17 April 2015

Why Russia Will Send More Troops to Central Asia


    
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Summary

Russia is making a concerted effort to increase its military and security presence throughout Central Asia, just not for the reasons it would have you think. Though the Kremlin is concerned with the threat of spillover violence from Islamist militancy in Afghanistan — its purported motive for deploying more troops — it is far more alarmed by what it sees as Chinese and Western encroachment into lands over which it has long held sway. It is this concern that will shape Moscow's behavior in Central Asia in the years to come.

Analysis

Central Asia has played an important role in the projection of Russian military power since the Russian Empire's expansion in the 18th and 19th centuries. During this period, Russia established military outposts as it competed with the British Empire for influence in the region. By the mid-19th century, Russia had brought modern-day Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan into its empire. In the early 20th century, the countries were incorporated into the Soviet Union.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia retained a military presence in Central Asia and played a major role in regional conflicts, such as the 1992-1997 Tajik civil war. Today Russia still has military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Kazakhstan is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a military bloc dominated by Moscow. And while Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are not members of the bloc, they do have important security and military ties with Russia through arms purchases.

Concerns of Militancy

Russia's long-standing influence in Central Asian military affairs frames several of the country's recent moves. On April 2, the base commander of Russia's 201st military base in Tajikistan said Russia would increase the number of troops stationed there from 5,900 to 9,000 over the next five years and add more military equipment through 2020. Then on April 3 an unnamed source in the General Staff of the Russian armed forces told Kommersant that Russia was prepared to grant Tajikistan $1.2 billion in military aid over the next few years. Russian military specialists were reportedly dispatched to Turkmenistan's border with Afghanistan on March 24 as well. Turkmen officials have yet to confirm this, but local media report that Ashgabat requested Russian assistance to protect the Afghan border.
Officially, these developments are tied to growing concern over violence spilling over from Afghanistan into Central Asia. It is a legitimate fear for many Central Asian governments as NATO and the United States draw down their forces in Afghanistan. Regional governments have voiced discomfort with the increased militant presence in northern Afghanistan, including the Taliban and theIslamic State.
Russia has echoed this fear. Russian President Vladimir Putin's special representative for Afghanistan alleged that Islamic State fighters in the north are training thousands of militants near the Tajikistan and Turkmenistan borders. Collective Security Treaty Organization summits have focused on the issue, and Tajikistan urged the bloc to do more to counter the threat at the April 1-2 Dushanbe summit.
Despite a definite uptick in militant attacks in northern Afghanistan, no concrete evidence has emerged of attacks over the border in Central Asian states. Central Asia's last major wave of regionwide militancy was 1999-2001, when the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan conducted attacks in the Fergana Valley in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The U.S. intervention in Afghanistan following 9/11, however, wiped out much of the group. Surviving elements then dispersed throughout the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area.
Since then, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan have seen some attacks by Islamist militants. But many were related to political dynamics, not the movement in Afghanistan. A spillover of Afghan militancy is possible, but so far the threat is minimal.

More Pertinent Factors

Because Islamist spillover from northern Afghanistan is still a relatively minor threat, Russia's push into Central Asia may have other motivations. Moscow is engaged in a tense standoff with the West over Ukraine, just one theater in the competition for influence along the former Soviet periphery. Central Asia is another key region in this contest. The region possesses sizable oil and natural gas resources that are attractive to the European Union as it seeks to diversify energy supplies and end its dependence on Russia. Europe has already pursued Turkmenistan to join the Trans-Caspian pipeline project.
The United States has also been active in Central Asia, particularly from a security standpoint. The United States no longer uses Central Asian military bases that had been logistical centers for operations in Afghanistan, such as the Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan or the Karshi-Khanabad Air Base in Uzbekistan. These bases, however, have left a regional legacy. Washington maintains some security operations that include counternarcotics training with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The United States has also expressed interest in increasing its commitment. The commander of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Lloyd Austin, said the United States was willing to provide military equipment and technology to support Turkmenistan's efforts to secure its border with Afghanistan. The United States also announced in January that it would grant over 200 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to Uzbekistan previously used in the U.S. Northern Distribution Network in Afghanistan. Such gestures point to a U.S. desire to develop more cooperative security relationships with Central Asian states.
Moscow's military and security expansion efforts stem partly from its concern about these gestures. But Russia has not limited itself to deploying military personnel. Moscow has expanded the scope and membership of its Eurasian Union to include broader cooperation on issues including border controls. Kazakhstan is already a member, and Kyrgyzstan will soon join. Russia increased the number of exercises held by Collective Security Treaty Organization members. It also called on Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to cooperate more with the security bloc, though both have been hesitant.
However, Moscow's ability to solidify its position in Central Asia will be limited. Russia has a weak economy. Already, many Central Asian migrants who once worked in Russia have left, causing a decline in Russian remittances to the region. The West, and particularly the United States, will continue to have influence in the region. China, too, will continue to make economic and energy inroads.
Meanwhile, instability in the region will probably increase. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan both have potential succession crises in the offing. Moreover, demographic growth and competition over water resources are likely to threaten the region's security. Russia will see its position in Central Asia tested in the coming years. Islamist militancy is just one concern among many for Moscow and Central Asian governments.
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The Lakhvi Triangle

APRIL 16, 2015
The first few months of 2015 offered a glimmer of hope in the long, twisted history of the India-Pakistan rivalry. On February 11, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to wish Pakistan luck in the cricket World Cup, and to offer to send his new Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to Islamabad for talks. But just two months later, the Lahore High Court’s approval of Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi’s release from prison on April 10 thoroughly tanked any near-term prospects for improved relations between the two countries. Lakhvi is the 55-year-old operational head of the Kashmir-focused Islamic militant groupLashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and alleged mastermind of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

The court’s decision has left Indian leaders fuming and has drawn criticismfrom the U.S. government. A deterioration in Pakistan’s relations with either nation will be detrimental to regional and global security and, in the case of bilateral India-Pakistan ties, the ultimate stability of both countries. A recent Atlantic Council report estimates that an expansion in bilateral trade between India and Pakistan could generate up to $400 billion in just a few years, while freeing resources currently tied up in bloated defense spending and improve access to resources like water and electricity. The stakes in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship are also high, with Washington supplying billions of dollars in military and economic aid to Islamabad each year in hopes of eliciting critical counterterrorism cooperation and the facilitation — both political and logistical — of NATO’s projected withdrawal from Afghanistan.

China Invests Billions in Its ‘All-Weather Friendship’ With Pakistan

APRIL 16, 2015
The two prongs of China’s “Go West” strategy, an overland route across Central Asia and a maritime belt across the Indian Ocean, appear to be converging in the deep waters of the port of Gwadar in Pakistan.

Just as Washington is straining to flesh out its pivot to Asia, provoked in part by worries over Chinese aggression, Beijing seems to be accelerating both the economic and security aspects of its own lurch west, with potentially big implications for India, South Asia, and the Middle East.

Chinese president Xi Jinping will visit Pakistan next week bearing gifts, some $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investment deals, Reuters and other media reported Thursday. The two countries enjoy close relations, often touted as an “all-weather friendship,” and Beijing and Islamabad have talked up multi-billion dollar projects for years, involving everything from hydroelectric plants to highways. But bilateral ties are intensifying due to Pakistan’s need to short-circuit public unrest at acute energy shortages, and China’s desire to bolster the economic prospects of its own underdevelopedwestern provinces and find fresh opportunities as its domestic economy slams on the brakes.

Military institute student to son of ex-judge, Islamic State taps Dhaka gen-next

Praveen Swami
April 16, 2015 
Source Link


He was just the kind of son that parents across the sub-continent are known to pray for. Soft-spoken and hard-working, Ashiqur Rahman had chalked up a stellar record as an engineering student at the elite Military Institute of Science and Technology in Dhaka — even his spare time was spent in studying Arabic.

Early this year, Rahman was selected for a conference in Istanbul. Then, one day in February, he disappeared.Rahman’s shattered parents came to know later from the Directorate-General of FieldIntelligence, Bangladesh’s military intelligence service, that there had been no conference: their son was somewhere inside the stretch of land in Iraq and Syria controlled by Islamic State.

“The government won a war against terrorists radicalised by the jihad in Afghanistan. Now, we are facing a second-generation terrorist, smarter and better educated than the first,” said Monirul Islam, Joint Commissioner with the Dhaka Metropolitan Police. Islam was referring to the ruthless — and successful — battle waged by Sheikh Hasina’sgovernment less than a decade ago against jihadist networks such as the Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B) and the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). 

Shadow from the West

Pakistan, Russia to hold first-ever joint military exercises

By: Press Trust of India
April 16, 2015 
Source Link


Pakistan and Russia have agreed to hold first-ever joint military exercises as part of their enhanced defence cooperation, in a sign of increasing bonhomie between the Cold War-era adversaries.

The agreement was reached during a meeting in Moscow between Pakistan DefenceMinister Khawaja Asif and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, Express Tribune reported.

“We agreed to enhance cooperation in both defence industry and military training,” Asif was quoted as saying by state-run Russian news agency Sputnik International.

Asif is on an official visit to Moscow to attend a regional security conference. He held talks with the Russian defence minister, during which the two ministers agreed to increase military cooperation in training and import of arms and equipment.

They also reached a consensus that a multi-polar world would ensure peace and balance in international relations. Pakistan and Russia last year signed a military cooperation agreement to deepen their defence ties and vowed to translate their relationship in “tangible” terms during the first-ever visit of a Russian defence minister in 45 years.

Russian Defence Minister Shoigu’s visit last November to Pakistan came at a very critical juncture as US-led NATO forces drawdown from Afghanistan.Russia lifted embargoes on providing defence supplies to Pakistan and currently the two sides are working on different options to increase the ties in the defence field.

Sanskrit fever grips Germany: 14 universities teaching India's ancient language struggle to meet demand as students clamour for courses

14 April 2015

Will Germans be the eventual custodians of Sanskrit, its rich heritage and culture? If the demand for Sanskrit and Indology courses in Germany is any indication, that’s what the future looks like. 

Unable to cope with the flood of applications from around the world, the South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg, had to start a summer school in spoken Sanskrit in Switzerland, Italy and - believe it or not - India too. 

“When we started it 15 years ago, we were almost ready to shut it after a couple of years. Instead, we had to increase strength and take the course to other European countries,” said Professor Dr. Axel Michaels, head of classical Indology at the university. 

The summer school in spoken Sanskrit at the South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg, is attended by students from all over the world

In Germany, 14 of the top universities teach Sanskrit, classical and modern Indology compared to just four in the UK. The summer school spans a month in August every year and draws applications from across the globe. 

Air Transportation: Russia Shuts Down Indian An-32s


April 15, 2015: The Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine is being felt as far away as India. That’s because the last five of 40 Indian AN-32 transports being upgraded in Ukraine have, well, sort of disappeared. Ukrainian engineers working in India to upgrade another 64 An-32s were called home and India can no longer get An-32 spare parts from Ukraine. The original contract called for 40 An-32s to be upgraded in Ukraine and another 64 in India. Now India faces the prospect of most of its aging An-32s becoming inoperable by the end of the decade. India is desperate to remedy this situation and is considering purchasing new transports. This is a very expensive alternative, but appears to be the only one.

In 2009, after years of talk, India finally contracted a Ukrainian firm to upgrade and refurbish its aging fleet of over a hundred An-32 transports. This was to include new engine components, new cockpit electronics and refurbishing or rebuilding structural elements as needed. This would enable the An-32s to serve another 15-20 years, as well as increasing range and payload a bit. This is a lot cheaper than buying new aircraft; about $10 million each for an An-32, and more than double that for a Western equivalent.

What finally got the contract signed was a recent crash of an An-32, while flying in the mountainous north. The wreckage was found at 3,700 meters (12,000 feet). It's tricky flying in this kind of terrain, not just because of the mountains, but because of the bad weather, and the fact that the An-32s are old. The upgrades were to cost about $3 million per aircraft. The work began in 2009 and was to be completed by 2017.

The An-32 is actually a modernized, and most recent version, of the Russian An-24 transport. The original design is from the early 1960s. Over 1,100 AN-24s were built, and over 600 are still in use. Before the end of the 60s, some 600 of an improved version, the An-26, were built, and over 200 are still flying. It's easy to confuse the An-24 and An-26, and journalists (and government officials) often do so. In the 1970s, even more powerful versions (An-30, An-32), entered service, but only about 360 of these were made. India was the principal customer for the 27 ton An-32, which is basically an An-26 with better engines and modifications for tropical operations. This version can carry 6.7 tons of cargo or up to 50 passengers. Max speed is 540 kilometers an hour and range is 2,500 kilometers. The crew consists of two pilots and a loadmaster.

Not a zero sum game

http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/not-a-zero-sum-game-2/
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Written by Christophe Jaffrelot | Updated: April 16, 2015 

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s upcoming visit to India will not resemble those of his predecessor. In contrast to Hamid Karzai, the new Afghan president does not have the image of a great friend of India. In fact, he is coming to Delhi after five official trips to other countries, including China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan (twice) and the US.

While Karzai had signed a strategic partnership agreement with India in 2011, Ghani has shelved Afghanistan’s demand for military equipment from Delhi and suspended the construction of a $400 million tank and aircraft refurbishing plant funded by India. At the same time, he has taken up the longstanding Pakistani offer for Afghan army cadets to train in Pakistan. Another gesture that Islamabad (and Rawalpindi) appreciated was the delivery of the captured Latif Mehsud, a close associate of former TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, to Pakistan. After the Peshawar tragedy of December 2014, the Pakistani chief of army staff, Raheel Sharif, who had rushed to Kabul claiming that the operation had been orchestrated by Mullah Fazlullah, the new TTP chief, from Kunar, congratulated himself for the Afghan army deploying 1,500 troops to battle the Pakistani Taliban in the region.

Why is Ghani making so many concessions for Pakistan and, in particular, for theGeneral Headquarters in Rawalpindi, with which, in contrast to his predecessor, he has been trying to establish close links — understandably, given the declining authority of Nawaz Sharif? Primarily because he expects Pakistan to give him access to the Taliban shuras of Quetta and Peshawar. This is key to promoting the Afghan reconciliationprocess, which is his priority. One may recall that, in his first speech as president of Afghanistan, he had invited the Taliban to take part in peace talks. But to no avail — the Taliban is still insisting on preconditions that Kabul cannot accept, including the withdrawal of American troops. In fact, last month, Ghani asked President Barack Obama not to reduce the size of the US military contingent in 2015 — it was supposed to be halved by the end of the year. Obama has obliged.
But will Pakistan help Ghani? So far, it has not reciprocated. Certainly, the atmosphere has changed. Karzai used to accuse Pakistan of being a safe haven for Taliban groups, including the Haqqani Network, which was striking Afghanistan. Pakistan used to level similar accusations against Kabul about the TTP. These recriminations have resulted in frequent shelling between the two armies. But now, tensions have significantly reduced and the two armies seem to jointly monitor their border and share intelligence. However, Ghani expects more, whereas Pakistan may be reluctant to go further if its army cannot influence the peace talks and have friends appointed as ministers and governors in case of reconciliation, to say nothing of Islamabad’s demand that Kabul recognise the Durand Line as the international border.

Ghani may get more without making these concessions, however, because of the growing role of a new player in the Af-Pak region: China, which was his first officialinternational destination. Beijing is more interested than before in a peaceful Afghanistan, for both security and economic reasons. In terms of security, the Uighur problem has probably become the number one issue for the Chinese — the Turkistan Islamic Party, a prominent strand of the Uighur movement, has close ties with Islamist groups in the Af-Pak region, where some of its militants are trained. As far as theeconomic dimensions are concerned, not only has China invested heavily in Afghanistan’s copper reserves and oil fields, but President Xi Jinping’s Silk RoadEconomic Belt initiative, including portions of the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor, also makes imperative the stabilisation of the Af-Pak region.

For all these reasons, Beijing is prepared to support the reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said it in public during his February visit to Pakistan: “We will support the Afghan government in realising reconciliation with various political factions, including the Taliban. China is ready to play its constructive role and will provide the necessary facilitation at any time if it is required by various parties in Afghanistan.”

At the first China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Strategic Dialogue, held in Kabul in February, Beijing committed itself to financing the construction of a new dam in Kunar — this 1,500 megawatt hydroelectric plant is to be jointly managed by Afghanistan and Pakistan, and should supply electricity to both countries. China also agreed to finance a motorway to connect Peshawar with Kabul and a rail link between Quetta and Kandahar.

China’s initiative seems strong enough to put pressure on Pakistan and help peace talks materialise. At the same time, Beijing has also reached out to Saudi Arabia and the Gulfcountries, where the talks should take place. The US, which has tried — unsuccessfully — to promote such talks in Doha over the past few years, is “fully on board” withChinese efforts, according to Barnett Rubin, former member of Richard Holbrooke’s Af-Pak team.

Should India worry? Delhi, which has invested $2 billion in infrastructural and humanitarian projects, probably expected greater recognition and may fear marginalisation if Pakistan and China become that central in Afghanistan. But Delhican also felicitate itself on the ongoing process — because it may deliver. Ghani, in fact, has shown a great sense of realism by turning to Pakistan and China, at the expense of the Kabul-Delhi special relationship. India could hardly be part of the solution so far as the Taliban problem was concerned. Delhi could not help Afghanistan militarily — partly because of American pressure, India has been reluctant to engage Kabul intensively in the defence sector, in spite of having made verbal commitments over the last 10 months. It could not help organise peace talks either, at least, not as much as Pakistan. Second, in terms of development, so necessary to making peace sustainable (and opium cultivation less important than it is today to Afghan peasants), China can do much more,

It is not as if India is bound to become a marginal player either. First, it is formidably popular among the Afghan population because of its soft power as well as the affinities that have developed between elite groups in the two countries. Second, the return of the Taliban, who may be offered ministerial portfolios and governorships if talks are fruitful, does not mean that Pakistan will be in a position to contain the Indianpresence in Afghanistan like in the 1990s. Things have changed. The Taliban, who have never been puppets of Pakistan and who may be even more jealous of Afghan national sovereignty today, will probably appreciate the balancing influence of India. So will China, especially if fighting Islamic extremism remains its key priority. In fact, Indiaand China have many common interests in Afghanistan, including access to mineralresources and new markets. China may take the lead, but India could benefit in the long term.

Can the United States and Russia Jointly Combat Afghan Heroin?

April 16, 2015

Heroin seized by by the Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan

A new report wants Moscow and Washington to work together to fight drug trafficking. 

The EastWest Institute has released a new report by a working group of Russian and U.S. experts on how the United States and Russia can jointly combat narcotrafficking out of Afghanistan. The joint U.S.-Russia working group previously has released two reports, “Afghan Narcotrafficking: A Joint Threat Assessment” in 2013 and “Afghan Narcotrafficking: Post-2014 Scenarios” in February 2015.

The paper points out that Afghanistan accounts for 80 percent of global opium and 74 percent of illicit opium production worldwide – 90 percent of which is trafficked out of the country. Afghan heroin has created an addiction crisis in Russia, whereas for the United States the growing Afghan drug trade is further testimony to the failed decade long U.S.-led state-building exercise in the country.

The current publication comes at a time of increased tensions between the United States and Russia over Ukraine, which is detrimentally affecting joint efforts elsewhere in the world. “(…) [C]ooperation between the United States and Russia may not come easily even when confronting a common threat. Fallout from the Ukraine crisis has damaged the bilateral relationship to an extent that will take years to repair,” the study notes pessimistically.

India and Pakistan’s Proxy War in Afghanistan



India is keen to emphasize that Pakistan has not always been a good neighbor. 

In an interview Tuesday with TOLONews, Amar Sinha, the Indian ambassador to Afghanistan, called the idea of a proxy war between his country and Pakistan playing out in Afghanistan a myth.
[The] India-Pakistan war is somehow getting reflected in Afghanistan… we see many analysts and journalists [calling] it a proxy war, which is a myth. [Rather] it is a smokescreen created to justify Pakistan’s behavior, which has not been [that] of a friendly neighbor.

Sinha, nonetheless, says that India’s “proxy” in Afghanistan is the Afghan people and that Pakistan’s is the Taliban.

Talk of a proxy war between India and Pakistan in Afghanistan has gone both ways for some time. Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh, whose ministry is responsible for internal security, said in March that Pakistan used terrorism as a weapon in its proxy war with India. Former President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in February that “Pakistan and India both must stay away, and not to have this kind of a proxy war going on there.”

The New U.S. Maritime Strategy: Taking on China's Rising Military Might

April 15, 2015 

The revised version of the US maritime strategy (A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower - CS-21R), released last month, has been generating excitement in maritime circles. The new document updates concepts and strategies in the original 2007 document (CS-21) to make them more relevant in the current maritime environment. It is especially valuable for clearly identifying Chinese assertiveness as a threat, for making existing strategy more relevant, and for providing specific ways to guide operational thinking in strategic scenarios.

From an Asian perspective, the document's release is timely. Not only has the US been expanding the scope of its operations with Asian littoral states, regional maritime forces have been grappling with a complex set of challenges. To its credit, the new maritime strategy attempts to comprehensively address the entire spectrum of nautical issues, pulling together diverse strands such as nationalistic posturing in the Asia-Pacific, nontraditional security challenges in the broader maritime littorals, new technologies complicating security responses, and even fiscal prudence as a key consideration in planning future maritime operations.

Will Corruption Undermine South Korea's Sub Modernization Program?

April 16, 2015

Seoul is building up its submarine fleet but corruption scandals could delay the deployments of new vessels. 
In February 2015, South Korea launched anindependent submarine command — only the sixth of its kind in the world — bringing operations, logistics, training, and maintenance under one roof, according to Republic of Korea (ROK) naval officials.

“The command’s main mission is to better protect the country from North Korean naval provocations, as the North is increasingly building up its underwater capabilities,” Cmdr. Lim Myung-soo, at the ROK Navy’s public affairs office, stated.

Ever since the 1990s, the backbone of the ROK’s submarine fleet has been a fleet of nine 1,200-ton Chang Bogo-class diesel-electric attack submarines – a variant of the German Type 209 Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft SS vessel. South Korea plans to upgrade all nine subs with air-independent propulsion and flank-array sonars over the next few years.

China’s THAAD Gamble Is Unlikely to Pay Off

By John K. Warden and Brad Glosserman
April 15, 2015

Beijing might have overplayed its hand on South Korea’s possible THAAD deployment. 
South Korea is stuck between a rock and a hard place. After news leaked that the United States is exploring the possibility of deploying a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in South Korea to counter North Korean missile threats, China voiced a strong objection, claiming that such a deployment would threaten its security. If the U.S. decides to make a formal request, Seoul will face an uncomfortable choice between its indispensable security provider and its largest trading partner – and China might not like the result.

China claims that THAAD – in particular the Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance and Control Model 2 (AN/TPY-2) X-band radar that would accompany the interceptors – is unnecessary to counter North Korean missiles. Many Chinese analysts believe that, in fact, an overly hyped North Korean threat is Washington’s excuse to justify deployment of a system that actually targets China. They argue that having an AN/TPY-2 in South Korea would improve the U.S. ability to intercept Chinese missiles and could even threaten the reliability of China’s nuclear second-strike capability.

China Attacks Dalai Lama in New White Paper on Tibet

April 16, 2015

In a lengthy white paper on Tibet, Beijing denounces the Dalai Lama and his “middle way approach.” 
Wednesday, the Information Office of China’s State Council released a new white paper on Tibet, lauding Tibet’s current “path of development” — and denouncing the Dalai Lama and his “middle way” concept.

The Dalai Lama defines the “middle way approach” as “the policy and means to achieve a genuine autonomy for all Tibetans living in the three traditional provinces of Tibet within the framework of the People’s Republic of China.” The middle way, according to the Dalai Lama, “safeguards the vital interests of all concerned parties”:

[F]or Tibetans: the protection and preservation of their culture, religion and national identity; for the Chinese: the security and territorial integrity of the motherland; and for neighbors and other third parties: peaceful borders and international relations.

As Taiwan's Election Season Begins, Beijing Points to Red Lines

April 16, 2015

The DPP has officially selected a candidate and Beijing is getting nervous. 
It’s official: Tsai Ing-wen, the chair of Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), will be her party’s candidate for next year’s presidential race. Tsai was uncontested for the nomination. She previously served as the DPP candidate in 2012, when she was defeated by incumbent Ma Ying-jeou 51 percent to 45 percent.

Tsai’s chances look better this time around, with the DPP riding high on sweeping victories in last November’s local elections. More seriously, the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is facing something of an identity crisis as it tries to rebrand itself. The KMT does not even have a consensus candidate for next year’s election, and might not decide on one until July or August, according to Want China Times. The most likely contender, KMT Chairman and New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu, previously vowed not to run.

As her candidacy officially begins, Tsai will face questions about the DPP approach to cross-strait relations. Ties with Beijing were rocky under the last DPP president, Chen Shui-bian, whom Beijing saw as an advocate for Taiwanese independence. Current President Ma Ying-jeou came to office in 2008 on a promise to revitalize cross-strait relations, resulting in a rapid expansion of economic and people-to-people exchanges.   

This Country Is 'Sandwiched' Between America and China

April 14, 2015 
http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/country-sandwiched-between-america-china-12628

South Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Yun Byung-se has been defending remarks in a speech to the Korean diplomatic corps that characterized South Korea's position between China and the United States as a "great blessing" and emphasized the "strategic ambiguity" of his government's policies. Washington has been pressing Seoul to consent to deployment of a sophisticated missile defense system on South Korean soil, the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), while Beijing has been trying to persuade Seoul to join its project, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), as a founding member (Seoul agreed on March 26).

South Korea is sandwiched between these two great powers, but rather than seeing this as a dilemma, Yun sees a great diplomatic and strategic opportunity for Korea, as a middle power with significant autonomy, to affect the policies of the superpowers for the benefit of the whole region. Yun's remarks signal a new and constructive approach, which is welcome. Yet his use of the phrase "great blessing" has provoked a backlash among political and diplomatic commentators because South Korean opinion is polarized about THAAD deployment and about joining the AIIB. Will THAAD work? Is a multiple-interception structure necessary to protect the US and South Korean militaries? Is it worth the diplomatic fallout? Are China's proposals - to rehabilitate its traditional Silk Road routes and integrating them with maritime routes connecting the Korean Peninsula to Europe - timely and plausible?

China’s Crackdowns in Tibet

By Kevin Holden
April 14, 2015

Rights groups are pushing for international action on the serial use of lethal force to crush Buddhist dissent. 
The United Nations is set to receive evidence that Chinese People’s Armed Police troops have repeatedly opened fire on unarmed Tibetan protesters calling for religious freedom over the past seven years.

Evidence of deadly attacks by the Chinese paramilitary on Buddhist demonstrators across the Tibetan Plateau – provided by witnesses, whistleblowers, and a secret government document smuggled out of Tibet – will be presented to the UN’s Committee against Torture later this year.

International human rights groups, working with figures inside Tibet who aim to expose these killings internationally, will gather in Geneva in November for the UN hearing.

Turning a Blind Eye to Torture in Uzbekistan

April 16, 2015

Amnesty International’s latest report, on torture in Uzbekistan, paints a damning picture. 

In a report released Wednesday, Amnesty International highlights the central role of torture in Uzbekistan’s justice system. Based on more than 60 interviews with exiles, human rights defenders, torture survivors and their family members, academics, journalists and others the report, titled Secrets and Lies: Forced confessions under torture in Uzbekistan, sheds light on a tragically familiar topic.

“Torture has become a defining feature of the Uzbekistani criminal justice system,” the report concludes.

It is central to how the Uzbekistani authorities deal with dissent, combat security threats and maintain their grip on power. It is deeply wrong and in the long-run unsustainable. But this has not prevented the international community from turning a blind eye to the glaring indiscretions of a perceived geo-strategic ally. This is both short-sighted and a deep disservice to the thousands of victims languishing in Uzbekistan’s torture chambers.

Why Are So Many Terrorists Killed and So Few Captured?

Micah Zenko
April 15, 2015

The New York Times published an important article on Monday, April 13, by Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmidt that explores an important question regarding U.S. counterterrorism policy: Is it better policy to simply kill suspected terrorists with drones, or to attempt to capture them with U.S. special operations forces in order to collect intelligence from the detained individuals?

Mazzetti and Schmidt’s article reviews specifically the Obama administration’s decision to work with Pakistan to capture U.S. citizen Mohanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, who, according to an unsealed Justice Department complaint, traveled to Pakistan in 2007 to provide material support to al Qaeda. The decision to capture Farekh was made even though “[d]rones spotted him several times in the early months of 2013” and both the Pentagon and CIA sought to have him placed on a kill list so he could be lawfully targeted.

The capture of Farekh and his eventual transfer to the United States for trial is notable because it is one of the rare occasions when U.S. counterterrorism practice aligned with stated U.S. policy objectives. Since September 2011, the Obama administration has repeatedly and strenuously claimed that it always prefers capturing suspected terrorists rather than killing them. This was first put forth by then-senior White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan at a Harvard Law School speech entitled “Strengthening our Security by Adhering to our Values and Laws.” In it, Brennan stated:

Why Are So Many Terrorists Killed and So Few Captured?

Micah Zenko
April 14, 2015

The New York Times published an important article on Monday, April 13, by Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmidt that explores an important question regarding U.S. counterterrorism policy: Is it better policy to simply kill suspected terrorists with drones, or to attempt to capture them with U.S. special operations forces in order to collect intelligence from the detained individuals?

Mazzetti and Schmidt’s article reviews specifically the Obama administration’s decision to work with Pakistan to capture U.S. citizen Mohanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, who, according to an unsealed Justice Department complaint, traveled to Pakistan in 2007 to provide material support to al Qaeda. The decision to capture Farekh was made even though “[d]rones spotted him several times in the early months of 2013” and both the Pentagon and CIA sought to have him placed on a kill list so he could be lawfully targeted.

The capture of Farekh and his eventual transfer to the United States for trial is notable because it is one of the rare occasions when U.S. counterterrorism practice aligned with stated U.S. policy objectives. Since September 2011, the Obama administration has repeatedly and strenuously claimed that it always prefers capturing suspected terrorists rather than killing them. This was first put forth by then-senior White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan at a Harvard Law School speech entitled “Strengthening our Security by Adhering to our Values and Laws.” In it, Brennan stated:

Terrorism Case Renews Debate Over Drone Hits


APRIL 12, 2015 

Marshals at the courthouse where an American citizen was charged with supporting terrorism.CreditVictor J. Blue/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — A Texas-born man suspected of being an operative forAl Qaeda stood before a federal judge in Brooklyn this month. Two years earlier, his government debated whether he should be killed by a drone strike in Pakistan.

The denouement in the hunt for the man, Mohanad Mahmoud Al Farekh, who was arrested last year in Pakistan based on intelligence provided by the United States, came after a yearslong debate inside the government about whether to kill an American citizen overseas without trial — an extraordinary step taken only once before, when the Central Intelligence Agency killed the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2011.

Mr. Farekh’s court appearance also came as the Obama administration was struggling to fashion new guidelines for targeted killings. The decision to use an allied intelligence service to arrest Mr. Farekh has bolstered a case made by some that capturing — rather than killing — militant suspects, even in some of the world’s most remote places, is more feasible than the orders for hundreds of drone strikes might indicate.

PODCAST: THE ISLAMIC STATE’S WAR IN IRAQ AND SYRIA



This is the podcast in which War on the Rocks fixes the Middle East…ok, we kid, but it is a fascinating conversation with some of the most astute and informed U.S. experts on Iraq and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

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We were joined by: 

J.M. Berger, author of the new book, ISIS: State of Terror (along with Jessica Stern) and a nonresident fellow in the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution. 
William McCants, author of the forthcoming book, ISIS Apocalypse, a fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy and director of the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution. 
Denise Natali, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University (her views do not necessarily represent those of the U.S. government). 
Douglas Ollivant, a senior national security fellow with the New America Foundation and a managing partner and the Senior Vice President of Mantid International. 

Ryan Evans, editor-in-chief of War on the Rocks, moderated with Lagavulin 16 neat in hand.