30 March 2015

Kerry initiative to end Syria carnage

S Nihal Singh
Mar 30 2015

It took US Secretary of State John Kerry four years of civil war in Syria in which more than 200,000 died, millions were forced to become refugees in neighbouring countries, millions more internally displaced and a country largely in ruins to say he is willing to talk to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. True, there were no easy options as Washington sought to help overthrow the Alawite President of a Sunni-majority state. After two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans had no appetite for another war in the region.

As the Syrian carnage continued with Turkey, among others, rooting for President Assad's overthrow, it became clear that there were divisions in the opponents' ranks and it soon transpired that the most potent opposition came from the al-Qaida-linked factions, rather than the favoured moderate opposition. And while President Barack Obama hesitated and even saved retaliatory attacks in the face of chemical use, he opted for Russia's deal to destroy all of Syrian chemical weapons.

In China, like Singapore

Throughout its history, China has seen itself as the centre of the world. The name of the country, literally translated, is “Central Kingdom”. So it may surprise many to learn that a tiny state-city, Singapore, has exerted outsized intellectual influence on Chinese leaders since the late 1970s.

By all accounts, the remarkable success achieved under the late Singaporean leader, Lee Kuan Yew, should make most of his counterparts in developing countries envious. But for the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), the so-called “Singapore model”, loosely defined as dynamic authoritarian capitalism, holds special allure. From Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping, all Chinese leaders thought that they could copy some aspects of Lee’s development and political strategies to make China prosperous and prolong the rule of the CPC.

Shocking Conditions for Balochistan’s Women

By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
March 29, 2015

In Balochistan’s traditionally patriarchal society, women regularly face discrimination, assault, and murder in the name of “honor.” They have little space in the political, cultural, economic, or social fields. Balochistan tops the rankings in Pakistan in terms of maternal mortality, female illiteracy, unemployment, and gender disparities. Conditions are even worse for Balochistan’s women in rural areas. Take female literacy, a shocking 2 percent in rural Balochistan, compared to 26 percent for the province as a whole.

Afghanistan’s Riddle: For Lasting Stability, U.S. Presence Is One Important Step Among Many

Yesterday’s announcement of a new timeline for U.S. troop withdrawal will see the full 9,800 U.S. contingent remain in Afghanistan through at least the end of 2015. This marks an important, positive step in building Afghan stability as it acknowledges that while the combat mission may have ended, much work remains to be done. Equally important is the pledge to request Congress’ continued funding of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), maintaining a goal of 352,000 soldiers and policemen through 2017 and costing roughly $4 billion dollars. Continuing U.S. support will be required as Afghanistan seeks to develop and diversify its infrastructure and economy, secure international aid, and enhance regional integration necessary to prevent disintegration along ethnic lines and an amplified civil war. All of these steps are necessary to keep Afghanistan safe, free, and secure. 

Over 32,000 arrested in anti-terror operations since Peshawar carnage

Mar 28, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's law enforcement agencies have arrested over 32,000 people on different charges in more than 28,000 anti-militant operations in the aftermath of the Peshawar school massacre, the government said on Saturday. 

The arrests were made after the launch of the National Action Plan (NAP) in December which aims to rid the country of terrorism following Taliban's massacre at an army school in Peshawar in which 150 people, including 136 students were killed. 

32,347 people were arrested on different charges in 28,826 anti-militants operations conducted across the country, the government said. 

China's Nightmare: Vietnam's New Killer Submarines

March 29, 2015

After a brief respite, the South China Sea cauldron is starting to boil once again. This time, the hub-bub concerns not a close call between aircraft, nordueling flotillas of coast guard vessels surrounding a mysterious oil exploration rig, nor the precarious resupply of a rusted out hulk of a ship grounded purposefully on an obscure reef

Rather, the current frenzy among journalists, strategists, and now legislators concerns a variety of new structures that Beijing has undertaken to build up in and around its occupied reefs in the Spratlys. These structures will likely include an airfield.

The Real Reason for China's Massive Military Buildup

Over several different articles, I have been exploring the dynamics of the budding U.S.-China security dilemma—a high-tech drama pitting anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) against what we used to refer to as Air-Sea Battle (ASB)—and have offered several different ways to lessen the possibility of such a dynamic from becoming cemented into the Asia-Pacific’s security architecture. However, China’s development and implementation of A2/AD clearly has various origins. One such origin that deserves to be explored is the “historical nightmare” of China’s subjugation at the hands of various colonial and Asian powers.

ASEAN Connectivity and China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’

By Lucio Blanco Pitlo III
March 26, 2015

The ASEAN Master Plan for Connectivity (AMPC) andChina’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative share striking similarities and parallels. Both envisage transport connectivity as a way to bring member or participating countries closer to one another, facilitating better access for trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people exchanges. Like the “One Belt, One Road” project, AMPC calls for a system of roads and railways to link contiguous Southeast Asian countries with one another, as well as a system of ports for RoRo (roll-on roll-off) vessels and short sea shipping to link insular Southeast Asian countries with one another as well as with mainland Southeast Asia. Given this shared vision, it is interesting to consider how the two could complement one another and what issues could stand in the way.

China’s Growing Presence in Russia’s Backyard

By Neil Thompson
March 25, 2015

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin famously described the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. A conservative Russian nationalist, Putin has lamented the break-up of the old Soviet Union, not because he regretted the disappearance of communism, but because of the severing of the numerous and deep economic, linguistic, social, and cultural connections that linked most of the fifteen constituent republics of the old USSR. It is these ties he is keen to recreate, albeit in a looser supranational union than the old federal structure which bound the fifteen national-homelands into one communist “state.”

Gasp! China admits to having cyber warriors

MARCH 26, 2015

China’s seeming acknowledgment that it engages in cyber warfare leaves security experts feeling vindicated, unsurprised.

So China has at last admitted, albeit obliquely, that it sponsors offensive hacker units—martial cyber corps, if you will. It’s an unprecedented confession for the state, whose persistent denials have been met for years with the diplomatic equivalent of, “Yeah, right.”

China’s admission, however unsurprising, is a rare ray of light piercing the murky fathoms of international cyber warfare. The news arrived in the most recent edition of The Science of Military Strategy, a much pored-over document produced by China’s Academy of Military Sciences, the top research institute of the country’s military. Though published at the end of 2013, the latest version took time to trickle out to the global community and to be translated from the original Mandarin. But inside, readers found a treat.

ISIS and Turkmenistan’s Border Worries

March 28, 2015

The Turkmen-Afghan border is, understandably, one of the least-covered geopolitical divides extant. It’s also one of the most peculiar. For years, the Amu Darya River – one of the points of separation between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, and now between Kabul and Ashgabat – has been steadily pushing southward, eroding Afghan land and creating unmarked islands along the way. As the years have passed, the split between borders on the map and borders on the ground has only grown.


March 26, 2015

When Tunisia’s authoritarian government fell, that democratizing and relatively free country became a place in which jihadists could operate with substantial impunity. One result was that Tunisia contributed adisproportionate number of foreign fighters to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Now, however, ISIL has fouled its own nest.

The recent terror attack at Tunisia’s Bardo National Museum has been a watershed moment for that transitioning nation. Though the dead were mostly foreigners, by attacking tourism the terrorists are directly threatening the livelihood of 10 percent of Tunisians, and indirectly threatening the rest of the population, too. Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, in a televised address, told the people “to understand that we are in a war against terrorism and that these savage minorities do not frighten us.” He added that “we will fight them without mercy to our last breath.” European leadersrushed to offer security and economic assistance to the country and to help it continue its democratic transition.

The ISIS Guide to Holy War, or Lonely Planet: Islamic State

March 27, 2015

“You can also bring cardigans.” This is sartorial advice, from the hardened jihadist recruiter behind a new travel guide for the Islamic State.

Are you looking to fulfill your ambitions of touring the newest state in the world? Excited for the prospect of perpetual war against people of your own faith? Enticed by an apocalyptic promise of battle? Want a guide that is laden with gender specific travel options? Well, do we have the guide for you.

“Hijrah to the Islamic State: What to Packup, Who to Contact, Where to Go, Stories & More!” is an e-book published by an ISIS militant, offering tips on how to make the trip to Syria in order to commit jihad.

Released in February, the book is remarkably detailed. As we discuss below, it gives aspiring jihadists advice on things like how to avoid suspicion when traveling, how to avoid government surveillance online, and even how to fill out tourist visas properly, even if illegally. The volume also—and quite importantly, given the legal and policy issues in play—touches on how to find ISIS contacts on Twitter if their accounts are deactivated.

Iran's Threat Perception

28 Mar , 2015

Enduring stability has eluded Iran ever since British Petroleum discovered oil at Majid Solemyan in the country in 1908. It completely transformed the society and polity in the country. The invention of the internal combustion engine engendered the geo-political metamorphosis of Iran and other countries in the Gulf region. In fact it was oil that delayed the independence of countries like Kuwait, UAE and Qatar. They achieved independence only in the later half of the 20th century. Most of these countries owe their status as a state due to petroleum.

Initially, the revenues generated by oil were shared between British Petroleum and the Iranian Government. Attempts to nationalise the oil industry in the early ’50s were met with a vicious reaction from the world powers. In the early ’50s the CIA and British intelligence had colluded with the Shah to overthrow Prime Minister Mossadeq, a step which was ascribed to the latter’s decision to nationalise Iran’s oil industry.

U.S. drops propaganda bomb on ISIL

March 26, 2015 

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has launched a propaganda program in Syria aimed at creating fissures among Islamic State fighters by dropping 60,000 leaflets at the center of the militants' power base.

The leaflets depict recruits to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, being fed into a meat grinder. The leaflets were created by personnel from Military Information Support Operations, previously known as psychological operations.

"It's trying to set the stage for an internal uprising against ISIS," said Nicholas Heras, an expert on ISIL at the Center for a New American Security.

Analysis: Iraq's Shia militias roll-out heavy rockets for Islamic State offensive

Jeremy Binnie
25 March 2015

The Iraqi Shia militias who are leading the fight back against the Islamic State militant group appear to be making extensive use of improvised rocket artillery even though they benefit from Iranian support.

Iran produces a wide range of artillery rockets and their associated launchers, most notably generic 107 mm and 122 mm systems, both of which are frequently seen in service with Iraq's Shia militias. On 16 March, the New York Times cited US officials as saying that Iran had deployed Fateh-110 tactical ballistic missiles and 333 mm Fajr-5 heavy artillery rockets - or slightly different versions - to Iraq and raised concerns that they would cause civilian casualties if used.

These 5 Facts Explain the State of Iran

March 27, 2015

As leaders in the United States and Iran maintain laser focus on the ongoing nuclear negotiations, it’s valuable to take a broader look at Iran’s politics, its economy, and its relations with the United States. Here are five stats that explain everything from Iran’s goals in cyberspace to its views of Western powers.

1. Sanctions and their discontents

Sanctions have taken a heavy toll on the Iranian economy. According to the Congressional Research Service, Iran’s economy is 15 to 20% smaller than it would have been without the sanctions that have been enacted since 2010. They leave Iran unable to access nearly four-fifths of the $100 billion in reserves the country holds in international accounts. Iran’s oil output has fallen off a cliff. Four years ago, Iran sold some 2.5 million barrels of oil and condensates a day. Over the last year, the country has averaged just over a million barrels a day. Even as the exports have fallen and the price has plummeted, oil still accounts for 42% of government revenues. Iran’s latest budget will slash spending by 11% after accounting for inflation.

Germany Needs To Get Its Economic Act Together

MARCH 27, 2015 

Citizens of the eurozone should pay close attention to economic policy debate about Germany.

Simon Tilford, deputy director of the Centre for Economic Reform, has some critical things to say about Germany’s economic policy in a recent publication. He says Germany is not serving its own economic interests by running a large balance of payments surplus. A country with such a surplus must reinvest abroad, and he says Germans have lost almost a third of what they invested internationally since 1999. This is because they put the cash in property bubbles that burst and other poorly chosen investments.

Tilford says Germans would have been better off investing at home. German money has gone into ghost estates in foreign countries instead of research and development, and roads and schools in Germany itself. That would have boosted German wages, spending and imports.

A Ray of Light for Africa’s Dam of Discord

MARCH 27, 2015 

The mounting security concerns that have Egypt poised to send ground troops into Yemen also seem to have pushed Cairo into making nice with Ethiopia after years of tensions over the construction of a massive dam on the Nile River.

Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan reached a preliminary deal this week that could help whisk away the bad blood over Ethiopia’s plans to build the $5 billion Grand Renaissance Dam project. On Wednesday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi — who as defense chief in 2013 appeared to threaten to use Egyptian troops to stop the dam’s construction — had a kumbaya moment in his address to the Ethiopian parliament, promising a new era of trust and friendship between the two nations.

Pentagon Releases 1987 Report Describing Israeli Nuclear and High-Tech Weapons Research& Development Capabilities

March 27, 2015

A 129-page report prepared in April 1987 by the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA) entitled Critical Technology Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations. The Pentagon released the entire section on Israel, but redacted all sections relating to all NATO nations.

The report is interesting because it provides a very general assessment of the state of the Israeli nuclear weapons capability in the section entitled “SOREQ,” which can be found on pages 20-21 (PDF) of the document. According to the report:

“They [the Israelis] are still hampered in being able to design and produce fusion weapons or other more complicated devices utilizing fusion and fission in the same configuration. As far as nuclear technology is concerned the Israelis are roughly where the U.S. was in the fission weapon field in about 1955 to 1960.”

The other sections of the report on Israeli conventions weaponry, intelligence sensors, and space defense (SDI) technology are also of considerable interest. A very interesting read.

Will our geopolitical “experts “lead us to ruin?

By Andrew J. Bacevich
Posted at TomDispatch, 8 March 2015.

Summary: Yesterday’s introduction by Tom Engelhardt explained how we follow experts with records of almost continuous failures, but are surprised by the logical result. Today Andrew Bacevich takes this logic one step deeper, asking about the role of intellectuals in setting America’s geopolitical strategy — which has been one of increasing belligerence and militarization during the past 2 decades. This is another in our series of posts about experts. {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Re-posted here with their generous permission.

Headlines & graphics added.

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.
Origins of the Intellectually-advised Government

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, How to Create a National Insecurity State

Posted by Andrew Bacevich 
March 8, 2015

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Given that, in his piece today, Andrew Bacevich has such good things to say about American Reckoning: The Vietnam War and Our National Identity,Chris Appy’s new history of the American fallout from Vietnam, here’s a last reminder that, for a contribution of $100 (or more), you can get your own signed, personalized copy of that must-read book. Just check out our donation page for the details, as well as for other books we’re offering, including my own Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single Superpower World. Tom]

In our era in Washington, whole careers have been built on grotesque mistakes. In fact, when it comes to our various conflicts, God save you if you’re right; no one will ever want to hear from you again. If you’re wrong, however... well, take the invasion of Iraq. Given the Islamic State, that creature of the American occupation, can anyone seriously believe that the invasion that blew a hole in the heart of the Middle East doesn’t qualify as one of the genuine disasters of our time, if not of any time? In the mad occupation that followed, Saddam Hussein’s well-trained army and officer corps were ushered into the chaos of post-invasion unemployment and, of course, insurgency. Meanwhile, at a cost of $25 billion, a whole new military was trained that, years later, summarily collapsed when faced with insurgents led by some of those formerly out-of-work officers.

A lesson about counterinsurgency that could change America’s future.

Summary: As we move forward to a new round of interventions let’s take a moment to look backwards. What can we learn from our failed interventions since 9/11, and more generally from the scores of failed counterinsurgency programs waged by foreign armies since WWII (when Mao brought 4GW to maturity)? There is a simple lesson, one that if learned could change our future. But the national defense complex (like Satan, it goes by many names) doesn’t want you to learn it. So you won’t (probably). {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“The local fighter is therefore often an accidental guerrilla — fighting us because we are in his space, not because he wishes to invade ours. He follows folk-ways of tribal warfare that are mediated by traditional cultural norms, values, and perceptual lenses; he is engaged (from his point of view) in “resistance” rather than “insurgency” and fights principally to be left alone.”

Japan launches replacement spy satellite

By Staff Writers
March 26, 2015

Japan on Thursday successfully launched a replacement spy satellite, its aerospace agency said, as an existing device comes to the end of its working life.

Tokyo put spy satellites into operation in the 2000s after its erratic neighbour North Korea fired a mid-range ballistic missile over the Japanese mainland and into the western Pacific in 1998.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries launched the H-2A rocket from Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan, the agency said.

The launch at 10:21 am (0121 GMT) went smoothly, a JAXA spokeswoman said, noting "the satellite separated and entered orbit as scheduled."

Twitter Data Mining Reveals the Origins of Support for Islamic State

Back in May 2014, news emerged that an Egyptian man called Ahmed Al-Darawy had died on the battlefields of Iraq while fighting for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, otherwise known as Islamic State or ISIS. 

On the face of it, his death seemed something of a puzzle. Al-Darawy was a 38-year-old father of three, a former policeman and manager in a multinational company in Egypt. He had also been a key player in the non-violent democracy movement that ousted the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 during the Arab Spring. Al-Darawy had even stood for elected office after the uprisings. 

Special ops troops using flawed intel software

By Ken Dilanian
March 26, 2015

WASHINGTON — Special operations troops heading to war zones are asking for commercial intelligence analysis software they say will help their missions. But their requests are languishing, and they are being ordered to use a flawed, in-house system preferred by the Pentagon, according to government records and interviews.

Over the last four months, six Army special operations units about to be deployed into Afghanistan, Iraq and other hostile environments have requested intelligence software made by Palantir, a Silicon Valley company that has synthesized data for the CIA, the Navy SEALs and the country's largest banks, among other government and private entities.

Some Guys Just Made a Heavier-Caliber 3D-Printed Gun It’s the AR-15’s bigger brother


In March, a Website dedicated to 3D-printing firearms announced one of its members had developed a lower receiver for a Colt CM901 rifle. It’s a small — but evolutionary — step toward the development of firearms that pretty much anyone can download off the Internet.

The CM901 is the bigger, badder brother of the ubiquitous AR-15. The CM901 has a similar design, but fires the heavier and more powerful 7.62-millimeter bullet, resulting in greater range and killing power.

A group of gunsmiths associated with PrintedFirearm.com developed the CM901 lower receiver and uploaded an animated gif of a live-fire test. The clip is five seconds long.


March 27, 2015 

The World Of 2020: According to DARPA – Underwater Robots…Zombie Pods Of The Deep, That Can ‘Sleep For Years,’ And, Other Robots That Can Fix Satellites In Space

Patrick Tucker, writing on the defense publication/website, DefenseOne.com, has an interesting article on a peek at the role that robots/drones may play as soon as the end of this decade — just five years away. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which is the Pentagon’s ‘Q-Shop,’ if you will from the James Bond movie series, is charged with essentially developing and finding new,and potentially disruptive technologies that will maintain, or enhance America’s technological edge on the battlefield; and, save money, and lives at the same time. One of DARPA’s main challenges is “to reduce the price of weapons and other gear, by creating new solutions to old problems — or “rethink complex military systems,” as DARPA’s Deputy Director Steven Walker puts it. “This week,” Mr. Tucker writes, “the agency highlighted potential solutions to this; and, other problems, describing the menagerie of magical technologies that are entering a new phase of research and development.”

How Robots & Algorithms Are Taking Over

by Nicholas Carr 

In September 2013, about a year before Nicholas Carr published The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, his chastening meditation on the human future, a pair of Oxford researchers issued a report predicting that nearly half of all jobs in the United States could be lost to machines within the next twenty years. The researchers, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, looked at seven hundred kinds of work and found that of those occupations, among the most susceptible to automation were loan officers, receptionists, paralegals, store clerks, taxi drivers, and security guards. Even computer programmers, the people writing the algorithms that are taking on these tasks, will not be immune. By Frey and Osborne’s calculations, there is about a 50 percent chance that programming, too, will be outsourced to machines within the next two decades. 

A warning about the robot revolution from a great economist

Summary: Our series about experts has discussed our reliance on bad or biased experts. Today we see the opposite: how we ignore insightful exports, people who could help us see and prepare for the future. An economist and Nobel Laureate warned us of what’s happening today. We didn’t listen then but can still learn from him. Also, let’s learn to listen better to our top experts; it might be an essential skill for our survival in the 21st century. {1st of 2 posts today.}

On the Frontlines of Cyber War


By the time you finish this sentence, computer hackers from around the globe will have made at least 1,000 attempts to breach the Pentagon’s electronic wall.

With sheer persistence, malicious determination and a little luck, some of these virtual intruders may eventually break through—just as they do to corporate-maintained networks in the civilian world with alarming frequency. But in military cyberspace, trespassers don’t go undetected and they don’t get far, thanks to a small but growing group of digital commandos with U.S. Army Cyber Command.

New Company Wants to Use Satellite Imagery to Track Shopping Trends and Corn Yields, Amongst Other Things

Matt Safford
March 28, 2015

Big data is getting so big, it’s slipping the surly bonds of Earth.

A startup called Orbital Insight, which recently raised nearly $9 million in funding, is using satellite imagery and cutting-edge computing techniques to estimate global oil surplus, predict crop shortfalls before harvest time and spot retail trends by keeping track of the number of cars in big-box parking lots. It should also be possible to train the software to spot illegal deforestation early and better track climate change.

The company uses machine learning techniques and computing networks that mimic the human brain to spot patterns in massive amounts of visual data. Facebook uses similar techniques to recognize faces in uploaded images and auto-tag you and your friends. But instead of searching for faces, Orbital Insight is taking advantage of the growing abundance of satellite imagery, thanks to the rise of small, low-cost satellites, and teaching their networks to automatically recognize things like vehicles, the rate of construction in China and the shadows cast by floating-lid oil containers, which change depending on how full they are.


March 27, 2015

One day, “[t]he entire defense budget will purchase just one aircraft.” So predicted Norm Augustine in 1984. Lockheed Martin’s chairman and CEO further prophesied that “This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy three-and-a-half days each per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day.”

We’re not there yet. But we’re on the way.

According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2014 was the most “complex” year for the Pentagon in almost five decades. Military leaders must contend with ever-evolving, ever changing threat environment, even as our defense acquisition system fails to deliver timely and affordable capabilities. It’s a major strategic liability.

The key to understanding our wars: the trinity of COIN

Summary: Most of our wars since Korea have been counter-insurgencies (COIN), in which we employ a trinity of methods — firepower, mobility, and militia. It doesn’t work for us, or for any foreign armies doing COIN. Today we review the trinity and why it fails, and ask the more important question of why we don’t see this pattern. {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Out of 3 tools come one outcome (Celtic Trinity Knot).

Since Mao brought 4GW to maturity after WWII, modern armed forces, whether of developed or undeveloped nations, tend to rely on a trinity of methods to fight insurgencies. None of these are new (almost nothing is new in war; it’s all a matter of combinations, emphasis, and execution).

Boko Haram Just Lost Its Headquarters

As Nigerian soldiers search for missing girls, townspeople are fearful the jihadists won’t be gone for long.

Ali Hassan should be happy to return to Gwoza, his hometown, following the news on Friday that it had been retaken from the jihadist group Boko Haram by the Nigerian military. But Hassan remains unfazed.

Like many displaced persons taking refuge in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, Hassan is not convinced that the military is being entirely truthful about its claims.

“I know fighting has been taking place but I don’t want to believe we’ve heard the last of it,” he said. “Boko Haram has a strong base in Gwoza, and it wouldn’t be easy dislodging them. They have large camps, thousands of fighters, heavy weapons and their headquarters there. The war in Gwoza wouldn’t be child’s play."

The Chechen Wars Cast a Long Shadow


The TOS-1 thermobaric rocket launcher is a nasty reminder of the Chechen wars. The weapon is an anti-personnel, anti-fortification system that uses fuel-air explosives. It can literally tear the air from someone’s lungs.

The Kremlin used it extensively during the second Chechen war — which lasted from from 1999 to 2009. It was one of many brutal tools of a counter-insurgency strategy that saw Chechnya “returned” to the Russian Federation after winning de facto independence in 1996.

According to Mark Galeotti’s new book Russia’s Wars in Chechnya 1994–2009, it’s “worth questioning just how much of a victory this really was for Moscow.”

Bombing Iran Is a Terrible Idea


Iran hawks are playing with fire. We are close to a nuclear deal with Iran, but opponents continue to step up attacks aimed at torpedoing efforts to reach a settlement. They insist that we must walk away from the negotiating table, and that there’s a better deal to be had.

That belief is a fantasy.

The reality is that if negotiations with Iran fail, the wreckage will leave the United States without any good options. “If we undermine negotiations now, we’ll have only two choices — Accept the reality of an Iranian nuclear bomb, or use military force to attack Iran’s nuclear program,” former Sen. Carl Levin wrote in a recent op-ed for U.S. News & World Report.

There is hardly a nation in the world that wants a nuclear Iran. But the United States should only consider a war with Iran to be a last resort. “If you think the war in Iraq was hard, an attack on Iran would, in my opinion,be a catastrophe,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in 2012.

How the U.S. Air Force Spied on French Nuke Blasts


During the early years of the Cold War, the United States had a problem.

The U.S. had quickly lost its monopoly on nuclear weapons. The Pentagon was most concerned about Soviet and Chinese weapons, but France was also building a nuclear bomb.

France was — and is — a U.S. ally. But still, it was reason enough for America to send in its spy planes.

In the 1960s, two specially modified KC-135R Stratotankers joined the U.S. Air Force’s 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. The aircraft had special gear to covertly gather data on French detonations in the South Pacific.

How Serious Is The Army About Fostering A Mentoring Culture Within The Ranks?

March 23, 2015

The Army seems to want mentorship to flourish among the ranks, but it’s struggling with fostering a culture that encourages the process organically.

A program held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, called Solarium is an event where selected captains discuss and find solutions to complex problems facing the Army and present their findings to the Army chief of staff at its conclusion. At a recent Solarium event held earlier this year, Gen. Raymond Odierno discussed his views on mentorship while formal counseling is important from an institutional perspective, informal counseling and mentoring are major factors in leader development. And that is something that needs to be fostered in an increasingly complex world, where even junior leaders need to make split-second decisions that have far-reaching impacts.