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The war for mineral possession started in Afghanistan

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It is estimated that about three trillion dollars worth of mineral resources have been extracted from Afghanistan’s soil.  Taken from a coal mine in Samanjan Province.

 All the mentors in the world are now interested in working with the Taliban.  But why?  There are probably multiple reasons for this.  One of the big reasons is the country’s minerals.  The reason for NATO’s incursion into Afghanistan 20 years ago was called “suppression of terrorism”.  But US policymakers have also speculated that Afghanistan’s mineral wealth could be seized by defeating the Taliban.  The war on the ground did not give them that opportunity.  In the new reality, the United States is keen to do that with the Taliban.  China and Russia have similar desires.  Turkey is coming anew.

 Three trillion dollars worth of minerals

 It is estimated that the country’s nearly three trillion dollars worth of assets have been extracted underground.  With all this business, the country can easily earn billions of dollars a year.

 In addition to gold and nickel, Afghanistan has many valuable minerals, including lithium and copper.  There are many rare soil elements including scandium, uterium, which are used in making mobile phones, TVs, fiber optics nowadays.

 After entering Afghanistan, NATO experts intercepted Russian investigative reports on the country’s mineral resources in the 1980s and 1980s.  Together with that, the Pentagon’s high-tech search led to the discovery of huge stockpiles of lithium in Ghazni.

 Lithium is mainly used in various military devices from small computer batteries.  It is also important for the impending revolution of electric vehicles.  It is now a strategic mineral around the world.  The BBC also called Afghanistan a “future Saudi Arabia” because of lithium.  Bolivian politics is in deep trouble over similar large lithium reserves.  There, ousted Evo Morales demanded the establishment of control over lithium for US alcohol in the coup against him.  Afghan reserves of lithium are almost equal to Bolivia.  Control of Ghazni in the coming days is therefore very important for many.

 As US aid dwindles, Afghans will need Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran.  These countries are now working to build a “win-win” relationship with the Taliban.

 Apart from lithium, copper and other minerals in Afghanistan, opium is also traded as a grade-4 quality heroin component.  The production of technology-based methamphetamine-based drugs is also increasing in the country now.  All the recent reports in this regard say that the size of the country’s drug economy is now larger than it was 20 years ago.  In the future, the outside forces will have to decide with the Taliban on these issues as well.  Many unseen powers, Iran and Pakistan, the two gateways to Afghan narcotics, will be at the forefront of these agreements.  Afghan drug producers are moving to a new route to Pakistan as the currency depreciates against the Iranian currency.  At the same time, it may increase the spread of drugs among Pakistanis.

 The CIA’s role in financing Afghan guerrillas during the anti-Soviet war to market heroin to locals along the Pak-Afghan border is a testament to the size of that management during the Taliban’s rule.

 Good day in the mining industry

 As soon as he sat down to write about the minerals of Afghanistan, the words of the tyrant Khalilzad came to mind.  He is the one who signed the US peace agreement with the Taliban.  The U.S. diplomat has long been associated with the oil company Unique.  He has been a citizen of the United States since 1984.

 Being of Pashtun descent, he has been in contact with the Taliban for about 25 years.  He took his ministers to the Unique office in Texas before the Taliban ousted him in 2001.  The Taliban government did not yet have diplomatic relations with the United States.  Khalilzad was primarily responsible for the construction of the 620-mile Pakistan-Turkmenistan gas pipeline (known as the ‘Saint-Gas’ project) over Afghanistan, originally on behalf of Uniqlo.  At the time, the Taliban agreed to pay থেকে 50 million to 100 million a year.  The project did not move forward in the midst of the ensuing war.  Neither the United States nor the Taliban have lost faith in Khalilzad.  In 2010, he became a member of the board of RK, another UAE-based oil company.  He was a board member of DNO, a Norwegian company working in the same field.  DNO was hired in 2004 in the Kurdish region of Iraq.  Khalilzad was also the US ambassador to Iraq in 2005-06.  War, aggression and the fuel business have always stuck with his resume.  If the current “peace deal” succeeds, he could be seen in a more important role in Afghanistan.  Or his son.

 Alexander Benard, Khalilzad’s son, is a consultant for miners in Central Asia at the behest of his father.  Benard is now the MD of Griffon Partner, a company founded by his father.  The upcoming Afghanistan is a great opportunity for mining corporates.  Benard’s appreciation may increase at this time.  At the same time, the country’s air, water and land pollution will also increase at this time.

 Copper reserves will make the Taliban an ally of China

 As US aid dwindles, Afghans will need Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran.  These countries are now working to build a “win-win” relationship with the Taliban.

 In the third world, China is more skilled in how to take big projects by the hands of the heads of state.  Despite NATO’s 20-year rule in Afghanistan, Messrs. Yank’s largest copper reserve, China’s state-owned company MCC (Metallurgical Corporation of China), was able to lease in a ৩ 3 billion deal in 2016.  It was reported at the time that the MCC had paid ৩০ 30 million to Minerals Minister Mohammad Ibrahim Adel in the deal.  The transaction was completed in Dubai.  Ibrahim Adel was fired after the incident became known.

 Corruption does not stop there.  Incumbent President Ashraf Ghani has also been accused of bribing a US company called SOS International to gain control of mineral resources in Kunar province.

 The mineral sector is a major contributor to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, which sank Afghanistan to 175/170 last year.  In the midst of the last 20 years of war, the Taliban have also raised an average of আ 2.5 million to স্থানীয় 10 million a year locally from various mining operations.  Thus, most of the work in the mining sector has been done by the corporates with the money of government bureaucrats and local armed guerrillas.

 The much-talked-about Mess Aank mine in Logar province, 25 miles south of Kabul, is estimated to have about 80 million metric tons of copper.  Despite the hasty lease, China has not been able to start extraction in time.  The security situation was not conducive.  Apart from the huge population that will lose their homes in the mining area, no alternative has yet been developed to rehabilitate them.  However, China will not lose this reserve in any way.  Half of the global copper demand is now theirs.  It is not uncommon for the Taliban to become friends with China.

 The country’s Hajizak mine is another area of ​​interest for many countries, as is China’s interest in Mess Yank’s copper deposits.  There are huge deposits of iron ore here.  The area lies in Bamiyan, 130 kilometers west of Kabul.  There are 2.2 billion tons of iron ore here.  In 2011, several Indian companies allocated 10 billion to the sector.  Like China, they could not work.  Maybe not anymore.

 The Taliban will not get much for their livelihood except for mineral resources and tourism.  International powers are eager to take advantage of this weakness in Afghanistan.  The Taliban need to invest in human resource development and infrastructure.  And investors will be interested in getting cheap minerals.

 China is repeatedly tempted to invest in railways in Afghanistan as soon as Mess Jank’s copper is removed.  Pakistan and Russia also have some favorite economic projects in Afghanistan.  They are also involved in the tug of war with the Taliban!

 48 percent of Afghans are poor, resources must be used

 Although rich in mineral resources, Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world.  In this country of about 45 million people, 47 percent of the population is still below the poverty line, earning less than ৯ 1.9 a day.  There are 3 million Afghan refugees in neighboring countries.  When the war is over, they will return to the devastated villages.  The country is well ahead in terms of birth rate and unemployment.  The future Afghanistan needs to provide food, shelter and jobs for all such people.  This country, which is four times larger in size, is now nothing more than a war-torn country.  Some of what is meant by infrastructure has not been spared.  In addition, 80-90 percent of the citizens are deprived of education.  The majority of young people are not trained in anything other than running a gun.  A psychological revolution is needed to pull a population from gun culture to paper and pen culture.  We need resources for this work.

 Kabul is not the center of gravity in the new war

 The Taliban will not get much for their livelihood except for mineral resources and tourism.  International powers are eager to take advantage of this weakness in Afghanistan.  The Taliban need to invest in human resource development and infrastructure.  And investors will be interested in getting cheap minerals.  In extreme corrupt ways, if necessary.  Talks on the ‘St.-Gas’ project may also begin soon.  The next challenge for the Taliban leadership is to coordinate this two-pronged approach.  In particular, regional tribal leaders need to come to terms with their own armed forces and the Taliban’s local mineral economy.

 Conflict in some districts of the country as soon as the US troops take the initiative to return home is a major reason for the imminent onset of the upcoming mineral-occupation-war.  From previous experience, the Taliban knows that the next war will not be about Kabul alone.  Mineral rich districts will be its center of gravity.

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Rise of deep-fakes to spread misinformation for Ukraine – Russia crisis, possible spillovers, and impact

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Volodymyr Zelensky appeared in a video during the third week of the Ukraine crisis earlier this year, wearing a dark green shirt and speaking slowly and deliberately while standing behind a white presidential podium bearing his country’s coat of arms. The Ukrainian president’s body barely moved as he spoke, with the exception of his head. As he appeared to exhort Ukrainians to surrender to Russia, his voice sounded warped and almost gravelly.

In the tape, which was instantly detected as a deep-fake, he appeared to say, in Ukrainian, “I ask you to lay down your weapons and go back to your families,” “This war is not worth dying for. I suggest you to keep on living, and I am going to do the same.” This is the acme of how deep-fakes can be used in such a distressed situation to alter the psychology of the survivors of any particular crisis.

Officials from U.S. intelligence agencies are monitoring various audio and video that have surfaced since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis for alteration that could lead to misinformation.

Before discussing and delving further, let us first understand what exactly is deep-fakes?

Deep-fakes – Deep-fakes are fake media in which a person’s likeness in an existing image or video is replaced with someone else’s. While the act of generating false information is not new, deepfakes use advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms to edit or generate visual and audio content that can fool more easily. Deep-fakes were, initially, developed for various ethical purposes like for marketing purposes. Marketers who use deep-fakes may save money on video advertising costs because they do not require an in-person performer. Rather than hiring actors in person, a marketer may obtain permission to utilise an actor’s character. You can then use previous digital recordings of the actor to create a new video by inserting pertinent phrases from the actor’s script.

However, a new use of deep-fakes has emerged in recent years, which is to affect the political dynamic of the country or, more recently, to mobilise the people for or against by fabricating and generating fake films of world leaders delivering false messages and speeches, the quintessential example of which would be the case we mentioned at the start of the paper. Surprisingly, this is not the first time that the threat of deep-fakes has been so serious; even during the 2020 US Presidential elections, FBI officials warned about the use of deep-fakes to influence election outcomes. But, thankfully, deep-fakes were not employed as extensively, either due to restricted technological development in this technology or perhaps due to the government’s vigorous attempts to combat this problem. But this time the stakes are way too high in the Ukraine crisis as the outcome of this particular crisis will decide the fate of global politics for many years to come. According to The Guardian, a Russian propaganda campaign named ‘Ukraine Today’ is promoting bogus news about the war by utilising fake profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And we are all aware of the lack of authentication that these social media sites have in place to authenticate the news and profiles of their users, i.e. it does not exist. Anyone can make an account on these sites and upload any sort of information on it without any proper verification. That is why the lack of potent authentication measures by these sites combined with this new technology of deep-fakes can be catastrophic to the stage of world politics.

Ukraine Crisis – Thousands of people were exposed to fake footage of unrelated explosions within hours of Russia’s intervention. Several people promptly published video of explosions in Tianjin, China, and Beirut, Lebanon, purporting to show Russian bombers bombing “Ukrainian HQ.” The videos were extensively shared on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and others, with the exceptional — but unrelated — footage attracting people’s attention. Simultaneously, other social media users began spreading fabricated folk tales about valiant Ukrainian deeds. The most well-known of these concerns is the “Ghost of Kyiv” fighter ace, who is said to have shot down six Russian planes within hours of the invasion’s start. An ancient video game or military practice tape was posted in response to the rumour, and it received millions of views. Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko backed the idea until May, when the country’s military revealed that the “Ghost of Kyiv” was a “superhero mythology.” While inspiring stories of bravery may give residents hope during a battle, experts warn that obsessive disinformation can be detrimental and present an erroneous view of the conflict.

The Kremlin’s initial claim that the invasion of Ukraine is a “special military operation” to “denazify” and “demilitarise” a “Neo-Nazi state” has been echoed repeatedly by pro-Russian users. Many people have dismissed allegations of Russian war crimes, calling the conflict a “hoax.” A news reporter was seen in one widely circulated video standing in front of lines of corpse bags, one of which was moving. The film, however, does not depict fabricated Ukrainian battle fatalities, but rather a climate change protest in Vienna in February, three weeks before the invasion began. Other instances of Ukraine conflict deception have centred on “crisis actors,” or individuals allegedly hired to play terrified or dead combat victims. On March 9, a well-known beauty blogger “pretended” to be the pregnant victim of a horrific attack on a maternity hospital in Mariupol, according to one false report.

As the first missiles were launched against Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared on social media that he would not abandon the country. His presence in Ukraine’s capital, as well as his nightly video remarks, put an end to any speculation that he had fled. Some claimed that the Ukrainian president was in exile and appeared in Kyiv through a green screen or film studio. Many of the photographs showed Zelenskyy constructing holograms for various digital technology conferences across Europe, and as the war progressed, he became a more regular target for Russian propaganda.

Geo-Political Angle – False remarks regarding the Ukraine conflict have spread to neighbouring countries, as well as the NATO military alliance. As the fighting continued into May, social media users mistakenly stated that European Union member countries were preparing to join the fight. With a digitally generated BBC News logo, one video stated that Poland’s military commander had issued an order putting army troops on “maximum alert.” The BBC subsequently claimed that no such item existed and that their brand had been used to create a bogus film. Polish officials have also accused Moscow of carrying out cyber-attacks against the country. Another false film stated that Finland was ready to send hundreds of tanks to its eastern border with Russia, in order to increase tensions. A freight train was shown in the film hauling equipment to western Finland for annual military training. This shows how the effects of deep fakes can spill over to other countries as well.

Effects of Deep-fakes on Business – The effects of deep-fakes also includes the damages it can do on a business. Assume a video is published in which a CEO of a corporation expresses (allegedly) opposing views on crucial issues. This can quickly lead to a reduction in the value of a company’s stock. Even if your public relations department answers quickly and denies the veracity of the video, stakeholders are not required to believe it. By the time evidence of this is available, significant damage to your company’s reputation may have already occurred. After all, studies show that the majority of reputational damage occurs within the first 24 hours of an occurrence. Deepfakes pose a similar reputational risk to business fraud, but with far more ramifications. If a well-made fake spreads online, it is difficult to invalidate credibility and a reputation disaster.

In political context imagine if a deep-fake of POTUS got circulated in which the POTUS is supporting the Russia in this Ukraine crisis, the effects of this would change the whole dynamic of the world politics for a moment, at least till an official statement is released regarding the video being fake but till then a lot of damage would have happened. The Ukraine would lose every last bit of hope, the western countries would start questioning the credibility of the United States etc. Now we all know this example is far too extreme, but this was just to show how catastrophic this technology can be.

Conclusion – All of this clearly shows that deep-fake is a very poor step in technological growth. Its shortcomings vastly exceed its advantages. The latest example of its shortcomings is clearly visible in the Ukraine Crisis. The Ukraine crisis has fostered a plethora of kinds of deception, ranging from images taken out of context to digitally edited movies that use artificial technology to spread lies.

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Russia points to evidence exposing Kiev’s intentions to use biological weapons

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Documents uncovered in the special military operation in Ukraine corroborate the evidence exposing the Kiev regime’s intentions to use biological weapons, Head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Research Center for Chemical and Biological Threats Dmitry Poklonsky said in the run-up to the Ninth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention. “In some cases, the study focused on infectious disease agents that had never been registered on Ukrainian soil,” he said – informs TASS.

“We have obtained reports of investigations into a collection of microorganisms that indicate the accumulation of pathogens in unsubstantiated amounts. There are documents confirming the intentions to acquire unmanned delivery vehicles that could be used for employing biological weapons. Considering the non-transparent nature of this work and the absence of any substantiated responses from the United States and Ukraine, we, of course, regard the documents obtained as proof that Article 1.4 of the Convention was violated,” the defense official said.

The documents obtained in the special military operation in Ukraine, including reports by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency of the US Department of Defense, corroborate that the nature of work carried out there frequently ran counter to pressing healthcare problems, he stressed.

“In some cases, the study focused on infectious disease agents that had never been registered on Ukrainian soil,” Poklonsky pointed out.

Neither Washington nor Kiev deny the fact of the existence of biological labs in Ukraine bankrolled by the Pentagon, he pointed out.

“It was confirmed by the 2005 agreement between the US Department of Defense and the Ukrainian Health Ministry. Far more questions arise from the nature of the studies being carried out in these biological laboratories and how this work complies with the Convention’s requirements,” the chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Chemical and Biological Threats said.

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Psychological Warfare (PSYOPS)- The Pandora’s Box of Security Issues

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The world, functioning in its numerous forms and dimensions, is primarily perceived and misperceived by individuals through the faculty of the human Mind. A factor that creates a significant difference vis-a-vis human beings and other species is the complex cognitive ability possessed by humans. The mind is fundamentally an expression of thoughts circulated and imbibed through various means of communication. Deconstructing it further, thoughts portray the information consumed by an individual. In other words, this complex combination of the human mind, thoughts, and information shapes and reshapes our psychology.

Psychological war, in this context, can be perceived as a strategically orchestrated arrangement of information derived from variables like history, polity, religion, culture, literature, and philosophy broadly to channel propaganda with the prime objective of influencing and manipulating the behavior of the enemy to further one own interest. The term Psychological war is believed to be coined by a British Historian and military analyst, J.F.C Fuller, in 1920. One can observe that psychological war as an instrument of strategic importance is not of recent origin. Instead, the evolution of this tactic can be traced long back in history since the emergence of the State. It is considered one of the fundamental tools of statecraft and quite often has been put into the application as an instrument of state policy. Drawing a logical parallel, it can be advocated that psychological war has a close resemblance with the ancient notion of the allegory of the cave when applied in the present context.

Relevance of Psychological War

Napoleon Bonaparte once said “There are two powers in the world, the sword and the mind. In the long run, the sword is always beaten by the mind.”  With the gradual progress of human intelligentsia, the world is and will be shaped and reshaped through the use of technology. The hyperconnected nature of a modern globalized world broadly portrays the image of a collective human consciousness deeply engrossed in the overwhelming nature of technology that reverberates with every emerging aspect of human life. When viewed from the prism of the State as a governing body in the international forum, technology will be the emerging axis of geopolitics since no state and its citizen can exist in silos devoid of the influence of other states. This is primarily due to the free flow of data. In this context, due to the free flow of data, the power of propaganda as a significant dimension of psychological war would prove to be an effective instrument used by the State to further its national interest.

In this contextual framework, the role of conscious manufacturing of narratives under the larger ambit of the idea of psychological war must be given due consideration. In his famous book,The Ultimate Goal: A Former R&AW Chief Deconstructs  How Nations and Intelligence Agency Construct Narratives, Vikram Sood unfolds the idea of how narratives are created, propagated, sustained, and refined in domestic countries and abroad to further the national interest. He emphasizes not only the power of information but also the power of disinformation to de-track and mislead the collective consciousness of the nation. Therefore, it is of critical significance for a nation to enhance its understanding of psychological war, considering it a major security issue.

The cost and the expense of war are also major concerns for the State. In this regard, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval establishes the viewpoint that wars are gradually becoming ineffective in achieving political and military objectives and that they are also highly expensive and are gradually becoming unaffordable. He further puts forward the idea of the 4th generation warfare where the operational target of the objective would be civil society. A fair understanding of the 4th generation warfare is of critical importance due to the fact that the modus operandi to target civil society would primarily be through the perpetual use of psychological war. The cost of psychological war, when compared with other forms of war, is abysmally low and also highly effective in manipulating the behaviour of the State. The cost-effectiveness helps it be more sustainable, which can be continued for an extended period of time.

Materialisation of Psychological War

China

Psychological war is applied by many States as an instrument of state policy. China, in this regard, can be considered a prominent player that has materialized this idea. In the strategic book on statecraft, The Art Of War, Sun Tzu states that “All warfare is based on deception.” China has consciously tried to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of psychological war. The Dhoklam issue in 2017 substantiates how the Chinese government used psychological war as an instrument of state policy to further its national interest.

Pakistan

The hostile approach of Pakistan towards India is not of recent origin. Instead, it is a phenomenon that can be traced back in history during the early germination of the idea of Pakistan when the Muslin League was formed in 1906. After the materialization of this idea by a painful partition of India in 1947, Kashmir became the bone of contention right after Pakistan’s inception as a nation-state. Pakistan, over the years, has become cognizant of the conventional asymmetry between the two nations. Therefore, it has operationalized the path of psychological war in the Kashmir region with a more pinpointed approach of using Twitter as an operational instrument to create misperceptions at a low cost to achieve its objectives.

Psychological War and the Indian Perspective

Taking a momentary glance at the historical evolution of India as a civilizational State, it can be rightly stated that understanding the nature of the mind has been a perpetual theme in the philosophical construct of India. The use of psychological war is not a new phenomenon. The references to it can be prominently found in Indian mythology. In this regard, the epic story of The Mahabharatha is a prominent example.

In one of the instances, Krishna applied this idea of psychological war by disclosing a fact to Karna, which hitherto was kept secret and hidden from him. Krishna, just before the war, unfolded the fact to Karna that he is the eldest son of Kunti, his father is the Sun God, and the Pandavas his brothers. This very fact and the timing of the disclosure of this fact put Karna in a deep psychological trauma that depletes his mental strength. It was at this moment that Krishna offered Karna to join the battle from the side of Pandavas. A similar instance of psychological war used by India was found during The Bangladesh liberation war.

In the context of psychological war, Arthashstra is also a relevant text. It mentions the art of Kutayuddha. In Sanskrit, the word Kuta implies the application of deception, the creation of misperception, and misleading the enemy state; Yudh means war. Kautilya is a staunch advocate of establishing a network of espionage to initiate intelligence and counterintelligence measures as a major security initiative for a state. Therefore, it can be rightly perceived that India has a history of psychological war, which it has implemented to maintain security and stability.

Conclusion

Taking an analogical perspective, if the mechanism of psychological war is like a gun, then information is the potential bullets that are fired from it to target the enemy. The flow of Information can be considered the most important factor that makes psychological war lethal, precise, and effective. Therefore, there exists an urgent need for the establishment of an ‘Information Operations Command’ to tackle the issue of psychological war that is rapidly maturing and enhancing in its nature and methodology, fusing with the 5th generation warfare. 

Another area of critical importance in this regard is the pressing need for a ‘National Security Doctrine.’ A national security doctrine is primarily a broad vision of a nation in the domain of its security from an inclusive perspective. Strong inter-agency coordination and refined analysis of security issues are needed.

Psychological war, as a rapidly evolving tool of statecraft in the security domain, acts as a linchpin vis-a-vis the 4th and 5th generation warfare where civil society and citizens are targeted with a perfect blend of technology and information. This makes it a war that doesn’t have a start or an end date. It is fought every minute, and progress can be achieved, even though at a minuscule level, but on a daily basis. Therefore, India as a major player in international politics with two hostile neighbors on its eastern and western border, must hold into perspective the scope, significance, and emerging dynamics of psychological war to keep herself abreast with other states at the international level on the security front.

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