24 October 2016

*** The Battle for Mosul Begins - Analysis

October 18, 2016
Editor's Note: The operation to recapture the key northern Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State is now underway. Attempts to build up the necessary forces and pave the way for the attack have taken more than a year. The operation is expected to go on for months, if all goes according to plan. What we are seeing now is the initial advance onto the city itself, which will be followed by the fight to actually penetrate the Islamic State's defenses. Arguably the most important aspect of the operation is what happens after the city falls. Mosul fits into our overall coverage of the Iraq-Syria battlespace, but because of the size and nature of the combined operation, we will track it independently in this space.

Oct. 17: The Battle for Mosul Begins
The long-awaited push to retake Mosul from the Islamic State has begun. On Oct. 16, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on national television that the operation to recapture the country's second-largest city, which has been under the jihadist group's control since June 2014, was underway. Iraqi forces have been preparing for the offensive for months, gradually advancing north toward the city to put into place the logistics lines needed to support such a massive and lengthy endeavor.
So far, the Iraqi military and Kurdish peshmerga forces spearheading the operation have made considerable progress.As expected, the bulk of the fighters have concentrated their efforts on moving northward along highways 1 and 80, though supporting advances from the east and north by remaining Iraqi troops and peshmerga have seen significant success as well. The U.S.-led coalition has also provided air and artillery support to the operation, while the predominantly Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces have offered ground support on the outskirts of the city once they join the offensive.

But despite its early success, the campaign to dislodge the Islamic State from one of its last remaining Iraqi strongholds will be neither quick nor easy. The group is undoubtedly preserving its strength for conflict inside the city itself, which will be more difficult and more destructive than waging war in largely unpopulated areas. For now, the militants are likely relying solely on rearguard action, or defensive maneuvers made by a retreating force, while they wait for their opponents to converge on the city.

Modi’s balance of power test

Thursday, 08 September 2016 | Pravin Sawhney |

The signing of a military pact with the US is only the latest in a series of steps that India is taking to emerge as the major security provider in the Indo-Pacific. While this is an admirable goal, New Delhi must take care to build a win-win matrix that includes Russia and China.

The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) recently signed between India and the United States has been downplayed by Delhi and Washington, DC. China, through its mouth piece Global Times newspaper has expressed concerns on the bilateral agreement, while Pakistan has said it would affect strategic stability in South Asia.

Though seemingly innocuous, LEMOA is serious business for what it portends in terms of strategic ties between India and the US and the geopolitics of Asia. By definition, LEMOA is about India and the US allowing military logistics permission on a case-by-case basis to each other to facilitate joint exercises, humanitarian assistance and many other relief operations.

** Let's end the myths of Britain's imperial past

Source Link
Richard Gott

David Cameron would have us look back to the days of the British empire with pride. But there is little in the brutal oppression and naked greed with which it was built that deserves our respect

A map of c 1900 showing the possessions of the British empire in red.
In his speech to the Conservative party conference this month, David Cameron looked back with Tory nostalgia to the days of empire: "Britannia didn't rule the waves with armbands on," he pointed out, suggesting that the shadow of health and safety did not hover over Britain's imperial operations when the British were building "a great nation". He urged the nation to revive the spirit that had once allowed Britain to find a new role after the empire's collapse.

Tony Blair had a similar vision. "I value and honour our history enormously," he said in a speech in 1997, but he thought that Britain's empire should be the cause of "neither apology nor hand-wringing"; it should be used to further the country's global influence. And when Britain and France, two old imperial powers that had occupied Libya after 1943, began bombing that country earlier this year, there was much talk in the Middle East of the revival of European imperialism.

Half a century after the end of empire, politicians of all persuasions still feel called upon to remember our imperial past with respect. Yet few pause to notice that the descendants of the empire-builders and of their formerly subject peoples now share the small island whose inhabitants once sailed away to change the face of the world. Considerations of empire today must take account of two imperial traditions: that of the conquered as well as the conquerors. Traditionally, that first tradition has been conspicuous by its absence.

** Common knowledge and counter-strikes

Source Link
Rohit Prasad

Can Game Theory explain how India made the decision to speak out about the surgical strikes its army conducted in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir?

To speak or not to speak—that must have been the question facing India’s leadership with regard to the recent surgical strikes. Does game theory—the study of decision-making in interdependent situations, i.e. situations in which the outcomes and the pay-offs of a “player” (a person, firm, or country involved in the situation) depend not just on what the player does but also on what others do—offer any answers?

The mathematical model of games defines a game as consisting of a set of players, each with a set of strategies, and a pay-off table specifying the pay-offs, i.e. gains and losses to each player from the adoption of any combination of strategies, one for each player. Game theorists base their analysis on two assumptions.

ICICI Bank Blazes A Trail In Using Innovative Blockchain Technology

Source Link
13 Oct, 2016,
One of India's leading private sector banks has become a pioneer in successfully remitting money in real time, using innovative blockchain technology with a UAE financial institution. ICICI Bank said that it completed the transactions in partnership with Emirates NBD.

This technology simplifies the process and only takes a few minutes to complete a transaction. This is in contrast to the existing process which involves a lengthy paper trail. It also enables the financial institutions to authenticate ownership of assets digitally, as an unalterable ledger in real time.

ICICI Bank managing director and chief executive officer Chanda Kochhar said the emerging blockchain technology will play a significant role in banking. In the future, she said, the technology will make complex bilateral and multi-lateral banking transactions seamless, quick and more secure.

** The superpowers’ playground Everyone wants a piece of Djibouti. It’s all about the bases

Apr 9th 2016 | DJIBOUTI |

AT 2pm in the tiny African state of Djibouti everything stops. As the sun burns high in the sky people retreat to their homes, save for a few men lying in the shade of colonial-era walkways, chewing qat leaves that bring on a hazy high. In the soporific heat you would be forgiven for thinking that time had forgotten the New Jersey-sized nation. Yet its quiet stability within the volatile Horn of Africa has made the country of just 875,000 people a hub for the world’s superpowers.

The stars and stripes flutters alongside the runway where military and passenger planes touch down: Camp Lemmonier, America’s only permanent military base in Africa, hosts 4,500 troops and contractors who conduct missions against al-Qaeda in Yemen and al-Shabab in Somalia. The outpost, leased for $60m a year, shares an airstrip with the international airport, although its drones now fly from a desert airfield eight miles away after one crashed in a residential area in 2011.


Thursday, 20 October 2016 | Devesh Vijay 

India has been a functioning democracy since the last 70 years and is among the world’s fastest growing economies. And yet, it has been struggling with basic issues of quality health and education. An efficient welfare system, certainly not of the Left kind, is needed.

Despite our ‘deepening’ democracy and record economic growth since the 1990s, human indices in India have remained dismal on most counts. While about a sixth of our population remains close to the starvation line (of $ 1.25 per capita, daily consumption), as much as a third of our children appear stunted and about half of Indian women are anemic, in the National Family Health Survey of 2005. No doubt, life expectancy has doubled in the country since independence. Yet, morbidity is rising as pollution and contaminated food and water are unleashing diseases like asthma and diabetes on an unprecedented scale.

** The Limits of China’s Influence in Pakistan

October 17, 2016

On October 6, Cyril Almeida, a veteran journalist with Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, authored one of the more tantalizing news stories in recent Pakistani history: a fly-on-the-wall account of a contentious meeting between Pakistan’s civilian leadership and General Rizwan Akhtar, the head of its military intelligence bureau, the Directorate General for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). According to the report—since denied by the Prime Minister’s Office—Pakistan’s foreign secretary told General Akhtar that Pakistan faced growing isolation due to the activities of militant groups operating from its soil. Most importantly, close ally China was beginning to tire of blocking moves at the United Nations to place Pakistani militants on the list of global terrorists. As written, the article suggests that the mention of China finally shifted the mood of the delegates in khaki; following an accusation that the military had prevented civilian law enforcement from arresting militant leaders, General Akhtar announced that he would personally order regional ISI branches not to interfere with civilian law enforcement moves against Pakistan-based terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad. Almeida has since reported (via Twitter) that he has been placed on Pakistan’s Export Control List.

The events described in the article, which was unsourced, may be an invention meant to serve the agendas of any of the parties in the room (they make the civilians look tough but also place the onus on them to carry out future arrests). Or the conversation may in fact have taken place but with the implicit understanding that any terrorist arrested under this new dispensation would spend a short, comfortable stay in jail (or under house arrest) before being released on his own recognizance. This is a strategy that Pakistan hassuccessfully employed in the past when international pressure became too great to resist.

Pentagon Metrics on Afghan War are Useless

Shawn Snow

The Diplomat
October 12, 2016

What is going on in Afghanistan? After 15 years of U.S. and NATO involvement in the war torn country, many of Afghanistan’s cities find themselves surrounded and under siege by a resurgent Taliban force.

The train, advise, and assist mission known as Resolute Support, still contends that Afghan forces are capable of defending major cities and population centers. During a visit to the embattled city of Lashkar Gah, the commander of Resolute Support General Nicholson promised that the provincial capital of Helmand would never fall to the Taliban.

“The Afghan government and security forces are getting stronger each day and eventually they will be able to secure the entire province,” Nicholson said.

On October 11, 400 reinforcements for Afghan forces were spearheaded to the capital to prevent its collapse after a suicide bomber destroyed a police station and Taliban militants briefly entered the city.

In Farah city, Afghan forces continue to struggle against a Taliban onslaught as militants captured the city gateway and threatened to collapse the entire city, despite airstrikes carried out by Afghan forces on Monday that reportedly killed 27 Taliban militants.

Taliban threatens another provincial capital in Afghan north

October 21, 2016

Bill Roggio
The Long War Journal

The Taliban has surrounded yet another provincial capital in Afghanistan and recently launched an attempt to overrun it. The Taliban is now threatening six of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals in Afghanistan, according to data compiled byThe Long War Journal, and its operations are not nearly confined to one region of the country.

On Oct. 16, the Taliban assaulted Maimana, Faryab’s capital, “from three directions,” and attacked the city’s airport and an Afghan Army base, but were rebuffed by Afghan forces, according to TOLONews. Taliban fighters withdrew to “bases to Khaja Sahib Posh and Pashtun Kot districts” after failing to achieve their objectives.

** Satellite images show why the liberation of Mosul could come at a high cost

Rick Noack

Washington Post, October 19, 2016

Three days after the battle for Mosul was launched on Monday, efforts by Kurdish and Iraqi soldiers to retake the major city were slowed Wednesday by remotely detonated bombs, concrete barriers and booby traps. "It’s going to be a tough fight and a difficult fight,“ President Obama acknowledged Tuesday, as more signs of resistance emerged from the Islamic State stronghold.

Mosul is the largest city in northern Iraq, and more than 1 million residents are believed to remain there, amplifying fears of a humanitarian disaster in case of a prolonged battle in which Islamic State fighters might use civilians as human shields.

But the battle for the city could last for months, as did the liberation of the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State, a.k.a. ISIS, in central Iraq. The most intense fighting there occurred between November 2015 and January 2016.
Residents paid a heavy toll for the liberation of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province. According to a satellite imagery-analysis by several U.N. agencies, nearly 2,000 buildings, streets or bridges, among other structures, were destroyed between July 2014 and end of January 2016, when most fighting had ended.

*** Nuclear Pakistan

In the mid-1970s Pakistan embarked upon the uranium enrichment route to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in May 1998, shortly afterIndia's nuclear tests, declaring itself a nuclear weapon state. Pakistan currently possesses a growing nuclear arsenal, and remains outside both the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).


Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris characterize Pakistan as having, "the world's fastest-growing nuclear stockpile." [1] According to the SIPRI 2015 Yearbook, Pakistan possesses between 100 and 120 nuclear weapons. [2] However, the International Panel on Fissile Materials concluded in 2015 that Pakistan possesses fissile material sufficient for over 200 weapons. Islamabad has stockpiled approximately 3.1 ± .4 metric tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU), and produces enough HEU for perhaps 10 to 15 warheads per year. Pakistan currently has a stockpile of about 190 kg of weapons-grade plutonium, with the ability to produce approximately 12 to 24 kg per year. In addition, the Chashma reprocessing plant is nearing completion, which the IPFM estimated in 2015 would expand Pakistan’s plutonium production capability by 50-100 kg per year. [3] Pakistan has completed work on all four reactors at the Khushab facility, where the Khan Research Laboratories greatly increased its HEU production capacity by employing more efficient P-3 and P-4 gas centrifuges. Satellite imagery of the fourth and last reactor at Khushab from January 2015 verified the complete external construction, including the presence of steam, a signature of its operation. [4]

A legacy of sponsored warriors

Source Link
Khaled Ahmed

Pakistan has vowed to get rid of its armed militias, but they aren’t leaving quietly.

In the past eight months, Pakistan has pushed back the wave of terrorism thanks to the provision of the NAP that allowed the army to intervene.

Why has Pakistan vowed to end its “armed militias” in its National Action Plan (NAP)? In December last year, an exiled Pakistani warlord named Fazlullah killed 132 children in an army public school in Peshawar through his henchmen. The shock of what happened was so great that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called an all-party conference and got everyone to agree to a NAP against domestic terrorism. In the past eight months, Pakistan has pushed back the wave of terrorism thanks to the provision of the NAP that allowed the army to intervene. And NAP ordains getting rid of “armed militias”.

Status Report on the Forgotten War in Afghanistan

September 8, 2016
Afghanistan: Bloody Money Keeps Traditions Alive

So far this year the Afghan army is losing about 130 soldiers a month. Nearly 60 percent of these deaths are from roadside bombs and other IED (improvised explosive devices). Foreign troops have suffered about one dead a month so far this year. That’s about half the rate of 2015. The foreign troops avoid combat and the Islamic terrorists avoid attacking the foreign troops and security contractors. Afghan troops have been fighting like the departed Western forces and with similar success. But the Afghan forces don’t have as much air support, artillery and access to medical care as the Western forces. Afghan commanders point out, accurately, that if more of that support is provided it will not result in any more Western combat deaths and will lower Afghan army and police losses and boost morale as well. The Islamic terrorists are mainly attacking morale and that means terror attacks that mainly kill civilians.
Over 250,000 civilians have been displaced by the fighting so far in 2016. That number may more than triple by the end of the year. Over three million people are cut off from regular food supplies by the fighting to the extent that there is visible malnutrition, especially among children. This is also part of the Taliban plan to defeat the government. Despite continued aid from drug gangs and Pakistan most Afghans are not willing to surrender. One side effect of this is it shows how decades of Pakistani efforts to gain a degree of control over Afghanistan have backfired, especially inside Afghanistan. There the primary Pakistani allies are drug gangs, corrupt politicians and Islamic terrorists. Not surprisingly these three groups are the most hated inside Afghanistan and despite death threats and bribes the Afghan media and a growing number of usually quiet (out of fear) politicians, prominent preachers and tribal leaders are speaking out. This was mostly out of self-interest as most of Afghanistan’s worst problems could be traced back to Pakistan. The biggest problem is illegal drugs, mainly opium and heroin. Pakistan drove the drug gangs out of its own tribal territories in the 1980s but the drug business simply moved to Afghanistan and both countries now suffer from widespread addiction and the growing financial and political (via bribes) power of gangsters thriving on drug profits. Afghanistan is the largest producer of heroin in the world and drugs are a major part of the economy, especially in the south (Kandahar and Helmand provinces). This is where most of the Taliban leadership and manpower came (and still come) from. Pakistan admits they created the Taliban, but only to stop the 1990s civil war in Afghanistan. That wasn’t true. Pakistan expected the Taliban to ensure that whatever government was running Afghanistan, Pakistani needs would be tended to. That meant tolerance for the drug trade (which made many Pakistanis rich), no contacts with India and no criticism of the Pakistani military or its intelligence branch (the ISI). But the Taliban and the drug gangs have been tearing Afghanistan apart ever since. Only about ten percent of Afghans got any economic benefit out of the drug business and millions of Afghans, Pakistanis and people throughout the region have become drug addicts.

Bob Dylan: The Music Travels, the Poetry Stays Home

Associated Press

No one has been a fiercer critic of the Nobel Prize in Literature than I. It’s not the choices that are made, though some (Elfriede Jelinek, Dario Fo) have been truly bewildering; it’s just the silliness of the idea that a group of Swedish judges, always the same, could ever get their minds round literature coming from scores of different cultures and languages, or that anyone could ever sensibly pronounce on the best writers of our time. The best for whom? Where? Does every work cater to everybody? The Nobel for literature is an accident of history, dependent on the vast endowment that fuels its million-dollar award. What it reveals more than anything else is the collective desire, at least here in the West, that there be winners and losers, at the global level, that a story be constructed about who are the greats of our era, regardless of the impossibility of doing this in any convincing way.
At times I have even thought the prize has had a perverse influence. The mere thought that there are writers who actually write towards it, fashioning their work, and their networking, in the hope of one day wearing the laurels, is genuinely disturbing. And everyone is aware of course of that sad figure, the literary great who in older age eats his or her heart out because, on top of all the other accolades, the Swedish Academy has never called. They would be better off if the prize did not exist. As for the journalists, one might say that the more they are interested in the prize, the less they are interested in literature.

Asian Support for Democracy in Myanmar

October 19, 2016
Summary: The time is ripe for Indonesia, India, and Japan to shed their inhibitions and redouble their efforts to strengthen the foundations of Myanmar’s democracy.
Myanmar is in the midst of a new phase of its attempted political transition. As it has progressed, three regional democracies—Indonesia, India, and Japan—have individually taken positive if somewhat cautious approaches to support this change. There is an opportunity for deeper and coordinated regional engagement. These three major Asian democracies could help bolster Myanmar’s political situation and its new government as it faces the challenges of a budding democracy.

The authors traveled to Yangon and Mandalay in May 2016 to assess how Indonesia, India, and Japan are reacting to this new phase and the extent to which they are supporting a democratic outcome. They found these major Asian democracies are still circumspect in the amount of help they are willing to offer Myanmar’s democratic reformers. Though these countries’ support is still evolving, it has long been scattered and indirect. Stronger support would be a vital contribution to a successful transition in Myanmar. Interviews in Myanmar revealed a number of areas in which these Asian democracies could collaborate to strengthen Myanmar’s democratic change.
After winning about 80 percent of contested seats in Myanmar’s November 2015 legislative elections, the National League for Democracy (NLD) formed a new government in March 2016. The formation of an NLD government does not in itself represent the advent of democracy. The military continues to play a substantial role in politics. The new government has left most ambassadorial positions in the hands of the military. Longtime bureaucrats who retain the mind-set of the junta era remain in place. While pact-making with the military is needed for a stable transition, the NLD’s lack of governing capacity is a serious concern.

The skills and capacity of the new government will be challenged by the social and economic issues it must handle. Despite Myanmar’s bountiful natural resources, it remains one of the poorest and most unequal countries in Southeast Asia. In all key human development indicators, Myanmar lags behind its Southeast Asian peers, with the exception of Cambodia. The country’s developmental challenges are evidenced in frequent power cuts, weak electric coverage, and poor transportation infrastructure. Millions of NLD supporters who voted for Aung San Suu Kyi’s comeback have great expectations that her government will bring tangible change to their lives. The director of the Sandhi Governance Institute, which provides public policy training to civil servants and parliamentarians, told the authors that it will be difficult for the inexperienced NLD team to meet the high level of public expectations. Indeed, blackouts have become more frequent in the last year.1

Is Washington “False Flagging” The New Russia-Iran-Syria-China “Axis of Evil”, Into Nuclear War?

Global Research, October 21, 2016

False flagging has hundreds of years of history; successful history that is. Otherwise the method of lying and bullying people into false believes would not have survived the times.
But false flags took on a new dimension since 9/11. The subsequent terror acts, including the Arab Spring and ‘Color Revolutions’; downing of a Russian plane over Egypt; shooting down of a Malaysian plane over the Ukraine; Paris murderous shootings at ‘Charlie Hebdo’ and ‘Bataclan’; Brussels; Nice; Munich; Orlando, Florida; San Bernardino, California – to name just a few over the last years – were perpetrated by the very actors claiming to fight terror, namely predominantly the secret services of the US, UK and Israel, the European vassals and NATO. The purpose of such acts of terror is to create fear, to justify a police crackdown on the populations and doing away with every time more of the democratic civil rights still left in western society.

The penultimate goal is total militarization of the western world, to prevent and suppress protests and revolts if and when the population eventually wakes up to the flagrant lies that it has been force-fed by the presstitute media for years on end.
And that in itself is a crucial step towards the ultimate goal of Full Spectrum Dominance of the world, or world hegemony, by a small corporate and financial elite.
Alas, militarization of the west and ongoing wars and chaos throughout the world, causing millions of death – estimated between 12 and 15 million in the last 15 years – will not suffice to dominate the eastern powers led by Russia and China.

It’s in China’s interest to realise Indian concern

Source Link
Claude Arpi 

One Belt One Road is a great initiative, but it’s not an easy one. What looks like a masterstroke on paper, will turn into a nightmare for both China and Pakistan if India is not brought on board.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou in China, he is believed to have raised the topics of terrorism originating in Pakistan as well as the mega China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. Modi told Xi that New Delhi and Beijing must be sensitive to each other’s ‘strategic concerns’, which include terrorism from Pakistan, the CPEC crossing through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Chinese Airborne Forces

September 8, 2016
Out of Thin Air in China
Every year since 2010 China has been sending one or more battalions of paratroopers to Tibet so they can conduct one or more combat parachute drops. The first of these occurred in 2010 with a battalion landing in an open area of the Tibet plateau. This was significant because the average altitude on this vast plateau is 4000 meters (14,000 feet). This means parachutists have to jump from a higher altitude on account of the thinner air and the longer time it takes for the parachute to open. The reduced air pressure also causes altitude sickness for many troops, especially after something as strenuous as a parachute jump, and the frantic activity following the landing. The Chinese Army wanted to find out how well prepared it is to deal with these problems. Since that first drop the Chinese Army has adapted.
For the 2010 exercise parachute troops went through altitude acclimatization training beforehand, as the Chinese already know what happens when you send military units straight to the high plateau. This became painfully obvious 2008 when there was an uprising in Tibet. Many of the troops sent in soon fell ill from altitude sickness. The acclimatization training detects those troops who would get ill quickly, and the worst of these are kept closer to sea level.
The Chinese airborne units were not given all this special training just to reinforce Tibet. The Chinese point that most of their southern border area are covered with mountains and hills, averaging 3,000 meters (9,300 feet) in height. Training in Tibet gets the paratroopers ready to operate in all these areas.

Japan to expand Djibouti military base to counter Chinese influence

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan will lease additional land next year to expand a military base in Djibouti, eastern Africa, as a counterweight to what it sees as growing Chinese influence in the region, three Japanese government sources said.

China is seeking closer ties with African nations that could help it gain access to natural resources and provide new markets. Beijing said late last year it would pump US$60 billion (S$83 billion) into development projects on the continent, cancel some debt and help boost agriculture.

Earlier this year, Japan also pledged to increase its support to infrastructure, education and healthcare projects in Africa, committing an extra US$30 billion in public and private support.

"China is putting money into new infrastructure and raising its presence in Djibouti, and it is necessary for Japan gain more influence," said one of the sources, with knowledge of the plan.

China in February began construction in Djibouti of its first overseas military facility, a coastal logistics base that will resupply naval vessels taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.

The Cruise That Changed China, What Zhao Could Teach Xi

On September 2, 1985, the SS Bashan cruised through the green-leaved gorges of the Yangtze River, its prow breaking the waters along its 259-foot length. Inside, the river’s shifting light played off the hallways, staterooms, and modish decorations, and air conditioning kept the late-summer heat at bay. The luxurious cruise ship had entered service earlier that year, with room for nearly 150 passengers curious to see sights advertised as “inspir[ing] romantic poets and painters with [a] sense of timelessness, awesome beauty, and endless energy.” But the spacious decks of theBashan were strangely empty.
Nearly everyone onboard was massed in the main hall, where a world of accents resounded: American, Chinese, German, Hungarian, Polish, Scottish. All eyes were fixed on a man with elfin features behind thick-rimmed glasses, wearing a long-sleeved white shirt and no jacket: the Hungarian economist Janos Kornai. Behind him was an incongruous prop for a river cruise, a blackboard on which he had sketched out economic models. On his left, Ma Hong, one of China’s leading policymakers, listened attentively, and a few seats away, Xue Muqiao, China’s most famous economist, sat smoking. The American economist and Nobel laureate James Tobin and the Scottish economist Sir Alec Cairncross were also in attendance. Elsewhere in the room sat two young Chinese scholars: Lou Jiwei, now China’s finance minister, and Guo Shuqing, who currently governs Shandong, one of China’s richest provinces.
The cruise ship was hosting a weeklong meeting of some of the world’s most brilliant economists, who had assembled to figure out a plan for China’s troubled economy. The gathering came at the zenith of an era when officials under Deng Xiaoping were scouring the globe for fresh ideas that would set China on the path to prosperity and global economic power.

* Will "Winning" in Mosul Be "Losing"?

October 17, 2016
The fight to liberate Mosul has begun. In fact, it began with a new round of U.S.-led air strikes before the Iraqi announcement that the various elements of Iraqi ground forces were ready to engage. It will be one of the most critical elements of the U.S. military effort to defeat terrorism and violent Islamist extremism, as well as help determine the success of future U.S. efforts to bring some elements of stability to an increasingly more unstable Middle East.
There is no way to know how hard the fight will be or how determined ISIS is to hold the city. Estimates of its force size are surprisingly low, and rarely exceed 4,500 actual fighters. At the same time, it has had months to prepare, and has shown all too clearly how willing it is to sacrifice its fighters in suicide attacks and battle of attrition when it chooses to do so. It is also all too willing to use civilians as shields and tools of war. It also has to consider how easily it can hold its positions in Syria, and retain the loyalty of its fighters if it does not turn Mosul into as long a battle as possible. Falling back does not offer much security given its loss of any secure route through Turkey, and a successful Iraqi advance that includes both Mosul and the rest of Ninewa will further contain any ability to get new volunteers, money, and supplies.

At the same time, “winning” in Mosul is likely to be highly relative and presents major challenges in terms of Iraqi unity. All the various elements of Iraqi forces have different goals and objectives. This is why the United States has already spent so much time quietly persuading the Kurds to help without trying to acquire new territory, pushing Iraqi central government forces to take over the main military effort, creating at least some local Sunni militia elements and limiting the role of the Shi’ite militias. Iraq’s central government and the United States face almost as much of a threat from their “allies” as from ISIS—keeping them from turning on each other and from trying to exploit the victory over ISIS to their own advantage at the expense of Iraqi unity is at best going to be a “close run thing.”
Every major faction involved in fighting ISIS has its own priorities and conflicting goals. The former Sunni governor of Ninewa—the province of which Mosul is part—wants to make it an Arab Sunni enclave. The Kurds—which are divided against each other—have their own ambitions and talk about independence. The Iraqi Army remains weak and uncertain, and the police are all too ineffective and divided along sectarian and tribal lines. Some of the Shi’ite militias have mistreated Sunni Arab civilians in past operations and are extremists in their own right.

What Does an Adviser Do? Mosul Operation Highlights Elasticity of Military Support Operations. by The Washington Post

As the operation to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul gets underway, American troops are poised to expand their hands-on support to local forces battling the Islamic State. In a sign of the importance of the long-awaited offensive, military leaders are authorized to place U.S. forces advisers with Iraqi army battalions for the first time as they push toward militant lines, exposing U.S. forces to greater risks.
Military officials say the troops will remain back from the thick of combat, and will limit their support to coordinating air and artillery fire, providing intelligence and helping plan troop movements. The U.S. role will not, they insist, look like the years following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when U.S. troops who operated nominally in support of local forces often did the bulk of the fighting themselves. This time, U.S. advisers are “not meant to be the front-line troops,” Capt. Jeff Davis, a military spokesman, told reporters Tuesday.

Several days into the operation, Pentagon officials have provided only general information about where U.S. troops will be located and how exactly they will take part in the hoped-for advance. While American troops have been widely seen alongside local forces in forward positions east of Mosul, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook on Monday said only that some forces were positioned “on the outskirts of the city.” He said it was not yet clear whether U.S. forces would be permitted to enter the city proper.
Officials’ reluctance to provide greater detail reflects a desire to protect U.S. advisers, attached to local units in small groups of about a dozen. It is also part of an effort to keep the U.S. role in the background…

Iraq Launches Mosul Offensive

by Felix Richter, Statista.com
-- this post authored by Martin Armstrong
The Iraqi army, with support from Peshmerga militia, Sunni tribal fighters and the U.S.-led coalition launched today an offensive to take back the country's second-largest city, Mosul, from Isis control.
The so-called Islamic State has occupied the city since June 2014 and represents its last major stronghold in the country. There are believed to be around 6,000 Isis fighters in the city who will be met by a force of at least 45,000 Iraqi army soldiers attempting to drive them out.
Of grave concern to humanitarian organizations are the estimated 1.5 million people that may be impacted by the attack. 200,000 people are expected to be displaced, while there are currently only 60,000 spaces available in emergency sites set up around the region. Although OCHA says there are a further quarter of a million spaces planned, many fear the offensive will create a massive humanitarian disaster.
This infographic provides information to the Iraq offensive on Isis-held Mosul in October 2016.

The threat from Russia: How to contain Vladimir Putin’s deadly, dysfunctional empire

The Economist
October 21, 2016
FOUR years ago Mitt Romney, then a Republican candidate, said that Russia was America’s “number-one geopolitical foe”. Barack Obama, among others, mocked this hilarious gaffe: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the cold war’s been over for 20 years,” scoffed the president. How times change. With Russia hacking the American election, presiding over mass slaughter in Syria, annexing Crimea and talking casually about using nuclear weapons, Mr Romney’s view has become conventional wisdom. Almost the only American to dissent from it is today’s Republican nominee, Donald Trump.
Every week Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, finds new ways to scare the world. Recently he moved nuclear-capable missiles close to Poland and Lithuania. This week he sent an aircraft-carrier group down the North Sea and the English Channel. He has threatened to shoot down any American plane that attacks the forces of Syria’s despot, Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s UN envoy has said that relations with America are at their tensest in 40 years. Russian television news is full of ballistic missiles and bomb shelters. “Impudent behaviour” might have “nuclear consequences”, warns Dmitry Kiselev, Mr Putin’s propagandist-in-chief—who goes on to cite Mr Putin’s words that “If a fight is inevitable, you have to strike first.”
In fact, Russia is not about to go to war with America. Much of its language is no more than bluster. But it does pose a threat to stability and order. And the first step to answering that threat is to understand that Russian belligerence is not a sign of resurgence, but of a chronic, debilitating weakness.

Vlad the invader
As our special report this week sets out, Russia confronts grave problems in its economy, politics and society. Its population is ageing and is expected to shrink by 10% by 2050. An attempt to use the windfall from the commodity boom to modernise the state and its economy fell flat. Instead Mr Putin has presided over a huge increase in government: between 2005 and 2015, the share of Russian GDP that comes from public spending and state-controlled firms rose from 35% to 70%. Having grown by 7% a year at the start of Mr Putin’s reign, the economy is now shrinking. Sanctions are partly to blame, but corruption and a fall in the price of oil matter more. The Kremlin decides who gets rich and stays that way. Vladimir Yevtushenkov, a Russian tycoon, was detained for three months in 2014. When he emerged, he had surrendered his oil company.

Mr Putin has sought to offset vulnerability at home with aggression abroad. With their mass protests after election-rigging in 2011-12, Russia’s sophisticated urban middle classes showed that they yearn for a modern state. When the oil price was high, Mr Putin could resist them by buying support. Now he shores up his power by waging foreign wars and using his propaganda tools to whip up nationalism. He is wary of giving any ground to Western ideas because Russia’s political system, though adept at repression, is brittle. Institutions that would underpin a prosperous Russia, such as the rule of law, free media, democracy and open competition, pose an existential threat to Mr Putin’s rotten state.

DNI Clapper discusses difficulty of monitoring online threats, hackers


By: Mark Pomerleau, October 20, 2016 (Photo Credit: USGIF)

The internet has Director of National Intelligence James Clapper longing for the days of the Cold War. 
Clapper noted the threats and actors in cyberspace such as hacktivist collectives, terrorists and nation-states — all with different objectives, “all of them operate on the very same internet,” he said during a keynote presentation Oct. 20 during an event hosted by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance in Washington. 
“Sometimes all this makes me long for the … Cold War when the world essentially had two large, mutually exclusive telecommunications networks; one essentially dominated by the United States, and the other … dominated by the Soviet Union and Europe allies.” 
Clapper noted that these distinct networks made it so intelligence officials could be “reasonably sure that if we were listening to someone on a Soviet-dominated network, that person was probably not going to be a U.S. citizen. Today, of course, that’s not the case, and it makes our work exponentially harder.” 

Threat actors today use the internet for various purposes and take advantage of the anonymity it provides, even sometimes obfuscating identity further by routing their connection through servers across the globe. 
One of the organizations using the internet for ill that Clapper mentioned is the Islamic State group. While their hacking collective — thought to be a disparate network of sympathizers not necessarily affiliated in any official capacity with the group — has to date attempted to demonstrate hacking ability through a series of low-level internet page defacements, among other methods, Clapper noted that their hacking is not the real problem. 

Britain using cyber warfare in battle against IS, says Sir Michael Fallon

The Defence Secretary was speaking at an international conference on waging war through advanced technology

Britain is using cyber warfare in the bid to retake Mosul from Islamic State forces, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has revealed.
Speaking at an international conference on waging war through advanced technology, Sir Michael made it clear Britain was unleashing its cyber capability on IS, also known as Daesh.
Asked if the UK was launching cyber attacks in the bid to take the northern Iraqi city from IS, the Defence Secretary said: "I'm not going into operational specifics, but yes, you know we are conducting military operations against Daesh as part of the international coalition, and I can confirm that we are using offensive cyber for the first time in this campaign."
Sir Michael told the cyber warfare conference, organised by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), that the UK was preparing itself for a significant assault.

"It is only a matter of time before we have to deal with a major attack on UK interests.
"Last year GCHQ detected twice as many national security level cyber incidents - 200 a month - as the year before.
"We know hostile actors are already developing and deploying advanced capabilities.
"Our cyber adversaries can target us anywhere on the planet, not only stealing our information to exploit, coerce, or gain psychological advantage over us, but potentially dealing a sucker punch to our systems, disrupting our armaments, or our energy supplies, even our government systems.
"That's why Her Majesty's Government is investing £1.9 billion - almost double the previous levels of investment - to protect the UK from attack, to keep ahead of the curve," he said.

The Defence Secretary announced £265 million is being pumped into "rooting out cyber vulnerabilities" in military and wider cyber dependent systems to try to counter the growing threat.

Recruiting and Retaining Cybersecurity Ninjas

October 19, 2016
This report identifies the factors that make an organization the employer of choice for what the authors call “cybersecurity ninjas.” Much has been written about the shortage of cybersecurity professionals, but little work has been done on the factors that help high-performing cybersecurity organizations build and keep a critical mass of high-end specialists. This is a first attempt that the authors hope will prompt discussion and drive changes in how organizations attract and retain high-end cybersecurity talent.

Associate Fellow, Strategic Technologies Program

The internet is still actually controlled by 14 people who hold 7 secret keys

JULIE BORT0OCT 21, 2016, 
It sounds like something out of a Dan Brown book, but it isn't: The whole internet is protected by seven highly protected keys, in the hands of 14 people.
And in a few days, they are going to hold a historic ritual known as theRoot Key Signing Ceremony.
On Friday morning, the world got a good reminder as to how important the organization that these people belong to is.
A good chunk of the internet went down for a while when hackers managed to throw so much traffic at a company called Dyn, that Dyn's servers couldn't take it, and Dyn went down for a while.

Dyn is a major provider of something called the Domain Name System (DNS), a system that translates web addresses, like "businessinsider.com" (easier for humans to remember) into the numerical IP addresses that computers use to identify web pages.
Dyn is just one DNS provider. And while hackers never gained control of its network, the success of hackers to bring it offline for even just a few hours via this so-called "denial of service" attack, shows just how much the internet relies on DNS. This attack briefly brought down sites like Business Insider, Amazon, Twitter, Github, Spotify, and many others.
Upshot: if you control all of DNS, you can control all of the internet.
If someone were to gain control of ICANN's database, that person would pretty much control the internet. For instance, the person could send people to fake bank websites instead of real bank websites.
DNS at its highest levels is secured by handful of people around the world, known Crypto Officers.

It probably wasn’t Russia who attacked the Internet yesterday. That’s what’s scary

Henry Farrell
Washington Post, October 21, 2016
As users of Twitter and many other services probably know, large parts of the Internet weren’t working Friday, thanks to a hacking attack on the Internet’s infrastructure. NBC reported that a senior intelligence official told the network that the hack “does not appear at this point to be any kind of state-sponsored or directed attack.” It may be that new evidence emerges that leads the U.S. intelligence community to change its opinion and identify a major state as a responsible party. The scarier possibility is that it wasn’t a state that did it.

The attack targeted the domain name system.
The Internet relies on a complicated mix of systems and protocols to work. Friday’s attack targeted a key aspect of the Internet — the domain name system. Every time your desktop or phone browser asks to load the Web page for, say,http://www.washingtonpost.com, specialized servers need to turn the Web address into a series of numbers — the IP address — to figure out where the request ought to be sent. The company that was hacked Friday runs part of the domain name system. The hackers sent so many requests to the domain name servers that they were overwhelmed.
This kind of attack is called a distributed denial of service attack, or DDoS attack. It used to be thought of as a relatively unsophisticated instrument, and many forms of DDoS can be easily repelled, once the target of the attack realizes what is going on. Both activists (such as members of the loose Anonymous collective) and state actors (looking to silence inconvenient dissidents offshore) have used DDoS attacks in the past. Such attacks led Google to create Project Shield, which was intended to deploy Google’s massive resources to protect actors who might otherwise be effectively silenced by nefarious actors.

These attacks have escalated.
Unfortunately, such attacks have escalated dramatically over time. The problem started with unsecured computers. Many people (almost certainly including readers of this article) are bad at keeping their computer operating systems updated, with the result that their computers have been quietly subverted and made part of ‘botnets’ made up of thousands of enslaved machines. These computers can then be turned against a target system, repeatedly bombarding it with demands until it is effectively taken off the Internet. Criminals have herded botnets to blackmail the owners of gambling websites by threatening to keep them offline with DDoS attacks until a ransom is paid.

Largest ever DDoS attack: Hacker makes Mirai IoT botnet source code public

October 13, 2016
The botnet code that took journalist Brian Krebs and French web host OVH offline is now freely available.
The botnet behind the world’s largest ever distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that took out security journalist Brian Krebs’ website could soon rear its head again as the source code has been made freely available for any hacker to take advantage of.
A hacker known only as ‘Anna-senpai’ has released the source code for the Mirai malware and a tutorial for setting it up on HackForums.net, which is one of the most popular hacking communities on the internet and is freely accessible on the open web.
Mirai hijacks connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices by continuously scanning the internet until it discovers systems and devices that are using the default usernames and passwords that are set by the factory before the product is first shipped to customers.
The malware turns the connected things into zombie bots that the hacker can control using a command and control (C&C) server and use to flood targets with web traffic to knock them offline.

Anna-senpai says that he or she has decided to make the malware’s source code available because since the attack on Krebs’ website and French web hosting provider OVH, which was found to be caused by hijacked security cameras, among other things, internet service providers (ISP) around the world have wised up to the dangers of unsecure IoT devices.
The hacker doesn’t plan on using the code anymore as the number of zombie bots that can be hijacked is dropping to below 300,000 per attack, but he or she reckons that the code could still be substantially useful to anyone else that wants to try something similar.

On 20 September, KrebsOnSecurity.com was hit by a large and sustained, record-breaking 665 Gbps DDoS attack designed to take the website offline. Krebs believes that the attack was likely issued by members of an Israeli online attack-for-hire service called vDOS, who were angry for Krebs for naming the two 18-year-old co-owners, who were arrested by Israeli police on the same day that the story came out.

Improvements to public key infrastructure help soldiers at the tactical edge

By: Adam Stone, October 12, 2016
The Army says it’s moving closer to implementing new technologies that would make its baseline network security infrastructure easier to operate on the tactical edge. 
Public key infrastructure (PKI) enables human users as well as devices to verify each other’s identity and securely exchange data over networks. But implementing PKI in tactical settings remains a challenge. 
Given recent progress in Public Key Infrastructure in a Tactical Environment (PKITE) Army planners said soldiers could see improvements in usability starting sometime in 2017. PKITE saw major progress this spring, when it transitioned from the U.S. Army Materiel Command’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) into Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T). This marked a new level of field readiness. 
“We feel the R&D solution has been matured enough to now begin transitioning over for actual fielding to the soldier,” said Bob Fedorchak, CERDEC Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate (S&TCD) tactical public key infrastructure technical lead. 

The Defense Department has lined up behind PKI as its go-to implementation in matters of identity and user authentication. In March, DoD CIO Terry Halvorsen told a House Armed Services subcommittee that by migrating from weak password-based authentication to PKI, DoD would “reduce the ability of adversaries to use stolen credentials to obtain access to DoD networks and systems.” 
CERDEC officials say the equation becomes somewhat more complex when PKI is implemented in a tactical environment, largely because soldiers must keep PKI certificates timely. This is something that is relatively easy to achieve for an individual’s credentials, but it gets more complicated when it comes to validating devices. 
Virtually anyone within the DoD enterprise has a PKI credential attached to a Common Access Card, or CAC, which allows access to DoD’s unclassified networks and information-sharing capabilities. In the case of a CAC, a printed expiration date makes it clear when the time is drawing near to renew the PKI, noted Rocio Bauer, chief of the Tactical Network Protection Branch in the CERDEC S&TCD Cyber Security/Information Assurance Division. 


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While most of the world enjoys the benefits of peace and growing prosperity, Juba, the capital of South Sudan, isawash in violence. This new country won its independence from Sudan just five years ago and has seen little peace since. With an estimated 50,000 dead since 2013, massacres of civilians, rapes of young girls, destruction of relief supplies, and forced child soldiers have become part of South Sudan’s bleak existence. In 2014, the U.N. Security Council dispatched a supplemental U.N. peacekeeping force to reinforce existing U.N. personnel, protect civilians, monitor human rights, facilitate humanitarian aid deliveries, and support the faltering ceasefire agreement. But the current 13,000-person force has been hard pressed. It stands accused of hiding in its camps and refusing to prevent ethnic violence and rapes within sight of its base in Malakal. Additional forces have been ordered in, but U.N. peacekeepers’ checkered record in Africa, replete with rape and sexual predation, does not offer any confidence in the force’s capacity to create rapid change in South Sudan’s virulent conflict.

U.N. peacekeeping operations were once well-recognized as an effective tool for mitigating and managing violent conflict. As shown in Figure 1, an increase in the 1990s in the number and scale of U.N. peacekeeping operationshelped produce a substantial decline in the number of active conflicts. But much has changed. Today, there are major questions about the quality of forces for long missions and reasons to believe that future peacekeeping missions will continue to face challenges similar to those experienced in South Sudan.Figure 1: Wars and Peacekeeping Operations, 1985 to 2007

Over its existence, the U.N. has approved a total of 69 peacekeeping operations, in which more than 3,000 peacekeepers have died. Today, there are more than 100,000 U.N. peacekeepers deployed to 16 missions around the world. The upward historical trend for uniformed peacekeeping troops since 1990 is shown in Figure 2, reflecting continuously increasing demand over time. The U.N. peacekeeping budget is now almost $8 billion per year. The United States contributes 28 percent of these funds, as the largest financial contributor. Collectively, the major European powers contribute a similar amount. However, money alone does not guarantee high performance.

The Next War? Trench Warfare With Smart Bombs


WASHINGTON: If you want a glimpse of future war, look back a hundred years to the bloody stalemate of the Somme, the cataclysmic battle of World War I. Instead of machineguns and artillery slaughtering soldiers in no man’s land, imagine smart weapons ravaging the air,land and sea. Instead of biplanes overhead, imagine swarming drones. Instead of the unreliable radios of 1916, with communications breakdowns throwing plans into chaos, imagine wireless networks hacked and jammed by enemies. The end result — the bodies — would look much the same.

“Like the European powers at the start of World War I, we could find ourselves tremendously unprepared,” said Tom Mahnken, president of theCenter for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “We’re likely to find ourselves surprised, and unpleasantly surprised.”
That grim prospect is much on the minds of top Pentagon leaders, notably the Deputy Secretary,Bob Work, and the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, who recently invoked World War I in a harrowing speech.


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An attack on French special operators in Syria caught the world’s attention last week, with many wondering what this means for the future of warfare and, in particular, traditional advantages of states on the battlefield against non-state foes. Ulrike Franke was one of those who took on these questions at War on the Rocks. While providing a good summary of the current usage of drones by irregular groups, she concluded perhaps too optimistically, stating: “In the short term, they are unlikely to fundamentally change the fight.” I am less optimistic. It seems clear to me that cheap commercial drones flying today can and, in the near future likely will, dramatically change the character of conflict between state and non-state actors. Previously on this site, I discussed how this technology will change wars between states; and so here I will focus on how non-state actors can and will use drones.

At the tactical level, these “flying IEDs” will raise the cost of protecting forces in country by heightening the threat to bases and lines of communications. While one might take comfort in the small size, and hence small payload, of hobby drones, doing so is a serious mistake. Allied forces in Iraq became painfully aware of the destructive power of explosively formed projectiles (EFPs). These relatively simple devices place a copper cone at the end of a tube filled with explosives. As the embedded video demonstrates, when the explosive detonates the cone inverts and becomes aprojectile with devastating power.