27 May 2017

*** U.S. Policy in Afghanistan: Changing Strategies, Preserving Gains


Although considerable security, political, and economic progress has been made in Afghanistan, much remains to be done to attain long-term stability and extinguish the Taliban insurgency. In this respect, while the conflict in Afghanistan is no longer consistently in the public eye, it remains of great importance to the United States. Going forward, U.S. policy should aim to protect the integrity of the Afghan state and, toward that end, attempt to end the conflict in ways that mitigate the threats of terrorism, instability, and conflict in the region.

The Current Situation

The security environment in Afghanistan is still precarious, evidenced by the uptick in violence in 2016 and the diminishing government control in rural areas.

Factions of the Government of National Unity remain divided, and a corrupt patronage system continues to impede reform.

Economic growth has shrunk since the drawdown of international forces, while the government remains heavily dependent on foreign aid.

Afghan-Pakistani relations have frayed due to widening differences on security at a time when regional competition in and over Afghanistan persists.

The United States’ willingness to indefinitely subsidize Afghanistan with some $23 billion per year is uncertain, especially when al-Qaeda’s core has been reduced to incoherence.

*** Strategic Realities: Re-Thinking Afghanistan

By Jeff Goodson

Afghanistan may be the most complex theatre of irregular warfare in the world . The country is a black hole of physical, religious, social, ethnic, cultural, political, economic, military and historical cross-currents, rendering conventional strategy there awkward at best and impossible at worst. In re-thinking Afghanistan—and assessing the Pentagon’s new Afghanistan strategy—we need first to confront some hard strategic realities head-on. Four, in particular, stand out. 

First, there is just one war: the global holy war that the Salafists are waging against us and the rest of the world. This is not one of our fathers’ 20th century wars. This is Islamic religious war, fought using 7th and 21st century tactics in a dozen major theatres from Mali to Mindanao. Afghanistan is an Islamic state surrounded by Islamic states, and an emerging epicenter in the global jihad. Our Afghan strategy cannot be divorced from our strategy for the Salafist holy war, nor from our strategy for Pakistan—the other half of the Af-Pak theatre of the war. 

*** The View From Olympus: Strategic Idiocy–and an Alternative

Source Link 

In a column in the May 3 Cleveland Plain Dealer Eli Lake reported that the Trump administration has decided to redouble our efforts in Afghanistan. We are to send in more troops–5000 initially is the figure I’m hearing–and commit ourselves once again to nation building based on the corrupt and ineffectual government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. This was all decided in a White House meeting where the principle voice for stronger intervention came from the new national security advisor, General H.R. McMaster.

Once again, we see everything Trump promised during the campaign go out the window as typical Establishment policies prevail. Worse, McMaster, who is a tactical genius, is revealed as a strategic idiot (the combination is not unusual; Rommel was another example). So we appear doomed to four more years of strategic failure in Afghanistan and everywhere else McMaster is in charge. Where is Count Witte when we need him?

** What Drives Terrorism Part 4: Technology

What drives terrorism? By looking at the forces that influence trends in terrorist tactics, targets and tradecraft, attacks can be placed in context, enabling observers to anticipate the next evolution in terrorism.

The first part of this series examined the importance of ideology and terrorist theory. The second focused on how political and economic developments influence these dynamics. The third looked at how counterterrorism efforts make their mark on the terrorists they are trying to stop. These factors are distinct from the psychological and social forces that lead an individual to become radicalized, which will not be discussed here.

But another question to be asked and answered is how does technology impact the advancement of terrorism? This installment of the series will examine that very topic. Of course, while we are examining all the various factors that drive terrorism individually, not one factor operates in isolation. They are all interconnected, and they almost always work together (or at cross purposes) to transform the dynamics of terrorism.

Technology as a Weapon

When I used to travel with my former boss, Dell Technologies founder Michael Dell, he would often say that technology is like a weapon lying on a table. Either a business picks it up and uses it, or their competitors will. While he was referring to the competitive advantage technology provides for businesses, such advances are equally important to terrorist planners in their efforts not only to outmaneuver counterterrorism forces, but also to launch new kinds of strikes that their targets are not prepared for.

** The Naxal movement burst to life 50 years ago on this day. A revolutionary remembers May 24, 1967

 Sudeep Chakravarti

There really is a place called Naxalbari. It’s a small town with its own tiny railway station and state highway, straddling the route that links northern Bihar to northern Bengal, through forest, farmland and tea gardens. But the Naxalbari of revolutionary grammar is really a cluster of villages and hamlets with quirky names from nature and history: Hatighisa, after elephants; Phansideoa, literally, hanged; Bagdogra, derived from bagh or tiger. These are places on the way to Naxalbari from Siliguri.

Abhi [Abhijit Mazumdar, Charu Mazumdar’s son] and I get on to a small bus at Hospital Mor. We’re off to a place just shy of Naxalbari. From Hospital Mor all buses lead through a slice of the region known as Dooars to Panitanki – literally, water tank – at Nepal’s eastern border. A sliver meanders on to Khoribari for a dip south towards Katihar in Bihar.

It takes an age to negotiate Siliguri’s former pride and joy, Hill Cart Road, the sedate avenue of my childhood, now a smoking, honking mayhem of pedestrians, rickshaws, auto rickshaws, buses, scooters and motorcycles, and all manner of cars, sub-compact to luxury sedan.

** Why The Decline Of Europe's Center-Left Matters

by Adriano Bosoni

The leaders of the European Union are breathing sighs of relief. Elections in France and the Netherlands resulted in the defeat of candidates who threatened to upset European integration. In Germany, where general elections are upcoming, the far-right is internally divided and weak, and while nationalist and Euroskeptic forces in Italy and Austria are polling well, centrists still have a chance to retain power.

The resilience of moderate forces has been a cause for celebration in Brussels and other European capitals. However, their successes cannot hide a significant fact: The European center-left is in crisis. Some of the Continent’s largest social democratic parties, which were instrumental in the establishment of stable political systems and prosperous economies over the past seven decades, are struggling to remain relevant today. Their weakness could create fertile ground for virulent social and political crises in the future.

The Taliban’s Spring Offensive: Afghanistan Faces a Crucial Year

By: Abubakar Siddique

With its spring offensive this year, the Afghan Taliban is seeking to add momentum to its insurgent campaign to topple the country’s Western-backed government. For its part, Kabul hopes a peace deal with the notorious Islamist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and the renewed resolve of Washington and its NATO allies, will see it remain resilient.

But while the Afghan government enjoys international legitimacy and support, it faces a robust insurgency and the increasing involvement of great power interests suggests the situation will remain troubled.

Taliban Strategy

The Taliban strategy combines efforts to overrun the countryside with a relentless terrorism campaign in the cities. The aim is to topple the current Afghan government, which has pledged to create a moderate, inclusive and democratic state, and replace it with the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate (the formal name of the movement).

CPEC might create geo-political tension between India and Pakistan: UN report

A report by the United Nations has said the bilateral China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) might create geo-political tension between India and Pakistan and ignite further political instability.

The report is produced by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific (ESCAP) at the request of the Chinese government and aims to inform the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The report expresses concern over the Kashmir dispute since the CPEC crosses over the region and might escalate tension between India and Pakistan.

The political instability in Afghanistan could also limit the potential benefits of transit corridors to population centres near Kabul or Kandahar, as those routes traverse southern and eastern Afghanistan where the Taliban are most active.

PLA Vows to ‘Build an Indestructible Combat Force’ Subservient to Xi

By Arthur Dominic Villasanta 

The generals commanding the five major services of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) have promised their unstinting support for Chinese president Xi Jinping's effort to reshuffle and reorganize the PLA, which is the armed force of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Xi met with commanders of the 84 corps-level units he earlier reorganized or established and issued instructions to them. He ordered all these units to adhere to the CPC's leadership and obey the CPC Central Committee and the Central Military Commission (CMC), which he heads as its chairman.

Xi said the 84 units as crucial parts of a "new system," and called on these units to safeguard China's sovereignty, security and developmental interests.

Chinese state-controlled media said all PLA officers and soldiers pledged to obey the CPC Central Committee, the CMC and Xi to enhance combat readiness and "build an indestructible army."

The Islamic State and the End of Lone-Wolf Terrorism


Once again, the world has awoken to news of another terrible terrorist attack — this time in Manchester, England, where a man detonated a bomb in the foyer of an Ariana Grande concert, killing at least 22 people. And, once again, the so-called Islamic State has claimed responsibility. Amid this continuing stream of terrorist attacks around the globe associated with the Islamic State, much has been made of the phenomenon of so-called lone-wolf terrorism. From the killing of 49 nightclub revelers in Orlando, Florida, to the murder of a police officer and his partner in the suburbs of Paris to the assault on holiday shoppers at a Christmas market in Berlin, individual terrorists have wreaked havoc, seemingly removed from plotters in faraway safe havens.

During our time at the White House, the U.S. government remained intently focused on detecting and disrupting the Islamic State’s ability to centrally plan, resource, enable, and coordinate external attacks from its physical safe haven in Syria, but the group’s unique capability to inspire attacks online became a key concern. This is largely how the Islamic State has been able to penetrate our borders: not through flows of refugees intent on conducting attacks against Americans but through the bits and bytes of today’s digital age.

Strategic Security Challenges for 2017 and Beyond,

There are at least four major “strategic security challenges” that could place the United States at risk within the next decade, physicist Richard L. Garwin told the National Academy of Sciences earlier this month.

“The greatest threat, based on expected value of damage, is cyberattack,” he said. Other challenges arise from the actions of North Korea and Iran, due to their pursuit or acquisition of nuclear weapons and/or missiles. The remaining threat is due to the potential instability associated with the existing U.S. nuclear weapon arsenal.

These four could be ordered, he said, by the relative difficulty of reducing the threat, from “easiest” to hardest: “the Iranian nuclear program; North Korea; the U.S. nuclear weapon capability and its evolution; and, finally, most importantly and probably most difficult of solution, the cyber threat to the United States.”

In his remarks, Garwin characterized each of the challenges and discussed possible steps that could be taken to mitigate the hazards involved. See Strategic Security Challenges for 2017 and Beyond, May 1, 2017.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

by Jonathan Masters
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a cornerstone of transatlantic security during the Cold War, has significantly recast its role in the past twenty years. Founded in 1949 as a bulwark against Soviet aggression, NATO has evolved to confront threats ranging from piracy off the Horn of Africa to maritime security in the Mediterranean. But Russian actions in recent years, particularly its 2014 intervention in Ukraine, have refocused the alliance's attention on the continent. Recent developments have also exposed unresolved tensions over NATO's expansion into the former Soviet sphere.

A Post–Cold War Pivot

After the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, Western leaders intensely debated the future direction of the transatlantic alliance. President Bill Clinton's administration favored expanding NATO to both extend its security umbrella to the east and consolidate democratic gains in the former Soviet bloc. On the other hand, some U.S. officials wished to peel back the Pentagon's commitments in Europe with the fading of the Soviet threat.

Hey, NATO, Let’s Move Those 50 US Thermonuclear Weapons Out of Turkey


Why risk it? Even if NATO wants the nukes in Europe, Erdogan’s unstable regime is 68 miles from Syria, the hottest conflict zone on earth. 

When President Donald Trump and other heads of state meet at this week’s NATO Summit it might be a good time to discuss the wisdom of keeping 50 U.S. thermonuclear weapons in Turkey, just 70 miles from Syria, the most intense combat zone on the planet.

Each of the B61 gravity bombs stored at Incirlik Air Base, 68 miles from the Syrian border have a maximum yield of 170 kilotons, or 10 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. But these bombs also have a “dial-a-yield” capability that allows them to be set to explode at various levels, down to less than one kiloton of force. They are the vestige of the thousands of battlefield weapons once deployed by the United States and the Soviet Union to wage nuclear war in Europe. Almost all have been withdrawn from deployment except these at Incirlik and approximately 100 other B-61’s stored at NATO bases in Belgium, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Army working to develop departmentwide EW strategy

By: Mark Pomerleau

The Army is working toward developing a departmentwide electronic warfare strategy, which remains in flux at the draft stage.

“We have been working with our counterparts across the department, [Army Training and Doctrine Command] and the acquisition community, to assess holistically and from a DOTMLPF perspective the department’s approach to EW and the application of that going forward,” the new chief of staff to the Army’s cyber directorate, Col. Sean Kennan, said during the C4ISRNET Conference in early May. 

The perspective Kennan was referring to stands for doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, facilities and policy.

EW is beginning to play a greater role within the Army as Russian forces are alleged to have exercised advanced capabilities against U.S. partners in Europe. Kennan acknowledged, however, that the Army has not had a strategy for EW for quite some time.

The service recently released an updated field manual for cyber and electromagnetic activity that governs such operations, providing “tactics and procedures for the coordination and integration of Army cyberspace and electronic warfare operations to support unified land operations and joint operations.” 

DIA Director Testifies on Top Five Global Military Threats

By Cheryl Pellerin

Airmen secure a load of cargo in a C-130H Hercules at Qayyarah Airfield West, Iraq, Feb. 3, 2017. Airmen assigned to the 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron delivered 30,000 pounds of cargo to aid in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee to discuss worldwide threats. Also testifying today was Daniel R. Coats, director of National Intelligence.

Expanding on the nature of the threats, Stewart said they include a nuclear-capable and increasingly provocative North Korea, a resurgent Russia, a modernizing China, an ambitious regional power in Iran and violent extremist organizations.

The last category encompasses ongoing operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, the general noted.

This Is Why the United States Is No Longer a Military "Hyperpower"

Dave Majumdar

The United States is no longer the “hyperpower” it once was in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Where once Washington held a position of complete dominance, the United States is now faced with competing powers—some of which can field peer-level capabilities.

“The military environment has shifted away from the existence of the United States as the single ‘hyperpower’ to a situation in which foreign militaries are emerging with near-peer and, in some areas, peer capabilities,” U.S. Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency told the Senate Armed Services Committee in his written testimony on May 23. “Adversaries have studied the American way of conflict and have developed, and will continue to develop, capabilities to mitigate or directly challenge longstanding U.S. military dominance in all warfighting domains—terrestrial, maritime, air, space, and cyber—and to raise the level of complexity and risk to the United States for intervention in conflict. Competitor states will employ all diplomatic, economic, political, and covert mechanisms of influence and coercion available to them in advancing regional agendas, with the implied or actual use of military force acting as the amplifier that allows these whole-of-state efforts to resonate.”

Safety, Speed, Efficiency…the First Time and Every Time

By Vic Tambone

The ability to move critical assets via air is essential when speed and quantity are the keys to mission success. This is true in response to national disasters, war fighting, rescue and humanitarian operations, or business ventures. Configuring those assets in air transportable packets which are scheduled to arrive at the destination in the proper order for maximum effect and efficiency is the job for the Deployable Automated Cargo Measurement System (DACMS).

The DACMS is an automated, three-dimensional laser profiling and weigh-in-motion system resulting from the Air Force Battle Lab initiative in 2004. This system enables the automatic measurement of length, width, height, axle weight, total weight and center of balance of vehicles or bulk cargo for aircraft loading. DACMS accomplishes this through the use of one computer console, an in-ground or portable scales system, optional power sources, and the expertise of only two men. The process is completed as the equipment is driven over the DACMS scales and all information is interfaced to the DoD Military Load Planning Systems. 

Army working to develop departmentwide EW strategy

By: Mark Pomerleau

“We have been working with our counterparts across the department, [Army Training and Doctrine Command] and the acquisition community, to assess holistically and from a DOTMLPF perspective the department’s approach to EW and the application of that going forward,” the new chief of staff to the Army’s cyber directorate, Col. Sean Kennan, said during the C4ISRNET Conference in early May. 

The perspective Kennan was referring to stands for doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, facilities and policy.

EW is beginning to play a greater role within the Army as Russian forces are alleged to have exercised advanced capabilities against U.S. partners in Europe. Kennan acknowledged, however, that the Army has not had a strategy for EW for quite some time.

The Top 5 Lessons I Learned at SAMS

by Major John Gallagher

The past year has been a great one for me. After years in the salt mines (KD time), I had the opportunity to attend the School of Advanced Military Studies, or SAMS, as a field select.

From the outside, SAMS was academically daunting. I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into, but assumed it was a ton of reading and writing. Before KD time I served on the I Corps staff where I first worked with SAMS planners. Some were awesome. They could bring a team together in the most ambiguous planning situations and get things done. Others were not so awesome. They spent a lot of time lecturing, drawing on whiteboards, and being impressively unproductive. Overwhelming positive experiences on the I Corps staff strongly influenced the decision to attend SAMS. I hoped the course would help me to improve as a leader, officer, and planner.

When Terrorists Target Children

Every victim of terrorism is innocent, and every one is to be mourned. But the bombing in Manchester, England, on Monday night that killed teenage or even younger fans of the pop star Ariana Grande, many accompanied by their parents and some clutching the pink balloons Ms. Grande had sent sweetly raining down at the end of her concert, is particularly wrenching.

By Tuesday, 22 people had died, and 59 others had been hospitalized, some with life-threatening injuries. The dead included 8-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos, who had come with her mother and older sister, and 18-year-old Georgina Bethany Callander, who had posted an image of her brand new driver’s license on Instagram.

The Islamic State said one of its “soldiers” had carried out the bombing, which took the life of the man British police officials believe was behind it, Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old whose parents emigrated from Libya. It is still unclear whether Mr. Abedi acted alone or as part of a network. No one yet knows what motivated him to commit such a horrific deed. It is also unclear whether the Islamic State’s claim is legitimate. Only further investigation can answer these questions.

Ex-CIA chief: cyber domain is Russian playground

By Sean D. Carberry 

As the Department of Justice and Congress continue to investigate Russia's campaign to influence the 2016 election, Russia is likely learning lessons from its efforts in order to refine its tactics future elections, the former CIA director told the House Intelligence Committee.

John Brennan testified that in the summer of 2016, he convened an interagency working group between the CIA, NSA and FBI to investigate intelligence showing contact between Russian officials and Trump affiliates.

The intelligence he was seeing "raised concerns in my mind about whether or not those individuals were cooperating with the Russians either in a witting or unwitting fashion, and that served as the basis for the FBI investigation to determine whether such collusion or cooperation occurred," he said.

Brennan said he was not in a position to judge whether there was collusion, but when he left office on January 20, 2017 he said he had a lot of unresolved questions and that the FBI investigation was "well founded."

A hacked-off Germany hacks back


The threat of cyberattacks has escalated dramatically and, according to officials, German companies suffer an estimated €50 billion in damages every year | Photo-Illustration by Ivo Oliveira/POLITICO (Source images by Getty Images) 

Jolted by a hack in 2015 when intruders roamed around freely in the German parliament’s network for weeks, Berlin is preparing to “hack back” — disrupting ongoing attacks by breaking back into a hacker’s system to delete data or even destroy the entire system.

The country, where the experience of two authoritarian dictatorships makes citizens particularly sensitive to assaults on their privacy, is eager to send the message that it’s considering more aggressive means to combat hacking attacks. In doing so, Berlin is broaching decade-old taboos such as the rigid rules defining the use of its military to combat crime.

Earlier this year, Germany’s army launched a new command of 13,500 soon-to-be cyber soldiers and contractors. Simultaneously, the interior ministry opened a cyber unit in Munich where 400 people will be hired to develop tools to decode encryption and work on how to strike back during cyberattacks.

How the Trump Budget Would Fund Cybersecurity

The Donald Trump administration, in its proposed fiscal year 2018 budget, outlines steps it contends would strengthen the U.S. federal government's information systems, even as it would cut some cybersecurity spending at specific agencies.

At the heart of the budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 is a proposal to spend $1.5 billion on cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, part of an overall DHS budget slated to grow by 7.1 percent next year. The federal budget - unveiled May 23 by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney - also proposes to allot $228 million to modernize the government's information technology.

The budget also calls for increases in cybersecurity-related spending at the FBI and Justice Department, as well as cuts at the State Department, the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Seven NSA cyberweapons used in EternalRocks exploit

by Michael Heller

NSA cyberweapons continue to be repackaged by malicious actors, but it is as yet unclear what the ultimate aim of EternalRocks might be aside from infecting as many systems as possible. 

The WannaCry ransomware worm spread to more than 300,000 systems in less than one week by using the EternalBlue and DoublePulsar NSA cyberweapons to gain access and propagate, respectively. However, the EternalRocks malware incorporates a total of seven NSA cyberweapons. 

EternalRocks was discovered by Miroslav Stampar, IT security advisor and expert for the Croatian Government CERT, who caught the infection in an SMB honeypot. After analyzing the malware, Stampar found it used four SMB exploits developed by the NSA -- EternalBlue, EternalChampion, EternalRomance and EternalSynergy -- to gain access; two NSA tools were used for SMB reconnaissance operations -- SMBTouch and ArchiTouch -- and DoubplePulsar was used to propagate the infection. 

According to Stampar, EternalRocks runs a multistage process starting with EternalBlue to infect a system, contact a command and control server (C&C) via Tor and install additional components. 

Who Are the Shadow Brokers?


In 2013, a mysterious group of hackers that calls itself the Shadow Brokers stole a few disks full of National Security Agency secrets. Since last summer, they’ve been dumping these secrets on the internet. They have publicly embarrassed the NSA and damaged its intelligence-gathering capabilities, while at the same time have put sophisticated cyberweapons in the hands of anyone who wants them. They have exposed major vulnerabilities in Cisco routers, Microsoft Windows, and Linux mail servers, forcing those companies and their customers to scramble. And they gave the authors of the WannaCry ransomware the exploit they needed to infect hundreds of thousands of computer worldwide this month.

After the WannaCry outbreak, the Shadow Brokers threatened to release more NSA secrets every month, giving cybercriminals and other governments worldwide even more exploits and hacking tools.

Who are these guys? And how did they steal this information? The short answer is: We don’t know. But we can make some educated guesses based on the material they’ve published.