10 December 2015

Siege at Afghan airport ends; 37 civilians killed, 35 injured, official says

By Heath Druzin and Zubair Babakarkhail , Stars and Stripes , Published: December 9, 2015
KABUL, Afghanistan — A daylong siege at a heavily fortified airport in southern Afghanistan has left at least 37 civilians dead and another 35 wounded as Taliban militants tried to fight their way onto an adjacent military base, an Afghan Defense Ministry official said Wednesday.

After nearly 24 hours of fighting against 10 to 15 insurgents armed with suicide vests, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and automatic rifles at Kandahar Airport, Afghan forces were still battling one surviving fighter Wednesday evening, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Radmanish said. The airport abuts Kandahar Air Field, a major hub of U.S. and Afghan military operations that officials said the insurgents hoped to reach.
One Afghan soldier was killed and three others injured. All the other attackers reportedly were killed.

Afghan and U.S. officials said the insurgents didn’t make it inside the perimeter of the military base, home to roughly 2,000 U.S. troops, instead occupying buildings inside the Kandahar airport grounds. After fierce battles with Afghan troops overnight, several surviving attackers were scattered throughout several airport buildings Wednesday and continued fighting with Afghan security forces into the afternoon, officials said.
Passengers from at least one commercial flight were caught up in the attacks Tuesday and were stuck in the passenger terminal until the fighting ceased.

Col. Michael Lawhorn, spokesman for the international military coalition in Afghanistan, said no American or coalition troops were injured or killed in the attack.
Kandahar Air Field, a former hub for tens of thousands of troops and contractors, is located in southern Afghanistan’s largest city and the Taliban’s spiritual heartland. The Taliban, who often exaggerate the effects of their attacks, claimed responsibility on their website, saying five attackers killed scores of international and Afghan troops.

Why Ajit Doval is PM Modi's true Man Friday What the NSA has done by meeting his Pakistani counterpart in a neutral third country is no mean feat.


Like Narendra Modi, he too has no pretensions of being conversant in diplomacy, leave alone being adept at it.
But like Modi, he has proven to be a master diplomat. Like Modi, he too is an unconventional and untrained diplomat who has the knack for thinking out of the box and pulling off major diplomatic feats in areas where the predecessors did not dare to tread.

Folks, this is Ajit Doval, the national security advisor for you, hitherto known primarily as the quintessential intelligence man, but now poised to emerge as an astute diplomat as well. What Doval has done on Sunday by meeting his Pakistani counterpart General Nasir Janjua in a neutral third country like Thailand is no mean feat. Of course, it was a delicate mission assigned to him by none other than the prime minister himself.
But the obvious question is that there are not very many in his government that PM Modi can turn to for such fragile-as-glass delicate missions. In fact, there is none other than Doval who can be entrusted with such missions which are a complicated mix of diplomatese and cloak-and-dagger intelligence-related issues.

After all, Doval was on his first such major mission way back in 1999 when he was the government's main point person and negotiator with hijackers of an Indian Airlines plane as head of Intelligence Bureau's operations when nobody knew Narendra Modi.
If the hijackers managed to fly away the hijacked plane from Amritsar to Kandahar it wasn't because Doval's negotiations had failed but it was because the then Vajpayee government failed to take a decision in storming the plane while it was being refuelled at the Amritsar airport.

Manipur’s curse

Dec 09, 2015, Bhopinder Singh
Socio-economic deprivation feeds support for insurgency in Manipur... a multi-pronged approach is required by aligning Myanmar to joint-operations on both sides of the borders to uproot insurgent camps
Out of the 65 terror organisations in India, 57 are Northeast-based and of that 34 are based in Manipur. Earlier in June, the deadliest attack on the Indian Army in 33 years, resulting in the deaths of 20 soldiers of the 6 Dogra regiment, took place in Manipur’s Chandel district bordering Myanmar.

Manipuri insurgency dates back to the time of merger of the princely state with the Indian Union in 1949. Subsequently, loss of identity, inadequate socio-economic integration, failed negotiations and armed ethnic conflicts amongst the competing communities within the state ensured a violent state of insurgency. With the valley dominated by Meities (60 per cent) and the hills by the Kukis and the Nagas — each group has its own historical, commercial and perceived hostility towards the other, leading to the rise of their own armed insurgent groups that “protect” their tribe, religion, culture, geographical turfs and tax collection points. Unlike neighbouring Mizoram, which is a classic case of a counter-insurgency success, the political integration and civil/economic rehabilitation of the Manipuri people has been fractured by the violent history of the heterogeneous groups and hawkish support from China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and even by the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan.

Tactical arrangements and asymmetrical alliances between competing groups to share the eco-system and its spoils has been fair game — the June attack was ostensibly at the behest of United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFW), a conglomerate of United Liberation Front of Assam (Independent), Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang), Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit). According to Indian intelligence, the UNLFW was formed in Taga area of Myanmar, the seeds of its formation were sowed at a meeting in Ruili in China’s Yunnan province in 2011. The insurgent groups closed ranks to remain effective and relevant on ground in the face of pressure from Indian counter-insurgency forces. Myanmar is the closest sanctuary of insurgent camps with tactical and fluctuating support by the Burmese junta.

How Modi's Congress-mukt Bharat dream is becoming a reality Four cases, including the National Herald scam, are closing in on the principal opposition party.


The Congress is suffering major setbacks with some of its tallest leaders in the dock and facing stiff challenges from the government agencies. This may force the party to harden its stand in Parliament. It may become more belligerent and block Centre's reform measures, particularly the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, which has been listed by the government for discussion in the Rajya Sabha this week. But the Congress has already adopted a strident posture. They stalled the proceedings of the upper house on December 7 over the "dog" remarks made by Union minister of state for external affairs Gen VK Singh in relation to atrocities on Dalits.

This, despite the matter being quite old and much happening since then. The government extended an olive branch to the Opposition at the start of the Winter session, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi inviting Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh for tea last week, finance minister Arun Jaitley meeting Sonia and Rahul, and the PM categorically saying that the government favoured taking decisions by consensus. In fact, the Delhi High Court order may force the Congress to adopt a more confrontationist approach towards the ruling BJP. This non-cooperative stand of the Congress may only go against it. This will hurt it electorally, too.
After its worst-ever performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress showd some signs of resurgence in electoral politics in the last few weeks. As part of the grand alliance, it performed its best in the Bihar Assembly elections in the recent years, it decisively defeated the BJP in Lok Sabha by-election in Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh and it won in more number of seats than the BJP in the rural areas of the Gujarat civic polls. But the BJP could well be successful in fulfilling their promise of making a "Congress-mukt Bharat" if the courts and government agencies pass orders which are against the interest of the principal opposition party in the following cases:

1. National Herald case

On December 7, the Delhi high court quashed the petitions of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi challenging of summons issued to them, in a case of cheating and misappropriation of funds relating to ownership of the National Herald daily. The high court has also declined to grant Sonia and Rahul exemption from personal appearance before trial court in the matter filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy. As a result, the mother-son duo will appear in the Patiala House courts on December 8 until Supreme Court accepts a petition of senior lawyer and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi and a battery of lawyers assisting him challenging the high court's order.

Clean and private - The Clean India campaign should be taken seriously

India has inherited some strange practices. For example, a menstruating woman is still considered by many to be unclean and forbidden to enter temples, kitchens and pujarooms. This is so particularly in south India. Earlier, she was banished during her period to the backyard of the house which was also the place for open or closed defecation. Homes are kept spotlessly clean but all garbage is thrown out by many into the open. Private hygiene goes along with public squalor.
Open defecation has been the practice in both urban and rural areas. It has declined in most urban areas, especially in metropolitan towns, but not vanished. Most rural households do not have private toilets. But household surveys show that Indian households own more mobile phones in total than they have closed toilets.

To state the obvious, open defecation has many consequences. It destroys privacy. It restricts women to hold back till there is darkness and - for security - the company of other women. Open defecation spreads disease, especially diarrhoea, as excrement leaches into groundwater. Closed door defecation, good sewerage and drainage systems, regular garbage disposal and safe drinking water are essential as indicators of a cleaner environment and a more civic and developed society. India is among the most backward in these respects.

Kazakhstan Looks to India, Iran for Access to the World’s Oceans

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 12 Issue: 217, December 4, 2015 

Since achieving independence in 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, landlocked Kazakhstan has sought to end its geographical isolation by fostering relations with neighboring countries. In recent weeks, Kazakhstan’s national railway company Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) and India’s Ministry of Railways signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) aiming to develop freight traffic from western Indian seaports, across the Arabian Sea to Iran, and then, by rail, northward to Kazakhstan. (The Statesman [Kolkata], November 25). The MoU stipulates that KTZ and India’s SEZ Adani Ports will construct a terminal at Mundra port, on India’s western coast, to provide maritime service to Iran’s Bandar Abbas port. This will facilitate Indian goods obtaining direct access to post-Soviet Central Asia and beyond via the Iran–Turkmenistan–Kazakhstan railway line, which became operational earlier this year (see EDM, September 22, 2014;January 14, 2015).

The MoU builds upon a mutual desire by Kazakhstan and India to deepen their transport connectivity. KTZ President Askar Mamin traveled to India on June 9–10. During his visit, Mamin held talks with Indian officials on developing logistics to transporting Indian goods via India’s Mundra and Mumbai ports onward to Iran’s Bandar Abbas for transshipment through Iran and Turkmenistan to Kazakhstan. According to Kazakhstan’s ambassador to India, Bolat Sarsembayev, Mamin and his colleagues also explored the possibility of implementing joint projects for the construction and lease or acquisition of terminal facilities in western Indian ports such as Mundra and Mumbai to increase options for transport possibilities between Kazakhstan and India as well as promoting Indian exports to Kazakhstan (The Astana Times, July 7).
Bilateral transport issues were high on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda during his July 6–8 state visit to Kazakhstan. Modi stressed the need for the two countries to deepen their transport infrastructure links, telling the media, “The International North–South Transport Corridor, the Iran–Turkmenistan–Kazakhstan rail link, India’s interest in joining the Ashgabat Agreement on trade and transit, and India’s investment in Chahbahar Port, in Iran, will strengthen connectivity” (Narendramodi.in, July 8).

India and Russia Begin Naval Exercises in the Bay of Bengal

Chief of India’s Eastern Fleet said the naval exercises epitomize the strategic relationship between the two countries.
By Catherine Putz, December 09, 2015
On Monday, the naval portion of India and Russia’s Indra exercise began in the city of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. The exercise will run from December 7 to December 12 and include two phases, a harbor phase and an a sea phase. India and Russia have been engaging in bilateral naval exercises since 2003 and this is the eighth edition of the Indra exercises.
In November, 250 Russian soldiers traveled to Bikaner, Rajasthan, where they joined their Indian counterparts for the land part of the Indra 2015. Those exercises focused on joint peacekeeping and counterterror operations in desert climes.
The naval phase features four Russian Navy ships from its Vladivostok-based Pacific Fleet: a guided missile cruiser, the Slava-class Varyag; a destroyer, the Sovremennyy-class Bystry; a tanker, the Boris Chilikin-classBoris Butoma; and a rescue tug.
The Indian contingent includes a destroyer, the Rajput-class INS Ranvijay; a frigate, the Shivalik-class INSSahyadri; a tanker, the Deepak-class INS Shakti; and the INS Sindhuvir, which IHS Jane’s describes as “a Type 877 variant of the Russian-designed Kilo-class submarine.” The Indians are also providing a “Boeing P-8I Neptune long-range maritime patrol aircraft, BAE Systems Hawk 132 advanced jet trainers, and assorted rotary-wing platforms.”


This publication originally featured at the National Maritime Foundation, and was republished with permission. You may read it in its original form here
During the Naval Commanders Conference held in New Delhi on 26 October 2015, the Indian Defence Minister Shri Manohar Parrikar released India’s revised maritime-military strategy titled, ‘Ensuring Secure Seas: Indian Maritime Security Strategy’ (IMSS-2015). It supersedes the 2007 strategy document titled, ‘Freedom to Use the Seas: India’s Maritime-Military Strategy (IMMS-2007). This essay seeks to examine the salient features of the new strategy, including in comparison to IMMS-2007.

IMSS-2015 is the first strategy document released by the Indian Navy since the 26 November 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai (26/11), when jihadi operatives well-versed in nautical skills used the sea route from Karachi to Mumbai, and carried out dastardly cold-blooded killings in India’s ‘financial capital.’ In wake of 26/11, the Indian government designated the Indian Navy as the nodal authority responsible for overall maritime security, including coastal and offshore security. The new strategy reflects the overwhelming imperative for the Navy to counter state-sponsored terrorism that may manifest in the maritime domain, and prevent a repeat of 26/11. It also addresses India’s response to other forms of non-traditional threats emanating ‘at’ and ‘from’ the sea that pose security challenges to ‘territorial’ India and its vital interests.
While 26/11 may have been among the major ‘triggers’ for India to review its maritime-military strategy, IMSS-2015 clearly indicates that proxy war through terrorism has not prevented India to adopt an outward-looking approach to maritime security. The new strategy dilates the geographical scope of India’s maritime focus. Ever since the Navy first doctrinal articulation in 2004—the Indian Maritime Doctrine, 2004, which was revised in 2009—India’s areas of maritime interest have been contained within the Indo-Pacific region, with the ‘primary area’ broadly encompassing the northern Indian Ocean Region (IOR). IMSS-2015 expands the areas of interest southwards and westwards by bringing in the South-West Indian Ocean and Red Sea within its ‘primary area;’ and the western Coast of Africa, the Mediterranean Sea and “other areas of national interest based on considerations of Indian diaspora, overseas investments and political reasons” within its ‘secondary area’ of interest.

Dozens Killed During Clash Between Rival Taliban Groups in Western Afghanistan

Reuters, December 8, 2015
HERAT, Afghanistan (Reuters) - More than 50 people have been killed and dozens more wounded in renewed fighting between rival Taliban factions in Shindand district near the western Afghan city of Herat, a local police spokesman said on Tuesday.
The latest clashes underlined the fragmented state of the Islamist movement since the Taliban confirmed in July that its founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had died more than two years earlier in 2013.

Rival groups have rejected the authority of Omar’s successor Mullah Akhtar Mansour and called for a new process to choose a leader. There has been intermittent fighting in which scores have been killed.
Ehsanullah Hayat, a police spokesman in Herat, said 54 insurgents had been killed and around 40 wounded in the fighting between commanders loyal to Mullah Mansour and his rival Mullah Mohammad Rasool Akhund, which he said was continuing.

The clashes follow days of confusion over the fate of Mullah Mansour. Reports that he had been seriously wounded in a shootout with other Taliban commanders were rebutted in an audio recording purporting to show he was still alive.
It was not immediately possible to obtain a comment from the Taliban about the latest fighting.

Separately, a video apparently from an Afghan member of the Islamic State movement accused the Taliban of operating under the control of Pakistani intelligence services and ignoring sharia, as well as allying itself with Shi'ite Iran.
The message, from a militant identified as Abdu Yasir al-Afghani, highlighted the growing rivalry between supporters of Islamic State and the Taliban, and came on the same day regional powers began a conference in Islamabad to discuss how to stabilize Afghanistan.
“So my brothers, our biggest objection to the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) is their relations with Pakistan and their cooperation with ISI (Pakistani intelligence), which is the basis for their action,” the video message says.

Taliban Launch Attack on Major US/NATO Base at Kandahar Airport

Afghan Official: Taliban Launch Attack on Kandahar Airport
Associated Press, December 8, 2015
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — An Afghan official says the Taliban have launched an attack at the airport in the southern city of Kandahar, where clashes are still underway.

Samim Khopalwaq, the spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor, says Tuesday’s attack started with the Taliban targeting the facility’s main gate. The sprawling Kandahar Air Field has both a military and a civilian section.

Khopalwaq says the attackers managed to enter the air base where they encountered heavy resistance. He says he has no information if there are casualties.

The Taliban are strong in southern Afghanistan, where the majority of people are Pashtuns, the ethnic group that dominates the militant movement.

The insurgents have stepped up attacks against Afghan troops since the withdrawal of all foreign combat forces at the end of last year.

The Implications of the Taliban Shootou

Recent reports of a shooting, and the killing or wounding of its leader, reveals serious divisions within the Taliban.
By Khyber Sarban, December 09, 2015
The Taliban have once again made international headlines, this time following reports of an internal dispute followed by a shootout in the Kuchlak area of Quetta in Balochistan. The shootout is reported to have killed or injured several Taliban members, including their controversial leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor. The Taliban vehemently deny the reports, standard procedure whenever a high ranking official is killed or a dispute emerges. Looking closely at the latest sequence of events, the recent targeting of a Taliban leader should not be that surprising.

First of all, many among the Taliban consider Mansoor as Pakistan’s best card to play in Afghanistan, while Mansoor considers Pakistan’s support his best change to rule the Taliban. However, Mansoor proved to be too authoritarian, even by Taliban standards. It is known that he has been working his way up the Taliban hierarchy for the past nine years. During that time, he and his alleged patron, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are accused of killing or imprisoning several prominent Taliban leaders who might have stood in Mansoor’s way or who weakened Pakistan’s leverage over the Taliban. Compared to other Taliban members, particularly their deceased leader Mullah Omar, Mansoor seemed too self-centered, not an attitude appreciated among Taliban. Lacking support, he relied too heavily on ISI to succeed Mullah Omar as the group’s leader. Mansoor is alleged to have bought his way into the leadership by doling out cash in exchange for support and favor from Taliban members who were questioning his credentials, controversies, methods and tactics.

Second, Mansoor’s decision to launch the Kunduz assault to extend his writ over Taliban did not have unanimous support among Quetta Shura members. ISI allegedly had other thoughts, and is thought to have stepped up logistical support for the assault on Kunduz immediately following the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death as a sort of charm offensive to establish Mansoor’s legitimacy and give him and Pakistan leverage in any future potential peace talks.

Is China's Maritime Silk Road A Military Strategy?

The initiative may have a strong military dimension too.
By Anthony Kleven, December 08, 2015
Did Xi Jinping just acknowledge that the Maritime Silk Road has, in fact, a strong military dimension?
That seems to be the case, following a joint declaration made with his Djibouti counterpart, Ismail Omar Guelleh (IOG), on the sidelines of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Johannesburg. According to Xinhua, the usually guarded Xi welcomed “Djibouti’s participation in developing Beijing-proposed 21st-century Maritime Silk Road in proper ways.”

However, in light of last week’s bombshell that China has chosen this sleepy East African nation to house its first military base, giving such a warm embrace to Djibouti’s “proper” participation in the Maritime Silk Road is, quite frankly, startling.
On November 26, the Chinese government signed a 10-year agreement with IOG’s Djibouti to set up a navy base to serve as a logistics hub for the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N) ships engaged in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Yemen. According to earlier media reports, the base would cost some $100 million a year and would be based in the northern Obock region, from where a small American outpost was evicted earlier in August.

But why did China bestow the honor of its first military base on Djibouti? There are a number of considerations to be taken into account here. For one, Djibouti is a fairly stable country (barring Guelleh’s crackdowns on anything resembling Western democratic aspirations) and sits astride the strategic trade route linking the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean. From Djibouti, China’s Shaanxi Y-8 class maritime patrol aircraft can cover most of the Arabian Peninsula and northern and central Africa without refueling. Secondly, as Andrew Erickson pointed out, Djibouti’s port can accommodate vessels drawing up to 18 meters of water, including China’s aircraft carrier or its largest forward-deploying warship, the Type 071 LPD. Thirdly, basing an installation in Djibouti makes strategic sense as well, since Obock is an eavesdrop away from the US’s sole bricks and mortar installation on the African continent from where Washington conducts its infamous drone strikes on al Shabaab and al Qaeda targets. And lastly, because in the past several months Djibouti’s president has reinvented himself into one of China’s strongest allies.

China Paves Way for Slowing Global Emissions

A projected decline in global emissions is largely due to China’s reduced coal use, a new study concludes.
By chinadialogue, December 08, 2015

Global carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal, oil, and gas as well as from industrial activities grew by just 0.6 percent in 2014, according to researchers from the Global Carbon Project of the organization Future Earth. The researchers say emissions have grown even more slowly this year, and may even show a small decrease of 0.6 percent by the end of this year.
Carbon dioxide emissions account for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the earth. Climate change is reducing farm output worldwide, intensifying storms, floods, and droughts and raising the global sea level. For the billions of people who rely on monsoons, climate change is making rainy seasons shorter, but with more intense rainfall.

So a small increase in emissions or even a possible drop is positive news. But there is no cause for celebration, the researchers warned, as they released their report on the sidelines of the November 30 – December 11 UN climate summit in Paris.
Concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) passed the 400 parts per million stage in 2015, the highest level in 800,000 years. This is close to a tipping point beyond which climate change could be catastrophic in many parts of the planet, the UN’s climate science panel has warned.

Top Rumored Pentagon Nominee Explains Why Pentagon Job Stinks


When Michèle Flournoy turned down a chance last year to be the first woman to serve as U.S. defense secretary, she cited “family concerns” for her decision. On Tuesday, Flournoy hinted at another potential reason: the White House’s tendency to micromanage decision-making at the Defense Department.
Flournoy, now CEO at the Center for a New American Security and a foreign-policy advisor for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, said the Obama administration has a tendency to push the Pentagon’s tactical decisions to “the senior reaches” of the White House, a dynamic that often infuriates defense officials.

“Too often that happens because of two reasons: one, a lack of role clarity, who has what job; and two, a risk aversion,” she told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Since the late 1990s, the White House’s National Security Council staff has quadrupled in size to about 400 people, a trend that accelerated during President Barack Obama’s presidency. This has resulted in long-running complaints from the State Department and Pentagon about White House staffers meddling in agency decisions. Sometimes the griping is genuinely about process; other times department officials who simply disagree with White House policy use the micromanaging argument to save face.
Without referencing specific disagreements in the fight against the Islamic State or confronting Russia in Ukraine, Flournoy echoed the long-held Pentagon view that an overactive White House rarely produces the best policy decisions.

“One of my former mentors, John Hamre, used to say, ‘If you want to make a staff more strategic, cut it in half.’” she said. “I think as you grow staffs — and this includes the National Security staff — they tend to get more into operational details and tactical kind of oversight.”

Few around Flournoy doubted her sincerity of wanting to focus homeward instead of on the military after former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced his resignation in 2014. But if the bloated NSC was a factor in Flournoy’s decision to take herself out of the running, she may not have to wait long to get back in the saddle.

Flournoy is widely expected to be on Clinton’s short list for defense secretary should the Democrat win the 2016 presidential election. Flournoy’s work assisting Clinton on her campaign’s foreign-policy messaging presumably won’t hurt her prospects for the high-profile defense job.

During her testimony, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama agreed with Flournoy that White House overreach can inhibit strategic thinking. “We’ve got a problem. We’ve got a breakdown,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) maintained his view that the administration doesn’t have a clear strategy for retaking the Islamic State’s stronghold in Raqqa, Syria.

In response to McCain, Flournoy said she approved of the White House’s strategy to rely on air power and the training and equipping of local forces in Syria. But she said current efforts could be intensified — a common refrain of Clinton’s campaign.

“I don’t think invading Syria is the answer,” Flournoy said. “But I do think we, as the United States, need to play more of a leadership role diplomatically, more of a leadership role in terms of enabling others militarily and with intelligence, and being in a more forward-leaning posture — because this threat is getting worse, not better.”

Flournoy testified beside Michael Vickers, the former defense undersecretary for intelligence, who said he shared some of her complaints about NSC overreach.

ISIS Booby Traps and IEDS Have Slowed Iraqi Offensive to Retake Ramadi to a Crawl

Islamic State Lays Booby Traps in Ramadi
Karen Leigh and Ghassan Adnan , Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2015

BAGHDAD—Islamic State is laying sophisticated booby traps in Ramadi to thwart an Iraqi offensive, with devices that can trigger an explosive domino effect and snipers who target bomb-disposal experts, military officials said on Sunday.
After seizing Ramadi in May, the militants connected large, scattered webs of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, to one trigger wire, expanding the reach of an individual bomb. Iraqi military officials said the booby traps are delaying an offensive to retake the city.

“All of the delays we’re having, the reason was the heavy planting of IEDs,” said Gen. Hattem Al Magsosi, the head of the army’s Explosive Ordnance Division.
Islamic State’s use of IEDs has allowed small groups of insurgents to maintain control of cities against overwhelming numbers of troops, Iraqi military officials said.

Iraqi personnel have come to anticipate such traps after recent battles such as the November operation in the northern city of Sinjar. The Ramadi operation, backed by a U.S.-led air coalition, was expected to closely follow the victory in Sinjar, when Kurdish-led forces routed the militants and dismantled roughly 1,000 IEDs.
But the offensive to retake one of the militant group’s biggest strongholds has stalled repeatedly. Iraqi forces cite IEDs as the latest reason the fighting for the heart of the city hasn’t yet begun.
Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition in Iraq, said U.S. forces aren’t present on the ground in Ramadi to evaluate the situation, but they stand behind Iraqi officials’ assessment.

The Iraqi army’s attempt to retake the city after a decisive Islamic State victory there in May is widely seen as a test of preparedness for a planned future offensive in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and the most populous under the group’s control.

Ramadi, about 60 miles west of the capital of Baghdad, is surrounded by farmland that is also now heavily fortified with IEDs.

In recent months, Islamic State laid a new layer of IEDs alongside the ones it placed after it took the city last spring, leaving Iraqi security forces with even more deadly explosives to defuse than in previous battles with the extremist group.

“For sure, there will be new ways in Ramadi,” said Ammar Sadoun, an Explosive Ordnance Division engineer advising on operations in the city. “Today they’re using cellphone IEDs. By the time we figure out how to stop that, they’ll have the next thing,” he said, speaking at the EOD’s base near Baghdad’s international airport.

Last year, Mr. Sadoun’s right leg was severed below the knee while he worked to dismantle an IED in the contested refinery city of Beiji. He had fallen victim to one of Islamic State’s ploys that target engineers. The army calls it “double bluffing”—remotely exploding a hidden device as the man works to dismantle a clearly marked twin.

“They use tricks,” he said. “Always they are a step ahead of you, no matter how smart you are.”

The army must also operate with shrinking ranks of EOD specialists, whose engineers dismantle the bombs in the field. Casualties and deserters are mounting while new recruits are discouraged by the job’s extreme risk.

One of the greatest dangers is snipers picking off bomb-disposal experts, said Ghanim Abdul Jawad, commander of a unit fighting in Ramadi.

“We do expect that we’re going to suffer more than before because we’re short IED experts,” he said.

Of the 200 experts in Mr. Jawad’s unit, 25 have been killed and 60 injured since the fight against Islamic State began in 2014, he said.

“We kept on demanding that army commanders send more explosives-disposal teams to Ramadi,” said Ibrahim al-Fahdawi, head of security in Khaldiya, an area southeast of Ramadi. “But nothing happened.”

Russia and Ukraine Grow More Distant

December 7, 2015, By Stratfor
As 2015 comes to a close, the relationship between Russia and Ukraine is still deadlocked. The most immediate issue between the two is the suspension of Ukrainian electricity supplies to Crimea. There is also the disagreement over Ukraine's trade agreement with the European Union, which has led Russia to threaten restrictions on agricultural imports from Ukraine. Both sides appear to be preparing for these problems to go unresolved for some time, but progress is still possible. The same probably cannot be said for the standoff over eastern Ukraine, which is likely to continue well into next year.
The disruption of electricity supplies from the Ukrainian mainland to Crimea began the weekend of Nov. 20-22. As Crimean Tatar activists demonstrated near electricity infrastructure in Ukraine's southern Kherson region, explosions knocked out the four main power cables that supply electricity to Crimea. No one has claimed responsibility for the explosions, but they were almost certainly perpetrated by the activists and unofficially supported by the Ukrainian government. Electricity supplies to Crimea have not resumed.

This is not the first time electricity or energy supplies from Ukraine to Crimea have been cut off since Russia's annexation of the peninsula in March 2014. However, the length and severity of this disruption is unprecedented, and the reaction - or lack thereof - to the cutoff by Russia and the West is itself unusual. Russia has made no formal response except to call on Ukrainian authorities to repair the electricity lines as soon as possible, and the United States and European Union have remained quiet on the matter. If any talks about resuming electricity supplies have occurred, it has been behind closed doors.

And Moscow is preparing for an extended disruption. On Dec. 2, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the launch of the first leg of an energy bridge from Russia to Crimea. A second leg is scheduled to come online next April, and Russian officials have said it will free the peninsula from its dependence on Ukrainian electricity supplies. The 800 megawatts of electricity planned from the two lines, however, will not match the 1,200 megawatts that Ukraine sent to Crimea before the cutoff.

How Obama allowed ISIS to grow into the monster it has become

As long as the US continues to treat Saudi Arabia as a key ally, the Islamic State will remain a menace.
As the Barack Obama presidency winds down, his errors of judgment in the Middle East will intrigue historians for years.
President Obama has tried unsuccessfully for four years to unseat Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. By weakening but not defeating him, Obama created a power vacuum in northern Syria. In stepped the Islamic State (ISIS). Before 2011, ISIS was not a force to reckon with - a mere subaltern of al Qaeda.

America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Pentagon meanwhile funded, armed and trained anti-Assad "moderate" terrorist groups like the al-Nusra Front. It was a classical outsourced operation to depose the Syrian leadership. But who would replace Assad? The United States thought it could prop up a Sunni puppet - as it did in post-Saddam Iraq - and all would be well.
It of course wasn't. Most of the "moderate" terrorist groups fighting Assad (an Alawite, a sect related to Shias in Sunni-majority Syria) were just that - terrorists. Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons, the US claimed, gave it the moral authority to depose him.

Rewind to 2003. President George W Bush used a dodgy intelligence report on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq to invade the country. Saddam Hussein was chased, caught and executed. Chaos followed. Saddam, for all his brutal faults, had held Iraq together for over 30 years. A Sunni, he achieved a secular balance in a country where around 60 per cent of the population is Shia.
His Ba'ath party was, for all practical purposes, a US stooge. After the 1979 Iranian revolution deposed another US puppet, the Shah of Iran, the US nudged Iraq into a devastating eight-year war with Iran. The war, which dragged on from 1980 to 1988, cost millions of Iraqi and Iranian lives.

The Crypto Wars Come to San Bernardino

Attacks in Paris and California have renewed calls for government access to encrypted communications.
First, Paris. Now, San Bernardino. In the span of less than a month, gunmen inspired by or with links to the Islamic State have emerged from the shadows to surprise Western intelligence agencies and carry out mass slaughter. In the aftermath of each attack, political leaders have seized upon the role of the Internet and encrypted communication tools — both in spreading the Islamic State’s ideology and allowing plots to be developed under cover.
U.S. officials have repeatedly warned in recent months that the growing availability of encrypted communications has made it more difficult to detect and thwart terrorist attacks. And in a prime-time address Sunday, President Barack Obama said he will urge “high-tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder for terrorists to use technology to escape from justice.”

“As the Internet erases the distance between countries, we see growing efforts by terrorists to poison the minds of people like the Boston Marathon bombers and the San Bernardino killers,” Obama said.
In the case of the 2013 attack at the marathon’s finish line, which killed three and injured more than 250, prosecutors said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev embraced a radical, violent interpretation of Islam in part by consuming online the sermons of radical preachers, including those of American-born Anwar al-Awlaki. 

In San Bernardino, it remains unclear how the attackers, Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook, a married couple, adopted a violent outlook or whether encrypted communication allowed them to evade U.S. law enforcement. U.S. officials have said they have no evidence the shooters communicated with an international terrorist group. Malik declared her allegiance to the Islamic State on Facebook. 

Jihadists Using Refugee Flows?

Evidence accumulating that jihadi groups, including the one that planned the Paris attacks, are using the migration of hundreds of thousands of refugees to cover their own movements. The New York Times reports:
The investigation into the Paris terrorist attacks, previously focused on jihadist networks in France and Belgium, has widened to Eastern Europe, with a Belgian federal prosecutor announcing Friday that one of the people suspected of terrorism traveled in September by car to Hungary, where he picked up two men now believed to have links to the carnage of Nov. 13.

The disclosure of a Hungarian connection has not only dramatically expanded the scope of the investigation but has also put a spotlight on the question of whether jihadist militants have concealed themselves in a huge flow of asylum seekers passing through Eastern Europe.
A statement issued by the Belgian federal prosecutor on Friday said that Salah Abdeslam, a former Brussels resident who is the only known survivor from three terrorist squads that killed 130 people in Paris, had made two trips to the Hungarian capital, Budapest, in a rented Mercedes-Benz a few weeks before the Paris attacks.
On a drive back to Western Europe on Sept. 9, he was stopped during a routine check at Hungary’s border with Austria and found to be transporting two men using what have since turned out to be “fake Belgian identity cards.”

Europe, which just a few years ago thought that it inhabited a post-historical universe in which nothing could ever go seriously wrong, is painfully waking up from the dream. It’s now crystal clear that one can’t combine a passive foreign policy with a legalistic adherence to absolutist ideals—that, for example, one can turn a blind eye to a disintegrating Middle East and North Africa while opening the gates to every refugee and migrant that the meltdown creates.
Not far behind this lurks the realization that a cosmopolitan and tolerant society can’t thrive if it admits millions of migrants who hate and despise cosmopolitan values. Still obscure to most European elites (and to their American counterparts) is the understanding that neither the values nor the liberties of liberal civilization can long flourish if the religious and spiritual foundations of that civilization are allowed to decay, and are treated with scorn and neglect by society’s leaders.

Welcome to the Future of War: ISIS Has a Smartphone App

In YouTube videos depicting its rule, in Twitter messages spreading its ideology, and in chat rooms winning new recruits, the Islamic State has demonstrated just how powerful modern communications technology can be for a multinational terrorist group. Now, the Islamic State has taken what seems like the natural next step in its evolution as a modern media conglomerate: It has created a smartphone app.

Capable of running on Android devices, the app functions as a basic news reader and a portal for Amaq News Agency, which is linked to the Islamic State’s propaganda operations. The exact relationship between Amaq and the terrorist group is unclear, but the news agency was the first to carry the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the shooting attack in California last week that killed 14.
The app includes video and text reports about life under the Islamic State, announcing battlefield victories and executions of the extremist group’s enemies. Amaq will sometimes repackage propaganda reports from official Islamic State outlets and run them as its own.
On its face, the app is basically indistinguishable from a typical news service:
The app represents the Islamic State’s latest foray into advanced information operations. Even as Western countries have expanded their campaign of airstrikes against the group, and backed local forces in operations against it, the Islamic State has maintained a formidable online presence.

With Western intelligence agencies mostly unable to counteract the militant group’s presence on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms, online vigilantes have begun attacking Islamic State-affiliated social media accounts. These attacks have included coordinated efforts to report such accounts to companies like Twitter and Facebook.

Indeed, the Amaq app was discovered by one such group, CtrlSec, which is affiliated with Ghost Security Group, arguably the most prominent hacker collective besides Anonymous to take on the Islamic State online. Researchers with CtrlSec found the app by infiltrating a closed channel on Telegram, a Russian app the Islamic State has increasingly embraced to spread its propaganda. A link to download the Islamic State app was distributed via Telegram.

“Through the Internet, the Islamic State is managing the most aggressive and terrifying global influence operation in history,” said Michael Smith, a principal and COO at Kronos Advisory, a defense contracting firm that serves as an intermediary between Ghost Security Group and the U.S. government. “The Islamic State wants to not only streamline its efforts but to also do it in a way that is more controlled.”

Obama Is Losing the War on ISIS

President Obama’s Sunday night speech from the Oval Office was meant to reassure the nation about the state of the war against ISIS. I doubt it achieved its objective, because the message, far removed from reality, was: Everything is heading in the right direction. We have a plan to defeat ISIS and we’re executing it to perfection. “We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us,” the president said.
The specifics of this strategy to destroy ISIS?
“In Iraq and Syria, airstrikes are taking out ISIL leaders, heavy weapons, oil tankers, infrastructure…

Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla explains entrepreneurship and motivation

Sharing wisdom. 
December 07, 2015 Quartz India
Long before the current wave of entrepreneurs and startups hit India, Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi graduate Vinod Khosla made it big in Silicon Valley by co-founding computer software and hardware firm Sun Microsystems in 1982. The company was acquired by Oracle Corp in 2010 for $7.4 billion.
Khosla now runs a venture capital fund—Khosla Ventures—which invests in companies involved with computing, mobile, silicon technology and clean technology sectors. In 2014, Khosla was included in Forbes’ “Midas List,” which claims to name the world’s smartest technology investors.
On Dec. 2, Khosla took to question-and-answer website Quora to shed light on technology and entrepreneurship. Here are edited excerpts from his insights:
Wealth is only important because it gives you the freedom to do what you want to do. Wealth isn’t an end goal. Hence, you don’t need wealth to be happy. But it does enable you to do many things that you might be interested in.

I like to say you grow old when you retire, not that you retire when you grow old. The key is to be motivated and excited about what you do and I’m so excited about helping entrepreneurs with so many innovations the world needs and are fun to do that I have way more ideas than the time that I want to work on. That’s what keeps me motivated.
There’s [sic] a few large problems in the world that I’d love to solve. The biggest long-term problem may be climate change, but I can’t think of one company I could start that would solve the problem. So investing in lots of different approaches is right for it.
I think, education is a big problem area but that’s best addressed iteratively by a lot of people trying lots of different things.

There are other problems but the one that’s most amenable to technology solutions—and the one I would probably address—is completely automating the practice of medicine, so everybody everywhere has the highest quality care through their cellphones.
This is a machine learning problem for which most of the data already exists.

To me, Silicon Valley is not a place, it’s more a state of mind and a culture of how things are done. It’s a culture in which people are willing to bypass convention in any area, not be overly biased about why things can’t be done, but rather take the approach of how one might take a shot at it?
It is one where people are not afraid of failure but just look at the consequences of success—not the probability of failure. This culture can be replicated in any part of the world, but is discouraged in most places, partly because failure is discouraged and partly because planning predictability and success along predefined pathways is the only way things get funded instead of saying something is just worth attempting.
Having said that, there are ecosystems around places like Bengaluru and Israel that are starting this transformation of culture. More established places like Europe see less of this, unfortunately, even though they have a lot of talent to make this approach possible.

America’s secret arsenal

It’s one of the biggest secrets in the government: The U.S. has the most powerful cyberweapons on Earth. So what are they? And when will we use them?
By Danny Vinik

To this day it remains one of the most sophisticated and mysterious offensive operations ever launched: Stuxnet, the computer virus specifically engineered to attack Iran's nuclear reactors. Discovered in 2010 and now widely believed to be a collaboration between the U.S. and Israel, its existence raised an urgent question: Just what is the U.S. government doing to attack its opponents in the cyber-realm?

Stuxnet's origins have never been officially acknowledged, and the extent of American meddling in malware is still unknown. But for the past few years there’s been something new developing within the U.S. military that has taken "cyber" from a theoretical idea to a deliberate—if secretive—part of U.S. policy. The first ripple came in January 2013, when the Washington Post reported that the Pentagon was significantly expanding its cybersecurity forces across all the service branches. By that October, the U.S. Army had launched two teams of technical experts dedicated purely to the cyber realm. Just a year later, the number was up to 10.
The growth has been snowballing. Last year, the secretary of the Army created a new branch for cyber—the first new Army branch since Special Forces was created in 1987. By October of this year, there were 32 teams, coordinated out of a new joint force headquarters for cyber opened last year in Fort Gordon, Georgia. By next summer, the Army expects to have 41.
What's going on? The growth points to one of the most cutting-edge, but also obscure, realms of American military activity: its cyber strategy, and especially its strategy for cyber offense. The United States already has, most observers believe, the most powerful cyberattack capabilities in the world. Much less clear is just what its capacities actually are—and when the Department of Defense believes it should use them.

In conventional war, weapons and strategies are fairly well-understood; the international community has developed rules of the road for armed conflict. Even tactics wrapped in secrecy, such as covert military raids, are governed by some standards about when and how we use them.
That’s not the case with cyber. It’s widely acknowledged that offensive cyberattacks will be a necessary component of any future military campaign, and the weapons are being developed now. In April, the DOD released a 32-page document that laid out specific strategic goals for U.S. cyber offense for the first time. But critics say that document still leaves many questions unanswered about how, when and where the government will use these capabilities.

Cyberspace: The fifth domain of warfare

Many countries, including India, are increasingly investing in improving their cyber-security protocols as the frequency
By: Huma Siddiqui | December 7, 2015 

Cyber warfare being considered as a legitimate mode of attrition between nations, a new spectrum of operations have opened up with the full panoply of instruments. India has recently inked cyber-security agreements with Malaysia and Singapore seeking to promote closer cooperation and the exchange of information pertaining to cyber-security incident management, technology cooperation, cyber-attacks, prevalent policies and best practices and mutual response to cyber-security incidents.
With cyberspace all set to become the fifth dimension of warfare, countries around the world are busy preparing to face the threat of cyber war where attackers remain incognito. Anonymity is perhaps the biggest advantage associated with cyber-attack. A cyber weapon is an intellectual property (IP) which can be used in peace time and during war time. These weapons largely depend upon Zero Day exploits and vulnerabilities, and have limited shelf life.
As per a report by Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), cyber attacks on India increased from about 13,000 in 2011 to 62,000 till mid-2014, with most originating from cyber space of a number of countries including the US, Europe, Brazil, Turkey, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Algeria and the UAE. Over last 20 years, there has been a major change in the way in which threats have evolved in cyberspace, to an extent that strategists globally are recognising cyberspace as the fifth domain of warfare. This rapid evolution of threats, from non-state actors and at the behest or in some cases directly by state actors, has resulted in a global cyber pandemonium.

Good heretical stuff from Adm. Stavridis


I am glad to see someone of his stature putting these ideas out there:
— Create a cyber force.
— Give each combatant command, or COCOM, a civilian deputy
— Merge the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and SOUTHCOM into a single Americas Command
— Establish a Land and Air Guard that parallels the Coast Guard
— Stand up a truly independent general staff with operational authority atop the military chain of command

Was I kidding about the military’s Industrial Era personnel policies?



Check out this story from Barno & Bensahel, the dynamic duo of military policy commentary: Army lieutenant is told he won’t be promoted because of two year gap in his military career — while he was at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

Implications of Integrating Women into the Marine Corps Infantry

PDF file, 1.2 MB 
Research Questions 
What issues may arise if women are integrated into the Marine Corps infantry? 
What efforts have been successful in addressing these issues in the past? 
What potential costs are likely to be associated with gender integration? 

This study for the U.S. Marine Corps consisted of four tasks: (1) review the literature on the integration of women in ground combat and other physically demanding occupations, (2) conduct interviews with representatives of organizations that have integrated women into physically demanding occupations, (3) estimate the costs of potential initiatives to promote successful gender integration, and (4) develop an approach for monitoring implementation of gender integration of the infantry. RAND researchers present a historical overview of the integration of women into the U.S. military and explore the importance of cohesion and what influences it. The gender integration experiences of foreign militaries, as well as those of domestic police and fire departments, are examined for insights on effective policies. The potential one-time and recurring costs associated with integration are estimated as well. The report culminates in a summary of previous monitoring efforts and broad strategic monitoring issues, as well as recommendations to the Marine Corps for implementation.
Key Findings

Research Indicates Gender Integration Has Not Been a Primary Cause of Cohesion Problems 
In general, cohesion within gender-diverse groups improves over time. 
Cohesion should increase as women demonstrate the ability to perform at high levels. 
Negative impacts on cohesion can be prevented or mitigated by leadership and cohesion-building activities. 
The Experiences of Foreign Militaries Provide Valuable Lessons 
Recruiting and retaining women for combat arms occupations can be challenging. 
Successful integration programs have a clear implementation plan. 
Human resource management policies need to support integration: Targeted recruitment and retention policies can attract women into combat arms occupations and retain them in those occupations. 
Leadership commitment and accountability are vital to successful gender integration. 
Civilian Fire and Police Departments Provide Useful Insights 
Equipment and uniforms must meet the needs of women. 
Small-unit dynamics and discipline need to be closely monitored. 
Integration challenges change and mature over time. 
There Will Be Both One-Time and Recurring Costs with Integration 
The number of women entering the infantry will be modest, and the increase in representation will be slow. 
Women will have higher levels of attrition during training and fewer months of infantry service than men, but overall costs are expected to be modest compared to recruiting and retention budgets. 
The Marine Corps will be able to make up any shortfall in the infantry effectively through increased recruitment, increased retention, or both. 
Leadership is key to integration success. Senior leaders are uniquely positioned to implement and enforce legal and policy changes needed to support integration. Leaders also set the command climate and enforce good order and discipline to prevent issues of misconduct that can have negative impacts on cohesion.