7 April 2016

** New threats rose as U.S. apathy became policy

April 4, 2016

Members of the Chinese team take part in the Open Water competition for pontoon bridge units as part of the International Army Games 2015, in the town of Murom, Russia, August 8, 2015. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev

The 21st century has been marked by two complementary trends in global security: the rise of new and unexpected threats and the return of old ones. Terrorist organizations have adapted modern technology to deadly purpose and paired it with global ambition. Nineteen well-trained individuals killed more Americans on 9/11 than the entire Japanese fleet killed in Pearl Harbor. Our ubiquitous smartphones and social networks turned out to be agnostic tools, serving both good and evil. They are boons for economic empowerment and cultural exchange, but also allow terror movements to recruit internationally, creating a homegrown terror threat that no border wall or refugee ban will prevent.

The old menaces of the 20th century have reappeared in updated forms. Communism as a political ideology is as bankrupt as ever, but the aggressive despotism that enforced it for decades before the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union has returned to the world stage, due largely to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The United States, a global hegemon alternately over-eager or reluctant, has reacted in dramatically inconsistent ways to the new threats while mostly ignoring the resurgence of the old ones.

* Erdoğan’s Not Mad, He's Ruthless

By George Friedman
April 5, 2016

The dynamics of the Turkish president’s visit to the U.S. underscore Turkey’s current geopolitical position.

Summary Washington wants Ankara to lead the fight against the Islamic State, but Turkey is strong enough to keep meddling third parties at bay. Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is focused on domestic problems like curbing political opposition and making sure the Kurds cannot secede.

Yesterday, Erdoğan said that the peace process with the Kurds is over and that Turkey would crush the rebellion. He warned the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that either they surrender or they will be neutralized “one by one," adding that there is no third option. It is interesting that this announcement follows a less than satisfactory meeting in Washington. Erdoğan attended a summit on the nuclear threat in Washington along with 50 other leaders. It would have been normal for a side meeting between Erdoğan and U.S. President Barack Obama to be scheduled. Though no meeting was scheduled, the White House press secretary hinted that an “informal” unscheduled meeting between the two would take place. 

They ended up meeting on March 31, but earlier that day Erdoğan went to the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, to participate in a panel. He was greeted by hostile demonstrators protesting his policies on the media and other issues. Also present, of course, were reporters. As the demonstrators shouted slogans, Turkish security confronted them and in some cases appeared to shove them. The chaos escalated to confrontations with journalists. It was extremely unusual to have a foreign leader’s security detail engaging demonstrators. That is the job of the D.C. Metropolitan Police and the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, which is charged with protecting foreign leaders. The Turkish security officers took the responsibility upon themselves. Unfortunately, as foreign diplomatic personnel, they had no authority to do so. 

* US Still Doesn’t Know Who’s In Charge of What If Massive Cyber Attack Strikes Nation

NOVEMBER 3, 2015

Cyber physical attacks on infrastructure may be an unlikely sneak attack, but if it happens, the chain of command is far from clear. 

The threat of a massive cyber attack on civilian infrastructure, leading to loss of life and perhaps billions in damages, has kept lawmakers on edge since before former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of it back in 2012 (or the fourth Die Hard movie in 2007). Many experts believe that a sneak attack would be highly unlikely. The Department of Homeland Security has the lead in responding to most cyber attacks. But if one were to occur today, DHS and the Defense Department wouldn’t know all the details of who is in charge of what.

Patrick Tucker is technology editor for Defense One. He’s also the author of The Naked Future: What Happens in a World That Anticipates Your Every Move? (Current, 2014). Previously, Tucker was deputy editor for The Futurist for nine years. Tucker has written about emerging technology in Slate, The ... Full Bio

The Department of Defense Cyber Strategy, published in April, carves out a clear role for the military and Cyber Command in responding to any sort of cyber attack of “significant consequence,” supporting DHS.

* Carter Unveils Goldwater Nichols Reform

April 5, 2016 

WASHINGTON — Secretary of Defense Ash Carter wants to clarify the role of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, see service chiefs have a greater hand in acquisition, and winnow the number of four-star billets, all part of a major reform effort to the rules that govern the Pentagon.

Carter’s proposals come under the aegis of reforming the 1986 Goldwater Nichols Act, which gave the Pentagon its modern structure. While the system worked well for a time, both members of Congress and Pentagon leaders have expressed a belief that the system needs to be reworked for the modern battlefield.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Tuesday, Carter made the case for why and how the Goldwater-Nichols legislation should be changed.

“This year, as Goldwater-Nichols turns 30, we can see that the world has changed,” Carter said in his prepared remarks. “Instead of the Cold War and one clear threat, we face a security environment that’s dramatically different from the last quarter-century. It’s time that we consider practical updates to this critical organizational framework, while still preserving its spirit and intent.”

* On Growing Strategists: Beating Back the Credentialists and the Ageists

Posted by Matt Cavanaugh 
Apr 4, 2016

Two recent essays pertaining to the development of military strategists and Army strategic leaders have been lighting up the transom. They’re both well written and well read, but their prescriptions should be taken with a grain of salt. And here is that salt.

Jason Warren’s essay in Parameters, “The Centurion Mindset and the Army’s Strategic Leader Paradigm” calls for the Army to “proliferate officer education programs” in an effort to “ultimately repair strategic capability” in senior leaders. His source of support is a brief historical survey of successful general officers, mostly from the late 19th to mid-20th Century (Schofield, Bliss, MacArthur, Ike). This is a historical call to action for supporting Paul Yingling’s 2007 article, “A Failure in Generalship,” and the resulting prescription can be summed up in one equation: More Degrees = Better Strategy.

Yet credentialism as the solution is, unfortunately, disconnected from the problem. We agree the problem is poor strategic judgment, but it remains to be proven that academic credentials are the solution. Consider that British PM Anthony Eden’s Oxford First in Oriental Studies (and fluency in Farsi and Arabic) didn’t stop him from foolishly trying to occupy Suez in 1956, just as credentials didn’t stop the entire Harvard faculty in the Kennedy/Johnson administrations from gradually dragging us into Vietnam. Alternately, two of our country’s greatest at wielding strategic judgment – Grant and Washington – had little and no formal education. As a sensei-like character on Marvel’s Daredevil show could recently be heard advising, “Smart ain’t in books, kid. Smart is making the right decision at the right time.” The equation reads better this way: Superior Judgment = Better Strategy.

Perhaps we ought to consider judgment tournaments; force senior leaders to actually practice the skill of strategic judgment (modeled after Philip Tetlock’s work with IARPA) as a better way of improving the strategic acumen of our senior leaders. Strategists would benefit from the same.

Does India Need Compulsory Military Training

By Brig Amrit Kapur
05 Apr , 2016

Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names. The modern system of near-universal national conscription for young men dates to the French Revolution in the 1790s, where it became the basis of a very large and powerful military. Most European nations later copied the system in peacetime, so that men at a certain age would serve 1–3 years on active duty and then transfer to the reserve force.

Most European nations later copied the system in peacetime, so that men at a certain age would serve 1–3 years on active duty and then transfer to the reserve force.

In China, the State of Qin instituted universal military service following the registration of every household. This allowed huge armies to be levied, and was instrumental in the creation of the Qin Empire that conquered the whole of China in 221BC.

Why Pakistan Orbited Out of SAARC Satellite Project?

By Radhakrishna Rao
06 Apr , 2016

In a surprising development, Pakistan has decided to opt out of the ambitious South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) satellite project, mooted by India to help the member countries of SAARC block, derive benefits from the application of space technology for the societal benefits. According to media reports, Islamabad conveyed its decision to move out of this satellite project during the recently held meeting of the senior diplomats of the SAARC block at Pokhara in Nepal. In this context, Vikas Swarup, spokesman of India’s External Affairs Ministry says, “Pakistan has decided to opt out of the satellite project. Consequently, there is a proposal to rename the satellite, and the project is likely to be known as South Asia Satellite”. This satellite project happens to be a major initiative by India to boost space cooperation among the south Asian countries.

Significantly, moments after the June 2014 successful launch of India’s four stage trusted space workhorse, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), from the Indian spaceport in Sriharikota island, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing a gathering of Indian space scientists, had called upon them for sharing “the fruits of our technological advancement with those who don’t enjoy the same”. Stretching this logic further, Modi had called upon Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to take up an initiative to develop and deploy a satellite system dedicated to providing a range of services to the neighbouring SAARC countries.

Nuclear Terrorism – and the Nostradamus predicate

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch
06 Apr , 2016

President Obama carries a Hanuman idol in his pocket which he says is for luck. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook recently revealed that Apple’s Steve Jobs had advised him to visit the Hanuman Temple of Kainchi Dham in the Indian State of Uttarakhand. Looks like the West is pretty much enamored with Indian mythology and mystique, albeit with plenty contradictions. For example, ‘Om’ and ‘Mantras’ are ‘heart’ of the Yoga without which full benefit of Yoga cannot be achieved even though practiced.

…Obama still can’t muster wits to talk directly about Pakistan for fear of upsetting his political base…

However, some schools in the US have banned ‘Namaste’ (folding both hands) in yoga owing to complaints that yoga was propagating non-Christian beliefs. In terms of nuclear terrorism, western engagement has hardly gone beyond the imagination of James Bond preventing nuclear holocaust and Hollywood movies with odd city getting nuked, rise of the machines, alien attacks and bizarre stuff like rise of the dead with all its blood and gore. But had Obama and the US administration closely watched the movie Nostradamus and concentrated upon identifying the turbaned fellow with a beard firing nukes on to the US, in all probability they would have arrived at a Pakistani or Pakistani proxy pressing the button decades back, rather than now expressing fears over what may happen. 

Why India should dump FGFA project?

By Subhranil Basu Ray
06 Apr , 2016

Like most other Russian projects the FGFA or the PAK-FA is one which is high on promise but low on delivery. The specs for this aircraft promises a lot in terms of technology where the Russians are known to be lacking in capability and even they are unsure about their capacity to deliver. Lets look at specs of the T-50 aircraft which is available in Wikipedia.

The FGFA is a derivative from the PAK-FA wherein the India specific customizations are sought to be done on the T-50 platform as per IAF’s requirement. So there is no joint development as such.

What the Standing Committee on Defence can do to improve the state of defence preparedness

By Amit Cowshish
Date : 06 Apr , 2016

For the past several years, the Standing Committee on Defence (SCoD), responsible, among other things, for examining the detailed demands for grants presented by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to Parliament, has been berating the ministry for providing inadequate funds to the armed forces, underutilising capital outlays, and mismanaging defence planning, all of which impinge on modernisation and, by implication, on the defence and security of the country.

Mounting voids in military capabilities, dithering on even high profile acquisition programmes such as the MMRCA, and an unprecedented underutilisation of the capital budget in 2015-16 indicate in no uncertain terms that the committee’s admonishments have had little impact. Even the recommendations made by the committee over the years have been of little help because they were either too generic or simply impractical.

Reorganisation of the defence budget this year provides an opportunity to change tack and concentrate on a few specific micro issues that do not require a long run up. Rather than continuing to harp on issues like inadequacy of defence outlays, the committee could actually bring about a tangible improvement in the state of defence preparedness by doing so. There are at least four areas the committee needs to focus on in this regard.

Harvard scholar says the idea of India dates to a much earlier time than the British or the Mughals

It wasn’t just a cluster of regional identities, and it wasn't ethnic or racial, says Diana L Eck, as she talks about her latest book, 'India: A Sacred Geography'.Image credit: Brooks Canaday

Did the British really invent India or did Indians always have a sense that this land was united? It is a question that has puzzled nationalists and historians alike, with ideology often feeding into the answer.

Diana L Eck, a professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at Harvard, wanted to change that. In her newest book India: A Sacred Geography, published in 2012, she turns her attention to how Hindus in India evolved a cultural imagination of a land unified through pilgrimage and myth despite political and regional separations over time. She drew on texts with the dry eye of a scholar, but also travelled on old, arduous pilgrim routes, gathering pamphlets and talking to people about what these stories meant to them.

Eck is perhaps best known for her seminal book Banaras that maps in painstaking detail the myths, rituals and sites of worship in the north Indian city. She began research for her latest book India: A Sacred Geography in the 1980s, when studying Varanasi, before Hindu nationalism had begun to redefine how Hindus looked at sacred spaces. This was in part why she finished it only three decades years later.

Security Trends South Asia » India Defence » India’s Defence Procurement Procedure: Missing the Wood for the Trees

Rahul Bhonsle 
Apr 2, 2016 

India’s Defence Procurement Procedure: Missing the Wood for the Trees

The Ninth iteration of the main parts of the Defence Procurement Procedure 2016 (DPP 2016) for the capital acquisition of weapons and systems for the Indian armed forces was issued without much fanfare after a long period of anticipation on 28 March 2016 at the DefExpo in Goa.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar announced the release and wisely stated that this was available on the Ministry of Defence website rather than as a paper for this would have diverted all eyes at the DefExpo on the document.

Flattering to deceive, the [incomplete] document that has been the longest in making taking almost three years instead of the usual two plus for issue of the next edition, there are few changes from the previous version, DPP 2013.

Some of the main additions include the creation of a new category Buy Indian Design Develop and Manufactured (IDDM) which will be accorded highest priority in acquisitions.

There is however only a subtle variation from this and the Make category which involves prototype development and to an extent designing. There is some tweaking of the percentage of indigenous content in some categories that has been increased from 30 % to 40 %.

Pakistani Army Desperately Wants to Declare Victory and End Its War With the Pakistani Taliban

Bill Roggio
April 5, 2016

Pakistan claims senior TTP commander captured in North Waziristan

The Pakistani military continues to claim fantastic success in Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the offensive in the tribal agency of North Waziristan which began in June 2014. Based on the reporting from Pakistan, it seems the military is eager to declare victory and put an end to Zarb-e-Azb, even though the jihadists networks based there have not been dismantled.

Pakistan’s Army claimed an unlikely kill ratio of 32 to 1 in its “last phase” in the Shawal area of the tribal agency. From Xinhua:

“During last phase of operation in Shawal, 252 terrorists have been killed reportedly 160 were severely injured. In the last two months, valiantly fighting in Shawal, eight soldiers of Pakistan Army embraced Shahadat (martyrdom) while 39 injured,” the army spokesman said.

Additionally, the military said it captured Ahmad Mehsud, who was described as “an important commander of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan,” or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP). Pakistani officials previously claimed Mehsud was based in Afghanistan, but he was captured in the Ramzak area of North Waziristan.

The Pakistani military has claimed that Zarb-e-Azb has targeted all jihadist groups in North Waziristan, including the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group, two powerful Taliban factions that are independent of the TTP. But as the The Long War Journal has reported multiple times, that claim is fiction. The Pakistani military has blatantly ignored the Haqqanis and Bahadar’s group (the so-called “good Taliban” because they don’t overtly challenge the Pakistani state), and only targeted the “bad Taliban” such as the TTP, the defunct Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and al Qaeda.

Pakistani Army Desperately Wants to Declare Victory and End Its War With the Pakistani Taliban

Bill Roggio
April 5, 2016

Pakistan claims senior TTP commander captured in North Waziristan

The Pakistani military continues to claim fantastic success in Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the offensive in the tribal agency of North Waziristan which began in June 2014. Based on the reporting from Pakistan, it seems the military is eager to declare victory and put an end to Zarb-e-Azb, even though the jihadists networks based there have not been dismantled.

Pakistan’s Army claimed an unlikely kill ratio of 32 to 1 in its “last phase” in the Shawal area of the tribal agency. From Xinhua:

“During last phase of operation in Shawal, 252 terrorists have been killed reportedly 160 were severely injured. In the last two months, valiantly fighting in Shawal, eight soldiers of Pakistan Army embraced Shahadat (martyrdom) while 39 injured,” the army spokesman said.

Additionally, the military said it captured Ahmad Mehsud, who was described as “an important commander of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan,” or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP). Pakistani officials previously claimed Mehsud was based in Afghanistan, but he was captured in the Ramzak area of North Waziristan.

Masood Azhar: The man who brought jihad to Britain

Masood Azhar, today the head of one of Pakistan's most violent militant groups, was once the VIP guest of Britain's leading Islamic scholars. Why, asks Innes Bowen.

When one of the world's most important jihadist leaders landed at Heathrow airport on 6 August 1993, a group of Islamic scholars from Britain's largest mosque network was there to welcome him.

Within a few hours of his arrival he was giving the Friday sermon at Madina Mosque in Clapton, east London. His speech on the duty of jihad apparently moved some of the congregation to tears. Next stop - according to a report of the jihadist leader's own magazine - was a reception with a group of Islamic scholars where there was a long discussion on "jihad, its need, training and other related issues".

The visiting preacher was Masood Azhar. Today he is wanted by the Indian authorities following an attack on the Pathankot military base in January this year. In 1993 he was chief organiser of the Pakistani jihadist group Harkat ul Mujahideen.

A BBC investigation has uncovered the details of his tour in an archive of militant group magazines published in Urdu. The contents provide an astounding insight into the way in which hardcore jihadist ideology was promoted in some mainstream UK mosques in the early 1990s - and involved some of Britain's most senior Islamic scholars. Azhar's tour lasted a month and consisted of over 40 speeches.

The Politics of Bangladesh’s Genocide Debate

APRIL 5, 2016

DHAKA, Bangladesh — In 1971, Bengali nationalists and the people of what was then called East Pakistan waged a war of independence against the Pakistani Army. The conflict culminated in the birth of a new nation, Bangladesh. The war, which lasted nine months, was a brutal one: Depending on the source, some 300,000 to three million people were killed, and millions were displaced.

There is no question that there were many atrocities, including rape, deportation and massacres of civilians, carried out by the Pakistani Army, aided at times by pro-Pakistani militias. Some of these included members of the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist party that remains a powerful force in Bangladesh today. There is an academic consensus that this campaign of violence, particularly against the Hindu population, was a genocide.

Crackdown in China: Worse and Worse

Crackdown in China: Worse and Worse 

Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping, right, with Wang Qishan, who has been a major force in the recent crackdown as secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), at the National People’s Congress, Beijing, March 2015

“As a liberal, I no longer feel I have a future in China,” a prominent Chinese think tank head in the process of moving abroad recently lamented in private. Such refrains are all too familiar these days as educated Chinese professionals express growing alarm over their country’s future. Indeed, not since the 1970s when Mao still reigned and the Cultural Revolution still raged has the Chinese leadership been so possessed by Maoist nostalgia and Leninist-style leadership. 

As different leaders have come and gone, China specialists overseas have become accustomed to reading Chinese Communist Party (CCP) tea leaves as oscillating cycles of political “relaxation” and “tightening.” China has long been a one-party Leninist state with extensive censorship and perhaps the largest secret police establishment in the world. But what has been happening lately in Beijing under the leadership of Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping is no such simple fluctuation. It is a fundamental shift in ideological and organizational direction that is beginning to influence both China’s reform agenda and its foreign relations. 

How Iran's Strategic Drift Emboldens Its Enemies

April 6, 2016

Historically, Iran’s military strategy has been defensive, based on deterring potential rivals, developing restraining leverage over enemies, keeping adversaries pinned down in secondary theaters and undermining the will of potential enemies, while attempting to create influence as well as a defense zone that will provide it with strategic depth beyond its borders. The goal of this essay is to consider whether, as a result of the upheaval in the Middle East, Iran has been drawn into a regional policy with new characteristics, and whether its “strategic toolbox” is appropriate for this new policy.

Iran’s Traditional Defense Toolbox

Over the past two centuries, Iran’s policy and military personality was defensive, reflecting two underlying assumptions: that Iran was a victim of third-party aggression, and that such third parties were stronger than Iran. Iran’s military force is structured with this attitude in mind, built from three constituent parts.


APRIL 6, 2016

The Islamic State’s attacks in Paris and Belgium have demonstrated key vulnerabilities in European law enforcement and intelligence agencies. For several years, members of the Europe-based Islamic State network responsible for the attacks had moved through Turkey to join with the group in Syria. From the outset of the Syrian conflict, Turkish–European cooperation on this issue has been poor, with European authorities withholding information about potential fighters over privacy concerns, and Turkish authorities making little effort to prevent cross-border transit to and from Syria until late 2014 — the same time as the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178, which addressed the foreign fighter issue.

To date, much of the attention in the West and Turkey has been on the threat from European fighters, travelling from Europe, through Turkey, and into to Syria — and vice versa. However, Turkey faces risks from Turkish Islamic State fighters, many of whom have spent time in Syria, and have been able to return to cities in Turkey. Islamic State fighters and sympathizers have carried out seven attacks in Turkey since January 2015. The perpetrators of five of these attacks are all linked to one, active Turkish Islamic State cell, previously based in the southeastern town of Adıyaman. This cell operated for close to a year in the city with little interference from the Turkish authorities, despite local residents complaining to police forces that the house was doubling as an ISIL recruitment center. The group’s reported leader, Ilham Balı, reportedly fled to Syria in March 2015 before the start of an internal crackdown on Islamic State networks began inside Turkey.

Syrian Troops Advancing on ISIS-Held Town on Turkish Border

April 5, 2016

Syrian Rebels Advance Against Islamic State Near Turkish Border

AMMAN — Syrian rebel forces closed in on a town near the Turkish border held by Islamic State militants on Tuesday after seizing numerous villages from the group in the area, rebels and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The rebels involved in the offensive include factions fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army that have been supplied with weapons via Turkey. They are advancing towards the IS-held town of al-Rai.

A sustained rebel advance near the Turkish border would erode Islamic State’s last foothold in an area identified by the United States as a priority in the fight against IS.

Rebels who have previously struggled to make sustained gains against IS in the area have mobilized several thousand fighters for the attack, rebel sources said. An alliance of rebel groups formed for the offensive includes the Turkish-backed Sultan Murad and Failaq al Sham groups.

“The battles are continuing … we have been able to liberate several villages very quickly from the Daesh (IS) gangs and God willing will cleanse northern Aleppo,” Abu Yasser, a commander with Failaq al Sham group, speaking to Reuters.

The Observatory said the rebel groups had seized at least 16 villages in an area held by IS for nearly two years.

The Russia-Iran Alliance is Weaker Than You Think

April 5, 2016

The relationship between Russia and Iran has come to the fore because of their coordination on the battlefield in Syria. A recent article in the Daily Beastnoted President Vladimir Putin’s “fondness” for Iran, while another from Al-Monitor argued that cooperation will extend beyond Syria as “Moscow will seek to expand its regional role through coordination with Iran and Hezbollah.” However, Russian-Iranian cooperation is not as close as it appears to be in many arenas, and the relationship has built-in limitations, due to divergences of interest even on issues that are thought to foster cooperation.

The idea of a Russian-Iranian alliance makes sense to many for four main reasons. First, Russia and Iran have a shared interest in disrupting the U.S.-dominated post–Cold War order in the Middle East. Second, the Russians were seen as leaning towards Iran during the nuclear negotiations because they supported Tehran’s nuclear program, by building reactors in Iran and pushing for more favorable terms for sanctions relief during Iran’s negotiations with P5+1. Third, Iranian and Russian interests in Syria have converged into a coordinated military campaign to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Fourth, Russia hopes to exploit newfound economic opportunities in Iran now that sanctions have been lifted. However, a closer look at these supposed convergences of interest indicates that they are plagued with limitations and differences.


APRIL 6, 2016

The recent suicide bombings in Brussels have turned the lion’s share of public discourse, perhaps only briefly, away from the torrid primary elections coverage in the United States. These attacks merely served to underline the threat to the West that the self-declared Islamic State poses. The Brussels attacks represent not just a reaffirmation of ISIL’s ability to strike outside of its typical areas of operation, but also a potential near miss with an even weightier and more transcendent threat, namely the vulnerability of nuclear power plants and other facilities that house fissile materials or materials that emit dangerous amounts of ionizing radiation.

Last month Belgian prosecutors revealed that a video recording, seized in a December 2015 raid on the home of suspected Paris attack accomplice Mohamed Bakkali, featured some 10 hours of covert surveillance footage of a senior employee at the Belgian nuclear research center (SCK CEN) traveling to and from work. Reports since the Brussels attack have stated that the videographers were none other than the El Bakraoui brothers who blew themselves up in Brussels. It is not certain why they were filming the Belgian official, but one plausible theory is that they were preparing to kidnap a family member in order to coerce the official to grant them access to the nuclear facility in the hope of acquiring nuclear or radiological material. Though worrying on its own, the nefarious activity in evidence on the tape occurred against the background of broader concerns about the security of nuclear facilities in Belgium. In 2001, al Qaeda operative Nizar Trabelsi was arrested in the midst of plotting to bomb the Keine Brogel Air Base, a facility thought to have housed U.S. Air Force tactical nuclear weapons at the time. From 2009 to 2012, Ilyass Boughalab, a Belgian national killed fighting with ISIL in Syria in November 2012, was employed and cleared to enter sensitive areas at the Doel nuclear power plant just outside of Antwerp. Then, in August 2014, an act of sabotage likely committed by a facility insider caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage at the same plant and forced a reactor to be shut down for four months. The same facility was illegally overflown by a drone aircraft (whose operator was never caught) the day after being returned to full operation. This nexus of dangers is all the more worrying given that the facilities most threatened were a research facility believed to house significant quantities of fissile materialand a nuclear power plant unusually proximate to a large population center.


APRIL 6, 2016

Recently, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov wrote a lengthy article that attempts to give a historical background for — as well as justification of — Russian actions, from a wider civilizational context. Lavrov, a veteran of word wizardry, is at his best here, driving us through carefully selected phases of Russian history, including the Mongolian invasion, the formation of the Kievan Rus identity, and the defense of the motherland. He mixes Russian-Eurasian identity with a tinge of Lev Gumilyov (a philosopher who is suddenly in vogue in literary discussion circles and foreign policy analysis). In academia and politics, there come phases when civilizational and historical narratives are used to decipher the direction of a great power’s foreign policy. These approaches try to give a sense of understanding to the otherwise opaque geopolitical manipulations and often explain actions on the basis of historical and ideological identity. At the end of the day, however, these are romantic narratives weaved cynically to support rather prosaic realist goals. It would be misguided to accept Lavrov’s article as a window into Russia’s decision-making process.

Russian civilizational exceptionalism

Nuclear nightmares, from bin Laden to Brussels

President Barack Obama, accompanied by, from left, Secretary of State John Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden, and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, speaks during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, Thursday, March 31, 2016.

The fourth and final world summit to keep nukes out of the hands of terrorists wraps up Friday in Washington, D.C. This is the Nuclear Security Summit that President Barack Obama launched in 2010 with the sweeping aim of slashing and securing weapons-usable nuclear material stockpiles scattered in too many places around the world.

We're sure delegates from more than 50 nations are patting themselves on the back for all their progress over the past six years. In 2010, "the task was awesome — and so was the leaders' joint commitment to it," writes Sam Nunn of the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Result: In 2010, 35 nations had weapons-usable materials; now it's down to 24, the NTI reports.

Leaders set out to reduce and secure more than 2,000 metric tons of nuclear materials spread across hundreds of sites. Today, those stockpiles are smaller, but they still hover around the same metric tonnage, Nunn reports, "much of it still too vulnerable to theft."

Europe’s Generational War

Harold James is Professor of History and International Affairs at Princeton University and a senior fellow at the Center for International Governance Innovation. A specialist on German economic history and on globalization, he is the author of The Creation and Destruction of Value: The 

PRINCETON – Throughout the industrialized world, governments are rushing to hand out money to the elderly. Germany’s government has not only reversed an increase in the retirement age intended to make pensions more affordable; it has recently announced a 5% increase in benefits, the largest such rise since 1993 (when, unlike today, Germany was actually experiencing inflation). Poland’s Law and Justice government, in one of its first moves after taking power last year, decreased the pension age and increased payments.

At a time when public budgets are strained, this trend may seem counter-intuitive. And, in fact, the United Kingdom’s government has moved in the opposite direction, cutting disability benefits (though a cabinet minister resigned in protest). But the overarching trend toward increased benefits for the elderly has a simple explanation: politics.

As populations in Europe and Japan age, the demographic pyramid is rapidly inverting – and a war of generations, rather than of classes, is emerging. The war is fought primarily at the ballot box – old people win elections, while young people stay home – and the spoils lie in the national budget, in the balance among education, pension, health-care, and tax regimes. With this clash, the intergenerational pact that long underpinned social and political stability has been broken.

Refugees Expose ‘Rights Groups’

Israel and its supporters have argued for years that many “human rights” organizations are far less concerned with human rights than with pushing a political agenda. But as long as that political agenda consisted mainly of attacking Israel, most Westerners remained convinced that these groups still deserved their credibility and moral haloes. Even initial forays into political issues unconnected with Israel – like Amnesty International’s controversial assertion last year that upholding human rights requires decriminalizing prostitution – didn’t destroy the halo. But by demanding that the European Union accept millions of Middle Eastern migrants rather than returning them to Turkey, these organizations have picked a political fight that millions of Europeans actually care about. And in so doing, they may be dealing their own credibility a long-deserved death blow.

Business Strategy Isn't Military Strategy

April 5, 2016 

Management fads don't win wars. So why do military leaders talk like MBAs?

Caveat emptor.

That’s my advice to military officials beguiled by treatises from the business world, works promising to help them instill total-quality management, oraccelerate learning and adaptation within the services, or do more with less when times are tight. This is no slight. Such authors have something valuable to say about their chosen topic—namely, industry. Such tracts also have something worthwhile to say about that subset of military endeavors that resembles business operations. They fall short, however, when it comes to the hurly-burly of combat.

Warriors inhabit a world starkly different from the mercantile world. Or at least they do so in wartime. Think about it. Efficiency is the watchword for industry chieftains. Same goes for defense firms and government bodies that manufacture hardware and software for the armed forces, or perform upkeep on the widgets once fielded. Nurturing a culture that prizes experimentation and free communication throughout the hierarchy while empowering junior folk is all to the good from an efficiency standpoint. An entrepreneurial ethos is also apt to prove helpful at the margins in times of war, when the ability to improvise on the fly is at a premium.

NSA Says Chinese Hackers Still Going After American Targets

Andrew Blake

April 6, 2016

NSA director: China still hacking U.S., but motive unclear

Hackers in China haven’t retired their assaults on American targets, but U.S. intelligence officials aren’t certain if Beijing has fully breached the terms of a cyber pact reached last year between President Obama and his Chinese counterpart, NSA Director Navy Admiral Mike Rogers testified on Tuesday.

While Mr. Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in September to stop stealing trade secrets from the computer networks of foreign companies, the spy chief said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that U.S. entities are indeed still under attack. Nevertheless, Admiral Rogers told lawmakers that the “jury is still out” with respect to whether China has explicitly broken its promise.

“We continue to see them engaged in activity directed against U.S. companies. The question I think we still need to ask is, is that activity then in turn shared with the Chinese private industry?” Adm. Rogers said during the hearing early Tuesday.

In the wake of the massive U.S. Office of Personnel Management breach that’s been widely blamed on Chinese hackers, officials in Washington had reportedly been weighing whether to impose sanctions against Beijing last year before Mr. Xi visited the White House and agreed to curb attacks aimed at U.S. targets.

“The United States government does not engage in cyber economic espionage for commercial gain, and today I can announce that our two countries have reached a common understanding on a way forward,” Mr. Obama said when he touted the supposed cyber agreement reached between nations.

NSA Must Adapt In Order to Survive, Official

David R. Shedd
April 5, 2016

Opinion: The NSA must adapt to survive the Digital Age

Every US intelligence agency must change with the times to stay relevant. Change is especially urgent as America’s adversaries become more adept at using the digital tools that the global technology revolution has made available within just a few clicks.

So it’s understandable – and admirable – that the Director of the National Security Agency Adm. Mike Rogers has set out to overhaul the agency and ensure it remains the world’s preeminent foreign signals intelligence and information assurance organization in the next decade and beyond.

The effort – known as NSA21 – is the largest agency reorganization since 9/11 and reflects how much the world has changed over the past 15 years. The NSA must adapt and be organized to thwart international terrorism, provide enhanced cybersecurity, offer force protection to our men and women in uniform, and defend our national security communication systems, and enable our strategic weapons with highly sophisticated encoding.

As the NSA21 transformation gets underway, the three major areas of focus are clearly personnel, integration, and innovation.

Improving the capabilities of our signals and cyber personnel through intensive training will ensure the NSA has the premier workforce in this arena. It will also provide a disincentive for NSA personnel to flee the agency for private sector jobs. That’s why a new Directorate of Workforce and Support Activities will be the centerpiece for developing the NSA’s future workforce – whether employees are in uniform or civilians. 

Iran’s asymmetrical warfare: The cyberattack capabilities

2 April 2016

Although, when it comes to cyberattack capabilities, some the most advanced (the top three countries) are reported to be the United States, China, and Russia, however, the Islamic Republic of Iran is also considered one of the top countries in conducting cyberattacks and utilizing cyber technology.

The speedy advancement of Iran’s cyber program is crucial, as it only began few years ago. The Islamic Republic began heavily investing on its social media, Internet and cyber welfare capabilities after the protests which erupted in the 2009 contested election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iranian leaders became cognizant of the significance of social media in galvanizing people and advancing political interests.

Outlets such as Halal Internet, national Internet, mehr (used instead of Youtube), and surveillance programs were increased. Reportedly, Iran obtained advanced surveillance software to monitor the population, mainly from China. The Islamic Republic invested more than $1 billion in cyber infrastructure and technology, as well as recruiting more than 100,000 personnel.

Soon after, in 2012, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the establishment of the Supreme Council on Cyberspace in order to form cyber policies. This Council became an indispensable pillar of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Cops and Iran’s foreign and domestic policies.
Offensive or defensive?

The Pentagon Still Hasn’t Decided Who’s In Charge If America Comes Under Cyberattack

APRIL 4, 2016

Is it NORTHCOM or CYBERCOM? CYBERCOM or the NSA—or both? So many agencies; so little clarity. 

One of the Pentagon’s key missions is to lend a hand—or a drone—during natural disasters or other domestic emergencies. But it is unclear, in the event of of a massive data breach, which element of the Defense Department is in charge of military support, according to Congress’ watchdog agency.

Aliya Sternstein reports on cybersecurity and homeland security systems. She’s covered technology for more than a decade at such publications as National Journal's Technology Daily, Federal Computer Week and Forbes. Before joining Government Executive, Sternstein covered agriculture and derivatives ...Full Bio

In other words: When there is an Ebola virus epidemic, for example, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs steps in to help the civilian government. But it’s not clear what military official should organize forces when there is, for instance, a hospital computer virus unleashed by Iran.

U.S. Northern Command says it is the main Pentagon support arm that fends off foreign hackers in the United States, a position at odds with policies and some top brass who say Cyber Command plays the lead in addressing stateside cyberthreats from abroad when asked.

Joseph W. Kirschbaum, Government Accountability Office director for defense capabilities and management, warned that until the Pentagon “clarifies the roles and responsibilities of its components,” the military “may not be positioned to effectively employ its forces and capabilities to support civil authorities in a cyberincident.” 

In recent years, CYBERCOM and National Security Agency resources have been deployed to deal with privacy breaches at the Office of Personnel Management perpetrated by Chinese hackers, as well as a destructive attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment allegedly orchestrated by North Korea. 

“DOD officials stated that the department had not yet determined the approach it would take to support a civil authority in a cyberincident and, as of January 2016, DOD had not begun efforts to issue or update guidance and did not have an estimate on when the guidance will be finalized,” Kirschbaum said. 

The Pentagon is required by law to develop a plan by next month for CYBERCOM to support civil authorities in the event of a nation-state cyber strike. 

But a NORTHCOM concept plan, which is already Defense secretary-approved, states its commander would coordinate a civilian mission that “may include cyber domain incidents or activities — with other DOD components supporting in conducting the missions,” Kirschbaum said in an audit made public Monday.

At the same time, other guidance directs Cyber Command to be responsible for supporting civil authorities during a cyberincident, the report noted.

Specifically, Robert Salesses, a deputy assistant secretary for homeland defense integration, testified in June 2015CYBERCOM would oversee cyberincident troubleshooting. Likewise, a 2010 formal agreement between DOD and Homeland Security Department names CYBERCOM as the Pentagon component that would respond to a civilian network disaster. 

For its part, Cyber Command says the Defense secretary likely would call on CYBERCOM, not NORTHCOM, to provide help during a civilian cyber emergency.

Northern Command told a different story. As of September 2015, NORTHCOM officials said “their command had not delegated this responsibility to another command.” 

Meanwhile, Pacific Command officials told GAO it would take center stage responding to a cyberincident within its area of responsibility with CYBERCOM playing a supporting role, Kirschbaum said. 

The reasons for the discrepancies in roles and duties are due to the recent emergence of the cyberthreat, according to the report.

NORTHCOM officials said Defense so far has never received a request for assistance from DHS or any lead federal agency for military support, under a civil authority, for a cyberincident. An official within the office of the deputy assistant secretary for cyber policy said the military “expects to receive more requests to support civil authorities in cyberincidents and acknowledged the need to clarify roles and responsibilities in advance of any requests given the growing focus on cybersecurity,” the audit states.

In reaction to a draft audit, the Pentagon on March 14 said it will spell out the officials and components that will aid, as needed, in the event of a U.S. cyber episode.

Defense will release or update guidelines “that clarify DODroles and responsibilities regarding civil support for domestic cyberincidents,” said a response sent by Aaron Hughes, deputy assistant secretary for cyber policy.