29 November 2013

November 2013 Issue of CTC Sentinel Released

  PDF version

November 2013 Issue of The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point CTC Sentinel.

The November issue includes the following articles: 

- Syria Proving More Fertile Than Iraq to Al-Qa`ida’s Operations by Brian Fishman
- Tracking Australian Foreign Fighters in Syri by Andrew Zammit
- The Capture of Abu Anas al-Libi: Reactions and Militancy in Libya by Alison Pargeter
- Increase in Taliban Efforts to Recruit from Afghan Government and Security Forces by Jami Forbes and Brian Dudley
- The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters: The Newest Obstacles to Peace in the Southern Philippines? By Peter Chalk
- The Evolution of Jihadism in Italy: Rise in Homegrown Radicals by Lorenzo Vidino
- Recent Highlights in Terrorist Activity 

28 November 2013 

Pakistan: New Army Chief Lt Gen Raheel Sharif 

D Suba Chandran
Director, IPCS 
Email: subachandran@ipcs.org 
After months of suspense and questions, the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan has appointed the next Army Chief, who will take over following the retirement of Gen Kayani. 

An Orderly Succession?
Lt Gen Raheel Sharif, who was third in line, was finally appointed by Nawaz Sharif as his next Chief of Army Staff. Though Nawaz Sharif has superseded two more Generals - Haroon Aslam and Rashid Mehmood - in appointing Raheel Sharif as the next Army Chief, he has not done anything out of the ordinary. He has only chosen from the three options offered to him, and has requested the President to appoint Gen Raheel Sharif as the next Army Chief. 

Though Gen Haroon Aslam was the senior most, he was superseded. The next in line, Gen Rashid Mehmood, has been appointed as the Chairman, Joint Chief of Staff Committee. 

It appears to be an orderly succession, as Gen Kayani’s retirement and the appointment of his successor are as per schedule, although there was prolonged suspense about Kayani getting an extension. 

Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staffs: Fourth Time Lucky?
Gen Raheel Sharif is the fourth Chief of Army Staff that Nawaz is appointing as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The first two ended up in total disasters, while the third one was a lesser problem. The first time was almost twenty years ago in 1993, when he appointed Gen Abdul Waheed Kakar. Ever since, Nawaz Sharif’s luck with the COAS handpicked by him, often superseding senior,s have only backfired. Gen Kakar did not support Nawaz Sharif when there was a political deadlock between the PM and the President, and ultimately, Nawaz Sharif had to resign in 1993.

The second COAS that Sharif appointed was a complete disaster not just for him personally, but also for civil-military relations. In 1998, after a resounding electoral victory, Nawaz Sharif appointed Gen Musharraf as the COAS. What happened next forms the contemporary history of Pakistan. Coup, exile and trial followed, with both Musharraf and Sharif being exiled by each other. Now, Musharraf is facing trial for treason.

Sharif’s third COAS was a disaster for both him and his nominee. Gen Ziauddin Butt was nominated as the COAS, dismissing Gen Musharraf; but the latter responded with a coup, which was followed by placing Nawaz Sharif in jail and later exiling him. There were rumours that “Lt Gen Ziauddin was the architect of the secret operation that envisioned the official announcement of his promotion to the post of COAS once Gen Pervez Musharraf boarded PIA Flight PK 805 in Colombo for a journey that severed his contact with the GHQ.” Whatever may be the truth, the coup that followed resulted in both Sharif and Gen Butt being imprisoned.

While the relationship between Gen Kakar and Sharif did not rupture his relationship with the military, his two other appointments created a huge divide between him and the GHQ. Although Sharif was propped up by the military in the late 1980s against Benazir Bhutto, today, the relationship is strained. In fact, it all started with the resignation of Gen Karamat.

Who is Gen Raheel Sharif? And Why Him?
The media is full of stories providing a profile of the new COAS in Pakistan, mostly based on the information provided by the press release of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR).

What is important to know is his relationship with the Prime Minister, and whether he would remain apolitical like his predecessor Gen Kayani. More importantly, what would be his perception of the TTP? These two issues are crucial to repair the civil-military relations under the two Sharifs.

It is believed that Gen Raheel Sharif is closer to the Defence Minister Khwaja Asif, who in turn is considered to be a staunch family friend of the Sharifs. Other than the above, there is not much available in open sources in terms of why Gen Raheel Sharif was chosen by Nawaz Sharif.

Perhaps Nawaz Sharif decided to choose someone who is better known within the list of three names he was provided with. He could have handpicked from even outside the list, but that would have further widened the gap between the two institutions and made Nawaz Sharif suspect. Nawaz may have wanted to play safe and not to antagonise the GHQ at this stage. He cannot afford to do so, given the volatile internal political situation and his own relationship with the military. 

Even if he had picked a successor from outside the list of three names, there would have no guarantee about the COAS’ loyalty to Sharif, given past history. Nawaz Sharif’s choices were limited and perhaps he wished to play it safe by choosing Gen Raheel Sharif, who is known to his Defence Minister. 

Why do Indians love gold?

The Economist explains
Nov 20th 2013,

INDIANS adore gold. Newly wed brides are given enough jewellery to break their necks. Peasants store their pitiful savings in trinkets. Wise-guys sport rings like knuckle-dusters and tycoons with broken balance-sheets offer gold at temples in return for redemption. Even as economists and officials beg them not to, Indians splurge on the shiny stuff—in 2011 India imported more gold than any other country—about 1,000 tonnes, or a fifth of global annual supply. That is the same amount that sits in the central bank vaults of Switzerland. Why do Indians love gold?

Although tradition explains part of gold’s allure, such vast purchases are a modern phenomenon. India consumed only 65 tonnes in 1982. Until 1990 imports were all but banned. Bullion had to be smuggled in and its price within India was about 50% higher than outside it. The typical buyer was a poor farmer in south India, for whom gold was an ancient currency and collateral to borrow against in bad times. But deregulation has seen an explosion in gold purchases. Today bullion is bought by rich people, serious investors and speculators. Once crooks imported gold and pawn brokers made loans against it. Now most gold coming into India enters legally through banks. Many loans made against gold collateral are not from shifty money lenders but registered financial firms.

Gold buyers are being rational, in their own way. First, they think the formal financial system is stacked against them. Only a third of Indians have bank accounts. Real returns stink: consumer price inflation is higher than benchmark interest rates and government bond yields. The financial system is geared towards helping the profligate government borrow cheaply at the expense of savers. While foreigners buy lots of Indian shares, locals have been sellers for some time. Faced with few alternatives, gold doesn’t look so bad, especially given that its price rose every year between 2002 and 2011. The second reason why gold is popular is that it allows you to bypass a lot of India’s legendary red tape. Opening a bank account in India is bureaucratic hell. Gold, on the other hand, is widely accepted without any documentation. It is also a fine way to store wealth without paying tax—along with property, it is the asset class that the authorities struggle to track. Some reckon that the huge boom in gold has closely tracked the boom in political corruption over the past decade.

At the individual level, then, the gold craze makes sense. But in aggregate it is a disaster for India. Imports of bullion impose a massive strain on its balance of payments—amounting to $54 billion in the year to March 2013. India’s current-account deficit reached an alarming 4.8% of GDP that year, and just over half of the gap was due to gold. Gold also diverts savings out of the formal financial system, where they can be harnessed for investment. Thus while India’s overall savings rate is high and on par with those of Asia’s “tiger” economies, half of those savings are now diverted into physical assets. The ratio has been getting worse, as if India is moving back in time. The solution is to make sure that more people have access to the formal financial system. Raising interest rates to encourage savers would help, too. Both reforms will take time, however. In the short term, following a currency wobble over the summer, the government has resorted to a more primitive response, hiking taxes and imposing quotas on gold imports. For now this seems to have worked, with only $1-2 billion of gold being imported in October. But in time it may encourage smuggling. The gold price in India is now 10% above international levels, which suggests a premium for smuggling is being built in. And bootleggers are experimenting with new ways to beat the system: on November 19th 24 gold bars, worth more than $1m, were found stashed in the toilet cubicle of a Jet Airways flight to Kolkata.

Pakistan’s New Army Chief

November 28, 2013 by   

Alok Bansal

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s choice of the next Army Chief has surprised most analysts. His selection of Lieutenant General Raheel Sharif as the new Army Chief has been a brilliant move. Raheel was third in the seniority list of Pakistan Army after General Kayani, but his reputation of being a laid back officer and his current appointment as Inspector General Training and Evaluation at the General Headquarters (GHQ) had made the prospects of his succeeding General Kayani as the Army Chief, quite low. In fact most analysts considered his juniors, Lieutenant Generals Tariq Khan, a soldier’s soldier, an ethnic Pakhtoon and the only non-Punjabi amongst the five senior most generals, and Zahir-ul-Islam, the Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to be having a greater chance of getting the top slot than Raheel. The fact that Tariq commanded the No I strike corps at Mangla and Zahir-ul-Islam commanded the prestigious V Corps at Karachi, while Raheel commanded the lacklustre XXX Corps at Gujranwala, clearly indicated the preference of Army’s top brass.

The fact that Nawaz Sharif had earlier indicated that he would go by the principle of seniority had actually put the media spot light on two senior most Lieutenant Generals Haroon Aslam and Rashad Mahmood, both Punjabis. Haroon, a commando was the senior of the two, but was not considered to be Kayani’s choice. His conduct of operations in Swat, especially the vertical envelopment of the Peochar Plateau was considered brilliant, but he hailed from Azad Kashmir Regiment, which is relatively a new regiment and has hardly produced senior officers. Consequently, he went on to command a lacklustre corps, XXXI at Bahawalpur and was subsequently, assigned the relatively obscure post of Chief of Logistics Staff (CLS).

Kayani’s personal favourite for the top job was Rashad Mahmood, who hailed from his own Baloch Regiment and had also served in the ISI. He was accordingly appointed the Corps Commander of politically significant IV Corps at Lahore and after the completion of his tenure moved as the Chief of General Staff (CGS) in GHQ, arguably the most important staff assignment. In fact eight out of thirteen Army chiefs of Pakistan had moved up from the post of CGS. More significantly, he had also developed a good equation with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who is prime minister’s brother, during his stint as the Corps Commander in Lahore.

In October 2013, after the retirement of General Khalid Shamim Wayne, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), when the billet was not filled in, it was widely believed that the post has been kept vacant so that Haroon Aslam could be pushed up as the CJCSC and Rashad could be appointed as the Army Chief. Although technically even the naval chief Admiral Asif Saeed Sandila and Air Chief Marshall Tahir Rafiq Butt were also in contention for the post of CJCSC. It was believed that the two appointments will be announced simultaneously, so that prima facie, it would appear that the principle of seniority has been maintained, because in terms of protocol CJCSC ranks higher than the Army Chief. Nawaz Sharif’s decision to delay the announcement to virtually the last moment avoided unnecessary discontentment within the force, as well as prevented Kayani from influencing the decision.

Eventually on 27 Nov 13, just two days before Kayani’s retirement, the government announced the appointment of Rashad Mahmood as the CJCSC and Raheel Sharif as the Army Chief, superseding Haroon Aslam. By this single stroke Nawaz Sharif gave a strong signal that Haroon Aslam had been punished for his involvement in the 1999 coup against Nawaz Sharif. This would ensure that junior officers in Pakistan Army will think twice before getting involved in any coup in future at the behest of their superiors. After the removal of Haroon, from the race, Nawaz has overtly gone by seniority and appointed Rashad and Raheel to the two posts. Rashad’s appointment as CJCSC should satisfy Kayani and his loyalists. However, by appointing Raheel as the Army Chief Nawaz has succeeded in getting an Army Chief, who is more likely to listen to him that any of the other contenders.

An extremely good looking and handsome officer, General Raheel is not believed to be very ambitious and has not had a spectacular military career. Consequently, he is not regarded very highly by the officer corps of the Army. He was commissioned in 1976 in Frontier Force Regiment and has never held a position in the Military Operations or ISI. However, he has a high pedigree; he is a second generation Army office and his elder brother Major Shabbir Sharif, Nishan-i-Haider, laid down his life in 1971 and is one of the most decorated soldiers of Pakistan. It is in fact his legacy that has taken General Raheel so far, also amongst the common public, which is unaware of the military intricacies he has basked in the reflected glory of his late brother. This also makes open opposition to his appointment by Kayani or anyone else impossible. As a second generation army officer, he is relatively more westernised than many of his peers and liberal. He devised the counter insurgency doctrine of the Pakistan Army and articulated that the internal threats posed greater danger to Pakistan than India.

With General Raheel at the helm and with the growing fissures between the Army and the Islamists, Nawaz Sharif should feel more secure and could usher in his agenda of good relations with India. However, in the immediate aftermath of the Army Chief’s appointment there may be some turbulence within the Armed forces. Many of his contemporaries, who are in key positions may resign or could be moved, consequently, one should see a new head of ISI. There is also a likelihood that the naval chief who was senior most service chief could resign for being over looked for the post of CJCSC. It will therefore take some time for the new Army chief to consolidate his position and by mid-2014, he should be in a position to give a new direction to the army. From India’s point of view, his ascent as the Army Chief could be fortuitous as he is not virulently anti-Indian as many of his compatriots.

In selecting General Raheel Sharif as the new Army Chief, Nawaz has tried to attain many objectives. Going by his past record Raheel is unlikely to threaten Nawaz or his government, but in Pakistan, the army chiefs often undergo a metamorphosis once they are in saddle.

The Kayani effect

Indian Express
Khaled Ahmed Posted online: Fri Nov 29 2013, 
 The populist general helped tip Pakistan into dangerous paranoia.

Pakistan’s “India-centric” army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, retires on November 29. He has been a popular chief, sworn to non-interference in the civilian system of governance (sic). He espoused this populism till August 14, 2012, when he unaccountably and dangerously — because of the possible reaction from within the army — announced from Kakul in Abbottabad that the war against terrorism was Pakistan’s war and that Pakistan’s trouble was internal, caused by religious intolerance. Had he remained populist, he would have embraced the universally accepted agitprop saying “it’s not our war”. As a former ISI boss, he went against the intelligence agency’s own line, given to politicians and TV anchors.

Populism forced him to be India-centric and anti-US, and in both respects, he hurt Pakistan and made its civilian governance difficult. For 20 years, in various capacities, he helped set Pakistan’s direction and was described by Forbes Magazine in 2012 as the “28th most powerful person in the world”. During the course of the PPP government (2008-2013), he turned anti-American and rejected the aid bill that was to be the shot-in-the-arm of a country devastated by terrorism. So much for his vow of non-interference.

A series of decisions taken by him tilted the country into dangerous paranoia. Far from the popular impression of his non-interference, not only was the army openly in exclusive charge of the country’s foreign and security policy, it was clearly the real power in Pakistan behind the facade of democracy. General Kayani was thus seen as the most powerful man in the country, paradoxically enjoying the reputation of an army chief who believed in non-interference in the democratic process.

Earlier, as ISI head “he was also negligent, at best, and complicit, at worst, when the terrorist attacks on Benazir Bhutto took place”. Later, as army chief, he did not cooperate with the fact-finding commissions to uncover the truth about her assassins. He appointed General Ahmad Shuja Pasha as ISI boss. Pasha effectively undermined the PPP government and participated in the infamous “Memogate” trial at the Supreme Court against PPP leader, President Asif Ali Zardari, which led to the resignation of Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US. Kayani, appearing in court in person, caused Zardari to have a nervous breakdown and thus sullied the army’s name. The whole affair was triggered by the wicked interpretation put forward by him on the death of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. (A fact-finding commission later held the army responsible for his presence in a garrison town.)

The Pakistan army effectively rules Pakistan. The PPP government dared to normalise relations with India after the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack from Pakistan, but India-centric Kayani was able to stop it, just as General Pervez Musharraf was able to prevent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from reaching out to New Delhi in 1999 by overthrowing his government. Taking that precedent to heart, the Zardari government literally enslaved itself to the GHQ to survive, compensating by taking wholeheartedly to corruption. Before Kayani’s departure this month, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, re-elected in 2013, once again disavowed his India policy at the UN, ominously indicating that the post-Kayani GHQ will continue to be India-centric, looking at Afghanistan as an Indian strategic arena to humble Pakistan. The Pakistan foreign office abets the army in this frozen worldview.

The Pakistan army, a well-organised entity, has tried to fit into an underdeveloped political system — which has remained underdeveloped because of the army — while responding to the unequal challenge of nextdoor India. Driven by a tough revisionist nationalism, it has ended up cannibalising the state it is supposed to defend. Its acts of trespass and usurpation have sapped its professional function and habituated it to reinterpreting its defeats as victories. Shuja Nawaz, in his book, Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars within (2008), has examined the mind of the army and come to some interesting conclusions.

He compares it tentatively with the Kemalist army of Turkey, which often clashed with the democratic aspirations of the Turks — with roles reversed as far as religion is concerned — and, more relevantly, with the Indonesian army, which has tentacles deep inside the national economy and a system of privileges. The special relationship between the army and the United States is seen in light of the nature of the task the nation placed on the shoulders of its soldiers in 1947: that of defeating a many-times larger enemy in a just war and of keeping the state itself geared to this military undertaking. Lack of realism in this subcontinental challenge was offset by the oceanic axis with the US during the Cold War. From there, ideology framed for the state by politicians facilitated its mutation into an Islamic army that sat back and let jihad undermine the state itself in the 1980s.

Is the Pakistani civilian mind militarised by the dominance of the army or by the history of the people who formed Pakistan? Does Pakistani nationalism postpone the civilianising of the Pakistani mind or is it the army that pulls Pakistan towards the collective dream of a winnable “just war” with India? Out of this theorem emerges the phenomenon of the Islamic soldier who heroically questions the legitimacy of Pakistan’s clinch with the US, thus enlarging the challenge of the army’s mission statement and making it potentially adventurist and dangerous. The most dangerous aspect of this nationalism is the nexus the army developed with the “non-state actors” and the aggressive seminaries, called madrasas, in the state’s hinterland.

Today, an army built to face India is being asked to retrieve territory lost to its own non-state actors, whose ideology is seen as superior to the ideology of the state. What if the Maoist insurgencies in India had been nurtured by a Maoist army serving a Maoist state? Today, Hafiz Saeed is the most powerful man in Pakistan; since Kayani, like Musharraf, is scared of challenging him, Forbes Magazine may revisit its verdict and choose Saeed instead as one of the most powerful men in the world.

Pakistan is a highly distorted intellectual entity and this distortion affects its army the most. Retired army officers routinely come on TV to suggest remedies based on “honour” rather than on the opportunist bias in favour of the national economy. In the eyes of the Pakistan army, both America and India represent a “dishonourable” regard for the mammon of the economy and, quite oddly, the man in the street, most affected by the hardship of a dysfunctional economy, tends to agree. Today, the nation is united on the idea of dancing at Musharraf’s political demise, the “liberal chief” most despised by the Taliban. A race is on in Pakistan to please the tormentor, but Kayani is safe because he defied both the US in Afghanistan and India on the LoC.

General Kayani was forced to interpret terrorism away from the diagnosis that the army had spawned the non-state actors now decimating Pakistanis. Instead, he expanded the ambit of responsibility to the whole nation by saying “extremism” was the real enemy. But the anarchists of the Taliban and al-Qaeda have discovered that when they kill non-Muslims in the West, they inspire fear and loathing, when they kill Muslims in Pakistan, they cause conversion. The Pakistan army has the impossible task of saving a country of converts to the cause of the enemy.

The writer is a consulting editor with ‘Newsweek Pakistan’

Threats to India in the coming years

By Maj Gen Afsir Karim
Issue Courtesy: Aakrosh | Date : 27 Nov , 2013

Disturbed internal conditions in most countries of South Asia can be attributed mainly to unabated terrorist activities and organised crime. India has been facing sporadic communal, ethnic and Maoist violence, which is socially and geographically more pervasive than crossborder terrorism from Pakistan and ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K, which have presently disturbed peace in the subcontinent. Chinese intrusions into Indian territory both in eastern and western sectors of Sino- Indian boundary are posing new threats to peace in the region.

In the prevailing environment, the government and the opposition must adopt a common approach to deal with this new phase of Pakistani aggression in Kashmir. A long-term policy should be adopted instead of high-pitched speeches and knee-jerk reactions after every incident.

Regional Scenario India-Pakistan Face Off

Ceasefire violations along the LoC and infiltration by Pakistan sponsored terrorist groups have continued unabated in the past few months. In the first week of August, the Pakistan army, in collaboration with Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is Pakistan army’s jihadi wing, ambushed an army patrol in our own territory and crossed back into PoK unscathed – a disturbing factor. This incident was a part of a series of planned attacks along the LoC on our troops by mixed Pakistan army- terrorist groups; in another incident of this kind earlier, two of our jawans were beheaded. In retaliation, the Indian army has killed a large number of terrorists and Pakistani army personnel. The continued firing on the LoC seems to be an ongoing process of retaliation and counter retaliation. Overall, the Indian army seems to have an upper hand, and the apprehension expressed by some observers that our forces are demoralised or not properly equipped to deal with the situation is not based on facts. The impression that our army is held on a leash by the government has been strongly refuted by the government.

In September news of a daring terrorist foray in Samba army camp and Hiranagar police station in which we suffered twelve military and police/ civil fatal casualties and later news of an attempt by Pakistan to infiltrate a very large group of terrorist through Karen sector surfaced. These attacks proved two things, we are still ill prepared to ward off terrorist attacks and the enemy based in Pakistan has acquired new skills to attack security forces.

In the prevailing environment, the government and the opposition must adopt a common approach to deal with this new phase of Pakistani aggression in Kashmir. A long-term policy should be adopted instead of high-pitched speeches and knee-jerk reactions after every incident. On another level, the armed forces must rehash their action plans to deal with the new kind of Pakistani aggression along the LoC. Our army should be able to trap all terrorist and regular army personnel crossing the LoC instead of getting ambushed or killed within our own territory.

It seems there is no change in the policy of the Pakistan army in matters related to Kashmir. The top brass, along with a crop of retired generals, still believes that India should not be allowed to rest in peace till it agrees to accept a solution of the Kashmir problem as demanded by them. The Pakistan army, realising its inability to settle the problem by conventional military or diplomatic means, continues to wage an asymmetric conflict, hoping that India will finally relent.

The Troubled History of India’s New Aircraft Carrier

November 28, 2013

Naval Air: India Finally Gets Its Cursed Russian Carrier


November 27, 2013: Five years late, the new Russian built Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya was turned over to its Indian crew on November 16th. Three months earlier the ship had finally completed its sea trials off the northern coast of Russia. Everything appeared to be in order and the carrier spent the next three months being readied for delivery to India. This was unexpected good news because the Vikramaditya saga has been one long string of disappointments. India was supposed to take possession of the Vikramaditya by late 2012, but that was delayed until early 2013, and earlier this year was delayed until late 2013. Some of the Indian crew have been working with the Vikramaditya for two years now, learning about all the ship’s systems, and over 400 of them were aboard during the 2012 sea trials and even more for the 2013 trials. Vikramaditya will depart Russia on November 30th accompanied by an Indian frigate and a tanker carrying fuel for both ships. When the ships reach the Mediterranean they will be met by two more Indian warships (a destroyer and a frigate) and all five ships will proceed, via the Suez Canal to a naval base outside Karwar, a city halfway down the west coast of India. Once in its new base, Vikramaditya and its crew work to be fully operational by mid-2014.

In addition to being late, the ship was way over budget. There were also problems when it was finally completed in 2012, eight years after negotiations began. Finding and fixing problems seemed like an endless process. Even the first attempt at sea trials in 2012 found some problems with the engines (and several other items) which took over six months to get fixed. Getting the Vikramaditya to this point has been an epic saga to incompetence, bad communications, shoddy work, and inept shipyard management. Even by Russian standards the Vikramaditya project was a huge mess. In addition to being very late, the original cost has more than doubled.

Aside from the engine failure (a major flaw), the 2012 sea trials off the north coast (Barents Sea) of Russia did not reveal any other major problems. In all other respects the ship appeared to be in working order. The engine safety system, for example, detected the overheating and shut down the engines before any serious damage could be done. Other safety systems on the ship also worked well, and the Russians pointed out that there were problems with some Western equipment the Indians insisted on using. Most importantly, in 2012 the carrier experienced its first landing by a MiG-29. Any other equipment problems noted during the sea trials were fixed while the engine insulation system is rebuilt.

The 45,000 ton Vikramaditya was originally a Russian Kiev class carrier that served in the Russian Navy from 1987 to 1995, but was then withdrawn from service because the navy could not afford to keep the carrier operational. The ship was put up for sale in 1996 and in 2005. India agreed to buy it if a few changes could be made. India ended up paying over $2.3 billion to refurbish the Kiev class ship and turn it into the Vikramaditya.

The Vikramaditya mess is a major cause of ill-will between Russia and India. Although India has been buying Russian weapons for over half a century, the multiple nightmares encountered with the Vikramaditya was the last straw and destroyed what little faith the Indians still have in Russian manufacturing quality. It’s not just the Vikramaditya engines but also unreliable engines in the Su-30 fighter, poorly built electronics in the T-90 tank, and various problems in other Russian warships India has purchased. The Russians have tried to improve the quality of their weapons and support but a shortage of qualified people to make it happen has made improvements hard to come by. Even the Russian weapons the Russian military buys suffer from these problems, which are largely caused by the free market conditions that have existed in Russia since the communist government collapsed in 1991. More qualified people prefer better paying and more interesting jobs in non-military industries. The Russian government has been unable to come up with a fix for this situation, which is causing problems with rebuilding their own military as well has holding onto export customers.

A growing number of Indians want more Western weapons. These are more expensive but you get what you pay for, and the Western stuff tends to be combat proven and highly respected by users in many nations. The Russian stuff tends to be used by losers. Obtaining more Western weapons has been a problem because of the growing incidence of corruption in the Indian Defense Ministry. Anti-corruption efforts have scared off many Western suppliers and made it difficult to develop long-term relationships with Western suppliers.

U.S. Troops Required Post-2014 to Curb al-Qaeda’s Resurgence in Afghanistan,

Recommends New CFR Report

November 26, 2013 
Council on Foreign Relations 

Afghanistan After the Drawdown by Seth G. Jones, and Keith Crane November 2013 

Following the recent endorsement of the U.S.-Afghanistan bilateral security agreement by Afghanistan's Loya Jirga, a new CFR report outlines the composition, role, and rationale for the roughly ten thousand U.S. troops that will possibly remain in the country after the 2014 drawdown. RAND Corporation's Seth G. Jones and Keith Crane explain in a new Council Special Report how the United States should manage the complex political, security, and economic challenges that will accompany the reduction in U.S. and allied forces. They argue for a force of eight to twelve thousand troops to assist Afghan national security forces and prevent a resurgence of al-Qaeda. 

"The United States has made an enormous expenditure of blood and treasure in Afghanistan since 9/11. Though not readily apparent to an American public weary of more than a decade of fighting, important gains have nevertheless been achieved to make Afghanistan a better place." The authors warn, however, that "these gains are reversible" and cite risks such as the continued expansion of al-Qaeda and affiliates, regional instability, increased radicalization in Pakistan, and a perception by allies and enemies alike that the U.S. commitment is unreliable. 

The report specifies two main missions for the remaining U.S. troops and maintains that the commitment should not be open-ended. A majority should be assigned to train, advise, and assist Afghan national and local forces. Smaller numbers of troops should be tasked specifically with conducting strikes against terrorists by killing or capturing high-value targets, working with high-end Afghan forces in Taliban-controlled areas, and using unmanned aerial vehicles to conduct intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and occasional strike missions. 

The authors also assert that focusing on regional dynamics is essential to Afghan stability. The United States should rely less on Pakistan to help in accomplishing its goals in Afghanistan, while tying U.S. military assistance to Islamabad to its efforts to combat militant groups. 

Jones and Crane make additional recommendations to support the diminished U.S. military presence beginning in 2014: 
foster a realistic peace process that includes supporting Afghan government–led discussions with the Taliban over prisoner exchange, local cease-fires, and reintegration of combatants 
encourage multiethnic coalitions during the 2014 presidential elections 
work with international donors to sustain funding levels for Afghan education, health, and infrastructure 
support regional economic integration, including the transit of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline through Afghan territory, as well as détente between India and Pakistan 

Read the full report, Afghanistan After the Drawdown.

Japanese Parliament Passes Law Creating New National Security Council

November 27, 2013

Law enacted to create Japanese NSC

Kyodo News International

Parliament on Wednesday enacted a law to create a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council to give the prime minister’s office greater power in crafting foreign and defense policies to tackle security threats in Asia.

The NSC, whose headquarters will be set up within the Cabinet Secretariat, is designed to bolster coordination and avoid sectionalism among the ministries and government agencies concerned.

Under the new framework, the prime minister will meet with the chief Cabinet secretary and the foreign and defense ministers twice a month to discuss a range of diplomacy and defense issues.

Shotaro Yachi, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s foreign policy adviser, is expected to serve as head of the organization with around 60 staff members, government officials said.

The enactment of the bill came a day after the ruling bloc hastily passed a bill in the lower house to impose tougher penalties on leakers of state secrets, even as concerns persist that the public’s right to know and freedom of the press will be compromised by tighter state control of information.

Rider on the Storm

How Israel won the Arab Spring, and why a dangerous new instability threatens the entire region's geopolitical landscape.

Less than two years ago, much of the world believed that a new dawn of hope was cracking in the Middle East. The voice of the people, the aspirations of youth and democracy were marching together to cast out old dictatorships. Many naively believed that freedom was about to triumph over entrenched authoritarianism.

It is abundantly clear today that such earnest hopes were uniformly and regrettably misplaced. There is no better reminder of this than the dangerous agreement signed in Geneva by Iran and the world powers that comprise the P5+1 on Nov. 23. As we approach 2014, the Middle East is now on the brink of a new nuclear arms race between the region's Shiite and Sunni forces. The voices of liberal democracy, meanwhile, have been quashed by screaming jet fighters, deadly poison gas, and menacing religious fratricide.

Israelis believe that the age of prophecy is long gone. Yet one need not aspire to be a prophet to draw one remarkable insight that is as unlikely as the Arab Spring itself: Israel is strategically stronger today than it was before this season of upheaval commenced. At the same time, the instability surrounding us serves as a warning that we should not rush into artificially induced and potentially dangerous diplomatic processes in an attempt to alter the existing geopolitical landscape in the Middle East.

Now is the time to sit tight, closely observe, and analyze unfolding events -- all the while remaining vigilantly on guard against new and unforeseen dangers to the Jewish state. We need to look no farther than to Israel's actual borders -- in every direction -- for this point to be made.

Let's start with Egypt, the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel. The Egyptian military's rejection of Muslim Brotherhood control has been a near-lethal blow to the Islamist organization's stolid allies in Gaza, Hamas. The current Egyptian government is doing what its predecessor did not: locating and effectively destroying as many as 150 smuggling tunnels from the Sinai Peninsula into Gaza -- tunnels that were used to transport weapons and contraband -- and moving to end radical Muslim control of large chunks of Gaza. As a result, the boundary between Gaza and Egypt is no longer a leaking sieve for unchecked terrorist travels.

Even countries that are technically at war with Israel recognize how the balance of power is shifting in the region. Recent news reports have detailed how Saudi Arabia is furious about the Obama administration's latest actions in the Middle East -- especially the recent agreement with Iran -- leading to a rapprochement of sorts with Israel. Saudi Arabia now believes that tension between Sunni and Shiite powers has, to a degree, supplanted regional enmity that has historically been directed at Israel.

Although one won't read it in the Saudi press anytime soon, millions of people in the Gulf -- supported by many minorities including Kurds, Christians, Druse, Sufis, and Baluchis, among others -- are quietly banking on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's promise not to allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. This is especially true in light of the recent nuclear accord with Iran.

Even the Syrian crisis has improved Israel's strategic position in the region. While we pray for a speedy and peaceful end to the bloodshed, Israel is fully committed to remaining outside the civil war. This is not our fight. We will continue, however, to act to ensure that "game changing" weapons do not fall in to the hands of anyone who threatens the state of Israel. One result of the conflict is indisputable: a weakened President Bashar al-Assad and the disruption of the line of strategic hegemony running directly from Iran through Syria to Lebanon is a boon to Israeli security. That disruption seems beyond reversal, no matter what might occur in the future.

To Recruit Afghan Troops and Police, the Taliban Turns Pro

Afghan National Army Special Forces in June 2013. Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan photo
Afghan National Army Special Forces in June 2013. Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan photo

But it might not overcome bad blood

The Taliban is depending more heavily on recruiting former Afghan police and soldiers into its ranks—while corrupting disillusioned officials. Worse for the U.S. and its allies, the Taliban’s strategy is becoming more professionalized.

The main reason for all of this is to bolster the Taliban’s muscle. But it also reflects a strategic shift. Just a few years ago the Taliban emphasized killing members of the security forces outright instead of offering amnesty.

According to Jami Forbes and Brian Dudley, two Army analysts who specialize in Afghanistan, the shift has becoming an increasing feature of the Taliban’s public statements. Neither of Forbes and Dudley’s views detailed in a recent article for CTC Sentinel, West Point’s counter-terrorism journal, reflect that of the Army.

The authors note the Taliban’s recruitment efforts are controlled by a wing called the Recruitment and Amnesty Commission. Formed in 2012, the commission has been increasingly referenced in Taliban propaganda as a means to “highlight the Taliban’s increasing strength and organizational depth.”

This followed the 2010 publication of a layeha, or code of conduct, which established rules for handling defecting soldiers and officials.

For one, officials deemed to have “snatched … money or properties while they were working with the infidels” have to pay an equivalent sum back to the Taliban. The code also established a vetting process in which the new fighters “will have to obtain approval of the provincial commander” before joining up.

The Taliban’s vetting process also serves to help prevent petty criminals from enlisting, according to a report by Thomas Johnson and Matthew DuPee of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. This has been a persistent problem for the Taliban—which tries to fashion itself as a popular movement—since 2003 when it began casting a wider net for potential fighters.Afghan National Army special forces with village elders in Kandahar province, Afghanistan in November 2013. Combined Joint Special Operations-Afghanistan photo

The Tehran Connection

How much can a superfast algorithm tell us about Iran? Quite a lot, actually.

Iran's nuclear program has been one of the hottest topics in foreign policy for years, and attention has only intensified over the past few days, as an interim agreement was reached in Geneva to limit enrichment activity in pursuit of a more comprehensive deal. The details of the deal itself are of course interesting, but in aggregate the news stories about Iran can tell us far more than we can learn simply by reading each story on its own. By using "big data" analytics of the world's media coverage, combined with network visualization techniques, we can study the web of relationships around any given storyline -- whether it focuses on an individual, a topic, or even an entire country. Using these powerful techniques, we can move beyond specifics to patterns -- and the patterns tell us that our understanding of Iran is both sharp and sharply limited.

In the diagram below, every global English-language news article monitored by the GDELT Global Knowledge Graph -- a massive compilation of the world's people, organizations, locations, themes, emotions, and events -- has been analyzed to identify all people mentioned in articles referencing any location in Iran between April and October 2013. A list was compiled of every person mentioned in each article, and all names mentioned in an article together were connected. The end result was a network diagram of all of the people mentioned in the global news coverage of Iran over the last seven months and who has appeared with whom in that coverage.

This network diagram was then visualized using a technique that groups individuals who are more closely connected with each other, placing them physically more proximate in the diagram, while placing individuals with fewer connections farther apart. Then, using an approach known as "community finding," clusters of people who are more closely connected with each other than with the rest of the network were drawn in the same color. The specific color assigned to each group is not meaningful, only that people drawn in the same color are more closely connected to one another. Together, these two approaches make the overall macro-level structure of the network instantly clear, teasing apart the clusters and connections among the newsmakers defining Iranian news coverage.

(For the technical readers, the software used was Gephi, the layout algorithm was "Force Atlas 2," and the community-finding tool was Blondel et al.'s implementation of modularity finding.)

Because most names in the news occur in just a handful of articles, the visual above shows the result of filtering the network to show only those names that occurred in 15 or more articles. This eliminates the vast majority of names, while preserving names that are more likely to be directly related to Iranian affairs and still capturing a broad swath of the discourse around Iran. The purple cluster is largely the United States and its allies, with Barack Obama right in the center, while the dark blue node towards of the lower center of the entire network is Edward Snowden, capturing the way in which he has become one of the most prominent figures in discussion of U.S. foreign policy. This is a fascinating finding: While Snowden obviously has no part in the Iranian-U.S. nuclear talks, his outsized role in the global conversation about U.S. foreign policy has made him part of the context in which those talks are discussed. In particular, there has been substantial media coverage connecting the approaches Snowden used to defeat the NSA's internal security procedures with some of those used by the United States in its attempts to sabotage Iran's nuclear efforts. The media has also used the materials Snowden has released to reconstruct how U.S. spy agencies may have been involved in the Stuxnet attack on Iran.

The blue-green cluster in the bottom right largely consists of Israeli reporters and commentators, while the light blue cluster at top left consists of international reporters. The yellow cluster along the left side of the graph is where all of the Iranian names appear, with key figures like Hassan Rouhani, Ali Khamenei, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad all playing prominent roles in bridging Iran to the other clusters. Iranian politicians like Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Mohammad-Reza Aref, and Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel play central roles internally to the cluster, representing their important roles within Iran, but their limited engagement and contextualization over the last several months with the rest of the world.

Five Reasons Israel Won't Attack Iran

Although not a member of the P5+1 itself, Israel has always loomed large over the negotiations concerning Iran’s nuclear program. For example, in explaining French opposition to a possible nuclear deal earlier this month, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stated: “The security concerns of Israel and all the countries of the region have to be taken into account.” 

November 28, 2013 

Part of Fabius’ concern derives from the long-held fear that Israel will launch a preventive strike against Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons. For some, this possibility remains all too real despite the important interim agreement the P5+1 and Iran reached this weekend. For example, when asked on ABC’s This Week whether Israel would attack Iran while the interim deal is in place, William Kristol responded: “I don't think the prime minister will think he is constrained by the U.S. deciding to have a six-month deal. […] six months, one year, I mean, if they're going to break out, they're going to break out.” 

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has done little to dispel this notion. Besides blasting the deal as a “historic mistake,” Netanyahu said Israel “is not obliged to the agreement” and warned “the regime in Iran is dedicated to destroying Israel and Israel has the right and obligation to defend itself with its own forces against every threat.” 

Many dismiss this talk as bluster, however. Over at Bloomberg View, for instance, Jeffrey Goldberg argues that the nuclear deal has “boxed-in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu so comprehensively that it's unimaginable Israel will strike Iran in the foreseeable future.” Eurasia Group's Cliff Kupchan similarly argued: “The chance of Israeli strikes during the period of the interim agreement drops to virtually zero.” 

Although the interim deal does further reduce Israel’s propensity to attack, the truth is that the likelihood of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities has always been greatly exaggerated. There are at least five reasons why Israel isn’t likely to attack Iran. 

1. You Snooze, You Lose 

First, if Israel was going to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, it would have done so a long time ago. Since getting caught off-guard at the beginning of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Israel has generally acted proactively to thwart security threats. On no issue has this been truer than with nuclear-weapon programs. For example, Israel bombed Saddam Hussein’s program when it consisted of just a single nuclear reactor. According to ABC News, Israel struck Syria’s lone nuclear reactor just months after discovering it. The IAEA had been completely in the dark about the reactor, and took years to confirm the building was in fact housing one. 

Contrast this with Israel’s policy toward Iran’s nuclear program. The uranium-enrichment facility in Natanz and the heavy-water reactor at Arak first became public knowledge in 2002. For more than a decade now, Tel Aviv has watched as the program has expanded into two fully operational nuclear facilities, a budding nuclear-research reactor, and countless other well-protected and -dispersed sites. Furthermore, America’s extreme reluctance to initiate strikes on Iran was made clear to Israel at least as far back as 2008. It would be completely at odds with how Israel operates for it to standby until the last minute when faced with what it views as an existential threat. 

New Americans in Our Nation’s Military

A Proud Tradition and Hopeful Future

SOURCE: AP/Matt York

U.S. military personnel and civilians sing "God Bless the U.S.A." after taking the oath of citizenship, Thursday, January 26, 2012, during a ceremony in Phoenix, Arizona. Eleven foreign nationals took the oath of citizenship administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services before a joint session of the Arizona legislature.

By Catherine N. Barry | November 8, 2013 
Download the report: 
This issue brief contains a correction.

“We many thousands of past and present proud immigrants to this great country did not have the choice of choosing our place of birth or choice of parents. We did have the choice to be called immigrants by birth and Americans by choice. We were always Americans in our hearts.”
— Alfred Rascon, a native of Mexico, winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and former director of the Selective Service

In the wake of the Senate’s passage of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744, in June by a bipartisan supermajority of 68 to 32, the drumbeat for immigration reform has only increased. Over the past few weeks, House Democrats introduced a version of the Senate bill in H.R. 15, and a growing chorus of bipartisan voices has pushed for reform that would put most of the 11.7 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States on a path to citizenship. Nevertheless, the House has so far failed to bring any immigration bill to the floor. While much of the immigration debate in Congress has revolved around issues of border security and even the economic contributions of immigrants, far less has been discussed about the contributions that immigrants make in other areas, particularly through their military service.

Immigrants and their children comprised half of the total U.S. population growth between 1990 and 2010, and one-quarter of all children under age 18 living in the United States have at least one immigrant parent. Immigrants and their children are increasingly vital resources to military recruitment, serving as soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen. The active-duty military currently contains more than 65,000 immigrants—5 percent of the force—and noncitizen immigrants account for 4 percent of all first-term military recruits. Roughly 3 percent of all living U.S. veterans were born abroad, and 12 percent of all living veterans are either immigrants or the children of immigrants.

Immigrants serving in the military bring special skills, including language and cultural competencies; are less likely than their U.S.-born counterparts to leave the military before completing a tour of duty; and have historically served with distinction—20 percent of all Medal of Honor recipients were born abroad.

In light of Veterans Day, this issue brief looks at how immigrants have historically played—and continue to play—a key role in U.S. military readiness.
A brief history of immigrant service members

Immigrants have served in and fought for the U.S. military since the birth of the nation—from the Revolutionary War to the present. For example, immigrants—mostly Irish and German—comprised 18 percent of the Union Army during the Civil War. During World War I, more than 192,000 immigrants acquired citizenship through military service, accounting for more than half of all naturalizations in the United States during that period.

Military service has historically been regarded as a tool for socializing immigrants to the American culture and way of life. Early 20th-century political leaders upheld the U.S. military as a “school for the nation,” particularly for the multitude of new immigrant arrivals. Henry Breckinridge, who served as the U.S. assistant secretary of war from 1913 to 1916, noted the power of individuals from various creeds and countries “all rubbing elbows in a common service to a common Fatherland.”

Historians, too, argue that the U.S. military institution has played an important role in reshaping American society and integrating diverse racial and ethnic groups into the American polity. During World War I, military policies encouraged immigrant soldiers to forge new identities as Americans while maintaining their ethnic pride and values. African Americans and whites worked and lived together after World War II in a pre-civil rights era desegregated military. From 1907 to 2010, well over half a million immigrants—more than 710,000 individuals—naturalized through military service, accounting for 2.5 percent of all naturalizations during this period.
By the numbers: Military service of immigrants today

The most recent data available from the Department of Defense, or DOD, show that the active-duty military is comprised of more than 65,000 immigrants, or 5 percent of the active-duty force; this group includes both naturalized U.S. citizens and noncitizens. Immigrant service members come from nations across the globe, but the top five countries of origin are concentrated in Asia and Latin America. Among current immigrant service members: 
22.8 percent are from the Philippines 
9.5 percent are from Mexico 
4.7 percent are from Jamaica 
3.1 percent are from Korea 
2.5 percent are from the Dominican Republic 

Immigrants and American Power

Immigrants and American Power
Image Credit: flickr/ Hiro Protagonist2004

From the Republic’s inception, immigrants have played an outsized role in America’s rise on the world stage. 
November 28, 2013
Earlier this month, the center-left U.S. think tank, the Center for American Progress, released a report about immigrants (or New Americans, as they call it) in the U.S. military. As a prominent Democratic think tank, the report was undoubtedly aimed at raising support for immigration reform among Republicans, who tend to support a strong U.S. military. 

Political motivations aside, the report is worth a read. Its chock full of interesting historical and contemporary statistics like: 

“Immigrants have served in and fought for the U.S. military since the birth of the nation—from the Revolutionary War to the present. For example, immigrants—mostly Irish and German—comprised 18 percent of the Union Army during the Civil War. During World War I, more than 192,000 immigrants acquired citizenship through military service.” 

And, “The most recent data available from the Department of Defense, or DOD, show that the active-duty military is comprised of more than 65,000 immigrants, or 5 percent of the active-duty force.” 

There are also some qualitative insights that help provide context to these statistics. For example: “Military service has historically been regarded as a tool for socializing immigrants to the American culture and way of life. Early 20th-century political leaders upheld the U.S. military as a ‘school for the nation,’ particularly for the multitude of new immigrant arrivals.” 

My one gripe with the report is that it presents a much too narrow view of the role immigrants have played in American national power (which again, likely has to do with the political motivations.) Indeed, immigrants have been at the center of laying the foundations for America’s rise, making it a world power, and ensuring its success once on the world stage. Although the face of U.S. immigration is likely to change slightly, if America is successful in the Asian Century immigrants are likely to play an integral role. 

Immigrants’ role in America’s rise began with the creation of the Republic itself. Although most of America’s founding fathers were born in the then-British colonies, there was one important exception: Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton differed from the majority of America’s founders in many ways, one of which was that he was born in the British West Indies rather than in the American colonies. And while his arch-rival Thomas Jefferson is a more celebrated figure than Hamilton in modern-day America, Hamilton had a larger hand in creating the country that the U.S. has become. 

That’s partly because he was at the Constitutional Convention and helped sell the constitution to the American public, while Jefferson spent this time as U.S. ambassador to France. It’s also partly because, in contrast to Jefferson—who was a Francophile—Hamilton advocated for a strong relationship with Great Britain, which he viewed as a model for the U.S. in many ways. Most importantly, however, whereas Jefferson envisioned the U.S. as a primarily agrarian-based society with power concentrated in the states, Hamilton had the foresight to see that national power would increasingly be be based on industry and financial prowess. As the secretary of the Treasury Department under the first U.S. administration, Hamilton overcame substantial resistance to lay the economic and financial groundwork for America’s rise in the 19th and 20th centuries. 

Immigrants continued to be at the center of America’s rise over the next two hundred years. I’ve previously noted that U.S. Grand Strategy during this time was based largely on the twin policies of Manifest Destiny (expanding U.S. territory) and the Monroe Doctrine (expelling the Europeans from the Western Hemisphere). This is certainly true but it’s worth adding that Manifest Destiny was dependent on rapid population growth. America got that, partly because of a high birth rate, but also because of the huge numbers of immigrants arriving in the U.S. each year.

A New Washington Naval Conference for Asia?

With an Asian naval buildup underway, perhaps history can offer some inspiration.
By Bruno Hellendorff and Thierry Kellner
November 26, 2013

Following the end of World War I, Asia was a theater witnessing some worrying developments, particular the rise of Japan and associated tensions. In response, then U.S. President Warren Harding convened a peace conference in Washington, between November 12, 1921 and February 6, 1922, which would later be referred to as the “Washington Naval Conference” or the “Washington Disarmament Conference.” 

Nine countries attended: the U.S., Japan, China, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Holland, Portugal and Belgium, but not the USSR. Negotiations were primarily geared towards naval disarmament in the Pacific Ocean and East Asia, and gave way to three major treaties. These treaties helped to curtail the naval buildup in the region for a period and supported a fragile peace throughout the 1920s and 30s, up to their renunciation by Japan in 1936. Although the conference’s outcomes and effectiveness remain the subject of debate, it is nonetheless considered by many a successful milestone in disarmament. Almost a century later, could a modernized version of the Washington Naval Conference be useful, or even necessary, to deal with the competing programs and patterns of naval modernizations being witnessed in the region? 

Another Arms Race in Asia? 

Since 2000, China’s military spending has grown by 325.5 percent, to reach $166 billion in 2012, according to SIPRI’s estimates. Much of this spending was on the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), the reform and modernization of which, begun in the 1980s, accelerated rapidly in the 2000s. The creation of a nuclear submarine base in Sanya, on the island of Hainan, and the commissioning of China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, provided powerful symbols of China’s swelling capabilities and ambitions in the maritime domain. Capability development were not limited to the PLAN, however. Maritime and law enforcement agencies, those most active in the territorial disputes that pit China against a number of its neighbors, have also been given greater means, and an enlarged mandate. This simultaneously demonstrates the significance of the maritime domain in Beijing’s plans and strategic outlook, and contributes to the image of a more assertive China. Both elements have a profound impact on its relationship with its neighbors, which are now also committed to military modernization programs

The balance of power between China and Taiwan is now long gone, and Taipei is no longer seeking any kind of parity, in terms of missiles, aircrafts of tanks, with a continental China whose military budget is eleven times as high as its own. Given the level of forces it continues to amass on its side of the Taiwan Strait, Beijing appears more and more capable of denying the U.S. Navy access to the Strait, especially in the event of a non-pacific reunification with the island. In reaction, despite a more accommodative diplomacy towards Beijing, Taipei is committed to the maintenance of a strong deterrent force, through more asymmetric capabilities (most of them geared towards the maritime domain). 

In the East China Sea, the rise of the PLAN constitutes a major issue for South Korea and Japan, two other maritime powers extremely dependent upon their access to the sea for their security and prosperity. The South Korean navy recently went through an important upgrade, with the acquisition and indigenous development of submarine, combat and amphibious capabilities that go far beyond the needs of confronting the North Korean threat. 

Japan has also expressed preoccupation at Beijing’s growing military might, labeling China a concern for the international community and the region in 2010. Tokyo shifted the focus of its strategic outlook from the North and the Russian and North Korean threats, where it was traditionally geared, to the South of the archipelago, and the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, where the number of incidents with Chinese ships and aircrafts have skyrocketed since 2010. The Japanese Navy unveiled in August of this year one of the two Izumo-class destroyers it will operate by 2015. Such ships will be the largest Japan has built since World War II. 

Industry, Military Emphasize Need for ‘Cyberwarrior’ Training as Attacks Increase

December 2013

By Yasmin Tadjdeh

Government and military leaders have for years warned of increasingly pervasive and nefarious cyber-attacks. The network intrusions, perpetrated by nation states, hacktivists and thieves, are growing rapidly, experts have said.

To quell attacks, a premium has been put on so-called “cyberwarriors” — professionals trained to root out and stop network intrusions at some of the nation’s largest institutions and military and government agencies.

At U.S. Cyber Command, based at Ft. Meade, Md., officials said the importance of having a properly trained workforce is essential to stopping attacks.

“There is nothing more vital to our mission of defending our nation’s networks than a trained and ready cyberworkforce. Cyber has become an integral part of our interconnected world and our warfighting capabilities,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Jim Keffer, chief of staff for USCYBERCOM, told National Defense in an email.

Programs that allow trainees to tinker with computers to fix vulnerabilities or stave off attacks from simulated hackers are immensely useful, he said.

“One of the best tools we use at USCYBERCOM for training is our exercise network, not connected to any operational network or the Internet at large, that has been created purely for exercise purposes,” Keffer said. “This tool allows our cyberprofessionals to test their skills in a working environment against simulated, realistic attacks without impacting our operational real-world networks.”

Trainees receive a minimum of 12 weeks of instruction, he said.

“That’s just to get started. To be qualified at the advanced level in a joint operational environment takes a few years, depending on the particular job,” Keffer said.

As breaches have increased, a wider variety of institutions are being targeted. Last year, the financial sector took a beating when Iran allegedly targeted banks with numerous distributed denial of service attacks.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama issued an executive order that called for better cybersecurity protections for critical infrastructure. Many experts see public works, such as the electrical grid, as a sitting duck.

At Cyber Command, officials said the threat is changing and volatile.

“In the news, we’ve seen the trend in malware shift from DDoS, or distributed denial of service [attacks], which is mostly just inconvenient, to destructive in nature, as evidenced by the Saudi Aramco” attack and other high-profile intrusions, Keffer said.

In 2012, Saudi Aramco, the state-run Saudi Arabian petroleum company, was the victim of a massive attack that destroyed 30,000 computers. The Shamoon virus attack was allegedly perpetrated by Iran.

Continued attacks such as Saudi Aramco require that personnel be kept abreast of new and evolving threats, he said.

Industry is also working to keep their network security experts sharp.

It’s Time to Write the Rules of Cyberwar

The world needs a Geneva Convention for cybercombat
By Karl Rauscher
Posted 27 Nov 2013 |

Illustration: Eddie Guy

In the 21st century, just about everything is vulnerable to cyberattack. A hit on a bank or a stock exchange would cause uproar in the financial sector; a strike on an electrical grid could shut down a city. And the consequences of an attack could be far more dire than mere inconvenience. If hackers disrupted operations at a nuclear power facility, they could trigger a meltdown. An attack on a hospital could leave doctors scrambling in the dark, machines failing, and patients dying in their beds.

Such scenarios are becoming ever more plausible. In 2007 the cyberwar era began in earnest, when Estonia’s government networks were hacked during a political dispute with Russia. In recent years, the United States and China have accused each other of sponsoring major cyberintrusions, and Iran has accused the United States and Israel of unleashing a worm against its nuclear installations. Before such activities escalate into cyberattacks that destroy innocent lives, we should apply the lessons of the bitter past and establish the norms of cyberconflict. We should define acceptable targets, and we could even place limits on cyber weapons, just as we did on chemical ones nearly a century ago.
Espionage, Sabotage, and More

In the past decade, cyberattacks have changed from theoretical concerns to urgent national priorities. While the bulk of attacks target private companies for economic gain, here’s a roundup of attacks that may have been launched with political intent.
Illustration by McKibillo Stuxnet Target: Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant took a hit.

In Estonia, the websites of some government agencies, financial institutions, and newspapers are shut down by denial-of-service attacks during a political spat with Russia.

During the run-up to the U.S. presidential election, e-mails containing malware are sent to top aides in the campaigns of both Barack Obama and John McCain, and internal position papers and e-mails are accessed. The U.S. government blames foreign hackers.

In the weeks before the Russia-Georgia war, Georgia’s Internet infrastructure and some government websites are hit with a denial-of-service attack.

In a vast spy campaign known as GhostNet, e-mails containing malware are used to take control of computers in dozens of embassies, foreign ministries, and Tibetan exile centers around the world. The researchers who discover GhostNet believe it’s controlled by Chinese networks.

Iran’s nuclear facilities are sabotaged by the Stuxnet worm in one of the first uses of offensive cyberweapons. During an investigation by The New York Times, many unnamed officials say that the United States and Israel created the worm.