11 February 2015


Sandhya Jain
10 February 2015

As a developing country, India faces a dual and paradoxical challenge, viz, to reduce its carbon footprint from conventional sources of power while providing energy to all citizens

Several Chinese cities have been in the news over the past decade for blinding smog that made breathing difficult without surgical masks. Recently, New Delhi’s smog-laden air drew unfavourable attention due to the visit of US President Barack Obama for the Republic Day celebrations. American media reports said the US President’s two-hour long exposure at Rajpath and other outdoor events, such as tea in a well-appointed garden, took six hours off his life! While only god can authenticate such a fine calibration, it is undeniable that the capital’s air (not to mention water) quality has been deteriorating for decades.

On January 6, the US embassy’s air pollution monitor recorded Delhi’s particulate matter (particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers, that can penetrate human lungs) at 215 at 8am, which fell to 199 by 7pm. The US embassy is situated in Chanakyapuri, one of the capital’s most idyllic locations; it follows that readings elsewhere in the city would be much higher.

The benchmark is 150; any reading above is ‘unhealthy’ for general, non-sensitive populations (those not afflicted with asthma or other respiratory ailments). A reading above 200 is ‘very unhealthy’ and this is the air citizens are breathing this winter. Levels of 300 and above are ‘hazardous’.

Much of Delhi’s smog is due to vehicular emissions because a fully integrated public transport system is still not in place. In the country as a whole (no official statistics have been released) air pollution is rising dangerously, particularly in highly industrialised districts and zones. Worldwide, these pollutants contribute to global warming and climate change through ozone depletion, and now, pose a threat to the survival of species, including the human race. The crisis is so advanced that two degree celsius has become the de facto target for global warming.

As urgent remedial measures become imperative, Governments and citizens are exploring various options. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has mooted fighting air pollution by implementing the Environmental Protection Agency’s international air quality forecasting system AirNow. This is part of an overall climate deal, to be clinched in Paris in March, that includes phasing out greenhouse gases such as hydrofluorocarbons (used in refrigerants), reducing dependence on coal (thermal power) and enhancing use of renewable sources of energy.

The Dependence Entrapment

Sarosh Bana
February 10, 2015

The path breaking agreement, dramatically ‘operationalised’ in the 25 January meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama, has raised high expectations in both India and the United States and elevated their partnership to a new dimension. However, the advances made by India hitherto in the atomic energy sector raise the question whether the country needs to be buttonholed into such an arrangement.

India’s planned $182 billion expansion of its nuclear capacity from the present 5,780 MW from 21 operating reactors to 14,600 MW by 2020 and 63,000 MW by 2032 is evoking a renaissance in the global nuclear energy industry. The 2.57 per cent share of nuclear power in India’s overall installed generation capacities of 224,680.24 MW, as on 31 December 2014, is aimed to be raised to 25 per cent by 2050.

This development is paving the way for the revival of the nuclear power industry in the United States, where no nuclear power plants have been built since 1973 after as many as 103 had been erected over the previous decade. American vendors like Westinghouse Electric Company, a Toshiba Corporation group company, and GEH (General Electric, allied with Hitachi Nuclear Energy) – apart from France’s Areva and Russia’s Atomstroyexport – have been enthused by the business potential India holds out for them.

Westinghouse has been provided land at Chhaya-Mithi Virdi in Gujarat to host six 1,110 MW Advanced Passive 1000 (AP1000) Pressurised Water Reactors (PWRs). The pre-project activity of ground breaking has already been done in 2012. GEH will be building six 1,520 MW generation III+ Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactors (ESBWRs) on land allotted to it at Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh. The first concrete pour is expected early this year.

Obama exulted that a “breakthrough understanding” had been reached on two issues that were holding up the India-US civil nuclear cooperation, while Modi expressed relief that India was moving towards commercial cooperation on civil nuclear trade with the United States six years after the two sides had signed a landmark deal in this regard in 2008.

What’s the Status of the Indian-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Jet?

By Franz-Stefan Gady
February 10, 2015

India and Russia agreed in early 2007 to jointly develop a fifth generation fighter program. Ever since then, the Sukhol/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) or as it is called in India, the Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF) project, has been plagued by delays, costs overrun, and unsteady technology In 2014, a prototype of the plane even caught fire during a demonstration flight for technical evaluation, causing heated arguments between India and Russia.

“What added to the controversy … was Russia’s refusal to share any details of this failure, to the extent that a technical evaluation team of the Indian Air Force that reportedly was present at the site was refused access to inspect the damaged platform,” Monika Chansoria, senior fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies think tank in New Delhi, was quoted as saying in a Defense News article.

Yet in January of this year, Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar stated that many of the differences have now been set aside: “We discussed all issues, including the FGFA, and have decided to fast-track many of them as there are apprehensions about the slow pace in their execution.” This was confirmed by his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, who emphasized his desire for more regular “interactions” to avoid further delays.

Andrey Marshankin, the regional director of international cooperation at the united Russian-Indian aircraft manufacturing company Sukhoi/HAL, set to produce the jet, further stated that, “as of now, we and our Indian colleagues have completed the creation of the export version of the [Sukhoi] PAK FA, known in India as FGFA. We already have documents and understanding of the scope of the next phase of design, the scale of future production.”

The Russian version of the plane will be a operated by one pilot, whereas the Indian Air Force prefers a two-seater plane. “In difficult conditions of modern warfare it is extremely difficult to simultaneously maneuver and attack the enemy. Currently, the Indian side suggests that the Indian version of the fifth generation fighter will be made for two pilots,” Marshankin elaborates.

The Looming U.S.-India Trade War

FEBRUARY 9, 2015 

If international relations were about cultivating personal chemistry, you might assume that the U.S.-India relationship has never been stronger. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington last September, full of warm and fuzzy moments and buoyed by a sense of bonhomie, suggested a growing camaraderie between the nations. Following closely on the heels of that meeting, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president in history to visit India twice, and the first to be named guest of honor at its Republic Day celebrations on January 26, 2015.

But look past the veneer of chumminess, and you’ll see that the era of good feelings is likely to be short-lived, as simmering disputes between Washington and New Delhi retake their place at center stage. Among the most important are likely to be their vastly differing trade priorities, as each competes for a piece of the world market and plays a high-stakes game to ensure that its businesses and workers get a larger share of the pie.

One of the key sticking points is a trade disagreement that has now reached the dispute settlement body of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The United States alleges that India’s domestic procurement requirements for solar cells and modules violate WTO rules, which mandate fair and non-discriminatory access to both foreign and domestic firms, while India contends that the United States unfairly subsidizes its own solar technology manufacturers. Typically, a case under the dispute settlement body runs anywhere from a year to a year and a half, and the decision is binding for the losing party.


By Ambreen Agha
FEBRUARY 9, 2015 

…Violence in Karachi has become so commonplace that reports of ever more gruesome excesses against the citizens are usually taken in the stride… — Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), January 9, 2014.

At least 61 Shias were killed and more than 50 others were injured in a bomb attack on Karbala-e-Moalla Imambargah (Shia place of commemoration) in the Lakhidar area of Shikarpur District in the Sindh Province on January 30, 2015. More than 300 worshippers were inside the double-storey compound of the Imambargah and the prayer leader, Maulvi Tanveer Hussain Shah, was delivering the Friday sermon when the bomb exploded. The ‘spokesman’ of Jundullah, a splinter faction of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Ahmed Marwat, declared, “We claim responsibility for attack on Shias in Shikarpur very happily. Our target was the Shia community… They are our enemies.”

On December 22, 2014, a Police team of District Malir killed 13 al Qaeda and TTP terrorists during a shootout in the Deluxe Town bungalows of the Sohrab Goth area in Gadap Town, Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh. However, TTP ‘commander’ Khan Zaman Mehsud and some of his associates managed to flee under the cover of fire.

According to partial data compiled by South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Sindh has already recorded 133 fatalities in 2015, including 99 civilians, nine Security Force (SF) personnel and 25 terrorists in 2015 (data till January 31, 2015) and remains the second worst terrorism-affected region across Pakistan in terms of such fatalities. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) ranks first, with 249 killed, including nine civilians, 15 SF personnel and 225 terrorists.

Sindh, however, has recorded the highest number of civilian fatalities, at 99, over this period, followed by 12 in Punjab, nine each in Balochistan and FATA, and eight in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

China Confirms Pakistan Nuclear Projects

By Prashanth Parameswaran
February 10, 2015

A Chinese official publicly confirmed Monday that Beijing is involved in at least six nuclear power projects in Pakistan and is likely to export more to the country, media reports said.

In a press conference in Beijing, Wang Xiaotao, the vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, said China “has assisted in building six nuclear reactors in Pakistan with a total installed capacity of 3.4 million kilowatts.”

Wang, who was unveiling plans for new guidelines for Chinese exports in the nuclear sector, also said that Beijing was keen to provide further exports to countries, which would presumably include Pakistan given previous reports and trends.

The Sino-Pakistan nuclear link has been well-known even though some specifics are often shrouded in secrecy. This is reportedly the first time that a top official has publicly admitted to such a scale of China’s cooperation with Pakistan.

Revelations about the growing Sino-Pakistan nuclear axis comes amid continuing concerns expressed by some that ongoing cooperation is occurring without the sanction of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) which helps supervise the export of global civilian nuclear technology. China is a member of the NSG and existing regulations prohibit members from exporting such technology nations like Pakistan which do not adopt full-scale safeguards.

China declared the first two reactors it already agreed to construct for Pakistan – the Chashma-1 and Chashma 2 – at the time it joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2004, with the expectation that no new deals would follow. But in 2010, the China National Nuclear Cooperation announced it would export technology for two new reactors, Chashma-3 and Chashma-4 because it argued – rather controversially – that these projects were already grandfathered in under previous agreements rather than being fresh proposals.

China involved in six nuclear projects in Pakistan, reveals official

Ananth Krishnan
February 8, 2015

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with Chinese President Xi Jinping.A Chinese official has confirmed that China is involved in as many as six nuclear power projects in Pakistan and is likely to export more reactors to the country, indicating that the much debated civilian nuclear cooperation between the two countries will go ahead despite concerns voiced that it is in contravention of Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) guidelines.

While China has in the past declined to confirm or share details regarding the extent of its on-going civilian nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, a top official of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the planning body, was quoted as saying on Saturday that Beijing has been involved in the construction of six reactors in Pakistan.

Wang Xiaotao, vice-minister of the NDRC, was quoted as saying by State media that the NDRC was keen to support further exports to Pakistan and other countries. To this end, the NDRC is drawing up new guidelines to announce supportive financial policies for exports in the nuclear sector. Railways exports would also be supported under the new guidelines, Wang said.

Announcing the guidelines at a Beijing press conference, Wang said that China "has assisted in building six nuclear reactors in Pakistan with a total installed capacity of 3.4 million kilowatts". China was also exporting nuclear technology to Argentina, with the two countries on Wednesday signing a deal for exporting heavy-water reactors.

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China's recent projects with Pakistan have come under scrutiny as the NSG does not allow members to supply nuclear technology to countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). India had to seek a waiver from the NSG for its civilian nuclear cooperation with the US, and obtained one only after undertaking a range of commitments.

Could We Kill Our Way Out Of Afghanistan? Ask Jim Gourley…

FEBRUARY 9, 2015 

I served in Kunar under McChrystal and Petraeus as ISAF commanders. This vantage point is an excellent perch to answer that question. Both commanders advocated counterinsurgency but with somewhat different areas of emphasis. We were, generally speaking, more kinetic under the latter than we were under the former. On Election Day in 2010, there were more than 100 engagements in Kunar. This was a shooting war.

Counterinsurgency has been criticized, defended, resurrected, and then hastily buried by many with much more impressive credentials than I possess. Several flaws in the implementation of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan need to be addressed though. Our efforts in Afghanistan, given the vast geographic space and demographic diversity of the country, were studies in resource mismanagement. This does not mean that the cost of the war was cheap; in fact there needs to be an examination of the great expense that produced such limited results. If forced to sum up the failings of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, I would say that the bureaucracy consumed suggestions of varying quality – including some good suggestions – and spat these out haphazardly in practice. What works in one area at one time will not work in another. But that point was lost.

The Pech River and Kunar River valleys and are good examples of this. This area in Afghanistan has provided several widely known works. Lone Survivor and the myriad works of Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger in the Korengal are well known stories. Our forces dispersed throughout Kunar, conducted numerous operations, patrolled and trained Afghan security forces, and then yielded terrain as the fight shifted toward the larger cities. Different courses of action were adopted by different commanders at different times. In fact, the Soviets ventured into these valleys as well. Some of the news clippings from their campaign sound remarkably like ours. Some of the villages that were scenes of significant combat operations were even the same.

Taking The Gourley Challenge: I’ll Tell You In One Word Why We Lost In Afghanistan

FEBRUARY 5, 2015 

OK, so maybe that’s an answer that too heavily weighs clarity over complexity, and passes the buck from American hands to someone else’s, but the problems posed by Pakistan have been around since before the creation of the country and have led to other American “defeats” as well.

By providing sanctuary and support to Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and other al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, Pakistan both had a large hand in creating the conditions that led to the attacks of September 11, 2001 and ensured that the very quick and successful initial campaign that came afterward didn’t have a more lasting effect. While it took some time for the Taliban to recover and the AQ “core” has never recovered to become the organization it was on 9/11, their ability to find a home and allies in Pakistan’s border provinces has been the framework for their survival.

The “ungovernability” of these regions is likewise a proposition that lies at the core of the Pakistani state, along with military rule (overt or indirect as circumstances warrant), the primacy of the Punjab, and the ideology of “Islam” as a politically legitimating force. And these are only a few of the factors that have made Pakistan’s history a study in slow-motion state collapse and violence -- who can say “East Pakistan?”


Pakistan posed an insoluble conundrum for American policy and strategy for decades prior to 9/11 or the invasion of Afghanistan -- a classic can’t-live-with-‘em-can’t-live-without-‘em riddle.

Pakistan posed an insoluble conundrum for American policy and strategy for decades prior to 9/11 or the invasion of Afghanistan -- a classic can’t-live-with-‘em-can’t-live-without-‘em riddle. This, in turn, has made for some of the most hubristic and myopic decision-making in American history. One need only recall Richard Armitage blowing into Lahore to read Pervez Musharraf the riot act after 9/11, or the last, sad-sack days of Mike Mullen’s tenure as JCS chairman, when he began to face up to the many betrayals of by Ashfaq Kayani, or, perhaps most egregious of all, the near homoerotic passages about Musharraf in Gen. Tommy Franks’ autobiography. In sum, there is a long history of big-wig Americans going goo-goo for a guy in a Sam Brown belt.

Afghanistan: That Sense Of Great Loss

February 4, 2015: With most of the foreign troops gone the Taliban and other outlaws can now engage in terror attacks with less risk of retaliation. Two decades of Taliban activity in Afghanistan have taught most tribes that the best way to deal with this is to arm and defend yourself. The tribes don’t like to do this because it is expensive (more ammo and weapons are needed) and disruptive to the lives of tribal members. The Taliban see this self-defense trend as a major threat. Recruiting and movements are greatly restricted the more self-defense militias there are. The Taliban already know this from experience in parts of the country (mainly the north) where they have very little popular support and lots of armed and hostile tribesmen. The Taliban has been spending more and more effort fighting the tribal militias. Another new enemy for the Taliban are members who have defected to ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and gone to war with a Taliban they see as sell-outs and reactionary Islamic radical pretenders. There have already been some fatal clashes between ISIL and Taliban in eastern and southern Afghanistan. ISIL has also attracted recruits from the Pakistani Taliban and released a video showing a former leaders of another Pakistan Islamic terrorist faction now becoming a leader of the Pakistani branch of ISIL.

The Taliban (or local drug gangs assuming the name) only have a lot of control in four of 373 districts (each province is composed of districts). The Taliban are very active in over ten percent of districts, mainly in the south (Helmand and Kandahar, where most of the heroin is produced) and the east (where many ISI supported Islamic terrorist groups operate). Eastern Afghanistan is also the main transit route for drug exports and those drugs (heroin, opium and a few others) generates the cash that keeps the Taliban a major problem. There is also significant Taliban activity in the north, where another major drug smuggling route goes through Central Asia. But the main route is in the east, which goes to the Pakistani port of Karachi and thence the world. While the Taliban related violence is usually described as the Taliban on the attack the reality is that the Taliban are trying to defend their drug production areas and the territory through which the drug exports go. Over 90 percent of the drugs produced in Afghanistan are exported because that’s where the money is. There are over two million Afghan addicts (and that is a major reason for Taliban unpopularity) and they not afford to pay much for their opium or heroin. It’s the foreign users who pay the most. Follow the money if you want to find out what is wrong in Afghanistan and why.

Can Natural Gas Be a Game-Changer for China?

By Luan “Jonathan” Dong
February 10, 2015

The original version of this article appeared on the Wilson Center’s New Security Beat.

On the heels of a landmark U.S.-China climate agreement, 2015 will be a critical year for China’s environmental and energy policy. A revised and much stricter Environmental Protection Law went into force on January 1; new amendments to the Air Pollution Law are likely to be put in place; and the National Development and Reform Commission will draft a new five-year plan.

A monumental shift from coal to natural gas is achievable and necessary

2015 will be particularly critical for the natural gas sector. China is home to the largest shale gas reserves in the world and the government’s plans to cap coal consumption on the way to eventually stalling CO2 emissions growth by 2030 rely heavily on cleaner natural gas challenging coal’s dominance. The State Council recently set forth a target for natural gas to comprise over 10 percent of the country’s primary energy consumption by 2020. From its current share of 6 percent, the industry has a long way to go, made more difficult by the recent drop in oil prices, which has forced state-owned enterprises such as Sinopec to sell unprofitable liquefied natural gas import contracts.

Still, a monumental shift from coal to natural gas is achievable and necessary, according to energy experts. In a new report, Clearing the Air: Is Natural Gas China’s Game Changer for Coal?, the Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum asked three top energy experts to explain how difficult this transition will be and what’s at stake.

Supply Can Meet Demand

China’s natural gas industry will be able to meet increasing demands through a combination of domestic production and imports, says Hengwei Liu from the Harbin Institute of Technology.

Mr. Xi Goes to Washington: China's President to Visit US

By Shannon Tiezzi
February 10, 2015

Chinese President Xi Jinping has been in power for nearly two years (longer, if you begin counting from the time he took over as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party), but he has yet to make a state visit to Washington DC. That is set to change this year, according to officials from both Washington and Beijing.

On Friday, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice announced that the Obama administration had invited Xi for a state visit, along with several other regional leaders. “I’m pleased to announce today that we have invited Prime Minister Abe of Japan and President Xi of China for state visits, and we look forward to welcoming other Asian leaders to the White House this year — including President Park of South Korea and President Widodo of Indonesia,” Rice said.

China’s ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, also confirmed to reporters that Washington and Beijing are making arrangements for Xi to visit the U.S., according to China Daily. Xi’s visit follows Obama’s state visit to China in November 2014.

There’s no word yet on when the state visit will take place, but September 2015 is one likely time frame. AsXinhua points out, Xi is expected to travel to New York City this September to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. Obama also double-dipped on his trip to China last year, both attending the APEC summit in Beijing and holding a bilateral summit with Xi.

If Xi’s visit comes in September, that means a number of other bilateral summits — Xi and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Xi and Russia’s Vladimir Putin (and possibly Kim Jong-un), and Obama and Abe — will take place first.

While this will be Xi’s first state visit to the U.S., it’s not his first time visiting the country. Xi traveled across the U.S. in February 2012, while still China’s leader-in-waiting. He also met with U.S. President Barack Obama in California in June 2013 for an informal “shirt-sleeves summit.”

Xi Jinping's War on China

Elizabeth C. Economy
February 9, 2015

As Xi Jinping nears the two-year mark of his tenure as president of China, he might want to take stock of what is working on the political front and what is not. Here are some early wins and losses.

Certainly, his anti-corruption campaign has hit its target—hundreds of thousands of them to be exact—and shows little sign of slowing down. He has cast a wide net, leaving little doubt that no sector of society—party, military, business, or other—is completely safe. Still, Xi remains vulnerable to accusations that the campaign is at least partially politically motivated, given that almost half of the senior-most officials arrested are tied in some way to his political opponents, and none of his Fujian or Zhejiang associates have been detained. He might want to bring some transparency to the process: uncertainty and fear of running afoul of some regulation or another are driving many officials to avoid making decisions or taking action.

Xi’s ideological war has also taken hold far more rapidly than anyone might have imagined. The Internet as a forum for lively political discourse has virtually closed down, and his crack team of propagandists are constantly coming up with new ideas to turn back the information age for the average Chinese citizen. Banning foreign textbooks,blocking Gmail and VPNs, and putting cameras in classrooms to report on professors are just some of the initiatives underway. It is hard to reconcile Xi’s desire to support China’s most creative and innovative thinkers—much less attract back those who have made their lives abroad—to jumpstart the economy with policies designed to block communication and access to information. If he doesn’t reign in the Liu Yunshan’s and Lu Wei’s soon, he should probably expect a wave of China’s best and brightest to get their passports in order.

Xi has had less success in his efforts to reform social policy. Perhaps nothing is as surprising as the failure of the relaxation of the one-child policy to encourage young Chinese couples to have more children. In late 2013, Beijing issued new rules that permitted couples to have a second child if either parent was an only child. The government saw relaxation of the policy as a win-win—addressing both a significant source of societal discontent as well as the challenge posed by an aging population and shrinking labor force. Initially, the government estimated that with the reform, approximately eleven million additional couples would be eligible to have a second child. They anticipated that roughly two million new babies would be born each year. Instead, only one million couples applied, and as one Chinese expert estimates, there have been only 600,000 to 700,000 newborn second babies—roughly one-third of what the Family Planning Commission had anticipated. Analysts suggest that there are a number of reasons for the baby shortfall: no preschool for children under three, toxic environmental conditions, economic concerns, and even too much success in inculcating the value of a one-child policy.

Is China Making Its Own Terrorism Problem Worse?

FEBRUARY 9, 2015 

When an SUV crashed through a crowd at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in late 2013, killing two bystanders and injuring 40, it didn’t take Chinese officials long to name culprits. The attackers, they said, had been members of China’s Uighur Muslim minority, with “links to many international extremist terrorist groups.” Police said they found a flag bearing jihadi emblems in the crashed vehicle and blamed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, or ETIM, a group named after the independent state China says some Uighurs want to establish in the far-western region of Xinjiang. After the attack, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called ETIM “China’s most direct and realistic security threat.”

Beijing has long characterized cases of Uighur violence as organized acts of terrorism and accused individual attackers of having ties to international jihadi groups. Back in 2001, China released a document claiming that “Eastern Turkistan” terrorists had received training from Osama bin Laden and the Taliban and then “fought in combats in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Uzbekistan, or returned to Xinjiang for terrorist and violent activities.” Since then, China has frequently blamed ETIM for violence in Xinjiang and elsewhere.

But scholars, human rights groups, and Uighur advocates argue that China is systematically exaggerating the threat Uighurs pose to justify its repressive policies in Xinjiang. The region’s onetime-majority Uighur population of roughly 10 million, which is ethnically Turkic, has been marginalized for decades by ethnic Han Chinese migrants that Beijing has encouraged to move there in the hope that they’d help integrate the restive region into China.

The repression has been getting worse. Since the region’s bloody ethnic clashes in 2009, the government has increased regulations on Muslim practices, restricting veils and beards and strictly enforcing rules that prohibit many from fasting during Ramadan or visiting mosques. Heightened security operations have led in some cases to imprisonment, executions, and suspected torture. Government materials about how to spot extremists (hint: they tend to look like Uighurs) elide religiosity with terrorism.


Daveed Gartenstein-Ross
February 9, 2015

Estimates of the number of fighters in the ranks of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are extraordinarily wide-ranging. On the low end of things, CNN’s Barbara Starr recently reported that “U.S. intelligence estimates that ISIL has a total force of somewhere between 9,000 to 18,000 fighters.” In late 2014, the CIA’s estimate of ISIL’s numbers was slightly higher, as its analysts assessed that the group had between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters between its Iraq and Syria holdings.

Other estimates are far higher. Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, has said that ISIL has more than50,000 fighters in Syria alone. The chief of the Russian General Staff recently said that Russia estimates ISIL to have “70,000 gunmen of various nationalities.” In late August of 2014, Baghdad-based security expert Hisham al-Hashimi claimed that ISIL’s total membership could be close to 100,000. By November, Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff to Kurdish president Massoud Barzani, told Patrick Cockburn of The Independent that the CIA’s estimates were far too low, and that ISIL had at least 200,000 fighters.

Given this range of estimates, questions naturally arise: Who is right? Which estimate is closest to ISIL’s true numbers? To assess these questions, it’s necessary to consider which parts of ISIL’s force the estimates are attempting to count, the total amount of territory ISIL is occupying, and the attrition that coalition forces have inflicted upon ISIL. Bearing in mind all of these factors, it becomes clear not only that the high-end figures are plausible, but also that they are far more likely than the unrealistically low numbers propounded by U.S. intelligence.

The figure of 200,000 ISIL fighters advanced by Fuad Hussein includes support personnel (ansar), police-style security forces (hisba), local militias, border guards, paramilitary personnel associated with the group’s various security bodies (mukhabarat, assas, amniyat, and amn al-khas), and conscripts and trainees. The actual number of ISIL front-line and garrison fighters is much lower, which are divided between their regular forces (jund), the elite paramilitary (inghimasiyun, which alone may have up to 15,000 members), and death squad (dhabbihah) personnel. Unless one is able to objectively evaluate these bodies, merely throwing out raw numbers is meaningless.


By Kenneth Katzman, Christopher M. Blanchard, Carla E. Humud, Rhoda Margesson and Matthew C. Weed*
FEBRUARY 10, 2015

The Islamic State (IS, aka the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL/ISIS) is a transnational Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group that has expanded its control over areas of northwestern Iraq and northeastern Syria since 2013, threatening the security of both countries and drawing increased attention from the international community. The Islamic State has thrived in the disaffected Sunni Muslim-inhabited areas of Iraq and in the remote provinces of Syria torn by the civil war. The Islamic State’s tactics have drawn the ire of the international community, increasing U.S. attention on Iraq’s political problems and on the civil war in Syria.

Although the Islamic State is considered a direct threat to U.S. interests in the Middle East, it is unclear if it currently poses a significant direct threat to U.S. homeland security. In September 2014, then-National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen stated that the group poses “a direct and significant threat to us—and to Iraqi and Syrian civilians—in the region and potentially to us here at home.”1 Olsen said that the group’s “strategic goal is to establish an Islamic caliphate through armed conflict with governments it considers apostate—including Iraq, Syria, and the United States.” Olsen further said that “we have no credible information that ISIL is planning to attack the U.S.,” and highlighted potential threats posed by foreign fighters with Western passports. U.S. officials report that as many as 16,000 foreign fighters from 90 countries have travelled to Syria, including more than 1,000 Europeans, and more than 100 U.S. citizens, with approximately 12 Americans believed to be fighting there as of September 2014.

According to Olsen, U.S. counterterrorism officials “remain mindful of the possibility that an ISIL-sympathizer—perhaps motivated by online propaganda—could conduct a limited, self- directed attack here at home with no warning.” However, Olsen noted that, “In our view, any threat to the U.S. homeland from these types of extremists is likely to be limited in scope and scale.” A CIA spokesperson provided an updated estimate of the IS organization’s size in September 2014, saying the group could muster 20,000 to 31,500 individuals. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 16 that two-thirds of the Islamic State organization’s personnel then remained in Syria.

Winning: ISIL And The Future Of Islamic Terrorism

February 2, 2015: ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) was seemingly invincible and unstoppable in mid-2014. In July 2014 ISIL had recently taken control of Mosul (the largest city in northern Iraq) and was advancing on Baghdad, the Kurdish north and the capital of western Iraq (Anbar province). Similar gains were being made in Syria. All that has changed in the last few months. ISIL still holds the cities of Raqqa (the largest city in eastern Syria) and Mosul in Iraq. But both cities are increasingly rebellious and require a growing number of ISIL gunmen to maintain control. Now ISIL is in retreat in Iraq and Syria. Sunni tribes in Anbar and western Syria are in open revolt and subject to increasingly savage reprisals by ISIL gunmen (often foreigners, which makes the tribesmen angrier). Half the ISIL leadership has been killed by coalition (Arab, NATO and allied) warplanes since August 2014. This air support and a Iraqi soldiers, Kurdish troops, Shia militias and armed Sunni tribesmen have taken back much of the territory ISIL overran in early 2014. American and other Western troops are rebuilding the Iraqi Army and arming anti-ISIL Sunni tribesmen. Iran is training and sometimes leading Shia militias. In Syria ISIL is getting beaten by Kurds, Syrian soldiers and more Iranian trained Shia militias. 

While still bringing in new recruits from outside of Syria and Iraq, ISIL has lost the propaganda war inside those two counties and the Islamic world in general. History often repeats itself and in the case of Iraqi Islamic terrorists there is, for the second time since 2007, a major dip in Islamic terrorist approval ratings because of the brutality of Iraqi Islamic terrorists. Back in 2007 it was the "Al Qaeda In Iraq" leadership that was out of control. At the time opinion polls in Moslem countries showed approval and support of al Qaeda plunging, in some cases to single digits. This came after the 2003 invasion of Iraq when al Qaeda managed to take itself from hero to zero in less than four years. Al Qaeda has since recovered somewhat but that kinder and gentler approach did not last and by 2013 the Iraqi al Qaeda (now ISIL) was again losing popular support. That was quite visible after June 2014 when ISIL seized control of parts of Iraq and promptly slaughtered captured Iraqi soldiers and police, mainly because these men were Shia. Then ISIL declared the parts of Syria and Iraq it controlled were the new Moslem caliphate.

Naturally the ISIL leaders running this new caliphate called on all Moslems to follow them in making the new caliphate work. Most Moslems responded, according to subsequent opinion polls, by expressing greater fear rather than more admiration for Islamic terrorist groups, especially ISIL. This was not a radical change in attitude. Earlier in 2014 al Qaeda leadership condemned ISIL for being completely out of control and not to be trusted or supported. Throughout 2104 opinion polls showed Moslems becoming more hostile to Islamic terrorists, seeing them as a cause for concern not as defenders of Islam. The same thing happened back in 2007. Then as now there continued to be young (teens and twenties) Moslem men who saw all this mindless mayhem as an attraction and kept rushing to join the slaughter (most often of themselves). The Islamic world has not been able to control these violent young men or the older men who encourage and organize this violence.

Are the Ukraine Crisis and ISIS Threatening the Pivot to Asia?

By Franz-Stefan Gady
February 10, 2015

The chairman of the U.S. House of Representative’sSeapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, Representative Randy Forbes (R-Virginia), is worried that the ongoing fight against the terror group Islamic State, as well as the current fighting in Ukraine, could divert resources from the U.S. military’s pivot to Asia,according to dodbuzz.com.

“One of the major components to the Pacific pivot is the relationship we have with our allies in terms of all coming together. (…) Devoting credible resources to the capabilities required to ensure U.S. presence in Asia is the only way to ensure that the ‘rebalance’ is more than just a slogan. (…) Both our allies and our competitors judge our commitment to the Asia-Pacific region by the capabilities we maintain,” Forbes states.

On the wording of re-arranging the U.S. global force posture, he observes: “Enhancement is a better word [than pivot or rebalance] because we have the Russian concern and of course ISIS and Africa that we are concerned with. Things don’t happen singularly they happen in multiple situations. That is why we have to look at why we have to increase presence.”

Congressman Forbes is also worried that the Pentagon’s recent move to close the Air Sea Battle Office (ASBO) and drop the Air Sea Battle name can send the wrong signal to allies in the region. “I worry because taking away the AirSea Battle concept is sending a huge message to them about whether we are going to be players or not,” he emphasizes.

Forbes further notes that, “there are A2/AD defenses that we need to penetrate. It is not just China but Iran and all over the globe… The need is still there I just really question whether we have the right resources to get what we need.”

However, dodbuzz.com quotes an unnamed navy official who underlined that “there is nothing to suggest that the Pacific rebalance will not proceed as planned. The CNO (Chief of Naval Operations) has said we’re going to do a 60–40 force structure rebalance there by 2020. There is nothing to indicate that won’t happen.” The new White House National Security Strategy, released last week, also reiterated its commitment to the Asian pivot.

Here's Why Arming Ukraine Would Be a Disaster

James Carden
February 10, 2015

The joint report by the Brookings Institution, the Atlantic Council and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs calling for the United States to arm Ukraine to the tune of $3 billion a year through 2017 provoked a surprisingly strong (and much needed) backlash from several important policy hands in Washington. Within forty-eight hours of the report’s release, well-respected Russia experts from Brookings, the Carnegie Endowment, Kissinger Associates and the Kennan Institute voiced their well-founded objections to the report’s recommendations.

Not that we should expect Capitol Hill to take much notice. Already, Senator John McCain and a bipartisan group of over forty House and Senate legislators have called upon the Obama administration to send military aid to Kiev. At a press conference on Thursday, McCain scolded the Europeans for not properly learning the lessons of Munich in 1938: “They've been a huge disappointment to me. Their actions recently have been reminiscent of the 1930s.” For the neocons, it’s never not 1938.

This was followed by McCain’s egregious—though given his past behavior, not terribly surprising—acting out in Munich on Saturday, where he dismissed German chancellor Angela Merkel’s calls for a diplomatic approach to the standoff as mere “foolishness.”

That the United States and NATO have the capability to “level the playing field” by arming Kiev with radars and anti-tank missiles is a commonly held idea among supporters of McCain’s preferred policy option. The argument goes something like this: every time Kiev’s forces have been on the verge of victory over the separatist forces, Russia has stepped in, escalated and turned the tide in favor of the rebels. We see this happening right now in the battle taking place in and around the Debaltseve junction in eastern Ukraine. We may well see something similar occur in and around Mariupol. If the West, so the argument goes, would just provide Kiev with the armaments it needs, then Kiev would have a better chance at securing a victory over the rebels. After all, if the Russians can supply their clients, why can’t we supply ours?

Obama's National-Security Wish List

James Joyner
February 10, 2015

The Obama administration’s long-overdue update to the National Security Strategy hit the streets Friday morning. It is in many ways a remarkable document, lucidly describing the foreign (and domestic) policy vision of the only global power, nodding to an enormous number of allies, partners and stakeholders. It is, however, only loosely about national security. More importantly, it’s decidedly not a strategy.

Despite President Obama’s assurance in the introductory paragraph that the document “sets out the principles and priorities to guide the use of American power” and his recognition that “our resources will never be limitless. Policy tradeoffs and hard choices will need to be made,” he goes on to list in bullet form eight “top strategic risks to our interests” that, in their own right and as expanded upon in the rest of the document, are anything but limited or prioritized.

Taken in microcosm, the dozens of unprioritized priorities of the 2015 NSS are banal. There’s little over which to disagree on a point-by-point basis. Indeed, like most of its predecessors, it reads like a summary of recent issues of publications like Foreign Affairsand The National Interest written by junior bureaucrats on the National Security Staff that’s then been edited by the president’s domestic-policy advisors—which, in fairness, is pretty much what it is.

Given that neither America’s essential position in the world, nor the administration in the White House has changed since the May 2010 release of the last NSS, it’s perhaps unsurprising that little is new here. There are nods to the Arab spring, the Asia pivot, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the opening to Cuba and changes to the global energy market—as well as repeated references to the improved state of the U.S. economy—but otherwise the priorities are pretty much as before. Which is to say, there are no priorities.

As with its predecessor, a recurrent theme of the document is what the president hails in his introductory letter as “an undeniable truth—America must lead.” Indeed, he assures us, “The question is never whether America should lead, but how we lead.”

ISIS' Worst Nightmare: The U.S. and Russia Teaming Up on Terrorism

Thomas Graham, Simon Saradzhyan
February 10, 2015

Can the United States, European Union and Russia cooperate against the burgeoning common threat posed by the so-called Islamic State, even as their diplomats cross swords over the most recent escalation of fighting in Ukraine? The short answer is yes, but the path to cooperation will not be easy. The hard truth is that even when relations were good, counterterrorism cooperation was never as robust as many had hoped after 9/11. This was because of a fundamental conceptual gap about the nature of the terrorist threat.

For the United States, the threat comes in the guise of foreign radicals, determined to undermine the institutions of American society. That is the lesson Washington drew from 9/11 as it formulated its response. Al Qaeda in fact might have had a more limited goal of driving the United States from the Middle East, but Washington depicted the threat as one against the West's fundamental democratic values. For Russia, the terrorist threat is inextricably linked to separatism. That was the lesson Moscow drew from Chechnya as it formulated its counterterrorist policies. There were quite a few radical Islamists among the Chechen fighters even in the 1990s, but Moscow primarily saw them as a group determined to carve off territory for an independent secular state, not necessarily to destroy Russian society as such.

In the 2000s, that disparity complicated counterterrorism discussions. The United States was interested in intelligence sharing on Al Qaeda; the Russians wanted information on exiled Chechens that they suspected of supporting violent separatism. Neither had much to offer the other, because their collections of priorities were focused on the main threat to their own countries, not on helping the other deal with its problem. Worse, from Moscow’s perspective, the West granted refuge to Chechens it considered terrorists.

Europe's 4 Deadliest Military Powers

Dave Majumdar
February 10, 2015

Throughout modern history, Europe has fielded some of the world’s most capable military forces. While many of those powers are nowhere near their zenith, they still field some of the most technologically advanced forces anywhere on Earth.

European nations used to dominate the planet. But after two destructive world wars, most of countries couldn’t keep up with the United States and the Soviet Union, which emerged as superpowers after the Second World War. The military capabilities of most European nations further atrophied after the end of the Cold War as the Soviet threat receded into history.

Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe, the once mighty Soviet military went into a steep decline and never really recovered since 1991.

Still, Europe maintains some formidable fighting forces. Here are the top 4 European armed forces today:


Russia remains the single most powerful military force in Europe even though its military forces and industrial base have greatly atrophied since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, backed up by its extremely formidable nuclear arsenal, it retains significant forces.

The key to Russia’s military power is its nuclear arsenal, which is rivaled only by the United States. The country retains thousands of nuclear warheads—both strategic and tactical— which by default makes Russia one of the most significant powers on Earth.

Russia’s conventional forces are not what they used to be. While the Soviet Union maintained massive and well equipped conventional forces, Russia does not have the money, manpower or industrial base that its communist forbearer did.

Nonetheless, Russia is one of the only European powers that retains the ability to develop its own hardware ranging from nuclear submarines, and ballistic and cruise missiles, to tanks, fighters, jet engines, to satellites without outside assistance—even if the quality of the equipment isn’t the best.

Do We Really Understand Unconventional Warfare?

Do We Really Understand Unconventional Warfare?

America May Not Be Interested In Unconventional Warfare
But UW Is Being Practiced Around The World By Those Who Are Interested In It

The United States has the most powerful conventional military force and the strongest nuclear deterrent in the world. It remains the sole superpower because it is well prepared to fight and win in state on state conflict. Yet the majority of wars, conflicts, and threats in the 21st Century are unlikely to be purely conventional or nuclear. In the 21st Century we are more likely to experience kinds of warfare for which scholars have been hard pressed to find a name. Scholars have used many names including irregular warfare, hybrid warfare, 4th Generation Warfare, and of course the post 9-11 rediscovery of insurgency and counterinsurgency. Yet despite all these various names the one overarching form of warfare that encompasses all is unconventional warfare (UW). However, the fundamental question is do we understand unconventional warfare? And if not, why not?

We know that the Department of Defense (DOD) defines unconventional warfare as “activities to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt or overthrow a government or occupying power through and with an underground, auxiliary, and guerrilla force in a denied area.”[1] Although this was designed by the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) UW working group in 2009 to be a broad definition and apply generally to this form of warfare and not specifically from a U.S. centric perspective it continues to connote a very narrow description of warfare (e.g., the overthrow of a hostile government) and has often been relegated to the province of Special Operations Forces and more specifically Special Forces.[2] Furthermore many political leaders either fear the blowback from such operations or, perhaps worse, have unrealistic expectations of the efficacy of UW. However, as I have argued before, if the United States is going to consider employing unconventional warfare as an option in support of policy and strategy then it is imperative that policy makers, strategists, and theater commanders and staffs have sufficient understanding of and appreciation for unconventional warfare not only if UW is to be conducted by the US government but also for when the US government must develop policies and strategies to conduct operations to counter unconventional warfare executed by opponents of the US or our friends, partners and allies.[3]