15 July 2017

** After ISIS: Creating Strategic Stability in Iraq

Anthony H. Cordesman


The United States, its allies, and international organizations are just beginning to come to grips with the civil dimensions of "failed state" wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. In each case, any meaningful form of "victory" requires far more than defeating the current extremist threat in military terms. The insurgent threat exists largely because of the deep divisions within the state, and the past and current failures of the government to deal with such internal divisions, and the chronic failure to meet the economic, security, and social needs of much of the nation's population.

In practical terms, these failures make the host government as much of a threat to each nation’s stability and future as are Islamic extremists. Regardless of the scale of any defeat of such extremists, the other internal tensions and divisions with each country also threaten to make any such “victory” a prelude to new forms of civil war, and/or an enduring failure to cope with security, stability, recovery, and development. They also require a different approach to stability operations and civil-military affairs.

Iraq provides a critical test case, and is the focus of a new Burke Chair analysis entitled After ISIS: Creating Strategic Stability in Iraq . This analysis is now available on the CSIS website at https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/170711__Iraq_After_ISIS.pdf?2YaQgwPQq4GnjGoSIzhMoQ7eplxQ2vq6. It provides a detailed picture of the challenges Iraq must meet, drawing on material from a wide range of sources—such as World Bank, IMF, CIA, UN, Transparency International, Institute for the Study of War, and IISS—to address the deeper critical challenges that Iraq must address over time if it is to achieve any degree of lasting strategic stability.

** Information Warfare: Israel Plays Rough


July 12, 2017: The Israeli domestic intelligence service (Shin Bet, similar to the British MI5) recently confirmed what was already widely known among hackers; trying to hack Israeli networks will often trigger instant counter-hacks that will at least halt the hackers with unexpected error messages or, worse, generate a powerful counter-hack directed against the attackers system. The worst result is that, as several thousand foreign hackers have already discovered, the Israelis will identify who you are and where you are operating from. If the hacker is in a nation that has extradition or similar arrangements with Israel the hacker can start worrying about getting arrested or, at the very least, being placed under investigation and added to a list of the usual suspects.

Shin Bet could not hide the fact that it was expanding its Cyber War operations and recruiting additional personnel. So announcements like this are considered part PR and part recruiting. Since 2010 various Israeli government and military organizations have been seeking additional staff for new Cyber War efforts that can detect and thwart enemy hackers. This included seeking expert hackers willing to train to operate in the field with Israeli commando units. That new Cyber War unit was actually part of military intelligence and sought recruits from those already in the military as well as civilians.

The Political Geography of the India-China Crisis at Doklam

By Ankit Panda

Explaining the political geography at the center of a serious India-China standoff in the Himalayas.

Starting in June, a tiny piece of strategically important and until-now obscure Himalayan territory sitting at the intersection of India, China, and Bhutan became the site of the one of the most serious border standoffs between New Delhi and Beijing in three decades. As of July 12, 2017, the standoff continues, with no end in sight. Scores — potentially hundreds — of Indian Army and Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops remain at an impasse near the Doka La pass in Doklam. Nearly one month after the standoff began, details about the geography of the area and the motivations of all three governments involved remain murky.

In the meantime, rhetoric in India and China has reached a slow simmer, with op-ed writers and commentators taking pains to highlight the other side’s transgressions. On both sides, suggestions of a new war or military skirmish between the two nuclear-armed Asian neighbors, both with populations in excess of 1 billion, are slowly becoming less taboo, highlighting the potential for serious escalation. If anything is clear about this crisis, it’s that the stakes are high. Unfortunately, nearly everything else about the terrain under contention and the events that initiated the standoff remains unclear.

The key to India’s solar energy dreams lies in public co-operation, not just in an investor-led approach

By Nimish Sawant 

Towards the end of last year, a report emerged that India houses the world’s largest solar power plant in a single location. The 10 sq km power plant located in Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu has a capacity of 648 MW and the project is spearheaded by the Adani Group. This is almost 100 MW higher than the Topaz Solar Farm in California, which held the top spot before Kamuthi.

According to Piyush Goyal, the Power and Renewable Energy Minister, India’s renewable energy target is 175 GW by 2022 and the solar power target stands at 100 GW by 2022. It does not get more ambitious than that because the total solar power installed capacity in India till April 2017 was around 13 GW. That still leaves over 80 GW worth of solar energy installations over the coming five years. Out of this, the government has plans to have around 40 GW as installed rooftop solar panels.

While the Kamuthi plant certainly helps India in its race to achieve its installed solar panel goals, there are still a lot of challenges ahead. Despite ample sunlight available throughout the year, India is just about getting started with fully realising its potential. In fact, a look at this report makes it clear that despite India being in the top 10 list when it comes to installed solar photovoltaics capacity, it still lags behind Germany (a nation which gets just a couple of months of sunny weather), when it comes to per capita solar photovoltaics (PV) capacity. At 511 Watts per person, Germany is much higher than its closest competitor, Japan. Germany generated enough renewable energy in 2016, to cover 32 percent of its electricity consumption needs.

Is the Indian Economy Poised for a New Phase of Growth?


The Indian economy is at a crossroads with major structural reforms underway, such as a unified Goods and Services Tax (GST) that rolled out on July 1 and an Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code that was enacted last year. The GST would dramatically “formalize” the dominant informal sector that drives the bulk of the economy and open it up for credit access. The bankruptcy code will bolster a determined push by India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), to clean up bank balance sheets of non-performing assets (NPAs) and provision sufficient capital buffers. Those and other structural changes would prepare the economy for sustained growth over the long term, according to Viral Acharya, the recently-appointed deputy governor at the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), who was formerly a professor of economics at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

Additionally, India’s equity markets are bracing for a much-awaited uptick in corporate earnings, an increasing flow of new investments from pension funds, provident fund retirement accounts and insurance, and a historical shift in domestic household investments in equities overtaking those by foreign institutional investors. With current stock market earnings multiples at “reasonable” levels, higher corporate earnings and a flush of new money chasing limited equity stock, the stage looks set for Indian stock market indices to triple over the next five years, according to Ridham Desai, managing director and head of India Research at Morgan Stanley.

India’s Light Combat Aircraft to Be Armed With Beyond Visual Range Missile

By Franz-Stefan Gady

Test firing of the new air-to-air missile is scheduled for the end of 2017. 

Israeli defense contractor Rafael Advanced Defense Systems successfully completed integration of the I-Derby beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missile on the Indian Air Force’s Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) with test firing of the missile scheduled for the end of 2017, Flight Global reports.

According to a Rafael representative, the new missile is slated to become the LCAs main air-to-air weapon following the completion of testing by the end of the year. The last test firing of a I-Derby BVR missile occurredat the Chandipur Integrated Test Range (ITR) in the Indian state of Odisha in May.

“The objective of the test was to assess the Derby integration with aircraft systems on board Tejas, including the aircraft avionics, fire-control radar, launchers and missile weapon delivery system and to verify its performance,” the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) said in a statement at the time.

“A safe separation was followed by missile guidance towards RADAR acquired target. The flawless launch was demonstrated with all on-board systems performing satisfactorily and the missile scored a direct hit on the target with complete destruction of it. The test firing achieved all its planned objectives,” the MoD statement added. “The Derby firing is a major step towards clearing BVR capabilities on LCA aircraft for FOC [full operational capability].”

With More Troops in Afghanistan, Focus on Reintegration, Not Reconciliation

Marvin G. Weinbaum, Moh. Sayed Madadi
Had the Taliban wanted a share of power, its leaders would have come to the table long ago.

As the United States searches for a strategy in Afghanistan, a near consensus exists that military power alone cannot defeat the Taliban, making a political resolution of the conflict both necessary and inevitable. It is important to deploy more troops to the country, not because that action will force the Taliban to eventually reconcile in a power-sharing arrangement, but because it buys time for the reintegration process to yield threads of success. Theoretically, reintegration will allow for Afghanistan to gradually wean off the Taliban’s mid-level commanders in the leadership council from the Taliban’s hardcore ideologues, which would then make it possible for the country avoid negotiating a political settlement with the terror group.

The Taliban senior leadership remains dedicated to realizing an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan. Although that ideology has evolved over time, it would be unwise to expect the Taliban to compete in democratic elections, take cabinet positions, and respect the rights of minorities and free media. Therefore, a negotiated agreement that incorporates more Islamic values within the country’s constitutional democratic framework—which also somehow preserves most of Afghanistan’s social and economic gains since 2001—is unlikely. The Taliban don’t just seek to gain control over the political system, they want change it. Had the group simply wanted a share of power, then its leaders would have come to the table long ago. The movement’s ascendant ideologues reject popular legitimacy and democratic accountability, viewing them as placing the will of the people above that of God. Even the Taliban’s so-called pragmatists—those possibly prepared to entertain a political outcome—seem unwilling to compromise on core principles.

Islamic State Fights the Taliban, Afghan Government-backed Locals in Tora Bora Mountains

By Thomas Joscelyn

The Islamic State’s Wilayah Khorasan (or Khorasan province) has released a new set of photos documenting its battles against the Taliban in the Tora Bora Mountains and the nearby area. The region garnered worldwide attention in late 2001, after Osama bin Laden and many of his men retreated to an al Qaeda base in the mountains. It could have been bin Laden’s last stand, but the al Qaeda founder escaped and continued to manage an international network of subordinates until early May 2011, when he was finally killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

In June, press reports indicated that Wilayah Khorasan had captured bin Laden’s cave complex in Tora Bora from the Taliban. It was a supposedly high-profile win for Baghdadi’s men at a time when they are losing ground in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. CBS News cited a broadcast in Pashto on the so-called caliphate’s local radio station, which trumpeted the territorial gain.

In mid-June, the Islamic State’s Naba magazine also carried an article on the campaign. Naba claimed that Wilayah Khorasan’s members sought to dispel any misgivings about their intentions after the Taliban had previously warned people in the area about the self-declared caliphate.

The Afghan War Is Not Lost

Michèle Flournoy, Richard Fontaine

Trump should explain the theory of success, the stakes and why, after all these years, America’s longest war must persist.

Sixteen years after the United States first sent troops to Afghanistan, U.S. military commanders describe the war there as stalemated. The Trump administration has initiated a major strategy review, and the Pentagon reportedly seeks to add several thousand American troops to the 8,400 already in Afghanistan. More troops can help achieve American objectives in Afghanistan, but only if they are part of a larger and more effective strategy. That will require a change of course.

The current approach is plainly inadequate. Although more Afghan forces are trained and in the fight than ever before, the Taliban today controls more territory than at any time since 9/11. Faced with corruption and exclusionary politics, popular opposition to the government in Kabul is rising, while the Taliban makes inroads in rural areas and, increasingly, near the cities. According to the U.S. government, some twenty insurgent or terrorist groups now operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater, including ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Haqqanis—the world’s highest concentration of extremist networks.

The primary objective of U.S. strategy has been preventing Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven from which terrorists could launch attacks against the United States and its allies. As the Taliban and other extremist groups have regained strength, U.S. focus has been to prevent the collapse of the central government while continuing counterterrorism operations. In practice, this has involved training and advising Afghan security forces, coupled with air attacks on Taliban forces and direct action against terrorist networks.

North Korea’s New ICBM


Q1: What did North Korea launch? 

A1: North Korea conducted a flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that it has designated the Hwasong-14. During the July 3 test, the Hwasong-14 traveled for around 40 minutes before landing in the Sea of Japan, inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The missile was launched on a highly lofted trajectory to an altitude of about 2,800 kilometers and traveled some 930 kilometers in distance. Had the same motor’s thrust been put to a range-maximizing flight path, the Hwasong-14 could have traveled as far as 7,000 kilometers, enough to reach Alaska and well in range of Guam. If fired in an eastward direction to take advantage of the rotation of the earth, the Hwasong-14 could potentially reach up to 8,000 kilometers, putting Hawaii at risk. The missile appears to employ at least two stages and operates on liquid fuel.

Q2: How significant is this event?

A2: This launch represents North Korea’s first-ever test of a true ICBM. An ICBM is classified as a ballistic missile that can deliver a warhead to a range of 5,500 kilometers or more. The definition was set during the Cold War, as 5,500 kilometers is approximately the minimum distance between contiguous Russian and U.S. territories.

China sends troops to open first overseas military base in Djibouti


BEIJING (Reuters) - Ships carrying Chinese military personnel for Beijing’s first overseas military base, in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, have left China to begin setting up the facility as China’s rapidly modernizing military hones its global reach.

Djibouti’s position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fueled worries in India that it would become another of China’s “string of pearls” of military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

China began construction of a logistics base in strategically located Djibouti last year that will resupply naval vessels taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia, in particular.

This will be China’s first overseas naval base, although Beijing officially describes it as a logistics facility.

State news agency Xinhua said in a short report late on Tuesday the ships had departed from Zhanjiang in southern China “to set up a support base in Djibouti”.

Navy commander Shen Jinlong “read an order on constructing the base in Djibouti” but the report did not say when the base might formally begin operations.

Why Is Russia Aiming Missiles at China?

By Guy Plopsky

The placement of Iskander-M Brigades in Russia’s Eastern Military District reflects continued uneasiness about China. 

In early June 2017, Russian media reported that yet another Ground Forces missile brigade received the dreaded road-mobile 9K720 Iskander-M missile system (known in Russian military parlance as an “operational-tactical missile system,” or OTRK in short). The brigade in question is the 29th Army’s newly established 3rd Missile Brigade, based in Russia’s colossal Eastern Military District (MD). Formed in December 2016, this brigade was initially armed with the aging 9K79-1 Tochka-U tactical ballistic missile system, and became the Eastern MD’s fourth missile brigade to be re-equipped with the Iskander-M as part of the Russian Defense Ministry’s plan to phase out all Tochka-Us by 2020. The district’s three other brigades — the 107th, 103rd and 20th — received their Iskander-M OTRKs in 2013, 2015, and 2016, respectively. As a result, there are presently more Iskander-M brigades in the Eastern MD than any other district; Russia’s other three military districts (Central, Southern, and Western) currently house two Iskander-M brigades each. What, then, is the purpose of these four brigades?

Whereas the task of Iskander-M OTRKs being deployed in Russia’s Western MD is to hold U.S. and allied forces in the Baltics and Poland at risk, the systems stationed in the Eastern MD appear to primarily serve a different purpose: strengthening both Russia’s conventional and nuclear deterrence against China. Indeed, while an Iskander-M system stationed in Russia’s Kaliningrad Oblast allows Russia to target a wide range of NATO military assets, including the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in Poland, an Iskander-M stationed in Russia’s Far East has very limited ability to threaten U.S. forces deployed in the region.

China Won't Help America Subdue North Korea

Daniel R. DePetris

Last April, in the privacy of his estate on the Florida coastline, President Donald Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping met for a weekend of sun, surf and negotiating. In the middle of the meeting, Trump declared in a short statement outside of his residence that a cooperative U.S.-Chinese relationship had the power to resolve some of the world’s toughest security problems. “The relationship developed by President Xi and myself I think is outstanding,” Trump told reporters. “We look forward to being together many times in the future. And I believe lots of very potentially bad problems will be going away.”

You could be forgiven for thinking that a new dawn in U.S.-China relations was on the horizon. Indeed, Trump and Xi have spoken on the phone on numerous occasions since that weekend meeting, discussing everything from the North Korea nuclear issue and international trade to the South China Sea and the inviolability of the One China policy that has governed Washington’s behavior towards Beijing for about forty years. Unfortunately, Trump has learned the hard way that crafting an improved and productive partnership with China isn’t as easy as picking up the phone and striking up a personal rapport with the Chinese leadership. Notwithstanding all of positive remarks from Trump of Xi being “a great guy,” the Trump administration is quickly coming to the conclusion that the Chinese won’t do America’s bidding unless the White House is able to produce concessions so significant that it would cause a political uproar in Washington. And even then, Beijing may not be willing to deliver.

Why Victory in Mosul Is Overblown

Daniel L. Davis

U.S. leaders seem to believe that America can kill its way out of this mess—and that’s totally wrong.

The battle for Mosul is all but completed, and any question about the strategic significance of its conclusion has yet to be answered by military leaders. That being so, it is time to start asking the difficult questions, such as why the current administration—which ran and won on the promise to change American foreign policy—continues to follow the path of its two previous predecessors in embarking on tactical combat missions that do not contribute to U.S. national security nor the accomplishment of strategic objectives?

The next tough question: Why does Washington continue expending the lives and limbs of its service members and hundreds of billions of dollars on lethal military operations that not only fail to enhance American security, but arguably diminish it?

Brig. Gen. Andrew Croft, deputy commanding general for Air, Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command, Operation Inherent Resolve, claimed that the battle to liberate Mosul would be completed “within days,” and then heaped effusive praise on the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Their accomplishment, he boasted, “would challenge the best military in the world,” and that the nine-month struggle in Mosul was “like Stalingrad, but it's 10 times worse.”

What the Islamic State is saying about its loss of Mosul

By Amanda Erickson

In Mosul right now, families are cheering, singing as they clutch the Iraqi flag. Drivers are blasting their horns. All because in their city, the Islamic State has been ousted.

On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared “the end of the ISIS statelet” in his country. It's being celebrated as a major, national victory for embattled Iraq, one that has brought dancing revelers into the streets in Baghdad and fireworks over the southern city of Basra.

That's not the story you'd get, though, if you follow the Islamic State on social media. Since it lost Mosul, the terrorist group has been working to counter "persistent narratives of its gradual defeat by characterizing its current situation as a heroic, action movie-esque last stand,” explains Rita Katz, a terrorism analyst and co-founder of the Search for International Terrorist Entities (SITE) Intelligence Group. Katz pointed to a July 10 communique that read in part: “The soldiers of the Caliphate continue to record epics until they achieve one of the two good ends, either victory or martyrdom.”

The Islamic State also described the loss of Mosul as a loss for all Muslims against the Shiites and the “Crusader coalition.”

“Describing things in this way is not only an attempt to save face amid a major symbolic loss, but also to capitalize on the developments in a way that energizes the group’s base,” Katz wrote in an email.

Is Baghdadi Dead? For ISIS, it May Not Matter


By Paul D. Shinkman

The U.S. government on Tuesday said it could not verify increasingly widespread reports that Russian forces had killed Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a move that many hope would not only rid the extremist network of its charismatic so-called caliph but also undercut its ability to recruit.

"We cannot confirm this report but hope it is true," a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. headquarters fighting the Islamic State group, tells U.S. News. "We strongly advise ISIS to implement a strong line of succession. It will be needed."

Moscow's claim on Tuesday marks at least the third time its state media has reported that Russian forces killed Baghdadi, stemming from a supposed air strike somewhere outside the Islamic State group's capital of Raqqa, Syria, in May. This time, the U.K.-based non-governmental organization Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the report.

The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, has been actively targeting and killing top leaders since the war began three years ago and, within Iraq and Syria, has been quite successful. Army Col. Ryan Dillon told U.S. News last month about these high value targets, saying, "There was an 'org chart,' if you had Baghdadi and his lieutenants and deputies, any HVTs we strike nowadays are typically people who are on the fourth or fifth string."

5 Times Russia and America Almost Nuked Each Other (And Started World War III)

Tom Nichols

Every one of these crises could have resulted in a global conflagration. Earlier crises (such as the Berlin Blockade of 1948 or the Korean attack of 1950) could have led to war, but they took place before the superpowers developed huge stockpiles of nuclear-armed intercontinental missiles. Each crisis was eventually resolved in favor of peace, but in every case both sides relied on gambles, and survived as much by luck as by strategy.

An international “crisis” is the anxious space between peace and war. It is defined by three things: time, threat, and the likelihood of violence. The shorter the time, the greater the sense of threat to important interests, and the greater the chance of physical harm, the more intense the crisis. By definition, it cannot go on indefinitely: like the analogous medical term, it’s the point at which things must get better or worse. The July crisis of 1914 lasted only weeks, for example, but plunged the Great Powers into their first global war.

During the Cold War, “crisis” had a special connotation, because each moment of political conflict raised the possibility of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Every confrontation carried the potential not only for war, but for the extermination of human civilization. While we look back on these periods now as something like curios in a museum, they were moments of existential fear for both American and Soviet leaders.

Ceasefire or No, US and Russia Remain ‘A Second or Two Away’ from Accidental War Over Syria


The head of Air Combat Command says one mistake by a pilot in an advanced warplane could mean an unintended escalation in Syria.

A fragile ceasefire may have taken hold in Syria but the country’s airspace — crowded with Russian, U.S., Syrian, and coalition warplanes — is as dangerous as ever, the commander of U.S. Air Combat Command says.

“Every day, we are a second or two away from miscalculation between airmen are flying on top of each other with advanced weapons, which could lead to an escalation in that conflict,” Gen. James M. “Mike” Holmes said at an Air Force Association event on Tuesday.

The fog of war over Syria has been thick since September 2015, when Russian forces arrived to bolster the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. The U.S. and Russian forces immediately set up a deconfliction line, basically a telephone in the U.S. Air Operations Center that connected to directly the Russians’ similar base. But in April, a confusing situation became a tense one after the U.S. fired a series of Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase.

With Capture of Mosul From ISIS, Attention Now Turns to Raqqa in Syria


WASHINGTON - The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group may increase airstrikes and overhead surveillance support for the fight to retake Raqqa, Syria, now that the militants have been largely defeated in Mosul, Iraq, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq said Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told Pentagon reporters he doesn’t see a significant expansion of the U.S. and coalition effort in Raqqa. But he said he thinks there will probably be “a greater level of resourcing,” including intelligence and reconnaissance assets as well as more strikes.

“It will become more of a priority now that Mosul is concluded,” said Townsend.

The added support would aid the U.S.-backed Syrian forces who have encircled Raqqa, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital, breaching the fortified defenses and moving closer to the heart of the city. Officials are predicting a long, tough battle, estimating that more than 2,000 militants are holed up with their families and tens of thousands of civilians in the city’s center.

Townsend, however, cautioned that the battle in Iraq is not over. He said he believes Iraqi troops still need time to oust any remaining IS fighters from Mosul. And once that is done, he said, they will probably take a break to reset and rest before launching their fight against IS in Tal Afar and other remaining insurgent strongholds in western Iraq.

Can Kurt Volker Solve the Ukraine Crisis?

Curt Mills
As Donald Trump spoke with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Hamburg late last week, his State Department announced the appointment of a tough-minded former NATO ambassador to serve as Washington’s new point man on Ukraine. His mandate is to help implement the Minsk agreements. Kurt Volker is widely respected as an accomplished diplomat, but in Ukraine he confronts his greatest challenge yet.

Volker was last seen in government in the early days of the Obama administration, a holdover at NATO installed by President George W. Bush. Volker had taken office a month before Russia invaded Georgia in August 2008. Whether such timing shaped Volker’s views on the Kremlin, or merely cemented them, is unclear. But it is largely undisputed, in both Washington and Moscow, that in choosing Volker, Rex Tillerson has opted to appoint a Russia hawk who also believes in diplomacy. This mixture may allow him to tackle successfully a dividing point between East and West that has thwarted previous efforts to resolve it. According to Paul Saunders, the executive director of the Center for the National Interest and a former George W. Bush administration official, “Kurt Volker is an experienced and tough-minded diplomat who knows how to combine principles and pragmatism into policy. He is widely respected across the political spectrum.”