1 May 2014

Heartbleed: Understanding When We Disclose Cyber Vulnerabilities

April 28, 2014 

When President Truman created the National Security Agency in 1952, its very existence was not publicly disclosed. Earlier this month, the NSA sent out a Tweet making clear that it did not know about the recently discovered vulnerability in OpenSSL known as Heartbleed. For an agency whose acronym was once said to stand for “No Such Agency,” this step was unusual but consistent with NSA’s efforts to appropriately inform the ongoing discussion related to how it conducts its missions.

While we had no prior knowledge of the existence of Heartbleed, this case has re-ignited debate about whether the federal government should ever withhold knowledge of a computer vulnerability from the public. As with so many national security issues, the answer may seem clear to some, but the reality is much more complicated. One thing is clear: This administration takes seriously its commitment to an open and interoperable, secure and reliable Internet, and in the majority of cases, responsibly disclosing a newly discovered vulnerability is clearly in the national interest. This has been and continues to be the case. 

This spring, we re-invigorated our efforts to implement existing policy with respect to disclosing vulnerabilities – so that everyone can have confidence in the integrity of the process we use to make these decisions. We rely on the Internet and connected systems for much of our daily lives. Our economy would not function without them. Our ability to project power abroad would be crippled if we could not depend on them. For these reasons, disclosing vulnerabilities usually makes sense. We need these systems to be secure as much as, if not more so, than everyone else. 

But there are legitimate pros and cons to the decision to disclose, and the trade-offs between prompt disclosure and withholding knowledge of some vulnerabilities for a limited time can have significant consequences. Disclosing a vulnerability can mean that we forego an opportunity to collect crucial intelligence that could thwart a terrorist attack stop the theft of our nation’s intellectual property, or even discover more dangerous vulnerabilities that are being used by hackers or other adversaries to exploit our networks.

India’s new language of killingPraveen Swami

Published: May 1, 2014 

Narendra Modi has suggested he would authorise India’s intelligence services to stage cross-border strikes against terrorists. The stakes are seismic — and must be debated with dispassion, before a choice is made in rage

Early one summer morning in 2008, an ageing Toyota car slowed down to turn at the corner next to the Indian Embassy complex in Kabul, transforming itself as it did so into a wall of searing, white light. Fifty-eight people were killed and 141 injured, their bodies torn apart by shock waves, fires, and shards of metal and glass. Inside hours, western intelligence services listened in to Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officers inside Pakistan congratulating the perpetrators. Furious, then National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan called for action. “Talk-talk is better than fight-fight,” he said, “but it hasn’t worked. I think we need to pay back in the same coin.”

Mr. Narayanan, intelligence officers serving at the time recall, authorised India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) to begin a quiet dialogue on doing just that with its Afghan counterparts. It found a willing partner in Amrullah Saleh, the then head of the Riyasat-e Amniyat-e Milli, or the National Directorate of Security (NDS). Following the 26/11 strike, the officials said, RAW even explored the prospect of targeting Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, using NDS’ assets inside jihadist groups hostile to the Pakistan Army.

A Modi way of war?

India’s intelligence czar, though, never got the political clearance he hoped for. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remained committed to the dialogue process with Pakistan, believing that bomb-for-bomb strikes would increase terrorist violence. In early 2010, foreign service officer Shivshankar Menon replaced Mr. Narayanan, and the doves came to control policy-making.

“Keep your hands in your pockets,” a senior RAW official recalls Mr. Menon as telling Afghan desk officers in mid-2010 — and that was that.

Except, that might not quite have been that. Last week, prime ministerial front runner Narendra Modi made the first-ever public suggestion by any politician that he might authorise offensive covert operations against terrorists — one of the most fateful decisions facing India’s next government. Mr. Modi lashed out at Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s revelation of joint efforts by India and the United States to apprehend terrorism-linked ganglord Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar in Karachi. “Do these things happen through the medium of newspapers?” he asked. “Did the United States issue a press note before they killed Osama bin Laden?”

It’s hard to say whether Mr. Modi’s speech was driven by election-time testosterone, or reflects considered counsel from his inner circle of advisers. This much is clear, though: inside the intelligence community, there is a growing view that India must learn a new language of killing.

Ever since the 1999 Kargil war, India’s security calculus has been derived from the assumption that the U.S. would moderate sub-conventional warfare against India. Dr. Singh’s 10 years in office show that this belief was well-founded. The authoritative South Asia Terrorism Portal database shows that violence in Jammu and Kashmir declined year-on-year from 2002 to 2013 — and though there’s substantial evidence to suggest that the ISI backed the 26/11 attacks, international pressure has forced it to rein in jihadists since.

In the past two years, though, the wheel has turned. The Pakistan Army’s war against jihadists is flailing and its control over one-time proxies among the jihadists has diminished. Political parties there have sought to appease the increasingly powerful jihadists. For their part, Pakistan’s Taliban has sought to wean away the ethnic-Punjabi constituency of state-backed organisations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Last year, Tehreek-e-Taliban leader Wali-ur-Rahman warned that “the practical struggle for a sharia system that we are carrying out in Pakistan, the same way we will continue it in Kashmir, and the same way we will implement the sharia system in India too.” Indian Mujahideen are training with the Taliban; violence in Kashmir is up.

India’s secret wars

Little genius is needed to see what might emerge to the west of India’s borders: a nuclear-armed state with crumbling central authority, controlled for all practical purposes by rival Islamist militias. “The water,” Pakistan’s military ruler General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq instructed his spymaster, General Akhtar Malik, in December 1979, “must boil at the right temperature.” Now, the water seems dangerously close to boiling over.

Faced with not-dissimilar problems, Afghanistan’s NDS has made its choice. Last year, U.S. forces captured senior Pakistani Taliban commander Latif Mehsud from the custody of Afghanistan’s intelligence services — lending weight to claims that the NDS has been backing the jihadist group, in retaliation for the ISI’s support to the networks of Islamist warlord Sirajuddin Haqqani, and the Afghan Taliban. In private, NDS officials admit they have staged bomb-for-bomb actions against attacks they attribute to the ISI, including one in March on Kabul’s prestigious Serena Hotel.

The question is simple: will India be able to deter Pakistani jihadists with similar tactics?

From the early 1980s, Khalistan terrorists began receiving weapons and arms from the ISI Directorate. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi ordered retaliation. RAW set up two covert groups, known only as Counter Intelligence Team-X and Counter Intelligence Team-J, the first targeting Pakistan in general and the second directed in particular at Khalistani groups. Each Khalistan terror attack targeting India’s cities was met with retaliatory attacks in Lahore or Karachi. “The role of our covert action capability in putting an end to the ISI’s interference in Punjab,” the former RAW officer B. Raman wrote in 2002, “by making such interference prohibitively costly is little known.”

India came to covert warfare late in its history. In 1947, imperial Britain stripped the assets of India’s covert arsenal as it left. The senior-most British Indian Police officer in the Intelligence Bureau, Qurban Ali Khan left for Pakistan with what few sensitive files departing British officials had neglected to destroy. The Intelligence Bureau, Lieutenant General L.P. Singh has recorded, was reduced to a “tragicomic state of helplessness,” possessing nothing but “empty racks and cupboards.” The Military Intelligence Directorate in New Delhi didn’t even have a map of Jammu and Kashmir to make sense of the first radio intercepts signalling the beginning of the war of 1947-1948.

For Pakistan, covert warfare was a tool of survival: faced with a larger and infinitely better-resourced neighbour, it knew it could not compete in conventional military terms. Mr. Khan’s doctrine posited that sub-conventional offensive warfare could provide it defence. From 1947, Pakistan engaged India in what Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru would later call “an informal war.”

India’s covert capabilities grew in the wake of the 1962 war. Helped by the U.S., the newly-founded RAW developed the capacities for deep-penetration espionage meant to target China. It used its new tools to target Pakistan in 1971. Establishment 22, operating under the command of Major General Surjit Singh Uban, carried out a secret war in what is now Bangladesh. Establishment 22 personnel aided Sikkim’s accession to the Union of India; trained Tamil terrorists; and armed rebels operating against the pro-China regime in Myanmar.

Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, though, ended RAW’s offensive operations against Pakistan — and his successor, Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, wound up its eastern operations. India continued to possess a superior conventional military, but as it became known in the late 1980s that Pakistan possessed a nuclear weapon, it became clear this sword would remain sheathed.

In 1999, soon after the Kargil war, intelligence officers attempted to persuade Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to authorise the development of offensive covert capabilities.

“He didn’t say a word,” one official present at the meeting told The Hindu, “not yes, not no.” Less than three years later, when terrorists attacked Parliament House, Mr. Vajpayee had no tools at his disposal to deter Pakistan — bar an expensive, and ultimately useless, threat of war.

Mr. Vajpayee’s silence, like that of his predecessors, wasn’t cowardice. The use of covert action inside Pakistan will, almost certainly, invite retaliation — ending, thus, in more violence, at least in the short run. It can cause large-scale civilian fatalities, with damaging international consequences. It can end in the arrest of Indian assets, damaging the country’s credibility. It can succeed in its aims, as Israel, the U.S. and the United Kingdom have sometimes proved — or, as those very countries have learned, just as easily fail.

There is no easy path to be taken, for each winds past the taking of human life. It is imperative, therefore, that India’s new security czars discuss their choices dispassionately, before a decision has to be made in rage.


India became third largest economy in 2011: World Bank

Published: May 1, 2014 
APAt 7 per cent, India has the third-largest share of the world’s expenditure for investment (gross fixed capital formation), according to World Bank.

In a matter of six years, India emerged as the world’s third-largest economy in 2011 from being the tenth largest in 2005, moving ahead of Japan, while the US remained the largest economy closely followed by China, latest figures have revealed.

“The economies of Japan and the UK became smaller relative to the US, while Germany increased slightly and France and Italy remained the same,” according to data released today by the International Comparison Program (ICP), hosted by the Development Data Group at the World Bank Group.

“The relative rankings of the three Asian economies — China, India, and Indonesia — to the US doubled, while Brazil, Mexico and Russia increased by one-third or more,” the report said. The world produced goods and services worth over USD 90 trillion in 2011 and that almost half of the total output came from low and middle-income countries, it said.

According to the major findings of the ICP, six of the world’s 12 largest economies were in the middle-income category (based on the World Bank’s definition).

When combined, the 12 largest economies accounted for two-thirds of the world economy and 59 per cent of the population, it said.

The purchasing power parities (PPPs)-based world GDP amounted to USD 90,647 billion, compared with USD 70,294 billion measured by exchange rates, it said, adding that the share of middle-income economies in global GDP is 48 per cent when using PPPs and 32 per cent when using exchange rates.

The six largest middle-income economies — China, India, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico — account for 32.3 per cent of world GDP, whereas the six largest high-income economies — US, Japan, Germany, France, UK and Italy — account for 32.9 per cent, the report said.

Asia and the Pacific, including China and India, account for 30 per cent of world GDP, Eurostat—OECD 54 per cent, Latin America 5.5 per cent (excluding Mexico, which participates in the OECD and Argentina, which did not participate in the ICP 2011), Africa and Western Asia about 4.5 per cent each.

“China and India make up two-thirds of the Asia and the Pacific economy, excluding Japan and South Korea, which are part of the OECD comparison. Russia accounts for more than 70 per cent of the CIS, and Brazil for 56 per cent of Latin America. South Africa, Egypt, and Nigeria account for about half of the African economy,” said the report.

“At 27 per cent, China now has the largest share of the world’s expenditure for investment (gross fixed capital formation) followed by the US at 13 per cent.

India, Japan and Indonesia follow with 7 per cent, 4 per cent, and 3 per cent, respectively,” the report said.

China and India account for about 80 per cent of investment expenditure in the Asia and the Pacific region.

Russia accounts for 77 per cent of CIS, Brazil for 61 per cent of Latin America and Saudi Arabia 40 per cent of Western Asia, it said.

The report said low-income economies, as a share of world GDP, were more than two times larger based on PPPs than respective exchange rate shares in 2011.

Yet, these economies accounted for only 1.5 per cent of the global economy, but nearly 11 per cent of the world population.

Roughly 28 per cent of the world’s population lives in economies with GDP per capita expenditure above the USD 13,460 world average and 72 per cent are below that average.

The approximate median yearly per capita expenditure for the world — at USD 10,057 — means that half of the global population has per capita expenditure above that amount and half below, it said.

The five economies with the highest GDP per capita are Qatar, Macao, Luxembourg, Kuwait and Brunei.

The first two economies have more than USD 100,000 per capita, the ICP report said.

Eleven economies have more than USD 50,000 per capita, while they collectively account for less than 0.6 per cent of the world’s population. The US has the 12th—highest GDP per capita.

Eight economies — Malawi, Mozambique, Central African Republic, Niger, Burundi, Congo, Dem. Rep., Comoros and Liberia — have a GDP per capita of less than USD 1,000.

The five economies with highest actual individual consumption per capita are Bermuda, US, Cayman Islands, Hong Kong and Luxembourg.

The world average actual individual consumption per capita is approximately USD 8,647, it said.

A precarious poll

Syed Ata Hasnain | April 30, 2014 

Kashmir was witnessing a high-profile political event after a long time — perhaps the first since the hanging of Afzal Guru. In the interim, it has got more radicalised than ever before. PTI

Kashmir goes to elections, more radicalised than before.

As everyone concentrated on high-profile electoral contests in mainland India, did we miss the wood for the trees because it was expected that elections in Kashmir would be peaceful? A TV news anchor mentioned the six months of relative peace as she asked me where we were heading after the Shopian encounter, which left three terrorists and two soldiers dead. Even a reporter from an English daily in the Valley expressed surprise that Pulwama district, the first in J&K to go to polls, on April 24, looked as if people there were unaware of the election. This was predictable. It is just that the rest of India mostly misreads Kashmir based on skin-deep currents.

Kashmir was witnessing a high-profile political event after a long time — perhaps the first since the hanging of Afzal Guru. In the interim, it has got more radicalised than ever before. Radicalisation doesn’t only mean religious extremism — it is also the belief that only violence can resolve an issue. A majority of people have a deep-seated angst against the rest of India. It was therefore not difficult to predict that polling on April 24 would be a no-show, adroitly managed by separatist cadres.

The acquiescence of political parties to low turnouts in areas where their rivals were stronger was also predictable. The use of violence to ensure this might have caught many observers by surprise, but not those who know Kashmir’s political landscape. Interestingly, even the Kashmir media and police were surprised at the effectiveness of the calls for a boycott.

The Shopian encounter was the culmination of the violence that shook South Kashmir. The question is, will Srinagar and Baramulla be any different? The hapless sarpanchs, who have been awaiting empowerment for the last three years, are easy targets to demonstrate terrorist capability and intent. For the sake of their lives, they had to be closeted in police stations on polling day. So, the message from the violence is clear — even as Pakistan reels under terrorism, separatism will be kept alive through violent or other means. The next two polling dates (today and May 7) might be used to send this message out.

The summer has just begun and some of the northern gullies are not even open yet.There have been few infiltration attempts, which signifies that the paralysis of parts of Kashmir can be achieved by resident terrorist cadres and new recruits, without additional reinforcements from across the LoC.

This must be read in conjunction with events across the LoC, where Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin has been actively preparing for the summer, and leaders in hiding, such as Masood Azhar (Jaish-e-Mohammad), have been exhorting their cadres to be ready for the onslaught after the International Security Assistance Force withdraws from Afghanistan. The Lok Sabha election is the ideal stage for the Hizbul Mujahideen to display its capability to create turbulence. Radicalised youth and cadres of the Jamaat also made themselves available and took the authorities, including the Union home ministry, it seems, by surprise.

While we may have dismissed these events as aberrations related to the elections, we cannot forget that the assembly polls are scheduled for the end of 2014. In the wake of the Amarnath Shrine Board agitation in 2008, Kashmir surprised observers with a reasonable turnout. A similar trend could upset the separatists, who want to preserve the momentum from the Lok Sabha polls boycott. The separatists will want the period in between the two elections, which spans the summer, to be turbulent. Against common belief, there are enough cadres to ensure this. The Hizbul Mujahideen appears to have created sleeper cadres, which can surface in urban areas at will.

What do we need to worry about in the wake of such an assessment? First, infiltration through the LoC by a fresh terrorist leadership must be prevented at all costs. Second, financial conduits that may route money into the Valley must be choked early on and controls established. Third, soft targets such as sarpanchs must be protected to prevent radicalised elements from enjoying a psychological victory. Fourth, given that every attempt will be made to exploit tension triggered by inadvertent mistakes by security forces, they must be circumspect and avoid tactical encounters for the sake of success-related statistics. They must only conduct intelligence-generated operations so as not to fall prey to separatist machinations.
The success of security forces in keeping the Valley incident-free through the summer is likely to be countered by moving their attention towards the LoC. The army leadership must prepare itself for this. The Hizbul Mujahideen is aching for a showdown and its efforts at the LoC must be countered at the outset, before it is emboldened to try anything more innovative.

That the LoC will be hot later this summer is a foregone conclusion. While there is nothing that cannot be handled by India’s competent military leadership, there will be new personalities in the driving seat. The incoming political leadership in Delhi must quickly be briefed about fresh challenges in Kashmir, where the emerging situation can be ignored only at the peril of India’s national security.

The writer is a retired lieutenant general and former GOC of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps, senior fellow of the Delhi Policy Group and visiting fellow at the Vivekananda International Foundation, Delhi

Sino-American ties: Avoiding the Thucydides trap

As President Obama winged his way through Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, countries enjoying cordial relations with the US but indifferent relations with China, he sought to reassure them of American support vis-a-vis China 
P.R. Chari

WHAT is the Thucydides trap? And, how can it be avoided? This expression was coined by Graham Allison, the highly regarded Harvard academic, to describe the situation where a rising power causes fear in an established power, which escalates towards war. Thucydides had written: “What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta.” An element of determinism imbues this logic leading to beliefs that a rising China will inevitably clash with the established United States while contending for the leadership of the international system.
US President Barack Obama receives a Combined Forces Command briefing at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, South Korea. Reuters

Can this confrontation be avoided? The same conclusion has been reached by another noted Harvard academic, Henry Kissinger, in his magisterial book, On China. He opines, “The appropriate label for the Sino-American relationship is less partnership than ‘co-evolution’. It means that both countries pursue their domestic imperative, cooperating where possible, and adjust their relations to minimise conflict.”

These theoretical propositions gained applicability as President Obama winged his way through Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, countries enjoying cordial relations with the US but indifferent relations with China. Obama sought to reassure them of American support vis-a-vis China. And, dispel growing beliefs that Washington's “pivot” towards Asia has weakened due to its continuing financial crisis, war-weariness, lack of bipartisan support on the Hill, precipitate retreat from the Middle East and faltering over the crises in Syria and Ukraine.

Washington's regional allies are concerned that Crimea could be a precursor to similar American inaction should China attempt a similar territorial grab in the South and East China Sea. China, naturally, is convinced that the US “pivot” towards Asia is designed to contain China and impede its expansion into the West Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Obama’s Asia tour: Reassessing priorities

At a time when talk of American decline and retrenchment from global commitments has become de rigueur, the signals coming from Washington are that it has no intention of leaving the Asian strategic landscape 
Harsh V. Pant

EVEN as multiple crises on the global front challenge American diplomacy, Washington has not lost sight of Asia. US President Barack Obama's visit to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines is a signal that despite questions about America's staying power in the region, Washington has no intention of ceding its strategic space in the region. Giving a strong rebuttal to those who have been questioning America's commitment to Japan, Obama has declared that “America is and always will be a Pacific nation,” underscoring clearly that “the Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of Article 5 of the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.”

US President Barack Obama with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, coming out of the Sukiyabashi Jiro, a sushi restaurant in Tokyo. Obama is on a four-nation tour. AP

The China factor is all around and the Obama Administration is trying its best to get its act together in Asia after making a number of false starts. When Obama visited China in November 2009, he was at the height of his power domestically. He was dictating the contours of his domestic political agenda. The opposition was weak and diffuse. His administration had ideas about China as the fulcrum of stability in the Asia-Pacific.

China's growing economic and political clout was forcing the Obama administration in early days to toy with the idea of a G-2, a global condominium of the US and China, whereby China could be expected to look after and ‘manage’ the Asia-Pacific. The Obama administration, however, was signalling that it was more interested in managing America's decline than in preserving its pre-eminence in the global order. There was no strategic vision about Asia apart from the hope that US and China could work together to sort out global problems.

Fighting Nuke Threat is No Joke

By Manpreet Sethi

Published: 01st May 2014

A recent article published in this newspaper (Obama’s Nuclear Joke, April 4, 2014) pronounced a strong indictment of the just concluded third Nuclear Security Summit at the Hague. Describing the gathering of 53 nations and four international as well as nearly 130 non-governmental organisations on March 24-25 as a “joke gone too far”, the article recommends that “India ought not to be part of this circus”. This is unfortunately a very myopic view of the issue at hand. A more considered analysis of the significance of the summit process and the specific benefits it has brought to India is seriously called for.

The series of the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) started in 2010 at Washington and has since travelled to Seoul in 2012, the recent meeting at the Hague, and the next one, perhaps the last, will be again hosted by Washington in 2016. The main idea behind these gatherings of the highest political leaders has been to address the challenge of nuclear terrorism, thereby “making the world a bit safer”.

President Obama initiated this effort having reached the conclusion that the risk of nuclear terrorism was real and urgent for his country. In fact, the US Nuclear Posture Review of 2010 ranked this threat ahead of any other, including the possibility of a nuclear exchange with America’s “near peers” such as Russia and China. So, he sought to garner international cooperation in securing nuclear material worldwide and to improve security at all nuclear assets and facilities.

This was a welcome development for India. In fact, India’s experience with cross-border terrorism well predates the US awakening to the threat. Since the end of the 1990s, India has faced terrorism, sponsored and executed from Pakistan. Obviously, the threat of nuclear terrorism has been of utmost concern given that nuclear weapons (and an increasing stockpile of highly enriched uranium and plutonium and the possible addition of tactical nuclear weapons in the future) and terrorism coexist in Pakistan. Therefore, the most important gain from these summits is that they have brought global attention to nuclear terrorism.

China SSBN Fleet Getting Ready – But For What?

April 25, 2014

By Hans M. Kristensen

China’s emerging fleet of 3-4 new Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines is getting ready to deploy on deterrent patrols, “probably before the end of 2014,” according to U.S. Pacific Command.

A new satellite image taken in October 2013 (above) shows a Jin SSBN in dry dock at the Bohai shipyard in Huludao. Two of the submarine’s 12 missile tubes are open. It is unclear if the submarine in the picture is the fourth boat or one of the first three Jin SSBNs that has returned to dry dock for repairs or maintenance.

The U.S. intelligence community predicts that “up to five [Jin-class (Type 094) SSBNs] may enter service before China proceeds to its generation SSBN (Type 096) over the next decade,” an indication that the noisy Jin-class design might already be seen as outdated.

This and numerous other commercial satellite images (see below) show how China over the past decade has built an infrastructure of naval facilities to service the new SSBN fleet. This includes upgrades at naval bases, submarine hull demagnetization facilities, underground facilities and high-bay buildings for missile storage and handling, and covered tunnels and railways to conceal the activities from prying eyes in the sky.

Apart from how many Jin SSBNs China will build, the big question is whether the Chinese government will choose to operate them the way Western nuclear-armed states have operated their SSBNs for decades – deployed continuously at sea with nuclear warheads on the ballistic missiles – or continue China’s long-held policy of not deploying nuclear weapons outside Chinese territory but keeping them in central storage for deployment in a crisis. 

Nuclear Submarine Sightings

Over the past decade, a total of 25 commercial satellite images made available on Google Earth have provided visual confirmation and information about the status and location of the Jin SSBNs (see table below). They show the submarines at four sites: the Bohai shipyard at Huludao on the Bohai Sea where the submarines are built; the Xiaopingdao naval base near Dalian where the submarines are fitted out for missile launch tests; the North Sea Fleet base at Jianggezhuang near Qingdao where one Jin SSBN is homeported along with the old Xia-class SSBN from the 1980s; and at the South Sea Fleet base at Longpo on Hainan Island where at least one Jin SSBN has been based since 2008.

Bohai Ship Yard

The Bohai shipyard at Huludao builds China’s nuclear-powered submarines. The shipyard, which is located in the north of the Bohai Sea, is immensely busy with numerous large tankers and cargo ships under construction at any time. The submarine hulls are assembled in a large 40,000-squaremeter construction hall at the western end of the shipyard, rolled across a storage area into a dry dock for completion, and then launched into the harbor where they spend years tied up to a pier fitting out until handed over to the Chinese navy (PLAN).

Commercial satellite photos provide snapshots of the status of submarine construction and the quality is good enough to differentiate different submarine types and identify design details such as dimensions and layout of the missile compartment. One of the most recent photos (see below) shows a Jin-class SSBN in dry dock with two of 12 missile tubes open. Additional unassembled submarine hull sections are laid out on the ground next to the assembly hall.

The busy Bohai shipyard mixes nuclear submarine construction with commercial tankers and cargo ships in half a dozen dry docks. In this composite image from October 11 and 25, 2013, a completed Jin-class SSBN can be seen in dry dock and what appear to be hull sections for another submarine awaiting assembly. Click for large version.

In addition to satellite photos, tourists also occasionally take photos and post them on Google Panoramio or other web site. One such photo (see below) shows most of the shipyard with other overlaid photos showing dry dock cranes and two missile submarines first seen in 2007.

Image: Google Panoramio; inserts from Chinese internet. Click for large version.

Xiaopingdao Submarine Refit Base

After completing construction at the Bohai shipyard the submarines sail to the Xiaopingdao refit base near Dalian. This base is used to prepare the submarines for operational service and is where test missiles are loaded into the launch tubes for test launches from the Bohai Sea across China into the Qinghai desert. Xiaopingdao is also used by China’s single Golf-class SSB, a special design submarine previously used to test launch SLBMs.

The base has been upgraded several times over the past decade-and-a-half including an extended pier to service the larger Jin-class SSBNs.

On two occasions, in March 2009 and March 2011, two Jin SSBNs have been seen docked at Xiaopingdao at the same time.

Xiaopingdao is also where the first Jin-class SSBN was spotted on a commercial satellite photo in July 2007.

Jianggezhuang (Laoshan) Submarine Base

The oldest nuclear submarine base is the North Sea Fleet base at Jianggezhuang (Laoshan) approximately 18 kilometers (11 miles) east of Qingdao in the Shandong province.

The Jin-class SSBN was first seen at Jianggezhuang on a commercial satellite image in August 2010.

The base is also home to the old Xia-class SSBN, the lone unit of China’s first experiment with ballistic missile submarines. The Xia completed a multi-year dry dock overhaul in 2007 but has probably never been fully operational and has never conducted a deterrent patrol.

This base is where we in 2006 spotted the long-rumored submarine cave, alsodescribed in Imaging Notes. The cave has a large water tunnel with access from the harbor and three land-tunnels providing access from various base facilities.

A satellite image from July 2013 (see below) shows both the Xia and a Jin SSBN at the base, with the Xia being assisted by two tugboats. Water turbulence behind the submarine indicates the Xia’s engine is operational.

Both Jin- and Xia-class SSBNs are based at Jianggezhuang submarine base, which includes an underground submarine cave. A possible underground weapons storage site is located northeast of the base. Click for large version.

Jianggezhuang also has a dry dock, the only one at a naval base that has so far been seen servicing nuclear-propelled submarines. There are also several nuclear-powered attack submarines homeported at the base.

Only a few miles north of the base is an underground facility that may be storing munitions for the submarine fleet. As such, it could potentially also serve as a regional storage facility for nuclear warheads for the SLBMs once released to the navy in a crisis by the Central Military Committee.

Several buildings have been added since 2003, possibly in preparation for accommodating the new Jin SSBN and its larger JL-2 SLBMs.

Hainan Island Submarine Complex

The South Sea Fleet naval facilities on Hainan Island are under significant expansion. The nuclear submarine base at Longpo has been upgraded to serve as the first nuclear submarine base in the South China Sea. The first Jin-class SSBNwas seen at Longpo on February 27, 2008, and a new photo from November 2013 shows a Jin SSBN with its missile tubes open (see below).

In this image from November 30, 2013, a Jin-class SSBN can be seen flashing its 12 missile tubes while docked at Longpo naval base on Hainan Island.

Longpo submarine base includes four piers for submarines, an underground submarine facility with tunnel access from the harbor and land-tunnels from the other side of the mountain, as well as a demagnetization facility. Longpo was the first base to get a demagnetization facility, which has since also been added to the East Sea Fleet near Ningbo.

The Hainan naval complex also includes the conventional submarine base at Julin, which also appears to be under expansion with new piers and a sea break wall under construction.

Approximately 12 kilometers (7 miles) northeast of Longpo is a military facility that appears to include four tunnels connecting to one or several underground facilities inside the mountain. Tugged away at the end of a lake inside a valley, the facility has a significant infrastructure with administrative and technical buildings as well as several camouflaged high-bay buildings surrounded by berms for blast protection during explosives handling.

The naval complex on Hainan Island is spread across several locations with nuclear submarines based at Longpo, conventional submarines based at Julin, and a possible underground weapon storage facility north of the bases. Click for large version.

The Longpo base does not have a dry dock so nuclear submarines would have to sail to another base for maintenance or repair. The conventional submarine base at Julin has a 165-meter (550-feet) dry dock that could potentially accommodate a Jin-class SSBN, but it would be a tight fit. More likely are the 215-meter (706-feet) dry docks at the Zhanjiang Naval Base on the mainland north of Hainan Island, or the East Sea Fleet submarine base near Ningbo. Yet so far available commercial satellite images have not shown a nuclear submarine at either Julin, Zhanjiang (South Sea Fleet headquarters), nor Ningbo (East Sea Fleet headquarters), and it is unclear if the bases are certified for nuclear-propelled submarines. If not, then nuclear submarines based on Hainan Island would have to use a dry dock as far north as Jianggezhuang or Bohai for maintenance and repairs. That seem strange so I’m sure I’ve missed a naval dry dock somewhere closer to Hainan.

A unique new feature at Longpo is a 1.3-kilometer (0.8-mile) long covered railway completed in May or June 2010 (see below). The railway connects a high-bay building with possible access into the mountain at the eastern part of the base with one of the land-based tunnels to the underground submarine cave on the Longpo peninsula. The covered railway clearly seems intended to keep movement of something between the two mountains out of sight from spying satellites. Two turnoffs from the railway lead to a large building under construction with rail tracks inside. The purpose of the new facilities and rail is unknown but might potentially be intended for movement of SLBMs or other weapons between storage inside the mountain to the submarine cave for arming of SSBNs or SSNs.

A new covered railway constructed in 2010 might connect a missile handling building with the submarine cave on the other side of the mountain. Click for large version.

Before a roof was constructed to conceal the land-tunnel into the submarine cave, the rail tracks into the tunnel were visible on satellite images. Other features at this portion of the base include five ventilation stacks, the roof between the covered railway and tunnel entrance, and a coverage being constructed over a second tunnel road entrance (see above). These features are also visible on a tourist photo posted on Google Panoramio (see below).

The east side of the underground submarine cave at the Longpo naval base on Hainan Island includes rail- and road-tunnels, ventilation stacks, and a covered railway.


With the emerging Jin-class SSBN fleet, China appears ready to add an important component to its nuclear deterrent. Although the focus of China’s nuclear posture is the land-based missile force, the Chinese leadership appears to view a triad of nuclear forces as a symbol of great power status. Commercial satellite images clearly show that the Chinese leadership has been spending considerable resources over the past decade building the infrastructure needed to support the SSBN fleet. The development is watched closely in India, Japan, and the United States as an example of China’s (modestly) growing and more sophisticated nuclear arsenal.

In building the Jin-class SSBN fleet, however, China appears more to mirror the nuclear postures of the United States, Russia, Britain and France rather than demonstrating a clear purpose and contribution of the SSBN force to China’s own security and crisis stability in general.

As a new second-strike capability added to the Chinese nuclear arsenal, the Jin SSBN fleet only makes strategic sense if it is more secure than the Second Artillery’s land-based ICBM force. Its justification must be based on a conclusion that the ICBMs are too vulnerable to a first strike and that a more secure sea-based second-strike force therefore is needed.

The ultimate test of the Jin SSBNs will be whether they can survive long enough at sea in a hypothetical war situation to provide a back-up deterrent at all. If they are too noisy, the Jins could be vulnerable to early detection and attrition, especially if they had to deploy to distant patrols areas in order for the missiles to be able to reach important targets. With a range of 7,200 to 7,400 kilometers (4,470 to 4,600 miles) – the range estimate given by the U.S. intelligence community for the JL-2 SLBM carried on Jin-class SSBNs, a submarine would need to sail deep into the Pacific Ocean to be able to target the U.S. west coast. To threaten Washington DC, a Jin SSBN would have to sail halfway across the Pacific (see map below). Not exactly safe travel for a submarine that is noisier than the ancient Russian Delta III SSBNs built in the 1970s.

It is probably a fair assumption that U.S. attack submarines have already been trailing or monitoring the Jin SSBNs to record individual sound characteristics and observe operational patterns. Such information would be used to locate and, if necessary, sink the Chinese submarines in a hypothetical war.

The value of the Jin SSBNs is also dependent on their capability to communicate with the national command authority on land from submerged patrol areas. Secure and reliable communication is essential for the Chinese leaders to be able to exercise command and control of the nuclear missiles on the SSBNs. If communication is poor, the SSBNs could become irrelevant or, perhaps more importantly, downright dangerous to crisis stability if loss of contact caused Beijing to mistakenly conclude that one or more of the subs had been sunk by enemy action. That could, potentially, cause the Chinese leadership to conclude that the nuclear threshold had already been crossed and decide to activate its land-based nuclear forces in a way that would be seen by an adversary as preparation to launch.

Some of these issues may become clearer when China begins to operate the Jin submarines as a real SSBN force. Part of the public debate has been somewhat overblown with claims that Jin SSBNs will be able to target the continental United States from Chinese waters. They will not. And the DOD assessment that the Jins “will give the PLA Navy its first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent” is probably premature and certainly depends on what is meant by “credible.”

Whatever their ultimate capability may be, however, the Jin SSBNs and the infrastructure China is building are symbols of the extensive nuclear modernizations that are underway in all the nuclear-armed countries. The Chinese government says it “will never enter into a nuclear arms race with any other country,” but it is certainly in a technological race with the United States, Russia and India about developing improved and more capable nuclear weapons.

This publication was made possible by a grant from the Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author

What has become of Gandhi’s India?


Contributed to The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Apr. 29 2014

Ramachandra Guha is author, most recently, of Gandhi Before India. He lives in Bangalore.

In 1931, Mahatma Gandhi visited London seeking a settlement between Indian nationalists and British imperialists. As he got off the boat, he was reportedly asked by a waiting journalist what he thought of Western civilization. Gandhi answered: “I think that would be a good idea.”

This is a lovely story, guaranteed to raise a laugh when told afresh. A friend of mine complicates (and enriches) it by adding an imaginative afterword: If Gandhi were to be reborn and come back to his homeland, and were he then asked what he thought of Indian civilization, he would answer: “That, too, would be a good idea.”

In India, Gandhi is known as Father of the Nation. What would he think of this child, 67 years after its founding? In what ways has India failed Gandhi’s expectations, and in what way has it honoured them?

India is currently in the middle of its 16th general elections. This is a massive exercise, conducted in nine phases, with some 500 million adult citizens voting in 28 far-flung states. That India is a thriving multiparty democracy would certainly have pleased Gandhi. That it has a a vigorous culture of debate and dissent, that political arguments are largely (alas not wholly) settled through non-violent means, seems consistent with his ideas of freedom and justice.

When India became free, it was also broken into two, with the Muslim majority provinces becoming part of a separate country called Pakistan. Originally a homeland for Muslims, Pakistan is now an Islamic republic where minorities enjoy a distinctly second-class status. Under Gandhi’s influence, however, India refused to identify faith with state. It would not be a Hindu republic. Minorities would enjoy equal rights.

Down the decades, the practice has sometimes fallen short of the ideal. There have been periodic bouts of Hindu-Muslim violence. Muslims remain underrepresented in the professional and entrepreneurial elite.

If India’s record in sustaining religious pluralism is mixed, its record in the matter of linguistic pluralism is exemplary. Gandhi insisted that every major language group in India must educate and administer themselves in the mother tongue. No single language would be predominant. And so it has turned out.

1962: Let truth prevail

Apr 29, 2014

To lay the entire blame for the deterioration of Sino-India relations on Nehru is highly unjust, unfair and unethical. Nehru did whatever he could in the national interest to uphold the country’s honour.

The Henderson Brooks Report remains in the news, but for the wrong reasons. A number of military historians and strategic analysts, including former Army and Navy Chiefs, have made their views public on the “leaked” report.

Even though the report was restricted to specifically examine the military aspects of India’s China debacle, many writers and commentators exclusively blame Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s “forward policy”. They conveniently forget that the political leadership makes strategic decisions that are based primarily on advice and inputs from intelligence agencies and top military commanders.

The Henderson Brooks Report holds the following dramatis personae primarily responsible for the debacle — Krishna Menon, the controversial defence minister, for taking decisions arbitrarily; B.M. Mullick, director, Intelligence Bureau, for inaccurate intelligence analysis; Lt. Gen. B.M. Kaul, Chief of General Staff and later corps commander, for his inadequate operational experience to lead the corps; M.J. Desai, foreign secretary, for his wrong analysis that the Chinese would not react to India’s “forward policy’; Brig. D.K. Palit, DMO, Army HQ, for his faulty assessment that the Chinese were not in a position to undertake military operations against India.

By the summer of 1961, Chinese forces had advanced nearly 70 miles southwest of their position in 1958 and established checkposts in the Chip-Chap Valley. A note from the Intelligence Bureau warned that the Chinese would move into areas claimed by them when there was no Indian presence. Based on the intelligence inputs and advice of Krishna Menon, the government decided to establish a few posts as close to the perceived claim-lines to prevent the Chinese from advancing further. Nehru ordered effective coverage of the entire frontier in the eastern sector and all gaps to be covered by patrolling or posts.

Sarvepalli Gopal, who wrote the biography of Jawaharlal Nehru, states, “It is clear that he attached great importance to the establishment of these rear and ‘intermediate’ bases and regarded it as the only sound and thorough way of strengthening India’s position.”

Wreckage of a Foreign Policy

By Harsh V Pant
Published: 29th April 2014

As one surveys the landscape of Indian foreign and security policy at the end of the UPA government’s 10 years in office, it appears strewn with wreckage on all sides. The Chinese have upped the ante on the border dispute, ties with Washington have plateaued, Russia is looking elsewhere, the European Union is disappointed, the morale of the defence forces is low, the Maoists are gaining ground in large parts of the nation, our neighbours are contemptuous, and the peace process with Pakistan is going nowhere. There is a whiff of fragility and underconfidence in the air, as if at any moment the entire façade of India as a rising power might simply blink out like a bad idea. National security adviser Shivshankar Menon himself thinks India “should not want to” emerge as a superpower. He need not worry; his government has done enough over the last few years to make sure that India’s emergence as a global power of any reckoning is not going to happen anytime soon.

Policy paralysis within the government, strategic diffidence of the Congress party’s leadership and the insistence of the BJP upon destroying its own credibility as a national party—all have ensured that the Indian foreign policy continues to drift without any real sense of direction. The diplomatic and political risk that the Manmohan Singh government took in signing the civilian nuclear energy cooperation pact with the US seems to have been a wasted effort as it was not followed by other auxiliary measures that would have made it all worth the effort. Even in areas where Indian foreign policy has shown some promise, such as the “Look East” policy, there are now grave doubts about the ability of New Delhi to emerge as a balancer in the region. In Afghanistan, where there were great hopes of an India living up to its potential as the regional power, its allies are disappointed and its adversaries feel emboldened.

And now, India’s external interlocutors are now looking to the formation of the new government next month, hoping that it would provide some clarity about New Delhi’s future foreign policy trajectory.

An Indian Nuclear Doctrine Review: A Third Model

30 April 2014
Ali Ahmed
Independent Analyst 
Email: aliahd66@gmail.com

The reference in the BJP manifesto to a review of the Indian nuclear doctrine has had the salutary effect of keeping the nuclear issue in the public mind. It has also made the possibility of a review of the doctrine, even if the BJP does not come to power, more likely. The discussion the reference provoked suggests that there are two models of deterrence that would vie for adoption during the review. 

While the ‘massive’ nuclear retaliation model is already the declaratory nuclear doctrine, the challenger model is ‘flexible’ nuclear retaliation. The debate between votaries of the two has had ‘flexible’ votaries pointing out that ‘massive’ is incredible. ‘Massive’ votaries have in turn critiqued the ‘flexible’ model for being weak on escalation control. While ‘massive’ pitches for strengthening deterrence by reinforcing capability and resolve to visit unacceptable damage on the enemy, ‘flexible’, wary of deterrence breakdown, caters for an appropriate response. 

For ‘flexible’ votaries, ‘massive’ has the drawback of inviting an equal counter-strike from Pakistan since Pakistan now has the numbers. This would make for self deterrence for India. Consequently, India would water down its nuclear response. Doing so would impact India’s projection of resolve, effecting in-conflict deterrence. India should therefore go for a ‘flexible’ model whereby its response would be tailored to the manner of Pakistan’s nuclear first use and cognisant of in-conflict deterrence, escalation control and war termination compulsions. 

‘Massive’ votaries argue that this would water down deterrence, making nuclear first use more likely. Also it is unmindful of the inexorable escalation that would inevitably ensue from nuclear first use and proportionate retaliation under the graduated deterrence concept. ‘Massive’ has global environmental consequences in light of recent studies that indicate that even a regional nuclear war can trigger nuclear winter. ‘Flexible’ has potential to go the ‘massive’ route.

Some thoughts on the State of India’s War on Terror

Paper No. 5693 Dated 30-Apr-2014

By Col R Hariharan

[Some of the points contained in this article were included in a TV interview in Chennai as a part of its coverage of the death of Major Mukund Varadarajan and Sepoy Vikram Singh in an encounter with terrorists in Shopian area (J & K).]

How do you see the death of Major Varadarajan who belonged to Chennai? What does it indicate about our fight against Jihadi terrorists in J and K?

Never before in Chennai had I seen such public participation in a military funeral as that of Major Varadarajan. This should remind all those who talk of Tamil separatism that the spirit of nationalism in Tamil Nadu is stronger now thanks to the martyrdom of young people like Varadarajan. However, regrettably the national TV media had little time for it. It devoted more time to the trivia uttered by Priyanka Gandhi in her electoral skirmish with Narendra Modi.

The death of two soldiers at the prime of their life is stark reminder to the nation that the war on terror in the country particularly in Jammu and Kashmir is far from over. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal data, in J and K alone over 43,554 lives have been lost from 1988 (when terrorist activity was scaled up) to April 20, 2014. Among those killed were over 14, 676 civilians and 6,104 security forces personnel, the rest being terrorists. This works out to an average of about 145 lives lost every month! And that too in J and K alone!

If we consider the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) – the other major threat to our national security – the picture is even more shocking. In nearly eight and a half years from 2005 to April 2014, we lost a total of 6403 lives – an average of 64 people a month. 

Of course, these casualty figures do include the number of terrorists and extremists killed. But we have to take them into reckoning as they represent the loss of young productive human resource of the nation. The nation simply cannot afford to continue to lose over 200 lives a month due to terrorism and extremism. By very nature in a democracy the war against unconventional threat is prolonged and time consuming. And in a developing nation like ours terrorism cramps governance, stifles development programmes and depletes scarce resources.

Transition in Afghanistan: Post Election Challenges

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The recently concluded elections in Afghanistan are the third national elections since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001 and will be the first in which a transfer of power will take place through the democratic process. A high voter turnout of 58 percent despite a Taliban diktat to boycott the polls is significant. Despite attempts to stop the election process through a string of murders, suicide attacks and assassination attempts, the high voter turnout suggests that the political and security establishment in Afghanistan has been able to keep the situation under control. This achievement is laudable, as it has been accomplished with vastly reduced international forces as compared to the previous election and marks a propitious start to the many transitions Afghanistan has to negotiate this year on the political, security and economic domains. However, the Afghan Taliban will continue to remain an important factor in Afghanistan’s security calculus. The failure thus far to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table merely highlights the difficulties in charting a negotiated political settlement. 

The incumbent president did not contest the elections, as he stood constitutionally barred from contesting a third term. Of the 11 candidates originally in the fray, three withdrew from the contest, which included the president’s brother, Qayuum Karzai and the former defence minister Abdul Rahim Wardak. Thereafter, eight candidates contested the April election, whose results are expected in mid-May. If no candidate has secured over 50 percent mandate, which appears likely in the present scenario, a run off for the Presidency by the two leading contenders will take place, which could stretch the election process to July 2014. Provincial council elections will follow shortly thereafter. Counting of votes so far indicates that Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani are the two front runners likely to be in the run off for the Presidency. The remaining six, Zalmai Rassoul, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, Qutbuddin Halal, Gul Agha Sherzai, Hedayat Amin Arsala and Mohammad Daoud Sultanzai are way behind in the race. 

Abdullah Abdullah is a Tajik (he has one Pashtun parent and one Tajik) and is considered the political heir to Ahmad Shah Masoud. At present, he is the leader of the Opposition and chairman of the ‘Coalition for Hope and Change’. In 2009, he ran against incumbent President Hamid Karzai, and obtained 30 per cent of the electoral vote, but withdrew his name from the runoff citing allegations of fraud and non-transparency. He has traditionally adopted a hard-line approach against the Afghan Taliban. A former foreign minister of Afghanistan, he is viewed favourably by the US, Britain, Iran and India and in Western capitals. His choice of running mates in Mohammad Khan (a Pushtun) and Mohammed Mohaqeq (a Hazara and former warlord) has been calibrated to appeal to both ethnic denominations.

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, is presently serving as the chancellor of Kabul University. A former finance minister, he is an ethnic Pushtun from the influential Ahmadzai tribe. He is critical of Pakistani interference in Afghanistan’s affairs and advocates administrative reform, service delivery and wider regional cooperation. His choice of vice presidential candidate in former archenemy and Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum is ostensibly an attempt to appeal to the Uzbeks, who constitute nine per cent of Afghanistan’s population.

The Iraqi Military’s Downward Spiral

The best article on Afghanistan that I have read recently is an article about Iraq. Specifically, this article in theWall Street Journal on the travails of the Iraqi military in facing an insurgency spearheaded by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (as al-Qaeda in Iraq is now called). 

The “nut” graph: “More than two years after the last U.S. troops left Iraq, as the country prepares for its first post-occupation parliamentary elections on Wednesday, its demoralized, underequipped military is losing the fight against Islamist militants, who are better armed, better trained, and better motivated, according to Iraqi and American generals, politicians and analysts.”

Further down, reporters Matt Bradley and Ali Nabhan expand on some of the Iraqi security forces’ problems. They write:

Even the most basic maneuvers can stymie the Iraqi military. Regional commanders who lack basic knowledge of military logistics often are clumsy when transporting food for soldiers on the move, leaving many enlistees to scrounge for themselves or go hungry, say officers and observers. 

Without meals, some soldiers simply leave. Though there are no official statistics, military personnel cite desertion as a persistent and growing problem, particularly for troops deployed in Anbar and other areas to the north where ISIS is active.

This is dismaying considering how much time and effort the United States spent in standing up the Iraqi security forces. By the time that U.S. troops pulled out at the end of 2011, the Iraqi security forces numbered more than 600,000 and appeared, at least on paper, to be more than capable of safeguarding their country.

Appearances, it turned out, were illusory. The Iraqi troops are perfectly capable of fighting if well-supplied, -supported, and -led. But supplying them–much less planning their operations and providing the kind of integrated intelligence and fire support they need–is beyond the rudimentary abilities of the Iraqi military. U.S. advisers filled in the gaps, but now they are gone and Iraq is spiraling downward.

This is a warning of what could happen in Afghanistan. As I learned on a visit to Kabul and Kandahar last week, the Afghan Security Forces, which now number 370,000 (counting the local police), are more capable than ever. They can take the fight to the Taliban but they lack the ability to execute their own logistics, planning, budgeting, intelligence, and other important tasks. Those gaps are currently being filled by American advisers, but no one knows what will happen after this year. 

Middle East: ‘Mafiastan’ ruled by money

Robert Fisk

The Middle East we must confront in the future will not be a set of caliphates but a ‘mafiastan’. In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output south of the country

A protest by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. Fears of an ‘Islamist takeover’ in Egypt mask the issue of financial benefits for elite. Reuters

SAUDI Arabia is giving $3bn – yes, £2bn, and now let’s have done with exchange rates — to the Pakistani government of Nawaz Sharif. But what is it for? Pakistani journalists have been told not to ask this question. Then, when they persisted, they were told that Saudi generosity towards their fellow Sunni Muslim brothers emerged from the "personal links" between the Prime Minister and the monarchy in Riyadh. Saudi notables have been arriving in Islamabad. Sharif and his army chief of staff have travelled to the Kingdom.

Then Islamabad started talking about a "transitional government" for Syria – even though Pakistan had hitherto supported President Bashar al-Assad – because, as journalist Najam Sethi wrote from Lahore, "We know only too well that in matters of diplomatic relations there is no such thing as a gift, still less one of this size".

Now the word in Pakistan is that its government has agreed to supply Saudi Arabia with an arsenal of anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, which will be passed on – despite the usual end-user certificates claiming these weapons will be used only on Saudi soil to the Salafist rebels in Syria fighting to overthrow the secular, Ba’athist (and yes, ruthless) regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s former army chief and minister of defence, the candidate for the Presidential elections in Egypt. Can he clean up multi-million dollar conglomerates?

The Americans, in other words, will no longer use their rat-run of weapons from Libya to the Syrian insurgents because they no longer see it as in their interest to change the Assad government. Iraq, with its Shia majority, and Qatar – which now loathes and fears Saudi Arabia more than it detests Assad – can no longer be counted on to hold the Shias at bay. So even Bahrain must be enlisted in the Saudi-Salafist cause; his Royal Highness the King of Bahrain needs more Pakistani mercenaries in his army; so Bahrain, too – according to Najam Sethi – is preparing to invest in Pakistan.