18 February 2016

Washington OKs Controversial F-16 Sale to Pakistan

FEBRUARY 12, 2016

The Pentagon says new warplanes will help Islamabad fight al Qaeda, but U.S. lawmakers don’t want taxpayers footing the bill. 
Ignoring lawmakers’ warnings, the U.S. State Department is pressing ahead with the sale of eight new American-made F-16 fighters to Pakistan, which is both a key counterterrorism ally and often criticized for harboring terrorists.

The deal comes amid a Talibanresurgence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which has drawn an uptick in American-led airstrikes.

“The proposed sale improves Pakistan’s capability to meet current and future security threats,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “These additional F-16 aircraft will facilitate operations in all-weather, non-daylight environments, provide a self-defense/area suppression capability, and enhance Pakistan’s ability to conduct counter-insurgency and counterterrorism operations.”

The deal, which includes eight jets and support equipment, is valued at $700 million, according to the Pentagon. Pakistan already has about 60 F-16s.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, objected to the use of taxpayer money to subsidize the sale. Corker expressed his disapproval in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, the Wall Street Journalreported.

** America's unlearned lesson: the forgotten truth about why we invaded Iraq

by Max Fisher 
February 16, 2016

Perhaps the tensest moment in Saturday's Republican presidential debate came when Donald Trump finally said something so outrageous that the other candidates onstageand even the debate audience closed ranks against him.

Here is what Trump did: He accused George W. Bush of launching the Iraq War based on a lie:

You do whatever you want. You call it whatever you want. I want to tell you. They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction, there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.

Trump's 10-second history of the war articulated it as many Americans, who largely consider that war a mistake, now understand it. And, indeed, Bush did justify the war as a quest for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, which turned out not to exist.

The other Republican candidates, who have had this fight with Trump before, did not defend the war as their party has in the past, but rather offered the party's standard line of the moment, which is that Bush had been innocently misled by "faulty intelligence."

* Ruthless And Sober In Syria from STRATFOR

16 February 2016

-- this post authored by Reva Bhalla

Last October, when Russia had just begun its military intervention in Syria, U.S. President Barack Obama spurned the idea that Russia could challenge U.S. leadership in the Middle East. In a 60 Minutes interview, he said, "Mr. Putin is devoting his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together by a thread his sole ally. The fact that they had to do this is not an indication of strength; it's an indication that their strategy did not work."

Two months later, as Russia's military presence in Syria deepened further, Obama remained dismissive of Putin's strategy, noting that "with Afghanistan fresh in the memory, for him [Putin] to simply get bogged down in an inconclusive and paralyzing civil conflict is not the outcome that he is looking for."

Washington can continue to underestimate Russia at its own peril. Russia has indeed poured resources into a maddeningly inconclusive conflict, but so has the United States and so will others who cannot be tempted away from the geopolitical proxy battleground complicated by the presence of jihadists. The problem is that the layers to Russia's strategy tend to be too dense for the Western eye. For Russia, the Syrian battleground is not about propping up an ally through reckless spending, nor is it simply about pursuing an alternative strategy to defeat the Islamic State. Syria is a land of opportunity for Russia. This is the arena where self-control, patience and a careful identification and exploitation of its opponents' strengths and weaknesses will enable Russia to reset its competition with the West.

Does India lack Strategic Culture?

By Col Anil Athale
17 Feb , 2016

Of late there has begun a lively debate on Indian strategic culture or lack of it. Some have referred to the “Panipat Syndrome’ while some others have harked back to Chanankya.

Indian civilisation is peculiar in some ways. Its view on life as endless cycle has influenced it to neglect history. When one attempts to reconstruct Indian past, one has no choice but to look at works of Al Barauni, Ibna Batuta, Toynbee Hue Enet Sung etc. The situation is worse when it comes to military history. In India we have treatises on philosophy, religion, science, mathematics and even sexology, but none on warfare! There is no Indian Sun Tzu or Clausewitz. For this neglect of the military dimension India paid a heavy price, it is no wonder that Indian history can also be described as a chronicle of military disasters.

This issue ought to engage the attention of strategic community in India in light of the recent revelations by the Pakistani terrorist David Hadley in his recent testimony to the Indian court. While most of what he has disclosed was already known about the terror attacks on India, the importance of his testimony is that it gives an authentic glimpse into the mindset and thinking of the ruling elite in Pakistan. The picture is that of a state that has made destruction of India its sole mission. It should serve as a wake- up call for all those who assumed rationality and non-zero sum game relationship with that country.

India needs to augment its Maritime Power

By Himanil Raina
17 Feb , 2016

Daanish Gill in his piece – “India’s Dilemma – A Maritime or Continental Power[1] frames his argument wishing to drive home one idea. Rather than framing his arguments in a manner that takes into account India’s historical realities, the international environment and domestic priorities and the basic elements of military power; he demolishes, bends and creates them to advance his idea. My refutation of Gill is threefold.

First, Gill’s historical point is that India is a continental power which can survive a defeat at sea but not at land.

Second, his assessment of the international environment (which incidentally flows from his historical belief and not even assessment, let alone contemporary trends) is that India’s decisive battles in the future will be fought on land.

Third, his assessment vis a vis the instruments of military power is that the Army must remain India’s most favoured service and that investments within specific arms like the artillery should be a higher priority for India rather than investing in its Navy.

Lessons Learned From the 2015 Fighting Season in Afghanistan

Shawn Snow

February 15, 2016

Afghanistan: Lessons Learned for the 2016 Fighting Season

Looking through the headlines emanating from Afghanistan it would be difficult to find any message of hope or progress. The situation looks bleak, with reports stipulating that the Taliban controls more territory than at any point since it lost power in 2001. Afghan forces saw record casualties, and a recent NATO report has concluded that a majority of Afghan infantry units are combat ineffective, with only 1 out of 101 units operationally ready and 38 suffering from major issues. But not all is lost in the war-torn country. For one thing, the 2015 fighting season has provided Afghan forces with much needed lessons learned from the battlefield, lessons that are not impossible for Afghan forces to implement

Much of Afghanistan’s record casualty numbers can be attributed to the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from a combat role last year, and the ushering in of the “train, advise, and assist” mission, aka Resolute Support. During this pivotal 2015 fighting season Afghan forces took the lead role in providing security for its country. Though Afghan forces have struggled to combat a reinvigorated Taliban, they still control all key urban population centers, including wrestling back control of Kunduz last October.

The Latest on Afghan Corruption: Afghan Government Officials Profiting From Illegal Opium Trade

Azam Ahmed
February 16, 2016

Tasked With Combating Opium, Afghan Officials Profit From It

GARMSIR, Afghanistan — The United States spent more than $7 billion in the past 14 years to fight the runaway poppy production that has made Afghan opium the world’s biggest brand. Tens of billions more went to governance programs to stem corruption and train a credible police force. Countless more dollars and thousands of lives were lost on the main thrust of the war: to put the Afghan government in charge of district centers and to instill rule of law.

But here in one of the few corners of Helmand Province that is peaceful and in firm government control, the green stalks and swollen bulbs of opium were growing thick and high within eyeshot of official buildings during the past poppy season — signs of a local narco-state administered directly by government officials.

In the district of Garmsir, poppy cultivation not only is tolerated, but is a source of money that the local government depends on. Officials have imposed a tax on farmers practically identical to the one the Taliban use in places they control. 

Some of the revenue is kicked up the chain, all the way to officials in Kabul, the capital, ensuring that the local authorities maintain support from higher-ups and keeping the opium growing. And Garmsir is just one example of official involvement in the drug trade.

The Missed Opportunities to Kill Osama Bin Laden

Glenn Kessler

February 16, 2016

Bill Clinton and the missed opportunities to kill Osama bin Laden

“The World Trade Center came down because Bill Clinton didn’t kill Osama bin Laden when he had the chance to kill him.”

—Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), remarks in the GOP debate, Feb. 13, 2016

“The responsibility of 9/11 falls on the fact that al Qaeda was allowed to grow and prosper and the decision was not made to take out their leader when the chance existed to do so. Not once but four times according to the 9/11 report. President Clinton has acknowledged that as a regret.”

—Rubio, remarks on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Feb. 14

Hindsight is always 20/20. Rubio made his comments during the GOP debate after Donald Trump asserted that George W. Bush was responsible for the 9/11 attacks because they happened on his watch. Not so, responded Rubio, pinning the blame on Bush’s predecessor, Bill Clinton. Expanding on his remarks a day later, Rubio said that the 9/11 Commission report identified four times when Clinton could have killed bin Laden.

The NSA’s Terrorist-Hunting Computer for Pakistan May Have Targeted Innocents

Source Link

A new report suggests that the agency has been using a machine-learning program to identify potential terrorists, but thousands of Pakistanis may have been mislabeled. 


Artificially intelligent programs can learn to walk like we do, beat game shows and board games, and even drive cars. But are they ready to find and fight enemies for us?

A new report from Ars Technica suggests that the US National Security Agency (NSA) has been using a machine learning program to identify potential terrorists in Pakistan—but its methodology may have led to thousands of innocent Pakistanis being mislabeled.

The NSA’s program—inexplicably named SKYNET, like the homicidal AI program of the Terminator film franchise—was first unveiled by documents leaked by Edward Snowden to The Intercept in 2015. According to a leaked 2012 government Powerpoint presentation, SKYNET uses “analytic triage” to calculate the probability that individuals are terrorists, using an 80-point analytical test, that evaluates factors like a person’s phone calls, location, social media activity, and travel patterns.

China takes Pakistan: A Scenario by 2017-2022

By Navneet Bhushan
17 Feb , 2016

Since year 2011, I have been painting a scenario where in China will get deeper and deeper into Pakistan. For many decades China has been the “thick” friend of Pakistan – especially military and exclusively on nuclear and missile development capabilities of Pakistan. Bhutto’s Islamic Bomb has many Chinese elements is well-established. 

When I wrote the scenario in 2013 January, it was a struggling Pakistan and the military had just started talking about internal militancy as a major threat. My contention was China will be the biggest threat Pakistan has and the contours of that threat will emerge as the Dragon start holding and engulfing its prey through its rapidly vibrating tongue. 

My timeline for Chinese occupation was 2017-2022. Today we have three specific developments that make the scenario more and more plausible. 

On the Brink of a U.S.-China Nuclear Arms Race

February 17, 2016

North Korea’s recent nuclear test has brought prominence to China-U.S. nuclear relations, which seem to have taken a downturn, with damaging effects to strategic stability. Despite a decade of candidly exchanging views through Track II dialogues, both countries have failed to convince each other that their respective ballistic missile defense (BMD) and hypersonic weapons programs are not threatening. As a result, both keep investing in expensive and technically questionable strategic systems, each threatening to pull the other into a spiraling qualitative arms race.

American officials’ numerous assurances notwithstanding, China remains suspicious of the U.S. BMD program. As much as the U.S. has named the DPRK (and previously, Iran) as the main targets of its limited BMD capabilities, China insists that ballistic missile defenses decrease the security of its own nuclear arsenal. Specifically, Chinese experts are concerned about their country being subject to American coercion, mainly due to Washington’s nuclear superiority, which married to BMD and hypersonic weapons—Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS)—puts China’s retaliatory capability at stake. Wu Chunsi, director of the Institute of International Strategic Studies at SIIS, argues that missile defense makes China’s No-First-Use doctrine increasingly difficult to maintain because it gives the United States a double advantage in both offensive first-strike capability and credible defensive capability. The main concern is that hypersonic weapons could facilitate a preemptive strike against the Chinese arsenal, which, after an attack, would be seriously weakened and less capable of successfully penetrating U.S. BMD systems.

A General Review of the History of China’s Sea-Power Theory Development

By Zhang Wei for US Naval War College 
12 February 2016

According to Senior Captain Zhang Wei, defining the nature of Chinese sea power is critical to the PLA Navy’s success. In his view, China should not repeat the mistakes of “Mahanian fundamentalism,” with its emphasis on the offense and hegemonic control. Instead, the PLA Navy must pursue sea power with Chinese characteristics. 

This article was originally published by the US Naval War College in the Autumn 2015 Issue of Naval War College Review

“Note: The following article has three parts, the last two of which appear here. To read the entire article, go here.”


In English, haiquan is translated as “sea power.” “Sea power” can be also rendered [in Chinese] as 海上力量 (haishang liliang), 海上实力 (haishang shili), 海上强 国 (haishang qiangguo), etc. As a political term and strategic concept, haiquan perhaps comes closest to Mahan’s original meaning. This is because the noun “sea” connotes the ocean; Mahan said that he chose it after much careful thought, deliberately avoiding the popular adjective “maritime” to compel people to pay attention and so make the phrase widely used. Translating “power” as quanli gives a more political cast than the alternative word liliang. It may be that [for the Chinese] “sea power” has become too politicized or has “bad origins.” Thus, even as one set of Chinese people vigorously calls for Chinese sea power, another has misgivings. In the early years of the twenty-first century, China’s peaceful rise is attracting the world’s attention; the modernization of China’s national defense and navy is rapidly proceeding, and the “China threat” theory (especially the “Chinese naval threat” theory) is surfacing again and again in the international community. As a result, the question whether or not the nation should develop sea power has once again stirred discussion in China.

ISI and the Islamic State smokescreen

By Divya Kumar Soti
16 Feb , 2016

On September 12, 2014, the streets of Western Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnor city were abuzz with political gossip as the constituency was slated to go for assembly by-polls the very next day. But near noon, the old city’s Jataan locality was rocked by a big explosion in a house. Neighbors saw few youngsters rushing out of a rented house with two of them having serious burns. Investigators on reaching the blast site recovered a laptop, mobile phones, Jihadist literature, made in Pakistan daily-use products apart from some Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in-the-making (they were being made by filling empty LPG cylinders with explosives, one of which had exploded while being manufactured injuring the youths). 

However, the most interesting recovery was that of large quantities of matchboxes which were being used to extract Potassium Chlorate to manufacture those IEDs. An investigation of the CCTV footage from the adjoining areas and mobile phones recovered from the room clarified the identities of terrorists- Amjad Ramzaan, Islam Ayyub, Zakir Badrul, Aizazuddin, Mehboob and Abu Faisal. All these were members of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) wanted in multiple terror related cases across India and had escaped from Madhya Pradesh’s Khandwa jail in 2013.

A mini world war rages in the fields of Aleppo

By Liz Sly 
February 14, 2016 
Source Link

Children peer from a partially destroyed home in Aleppo, Syria. The fighting around Syria's largest city has brought government forces closer to the Turkish border than at any point in recent years. 

KILIS, Turkey — Across the olive groves and wheat fields of the northern Syrian province of Aleppo, a battle with global dimensions risks erupting into a wider war.

Russian warplanes are bombing from the sky. Iraqi and Lebanese militias aided by Iranian advisers are advancing on the ground. An assortment of Syrian rebels backed by the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are fighting to hold them back. Kurdish forces allied both to Washington and Moscow are taking advantage of the chaos to extend Kurdish territories. The Islamic State has snatched a couple of small villages, while all the focus was on the other groups.

Ahead of a supposed pause in the hostilities negotiated by world powers and due to be implemented later in the week, the conflict seems only to be escalating. Turkey joined in over the weekend, firing artillery across its border at Kurdish positions for a second day Sunday and prompting appeals from the Obama administration to both Turks and Kurds to back down.

A mind-boggling stew of nations is fighting in Syria's civil war

By Oren Dorell

February 15, 2016
Source Link

Armies and militias from more than a dozen countries have joined the Syria conflict, making for a mind-boggling and dangerous stew of shifting and competing alliances.

Even as a proposed cease-fire is scheduled to begin as early as this week, more nations are escalating their roles in the nearly 5-year-old civil war: Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey said they may send ground troops to fight.

Here's how different countries are currently aligned:

Pro-Syrian government

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad are backed by two nations, Russia and Iran, and many Shiite militias from across the region who are organized by Iran. The combatants include:

Syrian government troops

Whistleblowers Warned Top Spy About Skewed ISIS Intel


Exclusive: Whistleblowers Warned Top Spy About Skewed ISIS Intel

It wasn’t just the generals who were warned that ISIS intelligence assessments were overly rosy. The office of the director of national intelligence knew, too.

U.S. military analysts told the nation’s top intelligence official that their reports on ISIS were skewed and manipulated by their bosses, The Daily Beast has learned. The result: an overly optimistic account of the campaign against the terror group.

The complaints, lodged by analysts at U.S. Central Command in 2015, are separate from allegations that analysts made to the Defense Department inspector general, who is now investigating “whether there was any falsification, distortion, delay, suppression, or improper modification of intelligence information” by the senior officials that run CENTCOM’s intelligence group.

10 Questions to Ask Before Intervening in Libya (Again)

February 16, 2016

President Obama is receiving significant pressure from his military and national security advisers on the abysmal security and political situation in Libya. An oil-rich country hugging the Mediterranean, Libya has ceased to have a functioning central government ever since NATO’s military campaign ended the forty-year-plus reign of Moammar el-Qaddafi.

Today, Libya essentially resembles something of a tragic Noah’s Ark: there are two political authorities who have refused to reconcile despite a UN-facilitatednational unity government; two broad-based militias that have chosen to consolidate their territory rather than demobilize; and two parliaments where hardliners have sought to stonewall or ruin the very agreement that is designed to usher in a new kind of Libyan politics.

Amid the turmoil, the Islamic State has seized the opportunity to expand its presence to a third Arab country. ISIS, unfortunately, is well on its way to accomplishing that goal; if Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq are exclusively within the Islamic State’s domain, the coastal Libyan city of Sirte is the organization’s third home.

Saudi Arabia’s Master Plan Against ISIS, Assad and Iran in Syria

February 16, 2016

Last week, the spokesman for the Saudi military, General Ahmed Asseri, announced that Saudi Arabia is “is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition (against Islamic State) may agree to carry out in Syria” and that its decision to move into the war-torn country is “irreversible." However, given that the Saudis and their allies in the newly formed Islamic Coalition are conducting massive joint operational military exercises—codenamed Northern Thunder—in preparation for very possible military interventions in the near future, it’s clear that the Kingdom-led multinational coalition will not stop at ISIS. Rather, its ultimate objective in Syria is to take on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Iran-created Shia militias, which are the source of as much, if not more, regional terror than ISIS and Al Qaeda. Should this Islamic coalition move into Syria and become the nucleus of a regional coordinated military approach toward ISIS, Assad and the Shia militias, the Obama administration will be called out on its narrow Syrian objectives and be forced to support the coalition or further degrade an already tenuous relationship with numerous core allies, foremost among them Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

A Unifying Theory—and Plan—for DefeatingISIS Propaganda

FEBRUARY 15, 2016

As it stands, the international coalition is far from winning the information war against the Islamic State. Its air strikes may be squeezing the group in Iraq and Syria and killing many of its leaders, but that has not halted the self-proclaimed caliphate’s ideological momentum. Indeed, at the end of 2015, it was estimated that the number of foreigners travelling to join militant groups in Iraq and Syria—predominantly the Islamic State—had more than doubled in the course of just 18 months. What’s more, while these figures may be striking, sheer numbers are less important than intent when it comes to the organization’s actual threat to the world. As we have already seen, it takes a very small number of people to unleash great terror, whether in Iraq, Syria, or elsewhere.

is a senior research associate at Georgia State University’s Transcultural Conflict and Violence Initiative.Full Bio

is a government-communications specialist at the agency Portland. Full Bio

Why Trump Was Right About Bush's 9/11 Record

February 17, 2016

The 9/11 catastrophe again became a subject of contention at the South Carolina GOP debate on Saturday. Jeb Bush maintained that his brother George W. Bush kept us safe. Donald Trump argued that he did not; the World Trade Center came down on his watch. As our forthcoming study on follies of U.S. policy-makers concludes, not just the CIA, as Trump repeatedly stated, but also Vladimir Putin, Richard Clarke and Gary Hart issued warnings to President Bush and/or Rice before September 11, 2001.

Indeed, not only Bush, but also his national security adviser Condoleezza Rice flagrantly disregarded Russian President Vladimir Putin’s warning of a coming attack on our homeland. Putin warned both of them at a June 16, 2001, summit in Slovenia. He didn’t know the date. In Rice’s later words, “Putin. . . was right. The Taliban and al Qaeda were time bombs that would explode on September 11, 2001. . . I was taken aback by Putin’s alarm and vehemence.”

But not by Putin alone were Bush and Condi warned.