19 February 2015

Reconfiguring the military

Prodyut Bora , Alok Bansal
February 19, 2015 

India’s global ambitions not only imply sustained economic growth and a minimum quality of life for all its citizens, but also expeditionary military might. In the 15th year of this century, it may not be too early to ask a basic question: Is the Indian military optimally organised to face the challenges that would emerge tomorrow? In our opinion, no.

It would be prudent to list some of these military challenges; not a comprehensive list, but good enough to set the ground. First, future wars will probably not be a single-service business. They are more likely to be short, intensive affairs wherein all forces — including cyber, maybe space or even nuclear — could be deployed simultaneously or sequentially. Therefore, the ability of various services to operate jointly will be critical. Second, the Indian military could be increasingly called upon to play expeditionary roles far from Indian shores. Therefore, our military’s systems, processes, command and control should be flexible enough to be quickly deployable overseas. Third, overseas interventions would mean a much greater role for our naval and air forces, and would require the enhancement of capabilities like amphibious and air assault.

Telescope: ‘Blowing off’ Pakistan

Shailaja Bajpai
February 19, 2015 

We blew off that Pakistan…” And so we did, but not in the way meant by DIG B.K. Loshali. The chief of staff (Northwest), Coast Guard, Gandhinagar, said at a function in Surat that “we had blown them off”. He referred to the Pakistani boat that sank in a ball of fire, December 31. This explosive disclosure, captured on an exclusive Indian Express video, ran all Wednesday afternoon on TV news channels, even as Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was seen blithely speaking on every subject but Loshali’s revelation at the Bangalore Aero India 2015 while Loshali and the government denied he said what he said.

Well, nobody can deny that we did blow off Pakistan, Sunday, in Australia at the Adelaide Oval, on Day 2 of World Cup 2015 (Star Sports). For the sixth time in a World Cup, Indians were dancing everywhere the TV cameras went: Chennai, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Mumbai. Aaj Tak had caricatures of the Indian team dancing, Headlines Today had people dancing in the studio (why must they always bhangra when there is something to celebrate?); former cricketer Vinod Kambli danced at India News. Television sets in Pakistan missed a step or two as they crashed to the ground after being hurled down by irate Pakistani fans — a reaction shown repeatedly and delightedly on news channels like Times Now.

Indeed, the first reaction of the channel was to dwell on the “shock” in Pakistan at the loss to India. CNN-IBN hosted a live LoC with PTV. On News X, watched Zaheer Khan and Saqlain Mushtaq graciously concede defeat. By the way, News X claimed that Pakistani supporters in Adelaide left the cricket ground hurriedly because they could not “stomach” the loss, which had been “rigged”. Odd, because on NDTV 24×7 and ABP, we heard Pakistani fans say their team lost fair and square.

On and off India-Pakistan talks

Inder Malhotra
Feb 19 2015 

AFTER the abrupt cancellation of the Foreign Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan, scheduled in August, there was some criticism of New Delhi even though Pakistan’s brazen violations of the cease-fire along both the Line of Control and the international border with Jammu and Kashmir were continuing. And earlier this week there was applause when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the new Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar would be going to Pakistan as part of his “SAARC yatra” though Islamabad would not be his first destination. As has been widely reported, this was preceded by much behind-the-scenes activity. Mr Modi had written a highly sympathetic letter to his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, after the savage terrorist attack on an Army school in Peshawar. The two Prime Ministers had also talked privately at the “SAARC retreat” restricted to leaders only near Kathmandu. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval had visited the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi and the Pakistani High Commissioner, Abdul Basit, had met Mr Jaishankar. Soon after this meeting, Mr Basit had also received Hurriyat leaders from Kashmir — something that was the principal reason for the cancellation of the August meeting of the two foreign secretaries.

It is no secret that these developments were influenced by two major factors. First, President Barack Obama, who accepted Mr Modi’s invitation to be the chief guest on Republic Day, privately advised his host to resume the dialogue with Pakistan. The United States has a keen interest in securing Pakistan’s cooperation in its withdrawal from Afghanistan. American officials make no bones about their policy of maintaining friendship with both India and Pakistan. This is so in spite of the fact that in balancing the military and economic might of an over-assertive China India alone can play a major role. China’s “all-weather friend” would not or, indeed just cannot, even if it wanted to.

Take a quantum leap in the field of science

February 19 , 2015 

- All narrow boundaries have to be broken down if India is to realize its potential as a leader in the world of knowledge, writes Bikash Sinha

On December 19, CERN's director-general, Rolf-Dieter Heuer, and the chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, Ansar Parvez, signed the agreement admitting Pakistan to associate membership of CERN, in the presence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the diplomatic representatives of the CERN member states in Islamabad. It is a progressive move made by a relatively small country with a modest- sized community of scientists.

We, in India, have been very keen to be an associate member of CERN for long, but in our case, the great Indian bureaucracy has only passed the relevant files from one department to another. I know that the file, after months of exhaustive deliberation, was never presented before the last prime minister, Manmohan Singh. With the change of government, I presume that the file has gone back to where it started from - nowhere or may be somewhere - we just don't know.

Frankly, it is a crying shame. Indian scientists have been collaborating with CERN from the 1960s, in fact, not long after CERN was established. In more recent times, our young colleagues have been participating very meaningfully in the experiments using the main three detectors in the Discovery machine in CERN, the Large Hadron Collider. The detectors are CMS, ATLAS and ALICE.

On July 12, 2012, CMS and ATLAS simultaneously announced the discovery of the Higgs Boson. Young colleagues from the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics and the Tata Institute, among others, are actively participating in CMS and ATLAS. Calcutta's Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre and SINP, among others, are deeply engaged in ALICE. ALICE in the quarkland (the most elementary and fundamental constituents of nature are quarks - three quarks make up a neutron or a proton) is designed to have a peep at the primordial epoch of the universe that occurred a millionth of a second after the Big Bang. Two nuclei colliding at the awesome energy of the order of 2 TeV (one thousand million electron volt makes 1 GeV and one thousand GeV makes a TeV; one electron gains an energy of one electron volt across a potential of one volt) in a mini bang mimics the Big Bang - a tremendously exciting and almost romantic scientific experiment. The point I wish to make is that India is deeply engaged with CERN at an intellectual and technological level but remains only an 'observer' for all decision-making processes.

Smart cities require smart planning

Charan Singh & Tarun Mittal
Feb 19 2015 

THE Government of India has signed an agreement with the US to develop Ajmer, Allahabad and Visakhapatnam as smart cities during the recent visit of President Barack Obama. Earlier, an agreement with Japan to develop Varanasi as a smart city was signed in August 2014. Thus, India is fast moving into developing smart cities that will help boost growth in the country.

Emerging market economy

India with a population of 1.2 billion people is one of the fastest-growing emerging market economies of the world. With 31 per cent of urban population growing at an annual rate of about 3 per cent and contributing 60 per cent of India's GDP, urban India holds a significant position in world economy. According to the 2011 Census, 53 cities in India have a population of more than a million people. To cater to such a large population and tap their potential, Indian cities need efficient infrastructure and substantial investment.
According to Edward Gleaser, Harvard economist, urbanisation is undoubtedly a key driver of development and cities provide the national platform for prosperity, job creation, and poverty reduction. But urbanisation also poses enormous challenges like congestion, air pollution, social divisions, crime, and the breakdown of public services and infrastructure. And, also leads to build up of slums that one billion urban resident's call home. Urbanisation is perhaps the single most important question in development economics today.

Economics of urbanisation 

The spirit of inquiry

Feb 19, 2015

When Fred Hoyle encountered a mystery, he preferred to work it out himself. Thus, at the age of three he discovered how a clock works. In school, his questioning the teacher led to conflicts.

Fred Hoyle was arguably the most imaginative astrophysicist of the 20th century. While he contributed enormously to our understanding of the cosmos, there were many issues on which he differed from the mainstream. The ideas like the origin of the universe in a big bang, or the life on Earth being entirely of terrestrial origin, etc. were the bandwagon views that he vehemently opposed. In the 1950s, he proposed the hypothesis that our galaxy contains large clouds of molecules, both organic and inorganic. His paper on this idea was, however, rejected by the established research journals as being too speculative. To get this idea across, he chose an unusual medium. He wrote a science-fiction novel called The Black Cloud. The novel became very popular and made the idea widely known. However, when in the 1960s, new astronomical techniques led to the discovery of giant molecular clouds just as he had predicted, Fred had the last laugh. He had this independence of view right from childhood.

In an account of childhood days entitled, The Small World of Fred Hoyle, he has narrated his experiences of school days in a small town of Yorkshire. Being independent minded, whenever he encountered some mystery, instead of relying on what the seniors told him, he preferred to work it out for himself. Thus, it was at the age of three he discovered how a clock works in telling the time. In school, his questioning the teacher to settle his doubts led to conflicts.

An incident when he was nine illustrates the friction. His class teacher asked all children to collect samples of a certain flower. The teacher told them that the flower has five petals and asked them to verify the fact. As all children came back with their samples, Fred brought a flower (of the same variety) that had six petals. He asked the teacher why that particular sample had six petals. Was it not a contradiction of the five-petal rule that the teacher had stated? He added that if a flower with only four petals were found one could explain the fact by assuming that one petal had fallen off. But, how do you explain an extra petal?

Holding on to the mother tongue

M. J. Warsi
February 19, 2015

Within multilingual societies, maintaining the languages of ethnic and cultural groups is critical for the preservation of cultural heritage and identity

I am not white. I am not black. I am not yellow. I am Asian, but I am rarely classified as one. I am Indian, but barely recognised as one. I dress in jeans and T-shirts, I eat at the local McDonald’s, I watch “Will and Grace” with a religious fervour, and I listen to Justin Timberlake on my iPod when I am walking to class. But I have also read the Koran in Arabic, I fast every year during Ramadan, I love watching Indian movies, and I sing songs by Lata Mangeshkar when I’m cleaning the house. To most people this may sound like descriptions of two different people or a complete identity crisis. I also speak both Hindi and English fluently and feel comfortable with both parts of myself, one of my students said in response to my question on mother tongue. She said she considers herself part Indian and part American. Living in a diverse place like the United States, I meet and converse with all kinds of “desis” — but how many of them can speak and understand their parents’ native language?

Cultural awareness

Language is the essence and identity of culture, and is a major tool for communication. It is a major tool for exchanging ideas, emotions and feelings. To know your language is the key way to keep and preserve your culture. In recent times, the idea of cultural awareness in the U.S. has increased; thus allowing, for example, Urdu to be more culturally accepted.

At a time when Bollywood movies are rapidly making their way into American theatres, a cross-cultural experience is being defined. And not only through movies. Cusay, the traditional, hand-woven, ornate shoe of South Asia, for example, is no longer available exclusively in Indian, Pakistani and other regional stores; it can now be found in Macy’s and Nordstrom’s shoe departments and even at exclusive boutiques on Rodeo Drive. As distinctly Indian trends and themes make their way into American culture, it is becoming easier for Indian-Americans to assert their identities and celebrate their heritage and native language.

“As distinctly Indian trends and themes make their way into American culture, it is becoming easier for Indian-Americans to assert their identities and celebrate their heritage and native language”

UN finds 22 per cent rise in Afghan civilian casualties

February 19, 2015 

The number of civilians killed or wounded in fighting in Afghanistan climbed by 22 per cent in 2014 to reach the highest level in five years as foreign troops concluded their combat mission, the U.N. said in an annual report released on Wednesday.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan documented 10,548 civilian casualties in 2014, the highest number in a single year since 2009. They include 3,699 civilian deaths, up 25 per cent from 2013.

The UN says the Taliban and other insurgents were responsible for 72 per cent of all civilian casualties, with government forces and foreign troops responsible for just 14 per cent.

The “Taliban don’t actually accept the veracity of the information in the report,” UNAMA head Nicholas Haysom told journalists. “They have accepted in the engagements with us that protection of a civilian is important and have pledged to take certain measures to eradicate civilian casualties.”

If America and China Went to War: Would India Join the Fight?

February 17, 2015 

Shashank Joshi makes a good case for the importance of Obama's visit to India last month, and against my view that there is much less to the U.S.-India alignment than meets the eye.

My argument is that their underlying strategic objectives remain too different for real strategic alignment. Shashank says that sets the bar too high. Without fully sharing America's aim of preserving its primacy in Asia, he says, India 'can take a range of other steps, from aligning itself to U.S. allies to strengthening a diplomatic consensus against China, that together contribute to (U.S.) primacy in a more diffuse, politically acceptable manner.'

It's a reasonable point, but I don't buy it.

We differ on this because we seem to see what is happening in Asia today differently. I think Asia's international order faces a fundamental challenge, whereas Shashank's argument suggests that he believes it remains essentially intact.

If Shashank is right, we can safely expect that issues in dispute between the region's major powers will be resolved by diplomacy operating within the status quo; business as usual, in other words. If so, the kind of low-stakes diplomatic alignment that Shashank describes might indeed make a real difference. The kind of low key, low cost diplomatic support India might offer the U.S. will be enough to help the U.S. preserve primacy, because its primacy would not face any serious challenge.

But what is happening in Asia today is not business as usual.

The Misplaced Priorities of US Reconstruction Efforts in Afghanistan

February 18, 2015

The United States’ aid approach to Afghanistan has the wrong priorities. 

KABUL – There is a lot of talk these days about corruption in Afghanistan, a notion that is often largely associated with the country’s internal system and politics. Afghan officials, according to many among Washington’s foreign policy elite, are ultimately the ones running the mills of this corruption. Over the years, it is also perceived that Afghan politicians are ultimately the ones to gain from corruption. This is to say that if the reconstruction aid in Afghanistan does not show results on the ground, it is because of corrupt Afghan political system. However, this, by and large, is far from the truth.

Let’s look at the reconstruction aid that has gone into Afghanistan so far. The United States has spent a solid $107 billion on Afghan reconstruction since 2001. When you visit the country, this barely shows. Even in the country’s capital,Kabul, where most foreigners invested into setting up NGOs and other businesses, the infrastructure and social development is still lacking. Yet other parts of the country that are increasingly becoming no-go zones for foreigners due to security reasons are even in worse shape.

The mention of $107 billion devoted to Afghanistan, a number that comes up often in meetings and documents from Washington to Kabul, have not been spent on helping the Afghans recuperate from the destruction that years of war has left behind. The reconstruction has not been efficient and there is considerable evidence of miscalculations and poor planning.

Amidst all of this, the conflict against the Taliban continues to play out across Afghanistan, with about 10,000 foreign soldiers helping the Afghan army and local security forces to fight the ongoing insurgency.

Musharraf admits that Pakistani proxies fought in Afghanistan — so what does that tell us about where Pakistan is today?

FEBRUARY 16, 201
Former Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf made some news Friday with his public admission that Pakistan has supported insurgent “proxies” in Afghanistan. He also claimed that India had been supporting proxies as well and called for both sides to stop. “In President Karzai’s times, yes, indeed, he was damaging Pakistan and therefore we were working against his interest. Obviously we had to protect our own interest. . . . Pakistan had its own proxies, India had its proxies, which is unhealthy. I do admit this, it is most unhealthy. It is not in favour of Afghanistan, or Pakistan or India. It must stop,” he said. Musharraf didn’t refer to the Haqqani Network, the Taliban, or any other groups by name.

I hear you muttering, ‘ok, tell us something that we didn’t know.’ Considering Musharraf’s continuing strong ties to the Pakistani army, however, it is interesting that he is choosing to admit this publicly now. At the risk of sounding like someone promulgating those wild conspiracy theories so common to South Asia, one possible interpretation is that his statements could indicate that the Pakistani military is actually starting to move away from support for Haqqani and other groups operating in Afghanistan.

Exposed: China's Super Strategy to Crush America in a War

February 18, 2015 

Think missiles. Lots and lots of missiles. Welcome to Shock and Awe, Chinese-style. 

We all know that the chances of a U.S.-Sino war in Asia are remote— thank God. With hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade, the strong possibility that such a conflict would draw in most of Asia’s big geopolitical players, as well as the very real eventuality that such a conflict could go global (and nuclear), is enough to shut down such apocalyptic thoughts. However, as I discussed last week, there is enough pressure points between the two superpowers that sudden tensions could spark a crisis— a crisis that could spiral out of control if cooler heads don’t prevail.

The purpose of this article is straightforward and scary enough: what if Beijing found itself in a situation where it felt war was inevitable with Washington (a crisis over Taiwan, a crisis in the East or South China Seas etc.)— how would itprocede? While there are many different ways China could strike America— many of which would be non-kinetic and could even deny like a cyberstrikefrom a third party country or actor— Beijing has the means to do incredible damage to U.S. interests and alliance networks throughout Asia and even in the wider Indo-Pacific. Much of Washington’s “pivot” or “rebalance” is certainly based on such a fact: a realization that U.S. military primacy is no longer guaranteed thanks to a slick Chinese counter-intervention based military modernization (despite what others may think).

Setting the Scene for War:


February 17, 2015

China has a long history of engaging in wargaming and exercises as part of military planning. The Chinese biography of Sun-Tzu (545-470 BC) recounts the tale of Sun-Tzu employing the emperor’s consorts as troops to demonstrate military activities and maneuvers. In the Warring States period (475-221 BC), the philosopher Mozi is said to have dissuaded the state of Chu from attacking the state of Song by playing wargames against Song’s warlord Lu Ban, demonstrating that any attack Lu might mount would face already prepared countermeasures.

During the rule of Mao Zedong, however, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was discouraged from pursuing greater military professionalism. Mao worried that a professional military might resist Party control, constituting a separate power base. Moreover, Mao feared a professional military might reach conclusions that contradicted or diverged from Party ideology. Consequently, PLA professional military education (PME) suffered under much of the Mao era (1949-1976). During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) in particular, many PME institutions were shut down and military education in general was badly disrupted. During this period, it is not clear how much wargaming was conducted, nor who was responsible for their staging, if they were conducted at all.

After Mao passed from the scene and Deng Xiaoping established control of the People’s Republic of China in 1978, Chinese professional military education efforts recovered somewhat. Unlike Mao, Deng did not view military professionalism with the same degree of suspicion (although Party control of the military remains paramount, to this day). Various PME institutions that had been closed during the Cultural Revolution were reopened. Unfortunately, due to disruptions to the broader educational system, the role of Chinese PME in the years immediately following the reopening of military education institutions was reduced to providing a rudimentary basic education to military officers, to prepare for the possibility of the Cold War turning hot.


Corruption in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been the subject of great attention in the Chinese and international media for several years. The PLA, like the rest of the Chinese government and Communist Party, is currently engaged in an important battle to eliminate, or at least reduce, a wide range of corrupt activities that plague the nation and the military. Some observers see this as an existential fight to maintain the Party’s legitimacy and its leading role in the country.

But does the alleged “malignant morass of theft, bribery, extortion and mistrust” actually mean “China’s military offensive capabilities must be lower than many overseas strategists fear,” as some observers have speculated for years? While corruption may be “a matter of ’life and death for the Communist Party and the PLA,’ requiring a ‘do-or-die struggle,’” as the General Logistics Department political commissar Liu Yuan reportedly warned in 2012, what evidence exits to support such dire predictions about its impact on PLA operational capabilities?

Granted, graft and corruption undermine discipline and morale in any military and must be weeded out for the good of military forces in China and elsewhere. However, from the evidence available, the vast majority of corruption in the PLA is found within the political officer system (mostly involving promotions and assignments), the logistics and armaments systems (among those who handle official funds and property and are involved in the procurement of supplies and equipment), and potentially in low-level local headquarters responsible for conscription/recruitment (but likely involving relatively small sums of money). There is little indication that the PLA’s frontline operational leaders, those in command of the units tasked to do the fighting, have been smitten by the scourge of corruption to the degree that some rear area personnel have been.


Chinese Whispers on Frontier

17th February 2015

Prior to the 18th round of talks between the Chinese and Indian special representatives, there are indications that the border issue is poised to be central to prime minister Modi’s visit to China. The 4,057km-long undemarcated and disputed border is the single important obstacle to the development of normal good relations between India and China. The absence of trust between the two nations is heightened by the qualitatively changed nature and duration of the repeated intrusions by Chinese troops across the Line of Actual Control. Meanwhile, especially since the 18th Party Congress in November 2012, there has been a steady and palpable hardening of the Chinese state on issues of domestic politics, sovereignty and territory. Beijing’s assessment is also that the Modi government has shown “a tougher attitude” by beefing up border patrols and giving a massive push to improving infrastructure.

China continues to retain ambiguity regarding its desire to settle the border issue early and send out mixed messages. At a press conference during his visit to Delhi in July 2014, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi glossed over the issue of border intrusions by Chinese troops, but unmistakably affirmed China’s claims on Arunachal Pradesh and J&K by portraying the issue of “stapled visas” as a “flexible” “gesture of goodwill” by China. Most recently, Xinhua quoted Xi Jinping as telling India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj in Beijing on February 2 that “the two sides should patiently control and manage disputes to prevent them from affecting the overall relationship” and as calling for “sincerity and willingness to pursue a gradual and appropriate resolution of disputes”.

Pertinent in this context is the report of Xinhua, on Ajit Doval’s appointment as India’s new special representative, on November 25, 2014. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said: “We are willing to hold a new round of special representatives’ talks on border issues at an appropriate time, and push forward the settlement of the problem based on the principles and consensus reached by both sides in previous talks.” Xinhua, in contrast, quoted her as saying that “China vows joint efforts with India to push forward border negotiation, in a bid to seek a solution that is fair, reasonable and acceptable to both sides”. It pointedly reiterated China’s stand saying “China and India share a 2,000km-long border that has not been formally delineated. The two countries had a border conflict in 1962”.

5 Weapons of War Japan Needs Immediately

Kyle Mizokami
February 17, 2015
Source Link

Recent events in Northeast Asia have propelled Japan’s neighborhood from a security backwater to one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints. The rise of China and Russia’s muscular posturing has exposed Japan’s security establishment as dangerously complacent.

Since the end of the Cold War, Japan’s security structure has been largely unchanged. The Defense Agency was uplifted to full ministerial status, and a layered missile defense was erected to counter North Korean ballistic missiles, but by and large the posture and composition of Japan’s Self Defense Forces was preserved.

Caught flat footed by Chinese assertiveness in the East China Sea and Russian military flights near its borders, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has implemented a raft of security improvements, from secrecy laws to the creation of a national security council modeled off the one that serves the U.S. President.

An anemic economy has kept Japan’s defense spending flat or falling for two decades. According to a study by the Mizuho Bank, the Ministry of Defense’s acquisition budget fell 38 percent between 1990 and 2013. The number is roughly proportional to the amount of GDP the Japanese economy has lost during the same period.

If Japan’s self-defense forces are to properly counter modern threats, they will need the right tools to do the job. Here are five weapons that Japan needs immediately.

Analysis: Where ISIS Is Now in North Africa

February 16, 2015

A Look at the Islamic State Group’s Reach Into North Africa

BEIRUT — The mass beheadings of Egyptian Christians by militants in Libya linked to the Islamic State group have thrown a spotlight on the threat the extremists pose beyond their heartland in Syria and Iraq, where they have established a self-declared proto-state. Militants in several countries — including Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen and Saudi Arabia — have pledged allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, although the degree of coordination and operational planning between IS leadership and the group’s affiliates remains unclear.

Here’s a look at the Islamic State group’s reach across North Africa, and how the extremists’ growing presence is viewed across the Mediterranean Sea in Europe:


— The country has been in free-fall since the end of the civil war that ousted longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Libya’s elected government has relocated to the far eastern part of the country, while a loose alliance of militias have set up a rival government in the capital, Tripoli. Fighting between government forces and Islamic militias rages in the second largest city of Benghazi. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, embassies have shuttered and diplomats have fled the country, along with hundreds of thousands of foreign laborers, many of them Egyptian.

This chaos has proven fertile ground for IS, which has received pledges of allegiance from several extremist factions in Libya. IS-affiliated groups divide the vast, oil-rich country of 6 million people into three regions: Tripoli, Barqa or Cyrenaica in the east, and Fazzan in the south. The interior minister of Libya’s elected government, Omar al-Sinki, has said that al-Baghdadi appointed a Tunisian named Abu Talha to lead the IS faction in Tripoli. Al-Sinki also has said that the bulk of IS militants in Libya are Tunisian and Yemeni.

According to postings on jihadi web forums, groups claiming allegiance to IS control the coastal cities of Sirte and Darna, and have a presence in at least three other locales, including Tripoli and Benghazi, the birthplace of Libya’s 2011 uprising. Egyptian warplanes struck suspected IS targets in Darna on Monday, following the killing of the 21 Coptic Christians.

Navigating a Turbulent Middle East

February 17, 2015 

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad sizes up America's position in the greater Middle East.

Editor’s note: The following is a transcript of a February 10 interview IR Diplomacy's editor-in-chief Sara Massoumi submitted to Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, a member of TNI’s Advisory Council. After receiving Khalilzad's responses, IRDiplomacy elected not to run the interview.

In the ISIS crisis, Baghdad has managed to wipe out terrorists from Diyala Province. Yet, the international alliance of 60 countries against ISIS has failed to liberate any key region. Why has the alliance failed?

On the contrary, the coalition has provided critical support that enabled its Iraqi and Syrian partners to contain ISIS and achieve a number of successes: rescuing thousands of Yezidi civilians in Sinjar; retaking the strategic Mosul Dam; retaking Iraqi Kurdish areas initially lost to ISIS; liberating Kobane; and pushing ISIS out of Baiji. The U.S.-led coalition has also supported the Sunni tribes and Iraqi Army across Anbar.

There have been successes by Iran-backed Shiite militias against ISIS in Diyala. However, there are troubling reports that those militias are also committing acts of sectarian cleansing to push Sunnis away from the Iranian border and to punish Sunnis collectively for the crimes of ISIS. If true, such actions will exacerbate Iraq’s problems by increasing sectarian tensions and strengthening Sunni extremism, whether on the part of ISIS or its successors. Moreover, even with successes achieved to date, there is a long way to go to achieve the goal of destroying ISIS.

5 Paths to Islamic Radicalization

February 18, 2015 

And religion is only the tip of the iceberg...

In the wake of recent deadly attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, the White House will convene a summit on Wednesday and Thursday to explore ways the United States and other nations can counter the threat of violent extremism and the vicious cycle of domestic radicalization. While radicals exist on the fringes of every religion, fears about the rise of radical Islam have become especially rampant over the years. But radicalization does not spread unless a space is provided for it to breed. While initially buoyed by money from countries such as Saudi Arabia and by Arab dissidents, radical Islam has since taken on a life of its own and has become the default ideology for a small, poisonous element of disillusioned young Muslim men around the world.

There is no single explanation for radicalization largely because different individuals arrive at radicalism through unique routes. However, indicators show growing radicalization to be the product of a number of frequent factors.

First, while the role of religion in radicalization is dangerously exaggerated, religion does indeed play a seminal role. Often, the majority of radicalized young men hail from conservative societies in which religion is deeply ingrained. Such societies have a tendency to produce people who are inward-looking. The teachings of Islamare indomitable in most Islamic societies, and people in these societies often consider the truth and finality of Islam to be self evident. Thus, people in Islamic societies often take the full teachings of Islam seriously and do not exempt foreigners from them.

How to Get Terrorists to Talk

February 18, 2015 

A former CIA interrogator on the "do's" and "don'ts" of interrogation.

I ran the CIA's operations to counter al-Qaeda's efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD) from 2001-2004.

By the time Khaled Shaykh Muhammed (KSM) was arrested in March 2003, the CIA had confirmed the existence of al-Qaeda secret programs to acquire nuclear and biological weapons. We knew that Osama Bin Laden personally approved a systematic, long term effort that began several years before the September 11 attacks. We knew that al-Qaeda's deputy chief, Ayman Zawahiri, personally managed the programs. We had collected numerous names, locations, and were aggressively pursuing leads to WMD in dozens of countries. Much of the information that we collected after the 9/11 attacks was corroborated by our international intelligence partners.

But there were key questions for which we did not have answers. Had al-Qaeda managed to acquire WMD?

We did not know.

Our concerns in this regard were heightened when Pakistani biologist Rauf Ahmed confessed in 2002 that he personally discussed causing a mass casualty attack in the United States using bacillus anthracis with Ayman Zawahiri. Among the pieces of evidence was a letter that Ahmed had written to the al-Qaeda Deputy Chief relating the progress of his efforts. We were able to confirm Ahmed’s biological weapon-related relationship with Zawahiri through a number of sources.

When the interrogation of KSM began, my group made a conscious decision to pursue WMD-related debriefing sessions without employing enhanced measures of interrogation. The reason was simple: we wanted to avoid a situation where KSM felt pressured to fabricate information.

Why Did We Lose In Afghanistan? That’s Easy: We Failed To Execute The Basics

FEBRUARY 17, 2015 

"Why did we lose in Afghanistan?" In hindsight this seems like an easy enough charge to answer: FM 3-24 was a cherry-picked collection of flawed logic and history; the Pakistani government enabled the very enemy we were fighting against and we never seriously dealt with the safe haven across the Durand Line; the US DoD was ill-prepared to fill all the socio-political and economic requirements of nation-building; NATO never fully signed on to the fight; the civilian surge fizzled out after never really materializing; we overemphasized the “human terrain” in relation to warfighting, etc. These answers are all true, to some extent.

Many more excuses exist with varying levels of veracity or relevance. But the honest answer is simple enough. We didn’t understand ourselves.

Many more excuses exist with varying levels of veracity or relevance. But the honest answer is simple enough. We didn’t understand ourselves.

While saying ‘we didn’t understand ourselves,’ the reader must also acknowledge that a lot of other misunderstandings spawn from that, each going off in different directions, chipping away at the effectiveness of ISAF’s chosen lines of operation, our larger strategy, or even our fundamental comprehension about war and policy. But it all starts with us; our image of ourselves, our role in the world, the yes-men and sycophants to power in our military who refuse to acknowledge critical thought, and how our liberal, 21st-century Western minds see the messy world of geopolitics. With these problem factors in tow there was no way we could “win” Afghanistan. No COIN strategy, no better synchronized civil-military operations, no “better war” to save us. From the moment our war changed in 2001/2002 from a punitive expedition to exact justice and topple a regime to a large-scale and long-term nation building effort while never really settling the valid causes of the insurgency, we were doomed to fail. No amount of warrior-scholars who bought into the "graduate level of warfare" drivel could have saved that.

Islamic State expands despite U.S.-led air campaign

Jim Michaels
February 16, 2015 

WASHINGTON – Since exploding onto the world stage as a conquering force in Iraq a year ago, the Islamic State has expanded its reach across the Middle East despite a U.S.-led bombing campaign that has killed thousands of militants and destroyed tons of their equipment.

Monday, Egypt launched an airstrike against Islamic State targets in neighboring Libya after the terrorist group posted a video of militants beheading a group of Egyptian Christians.

This month, U.S. forces killed a former Taliban leader in southern Afghanistan who had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State weeks earlier. The Pentagon said the group's presence in Afghanistan was nascent but demonstrated its global aspirations.

Signs of the Islamic State have emerged throughout the Middle East. Some extremists in the Sinai, where militants battle the Egyptian government, have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State. Groups affiliated with the militant organization have popped up in Algeria and Tunisia.

The beheadings and burnings that have shocked the West and rallied some Middle Eastern governments to oppose the Islamic extremists have appealed to young Muslims willing to fight the West or what they perceive as corrupt Arab governments.

The Future of India’s Air Power

18 Feb , 2015

The humongous prolonged gestation period in designing and operationalising any weapon system by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and assembly line manufacturing by the Defence Public Sector Units (PSUs) is unacceptable. If the DRDO and Defence PSUs do not get their act together, India would be mortgaging its security and liberty to foreign weapon vendors!! Despite Computer Aided Design and virtual testing, the unduly slow process and long period has so far been unable to deliver cutting edge technology.

Fifty-five years have passed and India is not able to manufacture an aircraft engine!

Whether on land or in the air there is rarely a sight as fascinating and captivating as an aircraft. The air element is comparatively the most recent component of the military forces. The advent of the aircraft exploited the medium of air for waging war and seemed, initially, to have dodged Clausewitz’s idea of ‘friction’ and ‘fog of war’. Air power entails some form of control of air space. Such control is required for armies and navies to perform effectively. Air power “creates powerful synergies in combination with surface forces”. Despite claims to the contrary, air power should be seen “as an enabler rather than an end in itself”. Understanding air power in modern warfare can be a challenge and difficult to comprehend if the conceptual debate on the early years and historical experience of air power are not taken into account.

Flying High: The Bright Future of India’s Military UAVs

18 Feb , 2015

The pace of India’s UAV acquisitions is likely to quicken over the next five years or so and the size of the Indian market during the same period is estimated at over $2 billion. According to an analyst of the Teal Group, quoted in the Times of India last year, “We see a growing market in India — 50 Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance (MALE) UAVs, 60 Navy UAVs, 70 Air Force tactical UAVs, 100 Army tactical UAVs and 980 mini-UAVs over the next decade.” Indeed, the armed forces need UAVs of varying size and performance to meet requirements like border surveillance, communications and weapons delivery. The Indian Navy is in search of MALE UAVs and ship-borne rotary-wing UAVs and wishes to enhance its short-range capability. The Indian Army hopes to augment its existing fleet of Searcher Mk 2 UAVs and procure hundreds of mini-UAVs. Its priority is to keep a close watch on the borders with Pakistan and China. The IAF would like to bolster its MALE UAV holdings and is particularly keen to acquire UCAVs.

Almost 80 countries in the world already have some type of UAV and about two dozen possess armed devices…

For a decade or more, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) have been constantly in the news, mainly on account of the exploits of the military and intelligence agencies of the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The convenient ‘targeted killings’ of top terrorists without risking the lives of pilots naturally holds instant appeal for American political and military leaders as they grapple with new crises in different parts of the world. Neither the doubtful legality of unmanned strikes which often claim innocent civilian lives, euphemistically called ‘collateral damage’ nor the increasingly shrill demands for curbs on such attacks have succeeded in dampening the booming market for UAVs.

Ukraine Ceasefire Coming Apart As Rebel Fighters Capture Part of Town of Debaltseve

February 17, 2015

Ukraine Truce Unravels as Rebels Advance Into Government-Held Town

NIKISHINE, Ukraine — Pro-Russian rebels fought their way into an encircled government bastion and were battling street-to-street on Tuesday, all but dashing hopes that a European-brokered peace deal would end months of conflict.

Two days after a truce went into effect, an agreement reached at all-night talks in the Belarussian capital Minsk last week was unravelling rapidly, with both sides refusing to begin pulling back heavy guns on Tuesday as required.

The failed ceasefire has left thousands of Ukrainian troops surrounded, their fate uncertain. The rebels said they had captured hundreds of them and would not let the rest escape unless they surrender. Ukraine said some of its troops had been taken prisoner but denied the number captured was that high.

The Moscow-backed rebels say the ceasefire does not apply at all to the main battle front at the town of Debaltseve, astride a railway hub where they have continued an all-out assault.

The fighting meant both sides spurned a deadline on Tuesday to being withdrawing heavy guns from the frontline. Kiev says it cannot pull guns back as long as the rebels show no sign of halting their advance.

Reuters journalists near the snowbound frontline said artillery rounds rocked Debaltseve every five seconds and black smoke rose skywards as Grad rockets pounded the town.

"Eighty percent of Debaltseve is already ours," said Eduard Basurin, a rebel leader. "A cleanup of the town is under way."

He later said negotiations were under way for 5,000 Ukrainian troops trapped in the town to surrender. “Hundreds” had been captured and would eventually be released to their families.

Get Ready for $10 Oil

At about $50 a barrel, crude oil prices are down by more than half from their June 2014 peak of $107. They may fall more, perhaps even as low as $10 to $20. Here’s why. 

U.S. economic growth has averaged 2.3 percent a year since the recovery started in mid-2009. That's about half the rate you might expect in a rebound from the deepest recession since the 1930s. Meanwhile, growth in China is slowing, is minimal in the euro zone and is negative in Japan. Throw in the large increase in U.S. vehicle gas mileage and other conservation measures and it’s clear why global oil demand is weak and might even decline. 

At the same time, output is climbing, thanks in large part to increased U.S. production from hydraulic fracking and horizontal drilling. U.S. output rose by 15 percent in the 12 months through November from a year earlier, based on the latest data, while imports declined 4 percent. 

Something else figures in the mix: The eroding power of the OPEC cartel. Like all cartels, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is designed to ensure stable and above-market crude prices. But those high prices encourage cheating, as cartel members exceed their quotas. For the cartel to function, its leader -- in this case, Saudi Arabia -- must accommodate the cheaters by cutting its own output to keep prices from falling. But the Saudis have seen their past cutbacks result in market-share losses.


John Costello
February 17, 2015

A New Era of Modern Warfare

Consider yourself warned: other militaries appear to be developing an unsettling attack capability with game-changing consequences for America’s ability to project military might abroad. This platform does not take the form of a precision-guided munition or a next-generation fighter aircraft. It is also not a cyber-attack in the traditional sense, over Internet connections and terrestrial wires. This type of weapon goes by many names, none of them particularly sexy: Radio Frequency (RF) transmission of malware, electronic warfare-delivered computer network attack, or computer network and electronic operations (CNEO), among others. These weapons transmit a devastating cyber-attack not by Internet networks, but by wireless radio, attacking our critical flows of information, rather than physical assets, and threaten to undermine U.S. advantages in intelligence.

CNEO is not a new concept. It is rumored that an Israel airstrike of a suspected Syrian nuclear facility in 2007 was made possible by this type of weapon. Reportedly, on 6 September 2007, Israeli F-15’s and F-16’s flew into Syrian territory and executed a precision-guided strike against the facility. During this strike, the Syrian air defense network was utterly paralyzed. Experts have concluded that the Israelis used a form of CNEO to invade Syrian air defense networks, take over as system administrators, and manipulate sensors to cover the aerial strike. In the early 2000’s, the United States reportedly developed and fielded a system similar in design and application, the Suter system, which also has the ability to conduct a cyber-attack via electronic warfare, specifically used to suppress enemy air defense. The Russians allegedly developed this technology in their Khibiny jammer, although these claims are met with some justified skepticism. As platforms designed to utilize radio frequencies as attack vectors come of age, the result may be nothing less than a transition into a new era of modern warfare.

NSA Has Hidden Spyware Inside Computers and Networks in Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan

Nicole Perlroth and David E. Sanger
February 17, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO — The United States has found a way to permanently embed surveillance and sabotage tools in computers and networks it has targeted inIran, Russia, Pakistan, China, Afghanistan and other countries closely watched by American intelligence agencies, according to a Russian cybersecurity firm.

In a presentation of its findings at a conference in Mexico on Monday, Kaspersky Lab, the Russian firm, said that the implants had been placed by what it called the “Equation Group,” which appears to be a veiled reference to the National Security Agency and its military counterpart, United States Cyber Command.

It linked the techniques to those used in Stuxnet, the computer worm that disabled about 1,000 centrifuges in Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. It was later revealed that Stuxnet was part of a program code-named Olympic Games and run jointly by Israel and the United States.

Kaspersky’s report said that Olympic Games had similarities to a much broader effort to infect computers well beyond those in Iran. It detected particularly high infection rates in computers in Iran, Pakistan and Russia, three countries whose nuclear programs the United States routinely monitors.

Some of the implants burrow so deep into the computer systems, Kaspersky said, that they infect the “firmware,” the embedded software that preps the computer’s hardware before the operating system starts. It is beyond the reach of existing antivirus products and most security controls, Kaspersky reported, making it virtually impossible to wipe out.

NSA Hides Spyware Inside Servers Made by Top Computer Companies, Report

February 17, 2015

Russian researchers expose breakthrough U.S. spying program

(Reuters) - The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world’s computers, according to cyber researchers and former operatives.

That long-sought and closely guarded ability was part of a cluster of spying programs discovered by Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based security software maker that has exposed a series of Western cyberespionage operations.

Kaspersky said it found personal computers in 30 countries infected with one or more of the spying programs, with the most infections seen in Iran, followed by Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria. The targets included government and military institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic activists, Kaspersky said. (reut.rs/1L5knm0)

The firm declined to publicly name the country behind the spying campaign, but said it was closely linked to Stuxnet, the NSA-led cyberweapon that was used to attack Iran’s uranium enrichment facility. The NSA is the agency responsible for gathering electronic intelligence on behalf of the United States.

A former NSA employee told Reuters that Kaspersky’s analysis was correct, and that people still in the intelligence agency valued these spying programs as highly as Stuxnet. Another former intelligence operative confirmed that the NSA had developed the prized technique of concealing spyware in hard drives, but said he did not know which spy efforts relied on it.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines declined to comment.