9 February 2016

Pakistan’s Less-Than-Secret Role in Facilitating the Rise of the Afghan Taliban and the Islamist Jihadi Movement

Pakistan’s Hand in the Rise of International Jihad
Carlotta Gall,  New York Times, February 7, 2016
TUNIS — PRESIDENT ASHRAF GHANI of Afghanistan has warned in several recent interviews that unless peace talks with Pakistan and the Taliban produce results in the next few months, his country may not survive 2016. Afghanistan is barely standing, he says, after the Taliban onslaught last year, which led to the highest casualties among civilians and security forces since 2001.
“How much worse will it get?” Mr. Ghani asked in a recent television interview. “It depends on how much regional cooperation we can secure, and how much international mediation and pressure can be exerted to create rules of the game between states.”

What he means is it depends on how much international pressure can be brought to bear on Pakistan to cease its aggression.
Critics of the Afghan leadership say it’s not Pakistan’s fault that its neighbor is falling apart. They point to the many internal failings of the Afghan government: political divisions, weak institutions, warlords and corruption.
But experts have found a lot of evidence that Pakistan facilitated the Taliban offensive. The United States and China have been asking Pakistan to persuade the Taliban to make peace, but Afghanistan argues that Islamabad has done nothing to rein in the Taliban, and if anything has encouraged it to raise the stakes in hopes of gaining influence in any power-sharing agreement.
This behavior is not just an issue for Afghanistan. Pakistan is intervening in a number of foreign conflicts. Its intelligence service has long acted as the manager of international mujahedeen forces, many of them Sunni extremists, and there is even speculation that it may have been involved in the rise of the Islamic State.

Heads of Afghan and Pakistani Intelligence Services Meet in Sign of Thawing Relations

Afghanistan meeting ends with call for talks with Taliban
Associated Press, February 6, 2016
ISLAMABAD (AP) – Four-nation talks aimed at ending Afghanistan’s 15-year war concluded Saturday with a call for direct negotiations between the government and the Taliban by the end of February, but recent battlefield advances by the insurgents could make it hard to coax them to the table.
A one-page statement released at the end of the meeting, which was attended by representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States, said a roadmap for peace had been agreed upon. However it offered no details on what incentives the government might offer the Taliban.
The statement urged the Taliban, who were not present at the meeting, to join the peace process. All four countries agreed to hold a fourth meeting in Kabul on Feb. 23.

The last direct talks between Kabul and the Taliban broke down after just one round last year following the announcement of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.
A diplomat attending the four-nation talks, which were held in Pakistan, said one of the biggest obstacles is identifying which Taliban factions are sincere about making peace and which are “irreconcilable” – either too radical to compromise or too tainted by past atrocities.
The diplomat also said the four nations are struggling to agree on confidence-building measures and other incentives to bring the insurgents back to the negotiating table. The diplomat asked that neither his name nor nationality be used because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Saviour of Kashmir

By Col JP Singh, Retd
07 Feb , 2016

Military history is written by the victor. But the history made with supreme sacrifice of men and women defending their motherland and written in blood, even if defeated, is never allowed to die. Such history is preserved and recalled on every appropriate occasion to enlighten and inspire future generations to emulate the heroic deeds of their predecessors so that the nation regains the lost glory. Hence this 125th birth anniversary of Brig Rajinder Singh on 14th June is an occasion to recall history written with his blood.

Aware that during 68 years after his martyrdom, a lot has been said and written about Brig Rajinder Singh, MVC by military historians, army officers, me and the media, yet at the risk of repetition, I thought it may be of great relevance to recall true versions of some officers and men who fought with him and lived to tell the tales to their progeny from whom I have the inputs.

Brig Rajinder Singh’s martyrdom is unique in the annals of military history. Nowhere in the history of world armies there is an instance of an officer of Brigadier rank being ordered to command a contingent of 100 men and fight ‘to the last man and last round’. This is best done by a Captain or Major. But he did it not only as a brigadier but also as ‘Chief of States Forces’ and fought to the last round and laid down his life at the altar of his Ruler’s command in the centuries old Dogra traditions.

What Ails our Internal Security?

By Brig Anil Gupta
08 Feb , 2016

India has been victim of cross-border jihadi terrorism for more than a decade. Jammu & Kashmir continues to be a boiling pot kind courtesy the proxy war launched by Pakistan and due to spread of religious fundamentalism. 83 districts in the hinterland spread among 9 states referred as “Red Corridor” are engulfed with Naxalism and are engaged in conflict with the State. The North-East continues to simmer with ethnic conflicts and insurgencies. “Intolerance”, Dalit versus Non-Dalit and minority appeasement are being used as tools by the political parties to engineer internal disturbances in the country.

The underworld is not only having adverse influence on our economy but is also involved in assisting terror outfits. Is it not a scary scenario? Still as a nation we refuse to rise to the challenge, acknowledge presence of elephant in the room and yet do not have a National Security Doctrine and a counter-terror strategy.

“Reviewing the Activities UNRWA”: Palestine Refugees and the Conquest for Peace

By Anant Mishra
07 Feb , 2016

“As a major recipient of U.S. tax dollars, UNRWA must take more robust measures to ensure its facilities are not being used to facilitate terrorism,” – US Representative Doug Collins


Within UN, United Nations Security Council and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) are one of the most controversial bodies. Created under the General Assembly resolution 302 from its fourth session, UNRWA formally began its operations on May 1st, 1950. Since its formation, UNRWA’s mandate has received numerous criticism globally especially on the fact that it remains “temporary” UN body, and the organization short-sightedness. Criticism of the UNRWA comes with many questioning its political and security developments within Palestinian territories in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip followed by issues with respect to Palestinian refugee camps throughout the modern Middle East. It is very much important for policy makers to analyse the activities of UNRWA and make it an efficient agency with a strong mandate, led by trained officers of the UN.

Balochistan - a Boiling Cauldron

By Radhakrishna Rao
08 Feb , 2016

Baloch separatists who are rightly disturbed over the widespread human rights abuse in the province ask why the Federal Government in Islamabad which supports the demand for self determination of Kashmiris in India, should cry foul of the rights of Baloch community for an independent homeland. Balochs are incensed over the handing over of the Gwadar port to the administrative control of China. 

Much before he took over as the National Security Advisor (NSA), India’s famous super sleuth, Ajit Doval, had come out with the thesis that India should hit back at Pakistan, if it ever attempts a repeat of 26/11 Mumbai attack, by supporting the separatist movement in the trouble torn, insurgency ridden Balochistan province. The thrust of this so called “Doval Doctrine” is centred round a well conceived “defensive-offensive” strategy that would give Indian defence forces a sub conventional, second strike capability as and when necessary arises. But how well this strategic vision can be translated into an effective ground level action,it is really difficult to hazard a guess at this point of time.

Siachen incident tragic but Pak is at a strategic disadvantage and this cannot change

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch (Retired)
Feb 5, 2016 

The news of 11 Army personnel, including a JCO, having buried in an avalanche in Siachen glacier has been tragic. The Prime Minister has expressed grief on their sacrifice and the whole nation salutes these braves with hearts going out to their next of kin in this hour of sorrow. No compensation is enough.

Siachen is the highest battlefield of the world. The conditions are so daunting that the tenure of troops in northern, central and southern glacier are three months, six months and one respectively in descending order. Some coincidence that according to a media report of today, the 7th CPC has recommended risk allowance for troops serving in Siachen to be Rs 31,500 per month while a civil servant serving in Shillong, Guwahati or Leh has been recommended to get a risk allowance of over Rs 54,000 per month - talk of discrimination against the military! But wait, the all bureaucrat review committee appointed by the government may recommend an even higher allowance for the civil servants.

Is it necessary to talk to Pakistan?

By Amulya Ganguli
08 Feb , 2016

The conventional wisdom is that India must keep talking to Pakistan even if there are terrorist outrages by the supposedly non-state actors operating from the sovereign precincts of Pakistan. The believed-to-be ‘hardliner’ Narendra Modi, too, has accepted this line although he said before the last general election that a dialogue cannot take place against the sound of gunfire in the background. 

As his latest initiatives show, he has changed his mind after assuming power. He is now ready to go more than halfway to accommodate Pakistan. It is possible that his motivation is the unstated ambition of Indian prime ministers, especially those of recent years, to write their names in history books via a permanent peace accord with Pakistan.

A new Shenzhen? Poor Pakistan fishing town's horror at Chinese plans Mega-port

Jon Boone and Kiyya Baloch in Gwadar
4 February 2016

A new Shenzhen? Poor Pakistan fishing town's horror at Chinese plans 

Mega-port will bring five-star hotels and Chinese access to Arabian Sea, as residents in conflict-torn province contend with lack of water and food 

A Pakistani paramilitary soldier stands guard near the Beijing-funded Gwadar ‘mega-port’. 

Gwadar is poor. When a house was recently burgled in the fishing settlement on Pakistan’s desert coast, the only items stolen were cans of fresh water – a staple that has soared in value since reservoirs dried up. It lies in Balochistan, a province in the grip of a long-running separatist insurgency and Pakistan’s most neglected.

Yet local officials dream of a future where Gwadar becomes a second Shenzhen, the Chinese trade hub bordering Hong Kong. Visitors are told that with Chinese investment the small settlement will become a major node of world commerce boasting car factories, Pakistan’s biggest airport and a string of five-star resort hotels along Gwadar’s sparkling seafront.

“JFK’S FORGOTTEN CRISIS. Tibet. The CIA. And the Sino-Indian War.” By Bruce Riedel.

HarperCollinsIndia ISBN 978-93-5177-788-5
The complex tale of the evolution of India-USA relations is well known. But the close tango by the two for a brief period in 1962 is little known and seldom told. Ever since its birth as a communist state, China and the USA had an intensely adversarial relationship. India’s choice of remaining uncommitted during the age of Containment and Cold War, and Pakistan’s geography making it a frontline state and political choice of becoming a Cold War partisan, largely shaped Indo-American relations, as they do even now. 

In 1950 China entered the Korean War against the US led UN forged alliance, a war that cost the US almost 34000 combat deaths. North Koreans and their Chinese allies together lost over 1.5 million, but it was still considered a Chinese victory. It will be worth remembering that India sent a military medical unit to Korea to serve with the UN forces. India nevertheless served as a conduit between Communist China and the USA that helped them come to the table at Panmunjom to end the Korean War. The USA had also conveyed its threat to use atomic weapons should the PLA continue with its offensive via India.

India and China were never neighbors. India’s northern neighbors were always Tibet and Xinjiang. These two territories have a long history of being alternately under China’s over-lordship and free. In 1947, when India became independent, both these nations were enjoying freedom from China. Xinjiang was an independent Soviet Republic under Russia, and Tibet was enjoying full political freedom. 
In 1913 the Tibetans declared independence after the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the establishment of a Republic in China under Sun Yat Sen. They attacked and drove the Chinese garrisons in Tibet into India over the Nathu La. Also in 1913 the British convened the Simla Conference to demarcate the India-Tibet border. The British proposed the 1914 McMahon Line, as we know it. The Tibetans accepted it. The Chinese Amban however initialed the agreement under protest. 

China: Imminent Grant Of ‘Core’ Leader Status To Xi Jinping? – Analysis

By D. S. Rajan*
FEBRUARY 5, 2016
On the basis of latest indicators, particularly taking into account the chances of Xi Jinping emerging as the “Core” fifth generation leader, the ongoing consolidation of political power in China by the leader can be termed as one which is almost nearing completion. At the same time, it cannot be denied that there are problems for Xi; in the main, there is a growing requirement for him to address the apparent disunity among the cadres; the repeated calls to all party, government and military personnel to display loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), albeit in real terms to Xi, give rise to suspicions that there could be divisions in the party over the Xi leadership.

Also, the leader may have to reckon with potential challengers in future; his latest public denouncement of Bo Xilai’s political ambition can be considered as a subtle warning to such challengers. In consolidating power, Xi seems to have come under compulsions arising from another challenge, i.e. in the economic realm; China’s economic growth has slowed to a 25-year low of 6.9 per cent in 2015. Coming to the military side, the position of the leader may also not be comfortable; his launch of massive military reforms could be met with some resistance from vested interests in the army, which are to lose out of the reforms. Xi may also have to deal with opinions in the country in favor of bringing the military under the State control, instead of being under the party command. Overall, as the present domestic climate centering round over-concentration of power in the hands of Xi Jinping further develops, there could be repercussions for the intra-party power equations ahead of the next CCP Congress in 2017; one thing is however clear : Xi seems to be well on his way to get reelected as the party chief in that congress.

Growing Uighur Militancy: Challenges For China – Analysis

By Nodirbek Soliev*
FEBRUARY 5, 2016

With the emergence of a new generation of Uighur militants drawn to conflict in the Middle East, there has been a shift in the threat landscape of China. Chinese investments and citizens in conflict-ridden countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq may become a potential target for the current transnational network of Uighur militants.

The execution of a Chinese hostage identified as Fan Jinghui, a freelance consultant from Beijing, by ISIS in Syria in November 2015 has sent a clear message to the Chinese government of the risks of investing in unstable areas. Although this has been the first and so far only known case of deliberate killing of a non-combatant Chinese citizen by jihadist groups in the Middle Eastern theatre, it is unlikely to be the last.

In recent months, Uighur jihadists, who have been trained, armed and sheltered by Al Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIS in the Af-Pak and the Middle East regions, have shown their efforts and intentions to strike at China’s overseas interests. To meet its growing demand for critical energy and mineral resources, China through its state-owned enterprises has been investing or promised to invest heavily in a number of conflict-affected countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. As these countries’ security remains fragile, lacking the capacity to provide sufficient security, Chinese investment projects and citizens are likely to become easy targets for Uighur militants operating in or near these areas.
Uighur militancy in a new phase

South China Sea Dispute Compels Washington To Ratify Sea Law – Analysis

By James Borton*
FEBRUARY 5, 2016

The upcoming US-ASEAN summit on February 15-16 in Rancho Mirage, California provides an opportunity for the Obama administration to boldly demonstrate its rebalance towards Asia, and for the U.S. Senate to assert America’s national interests by ratifying the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Since the ten countries that make up ASEAN are home to 660 million people and represent the world’s seventh largest economy, it’s vital to demonstrate proof of strategic commitment to US allies, to denounce China’s militarization of outposts, and to uphold freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

It’s clear that more US military leaders, national security planners, policy pundits, and ASEAN members like the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam, are impatiently waiting for this treaty approval to effectively address and to manage China’s continued aggressive actions to expand its power and influence in the contested South China Sea.

PLA Reform, Reorganisation, Restructuring and Implications for India Printer-friendly version

In a clear demonstration of his authority and confidence over the New Year, Chinese President Xi Jinping began implementing the crucial second phase of military reforms announced earlier on September 3, 2015. The reorganisation and restructuring of the 2.3 million-strong People’s Liberation Army (PLA), described by Chinese analysts as the most “extensive” ever and which has been on the drawing board since well before 2011, is the most critical reform initiative taken by Xi Jinping since he took over in November 2012. It is also only the second time in the history of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that the PLA -- a powerful, vital part of communist China’s power structure – is being radically reformed. Designed to qualitatively upgrade the PLA’s capabilities and structure, the objective is to prepare the PLA to assist the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) realise the ‘China Dream’ and protect China’s overseas national interests. There are clear implications for India as well.

A blend of compromise, coercion and consultation preceded implementation of the reforms, clear contours of which are now visible. The appearance of veteran CCP leader Jiang Zemin on the rostrum at the “grand military parade” on September 3, 2015, was suggestive of high level compromise. So also was the discarding of original plans to downsize the PLA by 800,000 personnel and opt instead for reducing troop strength by 300,000. Official Chinese reports additionally disclosed that the Leading Group for Defence and Military Reform collected opinions from more than 900 current and former senior officers and experts, received thousands of suggestions, held 860 seminars and prepared several Party plenary conference work reports. These efforts sought to assuage the concerns of numerous senior PLA officers, including the more than a thousand Generals, who remain apprehensive that the reforms could threaten their jobs and perquisites.

China’s social media war: a political miscalculation?

31 January 2016 

In the days following her election victory, mainland netizens were able to scale the Great Firewall and launch a coordinated trolling attack on Taiwanese president-elect Tsai Ing-wen’s Facebook profile page. The past week also saw netizens turning cyberspace into a “battleground” to defend Taiwanese pop star Show Luo’s declaration that he is Chinese, as well as attacking the forums of Taiwanese media outlet SETN Taiwan.

Hong Kong was also a target of the trolls, most notably the Facebook page of singer Denise Ho Wan-sze.

A closed Facebook group opened by Di Ba netizens has over 25,000 members. Photo: HKFP.

The organization of these cyber-attacks came from mainland China’s version of 4chan, Di Ba (“帝吧”), an internet community comprising mostly youths. It has been widely reported that organizers coordinated the attacks masterfully, with different groups of people assigned to writing comments, translating comments to and from simplified characters to traditional characters or English, liking comments, and creating internet memes. They named their attack “帝吧出征FB”, translating literally to “Di Ba’s military expedition to Facebook”.

Report: China bolsters state hacking powers

FEBRUARY 4, 2016

At a time when Chinese President Xi Jinping is in the spotlight for inking a landmark deal with the US barring economic espionage, a new report released Wednesday shows that he may be giving his security and intelligence agencies a larger role in helping Beijing hack foreign companies.

After the US and China inked a landmark agreement not to conduct cyberespionage to steal each other’s trade secrets, American officials wondered if Chinese President Xi Jinping would – or would be able to – keep up his end of the bargain.

US officials have long accused hackers from the powerful Chinese military of carrying out attacks on the US government and private companies, and September’s deal, to many experts, appeared overly optimistic. 

America Reveals 'Great Power' Plans Against Russia and China

February 3, 2016 

The United States is entering a new era of great power competition facing off against a resurgent Russia and a reemerging China. As such, the United States has to prioritize its defense spending to meet those rising challenges—which Washington will start to do with President Barack Obama’s 2017 budget proposal, announced this week.

“These challenges reflect a return to great power of competition. First is in Europe, where we're taking a strong and balanced approach to deter Russian aggression, and we haven't had to worry about this for twenty-five years,” U.S. defense secretary Ashton Carter told an audience at the Washington Economic Club on Tuesday. “Second is in the Asia-Pacific, where China is rising and where we're continuing and will continue our rebalance.”

While great power confrontations have existed since before Athens faced off against Sparta in the Great Peloponnesian War that ended about 2,400 years ago, this new confrontation will be different. The United States won’t just face off against Russia and China in the air, on land or at sea. Washington will also have to confront Moscow and Beijing in the emerging cyberspace and electronic warfare domains.

The Logic Of Hunger Striking Palestinians: When Starvation Is A Weapon – OpEd

FEBRUARY 5, 2016

By Friday, January 29, Palestinian journalist Mohammed al-Qeq had spent 66-days on hunger strike in Israeli jails. Just before he fell into his third coma, a day earlier, he sent a public message through his lawyers, the gist of which was: freedom or death.

Al-Qeq is 33-years of age, married and a father of two. Photos circulating of him online and on Palestinian streets show the face of a bespectacled, handsome man. The reality though is quite different. “He’s in a very bad situation. He fell into his third coma in recent days, and his weight has dropped to 30 kilograms (66 pounds),” Ashraf Abu Sneina, one of al-Qeq’s attorneys, toldAl Jazeera. Al-Qeq was arrested under yet another notorious Israeli law called the ‘administrative detention’ law.

Ominous predictions of al-Qeq’s imminent death have been looming for days with no end in sight to his elongated ordeal. Unfortunately for a man who believes that the only tool of defense and protest he has against apartheid Israel is his body, the Red Cross and other international groups took many days to so much as acknowledge the case of this news reporter who had refused food and medical treatment since November 24, 2015.

The Fourth Level Of War – Analysis

By Michael R. Matheny
FEBRUARY 5, 2016

Civilization began because the beginning of civilization is a military advantage.”1 This observation by Walter Bagehot is not far off the mark. Warfare certainly matured along with civilization as a violent expression of political will and intent. We currently view the art of warfare in three levels—tactical, operational, and strategic—but it was not always so. In the beginning, there were strategy and tactics. Strategy outlined how and to what purpose war might be used to achieve political objectives. Tactics directed how the violence was actually applied on the battlefield.

For most of military history, tactical art was able to achieve strategic objectives as tribes, forces, and armies marshaled on the battlefield to destroy the enemy’s ability to resist their master’s political will. Although much debated, operational art was born at the end of the 19th century when the size of armies, made possible by the development of the nation-state, rendered tactics unable to bring about political results. Civilization has moved on. From a doctrinal, theoretical, and practical point of view, it is now time to consider a fourth level of war—the theater-strategic level of war.

Wanted: European Grand Strategy For War Against The Islamic State – Analysis

By Joergen Oerstroem Moeller*
FEBRUARY 4, 2016

Europe, cultural identity under attack, must regroup and form grand strategy to battle extremism at home and abroad.

Europe’s cultural identity is under attack. At stake are values forged over centuries, respect for freedom of thought and every single individual’s rights. This is an existential crisis.

The enemy is not Islam nor the Muslims still migrating into Europe, but a small minority of brutal people who are hijacking Islam. Their intent is not to propagate a new political system. The goal is simple, trite and not religious: destruction of the Western system including democracy, individual freedom and economic globalization. What comes after does not matter. The extremists ensnare young people as recruits, selecting those who vent anger against their societies, political systems and parents. The young people crave respectability – acknowledgement as someone to be reckoned with, to be taken seriously, and the Islamic State delivers. The hardcore, intellectual elite and determined leadership of ISIS and the young recruits share one attribute, and that is hatred of Western societies.

And Now It Is Confirmed, The Islamic State Is A U.S. Creation

NEW DELHI: The Islamic State, like Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda has been consciously created by the U.S. This has now been confirmed by the release of classified documents of the US Defense Intelligence Agency by Judicial Watch that obtained these through a federal lawsuit in the US. It was doubly confirmed in an interview to Al Jazeera more recently by Lt General Michael T.Flynn , the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, and chair of the Military Intelligence Board from July 24, 2012, to August 2, 2014. 

The first reports of this filtered out from the Syrian government over three years ago under the US-Turkey sponsored siege by rebel groups. Senior advisor to President Bashar al Assad, Bouthaina Shaaban told this writer in Damascus in 2012 that the al Qaeda had joined the rebels being pumped with arms and money by the governments opposing the Syrian government. Shortly after she said that new forces had joined the Opposition and could be more dangerous than even the al Qaeda. 

These claims from the Syrian government were stoutly denied by the U.S, Turkey and other countries involved in pushing the rebels through the conflict. A denial that has continued till recent days, despite the emergence of the more lethal Islamic State that is controlling large tracts of land now in both Syria and Iraq. 

North Korea's Kwangmyongsong Satellite Launch: What We Know and Don't Know

February 08, 2016

North Korea’s latest so-called earth observation satellite launch raises a lot of questions about just how far its ballistic missile technology has come. With each test of its Unha, Taepodong, and Nodong ballistic missiles, North Korea acquires important scientific knowledge that could potentially hasten its path to developing a successful inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM). Sunday’s test, which successfully resulted in the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite entering polar orbit, probably iterated on the December 2012 Kwangmyongsong-3 Unit 2 test, which used an Unha-3 launch device.

While there’s a lot we don’t know yet about just how evolutionary Sunday’s launch was over its predecessor in 2012, Melissa Hanham of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies has a useful round up of just what we do know. In particular, I’d highlight the preliminary image assessment of the outside appearance of the rocket, which is confusingly called the Kwangmyongsong (not to be confused with its satellite payload, which is the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite). Hanham notes a “perfect fit”between the chassis of the 2012 launch device and the Kwangmyongsong rocket.

Why the OSCE Is Indispensable for Security in Europe

Frank-Walter Steinmeier German Foreign Minister

We currently face what is perhaps the most serious threat to peace and security in Europe since the end of the Cold War. We are fully aware of what it means to assume the Chairmanship of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in these difficult times, and of the responsibility we will bear for Europe.

The motto we have chosen for our OSCE Chairmanship is renewing dialogue, rebuilding trust and restoring security. We will work hard for these priorities. Trust in Europe has been greatly diminished over the past few years. It will be difficult to rebuild - but there is no way around doing so! I would like us to be able to say to future generations that we did everything possible to maintain peace on our continent.

But can such a large, diverse organization as the OSCE really foster peace and security in Europe? I actually think it has quite a few advantages over other international organizations. The process of the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the OSCE's predecessor in the 70's and 80's, has taught us that it is all the more important not to break off dialogue between participating States in times of deep distrust and growing uncommunicativeness between East and West. The fact that the OSCE has now become the largest regional security organization in the world shows just how contemporary this approach is.

Oil Price Treachery: Are Saudis Blackmailing Putin For Concessions On Syria? – OpEd

FEBRUARY 4, 2016

Here’s what you need to know about the Syria peace talks: Four of the most powerful militias currently operating in Syria have been excluded from the negotiations. The Islamic State (ISIS), Jabhat al Nusra, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have all been banned from the talks. What this means is that even if all the delegates agree to a ceasefire, it’s not going to matter. The fighting is going to continue. Everyone in the Obama administration already knows this, which is why we think the peace talks are a fraud designed to conceal Washington’s real objectives. (More on this later.)

The meetings that were supposed to begin on Friday, did not actually start until Monday following a series of diplomatic miscues over the weekend. As it happens, the main Syrian opposition groups, most of who operate under the aegis of the High Negotiations Committee, refused to come to Geneva until Russia met their demands concerning humanitarian relief, prisoner release and stopping the bombing of enemy positions. Not surprisingly, the matter wasn’t settled by Moscow caving in to the HNC’s demands, but by Kerry bending-over-backwards to placate the group by making a number of commitments that he’ll never be able to keep. What commitments? According to Reuters:

Russia Claims Turkey Planning Military Invasion Of Syria

FEBRUARY 5, 2016

Developments on the Turkish-Syrian border give serious grounds to suspect that Ankara is planning a military invasion in Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

“We have serious grounds to suspect intensive preparations by Turkey for a military invasion on the territory of the sovereign state of Syria,” Major General Igor Konashenkov, Defense Ministry spokesman, told journalists.

“We are recording more and more signs of concealed preparations by the Turkish military,” he added.

The spokesman reminded that Moscow had previously provided the international community with irrefutable video evidence of Turkish artillery firing on Syrian populated areas in the north of Latakia Province.

“We are surprised that the talkative representatives of the Pentagon, NATO and numerous organizations allegedly protecting human rights in Syria, despite our call to respond to these actions, still remain silent [on the shelling by Turkey],” he said.

America's Master Plan to Turn India Into an Aircraft Carrier Superpower

February 4, 2016 

Anyone who has been watching the United States try to pull off its much discussed “pivot” or “rebalance” to Asia knows one thing: The challenges of the day, from Russian moves in Eastern Europe and Syria to the threat of ISIS—or even just the steady stream of non-Asia-Pacific problems—always seem to get in the way. However, we must give President Obama credit where credit is due. U.S. relations with India, which shares a common challenge with America in a rising China, have warmed considerably. While certainly not a full-blown alliance, relations have grown to such an extent that U.S. defense officials seem willing to share some of their most prized military technologies with the rising South Asian powerhouse. Indeed, the United States seems ready to share the very symbol of American power projection: the mighty aircraft carrier.

A report from Reuters notes that Washington and New Delhi are discussing options for the joint development of an aircraft carrier for India. In a recent visit to India, Chief of U.S. Naval Operations, John Richardson, remarked that “we are making very good progress, I am very pleased with the progress to date and optimistic we can do more in the future. That's on a very solid track.”

The Changing Patterns of Arms Imports in the Middle East and North Africa

FEB 5, 2016 

The Changing Patterns of Arms Imports in the Middle East and North Africa

It is scarcely surprising that almost all of the current focus on security developments in the Middle East and North African (MENA) is on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, and on a new form of “balance” that compares state and non-state actors in terms of their success in preventing or carrying out acts of terrorism, and in achieving political control and influence, ideological impact, and tactical success in insurgencies or sectarian and ethnic rivalries and conflicts. The classic military balances between states are still critical aspects of national policy, but are almost ignored by both media and national security analysts. Even classic areas of controversy – the Arab-Israeli balance and the Gulf military balance receive little attention aside from a focus on Iran’s nuclear programs and missile developments.

The conventional arms race does, however, remain all too real. It has changed strikingly in important ways, but it still has a major impact on national resources, military budgets, the competition between states in the region, and the role of key arms suppliers. This is clear from a recent report by the Congressional Research Service which uses declassified intelligence estimates to address the global patterns in arms sales by buyer and supplier and by region, and which breaks down the arms sales in the MENA region by country.

The United States and Cyberspace: Military Organization, Policies, and Activities

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 539
Edited by Jeffrey T. Richelson
Posted - January 20, 2016
April 26, 2013

June 19, 2009

March 11, 2005

By Jeffrey T. Richelson


Washington, D.C., January 20, 2016 - U.S. military activities in cyberspace have been surprisingly widespread over the years, occurring mainly out of the public eye. Given the sensitivity of many of their operations, this is understandable to a point, but as the number of reported and unreported attacks on military and civilian infrastructure increases – along with the stakes – there is a corresponding public interest in how the Pentagon (and the U.S. government in general) has responded in the past and is preparing for future eventualities. Today, the National Security Archive is posting 27 documents that help illuminate various aspects of U.S. military operations in cyberspace. These materials are part of a unique and expanding educational resource of previously classified or difficult-to-obtain documentation the Archive is collecting and cataloguing on the critical issue of cyber security.

NATO Adapts to More Subtle Warfare Techniques

February 8, 2016 

NATO Adapts to More Subtle Warfare Techniques by Julian E. Barnes, Wall Street Journal

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is developing a new strategy to speed decision-making and improve its response to the kind of unconventional warfare the West says Russia has used in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

NATO is hoping to complete the strategy in time for a July summit of alliance leaders in Warsaw. In a new effort at cooperation, officials have been working with the European Union, which is putting together its own plans…

A new hybrid warfare playbook would attempt to lay out the kind of assistance the alliance would provide should a member state come under outside pressure from Russia or another country. Such support could include sending cyber experts to help respond to computer hacking attacks, communication specialists to counter propaganda or even the deployment of NATO’s rapid reaction spearhead force…

All the ways the F-35 is screwed up, according to the Pentagon’s top weapons tester

By Dan Lamothe 
February 4 2016

An F-35B Lightning II aircraft stands ready for flight operations during Exercise Steel Knight at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, Dec. 10, 2015. 

The Pentagon’s top weapons tester has condemned aspects of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program in a new report, raising questions about the $1.5-trillion effort’s ability to meet its already slipped production schedule, synthesize information on the battlefield and keep aircraft available to fly.

The 82-page report was distributed to Congress last month, and released publicly this week. It was completed by Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation. He reports directly to Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, and carries out independent assessments for both Carter and members of Congress.

The report raises serious questions about whether the Pentagon should initiate a three-year “block buy” of up to 450 fighter jets beginning in 2018,something that was floated last year in the Defense Department as a way to save money. Doing so would drive down the cost of each single-seat, single engine aircraft and increase fielding of the jet to both the U.S. military and international partners like Australia and Britain, defense officials said.