14 December 2015

Here we go again Dialogue with Pakistan should be part of an overall strategy.

By Nitin Pai on 10th December 2015 

“What was being done as composite dialogue, and was later called the resumed dialogue, will now be called the comprehensive bilateral dialogue.” Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister [IE]
Given the history of the last fifteen years, it is hard to not be cynical about the re-initiation of the dialogue process with Pakistan. Governments engage, the Pakistani military and/or their jihadi proxies escalate violence in India and New Delhi is compelled to disengage. Time passes. Labels change. And the cycle repeats. The odds are that this round too will go the way of the previous ones. [See a previous post on the problem of talking to Pakistan]

What’s different this time? Well, this is perhaps the first time that the Indian government is indirectly engaging the Pakistani military leadership through, and alongside the Pakistani civilian government. Vajpayee engaged a Nawaz Sharif who was at loggerheads with the army, and a Musharraf who was a military dictator. Manmohan Singh engaged the same dictator and then Asif Zardari, a civilian president, who was out of the loop with the military establishment. When Narendra Modi first engaged Nawaz Sharif, the latter had already lost his hold on the military establishment. Now, with a recently retired general, Naseer Khan Janjua representing the army chief within the official setup as National Security Advisor, the Modi government will be talking to both the civilian and the military power centres at the same time.

Cynical in fighting terror?

December 9, 2015 


Those who are leading the fight against terror need a strong helping hand rather than condemnation. If IS continues to strike terror in all of us, it is not because governments the world over have not tried every means to outwit a deadly outfit. It is because they have simply been outclassed and outmanoeuvred

In perhaps what has been his most difficult speech in recent times, U.S. President Barack Obama, told his nation on Sunday that he will not flinch from using his government’s military might to destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or IS as it is more popularly known. This was in the context of the San Bernardino (California) killing of 14 people on December 2, 2015, by a couple, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, in what the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) identified categorically to be a terrorist attack.

The savagery — the two used assault weapons to mow down Farook’s colleagues — once again proved that we cannot rob the terrorist of the advantage of surprise that he packs in his armoury. He will strike anywhere he wants, especially when he confronts soft targets like the employees of the Inland Regional Center of the County Department of Public Health in San Bernardino, near Los Angeles, who had gathered for a training event and subsequent partying. The centre offers assistance to disabled people. This makes the attack on providers of a noble service to the disadvantaged in the local community all the more poignant.

Unpredictable and selective

Those who have watched and listened to Mr. Obama on television after similar gory incidents in the past — some terror-related and others the work of deranged, but dangerously armed, individuals who had run amok — may not have been convinced that the President had still the ability or the energy to handle terrorism imaginatively. On this occasion, Mr. Obama was not exactly the picture of assurance that he used to be. He looked jaded, and his brave rhetoric on television sounded perfunctory and superficial, despite the doubtless sincerity of the man. You can’t, however, fault him, because with the tragic frequency of such gory events even for an eloquent speaker like him, using appropriate adjectives and emotions to describe them will be difficult now.

South Asian diplomacy All latest updates Nawaz’s good day

Pakistan patches up relations with both India and Afghanistan. Regional peace will depend on what happens next Dec 10th 2015 | ISLAMABAD | Asia

THERE were doubts until almost the last minute about whether the top-billed guests would turn up at a diplomatic conference in Islamabad on December 9th to discuss peace in Afghanistan. Both Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan and co-host of the “Heart of Asia” conference, and Sushma Swaraj, the Indian foreign minister, had reasons to keep their distance: both believe Pakistan stays at the heart of their problems by harbouring, or even directing, the violent groups that attack them.
India is outraged by, among other things, the fact that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the presumed operational mastermind of the jihadist attacks on Mumbai that killed 166 people in November 2008, was released on bail in April. Mr Ghani, for his part, has little to show for his conciliatory policy towards Pakistan, the historic foe, which he undertook in the hope it would use its influence to rein in Taliban insurgency. Instead violence has risen sharply and become more brazen.
In the event, both turned up. Ms Swaraj was the first Indian foreign minister to visit Pakistan since 2012. She told delegates it was time for India and Pakistan to display “the maturity and self-confidence to do business with each other and strengthen regional trade and co-operation”. At the end of a day of meetings, including a call on the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, she announced that Pakistan and India would restart talks on all outstanding disagreements, at a date yet to be announced.

Previous attempts to resume the process have been postponed repeatedly. The government of Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, demanded that talks must be, first and foremost, about terrorism. Pakistan insisted that the status of the disputed territory of Kashmir could not be ignored. India also took umbrage at Pakistani officials’ habit of consulting Kashmiri groups before the talks. There could be not third parties, insisted Mr Modi. Nor could the talks take place in third countries.

US, India Boost Security Ties in Defense Minister Visit

Ash Carter and Manohar Parrikar on board the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Manohar Parrikar’s visit to the U.S. was full of “firsts.” 
By Shannon Tiezzi, December 12, 2015
India’s minister of defense, Manohar Parrikar, paid an official visit to the United States this week, beginning with a visit to U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) in Hawaii and ending with an inspection of a U.S. nuclear-power aircraft carrier in Virginia.
Parrikar started his trip off in Hawaii, where he became the first Indian defense minister to ever visit PACOM headquarters in what PACOM called a “milestone event.” Also while in Hawaii, Parrikar participated in the Pearl Harbor Commemoration Ceremony on December 7.

Parrikar met with PACOM Commander Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr. According to a readout from PACOM, their conversation focused heavily on maritime security. Parrikar and Harris “emphasized the importance of expanded maritime security cooperation within the context of broader military-to-military ties, especially in the Indo-Asia-Pacific” and also “discussed the continuance of the maritime security cooperation, [and] the potential for joint U.S.-India maritime patrols.”
Later, at a press conference at the Pentagon, Parrikar said that U.S.-India “cooperation in the area of maritime security is also becoming stronger, especially in the Indian Ocean region.”

Onus on US to boost defence ties with India


Saturday, 12 December 2015 | SAROJ BISHOY |
Amid the growing congruence of interests between the two countries on bilateral, regional and global issues, India-US defence cooperation is set to reach new heights. However, America needs to gain India’s trust by helping India in building indigenous defence industries, meeting energy demands, and including it into global decision-making bodies like UNSC

India-US relationship has been transformed over the last one and a half decades. In this ameliorating relationship, defence cooperation has emerged as the most visible aspect of bilateral ties. The foundation of this lies in India’s rise as economic, military, and political power; and its potential role as a net security provider in Asia and beyond.

India has also emerged as the world’s largest defence market where the US has become the top arms supplier to India. In addition, China’s ambitious foreign policy to dominate the Asian region, its ever growing military assertiveness, territorial claims, and rapid construction of artificial islands and reefs in the disputed South China Sea (SCS) has thrown serious challenges to American leadership where India is seen as a balancing power. Besides, the growing transnational security threats such as international terrorism, climate change, WMD proliferation, etc, have further brought the two nations closer on regional and global security issues. Hence, amid the growing congruence of interests between the two countries on bilateral, regional and global issues, India-US defence cooperation is set to reach new heights.

A Calcutta Chromosome Swamy has exposed the tip of the iceberg. There’s enough to sink the titanic.

Sandipan Chatterjee
Site Of Contention Herald House at Bahadurshah Zafar Marg
Meetu Jain
In August 2015, the chief of the Enforcement Directorate issued a terse circular, one that turned conventional practice on its head. The ED, said acting director Karnail Singh, need not wait for other agencies such as the CBI to probe a case. If the courts have taken cognisance, ED can go ahead and start a probe on its own. In all its existence, ED, which comes under the purview of the Union finance ministry, has taken its cue from that “caged bird”, the Central Bureau of Investigation, which comes under the department of personnel (DoPT), which reports to the PMO.

But it is events leading up to the circular that are more revealing. Just days earlier, Karnail Singh, who was then ED special director, was all set to be transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) following a letter to the finance ministry written by an officer of the income-tax department. The I-T officer, rumoured to be in the race for the ED top job himself, alle­ged that Karnail Singh and two other officers were going slow in investigating several cases. These cases included two real estate firms, one owned by a Congress politician close to the party top brass, and the other by a BJP leader out of favour with the ruling triumvirate but close to the late Pramod Mahajan.
Around the same time came a decisive salvo fired at the PMO by Subramanian Swamy. The BJP leader accused then ED chief, Rajan Katoch, of closing the National Herald case even though there was a mountain of evidence. The fact that the CBI had not responded to repe­ated reminders by the ED as also the fact that it had not filed even a preliminary enquiry (PE) report was not good enough. Whether it was the Swamy missive or an administrative decision, Katoch was shifted out and Karnail Singh took over as acting ED chief.

Pakistan and China's Almost Alliance

“Sweeter than the sweetest honey in this world, deeper than the deepest sea in the world … ,” the suitor crooned, “higher than the highest peak … ” Soul singer Barry White? No, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, remarking on Pakistan's relationship with China in 2014, using words that had been repeated many times before over the past 40 years. Leaders of each nation routinely describe the other as its closest partner on earth, as its “all-weather friend.” But does the substance match the rhetoric? The two nations have virtually no shared culture, history, or economic ties. The glue sticking them together would appear to be military ties and an interest in keeping their common rival, India, off balance. But there is a great deal more to theSino-Pakistani relationship than this. Policymakers in the United States and throughout Asia should take note of why this odd couple has endured for so long, what each partner gets from the other (particularly in the arena of airpower), and what inherent limitations prevent the union from developing into a true alliance.

What Pakistan gets out of its engagement with China is relatively easy to see. China has provided Pakistan with much of its nuclear weapons program, an even greater portion of its ballistic missile program, a steady stream of conventional arms, and steadfast diplomatic support that has spanned over half a century. This support justifies a lot of Pakistan's flowery rhetoric. In the nuclear realm, the substance of China's involvement has lived up to the hype: without China's assistance, Pakistan's nuclear capability would certainly have been developed much later (if ever), and its missile delivery system for nuclear weapons might not have been developed at all. In all other spheres, however, the support Pakistan gets from China is less than comprehensive.

In diplomatic terms, China has provided almost unwavering support for Pakistan at the United Nations and within other international forums. What this has meant for Pakistan in concrete terms, however, is difficult to quantify. Geopolitically speaking, China's mere presence as Asia's predominant power serves to draw some of India's limited military resources toward the north and northeast, away from its western border with Pakistan. But here, too, the specific impact that China's support has on Pakistani security is hazy: after all, during each of its wars with Pakistan, India has been able to deploy all the forces it has considered necessary, without keeping significant assets in reserve to counter a potential Chinese mobilization. In economic terms, China has never provided Pakistan with truly significant aid or trade. This past April, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised a whopping $46 billion in investment in Pakistani infrastructure, but the latest proclamation is far from the first high-profile economic initiative that has been proposed; many, perhaps most, of these have never panned out. The Karakoram Highway and Gwadar Port, for example, were both touted as linchpins of Chinese-Pakistani economic development and security cooperation, yet neither project has remotely lived up to its billing. As the German Marshall Fund's Andrew Small notes in his book, The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia's New Geopolitics, the Karakoram Highway “would have been killed off quickly if its economic value had been the only thing going for it [and] … its direct military utility is questionable.” Gwadar was purchased by Pakistan from Oman in 1958 and has yet to become a source of profit or security.

Afghanistan and Failed State Wars: An Update

By Anthony H. Cordesman, DEC 10, 2015
The Afghan conflict has become steadily more complex with time, and also steadily more difficult to assess. The process of Transition during 2014 withdrew outside combat forces, and many aid, consular, and NGOs had to withdraw in the process.
The United States and its allies have lost access to many sources in the field, have cut back sharply on official reporting, and have often shifted from realistic assessments to public relations exercises that exaggerate success and either disguise key challenges or fail to mention them. Official Afghan reporting often seems to be generated by computer models that make detailed estimates based on only tenuous data collection.

Post-Transition Sources of Data
There are, however, a wide range of sources that examine key aspects of the fighting and the current situation in Afghanistan. Some European countries have provided assessments of insurgent strength. NGOs like the Institute for the Study of War and the Long War Journal have contributed regular analyses, as have major media sources like the New York Times, Washington Post, and BBC.
The UN has provided casualty and risk data that provide key insights into the fighting. A range of NGOs have also provided key data on the patterns of terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, many drawing on the START data base and well as their own sources.

There also are important sources that examine the causes of instability in Afghanistan. These include data on governance, economics, and aid flows from international bodies like the UN, World Bank and IMF, as well as reporting by the U.S. Special 
Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
They also include a number of NGOs as well as important survey efforts examining Afghan perceptions by the Asia Foundation, and critical data on population numbers and “youth bulge” issues from the UN, CIA, U.S. Census Bureau and USAID, and on population density, sectarian, and ethnic issues from a range of experts and NGOs, as well as data on corruption, narcotics, and human development.

Pakistan Test Fires Nuclear-Capable SHAHEEN III Missile

The News International, December 12, 2015

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan on Friday conducted a successful flight test of Shaheen-III surface-to-surface ballistic missile, with a maximum range of 2,750 kilometres.
According to the ISPR, the test flight was aimed at validating various design and technical parameters of the weapon system.

The successful flight test with its impact point in the Arabian Sea validating all the desired parameters was witnessed by senior officers from the Strategic Plans Division, strategic forces, scientists and engineers of strategic organisations.
Director General Strategic Plans Division Lieutenant General Mazhar Jamil congratulated the scientists and engineers on achieving a significant milestone in complementing the deterrence capability. He asserted that Pakistan desires peaceful co-existence in the region for which nuclear deterrence would further strengthen strategic stability in South Asia.

He appreciated the technical prowess, dedication and commitment of scientists who contributed wholeheartedly to make this launch a success. He expressed full confidence over the strategic command and control system and the strategic forces’ operational preparedness to defend against any aggressive design.
President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have congratulated the scientists and engineers on successful conduct of the missile test.

China, Inside and Out A Collection of Essays on Foreign and Domestic Policy in the Xi Jinping Era


PDF file 8.1 MB 
China today is guided by a few overriding philosophies. Outwardly, it is promoting a "new type of great power relations" between itself and the United States, and a "community of shared interests" within Asia. Inwardly, it is guided by the "Chinese Dream," a vision for increased prosperity, greater social stability, and a higher quality of life for China's people. This collection of essays explore some of the realities of these philosophies — how they are reflected in Chinese policy, how they affect China's relations with the United States and U.S. allies in the region, and how policy is responding to and also changing the ways Chinese citizens work and live.

The Belt, the Road and the PLA

General Zhu Chenghu has argued that the PLA already has all the necessary capabilities to go abroad and protect the OBOR, but that diplomatic constraints related to the creation of military bases abroad prevent the Chinese armed forces from going global. (Image Source: Chinese Internet)
During his speech addressing the United Nations General Assembly in late September, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China will take the lead in the creation of an 8,000-strong standby force for peacekeeping operations (FMPRC, September 29). Such a commitment will help cement Chinese military involvement in Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW).

These missions and other similar operations are what Sun Degang, Deputy Director of the Shanghai International Studies University’s Middle East Studies Institute, has called a “soft military presence” (柔性军事存在), meaning a limited deployment of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) units abroad, and mainly for peacekeeping and antipiracy operations. [1] Strongly echoing the interpretation of MOOTW provided by Chinese military academic texts, the goal of Sun’s “soft military presence” is to both defend China’s overseas interests and provide public goods to the international community. [2] Such operations and, importantly, presence, may pave the way for the PLA’s involvement in one of the biggest economic and political policies of Xi Jinping’s administration: the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative.

Four professors at China’s National Defense University (NDU) have laid out the case for Chinese military involvement in the OBOR. The first is the PLA Air Force Major General Qiao Liang (China.com, May 7), already famous for his unconventional arguments in the book Unrestricted Warfare (超限战争).[3] The second is the PLA Major General Zhu Chenghu, who has also declared that China should be aware that the OBOR has raised concerns in both the United States and Russia (Takungpao, May 13;Takungbao, May 24). The third is PLA Major General Ji Minkui that in his declarations usually places great emphasis on the importance for China to be more self-confident and whose position can be considered as moderate (China.com, October 4). The fourth is PLA Navy Colonel Liang Fang, generally considered a hardliner, who is known for pushing for China to become a stronger sea power (National Defense Reference, February 11; National Defense Reference, March 10). However, it should be acknowledged that there are limitations on what can be gained from such commentators, given that most of them are trained to speak in accordance with propaganda/policy imperatives (China Brief, July 25, 2013). This is particularly the case with General Qiao. Discussions of OBOR differ from those related more directly to challenges that China faces in Asia or territorial disputes, avoiding much of the inflammatory and heavily politicized rhetoric that characterizes commentary on these issues.

Tomgram: Peter Van Buren, Who Will Fight the Islamic State?

Posted by Peter Van Buren , December 10, 2015.
Who can’t feel that something’s in the air? Some mood of fear, panic, and pure meanness ratcheting up in the planet’s “exceptional” nation. Or at least exceptionally jumpy nation. In the wake of the San Bernardino slaughter and news of an online pledge of loyalty to the Islamic State (IS) by one of the killers, the talk of “war” and even “world war” is rising to a fever pitch on the campaign trail. With the death of 14 and the wounding of 21 in a California center dedicated to helping disabled people -- evidently a case of ISIS-inspired, yet all-American workplace terrorism -- the president was forced to address the nation from the Oval Office for the first time since August 2010. The Republicans on the campaign trail having put his feet to the fire, he wanted to reassure the country about how ably his administration was keeping us safe from terrorists, while ratcheting up what he now calls a “war” to defeat the forces of the Islamic State.

In the meantime, another wave of Americans have just rushed to local gun shops to arm themselves, further enriching domestic weapons makers (just as the heightening set of conflicts in the Middle East are enriching upbeat national defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon). More than a year before Americans head into voting booths, presidential campaign 2016 has already been transformed into a national security election. And here’s a guarantee: no matter who wins, Washington’s national security state will emerge stronger than ever with yet more enhanced powers in an increasingly locked-down, up-armed, draconian country. Yet none of the events involved, either here or in the Middle East, merit the alarms being raised.

After all, when James Holmes slaughtered 12 people in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in July 2012, and that December Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, no one talked about World War IV and the president did not address us from the Oval Office. Nor were Americans speaking obsessively and anxiously about their fear of being ambushed anywhere in their lives (though they were no less subject to that possibility than they are now). The more than 1,000 “mass shootings” and 1,300 dead since Sandy Hook, and the 355 such incidents in which at least four people were injured or killed so far this year alone, almost none connected to Islamic terrorism and many minor indeed, weren’t considered firefights in World War IV and, despite the obvious dangers, the national security state wasn’t put on high alert to protect us.

There may be an even bigger threat after ISIS is defeated


PARIS — Even if the Islamic State group is one day defeated on its territory, the world could face an even greater threat from tens of thousands of battle-hardened jihadist veterans, experts have warned.

US intelligence services estimate some 30,000 people have joined the ranks of ISIS from around 100 countries, adding to the huge number who have fought with older Islamic extremist groups over the decades.

In Afghanistan alone between 1996 and 2001, some 10,000 to 20,000 people received jihadist training, many under the guidance of Osama Bin Laden.
After the fall of the Taliban regime, many of those fighters dispersed around the world, taking their radical ideology and knowledge with them.
Officials warn that jihadist veterans pose a major long-term threat that Western institutions are ill-equipped to handle.

"Just the current wave — of around 250 returning fighters (coming to France) — is a complicated problem," a senior French counterterrorism official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He said the vast majority would be tried and imprisoned and the rest closely monitored, but the difficulty of finding evidence against returning fighters means many are jailed for only five to seven years.
"That means that in four or five years, the first will start leaving prison. The problem will return," the official said.
"That's why we have to prepare now, and see how we can return these people to society. Some will be traumatized for years. We need to think about rehabilitation. It's a huge job."

Iran, Missiles, and Nuclear Weapons

By Anthony H. Cordesman,  DEC 9, 2015
It is far from clear why Iran is now sending such strong signals about new developments in its missile program at this point in time. It seemed during much of the negotiations over the nuclear deal and the JCPOA that Iran might be deliberately avoiding tests and activities that might call attention to any obvious fact: there is no meaningful difference between a missile that can deliver conventional munitions and one that can deliver nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. As long as the missile booster can launch a heavy enough payload to get the desired range, any missile can carry a nuclear warhead.

It is possible, that hardliners in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and other parts of Iran’s power structure are “acting out” in opposition to the JCPOA and/or asserting Iran’s capabilities to show it will not halt Iran’s steady development of its asymmetric warfare capabilities. It is also possible that Iran’s leaders have a broad interest in showing their neighbors and the world that Iran is still becoming a steadily more important military power – both in terms of its ability to pose a threat and to deter.
More generally, it is equally important to remember that that the United States, Britain, France, and most of Iran’s Arab neighbors have a massive qualitative and quantitative advantage over Iran in conventional air power. Most of Iran’s combat aircraft and surface-to-air missiles date back to the time of the Shah or are relatively low quality export versions of Russian and Chinese weapons. Missiles are a key “equalizer” for Iran in shaping the regional military balance.

It is also important to remember that the original UN prohibition on Iran’s missile developments in 2010 was so broad that it included virtually any meaningful medium to long-range ballistic missile or space activity – to the point where missile redeployments or routine modernization and maintenance might be seen as violations, and these limits will be eased once the JCPOA goes into force.

Iran, Missiles, and Nuclear Weapons
In practice, Iran is revealing a fact that was inherent in the JCPOA nuclear agreement negotiations, and was openly revealed during their course. It was clear that the United States tried to put limits on Iran’s missile activities in the JCPOA and Iran refused. As a result, the United States and other members of the JCPOA chose to focus on an agreement that clearly forbade Iran from actually deploying a nuclear warhead, from getting the design and manufacturing capability to produce any nuclear weapon, and inspection provisions and controls on procurement that would prevent Iran – or at least limit it – from getting a reliable warhead.

If Homegrown Terrorists Are the New Threat in America, Than Keeping Muslims Out of the Country Won’t Stop the Threat

Brian Michael Jenkins

The Guardian, December 8, 2015

Dressed in combat gear, a married couple allegedly carried out the bloodiest terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11 last Wednesday at a social services center in San Bernardino, California. While the husband was born in Chicago, his Pakistani wife had gained entrance to the United States through a “fiancee visa” – also known as a K-1 visa – to marry him.
In a televised speech on Sunday evening designed to reassure Americans, US President Barack Obama said that he ordered the Departments of State and Homeland Security to review “the visa waiver program under which the female terrorist in San Bernardino originally came to this country” and called for Congress to “put in place stronger screening for those who come to America without a visa” under the visa waiver program. (The White House clarified after the speech that the woman had not entered the US through the visa waiver program).

The fear that terrorist operatives might infiltrate the United States has led American authorities to look for any holes in US defenses – including, of late, the aforementioned visa waiver program, which allows citizens of 38 participating countries to enter the US without visas (though not without scrutiny) and stay for up to 90 days for tourism, business or while in transit to Canada or Mexico. The K-1 visa has a similar time constraint, requiring the couple to marry within 90 days; like all other applicants not eligible for visa waiver, such applicants must be interviewed in person.
The real threat to America, however, appears to be less one of infiltration and more one of inspiration. The Isis radio station released a statement on Saturday claiming that two of the group’s followers had carried out the attack in San Bernardino – but, although the federal investigation continues, thus far there appears to be no evidence of direct involvement by the Islamic State. That Isis applauded the shooters does not mean that it directed the attacks or even actively recruited the attackers.

Despite being the focus of renewed scrutiny, only three people involved in terrorist incidents have entered the US via the visa waiver program in the past quarter-century. All three cases involving the visa waiver program could have had disastrous consequences, but intelligence and a bit of luck intervened. And, there have been none since cooperation among intelligence agencies around the world was increased and visa-waiver requirements were strengthened following the attacks of 9/11.
Ahmed Ajaj, a terrorist operative trained in explosives, flew into the United States in 1992 using a Swedish passport that had been crudely altered. When immigration officials searched his luggage, they found two other passports. He served six months in jail for altering his passport, but continued to keep in contact with Ramzi Yousef, who eventually served as the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Yousef had been on the same flight as Ajaj, and entered the US on an Iraqi passport before claiming asylum. Ajaj was released from jail days after the trade center bombing, but was rearrested and convicted of his involvement in the plot.

US Government Reworking Its Terrorist Threat Warning System

Damian Paletta, Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2015

The U.S. government is reworking its threat-warning system in order to alert Americans about terrorism risks even if officials don’t know of imminent attacks, reflecting an exposure in intelligence gaps following attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Monday that officials have to use “a new system that has an intermediate level” of warning rather than relying on the existing National Terrorism Advisory System, a four-year-old initiative that has never been used. That system replaced a color-coded threat-level system put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, which was criticized as an overly simplistic response to the complex situation it addressed.

In order for NTAS to issue a warning, a credible threat first must be discovered. Officials have said the lack of foreknowledge about imminent attacks has made this system somewhat irrelevant.
Officials believe this system needs to be modified so warnings or other information can be publicized, even if law enforcement and homeland-security officials don’t know concrete details of a coming attack.

Mr. Johnson, speaking at an event in Washington hosted by Defense One, a news outlet that focuses on national-security issues, said, “We need a system that adequately informs the public at large, not through news leaks…We need a system that informs the public at large what we are seeing.”
“Hoping that I will announce this in full in the coming days,” he said.
The NTAS replaced a color-coded threat-level system put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, which was criticized as an overly simplistic response to the complex threat it addressed.

Academics: forget about public engagement, stay in your ivory towers

Researchers are urged to make their work accessible, but simplifying complex ideas doesn’t support great scholarship
‘Stay in your offices, write books that few people will read,’ says James Mulholland.
James Mulholland , Associate professor of English at North Carolina State University
Thursday 10 December 2015
Academics are constantly encouraged to engage with the public more often, but this advice ignores the way that specialised knowledge already affects civic life. Specialisation has social importance, but often only after decades of work.
It is time for us to reassess what we mean by public scholarship. We must recognise the value of the esoteric knowledge, technical vocabulary and expert histories that academics produce.

Those who call for academics to publicise their work often place importance on making complex research more accessible to general audiences. Some scholars insist that groundbreaking humanities research is ignored because academics don’t publicise it properly. Others assume that academics don’t want to leave their ivory towers because they are more comfortable there or might be afraid to speak in public.

Academics: leave your ivory towers and pitch your work to the media
Kristal Brent Zook
This attitude towards public engagement presents it as an intrinsic virtue, while perpetuating the idea that professors are brainy introverts unable or afraid to talk to people outside their sphere of expertise. In fact, the opposite is true. The work of an academic is to talk about ideas – in lectures, class discussions, academic conferences and student meetings. For many, it’s one of the job’s greatest pleasures.
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But we need to recognise that popularising research isn’t the only way to make a social impact. One example of this is the history of sexuality studies in relation to the gay rights campaign in the US.
Queer theory emerged in the 1980s with the goal of overturning the 1986 US supreme court decision in Bowers v Hardwick, which upheld the criminalisation of sodomy. Chief Justice Warren Burger claimed that the ruling had “millennia of moral teaching” supporting it.

When the supreme court reversed this decision in 2003, the majority cited decades of scholarship demonstrating the inaccuracy of Burger’s claim. The meticulous research of queer theorists and historians only became central to the judicial process years after the research was completed.
It would have been difficult to know in 1986 what effect publicity would have on academic debates about the “homo-hetero binary” or the gay subcultures of early-20th-century New York. But this disciplinary framework enabled a massive national transformation decades later.

Reform could force universities to choose between teaching and research
Mark Leach

Whether our research eventually appears in judicial opinions or not, academics are forced to confront questions of relevance. North Carolina State University, where I work, was founded in 1887 as a “land-grant institution” dedicated to expanding higher education in “agriculture and the mechanic arts”. Its concern with relevant knowledge is made explicit in its motto: Think and Do.

I often contemplate how my research could aid a university like my own. Right now, I am investigating 18th-century British authors who wrote poetry and plays in colonial cities and outposts stationed around India, Sumatra and Singapore. Many of these authors haven’t been read since they appeared in print during the 1790s.

I see the value in recovering colonial writers who are not readily remembered. But I realise that the public could think the authors I study are unread for a reason. To them, knowing how white men published poems in 1790s Bombay seems irrelevant.

I could explain that my research builds on themes that are important to our modern society, such as the possibilities or failures of cross-cultural dialogue, the relationship between corporations and social communities and the sharp tongue of satire in political discourse.

But as a scholar, I can’t predict which, if any, of these themes will be influential in the coming decades. Engaging the public is important, but we should not assume that what will be integral to future society is the same as what can be made popular or immediately understandable now.

Humanities research is groundbreaking, life-changing… and ignored
Gretchen Busl

Humanists like myself are regularly forced to consider what the public wants. We are told to imagine their desires and to conjure ways to fulfil them. This is an important strategy that every academic should pursue.

But we must be allowed to resist this impulse, too. We can’t anticipate what intellectual discoveries will become essential answers to the public’s future questions. We don’t always know what form public scholarship should take.

So academics, stay in your offices. Write books that few people will read. The results might be more significant than any of us first recognise.

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Radical Islam in Asia: The Arc of Al Qaeda and ISIS


Insight from Audrey Kurth Cronin

By Mercy A. Kuo and Angelica O. Tang

December 08, 2015

The Rebalance authors Mercy Kuo and Angie Tang regularly engage subject-matter experts, policy practitioners and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into the U.S. rebalance to Asia. This conversation with Professor Audrey Kurth Cronin – Director of the International Security Program at George Mason University’s School of Policy, Government and International Affairs, frequent advisor to senior U.S. policymakers, and author of numerous publications, such as How Terrorism Ends: Understanding the Decline and Demise of Terrorist Campaigns and Ending Terrorism: A Strategy for Defeating Al-Qaeda – is the 23rd in The Rebalance Insight Series.
In Foreign Affairs (April 2015), you posited that ISIS is not a terrorist group. Briefly explain the different goals and strategies of Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

ISIS and Al Qaeda both engage in terrorism, have similar long-term goals, and were once aligned, but they differ in key ways that are vital to fighting them. Terrorist groups like Al Qaeda generally have only dozens or hundreds of members, attack civilians, do not hold territory and cannot directly confront military forces. ISIS boasts some 30,000 fighters, holds territory in both Iraq and Syria, maintains extensive military capabilities, controls lines of communication, commands infrastructure, funds itself, and engages in sophisticated military operations. It is not a “terrorist group”; it’s a pseudo-state led by a conventional army that also seeks to inspire acts of transnational terrorism.
Al Qaeda thinks of itself as the vanguard of a global movement mobilizing Muslim communities against secular rule. It is playing a long game. The establishment of a so-called caliphate is a distant, almost utopian goal; educating and mobilizing the Muslim community comes first. It seeks to train violent mujahedeen, exclusively men, to act on behalf of that community.

Mastering MOOCS: Using Open Online Courses to Achieve Your Goals

Dec 09, 2015 
Since first making headlines in 2011, massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are now offered at hundreds of universities to millions of students around the world, including at Wharton. In the new ebook Mastering MOOCs, published with Wharton Digital Press, Knowledge@Wharton reports on how business professionals are using MOOCs to further their careers, and to help their companies and teams succeed. 
In the following excerpt, Knowledge@Wharton looks at why some of them take MOOCs.

Max Buckley was on the cusp of graduating from the Cork Institute of Technology when he stumbled upon a relatively new form of online learning — the massive open online course, or MOOC.
Although he was studying business administration, Buckley had an eye for the technological side of things and was regretting not pursuing a more computer-related field. The Circuits and Electronics MOOC from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology caught his eye, so he enrolled in the free course.

Final exams prevented him from finishing it, but he was hooked on the concept—free classes that he could take online, on his own schedule and offered by some of the most prestigious universities in the world. He kept enrolling in interesting classes and eventually steered himself toward computer programming courses. As luck would have it, he enrolled in a data analysis course at the same time he interviewed for an internship with Google.
An even bigger stroke of luck was finding out his interviewer was also enrolled in that class. Buckley landed the internship, and then was hired full time. He is now a product quality analyst, charged with helping the tech giant fight spam.

James Hansen, father of climate change awareness, calls Paris talks 'a fraud'

The former Nasa scientist criticizes the talks, intended to reach a new global deal on cutting carbon emissions beyond 2020, as ‘no action, just promises’
Oliver Milman, Saturday 12 December 2015 
Mere mention of the Paris climate talks is enough to make James Hansen grumpy. The former Nasa scientist, considered the father of global awareness of climate change, is a soft-spoken, almost diffident Iowan. But when he talks about the gathering of nearly 200 nations, his demeanor changes.
“It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he says, rubbing his head. “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

The talks, intended to reach a new global deal on cutting carbon emissions beyond 2020, have spent much time and energy on two major issues: whether the world should aim to contain the temperature rise to 1.5C or 2C above preindustrial levels, and how much funding should be doled out by wealthy countries to developing nations that risk being swamped by rising seas and bashed by escalating extreme weather events.
But, according to Hansen, the international jamboree is pointless unless greenhouse gas emissions aren’t taxed across the board. He argues that only this will force down emissions quickly enough to avoid the worst ravages of climate change.

How A Global Solar Alliance Can Help Developing Countries

from The Conversation -- this post authored by Xavier Lemaire, University College London
The International Solar Alliance announced by India at the Paris climate conference invites together 120 countries to support the expansion of solar technologies in the developing world.
The cost of solar cells has decreased spectacularly over the past four decades, and the trend seems likely to continue. Solar energy has moved from a niche market for providing power in remote places (at the very beginning in 1958 to space satellites) to a mainstream technology which feeds into the national grid.
Most richer countries have been supporting solar power for some time and the rest of the world is now catching up, turning to solar not only for energy access in remote areas but to power cities. Emerging countries such as China, India, Brazil, Thailand, South Africa, Morocco or Egypt are investing in large solar plants with ambitious targets. In developing countries such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal or Ghana, solar farms or the large roll-out of solar home systems are a solution to unreliable and insufficient electricity supplies.

Most developing countries benefit from high solar radiation. Source: SolarGIS © 2015 GeoModel Solar
Large solar farms can be built in just a few months - compared to several years for a coal plant and even longer for a nuclear plant - without generating massive environmental and health damages. Modular decentralised generation with solar is a way to increase access to energy while still remaining on top of rapidly increasing appetites for electricity.

Stratfor: How Terrorist Trends Develop

Summary: With hysteria building in the West about terrorism, Stratfor provides an analytical look at the origins of terrorism — an understanding essential if we are to prevent it from spreading. This discussion will not, of course, affect the public debate which is driven mostly by fiction and fear.

By Scott Stewart, Stratfor, 27 November 2015
Developments in terrorism are driven by numerous factors. Some drivers, such as ideology and politics, are inherent to terrorism. However, there are other elements to consider, such as technology and counterterrorism tactics, which force terrorists to adapt their techniques to stay one step ahead of the authorities.

During the past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to speak to audiences in Ottawa, Canada and Washington, D.C., about developments in terrorism that will affect the security of governments, companies and nongovernmental organizations in the next few years. Some of those trends, such as the competition between the Islamic State and al Qaeda, the emergence of true cyberterrorism, the progression of the grassroots threat from lone assailants to larger cells and the advent of the “online university of terrorism” will undoubtedly be familiar themes to Stratfor readers, as I have used my writing over the past few months to help flesh out my thinking in this area.
But what I’d like to do here is give readers a bit of an inside look at the factors I am thinking about when I forecast terrorist trends.

One of the most obvious drivers of terrorism is ideology. Terrorism is always ideologically driven, and ideological developments can have a dramatic impact not only on the decision to employ terrorism but also on the types of attacks conducted and the types of targets selected. For example, the emergence of the Islamic State’s strain of jihadism in Yemen over the past year has led to a number of mosque bombings — attacks that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula would not conduct under its operational guidelines. In Nigeria, the leaders of the Islamic State’s Wilayat al Sudan al Gharbi, the group formerly known as Boko Haram, have decided that it is permissible to use women and girls in suicide bombing attacks, and they have used over 50 female suicide bombers in 2015 alone. Ideology is also at the heart of the competition between al Qaeda and the Islamic State as the two rivals struggle to become the religious pole of the global jihadist movement.

How We Fight in the Twenty-First Century: Winning Battles While Losing Wars

by Bing West
Thursday, December 10, 2015

The intent of this essay is to shed light upon why the United States is performing so poorly in twenty-first-century warfare. War is the act of relentlessly destroying and killing until the enemy is broken physically and morally, and no longer resists the advancement of our policy objectives. By that definition, President Obama eschews war. Plus, our generals have imposed rules of engagement that prevent the application of our relative advantages in air and precision firepower. Our enemies do not fear us and our friends do not trust us. Sensible steps can turn that around, but that depends upon the next commander in chief. Our beloved nation does not have a martial spirit, and perhaps does not need one. It does need a military inculcated with a warrior spirit.

How We Fight in the Twenty-First Century: Winning Battles while Losing Wars, by Bing West by Hoover Institution
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DoD CIO Says Spectrum May Become Warfighting Domain

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. on December 09, 2015 

WASHINGTON: Pentagon officials are drafting new policy that would officially recognize the electromagnetic spectrum as a “domain” of warfare, joining land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace, Breaking Defense has learned. The designation would mark the biggest shift in Defense Department doctrine since cyberspace became a domain in 2006. With jamming, spoofing, radio, and radar all covered under the new concept, it could potentially bring new funding and clear focus to an area long afflicted by shortfalls and stovepipes.
The new electromagnetic spectrum domain would be separate from cyberspace, although there’s considerable overlap between the two. “Wireless” is just another word for “radio.” Any wireless network relies on radio frequency transmissions that can be jammed by traditional electronic warfare like any other RF device — or it can be hacked by wirelessly transmitted malware, in a hybrid of electronic and cyber attack. But the consensus among officials and experts seems to be that the electromagnetic spectrum world — long divided between electronic warriors and spectrum managers — is so technologically complex and bureaucratically fragmented by itself it must be considered its own domain, without trying to conflate it with cyberspace.
Cyber has certainly gotten more attention and, often, money than the electromagnetic spectrum. Would making the spectrum a domain fix that? It would not magically manifest the missing $2 billion a year the Defense Science Board says is needed to rebuild American electronic warfare capabilities such as jamming. Nor would calling the spectrum a domain somehow turn back the clock on the 20 years China and Russia have spent catching up while American electronic warfare largely stood still. Nor would it reduce the American military’s dependence on inherently vulnerable wireless networks for everything from commanding troops to sharing intelligence to flying drones to knowing exactly where we are.