10 January 2016

U.S. Power Companies Told to Review Their Cyber Defenses After Cyber Attack Hits Ukrainian Utility Companies

U.S. power companies told to review defenses after Ukraine cyber attack
Reuters, January 6, 2016
A quasi-governmental U.S. electric industry group last week advised members to review network defenses following reports that 80,000 customers of a Western Ukraine utility lost power for six hours following a cyber attack.
The Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center, or E-ISAC, urged members to “do a better job” at implementing multiple layers of defense against potential cyber attacks, saying the incident at Ukraine’s Prykarpattyaoblenergo electricity provider appeared to be the result of a “coordinated effort by a malicious actor.”
The nine-page confidential document, reviewed by Reuters, did not identify deficiencies in the U.S. grid that could lead to similar attacks.

Security experts said businesses in many sectors were closely following the Ukraine incident because it was a watershed event: the first known cyber attack to take down an electric grid. It was also one of just a handful of known cyber attacks that have damaged any kind of physical infrastructure.
Kimberly Mielcarek, a spokeswoman for E-ISAC, said that the organization would continue to provide more data as it pursued an investigation with help of the federal government.
“There is no credible evidence that the incident could affect North American grid operations and no plans to modify existing regulations or guidance based on this incident,” she said in an emailed statement.

White House and Intelligence Leaders Will Meet With Silicon Valley Corporate Chiefs About How to Disrupt ISIS Use of Social Media

White House, Silicon Valley to hold summit on militants’ social media use
Reuters, January 7, 2016

Senior White House officials and U.S. intelligence and law enforcement figures will meet with Silicon Valley executives on Friday to discuss how to counter the use of social media by militant groups, sources familiar with the meeting said on Thursday.
In an escalation of pressure on technology firms to do more to combat online propaganda from groups such as Islamic State, the meeting follows attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, that underscored the role played by social media companies such as Twitter Inc, Alphabet Inc’s YouTube and Facebook Inc.
Invited participants include White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, presidential counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, National Intelligence Director James Clapper and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers, one of the sources said.

A source familiar with the meeting said it would focus on social media content, not encrypted communications, another topic of discussion between Silicon Valley and the White House.
Twitter, Apple Inc, Facebook and Google are attending, the companies said. Several other Internet firms, including Microsoft Corp and Dropbox, are expected to attend, according to those familiar with the meeting. Most companies are expected to send high-ranking executives, but not their chief executive officers.

An administration announcement is expected following the conclusion of the summit, according to a source.
Twitter last week updated its policies for policing its content to explicitly prohibit “hateful conduct.” Other websites have similarly updated and clarified their abuse policies within the past 18 months.
The meeting agenda covers how to make it harder for militants to recruit and mobilize followers on social media, as well as helping ordinary users create, publish and amplify content that can undercut groups like Islamic State.

The 5 Year Plan for Israel’s Military

Israel’s 5-Year Plan Bulks Up Combat Capabilities; Cuts Manpower
Barbara Opall-Rome, Defense News, January 7, 2016
TEL AVIV, Israel — The Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) latest five-year plan, roughly half of the 310 billion shekel ($78.6 billion) projected for defense spending through 2020, aims to bulk up cyber-protected, networked combat capabilities while cutting back on manpower and non-combat support services.

Dubbed Gideon, the plan is designed to augment the IDF’s capacity to fight in multiple theaters, with sufficient war stocks to allow for protracted combat along its northern border with Lebanon and Syria — which is considered two fronts of the same theater — and at least one other theater, whether that be Gaza, the West Bank or Iran, officers here said.
“We certainly don’t intend to reduce our current capabilities for Iran,” an IDF general officer said when asked if the recent nuclear deal with Iran would allow Israel to divert resources to other theaters.
“Gideon also allows flexibility to enhance these capabilities, if needed,” he added.

In parallel, Plan Gideon bolsters home front defenses, with at least one more battery of the Iron Dome air defense system and deployment of the new David’s Sling and Upper Tier Arrow-3 intercepting systems, in addition to continuous upgrades of Israel’s existing Arrow-2 system.
“We’ll continue to expand our air and anti-missile defenses, where funding is heavily influenced by our strong connection with the Americans,” the officer said of joint US-Israel missile development programs.
“We understand the importance of maintaining funding according to previous agreements. So there will be no changes; no cuts.”

In a recent interview, the officer from J5 planning of the IDF general staff said Plan Gideon does not presume a hike in annual US grant aid, despite the fact that both sides are working to conclude a new 10-year aid package before the current agreement expires in 2017.
“As far as our plan is concerned, we are not counting on a hike in aid. Our plan presupposes current [Foreign Military Financing (FMF)] levels of at least $3.1 billion.”

How Many Bombs Did the U.S. Drop in 2015?

How Many Bombs Did the United States Drop in 2015?
Micah Zenko, Council on Foreign Relations
January 7, 2016

The primary focus—meaning the commitment of personnel, resources, and senior leaders’ attention—of U.S. counterterrorism policies is the capture or killing (though, overwhelmingly killing) of existing terrorists. Far less money and programmatic attention is dedicated to preventing the emergence of new terrorists. As an anecdotal example of this, I often ask U.S. government officials and mid-level staffers, “what are you doing to prevent a neutral person from becoming a terrorist?” They always claim this this is not their responsibility, and point toward other agencies, usually the Department of State (DOS) or Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where this is purportedly their obligation internationally or domestically, respectively. DOS and DHS officials then refer generally to “countering violent extremism” policies, while acknowledging that U.S. government efforts on this front have been wholly ineffective.

The primary method for killing suspected terrorists is with stand-off precision airstrikes. With regard to the self-declared Islamic State, U.S. officials have repeatedly stated that the pathway to “destroying” the terrorist organization is by killing every one of its current members. Last February, Marie Harf, DOS spokesperson, said, “We are killing them and will continue killing ISIS terrorists that pose a threat to us.” Then in June, Lt. Gen. John Hesterman, Combined Forces Air Component commander, stated, “We kill them wherever we find them,” and just this week, Col. Steve Warren, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, claimed, “If you’re part of ISIL, we will kill you. That’s our rule.”

The problem with this “kill-em’-all with airstrikes” rule, is that it is not working. Pentagon officials claim that at least 25,000 Islamic State fighters have been killed (an anonymous official said 23,000 in November, while on Wednesday, Warren added “about 2,500” more were killed in December.) Remarkably, they also claim that alongside the 25,000 fighters killed, only 6 civilians have “likely” been killed in the seventeen-month air campaign. At the same time, officials admit that the size of the group has remained wholly unchanged. In 2014, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated the size of the Islamic State to be between 20,000 and 31,000 fighters, while on Wednesday, Warren again repeated the 30,000 estimate. To summarize the anti-Islamic State bombing calculus: 30,000 – 25,000 = 30,000.

9 January 2016

The way forward in Nepal

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-way-forward-in-nepal/article8073500.ece?homepage=true

January 7, 2016, RAKESH SOOD
The Oli government needs to demonstrate an inclusive approach during the constitutional amendment process. For India, the challenge is to give greater political content to its engagement with Nepal even as cross-border movement of goods picks up

While media attention has been focussed on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise Christmas rendezvous in Lahore with Nawaz Sharif and the terrorist attack at the Pathankot airbase, significant developments on the Nepal front have been taking place. Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Oli telephoned Mr. Modi on New Year’s Eve to convey his greetings for 2016 and informed him about his government’s plans to move forward with the three-point package while undertaking negotiations with the agitating Madhesi leaders of the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM). In response, Mr. Modi reiterated the need to find durable solutions to Nepal’s political problems on the basis of “consensus” and conveyed his greetings to the Nepali people for 2016.
Shift or drift?

However, there are subtle changes of position underway. The first sign came on December 21 following the decisions taken by the Nepali cabinet to address the demands of the SLMM. The three-point package consists of constitutional amendments on participation in the state organs on the basis of “proportionate inclusiveness” and delineation of electoral constituencies on the basis of population. Demarcation of provinces was to be undertaken in a three-month period through a political mechanism on the basis of consensus, and other demands — including those pertaining to “citizenship” — are to be resolved through negotiation and appropriate notification. Nepal’s Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa had already briefed External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj about this road map during his visit to Delhi last month.
In an official statement, India’s Ministry of External Affairs welcomed these developments as “positive steps that help create the basis for a resolution of the current impasse in Nepal”. The statement further urged “all Nepali political forces to now demonstrate the necessary maturity and flexibility” so that a resolution to the current crisis could be found. The formal Indian statement has been followed by aninformal easing of supplies, particularly fuel and LPG, by using border-crossing points other than the Raxaul-Birgunj crossing which remains blocked.

* WHAT WASHINGTON SHOULD DO TO HELP INDIA–PAKISTAN TIES

http://warontherocks.com/2016/01/looking-back-to-look-ahead-what-washington-should-do-to-help-india-pakistan-ties/
ALYSSA AYRES, JANUARY 7, 2016

On January 2, eight days after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise Christmas Day stop in Lahore to visit with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, terrorists attacked an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, Punjab. The next day, with fighting still raging in Pathankot, the Indian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan came under attack. These grim developments deflated the optimism generated by the Modi visit for renewed “comprehensive bilateral dialogue” between India and Pakistan. The nuclear-armed neighbors have fought four wars, and repeated efforts over the decades to bridge their differences have never overcome longstanding suspicions on both sides. Events of the past few days illustrate why.

Since 1998, when both countries tested nuclear weapons, a possible conflict has become more dangerous for the region and the world. Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to harbor a plethora of terrorist groups, and the country’s pursuit of miniaturized “tactical nukes” fuels an already combustible situation. If Modi and Sharif can lead their countries to durably improve their relationship, even modestly, they will realize a goal that has eluded their predecessors.
Given the complex politics of the India–Pakistan relationship, the United States does not play a role in their bilateral talks, but Washington can certainly take steps to help prevent spoilers from once again disrupting a dialogue process that deserves every chance to succeed. The single most useful thing the United States can do is to unequivocally pressure Pakistan to end support for terrorist groups — not just some, but all — that destabilize India and the region.

Looking Back

My own views on the region have been formed over more than two decades. In December of 1993 I decided to take a train trip from Lahore to Quetta over the Christmas holidays. Back then, this was a lot less adventurous than it sounds today. I was already in Lahore for the academic year to study Urdu, and previously had taken many long train journeys across India. Family friends in Lahore, however, fretted aloud about this plan, and arranged for their friends — part of an endless web of South Asian hospitality — to look after me in Quetta. I spent the train ride in a “family” compartment with an older religious couple, looking out the window at the ever-more barren landscape as we traveled from populous Punjab to the sparseness of Balochistan.

'Drug-terror nexus' in Pathankot

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1160108/jsp/frontpage/story_62779.jsp#.Vo-9olIpq38
SUJAN DUTTA
IF ONLY THIS WAS DONE ON JANUARY 1
Security forces scour Bhullaechak Colony near Tibri Cantonment in Gurdaspur, less than 50km from Pathankot, on Thursday after a farmer said on Wednesday that he saw two men in army fatigues moving in a suspicious manner. The army and police are carrying out joint combing operations. “We are not taking any chance. All vehicles and people, in and around the area, are being physically checked,” Gurdaspur senior superintendent of police Gurpreet Singh Toor said. (PTI)
New Delhi, Jan. 7: The militants who attacked the Pathankot Air Force base tapped into drug-smuggling channels to carry out the raid, according to an assessment in the security establishment in New Delhi.
The security agencies are also probing an explosive element: whether one of the two squads of attackers, carrying heavy weapons, was "sheltered" inside the base, an executive familiar with the security assessment said.
The investigation is taking into account the nature of the terrain around the Shakargarh Bulge through which the Ravi river flows in and out of Pakistan bordering northern Punjab. Long stretches of the international boundary in the zone are not fenced.

The region has a history of being used to traffic contraband drugs. Local officials have been bribed by smugglers.
In the marriage of narcotics smuggling and terrorism, one line of investigation is probing whether a Punjab security official was lured into being an accomplice of the attackers.
He may have been lured by a combination of money and flesh but when he went to receive the consignment, the "package" turned out to be a gang of gun-wielding terrorists. That made him turn chicken and report to a superior with a half-truth, not the full story, the investigators suspect.

These disclosures were made when a security assessment was shared with a handful of journalists, including this correspondent, to challenge a perception that there was doubtful synergy in the chain of command during the Pathankot operation.
The alleged nexus between the drug mafia and politicians in Punjab has been a festering issue in the past few years. The Congress has consistently accused the Parkash Singh Badal government, which is partnering the BJP, of being hand in glove with drug cartels.
Last year Jagdish Singh Bhola, a former DSP, was booked in a Rs 600-crore synthetic drug scam. Bhola had named Bikram Singh Majithia, the state's revenue minister as well as the younger brother of Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the daughter-in-law of chief minister Badal.

Hours before attack IAF moved MiGs, choppers out of Pathankot

http://www.rediff.com/news/column/hours-before-attack-iaf-moved-migs-choppers-out-of-pathankot/20160108.htm
January 08, 2016
'As many as 29 explosions were recorded after the last terrorist was neutralised, giving an impression of continuing pitched battles!' reveals Rajeev Sharma.
Did India's counter-terrorism machinery bungle in tackling the Pathankot terror attack challenge?
My answer is a big 'No!'
Why? Here's why.
A prime question is why the Indian government could not neutralise the terrorists in a heavily fortified military establishment like the Pathankot airbase in a jiffy when France had done so in a matter of two hours in civilian areas?
Why did India take four long days to neutralise terrorists who were initially four and later turned out to be more?
The Pathankot terror attack was dealt with in a surgical manner. The operations were personally choreographed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval who cancelled his strategically important China visit to be able to oversee the Pathankot counter-terror operations.

The success or failure of the Pathankot terror operation boiled down to just one question: Whether the NSA-led operations were able to deny the hardcore perpetrators meeting their single biggest objective of destroying the Pathankot airbase?
The question, in other words, is whether the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists were able to even remotely meet their mission objective.
The answer is NO because most of the assets like the MiG-21 fighter aircraft and the Mi-25 helicopters had already been removed hours before the terrorists wreaked mayhem.

Moreover, a contingent of National Security Guards commandos had been harnessed and the perpetrators were kept engaged in counter-terrorism operations. All these NSG officers belonged to the Indian Army and drew their strength from the Indian Army.
Pathankot was a different ball game in comparison to the recent Paris terror attacks where all the perpetrators had been neutralised within two hours.
Pathankot was much different as terrorists, armed to teeth, had sneaked inside the Pathankot airbase, one of the biggest in India with over 2,700 acres of total area and a periphery wall of over 24 kilometres.
The size of the Pathankot airbase made the operations all the more tricky as Indian security managers were not sure as to how many perpetrators were still at large and their locations.

'The information we had was pure gold'

http://www.rediff.com/news/interview/the-information-we-had-was-pure-gold/20160106.htm
January 06, 2016
'You seldom get information of this kind several hours in advance, exactly where they are going to strike. But we still couldn't act on this intelligence.'
'Had this been handled in a correct way, the only lives that would have been lost, presumably, were the lives of the terrorists and that would have been welcome.'
Colonel Ajai Shukla (retd) has been scathing about the manner in which India's national security team handled the Pathankot airbase terrorist attack.

Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com spoke to Colonel Shukla to find out why despite advance intelligence the terrorists still attacked the airbase and took precious Indian lives.
In your column, you said National Security Adviser Ajit Doval handled the Pathankot airbase attacks 'ineptly' and it was a 'debacle.' What could he have done?
You also say in the column that the NSG (National Security Guard) is trained to handle pinpoint operations. Didn't the same NSG flush out terrorists during the 26/11 Mumbai siege?
You understand the difference between clearing a hotel and securing a large piece of land. When you have to secure an area and defend it against terrorists who are attacking it, you require a different operation, one that requires lot of manpower.
When you have to do an attack operation on terrorists holed up in a hotel and clear it room by room is a different operation. Now the Mumbai kind of room clearance operations, which are pinpoint type of attack operations, is what the NSG is geared and equipped and meant to handle.
On the other hand, what should have been done (at Pathankot) immediately upon receiving information about an impending terrorist attack is to secure the airbase, which means putting a large number of people at various pickets all around the airbase which means you dominate the area and don't give freedom of movement (to terrorists).

How could these six or so terrorists have entered the airbase? If there were intelligence inputs, why wasn't the perimeter of the Pathankot airbase secured?
Because it was such a handful of people who had to secure a very large premise, which meant there were large gaps in between the pickets and these terrorists ingressed through those gaps.
When you have a larger number of people deployed, these gaps get reduced and minimise the chances of terrorists taking advantage of these gaps.
The point that I am making about the larger presence of manpower is because the biggest problem, in securing a large area, is manpower. And when you have just 150 NSG commandos (to secure such a huge air base)... (it) is like using a heart surgeon to sort of put a band aid on a little wound.

Pathankot attack: Are India's nuclear sites really safe from Pakistan? Although these nuclear installations are quite far from the border areas, there is every possibility of infiltration.

 07-01-2016
After so much breast-beating on the Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attack in Pathankot, it is time to analyse the designs of a new dimension of terrorism that India is likely to face in the future. Prior to Pathankot, all terrorist attacks - be it 26/11 or on Parliament- were executed on the motto of "kill and die" by jihadi groups at the behest of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), or the Pakistan army.
Prior to 26/11, David Headley was sent to Mumbai to pinpoint densely populated areas where terrorists were later sent to kill innocents indiscriminately. Headley did his job efficiently and heavy killing was the resultant end in 26/11.

So "kill and die" was perfectly executed in that ISI-sponsored operation purportedly done by Lashkar-e-Toiba.
The Pathankot attack was planned with a different modus operandi by its handlers in Pakistan. Now the motive was "Destroy and Die". If credence is given to intelligence outputs, these terrorists were not trained in forest camps but in two airports - either Lyallpur or Chaklala in Pakistan.
It would be pertinent to admit here that the layout of airports in India and Pakistan are almost similar. These terrorists were almost within shooting range of the hangars, ammunition depots, fuel dumps and aircraft units.

They probably had the exact locations of these strategic places due to the handiwork of an Indian mole at this airport who was honey-trapped in 2014 and passed on information to his handlers in Pakistan in exchange of money.
This is the biggest security breach in this tragedy, which the intelligence authorities had not visualised earlier. Had the vulnerable entry points been properly sanitised after this catch, there would have been little chance of such free access for the terrorists.
There is no denying that these terrorists had sophisticated weapons but recovery of aluminum powder is ample proof that they were sent on a "destroy and die" mission. Aluminum powder is the worst catalyst to increase the fire engulfing capacity that heavy extinguishing apparatus find hard to douse.

The Pathankot Siege and its Lessons

http://www.rediff.com/news/column/the-pathankot-siege-and-its-lessons/20160107.htm
Last updated on: January 07, 2016
'Jihadi outfits backed by the ISI are now prepared to attack targets not just in J&K, but also in Punjab. This signals an escalation in the range and scope of cross-border terrorism, which cannot be ignored,' says Ambassador G Parthasarthy, former high commissioner to Pakistan.
The entry of six well-armed Pakistani terrorists into the strategically located Pathankot military airfield and the subsequent siege that followed has several lessons for India in the conduct of foreign and defence policies. This is notably so, in its relations with Pakistan and in addressing its defence and internal security shortcomings. All these issues need to be addressed seriously and not glossed over.
Ever since the acquisition of longer-range military aircraft like the SU-27, Mirage 2000 and Jaguars, these strategic assets can now be positioned in mores distant locations from the borders with Pakistan. But Pathankot has always been a chosen target for Pakistani attacks, in both the 1965 and 1971 conflicts. It now houses relatively old MiG-21 aircraft and given its location, close to the border, attack helicopters.

The attack on the Pathankot airbase, which follows a similar attack on nearby Gurdaspur along the Pathankot-Jammu Highway in July, clearly indicates that jihadi outfits backed by the ISI are now prepared to attack targets not just in Jammu and Kashmir, but also in Punjab.
This signals an escalation in the range and scope of cross-border terrorism, which cannot be ignored.
The ease with which the terrorists slipped passed border defences appears to indicate a nexus between smugglers, particularly of narcotics, and elements in the local administration.
The Pakistan-based jihadi groups and the ISI are clearly plugged into this nexus and prepared to exploit it to their advantage. This is an issue that can no longer be wished away and needs to be tackled head on.

Pathankot attack: India-Pakistan peace talks derailed?

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-35240272
By Shashank JoshiSenior research fellow, Royal United Services Institute
7 January 2016 
On Christmas Day, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a landmark visit to Pakistan to meet his counterpart Nawaz Sharif, the first such visit in over a decade. Two weeks on, and events have taken a disturbing, if predictable turn.
On 2 January, India's sprawling Pathankot airbase came under a remarkable four days of attack from a handful of gunmen. On 3 January, India's consulate in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif was besieged for over 24 hours. Then on 5 January, an explosion occurred near another of India's Afghan missions, in Jalalabad.

The two leaders had agreed that their foreign secretaries would meet in mid-January, and their national security advisers (NSAs) the next month. Indian officials were optimistic that Pakistan's powerful army - which famously torpedoed a rapprochement in 1999 by covertly sending troops into the Kargil district of Kashmir - was on board.
That assumption is now in doubt. Although the evidence remains uncertain, Indian officials have privately blamed the Pathankot attack on the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a militant group close to Pakistani intelligence which had been kept on a tight leash for several years.

Indian officials are sceptical of a claim of responsibility by the United Jihad Council, a confederation of Kashmiri jihadist groups, because the UJC's core members are not known to have carried out attacks outside Indian-controlled Kashmir.
Meanwhile, the Afghan attacks would be the seventh and possibly eighth such attacks on Indian diplomats there in under a decade, with even the United States attributing the most prominent - a 2008 bombing of the embassy in Kabul - to Pakistan's intelligence services.
Afghan insurgents have little cause to focus resources on Indian targets. It strains credulity to imagine that they do so in the absence of Pakistani direction. The timing is especially sensitive, as India is wary of China-brokered peace talks involving Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Taliban - and the impact on India's long-term position in Afghanistan.

While a single incident within India could be written off as the work of autonomous jihadist "spoilers", concurrent attacks in Afghanistan and India are harder to interpret as such. At the same time, it is difficult to see how Pakistan's army could have planned an attack, if it wanted to, in the two weeks since Mr Modi travelled to Lahore, or even in the month since a fleeting Modi-Sharif meeting in Paris. Such attacks in the past have had much longer gestation periods.

What now for India? Mr Modi is personally invested in engagement with Pakistan and his advisers would certainly have accounted for the likelihood of such attacks in their decision to engage.

Does India have a Plan B? Better to be slow and steady with Pakistan than novel and theatrical

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/comment/does-india-have-a-plan-b/180207.html
Jan 7 2016, MKC Singh
A bigger design? The attack on the Indian consulate in Afghanistan coincided with that in Pathankot.
For the second time in six months, in the same sensitive Gurdaspur-Pathankot area, Pakistan-based terrorists have struck. While the Dinanagar attack had random shooting at a passing bus, dispensary, etc., before the fidayeen dug-in next to a police station, this time, the Air Force station at Pathankot was the target. Furthermore, while in Dinanagar, an SP lost his life, this time the role of another such officer raises many questions. However, despite timely intelligence, a handful of terrorists penetrating the periphery of the air base and causing panic and loss of life hardly merit kudos for either the state or the Central government. 

Even more significantly, questions arise about the Modi government’s Pakistan policy, specifically his dramatic outreach that went from cursory chat in Paris between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan, to a meeting of the National Security Advisers in Bangkok, a visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Pakistan and then finally the hand-holding between the two PMs in Lahore, like two strolling “boys from Pindi” as a Pakistani columnist put it. All this happening in weeks at a break-neck speed increased the probability of Pakistani spoilers, consisting of either the Pakistani army directly or via their surrogates, retaliating. The dithering by the Modi government and not quickly reassuring the public that it had factored-in such a relapse in its Pakistan policy indicated a lack of Plan B. 
The attack also exposed the perils of over-centralisation of policy-making and implementation. Neither the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) nor a Crisis Management Group under the Cabinet Secretary met. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval commenced to combat the threat with usual media leaks. Defence experts in television studios pointed out that rushing the National Security Guards (NSG) to Pathankot was fine if a hostage situation or close-quarter stand-off had developed, but perimeter security of the air base being the primary challenge, enough regular armed regiments were available in close proximity for deployment. This was particularly so when timely intelligence was available and an immediate army dragnet may have bagged the militants before they settled down. It is possible the NSA felt that the militants having had a head-start may have already penetrated the base. However, the NSG with 100-odd men was fine securing the inner perimeter, the Army should have been used to seal the outer one and commence a flushing-out operation. 

The Next Pathankot India's New Terrorism Battleground


https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/india/2016-01-06/next-pathankot
January 6, 2016
By Sumit Ganguly
On January 2, a handful of militants attacked the Indian air force base at Pathankot, in Punjab. Indian security officials say that they belonged to the Pakistani-based terrorist organization Jaish-e-Mohammed, which India has long accused Pakistan of supporting. The men entered the base by disguising themselves in military attire and were finally subdued after a three-day siege. The fight left all of the terrorists and seven Indian security personnel dead. Even though the militants failed to achieve their goal—the destruction of large numbers of aircraft—they nevertheless exposed the vulnerabilities of a major air base.
This was the second foreign terrorist attack in Punjab within a span of six months—though the first at a military base, which is uncommon. The last attack had taken place in Gurdaspur in July 2015 and had led to the deaths of seven policemen.

First and foremost, the attacks reveal the inadequacy of Indian security. On this occasion, Indian intelligence failed to utilize advanced warnings of a possible attack; these same men were believed to have hijacked a vehicle of a senior Punjab police official shortly before the onslaught. Further, Pathankot is a major military base, and barely 50 miles from the international border with Pakistan. Yet it lacked adequate protection to deter the attack.
In fact, after the hijacking, the air force authorities could apparently only deploy patrols from the Defense Security Corps, a security force composed of mostly retired military personnel, due to a failure to anticipate a carefully orchestrated terrorist attack. The DSC


Pakistan mulls elevating status of Gilgit-Baltistan on Chinese insistence

http://www.dawn.com/news/1231394/pakistan-mulls-elevating-status-of-gilgit-baltistan-on-chinese-insistence
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is mulling to elevate the constitutional status of northern Gilgit-Baltistan region in a bid to provide legal cover to the multi-billion-dollar Chinese investment plan, officials said on Thursday.
The move could signal a historic shift in the country's position on the future of the wider Kashmir region, observers have said.
The proposal would see the mountainous region mentioned by name for the first time in the country's Constitution, bringing it one step closer to being fully absorbed as an additional province.
Islamabad has historically insisted the parts of Kashmir it controls are semi-autonomous and has not formally integrated them into the country, in line with its position that a referendum should be carried out across the whole of the region.

Sajjad-ul-Haq, spokesman for the chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan Hafiz Hafeez ur Rehman, told AFP: "A high level committee formed by the prime minister is working on the issue, you will hear good news soon."
Rehman, who arrived in Islamabad on Thursday, was working on the finishing touches to the agreement, a senior official said, adding the document could be unveiled "in a few days".
In addition to being named in the Constitution, Gilgit-Baltistan would also send two lawmakers to sit in the federal parliament — though they would be given observer status only.

A third top government official from Gilgit-Baltistan said the move was in response to concerns raised by Beijing about the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, the $46 billion infrastructure plan set to link China's western city of Kashgar to the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.
"China cannot afford to invest billions of dollars on a road that passes through a disputed territory claimed both by India and Pakistan," the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
The corridor plans have been strongly criticised by New Delhi, with India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in June calling the project "unacceptable" for crossing through Indian-claimed territory.

India and Russia Fail to Resolve Dispute Over Fifth Generation Fighter Jet

http://thediplomat.com/2016/01/india-and-russia-fail-to-resolve-dispute-over-fifth-generation-fighter-jet/
Is the Indo-Russian fifth generation fighter jet program on the verge of collapse?
By Franz-Stefan Gady, January 06, 2016

During the annual India-Russia summit, which took place in late December 2015 in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to resolve an ongoing disagreement between the two countries over the future of a joint fifth generation fighter program.

India and Russia in early 2007 signed an intergovernmental agreement to co-develop a fifth generation fighter–the Sukhol/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) or as it known in India, the Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF). The aircraft will be a multi-role, single seat, twin-engine air superiority/deep air support fighter with stealth capabilities and is based on the Sukhoi PAK FA (Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation) T-50 prototype, currently undergoing flight tests in Russia.

Ever since 2007, however, the weapons program has experienced various setbacks.
Delays were caused by New Delhi and Moscow disagreeing over many fundamental aspects of the joint development project including work and cost share, aircraft technology, as well as the number of aircraft to be ordered. After evaluating the first PAK FA T-50 prototype, the Indian Air Force (IAF) wanted more than 40 changes addressing, among other things, perceived weaknesses in the plane’s engine, stealth and weapon-carrying capabilities.

GEN Keane on Afghanistan: Security Situation Deteriorating

https://www.thecipherbrief.com/article/gen-keane-afghanistan-security-situation-deteriorating
JANUARY 6, 2016 | GEN JACK KEANE
Security in Afghanistan is worsening, and the trend has been downward for over a year. Afghan military and police force casualties are rising and rapidly reaching a point which makes it difficult to sustain, while morale is impacted as desertions are growing and some soldiers and police go months without pay.
Taliban forces are surging under the new leadership of Mullah Akhtar Mansour. The Islamic State (ISIS) has established an affiliation with former insurgents who are frustrated with the direction of the Taliban. Al-Qaeda is reemerging in Afghanistan as well.

U.S. conventional forces are no longer involved in ground combat as they now perform a “train and assist” mission with the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Special Operations Forces (SOF) are performing counterterrorism missions, targeting Taliban leadership. U.S. force levels are down from a high of 100 thousand during the surge in 2010/11, to 9,800 in 2015, with that number expected to drop to 5,500 by the end of 2016.

The current Afghan security situation should not be a surprise. It was quite predictable given the arbitrary U.S. force level decisions made by the Obama White House that had no relationship to what was actually happening on the ground. In addition, two Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan are thriving and have been a crucial factor in protracting the war. No insurgency has ever been defeated when enabled by a successful sanctuary.


What is particularly galling about the current situation is that similar to Iraq and its deteriorating security situation, much of what is happening in Afghanistan was preventable.

China and Pakistan Join Forces Under the Sea

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/china-pakistan-join-forces-under-the-sea-14829

Islamabad has often been touted by Beijing as its foremost “all-weather friend.”
Koh Swee Lean Collin, January 7, 2016

While attention has been on the simmering tensions in the East and South China Seas letely, a small event took place in the East China Sea off the coast of Shanghai. Pakistan Navy (PN) guided missile frigate Shamsheer and fleet replenishment vessel Nasr drilled with a pair of PLA Navy Type-054AJiangkai II frigates, Xuzhou and Yangzhou from December 31 to January 1.
According to Chinese reports, the fast-paced, high-intensity exercise involved day and night maneuvers including joint escort, counter-piracy and live-firing. This constitutes a logical progression from the limited scope when this bilateral exercise first began in 2003 as a simple search-and-rescue drill. The objectives of these exercises are to hone interoperability between the two navies, while affording PN personnel the opportunity to get acquainted with Chinese technologies.

What was new in this latest iteration, however, was the inclusion of an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) component for the first time. Shamsheer, Xuzhouand Yangzhou cooperatively tracked a simulated submarine threats in the exercises. The ships relied on close communication, information-sharing and passive sonar techniques to triangulate the position of the suspected ‘enemy’ submarine, eventually striking it with a simulated ASW torpedo by one of the Chinese frigates.

This exercise marks yet another milestone for Sino-Pakistani naval cooperation. Commodore Bilal Abdul Nasir, Commander 25th Destroyer Squadron who led the PN flotilla, called the exercises “very significant” as they sought to enhance interoperability and cohesion between the two navies, adding euphemistically that "the time-tested relations, which are often referred as higher than the Himalayas, deeper than oceans, sweeter than honey, and stronger than steel, are testimonies to the strong bonding between the two countries and their people."

* WARS OF IDEAS: FROM THE TALIBAN TO THE ISLAMIC STATE

http://warontherocks.com/2016/01/wars-of-ideas-from-the-taliban-to-the-islamic-state/
MAJ. GEN. ERIC T. OLSON, JANUARY 6, 2016
With the re-taking of Ramadi, a difficult year in the history of the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seems to have ended on a high note with a tentative victory. Perhaps now President Obama’s hope that the American public recognize his national security team’s efforts as forceful, appropriate, and effective can be realized.
At the end of last month, Obama bemoaned the fact that people’s judgments about progress in the war on ISIL were being formed without full awareness or understanding of progress on the ground. To address this information gap, the last few weeks of 2015 saw a flurry of administration activity to get out the word about Obama’s strategy to counter the Islamic State.

Not unexpectedly, these public affairs efforts are bringing attacks from prominent critics of the administration, most volubly from Republican candidates for the presidency. They assert that the problem is not about public relations, and insist that a more muscular strategy and the capabilities to match are needed.
However, the candidate who is (perhaps inadvertently) highlighting the most significant omission in the president’s strategy to fight ISIL is not a Republican.

Hillary Clinton, in one of her earliest explications of a “360-degree strategy” to defeat the Islamic State, outlines three lines of effort: a robust campaign in Syria and Iraq, attacks on the supporting infrastructure that have allowed ISIL to sustain its activities in the region and beyond, and a hardening of our defenses at home.
Her remarks are notable for the balance that she strikes between steps that must be taken to address the immediate threat in Syria and Iraq (not dissimilar in tone and substance from those proposed by administration officials and critics alike) and measures to bring about an enduring and global victory against the Islamic State (lost in the more frantic comments of those who are offering ideas on quick, forceful solutions). Clinton’s belief in the importance of the long game is summed up neatly in her observation that “we are in a contest of ideas against an ideology of hate, and we have to win.”

The Deceptive Debate Over What Causes Terrorism Against the West

https://theintercept.com/2016/01/06/the-deceptive-debate-over-what-causes-terrorism-against-the-west/
Glenn Greenwald, Jan. 6 2016,

Ever since members of the U.K. Labour Party in September elected Jeremy Corbyn as party leader by a landslide, British political and media elites have acted as though their stately manors have been invaded by hordes of gauche, marauding serfs. They have waged a relentless and undisguised war toundermine Corbyn in every way possible, and that includes — first and foremost — the Blairite wing of his party, who have viciously maligned him in ways they would never dare for David Cameron and his Tory followers.

In one sense, that’s all conventional politics: Establishment guardians never appreciate having their position and entitlements threatened by insurgents, and they are thus uniting — Tory and Labour mavens alike — to banish the lowly intruders from their Oxbridge court (class and caste loyalty often outweighs supposed ideological differences). Corbyn’s reaction to all of this is also conventional politics: He quite reasonably wants to replace his Blairite shadow ministers who have been vilifying him as a Terrorist-loving extremist with those who are supportive of his agenda, a perfectly rational response that the British media is treating as proof that he’s acultish Stalinist tyrant (even though Blairites, when they controlled the party, threatened to de-select left-wing MPs who failed to prove sufficient loyalty to Prime Minister Blair). In response to the dismissal of a couple of anti-Corbyn ministers yesterday, several other Labour MPs have announced their protest-resignations with the gestures of melodrama and martyrdom at which banal British politicians excel.

Rather than wallow in all that internal power jockeying of a former world power, I want to focus instead on one specific argument that has arisen as part of Corbyn’s cabinet “re-shuffling” because it has application far beyond Her Majesty’s realm. One of the shadow ministers replaced yesterday by Corbyn is a total mediocrity and non-entity named Pat McFadden. He claims (plausibly enough) that he was replaced by Corbyn because of remarks he made in the House of Commons after the Paris attack, which the British media and publicwidely viewed as disparaging Corbyn as a terrorist apologist for recognizing the role played by Western foreign policy in terror attacks. (Can you fathom the audacity of a Party leader not wanting ministers who malign him as an ISIS apologist?)