24 July 2015

U.S., Russia: The Case For Bilateral Talks


Phone calls between relatively low-level diplomats are normally not newsworthy. But Monday's conversation between U.S. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin on the simmering conflict in Ukraine is an exception. The bilateral nature of the conversation and its timing amid mounting claims of cease-fire violations from the Ukrainian government and separatist forces makes it uniquely significant. Moreover, it reaffirms that the evolution of the Ukrainian conflict - whether toward a settlement or toward escalation - will be most strongly shaped not by Kiev but by the actions of and relationship between Moscow and Washington.

Since the Ukrainian crisis started nearly 18 months ago, two negotiation formats in particular stand out among numerous talks and meetings. The first is the Minsk talks between representatives from the Ukrainian government, the pro-Russia separatists and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which address the conflict on a tactical level. The other is the Normandy talks between representatives from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France, which consider the conflict on a broader, political level. Notably absent from both talks, despite being a major political, economic and security player in Ukraine and the broader standoff between Russia and the West, is the United States. Washington has been diplomatically active in the conflict, but U.S. and Russian officials have met at various times only on an ad hoc basis.

However, this practice may have changed over the weekend, when Russian Presidential Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov said in an interview that Russia and the United States had come to an agreement to set up a "special bilateral format" of talks between the two countries - talks that would involve Nuland and Karasin. In explaining the formal announcement, Ivanov said that expanding the Normandy format to include the United States would simply be too "risky," adding that the two countries would coordinate talks on Ukraine bilaterally "for the time being." Thus the phone call between Nuland and Karasin took place to discuss the implementation of the Minsk agreement and the constitutional reform process in Ukraine, with further discussions likely to follow.

India’s ‘War Doctrine’: The Next Decade

In the natural progression of a country to take its rightful place in the world hierarchy by the middle of the next decade, India has no alternative but to make its processes simple, productive, modern and cost effective. Having a robust National War Doctrine will be the fitting measure to eradicate systemic inadequacies and the pitfalls of short term and tenure based thinking of retiring senior executives in the government. A Military Doctrine is only a component to achieve the aims of the country’s all encompassing and multi-dimensional War Doctrine. A good War Doctrine helps to prevent War whereas a good Military doctrine will help to achieve victory in the event of a war. Making economic progress of high order and promotion of social equity under the democratic framework demands that India pays serious attention to this little understood aspect of power play.

A War Doctrine is a combination of a nation’s policies, future concepts and steadfast principles into an integrated system for the purpose of governing its military forces…

Digital India – Great Ambitions, Hurdles Galore

22 Jul, 2015

‘Digital India’ is arguably the most ambitious initiative of the Modi government. There are hurdles on the way, but there are also opportunities. How exactly will ‘Digital India’ roll out? Read here in the first part of an explanatory piece. 

On July 1st, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Digital India program in Delhi with much fanfare, supplemented by big investment announcements by the leading industry houses in the country. The program aims to ramp up the traditional 256 kbps broadband services to 2 Mbps compatible infrastructure, connect more than 250,000 gram panchayats (GPs) via the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN), targeting 600 million broadband connections nationwide and aims to deliver a host of government services on this telecom backbone. The infrastructure investment is being made not just to improve the way citizens interact with the government at various levels of governance aggregation, but also to jump-start new businesses which require connectivity for remote service delivery.

Digital India is by far the most ambitious indigenous program PM Modi has launched with a far-reaching impact connecting Indian hinterland to the government services as well as to the rest of the country leveraging technology. The program also faces a series of hurdles, which are onerous, and every hurdle in its own right can derail the entire program.

The Connectivity Conundrum

Afghan Security Forces Struggle Just to Maintain Stalemate

JULY 22, 2015
Afghan national police recruits lined up at a shooting range during a training session in Kabul in 2014. Desertion has been a problem among the police and the army. CreditDiego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — After suffering setbacks and heavy casualties at the hands of the Taliban in 2014, Afghan security forces came into this year with what Afghan and Western officials acknowledge were relatively modest goals: hang on till the end of the fighting season without major collapses.

But with months of heavy fighting still ahead, 2015 is already shaping up to be worse for the Afghan Army and the national police, even as President Obama is set to begin deliberating this year on whether to follow through with a complete withdrawal of the United States military assistance mission here in 2016.

The forces are struggling to maintain a stalemate: an at-least token government presence in the hundreds of district capitals handed over by departing NATO combat troops.

Why Southeast Asia's Refugee Crisis Matters

For summer and fall 2015, The Diplomat presents “Southeast Asia: Refugees in Crisis,” a series of exclusive articles from scholars and practitioners tackling Southeast Asia’s ongoing refugee crisis. Launched by former ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan and designed with the assistance of students from Harvard University and Oxford University, the series aims to give the readers a sense of the various dimensions of this complex issue.

In our first piece, former ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan and The Diplomat’s associate editor Prashanth Parameswaran launch the series with a framing article on the issue. 

In May 2015, thousands of Rohingya refugees from the Rakhine State of Myanmar and economic migrants from Bangladesh were found stranded in the Strait of Malacca off the coast of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. This was the start of the latest round of Southeast Asia’s refugee crisis. The image of the overcrowded, shabby boats full of people – haunted and hungry, faced with dwindling supplies of food and water – seized the world’s attention.

Tanker Hijackings on the Rise in Southeast Asia

July 22, 2015 
Source Link

Pirates continue to hijack a coastal tanker on the average of once every two weeks to steal their cargo of fuel, according to data released Wednesday by the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center.

A total of 134 incidents of piracy and armed robbery globally were reported to the center from January through June, an increase from 116 during the same period last year.

So far this year, 250 crew members have been taken hostage with one fatality and nine injuries.

Eleven out of the 13 hijackings reported in the first half of the year were in Southeast Asia.

“The serious attacks are the hijackings of the tankers in Southeast Asia and this year there has been a higher number in the first two quarters of this year than in the first two quarters of 2014” said IMB director Pottengal Mukundan in London.

The New Japan: Will China's Economy Implode?

July 22, 2015

The risk of “Grexit” may have rattled financial markets, but for the Asia-Pacific region, an even bigger and closer threat is giving policymakers sleepless nights. Memories of Japan’s bubble-to-bust have been revived by China, which like its neighbor has enjoyed a massive stock and property bubble that is now rapidly deflating.

And with the communist giant currently the world’s second-largest economy and major trading partner to most of the countries in the region, the fallout from China’s downturn could be extremely damaging, hitting sectors from commodities to property, curbing investment flows and likely dragging down the rest of the region with it.

Comparing the prospect of “Grexit” compared to a China crisis, Bloombergcolumnist William Pesek put it into perspective.

“The world, after all, has had a few years to contemplate a Greek exit from the euro. But if the world’s biggest trading nation suddenly hit a wall, it would be a catastrophe of a different order, wreaking havoc on economies near and far,” he said.

More Legal Problems Trying to Extradite Accused Chinese Spy From Canada to U.S. to Stand Trial

Geordo Omand
July 21, 2015

Judge uneasy with RCMP bid for U.S. help to extradite accused Chinese spy

VANCOUVER – A British Columbia judge is concerned that assistance from the United States in extraditing an accused Chinese spy has more to do with inadequate RCMP resources than Canada’s international obligations.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Terence Schultes said on Tuesday he wouldn’t accept that the Mounties don’t have the ability to translate the equivalent of more than 300,000 pages of seized information from Canadian permanent resident Su Bin.

The United States wants to extradite Su to face trial over accusations he masterminded a plot to steal military trade secrets from several American defence contractors.

The Canadian government has asked the court to OK a team of U.S. investigators to help the RCMP extract and translate reams of data found on Su’s seized electronics, written predominately in Chinese characters. That information would then be used by the courts to decided whether to extradite him.

Religion in China

Author: Eleanor Albert
June 10, 2015

Religious observance in China is on the rise. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is officially atheist, but it has grown more tolerant of religious activity over the past forty years. Amid China’s economic boom and rapid modernization, experts point to the emergence of a spiritual vacuum as a trigger for the growing number of religious believers, particularly adherents of Christianity and traditional Chinese religious groups. Though China’s constitution explicitly allows “freedom of religious belief,” adherents across all religious organizations, from state-sanctioned to underground and banned groups, still face persecution and repression.

Freedom and Regulation

U.S. decides against publicly blaming China for data hack

By Ellen Nakashima 
July 21 2015
Source Link

Months after the discovery of a massive breach of U.S. government personnel records, the Obama administration has decided against publicly blaming China for the intrusion in part out of reluctance to reveal the evidence that American investigators have assembled, U.S. officials said.
The administration also appears to have refrained from any direct retaliation against China or attempt to use cyber-measures to corrupt or destroy the stockpile of sensitive data stolen from the Office of Personnel Management.

“We have chosen not to make any official assertions about attribution at this point,” said a senior administration official, despite the widely held conviction that Beijing was responsible. The official cited factors including concern that making a public case against China could require exposing details of the United States’ own espionage and cyberspace capabilities. The official was among several who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations.

Confirmed: Beijing is Building World’s Largest Sea Plane for Use in South China Sea

July 23, 2015

After months of speculation China finally announced that it is has started to assemble the Jiaolong (Water Dragon) AG600 – the world’s largest amphibious aircraft, according to the International Business Times.

The first airframe is currently being constructed at a facility in Zhuhai in Guangdong province. Final assembly should be completed by the end of 2015 with a first flight tentatively scheduled for mid-2016.

Government sources report that an order for 17 planes has already been placed domestically. As I reported before (See: “Will This Plane Let China Control the South China Sea?”), the AG600 is capable of landing and taking off on water (and land) and could make it easier for Beijing to press its claims in the South China Sea.

Amphibious planes like the AG600 would be perfect for resupplying the new artificial islands that the Chinese are building in the SCS [South China Sea]. At the same time, these islands would be excellent bases of operations for the AG600 to engage in maritime patrols of claimed territories.

A New Chinese Threat in the East China Sea? Not So Fast

As Shannon Tiezzi noted earlier today, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement clarifying assertions made in the recently released Japanese defense white paper about China’s construction of offshore gas platforms in the East China Sea. The white paper, as Franz-Stefan Gady highlighted, focuses extensively on the threat Japan perceives from China. According to Tokyo, the work (believed to have begun in 2013) violates a 2008 bilateral agreement for joint natural resource development in the East China Sea. Japan’s choice to highlight the offshore rigs as an example of Chinese assertion—similar to China’s island-building and extensive construction work on features it occupies in the South China Sea—is an odd one.

What Did China Bring to the Iran Talks?

On Monday, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution officially endorsing the Iran deal which was negotiated over the course of nearly two years by the five UNSC permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), Germany, and Iran. (For The Diplomat’s coverage of the Iran deal itself, see here and here). The deal, called “historic” by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, would see Iran accept limitations on its nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions.

In praising the deal, Ban also took time in his statement to applaud all the negotiating parties. “I know that an immense amount of work went into this and I admire the determination and the commitment of the negotiators as well as the courage of the leaders who approved the deal,” Ban said.

The Hypocrisy of China’s War on Pollution

July 23, 2015

In his March 5, 2014 “Report on the Work of the Government,” delivered at the second session of the Twelfth National People’s Congress (NPC), Premier Li Keqiang said, “We must be keenly aware of the many difficulties and problems on our road ahead.” In particular, he spoke out against pollution, calling it “nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development” and affirming, “We will declare war against pollution and fight it with the same determination we battled poverty.”

It’s a very good metaphor, I think: the importance of being alert while driving, minding red lights, and the danger of steering blind. This means knowing the risks of pollution and how to avoid them. In other words, raising awareness.

On March 13, 2014, the second session of the Twelfth NPC held a press conference in which a reporter asked Li what he meant by “war against pollution.” Li replied:

Those overseeing agencies which turn a blind eye to polluting activities and fail to perform their overseeing duties will be held accountable […] We have to take action ourselves. I hope that the government, the businesses and each and every individual of the society will act together and make persistent efforts to win this tough battle against smog.

3 Reasons the Philippines Will Suffer Because of Its South China Sea Case Against China

By Dingding Chen
July 23, 2015
Source Link

The arbitration case against China launched by the Philippines has attracted a lot of global media attention and global public opinion seems to support the Philippines’ case. However, a closer analysis reveals that the Philippines might in the end suffer from this arbitration case. How so? There are three main reasons for this.

First, there is no guarantee that the Philippines is going to win the arbitration case, even though media reports might suggest that it will. Actually, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague is being very careful now as it tries to determine whether it has the necessary jurisdiction in the first place. This is not good news for the Philippines. Part of the reason is that the Court understands the huge implications of its decision for not only China, but also for the international law of the sea in general.

The reasons for this are not too difficult to understand. Basically, China has stated openly many times already that it will not participate in the arbitration case and thus will not implement any decision made by the tribunal. Of course, the final decision is unlikely to be entirely favorable to the Philippines. The more likely case is that China will win some concessions and the Philippines will win some as well. Either way, China will not accept the decision. Given this, ruling on the case would put the tribunal and international law in a very awkward position simply because the tribunal has no effective means to enforce the decision. That also means that the tribunal, and perhaps international law itself, will lose a lot of credibility before international society (the last thing the tribunal wants to see). So in this case, if the Philippines wins, it still loses and if it loses, it will lose big time.

The Chinese Riddle

Sunil S Bhandare
22 Jul, 2015

With the collapse of stock markets, China is likely to become more aggressive in its export efforts through under-pricing. India will have to watch out.

The unprecedented collapse of Chinese stock markets since mid-June 2015 has created considerable disturbance in the global economic scenario. This has happened even while the ultimate plot of the Greek Tragedy was still being scripted. In just three weeks, stocks listed on China’s two prominent exchanges tumbled, losing out almost one-third of their market capitalization. In terms of absolute value, the loss of market cap was estimated at US$3.2 trillion or twice the size of India’s current market cap. Over 1400 companies or about half of the listed companies had called halting of trading to stem a further downfall. The securities regulator had also warned of a “panic sentiment” gripping investors.

In the last few days, however, there has been some recovery, but the underlying sentiments are found to be one of apprehension and uncertainty about the emerging financial and economic scenario. Some analysts believe that the Chinese stocks markets are undergoing a much needed “correction” of earlier irrational exuberance. Illustratively, witness the fact that there was an unprecedented surge recorded in a short time of little over six months – the Shanghai Composite Index zoomed by over 108 per cent from mid-November 2014 to reach an all-time high of 5,166 by mid-June 2015. It collapsed thereafter to a low of 3,878 by mid-July 2015, and has since been hovering in the range of 3990 and 4275.

Earlier Irrational Exuberance

Pentagon Confirms Loss of PREDATOR Drone in Iraq

July 22, 2015

Pentagon: U.S. drone crashed in Iraq

An MQ-1 drone crashed in southeastern Iraq after losing communication last week, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.

Defense Department spokesman Army Maj. Roger Cabiness confirmed the news in a statement to The Hill after photos of the downed aircraft surfaced on Twitter accounts based out of Iraq.

He said the drone was returning to its base after an intelligence mission when it had “technical complications.”

“There were no weapons on board the aircraft. We are working with Iraqi authorities to recover the aircraft,” Cabiness said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, at least two Twitter users posted photos of the drone reportedly in the Iraqi town of Samawa, about 200 miles south of Baghdad.

The Next Target of ISIS in Iraq: The City of Haditha

Loveday Morris
July 21, 2015

HADITHA, Iraq — One by one, the cities around this Iraqi town have fallen. Fallujah. Ramadi. The walled community of Hit.

Islamic State fighters have slaughtered thousands of people as they have tightened their grip on Iraq’s western province of Anbar. But Haditha has remained an outpost of resistance.

Its local tribes and the beleaguered Iraqi army have fought doggedly in the face of persistent attacks. Perhaps even more importantly, the U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi government have been determined to prevent its large hydroelectric dam from falling to the insurgents.

The people of Haditha, though, are struggling to survive in a town largely cut off from the outside world. Meanwhile, the Islamic State has singled it out as its next target.

“It’s like we’re not living in Iraq,” said one resident, Israa Mohammed, 38, as she waited to receive a rare delivery of food aid last week. “There’s no way in or out. It’s like we are an island in the desert.”

Al Qaeda Branch in Syria Claims to Have Shot Down Syrian Air Force Surveillance Drone

Thomas Joscelyn 
July 21, 2015

Al Nusrah Front claims to have shot down Syrian drone

The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, claims to have shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operated by the Syrian regime. The Twitter feed for Al Nusrah’s “correspondent” in Latakia, a coastal province that has long been a stronghold for the Assad regime, posted four pictures of the drone. The photos can be seen here.

Death of the Tajik Opposition

Tajikistan’s five-year civil war devastated the country. The July 1997 peace accord, achieved after the deaths of between 50,000 and 100,000 people, seemed for a time to be a model of reconciliation. The government, gracious in victory, agreed to lift bans on the parties that made up the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), lift mass media restrictions, committed to reforming the country’s power structure, promised to reserve 30 percent of government posts for UTO members, and pledged to issue amnesty “for persons who took part in the civil conflict.”

After 18 years, few of the government’s promises seem to have held. The leader of one of the core UTO parties, Muhiddin Kabiri of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), decided to remain in exile in Turkey rather than return for the anniversary earlier this month–rumors are that the state is cooking up a case against him. In a recent interview Kabiri said that “some people are still harbouring the desire for complete victory” and that the peace, a compromise, is not enough for “hawks.”

In Turkmenistan, Border Woes Trump Education

By Bradley Jardine
July 23, 2015

Disturbances on the expansive, 744 kilometer Turkmen-Afghan border have been growing at an alarming rate, sparking security concerns about conflict spillover from the ongoing war in Afghanistan. In Turkmenistan, a neutral, isolationist foreign policy has left the state with little room to maneuver, resulting in an expansion of the military draft, rather than bringing in outside support.
RFE/RL’s Turkmen service, known locally as Azatlyk, reported that boys above the age of 18 who have not yet served in the military will no longer be entitled to study outside the country.

According to a leaked government census from 2012, over 42,000 Turkmen students were studying abroad annually. The majority of these studying abroad were privately funded, with the government sponsoring just 2,000 students. Ukraine, the most popular destination for Turkmen students, received over 13,000, followed by Belarus with 10,000 enrolled in the country’s universities. Russia, Turkey, and Malaysia were other popular destinations. Internally, only 7,128 of the country’s 100,000 annual high-school graduates are enrolled in Turkmenistan’s universities.

Backing Up Our Wager With Iran

JULY 22, 2015

This story is included with an NYT Opinion subscription.

From the minute Iran detected that the U.S. was unwilling to use its overwhelming military force to curtail Tehran’s nuclear program — and that dates back to the George W. Bush administration, which would neither accept Iran’s right to a nuclear fuel cycle nor structure a military or diplomatic option to stop it — no perfect deal overwhelmingly favorable to America and its allies was ever going to emerge from negotiations with Iran. The balance of power became too equal.

But there are degrees of imperfect, and the diplomatic option structured by the Obama team — if properly implemented and augmented by muscular diplomacy — serves core American interests better than any options I hear coming from the deal’s critics: It prevents Iran from producing the fissile material to break out with a nuclear weapon for 15 years and creates a context that could empower the more pragmatic forces inside Iran over time — at the price of constraining, but not eliminating, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and sanctions relief that will strengthen Tehran as a regional power.

Former Russian Military Engineer Being Tried for Giving State Secrets to Swedish Company

July 23, 2015

Russia begins treason case against ex-military engineer

A Russian court on Wednesday began hearing a treason case against a former military engineer who is accused of giving away state secrets to a Swedish company in a letter seeking employment.

The Moscow City Court held a preliminary sitting into whether Gennady Kravtsov committed treason, his lawyer Ivan Pavlov said. The entire case is classified and will be closed to the media.

Kravtsov quit his job as a military engineer in 2005 and then applied for work abroad, Pavlov said.

“He sent a letter in 2010 to one Swedish organisation asking if they would be interested in inviting him to work,” he told AFP. The defence argues that the information in the letter did not contain state secrets.

Kravtsov was born in 1968 and has three children, Pavlov added.

Some Russian media have said that Kravtsov was working for the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), Russia’s military intelligence agency.

Israel's Master Plan to Crush Iran's Nuclear Program

If you were asked to summarize the feelings within the White House and the U.S. State Department this week, they lie somewhere between ecstatic and relieved. Ecstatic, because President Barack Obama has succeeded for the time being (assuming that Congress doesn’t override a presidential veto) in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear-weapons capability over the next ten to fifteen years. The administration is relieved because, despite all of the saber rattling over a U.S. military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Washington was able to remove the nuclear file from the table through diplomacy. “This deal demonstrates that American diplomacy can bring about real and meaningful change,” President Obama remarked in the East Room of the White House, “change that makes our country, and the world, safer and more secure.”

There is one person, however, that firmly and sincerely believes that the agreement that was signed by all of the parties is a bad one. And he represents the state of Israel, America’s closest ally in the Middle East: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

5 Most Lethal Battleship Battles of All Time

The age of the steel line-of-battleship really began in the 1880s, with the construction of a series of warships that could carry and independently aim heavy guns external to the hull. In 1905, HMS Dreadnought brought together an array of innovations in shipbuilding, propulsion, and gunnery to create a new kind of warship, one that could dominate all existing battleships.

Although eventually supplanted by the submarine and the aircraft carrier, the battleship took pride of place in the navies of the first half of the twentieth century. The mythology of of the battleship age often understates how active many of the ships were; both World War I and World War II saw numerous battleship engagements. These are the five most important battles of the dreadnought age.

Battle of Jutland:

News of the Bizarre: Obama White House Decides Not to Publicly Blame China for Recent Hacks Into Government Computers

Ellen Nakashima
July 22, 2015

U.S. decides against publicly blaming China for data hack

Months after the discovery of a massive breach of U.S. government personnel records, the Obama administration has decided against publicly blaming China for the intrusion in part out of reluctance to reveal the evidence that American investigators have assembled, U.S. officials said.

The administration also appears to have refrained from any direct retaliation against China or attempt to use cyber-measures to corrupt or destroy the stockpile of sensitive data stolen from the Office of Personnel Management.

“We have chosen not to make any official assertions about attribution at this point,” said a senior administration official, despite the widely held conviction that Beijing was responsible. The official cited factors including concern that making a public case against China could require exposing details of the United States’ own espionage and cyberspace capabilities. The official was among several who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations.

Obama Administration’s Efforts to Close Down Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility Seen to Be Collapsing

Charlie Savage
July 22, 2015

Obama’s Plan for Guantánamo Is Seen Faltering

WASHINGTON — President Obama is enjoying a winning streak lately, with the Supreme Court reaffirming his signature health care law and Iran agreeing to curbs on its nuclear program. But one longstanding goal continues to bedevil him: closing the wartime prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The administration’s fitful effort to shut down the prison is collapsing again. Ashton B. Carter, in his first six months as defense secretary, has yet to make a decision on any newly proposed deals to transfer individual detainees. His delay, which echoes a pattern last year by his predecessor, Chuck Hagel, is generating mounting concern in the White House and State Department, officials say.

Last week, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, convened a cabinet-level “principals committee” meeting on how to close the prison before the president leaves office in 18 months. At that meeting, Mr. Carter was presented with an unsigned National Security Council memo stating that he would have 30 days to make decisions on newly proposed transfers, according to several officials familiar with the internal deliberations.

Nigerian President Claims That Boko Haram Will be Defeated in 18 Months, But Intel on Enemy Still Lacking

July 22, 2015

Nigerian leader: Forces ready soon to take on Boko Haram 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said Tuesday a multinational African force will be in place within 10 days to take the fight to the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram that has killed thousands and was behind the abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls.

Buhari predicted in an interview with The Associated Press that Boko Haram would be defeated in 18 months or less. But he conceded that Nigerian authorities lack intelligence about the girls still missing after the mass-kidnapping from the northern town of Chibok in April 2014 — an act that stirred international outrage and a campaign to “Bring Back Our Girls” that reached as far as the White House.

He said his government is open to freeing detained militants in exchange for the girls’ freedom, but only if it finds credible Boko Haram leaders to negotiate with.

“I think Nigeria will make as much sacrifice as humanly possible to get the girls back. This is our main objective,” Buhari said, a day after meeting with President Barack Obama.

Buhari spoke at the presidential guest house opposite the White House in a room decorated with murals of ceremonial Washington. He wore a traditional embroidered hat, popular among Muslims in northern Nigeria.

Does Europe Have a Future?

JULY 16, 2015

It took a historic deal with Iran to drive news from the European Union off the top of the past few days’ news feeds. In any other week, the continued saga of the eurozone and the latest deal with Greece would have received even more attention than it did. The news from Vienna was dramatic, but what happens in Europe over the next few years will be a lot more important than the ultimate outcome of the nuclear deal with Iran, as significant as that achievement is.

Remember: Iran is a country of some 80 million people, but the EU is a supranational community with a population of more than half a billion. As an economic unit, the EU has a combined GNP larger than that of the United States, considerable wealth, advanced industries, and significant military potential. The United States is formally allied with most of its members and has long benefited from cooperation with its fellow democracies there. Europe’s future course is therefore of considerable interest to the United States.

As it happens, I had the privilege of testifying to the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats on Tuesday on the topic of “The Future of the EU.” With some updates and editing, here’s what I told the subcommittee:

Congress Wants to Give Department of Homeland Security Responsibility for Policy US Government Computers

July 23, 2015

After hack, U.S. lawmakers look to protect ‘dot-gov’ domain

Republican and Democratic U.S. senators introduced legislation on Wednesday to give the Department of Homeland Security more authority to protect government Internet addresses, hoping to prevent more cyber attacks like recent massive breaches at the government’s hiring office.

Katherine Archuleta, the chief of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), resigned earlier this month after the computer hacks, possibly linked to China, put the personal data of some 22 million Americans at risk. The attacks prompted calls in Congress for huge improvements in monitoring and protection of government systems.

“This cyber attack points to a broader problem,” said Republican Senator Susan Collins, one of the bill’s lead sponsors.

Among other things, the legislation would give the DHS the authority to monitor all federal agencies in the “dot-gov” Internet domain, and operate defensive countermeasures. Currently, each agency monitors its own networks and then requests help from the DHS if it feels it needs it.

North Korea Prepares to Launch New Long Range Rocket Possibly Carrying a Satellite

July 22, 2015

North Korea prepares to launch new long-range rocket: Yonhap

North Korea is preparing to launch a new, long-range rocket, possibly in October, having completed an upgrade at its main satellite launch base, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported Wednesday.

Any such launch would almost certainly be viewed by the international community as a disguised ballistic missile test and result in the imposition of fresh sanctions.

Quoting an unnamed government source, Yonhap cited “credible intelligence” that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un had ordered the launch of a satellite to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party on October 10.

“We think (the North) will carry out a provocation around the 70th anniversary,” the source said.

The South Korean Defence Ministry declined to confirm or deny the Yonhap report.

“As to the construction of North Korea’s long-range missile launching facilities, we’ve been watching the North’s moves very closely,” a ministry spokesman said.

Selfless Service

The following post was penned by Rob Callahan, a Medical Service Corps officer in the United States Army. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.

COL Chip Bircher recently discussed the importance of Selfless Service in the military.[i] In the hopes of furthering the professional and ethical dialogue surrounding Selfless Service, he proposed refining the definition of this virtue to further emphasize “placing the needs of the Nation and the Army ahead of one’s personal goals.” I would like to add my voice to the discussion the Colonel started, but I must respectfully disagree with his recommendation. Selfless Service is definitely an important motivator for military service, but I personally feel service to the nation and service to the military should not be confused. You serve the Nation, you serve in a branch of the military. Equating the needs of the military branches and the Nation ignores the possibility of these needs being at odds. I believe the outspokenness of some millennial service members stems from a desire to protest when it appears that the wants and needs of the military are running counter to those of the nation.

The differences in opinion between junior and senior airmen over the fate of the A-10 showcased this exact phenomenon. The Air Force has been lobbying Congress to retire the A-10 Warthog for a number of years. Some commissioned officers and enlisted airmen disagreed with their service’s position and contacted members of Congress in order to voice their opposition.[ii] A Major General in the Air Force characterized the actions of those dissenting airmen as treason, and I believe his comments were motivated by an understanding of the nature of the military services which assumes that each service’s self-identified wants and needs are indistinguishable from the needs of the Nation.[iii]

Cyberwar, Visualized

Ever seen WarGames? Remember at the end of the movie when Matthew Broderick's character has tricked the malfunctioning supercomputer W.O.P.R. to simulate all permutations of global thermonuclear war, and it just starts flashing up a neon-hued light and laser show of all possible armageddons, faster than the eye can comprehend?

That's a lot what looking at the Norse Attack Map is like, but the lines flashing between counties aren't ICBMs. They're cyber attacks. And at any given moment, there are more of them flying between countries than all the nukes that have ever existed.

Developed by Norse Corp., a company dedicated to monitoring and providing intelligence on global cyber warfare, the Attack Map shows in real-time all the cyber attacks currently happening on the Norse network: where the attacks originate, where they're going, what kind of attacks they are, and so on. Each shooting streak of light is color coded after a different kind of attack: telnet is green, http-proxy is aqua, unknown is purple, and so on.

What History Tells Us About the Iran Deal and Regional Order

The historic nuclear deal reached with Iran earlier this month is unquestionably a significant step forward in resolving an issue that has demanded tireless U.S. diplomatic effort. What remains to be seen, however, is how it will shape the future of bilateral ties between Washington and Tehran. While the true value of the deal may not be entirely clear for decades – we are still grappling with Chinese assertiveness four decades after Nixon went to China – a major part of any assessment will be how it impacts the regional order in the Middle East.

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, the Middle East is at a critical historical juncture. Challenges to authoritarian regimes in the region have produced political and socio-economic vacuums which have then been exploited by Sunni extremist groups in pursuit of their jihadist ideology. Iran’s expanding regional influence penetrates almost every corner of the region, from Sanaa to Damascus, taking advantage of emerging ungoverned spaces – as the ubiquitous presence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC’s) elite unit Quds Force Commander Suleimani exemplifies.

Raytheon uses 3D printing to create guided weapon components

21 July 2015

Raytheon Missile Systems' scientists have used 3D printing to create almost every component of a guided weapon, including rocket engines and fins, as well as parts for the guidance and control systems.

The move forms part of a companywide push into 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, including projects intended to supplement legacy manufacturing processes.

The technique is being considered to lay down conductive materials for electrical circuits, create housings for the company's gallium nitride transmitters, and fabricate fins for guided artillery shells.

The technique enables engineers to make quick design and rapid changes, thereby reducing the costs associated with traditional manufacturing, such as machining of parts.

Raytheon additive manufacturing and 3D printing engineer Travis Mayberry said in a statement: "You can design internal features that might be impossible to machine.

Top 10 bloodiest battlefields of WWII

Apr 28, 2015

5. The battles for Kursk, 1943

2nd SS Panzer Division soldiers, Tiger I tank, during the battle [Via]

The Battles of Kursk were fought on the Eastern front near the town of Kursk in the Soviet Union. It started on July 5th 1943 and ended on August 23rd 1943.

What's Next for US-Thailand Military Ties?

Thai and American military representatives are meeting this week at army headquarters in Bangkok to discuss the future of military cooperation between the two allies.

The Executive Steering Group (ESG) meeting features mid-ranking officials and addresses bilateral military cooperation and joint activities in 2015 and 2016. This is the fourth annual ESG; the first was held in 2012.

The talks are taking place amid uncertainty in the U.S.-Thai relationship. On the one hand, both sides have clearly been trying to mend ties strained following a coup last May, which forced Washington to suspend aid and cancel some exercises and exchanges (See: “Thai Junta Chief Blasts Top US Diplomat”). Thailand appointed a new ambassador to Washington in February, and the United States nominated one in April after a six month vacancy for the post (See: “US Nominates New Envoy to Thailand Amid Strained Ties”).