The Intelligence Brief



Response to AUKUS

The Chinese wasted no time in laying out the implications of the AUKUS partnership announcement.

The Chinese quasi-official daily Global Times railed against the announcement, and closed with a pointed warning to Australian political leadership that it considers support of Taiwan an existential red line.

“Once the Australian army fights the People’s Liberation Army in the Taiwan Straits or the South China Sea, military targets in Australia will inevitably become targets of Chinese missiles. Since Australia has become an anti-China spearhead, the country should prepare for the worst.”

Hong Kong

The purge of non-loyalists in the Hong Kong government continues.

Another 129 members of the government who refused to swear oaths of loyalty have departed via “termination of employment, retirement orders, resignation or dismissal for disciplinary offenses. The others are expected to leave soon,” per the Global Times


The consolidation of power under Emperor Xi continues.


Reports of atrocities against civilians by all parties continue to trickle out of the Tigray region, with refugees reportedly suffering reprisal attacks.


The conflict is becoming entrenched, with a widening humanitarian crisis on the horizon. A broader destabilization of Ethiopia would have ripple effects into neighboring Sudan, Eritrea, and the broader East African region.


West African leaders met to discuss responses to Guinea’s recent coup.


After a lull, coups and broader instability across Africa are on the rise. More unrest is likely, and will create seams for terrorists and traffickers to exploit.


The US, UK and Australia have announced a new tri-lateral security partnership, AUKUS. (BBC)

The broad agreement encompasses a variety of areas, including sharing of information and technology around intelligence and quantum technology, as well as the acquisition of cruise missiles. Most important is the decision to support domestic construction of at least 8 nuclear powered attack submarines, using U.S. and UK technologies.


Paramount in the announcement is the decision by the U.S. and the UK to export strategic nuclear weapons technology to a non-nuclear power.

It seems likely this will provoke a strong Chinese response, but more interesting will be the impacts on non-nuclear powers involved in tensions with neighbors, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. has authorized a new norm.

Special Comment

Periods of analytical absence are common in any form of structured analysis.

Developing a prioritized list of areas to review first, if an analysis process has not been maintained, is a good first step to “catching up.”

A well-maintained, frequently updated list of Critical Intelligence Requirements (CIR)s is paramount to beginning this process.

As we begin production, we will evaluate current status and compare to our most recent judgements of the following areas, and expand from there.


Panjshir Valley

  • Review fighting data and understand Taliban scope of control.
  • What is the status of the remnants of the former Northern Alliance that had retreated to the Panjshir Valley?
  • Has the Taliban established civil and social services?
  • What is the response of the population to imposition of stricter measures of control?



  • What is the status of the fighting, and in particular the ability of the government and neighboring states of the fighting areas to sustain a high-tempo conflict presence.

United States

United States

  • What statements if any, or planned protests, exist by far right or far left groups?
  • What are the economic indicators, in particular for inflation, showing about any potential for a rapid economic disruption



  • Recent media reports indicates sustained national mobilization – is it to war or party control, or both?

El Salvador

El Salvador

  • What have been the results of the acceptance of bitcoin as legal tender



  • Has the return of the Taliban resulted in any ripple effects to the stability of the disputed areas?

Global Monitoring

  • Are any recent global trends appearing across our instability indicators list?
  • Is the perceived increase in dramatic climate events backed up by data, and if so, what is the actual scope and economic impact? Should holdings be adjusted?
  • What is the state of commodities and assets globally? What are the key shortages?
  • Have any military strategies or budgets been announced that indicate a strategic shift or pivot?

# 2021-07-19 Intelligence Brief


Ethiopian Map

Ethopia is on the verge of all-out civil war and risks outright genocide.

Special Comment:

The Ethiopian government forces have been in active conflict with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) since November of 2020. The TPLF runs the Tigray government, and like the rest of Ethiopia’s nine states, maintains its own militia arm.

The Intelligence Brief operates using a series of indicator templates as a guide to analysis. We use indicators to monitor for instability, as well as larger conflict.

Our indicators for both heightened instability and major conflict have been triggered. Ethiopia’s long, complex history of conflict has been exacerbated by the economic crisis of Covid-19, and a years-long drought. Estimates vary, but as many as 12.9 million people face high levels of acute food insecurity.

During this reporting period, Reuters has continued to report on the mobilization of at least three other state’s militias in support of the Ethiopian government forces. Centrally managed militaries have between a 2-4 week mobilization cycle, and if this cycle began two weeks ago, its possible that in the next week additional conflict may begin. Additionally, multiple statements have been issued focusing on controlling media coverage of the conflict, and unverified translations of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed statement indicate a shift in focus to targeting the whole region vs just militants.

The Intelligence Brief has not yet verified the translations of the statement. However, active mobilization of reserve forces is a hallmark of a large military assault.

Instability is centripetal in nature, and almost always begins on the periphery, going through a three phase cycle: under reaction, over reaction, concession.

Under-reaction to the conflict is complete in the cycle. The over-reaction is about to begin.


Two Iranian warships have entered the English Channel, with ship watchers and tanker trackers alike having a field day with regards to their intended destination, posited by USNI news to be heading towards a July 25th naval parade in the Baltic Sea.

Two Part Comment:

  • The Iranian maritime forces as a whole have continued to expand their international reach over the last decade. Embarrassing setbacks aside, the IRINS Sahand and former oil-tanker-turned warship IRINS Makran mark a step forward for the more professional element of Iran’s Navy, the IRIN, and mark’s their ability to successfully sustain an out of normal operating area deployment.
  • USNI commented on the protected status of Makran as a transport. It begs the question as to the level of coordination between Iranian and Russian Naval Forces, and the eyebrow-raising with regards to the payload of Makran, besides support supplies, is warranted. Naval watchers would do well to continue to monitor offloads and transfers.


South Africa

Map of South Africa

In a Friday night speech, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that “This attempted insurrection has failed…” and that “It is clear now that the events of the last week were nothing but a deliberate, well planned and coordinated attack on our democracy”

This announcement comes on the heels of an announced deployment of 25,000 thousand South African military members. This equates to 1/3 of the active forces of South Africa, and per the BBC marks the largest troop deployment since the end of Apartheid.

Comment: In our Instability Model, instability works its way from the periphery inwards, and government response effectiveness is a gauge of what may happen next. In the near term, the situation appears to have stabilized, but the underlying causes of instability (an aggressive network of former President Zuma supporters, and economic fragility already exacerbated by years of mismanagement and compounded by the impacts of Covid-19) have not been solved. Large-scale military deployments are not sustainable long term, and the underlying conditions will cause further unrest.


A pause in fighting appears to be little more than a preparation for the next round of conflict, as the warring factions reinforce and prepare for the next phase of the conflict, which risks exacerbating existing challenges, as well as spilling over into neighboring Sudan.