21 October 2016

*** Sharif vs Sharif: Who will win in Pakistan?

By Jai Kumar Verma
20 Oct , 2016

Recently an article of Cyril Almeida published in Pakistan’s reputed English daily Dawn has exposed the bitterness between the political leadership and the army. Almeida, a fearless journalist, a rare commodity in Pakistan, wrote in the article that the civilian government has warned that Pakistan is being isolated in the world arena because of its position on terrorism. The article also revealed that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, a younger brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, pointed out that whenever security agencies took actions against the terror groups or its leaders, security agencies (meaning Inter Services Intelligence-ISI) protected the terrorists. It was also reported that hot words were exchanged between ISI chief and Punjab Chief Minister. 

Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry reportedly revealed at the meeting (October 4) that several countries clearly have told Pakistan that action should be taken against Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar and terrorist outfits like Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Haqqani network and investigation about the attack on Pathankot Airbase must be completed. China also reportedly suggested to its “all-weather friend” that it should change its policies towards terrorism.

The Pakistan army, which claims itself as the savior of the country, directly ruled the nation for more than 33 years, with the remaining years witnessing a façade of democratic government but the Chief of Army Staff remained the most powerful individual in the state and the army remained the de-facto ruler. The dominant political leaders like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto were killed while Nawaz Sharif in his first tenure was overthrown and evicted from the country.

General Raheel Sharif was selected as Chief of Army Staff by Nawaz Sharif and although he has not overthrown him so far but snatched all the powers pertaining to foreign policy towards important countries like India, Afghanistan, United States and also grabbed vital security related matters.

*** Our generals failed in Afghanistan

OCTOBER 18, 2016 

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The United States military failed America in Afghanistan. It wasn’t a tactical failure. It was a failure of leadership.

The ascent of David Petraeus and the Army’s rediscovery of counterinsurgency doctrine led many to believe that the military had dramatically adapted itself for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately the transformation was only skin deep. Petraeus was a myth, and the intellectual father of the Army only in the eyes of the national media. The institutional inertia of the military bureaucracy never caught up with the press releases. The result was a never-ending series of public pronouncements by senior leaders about the importance of counterinsurgency, accompanied by a continuation of Cold War-era personnel and rotation policies that explicitly short-changed the effort.

Upon taking command in Afghanistan in 2009, General Stanley McChrystal made the rounds of his subordinate units and asked each of us, “What would you do differently if you had to stay until we won?” At the time I was in charge of operations for a brigade in the middle of tough fight in eastern Afghanistan. It was absolutely the right question, but in retrospect it was also a trick question. The answer was to get the right people into the fight, keep them there long enough to develop an understanding of the environment, and hold them accountable for progress, but that was not something the military was interested in doing. Instead, we stuck with a policy that rotated leaders through the country like tourists.

*** In Mosul, The End Is The Beginning

"Tell me how this ends" is a familiar presidential refrain. U.S. President Barack Obama used it often throughout his administration to justify his policy of restraint in the Middle East, troubled by the second- and third-order effects of deepening any intervention to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State.

The next U.S. president will have to make the same solicitation next year. By then,Mosul will likely have been wrested away from the militant group. But the question of whether to widen the scope of the United States' activities in Syria - from counterterrorism to taking down the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad - will loom as large as ever.

Perhaps a more instructive question to lead with is, "How did this begin?" When planning for the future, a president must be as conscious of the past as he or she is gripped by the present. This does not mean fixating on voting records over the Iraq war or on contemporary leaders such as al Assad or former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. To understand the current map of the Middle East beyond the battle for Mosul, we must reach back nearly a century to an epic diplomatic showdown in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The Fight for Turkish Redemption

*** The Roots of Hillary Clinton's Foreign Policy

By George Friedman 
Oct. 18, 2016 

The candidate has not shifted her strategy to respond to the changing reality in the international system. 

This is an election in which anything can happen. Nevertheless, for now at least, it appears that Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States. For the moment, we can turn away from the real issues of this world to the question of what Clinton’s foreign policy might look like if she wins. It is an important question, inasmuch as I was at a dinner last night where there were foreign diplomats, and they seemed oddly obsessed with the question.

To understand her foreign policy, it is important to understand the evolution of American strategy since the fall of the Soviet Union. Clinton is a creature of the beliefs, values and illusions that dominated American policy from 1991 until 2008. By understanding that world, we can understand Clinton’s core beliefs and then consider the extent to which they have evolved. Clinton represents the American and global consensus that emerged after the Cold War

U.S. President Bill Clinton (C), First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton (R) and Coca-Cola Deputy Region Manager in Russia Michael O’Neill drink a Coca-Cola in Moscow on May 11, 1995, during the Clintons’ visit to the Coca-Cola factory in the Russian capital. 

When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, there was a general assumption that the world of war, near war and distrust had been put behind us. This is normal when a global conflict ends. After Napoleon was defeated, the victorious powers met at the Congress of Vienna and decreed two things. The first was that the victorious anti-Napoleon coalition would continue in place and administer the peace. The second was that there were no fundamental differences among these coalition partners. The same assumptions were made after World War I in the League of Nations. After World War II, the United Nations was created, with the victorious coalition ensconced as the permanent members of the Security Council.

*** The Pakistani Mecca of Terror

October 18, 2016

Almost seven decades after it was created as the first Islamic republic of the postcolonial era, Pakistan is teetering on the edge of an abyss. The economy is stagnant, unemployment is high, and resources are scarce. The government is unstable, ineffective, and plagued by debt. The military—along with its rogue Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, comprising the country’s spies and secret policemen—is exempt from civilian oversight, enabling it to maintain and deepen its terrorist ties.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan is now at risk of becoming a failed state. But even if it doesn’t fail, the nexus between terrorist groups and Pakistan’s powerful military raises the spectre of nuclear terrorism—a menace so large that the United States has prepared a contingency plan to take out the country’s fast-growing nuclear arsenal should the need arise.

Make no mistake: Pakistan is ‘ground zero’ for the terrorist threat the world faces. The footprints of many terrorist attacks in the West have been traced to Pakistan, including the 2005 London bombings and the 2015 San Bernardino killings. Two key actors behind the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States—Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheik Mohammed—were found ensconced in Pakistan. In the recent Manhattan and New Jersey bombings, the arrested suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami, was radicalised in a Pakistani seminary located near the Pakistani military’s hideout for the Afghan Taliban leadership.

But it’s Pakistan’s neighbours that are bearing the brunt of its state-sponsored terrorism. Major terrorist attacks in South Asia, like the 2008 Mumbai strikes and the 2008 and 2011 assaults on the Indian and US embassies in Afghanistan, respectively, were apparently orchestrated by the ISI, which has reared terrorist organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and the Haqqani network to do its bidding. This is no hearsay; former Pakistani military dictator Pervez Musharraf has largely acknowledged it.


OCTOBER 19, 2016

Late in May 2014, a group calling itself CyberBerkut leaked a map of the Ukrainian Dnipropetrovsk Oblast administration’s IT resources, information on the Central Election Commission of Ukraine’s servers, and the correspondence of its staff. In the following days, which included the country’s presidential election, CyberBerkut claimed they had again compromised the election commission’s servers, leaked more confidential information, conducted a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack the commission’s website (which instructed potential voters how and where to vote), and blocked the phones of election organizers. The group also released documents implying that the recently appointed governor of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Igor Kolomoisky, was complicit in pro-European Ukrainian plans to promote the “correct” candidate for president of Ukraine.

Despite the best effort of the Russian group behind CyberBerkut, the center-right, pro-European Petro Poroshenko won the Ukrainian presidency. But CyberBerkut wasn’t finished. Almost exactly five months later, the group used similar tactics in the days preceding the Ukrainian parliamentary elections. The results were largely the same: Pro-European candidates won the majority of seats. An uninitiated observer might be keen to discard these events as failed electioneering. After all, Moscow did not succeed in getting its men elected. But to label the operation a failure is to assume that the primary goal was to get pro-Russia officials elected. Over the course of the past four months, we have seen similar operations unfold in the United States, and — as was the case in Ukraine — there are reasons to believe that swaying the election is not the primary objective. Just as in the case of the CyberBerkut incidents, among the key observers of these operations in the United States have been cyber-security firms like FireEye. The manager of their information operations analysis team recently shared some of their findings with me, which informs the analysis below.

** Yemen Won't Become Washington's Next Middle Eastern War

October 18, 2016

When Saudi aircraft struck a funeral in Sanaa on Oct. 8, Yemen's Houthi rebels vowed to retaliate. The attack, which left 19 generals and 14 colonels among the 140 reported dead, dealt a heavy blow to Houthi forces, and no one expected it to go unanswered. But an international escalation was never part of the plan, despite recent Houthi missile launches against Emirati and U.S. naval vessels that might seem to suggest otherwise.

On Oct. 9, Houthi fighters fired Chinese-made C-802 anti-ship cruise missiles at the USS Mason and USS Ponce as they traveled through the Red Sea. Three days later, the Houthis launched a second, similar attack, again targeting the USS Mason. And on Oct. 15, a third missile strike was launched, again at the USS Mason. It is unclear whether the strikes were intended to hit the U.S. ships or were simply a misguided effort to target any vessel passing by Houthi territory. 

In response, the United States took out radar stations along the Yemeni coast with Tomahawk cruise missiles. Besides reducing the visibility of vessels transiting the Red Sea, the U.S. counterattack sends a message that further strikes against ships in the area will not be tolerated, no matter who conducts them or which vessels are targeted. But the restraint of the response also conveys Washington's desire to defuse the situation.
Balancing Two Middle Eastern Adversaries

According to the Pentagon, no information about who supplied the cruise missiles to the Houthis has been uncovered. The missiles appear, however, to be similar to weapons that Iran has access to, builds its own variants of, and has a history of providing to militant groups in the region. The United States, already struggling to maintain its fragile relationship with Iran, will be hesitant to implicate Tehran in the incident. But ironically, blaming Iran for supplying the Houthis with the missiles would go a long way in rebuilding trust between Washington and Riyadh, yet another Middle Eastern country with which the United States has troubled ties.

The Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNW) Conundrum

By Maj Gen PK Chakravorty
20 Oct , 2016


The Indian Army needs to be complimented for undertaking precise surgical strikes at numerous locations across the Line of Control (LoC) on the night of 28 and 29 September. Though Pakistan has denied the event and gone to the extent of taking press correspondents to the LoC to state that nothing had occurred, radio leaks from Pakistan prove otherwise. The operations were executed with surprise and numerous Pakistani militants were killed. Pakistan is awakening its sleeper cells that are carrying out sporadic attacks; there was an attack in Pampore which commenced on 10 October and the terrorists held out for three days despite heavy firing. While India is doing its best to restrain further escalation, the terrorists under guidance from Pakistan are giving no respite. There have been six attacks in 27 days commencing from 18 September. Further there are intermittent Cease-Fire violations across the LoC which are being responded without escalation. It is a matter of patience how long such a situation can continue with India determined to break the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan. Diplomatically, this has not produced results, therefore the military option to destroy these camps by firepower, Special Forces and manoeuvre need to be considered. What would be the reaction from Pakistan? Will they use Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNW)?

Pakistan’s TNW

Post Uri the Pakistani Defence Minister threatened to use nuclear weapons if issues went out of control. It is essential we understand Nasr – the TNW that Pakistan possesses. Nasr is stated to have a range of 60 Km and underwent its first flight test on 19 April 2011. The launch system is similar to the artillery rocket system. It is believed to be derived from the Ws-2 Weishi Rockets system developed by China’s Sichuan Aerospace Corporation. Four missiles can be carried on the Chinese-origin Transport Erector Launcher. The warhead section has been estimated to have a cylindrical section 361 mm in diameter, 940 mm long with a conical portion that is 660 mm long. The first question is whether the warhead has been miniaturised successfully for the Nasr. There is no scientific proof that the same has been completed. Accordingly, the weapon remains cold tested which is not certain to function. The next issue pertains to its deployment. As the range is extremely limited, the weapon will perforce have to be deployed possibly about 20 km from the Line of Control (LoC) or the International Boundary (IB). This has its own problems as the usage becomes decentralised.


INS Arihant finally provides India a second launch capability

By Brig Arun Bajpai
20 Oct , 2016

Till now we had Prithvi, Agni -1, Agni-2 and Agni -3 nuclear capable missiles as our land delivery means while the likes of SU 30 MKI and Mirage 2000 fighter aircrafts catered for our air delivery systems. Location of these land missile silos as also the air bases operating these fighter aircrafts, both are vulnerable to enemy nuclear strikes since their locations can be found out by the enemy. Not so when an INS Arihant type SSBN nuclear powered submarine is around, hiding deep down in Arabian Sea with its nuclear capable missile ready to be launched at moment’s notice. This provides India a second launch capability which is robust, infallible and potentially insuperable.

India is the first country in the world that has taken a huge technological leap and has straight away constructed an SSBN.

Was it just a coincidence that Indian indigenous nuclear powered submarine INS Arihant, with its 750 km range nuclear capable Sagarika missiles, and 3500 km range Agni -3 nuclear capable missiles got quietly commissioned in Navy for active service in Aug 2016 without any fanfare, and India launched its surgical strike on 29 Sep despite Pakistan rattling its nuclear arsenal?

How Debt Forced Ruias To Downsize; Other Conglomerates Also In Tailspin

October 17, 2016

The price you pay for over-leveraging is loss of your best assets. And yes, conglomerates are being cut to size.

Conglomerates in India got created during the crony capitalist years of the licence-permit-raj, but it was in the post-liberalisation period after 1991 that they became unwieldy and bloated.

Debt kills. Especially heavy debt taken on during bullish times.

The $13 billion deal to sell 98 percent of Essar Oil to Russia’s Rosneft, Trifigura, and United Capital Partners, announced on Saturday by the Ruias, is one more piece of evidence that India’s over-leveraged businesses are having to sell their crown jewels in order to remain afloat. It is further proof that Indian conglomerates will have to shrink before they can grow again.

A few days ago, over-leveraged Anil Ambani inked a pact to sell 51 percent of the tower assets of his telecom company Reliance Communications (RCom) to Brookfield for Rs 11,000 crore. While the deal may take some time to consummate, essentially it will convert the owner of the towers (ie, RCom) into a tenant. RCom will be using the same towers for running its network and pay lease rents. Again, a case of giving up your crown jewels to reduce debt.

In July, the Aditya Birla Group sealed a deal to buy debt-burdened Jaiprakash Group’s 17.2 million tonnes of cement capacity for an enterprise value of Rs 16,189 crore. Again, this was a case of a forced firesale. Asked why he was selling his best businesses, Jaiprakash Group Executive Chairman and CEO told ET Magazine in an interview: “In tough times only good things go. That pain of selling some of our best assets will be there for life.”

Why Japan and India must be partners in Myanmar

OCT 18, 2016

BERLIN – Myanmar’s de factor leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is seeking to carefully balance relations with major powers as part of her commitment to revive the country’s tradition of employing a neutral foreign policy. Suu Kyi’s India visit this week follows trips to Beijing and Washington.

Myanmar’s geographic, cultural and geostrategic positioning between India and China makes it critical to the long-term interests of both these powers.

Crippling U.S.-led sanctions since the late 1980s pushed resource-rich Myanmar into China’s strategic lap. Sanctions without engagement have never worked. During his 2010 Indian tour, U.S. President Barack Obama criticized India’s policy of constructive engagement with Myanmar, only to return home and pursue, within months, a virtually similar policy. The shift in U.S. policy helped to spur Myanmar’s reform process, thereby ending half a century of military-dominated rule.

Yet today the Obama White House is ignoring that lesson by pursuing a sanctions-only approach toward North Korea, which recently carried out its fifth and most-powerful nuclear test and then conducted a failed missile test launch last weekend.

On her first visit to a major capital since her National League for Democracy (NLD) party came to power almost seven months ago, Suu Kyi in August visited Beijing, not New Delhi where she was educated. Her aim was to smooth over the frayed relationship with China. Ties with China have been roiled by Myanmar’s 2011 suspension of the $3.6 billion, Chinese-financed Myitsone Dam project. The suspension on the eve of China’s national day constituted a slap in the face to Beijing — a loss of face made worse by the fact that the action became a turning point for Myanmar’s democratization and reintegration with the outside world.

What the Next US President Needs to Know About Rising India-Pakistan Tensions

OCTOBER 18, 2016

Pakistan, in particular, finds itself once again at the center of the tussle between China, Russia, and the United States. 

The Obama administration, now in its last phase, is unlikely to take any strong action against Pakistan even though the White House tacitly supported recent Indian military strikes against terrorists on Pakistan’s side of the Line of Control (LoC).

The Indian strikes came after a cross-border attack on an army camp in Uri, that killed 20 soldiers. The White House issued a short statement the same day, calling on Pakistan to do the right thing. But that is as far as president Barack Obama might be willing to go given the ongoing crises in Syria and Yemen and the volatile nature of the presidential election at home.

It should not surprise New Delhi even though it may disappoint many that the Obama administration does not support a bill introduced in the US Congress on Sept. 20 by congressman Ted Poe, chairman of the house subcommittee on terrorism, calling for Pakistan to be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism.

When asked if the administration would support the move, the state department spokesman John Kirby was more than clear. “Obviously, we don’t,” was the short answer.

The bill, introduced in the House of Representatives shortly after the attack in Uri, cites the administration’s own 2016 report on terrorism that Pakistan did not take “substantial action against the Afghan Taliban, Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, which continued to cooperate, train, organise, and fundraise in Pakistan.”

Why The Big Powers Will Not Support Us Against The Jihadist State Of Pakistan

October 19, 2016

One of the big features of Narendra Modi’s prime ministership has been his proactive global diplomacy. Never before, not since Nehru, has an Indian Prime Minister managed to raise the country’s global clout and profile as Modi has. But here’s the counter-point: none of this has helped India in its biggest external challenge: Pakistan-based jihadi terrorism.

Not that the diplomacy has been a waste. We have got words of comfort and understanding, even some minor action, but what we have not got is active support to bring Pakistan to heel. After Uri, Modi got verbal support from the US, the European Union, Russia and even some helpful noises from China, but not one of them is willing to go further to rein in Pakistan. They will all condemn terrorism in generic terms, but will not act against Pakistan.

One cannot fault the Modi government for this failure, for the reason is the changed global power scenario and threat perceptions over the last 15 years, especially after 9/11. We thus need to recalibrate our Pakistan policy and global diplomacy in the context of the new realities.

Before 9/11 and the US’s ill-fated war in Iraq, the US was the only global superpower. In the decade-and-a-half after that, and especially after the Lehman crisis of 2008, the US is a diminished economic power, and China is the second superpower, having reached half of US GDP, with more than commensurate military power. The third collective superpower, the European Union, has shot itself in the foot economically by pursuing faulty monetary union and a common currency – an idea that has divided the EU more than anything else.

US prepares for worst-case scenario with Pakistan nukes

By Robert Windrem

NBC News Investigative Producer for Special Projects 

As U.S.-Pakistani relations spiral downward, the specter of a showdown between the increasingly antagonistic allies is garnering more attention, including the worst-case scenario of the U.S. attempting to “snatch” Pakistan’s 100-plus nuclear weapons if it feared they were about to fall into the wrong hands.

That would be a disastrous miscalculation, former Pakistani President and army chief Pervez Musharraf told NBC News, saying that such an incursion would lead to “total confrontation” between the United States and Pakistan.

A Medium Range Ballistic Missile Hatf V (Ghauri) missile takes off during a test fire from an undisclosed location in Pakistan on Dec. 21 in this photo distributed by the Pakistani military. The liquid-fuel missile can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads and has a range of more than 800 miles.

Privately, current and former U.S. officials say that ensuring the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons has long been a high national security priority, even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and that plans have been drawn up for dealing with worst-case scenarios in Pakistan.

The greatest success of the U.S. war on terrorism – the military operation that killed Osama bin Laden in his safehouse in Pakistan in May – has fueled the concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, increasing suspicions among U.S. officials that he had support within the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence service, and emboldening those in Washington who believe an orchestrated campaign of lightning raids to secure Pakistan’s nukes could succeed.

It’s no secret that the United States has a plan to try to grab Pakistan’s nuclear weapons -- if and when the president believes they are a threat to either the U.S. or U.S. interests.Among the scenarios seen as most likely: Pakistan plunging into internal chaos, terrorists mounting a serious attack against a nuclear facility, hostilities breaking out with India or Islamic extremists taking charge of the government or the Pakistan army.


By James E. Fanell and Ryan D. Martinson

From Newport to New Delhi, a tremendous effort is currently underway to document and analyze China’s pursuit of maritime power. Led by experts in think tanks and academia, this enterprise has produced a rich body of scholarship in a very short period of time. However, even at its very best, this research is incomplete—for it rests on a gross ignorance of Chinese activities at sea. 

This ignorance cannot be faulted. The movements of Chinese naval, coast guard, and militia forces are generally kept secret, and the vast emptiness of the ocean means that much of what takes place there goes unseen. Observers can only be expected to seek answers from the data that is available.

The U.S. Navy exists to know the answers to these secrets, to track human behavior on, above, and below the sea. While military and civilian leaders will always remain its first patron, there is much that USN intelligence can and should do to provide the raw materials needed for open source researchers to more fully grasp the nature of China’s nautical ambitions. Doing so would not only improve the quality of scholarship and elevate the public debate, it would also go a long way to help frustrate China’s current—and, to date, unanswered—strategy of quiet expansion. Most importantly, sharing information about the movements and activities of Chinese forces could be done without compromising the secrecy of the sources and methods used to collect it.

The Constellations are Visible…

Examining ISIS Support and Opposition Networks on Twitter

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Research Questions 
How can we differentiate ISIS supporters and opponents on Twitter? 
Who are they, and what are they saying? 
How are they connected, and who is important? 

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), like no other terrorist organization before, has used Twitter and other social media channels to broadcast its message, inspire followers, and recruit new fighters. Though much less heralded, ISIS opponents have also taken to Twitter to castigate the ISIS message. This report draws on publicly available Twitter data to examine this ongoing debate about ISIS on Arabic Twitter and to better understand the networks of ISIS supporters and opponents on Twitter. To support the countermessaging effort and to more deeply understand ISIS supporters and opponents, this study uses a mixed-methods analytic approach to identify and characterize in detail both ISIS support and opposition networks on Twitter. This analytic approach draws on community detection algorithms that help detect interactive communities of Twitter users, lexical analysis that can identify key themes and content for large data sets, and social network analysis.

Key Findings

Truly winning the battle of Mosul

October 18, 2016 

True victory in the battle of Mosul, the Islamic State’s capital in Iraq and the largest city it controls, will be difficult. Far harder than the military fight will be the political struggle, writes Dan Byman. This post originally appeared on Lawfare.

victory in the battle of Mosul, the Islamic State’s capital in Iraq and the largest city it controls, will be difficult. It may take months or only a few short weeks, but I expect the Iraqi military, Kurdish Peshmerga, and other various militias—along with the U.S. forces that support them—to defeat the Islamic State defenders and liberate one of Iraq’s largest cities from their brutal rule. Far harder will be the political struggle. Iraqi forces need to maintain their unity as they go forward and a broader political settlement must be forged. Here the prognosis looks poor.

As always in Iraq, the political is harder than the military. In 2003, U.S. forces overthrow Saddam Hussein’s government with relative ease. Much harder but still temporarily successful was the counterinsurgency campaign that accompanied the 2007 “surge” in forces. In both these cases, the United States was not able to put in place a political settlement that would keep the peace. In 2016, with fewer forces and a more troubled region, success will be even further off.

The military challenges in the Mosul operation are considerable. (The New York Timeshas produced a useful graphic of how the fighting may commence.) Although the U.S. military estimates that there are only between 3,000 and 4,500 Islamic State fighters in Mosul, compared with tens of thousands of members of the coalition forces—and that excludes the advantage of U.S. airpower—the defenders enjoy the considerable advantages of their position within the city itself. Urban turf is a nightmare for attacking forces.

Tactical at the Expense of the Strategic

October 19, 2016

The primary objective of U.S. foreign policy should be to keep Americans safe and effectively defend our vital national interests. Frequent marketing-like statements made by senior leaders notwithstanding, an examination of our actions abroad confirm that the United States’ foreign policy elite do not hold such a view.

Many pundits and policy-makers declare that it is in the United States’ interests to militarily support armed forces and militias in Iraq and Syria in order to destroy other bad actors and militias, including ISIS. As I have often argued, such a position is not supported by logic or evidence. However, the battle to retake Mosul goes on the ground, the seeds of renewed internal conflict are already spouting among Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish militias. Additionally, as the operation gets underway, there is a major new row developing between Turkey and Iraq. 

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has warned that if Turkish troops do not leave Iraqi territory, “a regional war” could break out. Turkish President Erdogan defiantly fires back at Abadi, telling him that “[y]ou are not on my level, you are not of my quality. You ranting and raving from Iraq is not of any importance to us." There is no evidence that the wars raging inside both Iraq and Syria will burn out anytime soon. American actions clearly are not advancing U.S. interests, nor have they led to any positive outcome, let alone political reconciliation among rival factions.

In the pursuit of lesser tactical objectives, we are sacrificing our interests on a strategic level. If Washington continues to take tactical actions such as those in Iraq and Syria but doing so harms the strategic interests of the United States, the effort must not be undertaken – or ended with the least damage possible if it is already in progress.

Why the battle for Mosul is a turning point

by N.P.
Oct 18th 2016

SINCE the Iraqi army and its allies began their counterattack against Islamic State (IS) in late 2014, they have managed to liberate many cities in northern and western Iraq. So it might be tempting to view the battle for Mosul, which started in the early hours of October 17th, as just one more skirmish in the jihadists’ steady retreat. But the struggle for Mosul is concentrating minds like no other encounter with IS. Why do so many inside and outside Iraq consider Mosul a turning point?

Mosul has formed the centrepiece of Islamic State’s (IS) ambitions since its capture by the jihadist group in June 2014. From the pulpit of the city’s great mosque, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of IS, proclaimed himself caliph and turned Iraq’s second city into his base. In history, size and strategic location, the city dwarfed IS’s other holdings, including Raqqa, its capital in Syria. Tens of thousands of Sunni Iraqis left camps for the internally displaced to seek refuge under his rule. Without Mosul, IS will be shorn of its tax base and oil fields; the group will be a shadow of its former self.

But Mosul has significance beyond the fall of IS. Ever since Sennacherib made the city his capital in 700 BC, whoever ruled it has dominated the region—be they Assyrians, Babylonians, Arabs, Ottoman sultans or the British empire. It remains strategically important in the 21st century: regional powers regard a post-IS Mosul, if not as a jewel to conquer, at least as a place to deny to rivals. The Turks view it as a barrier to Iran’s expansion of influence westwards. Arabs fear what they suspect are the neo-Ottoman aspirations of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, to regain the city. Sparring Iraqi Arabs and Kurds consider Mosul crucial for control of northern Iraq. Meanwhile, Mosul represents a larger battle between America, which is directing the effort, and Russia. If it goes to plan, America will highlight the chasm between its operations in Iraq and Russia’s pummelling of the city of Aleppo, which in history, religious and ethnic mix and mercantile character is Mosul’s Syrian counterpart. If instead the American-led offensive results in a prolonged siege and the devastation of Mosul’s old city and its inhabitants, it will invite an unflattering comparison to the assault on its sister-city.

Burning the Village to Save It

October 19, 2016

This essay is part of the #StrategyAndEthics series, which asked a group of academics and national security professionals to provide their thoughts on the confluence of ethical considerations, the development of strategy, and the conduct of war. We hope this launches a debate that may one day shape policy.

The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish by that test the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature.[1]

—Carl von Clausewitz, On War

Western politicians, strategists, and tacticians have a shared problem. Interestingly, it is a problem that goes to the heart of the West’s conception of war, but is one we seem entirely uncomfortable discussing. It rarely makes its way explicitly onto the agendas of our principal decision-making bodies. It is not (and I stand to be corrected) being openly discussed in parliaments and defense headquarters. It is only briefly discussed in most Staff College courses.

The problem is one of ethics, or to be specific, to what extent ethics should influence political decisions about war, the development of strategies for war, or the tactics of how war is fought.


A "Lasting Defeat" of the Islamic State Will Be Elusive

October 19, 2016

As the Iraqi government and Coalition forces launched the offensive to retake Mosul, the US military has optimistically said that the campaign will deal a “lasting defeat” to the Islamic State. But, if the recent history of the fight against jihadist groups in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia is any indicator, a lasting defeat of the Islamic State will remain elusive.

On Oct. 16, the US military made the claim that the Mosul operation will “deliver ISIL [Islamic State] a lasting defeat” [emphasis mine]:

Tonight Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of Iraqi operations to liberate Mosul from ISIL. This is a decisive moment in the campaign to deliver ISIL a lasting defeat. The United States and the rest of the international coalition stand ready to support Iraqi Security Forces, Peshmerga fighters and the people of Iraq in the difficult fight ahead. We are confident our Iraqi partners will prevail against our common enemy and free Mosul and the rest of Iraq from ISIL’s hatred and brutality.

Keep in mind that many analysts were quick to pronounce the Islamic State’s predecessor, al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq, as defeated after the US surge that began in 2007 rooted out the jihadists from its sanctuaries across Iraq. By 2010, Iraqi and US forces killed the Islamic State of Iraq’s emir, Abu Omar al Baghdadi, and War Minister Abu Ayyub al Masri a.k.a. Abu Hamza al Muhajir, and the group was driven underground. But these setbacks did not deter the Islamic State of Iraq. Its new leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi rallied the Islamic State of Iraq’s remaining forces and reconstituted the organization. In Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq took advantage of the Syrian civil war to rebuild its strength. By 2012, it created the Al Nusrah Front, its branch in Syria, and was launching large scale raids inside Iraq, such as the one in Haditha in March 2012, that presaged the events of 2014, which saw Iraqi forces defeated in Anbar, Salahaddin, Ninewa, and Diyala.

The Islamic State is not alone in its phoenix-like rebirth after losing ground to local forces backed by the US. Al Qaeda branches in Somalia, Yemen, and Mali, have experienced major setbacks and lost ground it held, only to regroup and retake territory. The same is true with Boko Haram in Nigeria and Taliban branches in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Each of these countries have been in a state of perpetual war for well over a decade due to jihadist insurgencies.

Russia Perceptively Retrieves Policy Drift in South Asia Policy towards Pakistan

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Russia has finally positively acted in retrieving its South Asia policy drift towards Pakistan witnessed recently in Russia-India Summit on the side-lines of BRICS Summit in Goa last weekend. Credit should go to PM Modi to induce Russia to do so.

The above is evidenced by nearly twelve odd agreements signed therein, with the major ones covering major defence purchases by India in terms of advanced S-400 Air defence systems, 200 Kamov helicopters and two frigates for the Indian Navy. Besides Russia has contracted to build additional nuclear reactors to boost India’s nuclear-power generation.

Surely, two factors would have weighed heavily in the revised policy directions of Russia. The major consideration would have been that was it geopolitically wise for Russia to endanger its time-tested relationship with an Emerging Power like India for an uncertain new relationship with a duplicitous Pakistan which could soon become a liability, notwithstanding China underwriting it.

The second major consideration that seemed to have worked is that Russia may have perceived a small window of opportunity that some major defence deals could work out sensing that India’s war-preparedness could prompt it to turn to Russia foe speedy deliveries and at competitive rates.

Russian Military Theorists Consider Future War: Bridging the NATO-Russia Gap

October 14, 2016

Russian military theorists have a long-developed reputation for paying close attention to the possible contours of future wars. And now—in the context of Moscow’s military modernization, its involvement in armed conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, as well as its continued strained relations with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—Russian theorists are again actively assessing trends in modern warfare and what they will mean for the future of the country’s Armed Forces. A range of real-world actions implemented by Moscow in recent months, ranging from strengthening air defense for the deployed forces in Syria, changes to Ground Forces’ structures, or reportedly moving the conventional and nuclear-capable strike system Iskander-M (without nuclear warheads) into Kaliningrad, connect intrinsically with how the top brass and leading military thinkers view future warfare (see EDM, October 6, 12, 13; Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, October 7; Voyenno Promyshlennyy Kuryer, October 4).

It is in this context that one of the most significant works in recent years to examine Russian perspectives on future warfare was recently published. Voyna budushchego: kontseptual’nyye osnovy i prakticheskiye vyvody. Ocherki strategicheskoy mysli, (The War of the Future: A Conceptual Framework and Practical Conclusions. Sketches of Strategic Thought, Moscow 2016, 832 pp), co-authored by Colonel (ret.) Igor Popov and Colonel (ret.) Musa Khamzatov, is a culmination of three years’ work, involving roundtables and extensive discussion. The roundtables, presented as an appendix, delved into the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, war as controlled chaos, threats in cyberspace, and the development of military robotics, among other topical issues. According to the book preface, this is not an academic textbook or a traditional military-theoretical work. In fact, the co-authored study aims to explore the problems and perspectives on future warfare by unifying practical and theoretical approaches. Although the book targets career General Staff officers, its overall style seems to range beyond the narrow field of such work for military specialists (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, September 30).

SDF’s expanding missions

OCT 18, 2016

The revised bilateral agreement on logistical cooperation between military forces of Japan and the United States, for which the government plans to seek Diet approval during the ongoing session, significantly expands the scope of the Self-Defense Forces’ support of the U.S. military not just in geographical terms but in the nature of the support they provide. The accord is yet another step for full implementation of the Abe administration’s security legislation that came into force in March, but the changes in SDF missions in support of U.S. forces was not discussed in full detail when the legislation — a package of a new law and amendments to 10 existing laws — was deliberated in the Diet last year. Lawmakers should spend enough time to highlight what the revised bilateral accord will entail for Japan’s overseas military missions.

Since it was first concluded in 1996, the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) has been updated in line with the expansion in bilateral defense cooperation. Initially, the mutual provision of supplies such as food, water and fuel as well as transportation, lodging and other services between the SDF and U.S. forces was limited to peacetime cooperation such as joint exercises and United Nations-led peacekeeping operations. The scope of logistical cooperation was expanded to contingencies in areas surrounding Japan in 1998. The agreement was revised again in 2004 to enable supply of ammunition to U.S. forces in “noncombat” areas when enemy attack on Japan was either taking place or anticipated.

The revised agreement signed by Tokyo and Washington in late September brings SDF troops providing logistical support for U.S. forces much closer to the battlefield. The previous government policy dictated that Japanese troops in such missions operate only in “noncombat” zones — explained as areas where the fighting is currently not taking place and where fighting is not expected to occur over the duration of the support mission — so that the SDF troops providing the logistical support would not become an integral part of the use of force by the other forces in combat missions, as prohibited by the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.

The Cyber-War on Wikileaks

OCTOBER 18, 2016

Srećko Horvat & Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London – Sunshine Press Publications.

When the ruling class is in panic, their first reaction is to hide the panic.

They react out of cynicism: when their masks are revealed, instead of running around naked, they usually point the finger at the mask they wear. These days the whole world could witness a postmodern version of the infamous quote “Let them eat cake”, attributed to Marie-Antoinette, queen of France during the French Revolution.

As a reaction to WikiLeaks publishing his emails, John Podesta, the man behind Hillary Clinton’s campaign, posted a photo of a dinner preparation, saying “I bet the lobster risotto is better than the food at the Ecuadorian Embassy”.

A similar version of vulgar cynicism emerged earlier this month when Hillary Clinton reacted to the claim that she reportedly wanted to “drone” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (“Can’t we just drone this guy?”) when she was the US Secretary of State. Instead of denying her comments, Clinton said that she doesn’t recall any such joke, “It would have been a joke if it had been said, but I don’t recall that”.

One doesn’t have to read between the lines to understand that if Hillary Clinton had said that, she would have considered it a joke. But when emperors joke, it usually has dire consequences for those who are the objects of their “humor.”

Cyber-war Not with Russia…but WikiLeaks

How Scary is Disruptive Technology?

Martin Feldstein, Professor of Economics at Harvard University and President Emeritus of the National Bureau of Economic Research, chaired President Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1982 to 1984. In 2006, he was appointed to President Bush's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and,… READ MORE

CAMBRIDGE – The steady stream of improvements in driverless cars has convinced me that before too long the roads will be filled with cars and trucks operating without humans at the wheel. Likewise, I am convinced that the revolution in artificial intelligence will allow computers and robots to do many of the tasks that white-collar workers now do.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that many people are worried about the fate of those whose jobs are vulnerable – or have already been lost – to the latest disruptive technology. What will happen to the millions of men and women who now drive trucks and taxis when the trucks and taxis can drive themselves? What will happen to the accountants and health workers when computers can do their jobs

Some analysts have estimated that, with many fewer employees needed to produce the current volume of goods and services, a large share of current employment could be made redundant.

I hear these worries and realize that they cannot be easily dismissed. But I am optimistic that the United States, at least, will adapt successfully to the new technology. There may be some losers as well as winners, but the American public as a whole will be better off. And those who lose their jobs to the new technology will soon find other employment.

I believe that there is little reason to worry that the new technology will create large-scale unemployment. The changes in technology will increase the economy’s output and raise the potential standard of living of the population. Those who want to work will continue to find jobs.

Winning the Cyber Gage: Intelligence Dominance in the Digital Information Age

October 18, 2016 

Winning the Cyber Gage: Intelligence Dominance in the Digital Information Age


In the age of sail, warships sought tactical advantage in engagements by maneuvering to windward of enemy ships. This “weather gage” allowed ships freedom of movement while the enemy’s relative movement was limited. Similarly, in the digital information age, maritime superiority will be determined by the extent to which a force is able to seize the cyber gage. For naval intelligence to effectively support the Chief of Naval Operation’s new strategy, it must first adapt to the realities of the digital information age.[i] Naval intelligence faces additional challenges posed by an increasingly integrated global maritime transportation system, a rapid rate of technological change, an austere budget climate, and a return to great power competition with China and Russia. This future operating environment will demand seizing the digital initiative, the cyber gage, through better intelligence, delivered faster, across a broader social network.

The Future Environment

Future realities will drive operational requirements. The twin forces of globalization and rapid technological change are creating a world in which a majority of people will soon have access to digital information networks through cyberspace. If the rate of Internet growth continues, we can expect an additional 2.5 billion users by 2030.[ii] Autonomous devices are also increasingly linked to the Internet. Devices ranging from home security systems to refrigerators are forming a menacing new galaxy in cyberspace: the Internet of Things (IOT). By connecting billions of people and things worldwide, cyberspace will drive geometric growth in the number of social networks, their complexity, and the ability of individuals to quickly plan and act independently of traditional human institutions. Despite this growth, there will still be a significant portion of human activity that remains offline. While cyber relationships help broaden an individual’s personal network, non-cyber relationships tend to be stronger and therefore more decisive in terms of predicting future behavior. For this reason, human derived intelligence will be a critical tool in providing overall situational awareness and predictive intelligence to operators. The complexity of cyber-enabled social networks has expanded beyond traditional geographical limitations, holding significant policy implications for businesses, governments, and intelligence agencies alike.