24 June 2015


June 23, 2015

“There are only two ways to fight the US: stupidly [conventionally] or asymmetrically”
— Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster

The Department of Defense is preparing the groundwork for a technology-focused third offset strategy while simultaneously working to turn the page on more than 12 years of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. During this time of transition from small wars to a focus on big ones, the department and the defense industry risk focusing too much time and money on the anti-access, area denial (A2/AD) threat posed by China in the Western Pacific at the expense of preparing for asymmetric warfare — particularly against sophisticated non-state groups and great powers employing similar tactics. These malicious actors are increasingly using a combination of defense and commercial technology, underscoring the need for the U.S. military and defense industry to start thinking like asymmetric bad guys, to both counter and create hybrid-defense technologies and programs through the third offset strategy. America’s post-World War II history has shown that low-intensity conflicts against insurgents and small powers are far more likely to occur, and can significantly damage U.S. interests, exact an outsized toll, and give future enemies a playbook from which to work.

The Inequality of War

JUNE 18, 2015

A new report confirms that more than ever across the globe, peace begets peace and violence more violence. And without significant change, the inequality will only worsen.

There’s a lot of talk these days about inequality of income, less about inequality of war. But such a disparity not only exists but is widening, according to a new report by the Australia-based Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP).

The 2015 Global Peace Index (GPI), which relies on 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators to measure the existence or fear of violence in a given country, includes a number of interesting findings: violent conflicts in 2014 cost the world an estimated $14 trillion (the equivalent of the combined economies of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom); the number of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) is at its highest level since the Second World War; the United States places a middling 94 out of 162 in the report’s ranking of “most peaceful” states.

What Successful Strategists Read

L Block (British, 1848–1901) The Bibliophile’s Desk 

Aaron Bazin is a career Army officer; Lieutenant Colonel FA 59 (Strategist) with experience at the combatant command level and within the institutional Army. The views expressed in this article do not reflect the official policy or position of the US Army, the Department of Defense, or the US Government. 

Every two weeks or so here at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, a small group of officers and civilians gets together over lunch to discuss strategic-level topics. This gathering is a low overhead and informal event, where one officer gets the conference room and selects the topic of discussion. Sometimes, there is a book to read ahead of time, other times, there is a brief movie to watch and discuss. The dialogue that unfolds is usually lively, and there never seems to be a shortage of things to talk about. Generally, the people involved find the sessions very valuable and come back again.

…they had never really thought deeply which books were really the most important to them as strategists.

Israel conducts air strike over the border in Lebanon to 'destroy its own downed drone'

Israeli war plane reportedly struck a remote area in Lebanon’s western Bekaa region to destroy a drone which landed over the border

Studying a new language doesn’t have to mean stepping back into the classroom. Babbel offers 13 language courses that can be studied online and on the go.

Israel launched an airstrike strike in Lebanon in order to destroy its own drone which had crashed, according to reports.

A blast in a remote part of the western Bekaa region in Lebanon took place on Sunday.

An unnamed security source told the AFP news agency that the strike was launched to destroy one of Israel’s drones “that crashed in the mountains outside Saghbine”.

23 June 2015

Myanmar Operation: Why Pakistan is so rattled

Ever since India launched a targeted Special Forces action against two militant camps in Myanmar and announced it, the whole of Pakistani political as well as military establishment is repeating again and again that “Pakistan is not Myanmar” and India should not even think about any such action against Pakistan. Before the nature and actual potency of these threats is examined in a threadbare manner, it will be pertinent to examine how India has been responding in the past to Pakistan’s terror proxies attacking Indian military and civilian targets along the Line of Control and International Border.

Within hours of Indian Special Forces destroying (NSCN-K) camps in Myanmar, paranoid statements from Pakistani side started to come despite the fact that after the strike GoI has nowhere indicated or mentioned that such operation could be expanded to the western theatre.

Digitizing Defence & Security - beyond Digital India

There is no denying that the Digital India initiative taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for transforming India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy has no parallel in India’s history. It can also be safely assumed that under his Chairmanship, Digital India should meet the overall transformation objectives despite the estimated costs of some Rs 113,000 crores, including Rs 13,000 crores for new schemes and activities, given the foreign interests for investing in India including developing 100 smart cities.

…Digital India is an umbrella covering many departments and Miniseries, the focus being on making technology central to enable change.

India’s Lagging Human Capital

By Asit K. Biswas and Kris Hartley
June 22, 2015

A new report shows India falling behind on human capital. Smarter government intervention is needed. 

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has recently released its second Human Capital Report. The firstwas published in 2013. The report argues “talent, not capital, will be a key factor linking innovation, competitiveness and growth in the 21st century.” By this measure, India’s prospects are not encouraging. The country’s lagging performance is in part a product of poor strategy and ineffective leadership, leading to deterioration in the factors that improve human capital. Three of these – education, mobility, and environment – need serious and pragmatic attention from the Indian policymakers.

How India only cares about Northeast when it's a national security threat story


It's sad how we lecture our distant ethnicities and minorities on unity in diversity, but treat them as lesser citizens than the mainlanders.

The greatest tragedy of India's Northeast is that its story dies the minute its people stop dying. Or, let's put it more rudely and accurately, when we "Indians" are not dying.

Let me explain this by invoking a conversation with a Khasi civil servant in Shillong more than three decades ago, when the Northeast was the kind of story that wouldn't go off the front pages for nearly three years, coinciding precisely with my tour of duty there (1981-83). "So how many of you Indians do we Meghalayans have to kill to get you to write a story about us, Shekhar, even though you live here?" He was making a brutal point. In the three years that I covered the region, based in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, I did not write one serious news story on the state. The truth was, when Nagaland, Mizoram and Tripura were on fire, and Assam so completely paralysed that even pipelines carrying its crude to "India" were blocked, Meghalaya was utterly calm and peaceful. It was the headquarters of the Army, Air Force, Assam Rifles, BSF and indeed IB and RAW for the region, as also for most journalists. But because it welcomed all of us affectionately rather than kill in ambushes and bombings, we didn't care for it.

Taliban vs. ISIS: The Islamic State Is Doomed in Afghanistan

June 21, 2015 

Five reasons why the Islamic State can't prevail.
The Islamic State (IS) has grown its fearsome global franchise beyond Iraq and Syria largely by convincing, inciting, or inspiring local, homegrown groups to swear allegiance to the “Caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Various groups in places like Nigeria—Boko Haram—Libya, and Southeast Asia are now affiliatesof IS.

However, one powerful Islamist group has not only rejected the Islamic State but has actively fought against it—the Taliban of Afghanistan and Pakistan. And the Taliban are going to absolutely crush the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Here’s why.

The Islamic State in Afghanistan and Pakistan was established on January 26, 2015 when renegade Taliban commanders swore allegiance to al-Baghdadi. This area was constituted as the “Khorasan Province” of the Islamic State. Khorasan is an old Iranian term for much of today’s Afghanistan as well as parts of Pakistan, Iran, and Central Asia. Most Taliban commanders who joined the Islamic State were dissatisfiedmid-level commanders who were impressed by the gains and bravado of IS in Iraq and Syria and frustrated with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

From cockfighting to buzkashi, Afghanistan’s pastimes are as brutal as the country’s history.

A chapandaz (horseman) on a white horse reaches for the calf carcass as two teammates, one on either side, protect him from rival riders during a buzkashi match in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, Jan. 2014; Dogs clash at a Friday dogfighting event in Company, on Kabul’s southwestern outskirts, Jan. 2014.

At the top of a dusty hill in central Kabul, Hasan walks his dog, Diwana, alongside an empty Soviet-era swimming pool. The leash in his hand is doubled for strength and attached to a body harness made out of a heavy leather. It is fastened around the dog’s neck and waist as if for a horse to pull a cart. Above them, a giant Afghan flag flaps in the cold air at the top of a flagpole that stretches some 260 feet into the sky.

In a few hours, Hasan and Diwana will drive half an hour to the capital’s eastern outskirts, where the Afghan National Security Forces’ presence runs thin, ceding to local strongmen who pay gunmen to provide at least a sense of security.

A new future for the Himalayan rivers

June 10, 2015

Major rivers of South Asia with origins in the Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau. SOURCE: WATER DIPLOMACY

The question of whether and how to harness rivers for irrigation, hydropower generation, urban development and sustainability of ecosystems continues to be an issue of great concern, conflict, and cooperation for this region. While pessimistic speculation on the endemic nature of water stress within and between countries in South Asia occurs commonly, there is a void of suggestion on what to do next. 

We need informed conversations to hammer out the details required to act and move forward on how to develop and share the Himalayan rivers for an equitable and sustainable future. Complexity of transboundary water issues demands learning from other river basins – like the Nile, Jordan, and Danube - and adapting to local situations. Interconnectedness and interdependence of issues as well as competing and conflicting values and priorities for water allocation make the process of charting a path for the future difficult. 

Controversy over Lipu-Lekh Pass: Is Nepal’s Stance Politically Motivated?

June 08, 2015

After lying dormant for years, the Nepal-India border dispute over Kalapani has once again become embroiled in controversy. Nepal claims that the Lipu-Lekh Pass, which was mentioned in the joint statement of May 15, 2015 during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to China, is a disputed tri-junction in which Nepal has an equal share. The joint statement states: “…The two sides agreed to hold negotiation on augmenting the list of traded commodities, and expand border trade at Nathu La, Qiangla/Lipu-Lekh Pass and Shipki La.” Nepalese media, academia, civil society and ruling and opposition party leaders have all expressed concern over this development and have demanded that China and India should withdraw the mention of Lipu-Lekh in the joint statement. They have also argued that such a mention tantamount to disrespect for Nepal’s sovereignty and a threat to its territorial integrity. Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala is under pressure from his coalition partners to lodge a formal diplomatic protest against section 28 of the 41-point India-China Joint Statement. The issue has intensified public debate in Nepal at a time when India and Nepal have agreed to resolve the existing border dispute amicably through bilateral mechanisms during Modi’s August 2014 visit to Kathmandu. In this regard, the two countries have already established a joint boundary technical committee to demarcate the border by 2019.

A Boost to Sub-Regionalism in South Asia

A landmark agreement is expected to pave the way for regional integration. 

At the 18th SAARC summit in Kathmandu, held in late November 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that regional integration in South Asia would go ahead “through SAARC or outside it, among all of us or some of us.” On June 15, 2015, the transport ministers of four South Asian neighbors – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, now better known as the BBIN – signed a landmark Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) in Thimpu. The agreement is expected to pave the way for a seamless movement of goods and people across their borders, encouraging regional integration and economic development.

Indian Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari commented, “This indeed is a momentous achievement for all the four neighbours. This historic agreement will further promote our cooperation in trade and commerce.” He added, “The Motor Vehicles Agreement is the ‘overarching’ framework to fulfill our commitment to enhance regional connectivity. The agreement will help in creating transport corridors linking the four countries into economic corridors as well as enable transit of passengers and goods along designated key routes in the four SAARC countries, thereby reducing the time-consuming exercise of disembarking of passengers.”

China is outflanking Russia in the struggle to woo Europe

Neither Russia and China like the EU, but they've each got their ways of dealing with its members.

Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia during its Victory Day celebrations is a sign that relations between Russia and China are becoming increasingly cosy – but the two countries' competition for influence in Europe is running as high as ever.

Both Russia and China share a suspicion of the EU’s integration project, a grand supranational organism that limits its member states’ sovereignty but combines their geopolitical heft. After all, both Moscow and Beijing carry more weight in bilateral dealings with small member states than they do when dancing with the EU behemoth – and they would prefer it to stay that way.

But their motivations for dealing with Europe in the way they do are very different.

Is North Korea's 'Byungjin Line' on the US-China Strategic Agenda?

June 20, 2015

Are the United States and China on the same page regarding North Korea’s Byungjin line? 

On Friday, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that the United States and China are planning on discussing North Korea’s nuclear program when senior leaders from both sides meet for their annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) next week. Yonhap based its report off comments made by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel during a recent press briefing ahead of the S&ED.

Russel implicitly referenced a joint U.S.-China opposition to North Korea’s “Byungjin Line”—the country’s policy of pursuing the parallel goals of economic development and a robust nuclear weapons program. Russel referred to that policy as a “fantasy,” noting that Pyongyang couldn’t “have its cake and eat it too.” Yonhap, thus, chose to call this out in its headline: “U.S., China to discuss ways to get N. Korea out of ‘fantasy’ of ‘byeongjin’ policy.” Russel notes that the United States and China will:

China: Africa's New Power Broker

June 22, 2015 

In South Sudan, China has established itself as a regional player.

When South Sudan achieved its independence from Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s brutal rule in 2011, hopes were high as U.S.-led foreign investment and aid flooded into the world’s newest country. Yet, since a civil war broke out in December 2013, over 50,000 people are estimated to have died, over 1.4 million have been displaced, and 40 percent of the country’s population will face acute hunger in the next few months. Where did it all go wrong?

In July 2013, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir of the powerful Dinka ethnic group fired Vice President Riek Machar of the smaller Nuer tribe, claiming he was plotting a coup to oust Kiir from power. The army quickly split along Dinka-Nuer lines, as Machar fled the capital Juba along with Nuer soldiers to launch a rebellion from the oil-rich areas in the Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei States where the Nuer are based.

China’s Military Strategy

Challenge and Opportunity for the U.S.

China outlined a strategy to boost its naval reach on Tuesday and announced plans for the construction of two lighthouses in disputed waters, developments likely to escalate tensions in a region already jittery about Beijing’s maritime ambitions.

This post was provided by contributor Chad Pillai, an U.S. Army strategist. The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone, and do not reflect those of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

China recently published its new Military Strategy. Within this strategy China must be given credit for clearly articulating its version of the “Monroe Doctrine” for the Asia-Pacific region and its desire to no longer play second fiddle to the U.S. globally. Unlike the current U.S. national security strategy, China’s strategy is more narrowly focused on securing its near abroad (the first island chain) while also expanding its military reach to secure its interests globally. Meanwhile, the U.S. faces a complex global landscape, and must confront threats perceived and real emanating from multiple angles while managing significant fiscal constraints.


20 Jun 2015

The bombshells just keep coming in the Office of Personnel Management’s hack, which is bidding to eclipse Obamacare’s launch as the most stunning example of Big Government incompetence in the Information Age. The latest bad news is that Chinese hackers had a full year to rummage around inside the OPM’s security clearance system–plenty of time to take just about anything they wanted.

The considerable lag time between breach and discovery means that the adversary had more time to pull off a cyber-heist of consequence, said Stewart Baker, a former National Security Agency general counsel.

“The longer you have to exfiltrate the data, the more you can take,” he said. “If you’ve got a year to map the network, to look at the file structures, to consult with experts and then go in and pack up stuff, you’re not going to miss the most valuable files.”

“This is some of the most sensitive non-classified information I could imagine the Chinese getting access to,” said Baker, who also is a former senior policy official in the Department of Homeland Security.

Tajikistan's Former Special Police Commander Appears in Second ISIS Video

June 19, 2015

In his second video, Gulmurod Halimov threatens his brother and a government cleric. 
Tajikistan has once again reportedly blocked access to various social media websites in response to the appearance of a second video featuring Gulmurod Halimov, the now-infamous (now former) commander of the country’s special police (OMON) who defected to ISIS in May.

According to Edward Lemon, who researches Tajik militants in Iraq and Syria, in the video Halimov is “lounging between two Tajik militants, and sporting a bushier beard than in his first video.” Ranting in Tajik, rather than Russian, Halimov threatens to behead his older brother Saidmurod and also makes threats against Hoji Mirzo, a government-sanctioned cleric who has spoken against ISIS.

Meet Saudi Arabia's Biggest (and Most Controversial) Twitter Star

Saudi Arabia continues to coddle extremist preachers like Saleh bin Awad al-Moghamsy while preaching brotherhood and tolerance.

Saudi Arabia is changing, some say. The authoritarian desert kingdom is becoming more responsive to the will of its people and the demands of the global information economy, say others. This idea is rooted in the notion that technology is forcing the austere monarchy to join the Internet age. Indeed, even Saudi Arabia’s oppressive religious police recently joined Twitter.

But, as it turns out, that same police force reportedly shut down 10,117 Twitter accounts in 2014 for “religious and ethical violations” online. Many Saudi citizens have been subjected to harsh sentences for online activism, including by terror courts; blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to an astonishing 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for a conviction just reaffirmed by the kingdom’s top court.