1 July 2017

Sale of one C-17 transport aircraft and Relevant issues

Maj Gen P K Mallick,VSM(Retd)

US Defense Security Cooperation Agency in its website wrote :

The Government of India has requested the possible sale of one C-17 transport aircraft with four Turbofan F-117-PW-100 engines. The sale would also include one AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning System, one AN/ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispensing System (CMDS), one AN/APX-119 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) Transponder, precision navigation equipment, spare and repair parts, maintenance, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, warranty, Quality Assurance, ferry support, U.S. Government and contractor engineering, logistics and technical support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. The estimated cost is $366.2 million.

The principal contractor will be the Boeing Company, Chicago, IL. The purchaser typically requests offsets. Any offset agreement will be defined in negotiations between the purchaser and the contractor.

In a report Boeing Ends C-17 Production in California, published in Nov 30, 2015 it was stated Boeing closed out C-17 deliveries and seven decades of aircraft production in Long Beach, California. One aircraft that remains unsold and in storage in Texas, takes the overall production tally to 279. While Boeing continues to provide support, maintenance and upgrades to the airlifter fleet under the C-17 Globemaster III Integrated Sustainment Program (GISP) Performance-Based Logistics program, the future of the production site at Long Beach remains undecided The C-17 is the last series-built, fixed-wing aircraft to be completely assembled and delivered in the state. 

*** Iran's Next Move in the Fight Against Terrorism

Sandwiched between Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, it seems almost miraculous that Iran hasn't suffered a major act of domestic terrorism in over 15 years. But that changed on June 7 when twin attacks in Tehran left 17 dead and around 50 injured. The Islamic State swiftly claimed responsibility for the attack, and the Iranian security apparatus switched into high gear, working to round up suspects and prevent other plots from culminating. Iran has always tightly protected its core territory, even if the country's restive periphery has traditionally been a source of instability. Now Tehran is concerned about the southeastern and northwestern reaches of the country, especially growing militancy among the Kurdish and Sunni minority groups that live there. In response to the Islamic State's violent statement of intent, the pace of counterterrorism activity has increased across the country, and a June 14 raid in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan targeting suspected terrorists left two dead and five in custody.

The reason for the Islamic State's heightened activity in Iran is relatively straightforward: It is easier and cheaper to wage terrorism and insurgency than to fight conventionally in the hope of taking, holding and governing large swaths of territory. The Islamic State has suffered significant losses on the battlefield, which has damaged its reputation — a problematic result for an organization that thrives on its perceived ruthlessness and potency. Desperately needing to reinvigorate its brand, the group hopes that high-profile successes like the recent Iran attacks will energize its support base once more. 

*** The Race to the Iraqi Border Begins

By Omar Lamrani

One of the best ways to track Iran's priorities in Syria and Iraq is to follow the movements of one of its highest-ranking military leaders, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. In September 2016, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC's) elite Quds Force made an appearance south of Aleppo just before loyalist forces launched the final offensive that led to the critical city's capture. Seven months later, he was spotted in the northern Syrian governorate of Hama as loyalist troops, backed by Iran, geared up for a difficult fight with rebel forces on the outskirts of the provincial capital.

This month, Soleimani is on the move once again. On June 12 the elusive figure paid a visit to Iranian-led militia units on the border between Syria and Iraq, giving prayers of thanks for their recent victories in the area. His presence is telling of the newest phase unfolding in Syria's protracted civil war: the race to the Iraqi border.

The First to the Finish Line

As the Islamic State is slowly being driven out of Syria, its enemies are scrabbling to pick up the territory it leaves behind. Syrian rebels, supported by the U.S.-led coalition, are facing off against the government of President Bashar al Assad, backed by Iran and Russia, to wrest control of the extremist group's remaining positions from its weakened grasp. Yet despite having the same finish line in sight, each participant is driven by its own interests, and is willing to risk colliding with its rivals to secure them.

**Today the Saudis got a new Crown Prince. Stratfor explains how this might rock the region

Summary: Has the appointment of a new crown prince made Saudi Arabia more stable, or set off conflicts among the Princes that will bring it down? Either way, the result might transform the politics of the Middle East. Here is Stratfor’s analysis of this major event. Second of two posts today.

“{T}he Kingdom’s 80th birthday will take place four days from now … And throughout these eighty-some years that we have had our Kingdom, everybody keeps talking about an uncertain future for the Kingdom.”

— Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud (see Wikipedia) in an interview by Charlie Rose, September 2012.

Prince Turki stated one of the great constants of US media coverage of the Saudi Princes. The classic is the 1994 book by Said K. Aburish, The Rise, Corruption and Coming Fall of the House of Saud. Since then there have been thousands of articles by experts and gurus predicting the imminent fall of the Saudi Princes. Here are a selection of these from past 2 years.

Saudi Arabia Plunges into an Abyss” by John Robb at Global Guerrillas, Jan 2015. “It’s Time for the United States to Start Worrying About a Saudi Collapse” by John Hannah at Foreign Policy, Oct 2015 (he is with the Foundation for Defense of Democracy). “A Possible Coup in Saudi Arabia Signals the End of US Dominance in the Mideast” by David Oualaalou at the HuffPo, Oct 2015. “The Quiet Crisis in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” by Karl Vick in TIME, Jan 2016. “The collapse of Saudi Arabia is inevitable” by Nafeez Ahmed at Middle East Eye, Jan 2016 — “Deep-rooted structural realities means Saudi Arabia is on the brink of state failure, a process likely to take off in the next few years.” “Start Preparing for the Collapse of the Saudi Kingdom” by Sarah Chayes at Defense One, Jan 2016 (she is with the Carnegie, and served as special advisor to senior US generals in Afghanistan).

** 4,000 More Troops for Afghanistan? There Could Be Good Reasons Why

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Afghanistan may not be the forgotten war, but it has certainly become the war that the Department of Defense is doing an appalling job of explaining. Even at the best of times, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) public affairs team seems to focus on the ephemeral and public relations exercises, rather than substance. These, however, are scarcely the best of times. If one goes to the Department of Defense web site (https://www.defense.gov/), the Special Report on the Afghan war is long absent.

The last 1225 report on the Afghan War -- issued on June 20, 2017 -- does not mention any increase in U.S. troop levels and ignores any mention of added U.S. forces. It states that,

U.S. Forces – Afghanistan (USFOR-A) currently retains a force posture of approximately 8,400 personnel in Afghanistan, down from approximately 9,800 personnel in 2016, and conducts two well-defined and complementary missions: supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al Qaeda, its associates, and other terrorist groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) affiliate in the Afghanistan and Pakistan region, ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K); and training, advising, and assisting (TAA) the ANDSF through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led Resolute Support (RS) mission. The drawdown of U.S. forces during this reporting period presented moderate to moderate-high risk to the mission, but the United States and coalition partners maintained sufficient numbers of personnel to conduct the TAA mission at the ministries, ANA corps, and Afghan National Police (ANP) zones.

The last Sikkim stand-off: When India gave China a bloody nose in 1967

Ananth Krishnan

The 1967 incident marked the last incident of casualties on both sides in the Sikkim sector. And the last death in any sector of the India-China border was in 1975 at Tulung La, and that was by accident, when two patrols were lost in the fog.

India gave China a bloody nose in 1967 which was the last Sikkim stand-off.

China was irritated with presence of Indian Army in the then Kingdom of Sikkim.

Maj Gen Sheru Thapliyal (retd), who was posted in Sebu La, recalled the 1967 incident.

The last time India and China were engaged in a major military stand-off in Sikkim was in 1967.

On that instance, just five years after India's traumatic 1962 war defeat, the Indian Army gave the Chinese a bloody nose, according to accounts from the time. More than 80 Indian soldiers were killed, while estimates say between 300 to 400 Chinese troops were killed.

It was certainly a different time: One account suggests that to protest China's actions then in Sikkim, which reportedly included a Chinese complaint of a herd of sheep being stolen, a 43-year-old Member of Parliament by the name of Atal Bihari Vajpayee drove a herd of sheep to the Chinese Embassy in Shantipath in New Delhi to stage a rather colourful protest.

There are fascinating parallels from the 1967 incident. That was also a stand-off that began with pushing and shoving, when the Chinese filled up trenches that India had dug.

Occupy Chumbi Valley: a cable from Harishwar Dayal

Should the Chumbi Valley be occupied?

On November 21, 1950, hardly a month after the People's Liberation Army had invaded Tibet and occupied the town of Chamdo, the Political Officer in Sikkim, Harishwar Dayal send a Top Secret cable to his bosses in the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi.

It could be said that some parts of Dayal's assessment were prophetic.

But who was ready to listen to him in Delhi? 

Dayal analyzed: "Occupation by China of the whole of Tibet or of portions of Tibetan territory bordering India, Nepal and Bhutan, or establishment of a Chinese-inspired regime at Lhasa, will create a variety of problems which are doubt engaging Government of India's attention."
It is very unfortunate that Nehru's government did not pay attention to this basic fact.

The cable contains an interesting suggestion from the strategic point of view: India should occupy Chumbi Valley. Dayal writes: "it was suggested that we might consider occupation of the Chumbi Valley up to Phari in an extreme emergency. This suggestion was NOT favoured by Government of India at the time. It was however proposed as a purely defensive measure and with NO aggressive intention. An attack on Sikkim or Bhutan would call for defensive military operations by the Government of India. In such a situation occupation of the Chumbi Valley might be a vital factor in defence."

Recent Developments in Doklam Area

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a statement on 26 June 2017 alleging that Indian border troops crossed the boundary line in the Sikkim sector of the China-India boundary and entered Chinese territory. This has been reiterated since then in other Chinese official briefings. 

The facts of the matter are as follows:

i.On 16 June, a PLA construction party entered the Doklam area and attempted to construct a road. It is our understanding that a Royal Bhutan Army patrol attempted to dissuade them from this unilateral activity. The Ambassador of the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGOB) has publicly stated that it lodged a protest with the Chinese Government through their Embassy in New Delhi on 20 June.

ii.Yesterday, the Foreign Ministry of Bhutan has also issued a statement underlining that the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory is a direct violation of the 1988 and 1998 agreements between Bhutan and China and affects the process of demarcating the boundary between these two countries. They have urged a return to the status quo as before 16 June 2017.

iii.In keeping with their tradition of maintaining close consultation on matters of mutual interest, RGOB and the Government of India have been in continuous contact through the unfolding of these developments.

iv.In coordination with the RGOB, Indian personnel, who were present at general area Doka La, approached the Chinese construction party and urged them to desist from changing the status quo. These efforts continue.

Army, PLA in a tug of war over Doklam Plateau

Josy Joseph

The area has huge strategic significance for both India and China

The Doklam Plateau, north of the tri-junction of Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet, by India's claim, is not just a disputed area, but has huge strategic significance for both India and China.

The few square kilometres of the plateau, which one officer familiar with the terrain calls “more a ledge than anything else” because of its steep mountains, is witnessing a stand-off between detachments of the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for the past few days. There have been several incidents that have culminated in the present situation, sources said.

Bunkers destroyed

In recent days, the Chinese are believed to have destroyed temporary bunkers of the Indian Army, while the Indian Army is accused of objecting to a road construction by the Chinese side on the disputed area. Finally, there was also an incident of jostling among the soldiers of the two sides.

Yet another Sino-Indian impasse?


Although the Sikkim border between China and India has often been a source of diplomatic and military tensions in bilateral relations, the Sino-Indian frontier has been largely quiet since 1967 when the two armies fought a short but brutal local war. But it would be incorrect to infer that with such large concentrations and spread of troops, often eyeball to eyeball, that there is no tension. Why did the latest military standoff break out? Both sides have resorted to blame game accusing each other of crossing the boundary. But what has really happened? Is it a coincidence that it occurred just days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s summit meeting with Donald Trump?

James Bond once famously said: "Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence and third time is enemy action.' Such flare-ups at a time when the Indian leadership is meeting with leaders like Xi Jinping and Donald Trump are now running out of coincidences. A clear pattern is now emerging. Whether it is our side that is provoking it or theirs doesn’t matter much. The Indian public believes it is China that is ratcheting up the tensions. The Chinese public thinks it is India. In the new world of mass and instant communications perceptions are the truth.

However some light is peeping out from under the shut doors of the two militaries. At the farthest tip of the Chumbi Valley between Sikkim and Bhutan, the Chinese are building a road to an area called the Dokalam Plains. Our military believes that artillery positioned here will seriously threaten Indian concentrations and communications. It doesn’t help very much that the Chumbi Valley appears on the map like a dagger poised not only to render asunder Sikkim and Bhutan, but also Assam and the Northeast from the rest of India. So the Indian Army wants to position itself to challenge the PLA’s dominance from the Doka La pass in Bhutan. There is nothing wrong about this, considering India and Bhutan have a treaty ratified military relationship. Clearly the two biggest armies in the world are jockeying for positions of advantage. This is natural when there are huge concentrations of troops, literally cheek by jowl, and trust is low between the two governments.

Why there's trouble on the India-China border

The choice of Dhoka La for the intrusion by Chinese troops is significant and suggests a twin objective of pressuring Thimpu to allow Beijing to establish an embassy there and reinforcing Chinese claims on Arunachal Pradesh, warns former RA&W officer Jayadev Ranade.

Strategy, sovereignty and territorial interests are all at play in the stand-off currently underway between Chinese and Indian troops.
After nearly a decade, Beijing has chosen to reactivate the border with India in the Sikkim sector in the Dhoka La area in the tri-junction between India, Tibet and Bhutan.
The face-off has now continued for over ten days with two flag meetings at the border failing to resolve the issue and defuse tension and both sides building up their troop strength in the area.
In contrast to previous such occasions, this time statements emerging out of Beijing contain escalating rhetoric suggesting that China is hardening its position.

The timing of China's intrusion, which coincided with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first meeting with US President Donald J Trump in Washington is, at the least, a convenient coincidence.
China has long been concerned about India's warming ties with the US and, with an unpredictable future for Sino-US relations under Trump, Beijing's worries will have increased.
This was reflected in the article in the State-run Global Times on June 26, 2017, which actually warned that close Indo-US ties 'could even lead to catastrophic results'.
The newspaper cautioned India that if it ceases to be non-aligned and 'becomes a pawn for the US in countering China, it will be caught up in a strategic dilemma and new geopolitical frictions will be triggered in South Asia'.

Digital India needs a cybersecurity reboot

The Indian government has embarked on a programme to turn the country into a digital economy. It has unveiled a series of initiatives—from introducing Digital Locker, which eliminates the need for people to carry hard copies of documents issued by the government, to demonetization, which has spurred the use of digital payments across the country.

The move towards a digital economy is likely to help trigger a fresh wave of economic growth, attract more investment, and create new jobs, across multiple sectors.

However, it also poses a big challenge, that of cybersecurity. With the move towards a digital economy, increasing amount of consumer and citizen data will be stored digitally and a large number of transactions will be carried out online, by companies, individuals as well as government departments.

That makes India a bigger target for cyber-criminals and hackers. Various stakeholders, especially Indian companies, need to be better prepared to handle this threat.

Growing threat

The cost of cyberattacks in India currently stands in excess of Rs25,000 crore ($4billion). It is important to note that there are many cyberattacks that go undetected and unreported as well, so this number could be much higher.

Price Of Law And Order: Expenses On Police Eat Into Other Budget

Subhomoy Bhattacharjee

In the past decade, the fastest growing element of government’s expenditure has been that on police

Maintaining law and order has become quite costly for the exchequer. In the past decade, the fastest growing element of the government’s expenditure has been that on police. This trend sits uncomfortably with that of a welfare economy. It is not a statistical jugglery that comes from a low base effect. The expenditure was over 3 per cent of the total government spend to begin with, which means it is higher than the paisa going to subsidies like food. In comparison with priorities such as health or education budgets the difference is even more startling. From that high base, there has been a further steep rise in government money spent to finance the expansion of police force. Both the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the current National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government have carried on with the trend.

Table 1. Source: Government of India budget papers. (Click to enlarge) 

As the first table shows money deployed on policing by the centre has consistently outpaced that of any of the big ticket spending items of the government in the block of ten years. Neither has the defence or pay out of interest grown so consistently year on year. The scale of growth for police is in double digit in all the years. The only exception is the current financial year, but here too the numbers, as of now, are only budget estimates. The actual expenditure in most years has overshot them.

A New Afghanistan Strategy Must Avoid Perpetual War

At hearings on Capitol Hill earlier this month, Secretary of Defense James Mattis admitted that the administration currently doesn’t have a strategy for the war in Afghanistan, but promised one by the end of July. Given the number of troops his plan will reportedly include, however, the new strategy will at best ensure the war continues without resolution into perpetuity. Rather than anchoring the United States to a state of permanent failure, President Donald Trump should demand disruptive alternative policies that makes strategic success possible. Fortunately, viable options do exist.

Numerous Senate and House committees have held hearings of late discussing Afghan war strategy, and there has been considerable debate among pundits regarding the number of troops that Mattis should deploy. Lost in these discussions is an examination whether the oft-stated objective (preventing terrorists from using Afghanistan to plan future terror attacks against the United States) is even achievable.

Before troop levels can be set, an agreed-upon strategy has to be selected; before a strategy can be chosen, an achievable end-state must be identified. For well over a decade, no achievable end-state has been discussed, debated or assigned in Afghanistan—and that is the primary cause of the stalemate that currently afflicts U.S. policy there.

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, President George W. Bush stated clear and limited U.S. policy was to initiate “carefully targeted actions” that were “designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime . . . By destroying camps and disrupting communications, we will make it more difficult for the terror network to train new recruits and coordinate their evil plans.”

Governance in China: Past, Present and Future

In a previous post (Human History Greatly Simplified), I simplified human history over the past 2,000 years as the West vs. China.

In this post, I will explain governance in China, its past, present, and future. I do it for the sake of my fellow Americans, with a strong message to America: you are 2,000 years behind China in governance!

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1. The foundation

Chinese civilization over the past 2,000 years was primarily defined by the First Emperor, with his grand, but when compared with Rome, more realistic vision of "one written language, one culture, and one Emperor" (Ancient Rome vs. Ancient China) as the foundation.

Largely because of that, China was, and still is, very simple to govern, especially when compared with the West, which has been troubled by multiplicity, including wide diversity in languages, cultures, races, and religions.

China's T-Junction stand-off with Bhutan: Flexing muscle to annex land is nothing new for Beijing

In dealing with the stand-off with New Delhi over the T-Junction (meeting point of India, Tibet and Bhutan), the main plank used by Beijing is its "sovereignty" over the land. But whose sovereignty is Beijing talking about? If it's Bhutan's sovereignty, China had an agreement to not disturb the status quo while boundary talks are continuing between the two countries. But China actually did the opposite — it violated the agreement by design and at a time when it coincided with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Washington, because of perceived threats to China's own expansionism.

Major General Vetsop Namgyel, Bhutan's ambassador to India, told the media, "The PLA (People's Liberation Army) started construction of a motorable road in the Doklam area towards a Bhutanese army camp at Zomphlri. We are in boundary resolution talks with China and have written agreements that pending final boundary settlement, peace and tranquility will be maintained along the boundary, and that both sides will refrain from unilaterally altering the status. Bhutan has conveyed to China that road construction is not keeping with the agreements between two countries. We have asked China to stop the construction and refrain from changing the status quo. Doklam is near the tri-junction, and is part of boundary talks between Bhutan and China."

Russia Claims Its Armata Tank Has Three Times the Range of American Armor

Jared Keller

Russia’s next-generation battle tank can reportedly out-stick the American armor in a heartbeat — and it’s coming to battlefields sooner than expected.

Russian weapons manufacturer Uralvagonzavod plans on testing the T-14 Armata battle tank at a test range in the industrial city of Nizhny Tagil, deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin told Russian media on June 20. In development since the collapse of the Soviet Union and first unveiled as a prototype in 2012, the Russian military is currently field testing 100 Armatas with hopes to deploy the tank downrange as early as 2019. Should the new armor exceed expectations, the Russian Defense Ministry plans on procuring a total 2,300 by 2020.

The Armata is certainly a muscular machine. Army Recognition’s comprehensive technical specs indicate that the tank’s unmanned turret comes with a next-gen 125mm 2A82-1M smoothbore auto-loading main gun with 45 shells, although future variants of the Armata could boast a 152mm cannon and, allegedly, low-yield nuclear rounds. Potential secondary weapons range from a 12.7mm machine gun like the Nikitin-Sokolov-Volkova (NSV) currently utilized by the Russian military’s T-72, T-64, and T-80 battle tanks; a remote weapon station with a 7.62mm machine gun; and a 57mm cannon Army Recognition characterizes as a “grenade launcher,” although most Soviet-era weapons of that caliber are anti-tank and anti-aircraft cannons.

U.S. Air-To-Air Kills Are Few And Far Between

-- this post authored by Niall McCarthy

Reciently a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Air Force SU-22 after it bombed U.S. backed rebel fighters in Raqqa province, Syria.

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Russia condemned the incident, calling it a "flagrant attack", saying it would have "dangerous repercussions". The Russians have now said that any coalition aircraft operating west of the Euphrates river will be tracked and treated as targets. The crowded airspace in Syria did see another high-profile incident in 2015 when Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian SU-24 attack aircraft, killing one of its two pilots and leading to a serious diplomatic spat between Moscow and Ankara.

Four steps we’re taking today to fight terrorism online

Terrorism is an attack on open societies, and addressing the threat posed by violence and hate is a critical challenge for us all. Google and YouTube are committed to being part of the solution. We are working with government, law enforcement and civil society groups to tackle the problem of violent extremism online. There should be no place for terrorist content on our services.

While we and others have worked for years to identify and remove content that violates our policies, the uncomfortable truth is that we, as an industry, must acknowledge that more needs to be done. Now.

We have thousands of people around the world who review and counter abuse of our platforms. Our engineers have developed technology to prevent re-uploads of known terrorist content using image-matching technology. We have invested in systems that use content-based signals to help identify new videos for removal. And we have developed partnerships with expert groups, counter-extremism agencies, and the other technology companies to help inform and strengthen our efforts.

Today, we are pledging to take four additional steps.

First, we are increasing our use of technology to help identify extremist and terrorism-related videos. This can be challenging: a video of a terrorist attack may be informative news reporting if broadcast by the BBC, or glorification of violence if uploaded in a different context by a different user. We have used video analysis models to find and assess more than 50 per cent of the terrorism-related content we have removed over the past six months. We will now devote more engineering resources to apply our most advanced machine learning research to train new “content classifiers” to help us more quickly identify and remove extremist and terrorism-related content.

SOF's Evolving Role: Warfare 'By, With, and Through' Local Forces

by Linda Robinson

The role of U.S. special operations forces (SOF) in the Middle East has expanded steadily since the inception of the counter-ISIS campaign in 2014. In part, this expansion is due to the metastasis of ISIS into Libya, Yemen, and other countries beyond its major land-holding presence in Iraq and Syria. But the most notable feature of the expanded U.S. SOF role in the Middle East has been its work alongside indigenous forces in Iraq and Syria. Conventional and coalition forces provide additional numbers of troops. What makes this campaign so unusual is that U.S. forces are not providing the muscle of the frontline combat troops. Instead, the campaign is conducted “by, with, and through” others, a Special Forces phrase that the CENTCOM commander, General Joseph Votel, has adopted to call attention to this new way of warfighting. If the counter-ISIS campaign succeeds in dislodging ISIS from Iraq and Syria, this approach is more likely to be considered for other, similar conflicts.

During seven weeks visiting Iraq, Syria, and neighboring countries this year, I observed three major changes in how the campaign accounts for its increasing momentum. First, the number of advisers and supporting forces has now reached a level that can provide meaningful support to the variety of indigenous forces fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. That number is hovering around 10,000, including forces deployed in-country on temporary duty. Special operations forces are advising a variety of partners, including the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), tribal forces and Iraqi Kurds. In Syria, they are assisting Kurdish groups, particularly the YPG (Popular Protection Units), and a variety of Arab forces. As in Afghanistan, U.S. SOF count on major support from their closest SOF partners in Britain, Australia, and Canada, as well as the Danes, Norwegians, and French. While SOF are at the forefront of the tactical-level advising, U.S. and coalition conventional forces have been training forces at five main bases and advising at the headquarters level.



There is a buzz in the air. Scholars, service members, bloggers, and journalists are all writing about a new U.S. Army and Marine Corps concept for future warfare.

Yet to some, this concept might sound familiar, closely resembling things that came before. In the absence of any substantial formal document (save for a white paper), there is much confusion, and the term slowly but surely is becoming a catch-all phrase, pasted with varying degrees of relevance across articles, news stories, and PowerPoint slides.

So, what is this Multi-Domain Battle that everyone seems to be talking about? Is it a brave new concept that will carry the day and the Army to a revolution in military affairs? Or is it just AirLand Battle with a dose of cyber?

I thought I’d try to summarize, for the baffled, short-on-time reader, the essence of this idea as it stands today. Given the amount of relevant material available online, this effort will, by no means, be a comprehensive coverage of the current debate. It will, however, try to serve as a basis for more concrete discussions in future articles about alternative warfighting concepts and relevant force structures. First, I turn to the official documents regarding this new concept. Then, I tackle several themes that emerge from the unofficial writing trying to describe Multi-Domain Battle.

Detecting Secret Military Exercises With Micro Satellites, a How-To

By Patrick Tucker

The future of intelligence is small teams and tiny satellites. It’s not a future the U.S. will own exclusively. 

Detecting an adversary’s unscheduled naval exercise used to require a massive operation perhaps involving multiple agencies. In March 2017, a small team of analysts with a firm called 3GIMBALS, working with U.S. Southern Command, used imagery from a constellation of inexpensive microsatellites to pick up an unscheduled military exercise in Venezuela that had taken place a year prior. How they did it says a lot about the future of intelligence collection from space, where the U.S. has a rapidly shrinking advantage. 

The game-changer wasn’t the algorithm; it was the availability of cheap, daily satellite imagery — in this case, from a startup called Planet Labs. [Full disclosure: Defense One has an agreement to get limited free imagery from Planet.] With a constellation of 149 microsatellites, Planet can cover a lot more territory than any single high-end satellite, so almost anywhere in the world you look, Planet can find a recent picture of it. With new imagery coming in every day, you can automate a search for changes at various locations. That means you can detect when a military begins to operate in a given area, and perhaps even deduce what kind of equipment they’re using — all at exponentially less cost than it would take to have run the same operation a decade ago.

Defense Strategy and the Iron Triangle of Painful Trade-offs

The Department of Defense (DoD) has begun its development of a new defense strategy, and outside observers are atwitter, or should I say, aTwitter. Having been involved in more security strategy efforts than is healthy for any human, I have empathy for those charged with strategy development in today’s chaotic Washington environment. When it comes to strategy development, it can often feel that, as the French say, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

A defense strategy is an approach that ties together the goals, approaches, and resources (people, technology, dollars, etc.) that can best advance priority interests by exploiting opportunities and overcoming challenges. It must account for, and in some cases seek to shape, a complex and dynamic backdrop of American domestic politics and economic realities, as well as developments in operational concepts and technology, demography and workforce, and of course geopolitics.

U.S. defense strategy is almost never considered successful in fulfilling these roles and forecasting well along these dimensions. Then again, it’s hard to know what right would look like. Some strategies lauded in the near-term have turned out to be short-lived in perspective, such as the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance, which was built on several assumptions that aged poorly. Some strategies praised by commentators today were deeply criticized at the time, such as Harry Truman’s NSC-68 or Bill Clinton’s Bottom-up Review. These observations should assure the well-intentioned and thoughtful strategist that, in strategy, the term paper rarely earns an “A.” Good strategy is a non-linear process that must constantly be tended and adapted, and vigilance is rewarded.

Web geeks needed to tackle "grey" cyber warfare, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon tells Royal United Services Institute

Ben Glaze

A “grey war” is being waged online as cyber attacks sweep the globe - with “geeks” needed to confront the threat, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon warned today.

The Tory Minister told military experts online assaults were growing, with last week’s web hack on Parliament followed by Tuesday’s attack targeting some of the world’s biggest brands, including the Maersk shipping line, advertising giant WPP and Russian energy firm Rosneft,

The Armed Forces needed to recruit a new generation of “geeks and tech wizards” to tackle the spiralling threat of cyber warfare, Sir Michael said.
He told the Royal United Services Institute’s Land Warfare Conference: “We have anonymous cyber foes, sponsored by state or non-state entities, lurking behind the veil of encryption, targeting our national infrastructure as we saw with the recent cyber strike on Parliament itself.

“That isn’t a Cold War, that is a grey war permanently teetering on the edge of outright hostility , hovering around the threshold of what we would normally consider to be an act of war.”

Writing the Rules of Cyberwar

Christiaan Colen via Flickr

The line between offensive and defensive attacks is far from clear, a new book argues. 

The Washington Post’s report last week on Russian cyber efforts to disrupt the 2016 election—and the Obama administration’s months-long debate over how to respond—ended on a foreboding note. Among the measures apparently adopted in response to the hack was “a cyber operation that was designed to be detected by Moscow but not cause significant damage,” involving “implanting computer code in sensitive computer systems,” according to anonymous officials who spoke to the paper. The code could be used to trigger a cyberattack on Russia in response to another Russian cyberattack on America, whether that targeted elections or infrastructure. The paper characterized the operation as currently being “in its early stages.” 

From an American perspective, the operation as described could look defensive—if it was “designed to be detected,” it would serve as a warning and potential deterrent against further offensive actions by Russia. Or it could be used purely in retaliation for aggression of some kind. On the other hand, though, once the implants are operational, what’s to stop an American leader from using them for offensive purposes, simply to weaken, undermine, or otherwise mess with Russia? From the Russian perspective, this potential would make the implants look like an offensive cyberoperation—and prompt “defensive” measures on Russia’s part, that would in turn threaten the United States. The cycle could escalate from there. 

IDSA STRATEGIC COMMENTS : Russia’s Engagement with the Taliban

In December 2015, the Russian Foreign Ministry revealed that Russia was engaging in intelligence sharing with the Taliban to counter the growing presence of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. The announcement, which coincided with US moves to reduce troop presence in the country and transfer security control to Afghan forces, caught the world by surprise.1 2016 saw a sudden increase in the Taliban’s offensive attacks and its establishment of control over more territory than during the past decade and a half.2

Subsequently, in April 2017, the commander of the US forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, accused Russia of providing weapons to the Taliban.3 This was the first time a senior US commander made such allegations regarding Russian support to the Taliban. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov termed the allegations ‘unprofessional and groundless’ and charged that it was an attempt to ‘put the blame for Washington’s failures in Afghanistan [on Russia]’.4 Russia, in turn, accused the US of supporting Islamic State operatives in Afghanistan.5 Even earlier, in 2016, the head of the Asia and West Asian department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Zamir Kabulov, had stated, ‘It is some miracle that Taliban leaders who wouldn’t cooperate with Islamic State in Afghanistan tend to be hit by American airstrikes. And those who do are being left alone’.6

CSI: Cyber-Attack Scene Investigation--a Malware Whodunit

By Larry Greenemeier 

Cyber attacks against government agencies, infrastructure providers and other high-profile targets are regularly in the news, stirring talk of digital warfare and international sanctions. The forensic investigations that follow these hacks can reveal the method and magnitude of an attack. Pinpointing the culprit, however, is frustratingly more difficult, resulting in little more than vague accusations that the guilty parties (might be) working for a particular foreign government or cyber gang.

Case in point: the recent cyber attacks that shut off power to 80,000 Ukrainians and infiltrated computers at the country’s largest airport. Some Ukrainian officials were quick to point the finger at the Kremlin due to their ongoing conflict and because the attacks apparently came from computers in Russia. Others, however, caution Internet addresses can be spoofed and that, even though investigators have recovered some of the “BlackEnergy” malicious software (malware) at fault, they are unable to figure out exactly who wrote it.

Circumstantial evidence

“Attribution is a curious beast,” says Morgan Marquis-Boire, a senior researcher at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab and former member of Google’s security team. “There are a variety of techniques that you can use to make educated assertions about the nature of an attack.” These include examining the sophistication of the tools involved, the techniques, the type of data stolen and where it was sent. “I call this strong circumstantial, and this is how a lot of the attribution is done in public malware reports.”

Cyberwar blurs lines between military/civilian, public/private sectors [CyCon Tallinn]

by Gerard O'Dwyer

The danger that the cyberwarfare threat spectrum could pose a sustained future risk to both military sites and critical civilian infrastructure – such as power grids, hospitals and telecom networks – is certain to stimulate deeper levels of collaboration between defense and law enforcement agencies and industry cyber experts.

The fundamental dynamic driving closer cooperation between state agencies and industry is formed from the common objective of not alone defending against threats in cyberspace, but devising the tools to respond using precise surgical strikes against aggressors in the cyber battlespace.

A higher degree of cooperation between state cyber defense agencies and industry will focus on developing more robust vertical data traffic analysis tools to improve the general understanding and interpretation of high malware activity and trends, nationally and globally, as used by hostile parties in the cyberspace domain.

The opening up of new channels of collaboration between state and industry actors in the cybersecurity area featured prominently at CyCon 2017 in Tallinn, Estonia.

Air Force launches Space Cyber Challenge

The week-long challenge had graduate students from the Royal Military College of Canada competing against personnel from the National Security Agency, engineers from NASA, and five airmen from the 70 th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing’s 707 th Communications Squadron from Fort Meade, Maryland.

The challenge was developed to help “increase awareness of space cybersecurity challenges and principles,” said Capt. JBernard Caplo, airman from the 707th CS. There were three separate objectives for the teams to accomplish: system hardening, offensive cyber operations and satellite operations.

To prevent any unfair advantages, each team was provided a space mission kit that contained commercial off-the-shelf items needed to complete the two segments of the challenge, space and ground.

The two segments required the teams to develop a cube sat containing a sensor board and simulated satellite thrusters using light-emitting diodes, and to secure a functioning ground station that allowed their cube sats to communicate through a secure shell connection.

Cryptocurrencies — a growing issue for military, intel agencies and law enforcement

By: Kevin Coleman, Independent Software

If you have not heard of or understand cryptocurrencies, you are not alone; but that had better change. Cryptocurrencies — a technology whose time seems to have come — has grown significantly as of late. The total dollar value of all cryptocurrencies exceed the gross domestic product of all but 84 countries in the world, according to the CIA World Factbook. That means the total value of all cryptocurrencies exceed the GDP of 145 individual countries, based on the CIA World Factbook! While many have not heard of or understand cryptocurrencies, you had better take notice — that is for sure! This is a powerful technology whose ramifications mandate that military, intelligence organizations and law enforcement must monitor and understand it.

According to Investopedia, a cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security. A cryptocurrency is difficult to counterfeit because of this security feature. A defining feature of a cryptocurrency, and arguably its most endearing allure, is its organic nature; it is not issued by any central authority, rendering it theoretically immune to government interference or manipulation.

You can track the cumulative total U.S. dollar value of each individual cryptocurrency and the sum of all 863 individual cryptocurrencies using this online source.

Cyber protection teams need more intelligence, say officials

By: Mark Pomerleau

Intelligence drives operations. The same can be said for quick-reaction cyber forces when responding to an incident.

“Intelligence support to cyber … this is a huge gap, we are making progress, but ultimately what we want to have happen here is [cyber-protection team operation] ... driven by intelligence,” Navy Lt. John Allen, the lead cyber defense force planner with U.S. Cyber Command, said at the Defensive Cyber Operations Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 15. “We’re going to get the most return on investment from our teams if we’re posturing them where we think the adversary will be at based on intelligence and information, instead of being so reactive.”

Cyber protection teams, or CPT, are one of several teams that make up the cyber mission force for CYBERCOM. CPTs consist of 39 individuals and defend priority Pentagon networks and systems against threats.

There currently is no plan to change the structure of these teams to marry intelligence-oriented teams or intelligence cells within them, which CYBERCOM calls cyber support teams.

Allen said that outside of the cyber national mission force, which defends the U.S. against strategic cyberattacks, none of the other teams have an established process for intel.

Special report: Cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (free PDF)

Mobile and IoT adoption continue to rise, enhancing communication and productivity across the enterprise—and unleashing an avalanche of security concerns. This ebook, based on the latest ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature, looks at the risks of IoT and mobile and offers strategies and recommendations that can help protect your organization against cyberattack.

From the ebook:

One of the biggest challenges with the Internet of Things (IoT) is the security headache that comes with it. This issue is exacerbated in the enterprise, where connected devices often control large, dangerous machines, or send and receive sensitive data.

While IoT can bring new data and helpful insights, it also introduces new vulnerabilities into your organization. As such, it is critical that enterprises consider the security implications of an IoT deployment before moving forward.

Here are 10 best practices for businesses, schools, factories, and other organizations looking to improve their IoT security.

Understand your endpoints

Each new IoT endpoint introduced into a network brings a potential entry point for cybercriminals that must be addressed.