6 May 2017

*** China's Role in Post-Hegemonic Middle East

By John Calabrese

Dr. John Calabrese teaches U.S. foreign policy at American University and is director of the Middle East Institute's Middle East-Asia Project (MAP). This piece is part of a special RCW series on the U.S.-China geopolitical relationship. The views expressed here are the author’s own.

For more than a decade, the Middle East and North Africa region has experienced a level of violence and instability that is unprecedented in its modern history -- a turbulence that shows no sign of abating. During this period, the long-term sustainability of the U.S. role as security guarantor has increasingly been called into question, both in the United States and within the region. Meanwhile, China’s investments in the Middle East have grown, as has its economic, diplomatic, and security footprint.

Within this context, are there any indications that the United States and China already are, or inevitably will become, strategic rivals in the Middle East?

*** Taliban Controls or Contests 40 Percent of Afghan Districts: SIGAR

By Bill Roggio

Both the Taliban and the Afghan government have slightly increased the number of Afghan districts under their control over the past three months, but the security situation remains virtually unchanged, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in its most recent quarterly report to United States Congress.

The Taliban controls 11 districts and influences 34 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts (11 percent), while the Afghan government controls 97 districts and influences 146 (60 percent). Twenty-nine percent of Afghanistan’s districts remain contested. Taliban control of Afghan districts has increased one percent, while Afghan control has increased by 2.5 percent, according to SIGAR.

** Déjà Vu: Why Is Russia Back in Afghanistan?

MOSCOW – Looking at conflicts and hostilities across the globe today, one could be forgiven for neglecting the fact the Cold War ended decades ago. And it is Afghanistan, a key proxy battleground of that war, that Russia's president Vladimir Putin is targeting with its latest push.

Amid recent accusations by the U.S. military that Russia is supplying weapons and possibly funding to the Taliban – claims the Kremlin denies – Russia has been courting influential Afghans, expressing veiled criticism of the NATO-led mission there and holding talks aimed at ushering in peace.

What is Moscow doing in Afghanistan, a country where it fought its own disastrous, decade-long war? Here is a closer look at Moscow’s latest intervention in the country.

Moscow’s decision to weigh in on matters in the landlocked Central Asian country is producing somewhat of a double take here. The Soviet Union left Afghanistan in a humiliating 1989 defeat after a war that killed at least 15,000 Red Army soldiers fighting in the name of Communism against mujahedeen insurgents backed by the United States. The war devastated Afghanistan, killing at least one million citizens, ravaging its agriculture and creating a crippling refugee crisis that is still taking its toll on the country today. The Soviet invasion is largely seen as the beginning of the violence and chaos the Afghan still live in, the start of what they are now calling their “forty years of war.”

** The Roads to Power: The Infrastructure of Counterinsurgency

By Laleh Khalili 

Laleh Khalili has no doubts – the logistics and infrastructure of counterinsurgency are as significant as the actual fighting. Indeed, roads – and logistics provision more generally – don’t simply serve immediate or tactical military functions against opponents. They’re also instruments of social engineering, as illustrated in Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories.

This article was originally published by World Policy Journal in Spring 2017.

In Monty Python’s Life of Brian, a Judean leader tries to stoke a rebellion against the Romans. He tells a small crowd, “They’ve bled us white, the bastards,” and asks his comrades, “What have the Romans done for us?”

The other men reply by cataloging Rome’s great building projects, transportation networks, and bureaucratic systems. The agitator, played by John Cleese, responds: “All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

I have always found the scene resonant yet deeply inadequate. The idea that an imperial power constructs the groundwork for civilization must have been familiar to the members of Monty Python—all of whom were educated at British institutions that once trained men to rule the colonies. In its celebration of empire, the scene says nothing about how these collateral benefits were first and foremost designed to extract resources and move the soldiers and materiel needed to control them. It ignores the way militaries use infrastructure to pacify intransigent populations and incorporate conquered peoples and places into global systems of rule.

* Diplomacy in the 21st Century: Digitisation and Government Responsibility

By Volker Stanzel

As Volker Stanzel sees it, the digitization of contemporary life is both a bane and a benefit to diplomats. On the debit side, three problems standout – 1) the wealth of information that’s now available, which can complicate the ability of decision-makers to contextualize a given problem; 2) the sheer rapidity of modern communications, which can deprive diplomats of the time they need to formulate well-considered judgments; and 3) social media, which is proving itself to be no friend of ‘strategical needs’.


Digitisation affects humanity in many ways; including the functioning of government. A salient example is its impact upon modern diplomacy. Information wealth leads to the reduction of context and background to unmanageable amounts of facts when decisions need to be taken. The speed of communication results in time pressure on deciders undermining the objective of well-pondered judgements. The use of social media with their publicity tend to override strategical needs in devising policies. Thus, digitisation may empower diplomacy in previously unimaginable ways. But its risks need to be tamed by the awareness of its users that its effective­ness must not be allowed to compromise its legitimacy.

India Is On Course To Being A Major Player In Steel Exports

-- this post authored by Prachi Srivastava

Exports are an important component of the aggregate demand of an economy. A rise in exports leads to an increase in employment and a decrease in current account deficit. Therefore, they are extremely crucial for the economic growth of a nation. Currently, India is the third largest exporter of steel in the world with plans to gain a stronger foothold in the immediate future.

Rising steel exports

Steel exports in India have surpassed imports and jumped by 102.1 per cent in 2016-17 to 8.24 million tonnes (mt). This can be compared to the 4.07 mt shipped out in the previous financial year (2015-16). Exports in March 2017 at 1.62 mt were up by 363 per cent from March 2016 and grew by 114 per cent since February 2017.

Moreover, with the increase in exports, the imports of finished steel stood at 7.42 mt in 2016-17, declining by 36.6 per cent from 11.71 mt of imports in 2015-16. The surplus in exports has made India a net exporter of steel and it aims to become the second largest exporter of steel by 2018-19, by overthrowing Japan.

Chhattisgarh: Blood in the Last Bastion

In the worst attack targeting the Security Forces (SFs), in terms of fatalities, across India, since the June 29, 2010, Jhadha Ghati attack, cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) killed at least 25 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and injured another six in an ambush at Kalapattar in the Burkapal area of the Sukma District of Chhattisgarh on April 24, 2017. According to details available, an estimated 200-300 Maoists attacked the CRPF personnel who were out to provide protection for road construction work in the area. Though the CRPF claimed that “a considerable number of Maoists are believed to have been eliminated (in retaliatory action by CRPF men) as the tell-tale sign indicate from the ground,” only one body of a Maoist fighter was recovered, in the night of April 27, “just 500 metres away from the spot where the gun battle had taken place”. The body was recovered during search operations in the area. The Maoists had also looted at least 21 weapons, ammunition and 22 bullet proof jackets from the possession of the slain CRPF personnel.

On June 29, 2010, 27 personnel of the CRPF, including Assistant Commandant Jatin Gulati, were killed in a CPI-Maoist ambush in Narayanpur District of Chhattisgarh. The attack took place near a hilly stretch known as the Jhadha Ghati, three kilometres from the CRPF’s Dhudhai base camp. However, the Maoist’s worst ever attack targeting the SFs was at the Tarmetla village near Chintalnad in the Dantewada District of Chhattisgarh, on April 6, 2010, in which 75 CRPF personnel and one State Policeman were killed. Significantly, this area now falls under the Sukma District after the bifurcation of Dantewada.

When the Indian Army needs a (human) shield

By Lt Gen H S Panag

Two and a half years is a fairly long time in an insurgency. Elections were due to be held in Jammu and Kashmir in five phases from November 25 to December 20, 2014. There had been relative calm in J&K since the protests following the Machil fake encounter in 2010. Election campaigning was on in full swing.

On November 3, 2014, at a checkpoint in Budgam area, manned by a Junior Commissioned Officer and eight OR of 53 Rashtriya Rifles (RR), a car was fired upon when it failed to stop for checking (as per the version of the soldiers). Two school students were killed and two others were injured. Protests broke out in the area. The J&K Police commenced investigations, and leaks pointed towards a high-handed approach of the soldiers manning the check point. 53 RR stuck to its story that they were acting upon specific information on movement of terrorists and fired only when the car failed to stop at two previous checkpoints despite being signaled to do so, and had tried to barge through the checkpoint.

Considering the SOPs for manning checkpoints, it appeared to be a clear case of violation of rules of engagement. In such cases, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA) protects the soldiers from being charged with murder or manslaughter. But, they were guilty of violating the standing orders laying down the rules of engagement and were liable to be punished after due investigation.

The State of Afghanistan’s Intelligence Enterprise

Maj. Gen. Robert P. Walters Jr., U.S. Army
Col. Loren G. Traugutt, U.S. Army

Sgt. 1st Class Hussain Dad (left) with the 201st Afghan National Army (ANA) Corps watches a fellow ANA soldier review targeted frequencies on the Wolfhound’s signal scanning device 25 January 2014 during Afghanistan’s first Wolfhound fielding and training at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Laghman Province, Afghanistan. The Wolfhound allows 201st ANA Corps soldiers to hear and locate the enemy’s radio transmissions. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class E. L. Craig, U.S. Army)

It is October 2016. The Taliban has been pressing hard for several weeks to take the provincial capital of Uruzgan. North of Kandahar, it has been attacking Afghan National Police (ANP) checkpoints and police stations, killing police and innocent civilians, and looting supplies and equipment from overrun or abandoned buildings. On an early morning in late October, a group of Taliban insurgents takes respite in an isolated compound of several buildings. Haphazardly occupying a single fighting position over the last few days, the insurgents take advantage of the brief pause.1

Infographic Of The Day: The Population Of Every Country Is Represented On This Bubble Chart

Today's visualization helps to give some perspective on world population.

Chinese Investment in Pakistan: Rhetoric or Reality?

Much has been written and said about the announcement by the Chinese government in April this year to invest $46 billion in building an economic corridor, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), in Pakistan linking China to the Central Asian republics. The announcement came on the back of the $12 billion loan package made to Pakistan by the World bank the previous year.

However, despite the political rhetoric and the show of bonhomie between the leaders of the two countries, and, the media frenzy that followed such announcement, there are serious questions that need to be raised as regard the risks of the promised Chinese investment in Pakistan.

The lion’s share of the investments are largely going to be in the form of loans of $22 billion by Chinese banks to help resuscitate some of the ailing debt-ridden Pakistani coal and nuclear power plants. The loans can be broken down into two broad temporal categories, the ‘Early Harvest’ ones in the next 3-4 years, and, the other loans promised after 2020. [1] The key question that China watchers need to raise here is, how much is the Chinese government willing to stretch it’s banks now that there is a stock-market meltdown, currency devaluation, import stagnation and deepening recession within it’s own country?

What does China really spend on its military?

A country’s defense spending represents the most direct way of measuring its potential military capability. In terms of gauging relative military strength, the size of defense budgets can be compared between countries over a set period of time. These comparisons are particularly insightful when tracing regional trends in military spending and identifying critical political events that have accelerated defense allocations. Defense budgets also serve to identify the importance of a country’s armed forces relative to other organs of the state. Therefore, it is necessary to consider not only gross defense spending but also the size of the defense budget relative to a government’s overall budget and a country’s gross domestic product (GDP). No matter how much a country spends on its military, however, it must still find ways to translate its potential capability for power into power itself.

*For more information on the official Chinese defense figure for 2017, click here.*

Official Chinese defense numbers converted to US$ using current year OECD exchange rate figures. Department of Defense figures represent the lower estimate offered in its annual reports. For more details, please see below content.

Efforts to explore the connection between Chinese military spending and Chinese military power are obfuscated by a lack of transparency. Although China provides official estimates of defense spending each year, outside estimates of China’s defense budget are often significantly higher than Beijing’s official numbers. Furthermore, China provides limited information on the distribution of its military spending, which obscures spending patterns that may indicate the relative importance of a particular branch of the Chinese military, how China might be responding to perceived external threats, and where China is investing in new technologies. Nevertheless, even modest estimates reveal that Chinese defense spending is on the rise. China now spends more on its military than any other country in the world save the United States. This question explores both the issues in calculating Chinese defense spending and China’s spending relative to other regional actors.
What explains the inconsistencies in tracking Chinese military spending?

How long can Jordan keep walking the Middle East tightrope?

Nabih Bulos

For six tumultuous years, Jordan has weathered the war in neighboring Syria by walking a fine line: supporting the U.S.-supported rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar Assad, but also cooperating with Assad’s closest ally, Russia.

But as the Trump administration pursues a more muscular stance toward both Assad and Islamic State militants, it threatens to upend Amman’s tightrope act at a time when the Islamist threat against the kingdom has never been greater.

In the last few months, as Islamic State has lost ground near its self-proclaimed capital cities of Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqah, Syria, a new offensive has been launched by rebel forces, trained in and equipped in Jordan with U.S. help. The operation has begun to clear the jihadists from the Hamad Desert, territory that includes Syria’s southeastern corner.

As the jihadists face more pressure in Mosul and Raqqah, many fear the Islamists will forge a path to the Hamad. A longtime smuggling route, it has become a vital supply line for Islamic State, said Tlass Salama, commander of the Jaish Usood al Sharqiya, or the Lions of the East Army.

Salama said rebels there have fought as comrades in arms with members of U.S. and Norwegian special forces to repel Islamic State attacks at the desolate garrison in Tanf, a one-time agricultural facility roughly 10 miles from the Jordanian border that has been converted into a base. These opposition factions, said the coalition in a statement this month, “have been instrumental in countering the ISIS threat in southern Syria and maintaining security along the Syria-Jordan border.”

Working with other U.S.-supported rebel factions, Salama said his 1,300-man group has already clawed back hundreds of miles from Islamic State stretching toward the central desert province of Homs.

Reports have also emerged of Jordanian and U.S. troops on the section of the Jordanian border opposite southwest Syria, a possible prelude to a campaign in which rebels, supported by Jordanian and coalition forces on the ground, would overrun Islamic State’s pocket in the Yarmouk basin, near southwestern Syria’s borders with Israel and Jordan.

The news kicked up a war of words with Jordan, Russia and Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov this month asked for clarification from Amman. Less than a week later, Assad, in an interview with the Russian Segodnya news agency, criticized Jordan as “part of the American plan since the beginning of the war in Syria.”

Assad said Jordan was acting at the behest of the Trump administration.

“Jordan is not an independent country anyway, whatever the American wants, it will happen, so if the Americans want to use the northern part of Jordan against Syria, they’re going to use it,” Assad said, according to a transcript released by Syrian state news operator SANA.

“We don’t discuss Jordan as a state; we discuss Jordan as land in that case, because it’s the United States who defines the plans, who defines the players, and who endorses everything regarding Syria coming from Jordan.”

Jordan rejected Assad’s remarks as “fabricated allegations,” according a statement by Jordanian government spokesman Mohammad Momani. He added that Jordan had long reiterated the importance of preserving the territorial unity of Syria and fighting terrorist organizations.

The increased tension comes after a period of cautious recalibration between the two countries. Amman, activists say, had over the last two years largely scaled back support for anti-Assad rebels and stopped them from launching attacks on Assad’s forces in Syria’s southern provinces, which abut Jordan.

In November, Lt. Gen. Mahmoud Freihat, Jordan’s top military commander, said in an interview in with the Arabic-language arm of the BBC that “since the beginning of the crisis, we never operated against the regime at all, our relations with the regime have remained, and our diplomatic relations with Syria have also remained.”

He acknowledged that Jordan has trained rebel groups, but, he insisted, the rebels were tasked with defending Jordan’s borders from Islamic State and fighting the group in the Hamad Desert.

But Jordan’s change of tone in recent weeks, which comes on the heels of a recent White House visit by the Jordanian monarch, King Abdullah II, is a reflection of the shift in U.S. policy, said Oraib Rintawi, head of the Al Quds Center think tank, which is based in Amman.

“Jordan cannot veer far from U.S. policy [on Syria] in this regard,” Rintawi said. He explained that although the U.S. has made fighting Islamic State a priority, a closer look at the policies of the U.S. shows “that the restriction of Iran takes a higher priority on the U.S. agenda.” One lingering question is what role Jordan might play in U.S. policy with Iran.

Rintawi pointed to recent statements by Abdullah against Iran. In an interview with the Washington Post this month, Abdullah warned that Iran was trying to “forge a geographic link” from Tehran to Beirut via Syria’s eastern desert once Islamic State was removed. The U.S., Rintawi said, was instead trying to fill the expected vacuum with forces friendly to the U.S.

Jordan’s increased involvement has also been noted by Islamic State. In early April, the group issued a 21-minute video vowing to conduct attacks in the country. The threats were delivered by five Jordanian members of Islamic State, all from prominent tribal families that are thought to be loyal to Jordan.

Jordanian soldiers keep watch near an informal refugee camp at the Jordan-Syria border. Jordan sealed the area in the northeastern part of the country in 2016 following a jihadist attack that killed seven Jordanian border guards. (Jamal Nasrallah / EPA) 

“We must hurt this arrogant regime and make it taste some of the flames of war tasted by those it had trained in Jordan,” says Qutaibah Majali, a shaggy-haired jihadist who left Jordan more than three years ago to join Islamic State in Raqqah.

Later, the scene shifts to Majali brandishing a knife.

“Our knives will get your necks and that of every Crusader in Jordan. And our bullets will bore your rotten heads, so receive good tidings of that which hurts you,” he says before kicking down a prisoner, said to be a spy recruited by Jordanian intelligence, and slicing through his neck.

But Rintawi, the analyst, said his main fear was not Islamic State, but what’s left in its aftermath. Would Syrian pro-government forces allow rebels supported by Jordan to hold ground they had taken from the extremist group? How would Jordan react when Syrian forces and the rebels clash once Islamic State is out of the picture?

Complicating the situation further is the presence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which is stationed in Syria less than 50 miles from the Jordanian border.

“U.S. policy is set for a grand confrontation with Iran. We’re going to have a four- and five-year confrontation where the Americans don’t pay, but we do,” Rintawi said. “They fight now using Syrians, Yemenis, and others. I hope it won’t be with us as well.”

What War With North Korea Would Look Like

Summary: As tensions between the United States and North Korea continue to simmer, questions arise concerning what war with a nuclear-powered North Korea would look like.

The Trump administration continues to talk with regional leaders in Southeast Asia about how to address rising tensions with North Korea. Many analysts say the possibility of a clash is improbable, but with U.S. naval fleets off the Korean Peninsula and tough diplomatic talk, relations are on a fine line.

That raises the question: What would war with a nuclear-powered North Korea even look like?

On whether the Trump administration’s language on North Korea has analysts worried

“Any normal person would be worried when the president of the United States talks about the possibility of a war with North Korea. There’s a reason that every president since Dwight Eisenhower has worked very hard to make sure we don’t have another war on the Korean Peninsula, because of how devastating it would be. But at the same time, any conflict launched by the United States would have to be, first, led by a major increase in military capability on the peninsula, to protect our allies and our interests — we haven’t seen that yet, so I think the talk is loose, but we’re not at the point that people are actively worried about a conflict.”

China’s Duplicity in Restraining North Korea’s Nuclear Adventurism

By Dr Subhash Kapila

The United States and the Trump Administration reflect great naivety when publicly asserting that a China duplicitous for decades on North Korea’s nuclear adventurism will now cooperate with the United States in checkmating North Korea.

In 2017, the picture of North Korea with nuclear weapons and long range missiles presents a grim challenge to the United Sates for its own Homeland Security and more immediately to the sheet-anchors of US security in the Western Pacific, namely, Japan and South Korea. The challenge for the United States becomes more grim when China with considerable leverages on North Korea has pussy-footed all efforts by the United States that China should restrain its wayward North Korea ally.

In 2017, with the North Korea nuclear weapons threat acquiring menacing contours, any continuance of United States’ erstwhile policy of ‘Strategic Restraint’ and ‘Strategic Patience’ towards China and North Korea by President Trump could possibly push Japan and South Korea into respective nuclear weaponisation of their own, shherly for self-defence and survival.

From Standard To Smarter Oil


Summary: The days of simply sticking a pipe in the ground and tapping a pool of easy-to-handle and profitable crude oil are fading. Changing resources require people challenge conventional thinking on oil.

Today’s crude oils can be as light as paint thinner or as heavy as peanut butter. They can be trapped tightly in fissures of buried rocks. Or their wells running low with each depleted barrel containing more water or gas than oil. Whether ultra-light, extra-heavy, or depleted, these oils are more difficult to extract, harder to refine, more challenging to transport, and yield a different array of products than yesterday’s oils.

For example, blending the heaviest and lightest oils may make them flow more readily but this creates dumbbell crudes that are difficult to refine into the typical slate of highly-profitable petroleum products. These oddball mixtures that do not contain essential hydrocarbon molecules have thrown the oil industry and policymakers a serious curve ball.

Transforming challenges into opportunities calls for significant innovation. As long as we continue to consume petroleum, we need to make smarter oil choices that satisfy both private interests and the public good.


by RC Porter 

David Maxwell’s Comment: Happy to read this excerpt on north Korea. I just hope USSOCOM realizes there is a large role for SOF (US and Korean) beyond the CWMD mission (to include use of SOF information and influence capabilities).

North Korea. USSOCOM has recently focused more intently on the emerging threat that is of growing concern to us as well as most of our DoD teammates – the nuclear threat of an increasingly rogue North Korea. Although previously viewed as a regional threat, North Korea’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, facilitated by a transregional network of commercial, military, and political connections, make it a threat with global implications. In response, United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) and United States Forces-Korea (USFK) are focused on sustaining credible combat power in the region, maintaining unrelenting resolve in the face of multiple provocations, and sustaining partnerships with our closest allies. We maintain a persistent and rotational presence on the peninsula, working with our increasingly capable South Korean partners to prepare for future crises. In the meantime, we are actively pursuing a training path to ensure readiness for the entire range of contingency operations in which SOF, to include our exquisite CWMD capabilities, may play a critical role. As previously noted, we are looking comprehensively at our force structure and capabilities on the peninsula and across the region to maximize our support to USPACOM and USFK. This is my warfighting priority for planning and support.

Army Chief’s Thinktank Studies Major War


ARMY WAR COLLEGE: If you want to know what the Army Chief of Staff is thinking, don’t just ask around the Pentagon. Drive a couple hours north through rural Pennsylvania — passing the Gettysburg battlefield on the way — to the Army War College here in quiet Carlisle.

An institution whose influence has waxed and waned over the years, today’s War College has become Gen. Mark Milley’s personal thinktank, getting bigger budgets — a rarity in today’s Army — to study urgent issues of great power war. Recent wargames include one on fighting an unspecified “near-peer” power and another on how to mobilize the entire Army Reserve and National Guard for all-out conflict. The War College will run another near-peer wargame in June when Chief of Staff Milley convenes much of the general officer corps, including all 3- and 4-stars, for his Senior Leader Readiness forum.

“I think the Chief is really pushing…a near-peer wargame because there are some capability gaps that we have to address, and some of those capability gaps exist between the ears of our senior leaders,” Maj. Gen. William Rapp, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who’s served as War College commandant since 2014, said. “Counterinsurgency… that’s all my students really know. They are not products of the ’90s where we just did rotation after rotation against a near peer threat in the NTC (National Training Center).”

The Army's New "FM 3.0 Operations" Combat Doctrine is Geared Toward Major Power Adversaries


The Army is now crafting new combat “operations” doctrine designed to better position the service for the prospect of large-scale, mechanized, force-on-force warfare against technologically advanced near-peer rivals – such as Russia or China.

The Army is now crafting new combat “operations” doctrine designed to better position the service for the prospect of large-scale, mechanized, force-on-force warfare against technologically advanced near-peer rivals – such as Russia or China - able to substantially challenge US military technological superiority.

Rigorous examination is now underway among Army leaders and service doctrine developers in preparation for a new or evolved concept, called “FM 3.0 Operations,” slated to emerge this coming October.

Multi-Domain Battle Will Require a Totally Different Type of Leader

By A.J. Shattuck

The strategic challenges posed by resurgent global powers have largely escaped the headlines of major news publications. Most citizens do not realize that Russia and China possess the technology capable of denying US forces the ability to operate uncontested in the western Pacific Ocean or eastern Europe. Given that preserving the current rules-based international order is a key security interest of the United States, this issue poses significant problems for the US military. Fortunately, members of the defense community are formulating ways to solve this new challenge.

Planners and strategists within the institutional Army are underway developing the much-publicized concept known as Multi-Domain Battle (MDB). This concept attempts to mitigate recent gains by near-peer (soon to be peer) competitors by leveraging rapid joint execution. In order to succeed, the United States must create temporary windows of superiority in a given domain of battle by using cross-domain fires, and then exploit that window to create temporary footholds with which to create further gains. Dedicated professionals remain hard at work creating new doctrine and even new task forces to optimize military efforts in line with this future warfighting concept. However, they are failing to make advances in one key area: leader development. Until the US Army develops leaders with the means, authority, and education to properly execute MDB, it will fail to adapt to an increasingly rapid pace of battle.

A force in flux: Military adjusts to emergent domains of warfare

By: Mark Pomerleau, 

The Army — and the military writ large — is undergoing the initial stages of a fundamental change in thinking, organizing and, ultimately, fighting.

Fifteen years of continuous war against technologically inferior enemies that has provided a window for adversaries to observe U.S. tactics, and the advent of new and cheap technologies to achieve great effects are factors that have forced the military to realign under what it generally calls multi-domain battle.

Multi-domain battle seeks to integrate operations and coordinate seamlessly across the five domains of war — air, land, sea, space and cyber — as opposed to the antiquated domain-specific approach to solving problems.

Emergent domains, such as cyber and space, and adversarial use of such battlefields, has the force rethinking how it will organize conventional units and at what level to incorporate skill sets within these war-fighting environments.

“This is probably the thing we are focusing on the most right now and gives us the largest challenge,” Gen. David Perkins, commander of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, said in March at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium.

The Promises and Perils of Emerging Technologies for Cybersecurity

By Herb Lin

In late March 2017, I was invited to submit for the record my views on “the Promises and Perils of Emerging Technologies for Cybersecurity" before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. What follows below is what I submitted for the hearing record held on March 22, slightly modified to include some references. I invite comment from Lawfare readers.

The hearing was intended to explore the impact of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, the internet of things, blockchain, and quantum computing, on the future of cybersecurity and to launch a discussion about how such technologies create new cyber vulnerabilities but also innovative opportunities to combat cyber threats more effectively.

On the cybersecurity impacts of the technologies listed explicitly in the hearing announcement: 

The Power of Botnets: Amplifying Crime, Disinformation, and Espionage


Imagine an army of computers, acting under the instructions of a criminal syndicate, terrorist group, or foreign government. The sheer size of this network of devices augments the computing power of a single hacker, allowing them to coordinate attacks capable of knocking offline crucial websites belonging to banks, social media, and news organizations.

These so-called botnets can disrupt the internet’s infrastructure, facilitate theft and surveillance on a mass scale, and even sway political opinion. Such subtle influence could shape electorates and influence entire government policies – all staged from the comfort of a keyboard anywhere in the world.

What are botnets and how can they be used for nefarious purposes? What can private industry and government do combat them?

A bot is simply code that can be injected into any device, which then takes control of a user’s internet browser. From here, the bot can monitor all of the device’s online activity, including the input of login credentials to email, social media, and bank accounts. It can make its own interactions with the internet, out of sight of the person who owns the infected device.

The Army Trains Its Sights On Network Ownership

By Robert K. Ackerman

A U.S. Army captain uses a Nett Warrior end-user device in Afghanistan. A new approach to network training aims to teach soldiers what they need to know at their home station before deployment. 

A contracted instructor teaches soldiers how to splice a fiber cable during a Fort Hood Signal University class. Giving soldiers extensive knowledge of their network would have the effect of returning network ownership to its users. 

A U.S. Army captain uses a Nett Warrior end-user device in Afghanistan. A new approach to network training aims to teach soldiers what they need to know at their home station before deployment. 

A new initiative provides soldiers extensive knowledge of information systems and returns control to users. 

Forced Off the Grid: A Cyberattack on the United States

By Eshani Bhatt

The current U.S. power grid system is at risk of an external cyberattack that could severely cripple everyday life. The grid is the backbone of all functions requiring electricity—in homes and businesses, as well as at factories and power plants. All sixteen sectors of the U.S. economy that are considered the nation’s critical infrastructure—like manufacturing and healthcare—are dependent on electricity, which runs on a system of grids in three regions of the country: the Eastern, Western, and Texas interconnections. Among the spending authorized by Congress in 2009 was a $4.5 billion investment in a more reliable and cleaner energy grid. Though the power grids may now release less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and speed up power outage recovery times, the question of how secure they are from external attacks remains.

At over fifty years old, the U.S. power grid is outdated, making it more vulnerable to cyberattacks using more modern and sophisticated software. Robert Knake, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, highlights possibilities of an attack and the implications for the United States in a new contingency planning memorandum from the Center for Preventive Action. Knake lays out potential scenarios in which the power grid would be targeted and presents policy recommendations to prevent or respond to such an attack.