8 May 2016

Successful Projects of DRDO

May 4, 2016 

Successful Projects of DRDO

The prime mandate of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is to design, develop and lead to production state-of-the-art sensors, weapon systems, platforms and allied equipment for our Defence Services. A number of products and technologies have been developed as spin-off, which are also beneficial with regard to industrial and public welfare, in addition to the national security.

During last five years (01 April 2011 - 31 March 2016) DRDO has successfully completed 248 projects in the following categories:

· Mission Mode (MM)

· Science & Technology (S&T)

· Technology Development (TD)

· Infrastructure & Facilities (IF)

· Products Support (PS)

Some of the major completed projects are:

· Active-cum-Passive Towed Array Sonar

· Advanced Fuel Cell

Pakistan Begins Construction of 600-Ton Maritime Patrol Vessel

May 06, 2016

Construction of the first out of four new 600-ton Maritime Patrol Vessels for the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) kicked off with a steel-cutting ceremony at the Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KSEW), according to a Pakistan Navy press release.

Next to senior PMSA and KSEW officials, the ceremony was attended by senior representatives of the Pakistan Navy and the China Shipbuilding Trading Company (CSTC). CSTC will construct four new vessels, whereas KSEW will build two. Two of the six new ships for the PMSA will be 1500-ton offshore patrol vessels, with China and Pakistan each building one respectively.

Initially, all six new PMSA ships were supposed to be assembled in Karachi. However, KSEW lost the construction bid due its purported inability to keep production costs lower than CSTC. China and Pakistansigned a transfer-of-technology agreement for the construction of the six vessels in June 2015.

Status Report on the Taliban’s Spring Offensive in Afghanistan

May 3, 2016

Afghanistan: The Annual Spring Offensive So Far

This year’s Taliban “Spring Offensive” officially began on April 12th and accomplished its initial goal of garnering worldwide media attention and lots of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) commentary from media pundits. Best of all the annual celebration of nationwide terror and violence masks what is really going on. Most of the organized violence in Afghanistan is made possible by the drug gangs, who use the Islamic terrorists to keep the government from interfering with drug production and distribution. The drug gangs would prefer to dispense with the Taliban and simply use bribes to keep the security forces out of the way. While that works some of the time it frequently doesn’t because the drugs are generally unpopular in Afghanistan. That is because the availability of cheap opium and heroin has turned 5-10 percent of the population into addicts. So the drug gangs need as many hired guns as they can get. The Taliban have proved to be the largest and most reliable supplier. Without the drug money the Taliban would be a nuisance in the south but nothing capable of grabbing the attention of the national or international media. 

The brand of Islam the Taliban represent is alien to Afghanistan and generally despised as an unwelcome foreign (from Saudi Arabia) import. The Saudis were able to install their Wahhabi interpretation of Islam in Afghanistan during the 1980s when millions of Afghans were desperate refugees living in Pakistan. The Saudis brought food, weapons and Wahabbi clergy and teachers. Afghan adults were not impressed by Wahabbism but the kids were impressionable and the Wahabbi religious schools were free and provided food and shelter for orphans as well as poor parents who appreciated the help. This is where the first generation of Taliban came from. They were a minority of a minority (the Pushtun tribes of Kandahar and Helmand) back then and still are. 

But Taliban leaders needed cash (the Saudis never got along with al Qaeda or the Taliban) and the drug gangs were willing to make deals. The initial 1990s arrangement was that the drug gangs could operate freely anywhere the Taliban were in control as long as they paid a large tax which, then as now, kept the Taliban going. When 2001 came around the Taliban had still not conquered all of Afghanistan and in their desperate efforts to do so had made themselves, and their drug gang allies very unpopular. Currently Afghans know the Taliban could never conquer as much of Afghanistan as they had in the 1990s but because of the need to protect their financiers (the drug gangs) the Taliban violence keeps much of the country in turmoil. Add to this the endemic corruption and the increasing number of educated (or simply the most resourceful and ambitious) Afghans leaving the country you have a national disaster of epic proportions. There are no easy solutions for all this, there never were. 

Changing The Rules 

Huge New Afghan Opium Crop Once Again Financing the Taliban Insurgency

TAIMOOR SHAH and MUJIB MASHAL
May 4, 2016

Bountiful Afghan Opium Harvest Yields Profits for the Taliban

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — It is spring that determines how a year turns out, according to an Afghan proverb. And if the Helmand poppy fields this spring are any indication, the Taliban will have a very good year.

As the opium harvest winds down across Helmand Province, Afghanistan’s largest in territory and poppy cultivation, farmers and officials are reporting high yields. The skies were generous with heavy rainfall, and the Afghan government with its cancellation of annual eradication campaigns. It had lost much of the territory in Helmand to the Taliban anyway.

So it was with peace of mind that farmers, and thousands of seasonal laborers who had traveled to Helmand, scraped the gum from the opium bulbs. Taliban fighters were just around the corner to lend a hand — and to receive their share of wages and taxes, in cash or kind. The crowded fields amounted to an insurgent recruiter’s dream.

“We are happy that we had a good harvest this year compared with previous years,” said Abdul Rahim Mutmain, a farmer in Musa Qala district. Mr. Mutmain said his modest plot saw a four-fold increase in yield compared with 2015, which was plagued by crop failures and concerted government eradication.

The Rohingya and Suu Kyi’s Myanmar

By Adryel Talamantes and Austin Bodetti
May 04, 2016

The ballot held in Myanmar last November brought the first fair and peaceful transition of power seen by the country since the military seized power in 1962. Wracked by numerous insurgencies waged by separatists, social problems resulting from the large domestic drug trade, and anti-Muslim pogroms in the west staged by ultranationalist Buddhist monks, the victory of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) is one of the few positive developments Myanmar has seen in recent decades.

The previous three elections held in Myanmar since the NLD’s founding, in 1990, 2010 and 2012, saw it either excluded from participation or its victories reversed by the military, leaving many in Myanmar and the international community with little hope of seeing a clear and uninterrupted transfer of power in the country.

This time, the NLD won an overwhelming victory, ending the pro-military Union for Solidarity and Development Party’s (USDP) domination of the country. It was the culmination of efforts over half a century to return to civilian government. The NLD secured an absolute majority in the landslide elections and gained enough seats in the upper and lower houses of parliament to overcome the mandatory 25 percent guaranteed to the army, allowing them to install NLD member and Suu Kyi confidant Htin Kyaw as the new president on March 30. (Suu Kyi was barred from holding office herself due to a constitutional clause restricting anyone married to a foreigner or having foreign children assuming the presidency, a policy created by the army and believed by many to specifically target her because of her marriage to the late David Aris and their two sons, all three being British citizens.)

Why China Is Really Dictating Oil Supply Glut – Analysis

By Rakesh Upadhyay
MAY 6, 2016

Ship tracking data from Bloomberg shows that 83 supertankers carrying around 166 million barrels of oil are headed to China, which has stockpiled an impressive 787,000 barrels a day in the first quarter of 2016—the highest stockpiling rate since 2014.

While the world was speculating about oil prices plunging to $20 and $10 per barrel, China was busy stockpiling its reserves.

The chart shows an increase in imports as crude prices collapsed. Since the beginning of this year, China has imported a record quantity of oil.

Back in January 2015, Reuters had reported that China planned to increase its strategic petroleum reserves (SPR) from 30 days to 90 days. In January 2016, it was revealed that China was building underground storage to complement its above-ground storage tanks.

Chinese Military Targets College Students With Its Latest Weapon: Rap Music

May 06, 2016

China’s military steps up its publicity game, in hopes of bringing in more educated recruits. 

For years, China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), has been trying to increase its attractiveness to highly qualified young people – particularly college graduates – as it tries to make the transition to a more modern, more professional force. Now, the PLA has unveiled its latest weapon: a rap music video.

The new recruitment video, viewable here, treads the line between a music video and the advertisement for a new military-themed video game. It shows images of Chinese soldiers performing missions – hopping in tanks, launching missiles, at one point even sniping a man in the head– while a strong beat pulsates and a voice-over tells viewers that “war could break out at any time. Are you ready?”

The video is just the tip of the iceberg, according to Xinhua. The Chinese news agency reports that the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) Central Committee Publicity Department (formerly translated as “Propaganda Department”) has issued a plan to entice university students and graduates to join the PLA. In addition to music videos, “songs, slogans, advertisements and documentaries should be spread online, on TV, and in public places such as buses and subways” from now until the campaign ends in September, Xinhuareports.

Signs and Symbols on the Sino-Russian Border

By Bruno Maçães
May 05, 2016

A rare glimpse at the border between China and Russia, on a recently divided island. 

You may have seen this plot line in a number of movies. There is an island, prohibited and uninhabited, the secret gate to another world. Only in this case the island sits not in the ocean but in a river — or rather, at the confluence of two major and almost mythical Asian rivers, the Amur and the Ussuri.

The island is divided in almost equal sections between Russia and China. The Soviet Union occupied the whole of Bolshoy Ussuriysky Island (known as Heixiazi, or Black Bear, in Chinese) following the so-called Chinese Eastern Railway Incident of 1929, but in an historic agreement between Russia and China signed in 2004, Moscow agreed to return about half of it. The transfer took place in 2008. Since then the island in the Ussuri has become a miniature symbol of the vast Asian regions divided between the two geopolitical giants.

Visiting the island and the villages around it is as difficult as you might imagine. You must be accompanied by Russian border guards and before anything else a long interview with a secret service agent awaits. I was asked about every imaginable detail about my previous life and all the papers I had with me were examined and photographed. The interview was itself rather instructive. The first question I was asked was why someone from an enemy country — and a former politician to boot — wanted to visit the border between Russia and China.

Iran's Other ISIS Problem

May 5, 2016

On paper, Iran should be the one country in west Asia that does its utmost to counter the message of Islamic State (ISIS). The movement, after all, is both vehemently anti-Shia and deeply anti-Iranian in its messaging and worldview. However, Iran’s efforts to combat ISIS have been missing one important element, one that should be a prerequisite to any successful anti-ISIS campaign: taking innovative and meaningful steps to inoculate Iran’s own Sunni minority against ISIS dogma. Time is also a factor. Tehran sees ISIS’ rise in Iraq and Syria as a long-term challenge, but meanwhile, the movement’s emergence to Iran’s east, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, may not be as temporary as many have assumed.

A Problem at Home

Iran is concerned about the rise of Sunni extremism in the entire region, including within Iran. And yet Tehran has fallen short in recognizing the role of its own, often discriminatory, policies against its Sunni minority. It appears that the dominant view in Tehran is that the issue of Sunni extremism will be resolved once ISIS is defeated militarily in Iraq and Syria. At the same time, Iranian authorities closely monitor any activities by radical Sunni operatives in Iran’s Sunni-majority provinces of Baluchistan and Kurdistan, which border, respectively, Afghanistan-Pakistan and Iraq.

U.S. Says Better Intelligence Has Led to More Killings of Top ISIS Commanders

Paul Sonne and Julian E. Barnes
May 3, 2016

U.S. Cites Better Intelligence for Stepped-Up Airstrikes on Islamic State

The U.S. is increasing the tempo of its airstrikes on Islamic State in Syria as American military personnel on the ground help gather better information about targets to hit, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said Monday, vowing to step up strikes further as more targets become known.

Mr. Carter, the top U.S. defense official, is set to meet Wednesday in Germany with defense ministers from the most active countries in the U.S.-led coalition combating Islamic State. The meeting comes as the Pentagon faces criticism by defense analysts and members of Congress for the speed of its campaign against the extremist group.

Some lawmakers have said the U.S. is conducting too few strikes. Privately, some U.S. allies have also said they would like to see more strikes, arguing potential Islamic State targets should be developed more quickly.

According to Mr. Carter, an increase in airstrikes already has begun and will continue, in part thanks to a recently announced increase in U.S. troops on the ground.

“The air campaign, you see, is increasing the tempo,” Mr. Carter said. “Why? Because we have the opportunity to increase the tempo, because we have better information that allows us to be more effective from the air.”

Mission Creep: Pentagon Trying to Hide the Nature and Extent of US Troop Buildup in Iraq

Loveday Morris
May 3, 2016

U.S. troops are getting closer to the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq

MAKHMOUR, Iraq — At the base of a rocky ridge rising from the surrounding farmland, the barrels of American artillery poke out from under camouflage covers, their sights trained on Islamic State-held positions. 
Less than 10 miles from the front lines in the push toward the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the U.S. outpost, known as Firebase Bell, is manned by about 200 Marines.
“Having them here has raised the morale of our fighters,” said Lt. Col. Helan Mahmood, the head of a commando regiment in the Iraqi army, as his truck bumped along the dirt track that divides his base from the American encampment, ringed by razor wire and berms.
“If there’s any movement from the enemy, they bomb immediately,” he said.
The new firebase is part of a creeping U.S. buildup in Iraq since troops first returned to the country with a contingent of 275 advisers, described at the time by the Pentagon as a temporary measure to help get “eyes on the ground.”

Now, nearly two years later, the official troop count has mushroomed to 4,087, not including those on temporary rotations, a number that has not been disclosed.

The Aspiring Novelist Who Became

By DAVID SAMUELS
MAY 5, 2016

Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru

How Ben Rhodes rewrote the rules of diplomacy for the digital age.

Picture him as a young man, standing on the waterfront in North Williamsburg, at a polling site, on Sept. 11, 2001, which was Election Day in New York City. He saw the planes hit the towers, an unforgettable moment of sheer disbelief followed by panic and shock and lasting horror, a scene that eerily reminded him, in the aftermath, of the cover of the Don DeLillo novel “Underworld.”

Everything changed that day. But the way it changed Ben Rhodes’s life is still unique, and perhaps not strictly believable, even as fiction. He was in the second year of the M.F.A. program at N.Y.U., writing short stories about losers in garden apartments and imagining that soon he would be published in literary magazines, acquire an agent and produce a novel by the time he turned 26. He saw the first tower go down, and after that he walked around for a while, until he ran into someone he knew, and they went back to her shared Williamsburg apartment and tried to find a television that worked, and when he came back outside, everyone was taking pictures of the towers in flames. He saw an Arab guy sobbing on the subway. “That image has always stayed with me,” he says. “Because I think he knew more than we did about what was going to happen.” Writing Frederick Barthelme knockoffs suddenly seemed like a waste of time.

Survey Report: What’s Wrong With Russia’s Diaspora – OpEd

MAY 6, 2016

When Russian emigres in the West talk positively to their new neighbors about Russia, they perceive themselves as being largely disbelieved.

And when those emigres talk Russian politics with fellow emigres they are likely to be greeted by disagreement.

These are findings of a study I conducted last November. I invited readers from three online publications — OpEdNews.com, EurasiaReview.com, Russia-Insider.com — to participate in the study.

Responses came from both diaspora members and non Russians, about 60-40. Over 80 percent of all respondents reside in North America, the balance in Western Europe or elsewhere.

It was up to each individual reader to take part. That means those in the study are self-selected and do not represent a statistically valid sample. Accordingly, we can’t generalize from the results with certainty. But they do suggest some anecdotal patterns that are interesting to consider.

FRIENDS IF WE MUST: RUSSIA AND CHINA’S RELATIONS IN THE ARCTIC

MAY 6, 2016

While China’s economic and geostrategic interests are more commonly associated with such bodies of water as the South China Sea or the East China Sea, the Arctic represents another area where Chinese maritime interests and investments have been growing. In 2013, China signed with Iceland its first free-trade agreement with a European nation and is involved in an oil exploration project, with Norway and Iceland, in the Dreki area. Chinese firms areprospecting for copper in Greenland and have considered investing in iron ore mining.

China’s Arctic ventures are quickly multiplying. The (mostly) state-owned PetroChina owns 20 percent in Russia’s Yamal LNG project, which will bring Siberian gas to Asian markets through the Northern Sea Route. In 2013, Rosneft and China National Petroleum Corporation signed a deal for joint exploration and production in the Barents and Pechora Seas. Further south, the two countries also agreed to build a 4,000 kilometer gas pipeline (baptized “Power of Siberia”) from Siberia to the border with China—a project estimated to cost $21 billion. China is not just interested in Russia’s energy resources, but also in its coastline: 2013 saw the first Chinese merchant ship use the increasingly navigable Northern Sea Route that promises to connect Asia to Europe in fewer days than through the Suez Canal, and without the hazards commonly found in the Malacca Straits. Russia stands to benefit directly, since it collects fees for the right to transit as well as to use its icebreakers for escort.

ORBITING AROUND A PUBLIC-PRIVATE STRATEGY FOR SPACE

MAY 6, 2016

In the latest sign of how new entrants are upending the space launch industry, the Air Force announced last week that an $83 million contract awarded to SpaceX to put a GPS satellite into orbit would cost the government 40 percent less than the competing bid from United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. As impressive as that is, SpaceX’s competitiveness is set to increase further after the firm achieved a milestone in the history of space exploration. After numerous failed attempts, SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of one of its rockets on a “drone ship” floating in the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket’s payload, a cargo delivery to the International Space Station (ISS), was successfully lifted into orbit.

The achievement is a first step towards the reuse of SpaceX rockets (or more precisely the first of the rocket’s two stages), which previously would be lost after a single use. The next step will be to attempt to refurbish and reuse a rocket — potentially many times over — at acceptable cost and risk. The Space Shuttle’s solid rocket boosters parachuted to sea and were recovered by ship, but they did not themselves lift payloads into orbit and were very expensive to refurbish. Another rocketry firm, Blue Origin, has also managed to safely land its rockets after launch, but those are sub-orbital vehicles not meant to reach the ISS or place satellites aloft. ULA has studied reusability but has not implemented it.

Leicester City Displace Football's Financial Elite

by Felix Richter, Statista.com

-- this post authored by Niall McCarthy

Leicester City have won the Premier League with two games to spare, marking one of the greatest achievements in the history of sport.

It's 21 years since a team other than Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City or Manchester United have won the title and the Foxes' fairytale story shows that you cannot always buy success. When the season kicked off in September, Manchester City's squad was valued at £411 million. Leicester City won the Premier League this year despite having a squad worth a mere £53 million.

This chart shows the total cost of Premier League squads in September 2015.

The ‘tech bubble’ puzzle By David Cogman and Alan Lau

May 2016

Public and private capital markets seem to value technology companies differently. Here's why.

Aggressive valuations among technology companies are hardly a new phenomenon. The widespread concerns over high pre-IPO valuations today recall debates over the technology bubble at the turn of the century—which also extended to the media and telecommunications sectors. A sharp decline in the venture-capital funding for US-based companies in the first quarter of the year feeds into that debate,1though the number of “unicorns”—start-up companies valued at more than a billion dollars—over that same period continued to rise.

The existence of these unicorns is just one significant difference between 2000 and 2016. Until seven years ago, no venture capital–backed company had ever achieved a billion-dollar valuation before going public, let alone the $10 billion valuation of 14 current “deca-corns.” Also noteworthy is the fact that high valuations predominate among private, pre-IPO companies, rather than public ones, as was the case at the turn of the millennium. And then there’s the global dimension: innovation and growth in the Chinese tech sector are much bigger forces today than they were in 2000.2

TTIP—American Economic Imperialism

By Paul Craig Roberts
May 04, 2016

"Information Clearing House" - Greenpeace has done that part of the world whose representatives are so corrupt or so stupid as to sign on to the Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic “partnerships” a great service. Greenpeace secured and leaked the secret TTIP documents that Washington and global corporations are pushing on Europe. The official documents prove that my description of these “partnerships” when they first appeared in the news is totally correct.

These so-called “free trade agreements” are not trade agreements. The purpose of the “partnerships,” which were drafted by global corporations, is to make corporations immune to the laws of sovereign countries in which they do business. Any country’s sovereign law whether social, environmental, food safety, labor protections—any law or regulation—that impacts a corporation’s profits is labeled a “restraint on trade.” The “partnerships” permit corporations to file a suit that overturns the law or regulation and also awards the corporation damages paid by the taxpayers of the country that tried to protect its environment or the safety of its food and workers.

The law suit is not heard in the courts of the country or in any court. It is heard in a corporate tribunal in which corporations serve as judge, jury, and prosecutor.

Stiglitz Says Misdirected Monetary Policies Increased Inequality

Joseph Stiglitz 

Nobel-prize winner Joseph Stiglitz said monetary policies have exacerbated inequality and need to be redirected to better target getting money flowing into economies and helping small and medium-size businesses.

In a Bloomberg Television interview Tuesday with Francine Lacqua and Michael McKee in New York, he said policies such as quantitative easing were a “version of trickle-down economics” and the subsequent increase in asset prices only affected the wealthiest in society.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg “The key problem is the access of credit to small and medium-size enterprises, is getting that flow of money into the real economy,” Stiglitz said. It’s “nice to have a stock market bubble if you have a lot of stock. But if you are in the bottom 80 percent of America, you have a little stock and you can feel a little good about the stock going up. But let’s face it, the overwhelming bulk of our stock market is owned by the 1 percent.”

Stiglitz’s comments come as some central banks around the world are being forced to delve deeper into their policy tools to help support their economies. As policy makers struggle to find a way out of the economic malaise, some have even raised the idea of helicopter money, which aims to direct cash straight to consumers.

Connectivity Of Online And Offline Activism – Analysis

By Zafar Shayan
MAY 6, 2016

The role of the internet and social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in promoting effective civic activism has been a major topic of debate in the Social Sciences. Indeed, it is argued that civic activities organized through social media have played roles in the processes of democratization in various cases around the world. The role of social media in different social movements such as the Arab Spring, the anti-finance and occupy movements in EU and the US, the 2013 Brazilian protests, Gezi protests in Turkey, and different public protests in Mexico are just a few of the cases explored within the scholarly contexts (Castells, 2014).

This article discusses the way citizens organize civic actions and use social media in their collective activities. The question that is sought to be answered here is why some social collective actions are ineffective despite their widespread use of social media and relatively suitable social and political contexts.

Here the article will argue that synchronicity and connectivity between online and offline activism can be a factor that promotes the effectiveness of civic activism. In this sense, it is worth noting that effective civic activity is seen in the extensive participation of people in a collective activity that becomes publicly recognized and increasingly influences public opinion.
Two forms of civic activism: online and offline

Will artificial intelligence revolutionize cybersecurity?

MAY 4, 2016

With criminal hackers becoming more effective at breaking into computer systems, cybersecurity researchers, government agencies, and academics are looking to artificial intelligence to detect – and fight – cyberattacks.

Most people probably have no idea they encounter artificial intelligence technology at nearly every turn on the Internet. It's how retailers track shoppers' behavior and show them ads that attempt to match their tastes in clothing or electronics. 

While that's a relatively simply use of artificial intelligence, often known as just AI, researchers, entrepreneurs, and US government officials are investing heavily into moving much more advanced AI into health care for such pursuits as drug research, automotive technology like self-driving cars, and even for teaching computers how to track and defend themselves against hackers. 

IBM reveals user-friendly quantum computing

MAY 4, 2016

IBM has launched a new simulator that allows users to tinker with quantum computing through the Cloud. 

Quantum computing is open to the masses, virtually.

IBM launched an online quantum computer simulator through the Cloud early Wednesday. The simulator will allow anyone with Internet access to run experiments on IBM's physical quantum processor. The project, called IBM Quantum Experience, is the first virtual simulator to be linked directly to hardware.

IBM's goal for the project? To raise interest in a technology that could accomplish tasks in moments that a traditional computer would find impossible.

"Quantum computing is becoming a reality and it will extend computation far beyond what is imaginable with today’s computers," said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director at IBM Research, in a press release. The "IBM Quantum Experience will make it easier for researchers and the scientific community to accelerate innovations in the quantum field, and help discover new applications for this technology."

Mind-Controlled Drones Are Now Real, And They Could Transform The Battlefield

May 3, 2016 

Brain-mapping technology is progressing at warp speed and can turn our minds into remote controls. So what does this mean for our military? 

On April 16, the University of Florida held the world’s first mind-controlled drone race, the latest signifier of this field’s rapid technological ascension. Although the drones only competed along a 10-yard course, the fact remains: These machines were commanded by human brainpower — or in technical terms, brain-computer interface.

The science behind BCI allows humans to manipulate machines with their thoughts by translating the brain’s electrical activity into code that drones can understand. The tool used to map and track this neuroelectric activity is called an electroencephalogram, or EEG, headset. These headsets are fine-tuned to identify the location and frequency of electrical activity linked with specific thoughts in the brain.

In practice, it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Let’s pretend you’re wearing the headset and your objective is to move a drone across a room using your imagination. When you are picturing this machine moving, neurons fire in specific sections of your brain. The EEG headset will recognize this activity and provide signals that can be translated into code. This code essentially “speaks” to the drone in its technical language and commands it how and where to move — like a remote control tells your television to change the channel, or turn on and off.

NATO Ratchets Up Missile Defense Despite Russian Criticism

MAY 5, 2016

A United States Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jet, which is part of the Operation Atlantic Resolve, an American commitment to NATO’s collective security and regional stability, at the Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, in April.CreditMindaugas Kulbis/Associated Press

LONDON — NATO’s European missile defense system will go live on Thursday when a base in Romania becomes operational. The next day, Poland is scheduled to break ground on its NATO missile-defense base.

The decision by the United States and its allies in Eastern Europe to proceed with ballistic missile defense in the face of increasingly loud Russian criticism is an important stage in the alliance’s new stance toward Moscow.

Those deployments will be coupled this spring with major military exercises in Poland and the Baltics, with significant American participation, and a beefed-up rapid reaction force of up to 5,000 troops.

Altogether, said Derek Chollet, a former United States assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, “There will be a quite robust display of military power in Europe and allied resolve, and hopefully Moscow will see it for what it is, an alliance improving its capabilities.”

The Art of the Military Deal

May 5, 2016

In his April 27 foreign-policy speech in Washington, Donald Trump leveled a number of critiques at U.S. allies around the world. He began to flesh out his now-familiar critiques of how America’s many allies and security partners—which number about sixty around the world—fail to do their fair share for the common defense.

It is only fair to acknowledge that some of Trump’s arguments about military burden sharing have merit. Most notably, America dramatically outspends most allies on its armed forces. Of course, the United States has the largest economy of any Western ally and thus, rather naturally, the largest defense budget by far. But relative to GDP, its contributions are still disproportionate. The United States spends about 3 percent of gross domestic product on its military. NATO allies are pledged to devote 2 percent of GDP each to their armed forces, but the alliance average is less than 1.4 percent. Only the UK, France, Poland, Greece, and Estonia are near or above 2 percent. Germany is at just 1.1 percent of GDP; Italy and the Netherlands and Turkey check in at 1.2 percent; Belgium and Canada do not even reach 1.0 percent. Yes, some of these countries contribute impressively—more than the United States does, relative to national economic strength—in areas such as development assistance and refugee receptivity, but Trump still has a fair point on this basic and important measure of military preparedness.

On balance, however, Trump’s explanation of the economics of America’s security alliances misses several core realities. The benefits of certain alliances can be debated—but they hardly constitute the wholesale drain on American coffers that he has made them out to be.

The Army Is Falling Short in Developing Creative Leaders

By Col. Eric E. Aslakson
April 27th, 2016
Source Link

The Army is mildly obsessed with innovative leadership, as reflected throughout strategic documents such as the Army Operating Concept and the Army Vision, and leadership doctrine. For example, the Army’s leadership manual extols the necessity of innovative and creative leadership and its associated approaches, solutions, ideas and thinking more than 50 times in just over 100 pages.

Given that level of emphasis, one would assume a corresponding Army focus on the process of developing innovative leaders. Unfortunately, that assumption would be largely wrong.

Army senior leadership has beaten the innovation drum for more than 15 years, coinciding with the wave of business innovation books in the late ’90s such as Tom Peters’ The Circle of Innovation and Clayton Christensen’s original The Innovator’s Dilemma. However, the Army has failed to create and foster in doctrine and practice a culture of innovative leadership in our ranks.

With respect to doctrine, the Army relies mainly on circular definitions to describe innovation and creativity. For example, Army Doctrine Reference Publication 6-22 Army Leadership states that “creative thinking involves thinking in innovative ways while capitalizing on imagination, insight and novel ideas.” Similarly, Department of the Army Pamphlet 600-3 Commissioned Officer Professional Development and Career Management affirms that “the goal of Army leader development is to … produce agile, innovative and adaptive leaders,” but simplistically states that an innovative officer is one “who is creative, inquisitive and insightful, and who easily identifies new solutions and catalyzes change.” Unfortunately, neither adequately describes the actual process of being innovative or developing innovative Army leaders.

The readiness vortex

May 3, 2016 

For the past several years, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been painting a bleak portrait of the state of the armed services. Testifying to the senate Armed Services Committee in January 2015, recently retired Army chief Gen. Ray Odierno admitted that Army readiness “has been degraded to its lowest level in 20 years.” This year, Odierno’s successor, Gen. Mark Milley, went farther: the Army is not well prepared to engage a major power. “If we got into a conflict with Russia then I think it would place our soldiers’ lives at risk,” he said. Other service leaders have made similar statements regarding other potential adversaries, including China, Iran, and North Korea.

“We have a lot of ‘not availables’ in the force right now,” continued Milley, underscoring that force readiness is a multiple of sufficient personnel, serviceable equipment, adequate training funds and time, and a host of other factors. The Navy, for its part, has a constantly growing backlog of deferred ship maintenance. A recent television report profiled a Marine F/A-18 Hornet squadron that had to wait 18 months to receive spare parts and was constantly “cannibalizing” parts from one plane to another. Only half of Air Force fighter pilots—including those who fly the top-of-the-line F-22 Raptor—are receiving the full spectrum of training required. It is small wonder, then, that the chairman of the JCS, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, agreed with the conclusion drawn by Rep. Mac Thornberry, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, “that we have a significant readiness problem across the services, especially for the wide variety of contingencies that we’ve got to face.”

7 May 2016

*** Tactical, cyber hybrid training paying off for Army


May 4, 2016 

A recent pilot to incorporate cyber into tactical training exercises is showing positive results, according to Army officials. Through the first-ever program, experts from Army Cyber Command provide training on offensive and defensive cyber operations.

The training is part of the Army’s larger Cyber Support to Corps and Below program, an effort to enhance soldiers’ skills in all aspects of digital communications. Planners aim to integrate tactical edge cyber tools, techniques and capabilities into home-station training and Army combat training centers.

“The cyber environment is something the commanders are going to have to face in the future, it is a fact of modern telecommunications,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Burnett, pilot lead for the Cyber Support to Corps and Below program. “Commanders must be able to maneuver and operate within the information environment.”

Launched in spring 2015, the pilot completed its fifth iteration in February, with the next installment due to take place in August. The pilot program includes two to three days in the classroom, along with two to three weeks of hands-on training. Course content covers a wide range of topics. Trainees learn the rules of cyber use, review demonstrations of potential capabilities, and study the fundamentals of network defense.

*** Death And Destruction: Bin Laden's True Legacy

from STRATFOR

-- this post authored by Scott Stewart

May 2 marked the five-year anniversary of the U.S. raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. In the wake of that operation, we noted that while bin Laden's death fulfilled a sense of vengeance and closure for the 9/11 attacks, in the big picture, it was going to have little effect on the trajectory of the wider jihadist movement. A man was dead, but the ideology of jihadism was going to continue to pose a threat.

The jihadist movement has progressed closer to bin Laden's vision for the world in the past five years than it had in the almost 10 years between 9/11 and his death. An arc of jihad now spreads from West Africa through the Middle East and into Southeast Asia. Reflecting on bin Laden's demise provides a reminder not to lose sight of the forest - the wider jihadist movement - by focusing on the trees - individuals and groups.
The Vision

Bin Laden aspired to a world ruled by a Muslim caliph who would be guided by the principles of Sharia. To get there, he envisioned the establishment of a series of Islamic emirates practicing "true Islam" that eventually would expand into a global caliphate. Until his death, bin Laden maintained that jihadists should focus primarily on attacking what he termed the far enemies - the United States and its "European crusader allies." He believed that until they were driven out of the Muslim world, it would be impossible to establish such emirates because the United States and its allies would overthrow "true Muslim" leaders as they did Mullah Mohammad Omar and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Furthermore, unless the far enemies were stopped, they would continue to support the "apostate" governments, such as those in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, that did not share bin Laden's interpretation of Islam.

** The Pakistan Army's Curious Punjab Operation

By Sachchal Ahmad
May 02, 2016

Soldiers examine weapons seized from a warehouse in Peshawar and put on display for the media at the Pando Stadium in Peshawar, Pakistan, January 27, 2016.

For an offensive supposedly aimed at terrorists, the military has selected some odd targets. 

Just hours after a bomb attack on an Easter celebration in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, killed 75 and injured 340, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif ordered “counter-terror” operations throughout the province. Initial reports suggested that the bomber had been a resident of Muzaffargarh District, in the south of Punjab, a part of the country often described as a hotbed of Islamic extremists and militants. So apparently determined was the military in undertaking these operations in Punjab, and frustrated with civilian reticence on the matter, that the army chief even announced that its operations would not be conducted in coordination with civilian law enforcement, as had been proposed prior to the attack. In the face of such pressure, the government quickly acquiesced and ordered the launch of an operation in south Punjab. It seemed as if the army had finally decided to fulfill the long-standing demand for action against militancy and extremism in Punjab, with the Lahore attack providing the catalyst.

** Nuclear battles in South Asia

4 MAY 2016

Hoodbhoy has taught in the physics department at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad for 40 years and now also teaches at...

Zia Mian is at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security. He is co-chair of the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM).

The armies of Pakistan and India are practicing for nuclear war on the battlefield: Pakistan is rehearsing the use of nuclear weapons, while India trains to fight on despite such use and subsequently escalate. What were once mere ideas and scenarios dreamed up by hawkish military planners and nuclear strategists have become starkly visible capabilities and commitments. When the time comes, policy makers and people on both sides will expect—and perhaps demand—that the Bomb be used.

Pakistan has long been explicit about its plans to use nuclear weapons to counter Indian conventional forces. Pakistan has developed “a variety of short range, low yield nuclear weapons,” claimed retired General Khalid Kidwai in March 2015. Kidwai is the founder—and from 2000 until 2014 ran—Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division, which is responsible for managing the country’s nuclear weapons production complex and arsenal. These weapons, Kidwai said, have closed the “space for conventional war.” Echoing this message, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry declared in October 2015 that his country might use these tactical nuclear weapons in a conflict with India. There already have been four wars between the two countries—in 1947, 1965, 1971, and 1999—as well as many war scares.