15 June 2017

*** China’s Maritime Strategy

By Nan Li

In January 2017, a long-anticipated reshuffle of the leadership of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) took place. The PLAN and its three fleets each received new commanders. Less noticed, but more significant, was the replacement of General Wang Jiaocheng with Vice Admiral Yuan Yubai (袁誉柏), former commander of the PLAN’s North Sea Fleet, as commander of the Southern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) (Global Times, January 22; Global Times, January 22). This is the first time in PLA history that a naval officer has been appointed to command the multi-service forces of one of its regional combatant headquarters (China Brief, March 31). Most importantly, his appointment is indicative of the shift in China’s military posture from continental defense to maritime security, and the importance of the Southern Theater as a predominantly maritime arena for PLA operations (China Brief, July 22, 2016).

Evolving Maritime Strategy

*** Russia Finds Out Who Its Friends Are

Who do Russians believe are their closest allies? Their enemies? A new survey by independent pollster the Levada Center attempts to answer these questions. The annual poll is traditionally a good reflection of Russia's geopolitical position as well as the Kremlin's messaging to its people. This year's results offer particular insight.

***The verdict on the stories of Russian hacking in the 2016 election

By now we have enough information to draw conclusions about the claims of Russian hacking in the 2016 election: it looks quite bogus. Just like the many similar bouts of hysterical exaggeration in America during the past few decades. Drawing big conclusions is appropriate for this, post number 4,000 on the FM website.

Before Russia’s “hacking”, see previous similar incidents

The previous nine posts about Russia’s role in campaign 2016 examined the evidence. Now let’s look at the overall context. The claims that the Russian government did the various cyberattacks during campaign 2016 follow a pattern to readers of the US media during the past four decades. America has experienced repeated bouts of hysteria, each fed by experts, click-hungry journalists, and self-interested institutions. Many long authoritative-looking reports fed the fires.

Stories about satanic ritual abuse during the 1980s. See the FBI’s 1992 report debunking these stories, which describes how seriously they were taken by so many. “We now have hundreds of victims alleging that thousands of offenders are abusing and even murdering tens of thousands of people as part of organized satanic cults, and there is little or no corroborative evidence.”


Rajaram Panda

While it acknowledged the seriousness of new security challenges faced by many nations in the region, it failed to find solutions on how to cope with them, says Rajaram Panda

The Asian Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, is a unique meeting of ministers and delegates from over 50 countries, organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a British think-tank, the 16th edition of which took place on June 2-4, 2017, in Singapore. Over 500 delegates representing 32 nations from across the Asia-Pacific and beyond gathered at the Shangri-La Hotel to examine the region’s most enduring security challenges, such as North Korea’s nuclear and missile programme, religious extremism and the South China Sea (SCS) disputes. These issues and many more dominated the debate. While the summit brought together defence ministers, top military officers and experts from the Asia-Pacific region as well as others like the US and Europe, India went unrepresented at the ministerial level with the Defence Minister unable to accommodate participation amidst his tight schedule, leaving the Indian High Commission officials to make India’s token presence felt.


Understanding India’s response to China’s Belt and Road

New Delhi decided to skip the much-publicized Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, framing the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative as a bad deal that undermines India’s core interests. Is this position in conflict with India’s simultaneous aspirations for economic cooperation and peaceful co-existence with China?

In this instance, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made its position clear: The national priorities for sovereignty trump commitment for everything else. One may term the Indian response as unsophisticated, but it is not unintelligent. India is acting sensibly.

How significant is India’s refusal to be part of the “China dream”? Let’s be clear. Although China’s communist leadership tried its best to persuade the Modi government to join the OBOR bandwagon, India’s firm opposition is not going to force China to downgrade its geo-strategic ambition of bringing countries from Central Asia to Europe into its orbit. Beijing will be tempted more to demonstrate how New Delhi’s denial is detrimental to India’s own economic interests. It is not difficult to arrive at the conclusion that India has isolated itself both regionally and globally when all its neighbors are participating in “the project of the century”.

Afghaistan subjected to Unholy Machinations of Pakistan-China-Russia Trilateral

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Afghanistan seems to have been subjected to an increasing number of suicide bombings/terrorist attacks especially in Kabul ever since the emergence of the unholy Pakistan-China-Russia Trilateral and its more than usual interference in Afghanistan on the pretext of search for stability and peace in that war-ravaged country.

If Russia and China were genuine stakeholders in ensuring the peace and stability in Afghanistan then both these Major Powers would have not stooped low in aligning themselves with Pakistan –a nation globally disreputed as a sponsor of Islamic Jihadi outfits to serve its political ends. Have Russia and China forgotten that they too have been subjected to Islamic Jihadi onslaughts with footprints leading all the way to Pakistan?

Pakistan seems to have been emboldened towards increasing use of the Taliban and Haqqani brothers for generating turbulence in Afghanistan, lately. This arises from exploiting the uncertainty vacuum caused on Afghanistan by the stances of the new Trump Administration in the United States. More importantly, Pakistan stands emboldened by its inducing China and Russia in a Trilateral of unholy geopolitical convergences in meddling with Afghanistan’s peace and stability.

Barahoti: China does it again

According to PTI, on June 3, two helicopters of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) hovered over the Barahoti bowl in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand.

The news agency repotted that the choppers, which returned to the Chinese side after about five minutes, “could have carried out aerial photography of Indian ground troops during what was possibly a reconnaissance mission.”

The choppers were identified as the Zhiba (WZ-9) attack helicopters.

Incidentally, on the same day, Lt Gen He Lei, vice president of the PLA’s Academy of Military Science addressed the plenary session of the 16th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

Representing China, Gen He affirmed in front of his colleagues from Asia and the West: “China has always worked to maintain, build and contribute to international and regional peace and has firmly followed the path of peaceful development although it is faced with multiple security challenges.”

Did the US Just Abandon Tibet?

By Pradeep Nair and Sandeep Sharma

Reversing its stand on Tibet policy and giving a huge jolt to the Tibetan aspirations, the Trump administration recently took a step away from precedent by proposing zero aid to the Tibetans in 2018. This move points to both the changing internal politics of the United States, especially after Trump’s election, and also the new geopolitics and emerging world order, which is overshadowed by the People’s Republic of China.

The U.S. “Tibetan Policy Act of 2002” clearly states that it is intended to “support the aspirations of the Tibetan people to safeguard their distinct identity,” including by supporting “projects designed … to raise the standard of living for the Tibetan people and assist Tibetans to become self-sufficient.” This act, a major piece of Tibet legislation, was enacted as law by President George W. Bush on September 30, 2002, as part of the U.S. Foreign Relations Authorizations Act.

Stabilization in Syria: Lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq

Hijab Shah

As operations against the Islamic State (ISIS) move forward in Raqqa, Syria, the United States and its partners must plan for what comes next. Yet, “stabilization” is a word that often elicits a visceral response within the policy community. Military and civilian veterans of the past 15 years of engagement with Afghanistan and Iraq associate the term with frustration and bitterness, dashed hopes, and unmet expectations. The attempts and failures to bring about security, relief, and basic services to the two war-torn countries now color emerging discussions around repeating those efforts in Syria. Although the hesitation in Washington, D.C., around restarting a stabilization effort is understandable—the U.S. government has already spent $15 billion in Syria since 2014 on counterterrorism operations and humanitarian assistance—the inescapable reality is that Syria is in dire need of help. The Syrian economy is set back by at least three decades, with the city of Aleppo alone suffering $100 to $200 billion of damage in the war, and millions of Syrians have either fled abroad or become refugees within their own borders. Moreover, failure to consolidate gains from counterterrorism operations against ISIS through stabilization of local communities will likely result in the regrowth of violent extremism. Despite the disappointments of the Afghanistan and Iraq stabilization efforts, the experiences offer significant lessons—and cautionary tales—that are applicable to and should inform a potential future U.S. and multinational effort in Syria.

Afghanistan and Iraq: An After-Action Review

Stratfor describes the Qatar-Saudi conflict, a new fissure in the Middle East

A conflict has broken out in the Middle East, as the Saudi Princes seek to re-establish hegemony over the Qatar Princes. It is yet another fissure in the Middle East, the world’s most critical flash point. Here Stratfor explains the origin of the conflict, what has happened, and its likely consequences. Of course, the extreme but unlikely consequences could be much worse — such as sparking the long-awaited destabilization of the region.

Former friends Saudi King Bin bin Abdulaziz and Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Long-standing tensions among members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that intensified over the past two weeks have culminated in several Arab governments suspending relations with Qatar. The current crisis has roots in multiple areas in which GCC states do not see eye to eye, including in their attitudes toward Iran, their manifold perspectives on supporting political Islamists and the degree of economic and strategic rivalries among them.

Israeli hackers reportedly got into ISIS networks and found they were building laptop bombs


Israeli government hackers broke into the computer networks of ISIS bomb makers months ago and uncovered the terror group's plans to build laptop bombs that could get through airport X-ray machines,according to a new report in The New York Times.

The Times report, authored by David Sanger and Eric Schmitt and sourced to two American officials, said that the intelligence gleaned from the electronic heist was "so exquisite" that it helped US spies get an understanding of how such devices would be detonated.

The Department of Homeland Security in March implemented a ban on electronic devices larger than a cell phone from being carried onto aircraft originating from 10 countries in Africa and the Middle East. A DHS fact sheet said terrorists were trying to smuggle explosives in "various consumer items."

According to the Times report, ISIS was fashioning explosives that would look just like a battery in a laptop computer.

Russia has developed a cyberweapon that can disrupt power grids, according to new research

Hackers allied with the Russian government have devised a cyberweapon that has the potential to be the most disruptive yet against electric systems that Americans depend on for daily life, according to U.S. researchers.

The malware, which researchers have dubbed CrashOverride, is known to have disrupted only one energy system — in Ukraine in December. In that incident, the hackers briefly shut down one-fifth of the electric power generated in Kiev.

But with modifications, it could be deployed against U.S. electric transmission and distribution systems to devastating effect, said Sergio Caltagirone, director of threat intelligence for Dragos, a cybersecurity firm that studied the malware and issued a report on Monday.


Matthew ColeRichard EspositoSam BiddleRyan Grim

RUSSIAN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept.

The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.

While the document provides a rare window into the NSA’s understanding of the mechanics of Russian hacking, it does not show the underlying “raw” intelligence on which the analysis is based. A U.S. intelligence officer who declined to be identified cautioned against drawing too big a conclusion from the document because a single analysis is not necessarily definitive.

Secrets Are Not What They Used To Be

When the Cold War ended in 1991 and Russian archives were opened for a while a lot of mysteries were revealed, including some that are still causing problems not because so many myths were disproved but because about the same time the Internet came along and made it much more difficult keep secrets or create false realities and maintain them in the future. Thus Russia and China, as well as traditionally the more open societies in the West, could not revive the useful (for all governments) secrecy and control of information that reached a peak in the 20th century. It was the reach and control of pre-Internet mass media that made so many corrupt and murderous dictatorships possible. A few are still trying to hang on, but that proves difficult in an age of instant worldwide communications that cannot to controlled.by a few.

The opening of the Soviet archives documented how crucial it was for a tyrant to declare any military information a state secret and enforce those rules. This was especially true when it came to revealing how ineffective their armed forces actually were, past and present and future. Thus until the Cold War ended the true extent of the World War II casualties Russia suffered (nearly 30 million dead) was considered a state secret and the number admitted to was less than half the real one. The extent to which corruption and government incompetence played a major role in causing Russian economic failure and military defeats also became known in excruciating detail. For example the archives revealed that the Russians, not the Chinese, ordered and enabled North Korea to invade the south in 1950. Chinese sources confirmed this once the Internet and mass access reached China. It made it clear the Chinese had always resented being dragged into a costly “Russian war.” This version of the Korean War undermines the authority of the current Kim dynasty that has ruled the north since 1945 and desperately clings to power in an age where tyrants can’t hide their misdeeds. The Kims tried to keep cell phones and Internet out and were relatively successful. But like a small breach in a massive dam the details of their misdeeds got in and caused the police state to crumble from top to bottom. For example by 2016 more and more North Korean university students were bribing their way out of mandatory participation in major “patriotic holiday” celebrations. This came as a shock to the government because eventually these university students would run the police state but if they don’t believe in the Kim version of history will the Kim’s still be in charge? China doubts it and most Chinese have already made clear to their own communist (but no longer socialist) rulers that this applies to everyone. The current Chinese rulers are trying to deal with reality while the Kims are trying to ignore it. And anyone with access to the Internet (which have the world population now has) can follow the drama in real time.

From 9/11 to London: The Need for Virtual Battle Space Maneuver Doctrine

by Stefan J. Banach

The ability to generate global influence by maneuvering one civilian population against another, along Virtual Battle Space Avenues of Approach, to produce catastrophic physical effects is a significant transformational change for warfare. This phenomenon first occurred in the 21st Century on 9/11, when 19 foreign civilian terrorist fighters from the Middle East, attacked the United States. The buildup to the strike on 9/11 was conducted largely in virtual space to set the conditions for the terrorists’ success in physical space. This new form of global Virtual Battle Space Maneuver (VBSM), created significant detrimental physical space effects and was demonstrated a second time during the Arab Spring in 2011 and with similar success as exhibited by ISIL. The myriad terrorist attacks since 9/11 to the June 2017 murderous acts in London, underscore the point that this virtual scheme of maneuver is no longer an anomaly; rather it is the norm in the world today.

What we see as apparent problems, are often merely symptoms of deeper issues. These problems possess their own dynamics and relationships in both virtual and physical space. The sources of novelty and complexity that the U.S. military experiences everyday are derivatives of technological revolutions and ideological influences that have driven adaptation for millennia. The U.S. military is now confronted with a mounting number of strategic and operational negative externalities, given the growing cognitive dissonance relative to VBSM and Physical Battle Space Maneuver (PBSM), in an unprecedented 21st Century global conflict space. The velocity and viral nature of these evolving dynamic factors often overwhelm existing industrial-age cognitive processes and leadership approaches, which are proving to be inappropriate for contemporary complex problem-solving. 

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Energy industry becomes cyber war battlefield

By Alphonso Rivera 

U.S. energy facilities are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals, according to a recent report released by government and private security officials. Just one agency, the Department of Homeland Security, reported a jump in cases with its investigators receiving reports of 59 significant cyber incidents occurring at U.S. energy facilities in 2016.

The agency handled 290 cybercrime incidents last year involving numerous industrial sites, including factories, power and chemical plants, refineries and nuclear facilities. Many of these incidents originated with “phishing emails” — emails sent by hackers that trick people into downloading virus-infected attachments or links. Many others came from “network probing” and “scanning” schemes.

Some viruses result from malware that was inflicted on systems years ago but keep spreading. Others result from increasingly sophisticated schemes that continue to be created.

In a study conducted in 2015 for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the Ponemon Institute estimated cybercrimes are costing U.S. energy and utility companies about $12.8 million a year in lost business and damaged equipment. And the possibilities of catastrophic events being caused by cyberattacks are growing.

Special Operations and Diplomacy: A Unique Nexus


Marines from a Special Operations Company of the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion meet with local leaders in the town of Qal’eh-ye Gaz in Afghanistan’s Helmand province to assist with medical needs and discuss their issues with anti-coalition forces operating in the area in August 2007.

Afghan National Army soldiers watch as a Special Forces soldier kicks in the door to a home before clearing the house during a village search in Zabul province in September 2004. Afghan National Army soldiers assisted the Special Forces soldiers in the search for Taliban fighters in the remote village.

For most of us in the Foreign Service, one of the most striking developments in the 16 years since the 9/11 terror attacks has been a dramatic increase in synergy between the Department of State and the U.S. military. Coordination of our military and diplomatic activities overseas has become a guiding principle.

Lessons in logistic transformation and a new agenda for change

By David Beaumont.

This post concludes the ‘Transforming the Australian Army’s logistics’ series, and is an abridged extract from a larger paper.

Over a series of articles, I have outlined a basic history of change with respect to logistics in the Australian Army. Institutional history is not always the most interesting to read, but what it reveals is often highly important for understanding how change occurs in militaries. Militaries adapt during wars and on operations, but the ‘hard work’ of long-term transformation often occurs over extended periods of time and by people far removed from the battlefield. In the case of the ‘Transforming Army’s Logistics’ series of posts, the reveals a variety of lessons relevant to those seeking to influence the trajectory of change in those capabilities relevant to sustaining military forces. This includes the logistic community and force designers of land forces beyond the Australian Army, and perhaps even other Services.

The first and second periods of logistic transformation in the Australian Army were distinct. The first, from the late 1980’s to Army’s deployment to East Timor in 1999, was essentially defined by the pursuit of Australian continental defence strategy and the far-reaching programs of commercialisation that transitioned much of Army’s strategic organic logistic capability into the private sector. It was a period during which change was imposed, and Army’s logisticians were forced to make compromises and difficult choices about which capabilities had to remain organic to Army. Therefore, it serves as a reminder that logisticians should not take the opportunity to lead transformation for granted – there is always someone around the corner to do the ‘leading’ for them.

Danger in Shifting Patterns in Global Militarisation

By Daniel Hyslop

While the world has successfully lowered overall levels of militarisation over the last 30 years there has been a dangerous increase in the world’s most unstable areas

The conflict in Syria is a stark reminder of the devastating potential of state based armed conflict and the destructive capability of conventional heavy weapons. One need only look at the gulf between the numbers of lives lost from terrorism versus armed conflict globally to be reminded of this fact –in 2016, it is estimated that approximately five times more people were killed in armed conflict than in terrorist events.

While charting trends in militarisation is difficult due to the constantly evolving destructive capability of heavy weapons technology, IEP has tried to develop a data driven approach by compiled 30 years of heavy weapons data based on the authoritative International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Military Balance. The data have then been codified based on a methodology developed by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

SOF Operational Design and Strategic Education for the 21st Century Warrior-Scholar

by Tony Rivera and Robert Schafer


In August of 2011 a special working group was assembled at the Pinewood Campus of the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) on MacDill, Air Force Base in Florida. In attendance were “Eleven participants from various SOF and academic backgrounds... the SOF Chairs from PME institutions; Senior Fellows from the JSOU Strategic Studies Department; and other academic and strategic thinkers with an interest in SOF’s strategic utility.”[1] The attendees were given three very difficult questions to answer: What is Special Operations Forces (SOF) power? What is the theory and art of SOF power? How can SOF power be better implemented by civilian leadership? “The workgroup confirmed the Special Operations community lacks a unifying theory and associated literature on how Special Operations fit into national security policy even as preference for their use as an instrument of national policy increases.”[2] The recommendations were thoughtful, serious, and worthy of further consideration. What was striking, however, was the virtual absence of the mention of SOF Operational Design.

U.S. Options to Develop a Cyberspace Influence Capability

Sina Kashefipour

Author and / or Article Point of View: The author believes that there is no meat space or cyberspace, there is only the information space. The author also believes that while the tools, data, and knowledge are available, there is no United States organization designed primarily to address the issue of information warfare.

Background: Information warfare is being used by state and non-state adversaries. Information warfare, broadly defined, makes use of information technology to gain an advantage over an adversary. Information is the weapon, the target, and the medium through which this type of conflict takes place[1][2][3]. Information warfare includes tactics such as misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, psychological operations and computer network operations [3][4][5].

Jun 10 Spoiling for a Fight: Making a Case for Aggressive Reconnaissance

As the US Army focuses on preparing for large-scale combat operations, tactical leaders must train formations to conduct the reconnaissance and security operations that will allow commanders to identify and gain positions of relative advantage. FM 3-90-2, Reconnaissance and Security Operations, characterizes reconnaissance as either aggressive or stealthy. It states that stealthy reconnaissance "emphasizes avoiding enemy detection and engagement," whereas units conducting aggressive reconnaissance "use both direct- and indirect-fire systems and movement to rapidly develop the situation."

Though most tactical leaders intuitively understand that their reconnaissance and security formations can conduct either stealthy or aggressive reconnaissance depending on the situation, we are currently out-of-balance. Many formations remain overly-reliant on echelons above brigade (EAB and organic unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to collect the information needed to inform the Commander’s decision-making. The results are underwhelming. The ‘see first, decide first, act first, finish decisively’ paradigm is one that has proven ineffective against an intelligent enemy well-trained in the use of camouflage, concealment, and dispersion techniques to defeat these platforms. Stealthy reconnaissance by ground forces holds more promise in overcoming these passive counter-reconnaissance techniques. Stealthy reconnaissance by ground forces are well-suited to identify the flanks and rear of enemy formations, allowing follow-on maneuver forces to achieve shock and surprise and exploit both physical and psychological positions of relative advantage. And yet, preparing and training formations almost exclusively in the conduct of passive, stealthy reconnaissance leaves the formation out-of-balance in respect to its capabilities. The ability to conduct aggressive reconnaissance is an essential proficiency in large-scale combat operations. Formations must train both. This post seeks to highlights considerations in favor of conducting aggressive reconnaissance that a tactical leader should use to inform thier model of reconnaissance.

Opioid Dealers Embrace the Dark Web to Send Deadly Drugs by Mail


As the nation’s opioid crisis worsens, the authorities are confronting a resurgent, unruly player in the illicit trade of the deadly drugs, one that threatens to be even more formidable than the cartels.

The internet.

In a growing number of arrests and overdoses, law enforcement officials say, the drugs are being bought online. Internet sales have allowed powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl — the fastest-growing cause of overdoses nationwide — to reach living rooms in nearly every region of the country, as they arrive in small packages in the mail.

The authorities have been frustrated in their efforts to crack down on the trade because these sites generally exist on the so-called dark web, where buyers can visit anonymously using special browsers and make purchases with virtual currencies like Bitcoin.

The problem of dark web sales appeared to have been stamped out in 2013, when the authorities took down the most famous online marketplace for drugs, known as Silk Road. But since then, countless successors have popped up, making the drugs readily available to tens of thousands of customers who would not otherwise have had access to them.

U.S. Options to Develop a Cyberspace Influence Capability

by Divergent

Sina Kashefipour is the founder and producer of the national security podcast The Loopcast. He currently works as an analyst. The opinions expressed in this paper do not represent the position of his employer. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

National Security Situation: The battle for control and influence over the information space.

Author and / or Article Point of View: The author believes that there is no meat space or cyberspace, there is only the information space. The author also believes that while the tools, data, and knowledge are available, there is no United States organization designed primarily to address the issue of information warfare.

Background: Information warfare is being used by state and non-state adversaries. Information warfare, broadly defined, makes use of information technology to gain an advantage over an adversary. Information is the weapon, the target, and the medium through which this type of conflict takes place[1][2][3]. Information warfare includes tactics such as misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, psychological operations and computer network operations [3][4][5].

Significance: Information warfare is a force multiplier. Control and mastery of information determines success in politics and enables the driving of the political narrative with the benefit of not having to engage in overt warfare. Information warfare has taken a new edge as the information space and the political are highly interlinked and can, in some instances, be considered as one[6][7][8].