15 May 2016

** The Ukrainian Hacker Who Became the FBI’s Best Weapon—And Worst Nightmare

ONE THURSDAY IN January 2001, Maksym Igor Popov, a 20-year-old Ukrainian man, walked nervously through the doors of the United States embassy in London. While Popov could have been mistaken for an exchange student applying for a visa, in truth he was a hacker, part of an Eastern European gang that had been raiding US companies and carrying out extortion and fraud. A wave of such attacks was portending a new kind of cold war, between the US and organized criminals in the former Soviet bloc, and Popov, baby-faced and pudgy, with glasses and a crew cut, was about to become the conflict’s first defector.

Four months of phone calls and two prior embassy visits had led Popov to this point. Now he met with an FBI assistant legal attaché to present his passport and make final arrangements. A short time later, he plowed through the wintry cold of Grosvenor Square to a hotel room the embassy had secured for him. He opened both his laptop and the hotel minibar and read his email while downing tiny bottles of whiskey until he passed out. The next day, January 19, 2001, Popov and an FBI escort boarded a TWA flight to the US.

Popov was nervous but excited. He’d left behind his parents and everything else familiar to him, but in the US he would be more than a dutiful son and student. Popov was also a wanted man involved in international intrigue, like a character in one of the cyberpunk novels he loved. Now he would reinvent himself by selling his computer security expertise to the government for a decent salary, then transition to an Internet startup and make himself wealthy.

*The Value of Special Operations Forces

MAY 12, 2016 

Last week marked the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) action that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The publicly acknowledged raid highlighted the prominent role special operations forces have played in the ongoing war against terror.

More recently, U.S. SOF have served on the front lines in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS). Raids conducted by SOF in Iraq have resulted in the killing or capture of several leading ISIS figures, including finance minister Abu Sayyaf, second in command Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Mustafa al-Qaduli, and chemical weapons chief, Sleiman Daoud al-Afari. Such efforts, however, do not come without costs as demonstrated by the deaths of U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Keating IV in Iraq last week and of U.S. Green Beret, Staff Sergeant Matthew McClintock, in Afghanistan in January.

On April 25th, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered an additional 250 SOF troops to Syria to help in the battle against ISIS, bringing the total number of Special Operations Forces in Syria to approximately 300. This comes on the heels of Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s announcement of an additional 200 special operators sent to Iraq.

These troops are part of a larger deployment of SOF across the Middle East and Africa. In October, President Obama ordered 300 SOF troops to Cameroon to work with West African soldiers fighting Boko Haram, a Nigerian terrorist group with ties to ISIS.

Can India Counter China’s Submarine Force? – Analysis

By Pushan Das*
MAY 13, 2016

Last week, India’s first conventional submarine in over a decade and a half — the INS Kalvari — finally began sea trials, amid reports of Indo-US cooperation in tracking Chinese submarine activity in the region. As sightings of Chinese submarines become more frequent in the Indian Ocean region, the Indian Navy is looking at innovative ways to gain an edge in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities. Can the Indian Navy effectively counter a modern Chinese submarine force, which is primarily optimized for regional anti-surface warfare missions near major sea lines of communication in the Indian Ocean?

India’s expenditure on defence acquisition has remained largely static in real terms in recent years, resulting in constraints on not just the navy but the armed forces in general. The defence outlay for fiscal year 2016/17 was INR 2.49 trillion (USD 36.63 billion), but according to IHS Jane’s 360, this was counterbalanced by rising inflation, and weakening of the Indian rupee against the U.S. dollar over the past two years. Furthermore, the force posture and modernization agendas of the Indian armed forces under the continued broad influence of a “two-front war” construct have left the Indian Navy with a mere 16 percent of the defense budget (excluding defense pensions). This limits the navy’s capacity to address increasing diffusion of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN)’s capabilities in the region.

The commissioning of the INS Kalvari, first of six indigenously-built French Scorpene-class submarines, should be a shot in the arm for the navy’s ageing and dwindling submarine fleet. However, the submarine will be inducted sans its primary weapon: torpedoes. The navy plans to buy Black Shark torpedoes from a subsidiary of Italian defense big wig Finmeccanica. But the company is currently embroiled in a helicopter bribery scam in India that will create further delays in acquisition, leaving the weapons platforms ineffective for the near future. Given how long submarine building takes, the follow-on program for Project-75 I submarines is probably more than a decade away, considering the Ministry of Defence is yet to issue a Request for Proposal.

Winds Of Change In India’s States – Analysis

The five on-going state elections in India hint at a shift away from old established players who have failed to recognise the dreams of the youth. This is part of a global trend, from the Arab upheavals, to Hong Kong’s Umbrella protests, to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the U.S.

Five major state elections are on-going in India. West Bengal and Assam in the east, and Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in the south. These states are distinguished from their other counterparts in India by the presence of a strong regional culture that supercedes the national culture. They are dominated by regional political parties that supercede the presence of national political parties in their states. All are likely to see upheaval in their cozy existence – some more than others – come May 19 when election results are declared. This has implications for India as a country, and its foreign policy.

The most interesting states by far are West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. Both are in the grip of two-party dominance for the last four decades or more. The single-party grip of the Left in Bengal has been loosened by the determination of Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress, so now instead of one party, Bengal has two, but the street level tactics are not so different. Tamil Nadu has been ruled, in turn, by the Dravidian parties of the DMK run by Karunanidhi and his family, and AIDMK run by Jayalalithaa and her bureaucrats and cronies.

Why Pakistan Won't Go After Afghan Taliban

Ayesha Tanzeem
May 12, 2016 

Voice of America

Pakistan is hesitant to take action against the Afghan Taliban on its soil because of concerns the group will re-direct its violence against Pakistan and Afghan intelligence will support it, a senior Pakistani official said.

“We have to think twice before taking action. Anybody we take action against is immediately supported from the other side,” the official told VOA on the condition of anonymity. 

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani recently demanded that Pakistan either take military action against Taliban commanders on its soil or arrest them and hand them over to Kabul. 

Hiding in Afghanistan

Pakistan has often complained that when it launched military operations in Swat and South Waziristan in 2009, militants belonging to Pakistani Taliban took shelter in Afghanistan and started using it as a base, with the help of Afghan intelligence, to carry out operations against Pakistan.

​​As recently as the start of the current operation in North Waziristan in 2014, the Pakistani official said, the Afghan government issued refugee cards to militants who escaped to the other side. 

Time to Put the Squeeze on Pakistan

MAY 12, 2016

Nearly 15 years after 9/11, the war in Afghanistan is raging and Pakistandeserves much of the blame. It remains a duplicitous and dangerous partner for the United States and Afghanistan, despite $33 billion in American aid and repeated attempts to reset relations on a more constructive course.

In coming weeks, Gen. John Nicholson Jr., the new American commander in Afghanistan, will present his assessment of the war. It’s likely to be bleak and may question the wisdom of President Obama’s goal of cutting the American force of 10,000 troops to 5,500 by the end of the year. The truth is, regardless of troop levels, the only hope for long-term peace is negotiations with some factions of the Taliban. The key to that is Pakistan.

Pakistan’s powerful army and intelligence services have for years given support to the Taliban and the Haqqani terrorist network and relied on them to protect Pakistani interests in Afghanistan and prevent India from increasing its influence there. Under American pressure, the Pakistan Army recently waged a military campaign against the Taliban in the ungoverned border region. But the Haqqanis still operate in relative safety in Pakistan. Some experts say the army has helped engineer the integration of the Haqqanis into the Taliban leadership.

Saudi Arabia's McKinsey reshuffle

May 11, 2016 
Saudi Arabians woke up over the weekend to a once-in-a-decade cabinet reshuffle. Octogenarian oil minister Ali al-Naimi, who has been in charge of the Kingdom’s energy policy since 1995, was replacedby Khaled al-Falih, who is to head the newly created Energy, Industry, and Natural Resources Ministry. Majed al-Qusaibi was named head of the newly created Commerce and Investment Ministry. Finally, Ahmed al-Kholifey was made governor of the Saudi Arabia’s Central Bank (SAMA). It may come as a surprise to many Saudis that the origin of this reshuffle—and indeed the Kingdom’s new economic direction—finds its impetus in a report by the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
A man with a plan

Saudi Arabia has been struggling to deal with the impact of lower oil prices. After years of recording budget surpluses, the government has seen its budgetary deficit grow to 15 percent of GDP. Lower oil prices—coupled with tensions with regional rival Iran over Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon—have put the Kingdom’s finances under pressure. Since oil prices began to plummet, Saudi Arabia’s ever-ambitious Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been spearheading an ambitious reform initiative that seeks to diversify the Kingdom’s economy away from oil. 
Dubbed “Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030,” the prince says that the new economic blueprint will increase the role of the private sector from 40 percent to 60 percent, reduce unemployment from 11 percent to 7.6 percent, and grow non-oil income exponentially. This is to be financed by the partial privatization of the Kingdom’s oil behemoth, Aramco. 

Beijing Vows to Increase South China Sea Defenses, Calls U.S. ‘Greatest Threat’ in Region

May 11, 2016

People’s Liberation Army troops patrol an island in the South China Sea. PLA Photo

Chinese officials took a rhetorical hard line this week calling U.S. military actions in the South China Sea the “greatest threat” to stability in the region and vowed to increase its own military presence in the region, according to a Wednesday statement from the Chinese military.

“China will intensify sea and air patrol and enhance construction of defense capabilities in the area as needed, firmly safeguard national sovereignty and security and resolutely maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea,” read a Wednesday statement from the Ministry of National Defense.

The statement follows a Tuesday U.S. freedom of navigation operation in which a U.S. destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of a Chinese controlled installation in the Spratly Island chain.

USS William P. Lawrence (DDG-110) conducted an innocent passage past Fiery Cross Reef, a Chinese-controlled artificial island — also claimed by Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam, according to the Pentagon.

How America Picks Its Next Move in the South China Sea

May 11, 2016

On May 10, 2016, the USS William P. Lawrence conducted the United States’ third recent South China Sea freedom of navigation operation (FONOP). Many in Washington had been expecting a FONOP for several weeks, because the last FONOP was over three months ago and a defense official previously committed to conduct two such operations per quarter. Reports suggested that a FONOP was rescheduled last month for unknown reasons, so an operation appeared overdue.

Nevertheless, the FONOP surprised many observers by targeting Fiery Cross Reef. Both of the previous FONOPs were conducted as innocent passages because they were directed against features that are entitled to territorial seas under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Thefirst FONOP was conducted near Subi Reef, which is below water at high tide, but is within twelve nautical miles of a feature that by its proximity provides Subi Reef with a territorial sea. The second FONOP was carried out near Triton Island, which is above water at high-tide and therefore merits its own territorial sea. As a result, U.S. Navy vessels had to transit “innocently” through these features’ territorial seas without maneuvering or conducting military operations.

China’s ‘Guam Killers’ Threaten U.S. Anchor Base in Pacific

MAY 11, 2016 

Advances in Chinese missile technology are putting the big American base, formerly a sanctuary, in range of attacks. 

Long-range Chinese missiles are becoming an increasingly acute threat to U.S. military forces on Guam, the island anchor of the American strategic position in the Pacific, according to a new report.

While the weapons probably don’t represent an immediate direct threat, continued advances in range and precision could put the still-expanding U.S. bases on Guam in China’s crosshairs in the event of a big conflict in Asia.

The report, prepared by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission and released Tuesday, highlighted advances Beijing’s military has made in bolstering its ability to push U.S. forces farther away from Chinese shores. Those advances include new kinds of ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as ships, subs, and bombers that can launch them. The weapons in the Chinese quiver, according to the report, can easily reach Guam, the western-most U.S. territory and home to a naval base, an air base, and regionwide fuel and ammunition depots.

“China’s commitment to continuing to modernize its strike capabilities indicates the risk will likely grow going forward,” the report noted.

China’s “Guam Killer” Missiles

Keith Johnson
May 12, 2016

China’s ‘Guam Killers’ Threaten U.S. Anchor Base in Pacific

Long-range Chinese missiles are becoming an increasingly acute threat to U.S. military forces on Guam, the island anchor of the American strategic position in the Pacific, according to a new report.

While the weapons probably don’t represent an immediate direct threat, continued advances in range and precision could put the still-expanding U.S. bases on Guam in China’s crosshairs in the event of a big conflict in Asia.

The report, prepared by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission and released Tuesday, highlighted advances Beijing’s military has made in bolstering its ability to push U.S. forces farther away from Chinese shores. Those advances include new kinds of ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as ships, subs, and bombers that can launch them. The weapons in the Chinese quiver, according to the report, can easily reach Guam, the western-most U.S. territory and home to a naval base, an air base, and regionwide fuel and ammunition depots.

“China’s commitment to continuing to modernize its strike capabilities indicates the risk will likely grow going forward,” the report noted.

Defense experts stress that rapidly improving Chinese strike capabilities pose a particular risk to the Guam garrison, which has been steadily expanded in recent years to give the U.S. military a stand-off base in the Pacific that would be less vulnerable than bases on Okinawa.

China Building Missiles That Are Targeted on Guam

Bill Gertz
May 12, 2016

China Building Missiles to Strike Guam

China is building up intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles that pose a growing threat to Guam, the strategic Pacific island that is central to the U.S. military pivot to Asia, according to a congressional report made public Tuesday.

Six different missiles capable of reaching Guam from China are deployed or in late stages of development, says the report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

They include the DF-26 intermediate-range missile that Beijing unveiled during a recent military parade, and dubbed the “Guam-killer,” that can be armed with both nuclear and conventional warheads.

“The DF-26 is China’s first conventionally-armed IRBM and first conventionally-armed ballistic missile capable of reaching Guam,” the report said, noting that its inclusion in a September 2015 military parade in Beijing “indicates it has likely been deployed as an operational weapon.”

The report put the risk of a Chinese attack on Guam as low.

The Concept Of Self-Defense In International Law And South China Sea – Analysis

By Mary Fides A. Quintos*
MAY 13, 2016

Explaining Chinese actions in the Woody Island in the Paracels, on February 17, 2016, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that the deployment of surface-to-air missile launchers as well as a radar system is a limited but necessary national defense facility for the exercise of its rights to self-defense under international law.

The notion of self-defense arguably is highly subjective. Legal scholars contend that there is no precise guideline on the inherent right to self-defense in case of an armed attack under Article 51 of the UN Charter. Anticipatory self-defense as recognized in customary international law is the use of force even before an actual attack. It has a set of preconditions which include necessity and proportionality to the imminent threat, which can also be de- pendent on value judgment.1 A state arming itself could be in preparation for self-defense either in anticipation of or following an armed attack.

In the current situation in the South China Sea, there are states that are defending their right to freedom of navigation on one hand, and China defending its claimed territories on the other hand. When there is a mutual perception of threat, a common interpretation of the rights under international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is imperative.


MAY 13, 2016

There is a due going on in Turkey’s southern province of Kilis. Since the beginning of the year, forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have fired katyusha rockets into KilisThe Turkish Armed Forces (Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri, TSK) have responded with artillery fire and airstrikes, reportedly killing at least 862 ISIL fighters this year. Still, rockets have landed in Kilis every day in May. According to a combination of data from Metin Gurcan and Aaron Stein, as of May 8, 21 people have been killed and at least 88 wounded on the Turkish side of the border this year. There is growing anger at the local and national government over the disruption to daily life. Simultaneously, ISIL released a statement that it will soon show the consequences for Turkish state actions in a video featuring a TSK soldier captured in July 2015. Both sides appear to be escalating their reactions, culminating on the night of May 8, with the Turkish military for the first time announcing it had conducted a ground incursion into Syria. According to the pro-government daily Yeni Şafak, 15 to 20 Turkish special forces units entered ISIL-controlled territory to target rocket launchers. The raid was followed by airstrikes from coalition forces and with the knowledge of the United States and Russia.

Why is ISIL picking a fight with Turkey? Does ISIL see its actions as a response to Turkish fire support to opposition forces fighting in northern Aleppo? Or are they a deliberate attempt to force an already strained Turkish military into a more involved and bloodier intervention in Syria? ISIL’s most recent propaganda directed at a Turkish audience may provide a clue to its strategic goals toward Turkey.

ISIL’s Propaganda on Turkey

What is the Arabic for democracy?

14th 2016

“THE REVOLUTION WAS for nothing. We changed one family of thieves for many families of thieves. This country depends on tourism. Now there are no tourists.” Such is the harsh judgment of one stallholder on Avenue Habib Bourguiba in Tunis, scene of many protests during the 2011 revolution.

On the face of it, Tunisia has made an admirable transition to democracy. Its political parties have kept the consensus for pluralism, contested two rounds of elections and abided by the result. But the economy has languished, and protests are simmering once more in the deprived interior of the country. To an extent, Tunisia has been unlucky. It is feeling the instability next door in Libya: migrant workers have lost their jobs there, while the all-important tourism industry has been ruined by repeated terrorist attacks. An attempt in March by Islamic State to seize the town of Ben Guerdane, close to the Libyan border, rattled the country. But the coalition is fractious. It is struggling to enact economic reforms. And the ruling party, Nidaa Tounes, has split after little more than a year in power. In part this is because of the return of a bad old habit: President Beji Caid Essebsi seems to be trying to install his son, Hafedh, as his political heir.

Still, Tunisia counts as success compared with the mess in other countries that cast off their leaders in 2011. For all the disappointment and sorrow in the years after the Arab uprisings, it is difficult to imagine the region reverting to the immobility of the decades before 2011. Authoritarianism is back, but many states are too weak and fragmented, and access to information too ubiquitous, for it to go unchallenged for long.

U.S. military operations in Iraq expand on paper, but not on the ground

May 12, 2016

Nearly a month after Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced plans to expand the U.S. military mission in Iraq, little additional combat power has reached the front lines outside Mosul where the Iraqi army has been slow to reclaim ground from well entrenched Islamic State militants.

Those plans, announced in April, authorized the deployment of several American "enablers," including more than 200 additional troops and the addition of combat advisers within the Iraqi army's combat brigades and battalions. They also included an offer of U.S. attack helicopters to provide close air support for Iraqi ground forces.

However, the number of U.S. troops in Iraq has declined slightly since then. American military advisers are not yet working at the brigade or battalion levels. And officials won't say whether any of the U.S. Army's AH-64 Apache helicopters in Iraq have been employed for combat operations.

The additional combat power was intended to boost the Iraqi army’s push toward Mosul, the Islamic State's stronghold in Iraq. But the Iraqis' effort, launched in March, has advanced very slowly. So far, they've seized only a few small villages near their base in Makhmur.

Iran's Unstoppable March Toward Dominance

May 12, 2016

In late June 2013 the Economist underscored the need for stripping Iran of its nuclear program “to stem the rise of Persian power.” A “nuclear Iran,” it asserted, would seriously challenge Western interests in the Middle East and endanger “Israel’s right to exist.” The magazine concluded: “When Persian power is on the rise, it is not the time to back away from the Middle East.” Arguing from the opposite angle, Hillary Mann Leverett, a former U.S. National Security Council official, wrote in March 2015: “In reality, Iran’s rise is not only normal, it is actually essential to a more stable region,” because America’s recent “imperial overstretch” to permanently create a pro-American regional order, and the post-1979 Faustian bargain involving Israel and Saudi Arabia to contain Iranian power, had failed.

President Obama has of late reckoned with this reality, after long denial by successive U.S. administrations since 1979. At the end of the second GCC-U.S. summit meeting in Saudi Arabia held on April 21–22, he delivered two important messages, among others, to the Gulf Arab leaders: that the United States had no interest in direct confrontation with Iran, and that the Gulf leaders should depend more on their military capacities to defend their countries. Implicit in Obama’s two messages was another significant message: the United States views Iran as a powerful actor in the Middle East, a reference to what he previously said in his interview with the Atlantic that the GCC should “share the neighborhood” with Iran, provoking sharp reactions from some of the Gulf allies.

Lessons From An Istanbul Shooting


Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet has long been subject to intense scrutiny from the government. For several years, the daily's journalists have been regularly threatened and arrested for criticizing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). But on May 6, a lone gunman opened fire on the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Can Dundar, as he addressed the press outside an Istanbul courthouse.

During the attack, the shooter screamed that Dundar was a traitor, suggesting that the perpetrator is likely an ultranationalist. Although the AKP may not be directly responsible for the attack, by labeling Dundar and Cumhuriyet enemies of the Turkish state, it has effectively turned them into targets. In 2008, for instance, Cumhuriyet's offices were firebombed.

The attack occurred while Dundar was on trial with another Cumhuriyet journalist, Erdem Gul, for an array of charges, including counts of espionage and revealing state secrets in certain Cumhuriyet reports. Dundar's wife interrupted the attack by pushing the gunman's arm, causing his shots to miss Dundar, though one diverted bullet grazed another journalist's leg. Muharrem Erkek, a deputy with the main opposition Republican People's Party, then grabbed and restrained the shooter until police could arrive at the scene. After the shooting incident, Dundar, who faced a potential life sentence for the charged offenses, returned to court, where he received a sentence of five years and 10 months in prison.

The Middle East's Centenarian

MAY 12, 2016 

One hundred years into the Sykes-Picot Agreement, a growing chorus of voices is asserting its imminent demise. Skeptics say that few of the Arab states’ borders ever made any sense, and the uprisings sweeping through Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere represent the long-overdue death rattle of the post-colonial order in the Middle East.

Erasing states isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds, though, and proto-states that had only shallow rationales in 1916 have sunk deep roots in the century since. They cannot simply be swept away, and breaking them up will do little to promote the domestic harmony that they have failed to provide. When the dust settles, whenever that is, we are much more likely to see new kinds of states within the same borders that we see now in the Middle East than we are to see new states inside new borders.

The Anglo-French pact to divide the post-Ottoman spoils into spheres of influence was never anything more than arbitrary, the argument goes, and the erasure of the Syrian-Iraqi border by the Islamic State group (ISG) in 2014 was a harbinger of the collapse of the whole system. It isn’t quite that simple.

US Cyber Attacks on ISIS Use Widely Used Software Tools

May 12, 2016

Cyber attacks on Islamic State use tools others also have -U.S. defence chief

SANTA CLARA (Reuters) - Cyber attack techniques used by the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State could also be used by other countries, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on Wednesday.

Speaking in California, Carter told reporters that the U.S.-led coalition used electronic techniques to disrupt and degrade the jihadist force’s ability to organise and said an unspecified number of other countries could do the same in other conflicts.

“These are not capabilities that only we have,” Carter said at a news conference at the Santa Clara headquarters of Intel Corp’s security wing. “That is why good, strong cyber defences are essential for us.”

The remarks add more detail to a campaign that has only recently been acknowledged. The conference was also attended by the U.S. Secretaries of Homeland Security and Commerce.

The cabinet secretaries had gathered for a day-long presidential security advisory board meeting that was the first to be held in Silicon Valley since the group’s inception more than 35 years ago.

Strategic misfire: The Army’s planned reduction of Civil Affairs forces

MAY 12, 2016

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Understanding should precede action, yet a prime area of strategic weakness for the United States is its inability to understand the local social-political context of conflict and war. After failing to achieve any enduring strategic outcomes for this century, the Army returns to a state of suspended animation under the blissful blanket of combined arms maneuver. Rather than preserve human engagement capabilities that, dollar for dollar, do more to win the wars of today and the peace of the future, the Army is divesting itself of a large number of civil affairs forces. The 85th Civil Affairs Brigade is being deactivated. It is one of only two active duty civil affairs brigades, reducing nearly half of the force structure for the Army’s active duty civil affairs.

Built from the battlefield demands of Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, the 85th Civil Affairs Brigade was created to aid the Army and Joint Force with unique civil-military operations — ranging from humanitarian assistance and disaster response to supporting major campaigns. Soldiers trained in foreign languages, culture, mediation, and negotiations, with an organic expeditionary medical component, provided crucial support to missions like Operation Unified Assistance to combat the Ebola virus outbreak in Liberia and Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq, among others.

The U.S. Army’s War Over Russia

During the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864, a unit of Robert E. Lee’s army rolled up some artillery pieces and began shelling the headquarters of Union commander Ulysses S. Grant. When one of his officers pleaded that Grant move, insisting that he knew exactly what Lee was going to do, Grant, normally a taciturn man, lost his temper: “Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do,” he said. “Some of you always seem to think he is going to turn a double somersault, and land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time. Go back to your command and try to think what we are going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do.”

The story was recalled to me a few weeks ago by a senior Pentagon officer in citing the April 5 testimony of Army leaders before a Senate Armed Services Subcommittee. The panel delivered a grim warning about the future of the U.S. armed forces: Unless the Army budget was increased, allowing both for more men and more materiel, members of the panel said, the United States was in danger of being “outranged and outgunned” in the next war and, in particular, in a confrontation with Russia. Vladimir Putin’s military, the panel averred, had outstripped the U.S. in modern weapons capabilities. And the Army’s shrinking size meant that “the Army of the future will be too small to secure the nation.” It was a sobering assessment delivered by four of the most respected officers in the Army—including Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, his service’s leading intellectual. The claim is the prevailing view among senior Army officers, who fear that Army readiness and modernization programs are being weakened by successive cuts to the U.S. defense budget.

But not everyone was buying it.

Is Obama Going Soft on Taiwan?

ay 12, 2016

Did the Obama administration just signal president-elect Tsai Ing-wen to give some ground to Beijing on “the 1992 consensus” and “one China”? That may be the only plausible explanation of a curious moment that occurred during a Washington conference on Korea last week.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies convened a day-long discussion of “A New Paradigm on the Korean Peninsula,” with former Assistant Secretary of State for Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell serving on a panel addressing “The Regional Context.”

After presentations and a series of interactions among the panelists and with the audience, Campbell seemed eager to elicit one last question. A woman obliged by asking about attitudes toward Korean unification among younger Americans and Japanese.

He responded that fifteen or twenty years ago some in both countries seemed willing to accept the continued division of the two Koreas “under some bizarre concept of strategic interest.” There is no longer such ambivalence. Now, despite some concerns about “costs and process,” both Japan and the U.S. strongly favor “the ultimate outcome of unification.” He credited the policy leadership at CSIS, as well as President Park and her staff, for fostering “the concept, notional and thematic and overriding, the idea that there is one Korea, that there is one Korea.”

Incongruously, he then added:

The digital utility: New opportunities and challenges

By Adrian Booth, Niko Mohr, and Peter Peters

Many utilities see the digital revolution as a threat to their business model, but massive opportunities await those able to transform themselves ahead of the curve.

The digital revolution is coming to the power industry. Renewables, distributed generation, and smart grids demand new capabilities and are triggering new business models and regulatory frameworks. Data collection and exchange are growing exponentially, creating digital threats but also valuable opportunities. The competition for customers is shifting to the online channel; the Internet of Things promises new product and management options. Entrants from the digital economy are disrupting the industrial landscape, while governments and regulatory bodies seek to encourage smarter measuring systems and greener standards for generation and consumption.

To thrive amid these challenges, the utility of the future will be a fully digital system. This means that today’s utilities face a digital transformation of their organization and business. This can begin with quick moves to improve efficiency and expand the customer base. As the transformation builds momentum, it should open deeper digital opportunities across a wide field.

Potential at every level

The opportunities are present all along the power-industry value chain, from generation to customer relationship management (Exhibit 1). As utilities pursue these opportunities, the effects are already being felt by retail customers. Many utilities have launched mobile applications for bill notification, presentment, and payment, as well as for outage management. Before long, mobile applications will extend into smart homes and connected buildings. Digital management of distributed energy resources, from individual sites to entire systems, has already begun. Many projects within the utility have a digital focus and are using techniques of the digital economy, such as agile development.

DARPA’s Plan X Gives Military Operators a Place to Wage Cyber Warfare

By Cheryl PellerinDoD News, Defense Media Activity
May 12, 2016 

WASHINGTON, — Since 2013, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Plan X cyber warfare program engineers have done the foundational work they knew it would take to create for the first time a common operating picture for warriors in cyberspace.

Next month in Suffolk, Virginia, that work will pay off when Plan X is released from the DARPA lab and into the hands of operators -- also for the first time -- during back-to-back annual joint cyber exercises: Cyber Guard and Cyber Flag.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Plan X program is working to help military cyber operators visualize the cyber battlespace and perform missions there based on an established cyber framework and a common operating picture. Plan X is a foundational cyberwarfare program whose engineers are developing platforms the Defense Department will use to plan for, conduct and assess cyberwarfare in a manner similar to that of kinetic warfare. DARPA photo

“We've got a great team of engineers, and we have had persistent participation by the military services in our lab acting essentially as end users, helping us flesh out the work flow and how it should be done,” Plan X Program Manager Frank Pound told DoD News in an interview this week.

FBI Defense Buying iPhone Encryption Hacking Tool

Ellen Nakashima
May 12, 2016

Comey defends FBI’s purchase of iPhone hacking tool

FBI Director James B. Comey said Wednesday that the bureau did not purposely avoid a government process for determining whether it should share with Apple the way it cracked a terrorist’s iPhone.

In March, the FBI purchased a tool that exploited an Apple software flaw to hack into the phone of a shooter from the attack last year in San Bernardino, Calif.

Many observers expected the bureau to submit the method to a relatively new government process for figuring out when to share software flaws with tech firms so they can be fixed. But the bureau told the White House last month that its understanding of how a third party hacked the phone was so limited that there was no point in undertaking a government review.

Comey said Wednesday that the bureau purchased only the tool, not the rights to the software flaw. The FBI, he said, was focused on getting into the phone.

“We did not in any form or fashion structure the transaction . . . with an eye toward avoiding” the government review, he said.

US Intelligence Community Is Terrible at Understanding People

Diego Chojkier
May 12, 2016

U.S. Spymasters Swat Their Fly on the Wall

The U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) is the best in the world at determining what individuals are thinking. A global network of spies, phone intercepts and overhead imagery excels at analyzing persons. But it’s terrible at understanding people. This must change.

U.S. national-security priorities are increasingly focused, not on state actors, but on insurgencies, transnational terrorism and other forms of violent extremism. Defeating these groups means understanding and eliminating their popular support. But the IC has not changed much from the Cold War era in which it grew up. That does not have to be the case.

I had the privilege of leading the Consolidated Stability Operations Cell (CSOC), which managed atmospheric intelligence gathering for Coalition forces in Afghanistan. We developed a nationwide network that reported on what their communities were saying about development, governance, security and other pressing issues. The insights from our analysis were far more useful for Coalition resource allocation and international donors than tasked covert collection in Kabul.

How did we do it? Several hundred Afghans across the country reported on conversations they overheard during the course of their normal day. We instructed our Afghan network to report on passively gathered information, explaining that we had no interest in individuals’ identities. With CSOC’s large network, talented statisticians and analysts refined the data into atmospheric intelligence. For the first time, we had a meaningful measure of how Afghans felt about Afghanistan.

Can Power Alone Explain American Interventionism?

May 12, 2016

The story of the United States’ ascendance to the pinnacle of global power has been told many times before, by authors ranging from foreign policy royalty such as George Kennan, to respected commentators such as Walter Lippmann and William Appleman Williams, and more recent efforts by scholars such as Walter Russell Mead, Christopher Layne and Stephen Sestanovich. Still, this familiar narrative finds new shine under the careful polishing of John A. Thompson, an emeritus reader in American history at the University of Cambridge.

The question of why the United States would choose to use its prodigious economic and military power to backstop costly foreign military interventions is clearly timely, amid growing concerns regarding instability in the Middle East and the potential threat a “rising” China might pose. And yet Thompson laudably exercises great restraint by cleverly restricting his scope to American foreign policy from the end of the Civil War through the presidential administration of Harry S. Truman. In doing so, he is able to present a balanced view of the United States’ international growth without clumsily trying to extract policy-relevant lessons for modern politicians and decisionmakers. Indeed, the lack of such a lecturing tone is what makes Thompson’s historical exercise even more important, since it allows the reader to consider the historical evidence being presented without the polluting overlay of an explicitly contemporary lens. Any conclusions about the importance of past events on current times are therefore the full responsibility of the reader, rather than the spoon-fed byproduct of the author’s ideological commitments.


MAY 12, 2016

A revanchist Russia and vulnerable Baltic states are on the minds of America’s defense establishment. After Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s trip to Europe to oversee the change of command at European Command (EUCOM), it’s become clear according to senior defense officials that the plan is to transition the role of the command from “reassurance to deterrence.” U.S. military presence is returning in force to Europe in search of that old familiar conventional deterrence in the face of Russian aggression. From the $3.4 billion European Reassurance Initiative, of which $1 billion would go towards adding an Armored Brigade Combat Team in Europe (for a total of three U.S. brigades) to NATO’s recently announced plan to deploy 4,000 additional troops to Poland and the Baltic states, there is a clear policy shift toward territorial defense in Europe.

Yet EUCOM’s new commander General Curtis Scaparrotti faces a daunting task, because deterrence is a difficult mistress to court. How do you know when you have it? Lost it? Gaining or losing it? When it comes to protecting NATO’s eastern flank, it could be a case of defending the indefensible. Have we thought about the different conflict scenarios for the Baltics or merely those scenarios that proponents of more forces in the Baltics would prefer to deter? Given the policy momentum, infusion of funding, and additional manpower for EUCOM, it is also time to ask some inconvenient questions about whether we truly understand what a conflict with Russia would look like in the Baltics and if conventional deterrence by denial is possible on NATO’s eastern flank.


MAY 12, 2016

On May 25th, 1950, the “P3” — the United States, the United Kingdom, and France — issued a Joint Declaration on the Arab States and Israel. In this so-called Tripartite Declaration, the three countries declared “their unalterable opposition to the use of force or threat of force between any of the states” in the Middle East, as well as their determination to “immediately take action, both within and outside the United Nations, to prevent such violation.” Beyond this political commitment, made in response to the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, the declaration also endeavored to better coordinate arms sales to Israel and Arab states. This led to the establishment of a Near East Arms Coordinating Committee (NEACC) in which representatives from the three western powers compared notes on Middle Eastern arms requests.

It became rapidly apparent that the declaration was unable to reassure Israel, which at the time insisted that Washington agree to a formal treaty-bound security guarantee, or Egypt, which rejected any form of Western-led security architecture. What’s more, the declaration could not overcome divisions within the P3 itself, whose members viewed it more as a vehicle to advance their national and often competing interests than as a genuine attempt to buttress regional stability. The NEACC became irrelevant after the 1955 Soviet-sponsored Egyptian-Czechoslovak arms deal and 1954 French arms sales to Israel. Ultimately, the discord created by the Franco-British initiative during the 1956 Suez war rendered the declaration a dead letter. The demise of P3 unity during the conflict and the failure of the Franco-British initiative itself left the United States as the main external security provider in the region for the first time. Indeed, while France and the United Kingdom did not retreat from the region, they would only play a secondary role in the U.S. strategy of containment of the Soviet Union in the Middle East.