2 May 2019

Should Army be kept out of politics?


'Democracy demands forces be apolitical'

Egregious neglect of India’s security by successive governments has been a perennial target of censure by commentators for decades. Independent India’s politicians considered this matter unworthy of their time because, so far, it was not a ‘vote-catching’ issue for a public preoccupied with roti, kapda, makan and lately, jobs and agrarian distress. Political survival their priority, politicians were happy to leave the higher management of defence and security almost entirely to the bureaucracy and devote themselves to electioneering.

But, the past few months have seen a dramatic shift, with national security taking centre stage in election rhetoric. Since party manifestos provide little reassurance, it remains to be seen whether the show of concern for national security is genuine and enduring or merely a vote-garnering device. Having been thrust into the spotlight, the military must find itself puzzled and discomfited; given decades of political neglect and the current state of civil-military relations.

Afghanistan’s Hired Guns

By Paul D. Shinkman 

U.S. marines talk to contractors at a guard station at Camp Shorab in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on Sept. 11, 2017.(ANDREW RENNEISEN/GETTY IMAGES)

THE NUMBER OF SECURITY contractors the military employs in Afghanistan is higher now than at any time since President Barack Obama declared an end to combat operations in the country in 2014, Defense Department documents show.

More than 5,800 privately employed security personnel are currently operating in Afghanistan under Pentagon contracts, according to the latest report released this month that the military headquarters overseeing Middle East wars compiles for Congress. The number of security contractors jumped by more than 1,000 in the three months since the last report – a spike of more than 20 percent and the biggest increase in two years.

More than 17,000 uniformed troops from NATO and partner countries are currently operating in Afghanistan in support of local forces, up from roughly 13,000 when President Donald Trump took office. Of those, roughly 8,500 are Americans. Another 5,500 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan for the separate mission of hunting insurgent forces like the Islamic State group and elements of the Taliban.

Nepal’s Space Program Aims to Break Geopolitical Barriers

By Arun Budhathoki

On April 18, around 2:30 a.m. local time, the country launched its first nano-satellite (NepaliSat-1) with the help of the United States. For a landlocked Himalayan country like Nepal, satellites equip it to address several problems. The first nanosatellite will circle the earth only after a month and a half after it is released to orbit by the International Space Station. NepaliSat-1 will revolve around the earth for at least six months and is expected to take pictures of Nepal.

NepaliSat-1 weighs only 1.3 kilograms and was designed by Nepali scientists Aabhas Maskey and Hariram Shrestha who are studying at Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology (KYUIT). The satellite was launched under the BIRDS program of the United Nations in association with the Japanese institution and the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST). Both scientists said that it was a remarkable feat for Nepal’s space science and only proved that the country was now capable of launching satellites on own. However, the country is far from doing so on its own. For instance, Nepal doesn’t even have a ground station to monitor NepaliSat-1 though NAST officials say that work has already been started to build the first ground station.

Sri Lanka Suicide Bombers Included Two Sons of a Spice Tycoon

By Jeffrey Gettleman, Dharisha Bastians and Kai Schultz

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — He built his fortune on black pepper, white pepper, nutmeg, cloves and vanilla. His family lived in a beautiful white villa and traveled in a chauffeured BMW. He was feted by Sri Lanka’s former president for “outstanding service provided to the nation.”

But on Wednesday the narrative of Mohammad Yusuf Ibrahim, one of Sri Lanka’s wealthiest spice traders, was ripped apart. Officials revealed he was in custody in connection with the devastating suicide attacks on Easter Sunday that killed hundreds of people.

An Indian official said that two of Mr. Ibrahim’s sons, who have been identified in Indian media reports as Inshaf and Ilham, were among the eight suicide bombers who struck at hotels and churches across this island. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack, and investigators said Mr. Ibrahim was being extensively interrogated.

Mapping China’s Global Governance Ambitions

By Melanie Hart and Blaine Johnson

The current global governance system is rules-based, and it privileges liberal democratic values and standards; Beijing’s alternative vision is a system based on authoritarian governance principles in which state power determines whose interests prevail.


Introduction and summary

Chinese leaders are ramping up their ambitions for the global order. Chinese President Xi Jinping is calling for his nation to “lead the reform of the global governance system,” which is the set of international rules, institutions, and enforcement mechanisms the global community uses to solve common problems.1 As the largest global economy—China has surpassed the United States in purchasing power parity—it is natural for China to seek a stronger voice on global governance issues. However, the problem is that, within China, President Xi is rolling out new systems to strengthen authoritarian control, raising concerns that Beijing seeks to make the international system more authoritarian as well.

A Warming Trend in China-Russia Relations

by James Dobbins, Howard J. Shatz, Ali Wyne

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats observed (PDF) in the intelligence community's most recent threat assessment that “China and Russia are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s.” Although U.S. observers have feared such an alignment for decades, there is ample evidence that relations between the two are indeed closer than they have been since the Sino-Soviet split in the early 1960s.

In July 2017, the two countries' navies conducted a joint exercise in the Baltic Sea for the first time. In September 2018, China participated in Russia's annual Vostok military exercise—another first. Russia has also sold China advanced military equipment, including an S-400 air defense system and 24 SU-35 fighter aircraft.

According to Chinese government data, bilateral trade grew from $69.6 billion in 2016 to $84.2 billion in 2017 to $107.1 billion last year, marking the first time that that figure surpassed $100 billion. Moreover, despite facing setbacks in diversifying away from the U.S. dollar, Beijing and Moscow are conducting more of that trade, albeit still in small amounts, in their own currencies.

Asia is the new ground zero for Islamist terror | The Strategist

by Brahma Chellaney

The Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka rank among the deadliest terrorist attacks in modern history, and underscore the metastasising scourge of Islamist violence in Asia. Radical Islamist groups, some affiliated with larger extremist networks, have been quietly gaining influence in an arc of countries extending from the Maldivian to the Philippine archipelagos, and the threat they pose can no longer be ignored.

In fact, the grisly Sri Lankan bombings are a reminder that Asia—not the Middle East—is the region most afflicted by terrorist violence. Home to the vast majority of the world’s Muslims, it is also host to multiple ‘terrorist safe havens’, owing to the rise of grassroots radical movements and years of complacency on the part of policymakers.

With a total of 359 people dead (and hundreds more wounded), the Sri Lanka bombings were seven times deadlier than the 15 March massacre by a white supremacist at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The death toll is also more than double that of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which involved 10 Pakistan-based militants in one of the modern world’s longest-ever terrorist sieges.

CTC Sentinel – April 2019 Issue



From John le Carré’s novels to the insatiable popular interest in James Bond, Britain has long enjoyed, and cultivated, an image of producing superior spies. This reputation is based on more than myth. For decades during and following World War II, the painstaking real-world work of British intelligence officers was one of the United Kingdom’s primary sources of power.

That power, and its underlying foundations, is now in jeopardy thanks to Brexit, which will have a cascading series of repercussions for British intelligence: It will shut Britain out of European Union institutions that have benefited British national security, and it may also jeopardize the special intelligence relationship with the United States, which may look to deepen relations with Brussels instead. But while Brexit may now be inevitable, there are still ways for the U.K. to avoid this outcome.

Argentine Elections Could Narrow Brazil's Mercosur Reform Path

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's push to reform the trade policy of the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) risks collapsing without the support of Argentina.
Bolsonaro will thus continue to press Argentina to accept his proposed changes, which include reducing tariffs and allowing member states to negotiate and sign trade deals individually.
However, if negotiations drag past Argentina's next presidential election in October, Bolsonaro risks facing a new leftist government that could stall his reform push. Bolsonaro also faces an increasingly hostile political landscape at home that will limit his ability to withdraw from the bloc altogether, which could force Brazil’s government to ultimately reduce its proposed reforms.

Shortly after taking office in January, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro hit the ground running on his ambitious effort to boost economic growth by significantly altering the trade policy of the Common Market of the South (Mercosur). Bolsonaro has pushed to amend the bloc’s charter, which currently requires unanimity among Mercosur's four full members — Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay — to negotiate and sign bilateral free trade agreements with other nations and blocs.

The Big Picture

Barrier is high for developing enabling technologies for hypersonic weapons and missile defense

By John Keller 

THE MIL & AERO COMMENTARY – Of all the forward-looking defense technologies under development to counter perceived threats of the next several decades, hypersonic weapons represent the one with the highest sense of urgency. The reason these future Mach-5 weapons are getting so much attention is the nation's military leaders believe the U.S. is behind -- perhaps far behind -- its chief military rivals, Russia and China.

Hypersonic weapons are particularly scary because today there's no way to defend against them; they're just too fast. These kinds of weapons are considered so formidable and beyond any of today's missile defenses that they will be in the 2020s what some of the first reliable intercontinental ballistic missiles were in the 1960s -- the focal point of billions of dollars in research and development to build ever-faster hypersonic weapons, and new approaches to hypersonic missile defense.

Ukraine’s Failed Attempt to Stop Russian Interference Is Trampling Digital Rights

Samuel Woodhams 

Ukraine’s hybrid conflict with Russia over the past five years has not just unfolded in annexed Crimea and the regions of eastern Ukraine where Russia continues to back separatist groups. It has also been felt in Kiev and across the rest of the county, as Russian interference continues to destabilize Ukrainian politics. 

In an effort to defend against Russian disinformation and propaganda, Ukraine’s government has responded with measures that have led to a substantial erosion of digital freedoms for journalists, activists and the wider Ukrainian public. A country once heralded as one of the most progressive in Eastern Europe for digital rights, Ukraine is now actively restricting them.

Much of this is the legacy of President Petro Poroshenko. Will the landslide victory of Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine’s presidential election Sunday lead to a reversal? 

Hamas shifts tactics in bitcoin fundraising, highlighting crypto risks: research

Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, has raised $7,400 in bitcoin since it started accepting crypto donations in January of this year and the organization is now experimenting with more complex ways to receive bitcoin, Elliptic researchers have found.

Hamas, which effectively governs the Gaza Strip, is designated a terrorist organization by the US, the European Union and various other countries. While the group initially used a single bitcoin wallet to receive donations, it is now generating a new wallet address for each donation, making it harder for businesses and governments to track how much money Hamas is receiving in bitcoin.

Since Hamas receives millions in donations from Iran each year, the bitcoin donations are so far insignificant for its budget. However, the experiment exposes the dark side of cryptocurrencies, and it may actually lead the group to rely more and more on digital currency for its financial transactions.

As Trump moves to cut off Iran’s oil revenues, what’s his endgame?

Suzanne Maloney

Maximum pressure, meet minimum patience. The Trump administration took another dramatic step toward disrupting the status quo in and on Iran with the abrupt halt of all waivers for U.S. sanctions targeting Iranian oil exports. The decision places Washington on a collision course with China, India, and Turkey—whose continuing crude imports from Iran would be subject to U.S. penalties after May 2—and appears designed to push Iran’s leadership to the brink.

But the brink of what, precisely? The intended outcome of the administration’s campaign against Iran remains somewhat uncertain and even contested. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted once again today that the objective of intensifying economic pressure on Tehran remains a new negotiating process aimed at curtailing a range of destabilizing Iranian policies. That aligns with President Donald Trump’s long-stated position, based upon his conviction that his background in wrangling real estate deals will enable him to extract a better bargain from the Islamic Republic than more than a decade of diplomacy and coercion applied by his Republican and Democratic predecessors managed to produce.

Simulating A Super Brain: Artificial Intelligence In Wargames


ARMY WAR COLLEGE: Theater commanders around the world want weapons they can see and use right now, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs told the Army War College. It’s a lot harder, Gen. Joseph Dunford said, to sell experienced senior officers on an untested and intangible capability like Artificial Intelligence.

One week after Dunford’s visit, the Army War College convened two dozen officers and civilian experts to take on that challenge: How do you demonstrate the potential value of a military AI before you actually build it? (The conference was scheduled long before Dunford’s visit, but his words were very much on participants’ minds). The immediate objective: come up with ways to mimic the effects of an AI so the school’s in-house game designers could turn it into either a computer simulation or a table-top exercise within 10 months — without new money. The hope is that the 2020 game, in turn, will intrigue Army leadership enough that they’ll support a larger, longer-term AI effort.

The Terrifying Potential of the 5G Network

By Sue Halpern

In January, 2018, Robert Spalding, the senior director for strategic planning at the National Security Council, was in his office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, across the street from the White House, when he saw a breaking-news alert on the Axios Web site. “Scoop,” the headline read, “Trump Team Considers Nationalizing 5G Network.” At the time, Spalding, a brigadier general in the Air Force who previously served as a defense attaché in Beijing, had been in the military for nearly three decades. At the N.S.C., he was studying ways to insure that the next generation of Internet connectivity, what is commonly referred to as 5G, can be made secure from cyberattacks. “I wasn’t looking at this from a policy perspective,” he said. “It was about the physics, about what was possible.” To Spalding’s surprise, the Axios story was based on a leaked early draft of a report he’d been working on for the better part of a year.

Two words explain the difference between our current wireless networks and 5G: speed and latency. 5G—if you believe the hype—is expected to be up to a hundred times faster. (A two-hour movie could be downloaded in less than four seconds.) That speed will reduce, and possibly eliminate, the delay—the latency—between instructing a computer to perform a command and its execution. This, again, if you believe the hype, will lead to a whole new Internet of Things, where everything from toasters to dog collars to dialysis pumps to running shoes will be connected. Remote robotic surgery will be routine, the military will develop hypersonic weapons, and autonomous vehicles will cruise safely along smart highways. The claims are extravagant, and the stakes are high. One estimate projects that 5G will pump twelve trillion dollars into the global economy by 2035, and add twenty-two million new jobs in the United States alone. This 5G world, we are told, will usher in a fourth industrial revolution.

Artificial Intelligence - The End of the Beginning

As we progress into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, everything is becoming connected. The challenge is that as more diverse data sources and platforms come online, spotting failures and opportunities that can drive your mission forward has become harder than ever. Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have the potential to drive increased value and efficiency in any organization.

Download the Harvard Business Review Analytical Services survey, "Artificial Intelligence - The End of the Beginning" to see concrete uses of AI and ML in organizations and associated benefits of this new technology.

Intelligence Agencies Seek Fast Cyber Threat Dissemination

When a cyberattack begins, Canada's intelligence establishment can get essential threat information to a critical infrastructure provider in just seven minutes. While that's an improvement on what previously might have been a seven-week delay, the goal is to get such threat-information sharing down to 7 milliseconds, says Scott Jones, who heads the Canadian Center for Cyber Security.

Jones was speaking at the annual CyberUK conference, held this week in Glasgow, Scotland. The event is hosted by the U.K.'s National Cyber Security Center, the public-facing arm of intelligence agency GCHQ.

In an opening keynote on Wednesday, GCHQ Director Jeremy Fleming said his agency continues to put more essential threat intelligence into the hands of U.K. businesses and government agencies. "Specifically, in the last year we have made it simple for our analysts to share time-critical, secret information in a matter of seconds," he told the audience. "With just one click, this information is being shared and action is being taken."

Rush To Military AI Raises Cyber Threats


Militaries May Be Rushing To Failure, Says Frederick Chang, former NSA Research Director

WASHINGTON: As the US and other countries scramble to develop artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for military applications, the failure fix cyber vulnerabilities is teeing up a rush to failure, senior US and UAE AI gurus worry.

Frederick Chang, former director of research at the National Security Agency under President George W. Bush, told an Atlantic Council conference earlier this week that there just has “not been a lot of work at the intersection of AI and cyber.” Governments are just “beginning to understand some of the vulnerability of these systems,” he said. So, as militaries rapidly push to deploy systems they risk “increase the size of the attack surface” and create more problems than they solve.

All This ‘Innovation’ Won’t Save the Pentagon


The Defense Department, a hierarchy fixated on technology, is unequipped to confront a world of disruptive challenges.

I recently had the privilege of attending a Silicon Valley conference attended by leaders across the national security “innovation ecosystem.” The term reflects today’s veritable freshet of interest in defense innovation, from self-styled “virtuous insurgents” and defense “hackers” to individual agencyinnovation offices and entirely new outfits with on-the-nose names such as the Defense Innovation Unit and the Defense Innovation Board. All this may suggest that the national security apparatus is at last confronting the need for long-overdue changes to how we do business. 

For two days, I listened to senior people from the military services, large defense agencies, and major components of the intelligence community as they described various “mission acceleration” efforts—that is, finding shortcuts that allow us to do what we’ve been doing a bit faster, a bit cheaper, a bit better.

This is a problem. 

‘The Next Backlash Is Going to Be Against Technology’


Since the financial crisis a decade ago, the economic recipes that seemed to work for decades have come under fire. Globalization and the international trading order seem to be under siege, while economic populism is on the rise. Foreign Policy spoke to Dani Rodrik, the Ford Foundation professor of international economy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School and the author, most recently, of Straight Talk on Trade, about how to fix what’s not working.

Foreign Policy: In your most recent book, you argue that what we need to do to restore sanity to the global economy is to restore a healthy balance between an open economy, while leaving room for national sovereignty and national solutions. What does that mean in practical terms—a scaled-down, or rolled-back version of globalization?

HASC Chairman Critiques the Armed Services

By Shak Hill

As the head of the House Armed Services Committee, it's the Chairman's responsibility to ensure efficiency with America's military. But that's a tough job rife with judgment calls. On March 29, 2019, Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) may have made the wrong one. The Chairman took it upon himself to write a letter to the Heather Wilson, the Secretary of the Air Force, criticizing the Air Force’s flagship aerospace program: The National Security Space Launch.

The Air Force’s National Security Space Launch (NSSL) is a program established to build out America’s space launch capacities by developing U.S. propulsion systems to be used for national security payloads. The primary goal of the NSSL is to replace the United States’ use of foreign rockets with reliable American alternatives. And so far, the program has been impressively successful.

On October 10, 2018, the NSSL concluded with its first phase, selecting a few well-regarded aerospace contractors to facilitate the development of domestic rocket prototypes. The program has since made the smooth transition into its second phase, which involves the Air Force selecting two contractors to compete head-to-head for national security launch contracts from 2022 to 2026. On schedule to make its Phase 2 selection sometime this month, the Air Force is apparently operating too efficiently for Chairman Smith’s liking.

Air Force Launches Electronic Warfare Roadmap: EMS ECCT 2.0


A Navy electronic warfare technician. Most U.S. EW has been performed by Navy since mid-1990s. The Air Force is looking across the enterprise to build a comprehensive map of all electronic warfare capabilities for the second stage of its landmark service-wide probe of how to bolster the Air Force’s EW and cyber warfare capabilities.

Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has already been briefed on the high-level study. Brig. Gen. David Gaedecke, director of cyberspace operations and warfighter communications for the deputy Chief of Staff for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and cyber effects operations, told me in his first interview about the EW Enterprise Capability Collaboration Team’s results.

The Pentagon’s Days of Future Past

I remember spending a day with a Polish cavalry regiment at their headquarters outside Warsaw, and one saw the most marvelous demonstrations of horsemanship. But somehow, I knew enough about military affairs to realize how sad that was. This was an old-fashioned army.

~ British Observer of the Polish Army in the 1930s

Polish cavalry didn’t really charge tanks as the Germans rolled into their country in 1939. But they did have an outmoded military. Last War-ism played a part: Polish cavalry (along with effective code breaking) fended off the numerically superior Soviets in 1920. But the Poles weren’t the only ones who had not kept up with the times.

On December 7, 1941, the U.S. had 19 battleships and eight aircraft carriers. Eight battleships were damaged that day, two permanently. By the Battle of Midway six months later it was becoming clear that carriers were the future of the surface fleet. Yet, eight new battleships were commissioned after Pearl Harbor, showing the enduring strength of the 19th century idea. The remaining battleships played useful roles, but by war’s end the battleship’s day in the sun was over. Several were used as targets during the Bikini Atoll atomic tests in 1946. Virtually all of the rest had been sold for scrap or donated as local museums by the end of the 1940s. However, four decommissioned soon after WWII but not cut-up for scrap famously reemerged for a time in the 1980s and early-1990s, and calls for their return still happen from time to time.

The Longest Wars

By George Packer

One of the most celebrated diplomats of his generation, Richard Holbrooke helped normalize U.S. relations with China; served as U.S. ambassador to a newly reunified Germany and then to the United Nations; and, most famously, negotiated the 1995 Dayton peace agreement that ended the war in Bosnia. But he began and ended his career struggling with how to resolve two American wars: first in Vietnam, then in Afghanistan.

Richard Holbrooke was six feet one but seemed bigger. He had long skinny limbs and a barrel chest and broad square shoulder bones, on top of which sat his strangely small head and, encased within it, the sleepless brain. His feet were so far from his trunk that, as his body wore down and the blood stopped circulating properly, they swelled up and became marbled red and white like steak. He had special shoes made and carried extra socks in his leather attaché case, sweating through half a dozen pairs a day, stripping them off on long flights and draping them over his seat pocket in first class, or else cramming used socks next to the classified documents in his briefcase. He wrote his book about ending the war in Bosnia—the place in history that he always craved, though it was never enough—with his feet planted in a Brookstone shiatsu foot massager. One morning he showed up late for a meeting in the secretary of state’s suite at the Waldorf Astoria in his stocking feet, shirt untucked and fly half zipped, padding around the room and picking grapes off a fruit basket, while Madeleine Albright’s furious stare tracked his every move. During a videoconference call from the U.S. mission to the United Nations, in New York, his feet were propped up on a chair, while down in the White House Situation Room their giant distortion completely filled the wall screen and so disrupted the meeting that President Bill Clinton’s national security adviser finally ordered a military aide to turn off the video feed. Holbrooke put his feet up anywhere, in the White House, on other people’s desks and coffee tables—for relief, and for advantage.