19 October 2014

USS Mount Whitney Monitoring Russian Activities While Deployed in Black Sea

Robert Beckhusen
War Is Boring
October 17, 2014

The Navy’s Battle Command Ship Patrols the Black Sea: USS ‘Mount Whitney’ minds Russia

October 16, 2014The U.S. Navy has sent its most advanced battle command ship into the Black Sea to reassure allies rattled by an aggressive Russia. And while she’s there, the ship also has a chance to snoop on Moscow’s military moves.

USS Mount Whitney, a Blue Ridge-class command-and-control ship based in Italy, entered the Black Sea on Oct. 11 and proceeded directly to Georgia for medical and command exercises.

The 620-foot-long Mount Whitney doesn’t usually get much attention. She’s unglamorous even by Navy standards. She barely has any weapons, aside from a few machine guns to ward off small boats and a rotating Phalanx gun as a last resort against anti-ship missiles.

She’s also old, having commissioned way back in 1971.

But Mount Whitney is a very interesting—and important—vessel. Aside from the aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships that ferry warplanes and Marines are the world, there are actually few ships more important than Mount Whitney.

Wherever she goes, she watches and listens. She’s the flagship of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, which is responsible for patrolling the Mediterranean. She’s also got some of the best bandwidth for all kinds of different communications signals. If you want to browse Facebook while on deployment, Mount Whitney is your ship.

Mount Whitney entered the Black Sea the day after the French spy ship Dupu de Lôme left it—which has some interesting implications regarding the vessel’s mission.

When Mount Whitney visited the Black Sea in February during the Sochi Olympics, she became the subject of rumors in the Russian press that she’s a spy ship, owing to the vessel’s numerous radomes and the sensitive electronics gear on board.

Mount Whitney in the Black Sea in November 2013. At top—Mount Whitney off the Italian coast on Oct. 8, 2014. Navy photos

The secretive nature of spy gear makes its presence hard to verify. But the task of a command-and-control ship is to know as possible. Mount Whitney packs an SLR-25 cryptological system, “a comprehensive and complete signals intelligence … capability,” according to the Navy.

This means Mount Whitney can detect electronic transmissions from ships and aircraft at long ranges and pinpoint their locations with radio direction finders. She could handily monitor noisy Russian military activity in the Black Sea and on land.

Aside from the command ship, the heavily-armed missile destroyer USS Cole is also in the region. As of right now, these are the only NATO vessels in the Black Sea from nations that don’t directly border it. Dupu de Lôme, the Canadian frigate HMCS Toronto, the Spanish frigate Almirante Juan De Bourbon and the French frigate Commandant Birot all recently departed.

But Dupu de Lôme might also be heading back to the Black Sea, according to the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. This wouldn’t be unusual, as the vessel makes frequent voyages in and out to comply with the 21-day limit in the sea imposed by the Montreaux Convention.

Hagel Devises New Mission for Army: Coastal Defense Force

Oct. 15, 2014 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested coastal defense could be an appropriate role for the Army. (Mike Morones/Staff)

WASHINGTON — After two days of US Army top leadership extolling the virtues of putting US boots on the ground across Asia-Pacific to train and advise allies, both old and new, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday suggested a new Army mission at the annual AUSA convention: a coastal defense force.

In a speech to a military and industry audience that mostly shied away from program specifics, the secretary suggested the Army should try and “broaden its role by leveraging its current suite of long-range precision-guided missiles, rockets, artillery and air defense systems.”

Hagel said these capabilities “would provide multiple benefits, such as hardening the defenses of US installations; enabling greater mobility of Navy Aegis destroyers and other joint force assets; and helping ensure the free flow of commerce.”

He also insisted that “this concept is worthy of consideration going forward” and that “such a mission is not as foreign to the Army as it might seem — after the War of 1812, the Army was tasked with America’s coastal defense for over 100 years.”

Transitioning back to the service’s comfort zone, the secretary bemoaned the budget cuts that have landed on the federal government, saying that due to reductions to the Pentagon’s top line budget Army readiness levels have fallen “short of what I believe is sufficient to defend our nation and our allies with minimum risk.”

Despite this dim view of readiness, 12 out of 37 brigade combat teams are still trained to the “highest levels of readiness,” he said, a marked increase from last year’s event when Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno claimed that only one brigade was at the highest level of readiness.

There’s been a vigorous debate both within the Army and among the think tanks that orbit the Pentagon waving white papers and strategy documents about which lessons the service should take from 13 years of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And while the Army is keeping the counterinsurgency doctrine alive in its schoolhouses even as it transitions back to training for full-spectrum operations, Hagel said that “we cannot forget what we’ve learned about counterterrorism, counterinsurgency and building partner capacity. We must retain those skills. At the same time, our soldiers must also be ready for full-spectrum operations.”

To underscore that point, he secretary said that he’s heading to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, next month

Suspected Russian “Sandworm” cyber spies targeted NATO, Ukraine

Oct 14 2014

Microsoft patches 0day vulnerability after attackers use it to hack targets. 

A group of cyber spies targeted the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Ukrainian and Polish government agencies, and a variety of sensitive European industries over the last year, in some cases using a previously unknown flaw in Windows systems to infiltrate targets, according to a research report released on Tuesday.

Dubbed "Sandworm" by iSIGHT Partners, the security consultancy that discovered the zero-day attack, the campaign is suspected to be Russian in origin based on technical details, the malware tools used, and the chosen targets, which also included government agencies in Europe and academics in the United States. If confirmed, the attack is an uncommon look into Russia's cyber-espionage capabilities.

"We can confirm that NATO was hit; we know from several sources that multiple organizations in the Ukraine were targeted," said John Hultquist, senior manager of cyber-espionage threat intelligence for iSIGHT. "We have seen them using Ukrainian infrastructure as part of their attacks."

The Sandworm Team, named because its members include references from Frank Herbert's Duneseries in their code, also used a previously unknown software flaw to compromise some targets. Using the security hole, the Sandworm group could execute their attacks on systems running up-to-date versions of Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows RT. Microsoft plans to release a patch for the flaw during its regular updates on Tuesday.

"The power of the exploit is pretty substantial," Hultquist said. "From talking to some people over here, they have had a hard time writing signatures for it, and the attack does not crash anything. It's subtle."

Ironically, Windows XP, which Microsoft for the most part no longer supports, is not vulnerable to the attack.

This is not the first time that details of the espionage group's activities have been reported. The group landed in the news in September, when pieces of the operation were described by antivirus firms F-Secure and ESET. Those companies discovered that a relatively well-known spam and bank-fraud tool, known as Black Energy, had been used by the attackers to compromise systems and steal data.

"We have observed over a hundred individual victims of these campaigns during our monitoring of the botnets," Robert Lipovsky stated in ESET's initial analysis of the campaign in September. "Approximately half of these victims are situated in Ukraine and half in Poland, and they include a number of state organizations, various businesses, as well as targets which we were unable to identify."

Originally created seven years ago as a denial-of-service tool, Black Energy became a popular attack tool for Russian and Eastern European cyber-criminals. The program is not the first to be repurposed for cyber-espionage. An up-and-coming banking trojan named Dyre has become popular as a tool for espionage.


Russian president Vladimir Putin travel to Belgrade on Thursday with a warm welcome from Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vučić (pictured above, left, with Putin) with parades and fanfare.

Even as a shaky ceasefire between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian eastern separatists limps forward, US and European policymakers continue to keep a wary eye on the Baltic states and Ukraine. Just over a month ago in Tallinn, US president Barack Obama disabused Putin that NATO would flinch in its response to any Russian attack against any of the Baltic states.

Russian aggression may have nudged Latvian voters into reelectinga center-right government otherwise unpopular after a half-decade of economic malaise and budget austerity, and Russian relations are certain to play a vital role in Ukraine’s snap parliamentary elections in less than two weeks.

Nevertheless, Western strategists may be overlooking Putin’s ability to undermine both EU and NATO resolve through the Achilles’ heel of southeastern Europe by leveraging economic, political and cultural influence in Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia. While it’s hard to believe that Russia would assume the economic burdens of annexing large swaths of eastern Ukraine and even harder to believe that it would risk World War III by invading Russian-majority territory in Estonia, Russia could easily, quietly and gradually maximize its influence within southern Europe, a region that continues to suffer inordinately from the fallout of the global financial and eurozone debt crises.

Earlier this month, Bulgarian voters went to the polls for the second time in just 17 months. They elected a fragmented National Assembly, though the former pro-European, center-right prime minister Boyko Borissov is likely to return to power with a minority government. One of the first decisions he will have to make is whether to proceed with the South Stream natural gas pipeline, which would carry Russian energy through Bulgaria and to Austria, Hungary and elsewhere in southern Europe. The pipeline is one of the reasons, in fact, that the previous center-left coalition government fell earlier this summer.

Borissov, the most vibrant of a chiefly unmemorable group of Bulgarian political leaders, indicated he will oppose the pipeline so long as EU authorities, who are worried about competition law issues as well as security concerns, oppose it. But Bulgaria, a country that has hemorrhaged over 19% of its population in a quarter-century and which has the lowest GDP per capita (around $7,300) among the European Union’s 28 member-states, could use the jobs and investment that the pipeline would bring. With a fickle electorate and a weak mandate, it will be hard for Borissov to resist moving forward eventually with the project. Borissov, it’s worth noting, signed the original contract for the South Stream pipeline during his first stint in government. All of which could strengthen the Kremlin’s leverage for European economic sabotage.

Meanwhile, neighboring Hungary’s political culture is moving closerto Russia and far away from the political norms of the European Union. Its prime minister, Viktor Orbán, announced his intentionsin July of turning Hungary into an ‘illiberal state.’ Reelected in April with the same two-thirds supermajority that allowed him to revise the Hungarian constitution, rewrite election laws and enact laws restricting press freedom, Hungary’s isolation from the rest of Europe appears to be accelerating. The decision of the European Parliament last week to reject Orbán’s nominee, Tibor Navracsics, who had been slated to become the European Commissioner for Culture, will only exacerbate the growing rift between Budapest and Brussels. Hungary has been a NATO member since 1999, and as it moves closer toward illiberalism, Orbán could increasingly undermine the trans-Atlantic security alliance.

Vladimir Putin’s Tiger Is Lost in China

Putin attaches a satellite transmitter to a (different) tiger on Aug. 31, 2008.

If you happen to be traipsing about China’s Heilongjiang province and come across a lost-looking Siberian tiger, the Kremlin would like it back.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer atSlate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

Kuzya, a tiger that was personally released back into the wild by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has caused something of an international incident by wading across the Amur River that separates Russia from China.* Russian authorities, who have tracked Kuzya’s 300-mile wanderings by radio transmitter, are worried about his safety in China, where poached tiger carcasses can fetch up to $10,000 on the black market. There are also concerns that he won’t make it back into Russia before winter turns the river into impassable icy slush.

There are only about 400 to 500Siberian tigers left in the wild, and their protection has been a passion project for Putin. (It’s a cause that dovetails nicely with the president’s penchant for manly outdoor photo ops.) Kuzya was part of a group of cubs that were rescued after their mother was killed by a poacher. Putin presided over their release into the wild at an event in May.

Opinion: Russia's attempts to discredit Lithuania internationally

By Simonas Klimanskis and Linas Kojala
OCTOBER 10, 2014 

Lithuania torpedoes all constructive international initiatives dedicated to solving the problems in Ukraine - such complaints are heard from the lips of the representatives of Russia with regards to our diplomats in the most influential international organization - the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Initially, Lithuanians were ignored as too small and insignificant to matter, but now Lithuania, who actively supports Ukraine's efforts to defend its independence, is in the center of attention of the Kremlin.

Lithuania has become one of the fifteen members of the UNSC in the beginning of this year. However, this status is granted to our country along with ten other countries for only two years; moreover, we do not have the veto right enjoyed by five permanent members: the United States of America, the United Kingdom, China, France and Russia.

Nevertheless, albeit tiny, Lithuania is an active participant in international issues, debate, holding the Ukrainian question as priority: Over the nine months of work at the UNSC, Lithuania initiated seven meetings to discuss the situation in Ukraine, held a meeting and one informal consultation; moreover, it is one of the authors of several resolutions that have been adopted.

However, such active work has become a target of Russia that is trying to present Lithuania to the international community as a destructive force. For example, Russian Permanent Representative in the UN Vitaly Churkin criticized Lithuanian politicians who traveled to Ukraine to support peaceful protesters, saying they were the source of conflict. Opinions in the UNSC clashed when Russia tried to "push trhough" a press release, accusing, wrongly, Ukraine of non-compliance with the cease-fire, deliberately concealing the pro-Russian separatist responsibility and interference with international investigation of the Malaysian plane crash.

Russia has singled out Lithuania many times as the one indulging “the clientele in Kiev”, it even said Vilnius should take responsibility for the bloodshed in the south-east of Ukraine, although there is plenty of evidence of continuing movement of Russian arms and troops across the Ukrainian border. Moreover, Lithuania and the United States were accused of attempting to derail the controversial Russian humanitarian mission approved by the UNSC. It is clear that the humanitarian aid was arranged unilaterally, without coordinating it with the Ukrainian government or the Red Cross, ignoring a multitude of questions about the content of the aid and serious violations of international law.

These battles will be intensified when the UN General Assembly starts. There is no doubt that the Kremlin will continue to present countries like Lithuania as instigators of the conflict, while directing attention away from the universally-recognized international law violations in Russia. Indeed, Russia performed a military intervention in Crimea and its annexation in violation of principles of international law enshrined in the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act of the OSCE, as well as Budapest Memorandum of 1994, under which the United States and the United Kingdom guaranteed security and inviolability of Ukraine’s borders in return for Kiev handing over Soviet nuclear arsenal, and Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and Russia on the Black Sea Fleet base conditions of 31 May 1997.

But lies come out eventually: Russia denied initially that the so-called "little green men” were its soldiers, but later President Vladimir Putin acknowledged that Russian forces were in Crimea.

The Crimean "referendum", which was Russia’s justification for annexing the peninsula, was performed in conditions of occupation and was therefore illegal. In March, the UN Security Council tried to pass a resolution expressing its support to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for non-recognition of the 'referendum' results.

Thirteen 13 members of the UN Security Council voted in favour of the resolution submitted by Lithuania, the United States and other 40 countries, one member abstained, but it was vetoed by Russia; the resolution was not adopted. Decisions in the Council are adopted if at least 9 out of 15 members vote in favour and none of the permanent members veto them. However, this resolution was adopted on 27 March. 100 members of the UN General Assembly voted in favour, 11 voted against, 58 abstained.

This Could Be the Future of Battlefield Robotics

Patrick Tucker
October 15, 2014

The floor of the Walter E. Was
hington Convention Centerin Washington, D.C., was an obstacle course this week, as the Association of the United States Army convention brought together, among other defense contractors, various robot makers from around to demo their goods to military leaders and the curious.

Patrick Tucker is technology editor for Defense One. He’s also the author of The Naked Future: What Happens in a World That Anticipates Your Every Move? (Current, 2014). Previously, Tucker was deputy editor for The Futurist, where he served for nine years. Tucker's writing on emerging technology ... Full Bio

Piloting systems were a big draw.

Despite the drawdown in Afghanistan and the end of the war in Iraq, the military still needs robotic systems to detect improvised explosive devices as well as provide tactical intelligence or to look around the next corner, so to speak.

In the up-and-coming category is a young Israeli firm called Roboteam, which markets a variety or robots, the coolest of which is the Micro Tactical Ground Robot, or MTGR. The two-year-oldMTGR made some news last summer as Israeli Defense Forces deployed them to search out Hamas tunnels in Gaza.

At around $70,000 for a no-frills unit, it’s much cheaper than competing systems like the recently unveiled the QinetiQ Talon V or the iRobot Packbot, which are priced starting at $100k. TheMTGR is also less rugged, but that may not be problem for a robot that’s been designed to find stuff that blows up.

Which system is most likely to show up on the battlefield of tomorrow? There are number of different metrics and competitions that the military is using to determine that, everything from interoperability testing to the so-called Culvert Denial Challenge, a $50 million competition to find the best system to detect and inspect IEDs (and possible IEDs) that insurgents might place along roadside culverts in places like Afghanistan.

The competition took place on Oct. 10 at Fort Benning, Ga., and while the results have not yet been released, Corey Capone, a product manager from Roboteam North America, told Defense One certain that the company did “extremely well.”

The next step for robot manufactures is to make them easier to operate in groups. Last week, iRobot released a new Android piloting system called uPoint Multi-Robot Control. Defense Onetested it on site and found it fast, intuitive and not unlike an iPad-based first-person-shooter video game.

Press a button and you can steer it without a joystick simply by moving your finger on the screen.

The view is what the robot sees from one of its designated cameras. Press a button and you can steer it without a joystick simply by moving your finger on the screen. The Android tablet detects finger movement and actually plots where the user might send the machine in the form of yellow trajectory lines that show up on the screen. These allow the user to know if they are sending their $100,000 robot off a cliff. You can also designate a spot within line of sight and the robot will move there automatically. And you can easily switch between the different robots in network as easily as you might switch between apps.

Roboteam’s response is Tactical Situational Awareness (TacSA) system, a piece of battlefield intelligence software that manages camera and other data feeds on the MTGR and other Roboteam bots. The software is undergoing final beta-testing now and the company plans to officially unveil in January. It’s a bit less fun but more informational, providing the user with a bird’s eye view of different robot assets in the area as well as their status. The company’s ROCU7 controller allows for easy switching between assets, as many as 200 MTGRs, but without simultaneous control. (The video-game equivalent would be Age of Empires.)

F.B.I. Director Hints at Action as Cellphone Data Is Locked

David E. Sanger and Matt Apuzzo
New York Times, October 17, 2014

James B. Comey, the director of the F.B.I., during an hourlong speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Thursday. Credit Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, said on Thursday that the “post-Snowden pendulum” that has driven Apple and Google to offer fully encrypted cellphones had “gone too far.” He hinted that as a result, the administration might seek regulations and laws forcing companies to create a way for the government to unlock the photos, emails and contacts stored on the phones.

But Mr. Comey appeared to have few answers for critics who have argued that any portal created for the F.B.I. and the police could be exploited by the National Security Agency, or even Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies or criminals. And his position seemed to put him at odds with a White House advisory committee that recommended against any effort to weaken commercial encryption.

Apple and Google have announced new software that would automatically encrypt the contents of cellphones, using codes that even the companies could not crack. Their announcement followed a year of disclosures from Edward J. Snowden, the former government contractor who revealed many government programs that collect electronic data, including information on Americans.

The new encryption would hinder investigations involving phones taken from suspects, recovered at crime scenes or discovered on battlefields. But it would not affect information obtained by real-time wiretaps, such as phone conversations, emails or text messages. And the government could still get information that is stored elsewhere, including emails, call logs and, in some cases, old text messages.

But F.B.I. agents see the encryption as a beachhead they cannot afford to lose. With the latest software, the new phones will be the first widely used consumer products to encrypt data by default. If that is allowed to stand, investigators fear other technology companies will follow suit. If all desktop computers and laptops were encrypted, it would stymie all kinds of criminal investigations, they say.

Mr. Comey’s position has set up a potentially difficult struggle between law enforcement agencies and the nation’s high-technology manufacturers, who have rebuffed the government’s demands for a way to decode data.

It has also touched off a debate inside the government that highlights the difference between cybersecurity and traditional crime fighting. Any technology that allows the United States government to bypass encryption in the name of solving crimes could also allow hackers and foreign governments to bypass encryption in the name of stealing secrets.

Justice Department officials and company representatives have discussed these issues privately. Some Obama administration officials believe that the companies would be successful in killing any legislation that seems to weaken privacy protections and that it makes no sense to pick a public fight with Apple and Google or push for new legislation.

Just 10 months ago Mr. Obama’s advisory committee on the N.S.A., created in light of the Snowden disclosures, recommended that the government “not in any way subvert, undermine, weaken or make vulnerable generally available commercial software.” The committee also recommended that the government “increase the use of encryption and urge U.S. companies to do so.”

Mr. Comey made no reference to that report in an hourlong speech and discussion at the Brookings Institution, and White House officials have said they are still struggling to come up with a policy for Mr. Obama to adopt.

In Sign of Major Mission Expansion, NSA Is Adding 1,000 New Personnel to San Antonio SIGINT Center

Lynn Brezosky
San Antonio Express-News
October 16, 2014

NSA chief: 1,000 new jobs coming to S.A.

Photo By William Luther/San Antonio Express-News 

The National Security Agency building in San Antonio is seen in this Thursday June 14, 2013 aerial photo. The NSA may have invested as much as $300 million to overhaul the former Sony fabrication plant, which was closed in 2003, to turn it into a hub of classified activity, However, the agency appears to have departed from its normal process of identifying major construction projects in the Defense Department budget with the San Antonio facility. 

SAN ANTONIO — The director of the National Security Agency said Thursday that San Antonio could expect as many as 1,000 additional personnel working on the Defense Department’s ongoing cybersecurity mission over the next three years.

“San Antonio is very important to the future of cyber within the Department of Defense,” Adm. Michael Rogers, who’s also commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, said during a Cybersecurity Summit hosted by the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. “You are going to see a larger footprint coming to San Antonio.”

The military has quietly grown its cybersecurity mission in San Antonio.

The 24th Air Force at Port San Antonio, which is responsible for safeguarding key components of the Defense Department’s information networks, now employs more than 1,300 people here.

Electronic warfare and other operations now are the charge of the 25th Air Force at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

The NSA has stealthily transformed a former Sony chip fabrication plant on the Northwest Side into an intelligence hub with a 94,000-square-foot data center.

It’s not clear where the new employees will be working.

Rogers said the military was growing a “dedicated cyber mission force” of about 6,200 people, and that San Antonio would get a good segment.

“We have made the decision that San Antonio — both the Air Force side … (and) the investments we’ve made at NSA Texas — these are foundational to the future and we’re going to keep working.”

Rogers said the military recognized that staying ahead of global threats would involve partnerships with private-sector contractors, which San Antonio officials are hoping to grow.

“As I always remind the workforce, the driving edge of technology, the driving impetus for innovation isn’t coming from within the Department of Defense,” Rogers said. “It is coming from the private sector, and we need to harness that technical insight, we need to harness that innovation. We need to work collaboratively to generate better outcomes for our nation.”

In January President Barack Obama named Rogers, then the Navy’s top cybersecurity officer, to assume command of the NSA, an agency embattled by former contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks about surveillance. Rogers replaced retiring Gen. Keith Alexander.

What Could US Boots on the Ground Do in Iraq and Syria?

October 15, 2014

What Could US Boots on the Ground Do in Iraq and Syria?


“These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do. One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.” Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 hit song, “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” became wildly popular with GIs during the Vietnam War, where the lyrics took on a more bellicose meaning. 


Brian Jenkins is senior adviser to the RAND president and the author of The Dynamics of Syria's Civil War. Full Bio

In discussions of America’s current conflict with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)—which, like the Vietnam conflict, Washington does not consider an official war—a phrase heard frequently is “boots on the ground.” It is a direct challenge to those who believe wars can be won by airpower alone. Critics of the current air campaign in Iraq and Syria argue that boots on the ground—the physical presence of soldiers on the battlefield—is a prerequisite to military success. But how many? 

There are currently somewhere around 2,000 American military personnel deployed in Iraq, protecting the U.S. Embassy, helping the Iraqi forces coordinate military operations and assisting the air campaign. They have no direct combat role, although some may engage in special operations, such as attempting to rescue hostages. Strategists outside of government have suggested the need for 10,000 or 25,000 American combat troops.

Boots on the ground represent a capability, not a strategy.

Boots on the ground represent a capability, not a strategy. The question is, what would 25,000 American ground forces do that nearly 300,000 Iraqi soldiers cannot do?

They could bolster local defenses in critical areas, reinforcing Iraqi or Kurdish forces that are hard-pressed by ISIL fighters. This is not just a matter of added firepower. Their presence on the ground could also enhance the effectiveness of the air campaign. And with American combat units at their side, Iraqi units might fight harder—or they might fight less, leaving it to the Americans to do the bloody work.

American combat forces could also be used as a mobile strike force to follow up the bombings or destroy concentrations of enemy forces. In this kind of deployment, the combat units would be moved from place to place to exploit opportunities, rather than to hold terrain.

A more ambitious and costlier task for American forces would be to drive ISIL forces out of the cities and towns they now hold. Urban warfare, especially against dug-in defenders, chews up armies. As we have seen on numerous occasions, from the battle of Hue in 1968 to the second battle of Fallujah in 2004, urban engagements can become ferocious fights. More than 13,000 American, British, and Iraqi forces were engaged in Fallujah, and they suffered nearly a thousand casualties. 

Controlling territory following the defeat of enemy forces would take far more than 25,000 troops, but clearing cities of ISILforces, while leaving subsequent mopping up operations and occupation to Iraqi forces (or Shia militias), also risks associating the United States with the vengeance likely to be inflicted upon Sunni fighters and civilians, which the calculated brutality of ISIL has made almost inevitable.

Another possible mission for American combat forces might be to create protected enclaves for refugees. 

America Needs a More Aggressive Strategy Against ISIL. Now. Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/10/america-needs-a-more-aggressive-strategy-against-isilnow-111821.html#ixzz3GQfoqo8v

October 12, 2014 

America Needs a More Aggressive Strategy Against ISIL. Now. 

President Obama’s pledge to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is plainly failing. Despite an unrelenting series of air strikes the Islamist extremists appear poised to take Kobane, a key Syrian town along the Turkish border, and the critical Iraqi province of Anbar. Today the barbarians are literally at the gates of Baghdad.

ISIL has had a really good year, which is very bad news for U.S. interests in the Middle East. Contained almost entirely on the Syrian side of the admittedly porous Syria-Iraq border in January, a scant 10 months later ISIL forces control the western third of Iraq and are able to hit Baghdad with short-range mortar rounds. What accounts for the extraordinary success of a newly formed terrorist army against an Iraqi force trained and equipped by the United States over the past decade at a cost of tens of billions of dollars?

Strength of opposition, combined with an inadequate U.S. response, is the primary answer. The American decision to abandon Iraq at the end of 2011 without leaving behind a cadre of 15,000 advisers—as many in the Pentagon wanted—doomed the Iraqi Army to failure. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency David Petraeus and the uniformed Joint Chiefs of Staff all recommended maintaining an advisory presence in Iraq; the White House decided otherwise, contending that the Iraqi government would not supply the necessary legal immunity for our boots on the ground. The absence of advisers has had predictably horrific results.

The advisers would have served two purposes. Embedded with Iraqi battalions and brigades, they would have provided conduits for American intelligence to the Iraqi units and access to American air power should the intelligence indicate the existence of a threat. They also would have had a dramatic impact on the Iraqi Army’s logistics system, the Achilles heel of any army but particularly of this one; news accounts detail Iraqi soldiers complaining of a lack of food, ammunition and even water while attempting to repel ISIL’s attacks. The advisers would have provided a steel spine around which the Iraqi units would rally; an Iraqi battalion with a dozen embedded advisors (and the airpower and logistics assets that would have been at their beck and call) would have been two to three times more combat-effective than the same Iraqi units were without American support earlier this year.

Even more important than their military role is the political leverage American advisers would have provided against the Iraqi government. Nuri al-Maliki, the former Iraqi prime minister, feared a coup instigated by the predominantly Sunni Iraqi Army more than he did an attack from ISIL. Following the departure of American troops in 2011, he systematically purged the most capable senior officers from the Iraqi Army and replaced them with Shiite cronies who were personally loyal to him, but were incompetent—and, under fire, proved to be cowards. Many fled at the approach of ISIL forces, contributing to the collapse of their units and to ISIL’s stunning success. An American presence would have kept Maliki more honest, resulting in improved leadership of Iraqi forces that would have fought harder against the ISIL assault.

The other primary cause of ISIL’s success has been the virulent nature of its ideology. Al Qaeda central, the organization that planned and conducted the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States from the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region, has been effectively defeated by drone strikes and Pakistani counterinsurgency efforts; it has not conducted an effective operation in several years. Radical Islamists inspired by propaganda on the Internet and seeking their opportunity for jihad now have a far more inspiring employer looking for their talents. The best terror talent in the world is flocking to this startup and lending it their enthusiasm and skills; worryingly, many of the recruits have Western passports.

ISIL is now the most rapidly growing, and most dangerous, terrorist group in the world; it has accomplished the until-now unthinkable coup of seizing a significant amount of territory in which to plan and prepare for terror attacks worldwide. ISIL has thus at one swoop defeated our post-9/11 strategy of not allowing terrorists to hold ground; the Maryland-sized swath of Iraq and Syria now under ISIL control is providing significant oil and tax revenue to fund future terror operations.

Discussing the Continuities of War and the Future of Warfare: The Defense Entrepreneurs Forum

H.R. McMaster

Discussing the Continuities of War and the Future of Warfare: The Defense Entrepreneurs Forum

Thank you to Nate Finney for the opportunity to participate again in support of the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF). I thought that I might build on the previous essay I wrote for DEF on how to develop an understanding of war and warfare through the study of military history in width, depth, and context. Many of the recent difficulties we encountered in strategic decision-making, operational planning, and force development have stemmed, at least in part, from the neglect of history and continuities in the nature of war, especially war’s political and human dimensions. To compound the difficulties we encountered in Afghanistan and Iraq, we may be missing an opportunity to learn from those experiences. That is because four fallacies about future war have become widely accepted; these fallacies promise that future war will be fundamentally different from those that have gone before it. 

The first of these we might call the vampire fallacy. It is impossible to kill this fallacy. It may go dormant for a period, but it reemerges just about every decade. In its last manifestation, the vampire fallacy emerged as the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) in the 1990’s. Concepts with catchy titles such as “Shock and Awe” and “Rapid, Decisive Operations” promised fast, cheap and efficient victories in future war. Those who argued that these concepts were inconsistent with the nature of war were dismissed as wedded to old thinking. Technology would make the next war fundamentally different from all that went before it because information and communication technologies had shifted war from the realm of uncertainty to the realm of certainty. US forces would possess ‘Dominant Battlespace Knowledge.’ Under the ‘Quality of Firsts,’ Army forces would ‘see first, decide first, act first, and finish decisively.’ For those familiar with the TV comedy Seinfeld, we might refer to this as the George Costanza approach to war: US forces would deliver firepower onto a transparent, hapless enemy and then ‘leave on a high note.’ The vampire is much older than the orthodoxy of RMA. It goes at least as far back as strategic bombing theory in the 1920s. Today, the vampire myth once again promises victory from standoff range based on even better surveillance, information, communications, and precision strike technologies. The vampire fallacy is based in an important suite of military capabilities, but it neglects war’s political and human dimensions. It equates targeting to tactics, operations, and strategy. And this fallacy neglects war’s uncertainty based mainly on interactions with determined and elusive enemies.

We might call the second fallacy the zero-dark-thirty fallacy. The zero-dark-thirty fallacy, like the vampire fallacy, elevates an important military capability, raiding, to the level of a defense strategy. The US capability to conduct raids against networked terrorist organizations is portrayed as a substitute for rather than a compliment to conventional Joint Force capabilities. Raids, because they are operations of short duration, limited purpose and planned withdrawal, are often unable to effect the human and political drivers of armed conflict or make progress toward achieving sustainable outcomes consistent with vital interests. 

Third, the Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom fallacy may require a little explanation for those of younger generations. In the 1960s on Sunday nights, families with young children gathered to watch two television shows, the Wonderful World of Disney and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. The host for Wild Kingdom was Marlin Perkins. Marlin Perkins would introduce the topic of the show, often a dangerous animal, and provide commentary throughout. But Mr. Perkins would rarely place himself in a dangerous situation. He usually left close contact with the wildlife to his assistant, Jim Fowler. Under the Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom fallacy, the US assumes the role of Marlin Perkins and relies on proxy forces in the role of Jim Fowler to do the fighting on land. While it is hard to imagine future operations that will not require US forces to operate with multiple partners, primary reliance on proxies is often problematic due to issues involving capability as well as willingness to act consistent with U.S. interests. The political and human dimensions of war often create what economists and political scientists call principal-actor problems.

The U.S. Army grapples with a basic question: What is our operating concept?

That's a good question, and one that the Army is trying hard to answer.

Overall, the new document, released in its final form on Tuesday, is very good, especially if you read it as an aspirational statement of what the Army should become, rather than a prescription for how it is going to become that. It is much clearer than most bureaucratic prose, and that is good to see. It is a document produced by thinkers, not bureaucratic munchkins. 

As I picked it up, I was eager to see what it had to say about innovative and adaptive leaders, because I hear the Army say that it needs such people, but I don't see much action backing up the rhetoric. I kept on wondering as I began reading the first pages. I started to worry when on page 10 I saw that, "Understanding the technological, geographic, political, and military challenges of the urban environment will require innovative, adaptive leaders and cohesive teams who thrive in complex and uncertain environments." That's a good head nod. But the next sentence pivots off to "Operating in urban environments will require decentralized combined arms and joint capabilities." Which left me wondering, great, but how to get such leaders?

The document returns to the leadership issue on page 18, saying that, "The institutional Army and operational Army develop competencies in leaders and Soldiers critical to future responsibilities." I re-read that sentence about ten times. It strikes me as terribly vague. I am not sure what it means, but I think it must mean more than I understand. What am I not getting here. Is the message that this development should be considered a mission by boththe institutional and operational sides of the Army? Your thoughts welcome: What is the message conveyed here, and to whom?

The document gets closer to the mark at about this point. The following paragraph begins well, but then veers into the need for strength. Again and again I thought, great goals, but how will the Army find, develop and promote such leaders?
"j. Develop innovative leaders and optimize human performance. Decentralized operations in complex environments require competent leaders and cohesive teams that thrive in conditions of uncertainty. Leaders foster discipline, confidence, and cohesion through innovative, realistic training. Repetitive training combined with self-study, rigorous education in joint and Army institutions, and leader development in units ensures that Army forces thrive in chaotic environments. Army forces gain intellectual advantages over adversaries through cross-cultural competencies and advanced cognitive abilities. Leaders think ahead in time to anticipate opportunities and dangers and take prudent risk to gain and maintain positions of relative advantage over the enemy. Leaders foster trust among other leaders and Soldiers. They develop unit cultures that encourage the exercise of initiative consistent with the philosophy of mission command. Leaders and Soldiers are committed to each other and the Army professional ethic. They remain resilient and preserve their moral character while operating in environments of persistent danger."
We get the answers on page 19. This is a very good paragraph, especially the last sentence:
"Adaptability is responding to new needs or changes without a loss of functionality. Adaptive leaders possess many different skills and qualities that allow the Army to retain the initiative. Army leaders think critically, are comfortable with ambiguity, accept prudent risk, assess the situation continuously, develop innovative solutions to problems, and remain mentally and physically agile to capitalize on opportunities."

How Do Insurgencies End?

Russell Croy

Assessing the Existing International Security Literature


Many nations struggle with protracted wars and insurgencies, yet some of them end relatively quickly while others continue for decades – how does the literature explain the variation? The ability to understand how and why insurgencies end can provide better insight for counterinsurgent stakeholders and for more accurate applied foreign policy prescriptions. This paper seeks to explore the issue by examining current theories in relation to two distinct examples: The Second Chechen War and the Darul Islam movement in West Java, Indonesia post-WWII. This paper finds that while scholars have contributed heavily to today’s understanding of insurgencies and influenced experts in the field of international security, they do not provide a strong, generalizable theory on how insurgencies actually end. Moreover, this paper argues for the importance of reframing the discussion from how insurgencies are “defeated”, to how they “end” to avoid approaching the topic from a traditional, military-centric perspective that may perhaps overlook other political, economic, and social components that could also be responsible for insurgencies ending.


In 1994, Russia launched a massive military campaign against secessionist rebels in its southern Republic of Chechnya. Several decades prior, in 1947, Indonesia launched its own military campaign against secessionist rebels in its province of West Java. After nearly 15 years of fighting, the radical movement in Indonesia was all but defunct. Meanwhile, in Chechnya, the fighting continues over 20 years later. How could it be that Russia, with its relatively superior military and technological capabilities, could spend so many years unsuccessfully clashing with separatist rebels in Chechnya and across the Caucasus region while Indonesia was so successful in its own efforts to quell the Darul Islam secessionist uprisings in West Java during the years following World War II? Given the military and economic might of both Russia and Indonesia compared to the relatively weak technical military capabilities of their rebel opponents, conventional wisdom would assume a swift and decisive end toboth of these uprisings – so why the variation?

Currently, the literature of international security provides little in the way of functional answers to these questions. It has much to say about insurgencies, counterinsurgency campaigns, and civil conflict in general, but the examples of Chechnya and Darul Islam, for instance, beg the question as to why these conflicts are so unpredictable. Despite the fact that the security literature says quite a bit about the nature of these conflicts and their general characteristics, it appears to lack any sort of generalizable theory on how insurgencies actually end. The literature’s failure to answer this question might explain why insurgencies are so difficult to predict and have such varied outcomes. Moreover, without any clear theories on how insurgencies end, there is little to be done to address the challenges that counterinsurgent forces face when trying to combat them. The goals of this paper include the following: (1) exploring and synthesizing the existing theories on how insurgencies end within the international security literature, (2) reviewing the assumptions of those theories in relation to two distinct examples, and (3) providing for a way to advance the literature in future research.

Review of the Theories

There are presently two main camps of literature on how insurgencies end: the first, logistical explanations, suggest that the insurgency’s ability to organize, garner local support, and the extended duration of the conflict all affect outcomes. Second, military-centric explanations explore intervention by local or expeditionary forces that seek to disrupt the insurgency by way of military repression. More specifically, these two camps can be broken down into five variables that have all been indicated to influence the ending of an insurgency: 
Political Problems: Loss of Popular Support (Both Internal & External) 
Lack of Organization and/or Structural Deficiencies 
Duration of the Conflict
Death or Capture of Influential Insurgent Leader 
Formal state military intervention (both domestic and expeditionary) 

Short of an insurgency ending because they have achieved their cause, when some combination of these five variables is present within an insurgency (particularly the loss of local support), the literature presumes that an insurgency is more likely to have ended. In other words, when an insurgency makes mistakes in organizing themselves or lose their local support network and face military repression and/or the loss of an instrumental leader, these vulnerabilities are capitalized on by opposing state forces that play to the insurgent’s weaknesses, bringing about their eventual demise (Krause, 2009).

The Army's Answer to Its Identity Crisis

The Army's Answer to Its Identity CrisisService leaders laid out what the future looks like without a large ground operation and with a smaller budget.

The Army is transitioning to its post-Afghanistan future.(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Top military officials pushed back this week against the idea that the Army is suffering from a postwar identity crisis, instead mapping out what the Army of the future will look like.

"For those who think we don't need an Army, look around the world and see the things we do every single day," said Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army chief of staff, at a conference Tuesday held by the Association of the United States Army, the service's advocacy group.

How the Army fits into the changing world of the U.S. military as it draws down in Afghanistan and shifts its focus to the Navy-heavy Asia-Pacific region has been a much-debated question. Here's how the Army plans to move forward:

1. The Army will increasingly focus on working with other branches of the U.S. military and its allies.

That means focusing less on large-scale ground troop missions that have defined the traditional image of the Army during the recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

For example, future operations would deploy a smaller number of troops and likely look more like the Pentagon's Ebola mission—where more than 3,000 soldiers will be deployed to Africa—or the ongoing advisory role with the Iraqi military to battle ISIS.

"Our allies not only look to us to lead, they expect us to lead," Odierno said, adding that the service is "setting the foundation now for the future operating concept."

2. The Army's strategy will require soldiers to be ready to tackle a diverse range of future problems. 

Officials summarized the new plan as "winning in a complex world," which requires soldiers to be able to quickly adjust to a new mission or respond to a rapidly developing crisis.

Why do mathematicians play games?

Submitted by mf344 on September 23, 2014

The easy answer is "for fun", just like the rest of us. It's obvious that being good at maths can help you in many difficult games, such as chess. But there is another reason too. Mathematicians are interested in games because they can help us understand why we humans (and other animals) behave as we do. A whole area of mathematics, called game theory, has been developed to cast some light on our behaviour, especially the way we make decisions.

Not just fun and games.

As an example, think of the cold war. After WWII the USA and the Soviet Union gradually built up arsenals of nuclear weapons, each to defend itself against each other. By the end of this arms race the weapons they had amassed were powerful enough to wipe out most life on the planet. That was a ridiculous situation to be in. Neither nation could actually use their weapons, as that would have ended life as we know it for everyone. Yet neither nation dared to get rid of their weapons for fear of the other taking advantage. And the consequences of a nuclear accident didn't bear thinking about. How did the (presumably intelligent) leaders of both countries end up in such a mess, having the whole world teetering on the brink of extinction?

To throw some light on this question let's imagine that you and I are playing a game. I am the president of the USA and you are the president of the Soviet Union. We each have a choice between two moves: produce more nuclear weapons or do nothing (here doing nothing is also a "move"). We have to make our moves at the same time without knowing what the other one is doing, just like in rock, paper, scissors.

This grid shows the points each player gets for each outcome. The first number in each box shows the points I get and the second the points you get for the corresponding outcome. 

If I produce more weapons and you don't, then I win (because I end up stronger than you): I get three points and you get zero points. If you produce more and I don't, then you win, getting the three points while I get zero points. If we both produce more weapons then it's a draw and we both get one point. If we both do nothing it's a draw again, but now both of us get two points — this draw gets more points than the previous one because it's nicer to live in a world with less weapons, and we are being rewarded for not producing more.

Thinking about this game I realise that my best move is to produce more weapons: if you decide not to produce more, then I get three points rather than two, which is what I would have got if I had not produced more weapons. If you also decide to produce more weapons, then I only get one point, but that's better than zero, which is what I would have got for not producing more weapons. Producing more is my dominant strategy: it leaves me better off than not producing them, no matter what you do. By exactly the same reasoning, the best move for you is also to produce more weapons.

Therefore, if we both think along the same reasonable and selfish lines, this game will end with an increased arsenal on both sides, giving one point to each of us. Yet, we would both have been better off had we both decided not to produce more weapons: in that case we would have got two points each. It's a strange paradox. Our best moves don't lead us to the best outcome.