Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners

Quotes of the Day:

"Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket."
- Eric Hoffer

"The sad reality is that America's armed forces suffer from three intrinsic political vulnerabilities: they're very expensive, they're readily available, and they're both versatile and robust. They therefore invite serial application to tasks for which they weren't designed. That they have little choice in the matter doesn't make that persistent misuse any less painful."
- Richard Sinnreich

“Strategic warriors operate much differently. They think ahead toward their long-term goals, decide which fights to avoid and which are inevitable, know how to control and channel their emotions. When forced to fight, they do so with indirection and subtle maneuver, making their manipulations hard to trace. In this way they can maintain the peaceful exterior so cherished in these political times.”
- Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

1. Milley warned defense leaders that Trump could order an unwarranted nuke strike: book
2. New York Times and Washington Post investigations cast doubt on Pentagon's account of Kabul drone strike
3. Stanford professors urge U.S. to end program looking for Chinese spies in academia
4. Beyond Alliance Repair: Biden Must Do More in the Indo-Pacific
5. The Subprime Strategy Crisis: Failed Strategic Assessment in Afghanistan
6. John Arquilla on the New Challenge of Cyberwarfare
7. Our veterans are still suffering | Opinion (Rubio and Gillibrand)
8.  The final scramble out of Kabul required skills only commandos have, special-ops veterans say
9. The US isn’t ready for the new national security risks of clean energy
10. Backing the Wrong Horses: American Blowback From Vietnam to Afghanistan
11. ‘Exclusive Cliques’: China Lashes Out at Upcoming Quad Meet
12. How the Army's elite Delta Force pulled off a record-setting mission against the Taliban only weeks after 9/11
13. Senate Republicans blast Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal as ‘disaster’ after classified session with top general
14. Then-CIA director Gina Haspel said the US was 'on the way to a right-wing coup' after Trump lost the election: book
15. The Marines Are Copying the Air Force's Efforts to Counter Online Disinformation

1.  Milley warned defense leaders that Trump could order an unwarranted nuke strike: book
This will be longer than the 24 hour news cycle. This is a civil-military relations issue that will be debated for a long time to come. Obviously there will be partisan attacks. Now I am not defending the actions of the CJCS but based on the initial reporting (which a report on a book that used 200 anonymous sources so we must take it all with a grain of salt) it is as if the CJCS was faced with a multiplayer game of GO (paduk for my Korean friends). The question for me is if China really assessed we were going to take action ('wag the dog") would it have taken rp-emptive action? And if our assessment was that it might be based on perceived US political instability how do you prevent that? The actions of the CJCS were certainly not in the escalatory/deescalatory playbook. We will never prove the counterfactual (unless China suddenly became transparent and tells us they intended to re-emptively act until the CJCS assured them we were not preparing to attack and had checks and balances in place). Of course the action is subject to extremely harsh criticism that has already begun. But if you had intelligence that China was going to conduct a pre-emptive action, what do you do? Take your own kinetic pre-emptive action? Or conduct a superior game of GO (or political warfare - though not the partian kind). Again I am not condoning the CJCS actions because from a pure civil-military relations perspective this was wrong and undermines civil control of the military. 

I am sure there will be calls not only for the firing of the eCJCS (as there already are) but also for all those who reportedly and allegedly agreed to the "oath" the CJCS demanded in the 8 January meeting.

And of course not only is this going to be a domestic controversy in the US for some time to come, this is fuel for the advanced disinformation and active measures campaigns being conducted by the revisionist, rogue, and revolutionary powers.

Milley warned defense leaders that Trump could order an unwarranted nuke strike: book · by Leo Shane III · September 14, 2021
A new book on the final days of President Donald Trump’s time in office alleges that Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley warned senior military officials that the commander in chief could “go rogue” and instructed them to clear any nuclear launch orders with him first.
The book, written by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, also suggests that Milley was upset and unnerved by the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building and Trump’s part in stoking the violence, according to a copy of the volume reviewed by CNN.
In it, the authors say Milley warned senior staff that Trump had gone into “serious mental decline” after losing his re-election bid and was overfocused on “endless election conspiracies.”

The former president accused Milley working to "impress the radical left" rather than focus on the military.
According to the book excerpts, just two days after pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol building in a bid to disrupt certification of the election results, Milley called a secret meeting of senior officials to review the process to launch new military action, to include the launch of nuclear weapons.
“No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I’m part of that procedure,” Milley told the officers, according to the excerpts.
The Washington Post reported the book also alleges that Milley made secret phone calls to his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng, that the United States would not attack China. The calls came as Chinese officials worried of a potential attack because of Trump’s instability and existing tensions between the two countries.
A spokesperson for the joint staff declined comment.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff compared President Donald Trump to Hitler, and his administration to the birth of the Nazi party.
Trump nominated Milley in late 2018 to the top uniformed military post over other expected candidates, citing his extensive military experience. But the two sparred behind the scenes over Milley’s role and over the use of military personnel on U.S. soil, particularly to help quell social justice protests across the country.
In June, Trump said that Milley should resign and “be replaced with someone who is actually willing to defend our military from the leftist radicals who hate our country and flag.” Milley has avoided publicly commenting on the former commander in chief.
The new book, titled “Peril,” is set to be released for sale next week.
About Leo Shane III
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

2. New York Times and Washington Post investigations cast doubt on Pentagon's account of Kabul drone strike

To effectively counter this (and if the NYT and Post analyses are incorrect) there may have to be exposure of intelligence and perhaps sources and methods for collecting the intelligence. If those sources and methods have to be protected then we will have to live with this reporting and no amount of denials or statements attempting to counter this will suffice. The visual and digital "forensics" employed by the NYT and Post are pretty impressive and to a lay person seem very credible. Is the extremely negative narrative more harmful than possibly exposing sources and methods and if the exposure of sources and methods is assessed as more dangerous, then we are going to have to live with this reporting.

New York Times and Washington Post investigations cast doubt on Pentagon's account of Kabul drone strike
CNN · by Analysis by Brian Stelter, CNN Business
New York (CNN Business)A version of this article first appeared in the "Reliable Sources" newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Think back to last month after the ISIS attack at a Kabul airport checkpoint, which killed 13 U.S. service members and scores of Afghans. There was a widespread fear that a followup attack was imminent. That was some of the context when the U.S. military conducted an August 29 drone strike in the heart of Kabul, targeting an alleged would-be bomber.
But then reporters at the scene learned of civilian casualties. And now a pair of investigations by The New York Times and The Washington Post have cast further doubt about the Pentagon's account. The Times went to great lengths to reconstruct the target's final day, using surveillance camera footage and satellite images and other methods to buttress traditional interviews. "This man was an aid worker going about his normal day," Evan Hill told me on Sunday's "Reliable Sources."
"What we showed," he added, "challenges and perhaps contradicts the Defense Department's case about this man being an Islamic State facilitator, or a man carrying explosives."
Regarding the supposed explosives, The Post asked experts to analyze imagery of the damage caused by the strike, and found a dearth of evidence "that the car contained explosives," Nadine Ajaka told me.
Read More
On Sunday night the Wall Street Journal editorial board cited the reporting by its rivals and said "the media accounts are compelling in their detail." The editorial board, faulting the Biden White House, said "the possible mistake has added to the sense of U.S. incompetence and lack of concern for Afghan allies as it sprinted for the exits."
In a statement to CNN, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said U.S. Central Command continued to assess the results of the airstrike.
"We won't get ahead of that assessment. However, as we have said, no other military works harder than we do to prevent civilian casualties. Additionally, as chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark] Milley said, the strike was based on good intelligence, and we still believe that it prevented an imminent threat to the airport and to our men and women that were still serving at the airport."
The power of 'visual forensics'
Hill and Ajaka are competitors but they appeared together on Sunday's "Reliable" and complimented each other's efforts. Hill said both are "part of this new wave of open-source reporting that relies on things that you can get online -- videos, photos, data, metadata," satellite imagery, and more. The materials allows "both us and this community of online open-source researchers to piece together things that no one could piece together a decade ago," he said.
"So, whereas before we might have had, you know, the account of the government versus the account of the witnesses -- and Americans, maybe at least in the past, were inclined to give their government some credence in what it said in the claims that it made -- now we can take all of this visual data that you can see for yourself, piece it together for you in a very transparent way, and use that to create a story that holds the power to account and challenges the government's narrative."
The Post calls this work "visual forensics." Ajaka said it can add to "the public's understanding of an event and also can reveal instances of overreach by those who are in power."
Visual recreations and reexaminations of events "can be profoundly transparent," she said, "because it allows readers to understand precisely what we know and what we don't know by plainly showing it."
CNN · by Analysis by Brian Stelter, CNN Business

3. Stanford professors urge U.S. to end program looking for Chinese spies in academia

Stop necessary counterintelligence activities against potential threats to US national security? Really?
Stanford professors urge U.S. to end program looking for Chinese spies in academia
Reuters · by Jane Lanhee Lee
Stanford University's campus is seen from atop Hoover Tower in Stanford, California, U.S. on May 9, 2014. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach/File Photo
Sept 13 (Reuters) - A group of Stanford University professors has asked the Justice Department to stop looking for Chinese spies at U.S. universities, joining an effort by human rights groups to end a Trump administration program they said caused racial profiling and was terrorizing some scientists.
The "China Initiative," launched in late 2018, aimed to prevent U.S. technology theft by China but has since "deviated significantly from its claimed mission," according to a Sept. 8 letter signed by 177 Stanford faculty members and made public by them on Monday.
"(I)t is harming the United States' research and technology competitiveness and it is fueling biases that, in turn, raise concerns about racial profiling," the letter said.
That letter is now being supported by about 140 University of California, Berkeley professors who have signed on since late last week, according to Randy Schekman, Berkeley professor and Nobel prize winner for physiology or medicine.
Asked about criticism of the China Initiative, Justice Department spokesperson Wyn Hornbuckle said the government was "dedicated to countering unlawful (Chinese) government efforts to undermine America's national security and harm our economy," while acknowledging the threat of hate crimes against Asia Americans. "We take seriously concerns about discrimination," he said.
The Justice Department has published details of at least 27 cases related to the initiative, with results including some guilty pleas, some cases dropped and some ongoing.
Professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University were among those charged, as were five Chinese scientists who were visiting scholars last year - although those charges were dropped in July. read more
On Thursday, a federal judge in Tennessee acquitted a professor accused of hiding Chinese ties in his NASA research grant application, saying prosecutors failed to provide evidence he intended to defraud the government.
"I think what the FBI's done in most cases is to scare people - investigating people and interrogating them. And it's harmful to the country," said Peter Michelson, Stanford's senior associate dean for the natural sciences and an organizer of the letter.
Another organizer, Stanford physicist Steven Kivelson, said he became involved because he saw his colleagues of Chinese origin suffered from the hostile environment they were subjected to due to the initiative.
Former U.S. Energy Secretary and Nobel prize winner Steven Chu, a professor at Stanford, said that rather than help protect U.S. advantages in technology and understanding, the program risked undermining America's lead in science.
"We were the brain gain for half a century," he told Reuters in an interview. "You really want to throw this away?"
Reporting By Jane Lanhee Lee; Editing by Peter Henderson, Daniel Wallis and Steve Orlofsky
Reuters · by Jane Lanhee Lee

4. Beyond Alliance Repair: Biden Must Do More in the Indo-Pacific

Just looking objectively at the national security environment today, I think all the Asia desks at the NSC, State, DOD, and the IC must be working overtime to "do more." I fear there could be some rapid burnout among these action officers and officials.

Beyond Alliance Repair: Biden Must Do More in the Indo-Pacific
Washington must sharpen its focus on strengthening the regional order-defending agendas of its Indo-Pacific alliances.

By Ashley Townshend and Tom Corben · by Ashley Townshend · September 13, 2021
Defense and foreign ministers from Australia and the United States will be gathering this week for the annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial (AUSMIN) Dialogue, the first 2+2 meeting between the allies since U.S. President Joe Biden took office. After the mercurial alliance management of the Trump years, Australian officials could be forgiven for looking ahead to this occasion with a mixture of relief and high expectations.
The consultations will bring much-needed normalcy to the Australia-U.S. alliance. But they may also bring bold new commitments to increase collaboration on a range of global challenges: from climate change and human rights to governance reform and critical technology cooperation. This, after all, has been the Biden team’s playbook so far in engagements with the United States’ democratic allies and partners around the world.
Strengthening the international rules-based order is an important agenda. But to win today’s contest with China in the Indo-Pacific, Biden’s global focus won’t be enough. As we argue in “Correcting the Course: How the Biden Administration Should Compete for Influence in the Indo-Pacific,” the United States must invest in the regional order-defending functions of its Indo-Pacific alliances and partnerships if it is to succeed in improving its strategic position in the region. Biden’s global order priorities, despite being broadly welcomed in the region, are not directly relevant to competing for present-day influence in the Indo-Pacific. Although alliance repair is an important part of the regional agenda, more is required to support and empower U.S. allies and partners to set them up for success in strategic competition.
Restoration and Global Order
The Biden administration deserves credit for moving fast to reinvigorate its Indo-Pacific alliances and partnerships after the tumult of Donald Trump’s presidency. Early cabinet-level visits to Japan and South Korea in March saw the United States reaffirm its defense treaty commitments and secure host nation support agreements with both allies. Biden’s team has also made it clear that it views U.S. allies and partners as indispensable “force multipliers” for strengthening the liberal international order and addressing a long list of global concerns. Given the Trump administration’s narrow prioritization of regional security issues and the Biden team’s restorationist agenda, this is as welcome as it is unsurprising.
Operationalizing this agenda has seen the Biden administration reopen the global aperture of the United States’ Indo-Pacific alliances and partnerships in ways reminiscent of the Obama years. Leaders’ summits with Japanese and South Korean counterparts produced ambitious agendas for global cooperation, including new bilateral climate, health, and technology mechanisms. The same approach has been applied to the India-U.S. partnership, with officials emphasizing cooperation on climate change, health, supply chain security, and technology issues, and flagging expanded coordination in the Indo-Pacific, Africa, and Middle East. Although cabinet-level engagements with Australia have been sparing to date, U.S. officials have nonetheless sought Canberra’s cooperation on global health and economic initiatives, and in promoting democratic values abroad.
The Biden administration has also worked to expand the role of select multilateral groupings involving regional allies. Washington moved quickly to elevate the Quad between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States to a leaders’ level dialogue and revive the dormant trilateral partnership with Seoul and Tokyo. In both cases, the United States and its Indo-Pacific partners have signaled their intention to expand cooperation beyond the security realm – in health, climate change, and technology, etc. – to strengthen the collective ability to provide global and regional public goods.
At the same time, Washington has expended significant diplomatic capital to bring its European and Indo-Pacific partners together in support of a global agenda to counter China’s expanding ambitions and influence. Crucially, as the Biden team views competition with China as a long-term global challenge – rather than a near-term regional imperative – this agenda has prioritized coordinated pushback on issues such as Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiativecyber malpractices, human rights abuses, and techno-authoritarianism.
Where Goes the Neighborhood?
But for all that Indo-Pacific allies and partners bring to global initiatives, the Biden administration has yet to focus its investment in these relationships on a dedicated regional strategy. This is a serious problem. Biden’s Asia team has talked a big game on strategic competition with China. But even as Beijing continues to undercut U.S. regional preeminence, there remain serious questions over Washington’s capacity and willingness to maintain a favorable Indo-Pacific balance of power, deliver a comprehensive regional trade and investment strategy, and sustain robust and wide-ranging engagement with Southeast Asia.
Worryingly, there has been little progress on such regional issues during the Biden administration’s engagements with its Indo-Pacific allies and partners to date. With the notable exception of the ambitious Quad Vaccine Partnership, projects designed to have a strategic impact in the region – such as the U.S.-Korea Global Vaccine Partnership and U.S.-Japan Competitiveness and Resilience Partnership – have been diffuse and slow-moving. This is a missed opportunity for the administration’s alliance revitalization agenda. But it also raises questions about its priorities so far: The Biden team has simply not demonstrated the same sense of urgency in focusing alliances on Indo-Pacific challenges as it has on building allied and partner support for the globalization of strategic competition with China. This leaves regional states wondering whether Washington will be truly committed to competing for influence with China within the Indo-Pacific.
Empowering Allies Through Defense Integration
As a starting point, ensuring U.S. alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific can effectively contribute to shared security objectives is a necessary component of an improved regional strategy. Achieving this will require the Biden administration to better empower its partners for collective and independent roles. This is not a natural impulse for the United States. On the contrary, Washington’s “superpower mindset” and the protectionist instincts represented in its newly tightened “Buy American” regulations do not portend a swift departure from longstanding U.S. preferences to limit and control the extent of defense integration with allies and partners.
This is especially problematic given the United States’ growing – and increasingly well recognized – need to multilateralize its defense industrial and technological base to maintain a competitive military advantage vis-à-vis China. Unfortunately, even with close allies like Australia and Japan, efforts to deepen defense industry integration have encountered significant economic and political hurdles, particularly around sharing and protecting sensitive data.
Technology sharing reforms should thus feature prominently in the Biden team’s efforts to empower Indo-Pacific allies and partners going forward. To start with, the administration should lean into reforming and implementing existing mechanisms that are designed to facilitate greater two-way collaboration between U.S. and allied defense industries. This includes removing barriers to technology transfer and information-sharing arrangements with Australia by fully utilizing the U.S. National Technology and Industrial Base legislation – the slow progress of which is currently complicating Canberra’s effort to build a sovereign guided munitions manufacturing capability. It also requires reforming restrictive data-sharing arrangements within the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program, the likes of which have recently frustrated Tokyo, pushing it to prioritize domestic alternatives to U.S. capabilities and munitions.
Empowering allies also requires Washington to step out of the way of allied self-strengthening efforts to enhance their own defense capabilities, even when these do not entirely align with U.S. preferences. On this score, the Biden administration’s record is mixed. Its decision to scrap the U.S.-Korea Missile Guidelines in May is a good example of what needs to be done – enabling Seoul to produce and field longer-range systems that provide it operational advantages vis-à-vis China and North Korea, and paving the way for enhanced bilateral 
space cooperation. But other efforts will not be so simple. For example, finding a solution to Washington’s disagreement with India over its purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system – one that does not jeopardize future India-U.S. military cooperation – will be essential for sustaining the trajectory of that strategic partnership. By increasing the ability of U.S. allies and partners to defend themselves and contribute to collective defense efforts, letting such initiatives flourish offers mutual strategic advantages.
Correcting the Course
The Biden administration’s recommitment to strong Indo-Pacific relationships and policy of ongoing strategic competition with China are welcome starting points for its early engagements with allies and partners. But it’s been slow off the mark when it comes to developing a regional strategy that will set the United States on the right trajectory to compete for influence with China within the Indo-Pacific.
This week’s AUSMIN consultations provide an opportunity for Washington to begin correcting the course. By working with Canberra on ambitious initiatives to strengthen regional defense posturegeoeconomic security, sovereign resilience, and diplomatic engagement, Washington can signal that investing in the Indo-Pacific is as important to the administration as global competition with China. Failure to focus substantial attention and resources on regional competition will exacerbate concerns that the Biden administration, like its predecessors, is unable or unwilling to deliver on the Indo-Pacific pivot that Washington has promised for a decade. · by Ashley Townshend · September 13, 2021 

5. The Subprime Strategy Crisis: Failed Strategic Assessment in Afghanistan

Cole Livieratos gets at some USSOCOM issues that are rarely addressed, from leadership selection and incentives to poor assessments (equated to the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008) at the USSOCOM level. And he covers the more notable issues such as the perceived over focus on direct action.

Note the recognition of Congress' call for the establishment of a Center Irregular Warfare Security Studies.

The Subprime Strategy Crisis: Failed Strategic Assessment in Afghanistan - War on the Rocks · by Cole Livieratos · September 15, 2021
In June 2006, former congressman Marty Meehan opened a hearing about the role of U.S. Special Operations Command before a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee by stating that he had “grown increasingly pessimistic about our overall philosophy [in the post-9/11 wars].” He continued, “I am faced with the prospect that we might not be applying military resources in the most prudent and effective manner. … Have we failed to accurately interpret the nature of this conflict?”
The rapid collapse of the Afghan government and security forces 15 years after Meehan’s observations are stark evidence that his observations were prescient. Yet, Meehan’s remarks raise the larger question of why the United States would continue to expend military resources in a wasteful manner for 20 years if so many knew that the strategy in Afghanistan was ineffective. One answer to this question lies in Meehan’s behavior rather than in his words. Despite his sense that the military’s approach in Afghanistan and Iraq was failing, he still voted to pass both the 2007 appropriations and authorization acts, giving the military the resources and authorities it said it needed to successfully prosecute both wars. The continued pursuit of ineffective strategy in Afghanistan for two decades was not the result of singular decisions by presidents or generals. It was the result of thousands of leaders — military and civilian — behaving like Rep. Meehan.
There are two key elements to understanding how the military’s continued implementation of a sub-optimal strategy in Afghanistan resulted from thousands of individuals rather than the decisions of a few key leaders. First, the nature of irregular warfare makes it extremely difficult to assess the effectiveness of a strategy, leading the military to rely on misleading tactical and operational data to measure strategic progress. Without obvious strategic metrics, neither civilians nor military leaders had a clear understanding of strategic progress. Second, with the military offering positive assessments only a few individuals had the requisite knowledge to challenge, there were few incentives for civilians to stop rewarding the military, which reinforced the military’s existing approach. For the military, Congress’ tacit approval and the distribution of individual and organizational rewards created perverse incentives for officers at all levels to misrepresent information. This mutually beneficial process became self-reinforcing for both military and civilian leadership, making it extremely difficult to change strategy or end the war entirely. The behavior of Special Operations Command in the two decades after 9/11 illustrates this pattern.
Assessing Special Operations in Afghanistan
U.S. Special Operations Command was not in charge of the overall effort in Afghanistan, but it was one of the military organizations most involved in the war. The command’s previous statements emphasize its central role, stating that it “took the lead for DoD [Department of Defense] in defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan.” Special Operations Command was placed in charge of synchronizing and coordinating global counter-terrorism efforts in 2005 and was even more central to the effort in Afghanistan after President Barack Obama declared an end to combat operations in 2014. Special operators were not only some of the last soldiers to leave Afghanistan, but they were also the first to arrive in October 2001. At that time, the command was only 14 years old and had already survived strong opposition from the military services, making its leadership particularly sensitive to increasing its resources, prestige, and influence as a means of ensuring organizational survival. Special Operations Command did not intentionally prioritize organizational rewards over strategic progress, but the positive feedback it received from tactical successes kept its leaders from asking the right questions to properly assess its strategy.
Special Operations Command, consistent with most major military organizations, has a directorate responsible for strategic assessment and a separate directorate for strategy, plans, and policy. Interviews I conducted with senior officers who formerly served in these directorates revealed the disconnect between strategy and assessments. The officers told me that no one was truly responsible for assessing how well the command’s strategy worked historically and incorporating those findings into future planning. There was limited interaction between the two directorates, but the bigger problem was that leaders viewed themselves as independent commanders at a fixed point in time, mostly unconcerned with what happened before they were in command. The directorate responsible for strategic assessments was primarily focused on current operations and future resource requirements rather than understanding the effectiveness of the strategy up to that point. According to one officer I interviewed, “In Afghanistan, assessments were used to help the commander tell his story [to higher headquarters and Congress], not to help inform the commander.” Even though the existence of Special Operations Command was no longer in question after 9/11, its legacy of having to fight for resources and relevance led the command to use assessments as a tool to demonstrate its value rather than shape its strategy.
The data that special operations units in Afghanistan collected were helpful for painting the picture of what those units did (often referred to as “measures of performance”), but they did little to inform either the commander or external actors on the strategic effects of their actions. Among the most frequent measures were the number of operations special operations units conducted, the number of partner forces they trained, and the number of enemy fighters killed or captured. For example, the command touted its 1,000 air assault operations in 2006, the fact that it had killed or captured 600 Taliban leaders and an additional 2,000 fighters in 2010, and its record of successfully training nearly 11,000 Afghan Local Police in 2012. Though Special Forces were very effective at training their counterparts how to fight, the tactical training was wasted without a more cohesive and sustained effort across the military and civilian agencies to build local, rather than national, defense institutions. The metrics Special Operations Command reported may have indicated short-term, tactical success, but the number of operations it conducted and the number of fighters it killed had little bearing on strategic success in Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, useful, irrelevant, and subjective measurements were all packaged together in an attempt to create a broad understanding of strategic progress. While there were potentially more important metrics military leaders could have tracked and reported, such as the defection rate of insurgents, the real problem was the flawed thinking that tactical and operational results aggregate to strategic progress in a counter-insurgency. The dynamics of strategic assessments in Afghanistan had much in common with the subprime mortgage crisis from 2007 to 2010. The crisis was the result of high-risk mortgages being packaged together with lower risk loans and sold together as mortgage-backed securities. Most of these securities were rated as “investment grade” by ratings agencies that were generously compensated and incentivized to rate securities higher than their makeups warranted. Loans often became repackaged so many times that few people know what was in them — they only knew the overall rating of the security. When borrowers began to default, individuals and banks who owned the securities also lost billions, exposing the fragility and interconnectedness of the entire system.
Similarly, the dynamics in Afghanistan had become so complex that few individuals understood them. But, when general and flag officers delivered their assessments to their civilian overseers, they were nonetheless given “investment grade” stamps of approval from officers who were responsible for thousands of lives and in charge of an institution that commanded more respect than the institutions that oversaw them. The few organizations that challenged the military’s reports of progress, like the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, did not have the same visibility or public support as the military, meaning there were no incentives for elected officials to value their conclusions over those of military leaders. When early defeats of Afghan security forces resulted in a cascade of surrenders to the Taliban, the military’s progress reports were revealed to be as much of a façade as the securities ratings. Though misrepresentative data may have been fed into the system, the military’s poor strategic assessments were not a result of leaders engaging in a grand conspiracy to deceive the American public. They resulted from the inherent difficulties of understanding success in irregular warfare, and they did not improve as the war progressed because civilians continued to reward the military for its strategy and assessment practices.
Positive Feedback Loops: Organizational Rewards and Strategic Maintenance
Since Congress legislated Special Operations Command into existence in 1987, the two bodies have enjoyed a close relationship. In addition to providing annual statements to the defense and appropriations committees, the command has a robust legislative affairs section and regularly briefs subcommittees on its activities. In an interview, a former professional staff member on the House Armed Services Committee said that members were like “moths to a flame” attending classified briefings with Special Operations Command, but they “would just go and watch sexy direct action raid videos and call it oversight, while only about ten percent of members would ask tough or relevant questions” to the command. Another staff member added that “kill/capture missions are much more salient for Congress” because they are easy to understand, achieve immediate results, and are easy to quantify. When these tactical successes fit with a broader story about strategic progress, members of Congress have little ability or incentive to challenge the military’s assessment of the war — even if they otherwise feel that the strategy is failing. As a result, most members behave like Rep. Meehan did and continue to grant the military what it requests.
The rewards Congress has granted to Special Operations Command are relatively easy to quantify. Total military personnel in Special Operations Command roughly doubled from 2001 to 2020, while the total military force shrank by 1.5 percent over the same period. Special operations officers were also rewarded with more promotions and career opportunities. My analysis shows that, between the Goldwater-Nichols reforms in 1986 and 9/11, only one of 44 (2 percent) service chiefs, geographic combatant commanders, and the chairman of the joint chiefs had a special operations background (Henry Shelton). From 9/11 through 2020, the number jumped to eight of 46 (17 percent). The numbers were even more dramatic for the Army’s leadership, where seven of 17 (41 percent) Army chiefs of staff or geographic combatant commanders serving after 9/11 had a special operations background (Northern Command is excluded because it did not exist prior to 9/11). Importantly, each of the leaders with special operations backgrounds was from a unit that specializes in direct action, like the Rangers or SEALs, rather than from a unit that take a long-term approach to addressing drivers of instability or building local militaries like Special Forces. These promotions further reinforced the view that senior defense officials and Congress preferred short-term, tactical success that could be easily measured.
The command’s budget grew from 1.2 percent of total defense spending in 2001 to 1.9 percent in 2020, but the growth is far greater once items like service support to special operations are accounted for. In 2013, Adm. William McRaven, then head of Special Operations Command, requested $143 million from Congress to meet a “critical need” by upgrading video systems on remotely piloted aircraft to high definition. McRaven characterized the upgrades as providing “game-changing, operational effects.” The funding request was approved with no requirements to demonstrate either the operational or strategic effects of the upgrade. To be clear, I am not arguing that there were no positive effects from this spending, nor am I arguing that Special Operations Command has not had important successes in Afghanistan and in dozens of other countries around the world. But, when it comes to irregular wars like the counter-insurgency in Afghanistan, civilian and military leaders have allowed tactical and operational results to supplant strategic success.
The set of tangible and visible rewards created not only incentives for Special Operations Command to maintain the course, but also pressure down the chain of command to continue emphasizing the types of operations to which civilians paid closest attention. Although special operations units had a wide range of missions and responsibilities in Afghanistan — including combatting Taliban propaganda, identifying the most critical gaps in local governance, and building local security units — most special operations forces were expected to prioritize direct action missions. In an interview I conducted with a former Special Forces officer who served in Afghanistan, he confessed, “If you didn’t put something sexy like body counts on your briefing slides, your career was at risk.”
Assessment in Irregular Warfare Beyond Afghanistan
As with the Vietnam War, one narrative emerging from the war in Afghanistan is that America’s strategic failure was the result of two decades of lies and cover-ups from the Pentagon and White House. There is no doubt that senior civilian and military leaders misled the public at times about the war effort, but the larger problem was the inability to understand the type of war the United States found itself in and assess progress. An Army colonel who served in the early stages of the war said that the military “collected all sorts of statistics, [but] it was hard to know what conclusions to draw.” As Congress used the flawed conclusions as a basis to reward some military organizations, it was clear that positive reinforcement incentivized those units to stay the course rather than seek drastic change. The continued pursuit of a flawed strategy in Afghanistan therefore had as much to do with problematic patterns of civil-military relations as it did with military decision-making.
Irregular warfare will continue to play a central role as the United States and its strategic competitors seek to advance their political agendas in ways that avoid direct military confrontation. If the military hopes to make strategic contributions to America’s competition with states like Russia and China, it should start by improving its ability to conduct strategic assessment in irregular warfare. Although external agencies, such as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, play an important role, there are limits to their impact. As long as military engagements remain relatively low cost and far from the United States, watchdog reports may not generate enough public pressure to force the White House or military to change their strategy.
The military should internally improve its ability to create, implement, and assess strategy in irregular warfare. Entrepreneurial projects like the Irregular Warfare Initiative are impactful, as is the new congressional directive to establish a center for security studies in irregular warfare, but professional military education should also both retain lessons from Afghanistan and improve the overall instruction of irregular warfare strategy. Further, the understanding of the military as an apolitical institution subject to Samuel Huntington’s notion of objective civilian control should be abandoned in favor of a more nuanced and accurate understanding of civil-military relations. Military education should use the work of scholars like Morris Janowitz and Risa Brooks as guides to show how the military influences policy and potentially undermines its own strategic effectiveness. Apart from improved education, military commands should reconsider how they are organized to conduct planning and assessment. The two functions could be fully integrated into a single directorate with a responsibility to look backward rather than just forward. Strategic assessment could be insulated from command influence by creating components of the inspector general or the Government Accountability Office to conduct independent strategic assessment for each combatant command. Until civilian and military leaders develop a more complete understanding of how their relationship affects strategic outcomes and not simply resources, the United States will continue to implement wasteful and sub-optimal strategies in irregular wars.
Cole Livieratos is an Army strategist and veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He holds a Ph.D. in international relations, is a non-resident fellow at the Modern War Institute, and is a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations. Follow him on Twitter @LiveCole1.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or any other branch or agency of the U.S. government. · by Cole Livieratos · September 15, 2021

6. John Arquilla on the New Challenge of Cyberwarfare

Form one of the most prescient thinkers on cyber and information warfare.

I am reminded of an NSA briefing I attended in the 1990s as we were really starting to use the internet for communications and work. The briefer said they had a hard time recruiting people to conduct cyber defense. Everyone wanted to be a hacker and go on the offense but no one wanted to do defense because like terrorism, you had to be right all the time and the hacker/terrorist only has to be lucky once. Cyber defense is a thankless job. It was then and apparently still is now.

John Arquilla on the New Challenge of Cyberwarfare
“The United States is the world’s most imbalanced cyber power. We have terrific offensive capabilities but terrible defenses.” · by Shannon Tiezzi · September 14, 2021
As we move into the era of 5G networks and the Internet of Things, the challenges of keeping online systems safe and secure is growing ever-more daunting. In parallel, the question of cyberwar is looming larger and larger.
But this is not a new problem. John Arquilla, distinguished professor of defense analysis at the United States Naval Postgraduate School, originally coined the term “cyberwar” over 20 years ago and remains one of the world’s leading experts on the threats posed by cyber technologies to national security. His recent book, “Bitskrieg: The New Challenge of Cyberwarfare” discusses the state of cyberattacks and cybersecurity – and he finds the U.S. critically underprepared for the age of cyberwarfare.
In this interview, Arquilla discusses the future of cyberwar, the potential for cyber arms control, and how best to respond to cyberattacks.
You’ve been discussing cyberwar for 30 years — you even coined the term. But obviously the technologies involved, for both offense and defense, have evolved dramatically since the early 1990s. How has the cyberthreat landscape changed in the past few years, as the Internet of Things and 5G connections become the new normal?
Certainly the scale, pace, and complexity of cyber operations have increased exponentially since the early 1990s. And greater connectivity, especially of physical infrastructures built before the Web and the Net but now connected to them, makes them particularly vulnerable to disruptive malware and other, ever more subtle and hard to detect cyber weapons.
What hasn’t changed, however, is the fact that attackers still have a considerable edge over defenders, which foretells a period of more active, destabilizing cyberwarfare.
Cyberwarfare is sometimes thought of as an alternative to traditional warfare, but it could be a powerful force booster in a real-world conflict. As you outline, we’ve already seen glimpses of this, for example, in U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Can you describe some of the ways cyber operations could be used alongside kinetic operations in a future war?
One use of cyberwarfare in a traditional armed conflict would likely be undertaken by adversaries of the United States and its NATO allies. War in waters off East Asia, for example, would see American aircraft carrier strike groups being struck by smart, often automated weapons – supersonic missiles, artificially intelligent mobile mines, and more – all while the sophisticated battle management systems upon with the U.S. Navy relies are hacked, crippling the operational tempo of the fleet.
It’s a bit like what happened in the “Battlestar Galactica” reboot; the battlestars that were “on the net” were rendered virtually inoperable by cyberattack as prelude to their destruction by the Cylons. Galactica only got away because it was disconnected.
You argue that cyberwarfare necessitates a rethink of the U.S. military: its strategies and tactics as well as even more basic elements like its organization. In your vision, what would a U.S. military adapted to cyberwarfare look like?
Instead of a military designed to operate with a small number of big things – carrier groups, air wings, army and Marine divisions and brigades – it would be a military of many small formations. Look at what just 11 Green Beret A-Teams (just under 200 soldiers) did in the fall of 2001: they drove the Taliban and al-Qaida from power in Afghanistan. Things only went awry in that sad land later on when the allied force got bigger, stodgier, and decided to remake the Afghan forces in the Western image. A fatal mistake, as we turned some of the world’s best natural warriors into one of the world’s worst armies, as we have recently seen.
My preference for a military of the “many and the small” is based on the belief that an information advantage – the true heart of cyberwar – coupled with swift, accurate weaponry coming from aircraft and other sources of supporting fires is the key to victory in the future.
What are the hopes for cyber arms control, especially as there are acute tensions between major players like China, Russia, and the United States? How can arms control initiatives deal with the role of non-state actors, who would not be bound by any treaty?
Twenty-five years ago, as I describe in the book about my meetings with the Russians, they were eager to engage in behavior-based cyber arms control. When I went to my Pentagon masters in support of this idea, the response was, “They only want this because we’re so far ahead.” Well, that situation has changed. Radically.
I’m glad that President Biden has rekindled the idea of exploring cyber arms control with President Putin. And I believe that President Xi, who discussed this idea with President Obama in 2015, can be brought on board as well. If the Big Three come to a behavior-based cyber arms control agreement, many other nations will fall in line as well.
With regard to nonstate actors, a world in which there is a “Cyber Arms Convention” is one in which they will no longer have safe havens in which to operate as, for example, the Internet Research Agency has had for years in Russia. There is only upside to the pursuit of cyber arms control.
How can states meaningfully respond to cyberattacks – like, say, the recent hack of Microsoft Exchange – in order to both mitigate the damage and deter future attacks?
It troubles me to hear a lot of loose talk about retaliatory cyberattacks. What if we’re wrong about who really mounted an attack? And even if we’re right, an escalatory series of cyberattacks can only hurt the United States more, as we have the most open and richest set of targets in the world.
I’m even more concerned about the talk regarding using traditional military force in response to cyberattacks, something to which even President Biden alluded recently when he said that a sufficiently serious incident might get us into a “shooting war.” Most dangerous. Far better to realize, as I argue in the book, that the United States is the world’s most imbalanced cyber power. We have terrific offensive capabilities but terrible defenses. Recent hacks and ransomware attacks should prompt serious redesign of our cyber defenses, not prompt counterproductive and highly destabilizing retaliatory attacks. · by Shannon Tiezzi · September 14, 2021

7. Our veterans are still suffering | Opinion (Rubio and Gillibrand)

Our veterans are still suffering | Opinion
Newsweek · by Marco Rubio and Kirsten Gillibrand · September 14, 2021
America's longest war may be over, but many veterans who answered the call to serve their nation are still suffering. Countless service members still endure harm from their exposure to toxic burn pits in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond. Their anguish—mental and physical—is real, and it is devastating for our service members and their families.
For far too long, the federal bureaucracy downplayed, slow-walked or outright ignored the science behind burn pit exposure. As a result, our veterans have been left without the critical care and support they deserve.
We must be better as a nation. We cannot turn our backs on the brave service men and women who, while serving their country, were forced to breathe in toxic fumes and smoke from burn pits—in which everything from electronics to tires to human waste were set alight with jet fuel—and are now suffering from associated diseases.
It is time to pass our Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act.
If enacted, veterans who served in a theater with open burn pits and have certain diseases—like chronic bronchitis and brain cancer—will have their treatment paid for. Period. No more bureaucratic studies. No more bureaucratic red tape. No more veterans left behind.
Many of these war fighters were just children when the twin towers fell, when the Pentagon burned and when the heroes of Flight 93 saved countless lives. They saw 2,977 people die because evil men came to America to inflict terror. These veterans selflessly answered the call.
Our war fighters had a job to do, and they did it without hesitation. They did it with valor, honor and distinction, and the understanding they would be taken care of when they returned home.

ZHARI, AFGHANISTAN: Two interpreters for Bravo troop dump their trash in the base's "burn pit." Bravo "Bonecrusher" Troop of the 1-75 Cavalry, 101st Airborne Division recently deployed to the Pashmul area in the Zhari District of Kandahar Province which is a stronghold of the Taliban. They are partnered with Afghan soldiers from 2nd Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 205th Corps. Bravo Troop is part of the new US surge into Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban. Sebastian Meyer/Corbis/Getty Images
Army combat veteran Mark T. Jackson was deployed to Karshi-Khanabad Air Base in Uzbekistan, where troops were sent just weeks after September 11. He told us about the toxic conditions there: the ground that oozed black goo, the air that hung heavy and ashen and the standing water that changed colors throughout the day. He described the burn pits that sent black smoke and soot into the air like malevolent snow that clung to service members' tents, clothes, skin and lungs. And he spoke about his comrades who went to war at the peak of fitness and are now sick, dying or lost to ALS, to heart disease, to glioblastoma. Our message to him, and to all of our service members, is simple: we are eternally indebted to you for your service and your sacrifice, and we are going to fight just as hard for you as you have for us.
This is not a new fight, of course. In many ways, it mirrors the fight to get health care coverage for police officers, firefighters and other first responders who raced into burning and falling buildings on September 11. They were exposed to many of the same toxins at Ground Zero and now suffer from, or have succumbed to, many of the same debilitating respiratory illnesses and cancers. It took years of fighting to pass legislation to provide our first responders with the health coverage they had more than earned. We can't let that history repeat itself in the fight to provide health coverage for the men and women who contributed to the effort to degrade al-Qaeda and hunt down Osama bin Laden.
Now is the time to do the right thing for our war fighters. This isn't a partisan issue. This isn't a budget issue. This is a moral issue.
Taliban control of Afghanistan and the resurgence of terrorist groups across the globe remind us that our fight against evil is far from over. Our nation will continue to rely on young, patriotic men and women to answer the call of duty and protect our great nation and its people.
Their selflessness was on display in Afghanistan to the very end. The very least we can do as a nation is make sure those suffering from chronic and crippling diseases from their exposure to burn pits get the care they deserve. It is the right thing to do, and we're going to get it done.
Marco Rubio, a Republican, is the senior U.S. senator from Florida. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, is the junior U.S. senator from New York.
The views expressed in this article are the writers' own.
Newsweek · by Jason Rantz · September 14, 2021

8. The final scramble out of Kabul required skills only commandos have, special-ops veterans say
Let's try to be a little more quiet and professional. It takes a whole team. The entire military did an incredible job under some of the worst circumstances (that were politically self inflicted )

The final scramble out of Kabul required skills only commandos have, special-ops veterans say
Business Insider · by Stavros Atlamazoglou

A US military Black Hawk helicopter over Kabul, April 29, 2021.
Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images
  • In the final weeks of August, US troops and international allies scrambled to get evacuees out of Afghanistan.
  • Getting foreign citizens and at-risk Afghans out was tricky, requiring many of them to make it through Taliban-held areas.
  • Key to those operations were special-operations units, which got outside the wire and extracted people in risky conditions.
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The lighting speed of the Taliban conquest of Afghanistan caught the US and its allies ill-prepared.
The resulting evacuation was marred by confusion, mistakes, and tragedy. But not all went wrong. US and coalition forces managed to get roughly 115,000 people out of the country, including US citizens, third-country nationals, and vulnerable Afghans and their families.
Key to the evacuations were special-operations units, which were able to go outside the wire and extract people in risky conditions.
The special-operations face of the evacuations

An 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper supports evacuations at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, August 22, 2021.
US Central Command
There were several special-operations units assisting the US troops during the evacuations, including elements from Joint Special Operations Command — likely Navy SEALs from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group or Delta Force operators, helicopters from the Army's elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, also known as the "Night Stalkers," and Air Commandos, such as pararescuemen to provide medical support and combat controllers to provide air traffic control and call in close air support if needed.
It is also safe to assume that the 75th Ranger Regiment had a presence — probably a platoon or company — at the airport to support any special-mission units.
The US military initially said it wasn't conducting any rescue operations outside the wire, but reports indicate that US troops, operating under CIA control, were sent to aid the evacuation of US citizens and high-risk Afghans in the city.
Several factors allowed special-operations units to spearhead evacuation efforts in parts of the city held by the Taliban.
First, the leadership on the ground hailed from the special-operations community, ensuring similar mindsets that could help smooth out any friction during planning and execution.
The overall commander of the US ground force, Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, is a former Delta Force operator who commanded at all levels in the Unit, including as its top commander. Donahue now commands the 82nd Airborne Division and was the last US troop to leave Afghanistan.

US Army Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue was the last US service member to leave Kabul.
Moreover, Rear Adm. Peter Vasely, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, is a former officer in Naval Special Warfare Development Group, previously known as SEAL Team 6. He was responsible for the special-operations units on the ground.
Second, special-operations forces are better equipped and suited for precision, time-sensitive operations in semi-permissive or non-permissive environments. From recruitment to selection to training, special operators are conditioned to operate in ambiguous and fluid environments.
Although the US military and State Department were working with the Taliban to evacuate people, uncertainty about the intentions of the Taliban or factions within it added to the complexity, as did intelligence suggesting that ISIS-K, a local affiliate of the terrorist group, would try to take advantage of the confusion to launch attacks. A bombing by ISIS-K outside the Kabul airport killed 13 US service members and hundreds of Afghans.
Preparation for unconventional warfare is emphasized from the recruiter's office to the retirement ceremony, a former Green Beret told Insider. "We thrive in the unstructured situations the folks on the ground in Kabul faced."
Finally, special-operations units have worked with their Afghan counterparts for years and were in a good position to use these relationships to facilitate evacuations.
For years, US special operators trained, advised, and fought alongside their Afghan counterparts, often with devastating effectiveness. Afghan special-operations forces were probably the units most hated by the Taliban.
"It's also about human relationships. We fought alongside these guys for decades. Many bled besides us. Others saved our lives and facilitated our mission on a daily basis. These relationships don't fade away just like that," the former Green Beret said. "When the whole shitshow started unfolding, vets who had maintained contact with their Afghans were in a very good position to try and exfiltrate them and their families."
Instrumental in the evacuations

US Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie enters a plane evacuating people, at Hamid Karzai International Airport, August 17, 2021.
Capt. William Urban/U.S. Navy via AP
US and coalition special-operations forces' ability to leave Hamid Karzai International Airport, find US citizens, third-country nationals, and Afghans, and escort them to safety was instrumental in saving thousands.
"US special-operations forces reached out to help bring in more than 1,064 American citizens and 2,017 SIVs, or Afghans at risk, and 127 third-country nationals, all via phone calls, vectors, and escorting," Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, who is responsible for military operations in the region as head of US Central Command, said on August 30.
But US and Coalition special-operations units were not alone in their efforts outside the wire.
Members of the Taliban "were actually very helpful and useful to us as we closed down operations," McKenzie added.
Afghan special operators from the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan's now-defunct intelligence service, also assisted evacuation efforts from within Kabul.
Trained by the US intelligence community, these Afghan units were able to operate behind enemy lines far easier than US or coalition troops.
The Afghan special operators' language skills, physical appearance, and familiarity with the area enabled them to operate seamlessly in Taliban country and facilitate or conduct the extraction of large numbers of people.
A coalition of special operators

A Danish coalition service member holds a Danish flag for identification during evacuations at Hamid Karzai International Airport, August 21, 2021.
US Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla
International special-operations units were also pivotal in the evacuation.
Most countries that participated in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban sent military forces to evacuate their embassies and the Afghans who had cooperated with or worked for them.
The UK, Canada, France, Spain, Australia, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Slovakia were some of the countries that deployed troops for the evacuations.
All of those contingents included special operators who were responsible for providing security or going outside the wire to rescue or transport people. They also worked with US commandos.
Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.

Business Insider · by Stavros Atlamazoglou

9. The US isn’t ready for the new national security risks of clean energy
The US isn’t ready for the new national security risks of clean energy
Quartz · by Tim McDonnell
Securing a reliable, affordable supply of oil has long been a cornerstone of US national security strategy. But as the global economy begins a slow transition away from fossil fuels in an effort to avert devastating climate change, the geopolitical calculus around energy is shifting.
In a world that uses no oil and gas, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and other fossil powerhouses could lose much of their wealth and leverage, and the US might have less incentive for military or diplomatic interventions in the Middle East. But even if decarbonization is aggressively pursued, that world is still many decades away, according to the International Energy Agency. Meanwhile, the energy transition could actually benefit some legacy fossil producers—and present new security challenges.
“A world that is much more decarbonized will raise new geopolitical risks that we have barely started to contemplate,” said Jason Bordoff, director of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. ”If we’re not really careful about anticipating the geopolitical and security-of-supply risks that might accompany the energy transition, that will not only have security implications, but it will undermine the pace of the transition itself.”
The role of oil in the 9/11 attacks
The 9/11 attacks were a vivid example of the sometimes roundabout link between oil and national security. Osama bin Laden’s father, Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, started his career as bricklayer for Saudi Aramco, which was founded in the 1930s as an offshoot of Standard Oil of California, the beginning of deep US investment in Middle East oil production.
Bin Laden Sr. parlayed that experience into his own construction empire, becoming one of Saudi Arabia’s richest men as the kingdom’s fossil fuel reserves were converted into astronomical wealth. His son later used that wealth to support mujahideen fighters resisting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Then, in 1996, he published a declaration of war against the US for its military presence in Saudi Arabia, which was one of the consequences of America’s strategic interest in keeping the oil flowing from Saudi, Iraq, and elsewhere in the region.
In September 2001, when Al Qaeda carried out its attacks on New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, the US was importing nearly 11 million barrels of oil per day, a figure that had risen steadily since the 1980s and would peak in Aug. 2006 at 13.4 million.
National security officials in the George W. Bush administration perceived that this trade imbalance posed numerous serious problems. It made the US economy and military reliant on an erratic global supply chain, largely controlled by countries (Venezuela, Iraq, Iran, Russia) with complicated or overtly adversarial relationships to the US. Oil infrastructure was and is also both a potential attack target and revenue source for terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State.
In a decarbonizing world, OPEC countries will have more power than ever
The primary solution, for Bush and his successor Barack Obama, was to dramatically increase domestic oil production, facilitated by the fracking boom of the mid-2010s. By 2019 the US became a net oil exporter for the first time. As the pandemic-related oil price spikes of the last few months have shown, that didn’t insulate the US economy from oil market volatility, although it did ensure that more of the dollars Americans spent on fuel went to US companies.
As global oil demand decreases, Bordoff argues, Saudi Arabia and other members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will likely gain geopolitical influence before they lose it. With costs of production that are generally much lower than the US, these countries will be among the last to give up drilling. They will control a growing share of the oil market, and could benefit from rising prices if global capital spending on oil production falls faster than demand.
Emerging national security risks in the clean energy economy
Meanwhile, the clean energy transition has the US increasingly entangled in a new set of precarious global supply chains.
The future economy will be powered by electricity from low-carbon sources, rather than direct combustion of fossil fuels. That puts China in a position of power—it dominates global production of solar panels, as well as the mining of most of the critical minerals needed for batteries and other vital clean energy technologies.
Human rights abuses in the Chinese solar industry have already created supply disruptions for US solar companies, and could complicate president Joe Biden‘s new goal to procure 45% of US power from solar by 2050, as well as US-China relations on other issues. Labor abuses are also prevalent in the Democratic Republic of Congo, another major critical minerals producer. One of the world’s largest deposits of lithium, in Afghanistan, is now controlled by the Taliban.
Meanwhile, in Asia, demand for liquified natural gas as a relatively clean alternative to coal has increased, which may be beneficial to the climate but has left countries like Japan and Bangladesh exposed to crippling energy cost spikes as the number of suppliers remains relatively limited.
The same trend could unfold with hydrogen, which is being touted by energy companies as a way to replace fossil fuels in steel production and other heavy industries, and may also be produced predominantly in the Middle East and other countries with large supplies of either natural gas or low-cost renewables, such as Chile, Bordoff warns.
“If your country’s heavy industry is dependent on hydrogen from just a few suppliers, that creates major risks,” he said.
The electric grid is vulnerable to terrorist attacks
Finally, growing demand for electricity makes the grid an increasingly rich target for both physical and cyberattacks, for which the US is ill-prepared, according to a 2019 federal review. A grid that incorporates a higher share of renewables will also need to be more interconnected, including potentially across national boundaries. Egypt, for example, is in talks with European officials to build a solar-powered electricity transmission line under the Mediterranean.
But unlike fossil fuels, electricity can’t be stored for emergency use in huge quantities, leaving the recipient country exposed to potential terrorist attacks on the system in the delivering country, or the deliberate shutoff of services in case of a dispute. Building up domestic supply chains is part of the solution, for example a major lithium mine that opened this year in Nevada. Ultimately, the new geopolitics of energy will come down to delicate diplomacy, just like the old.
“Would you want to be dependent on a neighboring country to keep the lights on?” Bordoff said. “That’s a pretty big hammer for a country to use.”
Quartz · by Tim McDonnell

10. Backing the Wrong Horses: American Blowback From Vietnam to Afghanistan

Backing the Wrong Horses: American Blowback From Vietnam to Afghanistan
Washington has repeatedly intervened in other nations, with ostensibly good intentions. Yet it has achieved none of its purported foreign policy goals. · by Rizal Ramli · September 14, 2021
Over the past few weeks, the world has come to the realization that the United States needs a major reset in its foreign policy, in particular its diplomacy, economic engagement, and use of military force.
For those of us watching from abroad, It was refreshing to hear U.S. President Joe Biden saying that America’s departure from Afghanistan should mark the end of “an era of major military operations to remake other countries.”
If there is any important lesson from the war in Afghanistan, as well as most of the conflicts the U.S. has been involved in since the end of the Second World War, it should be the lesson that the time has come for a serious assessment of Washington’s foreign policy establishment and its knack for backing military interventions doomed for failure.
The foreign policy elites’ rationale for interventions, which often starts with an argument about the need to protect America’s strategic interests, is usually followed by the desire to advance noble liberal causes such as nation-building, democratization, and the delivery of humanitarian aid.
In 1965, for example, one could have argued that Lyndon Johnson’s decision to send American troops into battle in Vietnam made some strategic sense. Not doing so, at least Americans were led to believe, would not only result in a communist takeover of the entire country but eventually the rise of communist regimes across Southeast Asia.
In 2001, when President George W. Bush sent troops into Afghanistan, few challenged the need to strike back at al-Qaida for its attack on America. After all, if the U.S. did not remove al-Qaida from its sanctuary on Afghan soil, surely more terrorist attacks would occur.
The decision in 2003 to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein from power was based on the belief that his regime possessed weapons of mass destruction and was harboring and supporting terrorists. Given the climate of fear after 9/11, it was depicted, wrongly as it turns out, as a war of necessity.
Time and time again, Washington has intervened in places such as Afghanistan with ostensibly good purposes and intentions. Yet it has achieved none of its purported foreign policy goals. In fact, as a consequence of its presence, the U.S. left those countries in worse shape than when it first intervened.
One is reminded here of Graham Greene’s brilliant novel “The Quiet American,” which was written in 1955 and set in Vietnam during the last years of French colonial rule. One of the story’s main characters, the CIA agent Alden Pyle, is portrayed as intelligent yet naïve, an idealistic American who sincerely believes he can make the world a better place, which in Pyle’s thinking meant remodeling Vietnam in his own country’s image. Unfortunately, it is precisely this idealism and naiveté that results in horrible unintended consequences for the Vietnamese.
Greene’s novel was prophetic. Shortly after the U.S. entered the Vietnamese war, it worked under the illusion it could help build the political, economic, and military institutions that were needed for South Vietnam to stand on its own and effectively defend itself against the communist insurgents. Washington thought that in the eyes of the South Vietnamese, it would be perceived as protecting them from the evils of communism and thus would be seen as a force of good.
This is something Pyle would have embraced, but instead of modernizing South Vietnam and winning over Vietnamese hearts and minds, quite the opposite happened. With massive amounts of aid entering the country, it was no secret that politicians had turned horribly corrupt and were busy lining their pockets. The South Vietnamese army, trained by American advisors and who found themselves frustrated and angry with a war in which it could not win, was frequently found abusing villagers. Instead of being applauded by the Vietnamese, the U.S. was seen as yet another occupier backing a corrupt regime with little regard for their economic well-being or safety.
A similar hubris would haunt the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead of bringing peace, it brought violence and death. Nation building was an empty catchphrase that brought little economic development, just corrupt leaders and seemingly endless suffering.
Looking back on each of these three conflicts, it is painfully obvious that none of Washington’s reasons for going to war had made any sense, and in some cases only damaged rather than enhanced its strategic interests. When South Vietnam fell to the communists, the entire strategic rationale for entering the war, the so-called domino theory, proved to be based on false premises. With the exception of Cambodia and Laos, Southeast Asia remained free from communist influence and rule.
In Iraq, the U.S. foreign policy establishment was duped into believing there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. Paul Wolfowitz, a real life example of Greene’s Pyle who served as Bush’s deputy secretary of state, was deeply influential in making the argument for going to war with Iraq. Wolfowitz sincerely believed the removal of Saddam Hussein and the creation of an electoral democracy would not only serve the interests of the Iraqis but also open the door for the spread of democracy in the Middle East. He was horribly wrong. Instead, Iraq was marred by sectarian violence and religious extremism, including the rise of the Islamic State. As for the rest of the Middle East, little changed.
And finally, in Afghanistan, one must question if any of America’s interests were better served by having its soldiers fight there for two decades. Some would argue it was an effective staging ground to diminish the likes of al-Qaeda, but after having spent over $2 trillion on a war that cost the lives of over 100,000 Afghans only to see the Taliban come back to power, one must wonder if the “war on terror” could have been waged more effectively.
Such are the ghosts that haunt America’s past forays abroad. But it is not only America’s propensity for going to war and backing corrupt illiberal leaders in the countries it occupies that needs to be addressed. Washington also needs to rethink how it chooses its friends.
Although the U.S. fancies itself as a promoter of democracy around the world, quite often in the name of realpolitik it has had cozy relations with tyrants and autocrats, too often offering little strategic value and at great cost to people living in those countries.
One good example of Washington turning a blind eye to brutal regimes while it preaches the virtues of democracy is in my own country, Indonesia. While the U.S. waged war in Vietnam, in 1965 the Lyndon Johnson administration applauded the rise of General Suharto and his military’s massive purge of suspected members of the country’s communist party. Soon, there were reports of rivers of East Java and Bali that had turned totally red from the blood of those who had been murdered. Many of the victims were not even members of the communist party. In just a year, as many as 1 million Indonesians had been killed in what would be later recognized as one of the world’s more brutal genocides in modern history.
Yet Washington remained mute, and when Suharto officially became president in 1967, rather than being critical the White House lauded him for his anti-communist credentials.
Over the following years, as Suharto consolidated his power and crushed his critics, Washington continued its warm relationship. Even when the Cold War came to an end and there was no longer any strategic justification for being supportive of Suharto, Washington persisted in its ties with a regime that was renowned for its corruption, violence, and autocratic ways. What cost this imposed on Indonesians was a question that was never posed by America’s foreign policy establishment.
A similar story is being played out as I write this. President Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, who has been in power for the past seven years, was praised by Washington for his democratic credentials when he first entered the palace in 2014. Yet, as he settled into office and surrounded himself with politicians of the past, it quickly became evident he was not a democrat. On the contrary, Jokowi has constantly overseen the undermining of democratic norms and institutions.
The damage done to Indonesia’s democracy since Jokowi first came to power is so extensive it leaves Indonesians wondering if it can ever be fixed. For example, under Jokowi’s watch, Indonesia’s Anti-Corruption Commission has been completely tamed. A recent article in the Economist noted that Indonesia is now awash in corruption and scored worse than Brazil and India in a corruption index produced by Transparency International.
Just one year after Jokowi took office, Freedom House downgraded Indonesia from the category of “free” nations to “partly free.” Civil rights such as the right to freedom of expression have been completely undermined by the government through its newly found powers to jail its critics. Civil society has also been dealt a blow when the legislature gave the government the right to shut down NGOs on a moment’s notice.
Indonesia’s democratic backsliding, one of the worst in the world, has caused little consternation in Washington. By still being supportive of an administration that is demonstrably corrupt and tilting towards authoritarianism, the White House and the U.S. State Department have become enablers of Indonesia’s decline. It is hardly worthy of a country that claims it wants to promote democracy across the world. · by Rizal Ramli · September 14, 2021

11. ‘Exclusive Cliques’: China Lashes Out at Upcoming Quad Meet

China feels the "threat of the Quad' as it seeks to defend the rules based international order. It is not about countering China It is about defending the rules based order. China is welcome to uphold that order.

‘Exclusive Cliques’: China Lashes Out at Upcoming Quad Meet
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Photo: Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Files

20 hours ago
Beijing: China on Tuesday, September 14, hit out at the upcoming first-ever Quad summit to be hosted by US President Joe Biden, saying the formation of “exclusive cliques” targeting other countries runs counter to the trend of the times and is “doomed to fail”.
President Biden would host the first in-person Quad summit on September 24 in Washington which will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia and Japanese premier Yoshihide Suga.
Asked for his comment on the upcoming Quad summit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here that cooperation between the countries should not target third parties.
“It is China’s consistent belief that any regional cooperation mechanism should follow the trend of peace and development, and help promote mutual trust and cooperation among regional countries rather than target a third party or undermine its interests,” Zhao said.
“Forming closed and exclusive ‘cliques’ targeting other countries runs counter to the trend of the times and deviates from the expectation of regional countries. It thus wins no support and is doomed to fail,” he said.
China is not only a major engine of economic growth in the Asia-Pacific, but also a staunch defender of regional peace and stability, he said.
“China’s development is a force for world peace and a boon for regional prosperity and development. Relevant countries should discard the outdated zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical perception, view China’s development correctly and respect people’s aspiration in the region and do more that is conducive to solidarity and cooperation of regional countries,” he said.
In November 2017, India, Japan, the US and Australia gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the Quad to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence.
In March, President Biden hosted the first-ever summit of the Quad leaders in the virtual format that vowed to strive for an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, inclusive, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion, sending a subtle message to China.
The Quad summit will take place amidst China’s aggressive behaviour in the resource-rich South China Sea.
Beijing claims almost all of the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea as its sovereign territory. China has been building military bases on artificial islands in the region also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

12. How the Army's elite Delta Force pulled off a record-setting mission against the Taliban only weeks after 9/11

Even though this was nearly 20 years ago it is still an incredible military feat. I don't think people really appreciate the capabilities of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment but also what the joint force - special operations and conventional - can do when all working together.

How the Army's elite Delta Force pulled off a record-setting mission against the Taliban only weeks after 9/11
Business Insider · by Stavros Atlamazoglou

Marty Lederhandler/AP
  • In the hours after the September 11 attacks, the US military began planning its response.
  • The Pentagon turned to its special-operations forces to send a message to the Taliban.
  • Twenty years on, their mission remains the longest air assault ever conducted by US forces.
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Hours after the September 11 attacks, the US military was already planning a response against the masterminds in Al Qaeda and its host in Afghanistan, the Taliban.
Policymakers and military planners discussed several courses of action. CIA and Army Special Forces teams would infiltrate from the north and south and work with local anti-Taliban forces.
But something more was needed. So the White House and Pentagon decided on a daring special-operations raid deep into enemy territory.
They turned to Joint Special Operations Command, and the Army's elite Delta Force specifically, for the mission. They would be the first boots on the ground in Afghanistan.
Objective Gecko

Delta Force operators boarding an MH-47 during Operation Gecko to fly to Objective Rhino.
US Defense Department
Objective Gecko was the compound of Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban. The group's equivalent of the White House, the compound was located close to Kandahar, the group's birthplace and stronghold.
Taking out Mullah Omar would send a powerful message about the US military's reach. But the target presented several logistical and planning difficulties.
To begin with, Gecko was more than 500 miles from the USS Kitty Hawk, the aircraft carrier that would serve as a floating staging base for Delta Force.
The distance meant the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the "Night Stalkers" would have to fly for more than five hours over enemy terrain to just reach the target. It would be the longest air assault in US history, a worthy successor of the Doolittle and Son Tay raids.
In addition, there was no friendly bases nearby where the assault force could go for help in case of an emergency. So planners decided to capture an airfield a few miles away, dubbed Objective Rhino, to support Delta, if needed. The assault force was also prepared to "Alamo up" if things on the ground changed and impeded their exit.
A Delta Force squadron, reinforced by operators from another squadron, would fly in on four MH-47 Chinooks. AC-130 gunships, fighter jets, and transport, refueling, and airborne-control aircraft would provide support.
All in all, more than 100 planes would support the operations at Gecko and Rhino.
A moment of unity

US Army Rangers jumping at objective "Rhino."
US Army
Just as the terrorist attacks united the US public, the US military, often riven by inter-service rivalries, drew together to respond in a moment of crisis.
"In the past I had been on Navy and Coast Guard vessels/ships for joint training, exercises and operations. Sometimes the blending of folks is easier than others. The moment we got on that ship our Navy brothers and sisters went out of their way to ensure we knew where we were on the ship and would escort us if we were lost. No hesitation," a retired Delta Force operator told Insider.
"This was bigger than any one of us and we all knew it. The gravity and importance of what a small force was getting ready to do in retaliation was not lost on anyone," the retired operator said.
The ground force loaded up on the helicopters and took off from Kitty Hawk on October 19, flying low to avoid detection and enemy fire.
The departure was a reflection the operators' unity of purpose in the face of uncertain conditions.
"You had no idea what to expect or anything. There was no established bases, FOBs [forward operations bases] or other friendly forces in the area," the retired Delta operator added. "There wasn't an ounce of hesitation by anyone. We were attacked and we were going to hit them back sending a clear message."
Striking back

The routes on the night of the mission.
Courtesy photo.
After many hours, anti-aircraft fire, and lots of air-to-air refueling, the Night Stalkers carrying the ground force reached Gecko.
Disaster almost struck when one MH-47 hit the compound wall and then, in the sandstorm created by the task force's landing, and came close to crashing into another chopper.
"Once the pilots realized it, they powered out and took a flight path away from the compound over the city of Kandahar," the retired operator said.
Gunfire erupted from the city, but the MH-47 circled and made another attempt to land. "During that attempt it impacted a ridgeline, causing more damage to the helo, ripping off and leaving some of the landing gear," the retired operator added. The helicopter crash-landed but was able to take off later.
Once on target, Delta operators flooded the compound and hit their designated areas, breaching exterior walls and interior obstacles and engaging the enemy. For the better part of an hour, they searched the compound for Mullah Omar and useful intelligence, but the leader of the Taliban was long gone.
Before leaving the compound, the Delta Force operators left American flags and NYPD and FYPD stickers, leaflets, and patches as a reminder of the US's long reach.
'Loud and clear'

US Army 82nd Airborne paratroopers board a US Air Force C-17 at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, August 30, 2021.
US Army/Master Sgt. Alexander Burnett
The Pentagon and US intelligence community knew from the start that taking out the leader of the Taliban was a long shot, but the mission was just more than a high-value target raid. It was meant to be a message to a group that harbored America's number-one enemy, and in that regard the raid was a success.
In addition, it was a confidence-booster for JSOC and Delta Force. Delta had played a key role in Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980. JSOC was created after that mission to centralize and improve US special-operations capabilities.
That failure remained a sore point for the Unit and the military. But Gecko showed that the sacrifices during Eagle Claw weren't in vain. Their mission deep inside Afghanistan — the close call with the MH-47 in particular — was reminiscent of the uncertainty and danger their predecessors faced in order to demonstrate US resolve.
It was important to send that message "loud and clear" after the September 11 attacks, the retired Delta operator said. "The other thing that was not lost in that moment was all the work, time and sacrifice that created JSOC, starting with the lessons learned during Operation Eagle Claw, had come together."
US special-operations forces' missions only multiplied as the global war on terror went on, but the action on Objective Gecko remains the longest air assault in US history, reflecting the scale of their challenge.
Twenty years on, the US mission in Afghanistan is widely seen as a failure, epitomized by the recent chaotic withdrawal, but further reflection on the war may lead to fuller recognition for the troops who took the fight to the Taliban in its opening days.
The Pentagon recently upgraded the awards earned by US troops during the "Black Hawk Down" incident, the 1993 mission in Somalia where a small US force held their own against daunting odds.
Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.

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Business Insider · by Stavros Atlamazoglou

13. Senate Republicans blast Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal as ‘disaster’ after classified session with top general

Senate Republicans blast Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal as ‘disaster’ after classified session with top general
Stars and Stripes · by Corey Dickstein · September 15, 2021
Army Gen. Austin S. Miller, the last general to command U.S. forces during the war in Afghanistan, speaks to journalists in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday, June 29, 2021. (Ahmad Seir/AP photo)

Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee castigated President Joe Biden’s decision to pull U.S. forces from Afghanistan and the chaotic withdrawal that followed after a closed hearing Tuesday with the last general to lead America’s longest war.
Army Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller testified during the classified hearing Tuesday afternoon that he had advised against withdrawing all U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the committee. Inhofe told reporters that Miller delivered his recommendations to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, his direct supervisor and commander of U.S. Central Command. Inhofe’s comments confirmed previous reports about Miller’s recommendations.
Miller never met directly with Biden to provide his advice, Inhofe said during a short news briefing held along with eight other Republican members of the committee. The senators declined to provide any other specifics from the session with Miller, citing its secretive nature. Instead, they took turns admonishing Biden and his administration for their handling of the Afghanistan pullout.
“What we’ve seen in Afghanistan has been nothing short of a disaster,” Inhofe said. “You’ve heard everybody say it over and over again. We’re having a hard time finding words to properly describe it.”
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., attempted to make such a description, saying the “withdrawal was chaotic. It was a blunder. It was disgraceful.”
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., placed the blame fully on Biden and his advisers, calling the Afghanistan pullout “the worst foreign policy debacle in decades and decades.”
Miller’s closed hearing was the first of several planned sessions that the Senate Armed Services Committee has scheduled to examine the Afghanistan withdrawal, committee officials announced last week. Austin, McKenzie and Milley are scheduled to appear before the committee in a public hearing on Sept. 28. They are expected to face tough questioning from Democrats and Republicans.
Miller commanded U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan from September 2018 until he turned over responsibility for U.S. operations to his boss, McKenzie in July, about seven weeks before all American troops left the country. He was not in Afghanistan when the Taliban launched a lightning offensive that allowed the group by Aug. 15 to take control of the vast majority of the country, including its capital Kabul.
Despite leading the last leg of America’s longest war, Miller — a longtime veteran of secretive special operations units — never briefed reporters at the Pentagon nor appeared publicly for an oversight hearing on Capitol Hill during his tenure. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, said Monday that Senate Armed Services Committee officials had asked for the classified briefing. Inhofe said Tuesday that a public hearing with Miller had not been scheduled.
Miller was previously said to have disagreed with Biden’s decision in April to pull all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11. Biden was adamant about ending the almost 20-year war and eventually moved his deadline for American troops to leave Afghanistan up to Aug. 31.
As American forces drew down, the Taliban began its offensive in August to retake dozens of districts across the country. In many regions, it did so with little resistance, as the U.S.-trained Afghan security forces largely surrendered. On Aug. 15, the Taliban took control of Kabul as U.S.-backed President Ashraf Ghani fled his country.
With American troops confined to Kabul’s international airport, the U.S. led a roughly two-week effort to evacuate Americans, foreign nationals from partner countries and U.S.-allied and at-risk Afghans from the Taliban-controlled country. But, the exit was chaotic, as Afghans flocked by the thousands to the airport’s heavily guarded gates.
On Aug. 26, a suicide bomber from the Islamic State group’s Afghan affiliate blew himself up outside a gate, killing 13 American service members, wounding nearly two dozen more, and killing and maiming hundreds in the crowd of people hoping to enter the airfield.
Biden and his administration have defended their handling of the withdrawal, even as some Americans and Afghan partners were left behind after Aug. 31. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday told senators that the evacuation was “an extraordinary effort under the most difficult conditions imaginable.”
“Our diplomats, our military, our intelligence professionals … worked around the clock to get American citizens, Afghans who have helped U.S. citizens and our allies and partners, and at-risk Afghans onto planes out of the country, off to the United States or to other locations,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “In the end, we completed one of the biggest airlifts in history, with 124,000 people evacuated to safety.”
Republicans were not the only senators on Tuesday critical of the withdrawal. During the hearing with Blinken, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., called the effort “clearly and fatally flawed.”
“I supported the decision to eventually withdraw our military from Afghanistan,” said Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I have long maintained, however, that how the United States left mattered. Doing the right thing in the wrong way can end up being the wrong thing.”
Corey Dickstein
previous coverage
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Stars and Stripes · by Corey Dickstein · September 15, 2021

14. Then-CIA director Gina Haspel said the US was 'on the way to a right-wing coup' after Trump lost the election: book

Another bombshell that will stir controversy for some time to come.

This may be like pouring gasoline on the fire for right wing extremists. Will they respond to this with action?

Then-CIA director Gina Haspel said the US was 'on the way to a right-wing coup' after Trump lost the election: book
Business Insider · by Sonam Sheth

Trump and Gina Haspel.
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
  • Trump's CIA director believed the US was headed toward a "right-wing coup" after he lost the election.
  • That's according to Bob Woodward and Robert Costa's upcoming book, "Peril."
  • Then-CIA director Gina Haspel was one of several top officials who were afraid of what Trump might do.
10 Things in Politics: The latest in politics & the economy
The former CIA director expressed concern that the US was headed toward a right-wing coup after then President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, according to a new book obtained by The Washington Post.
The book, "Peril," by The Post's Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, is set to be released next week and documents the chaotic final months of Trump's presidency and the beginning of Joe Biden's term.
The Post reported that the top officials in the US military and intelligence apparatus were afraid of what Trump might do in his quest to overturn the election results and the effect that his lies about the election could have on his agitated base.
Two of those officials were Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gina Haspel, the CIA director. In one conversation, the book said, Haspel told Milley, "We are on the way to a right-wing coup." It's unclear when during the transition period the conversation took place, but it came as Trump and his loyalists were pushing the lie that the election had been "rigged" and stolen from him.
Trump's bogus conspiracy theories grew so frenzied that Milley started thinking the president was suffering a mental decline after losing the election, the book said, according to The Post.
The president's actions also sparked concerns overseas about how far he would go to regain control of the White House. Those concerns persuaded Milley to call his Chinese counterpart on two occasions — once before the election and once after the Capitol riot — to reportedly assure him that Trump would not start a war with the country.
In another phone call on January 8, two days after the failed insurrection, Milley told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he agreed with her when she called Trump "crazy," the book said.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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Business Insider · by Sonam Sheth

15. The Marines Are Copying the Air Force's Efforts to Counter Online Disinformation

The Marines Are Copying the Air Force's Efforts to Counter Online Disinformation
Meanwhile, the Army is trying to get inside perpetrators' OODA loops. · by Brandi Vincent
Disinformation and malign influence online are among nascent digital threats the U.S. military is actively countering, top officials said on Monday.
“Watching Facebook and Reddit and Twitter and [Russian social media site] VK and [Chinese search engine and internet company] Baidu after and during the Afghanistan mission—everyone should take a look,” said Alex Miller, Army G-2 Senior Advisor for science, technology, and innovation. “It's a great example of what happens when we have a serious traumatic issue that we're trying to respond to in real-time, and our adversaries are deliberately messaging. They're putting out malign influence messages. They're putting out misinformation. They're putting out true information, just spinning it. So all of that is out there, and it's really hard to do anything about it if you don't understand what's happening.”
Miller joined top officials from the Space Force, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps during a panel at the Intelligence and National Security Summit hosted by INSA and AFCEA.
When intel spots timely, malicious efforts to spread lies, Miller said, the Army tries to get inside the perpetrators' OODA loop. This is key to developing “information advantage,” a concept that has evolved from information warfare.
A top Air Force leader said some efforts are under wraps.
“I want to highlight that there are nascent efforts that are producing results and that as soon as we can share those results with each other, and the lessons learned, that that would be helpful,” said Lt. Gen. Mary O’Brien, Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Cyber Effects Operations. “And some of the people who are working in this effort are our mavericks.”
An Air Force joint team was recently nominated for national intel meritorious students work for the work they did for the 2020 election defense work—“a lot of malign influence there,” O’Brien said.
“So there are pockets of people that have experience in how we could get after this. We need to make sure that they're part of our whole effort, and not some group over on the side doing something that other people don't understand or value,” she said. “We absolutely have to value people who are working in this space.”
Lt. Gen. Matthew Glavy, Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Information, said his branch is working to emulate an Air Force culture of “convergence.”
“They've been able to take their intel apparatus, their [online intelligence] apparatus, their cryptology apparatus, and a lot of the capabilities kind of under the 16th Air Force now with a commander, with unity-of-effort, unity-of-command and unity-of-purpose,” Glavy said. “So the Marine Corps is trying to mimic that as well.”
Rear Adm. Andrew Sugimoto, Coast Guard Assistant Commandant for Intelligence, said a key element of military and intelligence community efforts to curb disinformers and digital malign influence will be working with other nations to declassify and share data to then collectively dispute sources of such potentially harmful content.
Offering an overview of the newest military arm’s early priorities, Space Force Deputy Director of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Joseph Rouge said officials intend to nurture “a new culture of” space ISR professionals and offerings. From the very beginning, he noted, officials are starting on the premise that modeling and simulation form the basis for how they make decisions.
“It's very hard to test space systems in all environments, so that's a very key move there,” he said. “Our highest priority right now is establishing the service as an ISR-capable service. We have already joined the [intelligence community], as the 18th member of the IC. That was done in record time.”
Space Force officials are beefing up threat and analysis capabilities. Rouge added that they also aim to set up a science, technology and intelligence hub in the National Space Intelligence Center by early next year if they can secure support from Congress.
Among other topics, the panelists also reflected on existing pursuits associated with advanced and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning. Noting the complexities of various, modern tech, they expressed a need for their outside partners to guide them in the right direction based on their needs—not just buzzy options they might ask for.
“One of the things I would ask as we do leverage advanced technology is, if we're talking to you, and we say, ‘Hey, give us some of that AI,’ but then we describe something that sounds like data aggregation—call us out on that,” O’Brien said.
Rear Adm. Curt Copley, who leads the Office of Naval Intelligence and directs the National Maritime Intelligence Integration Office, said, “There's so much work to be done” associated with automation and machine learning in his realm. With petabytes of data to work with, his office plans to hire industry to work on algorithms “to deliver that decision advantage.”
“But I would agree, you know, let's have a good conversation—make sure we understand what we are talking about and what we are saying we need—because I will admit, I certainly am not the best articulate exactly what I read in terms of the language-of-the-day when it comes to machine learning and artificial intelligence,” Copley said. · by Brandi Vincent

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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