18 September 2017

Af-Pak, India and Beyond: The New Underpinnings of Washington's South Asia Policy

Puneet Ahluwalia Prateek Joshi

American national interest lies in reaching out to the smallest of the nations, which may prove crucial to “America First” domestic concerns.

Strategic circles in South Asia have been obsessed with Washington since August 21, when President Trump addressed the nation from the Fort Myer military base in Arlington, Virginia, and laid out America’s military plans for Afghanistan. The speech had been interpreted as his vision for South Asia, given the Af-Pak dynamic and the potential role he envisaged for India to play in stabilizing her neighborhood.

Describing India as a “key security and economic partner of the United States,” Trump expressed his vision to elevate India as a key stakeholder in the Af-Pak issue. A recent estimate by Anthony Cordesman of Center for Strategic and International Studies pegs the total cost of the sixteen-year-long war at $841 billion, along with 2,400 soldiers killed. It was in this regard that the president, for the first time, repeatedly stressed that sixteen years had passed and yet the Afghan imbroglio was far from being resolved. The consistency in the new administration’s stance on the Af-Pak imbroglio is too serious to be ignored.

Ever since President Trump assumed power, Indo-U.S. relationship has got the much needed push across the entire spectrum of factors that drive the bilateral relationship. Prime Minister Modi’s U.S. visit in June was dubbed successful not only in the domain of tangible achievements—such as the Guardian drone deal and a joint statement pointing towards strong future defense cooperation and anti-terror initiatives—but also in terms of the chemistry the two leaders shared. New Delhi is decked up for welcoming Ivanka Trump in November.

Washington has sent strong signals to acknowledge India’s long pending grievance of fixing accountability on the non-state actors operating out of Pakistani soil without impunity. Prime Minister Modi’s visit coincided with U.S. State Department’s declaration of Syed Salahuddin as a global terrorist. On Salahuddin, the State Department report stated that he “vowed to block any peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict, threatened to train more Kashmiri suicide bombers, and vowed to turn the Kashmir Valley into a graveyard for Indian forces.” While it is true that merely designating him a terrorist would not do much to curb Hizbul Mujahideen’s menace in the valley, such gestures are a part of the broader bilateral-strategic interface and set the stage for future cooperation in respective dimensions. Two months after blacklisting Salahuddin, the Hizbul Mujahideen was also declared as a terrorist outfit by Trump administration.

Doklam: India at an Inflection Point in its Quest for Regional/Global Power Status

By Lt Gen (Dr) JS Bajwa

Doklam, was an innocuous and routine local initiative by the troops on ground. The commander there felt the need to ensure that the existing Agreements and Treaties between India and China are abided by in letter and spirit. The Chinese road makers were stoutly confronted by this courageous sub-unit of soldiers who stood up to stop any construction in the territory that belonged to Bhutan – despite the Chinese vehemently continuing to claim otherwise. This uncomplicated straightforward military stance taken by India troops has acquired such import that it now signals to the region and the world of the time when India transcends into the realm of a “great power” to be reckoned with.

China has been aggressively persistent in its efforts to make strategic inroads in India’s immediate neighbourhood, resulting in India being left with a constricted space to exercise its influence.

What India has done displays the Governments ‘steely’ WILL to pursue what it believes and knows is right. Diplomacy, under the sterling leadership of the Minister, has been forthright and firm. Her iteration in the Lok Sabha adequately indicates the sagacity of the government’s actions:

“War is not a solution to anything. Even after war, there has to be a dialogue. So, have dialogue without a war… Patience, control on comments and diplomacy can resolve problems,” the minister said. “If patience is lost, there can be provocation on the other side. We will keep patience to resolve the issue, we will keep engaging with China to resolve the dispute.”

The Chinese, on their part, have let loose a vitriolic diatribe through their state controlled media showing themselves in poor light. The world has been watching and all of China’s neighbours and supporters around the world must have concluded that in future they should not expect a fair deal from a ‘rising China’ which is given to such vituperative bluster. It is unworthy to even bother or recount the didactic statements made in the process and that too in the most patronizing tones. In fact, these could be compiled to illustrate the poorest examples of diplomacy and conduct of international relations at all institutions and universities highlighting this aspect of how diplomacy should NEVER be conducted by mature nations.

Spectacles of terror: From Islamic fundamentalism to the ‘un’holy Jihad

By Anant Mishra

Since 9/11, the global press has exclusively covered all major conflicts, from Syria to Libya, to African Union joint task force against Boko Haram in Africa. Witnessing some of these intense conflicts, we come across many terminologies, frequently used by strategic and security experts, one of most frequently used is “Islamic Fundamentalism”. Islamic Fundamentalism, radical by nature, is violent by decree and poses grave threat to the “peace and security” in the global world today. An ideology which criticises democracy, rule of law, peace and prosperity, first came into limelight during the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Many religious and political thinkers credit Islamic Fundamentalism as “more dangerous and violent” than communism, with the ability to collapse the global order in the 21st century.

Islamic fundamental radicalistic factions have conducted acts of violence against the “government institutions” using terrorising means such as bombing, kidnapping, assassinations and mass ethnic killings. They not only target government institutions or military installations, but also kidnap foreign tourists, diplomats, members of foreign delegations, journalists, any individual with a “media value” which they can utilise to spread their message.

Today, Islamic Fundamentalism has emerged as a global threat. The traditional “ideological” war between the West and Communism has been replaced with a new “religious” warfare between the West and radical Islamic fundamentalists. 

Will jihad kill China-Pakistan Economic Corridor!!!

By RSN Singh

China and Pakistan have signed an Anti-Terror Cooperation Agreement devoted exclusively for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The imperative being increasing threat to the CPEC from jihadi groups. The agreement was signed in Beijing after extensive talks between Meng Jianzhu, head of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party Central Committee with his Pakistani counterparts Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and National Security Advisor, Nasser Khan Janjua. The timing of the visit by this Pakistani delegation assumed importance because it was in the wake of BRICS Summit, wherein Pakistan was indirectly castigated for harbouring terrorist groups and sponsoring terrorism. The agreement in a way reiterates China’s surprise position in BRICS on jihadi terror groups in Pakistan. It appears that these groups have begun to cause anxiety amongst the Chinese authorities with regard to the security of CPEC. It may also be mentioned that Pakistan has already deployed some 15,000 personnel, i.e. 9,000 army and 6,000 para-military, for the security of the CPEC.

All jihadi tanzims are ultimately global jihadi organizations in orientation and treat Pakistan as merely a base.

This anti-terror cooperation agreement exclusively for the CPEC is a tacit admission that many of the jihadi groups operating from Pakistani soil are against the project. All jihadi tanzims are ultimately global jihadi organizations in orientation and treat Pakistan as merely a base. It is the concept and mission of global jihad that the factories of jihad, i.e. Mosques and Madrasas relentlessly purvey,, invoking relevant suras of Quran.

In the Quran, there is no mention of entity called Pakistan. Of course, there is indeed mention of Ghazwa-e-Hind, which prophesizes that the ultimate battle of Islam will be fought in the Indian Subcontinent. So, bereft of any mention in Quran, Pakistan has absolutely no Islamic sanctity in the scheme of global jihad. The jihadis are weaned on the idea of global jihad rather than Pakistan in their indoctrination. The strategic agenda of Pakistani State is only an adjunct of global jihad.

Is a Paradigm Shift in Pakistan's Regional Policy Possible?

By Umair Jamal

Pakistan needs an alternative vision of the state to implement a new regional security policy. 

U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s new Afghanistan policy, which involves tough actions against Pakistan in case the latter fails to introduce a number of changes to its regional security policy, may have woken Islamabad’s otherwise rather dormant foreign affairs office.

A week ago, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, announced that Islamabad needed to implement a “paradigm shift” in its foreign policy to tackle growing regional security and economic challenges. Asif, in a whirlwind tour, has visited China, Iran, and Turkey in an effort to shore up support for Islamabad’s stance and role in stabilizing the security situation in Afghanistan after Trump announced his new Afghanistan policy.

Moreover, it appears that Pakistan’s closet ally in the region, China, is also losing patience with the former’s inability and unwillingness to take action against a number of Punjab-based militant groups. It should not come as a surprise that during the recent BRICS summit, China and Russia agreed to name various Pakistan based militant groups as part of their “regional security concern.”

What Trump Left Out of His Afghanistan Strategy: China

By Ankit Panda

Trump’s vision of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan came off as myopic, ignoring a role for other regional powers. 

After months of review and anticipation, U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his strategy for Afghanistan last month. In doing so, he became the third American president to take ownership of what is now the United States’ longest war.

Trump, while acknowledging that Americans have grown war weary after 16 years in Afghanistan, nevertheless doubled down on a continued U.S. presence in the country. He did not shape his strategy around specific troop numbers or a withdrawal timetable, but instead outlined a far-reaching counterterrorism rationale for a continued American presence in the country.

The new U.S. strategy is perhaps notable for its geopolitical myopia more than anything. In addressing the geopolitical position of Afghanistan and the Asian subcontinent in his speech, Trump reduced the latter to just India and Pakistan. Other regional stakeholders, including Russia, China, Iran and the Central Asian states received no direct mention.

Will Pakistan Part Ways With Its Proxies?

By Daud Khattak

The recent BRICS declaration can be read as a gentle push from China for Pakistan to ditch the Taliban. 

The September 4 declaration made by the heads of the BRICS states after meeting in the Chinese city of Xiamen further raised the level of alarm in Pakistan first spiked by U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech announcing his new Afghan strategy last month.

The declaration, among other things, specifically condemned the Taliban, and a host of other extremist groups — ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb ut-Tahrir — three of which are said to have links with Pakistan’s security establishment.

While Trump’s August 21 speech invited an angry reaction from the civil and military authorities as well as the public and intelligentsia in Pakistan, the Xiamen declaration was received as a gentle but clear reminder from the country’s so-called all-weather friend, China, along with Russia and three other developing countries that all’s not well with Pakistan’s Taliban policy.

War, Drugs, and Peace: Afghanistan and Myanmar

By Austin Bodetti

As shaky coalition governments in Afghanistan and Myanmar work to establish peace in two countries that have weathered some of Asia’s longest civil wars, journalists have focused on the military and political dynamics influencing potential negotiations but often overlook the insurgencies’ economic implications. The illegal drug trade, to which Afghanistan and Myanmarcontribute most of the world’s opium, has become a lifeline for resistance movements and terrorist organizations from Southeast Asia to the Greater Middle East.

Drug cartels that double as revolutionary movements may prove reluctant to reconcile with governments that would deprive them of their profits from the black market, hindering future peace treaties. The Diplomatcontacted several former special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the United States’ top counternarcotics security agency, for their thoughts on drugs and conflict.

“The drug trade prolongs conflict and fuels instability in countries with thriving illicit markets,” observed Jeffrey Higgins, a former supervisory special agent. “There’s a correlation between overall lawlessness and illegal drug markets in societies like Afghanistan and Myanmar.”

On the Edge of Afghanistan


Of all of Afghanistan’s lawless provinces, Nimruz is perhaps the rawest and most untamed. The desert in southwestern Afghanistan, cornering up against Iran and Pakistan, looks like something out of Mad Max: a post-apocalyptic wasteland where only camel herders and smugglers seem to thrive. Sandstorms kick up without warning, swallowing the horizon in a thick beige mist. Out of the haze, a group of motorcyclists suddenly rides past, their hair stiff with grit and their eyes hidden by goggles.

Nimruz is a microcosm of what has gone wrong in the Afghan war. The province’s lawlessness is a testament to the Western-backed government’s failure to assert authority and curtail rogue strongmen. As Afghanistan’s drug-smuggling hub, it provides a financial artery for the Taliban, who appear stronger than ever. And because of its largely unprotected borders, and complicity from the few forces that actually guard them, it has long been a gateway for the growing number of Afghans who, facing increasing violence and a stagnant economy, have simply lost hope that their motherland can be their home.

Despite the dangers that await — kidnappers, insurgents, corrupt border guards, and some 16,000 square miles of merciless terrain — what lies beyond the wilderness calls to young Afghan men like sirens in the desert.

Why China won't help US against North Korea

Even after multiple rounds of sanctions, Pyongyang is continuing to provoke the international community with weapons testing. China and the US face bad options, and each other, in creating a united front.

the second over Japanese territory in two weeks, also indicates that sanctions have yet to deter Pyongyang's provocations. The launch also presents a direct challenge to the US and China to somehow create a united front against the North.

The US had originally pushed for a tougher sanctions regime - including a full oil embargo and travel ban for North Korean officials - but had to soften its demands to ensure full cooperation from China.

Aside from the self-congratulation earlier this week in Washington over another unanimous UN vote, the rift between Chinese and US interests moving forward on North Korea is clear, as it is apparent that Beijing is continuing to stop short of taking action that would topple the Kim Jong Un regime.

The US is dubious of China's commitment to enforcing sanctions

This, combined with North Korea's constant weapons testing and rapid advancements in capability, is exacerbating the already tense relationship between the US and China.

Dialogue - made in China

Following the UN Security Council resolution on September 11, China's official Xinhua news agency released a commentary stating that the Trump administration was making a mistake by pursuing deeper sanctions rather than seeking diplomatic engagement with North Korea.

What the World’s Emptiest International Airport Says About China’s Influence

The four-lane highway leading out of the Sri Lankan town of Hambantota gets so little traffic that it sometimes attracts more wild elephants than automobiles. The pachyderms are intelligent — they seem to use the road as a jungle shortcut — but not intelligent enough, alas, to appreciate the pun their course embodies: It links together a series of white elephants, i.e. boondoggles, built and financed by the Chinese. Beyond the lonely highway itself, there is a 35,000-seat cricket stadium, an almost vacant $1.5 billion deepwater port and, 16 miles inland, a $209 million jewel known as “the world’s emptiest international airport.”

Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, the second-largest in Sri Lanka, is designed to handle a million passengers per year. It currently receives about a dozen passengers per day. Business is so slow that the airport has made more money from renting out the unused cargo terminals for rice storage than from flight-related activities. In one burst of activity last year, 350 security personnel armed with firecrackers were deployed to scare off wild animals, the airport’s most common visitors.

The Paper Dragon

by Bharat Karnad

IN THE 1950S, the administration of US President Dwight D Eisenhower would periodically threaten to vapourise China with atomic weapons. Barring the Soviet Union, no other country had them then. Far from being intimidated, as the US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles had hoped, Chairman Mao Zedong called in the American journalist Edgar Snow and famously declared that he considered the Bomb a ‘Paper Tiger’ and, further, that 300 million—half the population of the country at the time—would survive a nuclear holocaust. It was the second intimation to Washington that Communist China was no pushover, the first being the People’s Liberation Army’s entry into the Korean War in October 1950 as promised by Beijing if General Douglas MacArthur’s forces crossed the Yalu River.

It was not that the US lacked the wherewithal to reduce China to smoking irradiated ruins. Rather, it was the Chinese resolve that psychologically unhinged the US. It is in that analogous respect that China has been revealed as a ‘Paper Dragon’ by the Doklam confrontation.

Whatever else Narendra Modi got out of the BRICS summit in Xiamen, he will have made the point that if Beijing indulges in provocations along the disputed border which are expected to continue—the Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat believes this is the new normal—it can expect a strong Indian response.

Steady Progress Marks Success in Iraqis’ Fight Against ISIS, Official Says

By Terri Moon Cronk

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2017 — Progress is steady in the fight to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, as Iraqi security forces push ahead to eradicate the enemy from Iraq, Army Col. Ryan S. Dillon, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, told Pentagon reporters today during a news briefing live from Baghdad.

Clearance operations in around Tal Afar continue, the colonel said, and the ISF have defeated pockets of remaining ISIS fighters mostly north of Tal Afar.

“The handover to hold forces in cities and towns of northern Nineveh [governorate] continues as the ISF prepare for their next offensive to defeat ISIS,” Dillon said.

He added that remaining ISIS holdouts in Iraq include Hawija and a cluster of towns in western Anbar.

“The coalition will continue our support to the ISF with training, equipment; intelligence, precision fires; and combat advice,” he said.

The Islamic State is on the run in Iraq, but some major battles remain

By Tamer El-GhobashyJoby Warrick and Mustafa Salim

IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi security forces have freed most of northern Iraq from the grip of the Islamic State. But U.S. and Iraqi officials warn that thousands of militants remain in the country and are ready to wage a ferocious fight in a desert region bordering Syria.

The bulk of the war against the Islamic State was finished when Iraqi security forces reclaimed the cities of Mosul and Tal Afar this summer. But the battle looming in western Anbar province is expected to be one of the most complex to date. 

The vast region will be difficult to surround, and clearing it will probably involve coordination among the U.S.-backed forces and the Syrian regime, Russia and Iran. U.S. officials also believe that the Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is hiding there.

Iraqi forces retook Tal Afar in just eight days, but officials say that was an anomaly and not a new rule. Shiite militias encircled the city for eight months while U.S.-led airstrikes pounded weapons facilities and targeted groups of fighters and their commanders before the ground operation began late last month.

“While I’d like to say that we would see this elsewhere in Iraq and Syria, we’re not really planning for that,” said Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, who until last week was the commander of coalition forces in Iraq and Syria. “We’re planning for tough fights ahead.”

Who Will Rule Raqqa After the Islamic State?


AIN ISSA, Syria — For three months, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been fighting to liberate Raqqa from the Islamic State and have reportedly captured 70 percent of the city. The jihadi group will eventually be kicked out of the city, but what happens after the dust settles remains a matter of some dispute. Some reports contend that the city will be handed over to a council friendly to Damascus — a contention vigorously denied by the SDF, which says it aims to set up institutions that exclude the regime’s security branches from the city.

The struggle for Raqqa is occurring amid intense regional competition for influence in northern and eastern Syria. Russian and Iranian-backed Syrian government forces are advancing to the east in Deir Ezzor and have approached close to SDF lines south of Raqqa, briefly resulting in clashes between the regime and the Kurdish-led forces. To the west of Raqqa, Turkish troops and rebels backed by Ankara have threatened to launch further attacks on SDF positions — but have seemingly so far been held back by Russia.

The SDF has shown no inclination to hand Raqqa over to one of its rivals. The city will likely become part of the federal region in the future or will remain somehow linked to it. And that means that the best indicator of its fate is the local institutions that have been established in areas already liberated by SDF forces.

How North Korea’s Crazy Special Ops Assassins Almost Started World War III

Adam Rawnsley

According to a 1969 CIA report, interrogations of captured infiltrators revealed that “they had been taught to expect a warm welcome from an oppressed people and instead found an anti-Communism among the South Korean people so strong that they were completely unprepared to cope with it — their own propagandists never mentioned it.”

Kim said he never expected that the Blue House raid would spark another full-scale war on the Korean peninsula but he did think it would drive a wedge between the U.S. and its South Korean allies and prompt an uprising in the ROK.

Ultimately, the operation achieved the exact opposite, strengthening the U.S. commitment to South Korean security and further alienating the country’s population from its would-be “liberators.”

Thirty-one shadows crept up to the fence in the cold winter night, cut it and slipped through, walking into the American side of the demilitarized zone that buffers North and South Korea. It was January 1968 and the North Korean special operations troops were headed south.

The men were from the 124th Army Unit, an elite military organization charged with carrying out guerilla operations against the North’s sworn enemies to the south.



Earlier this year, armed protesters used violence and threats to force Ukraine’s government into a substantial policy reversal: a ban on anthracite coal imports from separatist-controlled territory, crucial to the country’s electricity supply. The protesters were representatives of “volunteer battalions” (or pro-state militias), broadly credited with helping Ukraine survive the early days of its continuing conflict with Russian-backed separatists in the East. This incident, and others like it, illustrate how the continued cohesiveness, weapons access, and politicization of these groups threatens Ukraine’s democracy and stability.

When the volunteer battalions (although not all are technically battalions, we will use this terminology as shorthand) first appeared in 2014, their assistance was welcome and necessary, albeit controversial. Although seen as patriots by many, critics deemed these groups undisciplined, politically extremist, and insufficiently controlled by Ukrainian authorities. Some were credibly linked to human rights violations and neo-Nazi sympathies.

What North Korea Means – and Doesn’t – for Nuclear Deterrence

By John Borrie, Tim Caughley, and Wilfred Wan
Source Link

Rather than underscoring the enduring logic of nuclear deterrence, the case of North Korea highlights its flimsiness.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) — North Korea — is an ongoing awkward case for the international community. Despite different approaches and efforts over decades to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, North Korea has developed a nuclear arsenal and continues to carry out nuclear test detonations, most recently on September 3. Moreover, it continues to improve its missile delivery systems, clearly with a view to fielding intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) able to strike targets as far away as its nuclear-armed adversary across the Pacific. Its latest missile test — over Japan once more — came days after the adoption of the latest round of United Nations sanctions in response to its sixth nuclear test.

With no end to the crisis in sight, proponents of nuclear deterrence have spun the North Korean case as proof of the futility of any international effort to move away from continued reliance on nuclear weapons for deterrence. For instance, France, the United Kingdom and the United States jointly condemned the new UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted by 122 countries, on the grounds that it “offers no solution to the grave threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program, nor does it address other security challenges that make nuclear deterrence necessary.” Yet other approaches to tackling North Korea’s WMD-related programs have not been conspicuously successful either. Nor was it anyone’s intent in the ban treaty negotiations to presume to devise a solution tailored to North Korea.

Thinking Through Nuclear Command and Control in North Korea

By Vipin Narang and Ankit Panda

How does North Korea manage nuclear launch authority and prevent unauthorized use? 

A new nuclear state, in a major crisis with a conventionally superior nuclear-armed adversary, contemplates and prepares to move nuclear assets in the event it has to use them. Who controls the nuclear forces? Who decides when they might be assembled, mated to delivery vehicles, moved, and launched? Who has nominal authority to order those decisions? Who has the physical ability to implement them even without proper authorization? How experienced are the relevant units in these operations? What could go wrong?

These were the questions that bedeviled Pakistan in the 1999 Kargil War and again in the 10-month standoff with India in 2001-2002. They are the same challenges and issues that confront North Korea today.

As the mountain of dust settles after North Korea’s purported thermonuclear bomb, intermediate-range ballistic missile, and intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM) tests this summer and it becomes an increasingly operational nuclear state, one of the many deadly serious challenges it faces is how it manages its nuclear forces, or what command and control arrangement it erects. These arrangements are the transmission belt that makes a state’s nuclear strategy operational — how and when nuclear weapons are managed and might actually be employed. As a nuclear weapons power, North Korea now has to think about how precisely it wants to implement its “asymmetric escalation” strategy. And so does the United States, since these arrangements have very real implications for when nuclear weapons might be used intentionally — or unintentionally — in a conflict.

Russia’s War Games With Fake Enemies Cause Real Alarm


MOSCOW — The country does not exist, so it has neither an army nor any real citizens, though it has acquired a feisty following of would-be patriots online. Starting on Thursday, however, the fictional state, Veishnoriya, a distillation of the Kremlin’s darkest fears about the West, becomes the target of the combined military might of Russia and its ally Belarus.

The nation was invented to provide an enemy to confront during a six-day joint military exercise that is expected to be the biggest display of Russian military power since the end of the Cold War a quarter-century ago.

The exercise, known as Zapad-2017, is the latest iteration of a series of training maneuvers that began under the Soviet Union in the 1970s. After a long break following the collapse of communism, Zapad was revived in 1999 and then was expanded after Vladimir V. Putin became president at the end of that year.

Zapad, “west” in Russian, used to include military forces from countries under the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet-led military alliance whose non-Soviet members have now all joined NATO. Today, the military exercise has shrunk to just two participants — Russia and Belarus — but it is still viewed warily by military planners in the West.

Russia’s Looming Military Exercise: A 21st Century Trojan Horse?


Beginning Thursday, as many as 100,000 Russian and Belarusian troops will launch major military exercises along the border of three NATO countries.

Russia’s upcoming Zapad military exercise, which will simulate a response to an attempted overthrow of the Belarusian government by an insurgency unfriendly to Russia, has European countries and the United States on edge at a time when relations between the NATO alliance and Moscow are colder than ever.

Zapad has the potential to be the country’s largest military exercise since the Cold War – despite Russian claims that only roughly 13,000 troops will participate, Western defense officials have put forward estimates closer to 100,000. Many suspect the Russians may hold multiple, smaller, simultaneous exercises as unofficial parts of Zapad, to adhere to the letter, if not the spirit, of the official 13,000 limit.

Why 13,000? According to the Vienna document, an agreement among the nations of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe of which Russia is a member, any exercise involving more than 13,000 people – including both military and support personnel – requires that outside observers be allowed to attend. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that Moscow’s offer to allow three international observers access is not sufficient.

What the Industrial Revolution Really Tells Us About the Future of Work

By Moshe Vardi

As automation and artificial intelligence technologies improve, many people worry about the future of work. If millions of human workers no longer have jobs, the worriers ask, what will people do, how will they provide for themselves and their families, and what changes might occur (or be needed) in order for society to adjust?

Many economists say there is no need to worry. They point to how past major transformations in work tasks and labor markets – specifically the Industrial Revolution during the 18th and 19th centuries – did not lead to major social upheaval or widespread suffering. These economists say that when technology destroys jobs, people find other jobs. As one economist argued:

“Since the dawn of the industrial age, a recurrent fear has been that technological change will spawn mass unemployment. Neoclassical economists predicted that this would not happen, because people would find other jobs, albeit possibly after a long period of painful adjustment. By and large, that prediction has proven to be correct.”

They are definitely right about the long period of painful adjustment! The aftermath of the Industrial Revolution involved two major Communist revolutions, whose death toll approaches 100 million. The stabilizing influence of the modern social welfare state emerged only after World War II, nearly 200 years on from the 18th-century beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.

The future of intelligence analysis: computers versus the human brain?

Last month in The Strategist, Mark Gilchrist put down a wager that computers will ‘be unable to provide any greater certainty than a team of well-trained and experienced analysts who understand the true difficulty of creating order from chaos’. While I commend Mark’s bravery in predicting the future with such certainty, I suspect that, in time, he’ll lose his money. I’d also argue that his zero-sum perspective sets an impossible standard for human analysts and algorithms—whether basic or self-learning. Reducing the intelligence problem down to ‘making sense of war’s inherent unpredictability’ doesn’t do this field of endeavour any justice.

Discussing ‘intelligence’ theory and practice is made all the more difficult by the absence of any universally accepted definition. Nevertheless, talking about intelligence processes and outputs without referring to any intelligence theory leads to inherently inaccurate assumptions—a point Rod Lyon and I made last year in separate Strategist posts.

I’m firmly in Mark’s camp when it comes to the importance of qualitative analysis and the analytical ability of intelligence professionals to make assessments with incomplete datasets. But to do that work, intelligence analysts must have a clear understanding of the epistemological construction for their analysis: they must know what it means to know. Good intelligence tradecraft involves employing a range of analytical techniques to ensure that the validity and reliability of different assessments and explanations are tested.

Worldwide deployments of nuclear weapons, 2017

Hans M. Kristensen & Robert S. Norris

The authors estimate that as of mid-2017, there are nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, located at some 107 sites in 14 countries. Roughly, 9400 of these weapons are in military arsenals; the remaining weapons are retired and awaiting dismantlement. Nearly 4000 are operationally available, and some 1800 are on high alert and ready for use on short notice. This article reviews the locations of nuclear weapons in all nine nuclear-armed states, as well as those of US weapons deployed outside the United States. 

As of mid-2017, we estimate that there are nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons located at some 107 sites in 14 countries. Roughly, 9400 of these weapons are in military arsenals; the remaining weapons are retired and awaiting dismantlement. Approximately 4150 are operationally available, and some 1800 are on high alert and ready for use on short notice.

By far, the largest concentrations of nuclear weapons reside in Russia and the United States, which possess 93 percent of the total global inventory (Kristensen and Norris 2013Kristensen, H. M., and R. S. Norris. 2013. “Global Nuclear Weapons Inventories, 1945-2013.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 69: 75–81. doi:10.1177/0096340213501363.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]). In addition to the seven other countries with nuclear weapon stockpiles (Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and

DoD suggests changing promotion boards to keep talent

By Scott Maucione

The Defense Department wants Congress to change the law regarding one of the most controversial parts of the military’s “up or out” system.

A Sept. 11 DoD legislative proposal asks Congress to allow officers to opt-out of promotion board consideration upon request if it is deemed beneficial to the military.

The idea is something brought up in the past by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter as part of the Force of the Future initiative, which expanded maternity leave for service members and lengthened child care hours, among other things.

Some parts of that initiative were slammed by Republicans as solutions in search of a problem; however other pieces seem to have a more ubiquitous appeal as shown by current Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ willingness to introduce the ideas to Congress.

“In an effort to import talent development and management within the department, this proposal will ensure that officers, with the approval of the secretary concerned, are given the flexibility to explore educational and other career broadening opportunities, without being penalized for not meeting the promotion eligibility criteria in the usual time allotted,” the proposal stated.

Swiss defense ministry foils cyber attack

ZURICH, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Switzerland’s defence ministry has foiled a cyber attack by malware similar to that used in other global hacking campaigns, the government said in a statement on Friday.

The attack was detected in July by software that operated much like the Turla malware family, it said.

The government declined to give information about the origin of the attack or say if any damage including data theft had occurred. It cited security considerations.

Government specialists took counter measures and an investigation is underway, while criminal charges have been lodged with federal prosecutors against persons unknown to them.

The Turla spyware was detected in 2014 and suspected of infecting hundreds of government computers and military targets across Europe and the Middle East.

Several security researchers and Western intelligence officers say they believe the malware in those attacks was the work of the Russian government.

Cyber Warriors and Cyber Spies Struggle to Strike Balance


On May 2, 2011 the agonizing, decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden finally ended. The raid by U.S. Navy seals on the walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan was the culmination of years of intelligence gathering.

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the CIA stepped up efforts begun years earlier to gather information on al Qaeda’s major players as well as its foot soldiers and couriers. Reports began filtering in about a courier particularly close to bin Laden who operated under the pseudonym of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. Sometimes what was not said was as useful as what was. In the “wilderness of mirrors” that is the world of intelligence, when detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed initially denied knowing al-Kuwaiti, it only raised suspicions that al-Kuwaiti was an important figure in the al Qaeda organization.

Slowly but relentlessly, snippets of additional information began to accumulate. In 2005, the CIA finally discovered the courier’s family name but still could not locate him. NSA began intercepting telephone calls and emails from al-Kuwaiti’s family in the Middle East to individuals in Pakistan. In 2009, armed with a general area in which to search, officers of the intelligence arm of the Pakistan military, the Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), spotted al-Kuwaiti driving a vehicle in the northern Pakistan city of Peshawar. A year later, al-Kuwaiti unknowingly led the Pakistan officers to a large, secluded and secure compound in Abbottabad.

U.S. ‘incredibly lucky’ to have avoided cyber calamity this long

Several nations around the globe are capable of launching catastrophic cyberattacks but have refrained from doing so because it would be perceived as an act of war, a veteran security expert said Wednesday.

“We’ve been incredibly lucky but I do believe that things may change,” Charles Carmakal, vice president of Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm owned by FireEye of Milpitas, California, said at a forum Wednesday.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats opened the 8th Annual Billington Cybersecurity Summit with a warning that digital threats to the United States are mounting.

“We have not experienced — yet — a catastrophic attack. But I think everyone in this room is aware of the ever-growing threat to our national security,” Coats said, adding that attacks on electrical grids and other utilities are a rising concern.

“It doesn’t take much effort to imagine the consequences of an attack that knocks out power in Boston in February or power in Phoenix in July,” Coats said.

Coats said he was about to head over to the White House to offer President Donald Trump his daily presidential brief on intelligence matters.

The View From Olympus: A 4GW Opportunity for the National Guard

We are accustomed to thinking of the reserve and National Guard as back-ups for the regular armed forces. In Fourth Generation war, those roles reverse: the regulars are back-ups to the home guard. Why? Because in a contest for legitimacy on a country’s own soil, the home guard is made up of local people, while active duty forces can seem like invaders. More, the home guard’s usual function is to help people in times of disaster, so citizens see the guard through that lens. Who is not going to welcome a couple of guys in uniform who show up at their flooded house to take them to safety?

We have seen this at play out in the flooding in and around Houston. But we have also seen something that is in some ways more interesting, and that also offers the National Guard an opportunity to strengthen its legitimacy. Many of the rescues and resupply missions have been carried out by ordinary citizens. Some, such as the Cajun Navy of shallow draft boats, had organized and planned beforehand to respond to flooding. Many other efforts have self-organized, as individuals with useful abilities have reached out to others, come together, and brought what they can do to Houston.

Because these volunteers get no pay, often incur major costs (including time off at work), and sometimes put their own lives on the line, their legitimacy is off the charts. If the National Guard could tap into that, it would gain legitimacy itself. In 4GW, legitimacy is the bitcoin of the realm.

Hackers Gain Direct Access To The U.S. Power Grid; ‘Resulted In Gaining Hands-On Access To Power Grid Operations – Enough Control That Hackers Could Have Induced Blackouts On American Soil At Will’ — Maybe

Hackers have gained direct access to the power grid in both the United States and Europe, according to numerous media reports on both continents. Andy Greenberg, writing in the September 6, 2017 edition of WIRED.com, warns that this latest breach of U.S. critical infrastructure is particularly worrisome, because “a series of recent hacker attacks not only compromised energy companies in the U.S. and Europe; but, also resulted in intruders gaining hands-on access to power grid operations — enough control that they could have induced blackouts on American soil — at will,” this according to a new report by the cyber security firm, Symantec. 

Symantec this week released the results of their investigation into the hacking of the U.S. and European power grids earlier this summer and found that the hacking effort was not a random, one-off event; but, was a “campaign of attacks by a group calling itself, DragonFly 2.0, which Symantec says targeted dozens of energy companies in the spring and summer of this year,” Mr. Greenberg wrote. “In more than 20 cases, Symantec says the hackers successfully gained access to the target companies’ [critical] networks. And, at a handful of U.S. power firms; and at least one company in Turkey — none of which Symantec will name — their forensic analysis found that the hackers obtained what they call operational access: control of the interfaces engineers use to send actual commands to equipment like circuit breakers, giving them the ability to stop the flow of electricity into U.S. homes and businesses,” Mr. Greenberg wrote.