role that effective intelligence plays in urban combat, and they offer broad recommendations on the implications of urban operations for Army warfighting challenges and for Army doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, and facilities.

** Preserving Order Amid Change in NAFTA

By Reva Goujon and Matthew Bey

It took more than a decade and three presidencies, from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton, to conceive and craft the North American Free Trade Agreement. Will a single presidency manage to undo the process of North American integration? While the risk is real, the reality may be less dramatic.

The Invisible Hand of Geopolitics

Just as in economics, there is an invisible hand in geopolitics that shapes the behavior of our politicians and business leaders. Individuals bend to the world, not the other way around. And North America has long been bending toward tighter integration.

The continent's combined population of 484 million is spread out across a landmass more than twice the size of Europe. At its heart is the world’s largest naturally integrated river system overlaid by arable lands, a foundation for an empire and a prize claimed by the United States. Massive oceans buffer a continent and extensive coastlines with deep ports serve as a launch pad for trade eastward and westward. Arguably, no other continent in the world is as blessed by geography.

An agreement that aims to reap the full benefits of the North American landmass and tighten economic integration was therefore a perfectly natural evolution. While NAFTA has its fair share of imperfections, as any aging trade deal would, it has also been a very sober and prudent exercise in transnational integration.



The idea of “peace through strength” can be traced back to at least Roman times and almost certainly goes back even further, but in U.S. history, it is associated with Ronald Reagan. In his essay, “The Ancient Foreign Policy,” historian Victor Davis Hanson salutes its origins and links this “common wisdom” to the concept of deterrence.

From Vegetius’s Si vis pacem, para bellum [If you want peace, prepare for war] to Ronald Reagan’s “peace through strength,” the common wisdom was to be ready for war and thereby, and only by that way, avoid war, not to talk bellicosely and to act pacifistically … Deterrence (and with it peace) often was not defined only in material terms; it rested also on a psychological readiness to use overwhelming power to confront an aggressor … Again, deterrence (“the act of frightening away”) rested not just on quantifiable power but also on a likelihood to use it.

Though Hanson’s article was not intended as a theoretical exposition on deterrence, he describes a psychological battle based on the threat of force with the goal of preventing war. For most Americans, there is no contradiction in pursuing peace through the threat or use of a strong military when vital national interests are at stake.

Manohar Parrikar’s Exit Leaves Defence Ministry At A Critical Juncture

Although Parrikar was largely successful, there were areas where he couldn’t break the ice.

While Manohar Parrikar’s appointment as the Chief Minister of Goa has averted a crisis for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state, his departure from the cabinet has left some critical business unfinished at the Ministry of Defence. As he returns to home turf 27 months after assuming office, Parrikar must be reasonably satisfied despite the uphill task that he leaves behind for his successor. And there are reasons for him to be.

During his two-year stint at the defence ministry, one that followed A K Antony’s unproductive tenure marred by allegations of corruption, Parrikar proved that he was capable of taking quick decisions. Procurement of vital equipment, which should have ideally been inducted during Antony’s tenure, was done under his watch. Deals that were stuck with the ministry’s byzantine bureaucracy, such as the procurement of Rafale Jets and M777 Howitzers, were signed during his tenure.

Parrikar was brave enough to cancel the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender for buying 126 aircraft. The manner of tendering, trials and cost calculations had become so complicated that any forward movement was found to be impossible.

How Nagas Perceive the Creation of Seven Additional Districts in Manipur

Sushil Kumar Sharma

On December 9, 2016, the Manipur government issued a gazette notification creating seven new districts by carving out and bifurcating the state’s existing nine districts. This took the total number of districts in the state to 16. The seven new districts are: Kangpokpi (a long standing demand by the Kukis for a separate Sadar Hills district carved out from parts of the predominantly Naga populated district of Senapati); Tengnoupal (carved out from the predominantly Naga district of Chandel); Pherzawl (earlier a part of Kuki-dominated Churachandpur); Noney (earlier a part of Naga-dominated Tamenglong), Jiribam (carved out from Imphal East), Kamjong (carved out from Ukhrul) and Kakching (in the Imphal Valley, to which some areas of Chandel have been added). The creation of these districts came against the backdrop of the ongoing indefinite economic blockade enforced by the United Naga Council (UNC) against an earlier proposal for creating two districts, Sadar and Jiribam.1 The UNC had launched the blockade only after its attempts to interact with the Manipur Government on the issue was stone walled. The aim of the blockade was to make the UNC’s voice on, and objections to the creation of the two districts, heard in New Delhi.

The Manipur government had announced the creation of the seven new districts post haste without having the basic infrastructure in place. While Chief Minister Ibobi Singh reiterated that the creation of these new districts is a response to the longstanding demands of the local people as well as for reasons of administrative convenience, Naga leaders feel that it was an attempt to divide the Naga people by merging them with non-Naga areas to form the new districts. Further, they have also taken exception to the Manipur government not consulting the Hill Area Committees before taking the decision. And they have questioned the timing of the decision, which, in their view, was driven by political considerations keeping the recently concluded assembly elections in mind.

Peace Education in Pakistan

This report measures the relative success of nine peace education initiatives in Pakistan. More specifically, the text grapples with six questions. 1) What types of interventions were most effective and in what contexts? 2) Were the implemented programs contextually relevant? 3) How was the quality of each initiative ensured? 4) What kinds of content and teaching formats worked best and where? 5) What differences and similarities exist between peace education programs and the curricula implemented in mainstream schools and madrassas? And 6) what lessons can those working in the peacebuilding field draw from the case studies selected here?

How Serious Is the Islamic State Threat to China?

By Nodirbek Soliev

Despite a recent ISIS propaganda video, local groups remain of more concern to Beijing. 

On February 27, 2017, Islamic State’s media house of al-Furat circulated an online propaganda video entitled “Children of the Caliphate.” The video was produced in the west of Iraq and featured around 30 Chinese Uyghur militants fighting in the battlefield, along with 20 children in a training camp and studying in a madrasa. The Uyghur fighters threatened to come to China to “spill rivers of blood as revenge on behalf of the oppressed” and to “plant the caliphate’s flag.”

The footage underlines the growing military and tactical strength of ISIS Uyghur fighters, who are now more unified, ambitious, and brutal than ever before. In spite of this evolving dynamic, an ISIS-centric threat to China remains less serious compared to the al-Qaeda-linked Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), which was formerly known as East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). It is unlikely that a propaganda video will influence Beijing to fundamentally reconsider its current counterterrorism approach. China’s priority has been to fight a “TIP-directed domestic threat” in the Xinjiang province rather than participating in the international military campaign against Islamic State in the Middle East.

How Great Is the ISIS Threat to China? 


By Vidya Sagar Reddy


China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, had put on a display of its skills recently as the carrier group transited the Western Pacific.Liaoning’s excursion, marking Beijing’s core interests, is a political message to the United States and the world as uncertainty grips them. It also marks the beginning of a new episode in the military history of Western Pacific, which has been dominated by American aircraft carriers since the Cold War, especially during the Taiwan Strait crises. Taiwan also believes that Liaoning represents China’s military ability to break through the first island chain.

Historical Context

A recount of Cold War history and Beijing’s narratives of its historical and maritime supremacy in the Western Pacific serves to put this development into a more sober perspective, informing future political and military balance in the region.

China’s civil war led to Communists controlling the mainland territory while the Nationalists retreated to Taiwan. Subsequently, the People’s Republic of China and Republic of China were established on either side of the Taiwan Strait. In the 1950s, the U.S. drew up security and mutual defense treaties with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand as a bulwark of its containment policy against the spread of Communism in Asia. The U.S. also extended its diplomatic and military support to Taiwan while confronting China in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

China’s amazing capabilities threatens even US defence superiority in new battlefronts


Technology has changed the way wars would be fought and won. In the 20th century, wars were fought on three battlefields, namely, land, air and sea. In this century, three more battlefields have been added — space, electromagnetic, and cyber. Since China lagged far behind the United States and Russia (the successor state of the Soviet Union) in the traditional battlefields and a catch-up was not possible, Beijing has focussed on the new battlefields to challenge Washington. India’s technological capabilities in comparison to China’s are extremely modest.

Take space for instance. It begins at 40km above the earth where the atmospheric limit ends. In 2007, China demonstrated its anti-satellite capability by destroying its own legacy satellite with a land-based interceptor. This alarmed the US. Considering that the US has hundreds of military and commercial satellites in space, it desires good space situational awareness. China’s anti-satellite capability could smash satellites into smithereens, leaving clouds of debris, which would adversely affect much-needed situational awareness. While this cannot be construed as an act of war, it would play havoc with space supported Command, Control, Computer and Intelligence (C3I) systems. Moreover, in 2013, China launched three small satellites into orbit as part of Beijing’s covert anti-satellite warfare programme. These satellites have the capability to co-orbit, or enter into the orbit of other satellites, and with a retractable arm, they can be used for a number of things — to gouge out, knock off, or grab passing satellites. This is part of a Chinese ‘Star Wars’.

How China Plans to Win the Next Great Big War In Asia

Michael Raska

China’s cyber capabilities are continuously evolving in parallel with the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) ongoing military reforms and modernization drives. As the PLA invests in the development of comprehensive cyber capabilities, the character of future conflicts in East Asia will increasingly reflect cyber-kinetic strategic interactions.

In a potential conflict with Taiwan, for example, the PLA may put a strategic premium on denying, disrupting, deceiving, or destroying Taiwan’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems. This would be followed by the deployment of the PLA’s conventional air wings, precision ballistic missile strikes, and sea power projection platforms – all within the first hours of the conflict.

A key target for the PLA, for example, would be the highly-advanced US-made ultra-high frequency (UHF) early warning radar system located on top of Leshan Mountain near the city of Hsinchu. Activated in February 2013, the radar is reportedly capable of detecting flying objects up to 5,000km away, and provide a six-minute warning in preparation for any surprise missile attack from the Chinese mainland. The radar essentially tracks nearly every sortie of the PLA Air Force flying across China’s opposite coastline.

A New Strategy Against ISIS and al Qaeda

The Trump administration is set to supersize President Obama’s strategy to defeat Islamic State, sending more American forces to the region and lifting restraints on direct participation in combat and when to use armed force. Yet any victory under the current approach will be ephemeral. Even if American proxies, backed by U.S. military forces, wrest Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, away from ISIS, success will be fleeting.

The most important error is the near-exclusive focus on Islamic State at the expense of serious efforts against al Qaeda. Destroying ISIS is necessary but not sufficient. As the Obama administration turned its attention toward ISIS, al Qaeda learned from its failures. It has temporarily deprioritized spectacular attacks on the global stage and focused on embedding itself within Sunni communities in Syria, Yemen, North Africa and elsewhere to develop long-term strength and resilience.

Al Qaeda also has become more cautious in imposing its radical version of Shariah. It now indoctrinates populations over years rather than forcing immediate compliance with strict Islamic law. It does not demand that fighters place themselves formally and publicly under its command. Its affiliates in Syria do not even insist that local groups accept its ideology as long as they fight common foes. Al Qaeda today introduces its beliefs slowly and carefully, and the false message that it is more moderate than ISIS resonates around the world.

America's Way Ahead in Syria

Jennifer Cafarella, Frederick W. Kagan and Kimberly Kagan

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and the Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute conducted an intensive multi-month planning exercise beginning in November 2015 to frame, design, and evaluate potential courses of action that the United States could pursue to destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) and al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria.

ISW and CTP are publishing the findings of this exercise in multiple reports. The first described America’s global grand strategic objectives as they relate to the threat from ISIS and al Qaeda. The second defined American strategic objectives in Iraq and Syria, identified the minimum necessary conditions for ending the conflicts there, and compared U.S. objectives with those of Iran, Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia in order to understand actual convergences and divergences. RECOMMENDED READU.S. Grand Strategy: Destroying ISIS and al QaedaThe third report assessed the strengths and vulnerabilities of ISIS and al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria to serve as the basis for developing a robust and comprehensive strategy to destroy them.

This fourth report recommends a course of action (COA) that represents the best possible path forward for the United States that the ISW-CTP team could identify based on an evaluation of American interests, the current political-security dynamics, and forecasts of various actors’ plans. The ISW-CTP team tested 15 different courses of action to destroy both ISIS and al Qaeda without jeopardizing wider American interests or accepting undue cost or risk.

To read the full report, please click here

We Must Listen to Clausewitz

By Daniel DePetris

As the foreign policy establishment in Washington should have learned over the last 16 years, nothing in the Middle East is straightforward or clean. There simply isn't a black-and-white, good vs. evil paradigm that Americans can use to navigate the treacherous and complicated politics of the region.

Sure, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is undeniably a war criminal whose forces have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people, wiped out entire city districts through merciless bombing, and sent over 11 million Syrians to leave their homes. Assad is a bloodthirsty authoritarian, but his opponents in the Syrian civil war are not angels either.

Indeed, the moderate forces that many U.S. policymakers pinned their hopes on in the beginning of the civil war have largely been overtaken by events. This year’s anti-Assad rebellion is predominately Islamist in orientation, with the most militarily powerful being Al-Qaeda affiliates that have no compunction in driving a van full of explosives into a civilian neighborhood. How are Americans supposed to choose between those two forces? What long-term, sustainable political outcome can we achieve through deployments, arming various warring rebel groups, and sending the U.S. Army to keep Turks on one side of the city and Kurds on the other? As the last 16 years has proven time and time again, the answer is none.

Dawn of the Jihadi Drone Wars

By Patrick Megahan and John Cappello

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reported February 23 that it had downed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over the Mediterranean after it was launched from the Gaza Strip. According to IDF sources, an Israeli F-16 shot down the UAV, which it said belonged to Hamas, before it was able to cross into the country’s airspace. Details of the type of drone and its mission remain sparse, but the flight demonstrates Hamas’s determined pursuit for UAV capability even after the death of its chief drone engineer last month in Tunisia. While Hamas’s nascent drone program has yet to produce any tactical or strategic advantage, the use of drones by terrorist organizations elsewhere in the region underscores the challenges they can pose.

Hamas reportedly tested its first drone in 2012, after which the IDF quickly targeted the site believed to house the program. A year later, Palestinian security forces foiled Hamas operatives in the West Bank plotting to launch UAVs packed with explosives that would strike targets in Israel. It was not until summer 2014, however, that Hamas launched a UAV that breached Israeli airspace, reaching the seaside city of Ashdod before being quickly downed by a Patriot surface-to-air missile. Hamas attempted to fly a UAV into Israeli airspace in June 2015, but it crashed just after crossing the border fence. Last September, another UAV appeared above the Gaza coast before also being quickly downed by an Israeli fighter.

Urban Security Is National Security

Raymond Odierno, Michael O'Hanlon

Violent crime rates are rising and should be treated as a matter of national security.

While news coverage about national security understandably focuses on issues such as the Syria and Ukraine crises, even bigger and broader forces are at work in today’s world. They are, in fact, redefining the very meaning of national security in ways that require new responses from policymakers at all levels of government. To secure our nation in this environment, we need much more than military power. Specifically, we need to ask with fresh eyes how Washington, DC can better help state and local governments in what used to be viewed as old-fashioned and largely local police work—but that should increasingly be understood as core national security policy. The United States should broaden its lens about how to secure the nation beyond military tools, and ask how the federal government can better support the work of state and local governments here in the United States.

Of all that is changing in today’s world, two forces stand out: urbanization and globalization. The first is happening gradually, but viewed over a generation, the changes are enormous. In the mid-twentieth century, there were some 2.5 billion humans on earth and a third lived in metropolitan areas. Today, there are 7.4 billion people, and 54 percent of that much larger number now live in or around cities. By 2050, there will be at least nine billion humans on Earth, of whom two-thirds will live in metropolitan areas, according to the UN. Several dozen megacities, each of ten million or more souls, will be scattered about the earth from the Americas and Africa to south Asia and east Asia.

The Future of U.S. Laser Weapons

By James Hasik,Julian Eagle-Platon

About what topic did Congressmen Doug Lamborn of Colorado and Jim Langevin of Rhode Island ask Defense Secretary Jim Mattis during his first week on the job? “Lasers,” of course, for they run the Congressional Directed Energy Caucus. That’s a thing, apparently, for as one of us wrote in November 2013, “lasers will save us all—if they ever work.” Directed energy has been a fetching technological idea for decades, but as Sandra Irwin wrote in National Defense in July 2015, the technology seemingly “has perennially been on the cusp of a major breakthrough.” Last summer, though, Jason Ellis of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory wrote a report for the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) about a coming “inflection point” in development. “Technically credible, operationally usable, and policy friendly directed energy weapons” could soon be available—if only the Congress would fund them, and the Pentagon would prioritize their adoption. So, if the congressmen get through to the secretary, what could be possible?

Lasers weapons have been overhyped and underwhelmed ever since the first beam lit up. For decades, most efforts at high-energy laser weapons, such as the US Navy’s Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL) and the US Air Force’s Airborne Laser (ABL), have been chemical lasers. These have not proven practical as weapons. To begin, deploying them means adding volatile chemicals to the logistics train. The cost of a shot is more akin to that of expensive cannon ammunition—though that’s still much cheaper than guided missiles. The systems are quite large, involving multiple full-size trailers to hold to the chemical storage tanks and associated equipment. The chemical reactions that produce the beams are intense. Northrop Grumman notes that the exhaust from its Skyguard chemical laser is non-toxic, but the exhaust is similar to that of a jet engine, with a no-go zone of 30 meters.


Bruce Blair, a research scholar in the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton, and a founder of Global Zero, a group opposed to nuclear weapons, had an Op-Ed in today’s (March 14, 2017) New York Times, regarding the cyber threat to nuclear weapons. I will say right up front that I do not share Mr. Blair’s view in opposing nuclear weapons. That kind of view sort of reminds me of the handgun argument. If you banned all handguns, the only people left with a handgun [down the road] would be criminals and the government. More on nuclear weapons later.

Mr. Blair raises an issue that I have written about on this blog before: the cyber threat, and network/critical infrastructure vulnerabilities surrounding the protection of our current, and future nuclear weapons arsenal. “Imagine the panic,” he writes, “if we had suddenly learned during the Cold War, that a bulwark of America’s nuclear deterrence could not even get off the ground — because of an exploitable deficiency in its [command &]control network? We had such an achilles’ heel not so long ago,” Mr. Blair contends. “Minuteman nuclear missiles were vulnerable to a disabling cyber attack; and, no one realized it for many years.” I suspect Mr. Blair is incorrect on that observation. When you peel the onion layer back on these kind of observations, you almost inevitably find someone who not only knew about the vulnerability; but, also warned and alerted senior management — but, the warnings were not heeded for whatever reason. Mr. Blair writes that “if it were not for a curious and persistent POTUS Obama, it [this vulnerability] may never have been discovered and rectified.” Sorry Mr, Blair, I do not believe that POTUS Obama was the first to highlight this potential catastrophic deficiency. He may however, been the first POTUS to do so.

New nukes? No thanks.


So far, President Trump has provided few details about his approach to his most important job as president: reducing the risks of unconstrained global nuclear competition and preventing a nuclear attack against the United States and our allies.

Instead, the new commander-in-chief has instructed the Pentagon to conduct another review of U.S. nuclear strategy, the fourth since the end of the Cold War and the first since President Obama completed a similar review in 2010.

The Nuclear Posture Review will, among other issues, assess how many nuclear weapons are necessary to deter nuclear attack and whether new types of nuclear weapons are necessary. The review may take a year or more to complete.

However, Trump's cryptic calls for the United States to "strengthen and expand" its already unparalleled nuclear capacity may encourage those who would like to overturn existing U.S. policy — which is to not develop new nuclear warheads or nuclear weapons for new military missions — in order to build new types of "more usable" nuclear warheads.

Last week, the House Armed Services Committee held hearings on nuclear deterrence strategy, including perspectives from members of a Defense Science Board panel that recommended in their Dec. 2016 report the development of a "tailored nuclear option for limited use."

Everything We Know About the U.S. Army's New Super Spy Plane

Kris Osborn

The EMARSS aircraft is configured to integrate a range of sensor packages such as Electro-Optical/Infrared cameras, full-motion video cameras and an imaging sensor technology known as Wide Area Surveillance System able to identify and produce images spanning over a given area of terrain, Army acquisition officials explained. 

EMARSS Follow-On Operational Test and Evaluation is coming up this month at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., Smith said. 

The Army is also integrating EMARSS with several cutting-edge technologies, to include a Northrop Grumman-built Vehicle and Dismounted Exploitation Radar (VADER) radar imaging technology. VADER uses Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI).

The Army is testing a next-generation surveillance plane engineered to identify enemy targets quickly from the air with a high-tech datalink to connect on-board sensors and computers with a multi-source ground-based intelligence system.

The Army’s Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (EMARSS) is a fixed-wing surveillance plane with cameras, software, antennas, intelligence databases and electronic equipment.