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16 Jul 21. Will China exploit the void in Afghanistan? The US withdrawal from Afghanistan has paved the way for a Pakistan-backed Taliban and an opportunistic China to establish a foothold in the region, according to one analyst.
In recent months, the US and allied nations, including Australia, have drawn down their military presence in Afghanistan, marking an end to a 20-year war, initially sparked by the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City.
US President Joe Biden has insisted that the time was right to withdraw troops from the embattled country, claiming the mission has been accomplished.
“The United States did what we went to do in Afghanistan: to get the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and to deliver justice to Osama Bin Laden, and to degrade the terrorist threat to keep Afghanistan from becoming a base from which attacks could be continued against the United States,” he said.
“We achieved those objectives. That’s why we went.
“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build. And it’s the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.”
However, the administration has come under fire for his decision, with many fearing that extremist elements would seek to exploit the void and overthrow the governing authority established under the US presence.
Such concerns have been validated by an aggressive military campaign from the Taliban, with the fundamentalist group swiftly seizing control of over a quarter of the country’s districts.
According to Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the New Delhi–based Centre for Policy Research, Afghanistan is “on the brink of catastrophe”.
“The Taliban are pushing towards Kabul, and the United States is looking weaker than ever,” he writes in ASPI’s The Strategist.
Chellaney argues that President Biden’s swift withdrawal has effectively handed power back to the Islamist militia, which in turn, undercuts global trust in the US, undermines regional security, and risks triggering a resurgence in terrorist activity around the world.
“The Taliban’s impending return to power will surely energise and embolden other terrorist groups in the larger global jihadist movement,” he continues.
A Taliban-dominated Afghanistan, he says, would ultimately be under Pakistan’s control, noting that the terrorist group continues to be propped up by Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence.
This would put India at risk, given the Taliban’s record of enabling Pakistan to use its territory to train terrorists for missions in India.
“The group’s return to power could thus open a new front for terrorism against India, which would then have to shift its focus from the intensifying military standoffs with China in the Himalayas,” Chellaney adds.
Chellaney also warns of a larger scale geopolitical threat sparked by the power vacuum in Afghanistan.
He warns that opportunistic China could look to make strategic inroads in the region, leveraging Afghanistan’s mineral wealth and geographical location between Pakistan and Iran.
“China would achieve this by offering the Taliban the two things they desperately need — international recognition and economic aid,” he notes.
“With Russia also likely to recognise the Taliban’s leadership in Afghanistan, the group will have little incentive to moderate its violence, despite its current attempts to polish its image.”
In light of these risks, Chellaney claims Biden should have maintained a small residual force in Afghanistan, in order to provide critical air support and reassurance to Afghan forces.
“Yes, that would have violated the deal Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, struck with the Taliban in February 2020. But the Taliban have already violated that Faustian bargain,” he writes.
The US’ development of a counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability to compensate for a lack of physical presence in the region, would fall short of countering the Taliban and its backers, Chellaney adds.
“The more likely scenario will be an emergency evacuation of US embassy personnel and other American citizens from Kabul, much like the evacuation from Saigon in 1975,” he claims.
“India, for one, has already begun such an exodus, evacuating its consulate staff from Kandahar.”
Chellaney concludes by quoting Robert Gates, former secretary of defence under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who stated that President Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades”.
“The hurried US withdrawal from Afghanistan is set to extend that pattern.” (Source: Defence Connect)
16 Jul 21. Afghanistan’s neighbors wary as US seeks nearby military staging area. American diplomats are escalating a charm offensive with Central Asian leaders this week as they work to secure a close-by spot to respond to any resurgence of outside militants in Afghanistan after the U.S. military withdraws. But even as high-level U.S. diplomats head to the region, they’re meeting with more doubts from Afghanistan’s neighbors about any such security partnering with the United States. That stands in contrast to 2001, when Central Asian countries made available their territory for U.S. bases, troops and other access as America hit back for the 9/11 attacks plotted by al-Qaida in Afghanistan.
There’s distrust of the U.S. as a reliable long-term partner, after an only partly successful war in Afghanistan and after years of widely fluctuating U.S. engagement regionally and globally, former American diplomats say. There’s Russia, blasting out this week that a permanent U.S. military base in its Central Asia sphere of influence would be “unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, the Taliban leadership, more internationally savvy than it had been in 2001, has been visiting regional capitals and Moscow this summer in a diplomatic push of its own, offering broad pledges that it will pursue regional security, peace and trade whatever comes of its fight with the Kabul government.
“I mean, I personally can see the value of an American base in Central Asia, but I’m not sure the Central Asian states see such value” currently, said John Herbst, who as U.S. ambassador to Uzbekistan helped arrange military access in Central Asia in 2001.
“We’ve taken a hit through our failures in Afghanistan” in credibility, Herbst said, after the U.S. neutralized al-Qaida in Afghanistan but struggled in fighting against the fundamentalist Taliban and in trying to strengthen a Kabul-based state. “Is that a mortal hit? Probably not. But it’s still a very powerful factor.”
The former Soviet republics of Central Asia, which neighbor Afghanistan, watched years of fervent democracy-building calls abroad by the United States, then watched President Barack Obama disengage to an extent, and then President Donald Trump almost entirely, says Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili, a former U.S. Agency for International Development official in Central Asia, now a researcher on the region at the University of Pittsburgh.
“I think it made the U.S. seem sort of aimless,” Murtazashvili said. “The U.S. hasn’t had a very strong strategy, or a strong presence, in Central Asia for a long time.”
But relations with Central Asia are now a security issue for the Biden administration as it seeks to make sure the fundamentalist Taliban doesn’t again allow foreign Islamist extremists to use Afghanistan as a base to mount attacks on the United States or other outside targets.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Wednesday that the Central Asian nations “will make sovereign decisions about their level of the cooperation with the United States” after the Afghanistan withdrawal.
“It’s not only in our interests and, in fact, it is much more and certainly in the immediate interests of Afghanistan’s neighbors” that Afghanistan be stable and secure, Price said.
The administration has given few details of what kind of security access it is seeking in the region, or from which countries. While the U.S. can manage strike and counterterror capability for Afghanistan from Gulf nations or from U.S. aircraft carriers, closer is much better. That’s especially true for intelligence operations to track developments in Afghanistan.
Any such agreement would likely be discreet.
The U.S. also reportedly looked at neighboring countries for the temporary relocation of Afghan translators and other U.S. employees.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby confirmed this week that the United States still was actively courting countries in Central Asia. “We are talking about and discussing with countries in the region about the possibilities of being able to use facilities and infrastructure” closer to Afghanistan, he said.
To that end, the Biden administration invited the foreign ministers of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to Washington earlier this month, shining the bright light of U.S. diplomacy on them.
And Biden’s homeland security adviser, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, joined by U.S.-Afghanistan special representative Zalmay Khalilzad, headed with other Americans to a conference opening Thursday in Uzbekistan’s capital drawing foreign ministers and presidents of almost all the regional countries and powers.
All are countries urgently and directly affected by whether Afghanistan again becomes a refuge for extremism upon the U.S. withdrawal.
For landlocked Uzbekistan, hopes of rapidly reaching outside markets hinge on completing a railroad to Pakistan’s seaports — through Afghanistan.
“For us, it is vitally important,” Uzbekistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Javlon Vakhabov, said. Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed government in Kabul has promised its support for the project, and probably more importantly, so have Taliban leaders, in two visits to Uzbekistan.
“We’ve been reassured that these people would not attack or … harm” the project, Vakhabov said.
Uzbek law meant to keep the former Soviet republic from aligning with any bloc now prohibits the country from hosting any foreign base or counterterror effort, he said, while stressing his country’s positive feelings for the United States.
The region waits now to see if the Taliban makes good on its pledge to be a good neighbor, despite what may happen among Afghanistan’s rival forces. If not, cooperation with U.S. security aims will likely increase, former diplomats said.
“All the countries in the region, they have to worry about Taliban intentions. If the Taliban behaves, than great” for them, Herbst, the former U.S. ambassador, said. “If the Taliban doesn’t behave, they need some help — and help from us.” (Source: Military Times)
16 Jul 21. Japan highlights growing concerns over Taiwan’s security in latest defence white paper. Japan has outlined its acquisition plans in the latest defence white paper. Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) has expressed growing concern about the growing intensity of China’s military activities around Taiwan and emphasized that the country’s security is linked to the latter’s stability.
“Stabilising the situation around Taiwan is important for Japan’s security and the stability of the international community,” the MoD stated in the English-language digest of the 2021 Defense of Japan White Paper released on 13 July.
“Therefore, it is necessary that we pay close attention to the situation with a sense of crisis more than ever before,” it added.
It is the first time that the MoD has issued such a statement on Taiwan in its defence white papers and is a marked contrast from previous versions, which would be generally coy on the issue.
The MoD also noted the military balance between China and Taiwan is increasingly leaning in China’s favour. Beijing considers Taiwan a rogue province and has vowed to unify it with the mainland, by force if necessary.
The statement mirrors remarks made by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and US President Joe Biden on 16 April in which they stressed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, as well as an earlier speech by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso in which he suggested that Japan could exercise its right to “collective self-defence” in the advent of an invasion. Defence Minister Nubuo Kishi had also made similar remarks linking Taiwan’s security situation to that of Japan.
Another area of concern raised in the white paper is the continued China Coast Guard (CCG) presence in the contiguous zone surrounding the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which the MoD asserts the document to be “an inherent part of the territory of Japan” and the newly established China Coast Guard Law in February, aspects of which it believes to be inconsistent with international law.
“Sources of inconsistency include, among others, ambiguity as to geographical areas the CCG Law applies and how the rules governing the use of weapons are implemented,” the MoD stated, adding that the CCG Law must not be allowed to infringe on the legitimate interests of regional stakeholders including Japan. (Source: AMR)
15 Jul 21. Israel Deployed Drone Swarms in Gaza Fighting. The Israeli military deployed small flocks of quadcopter drones over the southern Gaza Strip with each device monitoring a specific patch of land, The Times of Israel learned at the time. When a rocket or mortar launch was detected, other armed aircraft or ground-based units attacked the source of the fire.
According to the Walla news site, the drone swarms were used dozens of times during the fighting by an until-now classified company of the Paratroopers Brigade, based on concepts developed by the IDF’s experimental Ghost Unit, which is tasked with trying out and creating new tactics and fighting styles for the military.
“After a year of preparation and exercises, the situation came and the aerial detection system is able to find the enemy and destroy it and bring the operational achievement we are looking for,” the company commander, who for security reasons can only be identified by his rank and first Hebrew initial, Maj. “Mem,” told the outlet.
“We conducted more than 30 sorties with the drone swarms, which collected precise intelligence and assisted other drones to carry out attacks on the targets,” he said.
During the 11-day campaign, dubbed Operation Guardian of the Walls, Mem’s unit worked with the Elbit defense contractor, which manufactured the drones, and other units within the IDF to refine its capabilities in real time.
According to Mem, while the first use of his unit was in Gaza, that was more of a trial run for the real threat they are preparing for: Hezbollah in Lebanon, which is considered a far more powerful foe than Hamas.
“We’re not resting on our laurels. We are already looking northward and preparing for operations in the next war,” he said.
The military also reportedly plans to expand the use of this technology to other ground units in the future.
However, Israeli drone expert Tal Inbar said it was not clear if these were truly the first attacks by a drone swarm in the world, as has been claimed in media reports in recent days, but this was nevertheless a significant milestone in the use of the technology.
“You can say that this is one of the first times that Israel, officially, is acknowledging it,” he said.
Drone swarms are not particularly new technologies nor do they only exist in the military domain. Indeed, most people have encountered the technology in the form of high-tech light shows, as Israelis did in 2018, when hundreds of drones were flown in formation over the annual Independence Day event on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
According to Inbar, the technical definition of a drone swarm is “a number of aircraft flying together for a specific mission. That can be something military or it can be making a bunch of pretty lights in the sky.”
According to Inbar, there are a number of different methods for deploying drone swarms, which can range in size from just a handful of vessels to several thousand. In some cases, all of the aircraft work as equals, while in others certain drones have greater computer processing capabilities and act as commanders for the rest.
While humans still give the aircraft their mission — currently, anyway — as swarms get larger, more decision-making is left up to the drones themselves.
“If you have five drones, you can control one, and the others just copy what it’s doing. That’s one level, a lower level of capabilities,” Inbar said.
“But when you have a bigger swarm, how they carry out their mission, you or I as operators don’t necessarily know or control in real time. Say you have 50 aircraft in the air, one of the smarter ones can decide to send five of them to a certain street and another five to another place or to fly in a certain formation,” he said.
A 2018 United States military study found that this AI-enabled swarming capability made weapons significantly more powerful. In that simulation, 800 drones in a swarm were able to destroy more targets in two hours than 1,000 drones acting independently.
“With all other capabilities being identical, the introduction of a swarm intelligent algorithm significantly increased the swarm’s efficiency, lethality, and capability,” the study’s author, Maj. Sean Williams, wrote.
Drones too were once solely operated by developed countries, but over time the technology became cheaper and more available, and today, they are widely available to the masses, including terror groups, who have used them to deadly effect in conflicts around the world. (Source: UAS VISION/Times of Israel)
14 Jul 21. Progress Report on China’s Type 003 Carrier. Recent satellite imagery reveals that China has made considerable progress in the construction of its third aircraft carrier, known as the Type 003, since CSIS reported on the vessel last month. Imagery of Jiangnan Shipyard captured by Maxar Technologies on July 12 shows that construction of the carrier’s flight deck, basic superstructure, and sponsons is nearly complete. The Type 003 now measures approximately 318 meters in length, which is in line with earlier estimates offered by CSIS. Several key elements of the Type 003’s design can now be confirmed:
- China’s newest carrier will feature a flat-top flight deck; three channels for operation of the Type 003’s catapult-assisted launch system, each measuring approximately 105 meters, are clearly visible on the vessel’s deck.
- Although partially obscured in the image, the Type 003’s two aircraft elevators appear to be several meters wider than those of its predecessor, the Shandong.
- The island of the Type 003—which houses the command center for flight deck operations along with radar and communication equipment—has been reconfigured to have a smaller footprint compared to China’s other carriers.
Despite earlier estimates offered by CSIS that the vessel would not enter the water until 2022, recent imagery suggests that the vessel may be ready to launch later this year. Once the Type 003 is put into the water, it will likely be moored to one of Jiangnan Shipyard’s nearby “T”- or “H”-shaped piers for fitting out. (Source: CSIS)
13 Jul 21. Britain will work with Taliban if it behaves, says Defence Secretary. While working with militants responsible for deaths of 457 British personnel is controversial, Ben Wallace says pragmatism must win the day.
The Government will work with the Taliban should they enter the government in Afghanistan, the Defence Secretary has said.
After 20 years of war, the UK would accept their former enemies sharing power in Afghanistan, as long as certain international obligations are upheld, according to Ben Wallace.
Speaking to The Telegraph in Washington, where he was visiting his opposite number in the Pentagon, Britain’s Defence Secretary said the Taliban would be unlikely to make the mistakes of the past.
Instead, they would understand that if they granted terrorists safe havens from which to attack the West, they would be subject to overwhelming military action, similar to the months after the 9/11 attacks, which saw the group ejected from power.
The lessons of the last 20 years “will not have been lost on the Taliban,” Mr Wallace said, whilst acknowledging the group would likely have a role in the future governance of Afghanistan.
“Whatever the government of the day is, provided it adheres to certain international norms, the UK Government will engage with it,” he said.
However, Mr Wallace warned, “just like other governments around the world, if they behave in a way that is seriously against human rights, we will review that relationship”.
Mr Wallace recognised the prospect of the UK working with the group responsible for the deaths of 457 British personnel would be controversial, but said their pragmatism could be the foundation for lasting peace.
“Afghan veterans will be asking themselves about the Taliban. All peace processes require you to come to terms with the enemy. Sometimes, that’s what it is.
“What [the Taliban] desperately want is international recognition.
“They need to unlock financing and support [for] nation building, and you don’t do that with a terrorist balaclava on.
“You have to be a partner for peace otherwise you risk isolation. Isolation led them to where they were last time.
“The poverty of their own people is an important issue to be dealt with, and you cannot deal with that on your own in isolation.
“When you’re one of the poorest nations on earth you need the help of the international community,” he said, adding not all opponents to the existing government are “card-carrying Taliban”.
Referring to recent reports China may be trying to extend its influence in Afghanistan, Mr Wallace said “two superpowers learned Afghanistan is not to be taken for granted”.
“China has been quick to offer itself as a superpower. I don’t need to remind them of the consequences.” (Source: Daily Telegraph)
13 Jul 21. Japan’s new defense whitepaper issues warnings over Taiwan’s security, climate change. In a first, Japan’s annual defense whitepaper has explicitly cited Taiwan’s stability as “important for Japan’s security” and that of the international community, warning officials to “pay close attention to the situation with a sense of crisis.”
The language in the July 13 document differs from previous versions, which would carefully choose their use of words on the matter.
The English-language summary of the whitepaper also said the “overall military balance between China and Taiwan is tilting in China’s favour, and the gap appears to be growing year by year.” China considers the self-ruled island of Taiwan a rogue province and has vowed to return it under the control of the mainland.
The whitepaper added that Japan must pay attention to the strengthening of Chinese and Taiwanese forces, the sale of arms to the latter by the United States, and Taiwan’s indigenous weapons developments.
The whitepaper comes in the wake of recent remarks by Japanese defense officials, including Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, linking Taiwan’s security situation directly to that of Japan, and amid reports Japan has asked the U.S. to share details of its plans to defend Taiwan. U.S. officials “demurred,” according to London’s Financial Times, although it also reported that the U.S. preferred to improve coordination with Japan over Taiwan “in phases.”
Meanwhile, U.S.-Japan military exercises are becoming increasingly complex, with the eventual goal being an integrated plan to defend Taiwan should a military force invade the island.
Taiwan has welcomed Japan’s unusually blunt assessment, but Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian described the whitepaper’s wording as “extremely wrong and irresponsible.”
The English-language summary also positioned climate change as a security issue for Japan for the first time, noting that the effects of climate change may induce or exacerbate conflicts over land and resources, along with social tensions and conflicts due to large-scale migration.
It also warned of climate change directly impacting militaries, including the increased need to deploy forces for rescue operations, an increased burden on equipment and bases, and growing demands to implement environmental measures.
The full whitepaper, which was only released in Japanese with the full document in English expected to follow the July 13 summary in the next few weeks, also noted that neighboring South Korea’s defense budget is higher than Japan’s in absolute terms and on current trends will be 50 percent higher than Japan’s in 25 years.
This is despite nine straight years of increases in Japan’s defense budget as it seeks to counter China’s growing might and North Korea’s ballistic missile program, which Japan traditionally sees as its most critical security concerns. (Source: Defense News)
12 Jul 21. Rwandan troops deploy to Mozambique. The Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) has begun deploying a 1,000-strong joint force of soldiers and police to Mozambique to help suppress the insurgency in the northern Cabo Delgado province, the Rwandan Ministry of Defence announced on 10 July.
“The Rwandan contingent will support efforts to restore Mozambican state authority by conducting combat and security operations, as well as stabilisation and security sector reform,” it said. “This deployment is based on the good bilateral relations between the Republic of Rwanda and the Republic of Mozambique following the signing of several agreements between the two countries in 2018.”
Journalists were invited to see a contingent of troops and police embarking on a RwandAir airliner at Kigali International Airport.
In an interview at the airport, RDF spokesperson Colonel Ronald Rwivanga said this was one of the last batches to leave. “The operation is not time specific, it is mission specific, so we will complete our job first and then determine when to leave,” he added.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union Commission, welcomed the move as “a strong and concrete act of African solidarity to support a fellow member state fight terrorism and insecurity”.
This is the second deployment of Rwandan troops outside international peacekeeping operations in less than a year. It deployed a battalion to the Central African Republic in December 2020, saying this was to protect the personnel it has serving with the UN peacekeeping mission in the country and help secure the elections later that month. The Rwandan troops subsequently helped government forces push back a rebel offensive that coincided with the elections. (Source: Jane’s)
13 Jul 21. Japan warns of crisis over Taiwan, growing risks from U.S.-China rivalry. Growing military tension around Taiwan as well as economic and technological rivalry between China and the United States raises the prospect of crisis in the region as the power balance shifts in China’s favour, Japan said in its annual defence white paper.
China rejected Japan’s conclusions about what it said was normal military activity, calling them irresponsible.
The Japanese defence review, which was approved by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government on Tuesday, points to China as Japan’s main national security concern.
“It is necessary that we pay close attention to the situation with a sense of crisis more than ever,” the paper said in a new section on Taiwan.
“In particular, competition in technological fields is likely to become even more intense,” it said about U.S.-China rivalry.
China’s recent increase in military activity around Taiwan has Japan worried since the island lies close to the Okinawa chain at the western end of the Japanese archipelago.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry expressed thanks to Japan for attaching such importance to security in the Taiwan Strait.
But there was an angry reaction in Beijing which said Japan has “for some time now” been making baseless accusations about China’s normal defence buildup and military activities.
“This is very wrong and irresponsible. China expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to this,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.
Chinese President Xi Jinping this month pledged to complete the “reunification” with Taiwan and in June criticised the United States as a “risk creator” after it sent a warship through the Taiwan Straits separating the island from the mainland.
Japan’s deputy prime minister and finance minister, Taro Aso, this month in a speech reported by Japanese media said Japan should join forces with the United States to defend Taiwan from any invasion. Aso later said any contingency over Taiwan should be resolved through dialogue when asked about the remarks, which drew a rebuke from Beijing.
As the military rivalry between the United States and China deepens, their economic competition is fuelling a race to take the lead in technologies such as semiconductors, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.
The technological rivalry poses a challenge for Japan because its economy relies as much on business ties with China as it does with the United States.
Japan will also have to spend heavily to keep up with government funding for technology development in the United States, China and Europe.
U.S. Senate lawmakers recently passed the Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, which authorises $190bn spending on technology including $54bn to increase chip production.
U.S. House of Representative lawmakers are debating a separate proposal that also promises generous funding, known as the Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement Act, or EAGLE Act.
The Japanese annual security review for the first time included a section on threats posed by climate change, which it said would increase competition for land and resources and may trigger mass movements of displaced people.
An increase in disasters linked to global warming could also stretch military capabilities, Japan said, while Arctic Sea ice melting could lead to the militarisation of northern waters. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Reuters)
12 Jul 21. Miller Transfers Command in Afghanistan to McKenzie. Army Gen. Austin S. Miller transferred responsibility for U.S. Forces Afghanistan to Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie in a ceremony in Kabul today.
McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, praised Miller as “the right leader at the right time” and reassured Afghans of America’s continued support. Miller has served as the commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan and the NATO Resolute Support Mission since September 2018. He is the man who implemented the decision to retrograde U.S. and NATO forces from the country.
McKenzie also praised Miller for how he has handled the withdrawal. The general orchestrated moving millions of tons of equipment and thousands of personnel. All of this was done safely, swiftly and sensibly. At the same time, Miller continued advising and assisting Afghan National Security Forces.
Miller spoke after transitioning command over to McKenzie. “It is important that the military sides set the conditions for a peaceful political settlement in Afghanistan,” he said. “We can all see the violence that is taking place across the country. But we know that with that violence, what is difficult to achieve is that settlement. What I tell the Taliban is they are responsible, too. The violence that is going on is against the will of the Afghan people. It needs to stop.”
McKenzie said the ceremony is not “the end of the story, it is rather the end of a chapter.”
The Centcom commander said he will remain focused on four things, with the first being to protect U.S. diplomatic presence in Afghanistan. He will also look to enable the safe operation of the airport in Kabul. He will continue to provide appropriate advice and assistance to Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. Finally, he will support counterterrorism efforts. Following the transition, McKenzie met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. (Source: US DoD)
12 Jul 21. After Authority Transition in Afghanistan, After Authority Transition in Afghanistan, Airport Security Remains Top Priority. Following a transition of authority for the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, a four-pronged mission remains in the country for the U.S. military. Among the continuing roles, there is security at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said.
“On the airport … we already have some, and have had for quite some time, some troops dedicated to security at the airport,” Kirby said at a Pentagon briefing today. “There’s an aviation support element there, there are some defensive capabilities.”
Kirby said that through the drawdown, which is expected to be complete by the end of August, the U.S. will continue to ensure the airport remains safe.
“We will have requisite capabilities there at the airport to assist in the security,” Kirby said.
Long-term security at the airport, following the U.S. departure from Afghanistan, will be handled by Turkey. Discussions between the U.S. and Turkey about what that will look like are ongoing and have been “productive,” Kirby said.
“We are still in discussions with the Turks about what security at the airport is going to look like,” he said. “We’re grateful for their willingness to lead this effort. … As President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan said, we’re still hammering out the scope of what that is. And then when we get that all solidified we’ll be able to talk in more detail.”
The U.S. and other nations have diplomatic presence in Afghanistan. Ensuring that Hamid Karzai International Airport remains open and secure is critical to the successful operations of those diplomatic missions.
“The president has made it very clear we’re going to maintain a diplomatic presence in Kabul,” Kirby said. “We know that in order to do that, you have to have adequate security at the airport. We are very aware of the need for adequate security at the airport, so as to protect our diplomats and the work that they need to do in Afghanistan.”
This afternoon, authority for the continuing counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan transitioned from Army Gen. Austin S. Miller, who commanded the Resolute Support mission there, to Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., who serves as commander of United States Central Command. Miller had served as commander of United States Forces-Afghanistan and the Resolute Support mission since 2018.
“Both Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. McKenzie have expressed their thanks to Gen. Miller … and his team for their diligent execution of the retrograde of millions of tons of equipment [and] thousands of personnel, all conducted with great efficiency and without a single casualty,” Kirby said. “I think that’s historic.”
Kirby said that the transition of authority is just a milestone in the ongoing drawdown there. Until the U.S. is completely out of Afghanistan, he said, the ongoing mission there will continue to focus on protecting the U.S. diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, enabling the safe operation of the airport, continuing to provide appropriate advice and assistance to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and supporting counterterrorism efforts. (Source: US DoD)
12 Jul 21. Japanese defense firms prosper amid futuristic tech orders, export drives. Japan is continuing to push its defense-industrial base to grow as the country slowly builds up its self-defense forces to counter China’s growing military. This year’s Defense News Top 100 list, which ranks the largest defense companies in the world, is host to three Japanese firms, including Subaru Corporation (85th place with $805.5m in defense revenue), which did not make the previous year’s list.
Other Japanese companies include Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, or MHI, (32nd with $3.788bn in defense revenue) and Kawasaki Heavy Industries (51st with $2.026bn in defense revenue). KHI made a return to the list after dropping out of the previous year’s version.
MHI has retained a clear lead as the biggest Japanese defense contractor, despite its defense revenue falling 42 percent, having made $6.57bn in defense revenue the previous year. However, the global automotive conglomerate brought in $31.465bn in total revenue.
The company is also collaborating on hypersonic technology research — for both a hypersonic cruise missile and a hypervelocity gliding projectile — with the government’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Agency.
Fighter jet, loyal wingman
The biggest ongoing Japanese defense program is the stealthy F-X fighter the government plans to use as the replacement for its approximately 90-strong fleet of Mitsubishi F-2 fighters. Japan awarded the F-X development contract to MHI in 2020, and has been steadily budgeting for the development program over the past few years.
This included $685.5m for the overall F-X program; $520m of that was earmarked for the conceptual and initial engine designs. Funding was also made available to continue research and development of radar technology and mission systems integration for the next-generation fighter.
Japan plans for the production of the first F-X prototype to begin in 2024, with flight tests earmarked to start in 2028 following finalization of the design and production plans. The new fighter is expected to enter service with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force starting around 2035.
The new fighter will be accompanied into service by a “loyal wingman” — an autonomous unmanned aircraft. Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported in October last year that Japan would begin development of a small-scale test bed this year, with flight testing to validate the technology planned for 2024 and full-scale development beginning as early as 2025, if previous phases are successful.
The Japanese “loyal wingman is expected to be fitted to operate in a manned-unmanned teaming setup with the F-X, carrying a sensor payload that allows it to scout for the F-X and is also capable of carrying air-to-air missiles for air combat,” Sankei Shimbun reported.
Japanese media outlet Nikkei followed up with a report in December that said the development program has three stages: The unmanned aircraft will first be controlled from a ground station typical of current systems. It will then evolve into manned-unmanned teaming with a single manned F-X directing several unmanned aircraft, and then it will eventually become a fully autonomous system.
Subaru Corporation (formerly known as Fuji Heavy Industries) is tasked with developing the remote flight control systems, while MHI is in charge of developing a data link for use between unmanned and manned aircraft.
Japan’s decision to cancel the planned acquisition and installation of the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system meant it had to quickly seek an alternative to counter the threat of ballistic missiles from North Korea and China. The cancellation was officially blamed on difficulties in developing a safe way for the booster of the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor to separate from the missile without risking the chance that debris would fall onto civilians and local infrastructure.
What the government didn’t highlight is that the deployment of two Aegis Ashore systems was opposed by residents living near the planned locations over safety concerns. It quickly became apparent to officials that the same kind of opposition would manifest regardless of where any systems were to be based.
Japan has since decided to order ships dedicated to the ballistic missile defense mission. The final design of the ships have not been announced, but it’s been reported the government is considering equipping the ships to use the J7.B Aegis system. J7.B is a combination of the SPY-7 solid-state radar selected for Japan’s Aegis Ashore system and the Japanese J7 baseline that is equivalent to the U.S. Baseline 9 Aegis system.
The idea of equipping the ships with the SM-6 missile to enable them to engage hypersonic weapons and cruise missiles has gained traction as China begins to field increasing numbers of both types of weapons.
Given the ships’ dedicated ballistic missile defense mission, it has also been envisaged that they will be deployed close inshore and thus will not need the kind of performance or weaponry found on Japan’s Aegis destroyers, which are also assigned to the fleet defense mission, among other maritime combat roles.
Japan is also continuing low-key efforts to export defense equipment, following its first successful arms export deal since restrictive defense export laws were relaxed by then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2014. The move was made to broaden Japan’s defense-industrial base and make it more sustainable.
That export deal, signed in August 2020, was for fixed and mobile air defense radars to the Philippines. Now Japan is targeting Indonesia’s requirement for frigates, for which it is offering the Mogami-class multirole frigate under a proposal that will see four of eight frigates for Indonesia built at shipyards in the latter country.
The Mogami class is a 3,900-ton design being built for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Three ships were already launched, and there are plans for five more. The 130-meter-long frigates are designed for missions ranging from mine countermeasures, surface and subsurface warfare, and they can deploy unmanned surface and underwater vehicles.
Indonesia recently announced it will acquire the Italian FREMM frigate from Fincantieri, but it’s unclear if Indonesia would buy the Mogami class under a different program since the Japanese ships are vastly different in size and capabilities from the Italian design. (Source: Defense News)
12 Jul 21. EU, Ukraine to sign preliminary deal on key raw materials, batteries. The European Union and Ukraine will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) covering critical raw materials and batteries as the 27-country bloc tries to diversify supplies following disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move is part of the European Commission’s Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials announced in September to bolster supplies of materials vital to sectors including aerospace, defence, electronics, automotive and renewable energy, as well as energy-intensive industries and the health sector.
European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic will sign the MoU in Kyiv on Tuesday, the EU executive said in a statement.
“Securing a sustainable supply of raw materials is an essential prerequisite for delivering on green and digital transition objectives,” Sefcovic said.
“Our strategic partnership will go a long way towards boosting the resilience of both Ukraine and Europe, especially as we seek to bounce forward and emerge stronger from the current pandemic that has taken a heavy toll on our economies and societies,” he said, without giving details of the deal.
The EU last year updated its list of critical raw materials to include bauxite, lithium, titanium and strontium. China provides 98% of the EU’s supply of rare earth elements.
To power up e-car batteries and for energy storage alone, the EU estimates it will need up to 18 times more lithium by 2030 and up to 60 times more by 2050. (Source: Reuters)
12 Jul 21. India’s push for self-reliance brings public-private rift to a head. India’s push to achieve industrial self-reliance has resulted in the government approving $51.71bn worth of new defense projects and twice implementing arms embargoes.
The new defense projects falls under the country’s Make in India economic scheme, according to the Ministry of Defence, which has also passed two “positive indigenisation” lists totaling 209 items (the first list had 101, and the second had 108).
The first list of 101 defense items was released by the MoD in August 2020. It included several types of armaments such as artillery guns, assault rifles, corvettes, sonar systems, transport aircraft, ammunition, sonars, radars, conventional diesel-electric submarines, communication satellites and shipborne cruise missiles.
This second list is to be progressively implemented from December 2021 to December 2025. It calls for a number of weapons and platforms to be manufactured in India, including next-generation corvettes; single-engine light helicopters; airborne early warning and control systems; medium-power radars for mountainous terrain; land-based, medium-range surface-to-air missile systems; fixed-wing mini-UAVs; helicopter-launched, anti-tank guided missiles; battlefield surveillance radars; anti-materiel rifles; and mine-protected combat vehicles for infantry units.
The majority of items in the second list are subsystems or accessories for weapons and platforms already manufactured in India, and are not big-ticket defense products. They include instant fire detection and suppression systems; individual underwater breathing apparatuses; main switchboard and power distribution systems for ships; steering gear for destroyers and frigates; high-altitude water purification systems; and drop tanks for Jaguar and Mirage 2000 fighters.
Also among the several domestic defense industry-boosting initiatives are the Strategic Partnership model as well as the corporatization of the Ordnance Factory Board and its 41 ordnance factories. The move saw the group split into seven corporate entities.
“Development in silos and innovation in isolation are outdated ideas,” said Baba Kalyani, chairman of Indian firm Bharat Forge Limited. An alternative path involves public-private partnerships, wherein private industry, public sector enterprises, and the government’s Defence Research and Development Organisation work together to complement each other’s capabilities, Kalyani added.
However, other industry leaders and defense analysts don’t believe India’s defense industry is mature enough to benefit from that approach; public sector enterprises are thriving, but the private sector is struggling. And there has been little structural change in regard to the Indian defense industry in the last few years, despite the “self-reliance” rhetoric.
The public sector secures most defense contracts, and India is the top arms importer in the world, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
“These are the two key objective parameters against which performance of the Indian defense ecosystem needs to be measured,” said Vivek Rae, the former chief of defense procurement for the MoD.
But since the government opened defense business to private companies in 2002, there has been steady progress toward self-reliance, especially in the past seven to eight years, according to the Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers, a local industry association.
Private companies that matured and grew by participating in developmental programs of indigenous systems and weapons have built successful track records in IDDM (Indigenously Designed and Developed and Manufactured) products, said SIDM chief Jayant Damodar Patil.
Patil, who is also the senior executive vice president for Larsen & Toubro’s defense unit, said private defense firms are also creating success stories in the indigenous production of complex systems in partnership with foreign original equipment manufacturers.
Kalyani said the private sector adapts itself better to rapidly changing technology, and that with continued government support, India will realize its dream of becoming self-reliant and a competent exporter of defense and aerospace products.
“It will take some time, but we will surely be there as a net exporter of defense in the next 10 years,” Kalyani predicted.
India plans to spend about $150bn on defense modernization to accomplish a target of 70 percent self-reliance in armament production by 2027. Additionally, the MoD has set out a domestic defense production target of $25 bn by 2025, including $5bn of defense exports.
The ministry also reserved $10bn from the capital procurement budget for the purchase of weapons and platforms solely from domestic companies. This effort falls under the current 2021-2022 defense budget. Last year, the ministry spent $7.28bn on the purchase of weapons from domestic companies, out of which nearly 80 percent of the contracts were given to public sector enterprises.
The Indian defense industry is currently made up of nine public sector enterprises and 41 government-controlled ordnance factories; the private sector is made up of two dozen large firms, more than 100 medium-size companies, and about 6,000 small and micro enterprises. However, average annual domestic defense production amounts to $10bn in business. Out of this, about $4.5bn is spent on sourcing defense technologies from overseas in the form of subassemblies and subsystems.
Essentially, the private sector finds itself relegated to the role of subcontractor to the public sector — a mind set that must change before India can realize a self-sustainable defense and aerospace manufacturing industry, said Rajiv Chib, CEO of Insighteon Consulting.
Patil added that the MoD needs to create a level playing field, partly by funding private sector research and development programs.
For Rae, the former ministry official, the government should create the position of an acquisition czar, with a similar mandate and authority to that of the undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment at the U.S. Defense Department. This would improve the coordination and management of all aspects of defense acquisition, he added.
Chib noted that India’s heavy use of government-managed laboratories for defense and its preference for public sector manufacturing are based on an old Soviet model — something it must discard if it’s to keep with with the large Western defense firms. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
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