10 January 2015

Barack Obama's India visit: India, US to ink 10-year pact on defence framework

By Rajat Pandit, 
10 Jan, 2015

US undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics Frank Kendall will be in town on January 22, just before Obama.
NEW DELHI: India and the US are all set to ink their new 10-year defence framework pact when President Barack Obama comes visiting as the chief guest of the Republic Day parade on the special invite of Prime Minister NarendraModi.

US undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics Frank Kendall will be in town on January 22, just before Obama, to stitch up the loose ends. The new defence framework will be "more ambitious" than the earlier one which was signed in June 2005 by then defence minister Pranab Mukherjee and his counterpart Donald Rumsfeld without impinging on India's "strategic autonomy", sources said. 

The expansive framework will outline the series of steps to bolster the bilateral defence partnership, ranging from stepping up the scope and intensity of joint military exercises already taking place to advancing shared security interests for regional and global security. Collaboration in intelligence-sharing, maritime security and the drive against terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction will also figure on the agenda. 

A significant addition will be the incorporation of the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) to augment the ones existing under the overall mechanism of the Defence Policy Group, which chalks out the path for future defence cooperation. 

The US has been hard-selling a score of "transformative defence technologies" for co-development and co-production with India under the DTTI, which range from the next-generation of Javelin anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) and MH-60 Romeo multi-role helicopters to long-endurance UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and 127mm warship guns, as reported by TOI earlier. 

But the Modi government has already chosen an initial off-the-shelf purchase of Israeli Spike ATGMs, with 321 launchers and 8,356 missiles, for Rs 3,200 crore. Sources said India will initially choose only a couple of "simpler projects" from the ones being offered by the US to kick-off the DTTI process and then ascertain how they actually materialise on the ground. 

Government orders ISPs to unblock 32 websites, links

By Neha Alawadhi, 
10 Jan, 2015

Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) Director-General Gulshan Rai confirmed to ET that the unblocking orders had been sent to ISPs.

NEW DELHI: The government on Friday ordered internet service providers (ISPs) to unblock 32 websites and website links it had asked them to block in December. Its decision to put curbs on these sites had stirred up massive online protests and debates over the need for standard procedures to deal with such situations. 

Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) Director-General Gulshan Rai confirmed to ET that the unblocking orders had been sent to ISPs. Acting on an order by a Mumbai court, the government on December 17 asked ISPs to block 32 websites, which included popular online tools like GitHub and SourceForge used by thousands of programmers. The court's action was based on a complaint by the Mumbai Anti-Terrorism Squad, which claimed that these sites were being used to spread pro-terror messages.

"If the government has indeed decided to unblock those websites, it is welcome. The step was prompted likely by the backlash it faced from internet users in the country, and could also reflect some serious rethinking within government as it attempts to defend Section 69A before the Supreme Court," said Arun Mohan Sukumar, senior fellow at the Centre for Communication Governance, National Law University.The government had invoked Section 69A of the Information Technology Act to ban these websites. The section allows the government to block websites when it fears that the "sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order" is under threat. While the rules for blocking websites and website links are clearly laid out, there are no clear procedures for lifting the curbs. 

"The fact remains that ad hoc blocking without any sound policy guidelines reflects poorly on the government's commitment to a free and open internet," added Sukumar. 

According to people familiar with the matter, instructions for lifting curbs on websites or links are extremely few. While ISPs have to inform concerned authorities on compliance, there are no audits or checks to ascertain if the orders have been complied with. 

The CERT-In is one of the agencies involved in the process of blocking and unblocking of websites. Other such agencies are the Department of Electronics and Information Technology and Department of Telecommunications. 

Legal and internet experts have time and again questioned the wide blocks the government orders on websites. "Unless an entire website has objectionable content (for example a pornographic site or a site that hosts religiously inflammatory speeches), it's less disruptive to block only the specific offensive content on a particular URL rather than block an entire website, which can inadvertently cause hardship to internet users looking for legitimate content," said Mrityunjay Tiwari, managing director, India, at web content filtering company Minesweeper. 

According to experts, the government could look at framing blocking rules on the lines of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the US, which lays down clear guidelines for online service providers and ISPs to block access to alleged infringing material.

Don’t blame this bloodshed on France’s Muslims

Nabila Ramdani
January 10, 2015

Attributing violence to millions of law-abiding French Muslims is as cynical as trying to blame it on a small group of artists and writers

Those of us trying to make sense of the Charlie Hebdo massacre need to understand the bloody history of Paris. That four hugely popular cartoonists were considered legitimate targets by murderers said to have been living within a few miles of the Louvre and other global symbols of liberal Gallic civilisation doesn’t seem possible: donnish satirists are not meant to be gunned down in quaint Paris arrondissements any more than municipal policemen used to dealing with traffic and tourists.

Sadly, the French capital has been associated with some of the worst barbarism in human history.

The Terror started by the 1789 Revolution led to tens of thousands of deaths, with many of its victims guillotined in front of vengeful crowds. Savage mass murders continued throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, through the Commune and two World Wars, the second of which saw tens of thousands of Jews persecuted before being sent to their deaths in concentration camps. Postwar, many of the Gestapo-trained gendarmes involved in those atrocities showed a fresh brutality to Algerians displaced by their own nation’s fight for independence from France.

“Attributing violence to millions of lawabiding French Muslims is as cynical as trying to blame it on a small group of artists and writers”

The three French-Algerian men believed responsible for the 12 deaths in Paris on Wednesday would have been steeped in a recent history of this conflict which, in the 1960s, was exported from the battlefields of Algeria to Paris itself. During one notorious atrocity in 1961, up to 200 Algerians were slaughtered around national monuments, including the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame cathedral.

Half a century on, the violence has subsided but there is still a strong sense of resentment among alienated communities living in housing estates on the outskirts of the capital. Many are Muslims of north African origin who complain that discrimination against them extends to every field of life, from housing and employment to the right to religious expression. This is particularly so as politicians of the left and right regularly blame Islam for these social problems, which have nothing to do with spiritual faith.

Anti-religious hate speech has thus become all too prevalent in modern France, as it is manipulated for political purposes. Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the National Front, is a convicted racist and antisemite, and his daughter, Marine Le Pen, the party’s current leader, regularly stigmatises Muslims and other minority groups. Immigration policy underpins all of this discourse.

There is no doubt that Charlie Hebdo’s notorious cartoons satirising the prophet Muhammad saddened and angered Muslims in equal measure. When the magazine published a cover with a bearded and turbaned cartoon figure of the prophet saying “100 lashes if you’re not dying of laughter” in 2011, their offices were firebombed.

Will 2015 be the year of the LeT?

January 10, 2015

The HinduFACE OF TERROR: “The mastermind of the Mumbai terror attack, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, might benefit in the face of a leadership crisis within the Lashkar-e-Taiba.” Picture shows Mumbai’s Taj Mahal hotel after the 2008 attack.

Even as the Pakistani establishment struggles to avoid international censure on Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi’s imminent release, the Lashkar-e-Taiba is likely to emerge in a high-profile role

The Pakistan Supreme Court ordered Mumbai 26/11 master-plotter, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi’s further detention on January 6, 2015, referring back the case for hearing both the sides by the Islamabad High Court. It is by no means certain that the judiciary may cater to pressure in this regard for too long.

Even as a beleaguered Pakistani establishment struggles to avoid international opprobrium on his imminent release, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) seems poised to emerge in a more high profile role in 2015.

A pamphlet, ‘Jehad in the Present Times’ written by Abdus Salaam bin-Muhammad, a leading Markaz Dawat wal’Irshad (MDI) ideologue in the early 1990s enunciated LeT’s raison d’être. Eight reasons were given for waging jihad. The first objective is to end the persecution of Muslims wherever it takes place; the second and third objectives are to restore the Muslim caliphate and establish the ‘dominance of Islam’; the fourth objective is to help weak and oppressed Muslims wherever they are; the fifth ordains taking revenge for murder of fellow Muslims; the sixth entails punishment to those who violate their oaths with Muslims; the seventh objective is to ‘fight to defend’ oneself and the eighth is to recapture occupied Muslim territory. Organisations such as MDI, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and LeT understand and use the concept of jihad in the sense of ‘qatl’ or ‘killing.’

Spreading terror to India

Soon after LeT’s formation, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed started presenting the jihadi discourse in Indian Kashmir as a struggle between Islam and kufr (unbelief). Kashmir was projected as the entry point but the aim was to break up the whole of India. Ahle Hadith members of MDI were asked to establish sleeper cells in different parts of India.

After the proscribing of LeT, other front names like MDI or JuD were propped up to divert focus and suggest that their work was bigger than that of LeT but its leadership has always claimed that ‘they would return to the banner of LeT one day,’ as the army the Prophet led into Mecca was also called Lashkar-e-Taiba, or the Army of Medina.

“LeT activists claim to enjoy the support of employees of almost every government department in Pakistan”

Charlie Hebdo suspects shot dead, hostages freed

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APThe TV grab shows police officers storming a kosher grocery in Paris to end a hostage situation.
ReutersFrench special forces handle arms as they take position on a rooftop of the complex at the scene of a hostage taking at an industrial zone in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris on Friday.

Two brothers wanted for a bloody attack on the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo were killed on Friday when anti-terrorist police stormed their hideout, while a second siege at a Jewish supermarket ended with the deaths of four hostages.

"These madmen, fanatics, have nothing to do with the Muslim religion," President Francois Hollande said in a televised address. "France has not seen the end of the threats it faces."

An audio recording posted on YouTube attributed to a leader of the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda (AQAP) said the attack in France was prompted by insults to Prophet.

Sheikh Hareth al-Nadhari said in the recording, "Some in France have misbehaved with the prophets of God and a group of God's faithful soldiers taught them how to behave and the limits of freedom of speech."

Following heavy loss of life over three consecutive days, which began with the attack on Charlie Hebdo when 12 people were shot dead, French authorities are trying to prevent a rise in vengeful anti-immigrant sentiment.

Mr. Hollande denounced the killing of the four hostages at the kosher supermarket in the Vincennes district of Paris. "This was an appalling anti-Semitic act that was committed," he said.

Officials said Cherif Kouachi and his brother Said, both in their thirties, died when security forces raided a print shop in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris, where the chief suspects in Wednesday's attack had been holed up. The hostage they had taken was safe, an official said.

Automatic gunfire rang out, followed by blasts and then silence as smoke billowed from the roof of the print shop. In thick fog, a helicopter landed on the building's roof, signalling the end of the assault. A government source said the brothers had emerged from the building and opened fire on police before they were killed.

Before his death, one of the Kouachi brothers told a television station he had received financing from an al-Qaeda preacher in Yemen.

"I was sent, me, Cherif Kouachi, by al-Qaeda of Yemen. I went over there and it was Anwar al Awlaki, who financed me," he told BFM-TV by telephone, according to a recording aired by the channel after the siege was over.

Kouachi's brother Said had also met al Al Awlaki, an influential international recruiter for al-Qaeda during a stay in Yemen in 2011.

Targeting Jews

Choosing thy neighbour

January 10, 2015

The very process of development and change in India may be generating new forms of social and economic competition that manifest themselves in terms of social bias

Popular debate around social biases in India is structured around two competing narratives. One view holds that as an urbanising country with rapid economic growth over the past few decades, the importance of ascriptive identities such as caste and religion is gradually eroding. An opposing view holds that these biases have remained resilient in India, even in the face of substantial economic development and increasingly heterogeneous cities.

Yet, such a simple dichotomy understates the complexity in characterising social biases in India. New forms of bias may emerge while other forms fade away. While social biases often result from prejudice or chauvinism, they may also result from legitimate apprehensions about, or threats from, another social group. In order to develop a deeper understanding of the profile of social biases in India, we analyse new data from the Lok Surveys, taking advantage of both the scale and the geographic spread of the sample. Before describing our results, we note that any survey-based analysis of social bias is necessarily fraught with difficulties — questions about bias are sensitive and respondents are often unwilling to admit to their biases. Furthermore, there is no universally accepted tool used to measure bias.

Identity of neighbours

Rather than relying on complex typologies that can be impacted by preconceived notions, we focus our analysis on a simple topic, which we believe represents a core form of social bias: differences in preferences for the identity of one’s neighbours. These preferences capture important dimensions of social structure. They involve beliefs about how different social groups affect social solidarity in a neighbourhood, as well as apprehensions about interacting with different social groups. To uncover social biases in preferences for neighbours, each of our respondents was asked the following question: Would you be against having a family of (another identity group) as a neighbour?

“It is the middle class group that accounts for much of the social bias in preferences for the identity of one’s neighbours”

Not anti-Islam, but anti-religion

January 9, 2015

We need to understand Charlie Hebdo not as an anti-Islamic publication, but as an anti-religion, anti-institutional, anti-extremist publication

The French satirical publication, Charlie Hebdo, is an equal opportunity offender. In keeping with France’s secular intellectual tradition, no particular individual, ideology or religion was safe from being lampooned by Charlie Hebdo. In 2006, ‘Jesus on the cross’ was on the cover shouting, “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here,” referencing the popular British TV show of the same name. In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI was on the cover holding a condom. In 2011, Prophet Mohammad was on the cover saying, “100 lashes for not laughing.”

The importance of Charlie Hebdo lies in what the publication represents — an aversion to giving in to illogical extremism of any kind and holding the right to offend people on sensitive matters like religion. The underpinning logic assumes that interrogation of self-sanctified institutions like religion needs to be done through the systematic practice of irreverence. The idea was to make humorous and irreverent attacks so frequent that a discussion on an institution like religion would be like a discussion on a popular movie, or sliced bread or some such thing— effectively defanging the institution and its hold on people. If you can laugh at it, you can question it.

Brave editorial course

This was a brave editorial course for Charlie Hebdo. In essence, the publication asserted the right to equally offend anyone and everyone as a part of the practice of French secularism. Over and above this, by doing so the French publication also presented itself in the vanguard of secularism, not concerning itself with short-term appeasement politics.

After all, the reasoning went, how much damage can pen and ink and some funny sketches do? However, for its editorial stances, in November 2011, following the publication of the cover bearing the Prophet, the offices of the publication were firebombed. Four years later on January 7, 2015, four gunmen stormed into Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris and killed 10 people, two police officers and injured 11 people. Amongst those killed was the editor-in-chief of the magazine, Stephane Charbonnier, who had been on an al-Qaeda watch list since 2013.

“The publication found laughing at the extremists to be less violent than the standard political response of sending out soldiers after them”

What Charbonnier’s editorial line represented can be considered a strong desire to avoid self-censorship. When the special issue of Charlie Hebdo, which was “guest edited by the Prophet Mohammad,” hit the stands in 2011, the controversy it raised was overwhelming. Politicians and clerics in France alike, and even representatives of the U.S. government, cautioned the publication. Clerics found the issue offensive. Politicians said that the decision to publish such material was not a particularly clever one, even though they agreed thatCharlie Hebdo had a right to publish such material.

For Charbonnier, a committed left-wing intellectual, self-censoring to avoid offending one or two particular groups was not an option. He believed that secularism contained the right to offend. Charlie Hebdo’s manner of channelling offence was to turn it into humour. They believed that the only way to deal with religious extremism was to laugh at the extremists and depict them as being illogical. This the publication found to be less violent than the standard political response of sending out soldiers after extremists.

Some of the cartoons published can also be seen as deeply sensitive to the current politics of Islam. In fact, in some of the ‘provocative’ cartoons, the Prophet is shown to be at his wits’ end as he surveys his present day followers saying “it is difficult to be loved by idiots.” In another cartoon, the Islamic State is beheading the Prophet — Charlie Hebdo may have been trying to rescue Islam from the extremists. Perhaps this is precisely why extremist fury surrounded the publication.

Stress on secular culture

Jihadists offended Muslims more than cartoons: Hezbollah

Jan 10, 2015

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said what he called "takfiri terrorist groups" had insulted Islam more than "even those who have attacked the messenger of God through books depicting the Prophet or making films depicting the Prophet or drawing cartoons of the Prophet."

BEIRUT: The leader of the Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah said on Friday that Islamist terrorists had done more harm to Islam than any cartoon or book, a reference to the attack by suspected Islamist militants on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. 

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said what he called "takfiri terrorist groups" had insulted Islam more than "even those who have attacked the messenger of God through books depicting the Prophet or making films depicting the Prophet or drawing cartoons of the Prophet." 

Takfiri is a term for a Muslim who accuses others, including another Muslim, of apostasy. Hezbollah considers members of ultra-hardline Sunni-dominated groups like al Qaeda and Islamic State to be takfiris. 

Twelve people were killed in the presumed Islamist militant attack on Wednesday at the weekly Charlie Hebdo, which has often lampooned Islam and other religions as well as politicians and other public figures. 

Cartoons in Charlie Hebdo have provoked angry reactions from some Muslims. Footage of the killings at the paper's offices showed gunmen shouting "we have avenged the Prophet Mohammad". 

Nasrallah was speaking to supporters in Beirut's southern suburbs via video link to commemorate the birthday of the Prophet. 

Hezbollah, which Washington describes as a terrorist group, functions as a political party that is part of the Lebanese government. It also has a military wing that has sent hundreds of fighters to support President Bashar al-Assad's forces in neighbouring Syria.

#JeSuisCharlie tweeted more than five million times

Jan 10, 2015

The symbolic five-million mark, an unprecedented number in the history of France-related hashtags, was reached after elite forces killed the brothers suspected of the massacre and a jihadist ally in a dramatic finale to three blood-soaked days.

WASHINGTON: Twitter users have posted the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag, a sign of solidarity with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, more than 5 million times, Twitter France said on Friday. 

The symbolic five-million mark, an unprecedented number in the history of France-related hashtags, was reached after elite forces killed the brothers suspected of the massacre and a jihadist ally in a dramatic finale to three blood-soaked days. 

The hashtag had been tweeted 5,044,740 times by 5:00 pm (2200 GMT) on Friday, with a peak of 6,300 tweets per minute.

The number still trails far behind the more than 18,136,000 times #Ferguson was tweeted in the aftermath of a fatal shooting of a young black American by a white police officer in the Missouri town -- the most tweeted hashtag of 2014.

On Friday the heavily-armed Charlie Hebdo massacre suspects were cornered in a tiny town northeast of Paris while an ally took terrified shoppers hostage in a Jewish supermarket, where four died and seven were hurt including three police officers.

Hundreds of people hold pencils and posters reading 'Je Suis Charlie (I Am Charlie)' during a tribute for victims of a terror attack on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

China Just Doubled the Size of Its Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Divisions

January 09, 2015

Should Taiwan be sweating? 
According to media reports China will double the number of its Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Divisions (AMID) from two to four. Initially, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fielded two AMIDs, one stationed in Guangzhou, the other in the Nanjing Military Region, with a total number of about 30,000 men. Now total manpower in the AMIDs will be around 52,000 – 60,000. These new amphibious forces are meant to complement the roughly 20,000 strong elite PLA Marine Corps in future conflicts over the East and South China seas as well as Taiwan, although the PLA Marine Corps and the AMIDs still lack a joint command system.

In comparison to the PLA Marine Corps, the AMIDs are mostly suitable for conventional large-scale amphibious assaults, such as would occur in a full-scale invasion of Taiwan. However, as a report by the U.S. Department of Defense on military and security developments in China notes: “Large-scale amphibious invasion is one of the most complicated and difficult military operations the PLA might pursue in a cross Strait contingency. Success would depend upon air and sea superiority, rapid buildup and sustainment of supplies on shore, and uninterrupted support. An attempt to invade Taiwan would strain China’s armed forces and invite international intervention …. China does not appear to be building the conventional amphibious lift required to support such a campaign.”

“The PLA is capable of accomplishing various amphibious operations short of a full-scale invasion of Taiwan. With few overt military preparations beyond routine training, China could launch an invasion of small Taiwan-held islands in the South China Sea such as Pratas or Itu Aba. A PLA invasion of a medium-sized, better defended offshore island such as Matsu or Jinmen is within China’s capabilities.”

Thus, for now Taiwan appears to have little to fear from this nascent force. China simply cannot transport the AMIDs across the Taiwan Strait. Each of the four divisions is equipped with up to 300 armored and amphibious transport vehicles – the majority of which are of the ZBD05/ZLT05 type. However, these amphibious vehicles cannot traverse large stretches of water by themselves. Consequently, China will have to rely on its fleet of amphibious warfare ships such as the new Type 071 (Yuzhao-class) transports of which it is currently building two, with three completed and six more planned.

SAARC Energy Agreement: A step in the right direction

Sanket Sudhir Kulkarni
January 05, 2015

The Narendra Modi government has made energy security an important feature of its foreign policy, with some big ticket energy deals being signed. One major step in this regard related to regional energy security, when India, along with other South Asian countries, signed a regional cooperation agreement on electricity trade during the SAARC summit at Kathmandu. Under this agreement, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh would be able to import electricity from hydropower-rich Nepal and Bhutan.

But going by past experience, merely signing an agreement will not suffice. Several SAARC initiatives in the past failed to take off due to inherent political differences among its member nations. In addition to differences between ruling dispensations, opposition parties in some South Asian countries also held diverging view points on energy trade and often opposed projects for political gains thereby discouraging real time investment. For example, Nepal, a country with huge hydropower potential, has been unable to create a conducive environment for energy development due to this factor. Bangladesh also saw a similar trend, wherein political parties prevented any export of natural gas to India.1

In the present context, to make the energy agreement work, it would be necessary for the respective governments to provide leadership and direction on energy issues. The success of this initiative not only rests on individual governments in the eight countries, but also on the political behaviour of some opposition groups within these countries.

Currently, energy cooperation among SAARC members is occurring at a bilateral level. India imports about 1416 MW of electricity from Bhutan2 and it has begun to export electricity to Bangladesh. India’s cooperation with Nepal has resumed in the form of construction of mega projects through private investments like the Upper Karnali power project.

Taliban Suffered Heavy Casualties in 2014 Amongst Their Shadow Governors Inside Afghanistan

January 7, 2014

34 Taliban shadow administrators reported killed or captured in Afghanistan in 2014

Afghan and Coalition forces reportedly killed or captured at least 34 Taliban shadow administrators in 2014, according to local and international media reports. Among those killed were seven Taliban shadow governors, as well as numerous shadow district administrators — including shadow police, intelligence, and military commanders. At least one other Taliban shadow governorsurrendered to Afghan authorities, in Jawzjan province in late December 2014 along with approximately 200 of his subordinates.

Overall, Taliban shadow administrators were reportedly killed in 17 out of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces [see first graph below]. The highest number of incidents occurred in Badakhshan and Kunar provinces, with both provinces recording a total of five Taliban shadow administrators killed in each, including their respective shadow governors. In the case of Badakhshan, two Taliban shadow governors were killed within a five-month period.

Approximately 57 percent of the Taliban shadow administrators reportedly killed in 2014 died in clashes with Afghan security forces [see second graph below]. It should be noted, however, that drone strikes in Kunar and Farah provinces resulted in the deaths of at least four Taliban shadow district administrators in 2014. And incidents involving “airstrikes” killed an additional two Taliban shadow district administrators in Kapisa and Badakhshan provinces; it is unclear if those airstrikes were conducted by conventional air assets or drones. In a separate case, one Taliban shadow administrator was killed during an incident of infighting. And in another unique case, Afghan residents gunned down a Taliban district administrator in Farah province in early June 2014. Only 11 percent of the Taliban administrators removed from the battlefield in 2014 were captured alive by security forces.

With the conclusion of the NATO International Security Assistance Mission (ISAF) effort in December 2014, the Afghan government will likely continue to pursue a military campaign against known Taliban leaders. “The killing or arresting of Taliban shadow governors is important because they are running the terror network behind the scenes,” Afghan security analyst General (ret.) Fazlullah Jurat told Central Asia Online in November. “Their killing will dampen the morale of insurgents …. They run the show, and if they are eliminated, it will obviously hurt the Taliban,” Jurat noted.

2014 Was a Year of Dramatic Changes for US Military in Afghanistan

Dan Lamothe 
January 7, 2015 

This new graphic shows the state of the U.S. war in Afghanistan 

The U.S. military has shifted to Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, ending the 13-year Operation Enduring Freedom as NATO and its allies move to new chapter there. There are many ways to contextualize that, and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan released this graphic Tuesday in an attempt to provide the scope of what they’ve done in the last year, and what comes next. 

The graphic shows the vast amount of equipment that has come home since early 2014. U.S. Forces-Afghanistan had 19,400 shipping containers in the country in February 2014, but had reduced that number to 597 as of mid-December. It moved nearly 30 million pounds of cargo by plane last year, and another 8.8 by helicopter. 

At the war’s peak, there were hundreds of U.S. bases in Afghanistan, many with no more than a dozen troops at them. That number was cut back to 87 in February 2014, and 25 in December. 

The U.S. now has about 10,600 troops in Afghanistan. That number will fluctuate over the next few months, as NATO partners send more forces to take part in Resolute Support. Once they are there, the U.S. number will be cut by about 1,000, officials said. 

Gen. McChrystal and the Controversial Night Raids in Afghanistan

Gareth Porter 
January 7, 2015 

Top Secret List Shows McChrystal Halting Night Raids After Controversy 
Ret. US Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal works on board a Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft between Battlefield Circulation missions in Afghanistan, 2010. (Photo: US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark O’Donald )

A top secret “Kill/Capture List” used to target special operations forces “night raids” in Afghanistan reveals that the Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, was so concerned by the political fallout from the killing of civilians in the raids - and one unit’s cover-up of such killings - that he shut down the raids during March and April 2010.

The document, officially called the “Joint Prioritized Effects List,” was published by Der Spiegel December 28, along with three other documents related to Afghanistan from the Edward Snowden collection of NSA documents. Dated August 8, 2010, it is the first actual complete list of every one of the targets of special operations forces (SOF) night raids at a specific moment to become available to the public.

The data in the document indicates that a new target list was issued every week, but that targets were sometimes added to the list between the regular editions.

The previously unknown McChrystal ban on the raids becomes clear from an analysis of the notations accompanying each of the individual targets on the list. The data also show that McChrystal began to relax the ban in May and June.

The “kill/capture” document covers a total of 669 individuals but does not show names or other identifying information about each target. The line that gives identifying information has been completely redacted, and even the name of the column is missing.


January 8, 2015

I heard a commotion and turned around to look into the courtyard. I saw one of our interpreters slap one of the Taliban detainees across the back of the head. After a half-second pause the man dramatically fell to the ground, much like a basketball player looking for a foul call. “They so know our rules,” I thought. I could see a line of a half dozen men squatting with their arms tied behind their backs, facing the far wall of the compound. The Afghan police lieutenant, an interpreter, and two of the [Special Forces] team’s operators were questioning each of them. Over the wind I could hear the team’s intelligence sergeant telling one man to stop lying and asking him to reveal who owned the compound. At the same time, another operator grabbed the interpreter by the arm. I could see the shadow of the operator shaking his head to let him know to knock off the slapping routine.

America’s conflict with Islamic extremism must be understood as a decades-long ideological clash, akin to our 50-year fight against communism. Despite the popular narrative about ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are still in the opening throes of this conflict (as yesterday’s events in Paris should have reminded us). When sensitive information is released about America’s rules and procedures for dealing with suspected terrorists, the enemy gains an advantage we can ill-afford. Holding our operatives accountable is one thing—giving away information that abets the enemy is quite another.

The dust seems to have already settled around the Senate Intelligence Committee’s recently released report on the CIA’s interrogation, but its impacts will reverberate into the future even if the news cycle has left it behind. Yes, the report shed light on some troubling practices that may meet the definition of torture, but it did not stop there. It also detailed how our premiere intelligence agency adapted to meet the al Qaeda threat and discussed legal interrogation methods that our intelligence agencies and military personnel may continue to rely upon. Whether we are discussing interrogation programs run by the CIA or our military, the United States will need to have the ability to extract information from captured insurgents and terrorists for the foreseeable future. That capability took a serious blow with the release of this report and provided America’s enemies with a treasure trove of information on what our forces will and will not do.

The World in 2015: Twists, Tinderboxes and Turning Points

By John McLaughlin
January 5, 2015

Because 2014 introduced a slew of intricate problems — leaving us to untangle them as best we can in the new year.

Something fearsome this way comes. In recent years, an array of complex, volatile international problems has unfurled. It’s made confident prediction about the future nearly impossible. But what we can say is that this year, we’ll witness a number of vital turning points. And there are at least a few larger trends that cut across many threats: Oil prices are plummeting. Terrorism remains a huge threat. And the careful balance of diplomacy with military force is a continuing difficulty. 

In the Middle East, America must focus on combating the Islamic State and limiting Iran’s nuclear program. 

Islamic State: The coalition plans to mount a major counteroffensive, hoping to retake a key city like Mosul. If it succeeds, we could be cautiously optimistic, despite a yearslong struggle ahead involving not only Iraq but also Syria … where far less progress is likely.

Iran: Things are likely to come to a head by midyear, when we reach the June deadline extension the six parties agreed to in November. The talks are stalling over the amount of uranium that Iran can enrich — not to mention Iran’s refusal to reveal data about explosive testing (which plenty suspect was related to developing nuclear weapons). Without an agreement, you can bet on heated debates over whether we should launch a military operation to block Iran’s program.

In Asia:

No Place for China in Russia’s New Military Doctrine?

Written by Alex Calvo.
December 30, 2014

The last days of the year have been intense in the geopolitical arena, with the release of Moscow’s new military doctrine among several developments meriting close attention. Yet, while some other events and documents explicitly refer to China, in this case it is Beijing’s seeming absence that catches the eye. As noted by observers, Russia’s 2014 military doctrine does not differ in its essentials from its 2010 predecessor, “Its core remains unchanged from the previous version” although it addresses more explicitly NATO and refers to recent developments such as “global strategic antiballistic missile systems” and “the ‘prompt strike’ concept”, while explicitly incorporating Russian interest in the Arctic for the first time. Indirect, positive, references to China can be found in mentions to the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) and the BRICS (Brazil – Russia – India – China – South Africa). 

Coming on the heels of two significant natural gas agreements which China this year (concerning pipelines and LNG, Liquefied Natural Gas), the doctrine prompts the question whether Beijing remains an objective threat for Russia, or whether this is no longer the case. Despite growing tensions with the West and attempts to forge a wide partnership with Beijing, there are powerful reasons to believe that the fundamental nature of the Sino-Russian relationship remains the same, and that Moscow’s 2014 military doctrine is as important for what it says as for what it leaves unsaid.

Military doctrines have a number of purposes. First of all, they are designed to inform the military themselves about their tasks and ultimate goals. Second, they are part of a country’s public diplomacy, contributing to its image abroad and ideally fitting with other narratives. Third, by explaining to foreign policy makers the circumstances in which force may be used, they are designed to diminish the scope for miscalculation. The latter is one of their more important functions, although two caveats must be borne in mind. Countries will often seek a measure of ambiguity, even if this clashes with the third purpose, among other reasons to make enemy calculations more difficult and to retain a greater measure of flexibility when dealing with foreign threats. The second is that in order to forecast a country’s reaction to a given scenario, and in particular whether she will choose to resort to force, it is necessary to take into account not only any published military doctrine but a much wider range of factors, including national character and history.

Japan and China Spar Online Over Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands

January 08, 2015

China and Japan take to cyberspace to promote their territorial claims.  
Despite ongoing efforts to alleviate tensions between China and Japan, the territorial dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands is not going away anytime soon. In fact, China recently rolled out a websitedetailing China’s claim to the islands, complete with historical documents and legal arguments. “Diaoyu Island – China’s Inherent Territory,” a banner at the top of the page proclaims. The site not only contains China’s case for sovereignty, but includes photographs, geographical details, and the Chinese names of each of the islands in question.

The new website includes a statement of China’s “basic position” on the Diaoyu Islands. As the website is currently only available in Chinese, I offer a translation below: 

Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands are an inseparable part of China’s territory. Whether viewed from an historical or a legal perspective, Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands are all China’s inherent territory, and China has indisputable sovereignty over them. 

Before Japan’s so-called “discovery” of Diaoyu Island, China already had administered Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands for a period of several hundred years. In 1895, Japan took advantage of the First Sino-Japanese War to secretly “include” Diaoyu Island in its territory. Japan asserted its sovereignty by declaring Diaoyu Island “terra nullius” [land belonging to no one] prior to Japan’s “initial occupation.” This act by Japan severely violated relevant international laws on the acquisition of territory. It is an illegal act of invasion and occupation of Chinese territory, invalid under international law.

Under the unequal Treaty of Shimonoseki (1895), Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands were ceded to Japan along with Taiwan and its affiliated islands. After World War II, according to legal documents of the Cairo Declaration, the Potsdam Declaration, and the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands were returned to China. After 1952, the United States unilaterally expanded the [geographical] scope of its “trusteeship,” illegally including China’s Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands. In 1972, the U.S. “returned” to Japan “administrative control” over Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands. This U.S. and Japanese act of privately giving and taking Chinese territory does not have any validity under international law, and China resolutely opposed it. 

What Comes After the Islamic State Is Defeated?

BY GOPAL RATNAMGopal Ratnam is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy, covering the White House, the Pentagon and broader national security issues. A native of India,Gopal has covered topics ranging from child-labor law violations and the automotive industry to the international arms trade, the politics of weapons purchases, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has reported from dozens of countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Most recently he was the Pentagon reporter for Bloomberg News. 
JANUARY 6, 2015 

Eleven years and billions of dollars later, American troops are once again in Iraq, after having withdrawn in 2011. This time, they better plan on staying for the long haul. 
When American troops were about to invade Iraq in 2003 to dislodge Saddam Hussein from power, then-Maj. Gen. David Petraeus told a reporter: “Tell me how this ends.” Eleven years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, thousands of U.S. troops are once again in Iraq fighting a different foe. But the same question still resonates.

President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of American forces in 2011 after failing to win a security agreement with Iraq has already been undone by Obama ordering as many as 3,100 troops to help train the Iraqi military to take on the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. But even if U.S. and Iraqi forces defeat the militant group, preventing a disintegration of Iraq along sectarian and religious lines may require a long-term presence of U.S. forces, former American officials and defense analysts say.

“You cannot get the goal you want of a stable Iraq and a permanently defeated” Islamic State, “or a son of ISIS,” without a long-term American presence, said James Jeffrey, who served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2010 to 2012. “Even if they’re promised the moon, only if we have a presence will the Kurds and Sunnis buy into a Baghdad that’s dominated by the Shiites and indirectly by Iran.”

Jeffrey said that moves to establish a peacekeeping or monitoring force should be led by the U.N. but backed by U.S. military power. That means a modest American force should plan on remaining in Iraq and eventually in Syria once the Islamic State is defeated, he said.

More than 2,000 American troops are helping retrain the Iraqi military to fight back against the Islamic State on the ground, even as U.S. drones and jet fighters have carried out hundreds of airstrikes, yielding some earlysuccesses by halting the militant group’s advances.

ISIS Is Losing Its Greatest Weapon: Momentum

JAN 6 2015

Evidence suggests that the Islamic State's power has been declining for months.
There was a time when the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria appeared unstoppable. In September and October, as the jihadist group captured territory through a major offensive in Iraq’s Anbar province, culminating in the fall of the town of Hit on October 13, observers feared that even Baghdad was in danger of being overrun. ISIS is now in the midst of another major military movement in Anbar, but the always-overblown fears about the organization’s advance are now receding—and the group’s decline has grown increasingly apparent.

ISIS’s signature attributes, ferocity and unpredictability, have raised the group’s profile and inspired a spate of lone-wolf attackers. But the organization has also made several strategic errors along the way. The Islamic State’s lifeblood is partially money and territory, but primarily momentum against weak and ill-prepared enemies. And that momentum, which peaked in early August, has stalled.

Where has ISIS overplayed its hand? The group already had an impressive array of foes when a June blitzkrieg extended its reach into Iraq—enemies that included the Iraqi government, the Iranian regime, and even other jihadist groups like the Nusra Front, with whom it frequently skirmished in Syria. This offensive wasn’t solely the work of ISIS, which fought alongside a coalition of Sunni insurgent groups that included former members of Saddam Hussein’sBaath party. The offensive was also widely backed by Iraq’s disaffected Sunni elite.

ISIS and the Intimate Kill But once its initial gains were secured, ISIS quickly betrayed the very groups that had aided its advance. Most prominently, ISIS declared the reestablishment of the caliphate, with the group’s spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani claimingthat “the legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organizations, becomes null by the expansion of the khilafah’s authority.” The statement clearly signaled that ISIS believed it had usurped the authority of its allies; indeed, in early July it rounded up ex-Baathist leaders in Mosul (doing so proved particularly problematic for ISIS because the ex-Baathists were also managing the actual governance and administration of the northern Iraqi city, and their arrest hastened the rapid disintegration of basic services).

The Credibility Addiction

BY STEPHEN M. WALTStephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University. 
JANUARY 6, 2015 

The United States can’t stop fighting other countries’ wars — and its allies are acting like enablers. 
Does U.S. credibility matter? If so, how much? Is it more important for other states to have high confidence that the United States will fulfill its overseas commitments, even when doing so might be expensive and not necessarily in America’s best interest? Alternatively, is it better if other states have high confidence in America’s judgment, i.e., in its ability to analyze emerging international problems and devise effective responses to them?

As anyone who’s studied the history of U.S. foreign relations knows, American leaders have been obsessed with credibility ever since World War II. If other states ever doubted U.S. power or resolve, so the argument ran, communists would be emboldened, deterrence would weaken, and America’s allies would be intimidated and neutralized, leaving the United States isolated and friendless in a hostile world. This concern led American leaders to constantly reiterate their pledges to defend allies all over the world, led Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon to fight on for years in Vietnam, and drove U.S. efforts to acquire some sort of “nuclear superiority” over the USSR. Even today, whenever something bad happens almost anywhere in the world, hawkish voices will immediately proclaim that America’s credibility will collapse if Uncle Sam does not do something now.

It’s not surprising that credibility looms so large in U.S. foreign-policy thinking. Because the United States is the linchpin of a vast alliance network, it has to convince lots of other countries that its promises are really believable. A lot of these countries aren’t especially powerful or strategically significant, however, so there are good reasons to wonder if it was really in America’s interest to defend them. Moreover, some of these commitments involve nuclear guarantees of one sort or another, which means they entail at least some slight risk of nuclear war. As a result, Washington has to convince allies and adversaries that it might be willing to run big risks on behalf of other countries, even when the United States is not directly threatened and the countries it has pledged to defend aren’t vital to maintaining the global balance of power or to American security more broadly.