23 July 2014

KARGIL WAR 15 YEARS ON Strategic lessons that we need to learn

Operation Vijay, the Indian codename of the war, was a blend of strong and determined political, military and diplomatic actions which enabled us to transform an adverse situation into an emphatic military and diplomatic victory
General V.P. Malik

Artillery helped the Indian Army to drive away the intruders.

The regiments that took part in the Kargil conflict. Tribune photos

Sophisticated weapons were recovered from various sites that were occupied

THE Kargil war, forced on India by Pakistan 15 years ago, will always be remembered for (a) its strategic and tactical surprise (b) the self-imposed national strategy of restraint keeping the war limited to the Kargil-Siachen sector (c) military strategy and planning in keeping with the political mandate and the (d) dedication, determination, and daring junior leadership at the tactical level.

In fiercely fought combat actions, on the most difficult terrain that gave immense advantage to the enemy holding mountaintops, we were able to evict Pakistani troops from most of their surreptitiously occupied positions. The Pakistani leadership was forced to sue for ceasefire and seek withdrawal of its troops from the remaining areas.

Diplomatic victory

Operation Vijay, the Indian codename of the war, was a blend of strong and determined political, military and diplomatic actions which enabled us to transform an adverse situation into an emphatic military and diplomatic victory. As two Prime Ministers of Pakistan later acknowledged, “Kargil war was Pakistan's biggest blunder and disaster.”

In this article, I will briefly narrate two of the most important battles of the war, some important strategic lessons and how do we look ahead.

The Battle of Tololing

Tololing Top in Dras, occupied by the enemy, interfered with our vehicular movements on the Srinagar-Kargil highway and overlooked the town and our logistic positions. It was necessary to recapture it as early as possible and thus it became the first major battle. After 18 Grenadiers set the stage, 2 Raj Rif finished the task against overwhelming odds on June 13, 1999, after three weeks of bitter fighting. 2 Raj Rif captured a large quantity of weapons and ammunition, including rocket launchers and 81mm mortars held only by Pakistan's regular forces. This large haul of weapons and some vital documents, shattered the myth that Pakistan had created assiduously that the men who had intruded across the LoC were jihadi militants.

Anxiety about battle

We were anxious throughout this battle. As the Army Chief, I could not afford to convey my feelings to anyone, nor could I interfere with the battle which had been planned and conducted at the brigade and division levels. The list of casualties kept growing. We lost three officers, four junior commissioned officers and 16 other ranks. The enemy losses, based on the number of bodies recovered were put at 27.

Tololing Top was the first turning point in the Kargil war. The events that transpired during the battle made me think of the difficult days ahead when we had to clear the enemy from other areas. But realising the determination and the fighting spirit of our troops, I was convinced that we could do it.

Capture of Tiger Hill

The Tiger Hill, an awe-inspiring steep mountain top within our territory, was considered as a major thorn and the most difficult feature occupied by the enemy in the Mushkoh-Dras sector. During my visit to the front on June 28, 1999, Major-General Mohinder Puri, GOC 8 Mtn Div, told me that the Tiger Hill would be his next objective.

The attack on Tiger Hill started on June 30/July 1. The objective was engaged effectively by the Air Force and with intense indirect as well as direct artillery fire. The infantry assault went in on July 3.

At 6 am on July 4, I was informed that 18 Grenadiers had captured the Tiger Hill Top but heavy fighting was still going on the feature. I spoke to GOsC 15 Corps and 8 Mtn Div to learn about the latest situation and asked them to let me know when the objective would be fully secured. At 7.30 am, Mohinder Puri confirmed that the enemy would not be able dislodge our troops from the Tiger Hill Top.

I then informed the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who was scheduled to address a public meeting at 10 am. The Defence Minister was flying to Amritsar. I gave him this news when he landed at the airport.

For the BRICS bank, a tough road ahead

 Published: July 23, 2014

Russell Green
The announcement of a new BRICS Bank displays the desire of emerging economies to move away from Washington D.C.-style lending institutions. But between India’s bureaucratic efficiency and China’s indifference to humanitarian, environmental and regional concerns, they resemble John F. Kennedy’s tart characterisation of the very place they hope to leave behind. Much work lies ahead for the creators of these new multilateral financial institutions before the first loan can be made.
How were they able to agree?

Simply reaching sufficient agreement to announce the new BRICS Bank represents a significant achievement for the six-year-old BRICS group. While it may seem silly to organise a serious international grouping based on a clever acronym, the BRIC countries are the four largest economies in the developing world. They have economic heft, but do they have much in common?
Unlike, say, OPEC, their economic fundamentals differ dramatically. Russia, Brazil and South Africa export different commodities, while China exports manufactured goods and India exports services. Two are current account surplus and three are deficit countries.
 There may be value in giving each member equal voting rights in the institution to avoid concerns about Chinese domination, but it may not be practical 
What they most need to succeed is trust. Russia and India have long histories of conflict with China. Brazil and Russia are not famous for being creditworthy. South Africa is a solid neutral party, but also, frankly, a lot less significant than the other members. So apparently their joint desire to plant a flag on the global economy sufficiently overcame mutual differences.
Escaping Western hegemony

What does it mean to be freed of the dominance of developed economies for a development bank? Where have these countries disagreed with developed countries on World Bank policy, for instance?
The preponderance of the friction on lending policy at the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) reflects typical lender-borrower conflict. Developed countries, most often net lenders, want high standards to make sure money is used responsibly and repaid. The developing countries, most often net borrowers, resent outsiders imposing conditions on the use of money inside their own country.

Pak army hits back

The Statesman, 23 Jul 2014

Should Pakistan now carry its campaign against its home-based terrorists to a conclusion, it would encourage better bilateral cooperation in many fields. The two Prime Ministers have given positive indications about the future after their meeting at Mr Modi’s inauguration. Restraining the terrorists that have become Pakistan’s plague could be an important step in taking matters forward ~ SALMAN HAIDAR

A major operation by the Pakistan army has recently been conducted in the frontier areas bordering Afghanistan to try to control the militant groups that have so strongly established themselves there. The frontier region has long been a haven for numerous groups of local and imported armed militants; they have been there for ages, seemingly a law unto themselves outside the reach of the regular administration, but recently they have become bold and confident enough to challenge the Pakistani state and have been prepared even to take on the Pak army, which regards itself as the chief prop and defender of the state. The differences between militants and state having become unbridgeable, the Pak army resorted to armed action and used its array of modern weapons to destroy militant strongholds. Official communiqués reported the deaths of many rebels and the destruction of their bases, which are concealed deep within the rugged mountains. In the drive against its foe, the army claims to have achieved what it set out to do but it is not certain at this stage that the power of the militants has been adequately curbed.

Nor should one ignore the deep ambiguity in the relations between the terrorists and the Pakistani establishment. Over the years the jihadi groups have been able to find support from within Pakistan, both open and covert, that has enabled them to thrive even when they have spread terror and attacked civilian targets. Despite repeated efforts at control, they have received support from important political elements more ready to conciliate than to oppose them, to try to bring them round through dialogue, not confrontation. More damaging, many jihadi groups have been promoted and supported by hidden forces from within the security establishment, including the army, and have enjoyed immunity from interdiction. 

To the mounting frustration of its friends and allies, the USA prominent among them, the Pakistani state and its armed forces have been unwilling to make a decisive intervention against the ever-strengthening jihadists, even though there has been the occasional crackdown when rebel defiance has become totally unconscionable, as in the storming of the Lal Masjid in Islamabad and the clearing out of openly defiant mullahs in Swat. Until now, for a variety of reasons these interventions have not been pressed to a final conclusion; once an operation is concluded, rebel groups have been able to re-establish themselves and even regain a measure of public support, while official agencies have remained divided and obscure in their purposes and political leaders have been chary of pressing for confrontation with extremist groups that claim to be acting with religious authority.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014 | Ashok K Mehta 

There’s no strategy behind the Pakistani military offensive in Waziristan, except to create internally displaced persons and disperse some terrorists. Rawalpindi needs lessons from India on effective counter-terrorism

Thank heavens the legendary Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw did not opt to join the Pakistan Army in 1947, as he would have learnt all the wrong lessons of counter-insurgency from that country’s sporadic forays into repressive pacification operations. The Field Marshal laid the foundation for the Indian Army, which was on the learning curve, for ending insurgency in Mizoram through an integrated politico-military strategy.

The Pakistani Army, which rules the roost, is merely shadow-boxing yet employing kinetic force to sift the bad from the good Taliban. There is no strategy or vision in the use of force except to create internally displaced persons and dispersing rebels. Operation Zarb-e-Azb (Strike of the Prophet’s Sword) in North Waziristan was first planned at the behest of America in 2010 but never launched. Then Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani could not muster the will to go for the jugular of the militancy.

The epicentre of terrorism in Pakistan is the stronghold of, among others, the Haqqani network, the Afghan Taliban, and king maker Hafiz Gul Bahadur — comprising the Army’s strategic assets on the western front. Former Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, would say that the Haqqanis are a veritable arm of the ISI. Gen Kayani was never confident of the success of his operations and feared the response of the religious Right.

Peeved US lawmakers have long been saying that they pay Pakistan to send the Haqqanis to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. The key driver of the two-phase Zarb-e-Azb is the one billion dollar bounty in the US Coalition Support Fund, besides reprisals for the Karachi airport attack, the killing of an Army General, the breakdown of talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and the violation of a ceasefire deal.

Why Punjab State Has India's Worst Cancer Crisis

July 20, 2014

PUNJAB, India - Three days after her mother died, Rajinder Kaur sat quietly on the edge of a rope cot, staring at her sandaled feet as the buzz of her friends and family filled the courtyard of her village home in Sher Singh Wala in rural Punjab.

The 20-year-old nursing student, with a girlish frame and long black braid, listlessly recounted the details of her mother's last 40 days - from a sudden diagnosis of blood cancer to the unaffordable treatment that left Kaur with few options but to watch the pillar of the family suffer in the hospital until she passed away.

Kaur's mother, who died in May, is among the latest casualties in India's northern state of Punjab, home to the highest rate of cancer in India. Here, in the country's breadbasket, 18 people succumb to the disease every day, according to a recent report published by the state government. There are ninety cancer patients per 100,000 people compared to the national average of eighty. And the Malwa region, where Kaur's family lives, has been dubbed "the cancer belt" of the state because of its particularly high incidence of the disease.

In villages like Sher Singh Wala, working class, agricultural communities are bearing the heaviest burden of this complex crisis - one that involves limited resources, lack of political will and a toxic environmental problem that could foreshadow what many other Indian communities will experience as they follow the state's economic model.

"We need to strike at the root," said J.S. Thakur, professor and researcher at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, who has conducted extensive studies on cancer in Punjab.

While the causes of cancer are complicated and still unknown, Thakur and his team found that contaminated water from rapid industrialization and excessive use of chemical fertilizers for high-yielding crops are contributing to the steep rates in the state. Just miles away from the Kaur family's home are colossal industrial plants that have polluted the irrigation system in the area.

Malkit Singh, a member of the panchayat, or village council, in Sher Singh Wala, said cancer deaths affect almost every other home in his 2,000-person village. Including his: Singh lost his brother and two cousins to cancer in the past decade.

But Singh, a broad man who wears a traditional turban, said that the government's inability to regulate toxic chemicals is not their only downfall. There is also public outcry that the state has done little to expand the limited healthcare resources available for families who can't pay to travel to a private, specialized clinic.

"The overall responsibility goes to the government, and the people are also responsible because they have not made an issue of it," he said.

The region's only government cancer ward was established just six years ago in the town of Faridkot, an hour's drive from Sher Singh Wala. On a morning in May, frail women and men slept along the hallways and on the floor of the waiting room as they anticipated the next available doctor, or further tests.

Every day the hospital - staffed with just four oncologists and nine residents in training - receives about 20 new cases and 150 regular cancer patients, said Dr. H.P. Yadav, head of department at the Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital. Since the service started in 2008, there has been an influx of patients from the region, who previously traveled to nearby states like Rajasthan or New Delhi for treatment.

"There is a scheme for people from Punjab: They'll get a financial assistance of 1.5 lakh rupees [about $2,500]," Yadav said. "We are trying to give more assistance from our side but the treatment cost is high."

Israel under the Iron Dome - Should India Seek Cover?

19 Jul , 2014

The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict has once again brought into sharp focus the technological disparities between the two adversaries. Although there are news reports indicating use of UAVs by Hamas, most of these are unconfirmed. It could be very much possible that these were rudimentary aero-models with explosive payloads. On the other hand these could actually be some of the obsolete Iranian birds procured through the Hezbollah or Syria. In any case none of it still amounts to any credible air threat to Israel by any yardstick.

The Iron Dome is the primary AD system deployed by Israel to counter the rocket threat.

The Palestinian Threat

The main threat that Israel faces from Hamas or Hezbollah is in the form of rockets of all kinds. The Palestinians have been using rockets upon the Israeli mainland since 2001. Most of these rockets have failed to cause any major material damage to Israeli assets but have scarred the Israeli psyche irreversibly. What the combined military might of Arab states could not achieve in many wars, has been achieved by a ragtag militia with these crude rockets. So, that way, the legend of David versus Goliath has been turned upon its head and the puny Palestinians have been able to challenge the might of the Goliathic Israeli state with their modern sling shots. Most of the Israelis now live under a constant threat of these rockets and suffer from various traumatic-stress related psychological disorders.

The rockets used by the Palestinians are commonly referred to as the Qassams. More specifically, these constitute of the Katyusha, WS-1B, Grad, M-75 and the Iranian Fajr-5. These have been targeted mostly at the Israeli cities of Beersheba, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Haifa and Tel Aviv. The rockets have been so effective in disturbing the lives of the Israelis that the country now spends considerably upon developing defence systems against these threats.

In order to safeguard its population against rocket attacks, Israel has taken elaborate steps including fortifications, alarm systems, bomb shelters and deployment of air defence (AD) systems. The Iron Dome is the primary AD system deployed by Israel to counter the rocket threat.

The effectiveness of AD depends on the ability to detect and identify aerial targets as friendly or hostile and to engage hostile aircraft or missile in the least possible time with the most appropriate weapon systems.

Israeli Air Defence

The Israeli AD Command is the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) unit responsible for the surface front of Israel’s AD, complementing the AD provided by Israeli Air Force. Initially a part of the IDF Artillery Corps, the AD Command has been subordinate to the Israeli AF since 1970.

AD Command and Control System (ADCCS). The AD Command and Control System (ADCCS) is an integrated system developed by Ness AT Ltd of Israel – designed to support AD Command & Control (C2) functions, including provision of an Air Situation Picture (ASP); threat evaluation from both aircraft and tactical ballistic missiles (TBM); mission planning and control; and Electronic Warfare (EW). The system architecture consists of Central AD Command Centres (CADCC), AD Command Centres (ADCC) and remote users. The ASP is generated in a CADCC and disseminated to all the other sites after being filtered according to their privileges. The various users (according to their privileges) can interact with the ASP, regardless of their actual geographical location.

As US draws curtain on combat role, resilient Taliban plans patient comeback

Stars and Stripes
July 21, 2014

Men sit in the entrance of the Shrine of the Cloak in Kandahar, Afghanistan, which is said to house a cloak once worn by Islam's prophet, Muhammad. As his group seized power in 1996, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar took the cloak out of the building and wore it in public to legitimize himself as the country's new leader. 

Afghan security forces detonate a homemade bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in June. While the city of Kandahar has seen violence drop in the past year, the surrounding rural districts are still rife with Taliban activity.

The current battle for a region of southern Afghanistan highlights some of the lingering issues that may dog Afghan forces well into the future, even as a counterattack by Afghan troops is pushing back the Taliban offensive that threw the area into chaos.

Editor's note: This is one of a series of stories looking at the U.S. legacy in Afghanistan as its 13-year combat role draws to a close.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Surrounded by scaffolding, a blue-domed mosque is nearing completion on a site where a cinema once stood.

The Afghan government is funding the project, which the Taliban began after razing the movie theater and closing all the others in town as part of their campaign against anything deemed immoral. Before the Taliban could finish the mosque, the U.S. swept them from power in 2001, beginning a war that few thought would still be raging nearly 13 years later.

Like the mosque, the Taliban are back.

In the twilight of a U.S.-led combat mission that has claimed the lives of more than 3,300 foreign troops and tens of thousands of Afghans, the Taliban’s military position is in many ways as strong as ever. Although the Taliban lack the popular support that swept them into power in the early 1990s, a recent International Crisis Group report found violence levels in Afghanistan are higher than at any time in the war. The Taliban are also inflicting staggering casualties on the Afghan security forces, who have taken over most of the fighting.

Many in Afghanistan worry that the soaring violence shows the Taliban, like the Kandahar mosque, are on the rise again as international military forces rapidly withdraw at a time when an election crisis threatens to undermine the next Afghan government and the country’s first democratic transition of power.

“The Taliban remain very hopeful, they seem upbeat, they have not been defeated,” said Rahimullah Yousafzai, a Pakistani journalist and Taliban expert who has been studying the group since its inception. “They remain very committed and think they can fight for some years.”

Factionalism of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan: Can the Pakistani Government Correct Past Deficiencies

July 19, 2014

Factionalism of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan: Can the Pakistani Government Correct Past Deficiencies

Over the past year, the vitality of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s insurgency has waxed and waned but the group has still managed to define Pakistan’s security landscape. In the midst of a TTP split, the government will face emerging threats to national security and a new set of challenges in regards to establishing peace.

This report examines how the TTPs insurgency flourished as a result of government policies and the ways in which the group has managed to influence the country’s efforts to counter domestic militancy. It will also examine the origins of the TTP factionalism and the effects it will have on the country’s security landscape


Since the TTPs inception in 2007, the group has conducted countless attacks against government, civilian, military, and religious targets throughout the country, claiming an intangible number of lives. They have waged a violent war on the country from their stronghold in the remote regions of the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) for nearly a decade, with the primary objective of establishing Sharia Law.

The semiautonomous FATA region, along the border of Afghanistan, is Pakistan’s most lawless and volatile zone and is the stronghold for both foreign and domestic terrorist organizations including: al-Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the TTP. The Pakistani constitution governs the region with the same draconian legal framework that was established by the British in 1901. This framework, known as the Frontier Crimes Regulation, has contributed to the region’s volatility in an unprecedented way. The seven administrative agencies that comprise the FATA – Kyhber, Orakzai, Mohmand, Bajaur, North Waziristan, and South Waziristan – are widely considered to be ungoverned territory, outside of the control of the country’s central government, thus making it easy for militants to hold territory, exert their influence, and maintain operational capabilities. There is no police force to maintain law and order in the FATA and other than sporadic drone strikes and military operations; the militants in this region have had little to contend with, other than each other.

Insurgencies by nature have a tendency to fracture due to ideological differences and leadership struggles. Scenarios such as this often present an opportunity for government forces to intervene at a time when domestic militants are weakened by internal rifts; however, they can also multiply the threat and make it difficult to determine viable counterinsurgency operations, particularly for countries such as Pakistan, that have historically taken a muddled approach to countering internal threats.

Government’s Historical Mishandling

The Pakistani government and Directorate of Inter Service Intelligence’s tacit approval of certain militant groups such as the Haqqani Network, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Lashkar-e-Taiba have promoted an environment where terrorism can thrive, not only in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas but in the country’s larger urban centers. Their use of these groups as a tool for foreign and domestic policy has emboldened terrorist organizations that are outside of the control of government handlers. Additionally, this policy has made it difficult to carry out targeted military operations as the aforementioned “good Taliban” organizations have been known to shelter TTP members.

10 things Americans need to know about the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

JULY 2014

The air forces of China aren't as large or as skilled—yet—as the Soviet Union's airmen were in the days of the Cold War. However, trends in Asia point to more encounters with China's increasingly active forces at sea and in the air.

"China is conducting a coordinated and deliberate campaign of coercive diplomacy in the South China Seas," noted Georgetown University professor and Air Force Reservist Oriana Skylar Mastro in a 2012 bulletin for the Center for a New American Security. She cited the establishment of a garrison on tiny Sansha Island as a definitive example of deliberate expansion, clearly directed from the top leadership.

That was before the 2013 declaration of special rules in the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and the December confrontation between an escort ship of China's aircraft carrier and USS Cowpens, a US Navy cruiser.

The People's Liberation Army Air Force—PLAAF—and smaller counterparts in Naval Aviation and Army Aviation are changing fast. Yet with China especially, history and culture play a big role in operational art. USAF is still getting to know this Pacific power and its airmen. Herewith are 10 things to know about the PLAAF circa 2014.

1. They're Flying Near Japan.

When China flies in the East China Sea, the Japanese react. Japan scrambled aircraft due to PLAAF activity 38 times in 2009 and 96 times in 2010. In 2013, 415 scrambles occurred, according to Japan's Ministry of Defense. And these aren't isolated reconnaissance patrols; on Sept. 8, 2013, two PLAAF H-6 bombers took off from China and flew a diagonal course between Miyakojima and Okinawa's main island. Although the H-6s are based on the old Russian Tu-16 Badger design, they have been extensively updated. The H-6s can carry air-launched cruise missiles with ranges of several hundred miles, fitted for attack against ships at sea or fixed points on land.

Japan's Ministry of Defense took the unusual step of releasing the flight track of the bombers in this incident. The bombers followed a corridor used by Chinese naval forces transiting toward exercise areas in the Pacific. They stayed in international airspace and China called the flights routine.

Gen. Herbert J. "Hawk" Carlisle, head of Pacific Air Forces, reinforced the importance of the treaty ties between Japan and the US as a counterweight to increased flight activity by China. Just last month, another scuffle involving China's fighter patrols and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force interceptors made news. This time, the military aircraft came dangerously close to each other. China claimed Japan Air Self-Defense Force fighters flew within 100 yards of a Tu-154, while Japan said its aircraft were being harassed by Chinese Su-27s. The frequent encounters have made the East China Sea a high-risk airspace.

"They see the strong friendship and enduring alliance between Japan and the United States, and they see that [working] together, we can counter threats to the security and stability of the region," Carlisle told Japan's Asahi Shimbun [newspaper] in April 2014.

2. They're Hospitable.

USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, Carlisle, and CMSAF James A. Cody visited China together in late 2013. They made strides in deepening the connection and Welsh later said they were "treated exceptionally well."

China: The flight of the redback

July 21, 2014

If China is the future of the global economy, why do rich Chinese want to get their money out?

Jason Lee/Reuters

It says a lot about the giddiness surrounding China’s economy that Communist state media, international investors and Canada’s westernmost premier have all taken to hailing the ascendency of China’s currency in such ebullient terms, it’s impossible to tell who’s talking.

Here’s Beijing propaganda organ Xinhua the other day: “The globalization of the yuan, or renminbi, will not only benefit the Chinese economy, but generate global economic stability.” A survey of institutional investors earlier this year by Boston-based State Street found more than half believe that “as China’s economic influence grows, the global importance of the renminbi will become magnified,” eventually surpassing the U.S. greenback as the world’s primary reserve currency. Then, earlier this week, B.C. Premier Christy Clark met with Chinese business leaders to make her pitch for Vancouver to become North America’s first offshore hub for trading China’s currency. Asia, she said, “is now . . . the centre of the world.”

So to say there’s hype over China’s currency, variously referred to as the yuan or renminbi but also as the “redback,” would be an understatement. For years, China has campaigned to boost the importance of the yuan as a global currency, to establish it as a buffer against swings in the U.S. dollar. Then, last month, China and the U.K. agreed to set up a trading hub in London to allow the direct exchange of yuan for British pounds, bypassing the U.S. dollar, and making it cheaper and easier to settle yuan-denominated transactions. Where the yuan flows, it’s expected, increased trade will follow.

Which is why other financial centres, including Vancouver, Toronto and San Francisco, are clamouring to establish a similar offshore trading hub on this side of the pond. Clark told reporters she hopes Chinese officials will make a decision within a year. Whether the trading hub is confined to Vancouver or Toronto, or exists as some combination of both cities, it would no doubt go a long way to boosting trade with the country of 1.3 billion people and lessening Canada’s reliance on trade with the U.S.

Yet, as the race for a piece of China’s currency action unfolds, it would be foolish to overlook an equally important trend. Wealthy Chinese are desperate to get their money out of the place. Anyone living in Vancouver doesn’t need to be told this, of course. Stratospheric real estate prices have benefited, in no small part, from the influx of rich mainland Chinese who have been flocking to buy properties there, and in other Western cities, as a safe, stable store of wealth.

Buying homes overseas is only one of the ways China’s elite have skirted Beijing’s currency controls, meant to prevent individuals from moving more than US$50,000 a year out of the country. Last week, another path for yuan to flee China was exposed. In a report that’s sent shockwaves across the country’s financial sector, China Central Television reported that rich Chinese have transferred billions of dollars’ worth of currency out of the country through a secretive remittance program sanctioned by Beijing and available through several large banks. CCTV accused one lender, in particular, the Bank of China, of using the program to help clients launder money. The program has since been halted, following an investigation by China’s central bank.

Again, it bears asking: If China is the future of the global economy, why are rich Chinese so averse to keeping their money there?

After HYSY-981: A US-Vietnam Alliance?

July 22, 2014

A U.S.-Vietnam alliance might be closer to reality now more than ever.

Carl Thayer, Flashpoints‘ resident South China Sea expert, took a look at the reasons China might have preemptively withdrawn its oil rig from South China Sea waters disputed with Vietnam. Thayer paints a compelling picture of the multifaceted strategic environment that led Beijing to pull out its oil rig HYSY-981, which it installed in early May. The diplomatic crisis that followed drove a wedge between Vietnam and China. For Vietnam — particularly the China skeptics within the country — the episode vindicated years of mistrust of Beijing. For China, as Thayer argues, an early withdrawal of the oil rig at this point represents a face-saving resolution to the crisis — Beijing can now move to repair relations with Vietnam.

The HYSY-981 episode may have rendered Vietnam more of a wild card state in the U.S.-China competition in the Asia-Pacific than it has ever been. Traditionally, party-to-party solidarity between the communist parties of both Vietnam and China has kept the Sino-Vietnamese bilateral a relatively stable feature in the region. The United States, which established diplomatic relations with Vietnam just 19 years ago, has slowly been expanding its relationship with Hanoi. The HYSY-981 crisis between China and Vietnam represents an important overture for Washington in Southeast Asia. If capitalized, the United States could add an important ally in the region and continue to have more friends along the Asia-Pacific rimland than does China.

As Thayer rightly highlights, Vietnam’s domestic political situation is not monolithically in support of generally good ties with China (crises such as HYSY-981 notwithstanding). In actuality, the Vietnamese Communist Party is split between more conservative pro-China elements and pragmatic national interest types. It is the latter group that favors closer ties with the United States over China at this point. Even if Beijing succeeds in some diplomatic patchwork with Hanoi at this point and restores bilateral ties to the point where business can go on as usual, it will be no easy feat to disabuse Vietnam’s China skeptics of their strategic mistrust. Thayer notes the disposition of these types within Vietnam’s political machine:

Other members of the party view national interests as more important than socialist ideology. They view Vietnam’s hierarchy of foreign relationships that puts China on the top as a “comprehensive strategic cooperative partner” as in tatters. They note that the United States, a mere “comprehensive partner” has done more to support Vietnam’s sovereignty than Russia, listed second in the hierarchy as a comprehensive strategic partner.

All of this suggests that the overture at this point should come from the Vietnamese side. Indeed, it already has to an extent. An entire year ago, long before any of this oil rig business, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung used the 2013 Shangri-La Dialogue to call for a greater U.S. role in moderating regional tensions in the South China Sea. ”No regional country would oppose the strategic engagement of extra-regional powers if such engagement aims to enhance cooperation for peace, stability and development. We attach special importance to the roles played by a vigorously rising China and by the United States — a Pacific power,” noted Dung, emphasizing the legitimacy of U.S. influence in the Pacific.

Does China Care About Air Power?

The PLA has always been a ground force-centric military. Is that changing?

July 22, 2014

Does China Care About Air Power?Over at Air Force Magazine, Rebecca Grant has compiled a rather helpful list of “10 things Americans need to know about the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.” Given China’s moves to police its near seas in recent years, it is important to understand the role that air power might play in China’s military playbook. Since it seized the Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines, China has grown increasingly provocative in the South and East China Seas. However, it has generally done so with the use of non-naval maritime assets, including coast guard ships. The PLAAF has played a more limited role in China’s provocative episodes. With the exception of too-close-for-comfort flybys over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, the PLAAF has generally sat on the sidelines.

One of the points worth emphasizing from Grant’s ten points is number four: the PLAAF is a secondary element within the PLA, comprising just 17 percent of China’s total military. The PLA, staying true to its origins as the Chinese Communist Party’s coercive arm, remains largely a ground force. As such, the PLA continues to have a “ground force-dominated culture,” says Kenneth W. Allen, a retired USAF officer and expert on the PLAAF. Another important aspect of why air power doesn’t feature at the top of the PLA’s agenda is due to the bureaucratic path dependencies of Chinese military leadership. The PLA falls under the purview of the Central Military Commission (CMC) of the Communist Party itself. As such, not only is the PLA the largest military force in the world by the number of active duty personnel, but it is the largest militant arm of a political army. Furthermore, given the PLA’s overwhelming focus on ground forces, the CMC’s leadership tends to be primarily comprised of former army officers.

To be sure, China is actively grooming its air force into a more formidable fighting force. Projects such as the Chengdu J-20 highlight the strategic and budgetary emphasis given to air power in China. Even on the leadership side of things, airmen are beginning to play a more prominent role. As Grant writes, citing an article by Oriana Skylar Mastro and Michael S. Chase here on The Diplomat:

Two PLAAF airmen entered the inner circle in 2012 when they were appointed to the Central Military Commission. One was incoming air chief Ma. More significant, in the opinions of Mastro and colleague Michael S. Chase of the US Naval War College, was the choice of outgoing PLAAF air chief Xu Qiliang to serve as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission.

Mastro and Chase described Xu as a trailblazer. He’s the first airman to take a high-ranking position amongst the CMC Army officers.

Hard Choices Ahead with Iran

July 21, 2014

With significant headway already made but major gaps remaining - and especially with the options available in the event of a breakdown of negotiations looking unattractive to all parties - it made good sense for the P5+1 countries and Iran to extend their talks for another four months, which they announced late Friday.

The United States and its partners can well afford to take the additional time. The six-month halt in all significant advances in Iran's nuclear program will remain in effect, as will the modest but worthwhile lengthening of the time it would take Iran to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a single nuclear weapon - the result of the neutralization of Tehran's entire stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium gas. Indeed, over the next four months, Iran has agreed to convert a portion of its 20 percent uranium in powdered form to fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, making it even less readily accessible for use in a weapons program.

Moreover, with an extension of the very limited sanctions relief measures that applied during the six-month deal, including the suspension of certain secondary sanctions and the continuation of the metered-out release of a tiny fraction of Iran's oil revenues held in overseas restricted accounts (roughly $700 million a month for a total of $2.8 billion by November), the devastating impact of the sanctions will remain intact and Iran will continue to have plenty of incentive to reach a comprehensive agreement.

The Extension Is Better for the P5+1 than for Iran

It is the Iranian public, more than Western publics, that should be disappointed with the failure to meet the July 20 target date, and especially with the continuation of the debilitating sanctions. Critics of the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), notably the Israeli government, had predicted that the interim deal would result in a rush to do business with Iran and an unraveling of the sanctions regime.

But those predictions have not materialized. Companies and governments all over the world have been exceedingly cautious about engaging in new business with Iran. They have waited for the end of sanctions, which they knew would only result from the conclusion of a comprehensive agreement.

The new deadline of November 24 was well chosen. It is consistent with the provision of the JPOA (announced November 24, 2013) that called on the parties to conclude negotiation of a comprehensive solution "no more than one year after the adoption of this document." And importantly, the four months is long enough to give governments the time to make important decisions and negotiators the time to craft detailed provisions - but not so long that it would give critics in Tehran, Washington, and elsewhere the impression that the parties are prepared to prolong the talks indefinitely.

Perhaps most important, the extension will allow the parties to step back, take stock, and reflect on the hard choices that will confront them in the months ahead.

In their public comments, all sides have noted that the negotiations have produced significant progress, including in recent weeks and on some major issues. In particular, negotiators are reportedly working on design modifications of the Arak heavy water reactor that will substantially reduce its production of plutonium and opportunities for breakout. Discussions are also apparently underway about how the functions of the underground Fordow enrichment facility will be changed to minimize fears about its potential use in a nuclear weapons program.


P.J. Dermer Become a fan
The Real World

Defeating ISIS in Baghdad Is a Long Shot Given ISF History and Current Realities
Co-authored by Michael Pregent, former U.S. Army officer and Intelligence Specialist.

Watching Iraqi security forces (ISF) crumble in Northern Iraq several weeks ago and suffering defeat yet again in Tikrit is painful to swallow. Hoping for a best outcome in the long run is not looking better. Our experiences highlight the fact that ISF won’t get anywhere from Baghdad soon. In concert, 300 American advisers armed with conventional military tools of thought won’t be of much help. Why? ISF have been down this humiliating road before and realities on the ground are ever more complicated than during previous US deployments. US advisers need to understand the synthesis of past and the present, and be equipped to plan and advise Washington accordingly.

This latest episode of Iraqi forces failing on the battlefield is the third iteration since Saddam Hussein was forced from power. The first incident was in April 2004, during Fallujah’s first flare up. US forces were engaged in a battle against a nascent insurgency in Fallujah and Coalitional Provisional Authority (CPA) leadership determined that Iraq’s newly trained army battalions should join the effort. The deployment would signal Iraq’s new security services were ready to begin defending their own territory and US forces could further draw down from the initial invasion. The operational concept was to deploy Iraqis in a direct support role, not into the middle of the ongoing brutal house-to-house fray.

The Iraqis never made it to the fight. Their leadership protested it was not their role to take on its civilian population inside Iraq’s borders — a point hammered home time and again by US instructors during their training and as expressed in the enlistment contract. Upon reflection, CPA leadership realized forging Iraqi senior military leadership in tandem with its new security forces was vital to prevent this recurrence.

Late 2007/early 2008, Maliki picked a fight against Sadr’s militia in Basra and Baghdad. Iraqi leadership was in full complement and at the helm of operations — at least bodily. US combat units were fully deployed in partnership roles and hundreds of embedded US military advisers were embedded in Iraqi units. In this iteration, Iraqis determined they would fight in earnest against their own citizens. Maliki viewed Sadr’s militias as a grave political threat. His security forces saw them as an anathema.

Iraqi senior leadership and their nascent systems proved unable to tackle their own task. In Basra, combat support and logistical systems could not get it together without quick US refurbishment. Several major ground units refused to fight until emergency US forces arrived. Early on the senior Iraqi commander was relieved because he proved inept after months of show and bravado, right up to the start of hostilities.

In Baghdad, the Iraqi Baghdad Operations Command (BOC) proved to be unfit for the fight from the outset. The majority of senior subordinate commanders proved indecisive and refused to follow through on their operational planning commitments to their US counterparts. As in Basra, several units refused to become decisively engaged or fight. An entire Iraqi Brigade simply walked off early on. We learned it was sectarian influenced.

US commanders spent an inordinate amount of time keeping their counterparts focused and in the fight. On several occasions US commanders and advisers personally led Iraqi forces into battle. It was not without cost. US blood spilled due to Iraqi leadership shortcomings and their operational intransigence.

In wake of continued battlefield mishaps, US commanders pleaded for the BOC commander to relieve one of his subordinate commanders. The BOC commander eventually capitulated but his appointed replacement refused to step in. The fired commander was reinstated much to the chagrin of US officers and junior Iraqi commanders. The behavior of Iraqi senior leaders made it hard on the Iraqi units that were in the fight to win. They realized that if it were not for their US counterparts they would have been on their own. In sum, American front line leadership, firepower and on scene support won the day in Basra and Baghdad.

The Middle East Friendship Chart

JULY 17 2014 

With overlapping civil wars in Syria and Iraq, a new flare-up of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, and tense nuclear talks with Iran, Middle Eastern politics are more volatile than ever and longtime alliances are shifting. Here's a guide to who's on whose side in the escalating chaos. Click a cell to learn more information.

Al-QaidaEgyptHamasHezbollahIranIraqISISIsraelPalestinian AuthoritySaudi ArabiaSyriaTurkeyUnited States
Palestinian Authority
Saudi Arabia
United States
*Correction, July 17, 2014: Due to a production error, this chart originally misstated that Saudi Arabia and Syria are friends. They are enemies. 
Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog.