18 March 2016

Divided on the heights

- Holding on to Siachen is not a choice but a compulsion. India should be serious about the responsibility, argues Abhijit Bhattacharyya
Geographically, Siachen is an integral part of Jammu and Kashmir as the "undivided" territory thereof spans from 72.5 degree East to 80.2 degree East longitude (west-east axis) and 37.1 degree North to 32.4 degree North latitude (north-south axis). Today's ground position, however, is that Jammu and Kashmir is a "politically divided" territory and stands as "shared" geography between India and Pakistan. The Indian position, nevertheless, stands on professed political and legal provision, making Jammu and Kashmir one of India's 29 states that constitute the Indian nation as defined, prescribed and described by Article 1 of the Constitution of India. In fact, the accession of Jammu and Kashmir (under which falls Siachen) to the Indian state on October 26, 1947 pre-dates the birth of the Republic of India on January 26, 1950. Thus prima facie, the scenario is this: geographically, Siachen (indisputably) stands within, and hence is part of, Jammu and Kashmir, and the latter is an integral part of the Republic of India. Hence Siachen is part and parcel of India.

Now, what is the exact location and position of Siachen? How does one get there? Theoretically, the access route lies through Drass, Kargil, Saraks, Turtuk (just north-west of Turtuk heights is Gulshan-e-Kabir under Pakistan) and further north to Siachen, which can be approached through one of the most deadly and difficult high altitude terrains of Diskit, Hunder, Sumur and Panamik leading to Siachen. That places Siachen - which is one of the largest glaciers outside of Polar region, with a length of more than 70 kilometre -in eastern Karakoram Himalayas between 35.2 degree North and 35.6 degree North latitude and 76.8 degree East and 77.3 degree East longitude with an elevation ranging between 4,000 metre to more than 7,000 metre above mean sea level. To make things clear further, it must be understood that the Siachen 'valley glacier' is one to eight kilometre wide and is fed by several tributary glaciers, the two most important being Teram Sher and Lolofond. The Nubra river, which constitutes part of the Indus drainage system, has its origins in the Siachen glacier.

Thus the location of Siachen gives it an indisputable and clear-cut position - under legal, geographical, constitutional and bona fide reasons -within the territorial jurisdiction of Jammu and Kashmir, which is one of the 29 states of "India, that is Bharat". Understandably, therefore, the main interest, both tactical and strategic, for a nation like India has to be the spot - read Siachen - that is the highest point where India, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan meet. Hence, when India wrested Siachen on April 13, 1984, Pakistan could not complain. Being used to resorting to unprovoked violence and ceaseless aggression on its neighbour's territory since October 22, 1947 Islamabad, for a change, was paid back in its own coin as India ensconced itself at the advantageous height overlooking adjacent areas in spite of the hazards and weather.

International Amnesia And Case Of Lost Freedom: Tibet And Chinese Occupation – OpEd

The Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau lies between the Himalayan range to the south and the Kunlun Range to the north. Map by Lencer, Wikipedia Commons.
By N. S. Venkataraman March 15, 2016

It is now 57 years since Tibetans revolted against the occupation of Tibet by China and March 10, 1959 is considered the Tibetan uprising day.
After the Chinese forcibly occupied Tibet, claiming it to be part of China and ruthlessly putting down the natives who opposed the Chinese army moving into Tibet to take over the country, this once independent nation is now completely under the Chinese government’s thumb. Now, China has total control of Tibet, making this once independent and peace loving country one of the provinces of China.
The Dalai Lama had to helplessly run away from Tibet and seek asylum in India along with his followers and disciples, when Chinese military entered Tibet. This is now part of history. At that time, while some countries protested and humanists and fair minded citizens around the world severely criticized China for its act of taking over Tibet forcibly, nothing much happened beyond this. Today, Tibet remains as a country in distant memory for the world and as a case study of force and violence succeeding, with the world opinion becoming virtually indifferent and impotent.
While many Tibetans are now living as refugees in different parts of the world and are dreaming about a day when Tibet would become a free country once again, there is no sign that their dream would be realized now or in the immediate future.

With China becoming economically, militarily and industrially strong country, countries including USA and several European nations are keen to maintain strong and positive relationships with China and are looking forward to further promote business and economic opportunities with the rapidly advancing China. None of these countries do anymore think about Tibet and their credentials as advocates of liberty and freedom are certainly under the cloud of doubt now.
Obviously, the world now seems to have reconciled itself to the view that ‘might will only be right’, and the only way of preserving territorial integrity of any country is to make itself militarily strong. Tibet has paid the price for being a country without any army worth its name and for totally devoting itself to philosophy of Buddhism, which advocates peace and harmony as the sole desirable criteria for the humanity.

People around the world, including the ardent admirers of Tibetan culture and philosophy and those who swear for triumph of good over evil, appear to think that Tibet is now part of world history. This is more than evident from the fact that the world media has failed to remember Tibet on March 10, which is the day hailed as the Tibetan Uprising day. No leader of world government including that of USA and India have thought it necessary to greet the Tibetans living in Tibet and in exile around the world and recognize the fact that Tibet is a victim of expansionist philosophy of aggressive neighboring country.
Now it looks that Tibetans can get back Tibet as free country, only if there would be change in the mindset of the rulers in China, who would realize that Tibet has been wronged by China. This is very unlikely as things stand now.

Mother Teresa Was No Saint

Krithika Varagur Associate Editor, What’s Working

On September 4 of this year, Mother Teresa will become Saint Teresa. This is unsurprising; she was beatified in 2003, which is sort of a one-way road to canonization. But it’s the last thing we need. She was no saint.
To canonize Mother Teresa would be to seal the lid on her problematic legacy, which includes forced conversion, questionable relations with dictators, gross mismanagement, and actually, pretty bad medical care. Worst of all, she was the quintessential white person expending her charity on the third world — the entire reason for her public image, and the source of immeasurable scarring to the postcolonial psyche of India and its diaspora.
A 2013 study from the University of Ottawa dispelled the “myth of altruism and generosity” surrounding Mother Teresa, concluding that her hallowed image did not stand up to the facts, and was basically the result of a forceful media campaign from an ailing Catholic Church.
Although she had 517 missions in 100 countries at the time of her death, the study found that hardly anyone who came seeking medical care found it there. Doctors observed unhygienic, “even unfit,” conditions, inadequate food, and no painkillers — not for lack of funding, in which Mother Theresa’s world-famous order was swimming, but what the study authors call her “particular conception of suffering and death.”
“There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion. The world gains much from their suffering,” Mother Teresa once told the unamused Christopher Hitchens.
Even within the bounds of Christian notions of blessed meekness, what kind of perverse logic underlies such thinking?
The answer, unsurprisingly, given the locale of her work, is racist colonialism. Despite the 100 countries’ missions, and her Albanian birthplace, Mother Teresa is of India and India begat Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. And there, she became what the historian Vijay Prakash dubbed “the quintessential image of the white woman in the colonies, working to save the dark bodies from their own temptations and failures. “
Her image is entirely circumscribed by colonial logic: that of the white savior shining a light on the world’s poorest brown people.
Mother Teresa was a martyr — not for India’s and the global South’s poor — but for white, bourgeois guilt. (As Prakash says, it functioned as this instead of, not on top of, a “genuine challenge to those forces that produce and maintain poverty.”)
And how did she even help said brown people? Dubiously if at all. She had a persistent “ulterior motive” to convert some of India’s most vulnerable and sick to Christianity, as the chief of a Hindu nationalist NGO said last year. There are even a number of accounts that she and her nuns tried to baptize the dying.
The cross-examination of the nun’s legacy would seem petty were it not for the Church’s breathless campaign to make her into something more.

Kurosawa’s Japan Revisited


Takashi Shimura as Kanji Watanabe in Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru, 1952Pico IyerTakashi Shimura as Kanji Watanabe in Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru, 1952
Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952) was the first film I saw after I moved to Japan in 1987. A Zen-trained painter from San Francisco, who’d spent fifteen years around Kyoto mastering its classical arts and the graces they stand for, pushed a videotape into his creaking machine the day we met, my first week in the old capital, and urged me to sit still. He’d already spent all day showing me the sights of my new adopted home, and now he might have been sharing with me a guidebook to its heart. We sat for 143 minutes on the tatami mat in his crumbling old wooden house, paper screens around us, and the piercing melancholy of the central story, about a bureaucrat in a dead-end job suddenly realizing he is about to die of stomach cancer, carried me off into what seemed to be a distinctly Japanese sensibility. I’d been trained, after all, by devouring most of Kurosawa’s other films before I arrived, as he was the Japanese filmmaker most accessible to (and in) the West.But when I watched the film again recently, after half a lifetime in Japan, I was taken aback at how very un-Japanese it seemedin the broadness of its satire, in the zaniness of its switches from one genre to another, in the almost violent simplicity of its message and story. The end was more moving than ever, as it famously cuts to the old man, Watanabe, on a swing, waveringly singing “Life is Brief”; twenty-eight years with a Japanese wife helped me to recognize and feel the spirit and charm (as well as the unabashed appetite) of the hero’s young female colleague, who gives the film its moments of sunshine and fresh purpose. I was even able now to notice that, when she greets the central figure in the street with what is translated as “Station Chief,” she is in fact calling out, “Daddy!”
More than that, I could better appreciate with my own mounting years both the piquancy of the premise and the intricate structure that keeps us constantly off-guard, moved to contrast Watanabe’s actual son with the colleague who inherits his vision, or to understand how and why the film begins with its ending, in a sense, and continues long after what might seem its human climax. I could see how the hero does indeed enjoy a kind of rebirth as some girls around him sing “Happy Birthday!,” a mechanical rabbit, of all unlikely things, turning his gaze away from his own predicament and towards all that he can do for unmet children. I loved the way the filmmaker looks so unflinchingly at essential truths, brushing the trivial aside.

An Open Letter to the Next President

By John Mauldin | Mar 14, 2016
“When America closes its doors, so does everybody else.”
  – Jon Huntsman, Jr.
“Globalization and free trade do spur economic growth, and they lead to lower prices on many goods.”

– Robert Reich
As the entire world is painfully aware, it is election year in the United States. I realize the images my non-American friends see may not inspire confidence. Our process is messy in the best of circumstances, and this year we are not at our best.
I have listened to most of the debates. Candidates on both sides of the aisle have made statements that under their presidency such and such a thing would happen. I sometimes wonder where they are getting their advice. Let me be clear: every candidate does this. And yes, some do it more than others. With all the political shooting from the hip that’s going on, I think it might be instructive for us to look at what the leaders, not just of the United States but of the whole world, are facing as they attempt to make decisions today.
I will structure this exercise as an open letter to the presidential candidates, telling them what I think the winner can expect to face in the way of global economic realities on his or her first day in office. These will be highlights, not an in-depth discussion, but I’ve written on these topics extensively over the past year. Let’s jump right in.

An Open Letter to the Next President
Dear Presidential Candidates:
In ten months and four days one of you will wake up as Mr. or Mrs. President. After the fabulous fun of post-inaugural balls (I wonder if I’ll get an invitation after this letter), you will walk into the Oval Office on Saturday, January 22, and launch into your first 90 days in office, during which you will want to deliver on as many of your promises as possible. But instead of shadowboxing with hypothetical futures on a debate stage, you’re going to be up against cold, hard reality.
My suspicion is that six months into your presidency you will begin to wonder why you ever wanted this job, as the gulf deepens and widens between what you wanted to do and what you can do without unintended consequences. To make your job just a little more manageable, what I would like to do is take you around the world and review some of the economic realities faced by our global partners. For many of them, those realities are not pretty. They may be far more limited in what they can do to respond to your proposed agenda than either they or you would like.
We are going to fly, metaphorically speaking, from San Francisco and head west, first to Japan and China, and then on around the world.
A Quick Summary of the Major Problems You Will Be Facing
First, let’s do a quick overflight of the economic problems you will have to deal with in various regions the world.
1. Japan

Japan has run up a debt of almost 250% of GDP, and that monumental debt is growing every year. Japan’s deficit stands at nearly 8% of GDP, the equivalent of a $1.2 trillion deficit in the US. The country’s nominal rate of GDP growth has remained almost flat for 25 years, the result of unrelenting deflation. The Japanese 10-year bond market used to be one of the most liquid in the world. Now, if the Bank of Japan is not in the market, there is literally no trading. If the Bank of Japan were not buying bonds, interest rates would rise precipitously; and the government of Japan would be bankrupt in short order.
In order to avoid a deflationary depression, Japan is monetizing not only its deficit but a great deal of its outstanding debt. This move has of course pushed the Japanese yen down against the dollar – by some 40% in the past few years. The problem is that Japan has no choice but to continue down that path.
As an aside, most mainstream US economists (the very economists you will likely turn to for advice) are telling Japan that it needs to do more quantitative easing, not less. The yen is likely to become markedly weaker on your watch; and, frankly, there is very little you can do about it without sending Japan even further into recession/depression. Such an event in Japan would have serious impacts on global growth and trade.
We’ll get into some details below as to what your options are.

Four Disturbing Scenarios In New National Intelligence Council Report on Global Trends

Intelligence report: 4 not-so-rosy scenarios for the world
Associated Press, March 13, 2016
As a part of its new report on global trends, the National Intelligence Council developed four not-so-rosy scenarios that could become reality given major stresses the world faces during the next 20 years.
—Competition among major international powers sharpens as skittish governments, seeking to maintain relevance at home and protect interests abroad, push to widen their spheres of influence. This increases the chance of conflict, yet might coax major powers to employ confidence-building measures to check aggression. Countries become battlegrounds for proxy wars between world powers, nuclear weapons achieve renewed relevancy and cyberattacks, for instance, blur traditional distinctions between war and peace.
—Ominous climate forecasts, severe weather and outbreaks of disease sharply divide countries and groups over how to respond. Extreme temperature change, rainfall and more tropical storms cause humanitarian disasters, overwhelming relief efforts. Infectious disease epidemics prompt a dramatic drop in travel to large parts of the world. While climate issues might lead to international cooperation, it could also cause discord. A few countries invest in projects such as seawalls or desalination, but most take few, if any, steps.
—Governments have so much trouble coping with economic and political instability that criminal syndicates, extremists, business elites and religious groups — all exploiting evolving technology — assert control over core government functions. They use messaging to gain support. Technology enables people to communicate outside their own borders and traditional government structures. Some authoritarian leaders clamp down on citizens to maintain control, but some are taken down by popular movements.
—Slow-to-no economic growth heightens political volatility across the world, causing some countries to turn inward, take on a defensive posture and shore up borders. Nationalist policies flourish, creating a “meaner and more segmented world.” States that embrace economic and political reforms and pursue emerging industries, such as robotic and biotech manufacturing, are more likely to emerge in a pro-growth position. China’s economic problems are felt worldwide, fostering disorder and instability. Global trade is reduced and high walls are erected to keep out immigrants.

National Intelligence Council global trends report: https://nicglobaltrends.tumblr.com/

* Mike Lofgren introduces us to The American Deep State

Summary: Here is the Forward to Mike Lofgren’s important new book about our Deep State, the center of the New America. The influence of the Deep State affects the daily headlines, yet remains unremarked. Lofgren’s book sketches the big picture of this institution and how it works. His forward is fun to read, like a well-written horror story. Which it is because it’s real. My review will follow later this week.
As the seat of government and location of the headquarters of the armed forces, Washington has always had a large military contingent. Its presence is impossible to ignore. Now that it is regulation to wear camouflage uniforms as ordinary stateside service dress — is the rationale that an ISIS terrorist may emerge from behind the potted palm at the Washington Hilton? — this post-9/11 convention leads to some incongruous Washington scenes.
It has always amused me to see an officer in camouflage dress and desert boots, briefcase in hand, queuing up to board the No. 101 Fairfax Connector bus en route to the Pentagon for grueling duty preparing PowerPoint slides for his general’s budget presentation. A desert camouflage uniform would not render the wearer particularly inconspicuous in an urban setting. Wouldn’t Brooks Brothers be the ultimate stealth clothing on K Street or Pennsylvania Avenue?
However that may be, it is an inescapable fact that Washington is unique among capital cities of the so-called free world in the ubiquity of its military presence. I have never seen anything comparable elsewhere except in East Berlin in 1974 and Moscow in 1979. The extent to which Washington has become a garrison town makes an ironic counterpoint to the widespread myth that the city is some kind of radical-liberal Gomorrah. Its genuine vices are of an altogether different kind.
Beginning in the 1990s, an increasing number of defense contractors, many of whom had been situated in Southern California, began to relocate their headquarters to Washington, D.C., and its suburbs so as to be closer to the political action. Lockheed, a defense and aerospace firm located on the West Coast, moved its headquarters to Bethesda, Maryland, in the D.C. suburbs, when it merged with Martin Marietta in 1995 to form Lockheed Martin. The merger, like those of many other military contractors at the time, should have been a scandal but wasn’t: two years before, at Secretary of Defense William Perry’s urging, Congress passed a provision allowing the merged companies to expense millions of dollars of merger costs on their contracts. (In other words, the taxpayer ended up footing the bill for what should have been in the companies’ business interest to do in the first place.)
Companies like Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics have followed suit in this migration to Beltwayland. Even British contracting giant BAE Systems, Inc., has an imposing satellite office in suburban Virginia, just across the Memorial Bridge from the monuments of Washington.

Obama’s Afghan Dilemma: To Bomb or Not to Bomb

As Kabul’s fragile army struggles to hold the line, will Washington’s warplanes come to the rescue?
The Taliban released a propaganda video in August that showed more than 100 fighters, clutching AK-47 rifles and sitting astride motorcycles, gathered in broad daylight outside the Afghan city of Kunduz to pledge allegiance to the group’s new leader. The scene would have been impossible two years ago, when any crowd of Taliban fighters would have been decimated from the air by U.S. warplanes.

Times have changed. The United States withdrew most of its troops in 2014 and dramatically reduced the number of airstrikes against Taliban targets throughout the country. The footage from Kunduz illustrated how the Taliban has been taking advantage of their new freedom: by conquering the city. The insurgents held Kunduz for two weeks before being pushed out by Afghan and U.S. personnel in October. Still, many officials believe it’s only a matter of time before the Taliban targets the city again.
The Taliban’s growing military might is posing a thorny strategic question for President Barack Obama, who took office promising to end what is now America’s longest war. The U.S. has spent tens of billions of dollars training Afghan security personnel, who have suffered enormous casualties while trying — and failing — to repel the Taliban’s advances in the country’s south, east, and north. That leaves the White House with an unpalatable choice: Keep the stringent rules limiting the numbers of strikes in place and risk seeing the militants continue to gain ground, or allow American pilots to bomb a broader array of targets at the risk of deepening Washington’s combat role in Afghanistan.

Obama's Afghan Dilemma: To Bomb or Not to Bomb
As Kabul's fragile army struggles to hold the line, will Washington's warplanes come to the rescue?
The rules of engagement were sharply curtailed with the formal end of NATO’s combat mission in January 2015. U.S. commanders can call in airstrikes only to protect NATO troops, target al Qaeda militants, or come to the aid of Afghan forces in danger of being overrun by the Taliban or suffering a clear defeat on the ground.
In practice, that meant the U.S. was rarely directly targeting the militants from the air. After U.S. Green Berets and their Afghan allies were ambushed near the town of Marja in Helmand province in January, the Americans called in 12 airstrikes to ward off Taliban attackers to buy time for a rescue force to arrive. And last October, U.S. commandos directed an AC-130 gunship to pound Taliban positions in Kunduz city during intense house-to-house fighting. The crew targeted the wrong building, killing 42 patients and staff at a Doctors Without Borders hospital.


We must support American exceptionalism in every way we can. One of the most important reservoirs and guardians of American exceptionalism is found in the institution, cadets, and alumni of the U.S. Military Academy.
Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from the author’s remarks delivered at the West Point Society of New York on the occasion of Founder’s Day. This is the first in a new special series at War on the Rocks on American exceptionalism.
There was a lot of fuss a few years ago when President Obama said he believed in American exceptionalism, just as he was sure “the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” But for all the fuss, the president’s remarks were symptomatic of a broader dissonance in our society about America’s role in the world.
Consider American presidential politics today. On the right, we see an impulse among some candidates to close our doors and leave the world to fend for itself. On the left, we see an appeal by some to utopian notions of what America is or should be that will end where all utopian notions end. This has happened before. It is what happens when faith in America and its mission in the world begins to wane.
Perhaps we should not be surprised that millions of Americans support these ideas today. They’ve been treated to the worst recession since the 1930s and the worst recovery on record. Our country faces a multitude of problems, ranging from income inequality and troubled race relations to a dysfunctional criminal justice system and, perhaps most depressing, a seemingly gridlocked political process incapable of tackling these and other pervasive challenges. Moreover, in recent years, we have suffered through a string of foreign policy failures that transcend political party. If this domestic and foreign policy record is indicative of America’s exceptionalism, you can forgive many Americans for not embracing it.
American exceptionalism is the idea that America’s egalitarianism, individualism, democracy, laissez-faire approach to business, and commitment to the idea of a republic make it unique. It is the notion that America has a special responsibility to the world — to ensure, as Lincoln put it at Gettysburg, that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” But what happens when that promise seems shakier than ever for so many?
The truth is, American exceptionalism reached its high-water mark 25 years ago with the collapse of the Soviet Union — at the end of 75 years that firmly demonstrated Samuel Huntington’s observation that American primacy is central “to the future of freedom, democracy, open economies, and international order in the world.”

This was clearest after World War II. Out of the conviction that the Soviet Union needed to be contained came the Truman Doctrine. Institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development played a crucial role in ensuring the survival and spread of free markets. The Marshall Plan pumped $13 billion into Western Europe between 1948 and 1952 to rebuild and to win European support for capitalist democracies. In this period, the United States also made tremendous investments of resources and leadership in Japan.
The end of the 1940s saw the Berlin Airlift and NATO’s creation — crucial demonstrations of Western resolve. In 1953, West Point graduate President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech led to the establishment of the International Atomic Energy Agency. In 1958, in response to the Soviet Sputnik launch, came NASA and DARPA, the first of which took us to the moon, the second of which brought us the Internet.
American determination held the line against Communist expansionism in Korea. And although the legacy of Vietnam led to the defeatism of the late 1970s, the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush saw the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was a triumph of deterrence, of economic and cultural efforts around the world, and of a network of institutions that bound us to our allies and our allies to us.


MARCH 16, 2016
Along with other House national security leaders, I have just sent a letter to President Obama expressing our concern for the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan. There is no question that a secure, stable, and sovereign Afghanistan remains in the national security interests of the United States, but President Obama’s foreign policy decisions are undermining that goal. Unfortunately, our military commanders are forced to continue this mission without everything they need to take the fight to the insurgency, and a recklessly fast troop drawdown is placing unnecessary risk on the mission and ultimately threatening the success of Resolute Support.
Consider this: The Taliban control more of Afghanistan today than at any point since 2001. In January, the Long War Journal reported that the Taliban control 40 districts in Afghanistan and contest another 39. In Helmand, where U.S. Marines and our NATO partners fought bravely to wrest control of the province from the Taliban, the Taliban control at least five districts and heavily contest at least another six. That is nearly every district in the province. In the east of Afghanistan , the Islamic State has established a presence of up to 3,000 fighters since the formal end of the U.S. combat mission in late 2014 — a remarkable expansion. And in the country’s north, the Taliban overran and seized the city of Kunduz in September of last year — marking the first time insurgents have seized a major urban area since the 2001 U.S.-led operation.
Over the past year, we have seen many of our hard-fought gains of the past decade across Afghanistan simply disappear.

Fortunately, after much delay, President Obama authorized targeting authority for Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan in January 2016 — allowing our military personnel to strike the enemy decisively and offensively. Since then, scores of Islamic State fighters have been killed. This should have once again proven that nobody can target and destroy the enemy better than the U.S. military when given the authorities to do so. It’s a safe assumption that the Islamic State would never have established a foothold in Afghanistan if commanders weren’t forced by the White House to sit on their hands.

China's New Silk Road Won't Have An Afghan Lane

Guest post written by Arwin Rahi
Mr. Rahi is a former adviser to the Parwan governor in Afghanistan. He is currently an independent researcher and writer.
There has been a growing sense of optimism among Afghans about the New Silk Road, a key part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road initiative. The multi-billion dollar project, financed by the Chinese government, aims to build as well as connect roads, railways and seaports across three continents: Africa, Asia and Europe. It should also expand and improve current oil and gas pipeline infrastructure.
The New Silk Road’s land route would most benefit Afghanistan, a landlocked country that relies on Pakistan and Iran for access to seaports: If the proposed land route passed through Afghanistan, it would directly connect the country to Europe and the Far East.
Unfortunately, present plans bypass the country.

Afghanistan’s serious security challenges
There are legitimate reasons why this is the case, starting with Afghanistan’s serious security challenges. Kidnapping and robbery, for instance, are commonplace on the Kabul-Kandahar highway. Insurgent attacks on the army and police are frequent as well, leaving passengers to wait for several hours until the fighting ends—and often risking their lives in the process.
This danger is not limited to highways. Afghan and foreign workers, including Chinese, have been taken hostage time and time again.
In the wake of growing concerns, the Afghan government has deployed 1,500 policemen to guard Mes Aynak where the Chinese are expected to finally start work in the Aynak mine (it contains an estimated $100 billion worth of copper) after the China Metallurgical Group Corp (MCC) won a contract to extract the metal back in 2007. But is that enough? The Taliban’s presence in provincial Afghanistan is only growing.

China’s growing interest in Central Asia
There are other areas of greater interest to China—ones it is already connected to. Take Central Asia, Afghanistan’s next door neighbor, which already shares 10 border crossings with the country (seven with Kazakhstan, two with Kyrgyzstan and one with Tajikistan).
The Asian giant imports 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas from the region through a 1,830 km pipeline with three lines. Work on a fourth line, with a capacity of 30 million cubic meters per year, is in progress. In 2014, China imported 2% of its crude oil from Kazakhstan. Given China’s demand for energy and Central Asia’s untapped natural resources, increased cooperation between the two is anticipated—and would leave out Afghanistan.

Promised investments in Pakistan
Likewise, China and Pakistan have been directly linked by the Karakoram Highway (KKH) since 1986. This past April, China unveiled its intention to invest $46 billion in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which, along with expanding the current KKH, would create new railways and pipelines. The CPEC would cut the current 12-day journey from the Middle East to China to just 36 hours.
Another investment: China has secured a “40-year management right” of the deep-water seaport it is building at Gwadar in southwestern Pakistan. There’s a chance China will build a naval base there, giving the country direct access to the Indian Ocean and the strategic Strait of Hormuz which sees about 20% of global crude oil every day.

China’s Logistic Hub In Djibouti To Stabilize Region, Protect Interests

Source: Global TimesEditor: Zhang Tao
China’s first overseas logistic base for warships is being built in the East African nation of Djibouti. As bilateral trade with African countries grows, the base will help China better safeguard its national interests and manage the increasing peacekeeping responsibilities it is taking on in the continent. But experts say the base may not be limited to resupplying ships in the future.
About 7,700 kilometers away from Beijing, in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, China’s first overseas installation for naval vessels is under construction.
Scheduled to be completed in 2017, the base is set to resupply Chinese warships, according to government statements.
But despite Beijing’s insistence that the facility will simply help with escort missions, peacekeeping and humanitarian rescues in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia, many have argued this move represents Chinese “military expansion” beyond the Asia-Pacific region.
“Through exaggerating or distorting, they attempt to hype the ‘threat of China’ and tarnish China’s image, so as to suppress China’s efforts to build maritime power,” Li Jie, a Beijing-based maritime expert, told the Global Times.
“The base is far less than a military base in its scale and function,” said Zhang Junshe, a researcher from PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute.
“The base will be a logistic hub for Chinese vessels to get replenishment and temporary rest. It differs from U.S.-style military bases, which have become bridgeheads for the country to easily and quickly wield military deterrence or intervention to other territories,” Li noted.
The Republic of Djibouti, located in a strategically important position between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, hosts the military facilities of several countries, including the U.S., Japan and France, the country’s former colonial ruler. Italy and Spain also have permanent military installations in the country, according to a recent report by Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV.
These countries have stationed a variety of assets in these bases, including personnel, ships, UAVs and surveillance aircraft which are used for anti-terror and anti-piracy operations in Africa and the Middle East.

International obligations
The news that China will build a “military base” in Djibouti was first revealed in May last year, when Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh told AFP that “discussions are ongoing,” and China’s presence would be “welcome.”
Since then, it has aroused wide attention and concern. The U.S. even reportedly protested against it.
“Washington protested against the China-Djibouti pact and expressed concern over China’s plans to build a military base in the Obock region, but to no avail,” according to an article published in April on foreignaffairs.com, a U.S.-based international affairs news portal.


Mar 14, 2016 - John Lawrence

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and the Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute conducted an intensive multi-week planning exercise to frame, design, and evaluate potential courses of action that the United States could pursue to destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) and al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria. ISW and CTP are publishing the findings of this exercise in multiple reports in a series titled U.S Grand Strategy: Destroying ISIS and al Qaeda. The first report – Al Qaeda and ISIS: Existential Threats to the U.S. and Europe -- describes America’s global grand strategic objectives as they relate to the threat from ISIS and al Qaeda. The second – Competing Visions for Syria and Iraq: The Myth of an Anti-ISIS Grand Coalition -- defines American strategic objectives in Iraq and Syria, identifies the minimum necessary conditions for ending the conflicts there, and compares U.S. objectives with those of Iran, Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia in order to understand actual convergences and divergences. The third report -- Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS: Sources of Strength -- assesses the strengths and vulnerabilities of ISIS and al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra to serve as the basis for developing a robust and comprehensive strategy to destroy them. Subsequent reports will provide a detailed assessment of the situation on the ground in Syria and present the planning group’s evaluation of several courses of action. The key points from each reports are below.

Al Qaeda and ISIS: Existential Threats to the U.S. and Europe By Frederick W. Kagan, Kimberly Kagan, Jennifer Cafarella, Harleen Gambhir, and Katherine Zimmerman

-- Salafi-jihadi military organizations, particularly ISIS and al Qaeda, are the greatest threat to the security and values of American and European citizens.-- Syrian al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra poses one of the most significant long-term threats of any Salafi-jihadi group.-- ISIS and al Qaeda are more than terrorist groups; they are insurgencies.-- Current counter-ISIS and al Qaeda policies do not ensure the safety of the American people or the homeland.-- American and Western security requires the elimination of ISIS and al Qaeda regional bases and safe-havens.

One-pager for Al Qaeda and ISIS: Existential Threats to the U.S. and Europe

- See more at: http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/new-report-series-us-grand-strategy-destroying-isis-and-al-qaeda-0#sthash.ih7ZQDI7.dpuf

How Powerful Is Russia’s Military?

After years of post-Soviet neglect, Moscow is overhauling its armed forces in ways that could have regional consequences.
The Russian military suffered years of neglect after the Soviet collapse and no longer casts the shadow of a global superpower. However, the Russian armed forces are in the midst of a historic overhaul with significant consequences for Eurasian politics and security. Russian officials say the reforms are necessary to bring a Cold War-era military into the twenty-first century, but many Western analysts fear they will enable Moscow to pursue a more aggressive foreign policy, often relying on force to coerce its weaker neighbors. Some say Russian interventions in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014—both former Soviet republics seeking closer ties to the West—demonstrate that President Vladimir Putin is prepared to use military force to reestablish Russian hegemony in its near abroad.

What are Russian conventional military capabilities?
Both in terms of troops and weapons, Russian conventional forces dwarf those of its Eastern European and Central Asian neighbors (see Table 1), many of which are relatively weak ex-Soviet republics closely allied with Moscow. Russia has a military pact with Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan through the Collective Security Treaty Organization, formed in 1992. Moscow also stations significant troops in the region: Armenia (3,200), Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (7,000), Moldova’s separatist Transnistria region (1,500), Kyrgyzstan (500), and Tajikistan (5,000).

Table 1

As part of defense reforms, most Russian ground forces are to be professionalized and reorganized into formations of a few thousand troops for low- and medium-intensity conflicts. But for the foreseeable future many will remain one-year conscripts with limited training (military service is compulsory for Russian men aged eighteen to twenty-seven). The Airborne Assault Forces, which comprises about thirty-five thousand troops and whose commander answers directly to Putin, is Russia’s elite crisis-reaction force. A Special Operations Command, also a reserve of Putin, was created in 2013 to manage special operators outside Russian borders.
Moscow is intent on remilitarizing its Arctic territory and is restoring Soviet-era airfields and ports to help protect important hydrocarbon resources and shipping lanes. (Russia has the world’s largest fleet of icebreakers, which are regularly required to navigate these waters.) In late 2013, Putin ordered the creation of a new strategic military command in the Russian Arctic.

Figure 1

* Six Ways The U.S. Can Defeat Putin And Bolster Ukraine

http://www.atlanticcouncil. org/blogs/new-atlanticist/six- ways-the-us-can-defeat-putin- and-bolster-ukraine
The transatlantic community has a significant stake in assuring Ukraine’s trajectory as a modern, democratic, and prosperous European state. A strategy to assist Ukraine in accomplishing that objective must impose greater economic and geopolitical costs on Russia for its aggression, enhance Ukraine’s capacity for self-defense, assist Kyiv’s efforts to reform its political and economic institutions, and integrate the nation into the Euro-Atlantic community. Here’s what that strategy should look like:

1) Increased economic sanctions against Russia: Current economic sanctions imposed on Russia have proven insufficient. For two years, Moscow has refused to withdraw from Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Today’s sanctions may be hurting the Russian economy in the context of low oil prices, but if their intended outcome has been to deter Russian aggression, they have failed by that measure.
The West should target Russia’s vulnerable refinery industry. While Russia is a top producer of oil, its refining capacities are antiquated, have little spare capacity, and are dependent upon Western, particularly US, spare parts. Former Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky proposed that the West impose an embargo of exports to Russia of such equipment, including pumps, compressors, and catalytic agents. Such an embargo would significantly impair a key sector of the Russian economy from which Moscow derives revenues to sustain its military operations, including those conducted against Ukraine.

2) A more robust NATO posture in Central and Eastern Europe: NATO’s response to Russia’s assertive military actions across Central and Eastern Europe remains underwhelming. When Moscow invaded Crimea, it deployed 20-30,000 troops and mobilized over 100,000 on its western frontier. Since then Russia has conducted “snap” exercises in Europe involving 50,000 troops. Western counter-deployments to Central Europe have involved primarily rotational deployments of company level units. Their limited character has been unnerving to our Central European allies and have yielded no constructive change in the operational conduct of Russian forces.
NATO should increase its military presence on its eastern frontiers, including through the establishment of bases in Poland and the Baltic states that feature permanently positioned brigade and battalion level capacities.

3) Expanded Military Assistance to Ukraine: Since Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian military has evolved into a more effective fighting force.
Training and equipment provided by the United States and other nations have been helpful and should be expanded. At the institutional and strategic levels, emphasis should be directed to assisting the Ukrainian defense establishment to improve its personnel structures, logistics systems, medical capacities, intelligence organizations, and command and control systems.
The time is long overdue for the United States and others to grant Ukraine the “lethal defensive equipment” it has requested. Russia’s large-scale “snap” exercises underscore the challenges the Ukrainian military would face should Putin decide to drive deeper into Ukraine, a possibility that cannot be discounted in light of Moscow’s rhetoric and belligerent military posture.
The provision to Kyiv of anti-tank, anti-aircraft, and other weapons would complicate Russian military planning by adding risk and costs to operations against Ukraine. Moreover, the failure of Washington to provide such equipment is not only disillusioning to Ukrainians, it signals a lack of determination by the United States to counter this Russian aggression-particularly when such equipment is shared with US state and non-state partners elsewhere in the world.

Interpreting the Russian Withdrawal from Syria

Posted by: ARON LUND  TUESDAY, MARCH 15, 2016
Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise announcement on March 14: the Russian Air Force will pull out of Syria.
For nearly six months, Russian jets have been providing air support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, helping him stabilize his government after a string ofdefeats in spring 2015. Now, Putin seems to be saying those days are over. But are they really?
Looking more closely at the Russian president’s statement, what was actually said and what might this mean for Syria’s future?

In a now well-publicized meeting at the Kremlin on Monday, Vladimir Putin gathered Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and asked them to report on Russia’s operations in Syria. Their message was that the military operation had worked according to plan and that Russian forces had accomplished great things for the peace process. Quotes below are from a published transcript of the meeting.
Shoigu started off with a string of statistics and names:
The terrorists have been driven out of Latakia, communication has been restored with Aleppo, Palmyra is under siege and combat actions are being continued to liberate it from unlawful armed groups. We have cleared most of the provinces of Hama and Homs, unblocked the Kweires airbase, which was blocked for more than three years, established control over oil and gas fields near Palmyra: three large fields that, as of now, have begun to operate steadily.
Having heard this, the president turned to his foreign minister for a report on the political side of the conflict. Lavrov was no less bullish about his achievements:

We have consistently advocated establishing an intra-Syrian dialogue in accordance with the decisions made in 2012. Our suggestions were met with a lack of will on the part of all our partners working on this process. But since the start of the operations by our Aerospace Forces, the situation began to change.
The initial steps were gradually taken, first based on your talks with US President Barack Obama: the Russian-American group began to prepare a broader process for external support for intra-Syrian talks. An international Syria support group was created, which included all the key players without exception, including regional powers. Agreements on the parameters for the Syrian political process achieved in this group were approved by two UN Security Council resolutions, which confirmed the three-way process of ceasing hostilities, broadening access to humanitarian supplies in previously besieged areas and starting intra-Syrian talks.
Thanks to these decisions, including your latest agreement with President Obama, today intra-Syrian talks between the Government delegation and delegations of multiple opposition groups have finally been launched in Geneva.

Can There Be War Without Soldiers?

The wars of the future will be fought with very different kinds of weapons, on very different kinds of battlefields. And we should be wary of them.
“What if they gave a war, and nobody came?” asked anti-war activists in the 1960s. After a day spent at New America’sSecond Annual Future of War Conference, I think I can answer that question: If they gave a war and nobody came, the war would carry on quite happily without us.
For most of human history, “the three indispensable ‘hardware’ elements of any war” have been “soldiers, weapons, and a battlefield,” observed Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui in their 1999 book, “Unrestricted Warfare.” But as several speakers at the Future of War conference emphasized, many of today’s conflicts don’t require soldiers — or, for that matter, weapons or battlefields. Tomorrow’s wars will require them still less.

The attacks on 9/11 taught us that you don’t need soldiers to launch a war.
The attacks on 9/11 taught us that you don’t need soldiers to launch a war. The al Qaeda operatives who destroyed the Twin Towers and part of the Pentagon weren’t part of any organized military force. They didn’t need “weapons” in any traditional sense, either: They hijacked four civilian planes using nothing more lethal than box cutters. And al Qaeda’s battlefield had no boundaries: It ranged from downtown Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam to New York’s financial district.
The future of war may involve no soldiers, weapons, or battlefields at all. Think of “cyber war”: If you want to wreak havoc on an enemy, all you need is a skilled coder, a half-decent computer, and a working Internet connection. The more grandiose cyber-warriors may aim to sabotage the New York Stock Exchange or take down London’s electrical grid; the more modest may do just as much cumulative damage by hacking automotive computers, smart phones, and “smart homes.”
Meanwhile, developments in robotics and artificial intelligence will render large groups of armed humans less and less important in warfare. Already, the United States is turning to robots and drones to accomplish tasks that just decades ago required humans. We use robots to disarm bombs and check for threats inside buildings; we use drones to monitor substantial swaths of territory, vacuum up electronic communications, and fire missiles at designated targets. Already, military robots and drones are getting smaller, stealthier, hardier, and smarter; within a decade or two (at most), the United States or some other state will develop robots, drones, or other weapons systems capable of operating autonomously in circumstances too challenging for humans to handle.

Advances in biological engineering are poised to further reduce the role of large armies and traditional weapons. As scientists develop a deeper understanding of the genetic markers that make some people more vulnerable to disease than others, doctors are developing personalized medicines: drugs, gene therapies, and other interventions that target specific genetic vulnerabilities. But it’s a two-way street: The same breakthroughs that enable personalized cures will also enable personalized afflictions. Picture a rogue scientist crafting a bio-engineered virus that disabled or killed only when it encountered a specific DNA signature — or the DNA signatures of all the close blood relatives of a political leader. Why bring an army to war when you can simply bring a scientist and a test tube?
Like cyberwarfare, bioweapons don’t need to kill to be effective. Imagine a bio-engineered virus able to degrade cognitive functioning in its targets, causing delusions or hallucinations — or a virus designed to cause sterility in a genetically-related ethnic population.

New Exploit To ‘Hack Android Phones Remotely’ Threatens Millions Of Devices

March 17, 2016 ·
Swati Khandelwal writes on the March 17, 2016 cyber security website, The Hacker News, that “Millions of Android devices are vulnerable to hackers and intelligence agencies once again — Thanks to a newly disclosed Android Stagefright Exploit. Stagefright exploit allows an attacker to hack Android smartphones in ten seconds — just by tricking users into visiting a hacker’s webpage that contains a malicious multimedia file. The team’s exploit works on Android versions 2.2 to 4.0, and 5.0 to 5.1,” — about 95 percent of all Android phones.
“A group of security researchers from [the] Israel-based research firm Northbit, claimed it had successfully exploited the Stagefright bug that was emerged in Android last year; and described as the worst ever discovered,” Ms. Khandelwal wrote. In addition to successfully hacking the Android, the researchers also used this technique to successfully hack “a Samsung Galaxy S5, LG G3, and HTC One,” The Hacker News warns.
“The new Stagefright exploit, dubbed Metaphor, is detailed in a research paper that guides the bad guy, good guy, as well as government spying agencies to build the Stagefright exploit for themselves.” Ms. Khandelwal added.
What Is The Stagefright Bug And Why Do You Have To Worry About It?

“Stagefright is a multimedia playback library, written in C++, built inside the Android operating system to process, record, and play multimedia files, such as videos,” the publication noted. “However, what Zipmperium researchers discovered last year,” Ms. Khandelwal writes, “was this core Android component can be remotely exploited to hijack 95 percent of Android devices — with just a simple, booby-trapped message, or web page. Another critical vulnerability discovered last October in Stagefright, exploited flaws in MP3 and MP4 files, which when opened were capable of remotely executing malicious code on Android devices, and was dubbed Stagefright 2.0.”
The Hacker News reports that Google has released a security update that patches the critical bug, as well as promised regular security updates for Android smartphones.