9 January 2016

The way forward in Nepal


January 7, 2016, RAKESH SOOD
The Oli government needs to demonstrate an inclusive approach during the constitutional amendment process. For India, the challenge is to give greater political content to its engagement with Nepal even as cross-border movement of goods picks up

While media attention has been focussed on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise Christmas rendezvous in Lahore with Nawaz Sharif and the terrorist attack at the Pathankot airbase, significant developments on the Nepal front have been taking place. Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Oli telephoned Mr. Modi on New Year’s Eve to convey his greetings for 2016 and informed him about his government’s plans to move forward with the three-point package while undertaking negotiations with the agitating Madhesi leaders of the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM). In response, Mr. Modi reiterated the need to find durable solutions to Nepal’s political problems on the basis of “consensus” and conveyed his greetings to the Nepali people for 2016.
Shift or drift?

However, there are subtle changes of position underway. The first sign came on December 21 following the decisions taken by the Nepali cabinet to address the demands of the SLMM. The three-point package consists of constitutional amendments on participation in the state organs on the basis of “proportionate inclusiveness” and delineation of electoral constituencies on the basis of population. Demarcation of provinces was to be undertaken in a three-month period through a political mechanism on the basis of consensus, and other demands — including those pertaining to “citizenship” — are to be resolved through negotiation and appropriate notification. Nepal’s Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa had already briefed External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj about this road map during his visit to Delhi last month.
In an official statement, India’s Ministry of External Affairs welcomed these developments as “positive steps that help create the basis for a resolution of the current impasse in Nepal”. The statement further urged “all Nepali political forces to now demonstrate the necessary maturity and flexibility” so that a resolution to the current crisis could be found. The formal Indian statement has been followed by aninformal easing of supplies, particularly fuel and LPG, by using border-crossing points other than the Raxaul-Birgunj crossing which remains blocked.



On January 2, eight days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise Christmas Day stop in Lahore to visit with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, terrorists attacked an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, Punjab. The next day, with fighting still raging in Pathankot, the Indian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan came under attack. These grim developments deflated the optimism generated by the Modi visit for renewed “comprehensive bilateral dialogue” between India and Pakistan. The nuclear-armed neighbors have fought four wars, and repeated efforts over the decades to bridge their differences have never overcome longstanding suspicions on both sides. Events of the past few days illustrate why.

Since 1998, when both countries tested nuclear weapons, a possible conflict has become more dangerous for the region and the world. Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to harbor a plethora of terrorist groups, and the country’s pursuit of miniaturized “tactical nukes” fuels an already combustible situation. If Modi and Sharif can lead their countries to durably improve their relationship, even modestly, they will realize a goal that has eluded their predecessors.
Given the complex politics of the India–Pakistan relationship, the United States does not play a role in their bilateral talks, but Washington can certainly take steps to help prevent spoilers from once again disrupting a dialogue process that deserves every chance to succeed. The single most useful thing the United States can do is to unequivocally pressure Pakistan to end support for terrorist groups — not just some, but all — that destabilize India and the region.

Looking Back

My own views on the region have been formed over more than two decades. In December of 1993 I decided to take a train trip from Lahore to Quetta over the Christmas holidays. Back then, this was a lot less adventurous than it sounds today. I was already in Lahore for the academic year to study Urdu, and previously had taken many long train journeys across India. Family friends in Lahore, however, fretted aloud about this plan, and arranged for their friends — part of an endless web of South Asian hospitality — to look after me in Quetta. I spent the train ride in a “family” compartment with an older religious couple, looking out the window at the ever-more barren landscape as we traveled from populous Punjab to the sparseness of Balochistan.

'Drug-terror nexus' in Pathankot

Security forces scour Bhullaechak Colony near Tibri Cantonment in Gurdaspur, less than 50km from Pathankot, on Thursday after a farmer said on Wednesday that he saw two men in army fatigues moving in a suspicious manner. The army and police are carrying out joint combing operations. “We are not taking any chance. All vehicles and people, in and around the area, are being physically checked,” Gurdaspur senior superintendent of police Gurpreet Singh Toor said. (PTI)
New Delhi, Jan. 7: The militants who attacked the Pathankot Air Force base tapped into drug-smuggling channels to carry out the raid, according to an assessment in the security establishment in New Delhi.
The security agencies are also probing an explosive element: whether one of the two squads of attackers, carrying heavy weapons, was "sheltered" inside the base, an executive familiar with the security assessment said.
The investigation is taking into account the nature of the terrain around the Shakargarh Bulge through which the Ravi river flows in and out of Pakistan bordering northern Punjab. Long stretches of the international boundary in the zone are not fenced.

The region has a history of being used to traffic contraband drugs. Local officials have been bribed by smugglers.
In the marriage of narcotics smuggling and terrorism, one line of investigation is probing whether a Punjab security official was lured into being an accomplice of the attackers.
He may have been lured by a combination of money and flesh but when he went to receive the consignment, the "package" turned out to be a gang of gun-wielding terrorists. That made him turn chicken and report to a superior with a half-truth, not the full story, the investigators suspect.

These disclosures were made when a security assessment was shared with a handful of journalists, including this correspondent, to challenge a perception that there was doubtful synergy in the chain of command during the Pathankot operation.
The alleged nexus between the drug mafia and politicians in Punjab has been a festering issue in the past few years. The Congress has consistently accused the Parkash Singh Badal government, which is partnering the BJP, of being hand in glove with drug cartels.
Last year Jagdish Singh Bhola, a former DSP, was booked in a Rs 600-crore synthetic drug scam. Bhola had named Bikram Singh Majithia, the state's revenue minister as well as the younger brother of Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the daughter-in-law of chief minister Badal.

Hours before attack IAF moved MiGs, choppers out of Pathankot

January 08, 2016
'As many as 29 explosions were recorded after the last terrorist was neutralised, giving an impression of continuing pitched battles!' reveals Rajeev Sharma.
Did India's counter-terrorism machinery bungle in tackling the Pathankot terror attack challenge?
My answer is a big 'No!'
Why? Here's why.
A prime question is why the Indian government could not neutralise the terrorists in a heavily fortified military establishment like the Pathankot airbase in a jiffy when France had done so in a matter of two hours in civilian areas?
Why did India take four long days to neutralise terrorists who were initially four and later turned out to be more?
The Pathankot terror attack was dealt with in a surgical manner. The operations were personally choreographed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval who cancelled his strategically important China visit to be able to oversee the Pathankot counter-terror operations.

The success or failure of the Pathankot terror operation boiled down to just one question: Whether the NSA-led operations were able to deny the hardcore perpetrators meeting their single biggest objective of destroying the Pathankot airbase?
The question, in other words, is whether the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists were able to even remotely meet their mission objective.
The answer is NO because most of the assets like the MiG-21 fighter aircraft and the Mi-25 helicopters had already been removed hours before the terrorists wreaked mayhem.

Moreover, a contingent of National Security Guards commandos had been harnessed and the perpetrators were kept engaged in counter-terrorism operations. All these NSG officers belonged to the Indian Army and drew their strength from the Indian Army.
Pathankot was a different ball game in comparison to the recent Paris terror attacks where all the perpetrators had been neutralised within two hours.
Pathankot was much different as terrorists, armed to teeth, had sneaked inside the Pathankot airbase, one of the biggest in India with over 2,700 acres of total area and a periphery wall of over 24 kilometres.
The size of the Pathankot airbase made the operations all the more tricky as Indian security managers were not sure as to how many perpetrators were still at large and their locations.

'The information we had was pure gold'

January 06, 2016
'You seldom get information of this kind several hours in advance, exactly where they are going to strike. But we still couldn't act on this intelligence.'
'Had this been handled in a correct way, the only lives that would have been lost, presumably, were the lives of the terrorists and that would have been welcome.'
Colonel Ajai Shukla (retd) has been scathing about the manner in which India's national security team handled the Pathankot airbase terrorist attack.

Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com spoke to Colonel Shukla to find out why despite advance intelligence the terrorists still attacked the airbase and took precious Indian lives.
In your column, you said National Security Adviser Ajit Doval handled the Pathankot airbase attacks 'ineptly' and it was a 'debacle.' What could he have done?
You also say in the column that the NSG (National Security Guard) is trained to handle pinpoint operations. Didn't the same NSG flush out terrorists during the 26/11 Mumbai siege?
You understand the difference between clearing a hotel and securing a large piece of land. When you have to secure an area and defend it against terrorists who are attacking it, you require a different operation, one that requires lot of manpower.
When you have to do an attack operation on terrorists holed up in a hotel and clear it room by room is a different operation. Now the Mumbai kind of room clearance operations, which are pinpoint type of attack operations, is what the NSG is geared and equipped and meant to handle.
On the other hand, what should have been done (at Pathankot) immediately upon receiving information about an impending terrorist attack is to secure the airbase, which means putting a large number of people at various pickets all around the airbase which means you dominate the area and don't give freedom of movement (to terrorists).

How could these six or so terrorists have entered the airbase? If there were intelligence inputs, why wasn't the perimeter of the Pathankot airbase secured?
Because it was such a handful of people who had to secure a very large premise, which meant there were large gaps in between the pickets and these terrorists ingressed through those gaps.
When you have a larger number of people deployed, these gaps get reduced and minimise the chances of terrorists taking advantage of these gaps.
The point that I am making about the larger presence of manpower is because the biggest problem, in securing a large area, is manpower. And when you have just 150 NSG commandos (to secure such a huge air base)... (it) is like using a heart surgeon to sort of put a band aid on a little wound.

Pathankot attack: Are India's nuclear sites really safe from Pakistan? Although these nuclear installations are quite far from the border areas, there is every possibility of infiltration.

After so much breast-beating on the Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attack in Pathankot, it is time to analyse the designs of a new dimension of terrorism that India is likely to face in the future. Prior to Pathankot, all terrorist attacks - be it 26/11 or on Parliament- were executed on the motto of "kill and die" by jihadi groups at the behest of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), or the Pakistan army.
Prior to 26/11, David Headley was sent to Mumbai to pinpoint densely populated areas where terrorists were later sent to kill innocents indiscriminately. Headley did his job efficiently and heavy killing was the resultant end in 26/11.

So "kill and die" was perfectly executed in that ISI-sponsored operation purportedly done by Lashkar-e-Toiba.
The Pathankot attack was planned with a different modus operandi by its handlers in Pakistan. Now the motive was "Destroy and Die". If credence is given to intelligence outputs, these terrorists were not trained in forest camps but in two airports - either Lyallpur or Chaklala in Pakistan.
It would be pertinent to admit here that the layout of airports in India and Pakistan are almost similar. These terrorists were almost within shooting range of the hangars, ammunition depots, fuel dumps and aircraft units.

They probably had the exact locations of these strategic places due to the handiwork of an Indian mole at this airport who was honey-trapped in 2014 and passed on information to his handlers in Pakistan in exchange of money.
This is the biggest security breach in this tragedy, which the intelligence authorities had not visualised earlier. Had the vulnerable entry points been properly sanitised after this catch, there would have been little chance of such free access for the terrorists.
There is no denying that these terrorists had sophisticated weapons but recovery of aluminum powder is ample proof that they were sent on a "destroy and die" mission. Aluminum powder is the worst catalyst to increase the fire engulfing capacity that heavy extinguishing apparatus find hard to douse.

The Pathankot Siege and its Lessons

Last updated on: January 07, 2016
'Jihadi outfits backed by the ISI are now prepared to attack targets not just in J&K, but also in Punjab. This signals an escalation in the range and scope of cross-border terrorism, which cannot be ignored,' says Ambassador G Parthasarthy, former high commissioner to Pakistan.
The entry of six well-armed Pakistani terrorists into the strategically located Pathankot military airfield and the subsequent siege that followed has several lessons for India in the conduct of foreign and defence policies. This is notably so, in its relations with Pakistan and in addressing its defence and internal security shortcomings. All these issues need to be addressed seriously and not glossed over.
Ever since the acquisition of longer-range military aircraft like the SU-27, Mirage 2000 and Jaguars, these strategic assets can now be positioned in mores distant locations from the borders with Pakistan. But Pathankot has always been a chosen target for Pakistani attacks, in both the 1965 and 1971 conflicts. It now houses relatively old MiG-21 aircraft and given its location, close to the border, attack helicopters.

The attack on the Pathankot airbase, which follows a similar attack on nearby Gurdaspur along the Pathankot-Jammu Highway in July, clearly indicates that jihadi outfits backed by the ISI are now prepared to attack targets not just in Jammu and Kashmir, but also in Punjab.
This signals an escalation in the range and scope of cross-border terrorism, which cannot be ignored.
The ease with which the terrorists slipped passed border defences appears to indicate a nexus between smugglers, particularly of narcotics, and elements in the local administration.
The Pakistan-based jihadi groups and the ISI are clearly plugged into this nexus and prepared to exploit it to their advantage. This is an issue that can no longer be wished away and needs to be tackled head on.

Pathankot attack: India-Pakistan peace talks derailed?

By Shashank JoshiSenior research fellow, Royal United Services Institute
7 January 2016 
On Christmas Day, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a landmark visit to Pakistan to meet his counterpart Nawaz Sharif, the first such visit in over a decade. Two weeks on, and events have taken a disturbing, if predictable turn.
On 2 January, India's sprawling Pathankot airbase came under a remarkable four days of attack from a handful of gunmen. On 3 January, India's consulate in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif was besieged for over 24 hours. Then on 5 January, an explosion occurred near another of India's Afghan missions, in Jalalabad.

The two leaders had agreed that their foreign secretaries would meet in mid-January, and their national security advisers (NSAs) the next month. Indian officials were optimistic that Pakistan's powerful army - which famously torpedoed a rapprochement in 1999 by covertly sending troops into the Kargil district of Kashmir - was on board.
That assumption is now in doubt. Although the evidence remains uncertain, Indian officials have privately blamed the Pathankot attack on the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a militant group close to Pakistani intelligence which had been kept on a tight leash for several years.

Indian officials are sceptical of a claim of responsibility by the United Jihad Council, a confederation of Kashmiri jihadist groups, because the UJC's core members are not known to have carried out attacks outside Indian-controlled Kashmir.
Meanwhile, the Afghan attacks would be the seventh and possibly eighth such attacks on Indian diplomats there in under a decade, with even the United States attributing the most prominent - a 2008 bombing of the embassy in Kabul - to Pakistan's intelligence services.
Afghan insurgents have little cause to focus resources on Indian targets. It strains credulity to imagine that they do so in the absence of Pakistani direction. The timing is especially sensitive, as India is wary of China-brokered peace talks involving Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Taliban - and the impact on India's long-term position in Afghanistan.

While a single incident within India could be written off as the work of autonomous jihadist "spoilers", concurrent attacks in Afghanistan and India are harder to interpret as such. At the same time, it is difficult to see how Pakistan's army could have planned an attack, if it wanted to, in the two weeks since Mr Modi travelled to Lahore, or even in the month since a fleeting Modi-Sharif meeting in Paris. Such attacks in the past have had much longer gestation periods.

What now for India? Mr Modi is personally invested in engagement with Pakistan and his advisers would certainly have accounted for the likelihood of such attacks in their decision to engage.

Does India have a Plan B? Better to be slow and steady with Pakistan than novel and theatrical

Jan 7 2016, MKC Singh
A bigger design? The attack on the Indian consulate in Afghanistan coincided with that in Pathankot.
For the second time in six months, in the same sensitive Gurdaspur-Pathankot area, Pakistan-based terrorists have struck. While the Dinanagar attack had random shooting at a passing bus, dispensary, etc., before the fidayeen dug-in next to a police station, this time, the Air Force station at Pathankot was the target. Furthermore, while in Dinanagar, an SP lost his life, this time the role of another such officer raises many questions. However, despite timely intelligence, a handful of terrorists penetrating the periphery of the air base and causing panic and loss of life hardly merit kudos for either the state or the Central government. 

Even more significantly, questions arise about the Modi government’s Pakistan policy, specifically his dramatic outreach that went from cursory chat in Paris between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan, to a meeting of the National Security Advisers in Bangkok, a visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Pakistan and then finally the hand-holding between the two PMs in Lahore, like two strolling “boys from Pindi” as a Pakistani columnist put it. All this happening in weeks at a break-neck speed increased the probability of Pakistani spoilers, consisting of either the Pakistani army directly or via their surrogates, retaliating. The dithering by the Modi government and not quickly reassuring the public that it had factored-in such a relapse in its Pakistan policy indicated a lack of Plan B. 
The attack also exposed the perils of over-centralisation of policy-making and implementation. Neither the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) nor a Crisis Management Group under the Cabinet Secretary met. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval commenced to combat the threat with usual media leaks. Defence experts in television studios pointed out that rushing the National Security Guards (NSG) to Pathankot was fine if a hostage situation or close-quarter stand-off had developed, but perimeter security of the air base being the primary challenge, enough regular armed regiments were available in close proximity for deployment. This was particularly so when timely intelligence was available and an immediate army dragnet may have bagged the militants before they settled down. It is possible the NSA felt that the militants having had a head-start may have already penetrated the base. However, the NSG with 100-odd men was fine securing the inner perimeter, the Army should have been used to seal the outer one and commence a flushing-out operation. 

The Next Pathankot India's New Terrorism Battleground

January 6, 2016
By Sumit Ganguly
On January 2, a handful of militants attacked the Indian air force base at Pathankot, in Punjab. Indian security officials say that they belonged to the Pakistani-based terrorist organization Jaish-e-Mohammed, which India has long accused Pakistan of supporting. The men entered the base by disguising themselves in military attire and were finally subdued after a three-day siege. The fight left all of the terrorists and seven Indian security personnel dead. Even though the militants failed to achieve their goal—the destruction of large numbers of aircraft—they nevertheless exposed the vulnerabilities of a major air base.
This was the second foreign terrorist attack in Punjab within a span of six months—though the first at a military base, which is uncommon. The last attack had taken place in Gurdaspur in July 2015 and had led to the deaths of seven policemen.

First and foremost, the attacks reveal the inadequacy of Indian security. On this occasion, Indian intelligence failed to utilize advanced warnings of a possible attack; these same men were believed to have hijacked a vehicle of a senior Punjab police official shortly before the onslaught. Further, Pathankot is a major military base, and barely 50 miles from the international border with Pakistan. Yet it lacked adequate protection to deter the attack.
In fact, after the hijacking, the air force authorities could apparently only deploy patrols from the Defense Security Corps, a security force composed of mostly retired military personnel, due to a failure to anticipate a carefully orchestrated terrorist attack. The DSC

Pakistan mulls elevating status of Gilgit-Baltistan on Chinese insistence

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is mulling to elevate the constitutional status of northern Gilgit-Baltistan region in a bid to provide legal cover to the multi-billion-dollar Chinese investment plan, officials said on Thursday.
The move could signal a historic shift in the country's position on the future of the wider Kashmir region, observers have said.
The proposal would see the mountainous region mentioned by name for the first time in the country's Constitution, bringing it one step closer to being fully absorbed as an additional province.
Islamabad has historically insisted the parts of Kashmir it controls are semi-autonomous and has not formally integrated them into the country, in line with its position that a referendum should be carried out across the whole of the region.

Sajjad-ul-Haq, spokesman for the chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan Hafiz Hafeez ur Rehman, told AFP: "A high level committee formed by the prime minister is working on the issue, you will hear good news soon."
Rehman, who arrived in Islamabad on Thursday, was working on the finishing touches to the agreement, a senior official said, adding the document could be unveiled "in a few days".
In addition to being named in the Constitution, Gilgit-Baltistan would also send two lawmakers to sit in the federal parliament — though they would be given observer status only.

A third top government official from Gilgit-Baltistan said the move was in response to concerns raised by Beijing about the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, the $46 billion infrastructure plan set to link China's western city of Kashgar to the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.
"China cannot afford to invest billions of dollars on a road that passes through a disputed territory claimed both by India and Pakistan," the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
The corridor plans have been strongly criticised by New Delhi, with India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in June calling the project "unacceptable" for crossing through Indian-claimed territory.

India and Russia Fail to Resolve Dispute Over Fifth Generation Fighter Jet

Is the Indo-Russian fifth generation fighter jet program on the verge of collapse?
By Franz-Stefan Gady, January 06, 2016

During the annual India-Russia summit, which took place in late December 2015 in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to resolve an ongoing disagreement between the two countries over the future of a joint fifth generation fighter program.

India and Russia in early 2007 signed an intergovernmental agreement to co-develop a fifth generation fighter–the Sukhol/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) or as it known in India, the Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF). The aircraft will be a multi-role, single seat, twin-engine air superiority/deep air support fighter with stealth capabilities and is based on the Sukhoi PAK FA (Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation) T-50 prototype, currently undergoing flight tests in Russia.

Ever since 2007, however, the weapons program has experienced various setbacks.
Delays were caused by New Delhi and Moscow disagreeing over many fundamental aspects of the joint development project including work and cost share, aircraft technology, as well as the number of aircraft to be ordered. After evaluating the first PAK FA T-50 prototype, the Indian Air Force (IAF) wanted more than 40 changes addressing, among other things, perceived weaknesses in the plane’s engine, stealth and weapon-carrying capabilities.

GEN Keane on Afghanistan: Security Situation Deteriorating

Security in Afghanistan is worsening, and the trend has been downward for over a year. Afghan military and police force casualties are rising and rapidly reaching a point which makes it difficult to sustain, while morale is impacted as desertions are growing and some soldiers and police go months without pay.
Taliban forces are surging under the new leadership of Mullah Akhtar Mansour. The Islamic State (ISIS) has established an affiliation with former insurgents who are frustrated with the direction of the Taliban. Al-Qaeda is reemerging in Afghanistan as well.

U.S. conventional forces are no longer involved in ground combat as they now perform a “train and assist” mission with the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Special Operations Forces (SOF) are performing counterterrorism missions, targeting Taliban leadership. U.S. force levels are down from a high of 100 thousand during the surge in 2010/11, to 9,800 in 2015, with that number expected to drop to 5,500 by the end of 2016.

The current Afghan security situation should not be a surprise. It was quite predictable given the arbitrary U.S. force level decisions made by the Obama White House that had no relationship to what was actually happening on the ground. In addition, two Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan are thriving and have been a crucial factor in protracting the war. No insurgency has ever been defeated when enabled by a successful sanctuary.

What is particularly galling about the current situation is that similar to Iraq and its deteriorating security situation, much of what is happening in Afghanistan was preventable.

China and Pakistan Join Forces Under the Sea


Islamabad has often been touted by Beijing as its foremost “all-weather friend.”
Koh Swee Lean Collin, January 7, 2016

While attention has been on the simmering tensions in the East and South China Seas letely, a small event took place in the East China Sea off the coast of Shanghai. Pakistan Navy (PN) guided missile frigate Shamsheer and fleet replenishment vessel Nasr drilled with a pair of PLA Navy Type-054AJiangkai II frigates, Xuzhou and Yangzhou from December 31 to January 1.
According to Chinese reports, the fast-paced, high-intensity exercise involved day and night maneuvers including joint escort, counter-piracy and live-firing. This constitutes a logical progression from the limited scope when this bilateral exercise first began in 2003 as a simple search-and-rescue drill. The objectives of these exercises are to hone interoperability between the two navies, while affording PN personnel the opportunity to get acquainted with Chinese technologies.

What was new in this latest iteration, however, was the inclusion of an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) component for the first time. Shamsheer, Xuzhouand Yangzhou cooperatively tracked a simulated submarine threats in the exercises. The ships relied on close communication, information-sharing and passive sonar techniques to triangulate the position of the suspected ‘enemy’ submarine, eventually striking it with a simulated ASW torpedo by one of the Chinese frigates.

This exercise marks yet another milestone for Sino-Pakistani naval cooperation. Commodore Bilal Abdul Nasir, Commander 25th Destroyer Squadron who led the PN flotilla, called the exercises “very significant” as they sought to enhance interoperability and cohesion between the two navies, adding euphemistically that "the time-tested relations, which are often referred as higher than the Himalayas, deeper than oceans, sweeter than honey, and stronger than steel, are testimonies to the strong bonding between the two countries and their people."


With the re-taking of Ramadi, a difficult year in the history of the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seems to have ended on a high note with a tentative victory. Perhaps now President Obama’s hope that the American public recognize his national security team’s efforts as forceful, appropriate, and effective can be realized.
At the end of last month, Obama bemoaned the fact that people’s judgments about progress in the war on ISIL were being formed without full awareness or understanding of progress on the ground. To address this information gap, the last few weeks of 2015 saw a flurry of administration activity to get out the word about Obama’s strategy to counter the Islamic State.

Not unexpectedly, these public affairs efforts are bringing attacks from prominent critics of the administration, most volubly from Republican candidates for the presidency. They assert that the problem is not about public relations, and insist that a more muscular strategy and the capabilities to match are needed.
However, the candidate who is (perhaps inadvertently) highlighting the most significant omission in the president’s strategy to fight ISIL is not a Republican.

Hillary Clinton, in one of her earliest explications of a “360-degree strategy” to defeat the Islamic State, outlines three lines of effort: a robust campaign in Syria and Iraq, attacks on the supporting infrastructure that have allowed ISIL to sustain its activities in the region and beyond, and a hardening of our defenses at home.
Her remarks are notable for the balance that she strikes between steps that must be taken to address the immediate threat in Syria and Iraq (not dissimilar in tone and substance from those proposed by administration officials and critics alike) and measures to bring about an enduring and global victory against the Islamic State (lost in the more frantic comments of those who are offering ideas on quick, forceful solutions). Clinton’s belief in the importance of the long game is summed up neatly in her observation that “we are in a contest of ideas against an ideology of hate, and we have to win.”

The Deceptive Debate Over What Causes Terrorism Against the West

Glenn Greenwald, Jan. 6 2016,

Ever since members of the U.K. Labour Party in September elected Jeremy Corbyn as party leader by a landslide, British political and media elites have acted as though their stately manors have been invaded by hordes of gauche, marauding serfs. They have waged a relentless and undisguised war toundermine Corbyn in every way possible, and that includes — first and foremost — the Blairite wing of his party, who have viciously maligned him in ways they would never dare for David Cameron and his Tory followers.

In one sense, that’s all conventional politics: Establishment guardians never appreciate having their position and entitlements threatened by insurgents, and they are thus uniting — Tory and Labour mavens alike — to banish the lowly intruders from their Oxbridge court (class and caste loyalty often outweighs supposed ideological differences). Corbyn’s reaction to all of this is also conventional politics: He quite reasonably wants to replace his Blairite shadow ministers who have been vilifying him as a Terrorist-loving extremist with those who are supportive of his agenda, a perfectly rational response that the British media is treating as proof that he’s acultish Stalinist tyrant (even though Blairites, when they controlled the party, threatened to de-select left-wing MPs who failed to prove sufficient loyalty to Prime Minister Blair). In response to the dismissal of a couple of anti-Corbyn ministers yesterday, several other Labour MPs have announced their protest-resignations with the gestures of melodrama and martyrdom at which banal British politicians excel.

Rather than wallow in all that internal power jockeying of a former world power, I want to focus instead on one specific argument that has arisen as part of Corbyn’s cabinet “re-shuffling” because it has application far beyond Her Majesty’s realm. One of the shadow ministers replaced yesterday by Corbyn is a total mediocrity and non-entity named Pat McFadden. He claims (plausibly enough) that he was replaced by Corbyn because of remarks he made in the House of Commons after the Paris attack, which the British media and publicwidely viewed as disparaging Corbyn as a terrorist apologist for recognizing the role played by Western foreign policy in terror attacks. (Can you fathom the audacity of a Party leader not wanting ministers who malign him as an ISIS apologist?)

Did Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton create ISIS?

By Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst,  January 4, 2016
Story highlights
Peter Bergen: There's little factual support for Donald Trump's claim that the President and ex-secretary of state enabled rise of ISIS
He says four factors, largely outside of U.S. control, gave rise to ISIS
Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst, a vice president at New America and a professor of practice at Arizona State University. He is the author of the forthcoming book "United States of Jihad: Investigating America's Homegrown Terrorists."
(CNN)Donald Trump said on Saturday that President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "created ISIS."
Like many of Trump's charges this one doesn't hold much water. Clinton left the State Department in January 2013 and ISIS wasn't even founded until three months later.
But Trump's charge does raise an interesting question, which is how best to assign responsibility for the rise of ISIS, including the issue of how might the Obama administration's exit from Iraq at the end of 2011 have helped smooth the path for ISIS?

It began with a thug
The rise of ISIS starts with a Jordanian thug named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who founded ISIS' parent organization, al Qaeda in Iraq.
It was Zarqawi who inaugurated al Qaeda in Iraq's televised beheadings with the killing of American businessman Nick Berg in 2004. And it was Zarqawi who ignited a civil war against the Shiites in Iraq the same year. These tactics and policies remain today at the core of ISIS.

What gave Zarqawi the opportunity to create al Qaeda in Iraq? It was, of course, George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein brutally repressed all forms of opposition to his regime and before the Iraq War al Qaeda had no presence in Iraq.
Al Qaeda in Iraq grew in strength in 2006 so that it controlled much of the massive Anbar province in western Iraq. At the beginning of 2007, Bush authorized a surge of new troops and brought in a new commander, David Petraeus. Allied with a movement of Sunni tribesmen angered by al Qaeda known as "the Awakening," U.S. troops had largely extirpated al Qaeda from Iraq by 2008.

Panic Spreads As Chinese Stock Market Closes Again Because of Massive Drops in Stock Prices

World stock markets slide as panic in China spreads
Simon Denyer, Wall Street Journal, January 7, 2016

BEIJING — Global stock markets fell for a sixth day Thursday as another collapse in China’s ailing share market spread like contagion across the world.
It all began in a flash.
China’s share market traded for less than 30 minutes Thursday, slumping 7 percent before triggering the second emergency market closure this week and generating talk of a crisis.
Against a backdrop of a weak economy and, some argue, an overvalued currency, confidence in China had long been in short supply. But investors also blamed ill-considered and poorly explained moves by the authorities for fueling the panic this week.
Market confidence was dented early Thursday by a sharp devaluation in the Chinese currency, because it was interpreted as a sign that the authorities are becoming increasingly rattled about the nation’s ailing economy.

Weak economic data had sent share prices plunging precipitously on Monday, and government intervention to prop up the market by buying shares the following day did little to restore investor confidence.
“The bottom line is the market is not supported by fundamentals,” said Andy Xie, an independent economist based in Shanghai. “People in the know want to get out.”
The CSI 300 index of companies listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen fell 7.2 percent in morning trade, triggering a halt in trading for the remainder of the day. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index fell 2.3 percent, its fourth straight daily fall, to record its worst start to a year since 2000. The MSCI Index of Asian shares excluding Japan fell 2.2 percent to a three-month low.

In Europe, the FTSE-100 index fell 2.5 percent in early London trading, while Germany’s Dax index slipped 3.5 percent. In overnight trading, the S and P 500 index futures in the U.S. were 2.2 percent lower.
Influential investor George Soros said China had a “major adjustment problem” on its hands. “I would say it amounts to a crisis,” he told an economic forum in Sri Lanka, according to Bloomberg. “When I look at the financial markets, there is a serious challenge which reminds me of the crisis we had in 2008.” 

As Ukraine enters 2016, peace remains elusive

By Thomas Gibbons-Neff December 31, 2015 

Despite a ceasefire signed in February that was supposed to have been completely implemented by the start of 2016, the prospect of peace in Ukraine remains elusive. The war in the country’s east between government troops and Russian-backed separatists — periodic lulls in the fighting notwithstanding — has remained largely unchanged since earlier this year.
While some heavy weapons, such as tanks and artillery, have been removed from the front lines, both sides still clash daily.

On Wednesday, the leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine agreed to extend the current ceasefire — known as the Minsk Agreements — into 2016, according to a statement released by the French government. The first Minsk peace deal, signed in September 2014 collapsed almost immediately. The second, implemented in February, has dampened some of the fighting and allowed the implementation of some parts of the ceasefire.
The four leaders also discussed upcoming local elections in Donetsk and Luhansk, the two regions of eastern Ukraine that broke away from the country following protests in the spring of 2014. The local elections hope to normalize relations between the restive east and the government in Kiev.

The multinational watchdog group, the Organization for Security Co-operation in Europe has been largely responsible for monitoring both sides of the conflict since the signing of the last Minsk agreement. On Thursday the OSCE’s chief monitor for its mission to Ukraine, Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan, expressed hope for peace, but reiterated that a true ceasefire is a way off.

Russian hackers suspected in attack that blacked out parts of Ukraine

By Ellen Nakashima January 5 

U.S. Homeland Security and intelligence agencies are analyzing computer code from what appear to be one of the first known cyberattacks that resulted in an electrical power outage — this one in Ukraine.
The Dec. 23 incidents, which lasted several hours and affected tens of thousands of people, were reported by Ukraine power authorities in the capital region and in the western part of the country.

The power authorities said that control systems used to coordinate remote substations were disabled in the cyberattack.
The United States has not publicly commented on the attack. Homeland Security and intelligence agency officials declined to comment.
But private-sector analysts who have reviewed the malicious software see the attack as a rare instance in which a hacking incident involving an industrial control system has affected ordinary citizens.

“That is a milestone in itself,’’ said John Hultquist, director of cyberespionage analysis for iSight Partners, a computer security firm.
Privately, U.S. officials said it will take time to understand how the attack occurred.
“What was the process that led up to that? Did we see any key indicators ahead of time?” said one U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
The Ukrainian SBU security service blamed the attack on the Russian government. No one was available at the Russian Embassy in Washington to comment.

Hultquist said his firm sees links between the malware used in the recent outages and a cyberespionage campaign against NATO and Western European government targets that iSight discovered in 2013 and that was conducted by a group of hackers in Russia whose interests aligned with the Russian government. The firm dubbed that group SandWorm.
Since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, iSight has documented instances of SandWorm infiltrating Ukrainian government computer systems as well as in the country’s telecommunications and energy industries.
The strain of malware apparently used to gain access to the power system is similar to the one used by SandWorm in 2013 and 2014, iSight said.



Forecasts of the year ahead tend to reflect the general mood of the year before and, for Americans, fears about the world around us. So it’s no surprise that after a most depressing 2015 in geopolitics, doom and gloom dominates 2016 predictions thus far. As if the ongoing civil war in Syria was not bad enough, the self-proclaimed Islamic State has proven itself to be one of the most resilient and capable extremist groups in the world, committing and inspiring attacks far beyond the physical territory it occupies. A resurgent Russia kept the world guessing in Ukraine and opportunistically opened a new front in Syria. Even as the year ended on a happy note in Paris with a global accord on climate action, the tragic attacks a month earlier in the City of Lights, depressingly similar attacks in Ankara, Sinai, and Beirut, and daily violence across Iraq and Syria have all combined to create a pessimistic climate of fear along with the worst humanitarian crisis of our times. Add in the specter of domestic terrorism — such as the attacks in Charleston and San Bernardino — and it is little wonder that many Americans are looking at the new year with dread.

Yet there remains room for stubborn optimism and a focus on the positive side of stories that often get Trumped, both literally and figuratively. Given how bad 2015 really was, 2016 can’t be much worse. In fact, it could be much better.

The Americas: The Greatest Case for Optimism Starts in the Western Hemisphere
No continent deserves greater optimism than North America. Since the days of Alexis de Tocqueville, America has been the envy of the world protected by two large oceans and enriched by its robust natural resources. Less than a decade after a recession, the United States now enjoys one of the healthiest economies it has ever known. David Petraeus among others, has argued that if the 20th century was an American Century, the 21st is poised to be a North American Century, with Canada and Mexico joining the United States as significant players on the world stage. North American states have always enjoyed great advantages given the continent’s collective natural resources, the ongoing energy revolution, and relative stability within the Western Hemisphere. Moreover, states in the Western Hemisphere can simultaneously be Transatlantic and Transpacific regional powers.

Do U.S. military commands really need reorganizing?

Michael E. O'Hanlon | January 5, 2016 
In recent weeks, the basic question of how the Pentagon organizes itself for overseas operations has gained new attention. Thanks are due largely to Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who has held a number of hearings on the subject and seems bent on pushing the issue in 2016. The new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, has also expressed interest in reform.

Some modest changes are likely in order, perhaps most of all in the cyber domain. Dunford's idea to streamline his own joint staff, housed in the Pentagon, also makes sense. But in an era when the government has been seemingly reorganizing itself to deal with every new problem, most notably with intelligence and homeland security, we need to avoid change for change's sake.
Nuts and bolts

What is at issue is the so-called Unified Command Plan. With this system, the Pentagon divides overseas responsibilities into six geographic sectors (there are also three functional commands, each with global responsibilities—special operations, transportation, and strategic/space matters). Africa Command and European Command—both headquartered in Europe—each have responsibility for more than 50 countries. Pacific Command, based in Hawaii, covers half the globe by area and, with China and India and Indonesia, nearly that large a fraction by population (with some 36 nations). Central Command, based in the continental United States, has seen much of the combat action this century (though it has "only" 20 countries within its area of responsibility). Southern Command, also based in the lower 48 states, works with the 31 countries of Latin America south of Mexico. Northern Command deals with our own continent, largely in regard to homeland security matters.

[W]e need to avoid change for change's sake.

Snowden Doc Now Revealed: NSA Cracked Two Leading Encryption Technologies

A Redaction Re-Visited: NSA Targeted “The Two Leading” Encryption Chips
Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, January 4, 2016

On September 5, 2013, The Guardian, the New York Timesand ProPublica jointly reported — based on documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden — that the National Security Agency had compromised some of the encryption that is most commonly used to secure internet transactions. The NYT explainedthat NSA “has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the emails, web searches, internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world.” One 2010 memo described that “for the past decade, NSA has led an aggressive, multipronged effort to break widely used internet encryption technologies.”

In support of the reporting, all three papers published redacted portions of documents from the NSA along with its British counterpart, GCHQ. Prior to publication of the story, the NSA vehemently argued that any reporting of any kind on this program would jeopardize national security by alerting terrorists to the fact that encryption products had been successfully compromised. After the stories were published, U.S. officialsaggressively attacked the newspapers for endangering national security and helping terrorists with these revelations.

All three newspapers reporting this story rejected those arguments prior to publication and decided to report the encryption-cracking successes. Then-NYT Executive Editor Jill Abramson described the decision to publish as “not a particularly anguished one” in light of the public interest in knowing about this program, and ProPublica editors published a lengthy explanation along with the story justifying their decision.

All three outlets, while reporting the anti-encryption efforts, redacted portions of the documents they published or described. One redaction in particular, found in the NYTdocuments, from the FY 2013 “black budget,” proved to be especially controversial among tech and security experts, as they believed that the specific identity of compromised encryption standards was being concealed by the redaction.

New Head of Israeli Cyber Defense Command Named

Netanyahu Cabinet Approves Buki Carmeli as Head of National Cyber Defense Authority
Jerusalem Post, January 3, 2016

At its weekly meeting today, PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet unanimously approved Buki Carmeli as the the new head of Israel’s NCDA (National Cyber Defense Authority).
“Carmeli is deserving, experienced and multi-faceted,” Netanyahu stated, describing Carmeli as “thoroughly familiar with the cyber field in both its security and civilian aspects.”
“Though we are a leader in cyber, we must continue to run forward,” the Prime Minister added. “During this year, we must make preparations for national and personal security. This threat is very large, and appropriate preparation is critical. Every country looks to us in this field. We must prepare a unified cyber defense in order to deal with these threats.”

At 53, Carmeli has over twenty years of experience under his belt in Unit 8200 (Shmone Matayim), the Israeli intelligence corps unit overseeing the collection of signal intelligence and code decryption. To put things in perspective, FT Magazine.com describes Unit 8200 as ” the equivalent of America’s National Security Agency and the largest single military unit in the Israel Defence Forces.” Most recently, Carmeli served as head of the technological unit in the Defense Ministry Office of the Director of Security for the Defense Establishment. Carmeli has also spearheaded a fund involved in dealing international technology funds, and has been involved in field of defense initiatives for sensitive systems as well.
“Appointing a head of the national cyber defense authority indicates the start of its activity in the coming months,” head of Israel’s National Cyber Bureau Dr. Eviatar Matania sad.

“This is a main milestone in implementing the national deployment that was approved by the Cabinet last year in the face of the growing threats in the cyber field. I have no doubt that Buki Carmeli’s rich experience in both the security establishment and the private sector, especially in the cyber defense field, will allow him to establish the authority over time as a technological-operative leader on a global level.”

Army to Integrate Ground Robots Into Forces

January 2016, By Stew Magnuson 
After years of using rapidly fielded, but temporary ground robots in its forces, the Army will soon roll out plans to make them a permanent part of its arsenal. 

That not only includes small, tele-operated robots that have been used for reconnaissance, bomb disposal and a variety of other tasks, but making current vehicle fleets autonomous, said Paul Rogers, director of the Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center.
The Army Training and Doctrine Command is working on the requirements documents while TARDEC is producing a technology roadmap. The two efforts will be completed within the first few months of 2016, he said at an Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference.
“I think you will see that we are laying out a continuum on how to get from promising technology to fielded capability. We are doing it in an informed way and a way that will hopefully shape how we are going to use technology in the future,” Rogers said.

The ultimate goal is to deploy systems that give soldiers an advantage on the battlefield, he said.
“We are looking for disruptive advantages or differential advantages. We are not looking to field ground robots,” he added. 
Army thinkers believe that autonomy and robots can give troops these advantages in the field. There is an average of three service members supporting each soldier that is fighting on the battlefield. “If we can leverage autonomy and autonomy can fulfill the promise that we think it does, maybe we can reduce that ratio,” Rogers said.

The TARDEC and TRADOC documents will serve as a roadmap and provide requirements across all domains, he said. These domains include communications, space, cyber and air. They all have crucial roles to play if ground robots are to be successful, he said. 

Cyber Attack on Ukrainian Electrical Utility Industry Wider Than Previously Reported

Ukraine utility cyber attack wider than reported -experts
Reuters, January 4, 2016
Jan 4 (Reuters) - A central European security software firm said on Monday that a cyber attack last month in Ukraine was broader than initially reported last week when the nation’s secret police blamed a power outage on Russia.

Western Ukraine power company Prykarpattyaoblenergo reported an outage on Dec. 23, saying the area affected included regional capital Ivano-Frankivsk. Ukraine’s SBU state security service responded by blaming Russia and the energy ministry in Kiev set up a commission to investigate the matter.
While Prykarpattyaoblenergo was the only Ukraine electric firm that reported an outage, similar malware was found in the networks of at least two other utilities, said Robert Lipovsky, senior malware researcher at Bratislava-based security company ESET. He said they were ESET customers, but declined to name them or elaborate.

“The reported case was not an isolated incident,” he said.
Prykarpattyaoblenergo publicly blamed its outage on “interference” in the working of its system. The Kremlin did not respond to a request for comment.

Researchers with computer security firms Trend Micro and iSight Partners said ESET’s assessment that the attackers sought to infect other utilities appeared credible, shedding new light on evidence that this is the first power outage proven to have been caused by a cyber attack. Experts have warned for years, with growing urgency, that electric utilities are vulnerable to cyber attacks that could cut power.



War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty. A sensitive and discriminating judgment is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth.
   — Carl von Clausewitz, On War (Paret translation)

For those individuals searching for a key to the science of warfare, Carl von Clausewitz is a dash of cold water. The wily Prussian General wrote extensively about the form of European warfare that he had experienced. In contrast to Antoine Jomini, who would attempt to derive a system of warfare a generation later, Clausewitz laid out a philosophy of warfare much more attuned to the uncertainty and chaos that is part and parcel of military operations. Jomini’s writings were firmly embedded in U.S. military studies and heavily influenced both Union and Confederate officers. The preference for a scientific, Jominian system of warfare is deeply embedded in the U.S. Department of Defense and the prevalence of “system-centric” concepts ebb and flow in an irregular manner through service concepts and doctrine. There is a deeply embedded discomfort with the idea of uncertainty and the messiness associated with the best-laid plans, and the so-called fog of war is wildly unsettling. Unfortunately, the uncertainty described by Clausewitz is a staple of real military operations, even in peacetime, and wishing it away is a futile endeavor. Given a choice between trying to engineer a way out of reality and training our personnel to deal with uncertainty, the answer should be obvious.

A look at the services’ future-oriented concepts is revealing in this respect — there is no shortage of concepts that have as their goal to eliminate the fog of war and obliterate friction with the “seamless” application of some new technology. This trend is intensely unrealistic, for it risks inculcating a military hierarchy which believes the flimsiest of sales pitches and will be unable to deal with the reality of warfare when it shows up, shrouded in smoke, beset by friction, and showered in uncertainty. The emphasis is in exactly the wrong place, focusing on unproven or undeveloped technology when we should be focusing on training our personnel for the uncertain environments that they shall surely face.

Military hubris Their own worst enemy

Nov 7th 2015 | 
So, here’s the logic
Hubris: The Tragedy of War in the Twentieth Century. By Alistair Horne. Harper; 400 pages; $28.99. Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 304 pages; £25.
SIR ALISTAIR HORNE is a wise old bird. One of the British historian’s many books, an account of the Algerian war and its bitter aftermath, was seized upon by a beleaguered president, George W. Bush, four years into the American occupation of Iraq as a source of sound advice in dealing with brutal insurgencies. Summoned to the Oval Office in 2007, more than 30 years after the publication of “A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-72”, it is likely that the ever-courteous Sir Alistair refrained from saying that the best counsel he could have given Mr Bush was not to go into Iraq in the first place. His latest book, published in the author’s 91st year, is a reflection on military hubris and the part it played in 20th-century conflicts.

For the ancient Greeks, hubris was the folly of a leader who through excessive self-confidence challenged the gods. It was always followed by peripeteia (a reversal of fortune) and, ultimately, nemesis (divine retribution). Sir Alistair’s subject is the embedded tendency of generals and nationalistic political leaders who experience military triumph to overreach, and for the next generation to inherit their arrogance and complacency with disastrous results. The author was spoilt for choice in looking for conflicts to illustrate his central point, but he confines himself to six battles that spanned the first half of the 20th century, the bloodiest by far in human history.

This small airstrip is the future of America’s way of war

By Joseph Trevithick, January 5, 2016

The Pentagon is quietly building up a small airstrip in a remote region of east Africa as part of its war against Islamic militants. More importantly, the airfield is a complex microcosm of how Washington runs military operations overseas — and how America’s way of war will probably look for the foreseeable future.
Chabelley Airfield is less than 10 miles from the capital of the small African nation of Djibouti. The small airport is the hub for America’s drone operations in the nearby hotspots of Somalia and Yemen.

But in spite of all of this, Chabelley isn’t what it might otherwise seem – at least not officially. You see, the site is not technically an American base.
“Chebelley [as the Pentagon likes to spell it] was categorized by the U.S. Global Defense Posture Report to Congress as an enduring Cooperative Security Location based upon the U.S. strategic interests in maintaining access for the foreseeable future,” U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Anthony Falvo, a public affairs officer with the Pentagon’s top command for operations in Africa, explained in an email..

In plain English, Washington does not own the site, sometimes referred to by the acronym CSL. In contrast to the big American bases in Europe and Asia during the Cold War, the Pentagon has favored cutting deals with countries for access to existing runways and ports in its fight against militants around the globe. And in an era of shrinking budgets, this all makes a lot of sense.
“The U.S. military is being pressured into considering the adoption of more of a lily pad basing model in the wake of so much turbulence and warfare across the region,” Dr. Geoffrey Gresh, an associate professor at the National Defense University said. “Djibouti is a small, relatively safe … ally that enables the U.S. special operators to carry out missions effectively across the continent.”