14 March 2016

India Opens Door to Japanese Assistance in Andaman and Nicobar Islands

For the first time, India is accepting foreign infrastructure assistance on the strategically important islands. 
By Ankit Panda,  March 12, 2016
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, located in the Bay of Bengal, northwest of the pivotal maritime choke point at the Strait of Malacca, are an immensely valuable geopolitical asset for India, particularly as it looks to ‘Act East’ and play an increasingly more visible role in the eastern Indian Ocean and beyond. The islands host an Indian tri-service command, the first of its kind, positioning them as an important outpost for the Indian military. For the first time, New Delhi has opened the door to collaborating with Japan on developing and upgrading civilian infrastructure on the islands.
The New York Times reports that the two countries are discussing a modest project to build a 15-megawatt diesel power plant on South Andaman Island. India and Japan have been strategically converging over the past decade, since they declared a Strategic Global Partnership in 2006. As the report notes, by opening talks with Japan, India is shifting on its longstanding policy of rejecting foreign investment on the strategically important and sensitive islands. Even though the projects in question are “not of a big scale, and not of a big value,” according a senior Indian official who spoke to the Times, the acceptance of Japanese assistance is significant in itself.
As their partnership has matured over the years, Japan has become a considerable source of foreign investment for major infrastructure initiatives in India. Notably, Tokyo is partly underwriting the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, which is among the largest infrastructure projects in the world. Moreover, India continues to be a major recipient of Japanese official development assistance (ODA) loans. Since 2010, Japanese ODA loan aid to India has been increasing every year.
China’s increasingly assertive behavior in the East and South China Seas and its simultaneous pursuit of civilian port infrastructure along the Indian Ocean littoral has in part driven New Delhi and Tokyo closer together. Since 2012, the two states have held regular bilateral naval exercises (JIMEX) and, starting last year, Japan became a permanent member of the U.S.-India Malabar series of exercises. Japan is also in talks to sell New Delhi maritime patrol aircraft, though that deal has run into some roadblocks lately.

From the Times‘ report, there’s little to suggest that Tokyo and New Delhi have broached the subject of possible cooperation on projects that could have military applications in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands soon. Indeed, the cooperation so far involves Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Japan’s aid agency, which is involved in several projects of a similar nature across India. JICA could become involved in infrastructure projects of a larger scope on the islands in the future now that India has opened the door.
With recent reports also suggesting that the United States and India are nearing an agreement on military logistics cooperation after over a decade of talks, the Andaman Islands may become increasingly visible on Asia’s naval landscape over the coming years. That agreement may be concluded during U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s scheduled April visit to India.

India’s incredulous defence

Mar 12, 2016, 

Dinesh Kumar
Over the last three decades, India's defence budget has grown exponentially. The defence budget for 2016-17 has been pegged at a staggering Rs 3,40,921 crore, which includes Rs 82,332 crore for defence pensions. Considering the phenomenal amount of the defence budget, two questions arise: Are the armed forces better prepared to fight a war? Do we feel more secure as a nation?
A simple yes or no answer would be too simplistic and reductionist. Yet a qualitative and quantitative analysis of events continues to point towards a situation almost as grim as that in 1991-92 when India's defence was adversely impacted by two landmark developments — (i) a severe resource crunch that had forced the country into economic reforms and (ii) the breakup of the Soviet Union, which until then was India's dominant if not sole supplier of defence equipment. Ironically today the situation is grim despite India having the money as well as alternative sources for defence equipment. 
After a freeze on the purchase of big-ticket items for much of the 1990s (the purchase of Sukhoi-30 fighter aircraft was the only exception), India embarked on a major purchasing spree which has earned it the dubious distinction of become the world's largest importer of defence equipment. In the last decade-and-a-half, India has added two major capabilities unprecedented in the sub continent — fuel-refuelling aircraft (FRA), aimed at elongating the airborne endurance of the Indian Air Force's (IAF) frontline fighter fleet and Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS), that can detect the enemy aircraft at longer distances. India has also added big-ticket items such as the purchase of INS Vikramaditya (formerly Admiral Gorshkov), India's largest-ever aircraft carrier and lease of INS Chakra, a nuclear-powered submarine, from Russia; purchase of the P-8I Poseidon maritime reconnaissance-cum-strike aircraft, C-130J Hercules and C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft from the United States; and a contract for purchase of six Scorpene conventional submarines from France to name a few.

These “impressive” purchases have, however, been overshadowed by events that have been both embarrassing and humiliating for India and its security apparatus. The failure to detect a surreptitious invasion by the Pakistani Army along a 150-km stretch of the Line of Control in the high-altitude Kargil region of Ladakh which was evicted at considerable cost of human life and money after two months of fighting (May-June 1999); the release of three dreaded terrorists for hostages taken aboard a hijacked Indian Airlines aircraft that was flown at gun point from Kathmandu to Kandahar via Amritsar, Lahore and Dubai (December 1999); a futile and expensive 10-month Operation Parakram that involved the biggest mobilisation of troops since the 1971 India-Pakistan War, following the December 2001 terror attack on Parliament (December 2001-October 2002), the 26/11 terror attacks by 10 Pakistani terrorists that exposed India's dismally poor coastal security (November 2008) not to forget the monotonous regularity with which Indian Army cantonments and posts have been attacked by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir along with the attack on the Pathankot air base last January. Ironically, most of these incidents have occurred during the previous (1998-2004) and current BJP-led NDA regimes.And yet, successive reports prepared by the parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence and the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) have pointed to glaring deficiencies in India's defence preparedness. The IAF's fighter fleet has fallen to a record low of 33 squadrons against an authorised strength of 42 squadrons. The Navy's submarine fleet is down to just 13, with most submarines over two decades old. The Navy's fleet, last authorised 52 years ago in 1964, comprises 140 vessels and 236 aircraft and helicopters, 72 vessels and 222 aircraft and helicopters short of the recommendations of the 15-year Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCPP) for 2012-2027. By then most vessels and aircraft, which are already ageing, would have been decommissioned. 

Restructuring Indian Defence Industry: Enhancing the Role of the Private Sector

February 16, 2016 Outreach Publications
Centre for Air Power Studies, Issue Brief No. 114/16, February 12, 2016
Prakash Panneerselvam, Post Doctoral Associate, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore

Indian defence manufacturing sector has come of age as the government has taken the decision to award major combat systems and upgradation programme of existing weapon platforms/ systems to the Indian industry under the “Make” category. The new policy outline on defence procurement has brought out a more dynamic approach to address the issue of self-reliance and indigenisation in the defence sector. The new induction in procurement policy such as increase in the offset contract threshold from Rs 300 crore to 2,000 crore, and new category – Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured (IDDM), clearly marks a shift towards indigenisation. One can expect that the new Defence Production Procedure (DPP-2016) and offset policy will be significantly different from the previous versions and will attempt to facilitate a smoother transaction of procurement, that had become cumbersome over the years directly affecting the operational readiness of the Indian Armed Forces.

To read the complete article click here

As India Collaborates With Japan on Islands, It Looks to Check China

Part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an Indian archipelago seen as critical in countering China’s growing influence in the area. Japan has proposed building a power plant on one island. 
PORT BLAIR, India — India and Japan are in talks to collaborate on upgrading civilian infrastructure in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an Indian archipelago seen as a critical asset to counter China’s efforts to expand its maritime reach into the Indian Ocean.
The first project being discussed is a modest one: a 15-megawatt diesel power plant on South Andaman Island, as described in a proposal submitted late last month to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
But the collaboration signals a significant policy shift for India, which has not previously accepted offers of foreign investment in the archipelago. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are northwest of the Strait of Malacca, offering control of a so-called choke point that is one of China’s greatest marine vulnerabilities.
It is testimony to the unfolding relationship between India and Japan, which is also funding a $744 million road building project in the northeastern Indian border regions of Mizoram, Assam and Meghalaya. Like the Andaman and Nicobar chain, the northeastern region is a strategic area that has remained relatively undeveloped because of its separation from the mainland.
Japan’s marshaling of official development assistance in the region has drawn less attention than the effort that China calls “One Belt, One Road,” a network of roads, railways and ports intended to link China to the rest of Asia and to Europe.
But it fits logically into the web of strategic projects taking shape as Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India enters into closer relationships with Japan, Australia and the United States, as well as regional powers like Vietnam, to counter China’s growing influence.
A senior Indian official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said that China’s project would be answered by “a more decentralized, local but organic response.”
The official described proposed infrastructure projects in the Andamans as “not of a big scale, and not of a big value,” but added that New Delhi was intent on developing its “frontier” regions.
“The idea that the frontier should be left undeveloped, I think people have rejected that approach,” the official said. “There is a realization that it doesn’t help to leave part of any part of India undeveloped.”
Japan’s vision for contributions in the island chain goes far beyond the proposed power plant. The plan was submitted in Tokyo more than a year after Japan’s ambassador made a visit to Port Blair on South Andaman Island and, in a meeting with the territory’s top official, offered financing for “bridges and ports.”

*** What Modern Syria Can Learn From the Ottomans

Analysis MARCH 6, 2016 | 1
The quagmire that is contemporary Syria is as infinitely complex as it was when it emerged from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. Its medley of cultures and ethnicities coexisted peaceably under the sultans, but the European powers that inherited the land after World War I were unfamiliar with — and uninterested in protecting — Syria's unique brand of pluralism. Decades of autocratic rule followed. Today, the warring factions that populate the Syrian battlefield speak to the unraveling of Syria's once-cohesive society, but the lessons of the Ottoman Empire remain. Moving forward, those lessons may be the best hope for turning a failed state into a nation at once unified and diverse.

After centuries of Ottoman rule, Syria emerged from World War I in an entirely new form. Under the Ottomans, the area known today as Syria hadn't been a single entity but rather a collection of "wilayats," or provinces, that at times included areas of modern-day Lebanon and Israel. Nor was the population homogenous. The wilayats of Ottoman Syria each comprised an array of ethnicities, cultural identifications and economic structures. After 400 years of rule under the Ottomans, certain particularities of the political system became ingrained. In modern-day Syria before the civil war, cities were divided into culturally distinct quarters: one where you would find the Armenians, another populated by Assyrians. I especially remember the Kurdish markets, where vendors would come dressed in their bright colors to sell fruits and vegetables from the countryside.

In fact, the way in which Syria was governed reinforced the autonomy of these distinct ethnic and religious communities. The Ottomans enforced a policy of pluralism, intended to appease different nations and quell the rise of nationalist movements, in which Jews, Christians and Muslims were all empowered to assert their own identities and therefore had no need to vie for power. Each religious community, known as a "millet," had a representative in Istanbul and was allowed to organize its own affairs, including its people's education, social services and charities and even some of the legal standards by which they lived. The millet controlled all internal disputes such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and the distribution and collection of taxes. The residue of this community-specific system remained in modern Syria; for example, everyone knew you went to the Armenian quarter to get your silver.

After World War I, however, the European powers divided up the land once ruled by the defeated Ottoman Empire. To be sure, the Europeans had been gradually infiltrating the Middle East for years, enjoying the tax breaks and security ensured by capitulation contracts between their governments and the Ottomans. But after the war, European powers negotiated clear partition lines defining their spheres of influence in the region. The resulting, secret agreement, named for the British and French diplomats who negotiated it, Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot, was signed in spring of 1916. The borders drawn within Sykes-Picot didn't respect the history of the region or the political concerns of the groups within it. Instead, the agreement focused on divvying up the Middle East between the British and the French. In fact, the way in which this agreement broke up the Middle East makes it relevant to a number of post-WWI conflicts. France was determined to remain a power in the Middle East, and through the French Mandate it ultimately controlled southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The population in what had been Greater Syria was artificially divided and at times displaced.

Under the French Mandate, life in Syria changed dramatically. The autonomy that groups had enjoyed under the Ottomans greatly diminished as the French centralized the government and restricted newspapers and political activity. In addition, France pursued a divide-and-rule policy under which some minority groups enjoyed newfound privilege and others watched their freedoms disappear. The French favored minorities, particularly the Christian Maronites, to protect themelves from the Sunni majority. Even though Syria claimed independence in 1944, the new government adopted the autocratic bent of the French officials it had displaced, and the new rulers marginalized minorities such as the Shiites, Kurds, Assyrians, Druze and Armenians. The invasive Syrian intelligence services, the Mukhabarat, became a prominent fact of life for the Syrian people, for whom the country's independence brought little relief.




In Washington, it’s a term that sends shivers down policymakers’ spines — often invoked to describe an unknown or undesirable alternative to a policy that is problematic and often overly idealistic, yet that officials nonetheless desperately want to succeed.
In 2007, soon after U.S. authorities had announced a high-stakes troop surge in Iraq, a group of governors visiting Washington asked a popular question of the day: “What’s Plan B?” The White House offered a befitting response: “To make Plan A work.” More recently, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry articulated a variety of messy and complicated Plan B options, should a new and fragile ceasefire in Syria not hold — from a partition arrangement to deeper collaborations with the Syrian opposition.

And then there’s Afghanistan.
Ever since U.S.-led forces stormed into the country in 2001 to topple the Taliban regime and eliminate al-Qaeda sanctuaries, Washington’s exact objectives have been difficult to discern. For the Obama administration, Plan A until 2014 consisted, broadly speaking, of using military force to beat back, if not defeat, the Taliban insurgency and bring some semblance of stability to Afghanistan in order to ensure that al-Qaeda could never shelter there again.
In 2014, foreign troops ended combat operations in Afghanistan with the war still raging. Consequently, Washington’s post-2014 hopes for Plan A rest on an elusive political aim: full-throated support for, and furious efforts toward, a reconciliation process between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban. While Washington seeks to support such a process, it continues to advise and assist beleaguered Afghan troops. Unfortunately, for Washington, betting the farm on a peace process could amount to a big strategic mistake — and yet the alternatives are no more promising.

Peace Talks: The Putative Yet Perilous Plan A
In effect, Washington is banking on a peace deal to end the Afghanistan war — a highly ambitious objective that is a long shot at best.
Unsuccessful efforts to engage the Taliban in talks extend back more than 10 years. To be sure, there have been periods of promise. In July 2015, Taliban representatives launched formal negotiations with Afghan government officials in Pakistan. However, the talks were quickly torpedoed by the news that Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar had been dead for several years. In recent months, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States, and China have formed a Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) to prepare the grounds for peace talks. For weeks, the QCG has insisted that direct talks between Kabul and the Taliban are just around the corner — until March 5, when the Talibanreleased a statement saying they currently had no intention to participate in talks.
There are three good reasons to fear that Washington’s Plan A is more likely to fail than succeed.

Afghan Military Abandons District in Uruzgan Province to the Taliban

Afghan forces withdraw from district in Uruzgan
Bill Roggio, The Long War Journal
March 9, 2016
In addition to withdrawing from districts in Helmand province in mid-February, the Afghan Army has begun to leave areas in Uruzgan. On March 1, troops abandoned areas of the district of Shahidi Hassas in the neighboring Uruzgan province. A provincial spokesman indicated that troops will likely leave other districts in order to create a “a reserve battalion.” 
Provincial government spokesman Dost Mohammad Nayab said about 100 troops and police had been pulled from checkpoints in two areas in Shahidi Hassas district and sent to the neighbouring district of Deh Rawud.
The Afghan Taliban, seeking to topple the Western-backed government in Kabul and reimpose Islamic rule 15 years after they were ousted from power, said the move, which came after heavy fighting late Monday, had left the area around the village of Yakhdan under their control.
The decision to leave the posts follows months of heavy fighting with the Taliban, who have put government forces under heavy pressure across southern Afghanistan.
“We want to create a reserve battalion in Deh Rawud, and we may ask our soldiers and policemen from other districts also to leave their checkpoints,” Nayab said.

Nayab said the withdrawal was prompted by a shortage of troops and police, worn down by combat losses and desertions. He said troop numbers in the province were about 1,000 short of their assigned strength while police were hundreds short.
“Some of them have left the army and police, some have been killed or wounded and some have surrendered to the Taliban,” he said. “We have to control situation here until we receive enough forces.”
On Feb. 29, the Taliban claimed it “completely liberated” the Khar Khordi area of Shahidi Hassas.
The Long War Journal estimates that four of Uruzgan’s six districts are heavily contested by the Taliban. Government officials have not yet stated that the entirety of Shahidi Hassas is under Taliban control, and the Taliban have not claimed that it fully controls the district.
Over the past year, the Taliban have seized control of, or contested, a number of districts in a belt that spans southwestern Herat, eastern Farah, northern and central Helmand, Uruzgan, and northwestern Kandahar (see map above). While many of these districts are in remote areas, the Taliban have historically used these safe havens to organize operations against neighboring districts and provincial capitals in southern and central Afghanistan.

Will Pakistan Integrate Gilgit Baltistan? And What If?

Author: D. Suba Chandran
To read the complete report click here

Pakistan government has recently constituted a committee to “upgrade the status” of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) either into a “constitutional province” or a “provisional province” of Pakistan. This perhaps is the second major step by Islamabad in the recent years, after creating the current Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly through a Presidential Order by Asif Ali Zardari in 2009.
What is the contemporary need for Pakistan to change the status of GB? Is it responding to internal demands from GB, or external pressure from China? Or is there a slow burn in the recent years, in terms of fully integrating GB, but through an administrative salami slicing? What is likely to become of the GB status?
To read the complete report click here
About the Author: D. Suba Chandran is Professor at the International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore.

Pakistan’s Hand in the Rise of International Jihad

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.
The latest Taliban offensive began in 2014. United States and NATO forces were winding down their operations in Afghanistan and preparing to withdraw when Pakistan decided, after years of prevarication, to clear Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters from their sanctuary in Pakistan’s tribal area of North Waziristan.
The operation was certainly a serious endeavor — Taliban bases, torture chambers and ammunition dumps were busted, town bazaars were razed and over one million civilians were displaced.

* Hypocrisy Of The Geneva Convention

by Reverse Engineer, Doomstead Diner
Recent events such as a variety of War Atrocities being committed by just about everybody on all sides of the ongoing wars, as well as the calamitous mishandling of the European Refugee crisis led me to do some investigation and RANT on a hallowed idea/ set of protocols, the Geneva Conventions. There are 4 of them, covering Land Soldiers, Sailors, Prisoners of War and Civilians caught in a War Zone.
Greetings Doomfans, and welcome to another edition of the Frostbite Falls Daily Rant, here on the Doomstead Diner. 
For today's rant, I am going to venture off specific nonsense occuring as a result of ongoing collapse, like the bullshit of NIRP to duct tape together a collapsing monetary system, the piano wire being used to hold together the EU and the hollow verbiage being pitched out by His Popeness, the Vicar of Christ on Earth on how to solve our Climate problems, not to mention the Clown Parade currently running for POTUS here in the FsoA. 
Instead, I'm going to look at something theoretical and philosophically grand that is often held up as a roadmap for behavior in times of War (which is just about all the time somewhere), the Geneva Convention. 
Actually, the Geneva Convention is a series of conventions going back as far as 1864, and there are now 4 of them, with the most recent stuff coming after WWII apllying to civilians in a war zone, adopted in 1949 and updated periodically since. These documents cover 4 basic categories now: 

The first Geneva Convention protects wounded and sick soldiers on land during war. 

The second Geneva Convention protects wounded, sick and shipwrecked military personnel at sea during war. 

The third Geneva Convention applies to prisoners of war. 

The fourth Geneva Convention affords protection to civilians, including in occupied territory. 

So, the folks in Geneva got everybody covered here now with rules for wartime behavior, the land soldiers are covered, the sailors are covered, the POWs are covered and the Civilians too! Everybody has a set of regulations that spell out how they are supposed to be treated in time of war (aka all the time). For those of you wishing to explore precisely what these conventions do spell out, I am providing the links in the article accompanying this rant, but just about nothing in there will surprise you much if you hear "Geneva Convention" trotted out in the press when discussing one sort of War Crime or another. In fact War itself is a Crime, but does the Geneva Convention spell that out? Nowhere that I can see on that one. 
In formal language drafted up by politicians and lawyers, what the Geneva Conventions basically say is "be nice to wounded and sick people, give prisoners enough to eat and be nice to the local population of civilians while you shoot each other." lol. Anybody who signs up for the Geneva Conventions (and that is just about all nation-states that consider themselves "civilized") agrees to these rules of behavior, in theory anyhow. 

It is no coinkidink I suspect that the first set of Geneva War Rules was drafted up in 1864. Why 1864? Well if you recall, this is just when the War of Northern Agression, aka the Civil War in the FsoA was in full swing in all its glory here in the FsoA. Over in Europe, they had been fighting non-stop wars since the 16th Century at least and the folks running those wars had long since developed their own "Code of Conduct" for "Civilized Warfare". Generally this meant that "officers" from the opposing side were treated a whole lot better than the average J6P grunt, enlisted or conscripted if captured. 
Reason for this? The "officers" generally came from the class running the society, and eventually when the war ran its course these were the folks you would need to make "peace" with. So you want to make their lives relatively comfortable while they are interned in your prison camp so the negotiations go easier later after the war is over (until the next one starts of course). 

The Growing Importance of OSINT to Western Spy Agencies

strategypage.com, March 10, 2016

National intelligence services (like the CIA and MI6) continue to find themselves relying more and more on civilian sources for the best data and analysis. A recent example was revealed because of all the anxiety over the huge numbers of illegal migrants trying to get into Europe and other Western countries, many of them by boat. Turns out that the best tool for reducing the use of ships for smuggling was an Israeli firm that built a business on creating a database of normal, and abnormal (and usually illegal) behavior by ships at sea for shipping and maritime insurance companies.

This data was easier to collect since the 1990s when all larger ships were required to use the AIS (Automated Identification System) which is essentially an automatic radio beacon (transponder) that, when it receives a signal from a nearby AIS equipped ship, responds with the ship’s identity, course, and speed. This is meant to enable AIS ships to avoid collisions with each other. An AIS activity database makes it possible to identify patterns of normal and abnormal behavior. The abnormal behavior, like arriving outside a port and waiting for several days to enter, is what smugglers are often forced to do to avoidarrest. Same thing with travelling outside the most efficient (in terms of fuel used and weather encountered) routes. With enough of this data and a thorough analysis it is very difficult for seagoing criminals to escape detection. Now that navies and coast guards are increasing using this “maritime BI (Business Intelligence)” tool to more quickly shut down the criminal gangs making over a billion dollars a year from all this people smuggling.

AIS is also used to send ships important traffic and weather information. AIS is one of two ship tracking systems required, by law, for most ocean going ships. INMARSAT (International Maritime Satellite) is a more elaborate and longer range system. It enables shipping companies to keep track of their vessels no matter where they are on the planet. INMARSAT uses a system of satellites, which transmit AIS-like signals to anywhere on the oceans. It only costs a few cents to send an INMARSAT signal to one of your ships and a few cents more to receive a reply. Shipping companies have found the INMARSAT a useful business tool as well as a safety feature.
These two systems are now required by law (international agreements) for all sea going vessels greater than 300-tons. The technology has worked, and the U.S. Navy has found them particularly useful in counter-terror operations. Coast Guards the world over have also found the systems a big help. But apparently pirates in some areas have gained access to the systems (via bribes or theft) and a large number of pirate attacks appear to have been helped by technology meant just to safeguard ships at sea. Iran, and other nations involved in smuggling, learned how to have INMARSAT send a false signal, concealing where the ship actually is. This can work for a while but a nation with lots of recon satellites, warships, and cooperation from most of the world’s shipping can get around this.

Shaping a Presidential Legacy

A daily explanation of what matters and what doesn't in the world of geopolitics. 
March 11, 2016 , By Kamran Bokhari 
The limits of Obama’s office played a significant role in creating his ‘doctrine.’ 

In an article published yesterday in The Atlantic titled “The Obama Doctrine,” U.S. President Barack Obama called on Saudi Arabia and Iran to establish a form of "cold peace" in order to manage the growing chaos in the Middle East. In the extensive interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, Obama warned that the region cannot see an end to anarchy unless the Salafist kingdom and the Islamic republic can come to terms with one another on how to “share the neighborhood.” The interview clearly shows that the president is more frustrated with traditional U.S. ally Saudi Arabia than with Iran, which for nearly two generations has been a foe of the United States. In the article, Obama criticized the Saudis for the kingdom’s role in spreading violent extremism in the wider Muslim world and for oppressing women at home.
The phrase “The Obama Doctrine” is just a way of describing the decisions Obama had to make in the past seven years. The driving force behind the doctrine was ultimately not Obama’s personal ambitions or ideals, but rather the U.S. moving toward a balance of power strategy. It's a retrospective designation, trying to make sense of eight years of decisions, rather than an orienting principle through which Obama directed U.S. policy. Policy is what someone wants to happen – geopolitics is what does.

The article and the debate it has generated in the news and on social media is focused on Obama’s personality and the popular assumption that individual presidents have a great degree of latitude in making policy decisions. Geopolitics, however, teaches us that individual presidents are highly constrained in their ability to effect change. All leaders - more or less - inherit the same narrow menu of options that was available to their predecessors. Indeed, constraints upon political actors (individuals, groups and states) remain highly under-appreciated.
Leaders are criticized by their opponents either for a decision they made or for one they did not. A good chunk of the Goldberg article focuses on the domestic and international criticism of Obama’s policy toward Syria. The view of these critics is that, had Obama come to the aide of the Syrian rebels early on, the battlespace would today not have been dominated by the Islamic State, al-Qaida’s Syrian branch called Jabhat al-Nusra and most of the other rebel groups that subscribe to one form of Salafist-jihadism or another. Among the most vocal in this criticism are some key American allies in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia and other Sunni powers.

* What's Behind China's Offer of Military Aid to Afghanistan?


China’s concerns about Afghan stability are real, but direct military aid will remain limited.
By Shannon Tiezzi, March 11, 2016
China has offered to expand its military aid to Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal reports, following a visit to the country by a top Chinese general. Outlook Afghanistan put the total value of the proffered military aid at 480 renminibi ($73 million).
The offer came during a visit to Afghanistan by General Fang Fenghui, chief of China’s joint staff department, last week. During a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Fang expressed his hope for increased cooperation on security and counter-terrorism. That apparently includes the potential for military supplies from China. The exact nature of the supplies has yet to be determined, a spokesperson for the Afghan Defense Ministry told WSJ. However, he suggested that Afghanistan’s “wish list” might ask for light weapons, aircraft parts, and uniforms from Beijing – all limited contributions, fitting the limited budget.

Historically, China has not provided much in the way of military aid to Afghanistan, preferring to limit itself to humanitarian and economic aid (and only a modest amount, at that). When China does offer military aid, as it did during a meeting between Ghani and President Xi Jinping last summer, Beijing general limits such assistance to training and general supplies rather than transfers of offensive weapons. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Arms Transfers Database, for instance, does not have any record of any major Chinese arms deals with Afghanistan since 2001 (although the database excludes deals involving small arms and light weapons).
But the lack of military transfers shouldn’t suggest that China isn’t concerned about Afghan security – it most emphatically is. Beijing is particularly worried that instability in Afghanistan provides a safe haven for Uyghur militant groups, who might seek to conduct attacks within China in pursuit of an independent Xinjiang. Even if violence in Afghanistan doesn’t spill over into China, it could jeopardize prospects for China’s Silk Road Economic Belt, Xi’s signature foreign policy initiative.

On Thursday, at a panel discussion with representatives from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on the sidelines of the annual National People’s Congress session, Chinese Premier Li Keiqang reminded officials that Xinjiang “is of strategic importance for the country’s overall situation,” according to Xinhua’s paraphrasing. Li urged the Xinjiang deputies to promote development in the province in order to “consolidate the foundation of lasting stability” – but domestic development will only go so far if instability continues to reign in neighboring Afghanistan.
To date, though, China’s strategy for ensuring stability in Afghanistan has been to throw its diplomatic weight behind peace talks between the government in Kabul and the Taliban. By nudging its ally Pakistan to encourage Taliban participation, Beijing hopes to finally reach a negotiated solution that will see the Taliban lay down their arms in exchange for integration into the political system. But the Chinese-backed peace talks have been no more successful so far than previous attempts. Last year’s talks ended abruptly due to a leadership succession crisis in the Taliban; this year, the Taliban have emphatically announced that they have no plans to participate in renewed talks.

Former CIA chief: Mishandling the rise of China 'will be catastrophic'

JEREMY BENDER,  MAR 10, 2016, 
If the US mishandles the rise of China over the next decade, the results could be disastrous, a former CIA chief has warned The Guardian.
Former CIA Chief General Michael Hayden, who has also headed the NSA,told The Guardian that terrorism "is not an existential threat to the United States."
And instead, the US should begin to pay significantly more attention to the potential threat that states can play to the US in the coming decades.
In particular, Hayden is most worried about the threat from a rising China and the risk that the US mishandles Beijing's rise over the coming decade.
"Now if you run the timeline out to the 10-year point, it's China. I'm not saying China's an enemy of the United States of America," Hayden said. "I'm just simply saying that if we do not handle the emergence of the People's Republic well, it will be catastrophic for the world."
China is currently pushing ahead on its claims to the South China Sea over the objections of Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and the US. In the middle of February, Beijing took a further step of militarizing the region by placing advanced surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island to solidify its claims.
Beijing is also constructing man-made islands throughout the region. On these islands China has been building ports, seawalls, and airstrips that would allow the country to dominate the region. By 2030, a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies notes that the South China Sea will essentially exist as a "Chinese lake."
Additionally, General Mark Walsh told the House Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee on March 2 that China's People's Liberation Army Air Force could be capable of overtaking the US Air Force by 2030. Walsh noted that China's advancements were due to both increasing the number of planes the country had as well as steadily closing the technological gap with the US.

PLA Rocket Force: Adding fuel to the Dragon’s ‘Fire’?

February 22, 2016 ISSSP Reflections
ISSSP Reflections No. 37, February 22, 2016
Author: Mrunalini Deshpande
Recently China announced the upgradation of the PLA’s Second Artillery Force to PLA Rocket Force (PRF). Will the inclusion of nuclear and conventional ballistic missiles under the control of PRF make China lethal in terms of new warfare strategies? Is the Chinese End game aimed at keeping US on the edge? Will the PRF and Strategic Support Force be a game changer in terms of modernization of military forces?
The New Rocket Force: Making China’s strategy lethal
The new Rocket Force and the Strategic Support Force was announced in December 2015 by Xi Jinping, as part of the restructuring of the Chinese military. According to the Chinese reports, the PLA Rocket Force’s main mission, like that of the Second Artillery Force, will provide strategic deterrence with nuclear and conventional missiles under its control. Whereas, the Strategic Support Force is expected to provide proper electronic and cyber intelligence back up for the precision missiles strikes during war.
The new Rocket Force, is expected to deploy its nuclear assets on land, sea and air. It is believed to be incorporating the Navy’s strategic nuclear submarine and the Air Force’s strategic bomber. This will make the Force, the world’s first independent service with land, sea and air nuclear components, more integrated than any other country. The formation of PRF serves as a major indicator of China’s ambition to up the ante with respect to strategic and nuclear defence by establishing the world’s most complete missile strike system.
The PLA Rocket Force has been given a status equal to that of PLA, PLA Navy and PLA Air Force. Along with the nuclear missiles, the Rocket Force would also be in charge of the conventional missiles. This is an indication of the continuation of China’s “dual deterrence” policy which seems to have been intricately woven into the “active defence” policy. Active defence through offensive strategic policies is China’s signature approach towards national security. Also, the formation of the Strategic Support Force is considered as a reflection of how much importance the PLA is granting the new and rapidly growing domain of cyber and space. The Strategic Support Force is said to constitute of an aerospace army, an internet army and electronic warfare troops. Network attacks against satellites and ground based facilities that control the satellites would be China’s modus operandi during a conflict.

Russia-China: The West’s Dual Challenge

Closer Moscow-Beijing ties don’t constitute a common challenge to the West. 
By Marcin Kaczmarski, March 10, 2016
The Russian-Chinese relationship has come under greater scrutiny since the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s “deniable intervention” in Ukraine. Commentators have taken on the question of whether Russia and China present a unified, all-encompassing challenge to the West’s domination in international politics and have fiercely debated the prospect and possibility of a fully-fledged Sino-Russian alliance in the not-so-distant future.
Since the late-2000s, Russia and China have taken a number of steps aimed at shifting the existing international order to their advantage, in both its global and regional manifestations. Both powers are pursuing territorial claims (Crimea, the South China Sea), albeit in differentiated forms; they have established new multilateral institutions (such as the BRICS New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, AIIB); they share a similar stance on the normative concepts promoted by the West (such as the responsibility to protect and humanitarian interventions); and they adopt similar positions on international crises (Iran, North Korea). Russia has gone even further, resorting to military interventions in Ukraine and Syria. Moscow and Beijing consistently oppose the promotion of democracy, regard “color revolutions” as Western-led conspiracies, and vow to divide the Internet into “national sectors.” Russia’s military intervention in Syria and China’s successful launch of the AIIB in particular – steps taken in the face of direct U.S. opposition – were interpreted as nails in the coffin of the American “unipolar moment.”

These developments reinforce the argument that a revisionist, anti-Western bloc has emerged, regardless of the absence of any formal political-military alliance between Moscow and Beijing. This reading of Russia and China’s policies does, however, neglect the nuances of the Russian-Chinese relationship and ignores meaningful differences in the two states’ approaches to the current international order. Although the post-Cold War Sino-Russian relationship can be said to have been born out of U.S. primacy and unilateralism, the American factor does not suffice to explain the dynamics of Russian-Chinese ties.
The power gap that emerged in the wake of the global economic crisis of 2008-2009 has redefined the Russian-Chinese relationship. Merely depicting Russia and China as “great powers” or labeling them both as BRICS members conceals the reality of their co-operation – that of a superpower in the making and a great power in relative decline, a decline delayed by high oil prices and an unusual determination to demonstrate its vitality to the outside world. Russia’s political-economic stagnation set against China’s rapid emergence have transformed the Kremlin into the “junior partner.” Russia and China are undergoing a process of accommodating themselves to this enormous shift. Moscow is trying to adapt to China’s rise and newly acquired power, while Beijing is practicing the art of self-restraint. Close co-operation – in such spheres as energy and arms – is fuelling China’s rise, making the asymmetry of the relationship even more pronounced.

Ruthless and Sober in Syria

Geopolitical WeeklyFEBRUARY 16, 2016 | 
Last October, when Russia had just begun its military intervention in Syria, U.S. President Barack Obama spurned the idea that Russia could challenge U.S. leadership in the Middle East. In a 60 Minutes interview, he said, "Mr. Putin is devoting his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together by a thread his sole ally. The fact that they had to do this is not an indication of strength; it's an indication that their strategy did not work." Two months later, as Russia's military presence in Syria deepened further, Obama remained dismissive of Putin's strategy, noting that "with Afghanistan fresh in the memory, for him [Putin] to simply get bogged down in an inconclusive and paralyzing civil conflict is not the outcome that he is looking for."
Washington can continue to underestimate Russia at its own peril. Russia has indeed poured resources into a maddeningly inconclusive conflict, but so has the United States and so will others who cannot be tempted away from the geopolitical proxy battleground complicated by the presence of jihadists. The problem is that the layers to Russia's strategy tend to be too dense for the Western eye. For Russia, the Syrian battleground is not about propping up an ally through reckless spending, nor is it simply about pursuing an alternative strategy to defeat the Islamic State. Syria is a land of opportunity for Russia. This is the arena where self-control, patience and a careful identification and exploitation of its opponents' strengths and weaknesses will enable Russia to reset its competition with the West.
Realpolitik, Russian-Style

The Russian economy is staggering amid low oil prices. Kremlin power struggles are intensifying. And social unrest is increasing nationwide. The United States is reinforcing European allies all along Russia's western flank. This scene does not suggest a perfect record for the Russian leader, but Putin is also a skilled practitioner of realpolitik. Moscow has a sober ruthlessness and resourcefulness that it will employ to try to make up for its most obvious weaknesses.
In Realpolitik: A History, historian John Bew gives credit to an oft-overlooked German politician, August Ludwig von Rochau, for conceptualizing the pragmatism behind this political philosophy. In Foundations of Realpolitik, which Rochau wrote in the mid-19th century during the formative years of the German nation-state, he said, "The Realpolitik does not move in a foggy future, but in the present's field of vision, it does not consider its task to consist in the realization of ideals, but in the attainment of concrete ends, and it knows, with reservations, to content itself with partial results, if their complete attainment is not achievable for the time being. Ultimately, the Realpolitik is an enemy of all kinds of self-delusion."
Rochau's profile of a state run by realpolitik has Putin's Russia written all over it. Russia's inherent vulnerabilities may deny it lasting glory, much less the ability to put the brakes on Western encroachment. Moscow will, however, be quick to come to terms with uncomfortable realities and will take what it can get when the opportunity arises.
A skilled opportunist will create the opportunity he or she seeks to exploit. Syria is the contemporary axis of geopolitical conflict. By enabling a loyalist siege on Aleppo, Russia has demanded the attention of Berlin, Washington and Ankara in one fell swoop. Some 100,000 Syrians have fled Aleppo in the past two weeks, and that number could rapidly multiply if the city is besieged.

* A Troubling Week for Germany

This week's Geopolitical Pulse is written by Lili Bayer. 
Berlin failed to reach consensus on the migration issue, while its strong economy continued to show cracks. 
This has been a difficult week for Germany. In order to preserve its security and protect its export-led economy, the country relies heavily on the European Union. However, Berlin is facing a multitude of interlocking crises that are contributing to the fragmentation of Europe. This week, Germany had to contend with a series of challenges emanating from Syria, Turkey, the Balkans and Central Europe, as more worrying signs emerged about the state of its own economy. 
The summit between the European Union and Turkey early this week underlined that Germany is unable to negotiate a comprehensive solution to the refugee crisis. The summit did not end with an official final agreement and leaders will meet again later this month. However, more meetings will not lead to a consensus among the Europeans, who are bitterly divided on how to stop the flow of refugees northward and on the distribution of refugees among EU member states. In addition, more summits will not shift the situation on the ground in Syria, which is the driving factor behind the refugee flows. As Dr. George Friedman explained on the eve of the ceasefire, the agreement will not result in a strong alliance among diverse rebel groups. And indeed, since the cessation of hostilities formally came into effect on Feb. 27, some fighting and airstrikes have continued. Perhaps most important, even if a deal is reached with Turkey, and even if the EU agrees to provide the Turks with several billions of euros in aid, Turkey’s ability to stop the exodus from Syria is limited without sending Turkish troops into Syrian territory. The EU-Turkey talks are a negotiation where neither side is truly willing and able to deliver on its promises. 

The decision of Western Balkan countries, as well as Austria, to close their borders to refugees this week also signaled that Germany’s position is weakening. Historically, the Balkan Peninsula has been an area where Russian, Ottoman and European interests clashed. In 2014, German Chancellor Angela Merkel publicly raised concerns about Russian influence in the Balkans, highlighting the strategic importance of this buffer area for Berlin. Germany and other EU countries have used the possibility of EU membership, and especially the funding prospective members receive, to build relationships in the region. Serbia and Macedonia’s move this week to close their borders, along with EU members Austria, Slovenia and Croatia, shows that EU membership and Berlin’s approval are no longer priorities for Serbian and Macedonian decision-makers. While in the past, the promise of EU funding and integration was a powerful tool in this region, Europe is now becoming less attractive, and Balkan governments have grown less inclined to cooperate with Berlin on refugee policies. At the same time, Germany’s declining position in the Balkans could give Moscow an opening to exert more influence in the region. 


MARCH 9, 2016
The Iraqi Army defenders of Ramadi had held their dusty, stony ground for over a year and become familiar with the increasing adeptness of their opponents waving black flags. At first, these Iraqi Army units simply faced sprayed rifle fire, but then it was well-placed sniper rounds that forced these weary units to keep under cover whenever possible or risk a death that only their comrades — but never the victim — would hear. Tired, beleaguered, and cut off from reinforcements from Baghdad, they nonetheless continued to repulse attack after attack.
The last months witnessed a new weapon — car bombs. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, had long been the masters of using car bombs, but almost always against isolated checkpoints or undefended civilians. But an old tactic found a new situation. Car bombs, now parked against outer walls and driven by suicide bombers, were thrown against the Iraqi Army’s defenses in Ramadi.
The defenders were professional soldiers, and the last decade of war had taught them a great deal about the use of concrete barriers to defend against explosives of all kinds. So while the car bombs created a great deal of sound and fury, they availed little.

Then one bright day in May 2015, the defenders awoke to a new sound. Crawling forward slowly toward the heavily barricaded road was a bulldozer followed by several large cargo and dump trucks. The soldiers began to fire as the bulldozer entered the range of their machine guns and rifles, but it was armored by overlapping welded steel plates. The bullets bounced off the advancing earthmover. The defenders lacked one key weapon system — an anti-tank missile that could penetrate the armor of the tracked vehicle.
So while the soldiers kept up a steady volume of fire, they were helpless as the dozer began to remove the concrete barriers that blocked the road between their positions and the row of large armored trucks. One layer of concrete was removed after another until the road was clear.

As Pundits Ponder the 'End of the West'

Let's take a moment to survey the Transatlantic zeitgeist. As any RealClearWorld reader knows, it's not an attractive scene. "Existential" quickly became the most common modifier to describe the European Union's crises after September 2015. Indeed, predictions of the European Union's demise, and descriptions of its stifling irrelevance, are no longer the exception -- they shape the conventional wisdom. The attendant fragmentation of national politics may be a coincidence, or may well vindicate the long-held notion that the European institutions have had some hand in keeping peace on the Continent.
But we're well past that now. To cast mud on long-established alliances has become a trivial habit: Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump singles out Mexico and Japan, while U.S. President Barack Obama uses a major editorial intervention to rail against bandwagoning allies and, shortly following the 70-year anniversary of its addition to the Transatlantic lexicon, to bring into question the usefulness of the so-called Special Relationship between Britain and the United States. RAND finds that Russia, if it so chose, could overwhelm NATO during an incursion into the Baltics. Countries from the United Kingdom to France and Germany are revisiting foreign policy leitmotifs. Elections, across the board, have become frightening affairs, often resulting in an inability to form governments.

And so the commentariat begins to ponder the End of the West. Not in a whisper, but a highly-credentialed roar. Anne Applebaum writes that"we are two or three bad elections away from the end of NATO, the end of the European Union, and maybe the end of the liberal world order as we know it." Der Spiegel heralds Trumpas the most dangerous man in the world, while Nicholas Vinocur envisions, in resigned tones, a Europe left on its own by an election of Trump. Charles Moore says the European Union would be the logical body to step up for an America that has left the West dangerously exposed under Obama's guidance. Too bad, though, says Moore. None of Europe's leaders can lead.
This isn't the space for a deeper philosophical discussion about what "The West" is. For pragmatic purposes, let's look at it from three angles, and peer in at the moment we're living. One angle is as an amalgam of nation-states bound together by some degree of ideological and functional overlap and, at least loosely, by geography. Another angle is the cooperative institutions that bind these states together. Another still is definition via a common adversary, logically one to the east, Russia.
Moscow's bellicosity -- perhaps best illustrated by its swift takeover of Crimea in 2014 -- has stunned the world in recent years. Far more insidious has been the way in which the Kremlin has managed its interest in undermining European unity.
That bellicosity did not come out of nowhere. Flip the map, and it's easy to see why Western lamentations of a revival of Russian power make little sense. Sure, Russia gained Crimea; but it lost Ukraine. Looking back, Moscow has a point when it says that the West ignored its opposition to NATO encroachment in what it considers its sphere of influence. There is a long patchwork of Kremlin protestations on the issue quilting the years between Soviet collapse and Putin's rise. Andrew T. Wolff documents the process well in an article for Chatham House, "The Future of NATO Enlargement."

The Military Sharing Economy

March 7, 2016GermanyNetherlands

Germany and the Netherlands Combine Forces
The soldiers and officers of the Netherlands’ 43rd Mechanized Brigade are getting used to serving under a new commander. In fact, they are getting used to being part of a different army altogether: the German one. This month, the 43rd Mechanized Brigade will permanently join Germany’s First Tank Division. In addition to soldiers, Germany and the Netherlands are sharing tanks, ships, and other military equipment. In doing so, they are pioneering a radical concept: a military sharing economy.

The story begins two years ago, when cuts to military spending in the Netherlands had stripped the country of its last operating tanks (a couple remain in storage). By then, according to data collected by SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the Netherlands’ defense expenditures had dropped from 2.5 percent of GDP in 1990 to 1.2 percent. That left very little funding to buy new—or even maintain existing—tanks and other major pieces of equipment, even though such machinery is a pillar of any country’s armed forces. As Anthony Leuvering, a colonel in the 43rd Mechanized recalled, “our chief of defense said, ‘We need tank capabilities in our toolbox but we don’t have tanks anymore.’” And so, Leuvering said, “We talked to the Bundeswehr.”

Supported by the German government, which has long advocated European military integration, the Bundeswehr quickly agreed to share the tanks belonging to the Bundeswehr’s First Tank Division, which is stationed just under 40 miles from the Dutch border and is tasked with territorial defense of western

The Military Sharing Economy Germany and the Netherlands Combine Forces

March 7, 2016

The soldiers and officers of the Netherlands’ 43rd Mechanized Brigade are getting used to serving under a new commander. In fact, they are getting used to being part of a different army altogether: the German one. This month, the 43rd Mechanized Brigade will permanently join Germany’s First Tank Division. In addition to soldiers, Germany and the Netherlands are sharing tanks, ships, and other military equipment. In doing so, they are pioneering a radical concept: a military sharing economy.
The story begins two years ago, when cuts to military spending in the Netherlands had stripped the country of its last operating tanks (a couple remain in storage). By then, according to data collected by SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the Netherlands’ defense expenditures had dropped from 2.5 percent of GDP in 1990 to 1.2 percent. That left very little funding to buy new—or even maintain existing—tanks and other major pieces of equipment, even though such machinery is a pillar of any country’s armed forces. As Anthony Leuvering, a colonel in the 43rd Mechanized recalled, “our chief of defense said, ‘We need tank capabilities in our toolbox but we don’t have tanks anymore.’” And so, Leuvering said, “We talked to the Bundeswehr.”
Supported by the German government, which has long advocated European military integration, the Bundeswehr quickly agreed to share the tanks belonging to the Bundeswehr’s First Tank Division, which is stationed just under 40 miles from the Dutch border and is tasked with territorial defense of western

Inside “Eligible Receiver”

The NSA’s disturbingly successful hack of the American military. 
During its most sensitive drills, the Red Team worked out of a chamber called the Pit, which was so secret that few people at NSA knew it ex­isted.
Excerpted from Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War by Fred Kaplan. Out now from Simon & Schuster. On Wednesday, March 9, Kaplan will discuss his book in New York; for more information and to RSVP, visit the New America website.
On June 9, 1997, 25 officials of the National Security Agency—members of a security squad known as the “Red Team”—hacked into the computer networks of the Department of Defense, using only commercially available equipment and soft­ware. It was the first high-level exercise testing whether the U.S. military’s leaders, facilities, and global combatant commands were prepared for a cyber attack. And the outcome was alarming.
The simulated hack was the brainchild of the NSA director, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minihan, who, before coming to the agency, had been commander of the Air Force Information Warfare Center in San Antonio, Texas. The center’s tech crews had been detecting frequent hackings of U.S. military computer networks, and had come up with ways to counter them—but few senior officers took notice or cared.
Each year, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff held an exercise called Eligi­ble Receiver—a simulation or war game designed to highlight some threat or opportunity on the horizon. Minihan wanted the next exercise to test the vulnerability of the U.S. military’s networks to a cyber attack. The most dramatic way to do this, he proposed, was to launch a realattack on those networks. He’d heard about small-scale exercises of this sort, against battalions or air wings of the Army or Air Force. In these war games, he’d been told, the hackers always succeeded. The NSA Red Team was part of the Information Assurance Directorate, the defensive side of the agency, stationed in FANEX, a drab brick building out near Friendship Airport, a 20-minute drive from NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland. During its most sensitive drills, the Red Team worked out of a chamber called the Pit, which was so secret that few people at NSA knew it ex­isted, and even they couldn’t enter without first passing through two combination-locked doors. In its workaday duties, the Red Team probed for vulnerabilities in new hardware or software that had been designed for the Defense Department, sometimes for the NSA itself. These systems had to clear a high bar to be deemed secure enough for government purchase and installation. The Red Team’s job was to test that bar.

It took Minihan a year of jumping through the Pentagon bureaucracy’s hoops to get permission to hold the exercise. In particular, the gen­eral counsel needed convincing that it was legal to hack into military computers, even as part of an exercise to test their security. NSA lawyers pointed to a document called National Security Directive 42, signed by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, which expressly allowed such tests, as long as the secretary of defense gave written consent. Secretary William Perry signed the agreement form.
The lawyers placed just one restriction on the exercise: The NSA hackers couldn’t attack American networks with any of their top secret gear; they could use only commercially available equipment and software.
On Feb. 16, 1997, Gen. John Shalikashvili, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued Instruction 3510.01, “No-Notice Interoperability Exercise Program,” authorizing and de­scribing the scenario for Eligible Receiver.
The game laid out a three-phase scenario. In the first, North Korean and Iranian hackers (played by the NSA Red Team) would launch a coordinated attack on the critical infrastructures, especially the power grids and 911 emergency communication lines, of eight American cities—Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Norfolk, St. Louis, Colorado Springs, Tampa, Fayetteville—and the island of Oahu, in Hawaii. (This phase was played as a tabletop game, premised on recent analyses of how easy it might be to disrupt the grid and overload the 911 lines.) The purpose of the attack, in the game’s scenario, was to pressure American political leaders into lifting sanctions that they’d recently imposed on the two countries.