23 July 2017

** America's Pakistan Policy Could Make or Break Trump's Legacy

Robert Hathaway

Washington must decide whether it can continue to partner with Pakistan or whether it should more openly confront Islamabad.

Trump administration is on the cusp of making three crucial decisions about the sixteen-year war in Afghanistan and the related matter of how to manage the tempestuous relationship with Pakistan, thought by many to hold the key to peace in Afghanistan. These decisions will go far in determining whether America can successfully conclude its military adventure in Afghanistan and lay the groundwork for a more stable and peaceful South Asia.

The administration will unveil its new strategy for Afghanistan within days. In a separate but closely related matter, Washington must decide whether it can continue to partner with Pakistan, Afghanistan’s neighbor to the east, or whether it should more openly confront nuclear-armed Pakistan for its long-running support for the Taliban and other allied groups, such as the Haqqani network.

Finally, the State Department must decide whether to keep the stand-alone Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, which it inherited from the Obama administration, or fold it into the normal bureaucratic structure of the department. This is not simply a routine organizational shake-up. The outcome will heavily influence how the administration thinks about the related Afghanistan and Pakistan crises.

** The Doklam Standoff Is The Beginning of a Troubling New Era in India-China Ties

By Gaurav Kalwani

The Doklam standoff is just the beginning of challenging times for India. 

High in the Himalayas, Indian and Chinese forces stare each other down in the midst of the most intense standoff between the two nations in the last three decades. Though the territory is unique and unfamiliar to many, the situation is commonplace; aggressive Chinese expansionism, motivated by nationalistic furor, is being carried out under the guise of obscure territorial claims. This kind of behavior from Beijing is nothing new; the same can be said of New Delhi’s response. Put in concert with the continuing freeze in India-China relations and the broader geopolitical competition between two rising powers, the Doklam standoff seems quite neatly (albeit worryingly) laid out. But however compelling this narrative might be, it is a mistake to view the conflict only through the prism of India-China competition and ignore the underlying Indian domestic politics of this current crisis: the challenge of Northeast India. Understanding the larger context of the Northeast’s importance to India highlights just what is at stake here for the nation.

The basic facts of this dispute are now clear, even if the precise geography is not. In June, Indian forces crossed an established border between the state of Sikkim and the Tibet Autonomous Region in reaction to China building roads through territory claimed by both China and the Kingdom of Bhutan. Besides a longstanding commitment to guiding and defending Bhutan’s interests, much has been made of India’s larger domestic motivation in this conflict. Chinese expansion in the area pushes the country ever closer to the Siliguri Corridoror “Chicken’s Neck,” a narrow strip of land that serves as the only connection between Northeast India and the rest of the country. Despite it being perhaps the primary motivating factor in a dangerous and complex crisis, little attention has been paid to the region of the Northeast itself. Understanding its unique situation is key to understanding the forces behind Doklam.

India searches for way out of border standoff with China


The Indian Defense Ministry has contradicted reports of Chinese troop mobilization on the border. In a statement on Wednesday, the ministry said there had only been a general state of alert on the Chinese side and a routine annual military exercise was held near Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, in June.

This is despite a report by People’s Daily on Wednesday citing “expert” opinions that China’s “recent military moves along the Sino-Indian border … have sent a strong message to India amid the two nations’ standoff”.

The daily assessed that “Chinese experts believe that the actions showcased China’s strength and sent a strong signal to India. Though India has more troops scattered along the disputed area, China’s rapid deployment of troops, its powerful weaponry, and its advanced logistics support give China the edge over India.”

However, New Delhi is studiously playing down the border tensions. The government has taken exception to Indian media hyping the standoff with China.

Unnamed army sources in Delhi disclosed on Wednesday that no flag meetings as such had taken place between local commanders and that the standoff was being discussed at the “highest level” of the government.

What's Driving the India-China Standoff at Doklam?

By Ankit Panda

India’s insecurities and China’s indignant conviction have contributed to a state of absolute gridlock at Doklam. 

Since mid-June, scores of Indian and Chinese troops have reportedly been locked in a standoff on a piece of territory claimed by China and Bhutan. Though the dispute between the two nuclear-armed rising Asian giants might appear to be a bilateral affair, the dispute in question is a tripartite one, as it involves the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan at its center: the terrain in question is claimed by Bhutan, which has long had a special and privileged relationship with New Delhi while having no diplomatic ties with Beijing. As of this writing in mid-July, China’s position remains that diplomacy can only be possible after India unilaterally withdraws its troops back to its side of the international border and the standoff appears no closer to a resolution.

Last week, in the first installment in this series, I explored the political geography of the obscure slice of Himalayan terrain at the center of the ongoing standoff between India and China: the Doklam triboundary region, or the Dolam plateau. Given the obscurity of the geography under contention and the lack of robust historical information about the origin of Indian, Chinese, and Bhutanese claims, the place to begin in understanding the standoff at Doklam is a map — or multiple maps, to be precise. This week, I turn to more granular questions of the strategic stakes for each side that have resulted in effective gridlock between India and Chinese troops at Doklam.

Ruthless Taliban branch is center stage in U.S.-Pakistan tensions

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — When a fake sewage tanker truck carrying 3,000 pounds of explosives managed to reach a high-security district of Kabul on May 30, then detonated a huge bomb that left 150 people dead and 400 wounded, no insurgent or terror group claimed responsibility. But immediately, the rumors began to spread.

The Haqqanis. It had to be the Haqqani Network, people said. No one else could have pulled off such a precise and spectacular crime. The Afghan intelligence police soon publicly accused them too, adding that they had gotten help from Pakistan’s spy agency. Six weeks later, the bombing still remains unclaimed, and the Afghan capital is still reeling from it.

By rights, the Haqqanis should be barely standing. For years, this clan-based Taliban offshoot has been a high-priority target for Afghan forces and their U.S.-led allies. The group’s charismatic founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani, is believed to have died of illness, and most of his sons and senior commanders have either been killed or imprisoned. Pakistan, which once allowed the Haqqanis to rule their own “ministate” in the border badlands, now claims to have driven them out.

Why Did Indonesia Just Rename Its Part of the South China Sea?

Source Link
By Prashanth Parameswaran

Jakarta is willing to take new moves to signal even more clearly its long-held legal positions. 

On Friday, Indonesia announced that it had renamed a resource-rich northern portion around its Natuna Islands, which lie in the southern end of the South China Sea, as the North Natuna Sea. The move, which was part of the unveiling of an updated national map that was months in the making, reflects the Southeast Asian state’s determination to safeguard its claims even amid the lingering challenges inherent in doing so.

Although Indonesia is not a claimant to the South China Sea disputes strictly speaking, it has nonetheless been an interested party, especially since China’s nine-dash line overlaps with Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around the resource-rich Natuna Islands.

As I’ve argued elsewhere, Jakarta’s traditional South China Sea position since the 1990s might be best summed up as a “delicate equilibrium” – seeking to both engage China diplomatically on the issue and enmeshing Beijing and other actors within regional institutions (a softer edge of its approach, if you will) while at the same time pursuing a range of security, legal, and economic measures designed to protect its own interests (a harder edge)

China has territorial claims to nearly 20 countries

Chinese leader Mao Zedong not only built a strong country but also outlined a global goal: "We must conquer the globe where we will create a powerful state." Today, China has territorial claims to all its neighbors. Naturally, the U.S. is dreaming of becoming a mediator in resolving disputes in the region. But it seems that Beijing absolutely does not care about their opinion.

Burma, Laos, Northern India, Vietnam, Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Ryukyu Islands, 300 islands of the South China, East China and Yellow Seas, as well as Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Taiwan, South Kazakhstan, the Afghan province of Bahdashan, Transbaikalia and the Far East to South Okhotsk - here is the complete list of areas that, according to Zedong, were lost due to the fall of the Qing empire. All of these countries and regions combined exceed the territory of modern China. Not all complaints are voiced by the Government of China in the international arena, but within the country the imperialist ambitions have not been lost, but rather, are actively promoted.

The PRC authorities talk out loud only about the areas that, at least theoretically, can be taken away from Japan and Korea. Tokyo is regularly frustrated not only because of the travel of the Russian leaders to the Kuril Islands, but also about the Chinese ships freely entering the disputed Senkaku Islands waters. Beijing believes that the Islands are called Diaoyu, and they belonged to China, but the malicious Japanese tricked the U.S. into giving them to Japan because after World War II the uninhabited archipelago was in the US jurisdiction.

China’s War Threats and Military Brinkmanship against India 2017 analysed

By Dr Subhash Kapila

China-India military confrontation in the High Himalayas as a consequence of China’s military occupation of Tibet in 1950 and the unprovoked Chinese invasion of India in end 1962 has in 2015 graduated from a boundary dispute to an intense geopolitical tussle in Asia’s geopolitical rivalries. This was the main thrust of my Book last year entitled “China-India Military Confrontation: 21stCentury Perspectives” that stands greatly reinforced in 2017.

Geopolitical compulsions seem to be the driving force of China indulging in confrontation with Indian Troops in the Dokalam Plateau after militarily coercing the Royal Bhutan Army border patrols there. China’s military standoff here is aimed at questioning India’s geopolitical and geostrategic Special Relationship with Bhutan. China also is testing India’s political will to militarily sustain this Special Relationship.

Geopolitics seem to be in full play by China relative to the Dokalam Plateau standoff where China has implicitly threatened that China could generate disturbances for India in Sikkim, Bhutan and the Kashmir Valley. Only yesterday, the J&K Chief Minister openly declared in New Delhi that China was involved in the Kashmir Valley unrest. This was foreseen in relation to the CEC alignment. China has therefore now added new dimensions to the China-India military confrontation which so far stood confined to the India-China Occupied Tibet borders.

Drone Wars: China Said To Be Producing Armed Drones Nearly As Good As US Ones

China has begun commercial production of its CH-5 Rainbow drone, signalling its readiness to peddle the heavy military drone in the international market for half the price of its supposed rival – the US’ unmanned aerial vehicle MQ-9 Reaper.

The first flight of a mass-produced CH-5 Rainbow on Friday last week indicated that China was preparing to export it, said Wang Song, an associate professor with the school of aeronautic science and engineering at China’s Beihang University.

He claimed that the drone is on par with the US General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, which could attack targets on the ground, but at around half the cost. But, at $16.9 million, the world’s most expensive US drone still has an edge, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post cited Wang as saying. The Reaper can rise up to a height of between 12,000 and 15,000 metres, allowing the US drone to stay above the reach of most ground fire. The CH – 5 built with a relatively weaker engine, on the other hand, cannot operate at more than 9,000 m, which makes it susceptible to attack by some anti-aircraft weaponry. Wang noted that China still lagged behind the West in aircraft engine technology.

The CH-5 can conduct reconnaissance, surveillance, patrol, target positioning and strike missions, said Shi Wen, chief engineer of the Rainbow drone project at the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics.

“We’ve made several modifications after its debut, and its comprehensive functions are among the world’s best,” Shi Wen claimed.



Israel urgently needs a strategic plan to maintain the technological advantage over nations dedicated to wiping out the Jewish state.

MILITARY INTELLIGENCE chief Maj.- Gen. Herzl Halevi bears a heavy burden. This “philosopher general,” as a New York Times journalist once called him, is responsible for tracking the deeds, words and even thoughts of Israel’s foes, alerting political and military leaders to potential threats. Halevi’s undergraduate degree is in philosophy.

He told the The Times, “Through the years, I used philosophy much in a practical manner… philosophers spoke about how to balance, how to prioritize...this is something I find very helpful.”

In an unusual closed lecture he gave on October 29 for Tel Aviv’s College of Management, the usually reticent and understated general, formerly head of the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit and tabbed as a leading candidate to become the next chief of staff, said, “If you ask me whether we’ll have a war with Iran over the next 10 years, I’ll give you a surprising answer. We are already at war with Iran. We’re having a technological war with Iran. Our engineers are fighting Iranian engineers today and it’s becoming increasingly significant.”

Here are 6 of the Toughest Battles Still to be Fought Against the Islamic State

The battle of Mosul is over, but the war against the Islamic State is far from done. The militants have lost some 60 percent of the territory they controlled at the peak of their expansion, but that leaves a sizable area, mostly in Syria but also Iraq, to be recaptured. Much of it is uninhabited desert, but significant towns and cities in both countries, and almost a whole province in Syria, remain in the militants’ hands. Among them are staunch Islamic State strongholds, located in some of the most remote terrain of the war. In some instances, it isn’t yet clear which forces will undertake the battles, and potential local and international flash points lie ahead as competing powers vie for the chance to control territory.

Why Emmanuel Macron Is Now the Man to Watch in Syria

Curt Mills

In throwing Bashar al-Assad a bone—breaking with his predecessors—the new French president is emerging as potentially the world’s most powerful foreign-policy realist.

When historians look back on the European Union’s July 17 move to sanctionSyrian scientists and military personnel over alleged use of chemical weapons, it may be remembered as another failed half-measure by the West to pressure Syrian president Bashar al-Assad out of power. That’s because one man, new French president Emmanuel Macron, is potentially changing the game on the Syria question, having thrown Assad a life-preserver last month by declaring he sees “no legitimate successor” to the Alawite strongman.

Indeed, Macron may well be on his way to establishing himself as the globe’s preeminent foreign-policy realist.

“President Macron prides himself on his realism,” Art Goldmacher of Harvard, a longtime observer of contemporary French politics, tells the National Interest. “This is the basis of his approach to the economy, where he says that French industry needs to become more competitive, and to domestic security, where he insists that combating terrorism requires that more powers be granted to the police.”

Ukraine Needs to Address Its Paramilitary Problem

Michael Sheldon

Volunteer battalions represent a legitimacy dilemma for the Ukrainian government.

Since the conclusion of Maidan, politically motivated private security actors operating in parallel with the Ukrainian government have played an integral part in the country’s security landscape. While some have been cooperating with Ukrainian authorities, others experience great friction with the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) and Ministry of Interior Affairs (MIA), undermining the formal security structures of the Ukrainian government. It seems that political and military power have become inseparable at the unit level, with many battalion commanders also being career politicians or parliamentary members.

The term “volunteer battalion” is common vernacular in the context of post-Maidan Ukraine. While the term may seem straightforward to anyone with a basic familiarity of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, it encompasses a wide range of units active and inactive in the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) zone today. Effectively, these units can be viewed along an axis of patronage, with those relying on the government as the primary patron representing the formal units, and those that rely on civil society representing the independent units.

Frictions with the government and lasting connections to political entities—a result of a haphazard, and in some instances nonexistent, reorganization effort—raise questions about the allegiances of these units. If unchecked, some of these units will erode the legitimacy of the Ukrainian security institutions.

Congress Must Preserve the INF Treaty with Russia

Thomas Graham Jr.

A new bill proposes that the United States would no longer be bound by the INF Treaty if Russia remains in violation.

Congress, through a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act, risks endangering American national security by threatening the integrity of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. The INF Treaty between the United States, Russia and twelve former Soviet republics prohibits the deployment of intermediate-range missiles, which have historically proven dangerously destabilizing. The original American goal of the treaty was to eliminate the Russian SS-20, a deadly ballistic missile; over time, treaty negotiations grew in scope to also include cruise missiles.

Russia is currently in violation of the INF Treaty by testing and deploying intermediate-range cruise missiles. However, by threatening to destroy the entire INF Treaty in response, Congress risks making matters worse by opening the door to Russian deployment of intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Europe.

The View From Olympus: Britons Strike Home?

“Britons Strike Home” is an 18th century naval song, a product of an age when Britain knew how to avenge insults to her soil and her people. She has now suffered three such insults in the last three months, and it is clear Britain’s ruling class hasn’t the ghost of an idea of what to do about it.

Of course, they have their rituals. There is weeping and gnashing of teeth, candles and flowers and balloons, benefit concerts and twaddle from politicians about “getting tough”. Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn gave a perfect example of the usual crap. According to the June 5 New York Times, he said in response to the London attacks,

We are all shocked and horrified by the brutal attacks in London. My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have died and the many who have been injured. Today, we will all grieve for their loss.

Weakness drips from every line.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who is to Maggie Thatcher as Napoleon III was to Napoleon I, was no better. Saying “things need to change” and “Enough is enough,” she offered no action, just words. It seems that instead of “Britons strike home,” all the British elite of today can offer is “Britons strike your flag.”

America Literally Can't Afford More Military Adventurism

Doug Bandow

According to the CBO, fiscal reality is coming, and far faster than most Washington policymakers appear to realize.

Republican presidents and Congresses claim to support fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets. Yet the previous GOP president, George W. Bush, was a wild spender. The Republican-controlled Congress that served alongside him was no better.

So too it looks to be the case with President Donald Trump and the current GOP-dominated legislative branch. The former doesn’t want to touch entitlements. The latter doesn’t like the big cuts President Trump proposed in discretionary outlays in areas such as the State Department. And most of the Republicans are clamoring to fill the Pentagon’s coffers: the only question is how much, how quickly.

These nominally “conservative” spendthrifts act like they have no choice but to foist money onto the military. They rightly worry about a mismatch between foreign policy and force structure. But America’s expansive international intervention is discretionary, not mandatory. No security imperative requires defending prosperous and populous allies in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, fighting other nations’ battles in Africa and the Middle East, engaging in seemingly endless nation building in Central Asia and the Middle East, and treating the slightest instability anywhere as a summons to act.

Mission Command as Philosophy

“Mission Command” as a principle is largely discussed within the framework of a tactical environment. This is a natural occurrence given the profession – as Army officers, particularly among maneuver officers, we naturally try to frame “mission command” as a set of tools for improving unit performance and the attainment of specified outcomes (i.e. mission accomplishment). Where previous articles highlighted tactical employment of mission command (here and here), this article discusses implementing the philosophy of mission command in an organization’s daily activities.

The full potential of mission command cannot be realized unless it is approached as a philosophy. By the time mission command occurs in a tactical environment, it is often too late to build cohesive teams based on trust and mutual understanding- especially if trust is to be earned based on demonstrated performance as the one author alludes to. Building teams and shared understanding must occur long before deployment and both reflect an organization’s culture.

Mission command as a philosophy should drive an organization’s culture, beginning critically with how it receives and integrates new leaders into its ranks. As the highest tactical level unit in the army, the battalion is a good focal point for examining how a philosophical approach to mission command sets the necessary preconditions for its application in tactical environments. Doing so also highlights the important role of the battalion commander has in using mission command principals to shape organizational norms and develop lieutenants.

Making the Most of Special Operations Forces

Mark Moyar

In May 1944, Chinese Nationalist and U.S. Army troops converged on the city of Myitkyina, one of the last remaining obstacles to the opening of the Burma Road. Intelligence indicated that the Japanese garrison defending Myitkyina numbered no more than 1,000 soldiers, but the actual number was three times that amount. The American-Kachin Rangers, consisting of U.S. special operators from the Office of Strategic Services and indigenous Kachin tribesmen, prowled ahead of the conventional units to collect information and wreak havoc behind Japanese lines. Ranger reports on Japanese troop movements enabled Chinese and U.S. infantry to trounce the Japanese on the ground, and Allied bombers to plaster them from the air. A U.S. infantry officer observed that “without the assistance and support of the Kachins, we would have been licked before we even got started.” Myitkyina fell in August, and a few months later supplies were flowing up the Burma Road to China.

As one of the first U.S. special operations outfits, the American-Kachin Rangers exhibited many of the traits that would account for the successes and popularity of special operations forces in decades to come. By forging ties with the local population, a few Americans enlisted the help of local warriors who knew the physical and cultural terrain better than the enemy. The low American profile kept the Rangers from attracting the attention a U.S. infantry unit would attract. Emphasis on stealth and speed enabled the Rangers to sneak up on the enemy to slit throats and demolish bridges.

Military Steps Up Recruiting of Cyberwarriors

By Sandra Erwin

Lt. Gen. Paul M. Nakasone says he is baffled by complaints that tech-minded young people are not interested in government service.

He believes the problem is not disinterest but rather a lack of awareness of the opportunities that the military offers, especially in cybersecurity.

“The feedback we get is: ‘You’re downplaying what you’re doing as a mission,’” said Nakasone, commanding general of U.S. Army Cyber Command. 

“We are trying to improve our messaging,” he said last week at the Defense One Tech Summit in Washington, D.C.

Nakasone assumed command in October 2016 after serving as a top intelligence officer in Afghanistan. The Army stood up its cyber command in 2010 as part of the larger U.S. Cyber Command.

The military is trying to be more creative in how it markets itself to potential tech talent, he said. Although the best and brightest college grads tend to be lured by big-money jobs in the private sector, there are many young people who are drawn to the military life and its culture. Recently, Army Cyber Command invited hackers to break into a network and promised those who succeeded would be invited to join the organization, said Nakasone. About 800,000 gave it a shot, and 1 percent of them actually delivered the goods.

US Places Cyberattacks on Par With Traditional Warfare Via Cyber Command Reform

Donald Trump's administration is finalizing plans to revolutionize the US' military command for defensive and offensive cyber operations, in hopes of intensifying America's ability to wage cyberwar against foes such as Daesh. Serious questions abound as to whether Cyber Command can function as an independent entity, however.

Under the plans, the Cyber Command would eventually be split off from intelligence-focused National Security Agency. The Command was created in 2009 to address cyber espionage and other digital threats, under US Strategic Command — originally intended to involve only a few hundred staff, but as of July 2017 it is home to over 700 employees. Trump's plans could see it expand to several thousand — likewise, US military services' own cyber units have a goal of growing to 133 fully operational teams manned by as many as 6,200 in time.

Full, concrete details remain elusive, and officials aren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter at present, but a decision and announcement is expected before the end of the summer.

The goal is to give Cyber Command greater autonomy, freeing it from any constraints that stem from working alongside the NSA, which is responsible for monitoring and collecting telephone, internet and other intelligence data from around the world. These responsibilities have been found to clash with military operations on occasion. In any event, the NSA is an intelligence-collection organization, while Cyber Command is intended to have direct operational capabilities.

High-Tech 'Cyber Nukes' Threaten Aging Nuclear Deterrents

By Peter Pry

U.S. nuclear deterrent modernization should not put "old wine in new bottles" by merely upgrading missiles and bombers to deliver old-fashioned nuclear weapons on antiquated missions.

New-design nuclear weapons — and new operational plans — are needed for deterring and defeating the new way of warfare being planned by our potential enemies.

Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran plan a revolution in military affairs combining cyber-attacks with nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) to decisively defeat enemy military forces and paralyze entire nations.

They envision using low-yield nuclear weapons, specially designed to generate EMP, what Russia calls Super-EMP weapons. EMP attack detonates a warhead in outer space. So no blast, radiation, or other nuclear effects reach the ground, only the EMP.

Nuclear EMP attack is variously described by Russian, Chinese, and others as "Electronic Warfare," "Information Warfare," or "Cyber Warfare" — but not nuclear warfare.

Naval War College wargame focuses on civ-mil response to cyber attacks

By Margo Sullivan 
NEWPORT, RI — U.S. Naval War College (NWC), Newport, Rhode Island welcomed to campus elected officials, business and government leaders, and military members to conduct a wargame focused on civilian cyber attacks and their effects. The Navy-Private Sector Critical Infrastructure Wargame brought together approximately 140 personnel including senior executives and information security officers from private industry across 14 critical infrastructure sectors to collect insights surrounding the impact on the U.S. Navy and Department of Defense that may result from cyber-related disruptions on commercial businesses.

“Our intent was to try to better understand what the role of the Department of Defense would be in attacks against critical infrastructure,” said Jacquelyn Schneider, professor in Strategic and Operational Research and game director for the event. “Right now, national policies are a little bit vague. There is little understanding what the role of the DoD would be in the case of a significant cyber attack. We want to make it more clear.” The aim was to better understand the delegation of responsibilities and capabilities to defend and deter cyber threats to U.S. critical infrastructure while building relationships between key decision makers to facilitate future cyber policy responsibilities, Schneider added. With a focus on civilian and defense cooperation, the game may also help inform future policy.

US finalizing plans to revamp Cyber Command

By: Lolita C. Baldor

WASHINGTON — After months of delay, the Trump administration is finalizing plans to revamp the nation's military command for defensive and offensive cyber operations in hopes of intensifying America's ability to wage cyber war against the Islamic State group and other foes, according to U.S. officials.

Under the plans, U.S. Cyber Command would eventually be split off from the intelligence-focused National Security Agency.

Details are still being worked out, but officials say they expect a decision and announcement in the coming weeks. The officials weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter so requested anonymity.

The goal, they said, is to give U.S. Cyber Command more autonomy, freeing it from any constraints that stem from working alongside the NSA, which is responsible for monitoring and collecting telephone, internet and other intelligence data from around the world — a responsibility that can sometimes clash with military operations against enemy forces.

Making cyber an independent military command will put the fight in digital space on the same footing as more traditional realms of battle on land, in the air, at sea and in space. The move reflects the escalating threat of cyberattacks and intrusions from other nation states, terrorist groups and hackers, and comes as the U.S. faces ever-widening fears about Russian hacking following Moscow's efforts to meddle in the 2016 American election.

US to create independent military cyber command


WASHINGTON (AP) — After months of delay, the Trump administration is finalizing plans to revamp the nation's military command for defensive and offensive cyber operations in hopes of intensifying America's ability to wage cyberwar against the Islamic State group and other foes, according to U.S. officials.

Under the plans, U.S. Cyber Command would eventually be split off from the intelligence-focused National Security Agency.

Details are still being worked out, but officials say they expect a decision and announcement in the coming weeks. The officials weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter so requested anonymity.

The goal, they said, is to give U.S. Cyber Command more autonomy, freeing it from any constraints that stem from working alongside the NSA, which is responsible for monitoring and collecting telephone, internet and other intelligence data from around the world — a responsibility that can sometimes clash with military operations against enemy forces.

Making cyber an independent military command will put the fight in digital space on the same footing as more traditional realms of battle on land, in the air, at sea and in space. The move reflects the escalating threat of cyberattacks and intrusions from other nation states, terrorist groups and hackers, and comes as the U.S. faces ever-widening fears about Russian hacking following Moscow's efforts to meddle in the 2016 American election.

Nations, Even Adversaries, Must Work Out Cyber Issues – Carefully


How should nations collaborate in cyberspace? Can a nation like the U.S. and one like Russia bridge their views on data collection? What’s the future of artificial intelligence? The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder talked with Michael Daniel, former special assistant to President Barack Obama and cybersecurity coordinator at the White House, to get his take. Michael is now president of the Cyber Threat Alliance, a group of cybersecurity practitioners who work together to share threat information.

The Cipher Brief: At The Cipher Brief’s annual threat conference this June in Sea Island, Georgia, NSA Research Director Deborah Frincke talked about the necessity of collaborating with international partners on cybersecurity issues. What’s your take on that? Did you implement that during the Obama Administration – how?

Michael Daniel: It’s absolutely critical to have international collaboration on cybersecurity issues for a whole bunch of reasons. The obvious one is that cyber issues just don’t respect international boundaries. Most cyber crime actually crosses international boundaries; nation state activity crosses international boundaries. So if you want to have any sort of hope of addressing the issue, you have to do it in an international context.

22 July 2017

*** Putin Faces Off Against America’s Founding Fathers

As the political theater surrounding the United States and Russia builds once again, now is as good a time as any to step back from the daily drama and make sense of the dynamics and characters at play. Though Russia is exceptionally good at crafting its foreign policy and positioning itself in multiple conflicts to better bargain with the United States, its efforts have yet to produce any tangible results. In fact, Russia's active reinforcement of the perception that the United States is weak and distracted has only spurred a natural rebalancing of power between the executive and legislative branches, just as the framers of the U.S. Constitution intended. 

Syria: The Land of Opportunity and Constraint

The most recent act of the unfolding drama began about a month ago on the crowded Syrian battlefield. Loyalists were busy trying to blaze a path from their western strongholds to the Iraqi border in the east, an endeavor Iran supported in hopes of realizing its own strategic goal of creating a land bridge between Tehran and the Mediterranean coast. Meanwhile, the United States was attempting to forge ahead with its fight against the Islamic State in Raqqa, as Russia searched for an opportunity to use its central role on the Syrian stage to bring about a crisis in order to re-engage Washington in negotiation. The scene was set for a head-on collision.

** What the India-China Doklam Standoff Means for Nepal

By Narayani Basu

The crisis drives home Nepal’s delicate position as it tries to balances ties with its neighbors. 

Should the ongoing stand-off between India and China at the Bhutan-China-India triboundary point escalate, where does Nepal stand? This question will be troubling Kathmandu as New Delhi sticks stubbornly to its guns and Beijing’s rhetoric grows shriller by the day.

In recent times, Nepal has preferred to maintain, in theory, what it terms an “equidistant” relationship with both countries. In practice, however, matters are a little different. Since Narendra Modi’s government swept to power in India in 2014, Nepal’s ties with New Delhi have frayed. 2015 saw the promulgation of a new Constitution in Nepal, under the aegis of newly elected Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. India’s reaction to this was as bizarre as it was brazen – not only did it merely “note” the existence of the new Constitution, despite the welcome it received internationally, but India imposed an “unofficial” blockade on Nepal in order to secure the rights of the Madhesi people (who have close ties to India’s own people in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar). The blockade lasted for five months – but given that India stood as Nepal’s largest trade partner, besides providing sole access to ports and seaways, the impact on the domestic economy as well as on bilateral relations was little short of brutal.

India's U-Turn on North Korea Policy

By Samuel Ramani

India’s new moves to isolate North Korea will reverberate across East Asia. 

On July 7, 2017, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) released a strongly worded statementcondemning North Korea’s July 4 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch. In their statement, Indian MEA officials described Pyongyang’s ballistic missile program and nuclear proliferation links as posing a grave threat to India’s security and international peace. The Indian MEA also called on all international supporters of North Korea to be held accountable for their actions.

India’s strident condemnations of North Korean belligerence follow a string of anti-Pyongyang actions authorized by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In April, India aligned with United Nations (UN) stipulations by banning all trade with North Korea, with the exception of shipments of food and medicine. This decision brought an abrupt end to a decade of growth in India-North Korea trade links.

While India possesses little leverage over North Korea, these policy shifts have profound implications for both Pyongyang and New Delhi. As India and North Korea have a long history of trade links and cordial diplomatic ties, India’s implementation of UN sanctions against Pyongyang could slow the progress of North Korea’s ballistic missile program and weaken its economy. In addition, India’s policy shift on North Korea will help Modi strengthen India’s relationships with South Korea and the United States, increasing New Delhi’s diplomatic profile and access to foreign investment.

China-Pakistan Water Axis On The Indus

Before the Belt and Road summit held at Beijing in mid-May 2017, several memoranda of understanding (MoU) were finalised between China and Pakistan. Significant among these was an agreement to construct an array of hydropower projects, to be referred to as the North Indus Cascade. Consisting of five major hydropower projects including the much delayed and controversial Diamer Bhasha Dam (DBD), the Cascade will cut across Gilgit Baltistan, a part of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), as well as Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Notably, China has committed a whopping USD 50 billion for this cluster of projects on the transboundary River Indus, with a projected cumulative hydropower generation capacity of over 22,000 MW.

The MoU on these Indus projects was concluded between Yousuf Naseem Khokhar, Pakistan’s Secretary of Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), and China’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Sun Weidong, on the side-lines of a conference organised by China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) on May 13. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was in Beijing to attend the BRI summit, was present on the occasion. Citing the critical importance of water and food security for Pakistan, Sharif expressed unequivocal gratitude for China’s generosity and applauded the efforts made by Chinese agencies and representatives. He observed: “Development of the North Indus Cascade is a major focus of my government and the construction of the Diamer Bhasha Dam is the single most important initiative in this regard.”1 And he commended China’s NEA for organising a separate session on DBD in the course of which various presentations were made by different companies and their assessment of the multibillion dollar project was also laid out.

Afghan forces liberate district in central Helmand


The Afghan National Army retook control of the district of Nawa from the Taliban today in central Helmand province. Nawa, which is adjacent to the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, was under Taliban control for nine months before Afghan forces could muster the strength to mount an operation and retake it.

The Afghan military, backed by forces from NATO’s Resolute Support mission, launched the operation to seize Nawa on July 15. The spokesman for the governor of Helmand said that the operation was launched from three directions, TOLONews reported. Afghan officials have estimated that at least 38 Taliban fighters were killed during the assault and supporting coalition airstrikes.

Yesterday, the Taliban released a statement that noted fighting in Nawa, and claimed to have killed 12 Afghan security personnel, including a local police commander – but made no mention of loss of control in Nawa.

Nawa was overrun by the Taliban in early Oct. 2016, after a suicide bomber detonated an explosive-laden armored vehicle inside the district headquarters and an assault team team took control of the government buildings. One day after it fell to the Taliban, Resolute Support wrongly claimed that the Taliban assault was “repelled” and Nawa was “under government control.”

Southeast Asia Braces for the Post-Islamic State Era

By Bilveer Singh

The fall of ISIS will bring new threats to Southeast Asia. Is the region ready? 

When the self-proclaimed Islamic State was declared in June 2014, the primary concern in Southeast Asia was the security implications such a wannabe proto-state would have on the region. Once it became apparent that Southeast Asian fighters, especially from Malaysia and Indonesia, were “migrating” [hijrah] to Syria and Iraq, the fear was that this could complicate domestic politics through sectarianism with divisions within the Muslim community and between Muslims and non-Muslims. The gross brutalities perpetrated by the ultra-violent ISIS worsened fears of what the existence of such a cruel “regime” would mean for national security, either through large scale or “lone wolf” attacks.

Now, after more than 37 months of existence, Islamic State’s controlled territories and fighting forces have been severely degraded. With the loss of Mosul, it is only a matter of time before Raqqa will be recaptured. This would mean that the physical “caliphate” will disappear. Instead of being euphoric about the disappearance of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, however, new fears have risen in Southeast Asia. The defeat of ISIS in the Middle East will not signal the end of the threat of terrorism from extremist Islam. For Southeast Asia, there are three key issues that need addressing the day after the fall of ISIS.

The US Needs China To Act On North Korea. Now, That Is Harder Than Usual – Analysis

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein*
(FPRI) — Over the past couple of weeks since North Korea successfully tested an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of reaching Alaska (potentially with nuclear weapons), the United States and much of the world have lived under a heightened sense of urgency about North Korea’s missile capabilities. Policymakers from the Left to the Right are calling for action, but America is in a worse global position than usual to meet North Korea’s threats. Undoubtedly, policymakers want to do something, as policymakers always do. But it is less and less clear what that something can be, as long as China continues to be the key to pressuring North Korea.

China was always unlikely to work with the international community in pressuring North Korea, and has only reluctantly gone along with sanctions without putting much of an effort into enforcing them. This time, however, Chinese action and compliance in pressuring North Korea are even less likely due to other geopolitical tensions with the U.S. in the region.
A Game Changer, but No Revolution

The North Korean missile test may be a game changer, but the reality of the North Korean threat is far from new. In Seoul, the South Korean capitol, such fears have long been part of daily existence. North Korea’s threats of annihilating Seoul by turning it into a “sea of fire” (and other colorful expressions) are so frequent that most people meet them with a shrug of the shoulders. People here know full well that North Korea can destroy much of the country, and that it would not even need nuclear weapons to do so.

Malabar 2017: Was China the elephant in the ocean?

By C Uday Bhaskar

A spectacular image of three carriers steaming abreast with 12 other naval ships following in formation marked the conclusion of Malabar 2017 on Monday (July 17). The week long, three-nation exercise that brought together the navies of India, USA and Japan was conducted in the Bay of Bengal extending into the Indian Ocean region (IOR). 

A total of 16 ships, two submarines and 95 aircraft participated and this included three carriers – the USS Nimitz, the world’s largest aircraft carrier ; the INS Vikramaditya – and a Japanese helicopter-carrier; and a US nuclear submarine. 

While inter-operability is at the core of such exercises, Malabar, which is in its 21st iteration, has enhanced India’s credibility in the Indian Ocean region as a nation that is committed to a collective effort to secure the traditional ‘global commons’ – the oceans of the world. This is in keeping with the vision outlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his advocacy of SAGAR ( security and growth for all in the region) – which is also the Sanskrit word for oceans.

The China factor has repeatedly come up in the animated public discourse about Malabar and some invalid linkages have been made with the current India-China tension in the Doklam plateau of Bhutan. 

China standoff: 'The Indian Army should stand firm'

'When sensitive territory goes into the hands of your enemy. he becomes more powerful in military terms.'

'Assuming the Chinese take over the Doklam Plateau they will not stop at that.'

'They will keep ingressing, and it will be easier for them to further expand their territory.'

'I feel the Chinese will vacate that area in two months after it begins to snow.'

Lieutenant General Dr D B Shekatkar (retd), PVSM, AVSM, AVSM, was in charge of the entire China front in Arunachal Pradesh during the Kargil War.

The general, who served extensively in the North East, also compelled a record number (1,267) of terrorists in Kashmir, trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan to give up terrorism.

General Shekatkar spoke to Rediff.com's Archana Masih on the India-China standoff in the Sikkim sector.

Why a plateau in Bhutan is important for India:

I know the Dokalam area in Bhutan since 1992 where the Chinese are exerting their claim. It is at the tri-junction of Sikkim, Bhutan and China.

It is legally important for us because in mountain warfare, even a 10 feet high ground is of importance.

Over the years, the Chinese came during the grazing season, stayed for a few days with yaks and went away. They used to tell the Bhutanese that this is our area.