27 October 2014

Syrian Rebels Oppose New U.S. War Strategy

OCTOBER 23, 2014 
Source Link

The Obama administration's strategy to train Syrian rebels to defend, but not seize, territory from Islamic State militants is facing stiff resistance from America's partners in the Syrian opposition.

On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the United States has determined that newly trained rebel fighters will not be able to capture strategically important towns from the so-called Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, without the support of forward-deployed U.S. combat troops. So instead, those rebels will only be assigned to defend already controlled territory.

On Thursday, the Syrian National Coalition, which is recognized by the United States as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, toldForeign Policy that the plan "just doesn't make sense strategically.

"The only way to defeat ISIS is to defeat ISIS. You cannot be reactive and wait for them to besiege liberated towns and villages," said Oubai Shahbandar, a senior advisor to the group.

The disagreement highlights the conflicting priorities within America's anti-ISIS coalition. Although Obama administration officials are reluctant to place newly trained rebel units in a fight they could easily lose, other rebel units desperately want backup in the battle against the radical Sunni group. As a result, different rebel forces are likely to operate independently of one another, despite Washington's marching orders.

"The force the U.S. trains will likely be just that -- one opposition group fighting among others against the Assad regime and ISIS," said Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "While we may want them to simply hold ground, that doesn't mean they will agree, let alone all opposition forces."

As a sign of this disconnect, the Syrian opposition says it's bringing the fight to ISIS now with no plans to let up. "The tribes in the east are killing off ISIS fighters," said Shahbandar. "There can be no pressing a 'pause button.'"

What's become apparent to observers of the conflict is that the United States is engaging in an "Iraq first" strategy consisting of targeted airstrikes, the training of Iraqi and Kurdish security forces, and the propping up of Baghdad's new government. On Thursday, Iraq's newly appointed defense minister, Khaled al-Obeidi, told U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Iraq's security forces also intend to go on the offensive against the Islamic State.

Chinese-Russian Relations Enter Cyberspace



The biggest winner to emerge from the nasty and damaging conflict in eastern Ukraine is not even a player in the game. China is sitting quietly and watching where the crisis is taking the more engaged participants. In the process, Beijing has been able to leverage the economic difficulties that Western sanctions have created for Russia by offering Moscow new, if less lucrative, markets for Russian energy products.

Unless the Ukraine conflict is resolved and relations between the West and Russiaimprove, such Sino-Russian cooperation could become a more permanent feature. That would have severe unexpected consequences.
China is not entirely indifferent to the dynamics of the Ukraine crisis. Indeed, Chinese President Xi Jinping faces a dilemma in trying to decide which side in the conflict represents the lesser of two evils.

The Chinese Communist Party leadership has a record of abhorring separatism in most forms because of concerns regarding China’s own Tibetan and Uighur independence movements. From this perspective, Chinese leaders may be expected to frown on the actions of pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Yet to the Beijing leadership, Ukraine’s Euromaidan antigovernment movement, which led to the collapse of Viktor Yanukovych’s presidency in February 2014, must look suspiciously like the Tiananmen Square protests of June 1989—not to mention the dramatic demonstrations that have recently shaken Hong Kong.
On balance, the dangers of the pro-European protests trump the concerns raised by the pro-Russian rebels. The original sin, as far as China is concerned, was the collapse of the Soviet Union and the failure of Communist parties there and in Eastern Europe to prevent the uncontrolled shift from a planned to a market economy.

Whatever Happened to the End of History?



After Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014, history is back. It turns out the Cold War was not, in fact, the cold war to end all cold wars but a mere prelude to a second cold war.
That, at least, is the flavor of much recent commentary. And Europeans are asking: What would they have to say for themselves today, those bullish U.S. academics who saw 1989 as the decisive step in the global spread of capitalism and liberal democracy, the end of ideology, the end of history?

The simple answer, one suspects, is that the academics would see no grounds to reconsider their earlier triumphalism. But what if this were not just a case of dented egos, and they were right to stand firm? Two reasons to support U.S. political scientist Francis Fukuyama et al stand out.

The first is that current tensions inUkraine do not a cold war make. The Crimean conflict happens to involve some of the same Eastern and Western protagonists as the Cold War, but that does not suffice to qualify the crisis as CWII.
The Cold War was characterized by deep ideological bipolarity, wide geographic reach, and a tense international standoff. As such, it marked something of a follow-up and intensification of the wars of 1803–1815, 1914–1918, and 1939–1945. Any new conflict should therefore involve more of the same, not less. It should be deeper, wider, colder.

Yet that does not currently seem to be the case. One recent article on the “new cold war” is typical in conceding that “the world is no longer bipolar, and . . . key players, such as China and India, will avoid being drawn in. . . . The new conflict will not pit one ‘ism’ against another, nor will it likely unfold under the permanent threat of nuclear Armageddon.” So not a new cold war at all, then, just a bit of local trouble between the West and Russia. End of story.

Echoes of the Ukraine Crisis in the South Caucasus


As the Ukraine puzzle slowly and steadily enters the diplomatic realm, at least three obvious yet critical facts can be ascertained: the crisis has proven the European security system ineffective, severely damaged Russia-West relations and left diplomacy in a gridlock, and made the Belavezha Accords obsolete. Echoes of these consequences will be long felt across Eurasia.
Certain shockwaves have already reached the South Caucasus, one of the regions most susceptible changing dynamics between Russia and the West.

First, a great deal of skepticism about the capability of European institutions to fix conflicts in the post-Soviet space is now prevailing among South Caucasian elites. Ironically, this understanding serves to deter violence in the region: responsible stakeholders in Tbilisi, Yerevan and Baku have realized that if there should be serious warfare in the region there will be no international institutions powerful enough to stop it, or any great European powers ready for head-on military collision to defend their clients' interests.
The Ukrainian crisis has shown that deciding between European and Eurasian integration comes at a high price.

At the same time, the South Caucasian states have found themselves between the devil and the deep blue sea: the Ukrainian crisis has shown that deciding between European and Eurasian integrationcomes at a high price, but that indecisiveness is an even worse path. Thus, the startling developments in Ukraine have triggered two opposite processes: on the one hand, they have accelerated Georgia and Moldova’s efforts to integrate into Euro-Atlantic institutions. On the other hand, the Ukraine crisis has pushed Armenia to seek full membership in the Eurasian Union and encouraged Abkhazia and South Ossetia to forge closer ties with Russia.

U.S. Military Intelligence’s Technology Needs for the Year 2025

October 26, 2014

Major General Robert P. Ashley, the commander of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, gave a short powerpoint presentation to a bevy of defense contractors laying out what he sees as the technology needs of U.S. Army intelligence in the year 2025.

There’s some interesting stuff here (especially on drones and SIGINT), but beware of people predicting where technology will be ten years down the road or how it will be used.

General Ashley’s PPT can be viewed here.

How Wall Street Is Killing Big Oil

There's a tectonic shift in the global energy balance of power away from western international oil companies, or IOCs, and towards state-owned national oil companies, NOCs, in emerging markets.


Lee Raymond, the famously pugnacious oilman who led ExxonMobil between 1999 and 2005, liked to tell Wall Street analysts that covering the company would be boring. “You’ll just have to live with outstanding, consistent financial and operating performance,” he once boasted. For generations, Exxon and its Big Oil brethren, including Chevron, ConocoPhilipps, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Total, dominated the global energy landscape, raking in enormous profits and delivering fat dividends to shareholders. Big Oil has long been an investor darling. 

Those days are over. Once reliable market beaters, Big Oil shares are lagging: Over the last five years, when the S&P 500 rose more than 80 percent, shares of Exxon and Shell rose just over 30 percent. The underperformance reflects oil majors’ inability to maintain steady cash flows and increase production in a world where much of the easy oil has already been found and project costs are rapidly escalating. Last year, Exxon, Chevron and Shell failed to increase oil and gas production despite having spent US$500 billion over the previous five years, $120 billion in 2013 alone. Under pressure from investors, the world’s largest oil companies are now forced to cut capital expenditure and sell assets to boost cash flows.

Big Oil is, in short, heading towards liquidation. And this process has set in motion a tectonic shift in the global energy balance of power away from western international oil companies, or IOCs, and towards state-owned national oil companies, NOCs, in emerging markets. Not only do the NOCs— companies like Saudi Aramco; Russia’s Gazprom and Rosneft; China’s CNOOC, CNPC and Sinopec; India’s ONGC; Venezuela’s PDVSA; and Brazil’s Petrobras— control approximately 90 percent of the world’s known petroleum reserves, they are also immune to the market pressures constraining Big Oil.

As Defense, Intelligence Agencies Drown in Data, Technology Comes to the Rescue

By Sandra I. Erwin 
November 2014 

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper has asked the government’s tech gurus and the private sector to “help us find the needles without having the haystacks.”

Clapper’s clarion call comes at a time of unprecedented demand for data-intensive products and services at all levels of the U.S. national security apparatus. The task of filtering and sorting through massive loads of data is only going to get bigger as the military and intelligence agencies collect more information than they can handle. There are more drones and satellites collecting video and imagery than ever before, and human analysts desperately need automated tools to find those needles in ever-expanding haystacks.

“Our next big investment is big data,” says Dawn Meyerriecks, deputy director of the CIA’s directorate of science and technology. The challenge for data scientists is “figuring out how we deal with high volume intelligence.”

Government agencies find that software tools that can parse huge loads of information into actionable information are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, but there are still many gaps to be filled.

As the United States steps up the fight against elusive extremist groups, the traditional methods of finding and tracking targets are inadequate. The amount of data being collected has made it nearly impossible to track and identify suspicious activities and potential security threats solely through human analytical processes.

The intelligence community sees its future in “activity based intelligence,” which is computer-assisted problem solving to help understand how enemy networks operate by following their movements and financial transactions.

The government’s gargantuan appetite for data has spurred an arms race within the tech industry. Much of the innovation these days comes from Silicon Valley, where there is a burgeoning crop of firms that are jumping in to fill big data needs.

“When the agencies first saw our software, they didn’t know software could do what our software did,” says Sean Varah, CEO of MotionDSP. The company’s image processing software initially was created to clean up grainy cell phone videos from the pre-iPhone days. U.S. military and intelligence analysts now use it in the war against the Islamic State. Agencies have rooms full of people who manually, frame by frame, clean up images that may be hard to see, or are clouded by bad weather or smoke. That typically takes weeks, says Varah, whereas the software improves the quality of the video in real time, he adds. “Operators are good. They can see things, but with our technology they can see it a lot faster.”

These technologies fall into the category of “computer vision,” a rapidly growing field that focuses on acquiring, processing, analyzing and understanding images in order to produce actionable information. This technology will explode in the coming years as sources of imagery multiply. Commercial companies like Google’s Skybox Imaging are going to make it easier and cheaper to obtain sophisticated satellite imagery that is now only available to governments.

“What do you do with all that imagery?” Varah asks. “You have to use computer vision technology to extract information.”

The good news about cutting-edge Silicon Valley info-tech products is that they are all privately funded, and the government can acquire them at a fraction of the cost of government-developed systems. “The government should evaluate the best in breed before they pay billions of dollars for contractors to write code from scratch,” Varah says.

The tech revolution is only just beginning. Giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Adobe are pouring billions of dollars into computer vision and another emerging discipline called “deep learning.”

The goal is to teach a computer to see the way a human sees. Google and Amazon are betting big on drones, but they know the industry won’t take off until these drones can “see” and avoid hitting people when they deliver packages. The technology that lets a Google car drive around without a driver is also computer vision. “Private investment in computer vision is going to start pouring out new products,” Varah says.

Laser Communications to Thwart Jamming, Interception

By Stew Magnuson 
November 2014 

Networks are said to be one of the U.S. military’s Achilles’ heels. Cutting off communications through jamming or the destruction of infrastructure could be devastating to battlefield commanders. Peer and near-peer competitors such as China, Russia and Iran are reportedly boosting their electronic warfare capabilities.

Laser communications, also known as free space opticals, hold the promise of giving the military a means to transmit high amounts of data and voice that is hard to detect and an alternative to traditional radio frequencies.

Proponents say it is ready for prime time and mature enough for it to proliferate in the military realm more widely. Interest in the technology is also growing in the private sector, which may bring down costs for end users.

Research firm MarketsandMarkets in a July report said the free space optical business is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 45 percent through 2020.

John P. Leuer, executive director of next generation communications at Boeing’s space and intelligence systems division, said at the recent Milcom conference that “the commercial sector is leading the world and the nation in this technology. It used to be the other way around. It used to be the DoD.”

Boeing is just one of several defense contractors developing the technology for military and civil applications.

Anthony Nigara, senior director for advanced systems at Exelis, which is working on a laser communications project for the Office of Naval Research, said in an interview that adversaries may want to block, degrade or eavesdrop on U.S. military communications. And there is another pressing problem that the technology can help solve: crowded airwaves.

Radio spectrum is increasingly congested. Domestically, the military is being forced to share blocks of spectrum with commercial wireless providers. Coordinating spectrum usage overseas can be even more complicated. Some of the interference isn’t coming from adversaries, but friendly forces. Electronic fratricide, the degradation of one’s own communications systems through overuse or mismanagement of spectrum, is a growing problem.

“Even if you could operate those links in a contested environment, you really need a fatter pipe,” Nigara said.

Laser communication uses pulses of light to transmit the 1s and Os. Data rates can be 100 to 1,000 times faster than traditional radio frequency systems.

“The system is capable today. It’s moving towards transition into a militarized environment,” he said. ONR successfully tested Exelis’ tactical line-of-sight operational network (TALON) between two mountains 50 kilometers apart at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California. 

The concept for free space optical communications has been around since the 1970s. One of the pioneering companies, LightPointe, based in San Diego, has offered the technology commercially since 1998. Grants from the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization helped it develop its technology, president and CEO Heinz Willebrand told National Defense. Most of its commercial customers use it as bridges between buildings or on campuses to avoid the high cost of burying fiber or paying telecom carrier fees. 

“We’ve seen sales to the military increase over the years, but they don’t exactly want their use of the technology to be widely reported,” Willebrand said.

Another advantage is speed for ultra low latency applications, he said. Since the data is moving at the speed of light, nothing is faster — even radio waves or fiber optic cable, which is also a kind of laser communications. “It is faster than all radio frequency bridges and faster than fiber, which often has to be routed around buildings or natural obstacles such as lakes, rivers, mountains, etcetera,” he said. A laser communication transmission can travel six miles before the same one leaves a typical radio, he added.

Holograms Next Step in Realistic Training for Tomorrow’s Troops

By Stew Magnuson
November 2014 

Ground troops today train in mock villages, where two-dimensional insurgents and civilians pop out of windows or doorways, and the soldier or Marine must instantly decide to shoot or hold fire.

Holographic technology, which is beginning to make inroads in the entertainment industry, could replace those 2D cutouts with virtual characters so realistic that it would make the trainee “crap his pants,” said James Jacobs, senior vice president of entertainment technology at Anakando Media Group, the parent company of HologramUSA.

The company has made headlines by placing the image of the dead rapper Tupac Shakur on a stage. It has teleported the cast of the ballet Swan Lake to other locations and, more recently, had WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange — currently holed up in an apartment in London’s Ecuadorian embassy — give a live interview in the United States, appearing here as a hologram and taking questions from the interviewer as if he were sitting next to him.

HologramUSA came to Washington, D.C., in August to make inroads in the government and political marketplaces, and hired a local lobbying firm to help it spread the word.

The company hopes holograms become a tool for candidates in the 2016 election as they were earlier this year in India, where newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi transported his hologram to platforms on trucks to speak to and engage with voters in far-flung provinces.

As for the military market, Jacobs said training and simulation is the most obvious application.

Teaching the repair and maintenance of nuclear warheads is one application the company is already exploring. Technicians must maintain their certifications with steady, periodic training. An instructor in another location with a virtual or real mockup of a nuclear bomb can walk them through the process with classrooms set up anywhere in the world.

Or an aircraft maintenance instructor can walk into a virtual jet engine and “blow it up.” Not literally, but the holographic engine parts would disassemble and seemingly float in the air. The instructor can enlarge them, then show the students how each part fits. 

“Jet engine repair is so complicated. But what if you could walk inside the engine?” Jacobs said. “That is completely doable and easy for us to accomplish at this moment. The technology is developed to that point.”

Hologram technology works using special 4K cameras and projectors. A typical LCD home television today has a 1048p screen, or 1,048 pixels per square inch. These multiple lens cameras have 4,000 pixels per square inch, which Jacobs said is misleading. It isn’t four times as clear; it’s 10 times clearer.

The subject is in a green room, a plain background that will not appear in the final image. Software then instantly processes the image and “cleans it up” by stripping away anything around it.

The data is sent over satellite links to the spot where the image will appear through a holographic projector.

Millennials Kind of Clueless About Cybersecurity Careers

By Jack Moore 
October 9, 2014


The demand for skilled cybersecurity positions is growing 12 times faster than the broader labor market and last year alone, there were nearly 210,000 open cybersecurity positions nationwide.

That’s according to new survey research from Raytheon and the National Cyber Security Alliance released in October to mark National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

But even as more and more millennials enter the job market, new research indicates these so-called digital natives aren’t necessarily ready to take on the mantle of cyber savior -- at least not yet.

While they’re often more tech-savvy than their older counterparts in the workforce, only about a quarter of millennials say they want a career in cybersecurity.

That’s about the same number who profess an interest in being doctors and nurses, but far fewer than the number of millennials who want to be entertainers or app developers -- cited by 35 percent of respondents.

More millennials also said they wanted to be social media directors than cyber defenders.

It turns out the Facebook generation (of which I am part) is a little fuzzy on what exactly a career in cybersecurity means.

“Almost two-thirds of millennial respondents don’t know or aren’t sure what the ‘cybersecurity’ profession is,” the report concluded.

Blame our teachers.

“Despite students’ general interest in pursuing related careers, they often lack the needed skills and encouragement educators and business leaders should provide to grow the talent pipeline,” the report stated.

Nearly half of survey respondents said their high school computer classes failed to prepare them for a career in cybersecurity or a computer science degree in college.

When asked what would increase their interest in cyber careers, 48 percent of respondents said “more information about what the jobs might entail” and 40 percent said “more relevant classes and training.”

Another factor that could spark curiosity in cyber opportunities? Twelve percent of respondents said they’d be more interested if their friends “thought it was a cool career.”

NATO Summit Wales 2014: operational information for media

29 August 2014

Media information for the NATO Summit Wales 2014.

Media organisations from Wales, the rest of the UK, and across the world are invited to cover the NATO Summit Wales 2014 which is taking place on 4 and 5 September at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, Wales.

We will have print, online, and broadcast facilities on site at the Celtic Manor for up to 1,200 media delegates. The media centre will be open from 1200 until 2330 on Wednesday 3 September and from 0500 on Thursday 4 until 2345 on Friday 5 September, offering work stations for 900 people, stand up positions, edit booths as well as a range of technical services (see below for rate card details).

Summit meeting of NATO Heads of State and Government


The United Kingdom is hosting the NATO Summit of Heads of State and Government at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales, on 4-5 September 2014. The NATO Secretary General will chair the meetings.

The Media Centre will be located in the grounds of Celtic Manor.

This Media Advisory complements that released on 4 July and contains programme and logistical information.

For further information on the Summit and about NATO, please visit http://www.nato.int/ and https://www.gov.uk/natowales. An online mobile application containing Summit information is also available – media can register atwww.natosummit2014.uk.
Summit Programme (all times are provisional and subject to change)

A technical advisory will provide additional details.

The Summit will open on 4 September and the Secretary General will put it in context at a doorstep scheduled for 9h35 local time.

It will start at 11h45 with the Secretary General and Prime Minister Cameron officially welcoming Heads of State and Government.

This will be immediately followed by an official family photo at 12h30.

The Summit will formally open with a meeting on Afghanistan at 13h00. The Allied Heads of State and Government will meet with 27 partner countries including ISAF contributors (Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, El Salvador, Finland, Georgia, Ireland, Jordan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Montenegro, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Sweden, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Turkey recognizes the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name), Tonga, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates), countries from the region (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan) as well as Japan. High level representatives of the United Nations and the European Union will also attend.



Although Islam has a long history in the region, for most of the second half of the 20th century Northern Africa was ruled by secular, nationalist or socialist governments with authoritarian streaks. Islamism, as a mainstream political movement, is relatively new. 

Islamism is a broad set of ideologies united by the principle that Islam should guide political and social life. Islamist movements have ranged from peaceful democratic political organizations to militant jihadism.

Many hoped the Arab Spring would help turn the tide against extremism in Africa, by taking away a potential recruiting class of disillusioned citizens who might have otherwise turned to terrorism.

What began as a populist, non-ideological, non-organized, leaderless and spontaneous Arab revolt against long enduring oppressive regimes has turned into an Islamist awakening whose political impact has yet to be fully measured or understood.

The U.S. is left with a dilemma—how to encourage the fledgling democracies while quashing the dangerous radicals they harbor.

North Africa

All countries in North Africa experienced unrest during the Arab Spring, but in only three were governments overthrown.

In Tunisia, civilian protests led to the overthrow of President Ben Ali’s government and the election of an Islamist-led government. 

At one time, Tunisia suggested the greatest hope but has increasingly descended into chaos and confusion as Salafist extremism disrupts what was hoped to be a relatively peaceful emergence out of authoritarianism into democracy.

In Egypt, civilian protests led to the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak’s government and the election of an Islamist-led government in 2012 led by President Mohamed Morsi. One year after Morsi’s election, he and many of his supporters were removed and arrested in a military coup.

In Libya, a UN-approved military intervention assisted rebels fighting a civil war that would eventually lead to the overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s government. Islamist parties were not able to gain control of the government in the elections, but have clearly exerted influence in the country. 

East Africa 

East Africa has harbored the mark of extremism since Osama bin Laden arrived there in 1992. Forced out of Saudi Arabia for a series of small-scale attacks, bin Laden found a new base for al Qaeda in Sudan.

There, he was able to grow his network of training camps and step up his terrorist plots. The next year, U.S. authorities say he financed Pakistani terrorist Ramzi Yousef in an unsuccessful attempt to blow up the World Trade Center.

In 1996, Sudan deported bin Laden under pressure from the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. He fled to Afghanistan but kept his ties to Africa. Just two years later, al Qaeda orchestrated simultaneous bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The attacks left 224 dead, injuring more than four thousand. 

West Africa

The West African nation of Mali was once considered a model for how Western assistance can benefit a struggling nation.

But now, corruption, poor governance, lawlessness and intense poverty have created a disillusioned underclass. With nowhere else to go, the poor seek aid from groups like al Qaeda. The end result is a new band of extremists in the region, dubbed “Al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb.” 

Blackwater Verdict Signals America's Growing Dependence on Wall Street to Wage War

OCTOBER 24, 2014

Earlier this week, a federal jury convicted four Blackwater Worldwide guards in the killing of 14 Iraqi civilians in 2007. For many, these guilty verdicts bring closure to an ignominious chapter in the Iraq War, but in reality this is only the beginning. Eisenhower’s old “military industrial complex” created products; today’s military industry provides services, including lethal services like Blackwater.

America increasingly fights its wars with corporations. During World War II, contractors accounted for only 10 percent of the military workforce compared to 50 percent in the Iraq war—a 1:1 ratio of contractors to military personnel. This ratio was even higher in the Afghanistan war. In 2010, the U.S. deployed 175,000 troops and 207,000 contractors in war zones.

Ratio of U.S. Troops to Contractors in War Zones (as of March 2010)

Contractors are also paying the ultimate price, accounting for one-quarter of all U.S. fatalities in the past decade of war. In the first two quarters of 2010 alone, contractor deaths represented more than half—53 percent—of all fatalities.

Percent Breakdown of Fatalities in Iraq

Percent Breakdown of Fatalities in Afghanistan

A decade of war has expanded the industry from a multi-million to a multi-billion dollar affair. From 1999 to 2008, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) contract obligations—for both security and non-security functions—increased from $165 billion to $414 billion. In 2010, DOD obligated $366 billion to contracts (54 percent of total DOD obligations), an amount seven times the United Kingdom’s entire defense budget.

Not all wartime contractors kill or train others to kill: Armed contractors accounted for just 12 percent, or 11,610, of the overall contracting force in Iraq in 2010 and 14,439 in Afghanistan—a minority of all contractors. But even though they are fewer in number than their unarmed brethren, their actions resonate disproportionately louder, owing to the nature of their work. 

To many, outsourcing lethal force in foreign lands smacks of mercenarism. Despite this, the U.S. will likely grow more dependent on Wall Street to wage war in coming years. Most wars now are irregular in nature, protracted in length, and resource intensive. They require a lot of “boots on the ground” because you cannot control terrain or win hearts and minds with air strikes. America today has a strategic choice today: 1) avoid all wars in the future, 2) institute a national draft, or 3) use contractors. I doubt a presidential or congressional campaign would survive options 1 and 2.

The reliance on contractors has unleashed a new norm in international relations that will not dissolve despite some recent reminders of bad behavior. Nor will it evaporate once the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan. In fact, the opposite will occur: Contractors will help fill in the security vacuum left by U.S. forces. Private Military Companies (PMCs) will also rush to Iraq, should the U.S. expand its mission there. The market may also grow, become more competitive, and develop into a free market for force—where the means of war are available to anyone who can afford it. Already private military companies of all stripes—including companies founded in Russia and China, places with scant regard for human rights—are seeking new opportunities in conflict zones in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. 

10 Parting Thoughts for America's Diplomats

OCTOBER 23, 2014

As one of America's foremost diplomats hangs up his spurs, lessons from 33 years at the State Department.

Diplomacy is not quite the world's oldest profession, but it remains one of the most misunderstood. It's a predictable and recurring habit to question its relevance and dismiss its practitioners, especially at moments like this, when international affairs are rocked by powerful and tumultuous transitions.

It is true that the world today is far different from the one that I encountered as a new foreign service officer in 1982. Today's international landscape is far more crowded. New global powers are rising, hundreds of millions of people around the world are climbing into the middle class, hyper-empowered individuals with the capacity to do great good and huge harm are multiplying, and more information is flowing more rapidly than ever before.

These realities pose some real challenges and difficult questions for professional diplomats. How can we add value in a world of instant and nearly universal access to information? How important are foreign ministries in an age of citizen awakenings? And who needs foreign assistance from governments when they can get it from private foundations and mega-philanthropists?

These are fair questions, but none of them foretells the imminent demise of our profession. The ability of American diplomats to help interpret and navigate a bewildering world still matters. After more than a decade dominated by two costly conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the worst financial crisis of our lifetime, the United States needs a core of professional diplomats with the skills and experience to pursue American interests abroad -- by measures short of war.

The real question is not whether the State Department is still relevant but how we can sustain, strengthen, and adapt the tradecraft for a new century unfolding before us.
The real question is not whether the State Department is still relevant but how we can sustain, strengthen, and adapt the tradecraft for a new century unfolding before us. As I look back across nearly 33 years as a career diplomat -- and ahead to the demands on American leadership -- I offer 10 modest observations for my colleagues, and for all those who share a stake in effective American diplomacy.

1. Know where you come from.

When I was a junior diplomat, a story circulated that then Secretary of State George Shultz used to invite new ambassadors for a farewell chat. He would walk over to a large globe near his desk and ask the ambassador to point to "your country." Invariably, the ambassador would put a finger on the country of his or her assignment. Shultz would then gently move their finger across the globe to the United States, making the not-so-subtle point that diplomats should always remember whom they represent and where they come from.

We cannot afford to forget where we come from, whom we serve, and whom we represent. While we still have a long way to go, the foreign service today is far more representative of the richness and diversity of American society than when I entered. The white, male, East Coast, elitist caricature has faded. Today's officers come from across the country and from every social background. The percentage of women and minorities has doubled. New officers bring proficiency in difficult languages and a range of work experience that I would have envied 30 years ago. This diversity is a huge asset overseas, where the power of our example often matters more than the power of our preaching -- especially when we ask others to respect pluralism, tolerance, and universal human rights.

Yoda Has Left the Building

OCTOBER 24, 2014

Andy Marshall, 93, has been the Pentagon’s futurist in chief for over 50 years. He hasn’t had a new idea since the 1970s.

Well, the news is out. Andy Marshall is finally retiring.

Last year, word leaked that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was considering shutting down Marshall's Office of Net Assessment and shunting him off into retirement. The decision was framed in terms of sequestration, but you can't balance the budget with Marshall's meager$5-10 million budget.

Previous secretaries of defense have considered ways to ease Andrew Marshall off the stage in fatter economic times. He has held the same job in the Pentagon -- director of the Office of Net Assessment -- since Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger hired him away from the RAND Corp. in 1973. Originally set up to provide the Pentagon with a long-term perspective, the Office of Net Assessment outlived even Schlesinger himself, who passed away in March.

A furious rearguard action seemed to save Marshall and Net Assessment sinecure, but now Yoda is leaving on his own terms. Earned it, has he.

Now that Marshall is leaving, I am sure we'll be treated to one long fawning remembrance after another telling us that Mr. Andy Marshall, 93, was a wise old cipher who earned his nickname, Yoda. This is silly.

The only way in which Andy Marshall resembles Yoda is that he is old. Marshall is not a cipher and, once one understands his views, I think one would conclude that he wasn't particularly wise.
The only way in which Andy Marshall resembles Yoda is that he is old. Marshall is not a cipher and, once one understands his views, I think one would conclude that he wasn't particularly wise.
Now, my complaint is with the man's ideas, not the man himself; Marshall is invariably described as kind and thoughtful. Unfortunately, praise for the Office of Net Assessment is inextricable from praise for the man himself. As a result, the image of Andy Marshall as Yoda serves to obscure what are some pretty awful policy ideas.

Although he rarely publishes or even speaks at length, Marshall's views are neither hard to decipher nor particularly groundbreaking. Marshall's opinions in print -- two hard-to-find examples of which I am making available online here and here -- are broadly similar to those of his hawkish colleagues from his RAND days. (Check out this great 1958 image of Marshall holding forth at a late night bull session in Albert Wohlstetter's home. Also present are Fred Hoffman, Harry Rowen, and Alain Enthoven. These characters all make the requisite appearance in Fred Kaplan's tour of the bestiary, Wizards of Armageddon.)

Marshall's main contribution is something called "competitive strategies." He described the approach in great detail in a 1972 study while he was at RAND, Long-Term Competition with the Soviets: A Framework for Strategic Analysis. Competitive strategies was the notion that the long-term strategic competition with the Soviet Union -- the nuclear arms race -- was inevitable. Strategic stability, which was still an emerging notion in 1972, was anathema to Marshall, who ultimately believed that international politics is a steel cage match. Two will enter, one will leave.

Reflections on the new US Army

Operating Concept

What’s in a Name?

This post is another in the #Operating: A Personal Reflection on the Army Operating Concept series and was provided by Dave “Sugar” Lyle, an U.S. Air Force strategist. The views expressed belong to the author alone and do not represent the U.S. Air Force or the Department of Defense. 

When critiquing high level conceptual documents like the US Army Operating Concept, it’s important to remember what they are and what they are not. They are an attempt to steer already ongoing group conversations into specific directions that the leadership feels are needed to prepare the group for future success. They seek to reinforce or clarify some ideas, discount or refute others, and, most importantly, provide direction on how the organization will address both new challenges and existing unresolved problems. They seek to provide common starting points for the discussion and set the parameters for future debate and exploration.

They are not designed to deal with specific problems, they do not prescribe solutions, nor do they usually make specific predictions about the future, except within ranges of possibilities.

Given that perspective, and with the assumption that others more qualified than I will likely provide analysis on the “nuts and bolts” of the document, I’d like to comment on two of the specific words that the authors very deliberately chose for the most important part of the document, and why I’m glad that they did.

The words? “Complex” and “Win”, both in the title.


There is a good reason this word keeps showing up in our strategic documents like the 2010 and 2014 QDRs (which this document reflects), and there is also a reason the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has used it consistently in his messaging. It’s a recognition that the world is becoming rapidly connected, and also that the ways we collectively make sense of the world — and define what is meant by expertise and authority — are not keeping pace with this rate of change. Some have already said “It’s just jargon — the world has always been complex.” There is an element of truth in this statement, since the experience of complexity – and complicatedness as well, for that matter – is in part an experience between ourselves and the things we observe, and remains universal across time. We experience complexity when our mental schemas — built through combinations of personal experience and theories passed on from others — are not adequate to understand and make sense of the system changes and interactions we’re observing. Over time, with knowledge and experience, we can often overcome this feeling through deduction or instruction.

But here is where “complicated” and “complex” differ: with complicated systems – such as in the case the oft-mentioned Swiss Watch – once you figure them out, your understanding of their workings will remain valid over time, and the experience of confusion and uncertainty will disappear. In contrast, complex systems are in a continuous process of co-adaptation, with ever increasing numbers of nodes and degrees of interconnection that stymie prediction and understanding. This means that you can never stop and rest on your cognitive laurels, assuming your understandings from the past are still adequate today. It’s this mindset the document is driving us towards, and appropriately so, no matter how much we might want to take a mental knee after over 13 years of very complex warfare, with even more to come.

But in many ways, the challenges of the future will likely be harder than they were in the past, as this increased connectedness raises the bar for achieving even a basic understanding of what is happening all around us. Highly destructive effects – brought directly to our Homeland at the speeds of sound and light as disruptive technologies, ideologies, and applications spread faster, wider, and more cheaply – will be increasingly available to smaller and smaller groups of bad actors, who will all-too-often be shielded and supported by traditional nation states using them as proxies to maintain plausible deniability for the actions they sponsor. But the challenge of dealing with increasing complexity is not just a military one – even if all of our wars miraculously ended tomorrow, we would still be challenged to understand what is happening in society as the world becomes ever more connected, with even the smallest ripples increasingly having faster and wider effects. Thomas Friedman may not have conclusively or persuasively proved that “The World is Flat,” but his observations about the “democratizations of information, technology, and finance” in The Lexus and the Olive Tree were apt, and help to explain why General Dempsey often recommends books like Present Shock and The End of Power to subordinates.

Bottom line: The days where you can get almost everything you need to know in a “Bottom Line Up Front” statement are over. Elegance is always to be sought, but in complex environments, “Keep It Simple Stupid” will increasingly become “Keep It Simple = Stupid” unless we successfully upgrade our own mental operating system through the development of more sophisticated operational and strategic concepts. More on that during the upcoming Innovation Week series here on The Bridge and at CIMSEC…


Perhaps our greatest cognitive challenge will be defining what “winning” looks like in a world where “taking the gloves off” against an adversary has a much greater potential to provoke an even wider problem than seeking decisive defeat would. Our Iraqi experiences in 1991, 2003, and 2011 made it crystal clear that “winning” and “end states” are only mile markers in a sociopolitical journey that continue to emerge on their own accord no matter how we characterize them internally, reminiscent of the “Zen Master” story in Charlie Wilson’s War (Adult language warning).


October 20, 2014
The past month’s media cycle has certainly articulated the strengths of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as it has expanded control and governance across eastern Syria and western Iraq. ISIL’s rise this past spring and its resilience during the ongoing air campaign targeting its members can be attributed to ISIL’s internal lines of communication, strong physical networks, veteran cadres, and steady foreign fighter recruitment.

ISIL’s many weaknesses are discussed less often. If properly exploited, these weaknesses could be opportunities for the West in their fight against the group. A strong contingent of Iraqi leaders empower ISIL, advancing the group toward its objective of establishing an Islamic Caliphate. But with the exception of these veteran leaders, violent young foreign fighters are routinely behaving in a counterproductive fashion. As opposed to the people who are inclined to join al-Qaeda, ISIL’s young fighters are driven more by psychological and social forces than ideological tenets.

Heavy airstrikes paralleled with the formation of a Sunni land force will slowly damage ISIL over the longer term, but the immediate opportunities presented by unconventional warfare should not be overlooked. The following are several efforts the U.S.-led international coalition could undertake to counter ISIL indirectly.

Try to put a wedge between ISIL’s Iraqi dominated leadership and its foreign fighter troops

As seen during al-Shabaab’s demise in Somalia, strong fractures emerged between al-Shabaab’s Somali members and its foreign fighters over strategic direction and the conduct of operations. Similar rifts between indigenous Algerian leaders and foreign fighters emerged during Algeria’s Armed Islamic Group’s (GIA) collapse in the 1990s. Egotistical leaders routinely fear the emergence of charismatic challengers. Osama Bin Laden rejected the promotion of an emerging Anwar al-Awlaki, and similarly, Ayman al-Zawahiri is unlikely to tolerate the idea of a subordinate, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, merging al-Qaeda with ISIL.

Al-Qaeda’s veteran leadership, a mix of North African and Middle Eastern foreign fighters, notoriously post narcissistic finger-wagging videos to inspire their troops. ISIL’s Baghdadi and his inner circle pursue the opposite approach: appearing in public sparingly, choosing instead to lead by action and maintain their operational security. Thus far, reports note that Iraqis constitute 19 of ISIL’s top 20 leaders. But ISIL’s strength comes from the thousands of non-Iraqi foreign fighters filling its ranks, many of whom were drawn to ISIL through social media campaigns displaying jihadi violence rather than messages by ISIL’s top leaders. ISIL’s Iraqi leadership is largely unknown to the foreign fighters recruited over the Internet and may provide an opportunity for fracturing.

The international coalition might seek to incite conflict within ISIL by elevating the stature of an emerging, charismatic foreign fighter leader with a large ego as an alternative to ISIL’s Iraqi leadership – perhaps Abu Umar al-Shishani, for example – to create competition in the online world and stimulate contention in the physical ranks. A second fracture worth exploring may be the ideological divergence between the criminal elements in ISIL ranks that run illicit enterprises and “purer” mujahideen. Criminal activity routinely violates the ideological principles of Sharia law. Some foreign fighters, the young and the zealous, willingly join in the pillage. The more ideological members, like an Omar Hammami type, can quickly become disillusioned and promoted as a way to counter ISIL Iraqi racketeers.

Erode ISIL Trust Through Infiltrators

To defeat the GIA, Algeria’s security service allegedly employed double agents and entire cadres performing false flag operations to penetrate the ranks of the GIA. Algerian security agents eroded the trust between GIA members and their leadership. This combined with leadership decapitation accelerated the GIA’s demise. Employing such a tactic against ISIL may be easier than using it to counter al-Qaeda. Jabhat al-Nusra, possibly to its detriment, performs more rigorous screenings of its foreign fighter recruits in Syria in order to detect any Western counterterrorism efforts to infiltrate the group. Al-Shabaab in Somalia performed similar screenings of Western foreign fighters, a procedure Omar Hammami describes in his autobiography where immediately upon arrival, he encountered a suspicious al-Qaeda legend Harun Fazul who evaluated the American foreign fighter’s motivations and intentions for coming to Somalia.

The Remote Control Digest: New Ways of War: Is Remote Control Warfare Effective?

10 October 2014 

London, Monday 13th October 2014 – New forms of warfare deployed by governments – using remote and covert methods such as drones, cyber attacks and special forces – increase the risk of foreign policy failures, raising serious doubts about counter-terrorism operations and the current campaign against IS in Iraq and Syria, according to a new report from leading military researchers and academics.

Using new analysis from military and other sources, New Ways of War, published by the Remote Control Project, shows that, whilst “remote warfare” is being expanded to new levels of complexity and intensity, it erodes trust, fuels violence, undermines democracy and increases instability. For the first time, New Ways of War provides evidence to show: 

An increase in terrorist attacks in Pakistan is a direct consequence of US anti-terror drone strikes 

Counter-terrorism operations in the Sahel-Sahara run by the US and France rely heavily on remote warfare and have led to increased radicalisation, undermining regional stability 
In the US, private corporations are integrated into the most sensitive special operations activities, including flying drones and running psychological operations, with eight companies accounting for 50% of contracts 

Despite Afghanistan being the most drone-bombed country in the world, there is a vacuum of information on where strikes take place and who they kill. 

One study for the report shows how militants fleeing from FATA and other parts of northwest Pakistan due to US drone action have “relocated” violence and extremism to areas such as Punjab leading to suicide bombers killing hundreds of people and the radicalisation of the usually tolerant local Sunni Muslim population.

Another study, into counter-terrorism operations by the US and France in the Sahel-Sahara region of Africa, shows that the heightened visibility of US and French forces has increased the profile and activity of jihadist groups, including Boko Haram.

Many of the tactics described in New Ways of War are being used against IS in Iraq and Syria. Together, the report editors claim the findings of New Ways of War paint a worrying picture of whether these distance warfare and covert methods are likely to succeed.

Manager of the Remote Control Project, Caroline Donnellan, said:

Remote warfare is intensifying as governments increasingly see it as an alternative to ‘boots on the ground’ in countering terrorism. Yet our evidence shows that there are deeper issues which require greater consideration in terms of assessing its overall effectiveness.

The critical issue for policy makers is that remote warfare is not always the most effective strategy and a re-evaluation is needed. Terrorism and extremism have root causes which, if not addressed, can be worsened by remote control tactics.