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US Employs Cyber Attacks Too

A number of foreign countries have been implicated in conducting cyber attacks in the past few years, including China and Russia (though it is unclear if it is government entities or individuals).

In a recent article in The National Journal, Shane Harris reports the United States has also conducted offensive cyber attacks against insurgents in Iraq.

According to Harris, in 2007 the Bush administration authorized the National Security Agency to conduct a cyber attack against computers and cellphones being used by Iraqi insurgents to conduct improvised explosive device attacks. The insurgents would use the technology to coordinate attacks and attract followers. Several officials interviewed by Harris claimed the attack did more to turn the tide of counterinsurgency operations in Iraq than the massive surge in troops.

The issue does raise some interesting questions as the Obama administration looks to a possible troop surge in Afghanistan. Cyber attacks, as a general rule, cannot kill insurgents directly. However, according to Harris’ article, NSA was able to set up traps and provide false information to insurgents.

While the insurgents fighting in Afghanistan are perhaps slightly less networked (and given Afghanistan’s long history of skilled fighters), perhaps the Obama administration should consider a greater role for cyber war in defeating insurgents in Afghanistan as it discusses implementing a sound counterinsurgency strategy.

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