11 October 2015

Can Afghan Forces Resist the Taliban?


Interviewee: Stephen D. Biddle, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy
Interviewer: Zachary Laub, Online Writer/Editor
October 9, 2015
The Taliban's brief seizure of Kunduz marked its first capture of a provincial capital in the fourteen years since the U.S. invasion. It also signaled the vulnerability of Afghan security forces, which were able to reclaim Kunduz only with U.S. air support. Ultimately, the only acceptable outcome is a negotiated settlement between the government and Taliban, says CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Stephen Biddle, but that could be a long time off, given turmoil within the Taliban. Ahead of any talks, Afghan forces will have to maintain a stalemate with the Taliban, says Biddle, but without air power and hobbled by political divisions, they will require U.S. support well beyond the narrow mission that President Barack Obama articulated in June 2014.
Afghan National Army officers at a training exercise in Kabul. (Photo: Ahmad Masood/Reuters)

Kunduz was the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban since 2001. What does that say about Afghan forces' ability to hold territory beyond Kabul?

If you want to defend everywhere, it requires a lot of people. The United States has been trying for a long time to get the Afghan government to make decisions about places that it doesn't need to hold so that it can concentrate in places that matter, but the Afghan government is reluctant to give up any territory, and it has ended up overextended.

The second problem has to do with the combat capability and motivation. Afghan special forces are quite good; the Afghan Local Police and Afghan [National] Police are often corrupt, poorly equipped, poorly armed, and poorly trained. The Afghan National Army also has corruption, which can sap combat motivation. Kunduz suggests that when the Taliban are able to concentrate against particular points, there's some risk that Afghan defenses might not be able to hold [the territory].

Dams and Development


Monday, 5 October 2015, 3:51 pm
Article: Shobha Shukla

Dams and development: Corporate interests and Manipur's struggle for justiceShobha Shukla, Citizen News Service 
29th September
(CNS): In the Northeastern part of India lies the state of Manipur – characterized by its lush terrain, flowing rivers, and diverse flora and fauna – a fertile ground for large-scale corporate-backed ‘development projects’ that exacerbate human rights violations and unbridled exploitation of natural resources.

While in New York for the UN Summit for the Adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, Jiten Yumnam, a journalist and senior development justice activist from Manipur, India, shared his concerns with Citizen News Service (CNS), about the severe impacts of unbridled exploitation of the environment and natural resources in North East India through the building of mega dams.

Jiten is the Secretary of the Centre for Research and Advocacy Manipur, and is also a member of the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) Post-MDG Working Group.
As Manipur lies in armed conflict zones, its development issues often get mired with conflict situations, exacerbating human rights violations, and providing fertile ground to promote large-scale unsustainable development.

Wikistrat Report: Russia in Syria – Tactical Masterstroke, Strategic Risk

Posted on October 7, 2015 

Russia has caught the West by surprise with its military intervention in Syria. But the risk of escalation or humiliation – or both – is high.

This Wikistrat report, written by Senior Analyst Mark Galeotti, highlights Russia’s interests in Syria as well as the risks it runs.

Russia appears to have no exit strategy beyond complete victory over all Syrian rebel forces, which is vanishingly improbable. While Russia’s aim is to provide a period of respite for the Assad regime, it is unlikely that Russian forces will substantively change the situation on the ground. Major defections or desertions, or open rifts within the Alawite elite, could also easily send Assad’s regime into a spiral of fragmentation and recrimination. In such circumstances, would Moscow back an alternative to Assad who may have a better chance of recovering the regime’s coherence? Or would it feel forced to deploy ground troops to try and force a reconstitution of a client regime?

Furthermore, there is a risk that Russian action against ISIS, however minimal, will incite terrorist attacks inside Russia, given the number of northern Caucasus insurgent groups now professing their allegiance to the self-declared caliphate.

The United States has three broad options to respond, argues Galeotti:
Quiet Cooperation. Though it falls short of Vladimir Putin’s ambitions, there is scope for the kind of informal cooperation enjoyed with Iran against ISIS in Iraq, not least in military deconfliction. While this does in effect sanction Russia’s intervention, it essentially does nothing more than recognize the facts on the ground and offers no rewards to Russia for its coup de main.
Make a Deal. Putin is clearly looking for a wider political arrangement; he might well be willing to back away from his support for Assad in return for concessions over Ukraine. However, this would be ruinous for Washington in terms of international and domestic credibility.
Bind and Bleed. The temptation might be to allow Putin to overreach and become mired in Syria, not least because the more effort committed there, the less available for his parallel Ukrainian adventure. However, given that his priority is supporting Assad rather than fighting ISIS, the outcome would also be to extend the duration of the war and increase the polarization between ISIS and Damascus, squeezing out the other, so-called “moderate” rebel forces. It also grants Putin the initiative in region.

Click here or on the cover image to download the full PDF report.

Mark Galeotti is a professor of Global Affairs at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs. He is an authority on Russian security affairs and transnational crime, and has authored several Wikistrat reports.

For more information about Wikistrat and for access to the full simulation archive, contact

TPP: Using Trade To Address Politics


Abhijit Das the Head, Centre for WTO Studies, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade. The views expressed are personal.

While the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement would become the largest FTA in the world, its political fallout would need to be carefully understood.

The recently concluded negotiations for a mega free trade agreement (FTA) between 12 Pacific rim countries has attracted considerable attention from political leaders, researchers, policy makers and civil society activists. While the FTA – referred to as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement – is meant to liberalise trade among Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam, it is aimed at restoring American supremacy in commercial matters and global rule-making on trade issues. TPP is also beset with many contradictions and problems, resulting in protests in some signatory countries.

Any attempt to understand the contents of the TPP runs into a problem – the final text of the agreement is not yet in the public domain and is likely to remain a secret for another month. Anecdote has it that till a few months back, even the US lawmakers were denied access to the negotiating texts. Hence, some of the reactions to the TPP might prove to be speculative. It is indeed ironical that while the TPP has a chapter on transparency, the negotiations were shrouded in a cloak of considerable secrecy.
So, what is the TPP text likely to contain?

Russia’s New Mega-Missile Stuns the Globe

Putin’s latest weapons were mostly unknown to the outside world—until they began slamming into Syria.

On Oct. 7, Russian warships in the Caspian Sea fired 26 high-tech cruise missiles at rebel targets in Syria—a staggering 1,000 miles away. 

The missiles in question, which the Pentagon calls SS-N-30s, were mostly unknown to the outside world before the Oct. 7 raid. Even close watchers of the Russian military were surprised to see them. The missile attack was also highlyvisible. In many ways, it was an announcement to the world, and America in particular, that the once-dilapidated Russian navy is back in action—and that Putin’s missileers are now among the planet’s most advanced. 

Planning for the missile attack began on Oct. 5, six days after Moscow’s warplanes conducted their first bombing runs on rebel holdouts in western Syria. Russia is intervening in Syria ostensibly to help the Damascus regime defeat the so-called Islamic State widely known as ISIS, but the Russian attacks seem to be hitting ISIS’s enemies more than the terror army itself. What’s more, critics point out, Syria provides Moscow strategic access to the Mediterranean Sea

“Russian reconnaissance had discovered a number of important objects of militants, which were to be destroyed immediately,” the Russian Defense Ministry explained in a statement. Drones, surveillance satellites, radio interception, and human spies on the ground helped planners select the targets, the ministry added

In Syria, the Loyalist Offensive Begin

Stratfor, 8 October 2015

The Syrian government’s long-expected offensive against the country’s rebel forces has begun. On Oct. 7, loyalist troops advanced against rebel-held positions in northern Hama with thesupport of numerous Russian airstrikes as well as both rocket and tube artillery fire. Initial reports from the battlefield suggest that the rebels, primarily the Free Syrian Army, are putting up an effective defense in spite of heavy shelling. The rebels’ liberal use of improvised explosive devices and anti-tank guided missiles has taken a heavy toll on loyalist armor; several reports say rebels destroyed 17 armored fighting vehicles on the first day of the fight, and combat footage has confirmed the destruction of at least nine vehicles.

Despite the initial setback, the loyalists’ Russian-backed offensive has only just begun. Already there have been heavy airstrikes in the Al-Ghab plain, signaling the spread of the offensive to other areas of Hama. Loyalists are also preparing to assault the northern Homs pocket and to push toward the Kweiris air base, where several allied groups are still engaged in fighting with Islamic State forces.

The rebels are at a disadvantage in the fight because they lack air defense weaponry. They also have few means with which to counter Russian or loyalist rocket and artillery fire. However, the rebels can continue to heavily rely on their anti-tank guided missiles and defensive acumen to slow down the loyalist forces in a battle of attrition. The rebels are also expecting further shipments of weapons and equipment from their foreign patrons, especially Turkey and the Gulf Arab states, and they may receive man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) that would prove useful against low-flying aircraft and helicopters.


by Josh Rogin & Eli Lake
Oct. 9, 2015
A week into Russia’s military intervention in Syria, some top White House advisers and National Security Council staffers are trying to persuade President Barack Obama to scale back U.S. engagement there, to focus on lessening the violence and, for now, to give up on toppling the Syrian regime.

In addition, administration officials and Middle East experts on both sides of the debate tell us, Obama’s foreign-policy team no longer doubts that Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to prop up President Bashar al-Assad and primarily target opposition groups other than the Islamic State, including those trained by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The administration came to this conclusion late. Despite warnings from U.S. intelligence agencies that Putin’s military buildup was intended to keep Assad in power, the White House nonetheless decided to explore cooperating with Russia on the ground. Throughout the summer and into the fall, top Russian officials — including Putin himself in a meeting last month with Obama at the U.N. — said they were not committed to keeping Assad in power for the long term, and would only target Islamic State fighters in their military offensive, according to U.S. officials.
These officials no longer believe Russia was telling the truth. Reuters reported this week that Putin was planning his Syria intervention for months with Iranian officials, while misleading the West. Now any hope that the U.S. and Russia could work together on stabilizing Syria has ended.

Syria Airstrikes Expose The Faultlines In Turkey's Relationship With Russia

-- this post authored by Natasha Ezrow, University of Essex

Tensions are rising fast between Turkey and Russia after Russian jets apparently violated Turkey's airspace twice, leading to heated exchanges between Ankara and Moscow. Russia claimed that an SU-30 warplane had entered Turkish airspace by accident due to bad weather conditions and navigational error - an explanation that was dismissed by Turkish president, Recep Erdogan who said that Russia risked losing a friend and warned of possible NATO involvement.

What has clearly nettled Erdogan is that, despite having visited Moscow last month, he was not alerted to any of Russia's plans for intervention in Syria. Russia's presidential press officer Dmitri Peskov countered on Monday that relations with Turkey were "comprehensive and have a very solid foundation in terms of mutually profitable relations", but Erdogan claimed he was losing his patience and invokedArticle 5 of the NATO Treaty, saying that any "attack on Turkey means an attack on NATO".

Russia and Turkey have had a history of clashing over several centuries, but in recent years tensions between the two countries had eased. Before the Syrian conflict, relations between the two countries could even be characterised as cooperative. Turkey and Russia made numerous deals to lift visa requirements andtrade increased to more than US$32.7 billion. Large investments also took place in the energy sector, with a deal signed for Russia to help build a US$20 billion nuclear plant in Turkey.

Echoes of Afghanistan in Syria

October 9, 2015

The Russian military intervention to shore up the Assad regime in Syria, coupled with the previously begun U.S.-led military intervention in the same country—amid uncertainty about U.S. war aims and a reluctance to part with the objective of ousting Assad—presents the specter of a proxy war between Russia and the United States. Before the specter gets any closer to becoming a reality, we should gain what insights we can from a country that hosted previous proxy warfare, that was the scene of military interventions by both Moscow and Washington, and that continues to be a problem for U.S. policy: Afghanistan. We should learn what lessons we can regarding both risks and opportunities in such places, while understanding the differences as well as the similarities between the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria.

Whatever other motives Russian president Vladimir Putin has in doing what he is doing today in Syria, shoring up a beleaguered regime that has been a friend and client of Russia is clearly one of the immediate objectives. In that respect the action is very similar to what the Soviet Union did when it threw its forces into Afghanistan in 1979, in an effort to shore up a similarly beleaguered client regime in Kabul. Another similarity in the two conflicts is that the opposition to each regime comprised a variety of armed groups in a predominantly Sunni Muslim country, with the groups ranging from mostly secular to militant Islamist. And in each case opposition groups received material support from Arab states and, later, from the United States.

So far the Russian military operation in Syria is much smaller than the Soviet expedition in Afghanistan, which at its peak involved 115,000 troops. No Russian ground troops have yet been committed to combat in Syria, although hints from Moscow and the facts on the ground will make it unsurprising if Russian “volunteers” start participating directly in the fight. Regardless of the discrepancy in size of the two operations, the prospects for quagmire that have faced the Soviets and Russians in each place are comparable. Bashar Assad is no more secure today than Afghan president Babrak Karmal was in 1979. The insecurity in each case has been due not to any direct countervailing military intervention by outside powers—the United States and the USSR/Russia have not used their forces in Afghanistan at the same time as the other did—but to the deep unpopularity of each incumbent regime and the unlikelihood that it ever could form the basis of lasting stability in its country, in the face of persistent and in large part religiously inspired opposition.

With Naval Strikes into Syria, Russia Is Now Messaging with Missiles

October 8, 2015
On October 7, Russian warships launched twenty-eight cruise missiles into Syria from the landlocked Caspian Sea. (Russian Ministry of Defense/YouTube)

By Sean Liedman

The Russian Navy’s initial firing of twenty-six cruise missilesfrom ships in the Caspian Sea into Syria yesterday generated little effect on the Syrian battlefield—but that may not be the primary objective. Russian President Vladimir Putin capitalized on this opportunity to showcase this new sea-based, long range precision strike capability as a strategic messaging tool aimed at a variety of audiences:
The international community. The American monopoly on the employment of long range, precision strike weapons is over. Additionally, even though this strike was executed from the land-locked Caspian Sea, it was a demonstration of Russian naval capability which inherently means Russian global capability. However, the Russians will need to secure access to port facilities for logistics sustainment to deploy this capability beyond the European theater, as I wrote last week.

The United States. This event clearly demonstrated Russian naval capability and the will to employ it. Additionally, the Russians demonstrated the submerged launch of a “Kalibr” missile from their newest “Yasen” class nuclear- powered submarine back in 2012 that enables them employ this strike capability from the cloaking of the sea. It has been reportedthat the “Yasen” is quieter than the U.S. Navy’s venerable “Los Angeles” class submarine; the U.S. Navy is working diligently to rebuild the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capability and proficiency of its air, ship, and submarine forces to defend the homeland against the threat of land-attack cruise missile-equipped Russian submarines.


October 10, 2015 · by RC Porter ·
So, yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, the aforementioned accused, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is guilty of a very great crime: He defends his allies and attacks his enemies-conduct particularly reprehensible in the eyes of the Obama Administration, which does the exact opposite. Obama’s America dislikes Japan’s staunchly pro-American Prime Minister Abe (deemed “insufficiently apologetic”), it spurns the calls for action of Britain’s Cameron and Hollande of France, and has missed no opportunity to denigrate Benjamin Netanyahu, even as it eagerly embraces the bleak dictators of Cuba and of course Hassan Fereydoun a.k.a. Rouhani, president of the “death to America” Islamic republic of Iran and de facto chief nuclear negotiator-for the second time. The first time, from Oct. 6, 2003 to Aug. 15, 2005, when Rouhani was the official negotiator, under the equally mellifluous President Mohammad Khatami, he boasted that he had used the talks “to buy time to advance Iran’s nuclear program”-but that is not something that would dissuade an American administration that is intensely suspicious, but only of its allies.

In these grim times, I am afforded light relief by CNN-the only news channel offered by the treadmill of my Tokyo apartment house-as its presenters and pundits gravely debate the motives behind Putin’s investment in Syria. His own version is that he is fighting “extremism,” which oddly enough is the same dark threat that President Barack Obama also recognizes while rigorously avoiding the qualifiers Islamic, Islamist, or Muslim-although he will refer to Isol, prompting the thought that it is impossible to defeat an enemy one is afraid to name. There is no Isol or even Isis anymore, because the good old ad-Dawlah al-Islamiyah fi’l-ʿIraq wa-sh-Sham-the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-has long since become the Islamic State of everywhere from Nigeria to Afghanistan, no doubt also including the British Isles and Michigan. Ignoring earnest declarations of its un-Islamic character solemnly issued by non-Muslim presidents, premiers, and prelates, volunteers who recognize the authenticity of the Islamic State keep pouring into its still-expanding borders, easily offsetting the casualties inflicted by the very expensive U.S. bombing campaign, now joined by the British, French, … and Putin, whose air force already claims dozens of air strikes against the common foe.

Russian Intervention In Syria Could Drive Crude Prices Deep Into The $30s


Amid worries that Russia’s armed intervention in Syria signals a new Cold War between Russia and the West, another and related rematch appears in the offing. If Russia and Iran are Syrian President Assad’s strongest foreign backers, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies surely number among his and Iran’s most implacable foes. The implications of a potential Russo-Saudi proxy war for international oil markets are significant.

There is little doubt that such a conflict is brewing. Speaking with journalists on the sidelines of a U.N. General Assembly meeting last week, the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, pointedly stated that “There is a moderate Syrian opposition that is fighting against President Assad. We expect this support [for those rebels] will continue and be intensified.” Saudi support can take at least two possible forms.

One option is direct action—i.e. funds, weapons, and supplies supplied to preferred rebel groups. As in the 1980s, the economics of insurgency will work against Moscow. While a rebel with a $500 RPG or IED can destroy a $500,000 armored vehicle, each Russian airstrike costs hundreds of thousands of dollars just to hit a single, often easily replaceable point target. That same sum could fund dozens of sizeable rebel attacks. In addition, Russia does not have the geographical advantages it enjoys in Ukraine.

How Syria is becoming a test bed for high-tech weapons of electronic warfare


The relationship between Russia and the West is becoming increasingly dangerous with potential flashpoints developing in both eastern Europe and Syria. After repeated incursions into Turkish airspace by Russian warplanes on bombing raids over Syria, NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg warned Moscow that it stands ready to “defend all allies”. Meanwhile Britain announced it would send troops to Baltic states to defend NATO’s eastern boundaries against possible Russian aggression beyond Ukraine.

Russia’s military presence in Syria has been steadily increasing over the past few months. Its warplanes are carrying out regular bombing raids against both Islamic State position and, reportedly, other rebel groups opposed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Its warships are launching cruise missiles against the same targets. But the latest reports are that Russia has also deployed its most modern electronic warfare system to Syria – the Krasukha-4 (or Belladonna) mobile electronic warfare (EW) unit.

The Krasukha-4 is a broad-band multifunctional jamming system designed to neutralise Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) spy satellites such as the US Lacrosse/Onyx series, airborne surveillance radars and radar-guided ordinance at ranges between 150km to 300km. The system is reported to be able to cause damage to the enemy’s EW systems and communications. The Krasukha-4 system works by creating powerful jamming at the fundamental radar frequencies and other radio-emitting sources.

Lt General Hodges, the commander of US Army Forces Europe, commented that Russia had demonstrated a high level of offensive EW proficiency against Ukrainian forces in Donbas using a first foreign deployment of the Krasukha-4 system.
Hi tech hostilities

Electronic warfare (EW) was first developed in World War II by the UK to defend against Axis bomber attacks and to defend Allied bombers from enemy surveillance systems. From that time there have been major technological breakthroughs and EW is now acknowledged to be a major fighting element of armed forces worldwide. The US, Russia and Europe invest billions of dollars each year in research and development in order to be the best at this essential military art, while Asian countries, led by China, also view EW as ta vital area for research and development.

E3 Sentry – NATO’s ‘eyes in the sky’. Author provided

Why Russia Needs an Exit Strategy in Syria


A Russia defense expert analyzes the Syria conflict.
October 9, 2015
Russia's intervention in Syria is the most remarkable military and political campaign of Putin's era, the first post-Soviet substantial military foray beyond the borders of the former USSR. For historical purposes, Russia's intervention in Syria, more than anything else, marks its return to the global arena as a player with whom other powers--led as they are by the United States--must contend, albeit reluctantly.

Clearly, the decision to dispatch a Russian military contingent to Syria was a very risky step in military, foreign policy, and domestic policy terms. The military intent whereby the operation would be limited solely to aerial bombardment and support of an ally fighting on the ground appears reasonable and moderate; however, one might recall that, in the early days in Vietnam, the Americans pursued a similar course, and look how things turned out. Internationally, Russia is plunging headfirst into the boiling cauldron of Middle East politics, complete with endless contradictory relations and links, and, by doing so, risks multiplying the ranks of its foes. Finally, the Russian public does not approve of any substantial costs (let alone in servicemen's lives) of something that most Russians view as an “Arab turf scuffle”. Therefore, domestic support of Russia’s military involvement in Syria, which relies solely on emotion-driven chauvinism and yearning for a great power status can only survive as long as the campaign does not turn into a burden or cause serious losses.

No doubt, strategically, Russia’s decision to intervene in Syria should be viewed in the context of a broad global game between Moscow and the United States, as a strong move designed to set the stage for righting the boat of Russia-US relations, heavily tilted by the events of 2014-2015, on a broad range of issues, including Ukraine. To a certain extent, these tactics have worked as the USA has been forced to urgently reinstate military contacts with Russia, which the Americans have made an ostentatious show of boycotting since early 2014.

On Vladimir Putin, Black Swans And Pink Flamingoes

October 8, 2015Daniel Gouré, Ph.D
.A few years back there was a popular concept in international affairs and intelligence analysis called the Black Swan Theory. The theory, popularized by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, sought to explain the prevalence in human affairs of big but highly improbable events such as financial market collapses, the outbreaks of conflicts or scientific breakthroughs. According to Taleb, a Black Swan event has three characteristics:
It is a surprise to governments, experts and outside observers.
The event has a major impact.

After the first instance of the event, it is rationalized by hindsight (which also is why a Black Swan event never happens the same way twice).[1]
For a while there was an effort on the part of government agencies and experts in various fields to use the Black Swan Theory as a basis for anticipating surprises. Just come up with a list of impossible scenarios and try and work backwards to find evidence to support one versus another. Of course, Taleb never suggests any such thing. He argued that it is not possible to predict Black Swans and hence the proper strategy is to increase the resilience to negative events and create a reserve capacity to exploit positive ones.

A noted U.S. defense expert, Frank Hoffman wrote recently about U.S. military strategy and how to deal with both Black Swans and Pink Flamingoes. The former he defines in a manner similar to Taleb. The new concept, the Pink Flamingo, refers to “a predictable event that is ignored due to cognitive biases of a senior leader or a group of leaders trapped by powerful institutional forces.” Hoffman’s prescription for dealing with these two different species in the military domain is similar to what Taleb proposes: be aware both of your lack of predictive ability and your biases, and build in robustness and breadth to a military that will have to deal with unanticipated or just blindly ignored threats.

Crisis Over Ukraine Contingency Planning Memorandum Update

Crisis Over Ukraine - steven-pifer-crisis-over-ukraine Author: Steven Pifer, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution

Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press

 October 2015

In early 2014, Russia began supporting armed separatist forces in the eastern—predominantly Russian-speaking—part of Ukraine. Subsequent fighting was halted in September 2015 by a cease-fire agreement known as Minsk II. But, despite ongoing diplomatic efforts, few other aspects of the agreement have been implemented. Heavy fighting could resume and precipitate an even deeper crisis between Russia and the West. As a 2009 Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Contingency Planning Memorandum "Crisis Between Ukraine and Russia" argued, a major Ukraine-Russia confrontation has significant implications for the United States.
New Concerns

Aside from the recent cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, Russia has done little to implement the Minsk II provisions. As of September 2015, Russian military personnel and heavy weapons remain in the eastern Donbas region, while major questions persist about Russia’s support for other aspects of Minsk II. The likely prognosis is a frozen—or not-so-frozen—conflict, which will pose substantial risks for Europe and U.S. interests.

Moscow could choose to escalate tensions in eastern Ukraine by applying additional military pressure in an effort to further destabilize Kiev, force the West to relax its sanctions on Russia, and/or distract the Russian public from a deteriorating economic situation at home. Fighting in the Donbas could also be ignited by local separatist forces seeking to change the status quo.

The unsettled conflict makes it more difficult for Kiev to pursue reforms and turn around the faltering Ukrainian economy. Gross domestic product is expected to decline by more than 10 percent this year, and domestic politics have become more complicated as the public becomes increasingly frustrated with austerity measures and the slow fight against corruption. Meanwhile, right-wing political forces oppose Minsk II and a negotiated settlement. A new political crisis in Ukraine would hinder Kiev’s ability to pursue reform. It could also tempt Moscow to make further efforts to weaken Kiev’s position at a time when Ukrainian public opinion toward Russia has hardened and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is less free to maneuver. The crisis also continues to complicate U.S.-Russia relations, which are at their lowest point since the Cold War. Russian military activity near North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) borders has also markedly increased, raising the risk of a deadly accident or miscalculation.

The Crisis In Nepal, Explained


Nepal has a new constitution but the country is anything but in celebration. This is because the new constitution has plunged the hill state into a new problem and in confrontation with India. Given below, is a detailed explanation of the history and recent events leading to the current state of affairs. 

‘Bowing to Madhesi pressure, Nepal Govt agrees to amend constitution. Amend to address some of Madhesi demands.’ The aforementioned statement is made by the DD NEWs. The statement was related to a political crisis in Nepal regarding the new constitution and the problems the Madeshi residents had with it.

As pointed out in several news reports the legislators of Nepal proclaimed Nepal a new Constitution on 20 September 2015. Although EU and China have greeted the new constitution and congratulated Nepal’s legislators it has its share of critics who are not small in number. The centre of all its criticism stems from the Terai region of Nepal which is the home of the state’s Madhesi population.

The novel process of drafting a new constitution started after the demand was raised by the Maoists revolutionaries, who after waging a decade long civil war with the Nepali state officially ended it in November 2006 by signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Two years later the Maoists won the elections to the constituent assembly and sent the two hundred and forty year old monarchy to the pages of history books. 

Learn more about Russia’s needs and military options if the “frozen conflict” in Ukraine gets hot again.


When territory is seized and presidents are ousted, as happened last year in Ukraine, corporate news media can be filled with both drama and confusion. But understanding what’s really at stake for Russia in this neighboring country – and whether Moscow is truly capable of securing its interests there – requires a cool head and careful study.

Play out the “what if?” scenarios with these FREE slides to get a clearer picture of Russia’s possible strategies and how its military planners think. 
Download Now!Download Now!
New Call-to-action

ISIS and “Failed State Wars”

What Did Osama bin Laden Say? – The Bridge

  •  original
  • by Dave Mattingly
  • Oct. 7, 2015
One of the over 1,500 tapes it is labeled Osama bin Laden. Photo courtesy Flagg Miller.
The early years of Osama bin Laden as a jihadist and his activities in Afghanistan were not well known to many in the U.S. except for a few CIA and FBI analysts who began tracking a man who abandoned his family fortune to fight the growing U.S. influence in the Islamic Holy Lands.
Strategically, the United States set out on a war against an ideology that most U.S. policymakers did not understand and often they did not listen to the few that had some idea of the emerging threat of al-Qaida.

Dr. Flagg Miller is a linguistic anthropologist who has spent nearly a decade cataloging, translating, and interpreting a treasure trove of over 1,500 audio recordings of bin Laden and other jihadist leaders recorded between 1997 and 2001. The tapes served as an audio library for visitors to bin Laden’s Khaddar home and show the wear and tear of being listened to by his visitors.
The tapes were located in a tape shop and the owner had planned to record over them. They were first obtained by CNN after the al-Qaida’s senior leaders left Afghanistan for Pakistan in the early days of the American invasion. After shipping the tapes to the U.S. from its Khaddar office, CNN first offered the tapes to the CIA for exploitation by U.S. intelligence analysts. In 2003, the tapes were transferred to the Williams College Afghan Media Project and are now located at Yale University, where they have been digitized for further research. Miller began working on the project with the arrival of the tapes from Afghanistan and published the first article on the collection in the Journal of Language and Communication in 2008.

Miller cites the invention of the audio-cassette as a user-friendly communication medium that was cheap, easily disseminated, and difficult to censor in countries with high illiteracy rates. Although most of the tapes were in Arabic, several were recorded in other regional languages such as Bengali, Pashtu, and Urdu.

The tapes were nearly recorded over by the Khaddar shop owner and were not archivally preserved. Photo courtesy Flagg Miller.
Miller intertwines the recordings through the known history of themujaheddin, focusing on the “concept of al-Qaida.” While many Westerners see the U.S. as the arch enemy and the prime focus of al-Qaida, Miller argues that Arabs and Muslims have been al-Qaida’s “primary enemy and bin Laden’s focus on the American “far enemy” would be comparatively marginal.”

Here's how World War Three could start tomorrow

It would only take a small spark to start a conflict between Nato and China or Russia - unleashing previously unseen forms of warfare
A British Royal Air Force (RAF) 6 Squadron Typhoon (bottom) intercepting a Russian Bear aircraft in international air space off the coast of Britain  

By PW Singer and August Cole
 09 Oct 2015
There is an old adage that militaries set themselves up by failure by preparing to fight the last war. When it comes to 21st Century warfare, the problem however may not be with looking back, but that we aren’t looking back far enough.
For the last two decades, leaders in London and Washington have become focused on operations in places like Sierra Leona, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Syria, where the worry was, and is, weak and imploding states.

But bigger trends are at play globally. We are seeing the return of great power politics – and with it, the risk of powerful states going to war. Conflict with the likes of Russia or China was something that seemed buried with the end of the Cold War. Yet today’s simmering tensions mean there is a risk of such an outcome becoming all too real.

Checkpoint Charlie in the Berlin Wall Photo: AFP/Getty Images
As in the past, it is perfectly possible that a third world war could start with a small event, or even by accident. One of the many Russian bomber planes now probing NATO’s borders could collide with an RAF Typhoon, prompting an aerial skirmish the likes of which the world has not seen for decades. Indeed, the skies over Syria are starting to get dangerously crowded, with Russian jets flying near US planes on bombing runs, and sparring with NATO air defenses in neighboring Turkey. Perhaps it could happen at sea, when a Japanese or American ship scrapes paint with its Chinese Navy counterpart amid the reefs in the Pacific that are being militarized as part of Asia’s current arms race.

The Oil Curse: A Remedial Role for the Oil Industry

Paper September 30, 2015 

The political and economic dysfunction known as the “oil curse” is a complex, structural phenomenon, caused largely by poor management or investment of oil revenues by the governments of oil-producing countries.

The political and economic dysfunction known as the “oil curse” is a complex, structural phenomenon, caused largely by poor management or investment of oil revenues by the governments of oil-producing countries. Because this syndrome is taking an increasing toll on oil operations, the oil industry has a strong economic incentive to take affirmative steps, collectively, to mitigate it. And the industry is uniquely positioned to do so.
Instability Hurts the Oil Industry, Its Shareholders, and Other Stakeholders
The capital cost of developing petroleum projects has increased 300 percent since 2003, according to industry analysts. Waste, inefficiency, and delays associated with operations in unstable environments are major drivers of these increasing costs.

These higher costs are, in the end, largely passed on to the host country governments, but they also result in lower profits accruing to the project or oil company shareholders.

The oil industry’s business plans tend not to accurately reflect these aggregated costs, nor to recognize the upsides possible if oil curse symptoms—Dutch Disease, acute corruption, and insecurity—were better mitigated.

The largest private oil companies, which are increasingly competing with national oil companies and non-oil companies, face the most restrictions on their operations. As a result, the “majors” have an added incentive to persuade the industry to adopt practices that promote stability, in order to level the playing field and prevent a race to the bottom that could further fuel conflict.

Read more at: http://carnegieendowment.org/2015/09/30/oil-curse-remedial-role-for-oil-industry/iibp

Killing As a Moral Good

October 10, 2015 · by RC Porter ·

The idea of killing as a moral good is an important one because it can help soldiers and military leaders understand their own moral actions in war. Killing always leaves psychological scars. For the soldier, the misguided view of just killing as a moral evil that one is allowed to “get away with” adds to that psychological distress. He sees himself as a murderer who deserves punishment, and when doesn’t receive that punishment, he tends to punish himself. That self-punishment is one cause of the high rates of depression, substance abuse, and suicide among veterans.
Johnson’s view of killing in service to justice, rather than in conflict with justice, will help soldiers understand that they are not doing anything morally wrong when they justly kill in combat. Nothing can erase the horrible experiences of war, but by understanding his actions morally, the soldier can find respect for himself.

Just war theory is often forgotten in the practicalities of fighting a war, but it is crucial for helping soldiers understand themselves and their actions within the larger context of battle. A proper understanding of the morality of killing is necessary for the soldier to come to terms with the violent nature of his task.

CYBERCOM Writes Own Software: Accelerating Acquisition

By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR.on October 09, 2015 
WASHINGTON: A Pentagon procurement process that takes a decade to deliver can’t keep up with fast-advancing frontline of cyberwar. US Cyber Command needs more agile ways to get technology, top officials said today. For now, its nascent Cyber National Mission Force is actually building some key tools in-house.

“For us at the cutting edge,” said the Mission Force commander, Maj. Gen. Paul Nakasone, “we have developers on our teams.” Those developers are working in close partnership with well-informed partners — in the intelligence community, in industry, and elsewhere — and “helping us develop our effects,” he said. (Presumably this is military-speak for “software that does stuff.”)

“We need to be more nimble” in acquisitions in general, said Aaron Hughes, speaking alongside Nakasone and others at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Hughes is deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy and former vice-president of In-Q-Tel, an intelligence community-backed venture that’s often touted as a model for accelerating private sector innovation into government hands. CYBERCOM can’t just bypass the entire acquisition system, he said, but it might find shortcuts.