1 November 2016

America's Latest South China Sea FONOP Did More Harm Than Good

October 30, 2016

Unambitious. That’s the proper adjective for USS Decatur’s “freedom of navigation” cruise near the Paracel Islands last week. Released last year, the Pentagon’s Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy lists “safeguarding freedom of the seas” first among U.S. strategic priorities for the region, followed by “deterring conflict and coercion” and “promoting adherence to international law and standards.” The Maritime Security Strategy is a fine document on the whole, and there’s no quarreling with its to-do list. The document also presents observers a yardstick to judge Decatur’s exploits in the South China Sea.

The yardstick tells a sobering tale: on balance the operation advanced none of the Pentagon’s self-professed strategic aims. It challenged one minor Chinese infraction—Beijing’s demand that foreign ships request permission before transiting waters China regards as its own—while letting China’s major affronts to freedom of the seas stand. Indeed, by seeming to acquiesce in the notion that the transit was an “innocent passage” through Chinese-claimed waters, the operation may have actually vindicated Beijing’s lawlessness. That’s no way to promote adherence to international law and standards, let alone deter conflict or coercion.

A Partnership That Can Stop China in the South China Sea

October 30, 2016

As China continues to exhibit assertive—and sometimes provocative—behavior toward the United States and the other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, tensions are gradually rising in and around the East China Sea (ECS) and South China Sea (SCS). However, Washington’s regional allies and partners—Manila, Seoul, Taipei and Tokyo—possess a historic opportunity to enhance peace and stability in and around these troubled waters. By establishing a quadrilateral dialogue, they can facilitate mutual understanding of regional challenges as well as greater cooperation and collaboration; build more mutual trust and consensus; and develop an enduring forum and mechanism for strategic dialogue to manage tensions and maintain peace.

In 2008, the Lowy Institute’s Rory Medcalf reflected upon the “strange rise and fall” of the quadrilateral dialogue established by Australia, India, Japan and the United States. The dialogue quickly faltered, with observers arguing that it lacked a concrete agenda and raised fears of containment in Beijing. The experiment nevertheless “helped to cement awareness of the need for collaboration among those countries willing and able to address regional issues, like disaster relief or sea lane security, while confirming that such ventures” will ultimately prove “more sustainable if they are based on convergent interests and the ability to contribute rather than on supposed shared values.”

Following Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen’s May 20 inauguration andOctober 10 National Day speeches—in which she declined to endorse the so-called “one China” principle while pledging to pursue a consistent, predictable, sustainable and peaceful cross-Strait relationship—Beijing isintensifying diplomatic and economic pressure on Taipei in an attempt to decrease its international maneuvering space and compel it to accept China’s sovereignty demands. Beijing is vigorously attempting to isolate Taipei by calling upon foreign nations todeepen implementation of their “one China” policies, according to Beijing’s own strict interpretation. From forcing “Chinese Taipei” to participate in the World Health Assembly under a “one China” rubric, to successfully pressuringCambodia, Malaysia, Kenya and Armenia to repatriate Taiwanese fraud suspects to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), to convincing Kyrgyzstan to deny visas to all Taiwanese citizens, to ensuring that Taiwan was denied an invitation to the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization conference, Beijing is making it clear that it will not tolerate “separatism.” Tsai has responded that the people of Taiwan will not back down to pressure: China must “face up to the reality” that Taiwan not only exists, but that its people “have an unshakeable faith in the democratic system.”


30 OCT 2016

A member of the Iraqi forces in al-Shura, south of Mosul, prepares for an operation to retake the city from Islamic State. Experts say Asian militants fleeing Iraq could return home to pursue jihad. Photo: AFP

As Iraqi forces tighten the noose around Islamic State’s last bastion in the country, it’s tempting to hope that actions to wipe out its self-declared caliphate – one that has been characterised by rape, torture and summary beheadings – could deal the group a fatal blow.

Yet even those involved in the offensive on Mosul – described as the biggest battle in Iraq since the 2003 US invasion – acknowledge that rather than being a key step towards the total defeat of IS, it may instead lead to a shift in the theatre of conflict.

Iraqi pro-government forces south of Mosul ride in a vehicle adorned with an image of Iraqi Ayatollah Ali Husaini al-Sistani. Photo: AFP

There is rising concern among regional counterterrorism officials that the US-backed war machine encircling Islamic State (IS) is inadvertently spawning a jihadist alumni network in Southeast Asia and elsewhere made up of fleeing militants seeking a safe haven in their home countries.

ISIS: An Adaptive Hybrid Threat in Transition

October 29, 2016

Even as coalition forces mass on the suburbs of Mosul and prepare their assault on the last major ISIS stronghold in Iraq, strategic planners are far from declaring victory. After all, only two years ago the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or ISIL, captured the Middle East and the world by storm when they launched their bold and brutal offensive across broad swathes of Iraq and Syria. Major cities from Ramadi to Aleppo were toppled like dominoes, and for a time even Baghdad appeared vulnerable. Today, as ISIS begrudgingly withdraws from occupied territories, they are re-inventing themselves as a transnational threat, as evidenced by horrific ISIS-affiliated or inspired terror attacks in Brussels, Paris, Jakarta, San Bernardino, and Manhattan.[i] US ground commander Lieutenant General Sean McFarland’s grave warning is already proving prophetic: “Military success in Iraq and Syria will not necessarily mean the end of [ISIS]. We can expect the enemy to adapt, to morph into a true insurgent force and terrorist organization capable of horrific attacks.”[ii]

Since its inception, ISIS has distinguished itself from other terror organizations in its ambition and tactics, which many defense analysts have characterized as a hybrid threat. To be certain, the ISIS of 2016 looks and acts very differently than it did two years ago, a testament to their ability to rapidly transition from a position of relative strength and adapt to face an overmatching adversary and persevere for the long-term. Despite the loss of ground, ISIS will continue to use multivariant activities to target vulnerabilities and achieve synergistic effects. This article re-visits the authors’ assertion in a previous SWJ publication[iii] that ISIS is indeed a hybrid threat, and that this characterization has implications for decision-makers and planners. The authors propose a conceptual framework for countering ISIS based upon an analysis of their key characteristics and use of a model for understanding and predicting likely transitions and adaptations that hybrid threats employ in response to fluid operational conditions.

Hybrid Threat Characteristics

UNESCO And To Hell With The Truth! – OpEd

OCTOBER 31, 2016

“To hell with the truth! As the history of the world proves, the truth has no bearing on anything.” — Eugene O’Neill: “The Iceman Cometh”

Opinions and wishful thinking are not the same as provable facts. It is one thing, for example, to believe fervently that Marxism is a preferable system to capitalism, but to maintain against all the evidence that the world is a flat disc floating in space is surely unsustainable. Yet the Flat Earth Society flourishes, even in 2016. Discounting all the scientific evidence to the contrary, there are people who have convinced themselves that the world is not a globe spinning in space. As the ancient proverb has it: “There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know.”

And so, for example, there are large numbers of people who deny that the Holocaust ever occurred, choosing to ignore the overwhelming weight of historical evidence, the testimony of thousands of witnesses and participants, and the tons of documents, photographs and film footage. They can maintain this even in the face of the evidence of such Nazi officials as SS-ObersturmbannführerRudolf Hoess, given at his trial in Nuremberg in 1946:

“I commanded Auschwitz [from 1 May 1940] until 1 December 1943, and estimate that at least 2,500,000 victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing and burning. …victims included about 100,000 German Jews, and great numbers of citizens, mostly Jewish, from Holland, France, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Greece, or other countries. We executed about 400,000 Hungarian Jews alone at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944.”

Relations Between Kurds And US Following Rise Of Islamic State In Region – Analysis

By Mohammad Ali Dastmali* 
OCTOBER 30, 2016

To understand the details of the United States’ relations with Kurds, we need a flashback to remember that in the late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century Kurdish groups in the region were mostly related to Britain and, in some cases, Russia. However, after such important developments as the World War II, independence of Syria, developments in Iraq as well as other important events in the world and the region, the United States turned into the most important foreign power having relations with regional Kurdish groups.

During developments, which unraveled after Kuwait was invaded by former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, the United States came to realize that compared to Shia and Sunni groups in Iraq, Kurdish political groups were more ready for political and military coordination and interaction, and it was during the same period that a serious relationship was established between the two sides. That relationship has been profitable for both sides and has become more profound and meaningful on a daily basis.

Following the breakout of the ongoing crisis in Syria, especially after all countries in the region and world realized the importance of the rise of the most dangerous terrorist group in the world, that is Daesh, relations between Kurds and the United States developed into other dimensions. If up to 20-30 years ago, only two Kurdish groups, that is, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Masoud Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by Jalal Talabani, were in the focus of Washington’s attention, this is not the case anymore during new times.


OCTOBER 28, 2016

Does publicly announcing an impending military offensive expose assaulting troops to dangers that could be avoided if plans to invade were kept quiet? During all three presidential debates, Republican nominee Donald Trump has asserted that the Obama administration was “stupid” for publicly discussing the impeding joint U.S/Iraqi offensive against ISIL in Mosul, claiming that Hillary Clinton was “telling the enemy everything [she] want[s] to do” and asking “why not a sneak attack?” A week ago, he tweeted:

The attack on Mosul is turning out to be a total disaster. We gave them months of notice. U.S. is looking so dumb. VOTE TRUMP and WIN AGAIN!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2016

With the recent slate of successful high-profile covert operations against terrorists and the widespread use of drone strikes to eliminate non-state actors around the globe, on the surface Trump’s critique seems a reasonable question. However, the idea that the United States could conduct a sneak attack against an entrenched ISIL in a city the size of Mosul does not take into account either the logistical realities of major battlefield offensives or the strategic benefits of advertising such an operation beforehand. With the high-profile assault underway against an estimated 5,000 jihadist fighters, it is worth examining in depth the reasons why advertising a major military offensive on an urban target would be in the interest of the assaulting forces. History is instructive here: A review of the battles for Fallujah in 2004 reveals that taking the time to publicly announce and prepare for an assault of this nature can play a critical role in ensuring success on the battlefield.

Why the Maldives Is Sending Terrorists to Syria and Iraq

October 30, 2016

A popular tourist destination could be sliding into Islamist terrorism following its departure from the British Commonwealth, according to regional experts.

The Maldives, a nation of 1,192 islands in the Indian Ocean, is best known for its tropical weather and seaside resorts. But Maldives has sent more terrorists per capita than any other country in the world to fight with extremist groups in Syria and Iraq.

Expert analysts fear a greater terrorist threat following the country’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Nations October 13.

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 52 sovereign states, most of which once were British colonies or former holdings of the colonies. While politically independent, Commonwealth nations cooperate within a framework set forth by The Singapore Declaration, which puts an emphasis on values such as individual liberty, free trade and world peace. The Maldives had been a member of the Commonwealth since 1982.

But President Abdulla Yameen has pursued a crackdown on dissent since his election in 2013. The Yameen administration has arrested opposition leaders, announced plans to end a moratorium on capital punishment, and closed media outlets.

A Commonwealth of Nations meeting on September 23rd resulted in a communiqué warning the Maldives it could face suspension from the group unless its human rights situation improved. Rather than respond to those concerns, the Maldives withdrew from the organization.

Some Maldivians cheered the move, comparing it on social media with the unexpected victory for the Brexit vote in June, which puts the United Kingdom on a path to leave the European Union.

But international observers were not so sanguine.

How Islamic State Is Putting the Balkans on Edge

October 30, 2016

In Europe’s fragile southeast, Islamism threatens to galvanize national rivalries and unravel two decades of cold peace.

For the largely secular, moderate and west-leaning Balkan states, where religious kinship transcends borders, violent extremism is fueling fear, ethnic tribalism and seditious security agendas. And as Islamic State group fighters disband amid the siege against Mosul, the situation only promises to escalate.

In July, footage of Islamists burning Serbian flags to the tune of pro-Bosnia music and gunshots went viral. It followed the murder of a policeman in the Republika Srpska (RS) (Bosnia’s Serbian “entity”) by a lone-wolf Islamist extremist, a similar gunning down of two Bosnian soldiers in a Sarajevo suburb, and deadly clashes between officers and alleged insurgents in Macedonia last year.

A small, yet significant, domestic radical presence, flanked by returning Islamic State fighters are carrying the threat. Salafism, an ultra-conservative strand of Sunni Islam, has been nurtured in the Balkans through Saudi-sponsored preachers, mosques and madrassas ever since the 1990s when the Bosnia and Kosovo wars first lured thousands of jihadists to the defense of fellow Muslims. Poorly governed post-communist and transitions have meanwhile left a legacy of poverty, unemployment and corruption in the former Yugoslav states, which has only pushed the disillusioned further into the path of radical cells.

It’s meant the region has been a significant exporter of fighters for Islamist groups, with official sources claiming around 900 nationals—mainly from Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania—have travelled to Iraq and Syria. But as Islamic State paralyzes in the Middle East, many combatants are slated to return home—some have already done so, aided by the smokescreen of Europe’s refugee crisis. They will possess frontline skills, sharpened ideological beliefs and a desensitization to violence that will intensify and influence the Islamist movement in their homeland.

Syria: The Next U.S. President's First 100 Days

October 29, 2016

According to the Washington Post, there is already a lively debate among Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s foreign-policy advisers about what is to be done in Syria if she becomes the next president. Arguments are between those who call for more U.S. engagement—specifically in support of a safe zone for refugees and/or a no-fly zone—and those who fear that these measures are fraught with risks and are ineffective to boot.

As I see it, the first step ought to be a declaration that the United States is no longer seeking coercive regime change, but rather—for now—only a cessation of hostilities, leading to a negotiated settlement among the main parties involved. For the first four years of this tragic civil war, the United States insisted that President Assad had to leave as a precondition for negotiations; for the last year and a half, the United States has continued to hold this position but rephrased it to allow for some wiggle room. The position was based on the neoconservative theory that the United States’ mission is to push over those regimes that stand in the way of the global march to democracy (inFrancis Fukuyama’s words, those still “stuck in history”) and the belief that the Assad regime was teetering on the brink of collapse anyway. It turns out that Assad held on and is gaining. Above all, we learn—surprise!—that when you demand that the leader of the party you need to deal with remove himself from power, he is most unlikely to accommodate you. (Nor has anyone explained why the United States believed that whoever would have replaced Assad would be any better.)

The same ambition also led the United States to keep looking for liberal, pro-democracy rebels to ally itself with, which turned out to be the smallest and weakest group of the lot, and not a very liberal one either. The humanitarian purpose of saving hundreds of thousands of lives and stopping millions more from being displaced and driven into neighboring countries and to Europe, should be the United States’ first goal. There is no way to reach this goal in the near future and to avoid Assad being part of a settlement, if one can be reached at all.

In Syria, the U.S. may need more troops to manage shaky alliance

By: Andrew Tilghman, 
October 30, 2016

U.S. commanders in the Middle East are trying to determine whether 300 U.S. troops on the ground inside Syria will be enough to oust the Islamic State group from its self-proclaimed capital in Raqqa. 

It’s not a question of combat power. The U.S. has plenty of local allies willing to fight ISIS there. The challenge is convincing those groups to fight the militants rather than each other. 

“The biggest problem with Raqqa will be managing the coalition,” said J. Matthew McInnis, a Middle East security expert with the American Enterprise Institute. “If you get an extra six hundred or an extra one thousand troops, that doesn’t dramatically change the situation from a military standpoint, but it does from a political standpoint. You gain a certain amount of ability to man

U.S. officials say the invasion of Raqqa will begin within weeks. They feel a sense of “urgency” because new intelligence suggests ISIS leaders in Raqqa are planning external attacks in the U.S. and Europe. 

This will draw the U.S. military deeper than ever into the multi-sided Syrian civil war, a battlefield far more complex than the one in Iraq, which for years has been the main focus of the U.S. effort to defeat ISIS. The invasion of Raqqa will put the teams of U.S. special operations troops into a unique role managing the movements of rival allied factions that often have fought each other during the five-year-old conflict. 

The Spy’s Bookshelf

October 30, 2016

A couple new books have come to my attention which deserve note:

* Nate Jones (ed.), Able Archer 83 (NY: The New Press, 2016). Nate Jones, the director of the FOIA Project at the National Security Archive in Washington, D.C., has put together a compendium of 13 declassified U.S. government documents he has obtained in recent years concerning the 1983 ABLE ARCHER U.S. nuclear weapons release exercise held in Germany. As the text of this book explains in considerable detail, the Soviet intelligence community badly misread the nature and extent of the exercise, and the Kremlin placed its nuclear forces on heightened alert, thinking that the U.S. military was preparing to attack the USSR. If you want to see how bad intelligence can help start wars, read this book. Further details about this book can be found here.

* Dick van der Aart, The Secret MiGs of Bornholm (Air-Intel Research, 2016). I will bet that few, if any, of you remember that during the Cold War three Soviet-made MiG-15 fighters belonging to the Polish Air Force were flown to the Danish island of Bornholm in the middle of the Baltic Sea, A fourth Polish pilot flew his MiG-15 fighter to Sweden, perhaps wary of the fact that Denmark is by reputation “the happiest country in the world.” This book describes each of these defections, and the resulting furor as the Danish government tried desperately to prevent these defections from becoming a diplomatic crisis while at the same time allowing American and British intelligence specialists to examine the planes. A journalist by trade and aviation enthusiast by habit, Dick van der Aart has written a very readable and important book on a forgotten part of Cold War intelligence history. Well worth reading. Further details can be found here.

* Bob de Graaff and James M. Nyce (eds.), The Handbook of European Intelligence Cultures (NY: Rowan & Littlefield, 2016). This 430-page book consists of 32 chapters covering the activities and political cultures of the intelligence and security services of all European countries, from Albania to the United Kingdom. The editors have chosen academic or journalistic experts from each of the countries to write the chapters, so you really get an excellent and well-sourced reference book on who is doing what to whom in the European intelligence world, foibles and all. This book is not cheap, but it is worth it if you are serious about knowing the details of the European intelligence scene. Further details can be found here.

Syria rebels ‘in push to break Aleppo siege’

October 29, 206

Syria rebels ‘in push to break Aleppo siege’

Rebels in Syria have announced a big offensive aimed at breaking the government siege of east Aleppo.

A UK-based monitoring group says rebels fired “hundreds” of missiles on western Aleppo, killing at least 15 civilians.

In response, Russia’s defence ministry asked permission from President Vladimir Putin to resume air strikes against the rebels after a 10-day pause, but he denied the request.

About 275,000 people have been besieged in the east of the city for months.

Russian and Syrian government planes began bombarding the city in September. More than 2,700 people are said to have been killed and injured since then.

Russia suspended its air campaign on 18 October to allow evacuations of sick and wounded people but few have heeded the call to leave.

The Russian defence ministry said continuing civilian deaths and an upsurge in rebel activity had prompted its request to resume the strikes.

However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr Putin did not consider it appropriate to restart the strikes but said the humanitarian pause should continue.

Meanwhile US officials have confirmed reports that a Russian fighter jet and a US-led coalition plane were involved in a near miss over Syria on 17 October, coming within half a mile of each other.

There is an element of political theatre to all this.

Pentagon downplays near-collision between U.S., Russian warplanes over Syria

Stephen Losey
October 29, 2016

Pentagon downplays near-collision between U.S., Russian warplanes over Syria

A Russian fighter flew within a half-mile of a U.S. warplane over eastern Syria on Oct. 17, officials confirmed Friday. 

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, told AFP Friday that the Russian jet was escorting a large spy plane late that day when it flew dangerously close to the American plane. Harrigian said the Russian pilot likely did not see the American plane because it was dark and the planes did not have their lights on. 

The incident comes at a time of high tensions between the two nations over the civil war in Syria. Harrigian also told AFP that close calls between Russian and U.S. aircraft have increased over the past six weeks, and Russian jets have “intentional near misses” with coalition aircraft about once every 10 days. 

But the U.S. doesn’t think the Oct. 17 incident was done “with nefarious intent," Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. John Dorrian said in a Friday briefing at the Pentagon. 

Dorrian described the plane as "a larger-framed [coalition] aircraft that we don’t provide additional detail on.” The Pentagon didn’t specify what kind of Russian fighter was involved. 

“The Russian jet passed in front of the coalition jet close enough that the jetwash from that flight was felt within the larger aircraft,” Dorrian said. “That’s closer than we like.” 

Dorrian said the aircraft immediately made contact with one another, and officials followed up the next day with their Russian counterparts through the hotline the nations’ militaries have used to deconflict their aircraft over Syria. 

Four Things Make Russia More Ethnically Tolerant Than Other Countries – OpEd

OCTOBER 31, 2016

Valery Engel, director of the Moscow Institute for the Study of Problems of Nationality Pollicy and Inter-Ethnic Relations, says there are four reasons why Russia is “more tolerant” than other countries like those in Europe where xenophobic attitudes are growing.

He made his comments in advance of the International Day of the struggle with Fascism, Racism and Anti-Semitism, and his upbeat assessment of the situation in Russia, one very much at odds with those of others, suggests the way in which Moscow will seek to use that day again this year (nazaccent.ru/content/22255-ekspert-nazval-chetyre-prichiny-po-kotorym.html).

The first reason for Russia’s success in this regard, Engel says, is that it has “departed from the Soviet model where the political nation was formed around ideas but has not moved toward the European model which says that the state is created on the basis of the traditions of the titular nation.”

The second reason Engel gives for his conclusion is that “rightwing activists and Islamists have left to take part in military conflicts in other countries, Syria and Ukraine,” thus removing from the Russian scene many who promoted intolerance of other nations in various ways in the past.

The third reasons is “the split within the Russian national movement which occurred after the Ukrainian events.” Some Russian nationalists support what Moscow has done; others oppose it; and this division means that Russian nationalists cannot promote xenophobic attitudes as effectively as they did.

The Danger Of False Peril: Avoiding Threat Inflation – Analysis

By Andrew Stigler* 
OCTOBER 31, 2016

As his advisors deliberated during the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy believed that the chance of war with the Soviet Union was “between one in three and even.” Even if the President’s estimation was overly pessimistic, the fact that a leader would choose to initiate a crisis while believing there was such a high risk of a nuclear exchange is a most sobering thought. Some estimated that the number of dead resulting from a nuclear exchange between the superpowers could have exceeded 200 million people.1

But how serious was the threat that Kennedy was responding to? The Soviet Union sought to impose some small measure of vulnerability on the United States, just a fraction of the nuclear striking capability that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization possessed. Though most Americans feared Soviet advances in nuclear strike capability—even Kennedy wondered if inaction would lead to his own impeachment—the later history of the superpower confrontation strongly suggests that the United States could have tolerated Soviet offensive missiles in Cuba. Over the course of the Cold War, the Soviet nuclear arsenal grew over tenfold. In 1986, the Soviet Union possessed approximately 45,000 warheads, up from 3,322 at the time of the Cuba crisis.2 During these later Cold War years, the Soviets had an ability to engage in a nuclear attack on the United States that vastly exceeded the capability they planned to place in Cuba in 1962. Yet we made it through, strongly suggesting Kennedy’s alarmism was misplaced.

The Cuban Missile Crisis is often heralded as a successful combination of brinkmanship and negotiation. But the later history of the Cold War calls into serious question whether President Kennedy (and other leading politicians) exaggerated the threat posed by Soviet weapons in Cuba. If Kennedy unnecessarily courted a nuclear exchange with the Soviets, then the crisis potentially represents the single greatest unnecessary risk in American history.

Preventing Violent Extremism In US: Updating The Strategy – Analysis

By Cameron Sumpter*
OCTOBER 31, 2016

The United States executive branch has released an updated version of its 2011 strategy to prevent violent extremism through community engagement. While additions offer promise, effective implementation will need to overcome persistent problems of stigmatisation and mistrust.

With eyes fixated on the caustic drama of the United States Presidential debates, the White House last week quietly rolled out an updated national strategy to prevent violent extremism (PVE). The lack of fanfare surrounding the announcement was likely due to criticism aimed at the plan’s 2011 predecessor, which sought to empower “local partners” to tackle the problem of radicalisation in the US.

Some have argued that “engagement” initiatives stigmatise and securitise Muslim communities and actually represent covert strategies for intelligence gathering. In contrast, others on the political right believe PVE is too politically correct and accommodating of potentially criminal behaviour. How much is new in the updated strategy and to what extent are criticisms of the PVE project still valid?
Five Years in the Making

The 2011 plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States was more a statement of the intended approach than an actual strategy. The 12-page document stressed that community strength and resilience was the best defence against violent extremism, and the federal government should act as facilitator and convenor for grassroots efforts.

Three “broad areas of action” were outlined: provision of support for communities; building expertise on processes of radicalisation; and countering extremist propaganda. Five years on and these ideas are now ready to be actualised.

Why Syrian Safe Zones Are Unworkable

October 30, 2016

As Russian and Syrian regime forces close in on eastern Aleppo, western observers have grown increasingly concerned about the risk of civilian casualties. These fears are well-placed given Putin’s and Assad’s records. This threat has led to a renewal of calls for safe zones backed by western military forces to protect civilians in war torn Syria, with leading defense intellectuals,retired diplomats, and political leaders in Washington expressing support for the idea.

But establishing safe zones would create a host of challenges, especially given the complicating factor of Russian forces now in the country. First, safe zones must be protected with military force or they are not safe at all. Declaring safe zones you won’t defend simply would just invite civilians to gather in one place where they can be attacked. This is what happened in Srebrenica in 1995 when the UN declared a safe zone and then peacekeepers sat idly by while Serb militias slaughtered the people who had come there for protection.

Matters are further complicated by how rebel forces would react to the creation of safe zones. Areas of Syria protected from the Assad regime by western military forces would attract rebel groups, who would seek to use these areas as shelter from the fighting or to establish bases from which they could launch attacks without fear of reprisal. If rebel groups gather in the safe zones it would only increase the risk that Assad would try to launch attacks into safe zones. This would increase the need for U.S. military forces to protect safe zones – a commitment that could require 30 thousand ground troops according to some estimates.

6 Great Military History Apps

OCTOBER 29, 2016

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth Merriam/Released

So you’re a military history buff — but is there an app for that? If you’ve been looking in the Apple or Android stores, you may not have found many options. But we’ve pulled up six great military history apps that you can download. They give lots of information, are simple and clear, and varied enough so you can find the app (or apps!) that’s right for you.

1. Military History

A simply named app, Military History on iTunes is made by Army.ca Technologies, Inc. Despite the simple name, it has many great features, including searching by date and keyword for specific events, a wide selection of 1,200 entries about important military events and the ability to look at events from this day in history. For example, if you want to look for a battle that started on October 29, you could do that with this app. The app is also very affordable, only costing $0.99 to purchase and it is well worth that dollar.
2. 20th Century Military Uniforms

20th Century Military Uniforms is exactly what you might expect. It’s an app that gives you a wide range of military uniforms used by various countries throughout the 20th century. It might sound simple, but ths military history app’s information and pictures about the uniforms are what makes it worthwhile. It’s gotten great reviews as well. The app is $3.99, a reasonable price for anyone interested in military uniforms worn during the 20th Century.
3. Battlefield mApps: Battle of the Bulge

The Battle of the Bulge is one of the most well-known and important battles in World War II.Battlefield mApps: Battle of the Bulge tells the story of the battle in an interesting way that will keep you interested from the beginning of the battle to its end. With good reviews and priced well at $3.99, if you want to know more about the Battle of the Bulge, this app is definitely the right choice.

Officials: Third Offset Strategy Key to Maintaining U.S. Military Technology Dominance

October 28, 2016 
Source Link

Aircraft CF-02, an F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant attached to the F-35 Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 completes a flyover of the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000). US Navy Photo

The driving concept behind the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy comes down to : If we’re not changing, we’re losing to “pacing competitors” like Russia and China in conventional warfare.

Bob Work, deputy secretary of defense, said the two near-peer adversaries have reached parity in areas from sensor nets to logistics and support grids and both have put a lot of money in U.S. systems and networks.

Speaking Friday as part of a panel at a daylong forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank, he described two schools of thought to counter these advances.

“You have to fight to keep your networks together” when under attack or “train your force to operate with thin lines of communication.” He said in the latest offset strategy “we expect the network to dissemble” and it is necessary to train the force to be resilient and adapt to the new circumstances.

“We believe our people [including allies and partners] provide us a competitive advantage,” he said.

War: The American Way.

There is an unfortunate disconnect when it comes to the American perception of war. The average American seems to think that war is conducted by drone strikes and jets dropping precision munitions on folks living in tents. Yes, we do kill our enemies this way but it is not the only way. Unfortunately what it does is paint a false picture of the reality of armed conflict.

While we have many advanced weapons at our disposal, war is still essentially the same. To be decisive we must place American rifleman in range of opposing and similarly armed counterparts.

Violence on this level has not changed, only the popular and public perception of it. Americans at home want their wars run clean and cold, through the digital optics on board fast moving airframes delivering their ordinance. This is a problem, because this is not how war works.

Let’s take a look at some recent conflicts, starting with WW2. Often looked back on with nostalgia and reverence for being the last time the good guys fought real bad guys. The shine of metallic P-51 Mustang fuselages and flashy nose art can be distracting from the fact that our grandparents were killing each other by any means possible. In this conflict there was no mistake about the goal, or the nature of the conflict. Everything was a valid target, be it soldier or civilian. High level bombers rained high explosive and incendiary death down on the civilian populations of their enemies.

31 October 2016

*** The Unstoppable Spread of Armed Drones

By Stratfor
October 26, 2016

The United States will continue to lead in the development of armed drone technology, but China has taken the lead in drone exports and therefore has a bigger influence on the application of armed systems.
Only the United States and China have exported armed drones, but other countries are expected to join the lucrative market, causing a surge in globally available systems.
Because exporting states do not perceive a threat from armed drones, there is little willpower to establish a legal framework to curb their proliferation.

The presence of armed drones is a reality of the modern battlefield, but only a limited group of countries has the technological ability to produce them or the military capacity to operate them. The United States once held the edge in drone development and use, but as more countries gain access to the technology, armed drones have entered a new stage of proliferation. From the perspective of the United States and others, this proliferation is dangerous. Attempts to curb the spread of armed drones are becoming more difficult now that the United States is no longer their sole developer. China, in particular, has grown as a global exporter of unmanned combat systems, and other countries are planning to follow suit.

Though the use of unmanned aerial vehicles has spread across all sectors at an incredible pace, the military in particular was quick to embrace drone technology. Even less-developed militaries now typically have some capability, though limited, to deploy unmanned platforms for surveillance and reconnaissance. So, too, do non-state actors, including militant and terrorist groups, albeit using technologically restricted commercial drones. The deployment of dedicated combat drones carrying offensive weapons systems has progressed at a reduced rate, however. Besides the significant legal and ethical concerns that surround the use of lethal platforms, only two suppliers are known to exist: the United States and China. More countries, such as Russia, Israel, Turkey and South Korea, are likely close behind. The increased availability will give other countries more opportunities to acquire armed drones.

Many countries have sought access to armed drones, but only a few have found suppliers willing to sell them. Of those, even fewer have actually employed the vehicles in combat. The United States has so far exported armed drones to only the United Kingdom and Italy, and just last year more stringent requirements were placed on U.S. exports to keep the technology out of the wrong hands.

Few Limits on Proliferation

*** What Happens After The Islamic State Loses Mosul

28 October 2016
from STRATFOR -- this post authored by Scott Stewart
Whether after a protracted struggle or a rapid defeat, the Islamic State will lose control of Mosul in the face of the offensive to expel it. This naturally raises the question: What comes next for the Islamic State? But the answer depends on how you define the Islamic State, and which division of the movement you consider.
The Three Islamic States
Stratfor has long rejected the Islamic State's efforts to define itself as a single, global hierarchical entity. Instead, we consider the group to be made up of three distinct parts:
The Islamic State core.
Franchises or affiliated groups that have pledged allegiance to the core.
Grassroots Islamic State supporters who may or may not have some contact with the core or a franchise group.
The loss of Mosul and other key territories, including the prophetically significant town of Dabiq and the logistically critical city of Manbij, will impact each of the branches differently.
The Islamic State Core
The Islamic State core stands to lose the most men, materiel, resources and supply lines from these cities' capture. Without them, the core will be less able to recruit new members from the population's ranks. Similarly, the Islamic State will no longer have as many people to tax and extort, or - in the case of citizens who have fled, have been imprisoned or have been executed - as many people to appropriate goods and property from. The group will forfeit valuable oil fields and smuggling routes as well. Meanwhile, the core will have to contend with the deaths or capture of its leaders. Though the Islamic State has a lengthy track record of keeping a deep bench and a robust bureaucracy able to weather leadership losses, the amount of experience the group has recently sacrificed will be difficult to replace, at least in the near future.