9 February 2014

World War I, the India story retold

By Manimugdha S Sharma
Feb 9, 2014,

THE BATTLE BEGINS: Indian troops on board a military train in France leaving for the war front, circa 1914.

The stories of 1.3 million Indian soldiers who fought the First World War have been almost forgotten. Now in the centenary year of the Great War, a project plans to collate their tales.
Manimugdha S SharmaFar from the public eye, a handful of men have been hard at work for the last one year at the Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research in Delhi. Their mission is to painstakingly put together the forgotten story of the 1.3 million Indian soldiers who had been sent to fight for the British Empire in the First World War.Far from the public eye, a handful of men have been hard at work for the last one year at the Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research in Delhi. Their mission is to painstakingly put together the forgotten story of the 1.3 million Indian soldiers who had been sent to fight for the British Empire in the First World War.

For a hundred years, the story of this force had been nearly forgotten — the narrative of World War I has so far been predominantly white. The Indian story had to be told because it rarely happens that one nation's war is fought by another's armies. But not only did Britain downplay the contribution of these men but India, too, chose to ignore them. In fact, the nationalist voices in free India actively disowned parts of this history.

"It's a shame that we have to push for preservation of the memory of the First World War through the centenary celebration. Even in Britain, there is less public awareness about the Great War. There is an instant connect when it comes to World War II, since people who took part in it or saw it are still alive. Also, it happened just a little over 20 years after the Great War, nobody really got enough time to think about the importance of the first. But four years ago, we opened a gallery at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton dedicated to the memory of the Indian soldiers who stayed there, and that generated a lot of awareness about them. Now, people in Brighton know and understand the important role the Indians played in WWI," says Jody East, creative programme curator of Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.

East was on a whirlwind trip to India in search of WWI relics and was in Delhi when TOI spoke to her on Tuesday. Earlier, she was in Kolkata to meet the curator of Victoria Memorial Museum . But she couldn't find much there to take back home, save some valuable verbal inputs. Finding comprehensive records of the war in India is a problem. But there are countless profiles in courage buried in the cold vaults of libraries and museums across the world.

The Maoists will remain dangerous in 2014

February 07, 2014

Despite major setbacks, the Maoists' ability to inflict damage on the State and maintain its position as the saviour of the tribals will keep them relevant, says Bibhu Prasad Routray.

On the final day of 2013, security forces in Odisha carried out a raid on a village in Malkangiri district, engaging a group of Communist Party of India-Maoist cadres.

The hour-long encounter claimed the life of Serisha, a woman Maoist leader who was part of the security for Ramakrishna, head of the outfit's Andhra Odisha Border State Zonal Committee. Serisha carried a bounty of Rs 400,000 each in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.

Thirteen days later, the CPI-Maoist lost the services of another senior leader. G V K Prasad alias Gudsa Usendi, spokesperson for the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee, surrendered to the Andhra Pradesh police. Usendi carried a bounty of Rs 20 lakh (Rs 2 million).

He was in charge of issuing statements on behalf of the Maoists as well as responsible for some of its military successes in Chhattisgarh, having directed and coordinated attacks in which security personnel were killed.

During his surrender and in statements thereafter, Usendi complained of ill health and disillusionment with the Maoists' excessive reliance on violence.

A Maoist spokesperson used an audio tape to trash the police version of Serisha's death, and the impact of Usendi's surrender was trivialised.

In a recorded statement, DKSZC Secretary Ramanna called Usendi a 'traitor' and a 'morally flawed' individual.

Ramanna criticised Usendi's ways with women cadres and accused him of abandoning his wife, who is still a Maoist and surrendering with another woman cadre.

The statement noted that such surrenders, which are 'not a new phenomenon for the revolutionary movement' would have no impact on the Maoist revolution.

The statement, at one level, was a natural reaction of the Maoists who have suffered from a series of splits and surrenders, and also lost a number of senior leaders to arrests and killings.

Pakistan: Combating the Terror

After a horrible month, Pakistan needs to consider a broader vision for defeating terror.

From the tentative hopefulness of the election year and all the promises made by elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) in 2013, it appears that 2014 is to be a year of uncertainty for Pakistan. Still in his first year in office, Sharif and the PML-N have unwittingly presided over a nation that is experiencing an upsurge in militant attacks. As far as auspicious starts go, January has been a brutal month: on the sixth,a school student was killed; on the nineteenth, twenty Pakistani soldiers were killed near Bannu; on the twentieth, thirteen people were killed in Rawalpindi. To emphasize the cruel point: the death of twenty-four Shia pilgrims near Quetta and three polio workers in Karachi both on the twenty-first. Various other incidents help to round out the salient point: 2014 conjures a degree of dubiousness over the prospects for Pakistan, reiterating the same wretched routine of bloodshed for ordinary Pakistanis.

Thankfully, the terror has not numbed the consciousness of Pakistanis “into an inert, unresisting acceptance,” as art historian F.S. Aijazuddin puts it. If anything, there has been a renewed discourse in Pakistan’s media outlets as to how best to respond as a nation. Against the PML-N’s policy of negotiating with the Pakistan Taliban, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), many now are advocating a more aggressive approach. As well-known Lahore-based journalist Ahmed Rashid writes for the BBC, “the violence is unsparing, unprecedented and reaching frightening proportions.” Rashid argues for a zero tolerance policy for all terrorist groups, arguing that the PML-N’s policy towards ending the insurgency is “dithering.” According to Rashid, a military offensive against militants appears to be the only option in the face of such appalling violence. Nor is he alone. In one of the leading English language newspapers, the Dawn, journalist Abbas Nasir carries the theme further, suggesting how there needs to be a “coordinated fight against terror.” To Nasir, this has become all the more apparent given that “compromise with terrorists isn’t possible because agreeing to their demands would mean taking the country back hundreds of years.”

There is an acute sense amongst many commentators that the politics of appeasement, which Sharif seems determined to pursue, is going nowhere. One might say that Sharif is overcommitted to negotiation to the point of failing to provide for other possibilities. Similar to the precedent of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Nazi Germany – an analogy the chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has been quick to make – negotiating with the TTP seems like a fruitless enterprise to many.

Old Tensions Resurface in Debate Over U.S. Role in Post-2014 Afghanistan

FEB. 4, 2014 

WASHINGTON — President Obama brought his top Afghanistan commanders to the Oval Office on Tuesday to discuss the way forward in a war he is determined to end by the end of the year, even as he finds himself stymied by an unreliable partner and an uncertain future.

Increasingly vexed by Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president, Mr. Obama is trying to figure out what form a residual force might take after the bulk of American troops leave by December and what would happen if no Americans stayed behind at all. The debate has rekindled some of the tensions within the administration that divided it in its early days.

With Mr. Karzai reinforcing Washington’s view of him as an erratic ally, skeptics of the administration’s Afghan strategy are increasingly open to withdrawing entirely at the end of 2014. Some in Mr. Obama’s civilian circle suspect that his generals may be trying to manipulate him with an all-or-nothing approach to a residual force. Military officials say they are trying to leave options open and are themselves more ambivalent than ever about staying.

Launch media viewer President Obama, speaking at a school in Adelphi, Md., met with his top Afghan commanders in Washington on Tuesday. Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times

The internal dynamics involved in the review, described by a variety of current and former White House, administration and military officials, are complicating what could be one of the most important decisions Mr. Obama makes this year. The president wants to avoid a repeat of what has happened in Iraq, which is again under siege, and yet he considers extricating the United States from Afghanistan a signature achievement for his legacy.

“The question is: The lessons of Iraq, are they transferable to Afghanistan?” asked Barry Pavel, a former defense policy adviser to Mr. Obama. “Will the same risks emerge? That’s got to be a daunting, overhanging question for the administration.”

While Mr. Obama promised in his State of the Union address last week that “we will complete our mission” in Afghanistan this year and that “America’s longest war will finally be over,” any hopes for a relatively clean exit have grown dimmer by the day.

Dysfunction reigns in Kabul. American aid dollars have disappeared. Terrorism suspects may be released from Afghan prisons. And Mr. Karzai has refused to sign an agreement for a residual force beyond December, and instead has been fruitlessly contacting the Taliban about peace talks that have yet to materialize.

While Washington has long been frustrated by Mr. Karzai, what little patience remains has ebbed in recent weeks as he blamed American forces for terrorist attacks on civilians, threatened to release prisoners deemed dangerous by the international coalition and likened the United States to a “colonial power.”

As James B. Cunningham, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, said in Kabul last week, what makes the United States’ stance toward Mr. Karzai different now “is that he is coming to the end of his presidency, and we have some very important milestones for the international community and for Afghanistan coming up in the next couple months.”

Indeed, Mr. Karzai has missed several deadlines set by the Obama administration to sign a bilateral security agreement permitting a small post-2014 force to train Afghan troops and conduct counterterrorism operations.

How a triple murder in Karachi left the Taliban not just making headlines, but writing them, too.

BY Beenish Ahmed 
FEBRUARY 7, 2014

Beenish Ahmed is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Islamabad, Pakistan.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — On Jan. 17, gunmen on motorbikes fired 17 shots into the back of a TV van in Karachi, killing three employees of the Express News, one of Pakistan's most popular media outlets. At first glance, the event might seem unremarkable in Pakistan's increasingly violent political environment. Viewed against the backdrop of the Pakistani Taliban's (TTP) reinvigorated campaign against the media, however, it could mark a watershed moment for independent journalism in the country. Those who were killed -- a guard, a driver, and a technician -- were caught in a clash of public opinion, one that's pitted Pakistan's burgeoning independent media against extremist militants vying for control of the country.

Pakistan has long been one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, and the sixth most dangerous in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. But attacks on the media have generally been aimed at silencing particular individuals -- like leading investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad, whose brutalized body was found in a canal in 2011 after he reported on connections between Pakistan's infamous Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), the country's navy, and al Qaeda militants. But the attacks on the Express, which preceded a detailed fatwa spelling out what kind of reportage the TTP would tolerate, could mark the beginning of something else entirely: a wholesale targeting of the press as part of the organization's propaganda war against the Pakistani state.

"The way that Express News is being picked out and targeted, makes absolutely clear that we are being given some sort of message," Fahd Husain, director of news at Express TV, said as the network shifted into live coverage of its murdered employees.

The great Chittagong arms haul and India

Saturday, 08 February 2014 |
 Hiranmay Karlekar |

Leaders of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its ally, the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, were associated in the smuggling into their country of arms meant for the separatist United Liberation Front of Asom in India

On January 30, Judge SM Mojibur Rahman of the Chittagong Metropolitan Special Tribunal-1, sentenced 14 persons to death for involvement in the smuggling of 10 truckloads of arms into Bangladesh. The consignment, meant for the United Liberation Front of Asom, was intercepted on April 2, 2004, from the jetty of Chittagong Urea Fertilizer Limited, a company under Bangladesh’s Industries Ministry, then under Matiur Rahman Nizami, Amir of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, a partner in the coalition Government headed by Begum Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Nizami was sentenced to death, as was Lutfozzaman Babar, State Minister for Home in the same Government. Of those condemned, five were intelligence officers — Major-General (retd) Rezzakul Haider Chowdhury, a former Director-General of Forces Intelligence, Bangladesh’s pre-eminent intelligence agency, a former Director-General of National Security Intelligence, Brig-Gen (retd) Abdur Rahim and a Deputy Director of the same organisation, Major (retd) Liakat Hossain. The others sentenced were ex-NSI field officer, Akbar Hossain Khan, former CUFL general manager (admin), Enamul Hoque, ex-managing director of CUFL, Mohsin Talukder, former NSI director Wing Commander (retd) Shahab Uddin, smuggler and primeaccused Hafizur Rahman, Abdus Sobhan and Deen Islam. Paresh Barua, ULFA’s military commander and former Additional Secretary of Ministry of Industry, Nurul Amin, who received life terms besides death sentences, have been absconding since the arms consignment’s recovery.

The judgement merits attention in India because of the size of the recovery as well as the fact that the consignment was meant for ULFA. A report under the heading, “Cop in question to probe gunrunning/ Fertiliser factory security men receive threats/ OC denies involvement with smugglers” in The Daily Star of April 5, 2004, gave the full inventory — 690 7.62 millimetre SMG-T-56-1, 600 7.62mm SMG T-56-2, 400 9mm automatic carbine (model 320), 100 tommy automatic rifles, 150 40mm T-69 rocket launchers, 2,000 Launching Tubes (Ugo Rifles), 150 sights for 40mm rocket launchers, 2792 magazines of SMG T-56-1, 2400 magazines of SMG T-56-2, 800 magazines of 9mm automatic carbines, 400 magazines for tommy rifles, 4,00,000 7.25x25 ball pistol bullets, 7,39,680 bullets of T-56 pistols, 840 40mm rocket heads of T-69 launchers and 25,020 NV hand grenades.

The threat of cyber war

By Mark Colvin 

MARK COLVIN: Silently, below the general radar, a new kind of warfare is playing out in the modern world. It's being waged on the web and it involves spying, sabotage and economic theft.

Last night we heard from author Peter W. Singer about the relative ignorance in quite high places about cyber security. He's director of the 21st Century Defence Initiative at the Brookings Institution and the co-author of a new book on the subject.

In part two of the interview we moved from cybersecurity to cyber war.

PETER W. SINGER: Well, what makes cyber-weapons new and different is that it's not a thing, it's not a physical object, it's literally a series of zeroes and ones, and so that means that there are things that can be done with it that we've never seen before in history. So this is a much richer area than the discussion that we typically have too often, which just basically begins and ends with terminologies like 'cyber-Pearl Harbour!' or 'cyber-9/11!'

MARK COLVIN: But is it possible that some foreign country, for instance, has a plan stashed away by which it could, say, shut down Australia's power grids?

PETER W. SINGER: So let's be� first, let's stick in the world of reality, and then get to the potential. So, in the world of reality, while there have been over half a million references to things like cyber-9/11, cyber-Pearl Harbour, or there have been more than 30,000 articles about cyber-terrorism, squirrels have taken down more power grids than the zero times that hackers have. That's today.

Now that doesn't mean that's always the case, but if we're looking at the current threat out there, that's the reality.

MARK COLVIN: If you were running the cyber arm of one particular country's military, wouldn't you want to have those kinds of plans in place for your enemies?

. China in the Indian Ocean: Deep Sea Forays

Vijay SakhujaDirector (Research), Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), New Delhi 

China’s maritime ambitions are expanding and it is making forays into the deep seas beyond its waters. The State Oceanic Administration (SOA) has drawn plans to build scientific research vessels and mother ships for submersibles. Further, the scientific agenda for 2014 includes the 30th scientific expedition to Antarctica and 6th expedition to the Arctic. China will also dispatch its research vessels to the northwest Pacific to monitor radioactivity in international waters and its foray into the Indian Ocean would involve seabed resource assessment including the deployment of the 22-ton Jiaolong, China's first indigenously built manned deep-sea submersible. 

China’s scientific urge had driven its attention to seabed exploration. In the 1970s, it actively participated in the UN led discussions on seabed resource exploitation regime. At that time it did not possess technological capability to exploit seabed resources. In the 1980s, it dispatched ships to undertake hydrographic surveys of the seabed. On 5 March 1991, China registered with the UN as a Pioneer Investor of deep seabed exploitation and was awarded 300,000 square kilometers in the Clarion–Clipperton area in the Pacific Ocean. Soon thereafter, China Ocean Mineral Resources R & D Association (COMRA), the nodal agency for seabed exploration and exploitation of resources was established. In 2001, China obtained mining rights for poly-metallic nodule and in 2002, poly-metallic sulfide deposits in the Southwestern Indian Ocean. In 2011, COMRA signed a 15-year exploration contract with the International Seabed Authority (ISA) that entrusted it with rights to develop ore deposit in future. 

Although the Jiaolong has been built indigenously, it is useful to mention that the hull, advanced lights, cameras and manipulator arms of Jiaolong were imported and acquanauts had received training overseas. In August 2010, Jiaolong successfully positioned the Chinese flag at 3,700 meters under the sea in South China Sea and displayed China’s technological prowess in deep sea operations. China also possesses an unmanned deep-sea submarine Qianlong 1 (without cable) which can dive to 6,000 meters and an unmanned submersible Hailong (with cable) that can take samples from the seabed. As early as 2005, six Chinese acquanauts (five pilots and one scientist) had undergone deep sea dive training in the US. Currently, China has eight deep-sea submersible operators including six trainees (four men and two women) being trained at State Deep Sea Base in Qingdao on a 2-year course. 

China’s plans to deploy the manned deep-sea submersible Jiaolong in the Indian Ocean merits attention. The primary task for Jiaolong is to gather geological data, carry out assessment of seabed resources, record biodiversity for exploration and mining. However, China faces a number of technological challenges to develop undersea exploration and extraction systems and equipment. There are few external sources to obtain specialised equipment and a majority of the ‘geophysical surveying instruments on the international market are not allowed to be sold to China’ amidst fears that these highly sensitive sub-sea sensors could be used by the Chinese navy to develop underwater detection system particularly for the submarines.

What started the biggest population boom in history?

Alan Weisman in Matter

How Iran’s explosive expansion warns us about our overpopulated future —and shows us how to fix it. 

i. Horses

WHEN HOURIEH SHAMSHIRI MILANI entered medical school in 1974, just thirteen of seventy students in her class at the National University of Iran were women. “And of those thirteen, only two of us wore the scarf.”

During the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the final Shah of Iran, head covering was rare among educated women. In 1936, seeking to modernize the country, his father, Reza Shah Pahlavi, had decreed that all Iranian women be unveiled. When Reza Shah was forced to abdicate in 1941 by the invading British because of his cordial ties with Germany, the rule was relaxed, and hijab became a matter of personal choice. In Shamshiri’s family, they chose to wear it. She would choose to do so still, although now there is no choice.

In the alcohol-free piano bar of the Espinas Hotel in central Tehran, her hair concealed under flowered silk, Dr. Shamshiri is a handsome woman with striking eyebrows. She was born in Tabriz in northwest Iran, near the border with what was then the Soviet Union. In that region known as Iranian Azerbaijan, a woman felt naked in public with her head uncovered. Her family was devout, but her father was also a high school teacher who gave his blessing to her desire for education. “Although,” she remembers, “he did not want people to know that his daughter was attending university.”

During her fourth year of studies in Tehran, the utterly unexpected happened. Like his father before him, the Shah of Iran had grown more despised over time. His loss of public trust began with a 1953 coup that deposed a popular prime minister who had dared to nationalize Iran’s oil industry, because 80 percent of profits went to the drilling company known today as BP, née British Petroleum. With Shah Pahlavi’s cooperation, the coup was engineered by Britain’s M16 and the CIA (the United States having assumed, erroneously, that the prime minister was a communist).

In the mid-1970s, the Shah, ostensibly a constitutional monarch, abolished every political party except his own, which incited spontaneous strikes. A high-ranking Shi’a cleric named Ruhollah Khomeini, exiled for denouncing the Shah’s lavish rule from the Peacock Throne and his coziness with the West, became a symbol of defiance in absentia. The strikes intensified and organized, until millions filled the streets. Suddenly to everyone’s shock, in January 1979 the Shah fled to Egypt. A year later he died from lymphoma.

The Geopolitics of the Sochi Olympics

February 5, 2014

The founder of the International Olympic Committee, Pierre de Courbetin, had a vision that athletic competitions would attenuate geopolitical ones. Sport, he believed, could cut across cultures and thereby foster amity in the international realm. Accordingly, he worked for the revival of the athletic competitions of the ancient Greeks: the Olympic Games. To popularize the modern version of those games and build an intercontinental following, he championed the rotation of the games among different national hosts every four years. Today, as de Courbetin might have wished, the Olympic movement is a truly global phenomenon. Nations around the world strive to burnish their reputations through participating in the games, winning medals at them, and, above all, by hosting the games. When holding the games on its soil, a country takes the world stage to showcase itself.

Yet de Courbetin's vision has been realized only partway. While the Olympic Games do generate goodwill and international good-feeling, they also occasionally aggravate international tensions by serving as a platform upon which countries play out rivalries and indulge their vanity, reveal their insecurities, and expose their grudges, as the 1936, 1972, 1980, and 1984 games illustrate. The Frenchman's aspirations notwithstanding, the games sometimes exacerbate rather than ameliorate animosity.

The 2014 Winter Olympics, too, may well deepen international acrimony, and do so to the detriment of United States foreign policy. The 22nd Winter Games will take place next month in the picturesque port of Sochi. A resort town on the Black Sea blessed with a subtropical climate and the presence of alpine mountains just thirty-seven miles outside the city, Sochi would seem a superb location for a winter sporting event. In addition, the games have the express and enthusiastic backing of the host country's head of state.


To host the Olympics is always regarded as an honor. It provides a country the chance to put the world's spotlight on itself. The Sochi Olympics, however, carry a deeper significance for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin ascended to the prime ministry in 1999 and the presidency in 2000. These games will, he hopes, showcase not simply his country today, but more importantly its recovery under his leadership from the disastrous decade of political disarray and economic chaos that followed the Soviet collapse of 1991.

It is important to remember that in 1980, just barely a decade before the USSR unraveled, Moscow had hosted the Summer Olympics. Soviet citizens, even at the time, saw those games as a special moment in the history of their state. The USSR already by 1956 had established itself as a leader, if not the leader, in the Olympics and in international sport in general, but it was the arrival of the Olympics games to Moscow heralded the arrival of the USSR. The 1980 games signaled that the world saw the USSR not merely as a fearsome geopolitical and technological power but a cultural actor as well. The U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Olympics therefore did sting Soviet sensitivities, but even that slap in the face could not erase the sense of achievement that Soviet citizenry took in hosting teams from eighty nations from around the globe. The Moscow games were a source of genuine pride for Soviets of Putin's generation.

Alex Salmond is within striking distance of victory. Why hasn’t England noticed?

We could be seven months away from the end of Britain. It's time to worry

By   Alex Massie
8 February 2014

A century ago, with Britain in peril, Lord Kitchener’s stern countenance demanded that every stout-hearted Briton do their bit for King and Country. ‘Your country needs you’ rallied hundreds of thousands to khaki and the Kaiser’s War. Today, with Britain in peril again, you could be forgiven for asking where Kitchener’s successor is. A new recruiting poster might cry: ‘Britons: Wake up! Pay attention! Your country really is at risk!’ The threat, of course, is domestic rather than foreign (for now, at least). It is beginning to be appreciated, even in London, that Alex Salmond might just win his independence referendum in September. The break-up of Britain will have begun, David Cameron will have to contemplate being Prime Minister of a rump country — and HMS Britannia will be sunk, not with a bang but a whimper. It will be due as much to English indifference as Scottish agitation.

The battle for Britain is being conducted on a wavelength which unionist politicians in London struggle to pick up. The nationalists have been preparing for this vote all of their political lives — and know that it is a fight like no other. The unionists seem rather worse prepared. Like hockey players sent on to play a game of rugby, they have a rough idea of the game — but many, especially those based in London, don’t properly understand its rules. The unionists can babble on about the Barnett formula and a hundred other details but, in the end, these are mere details. Salmond’s nationalists offer a tryst with destiny. And the future.

It is easy to assume, in England, that Salmond is sunk. After all, aren’t all other major political parties uniting against him? It is less appreciated that the other parties are the same ones Salmond has outmanoeuvred at every turn since 2011, when the SNP first won an absolute majority in the Scottish parliament. As referendum day draws closer, a formerly formidable unionist advantage is being whittled away. Since Salmond published his ‘white paper on independence’, six successive opinion polls have shown a swing towards a ‘yes’ vote. At present, more than 40 per cent of decided voters plan to vote for independence. It does not take a psephologist to work out that Salmond may win.

Moscow and the Mosque

February 6, 2014 

Co-opting Muslims in Putin's Russia 

Boys talk during prayers at the Jamal mosque in Debent in Russia's Caucasus region of Dagestan, August 17, 2007. (Thomas Peter / Courtesy Reuters)

If Russians were holding their breath in the run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics, it was with good reason. A Black Sea spa town long favored by Kremlin apparatchiks, Sochi occupies a perilous position on Russia’s southern frontier, just 50 miles west of the North Caucasus Federal District, a cauldron of ethnic strife, nationalist separatism, and state repression since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the last two years alone, violence in this vast mountainous region, including car bombings, assassinations, and clashes between Muslim fighters and Russian security forces, has killed or injured more than 1,500 people.

Islamist militants in the North Caucasus have been making more frequent appeals to Russia’s other Muslims to rise up and join their cause. Last summer, Doku Umarov, an underground commander who claims control over a phantom Caucasus emirate, called on mujahideen in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan -- two faraway autonomous republics about 400 miles and 700 miles east of Moscow, respectively -- to “spoil” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans to stage the Olympics in Sochi atop “the bones of our ancestors.”

But Umarov’s attempts to provoke a Muslim uprising across Russia against Putin’s government have accomplished little. The Caucasus remains an outlier among Russia’s Muslim-majority territories, which, rather than radical redoubts, are stable, well-integrated, and relatively prosperous regions. Most Muslims in the bulk of the Russian Federation hardly ever express sympathy for their brethren in the restive North Caucasus, and historically, they have shown more interest in accommodating the state than resisting it.

The key question today, however, is how the Kremlin will continue to manage its varied Muslim population and whether it can maintain the allegiances of such a diverse group. The Putin government has worked especially hard to co-opt Muslims for its own political goals, both foreign and domestic. Finding an end to the war in the North Caucasus is one piece of the puzzle. In other regions, stability will depend more on whether Moscow keeps trying to control how Russia’s Muslim citizens interpret Islamic tradition by mandating which religious authorities and practices are sufficiently patriotic and compatible with the state.

Muslims and Russian officialdom have always been engaged in a dialogue about how to police Islam. 

Army Deciding the Future of Its Troubled DCGS-A Intel Processing System

By Rowan Scarborough
Washington Times
February 5, 2014

Army mulls funding for controversial intel network

The Army is assessing development plans for its battlefield intelligence network after Congress made it one of the largest budget-slashing victims in the new defense budget.

The fiscal 2014 defense appropriations bill cut more than 60 percent of planned spending for the Distributed Common Ground System, or DCGS-A. It is designed as a multidimensional computer network that can collect, store and dispense data about the enemy.

The Army has fiercely defended the more-than-decade-long development and procurement of DCGS-A amid poor test results and scolding from congressional committees. A report by Senate Committee on Armed Services last year said it had urged the Army to buy proven, commercially available systems, but the Army did not.

"We’re still assessing specific impacts to the DCGS-A program," said an Army spokesman.

The spokesman said that under spending restraints “all services were required to take significant reductions … Many of the Army’s major modernization programs were affected by these reductions … The Army will continue to assess the impacts of these difficult decisions and seek opportunities to restore funding if it becomes available. The DCGS-A program remains a key priority Army intelligence system.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican who deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq as a Marine officer, has exposed problems in DCGS-A over the past two years. He has argued that lives are on the line, since one role of an intelligence network is to help find the insurgents who plant improvised explosive devices, the No. 1 killer of troops in Afghanistan.

Joe Kasper, Mr. Hunter’s deputy chief of staff, said the budget cut “speaks to the fact that the program is failing in development and most likely incapable of getting to where it needs to be, or even where the Army ultimately wants it to be.”

Analysis Indicates Recent CBC Story About Canadian SIGINT Agency Spying on Travellers Incorrect

By Peter Koop

February 6, 2014

Did CSEC really track Canadian airport travellers?

On January 30, the Canadian television channel CBC broke a story written by Greg Weston, Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher, saying that theCommunications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), which is Canada’s equivalent of NSA, used airport WiFi to track Canadian travellers - something which was claimed to be almost certainly illegal. This story was apperently based upon an internal CSEC presentation (pdf) from May 2012 which is titled “IP Profiling Analytics & Mission Impacts”:

The CSEC presentation about “IP Profiling Analytics & Mission Impacts”

(click for the full presentation in PDF)

However, as is often the case with many of the stories based on the Snowden-documents, it seems that the original CSEC presentation was incorrectly interpreted and presented by Canadian television.

The presentation was analysed by a reader of this weblog, who wants to stay anonymous, but kindly allowed me to publish his interpretation, which follows here. Only some minor editorial changes were made. 

The CSEC project was not surveillance of Canadian citizens per se but just a small research project closely allied with the previous Co-Traveller Analytics document. The report was written by a ‘tradecraft developer’ at the Network Analysis Centre. The method was not ‘in production’ at the time of the report though the developer concludes it is capable of scaling to production (real surveillance).

The Five Eyes countries are trying out various analytics that work on cloud-scale databases with trillions of files. Some analytics work well, others don’t or are redundant and are discarded. This one worked well at scale on their Hadoop/MapReduce database setup, giving a 2 second response. However, we don’t know which this or any other cloud analytics ever came into actual use. 

In this case, CSEC was just running a pilot experiment here - they needed a real-world data set to play with. This document does not demonstrate any CSEC interest in the actual identities of Canadians going through this airport, nor in tracking particular individuals in the larger test town of 300,000 people. While they could probably de-anonymize user IDs captured from airport WiFi (the Five Eyes agencies ingest all airline and hotel reservation with personal ID tagging etc. into other databases) that was not within the scope of this experiment.

Technically however, CSEC does not have a legal mandate to do even faux-surveillance of Canadian citizens in Canada. So they could be in some trouble - it could morph into real surveillance at any time - because the document shows Canadian laws don’t hold them back. They should have used UK airport data from GHCQ instead. But there they lacked the ‘Canadian Special Source’ access to Canadian telecommunication providers.

U.S. Army Units in Afghanistan Are Harshly Critical of Troubled DCGS Intelligence Processing System

By Brendan McGarry
February 6, 2014

Army Units in Afghanistan Slam Intel System

U.S. Army units in Afghanistan say the service’s multi-billion-dollar battlefield intelligence system is so complicated and unreliable that they continue to use commercial software instead, from Microsoft PowerPoint to Palantir.

That’s according to a Nov. 3 internal assessment of the service’s so-called Distributed Common Ground System, or DCGS (pronounced “dee-sigs”). Military​.com obtained a copy of the previously undisclosed memo, which includes feedback on the technology from several units serving in the country.

The 130th Engineer Brigade arguably had the harshest criticism:

“DCGS continues to be; unstable, slow, not friendly and a major hindrance to operations at the [battalion] level and lower, organic [joint staff communications-electronics directorates] being unable to work on them, requiring an entire set of private IP addresses that do not ‘work’ with the rest of the domain structure, unstable [tactical entity databases], system ‘upgrades’ that erase or lose all of the user’s data, woefully inadequate computing power, and the loss of ~3–5 calender days per month due to systems issues.”

The brigade, which deployed to Afghanistan in September and is responsible for construction projects across the country, was one of five units that met in October to discuss the system with Brig. Gen. Christopher Ballard, then deputy chief of staff for intelligence at the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command in Kabul, according to the memo from Ballard to a counterpart at Fort Bragg, N.C.

The other units that gathered for the first-ever board meeting to review the program included the 101st Air Assault Division in Regional Command — East, 4th Infantry Division in Regional Command — South, the so-called Fusion Center in Regional Command — West and the Theater Intelligence Group, according to the document.

Together, the five units operate three versions of the intelligence system totaling some 613 work stations, according to information in the memo. The 4th Infantry Division and the 101st Air Assault Division alone run almost 80 percent of the stations.

In their feedback, the units made clear that the system is too cumbersome to adequately train soldiers on before deploying — even after 80-hour blocks of instruction at places like Fort Huachuca, Ariz., during Advanced Individual Training or Officer Basic Course.

Southern Israel Slated To Be “Silicon Wadi” Cyber-Security Hub

By Maayan Jaffe
February 7, 2014 

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon visits the Israeli government department of telecommunications and cyber systems on June 4, 2013. Two years ago, Israel established a national cyber bureau to coordinate defense against attacks on the country’s infrastructures and networks. Photo: Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense/FLASH90.

JNS.org – The southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva has long been stigmatized by its peripheral location, economic instability, and poor public image. That reputation, however, is quickly getting a full makeover to a complete cyber-field ecosystem with all the components for global leadership.

On Jan. 27, Lockheed Martin and EMC Corporation announced their plans to invest in projects based in the recently established advanced technology park (ATP) in Be’er Sheva. The announcement took place in Tel Aviv at the CyberTech 2014 International Exhibition and Conference. Later in the week, IBM made a similar announcement.

Lockheed Martin and EMC intend to jointly develop and enhance partnerships with Israeli companies, the Israeli government, and academic institutions in Be’er Sheva, in order to explore and promote collaborative research-and-development projects in cloud computing, data analytics, and related cyber technologies. Under the arrangement, these global leaders will identify a series of development opportunities that can be contracted to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and other experts in the field. Local talent supporting the projects will commit to regular project reviews and deliverable schedules in their efforts to develop next-generation EMC and Lockheed Martin capabilities.

Although Lockheed Martin’s is the top IT-solutions provider for the U.S. government, the company’s 60-plus-year presence in the Jewish state has to date primarily focused on aerospace and defense endeavors. But the ATP endeavor changes the nature of the relationship between Lockheed Martin and Israel.

“We can and have developed a lot of the [cyber security] capabilities and technologies ourselves, but we are looking for partnerships with others… to help us continue to not only build our business, but advance our capabilities,” Robert Eastman, defense and intelligence solutions vice president for Lockheed Martin, told JNS.org. “We look at Israel and we see a truly equal partner. It’s the capabilities they have, the understanding of the cyber threats and the ability—through the innovation available in the Israeli culture and workforce—to be able to develop the world’s leading cutting-edge projects.”

“Israel’s entrepreneurial and academic communities offer a unique combination of talent, innovation and pioneering spirit,” noted Dr. Orna Berry, vice president and general manager of EMC’s Israel Center for Excellence.

EMC currently employs more than 1,000 people in Israel and has until now invested billions in the country through the acquisition of nine Israeli companies, various investments in Israeli technologies, and the establishment of sales and R&D centers in seven locations in Israel. EMC’s activity in Be’er Sheva is expected to expand considerably.

DARPA Wants Self-Destructible Computer Chips

February 3, 2014

The Pentagon wants its top research arm to give troops the same kind of self-destructing devices Ethan Hunt had in the movie series Mission Impossible

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency didn’t necessarily specify the famous 5-second timeline, but military leaders wants to develop semiconductors and computer chips that will turn to dust via a remote signal or at a specific time.

Called the Vanishing Programmable Resources, DARPA announced the program on Jan. 28 issuing a $3.5 million award to IBM to study the possibilities of developing “strained glass substrates” that would crumble into powder on command, according to the DARPA announcement.

Troops carry a host of mobile technologies into combat to include GPS transponders, smartphones and countless other devices. Military leaders are worried what happens when those devices — many of which have sensitive operational information — fall into enemy hands.

“These electronics have become necessary for operations, but it is almost impossible to track and recover every device. At the end of operations, these electronics are often found scattered across the battlefield and might be captured by the enemy and repurposed or studied to compromise DoD’s strategic technological advantage,” DARPA officials said in a statement.

DARPA will host a Proposers’ Day on Feb. 14 in Arlington, Va., to see what technologies potentially already exist, according to a DARPA announcement. The deadline to sign up is Feb. 8.

“The commercial off-the-shelf, or COTS, electronics made for everyday purchases are durable and last nearly forever,” said Alicia Jackson, the DARPA program manager for VPR. “DARPA is looking for a way to make electronics that last precisely as long as they are needed. The breakdown of such devices could be triggered by a signal sent from command or any number of possible environmental conditions, such as temperature.”

A Crisis in Command and the Roots of the Problem

This post was generously provided by Jörg Muth, PhD, the author of Command Culture: Officer Education in the U.S. Army and the German Armed Forces, 1901-1940, and the Consequences for World War II. Command Culture is on the professional reading lists of the US Army Chief of Staff and of the US Army Maneuver Center of Excellence. The Commandant of the Marine Corps made it required reading for all intermediate officers and all senior enlisted marines.

It seems that we now learn every week about new problematic conditions in the US Armed Forces and especially its officer corps: cheating during exams, sexual harassment on an unprecedented scale, revelations of toxic leaders, Generals who want to garnish their aides at all costs, mediocre faculty and harsh commanders at military schools, corruption in arms deals and supply procurement, and other ethical failures of officers and especially senior officers who abuse their privileges in myriad ways. When an encyclopedia of ethical failures can be created the situation is truly alarming. The lens has been focusing especially on Generals and many have asked correctly how an officer who has displayed such unacceptable behavior could ever have become a General in the first place. Why was he/she not sorted out as a Captain at the latest? Obviously, the whole system needs an overhaul, but no one seems to want to make the hard choices. The latter, however, is a true trait of outstanding leaders.

Like 90% of all problems in an army this comes down to leadership, education, and selection. The knowledge of History really aids decision making, if people would only care to study it. As I have always told all my students in all my classes, in some of the first lectures: only fools learn by their own mistakes, smart people learn by the mistakes of others.

Those who carry, perpetuate, and disseminate culture in an army are the senior commanders and the fixed installations, like military academies and schools. If the command culture and the ethical understanding of an officer corps need to be changed, it must begin at the academies. In the ingrained four-class system where hazing and denigration of younger cadets still happens, the first thing the younger cadets experience is the abuse of power. And it will be their turn to abuse next year when a new bunch of younger cadets arrive.

Houses of Cards

A GQ Magazine added some visual assistance in the network assessment process — Chris Zeitz

Network theory vs. networks in theory 

In the fall of 2010 in Kunar, as the more active period of fighting subsided, we began to take a second look at the day-to-day intelligence reports we had amassed in an attempt to better understand the enemy. We had a lot of material to sift through, as there were a number of intelligence teams operating in the area. As you might be able to tell from the picture above, we tried to have a little fun with the process as well.

We took a new deck of playing cards and wrote names of insurgents on red tape. The cards already had a system of associations (the suit) and ranks (the face value). As the playing cards seemed a little boring with just a name on them, we added some pictures from a GQ magazine. Due to the fact that we were an intelligence team directly supporting a battalion, we were more focused on the local insurgents. When we put together our networks on a large sheet of white paper, we had a lot of Jacks and high-value numerical cards and a few mid-value numerical cards. We could not assign names to the lowest cards, nor could we really justify placing many Kings or Aces on the paper as we did not have many close encounters with these more important insurgents.

Our mission was primarily tactical intelligence, so it makes sense that we would not have significant, regional players involved in our primitive assessment. And it also makes sense that we would not have many low-value cards because a low-value insurgent is not likely to be referenced frequently in intelligence reporting. What is interesting though is a cluster of Jacks and “10s”. I have blacked out their names with my sophisticated MS Paint software for obvious reasons. But, Jake Gyllenhaal’s card was known to be the brother of a more prominent insurgent. Jake’s brother had been fighting in Kunar since the time of the Soviet invasion, and he had notable associates in Nuristan, Kunar and Pakistan. These associates had ties to Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin and Afghan Taliban leaders. Some of those Afghan Taliban leaders, however, were also rivals as their areas of control overlapped geographically and ethnically. We identified several others that seemed to have that same level of authority in other networks from other parts of the Kunar river valley.

Do Drones Present New Military Opportunities

Do Drones Present New Military Opportunities or are they Simply an Updated Technological Variant of Age-old Weapons and Tactics? Hoover Institution / Stanford University background paper by Thomas Donnelly.
In 1907, just four years after the Wright Brothers had flown a few hundred yards across the beaches of North Carolina, H. G. Wells imagined The War in the Air. In Wells’ dark fantasy, the German Empire employs a fleet of airships to preemptively attack the United States, its only potential scientific, industrial, and geopolitical peer. The German target was New York.
What, If Anything, Is Strategically New About Weaponized Drones?  By Kenneth Anderson and Benjamin Wittes

DNI Investigating New Approaches to NSA Metadata Surveillance Program

February 6, 2014

The following Request for Information (RFI) has just been placed online by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Clearly DNI is concerned that it has to rapidly come up with a viable alternative to the current practice of NSA storing and databasing all the American telephone records metadata that the FISA Court authorizes. And in typical US Government fashion, DNI is asking the big American defense contractors to come up with some solutions. If you can’t do it yourself, contract it out.

Telephony Metadata Collection Program

Solicitation Number: ODNI-RFI-14-01

Agency: Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Office: ADNI Acquisition Technology & Facilities

Location: AT&F Buying Office

February 5, 2014

Solicitation Number: ODNI-RFI-14-01

Notice Type: Special Notice


The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) is investigating whether existing commercially available capabilities can provide for a new approach to the government’s telephony metadata collection program under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, without the government holding the metadata. Responses to this RFI will be reviewed and may help to shape the framework for the future telephony metadata program to include the potential for non-government maintenance of that data. 

RFI - Telephony Metadata Bulk Collection

Solicitation Number: ODNI-RFI-14-01

Notice Type: Special Notice

Synopsis: Added: February 5, 2014

As the World Revolts, The Great Powers Watch

Intensifying internal conflict destabilizes Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Thailand, Ukraine, more – and international community balks at intervention

John Lloyd
4 February 2014

Civil wars, those raging and those yet to come, present the largest immediate threat to human societies. Some have similar roots, but there is no overall unifying cause; except, perhaps, a conviction that the conflict is a fight to oblivion. Victory or death.

Syria currently leads in this grisly league. Deaths now total well over 100,000 in the war between the country’s leader, President Bashar al-Assad,and opposition forces. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported nearly 126,000 dead last month, and said it was probably much higher. More than 2 million Syrians have left their country as refugees, and 4.25 million have fled their homes to other parts of Syria. Last week, a report by three former war crime prosecutors alleged that some 11,000 prisoners had been tortured, many to death, in “industrial scale killing” by the regime of President Assad.

We are watching a relentless horror unfold. The current negotiations between the various factions of the opposition and the Assad government in Montreux may have saved some women and children from the besieged city of Homs, but at the core remains a presently insuperable clash of aims: the regime insists that Assad remain in power, the opposition that he depart immediately. Assad’s forces appear to have the advantage.

Support from Iran and Russia for Assad’s forces is steady and significant. A Reuters report earlier this month said that aid from Russia was increasing. Michael Hayden, the former head of the CIA, said in Washington last month that an Assad win might be the best “out of three very very ugly options.”

Another ugly option — according to Hayden the most likely — is continuing conflict between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam factions. It could create a larger civil war, dragging one Muslim country after another into deepening conflict over the two branches’ differinginterpretations of the legacy of the Prophet Mohammad. The Shi’ite, the minority in the Muslim world, is the majority in Iraq. There the Sunni minority, which had been the most loyal supporters of the late dictator Saddam Hussein, are attacking Shi’ite centers and provoking counter attacks.

Yet in two other Muslim states, the feud is largely irrelevant. In Afghanistan the Shi’ite are no more than 5 to 10 percent of the population. The growing power of the Taliban — once thought defeated by a NATO intervention a decade ago — now threatens the central government, whose authority and armed forces are proving inadequate to the task of taking over from NATO once its troops withdraw this year. An unannounced civil war is already under way as the prize of state power once more seems achievable.