5 May 2016

Do not ignore the Taliban

May 5, 2016

Reuters“Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz levers remained unpulled last month as the Taliban kicked off the annual spring offensive with an attack in Kabul that killed 37 people.” Residents near the site of attack.

New Delhi should deepen its ties with the government led by Ashraf Ghani as he looks to distance himself from Pakistan. But with the Taliban resurgence, India must hedge all bets

Last week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s 18-month engagement with Pakistan collapsed under the stress of Pakistani recalcitrance, Taliban resurgence, and domestic politics. While the result may be a short-term boost in India-Afghanistan ties, longer-term trends are bleak. No one is fully committed to Afghanistan’s dysfunctional government. Beijing is unwilling to use its leverage over Pakistan, Washington is distracted, while Moscow and Tehran are hedging their bets. The idea of a regional concert of powers to resolve the conflict, widely mooted at the beginning of the Obama administration, is implausible today.

President Ghani’s landmark speech at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) last May seems a long time ago. “The problem, fundamentally, is not about peace with Taliban,” he had said. “The problem is fundamentally about peace between Pakistan and Afghanistan.” This was the premise of his controversial outreach to Pakistan, including a personal trip to Rawalpindi and a bungled agreement between the Afghan and Pakistani spy agencies. Mr. Ghani’s policy was borne not of naivety, but the sober realisation that if Pakistan was the taproot of the insurgency, it would also have to be the locus of diplomacy. The U.S. and China agreed, each eager to stabilise Afghanistan for their own reasons. Last July, Afghan government representatives even met senior Taliban figures in the Pakistani town of Murree, though those talks collapsed after it turned out that their backer, Mullah Omar, had long been a corpse. Even as violence grew regardless, a Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) of the U.S., China, Pakistan and Afghanistan was convened in January 2016 and met four times over the following month.

Taliban on the offensive

* China’s Silky Indian Ocean Plans


China, although an outside power, is seeking to carve out a role for itself in the Indian Ocean region through its Maritime Silk Road initiative. The Maritime Silk Road — along with an overland Silk Road to connect China with Central Asia, the Caspian Sea basin and beyond — bears the imprint of President Xi Jinping, who has articulated a more expansive role for China than any modern Chinese leader other than Mao Zedong.

China’s quiet maneuvering in the Indian Ocean, where it is seeking to challenge America’s sway and chip away at India’s natural-geographic advantage, draws strength from its more assertive push for dominance in the South China Sea — the critical corridor between the Pacific and Indian oceans. With China converting tiny, largely submerged reefs into islands that can host military facilities and personnel, the South China Sea has become pivotal to the contest for influence in the Indian Ocean and the larger Indo-Pacific region.

The dual Silk Road initiatives — also labeled the “One Belt and One Road” by Beijing — are part of Xi’s strategy for China to break out of the East Asia mold and become a more global power, with its clout extending to the Middle East. The projects will enable China to build economic leverage and help pull regional countries closer to its orbit.

'Something Seriously Wrong', MPs Tell Centre In Pathankot Critique: 10 Developments

May 03, 2016

Seven military personnel were killed after terrorists struck the Pathankot Air Base on Jan 2

New Delhi: In a searing critique of security and intelligence gaps that may have contributed to the Pathankot terror attack at the start of this year, a parliamentary panel has said that there is "something seriously wrong with our counter-terror security establishment." 

Here are 10 developments in the story: 

In its report, the cross-party panel of MPs rips into the home ministry while raising questions on India's preparedness against terror attacks. 

Despite "concrete and credible intelligence inputs, the security agencies of our country are (too) ill-prepared to anticipate threats in time and counter them swiftly," the report says. 

It also comments that the "terrorists managed to breach a high security air base and could launch an attack despite an advance alert." 

On January 2, six terrorists who had infiltrated into India through the border entered the high security Pathankot airbase and opened fire. In an operation that lasted nearly three days, seven military personnel were killed. 

How to Encounter Social Terrorism

By Dr Sudhir Hindwan
03 May , 2016

While the country is still trying to comprehend the security dimension of the problem, terrorists have off late started hitting where it matters the most (the social fabric) and it is the biggest strength of a multicultural society. The problem created by shouting anti-India slogans was not merely a problem of sedition but was an outcome of high level meticulous planning of the masterminds as how to dodge the security and intelligence apparatus by creating social unrest among the academicians and students. 

Security and national integrity ought to be rated at the top most priority and should not be discussed in public forum by sometimes the so called self-claimed experts of multidimensional issues. No sweeping comments, no laxity to be allowed as it would only expose the difference of opinion and provide an opportunity to engulf entire country into high tension zone on account of socio-political and economic differentiation.

It is time of an essence and high time we realized that concepts such as nationalism and patriotism are highly sacred and to be given at most importance in nation’s life above everything.

The concept of liberty and its relationship with security and safety appears to in the midst of a major transformation, largely on account of rapidly changing nature of discourse and argumentation.

Inserting PoK into the Kashmir Conundrum

Enwrapped in the conventional atmospherics of cautious optimism at one level and politico-diplomatic acrimony at another, the recent meeting between the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan ended on the well beaten note — Kashmir. Breaking established protocol, Pakistan issued a statement even before the talks concluded, yet again reiterating Kashmir as the core issue by noting that “it was vital to find a just solution to this long standing issue, as per the UN Security Council resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people.”1

India and United States to Deepen Anti-Submarine Warfare Cooperation

May 03, 2016

India and the United States are holding talks on strengthening cooperation on anti-submarine warfare (ASW), Reuters reports. The talks are purportedly focused on devising strategies how to best keep track of the growing number of Chinese submarines making forays into the Indian Ocean.

Neither Indian nor U.S. military officials, however, have officially revealed details of the talks. “These types of basic engagements will be the building blocks for an enduring Navy-to-Navy relationship that we hope will grow over time into a shared ASW capability,” a U.S. Navy official told Reuters.

According to an Indian naval source, this year’s Malabar naval exercise taking place in the northern Philippine Sea in June will allegedly include Indo-U.S. ASW drills. ASW training was also part of the 2015 iteration of the naval exercise, with India and the United States each dispatching one Boeing P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, pledged to deepen Indo-U.S. military ties during Carter’s visit to India last month (See: “India and United States Agree to Deepen Military Ties, Technology Cooperation”). In a joint statement issued during the visit, Carter and Parrikar highlighted the need for navy-to-navy talks on anti-submarine warfare.

One of the most likely areas of Indo-U.S. ASW cooperation is naval aviation.

Submarine lacks key weapon systemsSubmarine lacks key weapon systems

May 3, 2016 

Kalvari, the first of Project-75 Scorpene submarines weighing about 1,600 tonnes, sailed out of Mumbai harbour on Sunday for sea trials.

Sixteen years after the Navy last inducted a submarine, it is set to commission a new line of conventional submarines by year end but for some time they will operate without their crucial weapon systems, torpedoes, procurement of which are yet again caught up in allegations of wrongdoings.

Kalvari, the first of Project-75 Scorpene submarines weighing about 1,600 tonnes, sailed out of Mumbai harbour on Sunday for sea trials and is scheduled to be commissioned into the Navy in September. However, the procurement of heavy weight torpedoes from Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquel of Italy, a subsidiary of defence major Finmeccanica has been stuck due to the VVIP chopper scam and ongoing ban on the company and its subsidiaries. The Navy last inducted a conventional diesel-electric submarine, INS Sindhushastra, procured from Russia in July 2000.

“During the next few months, the submarine will undergo a barrage of sea trials, including surface trials, diving trials, weapon trials, noise trials etc. which would test the submarine to the extremes of its intended operating envelop,” a senior officer said, terming the development a significant moment for the Navy. 

Vigorous tests

‘US nixed India-Pak peace treaty in 1984’

Vikas Datta 
May 3, 2016

New Delhi, May 2 India and Pakistan had agreed on a peace and no-war treaty and were on the verge of signing it in July 1984 before then Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq, who had even dismissed any need to discuss Kashmir, backtracked on the advice of US lawmakers, reveals former Indian Foreign Secretary MK Rasgotra. In his autobiography “A Life in Diplomacy”, Rasgotra, who was Foreign Secretary from 1982 to 1985 and is now in his 90s, recalled that ahead of his visit to Islamabad, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was leaving on a visit to the US, gave him a free hand, telling him, “You know it all and you can talk to them about any subject they want to talk about, including Kashmir and the no-war pact they are so keen on”. She only wanted to know if “there is a grain of sincerity” in General Zia. As Rasgotra called on him at the President’s House in Islamabad, President Zia, with the humility and charm he was known for, was standing in the verandah, close to to where he would get out of the car, and welcomed him with a big hug. During the talks, to India’s willingness to talk about Kashmir, Zia’s response was “noteworthy”. “Rasgotra sahib, what is there to talk about Kashmir? You have Kashmir and we cannot take it.

 I want you and (Pakistani Foreign Secretary) Niaz Naik to work on a treaty of peace and good neighbourliness, including a no-war pact,” he quoted the Pakistani President as saying. He said progress was made in discussions on the agreement, to the extent that in March 1984, Naik proposed that the Indian draft of a treaty of peace and friendship and Pakistan’s draft of a no-war pact should be “merged”. By May 1984, there was “full agreement on all six or seven clauses in the draft treaty’s preamble and on nine of the 11 articles of the treaty’s operative part” and both sides reached an agreement on these two. “Accordingly, Naik announced in the final plenary meeting of the two delegations that on clauses IV and V, he and I had reached an understanding, to which he would obtain the President’s approval on his return from the UAE and we would all meet in Delhi in July to initial or sign the treaty. But the July meeting never took place,” he recalled. According to Rasgotra, there were two reasons why Zia changed his mind, and the primary one was the advice of his American “well-wishers”. “While awaiting the President’s return from the UAE, Naik had telegraphed the text to Foreign Minister Sahabzada Yaqub Khan, who was on a visit to Washington DC. 

Thomas Piketty: 'Indian inequality still hidden'

2 May 2016 

Image copyright AFP Image caption Thomas Piketty is the author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century 

French economist Thomas Piketty says there is still a "huge" gap in data about income tax in India.

Official figures just released show only 1% of Indians paid tax in 2013, while 2% filed a tax return.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that publishing the data was a "big step towards transparency and informed policy-making".

But Mr Piketty told the BBC the data was too thin to draw significant conclusions about levels of inequality.

"Our Govt. has taken the landmark decision of publishing the income tax data. It is a big step towards transparency & informed policy making," Mr Modi wrote on Twitter.

The data has prompted a lively debate about the extent of tax evasion in India - with commentators noting that there were very few tax returns at the highest end of the income spectrum. 

Just six individuals were in the top-earning tax bracket - declaring an average income of $10.4m (£7.1m).

Status Report on the Taliban’s Spring Offensive in Afghanistan

May 3, 2016

Afghanistan: The Annual Spring Offensive So Far

This year’s Taliban “Spring Offensive” officially began on April 12th and accomplished its initial goal of garnering worldwide media attention and lots of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) commentary from media pundits. Best of all the annual celebration of nationwide terror and violence masks what is really going on. Most of the organized violence in Afghanistan is made possible by the drug gangs, who use the Islamic terrorists to keep the government from interfering with drug production and distribution. The drug gangs would prefer to dispense with the Taliban and simply use bribes to keep the security forces out of the way. While that works some of the time it frequently doesn’t because the drugs are generally unpopular in Afghanistan. That is because the availability of cheap opium and heroin has turned 5-10 percent of the population into addicts. So the drug gangs need as many hired guns as they can get. The Taliban have proved to be the largest and most reliable supplier. Without the drug money the Taliban would be a nuisance in the south but nothing capable of grabbing the attention of the national or international media.

The brand of Islam the Taliban represent is alien to Afghanistan and generally despised as an unwelcome foreign (from Saudi Arabia) import. The Saudis were able to install their Wahhabi interpretation of Islam in Afghanistan during the 1980s when millions of Afghans were desperate refugees living in Pakistan. The Saudis brought food, weapons and Wahabbi clergy and teachers. Afghan adults were not impressed by Wahabbism but the kids were impressionable and the Wahabbi religious schools were free and provided food and shelter for orphans as well as poor parents who appreciated the help. This is where the first generation of Taliban came from. They were a minority of a minority (the Pushtun tribes of Kandahar and Helmand) back then and still are. But Taliban leaders needed cash (the Saudis never got along with al Qaeda or the Taliban) and the drug gangs were willing to make deals. The initial 1990s arrangement was that the drug gangs could operate freely anywhere the Taliban were in control as long as they paid a large tax which, then as now, kept the Taliban going. When 2001 came around the Taliban had still not conquered all of Afghanistan and in their desperate efforts to do so had made themselves, and their drug gang allies very unpopular. Currently Afghans know the Taliban could never conquer as much of Afghanistan as they had in the 1990s but because of the need to protect their financiers (the drug gangs) the Taliban violence keeps much of the country in turmoil. Add to this the endemic corruption and the increasing number of educated (or simply the most resourceful and ambitious) Afghans leaving the country you have a national disaster of epic proportions. There are no easy solutions for all this, there never were.

Changing The Rules

The Pakistan Army's Curious Punjab Operation

By Sachchal Ahmad
May 02, 2016

Just hours after a bomb attack on an Easter celebration in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, killed 75 and injured 340, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif ordered “counter-terror” operations throughout the province. Initial reports suggested that the bomber had been a resident of Muzaffargarh District, in the south of Punjab, a part of the country often described as a hotbed of Islamic extremists and militants. So apparently determined was the military in undertaking these operations in Punjab, and frustrated with civilian reticence on the matter, that the army chief even announced that its operations would not be conducted in coordination with civilian law enforcement, as had been proposed prior to the attack. In the face of such pressure, the government quickly acquiesced and ordered the launch of an operation in south Punjab. It seemed as if the army had finally decided to fulfill the long-standing demand for action against militancy and extremism in Punjab, with the Lahore attack providing the catalyst.

However, the very next day Jamat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility and released images of the suicide bomber. The group, based in the Mohmand Agency in Pakistan’s tribal areas, has launched six attacks since December last year. Police also admitted that the original suspect from south Punjab had no link to the explosion. Despite this, the police, intelligence agencies, and armed forces seemingly charged on with raids in Punjab, reportedly arresting 5,221 and killing five in a matter of days.

Rebalance to Asia Led to Drop in Security Assistance for Southeast Asia

In 2011, the Obama administration launched an approach to East Asia called the “rebalance to Asia.” One aspect of the rebalance was supposed to be strengthening security relationships in Southeast Asia, including through bilateral security assistance. Yet an analysis of U.S. security assistance to Southeast Asian nations shows that, in nominal dollars, overall security aid to Southeast Asia fell by 19 percent since 2010, the year before the rebalance was launched. Accounting for inflation, the overall decline in U.S. security assistance to the region would have been even steeper.

Of the ten nations in Southeast Asia, only Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam received larger outlays of U.S. security assistance in 2015 than in 2010, and only Vietnam received increased aid for programs that directly boost military-to-military relations. Much of the assistance to Laos is for demining programs, and the majority of U.S. security assistance to Myanmar was for narcotics control and demining. Assistance to U.S. treaty allies Thailand and the Philippines fell by 79.9 percent and 8.8 percent, respectively, since 2010; assistance to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore—important partners in intelligence sharing, counterterrorism, antipiracy patrols, and other programs—dropped by 51.7 percent, 58.2 percent, and 71.4 percent. Security assistance to tiny, rich Brunei and to Cambodia remained negligible.

Extremist Spike

S. Binodkumar Singh

Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

On April 30, 2016, a Hindu tailor, identified as Nikhil Joardar (50), was hacked to death at his tailoring shop in the Dubail area under Gopalpur upazila (sub-District) of Tangail District. Hours after the incident, Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the killing saying he ‘blasphemed’ against Prophet Muhammad. 

On April 25, 2016, Xulhaz Mannan (35), editor of Roopbaan, Bangladesh’s first ever Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) magazine; and his friend Samir Mahbub Tonoy (25) were hacked to death in their flat in the Kalabagan area in Dhaka city, the national capital. Parvez Mollah (18), a security guard at the building and Mamtaz, an Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) of Police, who tried to nab one of the attackers, were injured in the incident. Witnesses said the attackers used machetes to attack but fired blank shots on their way out chanting Allahu Akbar (God is Great). 

On April 26, 2016, Ansar al-Islam (Sword of Islam), the purported Bangladesh branch of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed responsibility for the twin murders and posted a statement at the Twitter handle @Ansar_Islam_BD, 

Alhamdulillah, By the grace of Almighty Allah, the Mujahidin of Ansar Al-Islam [AQIS, Bangladesh branch] were able to assassin Xulhaz Mannan and his associate Samir Mahbub Tonoy. They were the pioneers of practicing and promoting homosexuality in Bangladesh. They were working day and night to promote homosexuality among the people of this land since 1998 with the help of their masters, the US crusaders and its Indian allies. 

Disturbingly, since the beginning of the 2016, nine intellectuals/ activists/ secularists/ or alleged ‘apostates’/ ‘blasphemers’ (including Joardar, Manan and Tonoy) have been killed across the country by suspected Islamist terrorists. The other six killed are: 

Beijing unveils doctrine to counter U.S. ‘Pivot’

May 3, 2016 

Chinese President, Xi Jinping leaves the podium after giving a speech during the opening ceremony of the foreign ministers' meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Beijing on April 28, 2016. At the conference, Mr. Xi urged participants “to build consensus and step up dialogue” to foster “a security governance model with Asian features.” 

Formal invite to its neighbours in framing a security governance model with "Asian features".

China has announced the failure of the “Rebalance” strategy of the United States, and has invited Asian countries to join Beijing in framing a security governance model with “Asian features”.

China’s formal invite to neighbours to pursue a regional security doctrine that is led by Beijing, and not the United States, came during last week’s foreign ministerial Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in the Chinese capital.

Xi’s call to step up dialogue

China's Political Culture Is Paralyzing Its Economy

May 2, 2016

To foreigners, mainland China can be an anarchistic and chaotic place where the rules, both social and legal, are treated more-or-less like paternal suggestions rather than codes of conduct. One of the most glaring examples of the complete disregard for rules among the Chinese populace is driving. Despite the Road Traffic Safety Laws of the People’s Republic of China being as robust and comprehensive as any developed country, it is not uncommon to see Chinese drivers blatantly, and sometimes aggressively, violating the spirit and intention of the law. Red lights are constantly ignored and lanes are treated more like suggestions. The probability of being caught breaking the law is so incredibly low that it makes perfect sense to disobey the rules.

Even if an individual is caught, it is not impossible to avoid punishment by simply using someone else’s driver’s license. Unfathomable to most foreigners, it is not uncommon to see people selling the use of their driver’s license outside of local police stations. With such lax enforcement and easy avoidance of penalties, it is easy to see that driving in China is a game of brinkmanship: every car jostling to get ahead of another with accidents always imminent. The reason for such disregard for the law is simple: lack of enforcement.

U.S. Credibility in the South China Sea

By William G. Frasure
May 03, 2016

China continues to militarize the South China Sea, with the manifest intention of making its claim of sovereignty thereto impossible to challenge. China has made clear that it does not plan to accept a likely unfavorable decision, forthcoming in a month or so, by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. Moreover, China has so far refused to discuss any sort of multilateral negotiations over the many overlapping, conflicting territorial claims.

Nations who contest China’s claims as violations of their own sovereignty are left having to figure out how to confront China’s increasingly threatening military posture in the South China Sea. Must the Philippines, Vietnam, and other contestants either accede to Chinese sovereignty over the Sea or fight to defend their interests? If, indeed, those are the only options, then the choice seems clear. None of the contesting countries can overcome China’s military might, and they must eventually concede the South China Sea to China and hope for the best. Rather steadily, however, Vietnam and the Philippines have moved beyond that simple choice to another option of greater global significance: strengthening military ties with the United States.

Hush! Tibet Government in Exile Plays Footsie With China

By Yatish Yadav 
01st May 2016

The Dalai Lama 

NEW DELHI:Is the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama cosying up to China, contrary to the public perception? A recent communication reviewed by The Sunday Standard shows that his aides are planning to reach out to the Chinese, which could have seismic effects on India’s interests in the region. At the centre of the controversy is a shadowy power struggle between the two sects—the Geluks and Drukpas—over control of the powerful monasteries in Ladakh.

“We resolved to set up a working committee to implement this project and work closely with Tempa Tsering La from bureau office in Delhi to coordinate with the Chinese Embassy,” it said.

The communication is from Jangchup Choeden, who is the Chairman of Gelugpa Monastic Disciplinary Council and a close aide of the Dalai Lama. Tempa Tsering, a prominent representative of the Dalai Lama in Delhi and a senior member of the Tibetan Government in Exile, is part of a committee to coordinate with the Chinese embassy over a project involving Tibet’s supreme spiritual leader. According to sources, the intended rapprochement with China, if it happens, is meant to tone down the differences between the Dalai Lama and the dragon, and ensure the smooth succession of Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa. His appointment was the only public point of agreement between the Dalai Lama and China. So what is the ‘project’ Tempa Tsering mentions and who all are part of it? The communication reveals that he has managed to convene a meeting led by important Tibetan spiritual leaders close to the Dalai Lama for his health, longevity and success of his mission, not clarified by Jangchup.

Close Aide of Dalai Lama Denies Chinese Whispers in Monastery Land

By Yatish Yadav 
01st May 2016

NEW DELHI: The ‘project’ mentioned in the communication, between Jangchup Choeden, who is the Chairman of Gelugpa Monastic Disciplinary Council and a close aide of the Dalai Lama, seems to suggest ‘offerings in monasteries in Tibet’ but does not elaborate further. The monasteries are involved in a sectarian struggle, involving China. Jangchup’s communication further states, “Yesterday I wrote emails to all other sects of Tibetan Buddhism to welcome them to join this important project.”

Jangchup told The Sunday Standard that he is not aware of any such communication. He denied warming up to China by the Dalai Lama, saying that no member of his team has spoken to Chinese officials. He said he is part of a project for a celebration across Tibet, India and elsewhere.

“On one hand they have been inviting anti-Beijing activists to speak at Dharamshala, but on the other initiate secret talks with the Chinese, which is a serious matter,” sources said.

Sect Conflict Stirs up Power Politics

U.S. Army Is Getting Ready for Great Power War (Think Russia or China)

May 2, 2016 

The Army is developing its weapons, technologies and platforms with a greater emphasis on being ready for great-power, mechanized force-on-force war in order maintain cross-the-board readiness and deter near-peer adversaries from unwanted aggression.

While the service aims to be prepared for any conceivable contingency, to include counterinsurgency, counterterrorism and hybrid-type conflicts, the Army has been shifting its focus from 15-years of counterinsurgency war and pivoting its weapons development toward major-power war.

“We are excellent at counterinsurgency,” Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, Military Deputy, Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview last month. “We’re developing systems to be prepared for the full range of potential conflict.”

As a high-level leader for the Army’s weapons, vehicle and platform developmental efforts, Williamson explained that some technologies are specifically being engineered with a mind toward positioning the service for the prospect of massive great-power conflict; this would include combat with mechanized forces, armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons, helicopter air support and what’s called a Combined Arms Maneuver approach.

Combined Arms Maneuver tactics use a variety of combat assets, such as artillery, infantry and armored vehicles such as tanks, in a synchronized, integrated fashion to overwhelm, confuse and destroy enemies.

The Heirs of Osama bin Laden

By Kamran Bokhari 
May 3, 2016 

A daily explanation of what matters and what doesn't in the world of geopolitics. 

Bin Laden was killed five years ago, but transnational jihadism lives on. 

Summary The threat from transnational jihadism has increased substantially half a decade after U.S. special operations forces killed its principal architect, Osama bin Laden. This speaks volumes about how personalities matter only so much in geopolitics. The Islamic State has exponentially expanded the scope of the war that al-Qaida began in the early 1990s. Eliminating individual leaders can bring about the decline of a group but jihadism is a much broader phenomenon. And it is likely that jihadism will persist long after another group has overshadowed the Islamic State.

Five years ago, U.S. Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden in his hideout in the northwestern Pakistani city of Abbottabad. After a massive 10-year manhunt, the United States finally succeeded in bringing the main figure behind the 9/11 attacks to justice. By the time bin Laden was eliminated, the original al-Qaida organization had been decimated through the capture and killing of a large number of its political and military leaders. The intelligence that emerged out of the raid of bin Laden’s compound provided evidence for an argument that I and other colleagues had been making for many years: bin Laden and his closest associates had traded away operational control of the organization for physical security.

Al-Qaida had long devolved from a centrally controlled organization to a diffused movement where the various regional nodes of the global jihadist network became far more important than the organization’s core. While still providing strategic guidance and inspiration to the wider movement and even plotting attacks against the United States, its Western allies and many Muslim regimes, bin Laden had been irrelevant for years. The day-to-day decisions and operations were carried out by franchise entities and affiliated groups largely based in the Middle East and South Asia. U.S. intelligence had identified the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula as the most dangerous of all the branches, given that it was engaged in plots to attack the continental United States.

Drones and Turkish Artillery Hit ISIS Positions Inside Syria

May 2, 2016

Drones, Turkish artillery hit Islamic State in Syria, 34 dead: military

Shelling by Turkish artillery and drones which took off from southern Turkey struck Islamic State targets in Syria on Sunday, killing 34 militants, the Turkish military said.

It said the strikes, in response to Islamic State rocket attacks which hit the southern Turkish province of Kilis, destroyed six vehicles and five Islamic State gun positions.

The border town of Kilis and surrounding area has been hit frequently by rocket fire from Islamic State-controlled Syrian territory in recent months, killing civilians.

In Sunday’s strikes, Turkish howitzers and multiple rocket launchers first hit Islamic State targets about 12 km (seven miles) south of the border, then four drones that took off from the Incirlik base in southern Turkey destroyed further targets, the military said.Turkey has repeatedly fired back at Islamic State positions under its rules of engagement, but has said it needs greater support from Western allies, citing the difficulty of hitting moving targets with howitzers.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying last week that the United States would deploy a rocket launcher system near the stretch of border that has come under attack. A senior U.S. military official confirmed the matter was under discussion but declined to comment further.

U.S. Says Better Intelligence Has Led to More Killings of Top ISIS Commanders

Paul Sonne and Julian E. Barnes
May 3, 2016

U.S. Cites Better Intelligence for Stepped-Up Airstrikes on Islamic State

The U.S. is increasing the tempo of its airstrikes on Islamic State in Syria as American military personnel on the ground help gather better information about targets to hit, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said Monday, vowing to step up strikes further as more targets become known.

Mr. Carter, the top U.S. defense official, is set to meet Wednesday in Germany with defense ministers from the most active countries in the U.S.-led coalition combating Islamic State. The meeting comes as the Pentagon faces criticism by defense analysts and members of Congress for the speed of its campaign against the extremist group.

Some lawmakers have said the U.S. is conducting too few strikes. Privately, some U.S. allies have also said they would like to see more strikes, arguing potential Islamic State targets should be developed more quickly.

According to Mr. Carter, an increase in airstrikes already has begun and will continue, in part thanks to a recently announced increase in U.S. troops on the ground.

“The air campaign, you see, is increasing the tempo,” Mr. Carter said. “Why? Because we have the opportunity to increase the tempo, because we have better information that allows us to be more effective from the air.”

Exclusive: On the Front Lines Facing ISIS

May 1, 2016

I have written many times in this space on the evolving situation in Iraq regarding the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS). In large part my analysis pieces have been based on the experience gained through my two-plus decades of military service, including four combat deployments (two of which were in Iraq). But for this contemporary situation I have been reliant on reports by journalists on the ground. In the early March, I traveled to Iraq to find out first-hand what the conditions were like in and around the site of the next big fight: the battle for Mosul.

While there I visited four refugee camps, interviewed considerable numbers of displaced persons, met with the commanding general of the Peshmerga in command of troops opposite Mosul, talked with some of his troops, and met with aid workers and journalists from the region. It was an eye-opening visit to say the least.

In some ways I discovered the situation was worse than I’d imagined, the looming fight more complex and multi-layered than I’d imagined, and the brutality of ISIS was even more cruel than i’d heard. But I also discovered pockets of hope and reason for at least some optimism.

The War Delusion

May 2, 2016
Somewhat to my surprise, the decision to go to war in Iraq in 2002 has been a major issue in this year’s race for the White House.

Sen. Bernie Sanders has questioned the judgment of Sec. Hillary Clinton for voting for the war when she was in the Senate.

Donald Trump has used his early opposition to the war as a selling point in his quest for the Republican nomination.

I am now the only Republican remaining in Congress of the six in the House who voted against going to war in Iraq.

It has been both fascinating and surprising to me that what was certainly the most unpopular vote I ever cast has very slowly become possibly the most popular.

The night before that 2002 vote I was told of a poll in my district that showed 74 percent of my constituents supported the war, with 17 percent undecided. Only 9 percent opposed the war.

I had voted for the first Gulf War in 1991 after attending briefings by Gen. Colin Powell, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and other high-ranking officials that made Saddam Hussein sound like the Second Coming of Hitler.

I then watched Hussein’s so-called “elite” troops surrender to CNN camera crews and empty tanks. I realized then that the threat had been greatly exaggerated.

Jordan Feeling Syrian War's Strain

May 2, 2016

Awad Hajjara has known ten tour-guide colleagues that left Jordan in recent years. Many others have given up the profession to take other jobs. In a country where tour-guide licenses take years of study to obtain, it is symbolic of a larger problem. Tourism to this small Middle Eastern country has fallen by eighty percent in recent years, says Hajjara. Since the Arab spring, tourists are reticent to come. Fearful of what is happening in Iraq and Syria, they are staying away, even though Jordan remains a peaceful country with a robust military and strong tradition of stability.

Irbid in northern Jordan is the city center of the second most populous governorate, with around 1.7 million people. Since the Syrian civil war broke out in March of 2011, this city and nearby Ramtha on the border with Syria have been on the frontline of a massive exodus of Syrian refugees from southern Syria. The UNHCR estimates that 642,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan today, but the overall number of Syrians is thought to be around 1.2 million. For a country of 6.7 million Jordanian citizens, this refugee crises has been a transformative experience. Many Jordanians will point out that the country accepted hundreds of thousands of refugees from Iraq during the years of turmoil that began in the 1990s and continue to today. In 1948 Jordan hosted, and then provided citizenship to, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees.


MAY 3, 2016

Weeks later, Washington is still abuzz from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit for the Nuclear Security Summit. It was an opportunity to showcase his once storied personal relationship with President Obama and Turkey’s relations with the United States. For Erdogan, the high-stakes visit was highly anticipated given instability in Turkey and its region.

Spending almost a full-week in Washington, Erdogan’s plan included the Nuclear Security summit, a formal sit-down with Vice President Biden, a public speech at the Brookings Institution, and the opening of the largest Ottoman-style mosque in North America. But other events obscured these highlights. Erdogan’s security detail got rough with press and protestors gathered outside the Brookings event; and Obama’s comments about Erdogan’s leadership dominated the story, at least in Washington. Erdogan certainly left his mark, but given how polarizing his own leadership has become and the nature of the U.S.-Turkish relationship today, perceptions of the trip were widely different in each country.

On the American side, media coverage of Erdogan’s visit focused almost exclusively on points of controversy and disagreement. Starting with an announcement that American personnel were leaving southern Turkey given security concerns, the tone was set and only increased with the size and intensity of the protests against Erdogan in Washington. Outside of the Brookings Institution speech, opposition and pro-Kurdish protestors decried the increasingly nationalist and controlling nature of the AK Party government clashing with Erdogan’s security guards and supporters.


MAY 3, 2016

Editor’s Note: This is adapted from the author’s article in the latest issue of the Journal of Strategic Studies.

Over the past two decades, China, Russia, Iran, and others have developed anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) capabilities such as ballistic and cruise missiles, offensive cyber weapons, electronic warfare, and more. A2/AD capabilities undermine the key foundation of the global liberal order and threaten the U.S. military’s global freedom of access presence across all operating domains: air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace.

In order to overcome or at least mitigate the impending global A2/AD challenge, the U.S. Department of Defense began to roll out its third offset strategy in late 2014. The aim of this offset strategy is to leverage U.S. advantages intechnologies such as big data, stealth, advanced manufacturing (3D printing), robotics, and directed energy, with a view toward sustaining and advancing U.S. military-technological superiority for the 21st century. Arguably, the key driver behind the third offset strategy is Chinese advances in A2/AD capabilities. Strategic developments in the Asia-Pacific region will likely set the pace and evolution of U.S. military-technological innovation for years or even decades to come.

Welcome to the Third Nuclear Age

May 2, 2016 

Dividing historical periods into eras is often a difficult endeavor, if only because contemporaries rarely recognize the age they live in as new or special.

The First Nuclear Age

Few would have anticipated in 1945 that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would herald the beginning of the ascent of nuclear weapons as a central currency of power in the East-West conflict. Instead, U.S. military leaders tended to consider nuclear weapons as a sort of heavily reinforced artillery that helped them "get more bang for their buck." It was only during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 that officials in Washington and Moscow realized that nuclear weapons could well bring about the end of the world. The logic of nuclear deterrence began to take shape: there was no gain—however large—an aggressor could hope for that would compensate the immeasurable damage he would suffer from his enemy's nuclear retaliation. In a nuclear war, there could be no winners, only losers.

The arsenals of nuclear weapons on both sides thus gained the power to exert, through mutual deterrence, a moderating influence on political decisions in the East and in the West. They altered the cost-benefit calculation of a potential aggressor by drastically demonstrating to him the dangers of his actions. Avoiding the use of nuclear weapons therefore became the stated aim of the two superpowers. At the same time, the use of nuclear weapons—and this is one of the fundamental dilemmas—had to be a very real possibility in order to achieve a credible political deterrent. This means that it must be possible to use nuclear weapons in order to prevent them from being used. This inherent contradiction in the concept of nuclear deterrence has always been difficult to explain to the public.

German Armed Forces Taking Part In International Missions

by Felix Richter, Statista.com

-- this post authored by Dyfed Loesche

The German Armed Forces aren't very experienced in being deployed overseas, unlike many other NATO partners' troops.

Countries like the US, UK or France never stopped sending soldiers abroad to fight in foreign countries. Germany, having been responsible for the outbreak and horrors of the Second World War, re-established its armed forces in 1955 under the strict premise of taking on a purely defensive role within NATO.

The end of the Cold War and especially the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s changed this. In 1994 the German Constitutional Court cleared the way for the first ever deployment of German combat troops at scale outside of the NATO's area of operation. German soldiers took part in the peace enforcement and peace keeping missions IFOR and SFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Only after being deployed to Afghanistan in 2002, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and later the international ISAF mission, did the Bundeswehr take on an active combat role abroad. Still, it wasn't until 2010 that the then German Federal Minister of Defense Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg tentatively admitted that German troops were, for the first time in 65 years, fighting a war on foreign soil.