5 October 2015

Afghanistan Struggles to Contain the Taliban

The fall of Kunduz last week underscores the difficulties the Afghan National Army is having on its own.
By Daniel R. DePetris
October 05, 2015

The war in Afghanistan, nearly fourteen years in the making, is by the far the longest U.S. military engagement in the nation’s history. The campaign against the Afghan Taliban, Al-Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Haqqani Network will outlast two U.S. presidential administrations and is very likely to continue even after the U.S. and the NATO coalition withdraw the remainder of their troops, due by the end of 2016. And yet, despite hundreds of billions of dollars in wartime spending, several emergency supplemental bills passed by the U.S. Congress, 2,364 U.S. troops killed in action and tens of thousands of additional troops having sustained serious wartime injuries, Afghanistan is still very much a country at war.

This reality was made very much clear last week when the Taliban took Kunduz, a key city in northern Afghanistan. Afghan government forces have since taken back control of most of the city, but the fact that it fell to the Taliban was a shock.

It should not have been: The Taliban – a movement that takes advantage of the Afghan government’s weaknesses by appealing to a small segment of the Afghan population –remains dynamic and adaptive in its recruitment and its tactics on the battlefield. Vast segments of the Afghan countryside, far away from the population centers that are safeguarded by the Afghan national security forces, are either in de-facto control of Taliban elements or susceptible to Taliban influence. Those same remote areas of the Afghan countryside also happen to primary recruiting and training grounds for other militant groups who are seeking to overthrow the government of President Ashraf Ghani — including a publicized camp administered by a contingent of the Islamic State in Logar province.

PM Modi dazzles Silicon Valley

October 2, 2015 
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ALL CHARISMA: "Prime Minister Narendra Modi's show at the packed stadium at the SAP Centre in San Jose was spectacular." Picture shows the Prime Minister before his address to the Indian community at the SAP Centre in California.

The U.S. recognises that India is the last unconquered digital market. If Digital India succeeds, there will be a new model to reach the rest of the unconnected world

Easy does it - Doing business, making strategies

Kanwal Sibal
October 2 , 2015

The United States of America remains the world's foremost political, economic, technological and military power, even if, in relative terms, it is not as dominant globally as before. It is India's biggest economic and technological partner; we have numerous institutionalized dialogues, which point to the huge potential of the relationship. Of all Western countries, our people-to-people ties are the deepest - more than two million annual visits between their citizens, students, and entrepreneurs. Our military ties are expanding, and we are building strategic convergences with it in the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific regions.
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In this edition of The Interview, Fair Observer talks to former Bureau Chief of BBC New Delhi Sir Mark Tully.

The relationship between the Indian public and the government has often been fraught with tension. During such times, foreign broadcasters like the BBC have found it easier to make inroads in a new cultural setting and communicated effectively with the Indian audience.

However, in the history of independent India, the relationship between the government and foreign media has not always been stable. On June 25, 1975, then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency—known as the “Emergency”—during which the BBC office in India was shut down. More recently, the Indian government made an attempt at stopping the British broadcaster from airing India’s Daughter, a documentary on sexual violence in the country.

Pakistani drone strikes should worry Obama

Michael Boyle, The Conversation ·

Recent targeted killings by Pakistan prove that drone warfare is expanding – and in unpredictable ways. It's time for the US to reconsider its own policies.

In early September, the government of Pakistan joined an exclusive club.

It became the fourth government in the world – following the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel – to use an armed drone to conduct a targeted killing.

In doing so, it shattered the assumption that armed drones and the practice of targeted killing will diffuse slowly to the rest of the world.

As an scholar of terrorism and political violence, I see this new deployment of drones as more than a mere tactical move by Pakistan. This incident should make Washington reconsider whether its use of drones for targeted killing will soon usher in unpredictable or even deadly consequences.

How Pakistan Protects Itself from Regional Sectarian War

Arif Rafiq 
September 18, 2015
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"An Iraq-style sectarian war has always been unlikely in Pakistan."

As sectarian wars continue to rage across the Middle East, Pakistan has managed to largely insulate itself from this regional plague. After a surge in Sunni-Shia sectarian violence from 2007-13, deaths from sectarian violence plummeted in 2014 by approximately 60 percent, in comparison to the previous year. In 2014, about two hundred Pakistanis died in Sunni-Shia sectarian violence, compared to approximately six hundred in 2013.

Pakistan and the Taliban: Past as Prologue?

By C. Christine Fair
September 30, 2015

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After riding the Islamist militancy tiger for decades, Pakistan now has a problem.

To understand the significance of the Taliban to Pakistan, it is important to understand the historically fraught ties not only between India and Pakistan, but also between Pakistan and Afghanistan. While it is commonly believed that Pakistan’s relationship with groups such as the Taliban emerged during the anti-Soviet jihad, this is a considerable understatement of the relationship. In fact, Pakistan’s dalliance with Islamist politics and Islamist militant groups in Afghanistan dates back to the earliest days of Pakistan’s independence. This attests to the enduring security challenges that Pakistan perceives in Afghanistan. Whether these fears are founded or not, Pakistan acts upon them as if they are fact.

Pakistan – unlike the United States – is asymmetrically motivated to stay the course in Afghanistan. Having successfully manipulated jihadi groups for decades, Pakistan has grown insouciant about its ability to continue riding this tiger. However, recent developments such as the announced death of Mullah Omar and the splits within the Taliban, as well as the emergence of ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan, raise the stakes for Islamabad. It is unlikely that Pakistan will be able to regain the kind of control that it exercised over the Taliban in the past. The most likely outcome is ever-deepening violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Unfortunately, as the world saw on 9/11, the sequelae of these developments are not likely to be confined to Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Here's the Most Disturbing Thing About the Taliban Takeover of Kunduz

By Akhilesh Pillalamarri
October 02, 2015

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The Taliban is gaining currency outside of its traditional Pashtun base. This is troubling.
The recent fall of the northern Afghan city of the Kunduz to the Taliban–which has since been mostlyrecaptured by Afghan government forces–highlighted some disturbing trends in the security situation in that country. The two trends that stand out the most are related to each other: the rise of the Taliban in northern Afghanistan and the expansion of the movement beyond its ethnic Pashtun base in southern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan.

On Thursday, despite losing Kunduz, the Taliban allegedly captured the Warduj district of Badakhshan,according to Fawzia Koofi, an Afghan lawmaker. This is significant because Badakhshan is the one province of Afghanistan that was completely free of Taliban rule before 2001, being the stronghold of the Northern Alliance. The district in particular was the stronghold of the Jamiat-e Islami, led by the ethnic-Tajik, pre-Taliban President of Afghanistan from 1992-1996, Burhanuddin Rabbani. Yet, the rise of the Taliban in northern Afghanistan has been a long time in coming. After the departure of NATO forces from the area in 2013, the power of the Taliban began to grow in the north.

The Download on the U.S.-China Cyber Espionage Agreement

Sep 30, 2015
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Jacques deLisle and Jeffrey Vagle on the U.S.-China Cyber Espionage Agreement

Last week’s agreement between President Barack Obama and visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping to curb commercial cyber espionage is a step forward from earlier stances of denial and counterattacks. Yet many remain skeptical about the effectiveness of the agreement, including U.S. security agencies. Continuing cyber espionage by non-state actors remains likely, and the Chinese central government has limited control over provincial governments in any case, say experts from Wharton and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. At a minimum, however, the agreement reduces tensions between the two countries over cyber espionage

China's 'Protracted War' in Xinjiang

By Shannon Tiezzi
October 03, 2015 


One of China’s top leaders preaches stability and ethnic unity in Xinjiang, even as news of more violence emerges.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in China’s northeast. Beijing has been taking every opportunity to celebrate the anniversary by calling to attention to advances in Xinjiang’s prosperity, even while violence and ethnic tensions continue to plague the region.

October 1, China’s National Day, was also the anniversary proper of the XUAR. Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, was in Xinjiang to mark the occasion. Yu spent the week of September 25 – October 1 in Xinjiang promoting “stability and unity” in the region.

Is This China's First Homemade Aircraft Carrier?

By Ankit Panda 
October 02, 2015 

China is working on its second aircraft carrier, the first to be indigenously built.

With little fanfare, China has probably started construction on its first indigenously-built aircraft carrier. Images from Chinese social media and satellite imagery from earlier this year, acquired by IHS Jane‘s 360, suggest that the new carrier has been under construction at the Dalian shipyard. The new carrier is reportedly using the same dry dock that was used to upgrade and refurbish the Varyag, a Soviet-designed and built Admiral Kuznetsov-class multirole carrier, into the Liaoning, the People’s Liberation Army-Navy’s sole aircraft carrier. The Liaoning was commissioned three years ago, in September, 2012. Analysts believe that China is planning to field a four-carrier navy. An image posted by a Weibo user earlier this year (above) purports to show progress on the carrier at the Dalian shipyard.

Satellite imagery analysis by Jane‘s reveals some features of the carrier’s physical dimensions. Specifically, the report notes that the dry dock support layout suggests the final carrier will have a hull around 270 meters with a beam of around 35 meters. Imagery in February showed a hull length of “150 to 170 m in length with a beam of about 30 m.” Preparations for the carrier have been ongoing at the Dalian shipyard since at least late-February this year, which is when Jane‘s first acquired satellite imagery. For comparison, the United States’ 100,000 ton Nimitz-class supercarriers feature a hull length of 333 meters with an overall beam of 77 meters and waterline beam measurement of 41 meters. The new Chinese carrier will be smaller than any carrier currently operated by the United States. In all likelihood, it’s final dimensions and tonnage may rival India’s ongoing second indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-2), the INS Vishal. The Vishal, currently in its design phase, will displace 65,000 tons is 300 meters in length with a beam of 61 meters.

Everybody Panic: China’s Oil Demand Is Crashing!!!

by Jody Chudley,
October 1st, 2015
Dear Resource Hunter,

Recently oil plunged again, and this time WTI pricing even broke below $40 per barrel.
The main reason behind the crash this time? As everybody who watches the financial networks knows, China is falling apart, and so is its oil demand.

But there is just one thing…

Follow up:

The data actually shows that China’s oil demand is holding up just fine.

It’s Time to Rethink Syria For years,

By Philip Gordon 
September 25, 2015
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I helped advise President Obama on Syria. It’s now clearer than ever that a new strategy is needed.

If somehow the tragic trajectory of the conflict in Syria were not apparent enough, several dramatic developments in recent weeks have come together to make it impossible to ignore. The most obvious is the influx into Europe of tens of thousands of desperate, hungry refugees—so devoid of hope in their homeland or neighboring refugee camps they are willing to risk drowning and starvation in the hope of finding a better life for themselves and their children.

Life in the Islamic State - Washington Post Five Part Series

The Islamic State‘s sophisticated propaganda portrays its occupied territory in Iraq and Syria as a “paradise.” But interviews with those who live under militant control suggest a far more grim reality. In this five-part project, The Washington Post's Kevin Sullivan reports on key aspects of daily life in the so-called “caliphate,” including the failing economy, the devastated education system, a justice system based on violence and fear, and the constant terror faced by women and girls.

This project includes five stories:

Life in the 'Islamic State': Spoils for the Rulers, Terror for the Ruled - Overview

Till Martyrdom Do Us Part - Women in the 'Islamic State'

A Climate of Fear and Violence - Justice in the 'Islamic State'

Where the Poor Starve and the Tax Man Carries a Whip - Economy in the 'Islamic State'

For Boys, God and Guns; For Girls, God and Cooking - Education in the 'Islamic State'

These stories are part of an occasional series about the militant group Islamic State and its violent collision with the United States and others intent on halting the group’s rapid rise.

This is a Battle of Ideas: Don't Ignore Ideology

Peter Welby 
29 Sep 2015
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As world leaders at the 70th United Nations General Assembly discuss strategies to defeat ISIS, they need to emphasise the strong ideological motivations of jihadi groups, says Peter Welby.

President Obama has today gathered world leaders to discuss how we defeat ISIS. The meeting is a culmination of a series of summits held around the world since February. The US State Department says they have looked at how to address the "underlying conditions or root causes" that drive individuals to violent extremism and that "...religion can be one among numerous factors that play into or otherwise inform a person's higher-order needs such as identity or purpose."

It is understandable that they would want to look at the multiple social, political, economic and cultural factors lead to extremism. The 'push factors' that drive jihadis are diffuse. The 'grievances' that push people towards extremism are also in constant flux: they are narratives that extremist groups use to link their messages to the everyday lives of their potential recruits.

But the essence of what the grievance is attached to is just as vital to understand. Jihadi violence draws from a deeper well of ideology. This ideological underpinning is important. Especially when evidence of its central role in propaganda is emerging. Building a coherent counter-extremism strategy will require a focus on these ideas.

Mastering MOOCs

Foreword by Karl Ulrich
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How business professionals are using MOOCs to further their careers and help their companies and teams succeed

Since first making headlines in 2011, hundreds of universities across the world have begun offering thousands of MOOCS, or massive open online courses, to millions of students around the world. While researchers are still looking at what this relatively new technology means for education, many business professionals are already yielding the benefits.

Mastering MOOCs: Using Open Online Courses to Achieve Your Goals offers insights into how anyone can gain the greatest personal and professional impact from a MOOC. In this original in-depth ebook, Knowledge@Wharton, The Wharton School’s online journal of business analysis, addresses:
The ROI for MOOCs: Learn how to decide if a MOOC is a good value for your time and your goals.
How a MOOC can increase your value to an employer: Find out how some have found new jobs, changed careers, and received new responsibilities or promotions after a MOOC.
How MOOCs can help your team succeed: Discover how business leaders are using MOOCs to solve business problems as a team and to bring employees up to speed on new areas of knowledge.

Towards a shared weltanschauung

October 2, 2015 
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A strong Germany in Europe, like a strong India in Asia, will facilitate a more balanced global dispersal of power and prevent the return of hegemony. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit provides the perfect moment to take the alliance between both nations to the next levelA strong Germany, in Europe, like a strong India in Asia, will facilitate a more balanced global dispersal of power and prevent the return of hegemony. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit is the perfect moment to take this alliance aheadA shared view of the world will unlock many doors. It can help breathe new life into the negotiations on an India- European Union (EU) free trade agreement (FTA)

The new warmth between Germany and India, displayed at the United Nations (UN) when the two joined hands (along with Brazil and Japan) to stake their claim for permanent membership of the UN Security Council, offers a good backdrop for German Chancellor Angela Dorothea Merkel’s visit to India, beginning this Sunday. However, the air around the summit is likely to be polluted by Volkswagen’s admission to cheating on emission norms, especially since New Delhi has been such a booming market for VW’s many models. The success of Ms. Merkel’s visit will depend on how both countries are able to balance business, security and people-to-people issues in defining their relationship.

Considerations on Strategy and Technology Interrelationships

by Tiberiu-Dan Onuta 
October 1, 2015 -
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Considerations on Strategy and Technology Interrelationships

Tiberiu-Dan Onuta

Strategy is the conjectural framework of war and national policy in wartime. It is, essentially, coherent military action justified by and concordant with a political argument1. The levels and kinds of military strategy encompass different realms with various methodologies and models. Categories of strategy noted by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) includes National Security Strategy (NSS), National Military Strategy (NMS), and Theater Strategy (TS)2. Also, specific types of strategy are considered when dealing with army actions, naval operations, or air force employments. However, the design of an effective military strategy should rely on a sui generis grand theory that would extract its coherence from the axiomatic ends-ways-means (objective-concepts-resources) norm3. This norm could simply be comprehended as recognizing high-priority situational factors, establishing a way to methodize, and emphasizing actions/assets to approach the objectives. Technology is one phenomenon that influences the praxis of military strategy. Technology trends act on both domestic and international security contexts in the U.S. Technological advancements contribute to better strategic decision cycles and risk assays. However, the entanglement between U.S. strategy and technology in the present age of disruptive and game-changing technologies leads to military implications which are not deeply understood and become subjects of extensive studies and debates.

India announces new climate change targets

October 2, 2015 

The Indian government has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions intensity – the ratio between gross emissions and a country’s GDP at a particular point in time – by 33-35% of its 2005 levels by 2030. To do so,India will ensure that about 40% of its electricity will come from non-fossil fuel sources. Additionally, it will increase its tree and forest cover to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

The government has submitted these numbers to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Changeas its targets (technically called the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution or INDC) for the global Parisagreement, which is to be finalised by December this year. The numbers will be officially released by Union Environment and Forests minister Prakash Javadekar in Delhi today.

In 2010, India had committed to reducing the emissions intensity of its economy by 20-25% below 2005 levels by 2020.

The government has said the new emission intensity reduction targets and adapting to climate change will require approximately $2.5 trillion at 2014-15 prices between now and 2030, besides an array of technologies. It is also committed to mobilising additional finance from developed countries. It has also said that it will work to build an international architecture for diffusion of cutting edge technologies, as well as collaborative research and development for future technologies.

Computer network defence


NATO is advancing its efforts to both confront and address the wide range of cyber threats faced by Allies each day and this includes engaging industry, academia and public institutions in these efforts.

“Cyber security incidents are increasing in both scope and scale every day. Our defensive mechanisms have been outpaced by the scope and scale of malicious cyber activities and, as a result, this issue now sits as one of the most important emerging security challenges facing our countries today”, says Melissa Hathaway, Council of Experts, Global Cyber Security Centre (GCSEC), Rome, Italy.

She was speaking at a ‘Book Talk’ event held at NATO HQ on 10 February 2014, which discussed the conclusions drawn from a workshop that focused on exploring common interest issues for improving Allied and partner cyber defence practices.

The workshop, held end 2013, was supported by the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme and addressed cyber defence and NATO’s cyber defence policy implementation. It brought together a multi-disciplinary team of experts from 16 countries and three international institutions to share experience, knowledge and opinions. Together they generated 21 specific findings and 12 papers to help improve the cyber defence posture of NATO member countries and their partners.

Why US talks will not be enough to make China ditch cyberwar

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You can't trust treaties to look after your cybersecurity – organisations must protect their own data

Hey, wanna cyber? (Image: Mark Wilson/Getty)

THERE are fingerprints everywhere, but no one has been caught. On Wednesday last week, the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) admitted that the data breach it suffered in June was worse than first thought, with 5.6 million fingerprints among the 21.5 million personal records compromised. It had thought the figure was 1.1 million.

New Techniques Making It Easier to Track Source of Remote Access Trojan Horse (RAT) Cyber Attacks


September 29, 2015

Low tolerance for latency makes RAT operators less likely to use proxies, easier to track back home.

By proactively using large-scale Internet enumeration, law enforcement and security teams may be able to stop operators of remote access Trojans (RATs) like DarkComet, Poison Ivy, Havex, and AlienSpy before they even launch their attack campaigns, according to a new report by Recorded Future.

The kind of data RATs often deal with require a lot of bandwidth – photos, audio recordings, video from Webcams, etc. – and therefore, RAT controllers are generally less tolerant of latency, according to Levi Gundert, author of Recorded Future’s report. Since they’re less tolerant of latency, they’re less likely to operate through proxies, so compared to other kinds of malware, there are a disproportionate number of RATs that are run from residential ISP subnets.

As Gundert explains, starting from a data point like this makes attribution quicker and easier. It may make it possible for law enforcement to cut off RAT attacks before operators use the information they’ve collected for further nefarious aims, like blackmail or silencing political dissidents, he says.

Smaller, Faster, Cheaper, Over: The Future of Computer Chips

 SEPT. 26, 2015
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Max Shulaker, a graduate student at Stanford, working in 2011 on a new kind of semiconductor circuit. As chips continue to shrink, computer scientists are seeking new technological breakthroughs. CreditLianne Milton for The New York Times

At the inaugural International Solid-State Circuits Conference held on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1960, a young computer engineer named Douglas Engelbart introduced the electronics industry to the remarkably simple but groundbreaking concept of “scaling.”

Pentagon's Online Habits Render US Weapons Info Highly Vulnerable

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The Pentagon's longstanding practice of connecting networks, equipment, and weapons to the open Internet has unintentionally created major vulnerabilities throughout the Defense Department.

The strategy was supposed to facilitate the collection of performance data to help design new weapons and monitor equipment remotely, among other benefits. Instead, it has jeopardized Pentagon networks and much of what the defense industry has developed over several decades.

"We are trying to overcome decades of a thought process…where we assumed that the development of our weapon systems that external interfaces, if you will, with the outside world were not something to be overly concerned with," Admiral Michael Rogers, the commander of Cyber Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

The Amazing Inner Lives of Animals

Tim Flannery 

Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
Elephant herds crossing a lake bed in the sun, Amboseli, Kenya, 2008; photograph by Nick Brandt

The free-living dolphins of the Bahamas had come to know researcher Denise Herzing and her team very well. For decades, at the start of each four-month-long field season, the dolphins would give the returning humans a joyous reception: “a reunion of friends,” as Herzing described it. But one year the creatures behaved differently. They would not approach the research vessel, refusing even invitations to bow-ride. When the boat’s captain slipped into the water to size up the situation, the dolphins remained aloof. Meanwhile on board it was discovered that an expeditioner had died while napping in his bunk. As the vessel headed to port, Herzing said, “the dolphins came to the side of our boat, not riding the bow as usual but instead flanking us fifty feet away in an aquatic escort” that paralleled the boat in an organized manner.

Defining the Gray Zone Challenge

by David S. Maxwell

SWJ Blog Post | October 1, 2015 -

Defining the Gray Zone Challenge

Dave Maxwell

“Defining the Gray Zone” is a U.S. Special Operations Command White Paper dated 9 September 2015 and can be downloaded here.

Here is an excerpt:

Defining the Gray Zone Challenge

Gray zone security challenges, existing short of a formal state of war, present novel complications for U.S. policy and interests in the 21st Century. We have well-developed vocabularies, doctrines, and mental models to describe war and peace, but the numerous gray zone challenges in between defy easy categorization. For purposes of this paper, gray zone challenges are defined as competitive interactions among and within state and non-state actors that fall between the traditional war and peace duality. They are characterized by ambiguity about the nature of conflict, opacity of the parties involved or uncertainty about the relevant policy and legal frameworks.

Decision Point Tactics: Elevating Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield in a Decisive Action Training Environment

by Eric Slater

Journal Article | September 30, 2015

Decision Point Tactics: Elevating Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield in a Decisive Action Training Environment

The scope of this article is to provide tactics, techniques and procedures for the successful application of Decision Point Tactics while conducting Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield in a decisive action training environment. It is also meant to serve a launching point for discussion, provide a framework for the generation of products that will support your Commander in a decisive action environment and discuss staff integration into the intelligence process.

Current doctrine describing Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield argues that the culmination of the first three steps should yield several potential enemy courses of action. ATP 2-01.3 states that an intelligence professional should develop as many complete enemy courses of action as time allows. Quite frankly, this inevitably turns into two courses of action, a most likely and a most dangerous. While many Commanders are satisfied with their MLCOA and MDCOA presented as a two slide product, intelligence sections are truly doing a disservice to our commanders.

Failing With Single-Point Solutions: Systems Thinking For National Security

by Daniel McCauley

Journal Article | September 29, 2015 - 11:24am

Failing With Single-Point Solutions: Systems Thinking For National Security

Daniel H. McCauley

You cannot navigate well in an interconnected, feedback-dominated world unless you take your eyes off short-term events and look for long-term behavior and structure; unless you are aware of false-boundaries and bounded rationality; unless you take into account limiting factors, non-linearities, and delays.

- Donella Meadows, 2008

I have a problem with the Sunday morning political talk shows that our nation’s leaders use as a testing ground for solutions to the challenges, issues, and problems besetting the US on a regular basis. My problem is not that I watch the shows, but when I do indulge I have a hard time understanding the simple, linear, reductionist explanations of experts that offer predictable and comfortable responses to complex issues. Terrorism, nation-state bankruptcies, stock market crashes, humanitarian disasters, invasions through proxies, nuclear and technology proliferation, and transnational criminal organizations are just a few of the more recent headlines that all experts agree are undermining US national security. But few of these experts identify—let alone explain—the interrelationship of many of these issues or the multitude of contributing factors inherent within each of these challenges. The pundits of opposing political parties, aka experts, seek to define a static end-product easily judged as right or wrong, good or bad that doesn’t exist.


OCTOBER 1, 2015

There is a famous story attributed to Albert Wohlstetter and Andrew Marshall about a medieval knight. The knight finds a modern assault rifle with a bayonet on the battlefield. Clearly, the weapon offers greater range and lethality than anything the knight has. Yet, what does the knight do with it? Does he use it to bludgeon his adversaries as he would a sword or does he experiment, firing the rifle at targets over a hundred years away, and realize the potential for new forms of warfare? Without experimentation and a vibrant intellectual discourse on the future of land warfare, the United States risks becoming the bludgeoning knight. This experimentation should include, but must not be limited to the pursuit of new technologies.


OCTOBER 1, 2015

In 1994, ten Belgian peacekeepers were sacrificed on the altar of a new-age idea, that the military — originally designed to break things and kill people — was something else altogether. The soldiers of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) were ordered to keep a tenuous peace without the mandate, weapons condition, or rules of engagement that provided the credibility to a military. In attempting to protect the moderate Rwandan Prime Minister, Madam Agathe Uwilingiyimana, 10 Belgians from the most elite forces of UNAMIR were kidnapped, tortured, and executed by the Rwandan presidential guard. They had been castrated, with their Achilles tendons cut so they couldn’t run before they were killed. Years later Gen. Romeo Dallaire, their Canadian officer-in-charge, would attempt suicide to escape the horror he witnessed for the world’s fiction of policy.


SEPTEMBER 30, 2015

American forces' tactical proficiency has repeatedly earned the United States gains on the battlefield. But those gains have too often been mitigated by a lack of comparable strategic proficiency.

Our men and women in uniform have made enormous sacrifices implementing the policies developed at the highest levels of our government. But those policies and the strategies to implement them have too often not measured up.

The US military’s #1 challenge in the 21st century: recruiting a few good people


Summary: The US military faces many problems in the 21st century, but perhaps none more serious than the need to recruit sufficient numbers of the high quality people it needs. They face two kinds of difficulties. This post discusses not just the small problems that get all the attention, but also the large but seldom mentioned ones. At the end are links to a wealth of research about these matters.

“If we put the Pentagon’s personnel managers in charge of the Sahara Desert, they would run out of sand in five years.”

From an analysis by John. J. Sayen (Lt. Colonel, USMC, retired). He is author of 2 books about US army infantry in WWII (1942 – 1943, 1944 – 1945).

The New Great Game

By Rani D. Mullen and Cody Poplin

A Battle for Access and Influence in the Indo-Pacific

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Washington has had media outletsabuzz about cybertheft and sandcastles rising out of the South China Sea. But in many ways, these issues are side plots to a larger story: the New Great Game for influence in the Indo-Pacific, which has arisen at the confluence of three strategies, China’s Maritime Silk Road, India’s Act East Policy, and the United States’ Rebalance to Asia. It is possible for all three strategies to work together, but it won’t be easy—particularly for the United States.


India and China might struggle for political and commercial influence in the Indo-Pacific region, but both would do better to coordinate their policies, since as neighbors, their economic and political success depends on deepening engagement with each other and other countries in the region. At the moment, both recognize that there is little to be gained from proxy wars and have instead favored soft power diplomacy.

Why the U.S. Military Isn’t Winning

Mark Thompson@MarkThompson_DC 
Oct. 1, 2015

In June 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria swept through Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and drove out the Iraqi forces that the U.S. had spent $20 billion training and equipping. Last May, they did much the same in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province. This week, the Taliban—the Islamic fundamentalists running Afghanistan who sheltered Osama bin Laden as his lieutenants plotted the 9/11 attacks—retook the northern Afghan city of Kunduz after the U.S. invested $60 billion building Afghanistan’s military. It marked the first time the Taliban have taken a provincial capital since 2001.

The Biggest Military Wastes of Money


The staggering amount of money available to the US Armed Forces has resulted in wasteful military spending on a grand scale and some of the worst military spending in history. As technology changes and improves, new designs in tanks, planes, weapons, and vehicles have to be developed - all of which cost huge amounts. But the military is plagued by bureaucratic inefficiency, redundancy, procurement issues, changing priorities, and a process that simply takes too long.

As a result, the last 30 years are littered with futuristic, pointless military projects that never saw a day of action. Lasers, stealth ships, high-tech tanks and guns, communications systems, even uniforms - all have been developed at massive costs, and done little to nothing to keep the nation or its armed forces safe. The most egregious, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, might top out at $1.5 trillion - more than the GDP of all but 11 countries on earth - and it's never fired a shot.

Rampant military spending isn't a new phenomenon, as numerous European countries during after World War II wasted staggering sums on defenses that provided no defense. But when it comes to wasting money, nobody can beat the US from the Cold War until now. Here are the most egregious examples of military spending gone haywire, from WWII until today.

Your Soldiers Are Not Your Children. Treat Them Accordingly

By David Dixon 
on October 2, 2015
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Military leaders will get a lot farther with their subordinates if they treat them like adults and not children.