Security Brief

India Sparks Fresh Tensions in Kashmir

The Indian government wants to strip Kashmir of its autonomy.

Pakistani students chant slogans during an anti-Indian protest rally in Lahore on August 5, 2019, as they denounce the ongoing unrest situation in Indian administered Kashmir.
Pakistani students chant slogans during an anti-Indian protest rally in Lahore on August 5, 2019, as they denounce the ongoing unrest situation in Indian administered Kashmir.

What’s on tap: President Trump withdraws nominee to lead U.S. intelligence community; India plans to strip Kashmir of autonomy; a weekend of mass shootings in the United States revives domestic terrorism debate.


Modi Moves on Kashmir

Kashmir. The Indian government announced on Monday that it would strip the disputed region of Kashmir of its limited autonomy and seek to rule it more directly from New Delhi, a move that may provoke violence in a province that has historically served as a flashpoint for conflict between Indian and Pakistan.

In anticipation of the move, authorities in India-administered Kashmir placed local political leaders there under house arrest and deployed additional troops to the region. The Hindu reports public meetings and rallies have been banned, and all phone service has been cut.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it planned to revoke what is known as Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which grants Kashmir a measure of autonomy in its administration.

Nuclear armed India and Pakistan both claim the region and have fought two wars over it. The government of Pakistan immediately criticized the move on Monday.


Turmoil in the Intel Community 

Ratcliffe gone. President Donald Trump abruptly reversed course on Friday and said he no longer planned to nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe, the Texas Republican, as the next director of national intelligence.

Ratcliffe’s nomination had come under intense scrutiny because of his willingness to serve as a partisan attack dog for Trump, his lack of national-security experience, and revelations that he had significantly padded his resume to claim he had been involved in terror prosecutions and round-ups of undocumented immigrants.

Turmoil. The Trump White House is attempting to block Sue Gordon, the deputy director of national intelligence, from statutorily taking over on an acting basis from her boss, Dan Coats, when he leaves office on Aug. 15, the New York Times reports.

The White House has asked the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to provide a list of all personnel with a GS-15 salary grade, which are its most senior employees, which may be a precursor to the Whit House seeking a more politically pliable acting director than the highly-respected and professional Gordon

Whistleblower. Before Ratcliffe’s nomination was withdrawn, the White House received a complaint that the Texas Republican had retaliated against a whistleblower, the Daily Beast reports.


Domestic Terrorism 

Call it by its name. Mass shootings in Texas and Ohio are renewing calls to label the incidents as what they are: acts of domestic terrorism.

Authorities are describing the shooting in El Paso as an act of terrorism, but they won’t be able to apply federal terrorism laws to the incident. Federal statute draws a distinction between acts of international terrorism, and domestic violence. Unlike domestic attacks linked to foreign terror groups such as the Islamic State, prosecutors currently lack the ability to bring domestic terrorism charges, as the AP’s Eric Tucker explains.

In a statement Sunday, a bipartisan group of former National Security Council counterterrorism officials called on the federal government to devote a similar amount of resources to fighting domestic terrorism as was dedicated to international terrorism following the attacks of 9/11.

The online angle. Hours before the shooting in El Paso, which left 20 dead and 26 wounded, a man describing himself as the gunman posted a racist manifesto to the website 8chan, which has now been linked to multiple racially-motivated mass shootings. On Sunday, the site’s founder called for it to be shut down, and Cloudflare, one of its infrastructure providers, said it would suspend service to the site.

Conspiracy theorists. The danger isn’t lost on the FBI, which is warning of the growing threat posed by individuals who believe in fringe conspiracy theories often propagated by sites like 8chan, as Yahoo News reports.


What We’re Watching

Afghanistan withdrawal. The Trump administration is preparing to reduce its deployment of troops to Afghanistan from 14,000 to around 8,000 as part of an agreement with the Taliban to move peace talks forward, the Washington Post reports. But President Trump wants to go even further and has said he wants all American troops out by the 2020 election, according to NBC.

Policy incoherence. Before it decided to sanction Iranian Foreign Javad Zarif last week, the Trump administration extended an invitation to the Iranian envoy to meet with President Donald Trump. The invitation was conveyed by Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican who has been serving as an envoy on Trump’s behalf on the issue, the New Yorker reports.

The cloud wars. Newly minted Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said he will review the bidding process for a massive cloud computing process that the Pentagon is set to award to either Amazon or Google. The bidding process has caught the attention of President Donald Trump, who appears loath to award a $10 billion contract to a company owned by Jeff Bezos, whose ownership of the Washington Post has been a frequent topic of attack by Trump.

Hong Kong. A general strike in Hong Kong snarled the city’s public transportation system and resulted in hundreds of canceled flights at its airport as police and protesters once again clashed over demands that the island’s independence vis-a-vis Beijing be maintained.

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North Korean Missile Tests

Upping the ante. North Korea has carried out a slew of missile tests in recent weeks, including new multiple launch rocket systems, which give the regime yet another way to wreak havoc on population centers and military sites just south of the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea.

Another weapon recently tested is the KN-23, a short-range ballistic missile that appears to be modeled on the Russian Iskander, a highly advanced weapons designed to evade missile defenses, Elias Groll writes

Drills. South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said on Monday that his country’s armed forces had kicked off a military exercise with U.S. forces in the country, a scaled-down version of a far larger exercise that was canceled as part of the American diplomatic opening toward North Korea.

Trade war. Amid the escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula, American diplomats have tried and failed to stem a widening trade war between South Korea and Japan, the New York Times reports.


Technology & Cyber

Metadata. The Intercept examines how the U.S. government is mining data about online behavior and computer use in order to identify government employees leaking information to the media.

Capital One. The hacker who allegedly stole more than 100 million customer records from credit card giant Capital One appears to have been able to access the data through a misconfigured cloud computing system, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Huawei. Chinese tech giant Huawei is testing a smartphone that uses an operating system developed by the company, Reuters reports. That operating system would free some of the company’s phones from reliance on Google’s Android, access to which has been threatened by Trump administration restrictions on Huawei.


That’s it for today. To get this newsletter in your inbox, subscribe here or sign-up for our other newsletters. Send your tips, comments, questions, or typos to securitybrief@foreignpolicy.com.

Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @EliasGroll

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