7 February 2015

No Proof Required: Believe it or not statistics

Surjit S Bhalla
February 7, 2015 

The Indian statistical authorities (Central Statistical Organisation or CSO) recently released a revised set of GDP numbers that have set the statistical house on fire. The new salvoes being fired from the CSO’s shoulders suggest a radically different interpretation of the Indian growth story over the last few years, and indirectly, of what happened in the national elections in May 2014. Just to recall: in May 2014, the ruling Congress party was decimated and registered its lowest seat tally ever, 44 seats in a 543-seat Parliament. For those keeping records, this was the second largest decline in parliamentary history in the world, possibly ever. The record holder for the worst thrashing was the Progressive Conservatives Party of Canada. Under Brian Mulroney, the Progressive Conservatives won re-election in 1988, with 169 out of 295 seats. At the subsequent election, in 1993, the party collapsed to win just two seats, falling from first to fifth place.

Many of us thought that a major reason for the magnificent loss of the Congress was the economy. We were told that GDP growth for two successive years was less than or equal to the 5 per cent mark, 4.7 per cent in 2012-13 and 5 per cent in 2013-14, a toxic decline from the heady years of near-double-digit growth. If GDP growth declines by half, voters are likely to be upset, and we all concluded that the voting reflected the pocketbook. Much ink was spilled, and many trees were cut, to document the close relationship between economic performance and voting behaviour.

India, China and an opportunity

February 7, 2015 

Keeping up the momentum in India-China relations, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj came back from her three-day visit to China with several deliverables — including a new Chinese openness in seeing India take up permanent membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Previously, the Chinese had linked SCO membership with a greater role for Beijing in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Ms. Swaraj, during her first visit to China as External Affairs Minister, built on the three meetings Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had with Chinese President Xi Jinping. She also called on the Chinese President, a rare opportunity for any visiting Foreign Minister. Clearance for the early operationalisation of a new route to Kailash Mansarovar and a decision to hold a session of talks between the Special Representatives tasked by the two sides to resolve the boundary dispute, are other takeaways. Her trip was also part of preparations for Mr. Modi’s visit later in the year. As reported in the Chinese media, President Xi himself has set the agenda for taking bilateral ties to a new level by suggesting that the two countries seize the “opportunity of the century” by combining their development strategies. With a slowing economy and sluggish European recovery, China may be focussing on the Indian market. It also appears willing to invest, following Prime Minister Modi’s “Make in India” call.

It is in such a scenario of contact and consultation that “strong leaders” such as Mr. Modi and Mr. Xi can think about making some hard decisions when it comes to the decades-old boundary dispute that keeps surfacing during major bilateral visits. So far, the coalition nature of Indian governments has been seen as a major obstacle to the give-and-take, compromise approach on the border question. Today, Mr. Modi is in the happy situation where he can take a political call on issues, rising above intra-coalition pressures. In 2005, the Agreement on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the Boundary Question signed by the two countries had raised hopes for an eventual settlement, but those have been belied. It would also seem that President Barack Obama’s successful visit to India around Republic Day has not dampened Beijing’s willingness to take relations with Delhi to the next level. Interestingly, India while talking to the U.S. and its other allies in the Asia-Pacific about safety in the sea-lanes, has agreed to set up a “consultation mechanism” on Asia-Pacific affairs with China and Russia. India’s diplomatic success lies in keeping several balls in the air at the same time.

India’s tango with the great powers

Srinath Raghavan
February 7, 2015 

Geopolitical and economic factors and the re-energised relationship between the U.S. and India are the drivers of change in the trilateral relationship between India, Russia and China. The cumulative impact of these two trends points to a new, emerging configuration of the triangular relationship

The latest trilateral meeting between the foreign ministers of India, Russia and China was held on shifting strategic sands. It would be no exaggeration to say that the triangular relationship between these countries is entering a new phase — one that differs significantly from the past. India’s ability to navigate this unfolding terrain will not only impinge on its relationships with Russia and China, but also on its wider, international objectives and choices.

The drivers of change in this trilateral relationship are primarily geopolitical and economic. The civil war in Ukraine shows no sign of abating, nor indeed does Russia’s involvement in the conflict. The resurgence of the fighting in eastern Ukraine has left the peace talks in tatters. And Russian support for the rebels has ensured that the Ukrainian forces cannot gain the upper hand. Indeed, the Ukrainians have suffered heavily in the recent fighting. This has led to a chorus of calls in the West to arm the Ukrainian forces. Although U.S. President Barack Obama has demurred against this, several influential voices — including Mr. Obama’s nominee for Defence Secretary, Ashton Carter — have come out in favour of providing heavy weapons to Ukraine.

Any such move will lead Russian President Vladimir Putin to dig in his heels still deeper. Russia already faces a raft of economic sanctions imposed by the European Union (EU) and the U.S. The Russian economy is apparently wilting under the one-two punch of these sanctions and the free-fall in oil prices. The projected slowdown in growth, the depleting foreign exchange reserves, the rising inflation, the downgrading of Russia’s credit rating to junk status: all point to a serious economic crunch. The economic sanctions have already led Russia to tilt closer towards China. The talk of providing weapons to Ukraine or imposing further sanctions will accentuate this shift.

Escalation in Ukraine

S Nihal Singh
Feb 7 2015 

Ukraine has assumed a central role in the West's confrontation with Russia as fighting is escalating and pressure is growing in Washington to arm the Ukrainian military. Thus far, the Obama administration has been supplying blankets and night vision goggles. But Russian support to rebels fighting to hold their strongholds in eastern Ukraine, in addition to sending Russian troops and equipment (officially denied), has tilted the balance against Kiev.

Behind this grim drama lies a total misreading of the situation by the West. Moscow disapproves Washington's attempt at co-opting Ukraine, a country of 45 million adjoining Russia and the cradle of Russian Orthodox Church, civilisation and folklore, into the West. With President Vladimir Putin seeking to expand his sphere of influence in the old Soviet space, the Western aim is like a red rag to a bull.

These events have also fed into Russian resentment at its treatment by the West, in proclaiming victory after the end of the Cold War, bringing NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, to the very border of post-Soviet Russia contrary to perceived promises and the military alliance's absorption of the Baltic states which were part of the old Soviet Union. For President Putin, the attempt to take away Ukraine was the last straw.

In the West’s vocabulary, the attempt to absorb Ukraine was to spread democracy throughout Eastern Europe and Western strategists had little time to heed Russian sensitivities. Last year, as Ukraine sizzled, Moscow took matters into its own hands and annexed Crimea, a predominantly ethnic Russian peninsula, the home of the Russian Black Fleet and formerly part of the Soviet Union. The West protested but implicitly accepted the annexation.

However, the main Russian objective was to prevent Ukraine from going over to the West because it was a deeply divided nation between the pro-West western portion and the pro-Moscow east and President Putin conceived it as contrary to its vital interests. His objective was to seek wide autonomy for the provinces to retain the east's traditional links with Russia. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, elected after his pro-Moscow predecessor was overthrown, had plans of going over to the West.

Tracking India’s Imported Uranium

By Mark Hibbs
February 06, 2015

India is busily negotiating bilateral agreements with its nuclear trading partners to assure them that the uranium they supply to India will not end up in Indian nuclear weapons. This is a standard practice for states involved in nuclear cooperation, yet India has set out to weaken the information sharing provisions in its agreements with Canada, the United States, and soon Australia. All three supplier states support India’s bid for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), but India’s behavior here hardly supports New Delhi’s contention that it is like-minded.

These negotiations follow from an Indian commitment to the United States, pursuant to a bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation, to separate its civilian and military nuclear activities. In part on this basis, in 2008 the NSG lifted nuclear trade sanctions against India imposed in 1974 after India had used Canadian uranium, which had been provided to India on condition that it would be used only for peaceful use, to produce plutonium for a nuclear explosive.

Since 2008, foreign suppliers have been permitted to conclude contracts to supply uranium to India. Conditions for this trade are set down in bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements in which India has pledged to use all nuclear materials it obtains from outside suppliers for peaceful purposes. All of the countries which are selling uranium to India are parties to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). That commits them to make sure their exports do not contribute to the manufacture of nuclear weapons in India.

Need to Strengthen Indian Maritime Security Apapratus

By Radhakrishna Rao 
February 06, 2015

Abstract: This article looks at the maritime threat facing India in the context of the Indian coast guard intercepting a Pakistani-origin vessel, on 31 December 2014, said to be carrying explosives in the guise of a fishing boat, an operation carried out based on the intelligence outputs provided by National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO).

In a well-planned operation on the high seas on December 31, the Indian Coast Guard successfully foiled an attempt that was believed to be aimed at repeating the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack. The 26 November 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai did expose the gaps in the maritime security mechanism of the country. The most striking lesson of Mumbai terrorist attack is that India’s 7,516-km long coastal stretch needs to be protected much the same way as the landlocked borders are secured. In the 26/11 terror attack , 10 heavily armed militants from Pakistan described as “non state actors” travelled all the way from Karachi, hijacked an Indian fishing vessel plying in the Arabian Sea, steered it to the coastal stretch close to Mumbai before going on a killing spree that resulted in the death of more than 160 people.

Circumstantial evidence point out to the possibility of the Pakistani boat being used as a conduit to supply explosives to mount terrorist attack on the Indian mainland. Unfortunate as it is, even after the ghastly Peshawar terrorist attack that claimed the lives of more than 130 innocent school children, Pakistan seems to have failed to realize that terrorism is a double-edged sword. According to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, the crew of the Pakistani vessel claimed to be a fishing boat was in touch with the Pakistan army and it was clearly a part of the terror link on the Arabian sea channel close to India. “The most important factor for classifying the boat as suspected for probable terrorists is that they committed suicide. Even a normal boat with drugs would throw them away and surrender. No one will kill himself unless motivated to do so,” he said.

‘Make in India’ for Defence: A Roadmap

Laxman K Behera
February 05, 2015

The ‘Make in India’ (MII) drive of Prime Minister Narendra Modi offers a way of improving the country’s self-reliance in defence production. However, for the MII to succeed in the defence manufacturing sector, the government needs to address some legacy issues. These are: 

Establish a Defence Minister’s Council on Production (DCMP) to prepare a long term roadmap and set a target for the defence industry, monitor progress, and, more importantly, bring all the stakeholders on one platform and subscribe to the vision of MII. 

Convert the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) of the Indian armed forces into a defence manufacturing and R&D plan, to be executed by local entities. 

Promote a certain degree of defence research and development outside the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). 

Set up a dedicated defence technology university on the lines of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology to meet the vast human resource requirement of defence. 

Treat the private sector as an equal partner and expedite big-ticket contracts to be awarded to them under the ‘Make’ and ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ procurement categories. 

Create a conducive financial framework that incentivises defence manufacturing by domestic industry. 

Reform DRDO, Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DPSUs) and Ordnance Factories (OFs) along the lines suggested by past committees appointed by the Government. 

Transition in Afghanistan: Losing the Forgotten War?

By Anthony H. Cordesman
FEB 4, 2015

The Burke Chair circulated a report in early January on Transition in Afghanistan. We have since received extensive comments and the revised edition is being circulated in final draft form before becoming a CSIS E-book. This report is entitled Transition in Afghanistan: Losing the Forgotten War? It is available on the CSIS web site at.pdf format .

The report focuses on the lessons that need to be learned from of the US experience in Afghanistan to date, and the problems Afghanistan faces now that most US and allied combat forces have left. It builds on more than a decade’s worth of reporting and analysis of the Afghan war. It examines the recent trends and problems in Afghan governance, the trends in the fighting, progress in the Afghan security forces, and what may be a growing crisis in the Afghan economy.

The report asks serious questions about the problems that are arising from the lack of political unity of the country and the problems in the effectiveness of its government. It provides a detailed analysis of the problems resulting from the recent election, a growing Afghan budget crisis, and critical problems with power brokers and corruption.

The report indicates that the military situation is far worse than the US Department of Defense and ISAF have reported, and provides detailed graphs and maps showing the real risks in the current security situation. It also provides a detailed analysis of the problems in the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and the limits in their capability, as well as the weaknesses in past and planned US and allied force development and training efforts.

The report suggests that President Obama’s insistence on rapid cuts in the US advisory presence and its near elimination by the end of 2016 could cripple the Transition effort, and that a large and longer conditions-based effort may be critical to success.

Turbulence in South and West Asia

ByMaj Gen Afsir Karim
06 Feb , 2015

Increase in cross-border firing, attempts to attack coastal areas and targeting army camps in Kashmir show a new aggressive posture of the Pakistan army. The dramatic rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the recent Pakistan offensive in Kashmir have added a new dimension to the challenges that India faces from extremism. Although only a few Indians have joined the ISIS or travelled to Iraq and Syria to enlist with the ISIS the danger of its influencing larger segments of Indians persists. In West Asia, ISIS remains undefeated, brutal and defiant despite sustained operations mounted against it by the US led global coalition. A few thousand air strikes by the United States and its partners have failed to degrade ISIS operations so far. The operational capability of the ISIS remains unhampered both in Iraq and in Syria, mainly because the coalition has yet to put more boots on the ground and the war has been compartmentalised between Iraq and Syria.

The longest NATO mission ended at midnight on 31 December 2014. During its 13 long years in Afghanistan, NATO suffered more than three thousand fatal casualties. 2014 was the deadliest year in Afghanistan with overall 10000 civilian and military casualties. The efforts of the Taliban to overthrow the established regime in Afghanistan are likely to intensify, and Pakistan and its proxies may play a leading role in this internal struggle.

The main danger to India’s security is the al-Qaeda and ISIS campaigns in the Indian subcontinent.


The internal security environment in the country shows signs of gradual deterioration because of the growing polarisation of the society along with external and internal terrorist threats. The main danger to India’s security is the al-Qaeda and ISIS campaigns in the Indian subcontinent. Besides these threats, a new phenomenon in the form of simmering ethnic or religious unrest is spreading in some parts of the country and has in some cases has taken a violent turn. Violence is hindering economic development and challenging the authority in many states.

Why China's Defense of Internet Censorship Falls Flat

By Shannon Tiezzi
February 06, 2015

The first few weeks of 2015 have seen a renewed push to control the Internet in China. Virtual private networks, typically used to get around China’s “Great Firewall,” have been under “more sophisticated” attacks than ever before. China is (yet again) pushing to require real-name registration of social media accounts, even while deleting a number of accounts “that were disseminating distorted views of history.”

China is well aware that its crackdown has opened it up to criticism from foreign media outlets and free speech advocates. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei took time in his press conference today to address those critiques. “China’s Internet has facilitated Chinese citizens and offered them a direct channel to exercise the right to know, the right to participate, the right to express, and the right to supervise,” Hong insisted. He also repeated China’s argument “all countries have the right to administer the cyber space in accordance with the law and the cyber sovereignty of all countries should be respected and maintained.”

An op-ed in Xinhua also responded to recent Western criticisms of China’s internet censorship (Beijing prefers the term “regulation”). To view China’s regulation of the internet as restricting the freedom of speech is a “misunderstanding based on long-term prejudice,” Xinhua argues.

In particular, the Xinhua piece was responding to foreign media reports on recent bans of certain social media accounts. Xinhua dismissed accusations that Beijing was simply deleting accounts that threatened its rule. “The truth is that those accounts had a negative impact [sic] on society,” the piece argued. Deleted accounts either posed as authoritative government outlets (such as the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection) or “were related to terrorism, violence and pornography.” Such accounts “deserve no protection of freedom of speech,”Xinhua declared.

What an Airplane Crash Reveals About Cross-Strait Relations

By Shannon Tiezzi
February 06, 2015

On February 4, a TransAsia airways flight crashed into the Keelung River in Taipei City. The plane, Flight 235 from Taipei to Kinmen, was carrying 53 passengers and five crew members; as of today, 31 have been confirmed dead, with 15 injured and 12 still missing. The plane suffered engine failure, according to a message from the pilot to air traffic control shortly before the crash.

Rescue efforts – and an investigation into the cause of the crash – are complicated by the unique political constraints of the cross-strait relationship. The TransAsia plane was carrying 31 tourists from mainland China, meaning the crash necessitates a response from Beijing. But beyond that, the Chinese Communist Party insists that it has ultimate authority over Taiwan, and its response to the TransAsia tragedy reflects this.

In the wake of the crash, Xinhua ran a story describing President Xi Jinping’s “important orders” for dealing with the disaster. “Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered obtaining accurate information on the TransAsia Airways … [Xi] also ordered caring for the relatives of passengers and properly manag[ing] other matters,”Xinhua reported. The story perpetuates the idea that Xi, as the top leader in Beijing, can issue orders to the government on Taiwan. Chinese media outlets use similar language when Xi responds to tragedies within mainland China, with orders given to investigate the cause and care swiftly for the victims.

In addition to Xi’s comments, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) offered its “all-out assistance to TransAsia Airways” – apparently ignoring the fact that Taiwan has its own Civil Aeronautics Administration. The CAA has already banned TransAsia from receiving international air traffic rights – effectively extending an existing ban laid down after another TransAsia plane crash last July.

Self-Immolations. Threats From Beijing. Playing Politics With the Dalai Lama.

FEBRUARY 4, 2015 

DHARAMSALA, India — These days, the Dalai Lama seems to make news mostly when world leaders decide whether or not to meet with him. On Feb. 5, the Dalai Lama will attend the annual U.S. National Prayer Breakfast — a rare victory for the globetrotting spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, as President Barack Obama will also be in attendance. More typical is what happened to the Dalai Lama in mid-December, on the 25th anniversary of his Nobel Peace Prize, when he visited Rome for a summit of Nobel Peace laureates. He requested a meeting with Pope Francis, but the pontiff declinedfor what a Vatican spokesman called “obvious reasons” — i.e., the Church’s relationship with Beijing. Much of the Western world views the Dalai Lama as a superstar: He regularly addresses tens of thousands in stadiums across Europe and the United States. But Beijing sees him as a dangerous separatist (a “splittist,” as the Chinese like to say), and has punished governments and agencies that engage with him.

Tibetan exiles in Dharamsala, the remote Indian town that serves as their headquarters, also wanted to mark the anniversary of their leader’s Nobel. In the Dalai Lama’s absence, the job of master of ceremonies fell to Lobsang Sangay, the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile. The Dalai Lama stepped down from his role as political head of the Tibetans in March 2011, and since then he’s been trying to unload power and responsibility — much of it to Sangay, a Harvard-trained legal scholar elected in April 2011.

On a makeshift stage in a Buddhist temple outside the Dalai Lama’s residence, the 46-year-old Sangay spoke about the bravery and courage of the Dalai Lama to an audience of a few thousand. Smiling and regal in his flowing black robe, he watched Tibetan dances and listened to long Indian speeches. If he was bored, he didn’t show it.

Jordan and Japan Both Lost Citizens to Islamic State


Now Amman drops bombs while Tokyo debates military reform

Moath Al Kasasbeh knew he was going to die.

The 26-year-old Jordanian fighter pilot—a prisoner of Islamic State since Christmas—said he believed the militants would kill him when the group’s propaganda wing interviewed him for its English-language magazine Dabiq.

On Feb. 3, Islamic State released a video of its followers burning Kasasbeh alive inside a metal cage. As flames engulf the young pilot, the militants pour debris on the cage, and a bulldozer flattens it with Kasasbeh’s body still inside.

The image of Islamic State burning a fellow Muslim to death—as part of what the group claims is a holy quest to protect and spread Islam—has sparked both disbelief and outrage. The Jordanian government is now openly waging an all-out war against the jihadi group.

On Feb. 5, Jordanian warplanes bombed Islamic State in Syria in revenge strikes.
“[King Abdullah of Jordan] has promised, before God and the Jordanian people, that we will burn Islamic State as they burned our martyr,” Ehab Al Kasasbeh, the pilot’s cousin, said according to The Washington Post.

Days prior to Kasasbeh’s death, the Islamists executed Japanese citizens Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa.

In Japan, the death of its citizens opened the public’s eyes to the terror group. For the first time since the country’s foray into Iraq in 2004, Japan seems to have a stake in events in the Middle East.

Kasasbeh was a deeply religious person. He completed the Hajj with his family and got married shortly before his fateful mission. Kasasbeh’s F-16 fighter jet crashed during a mission to Syria in December.

Islamic State and Japan: What Next?

By Mieczyslaw P. Boduszynski and Christopher K. Lamont
February 06, 2015

The beheading of two Japanese citizens at the hands of the Islamic State has sent shock waves through Japan. Over the past two weeks the Japanese public followed the unfolding drama, with domestic media providing in-depth analysis of every video and voice recording released by the hostage-takers. A tearful statement from the mother of murdered journalist Kenji Goto added to a national sense of distress. Meanwhile, ominous televised images of ISIS fighters roaming Iraq and Syria and coverage of the group’s latest threat to Japanese citizens fuel a growing sense of fear that Japan is vulnerable to international terrorism. With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowing to make ISIS “pay for their sins,” the hostage crisis has triggered a debate on Japan’s role in the Middle East both within Japan’s parliament, the Diet, and among the wider public. The crisis has thus become a moment of truth for Abe’s activist foreign policy in a region which fulfills the bulk of Japan’s energy needs but also one in which Japan has traditionally been wary of entering into messy political entanglements.

Ninety percent of Japanese oil comes from the Middle East, with nearly ten percent of that supply coming from Iran. Historically Japan has imported oil from the region while attempting to steer clear of Middle East politics, of which most Japanese have little knowledge. However, the reality of its economic interests and its alliance with the U.S. has at times rendered such neutrality difficult, if not impossible. The 1973 OPEC embargo awoke many Japanese to the political consequences of their Middle East oil dependence. More recently, Tokyo has come under significant pressure from Washington to play a supporting role in the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to curtail imports of Iranian oil. On all of these fronts, Japan obliged, but in the face of significant public opposition to engaging in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular.

We Can Live with an (Almost) Nuclear Iran

Ted Galen Carpenter
February 6, 2015

Washington should make clear that it can tolerate an Iran that is one screwdriver’s turn away from a nuclear-weapons capability.

As negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear program drag on inconclusively, calls mount for the Obama administration to abandon diplomacy. Hawks in the United States routinely excoriate President Obama for engaging in “appeasement” and advocate a return to the confrontational mode of previous administrations. Indeed, many of them demand that Washington adopt a harder-line policy than ever before, replete with a new round of tough economic sanctions against Tehran. Even some relatively moderate participants in the policy debate argue that Washington is unlikely to achieve a meaningful agreement and should, therefore, back away from the negotiations.

To his credit, Obama has thus far vigorously resisted such pressure. And for the moment, the congressional drive to sabotage negotiations by passing legislation imposing an array of new sanctions has stalled. But that may be merely a brief respite for the White House, if progress is not made toward a comprehensive settlement to replace the interim agreement reached last year.

Shrill warnings that Tehran is merely using the negotiations to stall for time while it continues to pursue a covert nuclear-weapons program are becoming more frequent. Those warnings emanate both from hawkish circles in the United States and from some foreign governments—most notably, Israel. Such critics insist that Iran is on the verge of a “breakout”—an ability to build nuclear weapons in the near future. They also argue that the Obama administration’s naïve commitment to diplomacy is giving the clerical regime breathing space to reach that goal.

Islamic State Tightens Its Grip on Shaky Libya

By Josh Rogin

The U.S. war against Islamic State has not yet extended to Libya. But the terror group is rapidly expanding its presence and activities there, and the embattled government is asking for Washington to include Libya in its international fight against the Islamic extremists.

Top U.S. intelligence officials have publicly stated their concerns about IS expansion in North Africa, following the group’s ramping up of its public acts of mayhem. It has taken credit for the brazen attack on the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, which resulted in the death of 12 people including one American contractor. Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the House Armed Services Committee this week that "with affiliates in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, the group is beginning to assemble a growing international footprint that includes ungoverned and under-governed areas."

That’s no surprise to the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tobruk, which has been battling IS in several Libyan cities, including Benghazi. (It is also in a civil war against a rival government in Tripoli, the capital, under Prime Minister Omar al-Hassi.) A top Tobruk government representative told U.S. officials during a visit to Washington this week that IS expansion in Libya is much worse than what is publicly understood.

“We are seeing an exponential growth of ISIS in Libya,” Aref Ali Nayed, Libya’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates told me in an interview. “Libya, because of its resources, has become the ATM machine, the gas station, and the airport for ISIS. There is an unfortunate state of denial about all of this, and that is the most dangerous thing.”

IS has had an operations base in the port city of Derna for years, but has now established a headquarters at the main conference center in Sirte, where it controls the airport. It has also expanded in southern Libya, recruiting and setting up bases, and has held open marches in Tripoli.

The Men Who Love the Islamic State

FEBRUARY 4, 2015 

ZARQA, Jordan — The group of six men, ranging in age from mid-20s to early 40s, were clean-shaven, with slicked-back hair. Over several rounds of coffee, tea, dates, and biscuits, they talked about their lives in this poverty-stricken city northeast of Amman, lectured me on the destructive role the United States and Israel were playing in Middle Eastern politics, and laughed while describing neighborhood drug use and their favorite icons from Western popular culture. “I named you David in my head before I knew your name was David,” one of the young men told me. “David, like David Beckham!”

And yet, when I asked who in the group believed the employees of Charlie Hebdo deserved to be gunned down, I was greeted with a chorus of nodding heads. Each and every one believed that the Jan. 7 murders of 12 people in Paris were justified.* After all, the magazine had insulted the Prophet, they said.

Zarqa is one of the country’s most notorious hotbeds of Islamic radicalism. The city, which is mainly made up of winding alleyways and decrepit-looking concrete apartment blocks, was the birthplace of notorious al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Our host, who gave his name as Abu al-Abed, pointed in the distance through the narrow streets to indicate the location of Zarqawi’s family home.

Jordan has played an active role in the international coalition against the Islamic State (IS), carrying out airstrikes against the jihadi group in Syria, while grappling with a radicalized minority at home. The International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence, a London-based think tank, estimates that 1,500 Jordanians have traveled to fight in Syria and Iraq. And while the country’s government is a staunch U.S. ally, its people are largely anti-American: According to a 2014 poll by the Pew Research Center, only 12 percent of Jordanians have a favorable view of the United States.


By Wim Roffe
FEBRUARY 5, 2015

After initial enthusiasm the outlook for Ukraine’s Maidan revolution is turning increasingly bleak. In the East there is a war. Everywhere there is an economic crisis. There are hardly any reforms. Power remains in the hands of oligarchs and militia’s rather than parliament or government. And both the will for peace and the will for reforms are weak.

Revolutionaries without a cause

When Yanukovich refused to sign the DCFTA trade agreement with the EU he was not without support: only 43% of the population supported the treaty. The protesters against his decision liked to point to opinion polls that showed that a half to two thirds of the population want Ukraine to become an EU member. However, that wasn’t offered and is unlikely to be offered in the near future.

Ukraine’s exports are evenly divided between the EU and Russia. It is in Ukraine’s interest to maintain and expand good relations on both sides. Being in a similar position Belarus has doubled its economy since 1990 – growing just as fast as Poland. Unfortunately Ukraine’s leaders have been too occupied with self-enrichment and infighting to pay much attention to how they can make the best use of their position.

Yanukovich is a good example. He didn’t pay much attention to details of the negotiations. Unfortunately the EU had allowed a Russia-hating minority of its officials (Sikorski and Bildt) to take control of the negotiations and to shape the treaty so that it would seriously harm Russian – and with that indirectly also Ukrainian – interests. Russia tried to get involved to correct that, but its efforts were declined by the EU with the claim that they were a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. This was rather insincere, as a treaty with the EU is to a large extent an EU dictate – leaving the other side (Ukraine) with hardly any sovereignty.

Here’s how you know the war in Ukraine is getting worse

Dan Peleschuk
February 5, 2015

KYIV, Ukraine — US Secretary of State John Kerry heads to the Ukrainian capital on Thursday for talks with the fledgling pro-Western government here, currently mired in an intensifying war against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The leaders of Germany and France are also flying to Kyiv in an effort to help resolve the conflict. 

Their visits come as officials in Washington are reportedly considering whether to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons to fend off a rebel offensive they believe is crucially supported by the Kremlin.

Debates have swirled in Western media over whether it’s a wise move.

On the one hand, it may provide crucial support for an increasingly embattled Ukrainian military, struggling under the weight of a brutal rebel offensive. On the other, it may only further embolden Russian President Vladimir Putin, who’s shown little inclination for backing off his moral — and, critics say, military — support for the rebels, even under the weight of Western sanctions.

There’s no telling yet just how serious US officials are about arming its ally here. But there’s no denying Ukraine’s nine-month-old war is only getting worse. Here’s why:

Civilians are dying by the dozens

It’s bad enough Europe’s newest land war has claimed more than 5,000 lives since last April, according to United Nations estimates.

Even worse, people are dying in eastern Ukraine in horrific and what seem to be more frequent and deadlier artillery strikes.

Last month alone saw attacks on two passenger buses — each of which killed more than a dozen people — and a rocket strike on a peaceful suburb of the port city of Mariupol, which killed about 30 civilians.

Russia’s War in Ukraine Sinks the Minsk Negotiations (Part Two)

Vladimir Socor
February 5, 2015

The breakdown of the Minsk negotiations process (see Part Onein EDM, February 4) had become obvious even before its final collapse on January 31. Moscow, along with the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” (“DPR” and “LPR,” respectively) have overtly repudiated the September 2014 Minsk armistice. They demand revisions of the armistice agreements in Russia’s and “DPR-LPR’s” favor, to the extent that would nullify those agreements and any safeguards of Ukrainian interests therein.

That repudiation is only the first stage in the collapse of the Minsk process. The second stage can follow if superior Russian and proxy forces intensify their attacks, compel Ukraine to solicit a ceasefire as a last resort to avoid further reverses, and impose a new armistice agreement that would eliminate even the theoretical safeguards contained in the Minsk documents.

Western leaders blocking military assistance to Ukraine are emboldening Russia to move toward that second, final stage of killing the Minsk agreements. The withholding of that assistance is not the only source of encouragement for the Kremlin. The other major source is the West’s collective, unofficial decision at the November 2014 Brisbane G-20 summit to break the causative link between Russian aggression in Ukraine and further Western sanctions on Russia. That break remains in effect to date. Since then, Russia has sponsored elections in the “DPR-LPR”; Moscow treats these as political entities on a par with Kyiv; and Russia has unleashed offensive military operations, with an unprecedented level of direct Russian firepower and command-and-control support. Yet, no further economic sanctions on Russia ensued.

Moscow had practically announced the official collapse of the Minsk negotiations two days ahead of the January 31 meeting. “Battles will continue until the Kyiv authorities start a direct dialogue with the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics,” Russian presidential administration chief, Sergei Ivanov, informed officials in Moscow, in President Vladimir Putin’s presence (Interfax, January 29).

U.S. and Europe Working to End Ukraine Fighting

FEB. 5, 2015
Source Link

KIEV, Ukraine — With fighting intensifying in eastern Ukraine and the White House weighing whether to send arms to bolster the government’s forces, Western leaders embarked on a concerted diplomatic effort on Thursday aimed at ending a conflict that has strained relations with Russia.

Despite the burst of activity, the prospects of achieving a new peace plan have been clouded by deep suspicion of Moscow’s aims in Ukraine. At the same time, the arrest in Kiev on Wednesday of a senior officer on charges of spying for Russia has raised concerns that the Ukrainian military has been infiltrated, complicating any plans for sending arms to Kiev.

While the United States has provided weapons to allies in similarly unstable circumstances, including in Afghanistan and Iraq, Russia’s long historical ties to the Ukrainian military and security apparatus present an unusual challenge.

Covering a broken apartment window in Donetsk with plastic. The United States is considering supplying Ukraine with basic defense systems like radar. CreditMaxim Shemetov/Reuters

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President François Hollande of France traveled to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on Thursday, where they met for more than five hours with President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine. In a statement issued after 1 a.m. Friday, Mr. Poroshenko’s office said the leaders had discussed how to implement a truce agreement in the conflict between the government in Kiev and rebel separatists in the country’s east. The accord was brokered in September but never held.

On Friday, Ms. Merkel and Mr. Hollande are to continue to Moscow, to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin to discuss a new initiative from the Kremlin to end the fighting, which has killed more than 5,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands over the past year. The German and French moves were announced as Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kiev for high-level talks. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. prepared for parallel consultations on Friday with European leaders in Brussels.

Forbes: Ukraine and ISIS Put Pacific Re-balance at Risk

By Kris Osborn
February 3rd, 2015 

The chairman of the powerful House Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee is concerned that current emerging global threats and conflicts will slow down the implementation of the Pentagon’s much-discussed Pacific rebalance.

Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Virginia, is concerned that Pentagon plans to rebalance to the Pacific could be neglected in light of ongoing military operations against ISIS in the Middle East and continued tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

Forbes advocates building and maintaining a large enough Navy to address global presence concerns, support the war against ISIS and also ensure progress toward the planned Pacific rebalance.

“One of the major components to the Pacific pivot is the relationship we have with our allies in terms of all coming together. We can’t do that pivot all by ourselves. It is not just a U.S. thing,” Forbes told reporters Feb. 3.

The Pacific rebalance includes a variety of measures including rotating Marine Corps units through Darwin, Australia and moving up to four Littoral Combat Ships through ports in Singapore. The effort also includes ongoing work to build a live fire range able to train up to 4,700 marines slated to relocate to Guam by 2021, service officials said.

When discussing the 2016 budget submission, senior Navy leaders said the Pacific rebalance is already underway.

Let the Defense-Budget War Begin

Diem Nguyen Salmon
February 6, 2015 

The administration’s new defense budget looks remarkably similar to last year’s plan. But don’t expect the defense-budget debates in Congress to be the same.

Unlike last year, Congress must now determine an overall spending topline for defense. Absent a budget deal, the DOD budget will fall to about $500 billion under sequester provisions. That’s far south of the $534 billion requested by the White House, and many in Congress want even more.

Settling on an appropriate topline will likely dominate lawmakers’ defense discussions, because the stakes are high. Holding to the defense spending cap set by the Budget Control Act would once again force damaging cuts on the military, leading to a hollow force.

The DOD request to increase defense spending by 8 percent, from $496 billion to $534 billion, should not come as a surprise. This is in line with the five-year plan DOD put forward in 2014, which projected a fiscal-year-2016 budget of $535 billion. At $130 billion over the Budget Control Act spending caps, the 2016 budget request continues forward the same five-year plan—with some small exceptions. This is to be expected, as DOD is still using the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) as its guiding strategic document.

The new budget, consequently, has many of the same problems as last year’s. The driving architecture, the QDR, was criticized as a budget-driven strategy. The bipartisan National Defense Panel chartered by Congress concluded thatthe force structure outlined in the QDR “is inadequate given the future strategic and operational environment.” While DOD has slowed the rate of cuts to end-strength, the Active Army still plans to cut 15,000 soldiers next year. The Marine Corps will cut another 2,000 in 2017.

The US Military Wants to Train More Cyber Warriors

By Franz-Stefan Gady
February 06, 2015

The fiscal year 2016 budget request calls for $27 million to be allotted to the burgeoning U.S. Cyber Command in order to ramp up cyber capabilities of the U.S. military. In detail, the U.S. Air Force is asking for $10 million, the U.S. Navy for $4 million, and the U.S. Army for $13 million in public funds to train cyber warriors.

Cyber command — a sub-unified command of U.S. Strategic Command – is supposed to be fully operational by the end of 2016 with 6,000 active-duty cyber warriors in place (about 2,400 had been hired by December 2014), yet this date appears now to have been pushed back to 2017. The number of new cyber warriors to be brought on board in the immediate future is relatively small. “The military services each want to bring on board an additional 20 to 60 computer security whizzes starting next fall,” states Aliya Sternstein in a piece on the Pentagon’s expanding cyber force.

The core component of the new cyber command are so called Cyber Mission Forces teams — “tactical units” — according to Lt. Gen. James McLaughlin, deputy commander of cyber command. The teams are subdivided into different specializations as Defense One notes: 
“National Mission Teams” that deflect foreign hackers aiming for U.S. critical infrastructure; 
Cyber Protection Teams that defend the dot-mil domain, where military secrets are kept; 
Combat Mission teams that help geographically-located Combatant Command troops attack overseas adversaries. 

Russian Military Command Sees Need to Counter Growing Western Threat

Pavel Felgenhauer
Source Link
February 5, 2015

The continuing bloody fighting in eastern Ukraine and the deepening crisis in relations with the West has prompted the Russian military to alter its defense development plans. A financial and economic crisis, caused by a steep fall in oil prices and Western punitive sanctions, is forcing the Russian Ministry of Defense to rearrange its procurement and deployment priorities. According to Tatyana Shevtsova, deputy defense minister in charge defense ministry finances, “other government spending programs have been sequestered, but national defense spending is not, though many experts have been insisting there must be defense cuts too.” The Russian 2015 defense budget is set at 3.3 trillion rubles or 4.2 percent of GDP. At the current official exchange rate that equals some $50 billion, but a year ago it would have been $100 billion. Shevtsova insisted: cutting defense spending would be tantamount to treason. According to Shevtsova, “NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization] is massing troops on Russian borders and developing new offensive weapons.” The West wants to curtail the Russian rearmament program, and those who call for defense cuts are abetting the West, she added (Kommersant, December 23).

NATO has reacted to the Ukrainian crisis with plans to create a joint rapid reaction (spearhead) force of over 5,000, intended to reassure former Eastern Bloc countries that they will not be abandoned in time of threat. Six new permanent command-and-control centers, with up to 100 staff officers each, including personnel from the United States, could be established in Central and Eastern Europe, from Estonia in the north to Bulgaria to the south (Lifenews.ru, January 28). This modest reorientation of NATO’s defense pasture will be surely interpreted by the Russian military as evidence of a mounting Western threat. The defense ministry will do its best to push back attempts to cut its spending; but the dollar equivalent of its budget has effectively been halved regardless.

Seeking a strategy-driven defense budget for challenges facing U.S.

By Walter Pincus
February 2 

Sen. John McCain, the new chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wants the fiscal 2016 defense budget to be strategy-driven rather than budget-driven. 

Defense Department officials claim the $585.3 billion being sought in the Pentagon’s fiscal 2016 request is strategy-driven. 

But what’s President Obama’s strategy? And if you are like McCain and don’t like it, what should America’s strategy be? 

McCain (R-Ariz.) has criticized Obama for being “reactive,” with no discernible overall strategy. 

On Jan. 21, McCain said, “We must have a strategy based on a clear-eyed assessment of the threats we face and a budget that provides the resources necessary to confront them.” 

McCain, seeking strategy advice, held three Armed Services panel hearings in January titled “Global Challenges and U.S. National Security Strategy.”He heard from two former national security advisers (Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski), three retired senior military officers (Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, Adm. William J. Fallon, Army Gen. John M. Keane) and three former secretaries of state (Henry A. Kissinger, George P. Shultz and Madeleine Albright). 

Testimony from all three sessions shows how difficult strategy-making is. There are many varied views. 

In fact, the testimony provides both support and criticism for Obama’s policies, making it no surprise that nobody offered an overall strategy. 

All recognized that today’s threats — although far less dangerous than the Cold War’s potential nuclear exchanges — are more complex.