Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners

Quote of the Day:

"Never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."
- Winston Churchill

"I have said that propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation have always been part of political warfare. Social media and other new platforms have given it a new life and reach through which the fake news phenomenon can reach everywhere."
- Bilawal Bhutto Zardari

"Unconventional warfare needs to remain the heart and soul of U.S. Special Operations Command and component commands."
- Brandon Webb

1.  Routledge Handbook of U.S. Counterterrorism and Irregular Warfare Operations
2.  Veterans fear WTC beam left behind in Afghanistan could fall into Taliban’s hands
3.  Mercenaries: the sinister export from Colombia's conflict
4. Russia’s new national security strategy
5. China looks for ways to help fill void in Afghanistan without overcommitting itself
6. China-Ukraine infrastructure deal a surprise for observers of Beijing, Kyiv and Moscow geopolitics
7. China Accuses U.S. of ‘Unreasonable Suppression’ of Companies
8. China vows retaliation after US blacklists companies
9. China blames US for security crisis in Afghanistan
10. Revolt by doing nothing — Chinese youth are lying in bed to protest tough jobs, low pay
11. Thomas Cleary, Prolific Translator of Eastern Texts, Dies at 72
12. Minneapolis shoeshiner Dorsie Willis waited 66 years for Army apology
13. The foreigners in China’s disinformation drive
14. The Afghan tragedy was created in the laboratory of Western foreign policy
15. China’s Aims And Opportunities In Afghanistan Amidst America’s Exit – Analysis
16. The Military, Industrial, Financial And Data (MIFD) Complex
17. The Complicated Legacy Of Gertrude Bell, The British Explorer Who Helped Draw The Borders Of Modern Iraq
18. A Report Clears Federal Officials Who Were Suspended By A Trump Appointee Over VOA
19. Taliban Says It Sees China As A "Friend" Of Afghanistan: Report
20.  U.S. Army offering up to $30k bonus for new PSYOP specialists
21. D.C. journalists launch media company with $10 million+ funding
22. Biden under pressure to respond to escalating attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria

1. Routledge Handbook of U.S. Counterterrorism and Irregular Warfare Operations

34 essays (including one from me on OEF-P) spanning the war on terrorism. This was a project conceived and led by the late Ambassador Mike Sheehan. I am proud to be included in a book with such distinguished scholars/practitioners.

The entire book can be downloaded in PDF or read on line at the link below. Each essay can also be accessed individually at the link.

Routledge Handbook of U.S. Counterterrorism and Irregular Warfare Operations
Edited By Michael A. Sheehan, Erich Marquardt, Liam Collins

‘A unique, exceptional volume of compelling, thoughtful, and informative essays on the subjects of irregular warfare, counter-insurgency, and counter-terrorism – endeavors that will, unfortunately, continue to be unavoidable and necessary, even as the U.S. and our allies and partners shift our focus to Asia and the Pacific in an era of renewed great power rivalries. The co-editors – the late Michael Sheehan, a brilliant comrade in uniform and beyond, Liam Collins, one of America’s most talented and accomplished special operators and scholars on these subjects, and Erich Marquardt, the founding editor of the CTC Sentinel – have done a masterful job of assembling the works of the best and brightest on these subjects – subjects that will continue to demand our attention, resources, and commitment.’General (ret.) David Petraeus, former Commander of the Surge in Afghanistan, U.S. Central Command, and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan and former Director of the CIA

‘Terrorism will continue to be a featured security challenge for the foreseeable future. We need to be careful about losing the intellectual and practical expertise hard-won over the last twenty years. This handbook, the brainchild of my late friend and longtime counter-terrorism expert Michael Sheehan, is an extraordinary resource for future policymakers and CT practitioners who will grapple with the evolving terrorism threat.’General (ret.) Joseph Votel, former commander of US Special Operations Command and US Central Command

‘This volume will be essential reading for a new generation of practitioners and scholars. Providing vibrant first-hand accounts from experts in counterterrorism and irregular warfare, from 9/11 until the present, this book presents a blueprint of recent efforts and impending challenges. Terrorism is a perpetual threat, one that never goes away, but requires expertise and attention to compress its scale and scope. These essays provide the way forward.Nancy Collins, author of Grey Wars and senior fellow of the Modern War Institute, West Point

‘The post-9/11 literature on counterterrorism has been dominated by academics and policy practitioners. The Routledge Handbook of U.S. Counterterrorism and Irregular Warfare Operations widens the existing scope of scholarship on terrorism and counterterrorism by adding a critically important operational perspective to the discussion. Conceived by the legendary Ambassador Michael Sheehan, the handbook assembles a stellar cast of contributors in a unique volume that will enlighten and inspire all those who take part and interest in the ongoing effort to stem one of the most pressing security challenges of our time – from scholars to decisionmakers, and from policy practitioners to military operators.’Assaf Moghadam, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Israel, author of Nexus of Global Jihad: Understanding Cooperation among Terrorist Actors

‘The Routledge Handbook of US Counterterrorism and Irregular Warfare Operations consolidates and advances our understanding of the American experience at war since the mass murder attacks of September 11, 2001. It is a book that should be read and discussed beyond the military, as the contributors’ findings are consistent with Sir Michael Howard’s observation that, in war, the causes of victory or defeat are often found far from the battlefield.’Lt.-General (ret.) H.R. McMaster, former US National Security Advisor and author of Dereliction of Duty and Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World

Introduction 1
Liam Collins
The threat and regional security issues 9 
1 The evolution of Islamist terrorism in the 20th century 11
James J.F. Forest 
2 The ideology behind al-Qaida and the Islamic State 27
Daniel Rudder and Christopher Heffelfinger 
3 The evolution of al-Qaida: 1988 to present day 41
Seth G. Jones 
4 The history of the Islamic State: from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi 54
Brian Fishman 
5 Contemporary conflict and political violence in the Levant 71
Benedetta Berti

6 Jihadi militancy and Houthi insurgency in Yemen 83
Elisabeth Kendall 
7 The roots of terrorism in North and West Africa: AQIM and Boko Haram 95
Alice Hunt Friend 
8 Al-Shabaab and the Horn of Africa 105
Ken Menkhaus 
9 The history of terrorism in Southeast Asia 117
Peter Chalk
10 The Taliban and the modern history of Afghanistan 134
Rob Johnson
11 The modern history of Iran and the birth of the Shia proxy model 148
Alex Vatanka
12 Terrorism, insurgency, and criminal insurgency in Latin America 159
Román D. Ortiz
Operational case studies 173
13 El Salvador: Operations and Planning Assistance Training Teams and a minimalist approach to counterinsurgency 175
Cecil E. Bailey
14 Plan Colombia and the U.S. Army’s 7th Special Forces Group 190
Kevin M. Higgins
15 The story of the U.S. role in the killing of Pablo Escobar 203
Mark Bowden
16 The Iran-Contra Affair and the Afghan Task Force: lessons in covert action 212
Jack Devine and Amanda Mattingly
17 The horse soldiers: lessons from expeditionary unconventional warfare 223
Mark E. Mitchell
18 Special Operations Forces and Afghan Local Police programs 239
Donald C. Bolduc and Chris Hensley
19 U.S. civilian architecture for stabilization and counterinsurgency in Northern Afghanistan (2012–2013) 254
Keith Mines
20 Dismantling al-Qaida in Iraq 267
Liam Collins
21 Operation Enduring Freedom–Philippines: lessons in special warfare 280
David S. Maxwell
22 Operation Serval: a swift intervention with a small footprint in Mali 293
Michael A. Sheehan and Pascale C. Siegel
23 U.S. counterterrorism policy in Yemen from 2010–2020 307
Luke Hartig
24 Defeating the Islamic State: Special Operations Forces in Syria 323
Anthony Messenger, Nick Lewis-Walls, Mike Parker, Bert Pedrigi, and David P. Kearns

Government instruments in countering terrorism and waging irregular warfare 349
25 The Joint Terrorism Task Force: investigating to disrupt and prosecute terrorists 351
Ali Soufan
26 Creating the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau 364
Michael A. Sheehan
27 The inside story of how the NYPD’s Intelligence Division adapted in the wake of 9/11 377
David Cohen
28 Lessons learned from four high-casualty terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11 390
Paul Cruickshank
29 Social media recruitment of Americans: a case study from the Islamic State 413
Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens and Seamus Hughes
30 Countering extremist organizations in the information domain 423
Joseph Mroszczyk and Max Abrahms
31 Theater Special Operations Command: the operational employment of U.S. Special Operations Forces 436
Charles T. Cleveland and Liam Collins
32 Theater command in Afghanistan: taking charge of “The Other War” in 2003–2005 447
David W. Barno
33 America’s drone wars outside of conventional war zones 460
Peter Bergen and A.G. Sims
34 The United Kingdom’s approach to counterterrorism 477
Robin Simcox and Hannah Stuart 
Conclusion 492
Hy Rothstein
Index 502

2. Veterans fear WTC beam left behind in Afghanistan could fall into Taliban’s hands

I think there are probably many similar artifacts honoring 9-11 at camps all throughout Afghanistan. I hope they have been evacuated as part of the withdrawal process. If not, expect to see these items to be used for propaganda purposes by our adversaries.

Veterans fear WTC beam left behind in Afghanistan could fall into Taliban’s hands
New York Post · by Kerry J. Byrne · July 10, 2021
More On:
A piece of 9/11 history may have been abandoned in Afghanistan after American troops hastily pulled out of a key military base, leaving the New Yorkers who rescued and donated the relic enraged — and worried it might fall into the clutches of the Taliban.
No one seems to know the location of the memorial — a 10-foot-tall, 900-pound steel beam from the World Trade Center which became a landmark at Bagram Airfield after it was donated in 2010 — in the wake of a rushed exit by United States forces from the base last weekend.
Now there’s a “race against the clock” to find it, said retired U.S. Army Col Jeff Cantor.
“We’re determined to find its exact location currently and bring it home,” said Cantor, a Marlboro, NJ, resident who served at Bagram. “It’s really important to those of us who served over there that it doesn’t fall into the hands of the Taliban.”
“It’s absolutely disgraceful. This is a piece of American soil,” seethed Bob Crowley, a retired NYPD officer and member of the Breezy Point, Queens, chapter of the Sons and Daughters of America, the group that salvaged, and then delivered, the beam to troops at Bagram.
Military and police veterans are working hard to locate a piece of the 9/11 WTC steel beam that they helped to send overseas to US soldiers 18 years ago and has now gone missing.
Matthew McDermott
The beam had “WTC” and “9 11 01” melted into the steel with an acetylene torch, and featured a plaque at the base with the words: “Never Forgotten. Never Forget. From the People of New York City. Breezy Point N.Y.”
“This beam was sent there with the hopes that every soldier, every day had a reminder of the real reason they were there and how this war started,” said Col. Stephen Ryan, a Breezy Point native and U.S. Army reservist who served at Bagram.
Ryan, a Nassau County police officer, was among the Army reservists activated on Sept. 11, 2001, helping to search the rubble of the crumpled Twin Towers for victims.
The beam was unveiled at Bagram on Memorial Day in 2010, in a ceremony led by former U.S. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. It became a popular site for selfies for NATO troops from around the world, and was once flown via helicopter over Taliban-controlled territory with the Stars and Stripes attached to it, in a display of American resolve.
A CH-47 Chinook helicopter flown by aviators from Task Force Falcon carries the beam above Parwan province.
Defense Visual Information Distribution Service
The worried veterans say they’ve made multiple phone calls and haven’t been able to determine if the beam was taken out of Bagram, which was ravaged by looters in the wake of the Biden Administration’s rushed exit from the base.
They fear the Taliban will deface the memorial, use it as a recruiting and propaganda tool, or flaunt it around the world as a symbol of American weakness on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the deadliest terror attack in world history.
“It’s incomprehensible that we would let this happen,” said Cantor.
For now, they’ve reached out to the new Afghan commander on the ground at Bagram, Gen. Asadullah Kohistani, to ask him to scour the base to see if the memorial is still there. Shabir Kabiri, a liaison to Kohistani, said if it’s located, the beam could be taken to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
U.S. Army Spc. Mario Palencia of Houston, Texas, and U.S. Army Sgt. Timothy Nast, Troy, Ill., help transport the beam at Bagram Airfield.
Defense Visual Information Distribution Service
The original plan, said Ryan, was to move the monument to the 82nd Airborne Museum in Fort Bragg, N.C. when U.S. troops finally departed Bagram. But those plans apparently fell apart in the haste to vacate the base.
A person at museum headquarters reached by The Post this week did not know the monument’s whereabouts or if it was destined for Fort Bragg. The 82nd Airborne and U.S. Central Command in Florida did not immediately return a request for comment.
“We haven’t heard any word about it in two years,” said a man who answered the museum’s phone, who declined to give his name.
“Somebody dropped the ball, somebody in the U.S. government or military,” said Cantor.
New York Post · by Kerry J. Byrne · July 10, 2021

3. Mercenaries: the sinister export from Colombia's conflict

Every year "between 15,000 and 10,000 soldiers leave the army rank and file... it's a human universe that is very difficult to control," Colonel John Marulanda, president of a Colombian association for former military personnel, told W Radio.
They retire relatively young with low pensions and that makes them "prey to better economic opportunities," said the retired officer.
He says that what happened in Haiti was a "typical case of recruitment" of Colombian ex-soldiers by private companies to carry out operations in other countries.
Colombian authorities say four companies were involved in the assassination.
Mercenaries: the sinister export from Colombia's conflict
Colombia's conflict has fed a sinister market of mercenaries around the world · by Juan Sebastian SERRANO
Some fight in Yemen or Afghanistan, others guard oil pipelines in the United Arab Emirates; and yet more turned up in Haiti this week, where they are accused of assassinating the president.
Hardened by more than half a century of conflict back home, retired Colombian soldiers and illegal combatants feed the sinister market of mercenaries around the world.
Some 26 Colombians have been accused of taking part in the pre-dawn murder of president Jovenel Moise on Wednesday that also left his wife Martine wounded.
Colombia said on Friday that at least 17 ex-soldiers are believed to have been involved in the attack at Moise's home. Some were killed by Haitian police and the majority were captured.
But the participation of Colombian mercenaries highlights the lucrative transnational mercenary market.
"There is great experience in terms of irregular war... the Colombian soldier is trained, has combat experience and on top of that is cheap labor," Jorge Mantilla, a criminal phenomenon researcher at the University of Illinois in Chicago, told AFP.
It's not just retired soldiers that leave Colombia's borders -- already so porous to the export of cocaine -- as guns for hire.
In 2004, Venezuelan authorities detained "153 Colombian paramilitaries" they accused of taking part in a plan to assassinate then-president Hugo Chavez.
- 'Prey to opportunities' -
Colombia has a seemingly inexhaustible pool of soldiers. The armed forces are made up of 220,000 personnel and thousands retire over a lack of promotion opportunities, misconduct or after reaching 20 years of service.
Every year "between 15,000 and 10,000 soldiers leave the army rank and file... it's a human universe that is very difficult to control," Colonel John Marulanda, president of a Colombian association for former military personnel, told W Radio.
They retire relatively young with low pensions and that makes them "prey to better economic opportunities," said the retired officer.
He says that what happened in Haiti was a "typical case of recruitment" of Colombian ex-soldiers by private companies to carry out operations in other countries.
Colombian authorities say four companies were involved in the assassination.
A woman who claimed to be the wife of Francisco Eladio Uribe, one of the captured Colombians, said a company offered her husband $2,700 to join the unit.
Uribe retired from the army in 2019 and was embroiled in the "false positives" scandal investigated by authorities, in which soldiers executed 6,000 civilians between 2002 and 2008 to pass them off as enemy combatants in order to gain bonuses.
- Mercenary industry 'boom' -
In May 2011, the New York Times newspaper revealed that an airplane carrying dozens of Colombian ex-soldiers arrived in Abu Dhabi to join an army of mercenaries hired by the US firm Blackwater to guard important Emirati assets.
The Times then claimed in 2015 that hundreds of Colombians were fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, now hired directly by the UAE.
For the last decade "there's been a boom in this industry," said Mantilla.
At that time, the United States began substituting its troops in the Middle East for "private security firms because it implies a lower political cost in terms of casualties and a grey area in international law."
When it comes to potential human rights violations "the legal responsibility falls on the material perpetrators" rather than the State or company that contracted them, said Mantilla.
Today there is a global market in which US, British, French, Belgian or Danish companies recruit mercenaries mostly from Latin America or countries like Zimbabwe or Nepal that have had armed conflicts.
"The companies are legal, but that doesn't mean that all the activities carried out by these people are strictly legal," added Mantilla.
jss/vel/lv/yow/bc/st · by Juan Sebastian SERRANO

4. Russia’s new national security strategy

There is a table at the link comparing the 2001 and 2015 Russian national security strategies.

Excerpt: Russia reiterates its earlier stance—both from the 2015 security strategy and 2016 foreign policy concept—on building relations with Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), China, and India through bilateral means, and under the auspices of multilateral initiatives like the Greater Eurasian Partnership, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and BRICS.

Russia’s new national security strategy | ORF
ATLANTIC FILES JUL 07 2021 · by Nivedita Kapoor
Russia unveiled its new National Security Strategy on July 2, superseding the 2015 document that had been issued in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukraine crisis and the subsequent breakdown of relations with the West. While it builds on the themes raised in the 2015 strategy, the latest strategy has a markedly different tone in terms of threat perceptions from the West, a stark reminder of the ongoing crisis with the West. There is also a doubling down on the idea of Russia being a protector of traditional, conservative values—a theme that the Russian leadership has assiduously promoted in the past years.
This focus on traditional values in the latest iteration particularly stands out throughout the new document, the preservation of which has been listed as a national priority. The newly announced list of ‘unfriendly countries’ also finds mention in the strategy, being accused of seeking to destroy Russian internal unity and radicalising protest movements. In contrast, Russia reiterates its earlier stance—both from the 2015 security strategy and 2016 foreign policy concept—on building relations with Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), China, and India through bilateral means, and under the auspices of multilateral initiatives like the Greater Eurasian Partnership, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and BRICS.
Russia reiterates its earlier stance—both from the 2015 security strategy and 2016 foreign policy concept—on building relations with Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), China, and India through bilateral means, and under the auspices of multilateral initiatives like the Greater Eurasian Partnership, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and BRICS.
In most cases, the themes and issues highlighted have been touched upon in the 2015 document, which given its timing already contained stringent criticism of the United States (US) and Europe. However, there are specific differences, both in the content and tone of the 2021 document that make it significant. The most visible difference is in the listing of national priorities, where the ‘preservation of people of Russia and development of human potential’ has been presented as the leading goal; with specific change in labelling of other priorities as compared to 2015—except national defence and state and public security.
Comparison of national priorities as per Russia’s National Security Strategy
2021 2015 Preservation of people of Russia and development of human potential Improving quality of life of Russian citizens National defence National defence State and public security State and public security Information security — Economic security Economic growth Science and technological development Science, technology and education Protection of traditional Russian spiritual and moral values, culture and historical memory Culture Environment safety and management Economy of living systems and rational use of natural resources Strategic stability and mutually beneficial international cooperation Strategic stability and equal strategic partnership — Public health
These changes are not mere cosmetic ones, given that they are indicative of how the Russian leadership perceives the internal and external security challenges that the country faces, which is also reflected in the substantive parts of the strategy document. Almost every priority area in the 2021 document contains criticism of Western actions that purportedly undermine Russian national interests. The document says that the US, its allies, transnational corporations, and foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) amongst others are actively attacking traditional Russian values, which would make Russia lose its ‘cultural sovereignty.’ The West is also held responsible for seeking to limit activities of Russian companies and ‘hinder development of the Arctic; distort world history, rehabilitate fascism; instigate a protest movement, and divide Russian society.’
This has led Russia expert Mark Galeotti to call the strategy a ‘paranoid’s charter,’ reflecting the dominant role played by ‘hawkish’ elements in the Russian Security Council. But for Dmitri Trenin, Director of the Carnegie Moscow Centre, this is indicative of the ‘long-term confrontation’ with the West that has set in, marking a change from 2015 when the relations were still thought to be ‘salvageable.’ The sentiment prevails despite the recently concluded US-Russia summit in Geneva, indicating that the benefits of the talks are expected to be limited and confined to specific sectors.
This world view has also led to adoption of information security as a separate priority, where apart from concerns like terrorism, cyberattacks, and money laundering, Russia also sees a threat from the use of internet to mobilise mass events, as well as presentation of history for ‘political means.’ Trenin argues that this is indicative of information security becoming a ‘prime battle space.’
With regard to protection of Russian traditional values and its perception of being under siege, the focus in the 2021 document has increased manifold, much in line with the promotion of Russia as a conservative leader in the past years
With regard to protection of Russian traditional values and its perception of being under siege, the focus in the 2021 document has increased manifold, much in line with the promotion of Russia as a conservative leader in the past years. According to noted Russian foreign policy analyst Vasily Kashin, this focus on traditional values, ensuring information security, countering Western propaganda makes the 2021 strategy ‘a radically new document’ that will have long term consequences. He notes that these changes will ‘affect not foreign policy, but the internal policy and ideology,’ marking a shift from a point when these issues were debated by the elite to a more focused consensus.
Apart from these changes, the document also calls for ‘economic security.’ Russia recognises the need for economic transition from raw material exports to deep processing and diversification into high-tech industries, while also working towards reducing trade in dollars. It also acknowledges the need for higher incomes, reduction of inequality, better healthcare, and furthering of social and economic growth. It further recognises the negative impact of climate change and the need for international cooperation in this domain. The impact of the pandemic, combined with the already sluggish growth rate of Russia before COVID-19 hit, has made this focus an imperative. Development of technologies is another area of focus, where a need has been felt to overcome the ‘critical dependence of the Russian economy on imported technologies,’ including ensuring technological independence of the defence sector, with the added impact of changing the structure of the economy.
In the document, Russia reiterates its position of seeking to build a multi-vector foreign policy, strengthening the UN and the role of Security Council, and maintaining strategic stability. It expects the geopolitical instability to continue as the world order changes, argues that efforts are underway to contain Russia and that the West wants to preserve its dominance. These assertions, which have been repeatedly made in the past by the Russian government, have now found expression in the national security strategy.
The one area of continuity in the document relates to relations with the East, which seeks to build ties with regional powers. As Trenin notes, the ‘hierarchy of priorities’ remains the same: ‘First tier—CIS/Eurasian Economic Union, Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), Union State with Belarus; second tier—China and India at parity; third tier—SCO, BRICS, RIC.’ The focus on China and India underscores the rapid pace of changing order in Asia-Pacific, and the importance Russia attaches to this geography. Here, Kashin notes, the document only carries forward the ‘consensus which was strengthened in the last several years’ instead of marking a significant shift.
The 2021 national security strategy outlines Russian ambitions, concerns as well as vision for the future. It identifies the need for improving economic growth, reducing dependence on natural resources export, preserving the environment, etc. Meanwhile, it strengthens the focus on some of the recurrent themes advanced by the Russian leadership in recent years, including on changing international system, conservatism, focus on traditional values, threat to domestic stability from western actions, to name a few. The document marks a continuation of the strategic direction in foreign policy, but introduces a stronger emphasis on addressing internal policy, while adjusting to the evolving world order. · by Nivedita Kapoor

5. China looks for ways to help fill void in Afghanistan without overcommitting itself

I heard a former US government official speak and say that China will take an amoral approach to security. It will pay off anyone who will act in Chinese interests to include the Taliban. It has already long been conducting economic exploitation of Afghanistan. The problem it will now have is with security on its border. The withdrawal of US and NATO forces is going to create a security dilemma for Chinese operations in Xinjiang. It has long benefited from the US and NATO presence in Afghanistan and now it will face its own security problems.

China looks for ways to help fill void in Afghanistan without overcommitting itself
  • Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit neighbouring states before a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which Beijing wants to play a bigger role
  • China wants to work with neighbouring countries to ensure peace and stability after the withdrawal of US troops

Eduardo Baptista in Hong Kong
 and Liu Zhen in Beijing
Published: 4:00pm, 11 Jul, 2021

China is looking for ways to help fill the power vacuum left by the United States in Afghanistan but is unlikely to send in peacekeeping troops, foreign policy observers said ahead of Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s three-country tour of Central Asia.
This week Wang will visit three of China’s central Asian neighbours – Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – and attend a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a Eurasian regional security pact, and the SCO-Afghanistan contact group.
The tour comes ahead of the withdrawal of Nato forces from Afghanistan after 20 years. US President Joe Biden has said the remaining 2,500 American troops will completely withdraw by September 11 – the anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks – stating it was “time to end America’s longest war”.
Wang’s visit next week is aimed at “promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan”, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Friday.

“The development of the situation in Afghanistan is at a critical juncture. As close neighbours of Afghanistan, the SCO member states can play a positive role in promoting the peace, reconciliation and reconstruction process in Afghanistan,” he said in Beijing.

Du Youkang, a former diplomat and international affairs researcher at Fudan University in Shanghai, pointed out that all three countries Wang Yi was visiting shared borders with Afghanistan and had significant immigrant populations from the war-torn country, adding that the hurried US withdrawal had left an unprecedented new security challenge for the SCO.
Du suggested that Wang’s meetings with the SCO and the SCO-Afghan contact group could help set up a framework for the Afghan government and the Taliban to conduct peace talks or, after peace was achieved, draw up a plan for economic cooperation with its neighbours.
“All the countries in the SCO surrounding Afghanistan are developing countries, but C​h​ina is the only one that has resources to make big investments so it’s very possible they will push this in the future,” he said.

The SCO, which was founded in June 2001 and led by Russia and China, has increasingly become Beijing’s major instrument to address security issues in central Asia. Afghanistan became an SCO observer state in 2012.

Civil war looms in Afghanistan as UK ends military mission, but Beijing extends a hand
Civil war looms in Afghanistan as UK ends military mission, but Beijing extends a hand
However, the SCO is unlikely to be able to fill the “security gap” left by the US as it has no military force, and is plagued by internal disputes, according to Elizabeth Wishnick, a professor of political science at Montclair State University in New Jersey.
“The SCO has really been on the sidelines of the conflict in Afghanistan, as individual countries have taken their own initiatives to resolve it,” Wishnick said.
One of Beijing’s major security concerns is the Islamic militants who received training in Afghanistan before crossing the border to carry out terror attacks in China’s far-west region of Xinjiang.
To combat this, China established a quadrilateral counterterror mechanism with the Kabul government as well as Pakistan and Tajikistan in 2016.
Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said China would give more priority to this quadrilateral mechanism instead of the SCO itself, as it sought to target Uygur terrorist groups based in Afghanistan fighting to establish an Islamic state in Xinjiang.
“Multilateral is fine, but China’s core national interest is in this sphere,” he said, adding that the SCO had little influence over the Taliban.
Raffaello Pantucci, a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, also said that while Afghanistan had always been an important item on the SCO’s agenda, the multilateral organisation had no tangible achievements when it came to improving the country’s security situation.
“What’s significant and interesting is that you can see the Chinese are very behind the idea of getting Afghanistan more involved [in the SCO], and getting the SCO to do more on Afghanistan, but they haven’t been able to get the rest of the institution to move in that direction,” he said.
“All the countries [in the SCO] have slightly different interests and desires to engage with Afghanistan and for Central Asians frankly, and the Uzbeks in particular, [they] always saw this as a bilateral thing, whereas China always wanted to multilateralise everything.”
US troops leave Afghanistan’s Bagram airbase without notifying new Afghan commander
He added: “From the Chinese perspective you want to be seen to be doing something, [the SCO] is another structure where you can be seen doing something.”
But it was highly unlikely China would dispatch peacekeeping troops to Afghanistan, he said.
“I’ve heard too many experts, security officials and Ministry of Foreign Affairs people in China referring to Afghanistan as the ‘graveyard of empires’ … I just don’t see the commitment from Beijing on that,” said Pantucci, who has a forthcoming book on China’s relations with Central Asia.

6. China-Ukraine infrastructure deal a surprise for observers of Beijing, Kyiv and Moscow geopolitics

An interesting development.  

China-Ukraine infrastructure deal a surprise for observers of Beijing, Kyiv and Moscow geopolitics
  • China and Ukraine have a complicated past but they have signed a new deal to work together on roads, bridges and railway projects
  • Growing speculation suggests Beijing used vaccine diplomacy to pressure Kyiv to withdraw from a statement on Xinjiang signed by over 40 countries

Laura Zhou in Beijing
Published: 12:00pm, 11 Jul, 2021

Ukraine is banking on economic support from China as the two sides agree to work together on infrastructure, but observers say that cooperation will be limited when it comes to critical projects.
In a move that caught many diplomatic observers by surprise, Beijing announced on July 4 it had signed an agreement with Ukraine encouraging companies and financial institutions from both countries to “actively cooperate” on roads, bridges and railways projects.
The agreement, which was signed on June 30, was the latest rapprochement between Beijing and Kyiv, whose foreign policy was considered pro-Western since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
Days before the signing, Ukraine abruptly withdrew its endorsement of a joint statement calling for an independent United Nations investigation into human rights abuses in Xinjiang. More than 40 countries – including the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Japan – supported the call. Beijing welcomed Ukraine’s withdrawal from the statement.

Neither Beijing nor Kyiv has explained how they arrived at their new agreement but there has been growing speculation that Beijing used vaccine diplomacy to pressure Kyiv to change its position on the Xinjiang statement.
The latest episode shed light on the relationship between China and Ukraine, which has been complicated since pro-democracy revolutions in Ukraine starting in 2004. This political complexity is contrasted against their close economic ties and active cooperation, particularly in military technology. Ukraine has long been a key supplier of modern jet engines for the People’s Liberation Army.
Sergiy Gerasymchuk, the deputy executive director of Ukrainian Prism, a security studies think tank based in Kyiv, said recent developments surprised many in Ukraine, particularly as President Volodymyr Zelensky and his government sought to cement its security partnership with the US and the new Biden administration which saw Beijing as a major rival. For Ukraine, the US was an “extremely important” security partner.
“It’s not a secret that the Americans warn their partners regarding the cooperation with China, and many countries follow the American approach. Closer cooperation ties with Beijing look surprising in this regard.”
China is Ukraine’s largest trading partner and Ukraine is the biggest corn supplier to the Chinese market. Getting closer to China could also help “producers with a certain compensation of losses they faced after the start of the war with Russia”, Gerasymchuk said.

The shift in Kyiv’s position could be part of efforts to develop its Asia policy, in which “the geopolitical competition between China and the US, as well as the balance of Ukraine’s national interests” were now being taken into consideration, said Yurii Poita, head of the Asia-Pacific section at the Kyiv-based New Geopolitics Research Network think tank.
“In connection with the beginning of a new stage in relations between the US and China, Kyiv, which values the partnership of the West to counter Russian aggression, is also reformatting its approaches to China,” he said.
In a statement on Sunday, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said the cooperation on infrastructure – notably “roads, bridges and railways” – could “help build closer bilateral economic ties and lay a more solid foundation for the development of the strategic partnership between China and Ukraine”.
Kyiv, now struggling with a reform slowdown that had delayed financial support from the West, would be keen to develop a closer economic bond with China to “get quick money without getting stuck in political conditionality”, Gerasymchuk said.
But questions remain on how far the cooperation on infrastructure may go in Ukraine.
In a setback in its ties with Beijing, Kyiv moved to overturn the sale of a vital Ukrainian aircraft engine maker Motor Sich to Chinese aviation firm Skyrizon in 2017, a deal Washington strongly opposed. In January, Zelensky signed a decree to freeze Skyrizon’s assets and imposed sanctions on its owner, Wang Jing.
Ukraine might want to fix “all the negative consequences” of the Motor Sich deal with Beijing, Gerasymchuk said. “Or Ukrainian authorities [are trying] to bluff in their relations with the EU and the US, to raise the stakes and to widen the field [to] manoeuvre with the Western powers.”
In January, the Ukrainian government approved a draft law that sought to introduce a screening mechanism on foreign investments to prevent any attempts to acquire strategic assets in the country, a move that Poita said could “draw red lines” limiting cooperation with China to trade, investment, education and tourism.
Although Ukraine was among the first European countries to endorse Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative, it has not joined the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and no significant progress has been made since the two sides agreed to assign US$7 billion for joint projects in 2017. Negotiations on free trade agreements have also been stalled since then.
There have been signs that Beijing and Moscow are strengthening their quasi-alliance to counterbalance the US and its allies.
Beijing’s principle of non-intervention has made its remain distant from the Moscow-Kyiv dispute and Russia has been ambivalent about cooperation between Beijing and Kyiv, observers say.
A deepening of the Ukrainian-Chinese partnership, Poita said, could “lead to a weakening of the pro-Western vector of Ukraine’s development and even misunderstandings with allies, which is completely in Russia’s interests”.
Artyom Lukin, an associate professor at Russia’s Far Eastern Federal University, said Moscow however, might be cautious if such cooperation – which for now only existed on paper – worked in practice.
“That said, if China begins to pour money into Ukraine, especially given the continued absence of Chinese investment in Russia’s roads and railways, Moscow is not going to like it,” Lukin said.
“Russia is unlikely to publicly articulate its displeasure, but may send signals to Beijing via other means. For example, Russia could intensify collaboration with countries such as India or Vietnam that have tense relations with China. One option could be a ramp-up in Russia’s involvement in Vietnamese oil and gas projects in the South China Sea.”

7.  China Accuses U.S. of ‘Unreasonable Suppression’ of Companies

Admit nothing, deny everything, and make counter accusations.

China Accuses U.S. of ‘Unreasonable Suppression’ of Companies
Bloomberg · by Bloomberg News · July 11, 2021
Beijing firmly opposes Washington’s “unreasonable suppression” of its companies after the U.S. added 23 Chinese entities to an economic blacklist, the country’s commerce ministry said in a statement.
The move has seriously undermined international trade rules, a spokesman from the ministry said in the statement posted on its website. China will take necessary steps to protect its legitimate interests, the ministry said, without elaborating.
Fourteen of the Chinese enterprises that were added to the blacklist are alleged to be involved in human-rights abuses in the Xinjiang region. The list bans American firms from doing business with the companies without first obtaining a U.S. government license.
— With assistance by Qi Ding
Bloomberg · by Bloomberg News · July 11, 2021

8. China vows retaliation after US blacklists companies

China vows retaliation after US blacklists companies
AP · July 11, 2021
BEIJING (AP) — China on Sunday said it will take “necessary measures” to respond to the U.S. blacklisting of Chinese companies over their alleged role in abuses of Uyghur people and other Muslim ethnic minorities.
The Commerce Ministry said the U.S. move constituted an “unreasonable suppression of Chinese enterprises and a serious breach of international economic and trade rules.”
China will “take necessary measures to firmly safeguard Chinese companies’ legitimate rights and interests,” the ministry’s statement said.
No details were given, but China has denied allegations of arbitrary detention and forced labor in the far western region of Xinjiang and increasingly responded to sanctions against companies and officials with its own bans on visas and financial links.
The U.S. Commerce Department said in a statement Friday that the electronics and technology firms and other businesses helped enable “Beijing’s campaign of repression, mass detention and high-technology surveillance” against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.
The penalties prohibit Americans from selling equipment or other goods to the firms. The United States has stepped up financial and trade penalties over China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, along with its crackdown on democracy in the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong.
The Chinese government since 2017 has detained a million or more people in Xinjiang. Critics accuse China of operating forced labor camps and carrying out torture and coerced sterilization as it allegedly seeks to assimilate Muslim ethnic minority groups.
The U.S. Commerce Department said 14 companies were added to its Entity List over their dealings in Xinjiang, and another five for aiding China’s armed forces.
“The Department of Commerce remains firmly committed to taking strong, decisive action to target entities that are enabling human rights abuses in Xinjiang or that use U.S. technology to fuel China’s destabilizing military modernization efforts,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement posted on the department’s website.
AP · July 11, 2021

9. China blames US for security crisis in Afghanistan

Perhaps no country wants the US to stay in Afghanistan more than the Chinese!

China blames US for security crisis in Afghanistan
Livemint · July 11, 2021
BEIJING : China has blamed the United States for the ongoing security crisis in Afghanistan and said Washington is withdrawing its troops from the war-torn country by dumping the war on the Afghan people.
"The US disregards its responsibilities and duties and withdraws troops from Afghanistan hastily, dumping the mess and war on the Afghan people and countries in the region," the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Saturday, reported The News International.
"The US, as the original culprit of the Afghan issue, bears unavoidable responsibility for the current situation in Afghanistan," he added.
Also Read: Biden defends Afghan pullout, sets evacuation for translators
The Pakistani publication further reported that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is set to discuss the Afghan security situation with counterparts from Russia, India, Pakistan, and numerous Central Asian countries at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation next week.
Earlier, China evacuated its nationals from Afghanistan as US troops stepped up their withdrawal from the war-torn nation, the airline that carried out the emergency chartered flight said, reported The News.
Among them were 22 people who were later confirmed to be infected with coronavirus, despite the airline taking "top-notch epidemic prevention measures" during the flight and upon landing, it added.
Taliban have been capturing newer districts and areas at a lightning speed and the Afghan government forces are also fleeing from a number of places there.
Meanwhile, Afghan government officials have dismissed as propaganda claims by Taliban officials that the insurgent group had captured 85 per cent of territory in Afghanistan, amid US troops withdrawal from the country.
Livemint · July 11, 2021

10. Revolt by doing nothing — Chinese youth are lying in bed to protest tough jobs, low pay

Gene Sharp and the principles of nonviolent resistance. "Lying flat." We are going to see this technique added to the next version of From Dictatorship to Democracy

The GEC should be having a field day developing themes and messages surrounding this.

Revolt by doing nothing — Chinese youth are lying in bed to protest tough jobs, low pay · July 11, 2021
Representational image | Qilai Shen | Bloomberg
Text Size:
The Chinese youth are taking a stand against the extraordinary circumstances of these times by literally lying down on the ground and doing nothing. Tang Ping, or what has been called ‘lying flat’, is a passive resistance movement that has been brewing in the country, which is notorious for its fatigue-inducing ‘996’ working hour system besides other demands that leave little space for self-care. The growing online movement, which had about 10,000 members before the forum where it originated was taken down, is not only a response to the shrinking labour market but also about a world with massive burnout. China went further to “strictly restrict” any such content on its online platforms through an order passed by its internet regulator, a New York Times report said.
The figures reported by Hindustan Times quoting Chinese media showed that the unemployment rate in the country among those aged between 16 and 24 is 13.1 per cent. Additionally, more than 20 crore youngsters graduated last year and were looking for jobs. And the Covid pandemic of course has made matters worse.
The ‘lying flat’ movement is not an isolated expression of frustration among today’s youth. The resistance is a counter against today’s economic reality where employees across the world are working longer and harder but aren’t able to cope with skyrocketing prices and inflation. They also save much less today than their parents did.
Young adults already vulnerable
The social and economic integration of young people across the world was already a challenge, however, the Covid-induced global recession has threatened the loss of 5 to 25 million jobs, with young adults being most vulnerable. They are usually the first to be laid-off or forced to work in lower quality, unsafe jobs with meagre pay. So millennials in Xi Jinping’s China are literally lying down.
The New York Times report quotes Yang Zhan, an anthropologist at Hong Kong Polytechnic University who is a part of the movement, saying that people convinced by the discourse of self-development were willing to suspend their life in the hope of a better future. “That sense of optimism seems to be disappearing,” he added.
The report also quotes Yicheng Wang, a PhD student in political science at Boston University, who posted a picture of himself resting on his bed in the middle of the day as a part of the movement. He believes there is no possibility of “upward mobility”, therefore he has joined several other disenchanted youth in what he termed a “sophistic movement.”
Lost grads of the pandemic
poll conducted last August by UNICEF on the impact of the Covid crisis on jobs, education, rights and mental well-being of Latin America’s young population demonstrated that 30 per cent of the total participants experienced anxiety and depression due to the current economic situation.
With global workforce participation witnessing a decline of 5 per cent for women, compared to only 3.9 per cent for men, women are finding it harder than ever to close the gender gap. They are also twice as likely to be stressed about the availability of jobs compared to their male counterparts during the pandemic, a survey by LinkedIn said.
The trend in India appears to be same with a serious youth unemployment crisis looming large. A LinkedIn survey revealed that 30 per cent of Gen Z and 26 per cent of millennials were troubled by the lack of jobs, and the employment decline was 2.5 times more than that of adults, Moneycontrol reported. The fallout includes a rise in contractual jobs, underemployment (where highly skilled individuals are employed in low-skilled jobs), vote bank politics and state reservations for native residents.
Economic uncertainty, coupled with low confidence about professional future, has effectively made Indian youth the most ‘worried’ generation.
According to research quoted in Mint, graduates who begin their careers during a recession earn less for at least “10-15 years than those who graduate during periods of prosperity”. Just when “millennials or Gen Y” were setting foot in their peak earning years and making major life decisions, the coronavirus showed up. So, their concern about the future is not wholly unfounded.
A counterculture movement
Key moments in history like the ongoing pandemic can alter society, people’s thinking, and reshape cultural conversations. For instance, the outbreak of plague during the middle ages changed the equation between humans and God in Europe, while the Bubonic plague forced a transformation from serfdom to industrial revolution after killing half of the continent’s population.
Now the Covid pandemic has held up a mirror and exposed the current economic vulnerabilities, prompting those affected to voice their dissatisfaction. The Gamestop debacle, which pitied millennials on Reddit against powerful stockbrokers or the “old order”, is one of the many such examples of recent resistance.
The Chinese ‘lying flat’ movement exemplifies a renouncement of the famous ‘grind culture’ that dominated the previous eras. But it has largely been limited to the middle-class Chinese in Beijing, Shenzhen and other major cities, proliferating in the obscure sections of social media. The poorer youth population, on the other hand, do not have the luxury of ‘doing nothing’ because they lack a safety net and, in most cases, are the sole earners in their families.
But one thing is for sure, the way we work is changing.
Views are personal.
(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)
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Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here. · July 11, 2021

11. Thomas Cleary, Prolific Translator of Eastern Texts, Dies at 72

All Aisa hands are familiar with Cleary's work. He has made many eastern writings accessible to so many of us.

His skill went beyond merely rendering the words of one language in another.
“There are two essential qualities of a great translator: a strong understanding of the source language and a fluidity of writing in the target language, which is equally — and arguably even more — important for readers,” Nikko Odiseos, president of Shambhala Publications, which issued more than 60 of Mr. Cleary’s works, said by email. “The languages and texts Cleary translated from are filled with terms and concepts for which there are simply no equivalents in English, and he was a master of presenting these multilayered concepts concisely but completely, in beautiful and clear prose and verse.”

Thomas Cleary, Prolific Translator of Eastern Texts, Dies at 72
The New York Times · by Neil Genzlinger · July 10, 2021
His renderings of classic works of Buddhism, Taoism and more brought them to a general Western readership.

The translator Thomas Cleary in an undated photo. He could, his longtime publisher said, render “multilayered concepts concisely but completely, in beautiful and clear prose and verse.”Credit...via Shambhala

July 10, 2021, 6:08 p.m. ET
Thomas Cleary, who translated scores of Buddhist, Taoist, ancient Chinese and other texts into English, greatly broadening access to these works in the West, died on June 20 in Oakland, Calif. He was 72.

His brother J.C. Cleary, who is also a translator, said the cause was complications of heart and lung damage from previous illnesses.
Mr. Cleary, who lived in Oakland, published more than 80 works, which in turn have been translated into more than 20 other languages, his publisher, Shambhala Publications, said in a post on its website.
The breadth of his work, in terms of both linguistics and subject matter, was remarkable. He translated works from Arabic, Sanskrit, Japanese and a half-dozen other languages, and while his interest in ancient texts began with Buddhism, it grew to encompass Taoism, Islam, Greek writings, even Old Irish. He would invariably begin his books with detailed introductions that placed the text in historical context and explained unfamiliar concepts to Western readers.
“Translators who feel they are ensconced in a higher culture tend to look down on their sources,” Robert Thurman, a professor emeritus at Columbia University and an expert on Tibetan Buddhism, said by email. “Cleary looked up, with empathy and intelligence, and shared his joy in the process of opening our eyes to something new and previously unimagined.”
His skill went beyond merely rendering the words of one language in another.
“There are two essential qualities of a great translator: a strong understanding of the source language and a fluidity of writing in the target language, which is equally — and arguably even more — important for readers,” Nikko Odiseos, president of Shambhala Publications, which issued more than 60 of Mr. Cleary’s works, said by email. “The languages and texts Cleary translated from are filled with terms and concepts for which there are simply no equivalents in English, and he was a master of presenting these multilayered concepts concisely but completely, in beautiful and clear prose and verse.”
His books included “The Inner Teachings of Taoism” (1986), “Book of Serenity: One Hundred Zen Dialogues” (1991), “The Essential Koran: The Heart of Islam” (1993) and “The Counsels of Cormac: The Ancient Irish Guide to Leadership” (2004). Among the most popular was his version of “The Art of War” (1988), written by the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu more than 2,000 years ago.
Mr. Cleary’s 1988 translation of “The Art of War,” a book written more than 2,000 years ago, was among his most popular works.
Mr. Cleary, although well versed in many faiths and philosophies, did not profess allegiance to a particular one.
“I am not confined to any group,” he said in a 2009 interview for the website “I want to stay independent and reach those who want to learn directly through my books.”
Dr. Thurman said that Mr. Cleary’s great contribution was “bringing insights and sensibilities achieved in Asia to luminous life in our culture, enriching our understanding and expanding our sensitivities.”
Thomas Francis Cleary was born on April 24, 1949, in New Brunswick, N.J. His father, also named Thomas, and his mother, Shirley Jane (Klein) Cleary, were chemists.
He grew up in Summit, N.J., graduating from Summit High School in 1967. He received a bachelor’s degree in East Asian languages, with a concentration in Japanese, at Harvard College in 1972, and then earned a Ph.D. in East Asian languages and civilizations in 1975 at Harvard University. Thirty years later he earned a law degree at the University of California, Berkeley.
The law degree, he said in the 2009 interview, grew out of his interest in exploring new solutions to systemic problems.
“The American system is in flux and needing new ideas,” he said. “The current system is based on the power of precedent, so change is slow. By looking into other systems around the world we may be able to resolve issues, for example, in a more humanitarian way.”
He became interested in Buddhism as a teenager and began translating when he was 18. J.C. Cleary, in an unpublished memoir about his brother, who was two years younger, said that their schooling had been heavy on science and math but that their discovering Buddhist writings had revealed a whole different reality.
“From our point of view at the time, our mental state as teenagers in the 1960s, I think we were drawn to Buddhism because it gave the first articulate statement of truth we ever encountered,” he wrote. “Buddhist thought was just so true, so lucid, so all-encompassing, so refreshing, we had to stop and find out more.”
His younger brother served as his mentor as they both improved their proficiency in various languages and grew more adept at translating.
“By 1975 we had crossed the language barrier to the Buddhist sources,” J.C. Cleary wrote. “Tom had done it on his own, and with his help and encouragement, I had done it too.
“We came face to face with the Buddhist classics. An indescribable feeling! There was a sense of peace, of being outside time, of entering a realm of beauty. A sense of wonderment at the brilliant intellectual creativity of whoever had originated this material.”
Thomas Cleary’s first book, a collaboration with his brother, was “The Blue Cliff Record” (1977), a collection of Zen koans (riddles or stories used to foster thought and meditation). Among his recent books were “Samurai Wisdom: Lessons From Japan’s Warrior Culture” (2009) and “The Secrets of Tantric Buddhism: Understanding the Ecstasy of Enlightenment” (2015).
Mr. Cleary’s first book, a collaboration with his brother that was published in 1977, was a collection of Zen koans.
In addition to his brother J.C., Mr. Cleary is survived by his wife, Kazuko Cleary, a pianist, and another brother, Brian.
In his introduction to “The Art of War,” Mr. Cleary explained that works like the ones he translated required a different approach from the reader, one not expecting instant gratification.
“Classics may be interesting and even entertaining,” he wrote, “but people always find they are not like books used for diversion, which give up all of their content at once; the classics seem to grow wiser as we grow wiser, more useful the more we use them.”
The New York Times · by Neil Genzlinger · July 10, 2021

12. Minneapolis shoeshiner Dorsie Willis waited 66 years for Army apology

There are many wrongs that still need to be righted.

Minneapolis shoeshiner Dorsie Willis waited 66 years for Army apology · by
The morning before his 87th birthday in 1973, Dorsie Willis sobbed uncontrollably in his bed at his Minnehaha Avenue home in south Minneapolis. His long wait for justice was over.
After 66 years, the U.S. Army was about to apologize for its unjust dishonorable discharge of Willis and 166 other Black soldiers wrongly punished for a 1906 violent rampage near their post in Brownsville, Texas.
"I just felt like I had to cry, that's all," Willis said.
He'd been shining shoes and sweeping floors at barbershops in Minneapolis for nearly six decades since arriving in the Twin Cities in 1915. His tarnished service record had hurt his hopes for finding a better job.
Born in Mississippi in 1886 and raised in Oklahoma, Willis was 20 when things in Texas turned ugly near Fort Brown on the night of Aug. 13, 1906. Willis' all-Black company had been transferred from Nebraska to Brownsville, where unwelcoming residents had sent a delegation to Washington, D.C., to object to the move.
Then a white woman accused a Black man in uniform of trying to rape her. A fight between a white merchant and Black soldier followed, just before a mob of roughly 20 armed men on horseback rode through Brownsville shooting out windows of white-owned homes — killing one man and injuring several others. The Black soldiers were blamed for the mayhem.
Ensuing military investigations and a grand jury failed to identify the men in the mob or implicate the Black soldiers. When none of the soldiers would testify against their fellow Army mates, War Secretary (and future president) William Howard Taft accused them of orchestrating a "conspiracy of silence."
In a 1972 Minneapolis Star interview, Willis said President Theodore Roosevelt's investigator warned the troops of dire consequences if members of the company refused to admit their roles.
"If you don't tell, you will all suffer the same fate,'' Willis said, remembering the investigator's words. When no one spoke up, the investigator went back to Washington vowing to tell his bosses they were "thieves, robbers and murderers and unfit for government service."
Roosevelt promptly dishonorably discharged the entire group. But Willis insisted that no members of his company were outside the post that night.
"They said the men were on horses," he said. "We were the infantry. We never had horses. Only the calvary had horses."
At the time, Willis said, he wasn't fond of Army life and was "glad to get out of the service." But after working for decades sweeping barbershops and shining shoes at the Northwestern Bank Building in downtown Minneapolis, he realized his service record had hurt his employment prospects and barred him from the American Legion. Starting in the late 1950s, Willis spent 15 years trying to clear his record by writing letters to political leaders in Washington.
"His family said that the stain of dishonorable discharge prevented him from getting a better job," the Associated Press reported.
Willis' wait for exoneration lasted until the early 1970s, when he suffered from arthritis and his eyesight and hearing were declining. By then, he was the last living member of the wrongly discharged company.
Leaning on a wooden cane at Zion Baptist Church in north Minneapolis in 1973, he stood with his wife, Olive, and son Reginald as Maj. Gen. DeWitt Smith said: "We are trying to substitute justice for injustice, to make amends, to say how much we of this generation — white men as well as Black — regret the errors and injustices of an earlier generation."
Smith granted him an honorable discharge, backdated to 1906, and said that Willis had "rendered honest, faithful and entirely honorable service to his country while in the uniform of the United States Army." He told Willis: "You honor us by the quality of the life you have led."
U.S. Sen. Hubert Humphrey and U.S. Rep. Donald Fraser sponsored legislation to give Willis $40,000 for his unjust Army dismissal, a figure that was reduced to $25,000 — amounting to $373 for each year he'd been wrongly discharged. "Fraser and Humphrey went to bat for Willis to get his discharge changed," said Michele Pollard, an archivist at the Hennepin History Museum who studied his case after prompting from researcher Jim Cox of Circle Pines.
Willis said it had been "a long time coming" when he finally received the money in 1974. "It was a tough fight. I'm happy," he said.
Willis died in 1977 of kidney failure at 91 and was buried with full military honors at Fort Snelling National Cemetery. "He seemed a resourceful and charismatic person, who would have had a better life without the damage done by dishonorable discharge and the racism of his time," wrote Pollard, calling him "a survivor, and even a thriver based on his circumstances.
"The story serves as a reminder that everyone is significant," she said, "even the shoeshiner you may walk past every day."
Curt Brown's tales about Minnesota's history appear each Sunday. Readers can send him ideas and suggestions at His latest book looks at 1918 Minnesota, when flu, war and fires converged: · by

13. The foreigners in China’s disinformation drive

Another task for the GEC.  

I am sure these foreign vloggers are recruited just like Glenn Duffie Shriver in this FBI video "Game of Pawns".

But these foreign vloggers are well beyond the useful idiots. They are providing aid and comfort to a totalitarian dictatorship.


Some vloggers are suspected of co-operating with state-owned outlets to spread China's rhetoric to the world. But it's far from clear what really motivates them, or how effective this strategy is.
The vloggers include British expatriates Barrie Jones, Jason Lightfoot and father-and-son team Lee and Oli Barrett, who use their platforms to comment on the West's alleged "lies" and China's government policies.

The foreigners in China’s disinformation drive
BBC · by Menu
By Kerry Allen & Sophie Williams
BBC News
23 minutes ago
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image copyrightCGTN
Foreign video bloggers denouncing what they say is negative coverage of China on highly controversial subjects such as Xinjiang are attracting large numbers of subscribers on platforms like YouTube.
In recent years, the "vloggers" have been increasingly presenting themselves as China-lovers, spreading Communist Party disinformation.
YouTube labels Chinese state media like broadcaster CGTN as government-funded. But there is little policing when it comes to individuals promoting similar narratives.
Some vloggers are suspected of co-operating with state-owned outlets to spread China's rhetoric to the world. But it's far from clear what really motivates them, or how effective this strategy is.
Who are the vloggers?
Co-ordinated videos have recently been appearing on foreign vloggers' channels to counter investigative reports from independent media on the treatment of China's Uyghur community in its north-west Xinjiang region.
There are well-documented allegations of systematic human rights abuses on a huge scale in the region.
The vloggers include British expatriates Barrie Jones, Jason Lightfoot and father-and-son team Lee and Oli Barrett, who use their platforms to comment on the West's alleged "lies" and China's government policies.
They have subsequently gone on to appear in videos for Chinese state broadcaster CGTN.

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Earlier videos on their personal channels focus on navigating daily life within China. More recent videos, however, have become overtly political; they staunchly defend China's rhetoric on topics ranging from Covid-19, to Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
Many of these YouTubers have hundreds of thousands of subscribers, and their videos are fiercely promoted and commented on by nationalist users.
'Never been paid to go on a trip'
Vlogging is popular in China, but Chinese video platforms have strict terms and conditions, restricting what users can post. Thousands of internet moderators also screen content.
Consequently, many Chinese vloggers end up posting material filmed from within their homes.
China's 1982 constitution guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press. However, Chinese vloggers and citizen journalists are often detained or arrested for making videos deemed to be unfavourable by the authorities. In December 2020, citizen journalist Zhang Zhan was jailed for four years after making a number of vlogs during Wuhan's coronavirus outbreak.
Expat vloggers like the Barretts and Jason Lightfoot, however, appear to be in a comparatively privileged position with significant access, and in some cases facilitated by local officials or state media in China.
The Barretts have attended multiple government-sponsored events.
In one of his videos, Lee Barrett comments that organisations like state-owned China Radio International will "offer to pay for the transport, the flights [and] accommodation" in exchange for him and his son commenting on their trip in state media.
In an email to the BBC, the Barretts strenuously denied they post disinformation on behalf of the Chinese government or being paid for content.
Lee Barrett has been listed as a "global stringer" on CGTN's website in recent videos on Xinjiang - that is, somebody who reports for the broadcaster, but is not a staff employee.
Jason Lightfoot is also on its list of stringers. The station billed him as a vlogger critical of "distorted reports" by Western media outlets.
Mr Lightfoot recently appeared in a number of CGTN videos alongside multiple staff reporters on a visit to Hainan.
CGTN says in one such video that Mr Lightfoot "is grateful to CGTN for giving him the experience to explore Hainan" and that CGTN staff and expat vloggers "enjoyed working together, producing livestreams and videos as a team".
Mr Lightfoot did not respond to the BBC's request for an interview. However, in one of his videos he says he is "not funded by anyone but myself" and has "never been paid to go on a trip".

More on this story

Although YouTube does not label any of these pro-China vloggers as being funded or supported by the Chinese government, some videos on their personal channels are subsequently uploaded to and endorsed by government media accounts.
A video featuring Barrie Jones was not only uploaded to CGTN's YouTube account, it was used by China's foreign ministry in a daily government press briefing.

In the video - titled "How do some Western media twist facts about Xinjiang?" - Mr Jones claims to have "worked for a newspaper in England… Britain's largest daily circulation newspaper for six years". Some state media publications have referred to Mr Jones as a former British journalist, yet the BBC found no evidence to support this, and his channel is peppered with grammatical and punctuation errors.
When asked about his journalism experience, Mr Jones told the BBC "where and when" he worked as a journalist "is not your concern".
He stood by his claim to have worked for a newspaper but declined to give any further information. He also denied being "paid, prompted, or coerced in any way".
image copyrightTwitter
image captionForeign ministry officials have used Barrie Jones' videos to argue political points
It's unclear why China's foreign ministry presented him as a credible voice at its news conference.
Mr Jones, who also regularly promotes conspiracy theories, denied that his videos had become more political and described claims that he is part of a disinformation campaign as "laughable".
"Neither China nor the Chinese government pay me to do what I do. The truth is, if they offered I would accept!"
China's 'fightback' against foreign reporting
There appears to be a growing network of foreigners being pulled into Chinese state media campaigns.
CGTN says on its website that it currently has more than 700 "global stringers" worldwide, who it offers "international visibility" and "bonuses".
It aims to expand its influencer pool further by offering cash rewards of up to $10,000 (about £7,190) to reporters, podcasters, presenters and influencers who join its newly-launched "media challengers" campaign. Jason Lightfoot, and Lee and Oli Barrett have appeared in promotional material for this campaign.
CGTN did not respond when the BBC approached it for comment for this article.
But multiple sources at CGTN who spoke to the BBC on the condition of anonymity said there is now a focus within the organisation to make use of "internet celebrities and influencers" for what has been described as a "fightback" against foreign media reporting.
This has included setting up a new "internet celebrities" department whose team "contact foreigners to either use their videos or to co-operate to make videos together", the BBC was told. More recently, some departments have been instructed to "find foreigners to send to Xinjiang to represent us".
Israeli vlogger Raz Gal-Or has posted videos of his recent trips to the region. Mr Gal-Or claims he was invited into people's homes and farms in Xinjiang and says in a video he was able to interview "random Xinjiang locals". However it appears he was accompanied on his trip by a film crew from CGTN, who later shared footage of his video on their YouTube channel.
This experience contrasts with the surveillance, harassment and obstruction faced by the BBC and other media when attempting to report freely in Xinjiang.
Mr Gal-Or did not respond to the BBC's request for an interview.
'It's almost always the Xinjiang content'
All of the named vloggers, who are able to monetise their videos, have quickly racked up tens of thousands of views on their channels, as well as hundreds of comments from highly-active, nationalist commenters, despite YouTube being officially blocked in China.
Australian cybersecurity researcher Robert Potter from Internet 2.0 says that although some videos attract genuine views and support, there is evidence that fake bot accounts are fiercely promoting others.
"There are a few things that YouTube does to stop someone repeatedly opening a video and playing it a thousand times," he explains. "Because it's money to them, if it's a monetised video."
Of the Barretts' YouTube page, he says: "You can see a lot of nationalist boards reposting [videos] and a mix of fake news sites boosting their content.
"This is 'bot fraud', where [users] stick a video on a fake news website and click through that instead of clicking replay on the YouTube video. They try and spoof YouTube into treating it like a legitimate view."
He observed similar activity on Barrie Jones' videos. "There are a number of fake news pages with links to his videos on Xinjiang.
"As for the comments on his videos, a large number of the users joined YouTube very recently. You can see the same people commenting again and again with obviously fraudulent accounts all created around the same time."
What type of content are these users targeting?
"The video that blows up is the Xinjiang video. It's almost always the Xinjiang content," Mr Potter said.
media captionIn 2018, the BBC found reporting in Xinjiang tightly controlled
Traditionally, such commenters have been known as China's "50 cent army", because of reports they are paid small amounts of money to post pro-government messages.
This "keyboard army" has long been active, and an influx of messages on foreigners' videos has aroused suspicions that they are circumventing the Chinese firewall to inflate these vloggers' presence, and manipulate commentary on their pages.
The scale of China's 50 Cent operation is such that such videos could in theory rack up thousands of views organically. However, China has a recent history of co-ordinated media campaigns.
During the 2019 Hong Kong protests, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube said they witnessed a co-ordinated attempt by the Chinese government to spread disinformation on their channels.
Google said attempts were made to "disguise the origin of these accounts", and platforms took swift action to remove them.
News website Sixth Tone also noted in May how "click farms" increasingly operate on Chinese social media to boost local influencers' presence.
In 2020, China's advertising association banned companies from using click farms for commercial gains. But operations to inflate propaganda are permissible.
'Anti-China biased BBC'
It's unclear what drives the foreign vloggers - whether they believe in China's messaging or are motivated by the lure of local fame and fortune instead.
The BBC put this question to Lee Barrett and Barrie Jones and asked why their videos had become more patriotic, but we received evasive responses. The Barretts posted on Twitter when approached for this article, describing it as a "hit piece" by the "anti-China biased BBC".
The motivation for China's government media working with the expat vloggers, however, seems clear enough at a time when there is growing international criticism of China for its treatment of Uyghur Muslims and on other issues.
Broadcaster CGTN is seeking to counter criticism - like its Russian counterpart RT - by finding foreign faces who can help sell government messaging overseas, and keyboard armies that help promote them.
YouTube already labels these media platforms as state-affiliated.
A spokesperson for YouTube said its labelling on government videos is "intended to help better equip viewers with information to make decisions about their news consumption". It said that all videos uploaded to YouTube must comply with its community guidelines, and it reviews flagged videos on a case-by-case basis.
YouTube said that the videos sent to it by the BBC did not violate its guidelines.
However, many users will find it hard to spot that vloggers are attached to state-affiliated outlets when platforms like YouTube do not also label these individuals as being linked to the state.
BBC · by Menu

14.  The Afghan tragedy was created in the laboratory of Western foreign policy

From Iran owned state TV.

Quite the propaganda piece from Mr. Wrong er... I mean Wright in Scotland:

The legacy of the West in Afghanistan is sordid and cruel. They used the country as a ‘devil’s chessboard’, in the process reducing the Afghan people to the status of unpeople. The Costs of War website, run by the Watson Institute at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, reports that as of April 2021, more than 71,000 Afghan and Pakistani civilians had been killed as a direct result of the war. As to the number of civilians wounded and maimed, who can say with any accuracy? It is, however, likely to be many thousands more.
What we can say without fear of contradiction is that many were victims of cluster bombs, drone strikes, and war crimes committed by troops on the ground.
Thus, whatever the complexion of the first post-US occupation Afghan government, it’s first order of business should be a request to the International Criminal Court in The Hauge that every living US president starting with Jimmy Carter be indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity for their role in the suffering of the Afghan people.
Finally, returning to the talks in Tehran, at their conclusion Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zafri made the following statement: “Bravery in peace is more important than bravery in war because for peace, one must sacrifice and set aside maximum demands and consider the other’s demands.”

The Afghan tragedy was created in the laboratory of Western foreign policy · by Presstv

Saturday, 10 July 2021 12:34 PM [ Last Update: Saturday, 10 July 2021 12:34 PM ]

By John Wight
“Through all the great humanitarian crises in living memory, no country has been abused and suffered more, and none has been helped less, than Afghanistan.” These words, written by veteran investigative reporter John Pilger, encapsulate perfectly the abject barbarism visited on the Afghan people by the US and its Western allies, both directly and by proxy, over decades.
The Mujahedeen of the 1980s -- trained, funded and armed by Washington and London -- were sold to western audiences as romantic freedom fighters struggling against the godless Soviets to liberate their country from foreign invasion and occupation. Ronald Reagan even hosted a delegation of the Mujahedeen in the Oval Office in 1983.
The reality on the ground was somewhat different. There, a war for the soul of a country torn between modernity and feudalism produced the monster of Salafi-jihadism that would inflict so much suffering in the region and further afield in the years to come. Afghanistan was thus reduced to the status of a laboratory in which Western ideologues carried out a mass experiment not in nation building but in nation destroying.
Vietnam, Cambodia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Palestine: the list of countries and peoples introduced to the tender mercies of Western foreign policy is as long as it is shameful.
Fast forward to the here and now and upon the inglorious departure of US forces from a country they’ve been present in since 2001, the people of this conflict and poverty-stricken land must now turn to the mammoth task of reconstruction. And this at a time when the Taliban are rolling up vast swathes of the country in a military advance reminiscent of the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong in Vietnam upon the frenzied exit of the Americans from there in 1975.
Just who are today’s incarnation of the Taliban? Hailing from Afghanistan’s ethnic majority Pashtun community, they view themselves as an incorruptible and pious antidote to a corrupt government in Kabul. And, too, there is no doubt that upon the Taliban’s forced removal from power in 2001 after 9/11, the opium trade and lawlessness in the country grew exponentially.
The Taliban leadership of today - while taking advantage of the drawing down of foreign forces in Afghanistan, along with the demoralization that is rife among Afghan government forces, on the ground militarily – recently took part in a ground-breaking high-level meeting in Tehran with an Afghan government delegation.
After the first meeting on 8 July, hosted by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, both sides expressed agreement in a joint statement that “war is not the solution to the Afghanistan problem.”
The sad truth is that war never was the solution, and if not for the presence of US and other Western forces in the country, the tragic suffering of the Afghan people would have ended way before now.
Iran and Pakistan, both regional powers who share a border with Afghanistan, will going forward be crucial to Afghanistan’s future as a stable and secure country whose government serves the interests of its people rather than the way round, as has been the case for far too long. Iran and Pakistan are situated in the neighborhood, unlike Washington and its allies, and each have been forced to deal with the consequences of Afghanistan’s suffering ever since the latter descended on the country like a plague of locusts.
Iran, for example, is currently home to one of the largest refugee populations in the world, made up predominately of Afghan nationals.
According to the information provider ACAPS, there are 780,000 documented Afghan refugees in Iran, and between 2.1 to 2.5 million who are undocumented. By any reckoning this is a huge number of mouths to feed, particularly in a country suffering the dead weight of punitive US sanctions. Washington and its allies create refugees, Iran and other countries provide them with sanctuary, yet we in the West are bombarded with anti-Iran invective on a near daily basis. This is the truth of the matter, and this is why we continue to live in an upside down world.
The legacy of the West in Afghanistan is sordid and cruel. They used the country as a ‘devil’s chessboard’, in the process reducing the Afghan people to the status of unpeople. The Costs of War website, run by the Watson Institute at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, reports that as of April 2021, more than 71,000 Afghan and Pakistani civilians had been killed as a direct result of the war. As to the number of civilians wounded and maimed, who can say with any accuracy? It is, however, likely to be many thousands more.
What we can say without fear of contradiction is that many were victims of cluster bombs, drone strikes, and war crimes committed by troops on the ground.
Thus, whatever the complexion of the first post-US occupation Afghan government, it’s first order of business should be a request to the International Criminal Court in The Hauge that every living US president starting with Jimmy Carter be indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity for their role in the suffering of the Afghan people.
Finally, returning to the talks in Tehran, at their conclusion Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zafri made the following statement: “Bravery in peace is more important than bravery in war because for peace, one must sacrifice and set aside maximum demands and consider the other’s demands.”
There are 71,000 dead people who agree.
(John Wight is an author and political commentator based in Scotland.)
(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)
Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

15. China’s Aims And Opportunities In Afghanistan Amidst America’s Exit – Analysis

A freerider (or freeloader) no more?

In short, it is clear that after US forces leave Afghanistan China will inevitably face a serious challenge of potential security blowback in Central Asia and Xinjiang. However, it also likely sees long-term benefits it must seize upon, namely in terms of setting up an alternative mechanism to provide a longer-term solution to the Afghan problem in a manner the US could not achieve.
Toward this end, China differentiates itself critically from the US efforts in terms of its objectives. The cornerstone of China’s aim in Afghanistan is to protect its western frontier. This is very much in contrast to the US policy which has variously concerned the destruction of Al-Qaeda in the region, undermining and containing the Taliban, and general prevention of terrorist threats emanating from the country. Whether China can be more innovative and ultimately effective on the basis of these aims remains a fundamental question. Yet, given the circumstances, it is a question that may need to be answered sometime soon.

China’s Aims And Opportunities In Afghanistan Amidst America’s Exit – Analysis · by Emil Avdaliani · July 10, 2021
China fears the repercussions associated with the looming US withdrawal from Afghanistan as a rise of extremism in the country could spread and threaten Beijing’s key positions in Xinjiang and Central Asia. However, America’s exit might yet bring some unforeseen benefits. A Chinese-led peacebuilding agenda would mean intensified cooperation with Iran, Pakistan, and Russia. Overall, this undergirds a new order of exclusion that could sideline the collective West in the traditional pivot area.
The US withdrawal from Afghanistan will without a doubt create a geopolitical vacuum with significant ripple effects beyond the country itself. The fall of the Afghan government in the span of only several months is a very likely scenario because of low level preparation of the Afghan forces.
In fact, the process has already started.
For instance, Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan’s fourth largest city, fell under Taliban control in June. The last time it was controlled by the movement was 20 years ago. Per the UN, the Taliban has taken control of 50 districts across the country since the middle of May. Additionally, an increased number of terror attacks as well as ancillary chaos has been reported on the Afghan border with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, signaling a rapidly changing nature of the conflict.
China as a Freerider
Afghanistan is a host of various outside powers with a multitude of often contradictory interests when it comes to Afghanistan’s future. Among them, China holds a special role. Its interests in Afghanistan, a nation with which it shares a more than 80 km long border, have grown complex in the last decade. For Beijing, Afghanistan serves both as a geographic corridor into Central Asia and fertile ground for security threats, termed as ‘three evil forces’ of separatism, religious extremism and terrorism, that could upend the stability of the restive Xinjiang region
Thus far, it is clear that China has benefited from a long-standing American engagement in the region. The US presence served as a bulwark against Islamist extremism while allowing Beijing to cement its position in Xinjiang. Secondly, the presence of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan allowed Beijing to spread the BRI to Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province and Central Asia. Amidst the US withdrawal, the safe treading in both cases might no longer be assured.

Up to this point, the jihadist threat to China has been largely rhetorical and muted overall. With the US exit from Afghanistan, this dynamic is likely to change as well, with early inklings in the instance of Chinese nationals being advised to leave Afghanistan amid the worsening security conditions.
It is little wonder then that despite opposing the US invasion of Afghanistan some 20 years ago, China is betraying its apprehension about a swift American withdrawal.
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As such, criticism has come from the Chinese leadership that America’s hasty withdrawal plans “led to a succession of explosive attacks throughout the country, worsening the security situation and threatening peace and stability as well as people’s life and safety.” A similar sentiment was shared in calls between Chinese and Pakistani Foreign Ministers.
China also feels that US withdrawal might have more far-ranging effects on the emerging global US-China rivalry. With the drawdown of US presence in the Middle East and the exit from Afghanistan, America will now have more time and resources to dedicate to the competition with China in the Indo-Pacific region. Furthermore, Beijing fears that this might pull China into the Afghan conundrum, thus serving a major American goal: distracting China from the South and East China seas.
Benefits of Withdrawal
Despite the cavalcade of concerns noted thus far, the US withdrawal nonetheless presents China with certain opportunities. Though cooperation with Afghanistan has lagged behind (by the end of 2017, Beijing had only $400 million in investments stocks in the country. Forcomparison, in neighbouring Pakistan, the figure stood at $5.7 billion) what Beijing envisioned, the geopolitical vacuum might provide a necessary momentum to China for expanding its economic presence through the BRI projects. This would allow Beijing to augment an overland connection to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Indeed, Afghanistan’s economic lure is hard to ignore – its mineral riches are valued by $1-$3 trillion. Furthermore, China would likely aim at the unexplored Afghan oil reserves and natural gas reserves of nearly 15.7 trillion cubic feet. As China seeks alternative sources of energy import to feed its soaring demand, these figures are hard to disregard for Beijing.
Another advantage of America’s exit is China’s likely use of Afghanistan as a testing ground for the promotion of alternative peacebuilding and security measures to settle the conflict. Western military presence, as well as security and peace initiatives, will likely be replaced by China’s order of exclusion, where non-regional, mostly Western liberal states, will be sidelined from participating in peacebuilding and security provision along China’s borders.
The Chinese version of peacebuilding would also likely involve an agreement with Eurasia’s like-minded states such as Iran, Pakistan, Russia, as well as minor Central Asian states, as junior partners. They are currently forming the illiberal movement where the Westphalian concept of primacy and inviolability of the state borders and internal governance model are feverishly upheld. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi even tried to frame America’s withdrawal in positive terms claiming that Beijing is ready to help promote future “stability and development” of Afghanistan.
Boots on the Ground? Unlikely
As the news of the US’ rushed withdrawal announcement came through, the main question posited by analysts was whether Beijing would look into transforming its fledgling security presence in the north of Afghanistan into a wider military operation, i.e. peacekeeping mission. Much will depend on the level of non-state security threats emanating from Afghanistan, but the most probable security path Beijing would take is to merge efforts with other regional states to contain and, where necessary, wipe out terrorist and extremist cells in the country. Russia, Pakistan and Iran would gladly agree to work with China as it would increase their geopolitical importance. Chinese analysts have already opined that cooperation between the regional states would provide a more effective security umbrella.
The four Eurasian powers could work on containing wherever necessary, remaking and influencing the Taliban’s behaviour so that it befits the security and economic interests of China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran. And this will be in contrast with America’s decades-long efforts of banning the Taliban from governing the country. China, Russia, Pakistan, and Iran would also likely abstain from putting boots on the ground. They will nevertheless cooperate in heightening their strategic competition with the US.
The quartet’s driving force is based on a high pace of bilateralism. For instance, China and Iran recently signed a whopping $400-billion investment agreement. China and Russia have developed a comprehensive partnership which goes beyond purely military and economic cooperation. Pakistan and China enjoy a partnership within the framework of the BRI. The four are also cooperating in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (Iran as an observer) and indeed China could push for the use of its Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to take a more active security role in Afghanistan. This would serve as a model for future similar activities by SCO, which so far has not got an opportunity to prove its own mettle.
Beijing’s cooperation with Moscow, however, will be critical considering the latter’s fears of a spill-over into post-Soviet Central Asian states. Much will depend on actual security threats from Afghanistan, but Russia would very much like to limit its involvement, most likely through provision of aid to its allies and partners in Central Asia through Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) rather than direct deployment of troops. This will also provide a crucial opening for the Russia-China grouping to prove its mettle in the face of escalating criticism.
In short, it is clear that after US forces leave Afghanistan China will inevitably face a serious challenge of potential security blowback in Central Asia and Xinjiang. However, it also likely sees long-term benefits it must seize upon, namely in terms of setting up an alternative mechanism to provide a longer-term solution to the Afghan problem in a manner the US could not achieve.
Toward this end, China differentiates itself critically from the US efforts in terms of its objectives. The cornerstone of China’s aim in Afghanistan is to protect its western frontier. This is very much in contrast to the US policy which has variously concerned the destruction of Al-Qaeda in the region, undermining and containing the Taliban, and general prevention of terrorist threats emanating from the country. Whether China can be more innovative and ultimately effective on the basis of these aims remains a fundamental question. Yet, given the circumstances, it is a question that may need to be answered sometime soon. · by Emil Avdaliani · July 10, 2021

16.  The Military, Industrial, Financial And Data (MIFD) Complex

As I have heard from a number of cyber and information experts, he who controls the data has the power.

The Military, Industrial, Financial And Data (MIFD) Complex
Forbes · by Mike O'Sullivan · July 10, 2021
Dwight Eisenhower seated at desk with pen in hand.
Bettmann Archive
There were three events that occurred last week, two of which mirror each other, and that are logically tied up in the third.
The first is the decision of the Chinese internet regulator to suppress the use of the Didi (effectively a Chinese version of Uber or indeed Uber is a Western version of Didi) web application based on concerns over the way it collected personal data and the related potential governance and disclosure shortcomings in the Didi initial public offering.
The second was the decision by US Department of Defence to reopen its JEDI Cloud contract process (note to all arms dealers if you want to convince a government to buy a weapon or weapons system, it needs to have an appropriately convincing name).
The two events are united by a key sentence in President Biden’s midweek speech on the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan where he stated ‘we will be more formidable to our adversaries and competitors over the long run if we fight the battles of the next 20 years, not the last 20 years’. China and Russia have the same idea, and the battles of the next twenty years will be ‘total’ in that they will encompass cyber security, finance, social media, and trade as well as military aspects, and they will have a strong competitive (as opposed to outright conflictual) aspect.
Data and Markets part of the deal
As a result, the broad topic of security will be all encompassing – stock markets and cloud computing are just two elements that will be drawn into this vortex. This reminds me of the comment of another President Ike Eisenhower, one of only three Presidents to hold a high military rank (after Washington and Grant) who warned ‘we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic process’.
His words ring true today, more so in the light of data and cyber security. They should also alert us to the fact that the military-industrial-financial-data complex (MIFD) will be an expensive affair. In the USA at least, military spending is vast, and often wasteful. Bear in mind that one of George W. Bush’s economic advisers Larry Lindsay, effectively lost his job for estimating the cost of the Iraq War at between USD 100-200bn (it was multiples of this).
Also bear in mind failed spending projects such as the Future Combat Systems Program (USD 46bn), the Crusader gun, a new Bradley tank, the Commanche helicopter (again pay attention to the project names). Also, set all of this against the early warning from the US Defence Intelligence Agency in November 2019 of an emerging pandemic in China and the subsequent government failure to spend on preventative measures, we get the sense that military hardware led investment is overly prioritised.
Finance and the Army
To give the military a break, all this raises two finance related questions. One is whether the geopolitical contest between the US and China will skew government spending, and the other relates to the combination of military research and innovation.
In the past, warring states have pushed themselves to the brink of bankruptcy – the Napoleonic Wars, the gigantic expense of the German and British navies in the 1910’s and nuclear weapons spending in the cold War. The risk here, and as with the comparison of military and COVID-health spending, is that there is a great, ultimately value destroying wave of investment spending in cloud computing, cyber and data security and drone technology.
The risk also is that the increasingly fashionable idea of industrial strategy in the US (again another example of America becoming more like France) becomes led by the MIF’D. Brian Deese, President Biden’s National Economic Council adviser is already pointing towards developing strategic industries such as semiconductors and telecoms, but the risk is that this strategy becomes skewed by the geopolitical side of the debate rather than the necessarily important focus on productivity.
My final thought is on innovation, where despite inefficiencies in the way military procurement is handled, the underappreciated side of military related spending is innovation. Israel, somewhat controversially I should say, proves this point. A great many of its leading technology firms have been developed as follow throughs from its soldiers and some of its battlefield technologies (Iron Dome, and its drone and robotic battlefield programs) have spawned successful commercial applications and reflect a thriving public-private innovation partnership. Indeed, Israel is cited as a case by Mariana Mazzucato in her thesis that states have a key role to play in driving innovation.
However, beyond extreme data points like Israel, the reality is that the countries that are best at innovating, do not have MIFD complexes, but rather good education systems, progressive incentive structures and state support (rather than control). In that respect, the biggest obstacle to innovation in the US is that it becomes the plaything of geo-politics, and increasingly of a small community of investors who it seems increasingly view innovation as something to trade rather than to nurture.
Forbes · by Mike O'Sullivan · July 10, 2021

17. The Complicated Legacy Of Gertrude Bell, The British Explorer Who Helped Draw The Borders Of Modern Iraq

Some Sunday history reading. Perhaps T.E. Lawrence should be considered the male Gertrude Bell.

The Complicated Legacy Of Gertrude Bell, The British Explorer Who Helped Draw The Borders Of Modern Iraq · by Genevieve Carlton · July 6, 2021
Loathed by British imperialists but beloved by the Iraqis, Gertrude Bell negotiated a sovereign Iraq — while opposing women’s suffrage in her own home country.
On Mar. 12, 1921, three British diplomats posed in front of the Sphinx in Egypt. They were members of the Cairo Conference, which was given the power to shape the Middle East and Asia in the post-World War I era. Among them was Gertrude Bell, a wildly successful archaeologist, spy, and explorer.
With her was Winston Churchill, who considered her a friend, and T.E. Lawrence, known around the world as Lawrence of Arabia.
But Gertrude Bell perhaps had the biggest smile on that March day in 1921, as she had just negotiated self-government for the Iraqis, forcing British imperialists to keep a promise to their World War I allies that they wanted to break.
Her determination to create an Arab nation in the fall of the Ottoman Empire made her a hero to Iraqis at the time, but her legacy today and in Britain is more complicated.
Who Was ‘The Female Lawrence Of Arabia,’ Gertrude Bell?
Getty ImagesBell first visited Iran in 1892, where her uncle was British ambassador.
In the Oscar-winning movie The English Patient, a group of British soldiers intending to cross the Arabian desert search for a route across a mountain range on their map. “The Bell maps show a way,” one promises. “Let’s hope he was right,” another responds.
But the Bell maps weren’t created by a man at all, they were made by Gertrude Bell after she crossed the mountains several times on trips for the Royal Geographic Society. The maps were only part of Bell’s extensive legacy in the Middle East.
Born On July 14 in 1868, Gertrude Bell pursued a modern history degree at Oxford, where she became the first woman to earn first-degree honors there.
After graduating, Bell became an international explorer. An avid climber, she had a mountain in the Alps named “Gertrudspitze” in her honor after she became among the first to reach its summit. Her adventurous spirit caught her in perilous situations, however.
Gertrude Bell Archive, Newcastle UniversityOne of Bell’s photographs of bedouins in the Judean desert, circa 1900.
In 1902, disaster struck when a blizzard trapped Bell in the Swiss Alps. Bell hung from the side of a mountain for more than two days before the blizzard faded. Two years later, in spite of frostbitten hands and feet, Bell successfully climbed Matterhorn.
“It was beautiful climbing, never seriously difficult, but never easy,” Bell wrote, “and most of the time on a great steep face which was splendid to go upon.”
These mountains were just the first in a series of peaks she’d reach in her career.
Early Adventures In The Middle East
Wikimedia CommonsGertrude Bell in Babylon, Iraq in 1909.
Bell switched between freezing and scalding terrain, and first began her journey across the Middle East in 1892. In 1909, Bell crossed Mesopotamia, photographing archaeological sites. Her pictures have become one of the most reliable records of ancient architecture after ISIS and the Syrian civil war destroyed many of the sites in recent years.
Then around 1913, she headed for Persia, and she published books and photographs on her observations about Syria and Mesopotamia, as well. Unlike many of her British contemporaries, Bell devoted herself to understanding the language, politics, and culture of the Middle East. She became fluent in Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish. That dedication won her many local allies.
That year, Bell also met a young T.E. Lawrence, a British military officer who helped Arab nations in the Middle East win their independence from England.
At the time, Lawrence was working as an assistant to an archaeologist. After their meeting, Bell called Lawrence “an interesting boy” and predicted, “He’s going to make a traveler.” She was right.
When World War I broke out, Bell knew the Middle East better than almost anyone in Britain and she’d won loyal allies among many Mesopotamian tribes. The British recruited Bell to win the war against the Ottomans, which still ruled large areas of the Middle East, Eastern Europe and North Africa.
In 1915, she became the first woman to work for British military intelligence. With no precedent for her title, she became known as “Major Miss Bell.”
Her Role In The Creation Of Iraq
Official British photographer/Wikimedia CommonsGertrude Bell sits on a camel between Winston Churchill and T.E. Lawrence, 1921.
Major Miss Bell worked in Cairo during World War I alongside T.E. Lawrence. Together, they analyzed intelligence and recommended the British recruit Arab allies to fight against the Turks to beat the Ottomans.
Bell reached out to her Arab allies with a promise of self-determination when the war ended and the Ottoman Empire had fallen. Though the British never planned to keep that promise, Bell made sure that they did.
“Dearest father, I’m having by far the most interesting time in my life,” Bell wrote of her charge to create an Arab state two weeks after World War I ended in November 1918. “It doesn’t happen often that people are told that their future as a state is in their hands, and asked what they would like.”
Bell pushed for Arabic self-rule at the 1919 Peace Conference and in a 1920 report to the government. Then, in 1921, she returned to Cairo with Lawrence and Winston Churchill to advocate for the Arab rule of Iraq.
At the conference, Bell helped draw the southern border of Iraq and she pushed for Faisal I, who helped the British during the war, to rule the new monarchy. On Oct. 3, 1932, the kingdom of Iraq was granted independence.
Working hand-in-hand with the new Iraqi government, Bell helped found the Iraq National Museum. To honor her contributions, Faisal named Bell as the director of antiquities, where she fought to keep Mesopotamian artifacts in Iraq instead of in British museums.
The Iraqis gave Bell the honorific “khutan,” meaning “respected lady.”
Gertrude Bell’s Complicated Legacy
Gertrude Bell/Wikimedia CommonsA photograph of Barzan Palace taken by Bell in 1914.
Bell’s commitment to Arab independence wasn’t respected by everyone in the west. For instance, she earned the hatred of British imperialists who wanted to play a more active role in the Middle East.
Sir Mark Sykes, who negotiated a secret war-time deal with France and Russia to carve up the Middle East, deemed Bell a “silly chattering windbag of conceited, gushing, flat-chested, man-woman, globe-trotting, rump-wagging, blethering ass!”
Gertrude Bell ultimately moved to Baghdad and returned to archaeology. She lived out her final years there struggling with lung disease and was found dead of an overdose of sleeping pills on July 12, 1926. Whether her death was suicide or an accident remains unknown.
Honored though she was by the Iraqis, Bell’s legacy in Britain was more complicated, especially as she wholeheartedly opposed women’s suffrage. She had campaigned against a woman’s right to vote and even became an Honorary Secretary of the Anti-Suffrage League in 1909.
And although the monarchy she fought for eventually failed, catapulting Iraq into a period of violence and unrest that continues to this day, Bell still has many admirers there. When the British diplomat Rory Stewart served there in 2003, he reported, “I often heard Iraqis compare my female colleagues to ‘Gertrude Bell.'”
For Bell, that might represent high praise.
Gertrude Bell wasn’t the only globetrotting woman of her era. Next, read about Isabella Bird, the first woman to be elected Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Then, check out these stunning photos of 1930s Iraq. · by Genevieve Carlton · July 6, 2021

18.  A Report Clears Federal Officials Who Were Suspended By A Trump Appointee Over VOA

A Report Clears Federal Officials Who Were Suspended By A Trump Appointee Over VOA
July 10, 2021 9:21 AM
  • David Folkenflik

U.S. Agency for Global Media General Counsel David Kligerman stands for a portrait in Washington, D.C, on Jan. 25. He was one of the six executives who faced retaliation under the agency's former CEO, Michael Pack.
A federal inspector general's investigation has exonerated six government executives who were suspended last year after raising red flags about actions taken by then-President Donald Trump's appointee at the parent agency of the Voice of America.
The State Department inspector general's reports, reviewed by NPR, say U.S. Agency for Global Media CEO Michael Pack and his closest aides appeared to have targeted the executives for reprisal.
The reports suggest a circle of Trump loyalists went searching through the top echelons of the agency's career staff for figures they deemed disloyal. Then they would knock down these employees, even going so far as to use unproven rumors of jeopardizing national security to get them stripped of the security clearances needed for their jobs. Pack also personally hired a high-profile Richmond, Va. law firm to investigate the officials, at a cost to taxpayers of well over $1 million.
As NPR reported last year, political appointees at the agency also embarked on investigations of journalists within Voice of America for anti-Trump bias. Both D.C. and federal courts have held some of the actions were illegal. Five of the executives were revealed to be whistleblowers, as was VOA official Kelu Chao, who now serves as the agency's acting CEO.
"These reports are an important step in holding those responsible for egregious waste, fraud and abuse accountable," says USAGM Chief Strategy Officer Shawn Powers, one of the executives whose security clearance had been suspended and later restored. "They send an important signal that political persecution of civil servants will not be tolerated."
The executives included other top USAGM officials, including the chief financial officer and the general counsel. Along with VOA, the agency funds Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, and the Open Technology Fund, which subsidizes technology to help people living under repressive regimes communicate securely.
As Pack assumed office last summer, he and his top aides took steps to withhold money appropriated by the U.S. Congress to the agency. They also moved to shut down communications with people outside the agency. And, they tried to seize control of the Open Technology Fund. The career executives formally objected to the moves. They also warned that Pack's decision to refuse extensions of specialized visas for the agency's foreign journalists could put those journalists' lives in jeopardy, should they have to return to hostile regimes. Finally, the executives balked at directives by Pack's aides to ignore protocols to stop the spread of COVID-19 among people at agency offices, like wearing masks and social distancing.
Five of the executives were reinstated shortly after President Biden took office and Pack resigned. Among their alleged failings: insufficient action to remedy the agency's past shortcomings on getting authority to conduct security reviews and other security-related matters, some of which first occurred almost two decades earlier. In almost every case, security fell outside the scope of the executive's area of authority.
And the rest of the evidence marshalled against the executives was flimsy, according to the inspector general. Pack did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
A Request For Rumors 'Heard In The Halls'
Late last July, a top Pack aide told the agency's chief risk officer to compile a "risk profile" of several of the senior executives.
USAGM acting vice president for legal compliance and risk, Morvared Namdarkhan, "told him to include any negative information he had heard about the individuals, regardless of whether he could verify the information," according to the inspector general's report on Powers' suspension. "Ms. Namdarkhan told him to add even rumors that he 'heard in the halls'."
Even had the accusations been grounded, they would not have been sufficient to revoke a security clearance, concluded Jeffrey McDermott, the assistant inspector general for the U.S. State Department.
According to the investigation, Emily Newman, who served as Pack's chief of staff, focused her ire on the general counsel, David Kligerman. She was angry he told the Justice Department that Namdarkhan questioned Open Technology Fund employees without their lawyer present - an act that Kligerman suspected might be illegal. Namdarkhan (also known as Mora Namdar) had the internal investigations opened the next day.
David Seide, an attorney with the non-profit Government Accountability Project who represented USAGM Chief Financial Officer Grant Turner, says the investigation's findings were unsurprising.
"What is shocking are [the inspector general's] discovery of the many more ways Pack and his political appointees – while running USAGM for a mere six months – managed to break the law, abuse authority, endanger public health and safety and grossly mismanage the agency," Seide said in a statement.
During his tenure, Pack gave interviews to conservative and pro-Trump news outlets saying he wanted to "drain the swamp" at Voice of America.
The new leadership of USAGM welcomed the findings.
"This decision reaffirms the need for individuals to be able to raise concerns, without fear of retaliation, about unethical management practices that might otherwise go undetected," spokeswoman Laurie Moy said in a statement. "USAGM is fully committed to protecting the rights of whistleblowers within our agency."
Disclosure: This story was reported by NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik and edited by NPR media and technology editor Emily Kopp. Because of NPR CEO John Lansing's prior role as CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, no senior news executive or corporate executive at NPR reviewed this story before it was published.

19. Taliban Says It Sees China As A "Friend" Of Afghanistan: Report
Because it will be able to extort funds from it?

Taliban Says It Sees China As A "Friend" Of Afghanistan: Report · by Press Trust of India

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said they see China as a "friend" to Afghanistan (FILE)
The Taliban has said it sees China as a "friend" of Afghanistan and assured Beijing that it would not host Uyghur Islamic militants from the volatile Xinjiang province, which is a major worry for the Chinese government, according to a media report.
The comments came as the Taliban made territorial gains in the war-torn country amid the withdrawal of the US forces. China has already evacuated 210 of its nationals from Afghanistan by a chartered flight this week.
Beijing is concerned that under Taliban rule, Afghanistan will become a hub for the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a separatist outfit aligned to Al-Qaeda which is waging an insurgency in Xinjiang.
The resource-rich Xinjiang shares about 8- km-long border with Afghanistan.
Playing down China's concerns, the Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said they see China as a "friend" to Afghanistan and is hoping to talk to Beijing about investing in reconstruction work "as soon as possible".
Suhail also said the Taliban would no longer allow China''s Uyghur separatist fighters from Xinjiang, some of whom had previously sought refuge in Afghanistan, to enter the country.
The Taliban would also prevent al-Qaeda or any other terrorist group from operating there, he said.
"We have been to China many times and we have good relations with them," Suhail told Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, recalling the few meetings hosted by China in the past for Taliban delegations.
"China is a friendly country and we welcome it for reconstruction and developing Afghanistan," he said adding that "If (the Chinese) have investments, of course, we will ensure their safety," Shaheen said.
Sharply critical of the US move to pull out its troops without stabilising the peace process in Afghanistan, China this week has asked its close ally Pakistan to step up cooperation to contain the security risks in the war-torn country following the withdrawal of the foreign forces.
"(China and Pakistan) need to defend regional peace together. Problems in Afghanistan are practical challenges that China and Pakistan both face," especially the expansion of both international and regional terrorism, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday addressing a meeting of the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Pakistan.
While the American troops'' withdrawal and resurgence of the Taliban should strategically benefit China as the Taliban shares close ties with Pakistan, both Islamabad and Beijing are concerned as they faced threats from the Islamic militant groups which were part of Al-Qaeda and Taliban.
China has been eying big scale investments in Afghanistan as the country has the world''s largest unexploited reserves of copper, coal, iron, gas, cobalt, mercury, gold, lithium and thorium, valued at over USD one trillion.
In 2011, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) won a USD 400 million bid to drill three oil fields for 25 years, containing roughly 87 million barrels of oil.
Chinese firms have also gained rights to mine copper at Mes Aynak in Logar province, according to the Post report.
But observers say China will remain very cautious and concerned about the Taliban delivering on its promises.
"Whatever benign language the Taliban use, China remains highly concerned about the security situation there," Andrew Small, a senior transatlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund''s Asia Programme told the Post.
He said China''s biggest concern in its dealings with the Taliban had always been whether it was sheltering Uyghur separatists.
China''s crackdown in Xinjiang, observers say, has exasperated the resentment among native Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. The US, the EU and international human rights organisations have accused Beijing of committing genocide in the province.
The 12th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the UN last month confirmed the presence of ETIM militants in Afghanistan.
"The Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) consists of several hundred members, located primarily in Badakhshan and neighbouring Afghan provinces," the report submitted to the UN Security Council said.
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The report said that large numbers of Al-Qaeda fighters and other foreign extremist elements aligned with the Taliban are located in various parts of Afghanistan.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.) · by Press Trust of India

20. U.S. Army offering up to $30k bonus for new PSYOP specialists

The information and influence brain power lies with our young people. If we properly train, employ, and empower them they can achieve results far beyond their rank and military experience.

U.S. Army offering up to $30k bonus for new PSYOP specialists
By USAREC Public Affairs min

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Staff Sgt. David Rosa, a psychological operations specialist representing the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, gets his gas mask checks by a drill sergeant while competing in the combat skills testing event at the 2017 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, N.C. June 14. This year’s Best Warrior Competition will determine the top noncommissioned officer and junior enlisted Soldier who will represent the U.S. Army Reserve in the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition later this year at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.
The U.S. Army is seeking qualified individuals to serve as psychological operations specialists and is offering signing bonuses up to $30,000, depending on the length of the term of service and the training ship date.
Applicants can opt for student loan repayment up to $65,000, in lieu of a signing bonus. Additionally, all Soldiers are eligible for up to $4,000 per year in tuition assistance to pursue higher education opportunities in the field of their choice, along with a competitive benefits package that includes healthcare, housing and meal allowances, and a variety of family support programs.
Psychological operations specialists are influence experts, who assess the information needs of a specific population and craft messaging to influence and engage target audiences.
“Psychological operations is a dynamic career field that allows you to play to your personal strengths,” said Sgt. 1st Class Lawrence Hustoles, a special operations recruiter in Fort Carson, Colorado. “If you’re interested in foreign countries, cultures and languages, this is a career that allows you to chart your own course, while providing unprecedented travel and life experience.”
Some of the skills Soldiers gain are the ability to analyze and organize information; build rapport in unfamiliar surroundings; and attain college-level aptitude in social sciences.
“My experience in psychological operations would translate into highly desirable careers in cybersecurity, marketing and project management, to name a few,” said Hustoles, whose primary career field is special operations. “The mix of technical and interpersonal skills developed in this field are highly desired by future employers. The networking opportunities open a myriad of doors, whether you plan to stay in the Army or move on to private sector careers.”
To qualify to be a psychological operations specialist, applicants must score a minimum of 107 on skilled technical line score of the Armed Forces Qualification Test and pass the Occupational Physical Assessment Test at the heavy level.
Psychological operations specialists attend military police One Station Unit Training, which combines Army Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training in a 20-week course. Upon graduation, Soldiers will attend Airborne training, followed by a 10-day Psychological Operations Specialist Assessment and Selection program. This program tests Soldiers’ psychological, intellectual, physical and problem-solving capabilities with team event assessments.
Once Soldiers successfully complete that program, they’ll move on to the Psychological Operations Specialist Qualification Course, which is divided into five phases:
  • In-Processing
  • Language and Culture
  • PSYOP Core
  • PSYOP Culmination Exercise
  • Graduation
These skills can lead to 51 different certifications or credentials through the Army Credentialing Opportunities On-Line Program.
To learn more about the role of a psychological operations specialist, read the details at or watch the video at

21. D.C. journalists launch media company with $10 million+ funding

Will this be a game changer or at least have a significant impact among the media landscape?

D.C. journalists launch media company with $10 million+ funding
Axios · by Sara Fischer
Laura McGann, former politics editor of and Politico, and Mark Bauman, previously with the Smithsonian, National Geographic and ABC News, are teaming up to launch a yet-to-be named media company.
Why it matters: McGann and Bauman say they're looking to build a newsroom that goes deep on select topic areas like misinformation, climate and Chinese geopolitics.
  • "Our goal is to build a newsroom of beat reporters, subject matter experts, visual journalists and editors that all come together to cover the biggest stories of the day," McGann says. "We'll be creating new formats that give our audience a fuller look at big news stories that can be confusing if you read them piecemeal."
Details: The pair has already raised more than $10 million in a series A funding round from two investors: One is a U.S.-based individual that the company declines to name; The second is International Media Investments, a UAE-based fund that has a minority stake in Euronews, Europe's top international news network, Sky News Arabia and others.
  • McGann will serve as the outlet's editorial lead. Bauman will work as president and CEO, overseeing the business side of the operation.
  • The pair will report to a board of five news and politics veterans: David Ensor, Chris Isham, Madhulika Sikka, Alberto Fernandez and John Defterios.
  • Matthew Yglesias, McGann's former Vox Media colleague, will join as editor at large. "He’s going to pioneer new policy writing formats for us," McGann says.
  • The outlet will invest heavily in data visualizations, and integrate expertise from contributors. Yglesias will be key in helping the newsroom work with outside experts, like academics.
The company has already hired about two dozen people, with roughly half contributing to editorial operations. Two of the company's editorial hires include Kay Steiger, former Washington editor for, and Tom Nagorski, formerly the COO of the Asia Society and managing editor of ABC News.
  • The company has 22 job openings posted on its website. It hopes to have at least 60 people on staff by year's end, depending on how many they decide to hire as full-time editorial staff or contractors, per Bauman. The company will be based in Washington, D.C.
  • The focus at launch will be on three key topic areas: Policy and politics (led by Steiger), geopolitics and global affairs (led by Nagorski) and science and technology.
  • "We are very interested in AI and bias," McGann added.
  • The company is also hiring an investigations editor to build a team to break news.
Be smart: Bauman says the outlet will be funded via advertising and sponsorships of the site's editorial and live events. Later, the company hopes to launch a consulting line.
What to watch: The outlet is expected to launch officially in late September.
Axios · by Sara Fischer
22. Biden under pressure to respond to escalating attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria

Biden under pressure to respond to escalating attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria

07/10/2021 07:00 AM EDT
The conflict is once again testing Biden’s resolve to pivot away from America’s decades of war in the Middle East.

Republicans have criticized Biden’s “bare minimum” approach, noting that his two retaliatory strikes have failed to deter the Iranian proxies. | Alex Brandon/AP Photo
07/10/2021 07:00 AM EDT
A series of Iranian-backed militia attacks against Americans in Iraq and Syria is piling new pressure on President Joe Biden, with some Republicans criticizing his approach as insufficient and ineffective.
U.S. troops and diplomats in Iraq and Syria were targeted in six rocket and drone attacks this week alone, including when at least 14 rockets hit a base in Iraq on Wednesday, injuring two U.S. service members. The development is the latest in an escalating back-and-forth between the U.S. and Iranian-backed militia groups, which have stepped up attacks on U.S. troops in recent months despite Biden’s stated goal of deterrence through retaliatory airstrikes.
The conflict is once again testing Biden’s resolve to pivot away from America’s decades of war in the Middle East so his administration can focus on ending the pandemic and navigating adversarial relations with Russia and China. And it could threaten Congress’ work this year on scaling back the president’s authority to strike in the region.
Biden’s growing headache is also a familiar one for the former longtime senator and vice president, who has watched three successive American presidents before him continue to fight seemingly endless wars in the region using open-ended congressional authorizations.
Republicans this week criticized Biden’s “bare minimum” approach, noting that his two retaliatory strikes have failed to deter the Iranian proxies.
“Iran-backed militias’ continued assault on U.S. personnel in Iraq cannot be tolerated,” Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement to POLITICO. “President Biden must put forward a real strategy for deterring and ending these attacks, rather than continuing his bare-minimum, tit-for-tat approach that is failing to deter Iran or its militias and puts American lives at increased risk.”
While they acknowledge that the current situation is unsustainable, Biden’s Democratic allies counter that the president does not have the authority to launch offensive strikes against the Iran-backed militia groups without first seeking congressional approval. The president, they say, is acting within his Article II powers under the Constitution to defend U.S. service members by retaliating.
“These are very fact-specific determinations,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a Foreign Relations Committee member, said in an interview.
“These actions within Iraq [are] very different than any kind of attack on Iran,” Van Hollen added. “The president has no authority to attack Iran, and in that circumstance would clearly have to come to the Congress to seek authorization.”
Other Democrats have compared the situation to a low-scale war that could reasonably be considered “hostilities” as defined by the War Powers Act. They are urging Biden to consider asking Congress for approval to continue striking the Iranian proxies — but only if he believes that will truly deter the militias.
But Van Hollen noted that the U.S. under Biden has yet to initiate hostilities against the Iranian proxies, and “that is obviously a line that cannot be crossed” without approval from Congress.
Meanwhile, former defense officials called on the president to “be consistent” in responding to the attacks. Mick Mulroy, who oversaw the Pentagon’s Middle East policy during the Trump administration, noted that “Iran needs to know they can’t hide behind their proxy forces.”
But Biden has limited options to contain the situation. He has already twice directed targeted airstrikes on facilities used by the militia groups in Iraq and Syria — once in February and again in late June in response to a spate of drone attacks — to little effect, even as his administration asserts that the strikes were intended to deter future attacks. And he risks further exacerbating tensions with Iraq, which condemned the June airstrike on Iraqi soil as a “blatant” violation of national sovereignty.
The past week has seen a string of attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.
Pentagon Spokesperson Cmdr. Jessica McNulty said the United States reserves the right to respond “at a time and place of our choosing to protect and defend our people.”
“What we will not do is telegraph our potential actions — seen or unseen,” she said.
On Monday, three rockets were fired at Ain al-Asad air base, and then a drone was shot down near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Then on Tuesday, an explosive-laden drone attacked U.S. troops at Erbil air base in Iraq. Three attacks targeted troops in Iraq and Syria on Wednesday: at least 14 rockets hit al-Asad, injuring two U.S. service members; two rockets were fired at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone; and a drone attacked the Al Omar oilfield in eastern Syria, where U.S. troops were hit were hit with multiple rockets on June 28.
At the same time, the military is batting down misinformation about additional attacks on U.S. forces in Syria, and rumors that Washington is facing pressure from the Iraqi government to withdraw from the country — both of which officials have attributed to Iranian propaganda.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said Thursday that the department is “deeply concerned” about the attacks, and hinted that the president could choose to retaliate again.
“We take the security and safety of our people overseas extremely seriously,” Kirby said. “And you've seen us retaliate appropriately when that safety and security has been threatened.”
The escalation is also complicating bipartisan efforts on Capitol Hill to rein in the president’s war powers.
Next week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to approve a bill to repeal two authorizations for the use of military force against Iraq. On Monday, the panel will receive a briefing from top administration officials on how the repeals might affect current military operations, with a focus on the escalating conflict with the Iran-backed militias.
Biden supports scrapping the outdated authorizations, and the House has already approved similar efforts.
But some Senate Republicans are already promising to make the process difficult, arguing that repealing the 2002 and 1991 Iraq War authorizations would send a dangerous message as the Iran-backed militia groups that continue to strike American positions in Iraq. They also contend that it would unnecessarily hamstring the commander in chief — though the 2002 authorization was intended to topple Saddam Hussein’s government, and the 1991 authorization is effectively obsolete as it dealt with the Gulf War.
“Any justification for the 2002 AUMF has long since passed,” Van Hollen said. “U.S. forces are currently in Iraq with the approval of the Iraqi government. So you don’t need a 2002 AUMF to justify that presence of American forces in Iraq.”
Still, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told POLITICO that he is introducing an amendment to the repeal measures next week that would preserve the president’s ability to attack Iran and its proxies. It’s a top priority for GOP lawmakers including Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, the top Republican on the House Armed Services panel, who urged Biden to “show strength in the face of these attacks.”
“It needs to be made clear that if our troops are attacked in any part of the world that we will not only respond, but we will respond quickly and forcefully,” Rogers told POLITICO.
Connor O’Brien contributed to this report.

David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email:
Web Site:
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email:
Web Site:
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

If you do not read anything else in the 2017 National Security Strategy read this on page 14:

"A democracy is only as resilient as its people. An informed and engaged citizenry is the fundamental requirement for a free and resilient nation. For generations, our society has protected free press, free speech, and free thought. Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies. Adversaries target media, political processes, financial networks, and personal data. The American public and private sectors must recognize this and work together to defend our way of life. No external threat can be allowed to shake our shared commitment to our values, undermine our system of government, or divide our Nation."

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