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Artificial Intelligence (AI) And Countering Hybrid Warfare – OpEd


Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the use of advanced technology to create systems that are proficient enough to perform various tasks of complex nature requiring intelligence. According to a project document titled Countering Hybrid Warfare of Multi Capability Development Campaign (MCDC), hybrid warfare is the synchronized use of numerous power mechanisms tailored to specific susceptibilities across the full spectrum of social functions in order to achieve synergic effects.

Hybrid warfare is a blend of intelligence systems with advanced technologies and fanatic fighting styles irrespective of the state structures and compliance to the armed associated conflict laws. The term warfare refers to the adversarial, enduring, serious and hostile nature of the challenge. It also pronounces the ability of hybrid aggressors to create war-like effects and consequences through weaponizing non-military means. Hybrid warfare techniques are used in order to create such conditions to make future conventional aggression more effective. Major actors and factors of hybrid warfare include regular military forces, special forces, irregular forces, support of local unrest, information warfare and propaganda, economy warfare, cyber-attacks, and diplomacy. The advanced trends in power and modern technology advancements have caused rising trends in the use of hybrid warfare.

In order to comprehend the impact of AI on hybrid warfare, it is important to have a comprehensive understanding of AI development stages. In general, three tiers are usually involved in AI development including; Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI), Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) and Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI).  ANI refers to such level of machine intelligence that could be considered equal to that of human intelligence to perform specific tasks. In some instances, it may also exceed human intelligence to perform complex tasks. AGI includes machine intelligence which meets the full range of human intelligence in order to perform any kind of task. ASI refers to machine intelligence that exceeds human intelligence to perform any kind of complex task. Currently only Artificial Narrow Intelligence technologies are widely used and have substantial repercussions on hybrid warfare. 

Instantaneous developments in AI technologies provide groundbreaking capabilities to military and non-military domains. This will not only transform war hardware but will also impact human dimensions in warfare through direct and indirect means. The challenge for state organizations, intelligence agencies, think tanks, military and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) is to detect the hybrid threat well in time in order to introduce significant operational methodologies and make relevant strategies to neutralize it. The actions to be taken to counter hybrid warfare should be of specific nature and degree according to the type of attack or threat. It is important to focus on the following points in order to disrupt hybrid aggression;

  1. Set realistic goals to detect and deter hybrid aggression
  2. Identify appropriate thresholds – these may vary according to the counter action capacity and the type of aggression and vulnerability to get targeted. 
  3. Design and implement a relevant and focused strategy based on three components including; detection, deterrence and response. 

AI and advanced machine technologies play an imperative role in detection of possible hybrid threats. It is important to update warning intelligence through pattern recognition and anticipation. Traditional deterrence approaches are required to deter hybrid aggressors to pursue reliable measures through horizontal escalation – a process through which conflicts are intensified by geographical expansion with reasoning including economic, diplomatic, military and informational components, which are balanced between resilience and deterrence by denial.

It is important to respond to threats and attacks of hybrid aggressors through true implementation of appropriate measures and policies at any stage of hybrid threats cycle – which starts from identification of potential vulnerabilities and ends at resilience building in response to a hybrid attack. Development of AI technologies and institutional machinery through government and multinational institutions is crucial in implementation of these measures in countering hybrid threats and neutralizing hybrid warfare. 

*Miss Haleema Zia has done MS in Management Sciences from Riphah International University. She has 8 years of working experience with development sector and has also made efforts for countering terrorism. She is currently holding honorary position of Director Communications at Adal Foundation and is also working as an Independent Researcher in the fields of Management Sciences and Counter Terrorism. She can be accessed through [email protected]

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