News & commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and published by Daniel Riggs.

1. Day 1 of the End of the U.S. War in Afghanistan

2. Who should lead the Pentagon’s information operations efforts?

3. Pentagon whistleblower warns UFO intelligence could rival 9/11

4. U.S. ‘far left’ susceptible to Chinese government’s COVID disinformation: Report

5. Biden team may partner with private firms to monitor extremist chatter online

6. In a Reversal, Nigeria Wants U.S. Africa Command Headquarters in Africa

7. Abandoning Taiwan Makes Zero Moral or Strategic Sense

8. The Fallacy of Presence

9. Austin’s task force is toughest move yet on China as Biden Pentagon mulls options

10. Bin Laden Raid Pilot Says Unique Marine Air-To-Air Course Likely Saved Him From Pakistani F-16s

11. ‘It’s an act of war’: Trump’s acting Pentagon chief urges Biden to tackle directed-energy attacks

12. Special Forces human performance facility construction underway at Fort Bragg

13. Why the United States Needs an Independent Cyber Force

14. Back to the Future: Getting Special Forces Ready for Great-Power Competition

15. Manhunting the Manhunters: Digital Signature Management in the Age of Great Power Competition

16. A Cold War, fought with information and espionage

17. Opinion | Here’s What Biden Must Do Before We Leave Afghanistan By Michael McCaul and Ryan C. Crocker

18. Joint exercise of US forces in Alaska mimics ‘what future conflict could feel like’

19. Japan offers official development assistance to Philippine military

20. Locsin says sorry to Chinese envoy over expletives; Palace says to leave swearing to Duterte

21. FDD | Is Beijing Planning a Rob, Replicate, Replace Olympics?

22. China Has Lost the Philippines Despite Duterte’s Best Efforts

23. Why America’s Trillion-Dollar War on Terrorism Couldn’t Defeat Boko Haram

 

1. Day 1 of the End of the U.S. War in Afghanistan

The New York Times · by Thomas Gibbons-Neff · May 3, 2021

TM Gibbons-Neff will probably end up taking us through the entire withdrawal process and chronicling the entire event. His writing will serve as the initial history of the withdrawal process. And I expect after US forces withdraw he will remain to document what comes next until it is no longer safe for him to remain in Afghanistan. I imagine it is challenging for him as a former Marine who served and fought in Afghanistan.

I expect this kind of reporting will be award winning:  “When asked about Maiwand, a district only about 50 miles away where Afghan forces were trying to fend off a Taliban offensive and Major Zahid was desperately trying to send air support, a U.S. soldier responded, “Who’s Maiwand?”

In the evening, the base loudspeaker chimed as one of the transport planes departed. “Attention,” someone out of view said. “There will be outgoing for the next 15 minutes.” The dull thud of mortar fire began. At what was unclear.

The end of the war looked nothing like the beginning of it. What started as an operation to topple the Taliban and kill the terrorists responsible for the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, had swelled over 20 years into a multitrillion-dollar military-industrial undertaking, infused with so much money that for years it seemed impossible to ever conclude or dismantle.

Until now.

The Taliban’s often-repeated adage loomed over the day: “You have the watches, we have the time.”

In one of the many trash bags littering the base, there was a discarded wall clock, its second hand still ticking.”

 

2. Who should lead the Pentagon’s information operations efforts?

Defense News · by Mark Pomerleau · May 3, 2021

It should not be OSD(P) or ASD SO/LIC leading DOD information operations. Both should exercise their roles of appropriate civilian oversight. We need a dedicated professionally staffed agency or organization (not a staff function) to actually lead DOD information warfare activities.

But this excerpt really makes me want to cry.

“If cyber as a domain is in its adolescence, then information is surely in its infancy,” he said.

 

How could information and influence be in its infancy? What an indictment of the nearly century of various attempts at information and influence operations and the dreaded words that are not used in the article at all -psychological warfare and psychological operations –  since they have been replaced by military information support operations.

 

3. Pentagon whistleblower warns UFO intelligence could rival 9/11

Daily Mail · by Bevan Hurley · May 3, 2021

Wow. It is not a conspiracy theory if it really happened as they say.

 

4. U.S. ‘far left’ susceptible to Chinese government’s COVID disinformation: Report

washingtontimes.com · by Guy Taylor

I assume this is the RAND report referenced in the article: Superspreaders of Malign and Subversive Information on COVID-19 Russian and Chinese Efforts Targeting the United States 

Excerpts: “The RAND report, meanwhile, analyzed nuanced differences in Russian and Chinese disinformation campaigns, as well as audience susceptibility to both.

“China-linked messaging was more uniform across different outlets; this suggests that operators did not attempt to target specific polarized audiences or to purposefully appeal to a wide variety of audiences in the United States,” the report said. “However, during the time frame that we analyzed (January 2020 to July 2020), messages critical of the U.S. response to the pandemic might have resonated with critics of the Trump administration, those on the left of the U.S. political spectrum, and those concerned with the federal pandemic response.”

“It is also possible that some of the messages about the origins of the virus could be attractive to conspiracy theory enthusiasts with different political views and affiliations,” the report added. “Overall, China-linked messaging could be of interest to U.S. audiences on the farther left of the political spectrum — Trump administration critics, conspiracy enthusiasts, and capitalism skeptics among them.”

 

5. Biden team may partner with private firms to monitor extremist chatter online

CNN · by Zachary Cohen and Katie Bo Williams

This could very well be the biggest mistake this administration makes. This could play right into the narrative of the extremist organizations and could lead to further recruitment and radicalization.

 

6. In a Reversal, Nigeria Wants U.S. Africa Command Headquarters in Africa

cfr.org · by John Campbell

This is quite a statement, proposal, or request.

 

7. Abandoning Taiwan Makes Zero Moral or Strategic Sense

Foreign Policy · by Blake Herzinger · May 3, 2021

A critique of Charles Glaser’s recent essay on abandoning Taiwan. 

Excerpts: “Apart from the logical flaws in his argument, Glaser seems untroubled by condemning 23 million free people to living beneath Beijing’s boot—to say nothing of the death and destruction that would be rained on Taiwan in an invasion. Somewhere along the line, some within the realist school appear to have lost their way. Too often, realism seems to just mean risk aversion and ends in calls for appeasement.

It is entirely appropriate for the U.S. government as well as the U.S. body politic to discuss and debate the future of the United States’ relationship with Taiwan, but it demands more than flimsy and error-ridden arguments when millions of lives lie in the balance. The risk of war is a terrible one, and Glaser is right to hope to avoid it, but retrenchment in the face of Chinese revisionism is not a convincing solution to the problem.

The same policies playing out in Xinjiang and Hong Kong—brutal repression, crushing dissent, reeducation camps—would be on full display in Taiwan, but the fact the United States’ long-term partners would be violently subjugated to a totalitarian government seems to be wholly outside the frame of Glaser’s concern. Realism is not an excuse for callousness. Imperfect as it may be, the United States presents itself as a state that stands for certain values, and leaving a democratic government and a free nation to be ground to dust while it looks on is not among them.

 

8. The Fallacy of Presence

usni.org · May 1, 2021

Presence, patience, and persistence. Presence for purpose. But I think the Chief is exactly right – presence without the proper authorities for action is rarely a deterrence. And this applies to more than fishing!

Illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing enforcement.

Gulf of Maine (GOM) Gray Zone.

Conclusion: “Unfortunately, for IUU fishing, the current legal framework is unsupportive of substantive enforcement action. In Advantage at Sea, the leaders of the Sea Services state, “the boldness of our actions must match the magnitude of our moment. The security of our nation depends on our ability to maintain advantage at sea.”17 Such an advantage will not be achieved or maintained by presence alone. Without substantive action, Canadians will continue to fish the GOM Gray Zone. China will continue to use its fishing fleets to gradually assert control over contested areas, all the while threatening the sustainability of fish stocks in the EEZs of developing nations throughout the world. Global competition for fish will increase and devolve into violence as fisheries collapse and the protein they provide becomes increasingly scare. The “firm and persuasive operations to confront malign behavior” cannot be mere presence and must instead translate into legislation that enacts criminal laws with extraterritorial applications and strategies and policies that enable and even encourage U.S. forces to seize, burn, and sink wherever warranted.

 

9. Austin’s task force is toughest move yet on China as Biden Pentagon mulls options

Washington Examiner · by Abraham Mahshie · May 3, 2021

Excerpts: “The China Task Force is the most clear manifestation of how seriously he’s taking China as a pacing challenge,” Kirby said, noting its conclusions are due by mid-June. “They’re continuing to do their work.”

In a departure from his usual reticence to delve into spending priorities, the spokesman also indicated the coming defense budget would put money behind the effort.

“We’re getting ready to unveil the president’s budget for DOD, that will come in in due time,” Kirby said. “I think you’ll see this larger concern about great power competition and our focus on that part of the world reflected in budget priorities.”

Kirby also sought to underscore that Austin’s first foreign trip was to visit Indo-Pacific allies and partners, including South Korea, Japan, and India.

“To listen to them about what they’re seeing in the region and the threats from their eyes,” he said. “ And to listen to them about their concerns about China’s increasingly aggressive and coercive behavior.”

 

10. Bin Laden Raid Pilot Says Unique Marine Air-To-Air Course Likely Saved Him From Pakistani F-16s

thedrive.com · by Tyler Rogoway and Jamie Hunter · May 3, 2021

Another fascinating story which really is another indication of why we need joint forces and joint training.

 

11. ‘It’s an act of war’: Trump’s acting Pentagon chief urges Biden to tackle directed-energy attacks

Politico · May 3, 2021

I hope we can get this sorted out soon before any more Americans are attacked and hurt.

Excerpts: A House Intelligence Committee spokesperson said on Friday that the panel has been “working quietly and persistently behind closed doors on this critical issue since the first reports,” vowing to “follow the evidence wherever it may lead and ensure anyone responsible is held to account.”

Doctors and scientists say the Havana attacks, which started in 2016, may have been caused by microwave weapons, which use a form of electromagnetic radiation to damage targets. While U.S. officials have not publicly blamed Russia for the events, Moscow is known to have worked on microwave weapons technology.

Simone Ledeen, a former Pentagon official overseeing Middle East policy under Trump who worked on directed-energy attacks in a previous position at DoD, also called on the new administration to continue looking into the incidents.

“This was one of the missions that absolutely needed to continue,” Ledeen said. “I hope the new team picks this up — it is actually very important as Americans are clearly being targeted.”

 

12. Special Forces human performance facility construction underway at Fort Bragg

americanmilitarynews.com · by Rachael Riley · May 4, 2021

 

13. Why the United States Needs an Independent Cyber Force

warontherocks.com · by David Barno · May 4, 2021

Conclusion: “We have called for an independent U.S. Cyber Force before, but the ever-increasing reliance on the cyber domain and the stunning nature of recent cyber attacks now make this even more urgent. The cyber domain is unprecedented in the history of warfare, since it does not require physical weaponry or geographic proximity to effectively attack and disrupt today’s U.S. military (and American society more broadly). The existing services are far too invested in preparing for warfare in their respective domains to think creatively and independently about ways to address this entirely new type of threat. Creating a new U.S. Cyber Force would help ensure that the vital oxygen upon which the U.S. military depends is always available in every future military operation.”

 

14. Back to the Future: Getting Special Forces Ready for Great-Power Competition

warontherocks.com · by Barnett S. Koven · May 4, 2021

Pretty comprehensive proposals and recommendations for Special Forces focusing heavily on language.

 

15.  Manhunting the Manhunters: Digital Signature Management in the Age of Great Power Competition

mwi.usma.edu · by Chris Cruden · May 3, 2021

It is a brave new world. Yes SOF must recognize the threats within the digital environment.

Excerpts: “Persistent digital situational awareness is a double-edged sword. Collection and analysis of such data creates a digital unblinking eye that can provide key, targetable insights into adversary operations, personnel, and force movements. But when our adversaries turn their own unblinking eyes in the direction of US SOF’s past, current, and future activities, these SOF organizations lose operational and technological advantages.

US SOF must recognize the realities of the digital threat environment, how current SOF operational profiles fit within it, and what continuing the status quo will mean for future operations against near-peer adversaries. Above all, SOF must understand that failure to take corrective, protective, and proactive actions to manage their digital signatures will result in operational compromise, mission failure, and strategic loss in this new era of great power competition.

 

16. A Cold War, fought with information and espionage

carryingthegun.com · by DG · May 4, 2021

This is a very accurate assessment I think: “As we move further and further into this new thing – great power competition – I’m struck by how much more difficult this is going to be than anything we’ve done before.”

 

17. Opinion | Here’s What Biden Must Do Before We Leave Afghanistan By Michael McCaul and Ryan C. Crocker

The New York Times · by Michael McCaul and Ryan C. Crocker · May 4, 2021

Excerpts: “These are vital issues Mr. Biden and his team must address — before we pull out on Sept. 11.

Yet so far they have offered no clarity on what counterterrorism agreements, if any, have been reached with other countries. They have provided only minimal assurances for how they will secure the safety of our embassy and personnel. They appear to have no plans for protecting Afghan women. And they have announced no strategy to address the visa backlog that could endanger thousands of our Afghan partners’ lives.

When America pulls out of a conflict zone at the wrong time, it creates a vacuum in which the terrorist threat grows again. That, in turn, eventually requires a re-entry of forces to keep Americans safe. So begins yet another forever war.

The ill-advised decision to pull out of Afghanistan may do just that. But by ensuring proper guardrails are in place, we have a chance to limit the fallout.”

 

18. Joint exercise of US forces in Alaska mimics ‘what future conflict could feel like’

Stars and Stripes · by Wyatt Olson · May 4, 2021

 

19. Japan offers official development assistance to Philippine military

news.abs-cbn.com · by Kyodo News

A first time security assistance effort by Japan. This could be significant though there are no weapons involved in this, only “lifesaving” equipment. Small steps.

But this is significant: “After the delivery is completed, Ground Self-Defense Force personnel will be sent to train units of the Philippine forces in their use, the ministry said.”

 

20. Locsin says sorry to Chinese envoy over expletives; Palace says to leave swearing to Duterte

globalnation.inquirer.net · by Daphne Galvez · May 4, 2021

Wow. I wonder if there is a president decision directive outlining this “policy.”

Excerpt: (We reiterate the President’s message that curse words have no place in diplomacy… President Duterte told members of his Cabinet that he is the only one who can use curse words. His Cabinet members should not imitate him.)

 

21. FDD | Is Beijing Planning a Rob, Replicate, Replace Olympics?

fdd.org · by Cleo Paskal · May 2, 2021

Conclusion: “If someone truly cares about all the effort, time and sacrifice athletes from all over the world devoted to making it to the Olympics, they would find a venue for them to compete where the hosts aren’t just waiting for a chance to rob, replicate and replace them—and ultimately use all that hard work to dominate them, and their nations.”

 

22. China Has Lost the Philippines Despite Duterte’s Best Efforts

Foreign Policy · by Derek Grossman · May 3, 2021

Conclusion: “To be sure, Duterte’s own instincts, high approval ratings, and lame-duck status probably mean he won’t plan a wholesale embrace of the United States. On the contrary, he is very unlikely to stop criticizing the United States because he remains, at his core, anti-U.S. That said, China has left Duterte little choice but to keep inching closer to Washington. To that end, it is likely the United States and the Philippines will reach an agreement on the new VFA soon. Atmospherics aside, Duterte is becoming less of a headache for Washington and more of one for Beijing—and that is a good thing for U.S. strategy in the Indo-Pacific.”

 

—————

 

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.” 

– Mark Twain

 

“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself makes you fearless.” 

– Lao Tzu

 

 “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” 

– Eleanor Roosevelt

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