27 November 2014

UK Intelligence Oversight Committee Accused US Company Believed to Be Facebook of Withholding Information Leading Up to Murder of British Soldier

November 26, 2014

Facebook thought to be tech firm at the heart of Lee Rigby accusations

Samuel Gibbs and Alex Hern

The Guardian, November 26, 2014

David Cameron reacts after the intelligence and security committee delivered its report on the murder of Lee Rigby. Photograph: PA/PA

Facebook is the internet company accused by the intelligence and security committee of failing to pass on information which could have prevented the murder of Lee Rigby, the Guardian understands. 

The ISC investigation found that one of Rigby’s killers, Michael Adebowale, conducted an online exchange detailing his desire to murder a soldier “in the most graphic and emotive manner” with a known terrorist, five months before the attack, yet did not directly name the company concerned. 

“The party which could have made a difference was the company on whose platform the exchange took place,” states the report. 

“However, this company does not appear to regard itself as under any obligation to ensure that its systems identify such exchanges, or to take action or notify the authorities when its communications services appear to be used by terrorists.” 

“There is therefore a risk that, however unintentionally, it provides a safe haven for terrorists to communicate within,” it states.

The report does not name which US tech service Adebowale used, but at various points the 191-page report mentions Apple, BlackBerry, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo when giving examples of monitoring procedures. 

The Guardian understands the company is Facebook. 

Could China Save India's Railways?

November 25, 2014

Chinese state-owned firms will conduct a feasibility study for Chinese high-speed rail infrastructure in India. 

In line with recent trends, China is examining the possibility of exporting its high-speed rail technology to India. Specifically, according to Reuters, China will carry out and finance a feasibility study in India for a potential high-speed rail project linking the country’s capital New Delhi with the southern city of Chennai. A spokesperson for the Indian Ministry of Railways made the announcement on Tuesday. The move comes at a time when high-level diplomacy between India and China has focused heavily on expanding economic cooperation between the two Asian giants, who cooperate despite looming geopolitical rivalry and mistrust. China is approaching India on the issue of high-speed rail technology after having made similar bids to Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Mexico, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Only the latter two countries have awarded China contracts; an initial contract in Mexico was withdrawn.

The Indian Ministry of Railways announcement revealed no specifics about a cost estimate for the high-speed rail line, which would be 1,750 km long. The Reuters report notes that a much shorter (500 km) line between Mumbai and Ahmedabad is estimated to cost 600 billion rupees or $9.7 billion according to a similar feasibility study by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Japan is a major contributor to other Indian infrastructure projects, including the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). Japan has been pushing for India to adopt its Shinkansen bullet train technology for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor.

Should the Chinese feasibility study prove positive, the Indian government could make good on promises to improve the country’s aging rail infrastructure — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stated his desire to overhaul India’s lagging railway infrastructure and institute a “diamond quadrilateral” better connecting the country’s four major cities (New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata). However, as The Diplomat noted earlier this year, despite the continuing economic relevance of national railways in India, Indian rail networks run at a loss. This drove the government to increase fares for both passengers and freight, causing considerable criticism. Foreign investment into improving the quality of Indian railways could draw the attention of the current government, which is more open to the prospect of privatizing portions of India’s poorly maintained and underdeveloped rail networks.

THE LAST FARCE A despatch from the Maoist heartland

Meeting Deva, the Maoist commander of Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region, India’s most militarised zone after Kashmir, is an anti-climax, especially after a long and uneasy wait in the darkness. The man hasn’t heard of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Neither is he aware of the pro-capitalist changes that have buffeted Chairman Mao’s China.

Sitting on a tarpaulin spread inside an unwalled shack in some forlorn hilly outpost in Dantewada, anticipating this ‘top Maoist’s arrival is not particularly exciting when accompanied by a fear-inducing buzz of malarial mosquitoes, which, it is said in a lighter vein, kill more Maoists than Indian security forces do. And you cannot really see where you are going to sit and wait because the teen sentries have stopped lighting their torches after guiding you to a halt. The other option, more viable for your city-dwelling back, is to stand and lean onto one of the three wooden poles that hold the roof of hay, and watch the glow-worms and stars.

But the high point of the day is that Soni Sori, the teacher-turned social activist, darling of civil society members and an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate in the last General Election, is there too, chatting away with her nephew, Lingaram Kodopi, an energetic and muscular Tribal activist given to frequent guffaws. In the run-up to the polls, Sori had said that, “I am not a Maoist, but an Adivasi from Bastar.” But she is there to meet the Maoist commander to seek his blessings and direction to launch a new organisation, likely to be called ‘Sanyuqt Prajatantra Manch’ (roughly, ‘joint democratic platform’). She had her team prepare a set of logos for the new outfit: one of them has a picture of Pravin Chand Bhanjdeo, the late Bastar king who campaigned for equal rights for Tribals. The Maoist leader can handpick one of the logos for them.

With Sori and Kodopi, we had already spent close to nine hours together at four different locations, waiting for word on the place and time of the meeting with the ‘commander’. “You will be meeting a very senior guy,” a point person for the Maoists who is popular among journalists had told us as early as 7 am. A conversationalist, he announced immediately that the BBC had been there recently, and that a “German TV channel” was there a few days earlier to meet a senior member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Since its formation in 2004 with the merger of the People’s War Group (PWG) and Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), the CPI (Maoist) has eliminated more than 6,000 civilians and security forces across the Red Corridor, a vast belt of India’s east controlled by armed Maoist cadres, and especially in Bastar, the epicentre of the insurgency where the newly elected Narendra Modi Government has sent additional troops to check left-wing extremism.

This person, who proudly declared that he worships the activist-author Arundhati Roy for her pro-Maoist stance, asked us to wait until 9 am before we set off for the meeting. While Roy, in an article published in 2010 inOutlook magazine, had made clear her sympathy for Maoists in their fight against exploitation by corporates, contractors, the police and politicians, she had commended them for being more Gandhian than Gandhians themselves in their consumption patterns and lifestyle.

Afghan President Orders Top-to-Bottom Review of Afghan Military and Police

Official: Afghan president orders military review

Associated Press, November 25, 2014

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — President Ashraf Ghani has ordered a top-to-bottom review of the operations of Afghanistan’s defense forces, including discussing the resumption of controversial night raids banned by his predecessor.

The move appears aimed at revamping the military for the fight against the Taliban amid new indications that U.S. and international forces will play a greater role than initially envisaged after the 13-year U.S.-led combat mission formally ends next month.
The wholesale review is already underway, presidential spokesman Nafizullah Salarzai told The Associated Press, saying Ghani had instructed the National Security Council to “work on a manual of guidelines and standards for military operations.”

Under new guidelines quietly approved by President Barack Obama, U.S. troops may once again engage Taliban fighters, not just al-Qaida terrorists, U.S. administration officials confirmed last week. Until Obama broadened the guidelines, U.S. forces were to have limited Afghanistan operations to counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida after this year, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Obama’s decisions by name.
The emerging rethink in both Kabul and the U.S. appears linked, at least in part, to this year’s successes by jihadi radicals in Syria and especially Iraq — which have made the December 2011 pullout from Iraq seem less successful and forced a reengagement there by the West.

Afghanistan Post-2014: The Pashtun Factor

There is an effort among some western commentaries – taken up and amplified by the Pakistanis - to try and project the situation in Afghanistan as a proxy war between India and Pakistan. The drumbeat of this thesis grows as the draw-down of western forces from Afghanistan draws near. Such a view sounds strange to Indian ears, for we were labouring under the belief this last decade that it was a straight, though covert, fight between the US and Pakistan.

And that is how, moreover, people like Negroponte and Mullen projected it too – and you would expect them to know. However, it is important to understand the reality of what is happening in Afghanistan, and for that, the narrative must begin some decades back.

To anticipate the conclusions of this essay: one, the fight is not between India and Pakistan. Ever since 1947, India has kept out of Afghan-Pakistan affairs, and Afghanistan has kept out of Indo-Pakistan affairs.

Two, the fight is between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has its own logic, going back to the dispute over the Pashtun issue, with Baluchistan also steadily in focus. It has acquired an additional facet in recent years, since Afghanistan has no interest in becoming any other country’s “strategic depth” – indeed, deeply resents the idea, and rejects the Pakistani military push behind the concept.

Three, Afghanistan has become a battleground indeed, between Pakistan [aided occasionally by outside powers] on the one hand, and the USSR, the US, and Afghan nationalism by turns.

And four, and most important, there is a coded message behind this analysis. The message is that Pakistan is going to continue to meddle in Afghan affairs, and seek once more to inject the Taliban, in their newest iteration, into Afghanistan, and no one should oppose this. India is simply shorthand for the fact that all the neighbours of Afghanistan – Iran, the Central Asians, and countries like India and Russia – are concerned at the ceaseless sponsorship of terror and extreme groups by Pakistan. If they oppose Pakistan, that becomes a proxy war.

The Afghans themselves want none of this Pakistani interference, but that is also conveniently skipped over. The truth is, if Pakistan does not promote the extremist Islamic groups, there will be no push-back from the Afghans or anybody else; it is entirely emblematic that in all this lofty talk about avoiding a proxy war, the Pakistanis refrain from mentioning anything about their solemn, repeated – and repeatedly broken – promises of non-interference.

The history of the face-off is well-known: Afghanistan never accepted the Durand Line which divided Pashtun from Pashtun, and this was made clear to the British authorities from the 1920’s onwards. By 1944, when it was clear that the British were to withdraw from India, the Kabul authorities asked the British Government in London to allow the Pashtuns in British India to choose to accede to Afghanistan or opt for independence as well; instead, they were only given the choice to accede to India or Pakistan. The number of registered voters was a fraction of the total population, and even among them, the support for accession to Pakistan was barely above 50 percent. The hill tribes, who are in the centre of the fighting today, were not allowed to vote because they were not considered part of the administered territories.

New Study Raises Questions About Accuracy of Intelligence Used to Target CIA Drone Strikes

Spencer Ackerman
November 24, 2014

41 men targeted but 1,147 people killed: US drone strikes – the facts on the ground

‘Drone strikes have been sold to the American public on the claim that they’re ‘precise.’ But they are only as precise as the intelligence that feeds them.’ Photograph: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

The drones came for Ayman Zawahiri on 13 January 2006, hovering over a village in Pakistan called Damadola. Ten months later, they came again for the man who would become al-Qaida’s leader, this time in Bajaur.

Eight years later, Zawahiri is still alive. Seventy-six children and 29 adults, according to reports after the two strikes, are not.

However many Americans know who Zawahiri is, far fewer are familiar with Qari Hussain. Hussain was a deputy commander of the Pakistani Taliban, a militant group aligned with al-Qaida that trained the would-be Times Square bomber,Faisal Shahzad, before his unsuccessful 2010 attack. The drones first came for Hussain years before, on 29 January 2008. Then they came on 23 June 2009, 15 January 2010, 2 October 2010 and 7 October 2010.

Finally, on 15 October 2010, Hellfire missiles fired from a Predator or Reaper drone killed Hussain, the Pakistani Taliban later confirmed. For the death of a man whom practically no American can name, the US killed 128 people, 13 of them children, none of whom it meant to harm.

Jama'at-ul-Ahrar: Obsessive Pursuits

Ambreen Agha
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

On November 21, 2014, two Security Force (SF) personnel were killed and two others were injured in a bomb attack targeting SFs vehicle on Warsak Road in Mathra Bazaar area of Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province. Ehsanullah Ehsan, the 'spokesman' of the Jama'at-ul-Ahrar (JuA, Group of the Free), a breakaway faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), while claiming responsibility for the attack said that the attack was revenge of one of their members who was killed in an operation by the army. He further warned, “We will continue to target the Pakistani military in the future.”

On November 18, 2014, two Policemen were killed and another was wounded in a targeted hand grenade attack in the Shabqadar tehsil (revenue unit) of Charsadda District in KP. Ehsanullah Ehsan the 'spokesman' of TTP-JuA claimed responsibility for the attack.

Earlier, on November 2, 2014, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the parking area, at least 500 meters from the Wagah Border with India, on the Pakistan side, killing 60 persons and injuring more than 150. One of the injured died later. Soon after the attack, three terrorist groups claimed responsibility for the attack. These included al Qaeda-affiliated anti-Shia group Jandullah, TTP’s Mahar Mehsud faction, and JuA. In order to establish its role in the attack on the Wagah border, JuA, however, went on to release three photographs of the suicide bomber involved in the attack. "Brother Hanifullah" the email sent by Ehsan to The Long War Journal read, "carried out successful martyrdom operation on murtad [a Muslim who rejects Islam] Army in Wagah Lahore."

On September 26, 2014, two activists of an anti-Taliban peace committee were killed and another seriously injured in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast in the Dawezai area of Pandyalitehsil in the Mohmand Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). JuA 'spokesman' Ehsan, claiming responsibility for the attack, warned that the peace committee members were targeted for fighting and spying against the 'Taliban', and that such attacks would continue on ‘pro-government paid people’ as they were the enemies of the Taliban.

Significantly, the announcement of the formation of JuA was made on August 26, 2014. Maulana Qasim Khorasani, the former head of the TTP-Swat Chapter, was appointed emir (chief) of TTP-JuA and Ehsanullah Ehsan its 'spokesman'. Declaring the formation, Ehsan stated, from an undisclosed location, "the new group…only wanted the Sharia'h system to prevail in the country."

Afghani Drops to 13 Year Low; Pakistan has World’s Fastest Growing Nuke Program; Indo-Pakistani Foreign Ministers Meet

NOVEMBER 25, 2014 

Afghani drops to 13 year low

Afghanistan's currency, the Afghani, dropped to a 13 year low, 58 Afghanis and 20 cents to $1 US (TOLO News, Pajhwok). Officials from the Money Exchangers Union of Shahzada Currency Market point to the Afghan central bank's failure to stabilize the current market, the delayed formation of a new cabinet, and the lack of trust in the new government as reasons for the decrease in value.

Afghan peace process excludes women

The international aid group, Oxfam, released a report on Monday that concluded that Afghan women have been excluded from the government's attempts to make peace with the Taliban (NYT, RFE/RL). The report found that Afghan women felt marginalized in the peace process and were worried that any agreement with the Taliban would detract from any gains made by Afghan women in education, work, and government. The report cited 23 secret peace talks between the Afghan government and militants, including the Taliban, since 2005, none of which had female delegates (TOLO News). Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Taliban was in favor of including woman in the peace process, as well as any future government, but only after all foreign troops leave Afghanistan.

Haqqani Network bombed weekend games

The Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) spokesman, Hasib Sediqi, said on Monday that Haqqani Network militants, Qari Omari and Mullah Rahimullah, planned Sunday's suicide bombing at an inter-district volleyball game in Paktika province that killed 61 people (TOLO News, Pajhwok). Sediqi added that the two plotters took instructions from Abdullah Bilal, the so-called governor of the Haqqani Network in Paktika, and the suicide bomber's name was Ismail.

TTP chief escapes drone strike

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Mullah Fazlullah survived a U.S. drone strike that hit in the Nizyan area of Ningarhar province in Afghanistan on Monday, according to a senior FATA security official speaking to the Express Tribune (ET). The official said that five others were killed in the strike, and that Fazlullah's current location is unknown.



November 25, 2014

When people ponder where the next major conflict might erupt, they often look to the South China Sea – the scene of the potentially most explosive, intractable, overlapping sovereignty claims in the world. What can the United States do to find a peaceful solution to tensions between China, the Philippines and Vietnam, and indirectly between Beijing and Washington?

These problems in the South China Sea are not new; the first U.S. policy statement regarding South China Sea disputes was made in 1995. Today’s policy is virtually identical, i.e., a peaceful, non-coercive diplomatic resolution that preserves regional stability and freedom of navigation in one of the world’s most heavily travelled seaways. What is different is that after almost a decade and a half of relative tranquility, the South China Sea has emerged as a cockpit of contention that raises the potential for conflict and introduces instability in Southeast Asia. The United States could become directly involved because the Philippines, one of the contending claimants to land features in the South China Sea, is a U.S. treaty ally.

In the South China Sea there are approximately 180 features above water at high tide. These rocks, shoals, sandbanks, reefs, and cays, plus unnamed shoals and submerged features are distributed among four geographically different areas of that sea. These features are claimed in whole or in part by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei. China and Taiwan (the Republic of China) claim all of the land features in the South China Sea. A bedrock principle of U.S. policy is that Washington takes no position on the legal merits of these respective claims.

Why Should Anyone Care who Owns largely Uninhabitable Islands and Rocks?

A very small number of the land features have strategic value for the claimants because they have, or could have, runways long enough to accommodate tactical jet aircraft and are adjacent to some of the world’s most heavily travelled commercial shipping routes. In short, gaining sovereignty provides a foothold that could enable a country to interfere with trade to or from China and the rest of Northeast Asia. This is highly unlikely, but nonetheless, the strategic location of the South China Sea islands has been on the minds of strategists since the end of the First World War.

China's Spratlys Airstrip Will Raise South China Sea Stakes

November 25, 2014
Beijing is developing a man-made island on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys. 

Late last week, an IHS Jane’s report corroborated claims that China was embarking on an island-building project in the South China Sea. Based on satellite imagery, Jane’s reported that China was building an airstrip-capable island on Fiery Cross Reef, a group of three reefs in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China claims the territory as part of Hainan province’s Sansha prefecture and exerts de facto control over the area. The reef’s central location in the broader South China Sea renders it a strategic position for an island-based airstrip.

The Jane‘s report substantiates speculation earlier this year that China was constructing an airstrip on a man-made island in the South China Sea. Based on the most recent satellite imagery, Jane’s notes that “Chinese dredgers have created a land mass that is almost the entire length of the reef.” Fiery Cross Reef is an underwater reef, but China is looking to develop a new island that is roughly 3 km long and 200 to 300 m wide — just wide enough for a functional airstrip. The strategic advantages of an airstrips in the middle of the South China Sea include shorter resupply routes for deployed PLAN patrols, a base for reconnaissance aircraft and unmanned system, and a potential permanent installation for anti-submarine warfare equipment including undersea radar arrays. For China, this island on Fiery Cross Reef could fulfill the strategic role of an “unsinkable aircraft carrier.” As Beijing continues to raise the stakes in the South China Sea, developments such as this airstrip will cause concern among the other claimants.

Of all the major claimants of South China Sea territory, China is the only one without an island-hosted airstrip in the region (outside of Hainan Island, off the Chinese coast). As a result, Beijing has claimed a disadvantage vis-a-vis the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and even Taiwan (Brunei is the only claimant without a similar asset). In real terms, however, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) remains the most capable navy in the region, both in terms of sheer size and in terms of modernization. Additionally, in recent years, China has significantly expanded its interest in backing up its territorial claims in the South China Sea with kinetic action — in 2012, it seized the Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines and in 2014, it sent naval and coastguard ships into Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to support the activities of an oil rig. China bases its claims to the South China Sea on historical maps that it argues are evidence of the South China Sea’s long-standing status as Chinese territory.

Can China Put a Cap on Coal?

November 25, 2014

Putting a cap on China’s coal use will be difficult, but not impossible, experts argue. 

A cap on Chinese coal use will determine the success or failure of the Chinese government’s recent pledge to cap all emissions by 2030. On a larger scale, a Chinese cap on coal could be the single most important factor in whether or not the world is able to prevent catastrophic climate change (defined by most scientists as a global temperature change of two degrees Celsius). But is a Chinese coal cap feasible?

That was the subject under discussion at a recent event hosted by the China Environment Forum of the Wilson Center in Washington, DC. The general consensus was that such a cap is possible, and recent positive signs (like the U.S.-China joint announcement on emissions reduction targets) indicate the government is taking the problem seriously. Still, there’s a lot of work to be done to ensure that China’s coal use reaches a peak soon.

Jake Schmidt, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s International Program, said that China’s coal use will determine whether its goal of reaching peak emissions by 2030 is achievable. Rebutting those who feel the 2030 goal will allow China to continue “business as usual” for the next 16 years, Schmidt pointed out that most previous studies predicted China reaching peak emissions in 2040 or 2050 without government action.

Schmidt is encouraged by recent trends toward more serious environmental protection measures in China. Popular outrage over air pollution has great raised the political stakes of ignoring the problem; Schmidt called Chinese public sentiment the “single most important driving dynamic” for government policies dealing with coal consumption levels and overall emissions. Thanks to this new public pressure, Schmidt says, the “debate has shifted” from arguing over whether China’s coal consumption will peak to debating when it will peak. The State Council’s new Energy Development Strategy Action Plan, which set a goal of having coal use top out at 4.2 billion tons in 2020 is a “good start,” Schmidt said.

Still, the 2020 target is not necessarily a final cap for coal use, but only the targeted cap for 2020 emissions. The NRDC hopes to encourage China to adopt a coal cap in the 13thFive Year Plan, which will be unveiled in 2016. According to Schmidt and Fuqiang Yang, a senior adviser at NDRC, there’s an increasing recognition among Chinese officials that a coal cap is necessary, if only to combat public outrage over pollution levels. As Yang points out, coal use contributes 62 percent of China’s PM2.5 pollution, a key element of the smog that envelopes many Chinese cities. That means there’s no way to effectively address China’s air pollution issues without reducing coal use.

Heightened Tensions in the East and South China Seas Report Released

November 3, 2014 

Territorial disputes, rising tensions and increased military capabilities in the East and South China Seas: will this lead to a regional arms race and potential conflict, or will cooler heads prevail and quell any local action?

A Wikistrat report, released today, explores four distinct scenarios that discuss various aspects of the fragile situation, including interference from the United States, Chinese assertiveness and regional reactions.

The East and South China Seas territorial disputes, including but not limited to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, the Spratlys and the Scarborough Shoal, have not only increased in complexity but are an area of concern for the United States. The lands in question hold historical and strategic significance and highly sought-after potential energy reserves. As China has grown in power and asserted its regional influence, it has looked to increase its claim to these territories, causing concern among neighboring states with similar claims. Under these circumstances, the current international order in East Asia, maintained by the United States, comes into question.

The significance of these disputed territories as strategically important and prospective offshore energy sources is fueling efforts to solidify national claims. In the midst of increased disquiet over the issue, regional states are augmenting and modernizing their military capabilities, particularly the navy and aerospace. Notably, China has dramatically increased military capacity while states such as Japan, Australia, and South Korea are also undergoing upgrades. Such increased military investment and political strain could lead to a regional arms race and accidentally spark conflict over a misunderstanding.

In light of the United States’ commitment to maintaining its conception of international order, what role could they play to ease tensions? Or will regional states step up and mediate before the situation becomes unstable?

In June 2014, Wikistrat conducted a crowdsourced simulation exercise intended to examine potential driving factors that could influence stability in the waters of the East and South China Sea. The simulation utilized the expertise of more than seventy analysts who developed scenarios and policy options illustrating the complexity of the political and economic issues surrounding this topic.

More Details on How UK Telecom Cable & Wireless Helped GCHQ Access Undersea Fiber-Optic Cables November 26, 2014

Frederik Obermaier, Henrik Moltke, Laura Poitras and Jan Strozyk

Süddeutsche Zeitung, November 24, 2014

Previously unpublished documents show how the UK telecom firm Cable & Wireless, acquired by Vodafone in 2012, played a key role in establishing one of the Government Communications Headquarters’ (GCHQ) most controversial surveillance programs.

A joint investigation by NDR, WDR, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Channel 4 based on documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, reveals that Cable & Wireless actively shaped and provided the most data to GCHQ mass surveillance programs, and received millions of pounds in compensation. The documents also suggest that Cable & Wireless assisted GCHQ in breaking into a competitor’s network.

In response to these allegations, Vodafone said that an internal investigation found no evidence of unlawful conduct, but the company would not deny it happened.

"What we have in the UK is a system based on warrants, where we receive a lawful instruction from an agency or authority to allow them to have access to communications data on our network. We have to comply with that warrant and we do and there are processes for us to do that which we’re not allowed to talk about because the law constrains us from revealing these things. We don’t go beyond what the law requires” a Vodafone spokesperson told Channel 4.

In August 2013 Süddeutsche Zeitung and NDR first named Vodafone as one of the companies assisting the GCHQ. Reports that Vodafone secretly provided customer data to intelligence agencies damaged the company’s relation to German customers. Few months later Der Spiegel reported that the NSA had spied on Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose cell phone was on a Vodafone contract.

This could be a coincidence. No evidence suggests that Vodafone was involved in the “Merkelphone” scandal. But unlike Facebook, Yahoo, or other companies forced to cooperate with the intelligence services, Vodafone has yet to challenge the GCHQ publicly. Konstantin von Notz, a German member of the Bundestag for the Green Party, urges Vodafone to take legal action: „A company such as Vodafone, which has responsibility for so many customers, has to take a clear stand against these data grabs.“

Similarly, Vodafone has provided no explanation as to why GCHQ discussed “potential new deployment risks identified by GERONTIC” in June 2008. According to the Snowden-documents “GERONTIC” was the GCHQ codename for Cable & Wireless, and after acquisition in 2012 (at least for a while) presumably for Vodafone.

The documents show regular “Joint Project Team” meetings between june 2008 until at least february 2012 and that a GCHQ employee worked full-time within Cable & Wireless.

The Search for the Plan To Destroy ISIS

November 24, 2014 

The United States has promised that America will “degrade and destroy” ISIS in a “targeted, relentless counterterrorism campaign.” But two and a half months in, ISIS’s appeal shows little sign of waning. And the question is, even if the U.S. is able to kill the elusive architect of ISIS’s ascent, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, can America kill the idea propelling his organization’s appeal?

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a regular contributor to Defense One. Lemmon is also a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana. 

“You have to see ISIS as fundamentally a state-building enterprise,” says David Kilcullen, former special advisor to the Secretary of State and senior advisor to retired Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, as well as author of a 2010 book on counterinsurgency. “These guys are trying to build a state.”

To date the U.S. has delivered a three-month campaign of air strikes in Iraq and Syria. Earlier this month the Pentagon announced that 1,500 more American troops would head to Iraq to advise and assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces now facing off against ISIS. The Obama administration has announced a plan to get $500 million in additional weapons, training and resources to more moderate Syrian fighters, the “boots on the ground” now fighting both the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL, and the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. But that training and equipping has yet to begin. And that, say those close to the more moderate Syrian fighters, is part of the problem.

Several people inside and outside the administration tell Defense One that moderate Syrian rebel forces feel let down by the West, which has yet to articulate a coherent strategy or match resources to their rhetoric when it comes to supporting Syrian moderates. That lack of resources, they say, has increased ISIS’s appeal as the blood-soaked Syrian civil war grinds on into a stalemate.

“ISIS is offering salaries to young men and it is providing protection because the choice is either you fight ISIS or you join them; on top of that you are getting weapons, ammo and a piece of war booty,” said one administration official. “For Syrian fighters the immediate reason to join begins with at least the rumor of consistent salaries.”


November 25, 2014 

In September, the Islamic in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched a devastatingly effective offensive in Iraq’s Anbar province that for a time masked the losses the group was experiencing elsewhere (see two previous WOTR reports on ISIL’s Anbar campaign). Beginning in late October, ISIL garnered even more headlines through its horrific slaughter of hundreds of members of the Albu Nimr, a Sunni tribe. However, there are signs that ISIL’s attempts to crush the Albu Nimr under its boot have backfired, instead stiffening the tribe’s resolve to fight the jihadist group. ISIL’s campaign in Anbar now appears stalled.

This report, which primarily draws from Arabic-language sources, provides a granular examination of how ISIL’s ongoing campaign in Anbar has developed since mid-October, when the last installment in WOTR’s series on the Anbar offensive was published.

Mid-October: ISIL on the March

Following the killing of Anbar provincial chief of police Ahmad Siddiq al-Dulaymi on Oct. 11, ISIL managed to swiftly overrun Camp Hit after the 300 remaining members of the Iraqi security forces (ISF) at the base undertook a “tactical retreat.” Faced with the prospect of ISIL control of Hit district, about 180,000 people fled en masse for areas that remained under control of the government of Iraq. The only exception was the al-Furat suburb on the eastern side of the Euphrates River, which remained under Albu Nimr control until Oct. 22.

Shortly after ISIL completed its seizure of Hit on Oct. 13, the group moved to secure the outlying villages of Bustamiyah, Sahliyah, Kassarah, Khazraj and Dulab along the western and southern ends of Hit district. ISIL’s move into these western areas was not simply opportunistic, but rather a critical part of the group’s designs to eventually stage a large-scale attack against Baghdad.

ISF responded to these losses by bombing Fallujah with barrel bombs, rockets, and heavy artillery, which at this point was more a sign of the Iraqi government’s anger at ISIL’s advances than a legitimate strategy to counter the group’s gains. The situation had deteriorated so significantly that Ali Hatim al-Sulayman, the emir of the Sunni-dominated Dulaymi tribal confederation, called for an “Arab intervention by land” to fight ISIL (almost certainly meaning a Saudi or Jordanian intervention). Meanwhile, the Sunni-dominated Anbar Provincial Council had grown so desperate that itopenly pleaded for all available assistance, even from Iranian-backed Shia militant groups, such as Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq, Badr Organization and the “Peace Brigades” (the most recent incarnation of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Jaysh al-Mahdi). Such calls for help from Shia militant groups would have been inconceivable just months ago. There were also calls for U.S. military intervention, to include an American troop presence in Anbar.

ISIL also attempted to take the town of Baghdadi on the Euphrates River from Oct. 15-20, only to have its attacks repelled. ISF made anotherground incursion into Fallujah on Oct. 15, likely as part of a continued effort to keep ISIL off-guard and unable to mount a ground attack into eastern Anbar.

The Tourniquet: A Strategy for Defeating the Islamic State and Saving Syria and Iraq

Marc Lynch 
OCTOBER 16, 2014 

"The Tourniquet, authored by Adjunct Senior Fellow Marc Lynch, lays out a strategy for internationally legitimate and regionally coordinated large-scale but conditional assistance to Iraq and to Syrians. For Syria, the report argues for a "strategic pause" to allow the building of viable alternative governance in rebel-controlled parts of Syria, while rejecting the idea of partnering with the Asad regime against ISIS as both unrealistic and undesirable and acknowledging the constraints imposed by the absence of a viable Syrian opposition with which to work. For Iraq, it argues for close support conditioned upon a commitment by Iraqi leaders to implement long-needed political reforms and by Kurdish leaders to remain within the Iraqi state. Regionally, it shows the importance of pulling back from debilitating proxy wars and warns against subordinating human rights and political reforms to the exigencies of a new war on terror.


November 23, 2014 

Conflict in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria during 2014 has put renewed focus on so-called ‘hybrid warfare’, in which combatants employ a mix of military and non-military tactics to achieve their objectives. While this is not a new concept, its appearance in the year’s two most pressing strategic crises has captured the attention of Western governments. The NATO Summit in September produced a commitment to ensure that the Alliance ‘is able to effectively address the specific challenges posed by hybrid warfare threats’.

The mix of tactics used on the one hand by Russia in Ukraine, and on the other by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, has left Western governments uncertain as to how best to respond. While the methods used in the two theatres are by no means the same, both involve the simultaneous use of military and civil instruments, covert operations, information warfare and modern media. They might be viewed as two different models of the same phenomenon.

NATO leaders, seeing the need to act rapidly and flexibly in the face of such threats, took steps at the Wales Summit to improve military readiness. The crises have presented them with familiar questions: whether to impose sanctions, and if so upon whom; whether to engage in military action, and if so what kind; and how to support friends and allies. But the use of mixed tactics has added to the challenge by requiring greater speed and agility in decision making.

What does hybrid mean?

The fact that governments find it difficult to attach a definition to the problem that they are facing underlines why it is challenging to formulate policies to address it.


November 24, 2014 

The greatest combat hazard they face is from the Red Bull and other sugary drinks they devour to stay awake; their unit has the worst rate of dental cavities in the Air Force.

“I would rather be deployed,” said Capt. Jennifer, a reservist and intelligence analyst whose full name the Air Force withheld for security reasons. “My daughter calls me because she is sick and I have to pick her up from school. When I am deployed forward I am deployed. I don’t have to worry about the day-to-day.”

With the Obama administration’s strategy of “degrading and ultimately destroying” the Islamic State without putting American combat troops – “boots on the ground” – at risk, much of the war against the group depends on remotely piloted aircraft with names such as Predator and Reaper that are guided from rooms like this one, at a base three hours south of Washington. How the administration now talks about war is changing the nature of war itself.

Drones Fighting Islamic State Change The Meaning Of Warfare

Drone images show the layout of the farming compound where wanted terrorist Abu Obaeideah was hanging out. Obaeideah was leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, which is associated with Al-Qaeda, in the Samarra area. It took a month before Special Forces was able to pin his location and conduct an assault.


Intel analysts sift spy plane feeds for Islamic State targets

Airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, aided by intelligence reports developed by airmen at Joint Base Langley-Eustis from spy-plane feeds, have helped stem the momentum of Islamic State fighters in the key city of Kobane, according to top military officials.

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. – In America’s war against the Islamic State, many of those fighting sit in a dark, cold room and stare at computer screens for 12 hours at a stretch.

There are dozens of them, men and women, each wearing camouflage, looking for suspected Iraqi and Syrian jihadists scurrying across the screen. If something changes on the screen – a group of dark figures crossing a street, a string of vehicles racing down a road – they pass the information to another pilot, who might decide to open fire with a Hellfire missile or an electronically guided bomb.


November 23, 2014 

Political scientist Edward Luttwak once noted that strategy always involves opponents that are thinking, scheming and adjusting. Nothing stays the same forever; what works today often won’t tomorrow. Hopefully the coalition planners understand this and are working hard to get into the mind of IS strategists to understand what they might do when faced with various coalition actions. Ultimately, good red teaming of this sort might be the key to the coalition’s success, while the failure to do it might condemn the coalition to being outmaneuvered by IS. To defeat a wily enemy, one must first get inside its head.


Understanding The Enemy: Inside the Mind of the Islamic State

Smoke rises from the Syrian city of Kobani, following an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition, seen from a hilltop outside Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, Nov. 17, 2014 (AP photo by Vadim Ghirda).

This week, military planners from more than 30 countries are gathered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, to plot their approach against the so-called Islamic State (IS). On the other side of the world, IS is probably mulling its strategy as well. It is easy to imagine how different the two sessions must be, yet the two groups do have one thing in common: Both know that if their strategies are to work, they must first try to get inside the mind of their enemy.

Anticipating what the enemy will do-what security experts call “red teaming”-is never easy, particularly when the antagonists are as different as the two in this conflict. Yet it is vitally important and well worth the effort. While the coalition is probably deep into red teaming, it cannot know precisely what the strategists of IS are thinking. But it can at least imagine what the extremists consider their central choices.

Sound strategy starts with a balance sheet laying out strengths and weaknesses. The goal of strategists is then to exploit their strengths and capitalize on the enemy’s weaknesses. So what, then, might the Islamic State’s balance sheet look like?

Bangladesh’s Persistent Water Crisis

By ASMG Kibria
November 25, 2014

Issues with water resource management in Bangladesh have some very broad repercussions. 

In recent decades, Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in supplying safe water to its citizens, yet serious disparities in coverage persist across both rural and urban areas. Although the government has numerous water initiatives underway, it has never properly addressed the social vulnerabilities of women and children in rural villages that can be linked to water stress.

According to UNICEF, 97 percent of Bangladeshis have access to tube well water. This has dramatically reduced the incidence of water-borne diseases such as diarrhea and cholera. But instead of developing modern water supply facilities to utilize surface water across the country, the focus of water management has shifted to heavy engineering development for flood control, river erosion control, and irrigation system installation. The relative inattention to household needs has had serious consequences, especially for Bangladesh’s huge rural population.

Exacerbating the problem are the recent industrial boom, rapid urbanization, extensive agrochemical use, and inadequate sewage systems. Each day about 2 million tons of untreated waste are dumped into rivers and their distributaries. Studies shows that just one liter of waste is sufficient to pollute eight liters of fresh water.

Bangladesh gets fully 92 percent of its water from rivers originating mostly in India and China, with just 8 percent coming from local rainfall. The volume of water reaching Bangladesh is also under pressure from the enormous populations of India and China, with upstream construction heavily limiting the flow of water downstream into Bangladesh. This is not only constraining surface water availability, it is also significantly reducing the volume of groundwater in many parts of the country.

Water shortages are a problem shared by both rural and urban areas. The water supply in major cities is the responsibility of city authorities, but in rural areas that authority is missing. Some families install their own supply system but others depend on a common tube well. This haphazard management of water exposes the whole nation to serious health risks.


By Haizam Amirah-Fernández

The Middle East is becoming a region with multiple centres of instability and increasingly complex conflicts.

Faced with the increase in regional instability and the –relative but firm– advance of powers fighting against the status quo from very different positions, there is a real risk of implosion, which would subsequently disfigure the Middle East. The growing sense of insecurity among the different regional actors has a direct effect on their choice of alliances and foreign policy-making. A combination of factors bodes for an unstable short-term future in the Middle East, where today’s alliances can change abruptly and where one has to be prepared to expect the unexpected.

If anything can define the Middle East in 2014, it is its character as a region that is messy and in rapid flux. In this part of the world, as in others, insecurity leads to power struggles. Regional foreign policies are aimed at eliminating or containing threats, whether perceived or real, to ‘security’, which can be understood in different ways. National security is often confused with the security of the regime and its capacity to remain in power. It also encompasses interests of the State, such as sovereignty, territorial integrity and the capacity to exert influence. The latter may be aimed at reaching regional leadership, advancing economic interests or gaining recognition from the major powers.[2]

From a realist perspective, when faced with a serious threat, these states will often either seek balance by forming alliances or ‘bandwagon’ as opportunists. In other words, the choice is between forming alliances against common threats or aligning with the source of the threat in an attempt to remain safe from harm.[3] The ensuing security dilemmas are, therefore, how countries can defend themselves without their rivals feeling threatened and subsequently triggering an arms race. Another security dilemma facing several countries in the Middle East is the choice between developing their own defensive capabilities and ‘contracting’ their defence from the major international powers. These dilemmas often generate paradoxes and contradictions.

British Tanks Practice for War With Russia

British Tanks Practice for War With Russia

U.K. armor pairs up with Polish troops for eastern war game

During the Cold War, British tanks never went east of Berlin. But in November, soldiers from the U.K.’s 3rd Armored Division were in Poland, training for high-tech combat against a powerful foe such as Russia.

How times have changed. Or not changed at all.

More than 2,000 troops from the United Kingdom and Poland—including 20 Challenger 2 and 56 Leopard 2 tanks—linked up for the Black Eagle exercise near Żagań, in western Poland, from Nov. 3 to Nov. 21.

“The exercise will test responsiveness, interoperability enhancement, and provide demanding opportunities to conduct small to medium sized armour and mechanized infantry field training,” NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe announced as the training kicked off.

The practice sessions allowed British forces to test how fast they could rush into a major battle against a determined enemy—again, Russia comes to mind—and whether their Polish compatriots could be ready for them when they got there.

Like other NATO militaries, the British Army has spent the last decade fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Large tank battles were far from planners’ minds—and rarely factored into anyone’s training.

Above—British Army engineers get a tank ready for the exercise. Crown Copyright. At top—Poland’s deputy prime minister Tomasz Siemoniak and troops with the tanks. Polish defense ministry photo


November 24, 2014 

That’s No Moon! Did Russia Just Deploy An Experimental Killer Satellite?

Tyler Rogoway, writing on the blog, FoxTrot Alpha, begins by noting that “Russia launched the Kosmos 2499 rocket mission back in May as part of what seemed like just another mission to further develop its constellations of ‘Rodnik’ communications satellites.. Usually, three satellites are released during these missions,” Mr. Rogoway wrote, — but, this one had a fourth object.”

Initially, at least, “the U.S. thought that this strange radar return was just debris; but, not so much anymore,” Mr. Rogoway asserts. According to the BBC. “Russia told the U.N. that the piece of debris in question was actually a fourth satellite, which itself is nothing too odd, as the U.S. launches classified payloads all the time. Additionally, Russia has been all about surprises lately, so it was seen as just another question thrown on top of a pile of questions. But, then satellite observers saw the satellite/craft, changing its orbit in ways that are far from normal — for even spy satellites that usually do anything they can to conserve their finite fuel.”

“On November 9th, this small satellite’s odd maneuvers came to a head when it actually approached a piece of rocket that sent it into space six months earlier, maneuvering within just meters of it,’ Mr. Rogoway added.

“Could this be Russia’s answer to technologies that are clearly being developed by the U.S. on multiple levels, including one of the potential missions for the USAF’s shadowy pint-sized space plane — the X-37B?, Mr. Rogoway asks.

“Unofficially termed ‘inspector satellites,’ these are basically maneuverable space vehicles that can approach other satellites for both passive, and potentially active purposes. On the passive side of things,’ Mr. Rogoway notes, “these space drones of sorts can observe the design of a satellite — taking photos and laser measurements of it; and in some cases, they can even listen to the targeted satellite’s transmissions.”

“On the active side of things,” Mr. Rogoway writes, “this capability could be used to refuel, or even repair other satellites in orbit. Then,” he adds, “there are darker sides of the ‘active’ mission,’ with the potential of possibly blinding, jamming, or even kinetically destroying enemy satellites during a time of hostilities.”