6 December 2016

*** The Monks of War

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This article originally appeared in the March 2006 issue.

Of all the lessons he's learned in this war, the most important one to Marine Lieutenant General James Mattis is this: Winning this war is mostly about not losing friends along the way. In the run-up to the invasion of Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, General Mattis was charged with setting up an air base in Pakistan to make the movement of marines into the theater possible. To clear the way for the airstrip, he flew to Islamabad and sat down with the Pakistani joint headquarters staff, a meeting that was mostly taken up with a litany of offenses the Americans had committed against the Pakistanis. "It started with the shoot-down of Francis Gary Powers, who flew out of Peshawar, and goes on about how many times our country has screwed theirs," says Mattis.

"Finally, after three hours, I said, 'I surrender. I am going to Afghanistan. Now, are you going to help me or not?'

"I said, 'I want to bring the ships in next to the beach. I want to land stuff across the beach. I have an airstrip nearby where I can fly stuff in and out. I want an intermediate support base where I can put some fuel. And by the way, here is H-hour, D day, and my objective.' The Pakistanis knew it all three weeks in advance and never revealed one word."

*** Is the Growing Pessimism About China Warranted?

Hai Zhang

There are few more consequential questions in world affairs than China’s uncertain future trajectory. Assumptions of a reformist China integrated into the international community have given way in recent years to serious concerns about the nation’s internal and external direction, as China has become more repressive at home and more assertive abroad. A number of critical variables will shape China’s evolution: the political orientation of the regime, needed economic transitions, social stability and civil society, national identity and historical legacies, diplomatic relationships, and the broadening footprint of the military. In a special symposium of articles just published in The Washington Quarterly, five leading China specialists have weighed in on these issues: David M. Lampton, David Shambaugh, Minxin Pei, Orville Schell, and Jeffrey Wasserstrom. These long-time China hands unpack the complexities and uncertainties, explore the forces shaping China’s future, and offer several alternative pathways the regime and nation may follow in the years ahead. Is the growing international pessimism about China’s internal and external behavior warranted? 

** Russia's Path to Another Resurgence


After enduring three years of a foundering economy and feuds with the West, things may be looking up for Russia. The Brexit vote in June exposed the deep discord in the European Union, giving Moscow a glimmer of hope that dissenting member states might break the bloc's consensus on its sanctions against Russia in a future vote on their renewal. Though EU members decided unanimously in July to extend the measures, upcoming elections on the Continent could undermine the bloc's unity. In the United States, meanwhile, Donald Trump's victory in the presidential election has opened a potential path to warmer relations between the United States and Russia, and perhaps even an end to Washington's sanctions on Moscow. The turning political tides in Brussels and Washington could give the Kremlin the leeway to increase its influence in the former Soviet Union, leading the countries in Russia's periphery to re-evaluate their foreign policy positions.

Uri, Pampore, Nagrota... We must act

Shankar Roychowdhury

The ISI is now extensively utilising the same concept and methodology against India.

The tandem fidayeen attacks, which had simultaneously targeted Headquarters 16 Corps at Nagrota and a BSF border outpost at Chamliyal near Samba, are the obvious Pakistani response to India’s “surgical strike” in response to the Uri attack. Headquarters, particularly the larger ones, are inherently “soft targets” as indeed are all types of administrative installations and base areas. This was graphically demonstrated during the Pakistani fidayeen attacks on the airbase at Pathankot. The selection of a corps headquarters for a fidayeen “surgical strike” is symbolic and a clear signal that Pakistan has upped the ante. The Indian Army on its part must ensure that its own “soft targets” are adequately “hardened” against such attacks, not only in border areas, but also elsewhere in the interior of the country as well.

Fidayeen are brainwashed suicide squads. These are generally considered as “non state actors”. Hence, their terrorist attacks — though deliberately targeted and launched to achieve military or psychological targets or objectives — always have a factor of “plausible deniability”, a term originally coined by the Central Intelligence Agency for such cross-border operations based in Pakistan against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan.

** Stratfor looks back at 2016, the breakout year for cybercrime

Summary:The media and military experts thrill to news about the A-10 and the latest nuclear submarine. Meanwhile new tools for cybercrime and cyberwar reshape the world. The FM website has covered these stories, puncturing the myths that fit them into a useful narrative for governments. Here Stratfor summarizes the events of 2016, the breakout year for cybercrime.

Hackers will continue to rely on social engineering tactics to exploit their victims. 

State and state-sponsored actors will turn increasingly to cybercrime to advance their national interests. 

Technological improvements to counter cybercrime will not protect against human vulnerability. 


The rise of the internet and related technologies has transformed the world, revolutionizing nearly all aspects of everyday life, including crime. In September, the Global Cyber Security Leaders summit in Berlin highlighted the cyberattack tactics that pose the greatest concern to security professionals. Many of these coincide with the threats that we have covered over the past year on Threat Lens, Stratfor’s new security portal. Some transcend criminal activity and involve state or state-sponsored actors using tricks of the cybercriminal trade to advance their countries’ agendas.

War as performance

Praveen Swami

Left behind in the rubble at Nagrota, the detritus of a fidayeen: An assault rifle, ammunition, injectable painkillers, and, incongruously, a small bottle of cheap, yellow ittar. The terrorist who carried these things, we know from the testimonies of others, would have risen early that morning, bathed, prayed, and shaved himself from head to foot. He’d have darkened his eyes with kohl, like a traditional bridegroom, and then perfumed himself, so he did not stink of war when the houris he had been promised greeted him inside the gates of heaven.

The mother of one such fidayeen, Imran Majid Butt, wrote this poem: “I wait for the day, O’Allah, when you will call out: ‘Who is the mother of this blood-drenched rose?’”

Ever since September’s strike on the 12th Brigade’s headquarters in Uri set the Line of Control ablaze, and brought India and Pakistan closer to war than they have been since 2002-2003, the cult of the fidayeen has seared itself on our public discourse as never before. India, it’s been claimed, is facing a grim new kind of war. Facts, though, tell another story: Fidayeen warfare is, in fact, a sideshow, militarily ineffective and strategically marginal to the jihadist insurgency in Kashmir. The cult of the fidayeen is about dying, not killing. The hysteria we now see, both in the media and among policymakers, is precisely the end it is intended to secure.

Ghani’s line on Pak: A lesson for India?

Pakistan foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz’s point that Afghanistan’s problems were complex.

The just-concluded Heart of Asia conference on Afghanistan in Amritsar highlighted the fact once again that countries in Pakistan’s immediate neighbourhood — Afghanistan and India — regard Islamabad’s cosseting of terrorism as the principal destabilising factor for the region. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani went as far as to rebuke Pakistan and reject its offer of $500 million in development aid, saying this might be better spent if used by Islamabad to end terrorism, for no amount of foreign aid would be of help in the absence of peace.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reinforced Afghanistan’s argument when he observed that condemning terrorism (in the abstract in conference documents) was not adequate, what was needed was concrete action on the ground to isolate and end terrorism. Pakistan foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz’s point that Afghanistan’s problems were complex, and couldn’t be ascribed to any single factor, seemed laboured. It became evident to all that the key issue in Afghanistan was Pakistan-sponsored and Pakistan-nurtured terrorism, and it was exactly this factor that has bedevilled India-Pakistan ties.

Lessons from an intimate enemy

Daniel Herwitz

If Fidel Castro’s regime dispensed with civil and political rights, the U.S. denied its people the substantive socio-economic rights Cuba put in place for its entire population

The passing of Cuban leader Fidel Castro at 90 is a moment to reflect on what he did and did not do for his country, but also what the United States might learn from the Cuban example in spite of its many problems.

That Castro’s regime dispensed with civil and political rights is a well-known fact, one which many across the world and especially in the U.S. took as a clarion call for isolating and indeed invading Cuba. Having been spurned by the big daddy of a land ninety miles to the north, Castro embraced the Soviet Union to a fault, applauding their repression of Eastern Europe, not to mention allowing their missiles on Cuban soil. The Soviets were his bread and butter, and also his security blanket, his only way of keeping the pigs at bay. Cuba had many faults, including its culture of local surveillance, its repression of the arts, its jailing of dissidents, its refusal to allow emigration and so on. The little country with the big cigars was, during much of the Cold War, a poster child for everything wrong on “the other side”.

The story that brought a tear to a General's eye

"You have shown the world that one can live life even in the face of severe adversities," Lieutenant General P M Hariz, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command, told residents at the Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre, Khadki, Pune.

General Hariz was addressing differently abled veterans on the occasion of World Disability Day.

Around 150 differently abled serving and retired soldiers of all the three services attended the programme, which also saw the participation of other institutes like the Queen Mary's Technical Institute Artificial Limb Centre, Pune, and the Asha School.

The event also saw the release of Born To Fly, Air Commodore Nitin Sathe's biography of his National Defence Academy course mate, the late Rediff.com columnist Flying Officer M P Anil Kumar, who lived at the Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre for over 25 years before his death in May 2014.

'M P' was a dashing MiG-21 pilot in the Indian Air Force before a tragic accident cut short his flying career and rendered him a paraplegic at the age of 24.

Pakistan Has a Drinking Problem

Mohammed Hanif

KARACHI, Pakistan — Pakistan was recently mesmerized by a bottle of Scotch whisky. On Oct. 30, as hundreds of supporters of the opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (P.T.I.) were making their way to the capital Islamabad, with the declared intent of shutting down the city, the police searched the car of a P.T.I. politician and discovered a bottle of Johnny Walker Double Black.

Most Pakistanis had not seen a bottle of whisky in the news in a long time. Although there’s no ban on showing alcohol in the media, the subject rarely comes up in TV news. But this one bottle of whisky, waved around by a policeman, was broadcast on a loop. It became an emblem of the opposition’s immorality.

The politician claimed it contained honey. Yet later that evening, on a current affairs TV show, he put a sobering question to the other guests, “Which one of you doesn’t drink?” Complete silence.

If they said yes, they’d be implicating themselves. If they said no, nobody would believe them. For Muslims in Pakistan, drinking alcohol is prohibited and talking about it is taboo. Drinking and denying it is the oldest cocktail in the country.

‘Heart of Asia Summit 2016’ Critically Analysed

By Dr Subhash Kapila

The ‘Heart of Asia’ which Afghanistan really is, continues to be brutally bled by Pakistan’s bloody terrorism strategies, which five ‘Heart of Asia’ Summits so far have been unable to restrain.

Simply, this arises from the stark reality that the United States, China and Turkey deeply involved with Pakistan politically and militarily have not rapped Pakistan hard on Rawalpindi’s knuckles to desist from such disruptive terrorist adventurism against Afghanistan and India.

The ‘Heart of Asia’ Summit necessarily should be Afghanistan-centric in terms of that brutalised nation’s development. Afghanistan’s brutalisation has been at the hands of Pakistan-facilitated terrorism. Pakistan state-sponsored terrorism is not only Afghanistan but also targets India and therefore there is a duality of convergences on this Pakistan-facilitated terrorism between Afghanistan and India.

Afghanistan’s security and stability are prime national security interests of India and thus India has a legitimate security interest in Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s stability is constantly being undermined by Pakistan’s incessant terrorism attacks. India must therefore be expected to be blunt in naming and shaming Pakistan for its refusal to dispense with its disruptive terrorism strategy against Afghanistan.

The Mighty Dragon: A Symbol of China's Maturing Air Force

China's new stealth fighter, the J-20A Mighty Dragon, showcases the Chinese air force's remarkable progress over the past two decades.

Nevertheless, significant deficits in equipment and training will continue to hamper further advances.

China will focus its efforts on resolving bottlenecks, including lags in engine development and insufficient combined-arms drills, as it seeks to build up its air force in the coming years.


Two sleek Chinese stealth fighters streaked across the skies over Zhuhai on Nov. 1, marking the official debut of Beijing's brand new J-20 Mighty Dragon jet. One of the only fifth-generation stealth fighters ever built, the aircraft's unveiling is a symbol of the impressive progress China's air force has made over the past two decades. The stealth fighter's design, however, also contains several important weaknesses, a reminder of the limitations in military aviation China is still struggling to overcome.

Building a bigger and better military is paramount to Beijing's ambitions abroad. As China has emerged as a prominent actor on the global stage, its interests and activities have stretched far beyond its shores, bringing it in direct contact — and competition — with some of the world's most advanced militaries. Aware that it must adapt its own force structure accordingly, China has worked to develop and invest in its navy and air force.

Obama Administration Moves to Block Chinese Acquisition of a German Chip Maker

Paul Mozur

HONG KONG — President Obama on Friday moved to block a Chinese deal to buy a high-tech company on national security grounds, an unusual step that could set the stage for greater tensions between his successor, Donald J. Trump, and a Chinese government determined to bolster its technological capabilities.

The intervention in a Chinese company’s bid to buy a German semiconductor company, Aixtron, comes after Chinese companies have spent billions to acquire technology in Europe and the United States. American officials have increasingly moved to stop such deals, but Chinese companies have shown growing adeptness in getting around those restrictions to strike up relationships that could someday lead to greater access to technology.

A statement from the Treasury Department said the administration blocked the purchase of the American portion of Aixtron’s business because it posed a national security risk relating to “the military applications of the overall technical body of knowledge and experience of Aixtron.”

It wasn’t clear whether other parts of the deal could be salvaged. Officials at the German chip company and its would-be Chinese buyer, the Fujian Grand Chip Investment Fund, did not immediately comment.

Maritime Hybrid Warfare Is Coming

By Admiral James Stavridis, U.S. Navy (Retired)

On a summer’s evening in the sweltering South China Sea, a coastal steamer of nearly 2,000 tons approaches a Vietnamese fishing fleet in the exclusive economic zone of Vietnam, some 150 miles off that nation’s coast. The steamer loiters in the area for an hour or two as night falls. Suddenly from the side of the ship three fast speedboats are deployed, each armed with .50 caliber guns and hand-held rocket launchers. For the next hour, the speedboats attack dozens of fishing craft, spraying them with .50 caliber fire, hitting them with grenades, and shooting at survivors in the water. The surviving fishing boats flee toward the coast, frantically radioing distress calls, which are jammed by small drones operating overhead.

By the time the Vietnamese Coast Guard arrives on scene the next morning, alerted by one of the boats that finally managed to limp into port, there is only blood in the water, mixed with oil and gasoline, and several smoldering hulls. One of the Coast Guard ships strikes a small, crude mine and sustains damage to its hull. On one of the still floating fishing craft, an improvised explosive device goes off when Vietnamese sailors board it searching for clues to the origin of the incident. Vietnamese social networks are flooded with warnings to fishermen that the waters of their traditional fishing grounds are full of terrorists. A series of cyber attacks cripples the Vietnamese offshore radar surveillance system.

Hezbollah Losses in Syria Force Changes in Organization’s Behavior

Matthew Levitt

Officials in Washington and abroad should pay close attention to the group’s self-styled 'ambassadors,’ who are increasingly being implicated in criminal and terrorist activities around the world.

Given Hezbollah’s deployment of several thousand fighters in Syria, many of its most seasoned military commanders and terrorist operatives have been pulled away from their traditional missions manning posts along Lebanon’s border with Israel or engaging in financial, logistical, and operational activities abroad. The group has suffered more casualties in the Syria war than in all of its battles with Israel, forcing it to use its cadre of international terrorist operatives assigned to the Islamic Jihad Organization (a.k.a. the External Security Organization, or ESO) as battlefield reinforcements. Consequently, Hezbollah has relied even more than usual on its Foreign Relations Department (FRD), whose members formally serve as liaisons to Shiite communities around the world but who have been increasingly employed in various criminal and terrorist activities.


The most prominent ESO official to be switched from international terrorist duties to the Syria war was Mustafa Badreddine, who was given command of Hezbollah’s new Syria Battalion even as he remained the ESO’s titular head (he was eventually killed there this May). Other senior ESO operatives, including Ibrahim Aqil and Fuad Shukr, also played “a vital role” in Syria by aiding Hezbollah fighters and Assad regime forces against the rebels, according to a July 2015 Treasury Department release.

South Korea Is a Good Place to Start Taking on the "Blob"

Doug Bandow

Candidate Donald Trump did the seeming impossible: get elected president while speaking truths that shock establishment policymakers. Such as criticizing the defense dole for South Korea, one of Washington’s most sacred cows. However, as his swearing-in nears, he is being strongly pressed to abandon his contrarian views.

During the campaign, Trump accurately diagnosed the problem of nominal allies becoming costly dependents. He declared, “We are better off frankly if South Korea is going to start protecting itself.” Of that there should be no doubt.

He further explained: “We have 28 thousand soldiers on the line in South Korea between the madman and them.” Also true. Moreover, “We get practically nothing compared to the cost of this.” He’s right: it doesn’t benefit America to pay for the defense of nations able to defend themselves.

Alas, Trump fell short when discussing the solution. He argued: “They have to protect themselves or they have to pay us.” The United States shouldn’t hire out its military like a mercenary force. Rather, Washington should turn over defense responsibilities to one of the world’s wealthier nations. Serious, mature countries should protect their own people, rather than beg others to do so.

Big Mess in Italy

by John Mauldin

“Move to Italy. They know about living in debt: They don’t care.”
– John Lydon

“Italians were eating with a knife and fork when the French were still eating each other.”
– Mario Batali

Follow up:

Italians are headed to the polls this Sunday (and thus this letter is reaching you a little earlier than usual) – but no one is quite sure what is on the ballot. On the surface, the voters are considering whether to approve constitutional reforms that should make the government operate more effectively (or not, depending on your point of view). But many people think the real question is whether the current government should stay in power and whether Italy should remain yoked to the Eurozone.

Coming up with an answer isn’t necessarily helpful when you can’t even agree on the question. However Italians vote, it may take some time to figure out exactly what the result means to Italy, the Eurozone, the EU, and the global economy. I am fairly confident that the ultimate outcome won’t be good, no matter what they choose. The problems are deeper than simple structural reform can cure.

Did Russia Ever Have a Shot at Winning the Cold War?

Robert Farley

Could the Soviets have won the Cold War? In retrospect, Soviet defeat seems overdetermined. The USSR suffered from a backwards economy, an unappealing political system, and unfortunate geography. But even into the 1980s, many Cold Warriors in the West worried that Red Victory was imminent.

We can think of Red Victory in two ways; first, if the fundamental rules of the competition between the United States and the USSR had operated differently, and second if Moscow and Washington had made different strategic decisions along the way.

Changing the Rules

The idea of socio-political “rules” that dictate how the world works runs counter to a lot of work in the social sciences. Still, certain social and political experiments initiated at the start of the Cold War ran aground on the shoals of social and human capacity. If we imagine the loosening of some of these “rules” then the Soviet and American experiments might have performed differently.

Did Russian Intelligence Attempt to Meddle in the U.S. Presidential Election?

Los Angeles Times Editorial Board

Seven members of the Senate Intelligence Committee wrote to President Obamathis week asking him to declassify and make public “additional information concerning the Russian government and the U.S. election” that committee members apparently have learned about in confidential briefings. The president should take their advice.

Cynics might be tempted to view their letter — which was signed only by Democrats and an independent senator who caucuses with them — as a partisan ploy designed to buttress the argument that Donald Trump’s victory was rendered illegitimate by Russian meddling on his behalf.

But seeking information about possible Russian meddling in the election shouldn’t be a partisan issue. If the Russian government indeed attempted to influence, disrupt or subvert the outcome by stealing and publicizing the emails of senior Democratic officials or promoting the dissemination on social media of “fake news” damaging to Hillary Clinton, that should outrage Americans regardless of whom they supported on Nov. 8. The public has a right to know as much about any such operation as can be made public without compromising intelligence sources and methods. 

It would be a mistake to minimize the sort of meddling of which Russia stands accused, or to allow it to pass under-covered and under-discussed.

Eight Good Questions Strategic Thinkers Should Ask

Aaron Bazin

Strategic thinking can happen almost anywhere: in a conference room, a university lecture hall, or in the dark basement of a military headquarters. If you think about it, really anyone can do it, from a president to an Army private, from a subject matter expert to an armchair general. Although anyone can do it at any time and in any place, doing it well is neither easy nor is it commonplace.

A variety of research projects have sought to uncover what it means to think strategically in the military context. In general, strategic thinkers act primarily in one of four roles: leader, advisor, practitioner, or planner. To function effectively in these roles require the skills of information gathering, learning, critical thinking, creative thinking, thinking in time, and systems thinking. Building upon these ideas, the purpose of this article is to explore some of the timeless questions that strategic thinkers can ask to help themselves and others think clearly about issues of strategic significance.

"My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators." Vice President Dick Cheney on Meet The Press. (NBC)

The Intel Analyst’s Conundrum: The Trouble With “Terrorism Trends” Reporting

Trouble With Terrorism Trends

A recent terrorism survey (Global Terrorism Index) found that while ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) was successful in carrying out more attacks in Western countries (from 18 deaths in 2014 versus 313 in 2015) the organization suffered major setbacks elsewhere, especially in Iraq. ISIL losses in Iraq and Syria have escalated in 2016. Overall the ISIL setbacks contributed to a 10 percent worldwide decline in terrorism related deaths to 29,376.

Some things have not changed. Five nations (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria) continue to account for most of the terrorism related deaths in 2015 (72 percent), as has been the case since 2013. Four Islamic terrorist organizations (ISIL, al Qaeda, Boko Haram and the Taliban) account for nearly 70 percent of all terrorist deaths. Many of the lesser terror groups are also Islamic. In fact, of the top ten nations by terrorist activity (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria, India, Somalia, Yemen, Philippines and Thailand) only India and the Philippines had a significant minority of terrorist deaths that were not carried out by Moslems. In those two countries the minority terrorists were leftist rebels who had not noticed the collapse of radical socialism in 1989.

Most of the terrorism related deaths in the West (the developed countries) during 2015 were in Turkey and France, both of which have long had problems with Islamic terrorism. Turkey, bordering Iraq and Syria, is a relatively easy target for Islamic terrorists to reach. ISIL has, for several years, increasingly urged (via the Internet and mass media) Moslems in the West to make “lone wolf” attacks that do not involve direct contract with ISIL. About half of the serious attempts to carry out attacks in the name of ISIL were done so by individuals or small groups who had no direct contact with ISIL. Most of these attacks failed or were very small scale and generated more media attention than actual deaths and property damage.

Intelligence Is Not Warfare!

By Captain William R. Bray, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Decoupling naval intelligence from the information warfare community is key to ensuring the Navy maintains maritime superiority.

Naval intelligence is in a bad way at the moment because it has been subordinated to the information warfare community. Intelligence, however, is not warfare. It is critical to warfare, yet it must remain independent from any particular warfare community in the Navy. To help explain how we have arrived at this point, George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language provides insights. Orwell argued that unclear thinking can corrupt language, and it is equally true that “language can also corrupt thought.” 1 The language we have employed to define the operational practice of intelligence as a form of information warfare must be corrupting our collective thinking, because the persistent characterization of naval intelligence as being fundamentally an information business is inaccurate, if not nakedly mendacious.

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity,” Orwell warned, and “political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectful.” 2 The language being used to justify keeping naval intelligence in the Navy’s information warfare community is masking a deeper motive—to force naval intelligence to atone for its perceived reluctance to embrace technology’s promise. Many Navy information warfare leaders view naval intelligence as out of touch with our highly technical information age. In responding to this criticism while trying to justify the community’s continued relevance, naval intelligence leadership has not been forceful enough in warning against the murder of its independence in the operational realm—and that independence is critical to protecting the integrity of intelligence assessments.

Why the Indian Navy Is Unhappy With Its Carrier-Based Light Combat Aircraft Project

By Abhijit Singh

India’s chief of naval staff reiterates reservations about the Tejas’ suitability for carrier operations. 

Ahead of Navy Day celebrations on December 4, Admiral Sunil Lanba, India’s chief of naval staff (CNS), caused a minor flutter in the media by suggesting that the Navy was doing a rethink on the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project, India’s premier light fighter jet program. At a press conference, Lanba remarked that the navy was looking for a temporary replacement jet from a source abroad for carrier-operations as the LCA (Navy) wasn’t “yet up to the mark.” Even though the navy chief did not go as far as to suggest the project was being scrapped, he was categorical about the navy’s dissatisfaction with the naval variants under production.

Lanba’s admission is likely to have placed many officials in the Ministry of Defense (MoD), as well as the Defense Research and Development Organization, in a spot of bother. After a slow start in the early 1980s, the LCA struggled for over three decades before showing progress in the past few years. Having obtained operational clearance in 2013, the aircraft has now been officially integrated into the Indian Air Force. Oddly, the naval chief’s statement came only a day after the ministry cleared an order for 83 LCA Mk 1As from the government-owned defense manufacture Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) for the IAF.

What Is “Military Artificial Intelligence”?

By Brad Allenby

A soldier stands in front of an Unmanned Aerial System during an official 2013 presentation by the German and U.S. Unmanned Aerial Systems. 

We are in an era of existential fear of technology. Luminaries like Bill Joy, Elon Musk, and Stephen Hawking have warned against emerging technologies, especially artificial intelligence. Musk, for example, has warned that AI is “summoning the demons,” and Hawking has claimed that “[T]he development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” More than 20,000 AI researchers to-date have signed an open letter arguing that “Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea, and should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.” Human Rights Watch among others has launched a campaign against “killer robots,” while the U.N. is increasingly active in reviewing the technology.

This is an important discussion with many complexities, not least of which is the conflation of two potentially very different technologies: artificial intelligence and autonomous weapons. The terms themselves can be ambiguous—what, for example, does autonomous mean with reference to robotic systems? After all, a landmine responds to appropriate vibrations without human intervention, but we don’t call it autonomous. A more modern example, Samsung’s SGR-A1 Sentry Gun, deployed on the DMZ line between South and North Korea, has settings that allow it to shoot to kill without human intervention, “autonomous” vehicle technology is making rapid progress, and Google’s deep learning computer program AlphaGo beat world champion Lee Sedol at the Asian game Go, which is both much more complex and less structured than chess. 

1st-Ever Electronic Warfare Strategy Headed For SecDef’s Desk

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

EC-130 Compass Call electronic warfare aircraft, one of a handful in the Air Force.

WASHINGTON: With Russian jammers blasting Ukrainian radios off the air, the US Defense Department’s racing to regain its edge in electronic warfare. But there’s been no comprehensive strategy to guide all the armed services’ efforts — until now.

The first Defense Department-wide electronic warfare strategy is “basically finished” and headed to Secretary Ashton Carter’s desk for his signature, along with major plus-ups to EW spending for 2018, Pentagon official Bill Conley said Thursday afternoon. What’s more, defense contractors, foreign allies, and perhaps even the press are going to get to see it. While the sensitive specifics will be in two secret annexes — an implementation plan and a “roadmap” of desired future capabilities — the broad strategy itself will be unclassified.

“The base strategy document is very deliberately an unclassified document,” Conley told the Association of Old Crows EW conference, “and the reason for that is it allows us to share it broadly on the industry side, with our partners, with our allies, and say this, no kidding, (is) where we are going with our investments into electronic warfare.”

The U.S. Is Listening! ISIS Tells Its Fighters to Stop Using Messaging Apps

Ali Abdelaty

Islamic state has told its members to stop using internet-based communication apps like WhatsApp and Telegram on smartphones, suspecting they are being used by the U.S.-led coalition to track and kill its commanders.

Until recently, the hardline group used such apps to chat with members and supporters outside its main areas of control in Syria, Iraq and Libya – including, say French officials, the assailants who staged attacks across Paris a year ago, killing at least 130 people.

A U.S.-led military coalition has been bombing Islamic State positions since 2014, when the group proclaimed a caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Twenty commanders of the group were killed this year, including spokesman Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani.

“If you get onto the programs like WhatsApp and Telegram or others from Mosul, and get in touch with a person being tracked, the crusaders will start thinking about you … assessing your importance and identifying the locations of the (Islamic State) centres by following you,” said an article in the group’s weekly newspaper, Al-Naba, published online.

Infographic Of The Day: How The Power Grid Actually Works

Have you ever wondered about how electricity actually makes it to your house?

The Pentagon Wants Eye-Reading Software, X-Ray Tools, and A Virtual Facebook to Fight Terrorism


Here’s a list of gear the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office is seeking to give U.S. counterterror operators. 

Hunting terrorists is a dramatic business worthy of a Marvel comic. Quiet, covert intelligence-gathering foreshadows sudden violence: door kicks, smoke grenades, gunfire. And then there are the gadgets.

In November, the Defense Department’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office put out a draft of its annual Broad Agency Announcement, a sort of wishlist of futuristic superhero tools.

Here are some of this year’s items of note:

A Mini-Drone Deployable from a V-22

Future Marines will ride the Boeing V-22 Osprey to their beachhead landings. But what will they find when they get there? The Pentagon is looking for a drone that can deploy from the Osprey and “dash ahead of the V-22…providing at least 8.5 minutes of overhead [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] at the landing zone or drop zone prior to arrival.” The system drone should be largely autonomous, with waypoint guided navigation and, of course, work in all sorts of weather.

FYI: The FBI is being awfully evasive about its fresh cyber-spy powers

Iain Thomson

Senior US senators have expressed concern that the FBI is not being clear about how it intends to use its enhanced powers to spy on American citizens.

Those are the spying powers granted by Congressional inaction over an update to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. These changes will kick in on December 1 unless they are somehow stopped, and it's highly unlikely they will be challenged as we slide into the Thanksgiving weekend.

The rule tweak, which was cleared by the Supreme Court in April, will allow g-men to apply for a warrant to a nearby US judge to hack any suspect that's using Tor, a VPN, or some other anonymizing software to hide their whereabouts, in order to find the target's true location.

Normally, if agents want to hack a PC, they have to ask a judge for a warrant in the jurisdiction where the machine is located. This is tricky if the location is obscured by technology. With the changes to Rule 41 in place, investigators can get a warrant from any handy judge to deploy malware to find out where the suspect is based – which could be anywhere in America or the world.

Also, when agents are investigating a crime that spans five or more different judicial districts in the US, the new Rule 41 will allow them to go to just one judge for a warrant, rather than all the courts in all the involved jurisdictions. And it allows the Feds, with a search warrant, to poke around in people's malware-infected computers.

How Not to Predict the Future

By Rob Tracinski

When you spend a lot of time thinking about emerging technology, you begin to notice certain things that are naturally just assumed to be true about the future, as if everyone just knows them. These ideas are so widespread and infrequently challenged that they come to seem inevitable.

These are also things that a lot of people really want to be true. What a coincidence.

So we take for granted that electric cars are the future, and the internal combustion engine is on the way out. That we're going to power everything with renewable energy, especially solar, and oil is a dinosaur (so to speak). And when self-driving cars are perfected, which will be any day now, they are going to put millions of blue-collar workers out of a job. But at least they will free up huge amounts of space inside cities, where we'll be able to replace ugly streets and parking lots with parks and playgrounds and affordable housing.

I hate to be the one to break it to you that a lot of these predictions are based on dubious assumptions and a dubious methodology. They survive and become widely accepted, not because they have been rigorously proven, but because they are "too good to check."