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The threat landscape is wide and varied and includes the ousted Taliban and al Qaeda members in addition to warlords and drug-trafficking militia groups.

“You have rival political factions that are very tribal based, and the tribes here are a complex milieu ethnically and by clans and families,” the officer said. “You also have blood feuds that feed into some anti-government forces.”

Add to the mix the $4 billion yielded annually by the Afghan opium trade and the equivalent of South American drug cartels with armed forces who hold anti-government political views, and the situation becomes even more complex, the officer said.

U.S. and foreign embassies and Afghan government facilities in Kabul are highly fortified like “Fort Apache,” the officer said.

“The IED threat is real and growing, along with the occasional rocket,” the officer said.

The biggest challenge to stabilizing Afghanistan is developing institutions from the national level down to the local level, something that is likely to take 20 years.

“For perspective, imagine Afghanistan postured like Cambodia only a few years removed from the killing fields,” he said, referring to the post-Vietnam War massacres carried out by the Cambodian communist Khmer Rouge. “We are dealing with not even basic literacy across large swaths of the population.”

China missile defense

China appears to be secretly working on the development of strategic missile defenses, China military affairs specialist Richard Fisher states in a new book on China’s military modernization.

Mr. Fisher states in “China’s Military Modernization: Building for Regional and Global Reach,” out this week, that reports from China indicate that China continued work on an anti-ballistic-missile (ABM) system that was supposedly halted after development in the 1960s.

China’s anti-satellite missile, the SC-19, is likely part of the ABM system, and unlike the fixed interceptors used in the U.S. ABM system, the Chinese ABM will use mobile missiles like the SC-19, he states.

Chinese ABM programs are an indication that China’s diplomatic efforts to ban weapons in space are a “propaganda campaign intended to limit or delay defensive programs of others,” the book states.

Mr. Fisher, vice president of the International Assessment and Strategy Center, compiled more than a decade of interviews and Chinese data for the book, which has some provocative findings.

For example, Mr. Fisher estimates that China is moving toward an expanded nuclear force of 120 missiles that, with multiple warheads, could give China a force of up to 500 warheads. Other Chinese goals are space-warfare weapons, advanced combat jets, aircraft carriers and large amphibious forces, he wrote.

“What the current American leadership, both in the military and intelligence community, is not telling us is that China is on a track to become a global competitor with the U.S. in the 2020s,” Mr. Fisher said in an interview. “By that time, they will be well on their way to assembling all the elements of global power that we have today, and we need to prepare for this threat now.”

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