26 March 2015

India and Pakistan: Between 'Disgust' and Dialogue

March 25, 2015

On March 23, 1940 that the Muslim League, then a nascent political party, passed a resolution to establish the state of Pakistan. Each year, on that same day, the diplomatic enclave in the heart of New Delhi ushers in Pakistan Day by turning into a veritable fortress, replete with police picket lines and bodyguards manning entry and exit points. Scores of media vans clog the avenues, and hundreds park their cars in the streets. It’s anything but a normal day.

This year, the media proved even more curious than usual, hoping to figure out whether India would send a representative to participate in the celebration of Pakistan’s founding.

That curiosity has a long history. Last August, India abruptly canceled secretary-level talks with Pakistan, angered over interactions between Pakistan’s envoy to India, Abdul Basit, and separatist leaders in Kashmir.

India's frugal Mars mission extended by six months

By Staff Writers
March 24, 2015

India's famously frugal Mars mission has been extended by around six months thanks to a surplus of fuel on board the spacecraft, the country's space agency said Tuesday.

The Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft had been scheduled to wrap up its mission this month after India in September became the first Asian nation to reach the Red Planet, all on a shoe-string budget.

But scientists said the unmanned spacecraft would remain in orbit to study the planet's atmosphere and its surface after burning less fuel than expected over the last six months.

"As the... Mars Orbiter has sufficient fuel to last longer than it was intended earlier, its mission has been extended for another six months," said Devi Prasad Karnik, director of the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation.

The Surprisingly Mundane Key to Afghan Stability: Roads

By Saagar Enjeti
March 25, 2015

Driving along Afghanistan’s roads is not like driving anywhere else in Asia. Traffic can stand still for hours, an engine can give out on ascent of a mountain in a remote village, and in wayward towns in Wardak Province, some drivers have found themselves engulfed in IED craters large enough to swallow an entire 18-wheeler.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Afghanistan’s roads are in astonishingly meager condition. The Washington Post recently observed that the government is unable to maintain most of the roads constructed since American troops entered the country in 2001.

Is the US War in Afghanistan Actually Over?

By Jack Detsch
March 25, 2015

America’s pullout from Afghanistan, after 14 long years of battling insurgents, isn’t proceeding as quickly as the White House had anticipated. In a reversal, U.S. military bases in Kandahar and Jalalabad, where some of the fiercest fighting in the country has taken place, are likely to stay in service through the end of 2015, and potentially well into next year.

The news comes with President Ashraf Ghani deep into a crucial visit in Washington. On Monday, Ghaniconferred with Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew at President Barack Obama’s retreat at Camp David. Carter promised to continue funding Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) into 2017. Ghani will speak with Obama at the White House on Tuesday before making an address to Congress Wednesday.

Obama Slows Afghan Withdrawal

MARCH 24, 2015

The administration is willing to nearly double the number of U.S. forces who will remain in Afghanistan this year, but promises they'll be out when the president leaves office.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has spent months publicly lobbying the White House to slow its planned withdrawal from Afghanistan. His efforts have paid off.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday, March 24, that he would slow the rate at which U.S. troops leave Afghanistan over the next two years, but will stick with his plan of having almost all of them out of the country by 2017.

Afghanistan and Pakistan: The False Promise of Rapprochement

MARCH 22, 2015 

KABUL, Afghanistan — Just weeks after becoming president of Afghanistan last September, Ashraf Ghani signaled a dramatic shift in the country’s regional diplomacy. He promptly visited Pakistan and its main allies Saudi Arabia and China, and then Pakistan’s army chief and head of intelligence visited Kabul. 

The Afghan government is hoping Pakistan will help facilitate dialogue with the leaders of the Afghan Taliban, whom Pakistan has long harbored and enabled. Pakistan, for its part, has asked Kabul’s assistance against the leaders of the militant group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (T.T.P.), the so-called Pakistani Taliban, whose leaders are said to be hiding in eastern Afghanistan. 

This rapprochement has generated much excitement, but all the hype does not measure well against reality. Despite signs of renewed cooperation, Afghanistan and Pakistan still have fundamentally different goals and approaches. While Mr. Ghani’s moves are bold and risky for Afghanistan, Pakistan’s response so far has been largely tactical and self-serving. 

Out of Afghanistan: US Needs to Rethink its Afghan Policy

March 24, 2015

The visit of the Afghan President and Chief Executive to Washington this week is crucial because it is likely to lay down the framework for future US engagement and involvement in Afghanistan. Reports in the US media suggest that Afghan leaders are going to urge the American President to stall the pull-out of US troops and rejig the withdrawal plan. For its part, the Obama administration has already made some adjustments in the draw-down schedule and has also allowed US troops to engage in combat operations against the Taliban if US interests are at stake or in danger. But whether or not the US will accede to the requests of the Afghan leadership and extend its military mission in Afghanistan beyond 2016 will depend on not just how much the Afghan leaders can convince the Americans about their future plans but also on domestic politics in the US. Moreover, global geopolitics and new hotspots in the Middle East could divert US attention and commitment away from Afghanistan.

There are three clear benefits of such a strategic rethink. First, the confusion caused and ambiguity created by efforts to woo the Taliban will end. Battle-lines, both military and ideological, will be clearly defined, which will help in not just firming the resolve of the anti-Taliban forces but also identifying the enemy. Second, the cost of supporting the Afghans from outside will be a fraction of the cost involved in maintaining troops and/or pumping money into countries like Pakistan to make them see the light of day. Once the aid and other concessions flowing into Pakistan cease, it will turn the screws on Pakistan more effectively. Finally, if Pakistan still continues along its desultory path, then it will have to pay not just its own tab but also pick up the tab for its allies in Afghanistan. At that stage, will China step in to write the cheque? Unlikely. And if it does, then it will be interesting to see how the China-Pakistan axis plays out, especially in light of China fast becoming a Dar-ul-Harb in the eyes of the jihadists.

America is Doubling Down on Afghanistan

March 24, 2015

The United States wants to keep Afghanistan’s security forces afloat at least through 2017. Why? Because Kabul can’t.

During a press conference at Camp David on March 23, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced Washington’s intention to double down on Afghanistan.

“Today we can announce that the Defense Department intends to seek funding for Afghan forces to sustain an end strength of 352,000 personnel through 2017,” Carter said.

Can China Get to 'Olympic Blue'?

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is in Beijing this week, evaluating the Chinese capital’s bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. If successful, Beijing would become the first city to host both the Summer and the Winter Olympics – and a mere 14 years apart, to boot.

Beijing is viewed by many as a heavy favorite to win the games. Its only rival in the bidding process, Almaty, Kazakhstan, has its own issues to sort through – including a question mark about the government’s capability to host a major global event.

China's Fragile Evolution

March 25, 2015

Last week, China's anti-corruption campaign took a significant turn, though a largely overlooked one. The Supreme People's Court released a statement accusing former Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, the highest-ranked official thus far implicated in China's ongoing anti-corruption campaign, of having "trampled the law, damaged unity within the Communist Party, and conducted non-organizational political activities." In Chinese bureaucratic speak, this was only a few steps shy of confirming earlier rumors that Zhou and his former political ally and one-time rising political star from Chongqing, Bo Xilai, had plotted a coup to pre-empt or repeal the political ascension of Chinese President and Party General Secretary Xi Jinping. Thus, the court's statement marks a radical departure from the hitherto depoliticized official language of the anti-corruption campaign.

China completes second test on new carrier rocket's power system

by Staff Writers
Mar 24, 2015

The second ground test of the power system of China's next-generation carrier rocket was completed Monday, ahead of its first flight in 2016.

Using non-toxic, non-polluting liquid propellant, the engines of Long March-5 were test-fired on the ground to test current technology, said Tan Yonghua, head of the Academy of Aerospace Propulsion Technology.

Long March-5 was first test-fired on Feb. 9 this year.

According to Xu Dazhe, head of the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, Long March-5 will increase China's ability to enter the space by at least 2.5 times, largely improving the country's carrier rocket.

Confirmed: Pakistan Is Building 'Battlefield Nukes' to Deter India

March 24, 2015 

As the world remains focused on preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, South Asia’s dangerous nuclear rivalry—between India and Pakistan—grows ever more deadly. General Khalid Kidwai, a top advisor to the Pakistani government, said this week that Pakistan needed short-range tactical nuclear weapons, also known as “battlefield nukes” to deter nuclear archrival India.

Kidwai said that “having tactical weapons would make war less likely,” at aconference on nuclear security organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. Kidwai administered Pakistan’s nuclear and missile weapons program for fifteen years.

Tawang - China's fixation

New Delhi, April 30 (ANI): "At 14,000 feet above the sea, the presence of a certain mystery can be felt, like having stepped into heaven..." is how a "In Search of Greener Pastures" - a touristy blog run by two enterprising Indians, describes Sela, the pass that eventually leads the traveller to the Tawang Monastery.

Sitting atop a 10,000 foot mountain, the Galden Namgey Lhatse Monastery (Celestial Paradise in a Clear Night) is exactly that - serene and sublime. According to another legend Tawang also means Chosen by Horse.

But there is a rude reality to this Shangri-La, the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama and coveted by China might be destroyed one day. This is how this might happen.

Two countries with the largest populations, two of the largest armies, armed with nuclear weapons and missiles and having two of the fastest growing economies in the world, face each other across an undemarcated border that extends 4,057 km across the Himalayas.
Burgeoning trade and tranquility on the border without a political settlement will prevent the full realisation of a relationship. This has something that has bedeviled the China-India relationship for the past 50 years.

Buddhism, China and Russia Unearthly powers

Mar 21st 2015

The Dalai Lama, who is nearly 80, has been denounced by Chinese officials and media for daring to suggest that he might not be reincarnated after his death. A European-based follower of the Tibetan leader, who knows him well, explains the position thus: "If there is no useful role for him to play spiritually, educationally, culturally, then there is no point in [his] coming back as the 15th Dalai Lama." Such statements have been dismissed as "nonsense" in China, where it is presumably hoped that a manageable successor to the exiled leader will emerge, on Chinese territory. 

The trouble, from the state's point of view, is that you can monitor and channel religions as much as you want, but you can never be sure which direction the current will flow. Religious traditions, if they are worth the name, can suddenly produce charismatic figures, mystical movements, prophets, seers, new incarnations and indeed all manner of things that no bureaucrat ever dreamed of. The state can respond to such phenomena but it cannot micro-manage them. Whatever happens after the end of the current Dalai Lama's life (or, as some would say, the end of the Dalai Lama's current life), that will surely be true of Tibetan Buddhism.

ISIS Threatens to Burn 21 Men Alive

BY Mat Wolf 

AKRE, Iraqi Kurdistan—The festival of light and hope is drawing to an end, and the horror that everyone here feared, and thought almost inevitable, has not yet happened. Most of the 21 Kurdish sons and brothers and fathers captured by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) earlier this year, seen in videos wearing the orange jumpsuits of the soon-to-be-slaughtered and shown in cages like those about to be burned alive—may yet be in the land of the living.

But ISIS is the cruelest of captors, knowing too well how to use hope to deepen anger and despair. Suspense is one of its weapons. And few of the people here have any illusions about that. So the Kurdish New Year celebration of light at the beginning of spring, Newroz, has gone on in the shadow of ISIS and the desperate but determined war to defeat it, even as the Kurds draw strength from its mythology of defiance and endurance to go on.

4 Iranian Weapons of War ISIS Should Fear

March 25, 2015

Iran is leading the fight against the Islamic State. Here's what it is using...

The rise of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria has turned up the heat on Iran and its allies. The Islamic State, a radical Sunni group, is a danger to Shia Iran and its allies, whom it hates and refers to derogatorily as rafida, or “rejecters” of Islam, a status that makes them fit to be slaughtered. The Islamic State makes no idle threats—the whole world witnessed what it tried to do to Iraq’s Yazidi minority, essentially attempting genocide. When the Islamic State captured Mosul, it publicized its execution of Shia there and threatened much worse.

Iran, therefore, knows very well the fate that could await it and its proxies should they fall to the Islamic State. Most dangerously, the 1,500-kilometer border between Iraq and Iran is not fully controlled by Iraqi forces, who are otherwise occupied.

Information Warfare: The Key to Destroying ISIS

March 25, 2015

Three crucial messages should guide America's fight against ISIS.

The worry mongering over ISIS can’t gloss over a telling fact: ISIS foes are defeating the terrorist group in major battles.

In Kobani, ISIS members died by the thousands. A coalition of Shia militias, Iraqi government forces and anti-ISIS Sunni tribesman are making progresstowards ejecting ISIS from Tikrit. What’s needed now is to capitalize on those defeats and complement kinetic action with a cohesive information war campaign driven by a powerful, credible narrative that demoralizes, divides, confuses, and frustrates ISIS members in order to blunt their effectiveness as fighters, and undermine their expectations, destroy their momentum, and quash any hope of victory in creating a sustainable Islamic State or caliphate.

Beware ISIS' Threat to Indonesia

March 24, 2015

A small explosion in a Jakarta shopping center late last month has Indonesian authorities concerned that local radicals may be adopting tactics from ISIS. The explosion in ITC Depok, a tech shopping center in the Greater Jakarta area, came from a poorly made device consisting of batteries, paint tins and wires inside a cardboard box. The homemade bomb, left unattended in a men's bathroom, appeared not to have detonated properly, and no one was hurt. But what has alarmed police and anti-terror forces is that the device contained a substance known to be used by ISIS: chlorine gas.

Indonesia's National Police, like terrorism expert Sidney Jones, see the use of chlorine gas in the failed attack as a warning that ISIS influence could pose a threat to Indonesia's security, especially with the possible return of ISIS supporters from the Middle East. Police say 514 Indonesian ISIS supporters are known to have left for Syria and Iraq, though this number could be outdated, since it has remained the cited figure since the end of last year. Other reports show a growing number of Indonesians attempting to join ISIS.

Invisible army: the story of a Russian soldier sent to fight in Ukraine

Elena Kostyuchenko for Novaya Gazeta
25 March 2015

Dorji Batomunkuev, military unit number 46108, is 20 years old and part of the Russian fifth tank brigade from Ulan-Ude, a city near the Mongolian border. He is a conscript and was called up 18 months ago. When we meet at the Central Regional hospital in Donetsk, his face and hands are burnt and bandaged, and his ears are singed and shrivelled. Beneath the dressings, he’s still bleeding.

He says he was injured in the eastern Ukraine town of Lohvynove on 9 February, at the mouth of the Debaltseve pocket, while fighting alongside the separatist militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic against Ukrainian forces.

Call North Korea Anything But This...

Contradicting the long-standing policies of both the South Korean government and the United States, Kim Moo-sung, chairman of South Korea’s ruling Saenuri Party, told a meeting of college students that North Korea could be recognized and treated as a “nuclear power.”

“Internationally, a country could be recognized as a nuclear power if it carries out two to three nuclear tests,” Kim told a group of students in Busan, South Korea.

North Korea, per its constitution, considers itself a nuclear state and regularly threatens to use nuclear weapons to strike back at any foreign aggressor, including South Korea and the United States.

Israel: The Stark Truth

Benjamin Netanyahu has won again. He will have no difficulty putting together a solid right-wing coalition. But the naked numbers may be deceptive. What really counts is the fact that the Israeli electorate is still dominated by hypernationalist, in some cases proto-fascist, figures. It is in no way inclined to make peace. It has given a clear mandate for policies that preclude any possibility of moving toward a settlement with the Palestinians and that will further deepen Israel’s colonial venture in the Palestinian territories, probably irreversibly.

Justice, generosity, and empathy are not foreign to the Jewish tradition, though at times they go underground. Perhaps hope lies in a vision of all the territory west of the Jordan River as somehow more than one state but less than two, under conditions of true equality. Already there are groups within what is left of the Israeli left that are thinking creatively, and practically, along these lines. One thing is certain. The demand to fully enfranchise the Palestinians now suffering under Israeli rule will eventually prove irresistible. What happens after that, no one can say.


March 25, 2015

Sunday’s elections gave the French extreme-right party Front National the highest percentage of votes it ever achieved in a local election. With 26 percent of the votes, the Front National confirms that it is in the ascendant and its leader, Marine le Pen, stands well-positioned as a strong contender in France’s presidential elections in 2017. Should this be of concern mostly to the French, or do the Front National’s current and, possibly, future successes have implications for France’s partners and allies in Europe and beyond?

Less than two weeks after the deadly attacks in Paris against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket, Marine le Pen, the leader of the Front National, enumerated in an op-ed in The New York Times a few of her party’s pet peeves: the Schengen Agreement that opened up borders within the European Union, French immigration policies, and her country’s “serious geopolitical incoherence” due to misguided foreign interventions and the influence of foreign countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia on French policy.

Cleaning Up Obama's Strategic Mess

March 25, 2015

America's next president needs a "gap" strategy.

Presidents come to office intent on championing a domestic agenda. Our next one will be no different. Sadly, the rest of the world won’t simmer contently on the back-burner. Friends and enemies will want to know where they stand with the new Oval Office. Some will test the mettle of a fledgling administration.

That can get ugly. For a new president, it makes more sense to come to D.C. with a plan that helps a president effectively act rather than react, both at home and abroad.

The United States is a global power with global interests. Tending to those interests requires constant attention. And often those foreign interests affect domestic affairs. Even if the White House wanted to divide stateside and overseas interests in separate gardens and tend them at the chief executive’s leisure, that approach wouldn’t work.

The weird way that ISIS is changing the way we talk about Russia

Mar 17, 2015

The ISIS narrative is starting to shift the Russia narrative, and that’s making it harder for Russia and the West to find common ground on Ukraine.

Something has perceptibly changed in the way Western media covers Russia – the forecasts of what’s happening within Russia are becoming more hysterical (just consider the media reaction to #WhereisPutin), the willingness to engage militarily is stronger, and thepropaganda war is intensifying in scale and scope. You could chalk all this up to the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, of course, but here’s another idea: ISIS is changing the way we talk about Russia.

National Security ‘Experts’ Are Bullshitting Us Into Another Quagmire Policy intellectuals put America at risk


Policy intellectuals — eggheads presuming to instruct the mere mortals who actually run for office — are a blight on the republic.
Like some invasive species, they infest present-day Washington, where their presence strangles common sense and has brought to the verge of extinction the simple ability to perceive reality.

A benign appearance — well-dressed types testifying before Congress, pontificating in print and on TV, or even filling key positions in the executive branch — belies a malign impact. They are like Asian carp let loose in the Great Lakes.

It all began innocently enough. Back in 1933, with the country in the throes of the Great Depression, Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt first imported a handful of eager academics to join the ranks of his New Deal. An unprecedented economic crisis required some fresh thinking, FDR believed.

Obama, Grand Strategy and Reinhold Niebuhr

By Daniel Clausen and Max Nurnus
March 24, 2015

The thinking of the American intellectual makes clear the virtues of the not-so-grand strategy. 

A common refrain from both pundits and foreign policy analysts has been to ask: Where has U.S. grand strategy gone? There has been no shortage of commentary arguing that the United States, and in particular the Obama administration, lacks a grand strategy, and that one is desperately needed if the U.S. is to restore its power and purpose. In various articles, critics have charged the administration with having no guiding design for its foreign policy, allowing power vacuums to form in various regions, and responding sluggishly to international turmoil. In the midst of these criticisms, the Obama administration has released a National Security Strategy that outlines what various commenters have labeled “Strategic Patience.” The document is available here and has been comprehensively analyzed by the Brookings Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations, and other observers.

Game On: How to Devise International Investment Law

March 25, 2015

The debate on Investor State Dispute Settlement is heating up.

In the ongoing, heated debate over Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), the issue of international investment law is often presented as a simple binary choice. Either you are for an international legal system of protection of foreign investment that includes direct complaints by investors against governments, and obligations such as “fair and equitable treatment”; or you are against such rules and would allow foreign investors to be subject to the whims of governments. Supporters believe such international rules are crucial to attract and protect foreign investment; critics allege that the rules will undermine domestic regulation. At first glance, the debate seems unresolvable.

The Demographic Timebomb Crippling Japan's Economy

March 25, 2015

Demographics will increasingly put Japan under intense pressure.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made headlines. Most credit him with bold policies to deal with Japan’s long-standing problems. This is misplaced. In truth, his policies are neither bold nor effective. Abe has concentrated almost exclusively on standard fiscal and monetary stimuli while utterly failing to cope with his country’s more fundamental issues – its intensifying demographic strains and its outdated economic arrangements. Until he addresses these matters substantively, Japan’s economic and investment prospects will remain constrained at best. 

However much the prime minister and his government choose it ignore it, demographics will increasingly put Japan under intense pressure. Years of improving health have created the longest lived people on earth, while years of remarkably low birth rates have slowed the flow of young people into the workforce.

U.S. Intelligence Community’s Capabilities Against Al Qaeda in Yemen Have Fallen Sharply in Recent Days

Gus Taylor
March 25, 2015

Yemen chaos leaves U.S. intel in the dark on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

Yemen’s descent into political chaos makes it the latest Mideast nation too dangerous for U.S. officials to operate in — a development intelligence sources say will dangerously limit America’s ability to track and target al Qaeda and other extremist terror movements in the region.

While some Obama administration critics see the military triumphs of Shiite Muslim Houthi rebels in Yemen as a victory by the region’s Shiite powerhouse, Iran, others say the more dangerous fallout will be the loss of real-time intelligence and on-the-ground assets following the withdrawal of U.S. special forces from a Yemeni air base that has long played a key role in the battle against Sunni extremist al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Recent Chinese Anti-Satellite Missile Test Sign of Growing Threat to U.S. Space Dominance

Bill Gertz
March 25, 2015

China Missile Test Highlights Space Weapons Threat

China’s recent test of a missile designed to shoot down satellites in low-earth orbit highlights a growing threat of space weapons, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command said on Tuesday.

Adm. Cecil D. Haney, head of the Omaha-based nuclear forces command, also voiced worries about the strategic nuclear forces buildup by Russia and China, and said as commander he must assume North Korea is correct in claiming to have miniaturized a nuclear warhead for its missile forces.

Haney also warned about the use of sophisticated cyber attacks by terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Why Scientology’s Cone of Silence Shattered

For most of its existence the Church of Scientology grew and prospered by protecting its secrets. But it’s been tough holding on to that model in the 21st century, a notoriously bad era for powerful institutions in the secret-keeping business. That point has been amply made in recent years by top church officialsturned whistleblowers, a high-profile book by Lawrence Wright of The New Yorker, and now a lacerating new HBO documentary based on Wright’s exposé. The new voices in the Scientology debate have both testified to the church’s efforts to silence its critics and, by speaking out, shown the limits of that approach. Their accounts seem to show the church losing its grip on the public narrative it once aggressively controlled.


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In the early decades of the Cold War, NATO made arrangements to bury what were known as atomic demolition munitions (in essence, nuclear mines) at key points in West Germany, to be detonated if Warsaw Pact forces ever invaded. Although this plan, if enacted, might have slowed the enemy advance, it also almost certainly would have turned vast West German territories into radioactive wastelands littered with corpses and smoldering buildings—the stuff of hellish alternative-
history scenarios. The West viewed such tactical nukes—NATO fielded 7,000 to 8,000 of these shorter-
range, smaller-yield weapons for most of the Cold War—as tripwires in anticipation of the Soviet Union’s own Strangelovian plans for its thousands of tactical weapons. That is to say, the forward positioning of these nukes was a signal: If the Soviet Union invaded Europe, confrontation would escalate quickly to the nuclear realm, and the United States would intervene.

China, for one, has long professed a goal of minimum nuclear deterrence—that is, an arsenal that is just large enough to inflict unacceptable damage on any country that attacked China first—and is estimated to have about 250 warheads for delivery by land-based missiles, bombers, and an emerging submarine fleet. But China is also engaged in continuing, low-level disputes with its neighbors—the Philippines, Vietnam, and other countries—over control of the Spratly and Paracel island groups in the South China Sea, where Beijing reportedly has been building man-made islands from reefs and shoals to host military facilities. In the latter stages of an aggressive, two-decade program of upgrading its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery systems, China is the only member of the five NPT-declared nuclear weapons states increasing its arsenal, albeit slowly.

Hackers are ahead in the cyberwar – businesses need to wake up

24 March 2015

Hackers are winning the cyberwar and businesses are all too often simply hoping for the best, according to many security experts. Among them is professor John Walker, who lectures in cyber security at Nottingham Trent University and has advised the House of Lords on the issue. He says the government, police and business community are far behind in the battle to thwart hackers and that “cybercrime as a service” (Caas) is big business. His message for businesses is stark: “Assume you’ve been hacked,” he says. “There are people that have been and know it and people who think they haven’t, but have.”

Figures for the cost of hacking to businesses vary from survey to survey. A 2013 National Audit Office report suggested the cost of cybercrime to the UK was between £18-27bn, though this has been disputed. But Walker says that cybercrime is often under-reported, both by the media and the police, as businesses fear a loss of reputation and credibility.

He also alleges that some financial institutions have been compromised and have lost millions, but have kept this information under wraps. “In the past 10 years there has been at least one UK-based building society, which no longer exists, which lost about £50m to what was called a ghost transaction.

NATO’s new perils

March 24 

It’s a unified morass, at least, with President Obama sharing the reluctance of European leaders to escalate the crisis by providing defensive weapons to Ukraine or tightening sanctions against Russia. The United States tacitly backs the decision made by European leaders here last week to maintain the status quo — and link any easing of sanctions to implementation of the Minsk agreement that has brought a shaky truce in Ukraine.

The policy impasse was illustrated by Gen. Philip Breedlove, the NATO commander. I asked him Sunday at a conference here whether arming Kiev, which he reportedly favors, would be stabilizing or destabilizing. He indicated that he favored sending weapons, saying: “I do not think that any tool of U.S. . . . power should necessarily be off the table.”

The Pentagon Will Fund an Army That Steals Food, Hates Women and Can’t Pay Its Soldiers


The United States wants to keep Afghanistan’s security forces afloat at least through 2017. Why? Because Kabul can’t.

During a press conference at Camp David on March 23, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced Washington’s intention to double down on Afghanistan.

“Today we can announce that the Defense Department intends to seek funding for Afghan forces to sustain an end strength of 352,000 personnel through 2017,” Carter said.

American taxpayers will spend $4 billion on Afghanistan’s soldiers in 2015. It’s likely that Kabul will need that level of funding for years to come. Corrupt and incompetent, the Afghan government can’t afford to pay its security forces.

Impact of Article 370

25 Mar , 2015

The Article 370 was clearly meant to be a temporary provision included in the Constitution to cater for the specific requirements of the troubled times immediately after India’s independence and the state’s accession to India. It was meant to remain in operation during the existence of the State’s Constituent Assembly.

As time passed, the vested interests within Jammu and Kashmir and the compulsions of various political parties outside the state to appease their vote banks ensured its retention. No thought was spared by the votaries of ‘the retention of Article 370’ for the enormous potential this would have to wreak havoc on the unity and integrity of the country. It is the only state in India which has a constitution of its own.


March 25, 2015 

Earl H. “Pete” Ellis is not well known outside the United States Marine Corps. Even in the Marine Corps, he is known only for predicting war with Japan and its highly amphibious nature decades before World War II. His name is trumpeted at the recruit depots and at Quantico as an example of Marine intellectualism at its best. But he was more than just a prophet. His ideas on amphibious warfare are the bedrock on which the modern Marine Corps is built. Pete Ellis’ legacy is grounded in the document Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia, written as the Marine Corps’ contribution toWar Plan Orange. But Ellis had written much before that. Between his time as a junior captain at the Naval War College in 1911 and his death as a lieutenant colonel in 1923, Ellis wrote a number of works, most of them forgotten, many of them prescient. The concepts described in “Bush Brigades” will be familiar to any serious student of counterinsurgency, but it was written when the men we consider to be the giants of counterinsurgency theory – David Galula and Robert Thompson perhaps foremost among them – were small children.


March 25, 2015
Today’s uninhabited vehicles are largely tele-operated, with a person piloting or driving the vehicle remotely, but tomorrow’s won’t be. They will incorporate increasing autonomy, with human command at the mission level. This will enable one person to control multiple vehicles simultaneously, bringing greater combat power to the fight with the same number of personnel. Scaling up to large swarms, however, will require even more fundamental shifts in the command and control paradigm.

The Naval Postgraduate School is working on a 50-on-50 swarm vs. swarm aerial dogfight, and researchers at Harvard have built a swarm of over athousand simple robots working together to create simple formations. As the number of elements in a swarm increases, human control must shift increasingly to the swarm as a whole, rather than micromanaging individual elements.

The 5 Crucial Defense Reforms That Will Save the Pentagon

March 24, 2015

Can DoD make it happen?

Congressman Mac Thornberry, the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is unveiling this week a set of proposed reforms for the way the Department of Defense buys equipment and contracts for other services. This is a very welcome focus for a new committee chairman at this juncture in history. Combined with the reformist instincts of his fellow chairman, Senator John McCain of the Senate Armed Services Committee, as well as the background of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and his top team, there is likely to be real progress in the months ahead. But to complement all these efforts, we also need a broader policy debate that engages Washington beyond just the defense community and that focuses more on the big picture. The changes being discussed now generally look good, but trend towards the more modest side of the possible and desirable reform agenda.


March 23, 2015

When I was preparing for Senate confirmation in 2012, an advisor tasked with ensuring I made it successfully through the process cautioned me about how members of Congress might perceive me. “You’re essentially an academic,” he told me with concern. “Some members of Congress hate academics.” More recently, a fellow panelist at a seminar described me as a “bureaucrat,” that is, one of the normally maligned workers who spend their careers inside the bowels of government. These contrasting views of who I am and what my career represents exemplify the potential identity crisis some in the national security field face. Some seem to believe that we must make a choice between two worlds: academe and government. In reality, many of us live in both worlds, and at times in the gap between them.