12 January 2016

'Chiefs allowed Doval to dictate terms and micro manage'

January 11, 2016 
'The ISI is bound to exploit narcoterrorism.'
Lieutenant General H S Panag (retd) was one of the Indian Army's finest generals.
General Panag, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, was the GOC-in-C, Northern Command, which is deployed in Jammu and Kashmir and is responsible for guarding about 1,896 km of India's disputed borders with China and Pakistan, including the Line of Actual Control, the Actual Ground Position Line, the Line of Control, as well as the International Border.
The general discussed the Pathankot attack with Archana Masih/Rediff.com in a two-part interview.
Part 1 of the interview: Pathankot: 'Luck saved us'
Were we caught off guard in spite of the intelligence?

The ISI and terrorists have exploited the drug nexus that exists on either side of the border. Superintendant of Police Salwinder Singh's role is suspect. He could also be an innocent victim, but there are too many unanswered questions.
This nexus has been there for quite some time. The BSF, the Punjab Police and the Punjab politicians are all involved in the drug trade.
There is no difference left between the infiltration of terrorists and smugglers. Everybody is out to make money so it doesn't matter to them. This is how the information has emerged.
Once Salwinder realised that he has been trapped or to cover his tracks he gave the information to the police. The case is under investigation by the NIA.
There were multiple Commanders from different agencies coordinating the operation. Why don't we learn from the past because the same thing happened in the Mumbai attacks?
The army and air chief handed over their domains to the NSA.

Did they have a choice? What could they have done?

When I was GOC-in-C, Northern Command, even if my own chief tried to do micro management -- I would tell him, "Sir, please give your directions and leave the details to me."
So the directions should have been that the airbase is the target, take necessary action. Period. They allowed him (National Security Adviser Ajit Doval) to dictate terms and micro manage.

Dealing with Delhi: How culture shapes India’s Middle East policy

December 22, 2015 , By: Kadira Pethiyagoda

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the United Arab Emirates revealed New Delhi’s intention to bolster bilateral relations with the Gulf states. It was the first visit by an Indian prime minister in over 30 years, demonstrating the country’s renewed focus on expanding ties with the region it has always called “West Asia.” Although India and the Middle East share a long history of trade, immigration and cultural exchange, relations have yet to reach their full potential.

In this policy briefing, Kadira Pethiyagoda highlights the importance of an under-reported aspect of the relationship – culture. The author explains the role it plays in India’s policies toward the region, particularly under the current government, and argues that Gulf states need to understand the impact of Indian values and identity. Pethiyagoda provides recommendations on how the Gulf states can, through better understanding the cultural drivers of Indian foreign policy, build stronger ties with India, thereby advancing both economic and strategic interests.

English PDF

717 KB

Nuclear India through a Western Eye

Rajiv Nayan,  January 04, 2016
In the middle of December 2015, the US-based Center for Public Integrity came out with a series of four articles on different aspects of India’s nuclear programme. Of the four articles, one is on Jaduguda, the second on the Kudankulam nuclear reactor, the third on the thermonuclear device and the fourth on India’s nuclear security. Adrian Levy, the journalist who co-authored The Deception in which he recorded known and unknown facts about Pakistan's nuclear acquisitions, is either the sole or co-author of these articles.

Some of these articles have been partially or fully reproduced in other publications, including Foreign Policy. The tone or tenor of all the four articles is quite negative in terms of attempting to sensationalise the Indian nuclear science programme. The Center for Public Integrity is supposed to be an investigative news organisation, which has been apparently established to ‘serve democracy’.
Has this series of four articles been written to fulfil the objectives of the Center for Public Integrity? Unfortunately, both the main author and the organisation have failed to really fulfil the objectives. Moreover, there is the question of Levy’s own credibility as an investigative journalist. There is hardly any investigative journalism in the four articles. All are overwhelmingly written with the help of reports which have been published earlier or have been appearing in the news for years.

Most of the facts used in the four articles are available on the internet, and are quite well known. The reports, on the basis of which most of these four articles have been written, were refuted by the official nuclear establishment as well as independent scientists working in universities and research institutes. At one place, Levy accuses the Indian government of suppressing those reports. In actual fact, most of the reports and counterpoints are available in the public domain. Not only have the authors by and large overlooked these counterpoints, but they are also dismissive about them.

India Is Building a Top-Secret Nuclear City to Produce Thermonuclear Weapons, Experts Say

By Adrian Levy
December 16, 2015

CHALLAKERE, India — When laborers began excavating pastureland in India’s southern Karnataka state early in 2012, members of the nomadic Lambani tribe were startled. For centuries, the scarlet-robed herbalists and herders had freely crisscrossed the undulating meadows there, known as kavals, and this uprooting of their landscape came without warning or explanation. By autumn, Puttaranga Setty, a wiry groundnut farmer from the village of Kallalli, encountered a barbed-wire fence blocking off a well-used trail. His neighbor, a herder, discovered that the road from this city to a nearby village had been diverted elsewhere. They rang Doddaullarti Karianna, a weaver who sits on one of the village councils that funnel India’s sprawling democracy of 1.25 billion down to the grassroots.

Karianna asked officials with India’s state and central governments why the land inhabited by farming and tribal communities was being walled off, but they refused to answer. So Karianna sought legal help from the Environment Support Group, a combative ecological advocacy organization that specializes in fighting illegal encroachment on greenbelt land. But the group also made little progress. Officials warned its lawyers that the prime minister’s office was running the project. “There is no point fighting this, we were told,” Leo Saldanha, a founding member of the advocacy organization, recalled. “You cannot win.”

Only after construction on the site began that year did it finally become clear to the tribesmen and others that two secretive agencies were behind a project that experts say will be the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic-research laboratories, and weapons- and aircraft-testing facilities when it’s completed, probably sometime in 2017. Among the project’s aims: to expand the government’s nuclear research, to produce fuel for India’s nuclear reactors, and to help power the country’s fleet of new submarines.
But another, more controversial ambition, according to retired Indian government officials and independent experts in London and Washington, is to give India an extra stockpile of enriched uranium fuel that could be used in new hydrogen bombs, also known as thermonuclear weapons, substantially increasing the explosive force of those in its existing nuclear arsenal.

** Incoming: The Forgotten Ocean

January 6, 2016

Global discussions about maritime issues tend to focus on the Atlantic Ocean, with its attached Mediterranean Sea, and the Pacific Ocean, with the South China Sea. Endless conversations take place about the emerging conflicts, the flow of refugees, the competition over vital hydrocarbons and the geopolitical impact of the two “major oceans.” Yet the 21st century will be more about the Indian Ocean than either of the other two—and the sooner we fully realize that in the United States, the better.

The Indian Ocean, while admittedly smaller than the Atlantic or the Pacific, consists of nearly a quarter of the waters on the globe. Across its vast expanse moves 50 percent of all shipping and containers and 70 percent of all oil, making it quite literally the crossroads of globalization. Nearly 40 nations, with more than a third of the world’s population, border it. Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Arabian/Persian Gulf states all have coastal access to the Indian Ocean; more than 90 percent of the world’s Islamic population is in this massive catchment basin.

It also is highly militarized and always in a state of tension.The greatest potential for nuclear conflict in the world today is between Pakistan and India, which have two huge, capable, professional and nuclear-armed militaries. Iran is an adventurist state with an innovative and battle-trained military force. Many of the other nations along the littoral have internal conflicts and significant chaos along their borders. Piracy, while reduced over the past several years, remains a threat both along the coast of East Africa and in the Strait of Malacca, which connects the Indian Ocean with the Pacific.

Curbing Militancy: Regulating Pakistan’s Madrassas

8 January 2016
Humaira Israr thinks that Pakistan must invest more heavily in registering, regulating and reforming its religious seminaries. The government’s inertia thus far has only aggravated the country’s already-precarious security situation.
By Humaira Israr for Institute for Security and Development Policy (ISDP)
This article was originally published by the Institute for Security and Development Policy (ISDP) on 20 August 2015.

In January 2015, the Pakistani government unveiled its 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) aimed at tackling terrorism in the country. Along with measures such as the re-verification of mobile phone users and trial of terror­ism offences, NAP also resolved to register and regulate madrassas (religious seminaries) to curb militancy and ex­tremism. Yet an absence of commitment and lack of ca­pacity to implement reforms have hitherto thwarted such intentions. Failure to strengthen government oversight of madrassas and their sources of funding, as well as to equip students with a more modern education, will continue to endanger the security of Pakistan.

Madrassas and Militancy
While initially hubs of education, both religious and secu­lar, madrassas subsequently emerged as “trust institutions” providing social services such as food, shelter, clothing, and free religious education to their students. Their appeal increased in regions where public provision of services was lacking. Thus in a country where 60 percent of the population earn less than two dollars a day, many parents have opted to send their children to madrassas where they hope their children will not only obtain shelter and food but also the opportunity to learn the basics of the religion. Studies have shown that the vast majority of students join madrassas for economic reasons and only a small minority for religious reasons.

Whereas some reports such as the Annual Status of Education Report Pakistan 2011 suggested no direct link between madrassas and militancy, a negative perception of madrassas as “incubators for violent extremism” became cemented post-9/11 when they were linked to Islamic militancy. One incident in particular reinforced this per­ception when, in July 2007, the Red Mosque in Islama­bad (which demanded the imposition of Sharia law in the country) together with an adjacent unregistered female madrassa became scene of a bloody confrontation with government forces that resulted in dozens of casualties [ed. the precise number is disputed].

‘Red Team’: A tale of how a general didn’t listen to internal criticism in Afghanistan

By Thomas E. Ricks
January 7, 2016
This is excerpted from Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy, by FP’s Micah Zenko:

In 2009, a Marine Corps colonel with an infantry background and two Army majors — both graduates of the elite School of Advanced Military Studies — were brought to Afghanistan to serve as a small red team, known as the “effects cell.” The three officers operated independently from the chain of command and traveled into the field to assess the robustness of partnerships between NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) units and those of the Afghan National Army (ANA). At the time, “partnering” in the field was the primary approach toward building a professional Afghan military, which would presumably then begin to take the lead in independently securing areas where they operated. In 2009, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said during a House Committee hearing, “Making this transition possible requires accelerating the development of a significantly larger and more capable Afghan army and police through intensive partnering with ISAF forces, especially in combat.” If the partnering mission was not working on the ground, then the overall campaign strategy would not be either.

The effects-cell officers were deeply disturbed by what they witnessed — with little variation — at more than a dozen combat outposts. They found that ISAF troops were living completely separately from the ANA forces that they were supposed to be training. This was even before the outbreak of so-called green-on-blue attacks that began in 2012 — violent attacks by actual or disguised Afghan security forces against ISAF personnel. The effects cell noticed, in particular, that ISAF perimeter machine-gun nests were perched high above their Afghanistan counterparts, with the heavy weapons pointed directly toward where their Afghan colleagues slept and ate. Moreover, the daily security patrols conducted by both forces were poorly coordinated and integrated. Also, on some days, literally no training or advising events took place. The Marine colonel recalled how the company and platoon leaders had developed a “FOB mentality” — a derogatory reference to ISAF forces hunkering down in their forward operating bases — and were “just counting the days until the next guys came in to replace them.”

The Marine colonel briefed the effects cell’s findings, first to senior ISAF staffers and eventually in front of General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of all US and international forces in Afghanistan. The Marine colonel was, and is, a gruff and brutally honest person, which an ISAF staff officer contended “couldn’t have been more different than how the general [McChrystal] liked to run things.” The colonel described in detail instances where the effects cell found that ISAF units were not implementing the commander’s strategic guidance. To drive his point home, the colonel graphically stated, “Sir, if they aren’t shitting together, they aren’t partnering together.” Aides to McChrystal contend that the commander objected to both the tone and content of what he was being told, and, at one point, he berated the colonel, saying, “It sounds like you’re telling me how to run my war.”

Drone Strikes in Afghanistan in 2016

Drone wars: A list of US air and drone strikes, Afghanistan 2016
Bureau of Investigative Journalism, January 7, 2016
A note on our data and methodology
The events detailed here occurred in 2016. These have been reported by US, Afghan and Pakistani civil, military and intelligence officials, and by credible media, academic and other sources, including on occasion Bureau researchers.
Below is a summary of US air and drone strikes in 2016, and casualty estimates for each. Our data changes according to our current understanding of particular strikes – none of the strikes in our data is seen as a complete record. Below represents our present understanding.

There are three classifications of strike listed below: confirmed, possible and “C” strikes.
The Bureau counts strikes as confirmed US operations when described as such by US military or government sources, senior Afghan officials, or a combination of three distinct, anonymous Afghan sources. For example: a police official at the provincial level, a military official in Kabul, and an Afghan intelligence officer.
The possible US operations are strikes attributed to the US by less authoritative sources. Over time, they could be ruled out as US attacks and removed from the database, or they could be confirmed by the above sources or combination of sources.

Finally, there are the “C” strikes. These are attacks that have been reported by a single source. They are not included in our casualty estimates, but they are listed in the timeline to highlight where further investigation is needed. A letter C is added to the reference number as a suffix in these cases.
All sources are reported as transparently as possible and a link to a citation is used where possible.
In order to give some context to the strikes, brief summaries of events in Afghanistan and internationally have been included in the timeline. These might include noteworthy military and political events in Afghanistan or political developments in Washington or Islamabad, for example. Some of these summaries include a body count – they are not included in the Bureau’s casualty estimates and they do not have a six figure alphanumeric code.

* Navy SEALs, a Beating Death and Claims of a Cover-Up

The three Navy SEALs stomped on the bound Afghan detainees and dropped heavy stones on their chests, the witnesses recalled. They stood on the prisoners’ heads and poured bottles of water on some of their faces in what, to a pair of Army soldiers, appeared to be an improvised form of waterboarding.
A few hours earlier, shortly after dawn on May 31, 2012, a bomb had exploded at a checkpoint manned by an Afghan Local Police unit that the SEALs were training. Angered by the death of one of their comrades in the blast, the police militiamen had rounded up half a dozen or more suspects from a market in the village of Kalach and forced them to a nearby American outpost. Along the way, they beat them with rifle butts and car antennas.

A United States Army medic standing guard at the base, Specialist David Walker, had expected the men from SEAL Team 2 to put a stop to the abuse. Instead, he said, one of them “jump-kicked this guy kneeling on the ground.” Two others joined in, Specialist Walker and several other soldiers recounted, and along with the Afghan militiamen, they beat the detainees so badly that by dusk, one would die.
The four American soldiers working with the SEALs reported the episode, which has not previously been disclosed. In a Navy criminal investigation, two Navy support personnel said they had witnessed some abuse by the SEALs, as did a local police officer. Separately, an Afghan detained with the man who died provided a detailed account of mistreatment by American troops and Afghan militiamen in an interview with The New York Times.

The SEAL command, though, cleared the Team 2 members of wrongdoing in a closed disciplinary process that is typically used only for minor infractions, disregarding a Navy lawyer’s recommendation that the troops face assault charges and choosing not to seek a court-martial. Two of the SEALs and their lieutenant have since been promoted, even though their commander in Afghanistan recommended that they be forced out of the elite SEAL teams.
“It just comes down to what’s wrong and what’s right,” Specialist Walker said in a recent interview. “You can’t squint hard enough to make this gray.”

Deterring Chinese Aggression

by Nathan Jennings
Journal Article | January 3, 2016
Tensions between China and nations across the South China Sea have simmered for the past decade as competing states contest territorial waters and economic exclusion zones. As the leading power in the Asia-Pacific region since World War II, the United States, and its peerless military in particular, should begin deploying diverse and scalable elements of national power to promote coalitions to deter Chinese aggression. This would fulfil the 2015 National Security Strategy’s imperative to, “manage competition from a position of strength while insisting that China uphold international rules and norms.”[1] While objectives should both limit and accommodate Chinese ambitions, the judicious application of diplomatic, military, economic, and informational capabilities in the South China Sea and across the Pacific basin—in concert with empowering coalitions—offers the best hope for achieving a peaceful balance of power.

Any effort to form coalitions to deter Chinese belligerence begins with American diplomatic leadership. As the traditional guarantor of international freedom of navigation and commerce in the region, the United States is uniquely positioned to sponsor and guide any emerging multinational partnerships. It alone possesses the national power and influence and lead combinations of conciliatory and provocative diplomacy. This would include both bi-lateral and multi-lateral economic arrangements and broader military coalitions with long-standing allies like Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia, and newer partnerships with modernizing powers like India, Vietnam, and Burma.

The reemergence of a 21st century version of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization—similar to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Europe—would be offer a possible diplomatic objective. While the President and State Department officials would lead these efforts, senior military leaders would play a pivotal role in securing agreements by adding martial credibility. The commander of U.S. Pacific Command, in particular, would emerge as an important figure in any security cooperatives and provide multinational and joint leadership as the lead flag officer. As a final and important task, American diplomats and senior officers could mediate disputes over coveted islands, both natural and artificial, to prevent hostilities between China, South Korea, and Japan.

To Avoid a War With China, Should America Abandon Asia?

Walking away from Asia isn't a solution. It's a failure to understand the tools that America has to change Beijing’s calculus.
Harry J. Kazianis, January 4, 2016
Rule number one if you are trying to win a debate: never admit your own thesis is a “fantasy.” And yet, this is the grim position that John Glaser finds himself in, stating that “there is something fantastical about my policy preferences.” Fictional foreign policy ‘fantasy’s’ like Glaser’s, alluding to an America that can hide behind “vast oceans to its east and west and a superior nuclear deterrent” that is supposedly “remarkably insulated from external threats” creates a false narrative. Such ideas should be exposed for what they are: at their worst a shameful mischaracterization of what many are dubbing a policy of “restraint” and at worst a foreshadowing of a dangerous neo-isolationism that should be thrown onto the ash heap of history once and for all.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. Before we continue on with our debate on American foreign policy towards Asia (you can find Mr. Glaser’s original essay here, my response here, his rebuttal here as well as a supportive post to Glaser’s position by CATO Vice President Christopher Preble here), let us recap a polished up version of Glaser’s argument:
“In order to avoid a clash with a rising China the United States should abandon its strategy of primacy in the Asia Pacific. Containment of China is a costly and risky strategy, I claimed, and one that is not necessary to secure America’s vital national interests. Crucially though, the core of my argument came down to this: the prospect for such apparently belligerent policies to successfully dampen China’s regional ambitions is very dim. That Beijing will grow more assertive in response seems more likely.”

So now that we have his arguments reestablished, I would like to focus my final effort in this debate by unpacking Mr. Glaser’s thesis points, arguing not only why they are wrong, but also why they run completely counter to furthering America’s national security interest, something Glaser argues he is advancing in his half-baked foreign policy fantasy.

* The New Military Force in Charge of China’s Nuclear Weapons

A DF-15B short-range ballistic missile
Goodbye Second Artillery Force; hello PLA Rocket Force.
By Shannon Tiezzi, January 05, 2016

On December 31, China inaugurated three new military forces: a general command for the army, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Strategic Support Force, and the PLA Rocket Force. The latter, which replaces the Second Artillery Force, will be in charge of China’s nuclear arsenal.

General Wei Fenghe was named the new force’s first commander. Wei has a long history with the Second Artillery Force; he served as its chief of staff from 2006-2012 and then as commander-in-chief from 2012 until the service was reconfigured as the Rocket Force.
The creation of the Rocket Force is part of a larger move to restructure China’s military with a streamlined command under the direct control of the Central Military Commission. The new force is considered the fourth branch in China’s military, on equal footing with the PLA Army, Navy, and Air Force, according to Global Times. Unlike the Second Artillery Corps, the Rocket Force will command all three legs of China’s nuclear triad, rather than just controlling land-based nuclear missiles. The Rocket Force will also be in charge of conventional missiles. Global Times reported that the force has already held its first drills, practicing mobile combat operations and missile launches.

In the inauguration ceremony on Thursday, President Xi Jinping (who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission) called the PLA Rocket Force the “core force of strategic deterrence, a strategic buttress to the country’s position as a major power, and an important building block in upholding national security.” He tasked the new force with enhancing China’s nuclear deterrence and counter-strike capabilities, and thus maintaining a strategic balance. He also urged the Rocket Force to improve China’s ability to conduct medium- and long-range precision strikes.

One Map That Explains the Dangerous Saudi-Iranian Conflict

Jon Schwarz
Jan. 7 2016,
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia executed Shiite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr on Saturday. Hours later, Iranian protestors set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran. On Sunday, the Saudi government, which considers itself the guardian of Sunni Islam, cut diplomatic ties with Iran, which is a Shiite Muslim theocracy.
To explain what’s going on, the New York Times provided a primer on the difference between Sunni and Shiite Islam, informing us that “a schism emerged after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632” — i.e., 1,383 years ago.

But to the degree that the current crisis has anything to do with religion, it’s much less about whether Abu Bakr or Ali was Muhammad’s rightful successor and much more about who’s going to control something more concrete right now: oil.
In fact, much of the conflict can be explained by a fascinating map created by M.R. Izady, a cartographer and adjunct master professor at the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School/Joint Special Operations University in Florida.

What the map shows is that, due to a peculiar correlation of religious history and anaerobic decomposition of plankton, almost all the Persian Gulf’s fossil fuels are located underneath Shiites. This is true even in Sunni Saudi Arabia, where the major oil fields are in the Eastern Province, which has a majority Shiite population.
As a result, one of the Saudi royal family’s deepest fears is that one day Saudi Shiites will secede, with their oil, and ally with Shiite Iran.
This fear has only grown since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq overturned Saddam Hussein’s minority Sunni regime, and empowered the pro-Iranian Shiite majority. Nimr himself said in 2009 that Saudi Shiites would call for secession if the Saudi government didn’t improve its treatment of them.

The map shows religious populations in the Middle East and proven developed oil and gas reserves. Click to view the full map of the wider region. The dark green areas are predominantly Shiite; light green predominantly Sunni; and purple predominantly Wahhabi/Salafi, a branch of Sunnis. The black and red areas represent oil and gas deposits, respectively.

Military to Military Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligence sharing in the Syrian war

Vol. 38 No. 1 · 7 January 2016
pages 11-14 | 6831 words

Barack Obama’s repeated insistence that Bashar al-Assad must leave office – and that there are ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria capable of defeating him – has in recent years provoked quiet dissent, and even overt opposition, among some of the most senior officers on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. Their criticism has focused on what they see as the administration’s fixation on Assad’s primary ally, Vladimir Putin. In their view, Obama is captive to Cold War thinking about Russia and China, and hasn’t adjusted his stance on Syria to the fact both countries share Washington’s anxiety about the spread of terrorism in and beyond Syria; like Washington, they believe that Islamic State must be stopped.
The military’s resistance dates back to the summer of 2013, when a highly classified assessment, put together by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then led by General Martin Dempsey, forecast that the fall of the Assad regime would lead to chaos and, potentially, to Syria’s takeover by jihadi extremists, much as was then happening in Libya. A former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs told me that the document was an ‘all-source’ appraisal, drawing on information from signals, satellite and human intelligence, and took a dim view of the Obama administration’s insistence on continuing to finance and arm the so-called moderate rebel groups. By then, the CIA had been conspiring for more than a year with allies in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to ship guns and goods – to be used for the overthrow of Assad – from Libya, via Turkey, into Syria. The new intelligence estimate singled out Turkey as a major impediment to Obama’s Syria policy. The document showed, the adviser said, ‘that what was started as a covert US programme to arm and support the moderate rebels fighting Assad had been co-opted by Turkey, and had morphed into an across-the-board technical, arms and logistical programme for all of the opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State. The so-called moderates had evaporated and the Free Syrian Army was a rump group stationed at an airbase in Turkey.’ The assessment was bleak: there was no viable ‘moderate’ opposition to Assad, and the US was arming extremists.
Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, director of the DIA between 2012 and 2014, confirmed that his agency had sent a constant stream of classified warnings to the civilian leadership about the dire consequences of toppling Assad. The jihadists, he said, were in control of the opposition. Turkey wasn’t doing enough to stop the smuggling of foreign fighters and weapons across the border. ‘If the American public saw the intelligence we were producing daily, at the most sensitive level, they would go ballistic,’ Flynn told me. ‘We understood Isis’s long-term strategy and its campaign plans, and we also discussed the fact that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria.’ The DIA’s reporting, he said, ‘got enormous pushback’ from the Obama administration. ‘I felt that they did not want to hear the truth.’

Walter Russell Mead on the Fall of Islamic State

http://graphics.wsj.com/image- grid/what-to-expect-in-2016/ 1667/walter-russell-mead-on- the-fall-of-islamic-state

The U.S. needs to start thinking about what to do once it figures out how to defeat the Sunni jihadist group
The last two years were full of surprises in the Middle East, most of them unpleasant, and 2016 looks to be no different. The combination of sectarian war among Sunnis and Shiites, Russian intervention on the side of Syria’s Assad regime, geopolitical competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran and growing economic stress brought about by the low price of oil will make for a difficult year-both on the ground and for the Washington policy makers looking for a way forward. The dilemma that paralyzed Washington in 2015 has not been resolved: The Obama administration still has not found a way to fight Islamic State without strengthening Iran and Russia in the region and thereby further damaging our existing alliance system and fanning the flames of Sunni radicalism.
We must hope that the president will recognize that the growing power of Iran is the key factor destabilizing the region and start to address Sunni fears about a perceived U.S. tilt toward Iran. Failing that, American foreign policy is likely to be torn between two opponents in the Middle East: a Russia-Shiite axis linking Iran, Syria and Iraq with Moscow, and a set of radical Sunni jihadist movements.

The question will be what happens to the remaining relatively stable Sunni governments in the region: the Saudis and the Gulf states, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey and Jordan. Distrustful of their longtime American protector, frightened by the specter of Iranian and Russian power, challenged by the rise of Sunni jihadist movements, these states also face difficult economic times. Oil prices are low, tourism is moribund, and the regional economy has been disrupted by the worst violence and refugee crisis in decades.

Islamic State may not benefit as much from this chaos as it hopes, as its loss this week of the Iraqi city of Ramadi suggests. The coalition of forces against Islamic State is strong, and it is harder to fight a conventional war than to carry on guerrilla resistance. So we should already be thinking about the endgame: What does the world propose to do with the legions of fanatical rapists, murderers and looters now fighting under the black flag of Islamic State? Who will eventually govern the territories it now controls? It is not too soon to plan for the defeat of Islamic State; otherwise, its fall could be as destabilizing as its rise.

Mr. Mead is a professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and a scholar at the Hudson Institute.

*** Chaos and Violence: How New Year's Eve in Cologne Has Changed Germany


New Year's Eve in Cologne rapidly descended into a chaotic free-for-all involving sexual assault and theft, most of it apparently committed by foreigners. It has launched a bitter debate over immigration and refugees in Germany -- one that could change the country. By SPIEGEL Staff
A lot happened on New Year's Eve in Cologne, much of it contradictory, much of it real, much of it imagined. Some was happenstance, some was exaggerated and much of it was horrifying. In its entirety, the events of Cologne on New Year's Eve and in the days that followed adhered to a script that many had feared would come true even before it actually did. The fears of both immigration supporters and virulent xenophobes came true. The fears of Pegida people and refugee helpers; the fears of unknown women and of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Even Donald Trump, the brash Republican presidential candidate in the US, felt it necessary to comment. Germany, he trumpeted, "is going through massive attacks to its people by the migrants allowed to enter the country."

For some, the events finally bring to light what they have always been saying: that too many foreigners in the country bring too many problems along with them. For the others, that which happened is what they have been afraid of from the very beginning: that ugly images of ugly behavior by migrants would endanger what has been a generally positive mood in Germany with respect to the refugees.
As inexact and unclear as the facts from Cologne may be, they carry a clear message: Difficult days are ahead. And they beg a couple of clear questions: Is Germany really sure that it can handle the influx of refugees? And: Does Germany really have the courage and the desire to become the country in Europe with the greatest number of immigrants?

The first week of 2016 was a hectic one. Tempers flared and hysteria spread. It should be noted that an attack would have triggered similar national emotions, or the murder of a child in a park or any other crime that touched on our deepest fears and serviced our long-held stereotypes -- any crime in which a foreigner was involved. On New Year's Eve in Cologne, it was -- according to numerous witness reports -- drunk young men from North Africa who formed gangs to go after defenseless individuals. They humiliated and robbed -- and they sexually assaulted women.
Their behavior, and the subsequent discussion of their behavior in the halls of political power in Berlin, in the media and on the Internet, could easily trigger a radical shift in Germany's refugee and immigration policies. The pressure built up by the images and stories from Cologne make it virtually impossible to continue on as before. That, too, is a paradox: The pressure would be no less intense even if not a single one of the refugees and migrants who arrived in 2015 were among the perpetrators.

For Greece, 2016 Brings New Challenges

January 7, 2016, By Stratfor

In the days ahead, the Greek government will begin another round of complex negotiations with its creditors and political parties on a new phase of economic reform. At the center of the talks will be a plan to restructure the country's pension system, a particularly sensitive issue given that pensions form one of the last social safety nets left standing in a country where at least a quarter of the active population is unemployed. Though the risk of a Greek default or exit from the eurozone will be lower in 2016 than it was in 2015, the threat of social unrest and political volatility will loom large.
The Greek government is preparing for what is likely to be a difficult bargaining process both at home and abroad. Unemployment affects roughly 25 percent of Greece's active population and over 50 percent of its youth, meaning entire families depend on the pensions that their elderly members receive to survive. As a result, Greek administrations have historically been reluctant to implement structural reforms within the pension system.
But the government may no longer be able to avoid them. Greece's foreign lenders are pressuring Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' administration to tackle the pension system head-on. The country spends roughly 17 percent of its gross domestic product on pensions - the highest rate in the European Union - and with a shrinking workforce, low fertility rates, inefficient tax collection, funding shortfalls and legal loopholes, the system is no longer sustainable.

Athens' creditors want the government to slash its spending by about 1.8 billion euros ($1.9 billion) this year. To that end, Greece is expected to present a formal plan by late January that details how it will go about meeting this target. At that time, the lenders will assess the status of Greece's bailout program and decide whether Athens qualifies for the next tranche of financial aid. The Greek government hopes to gain approval for the reforms - and receive its funding - sometime in early February.
However, Athens will encounter several major obstacles in achieving its goals. At home, Tsipras holds a majority in the Greek Parliament by only three seats; even a small rebellion within the ruling coalition could topple the government. Meanwhile, Tsipras must convince creditors abroad that Greece is making enough progress to receive the next injection of cash.

Clausewitz Would Not Like America’s Islamic State Strategy

James Holmes, January 5, 2016
What would Clausewitz say about the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)? As the Prussian sage and his fellow greats of strategic theory might counsel, America is waging an “unlimited war by contingent” against ISIL. Last year President Barack Obama vowed to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the terror state, yet ruled out more than modest air and sea forces to execute this ambitious mission. U.S. ground warfare was out. That raises the question whether the regional contenders battling the Islamic State — the Iraqi army, the Peshmerga, various militias — together comprise a force capable of winning with aerial fire support. Fitful progress on the ground leaves that question open, the allies’ recent re-conquest of Ramadi notwithstanding.

The administration has backtracked from its “no boots on the ground” position since, ordering a “specialized expeditionary targeting force” to Iraq early this month. But with overall troop numbers fixed at 3,550, a token number, the sages might voice bafflement at this misbegotten approach to strategy. You cannot know in advance how many troops it will take to crush your enemies and see them driven before you.
Such a strategy is a contradiction in terms that is fated to disappoint. Why? Let us parse the first part of the phrase unlimited war by contingent. More than an arcane point of strategic theory is at stake here. Wars are generally limited by their strategic and political ends — not by the means, measured in personnel, ships, airplanes, and armaments that the leadership earmarks for waging war. Political leaders determine what they want out of the enterprise, ask themselves how much they want it, and allocate the resources necessary to achieve it. Politics drives strategy drives the amount of force used — that’s Clausewitz 101.

African demography The young continent With fertility rates falling more slowly than anywhere else, Africa faces a population explosion

ON A trolley in a government clinic in rural Ethiopia lies Debalke Jemberu. As a medic and a nurse winkle the sperm-carrying tubes out of his testicles, he explains why he decided to have a vasectomy. He is a farmer, growing wheat, sorghum and a local staple grain called teff. But his plot is barely a quarter of a hectare. He already has four children, and has often struggled to provide for them. “I couldn’t feed more children,” he says.

The medic, who has six more vasectomies to perform that day, interrupts to say he is finished. Mr Jemberu pulls up his trousers, pops on his woolly hat and continues. His parents had seven children, but they had eight hectares to farm. That plot has been shared among his siblings, and diminished by sales and land reforms. At the same time, he complains, the cost of living has gone up. Seven children would be far too big a family these days.
Mr Jemberu’s daughter, who is 25, is still single (he married at 19). He is happy for her to concentrate on her studies for a few more years before starting a family. And when she does, he thinks two children would be plenty. In the meantime, he says, he will tell his fellow villagers how quick and painless the vasectomy has been.

In the minds of many Westerners, Ethiopia is a teeming place with an ever-increasing number of mouths to feed. That is indeed the case in some parts of the country: in the arid south and east, for instance, communities of pastoralists, some of them nomadic, still tend to have big families. Six or seven children remains the norm. But in Addis Ababa, the capital, the average is slightly less than two children per woman, just as it is in most rich countries.
In other words, Ethiopia spans the world’s demographic spectrum. Some parts have populations growing as fast as anywhere on the planet; others have already been through a “demographic transition”, in which the population stabilises or even shrinks as people grow richer and have fewer children. Most of the country, however, is like the highland region where Mr Jemberu lives, in which the typical woman has more than two children, but the downward trend is clear.

Books and newspapers will do just fine in 2016. Magazines? Not so much

Goodbye to all that. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)
Written by Amy X. Wang,  January 02, 2016

The reign of the consumer magazine—glossy, beautiful, and once a ubiquitous presence atop living room coffee tables around the world—seems to be quietly crumbling.
Print books are making something of a comeback right now, thanks in part to the rise of coloring books and a swelling public interest in children’s literature. Newspapers, catering to hyper-local communities, are faring pretty well, too. In fact, according to a new report from global consulting firm McKinsey, every category of media—from cinema to educational publishing to video games—should see an increase in consumer spending in the next few years.
Every category, that is, except magazines.
Global spending on media as a whole will rise 5% every year for the next five years, McKinsey predicts. But the market for both print newspapers and magazines is likely to wane, as interest in digital media takes over. While such a decline will not necessarily be industry-ending—”We believe that many of the people likely to abandon print newspapers and print consumer magazines have already done so,” McKinsey says—it will still have a real effect, leaving publishers scrambling for sustainable profits and new revenue channels.

Why, though, are print newspapers predicted to take much less of a hit than magazines? Part of the answer could lie in newspapers’ gaining expertise in marrying regular print content with supplementary digital content. This strategy doesn’t work so well with magazines, which tend to offer longer-form thought and commentary—not quick updates on the news.
There are also enormous costs and risks involved with magazine operations—especially new ones that see tepid consumer interest. In the US and Canada, 35% fewer magazines were launched this year than in 2014, highlighting both the difficulty of getting a magazine off the ground and the growing understanding that magazines are unlikely to be profitable. When Condé Nast decided to shutter the beloved Details magazine last month, its explanation was short and simple: “It’s been tough.” Only time will tell whether magazines can cling to their audiences in 2016 and beyond. Other forms of media have it much easier, according to McKinsey: Video games, for example, are on track to see more than 100% growth in consumer spending between 2009 and 2019.

“The Robots Are Coming“

By John Lanchester
London Review of Books, 5 March 2015
Lanchester reviews these books:
The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.
Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation by Tyler Cowen.

In 1996, in response to the 1992 Russo-American moratorium on nuclear testing, the US government started a programme called the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative. The suspension of testing had created a need to be able to run complex computer simulations of how old weapons were ageing, for safety reasons, and also – it’s a dangerous world out there! – to design new weapons without breaching the terms of the moratorium. To do that, ASCI needed more computing power than could be delivered by any existing machine. Its response was to commission a computer called ASCI Red, designed to be the first supercomputer to process more than one teraflop. A ‘flop’ is a floating point operation, i.e. a calculation involving numbers which include decimal points (these are computationally much more demanding than calculations involving binary ones and zeros). A teraflop is a trillion such calculations per second.
Once Red was up and running at full speed, by 1997, it really was a specimen. Its power was such that it could process 1.8 teraflops. That’s 18 followed by 11 zeros. Red continued to be the most powerful supercomputer in the world until about the end of 2000.
I was playing on Red only yesterday – I wasn’t really, but I did have a go on a machine that can process 1.8 teraflops. This Red equivalent is called the PS3: it was launched by Sony in 2005 and went on sale in 2006. Red was only a little smaller than a tennis court, used as much electricity as eight hundred houses, and cost $55 million. The PS3 fits underneath a television, runs off a normal power socket, and you can buy one for under two hundred quid. Within a decade, a computer able to process 1.8 teraflops went from being something that could only be made by the world’s richest government for purposes at the furthest reaches of computational possibility, to something a teenager could reasonably expect to find under the Christmas tree.

Who Controls Your Facebook Feed

A small team of engineers in Menlo Park. A panel of anonymous power users around the world. And, increasingly, you.
By Will Oremus
Every time you open Facebook, one of the world’s most influential, controversial, and misunderstood algorithms springs into action. It scans and collects everything posted in the past week by each of your friends, everyone you follow, each group you belong to, and every Facebook page you’ve liked. For the average Facebook user, that’s more than 1,500 posts. If you have several hundred friends, it could be as many as 10,000. Then, according to a closely guarded and constantly shifting formula, Facebook’s news feed algorithm ranks them all, in what it believes to be the precise order of how likely you are to find each post worthwhile. Most users will only ever see the top few hundred.

No one outside Facebook knows for sure how it does this, and no one inside the company will tell you. And yet the results of this automated ranking process shape the social lives and reading habits of more than 1 billion daily active users—one-fifth of the world’s adult population. The algorithm’s viral power has turned the media industry upside down, propelling startups like BuzzFeed and Vox to national prominence while 100-year-old newspapers wither and die. It fueled the stratospheric rise of billion-dollar companies like Zynga and LivingSocial—only to suck the helium from them a year or two later with a few adjustments to its code, leaving behind empty-pocketed investors and laid-off workers. Facebook’s news feed algorithm can be tweaked to make us happy or sad; it can expose us to new and challenging ideas or insulate us in ideological bubbles.

Facebook through the Years
Facebook’s news feed algorithm has shaped not only what we read and how we keep in touch, but how the media frame stories to catch our attention. From the start, savvy publishers have gamed the algorithm’s quirks to concoct viral hits. In response, Facebook’s engineers are constantly tweaking the code in ways that disadvantage some types of posts while boosting others. To see how the media’s formulas for viral success have changed over the years, try to match each of these Facebook hits to the year it was published.

And yet, for all its power, Facebook’s news feed algorithm is surprisingly inelegant, maddeningly mercurial, and stubbornly opaque. It remains as likely as not to serve us posts we find trivial, irritating, misleading, or just plain boring. And Facebook knows it. Over the past several months, the social network has been running a test in which it shows some users the top post in their news feed alongside one other, lower-ranked post, asking them to pick the one they’d prefer to read. The result? The algorithm’s rankings correspond to the user’s preferences “sometimes,” Facebook acknowledges, declining to get more specific. When they don’t match up, the company says, that points to “an area for improvement.”

State of US Defense

Can you feel the strain? The Army wants more troops. The Air Force wants more money and newer planes. The Navy wants more ships and is battling over what to do with the fleet it has. And the Marines — well the Corps isn’t sure what comes next, but they’re staying in the fight.
Spend big, fight small. Be ready to roll everywhere, but stay out of a big war anywhere. Destroy the Islamic State, check down Russia and China, prepare for nuclear war, buy long-range bombers, defend cyber networks and satellites, patrol the seas, and expand covert special ops missions to capture and kill Islamic State leaders. And while you’re at it, modernize the workforce, open up to women, honor commitments to families, and do a better job connecting with the American public.

The state of defense, from top to bottom, is everywhere. It’s a time of changes, to the force and its mission. But there is clear priority at the Pentagon: the war against ISIS.
In December, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told Congress the military already had made nine changes to “accelerate” the counter-ISIS fight in response to President Barack Obama’s order. Already, there are some signs of success, from retaking Ramadi to killing scores of high-value targets with drone strikes. But Obama refused to strike early and now ISIS’s influence has outgrown its territory. Carter warned Congress that he’d be asking for more ways to defeat ISIS in the months ahead, including boosting international support, and 2016 should prove pivotal. It could see more ground successes, if U.S.-backed coalition forces retake Mosul and the rest of Iraq’s major cities, and move Syria (and Russia) toward a peace process, while increased special operations raids continue to decimate and pressure ISIS leaders. But without an ideological defeat of ISIS, the group’s influence — now inspiring individual attacks in Chattanooga, San Bernardino, and Philadelphia — the fight will continue far into the future. In January, the administration announced it was revamping its fledgling counter-propaganda campaign. That should be welcome news to military leaders who continue to be the first to remind Washington — and the American public — there is “no military solution” to the problem of ISIS.

Obama administration plans shake-up in propaganda war against ISIS


The Obama administration is overhauling its faltering efforts to combat the online propaganda of the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, U.S. officials said, reflecting rising White House frustration with largely ineffective efforts so far to cut into ISIS’s use of social media to draw recruits and incite attacks.
Officials will create a counter­­terrorism task force, which will be based at the Department of Homeland Security but aims to enlist dozens of federal and local agencies. Other moves include revamping a State Department program that was created to serve as an information war room to challenge the Islamic State online and erode its appeal.
U.S. officials said the unit at the State Department will turn its focus toward helping allies craft more localized anti-terrorism messages and will stop producing any videos or other material in English — ending a campaign that had been derided by critics.
The plans were announced by the White House on Friday, as senior members of President Obama’s national security team traveled to California in a renewed effort to enlist Silicon Valley companies to help contain the morphing terrorist threat. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, spy chief James R. Clapper Jr. and FBI Director James B. Comey were to meet with executives from Apple, Facebook, Twitter and other firms.