15 January 2016

Bringing back the Dead: Why Pakistan Used the Jaish-e-Mohammad to Attack an Indian Airbase

Associate professor, Georgetown University; Author, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War 
Posted: 13/01/2016  
Most analysts contend that the recent Jaish-e-Mohammad attack on an Indian military base in Pathankot was primarily aimed to derail a nascent peace process between India and Pakistan following Prime Prime Minister Narenda Modi's surprise visit to Lahore, in Pakistan's Punjab, last month. While in the tactical sense this is true; there can never be any meaningful peace process with Pakistan because Pakistan's military cannot abandon its baseless claims on Kashmir or accept India as the dominant power in the region. This interpretation of the attack as "peace spoiler" misses the strategic element of the ISI's revival of Jaish-e-Mohammad (usually referred to as "Jaish"), which has been long dormant following a split in the organization in 2001 when the rump of the outfit decided to focus their weapons on the Pakistani state. As I have argued elsewhere, Pakistan's refurbishing of this outfit is not only about prosecuting Pakistan's regional strategies, but it is also a critical component of Pakistan's domestic security strategy.

Jaish-e-Mohammad is a Deobandi Islamist terrorist group with close ties to the Deobandi Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, anti-Shia groups such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi/Sipah-e-Sahaba-e-Pakistan, and al Qaeda. Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate (ISI) created Jaish by working with several Deobandi terrorists associated with Harkat-ul-Mujahideen to hijack Delhi-bound Indian Airlines flight 814 after it departed Kathmandu in late 1999. The aircraft eventually landed in Kandahar, the base of Afghanistan's Taliban, where terrorists agreed to free the surviving passengers upon the release of three Pakistani terrorists incarcerated in India: Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and Maulana Masood Azhar.

Indian officials delivered these terrorists to Kandahar from which they traveled to Pakistan reportedly ISI escort. After the ISI paraded them about Pakistan as celebrities, Azhar resurfaced in Karachi in January 2000 when he announced the formation of the Jaish from the remnants of other Deobandi terrorist groups. Pakistan's ISI the Jaish to up the ante in Kashmir and to serve as a competitor to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which the ISI also raised and deployed to Kashmir in the early 1990s to escalate the violence in the state. While LeT pioneered the "high risk mission," the Jaish pioneered the use of suicide attacks in Kashmir in April 2000 in Badami Bagh.

The Paths of NSA Ajit Doval and Masood Azhar Cross Again

Written by Sudhi Ranjan Sen | Updated: January 14, 2016 
In 194, painstaking investigation and intelligence gathering by Ajit Doval and his team unearthed just how big Masood Azhar was in the terror infrastructure of Pakistan.
NEW DELHI: As the Pakistan establishment closes in on terror group Jaish-e- Mohammed and its founder Maulana Masood Azhar - who India believes planned both the Pathankot air base attack and the strike on the Indian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan - one man would have reason to smile. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
In 1994 when Masood Azhar was accidentally caught in Srinagar, most agencies would disregard him as a small catch till Ajit Doval walked into the scene.
Azhar was 26 and was travelling on a false Portuguese passport, posing as a journalist who compiled a magazine for the Harkat-ul Mujahdeen.

Painstaking investigation and intelligence gathering by Ajit Doval and his team unearthed just how big Azhar was in the terror infrastructure of Pakistan. Also that he was sent by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI to get the groups Harkut-ul- Ansar and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen together to carry out spectacular terror attacks in the Kashmir Valley and other parts of India.
One of his team members then - Asif Ibrahim - continues to be with him. Now as the Prime Minister's Special Envoy on Terrorism.
Ajit Doval's team, which comprised Asif Ibrahim, who is the Prime Minister Special Envoy on Terrorism, and Avinash Mohananey, now Director General of Police of Sikkim, alerted New Delhi to initiate remedial action.
Indian Airlines' Delhi-bound IC-814 was hijacked after it took off from Katmandu in Nepal (AP photo)Years later, in December 1999, when Indian Airlines' Delhi-bound IC-814 was hijacked after it took off from Katmandu in Nepal, it was left to Ajit Doval and a few other officers to negotiate the release of the hostages.

Hours after the hijack, Mr Doval flew with then Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh to Kandahar in Afghanistan, taking with them with three terrorists whose release was demanded by the hijackers in exchange for the passengers and crew of the plane.
The three terrorists were Masood Azhar, Omar Shiekh - now under arrest in Pakistan for murdering journalist Daniel Pearl - and Mustaq Zargar.
Two years later, when Masood Azhar and Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Sayeed masterminded an attack on the Parliament of India, Mr Doval and his team played a crucial role in not only working out the plot but also the arrest of main accused Afzal Guru.
The December 2001 attack on Parliament forced India to mobilize troops at the border, allowing Pakistan to empty troops from western borders, which gave free passage to Osama Bin Laden and many other Al Qaida leaders into Pakistan.

Return to the Stilwell Road: Reopening a mythical trade route

PUBLISHED: 10 January 2016 |
Americans built the trade world during the Second World War
The Stilwell Road is a myth. Constructed by the Americans during World War II, it started from Ledo, the railhead in the plains of Assam, and wound its way to Kunming, in China’s Yunnan province, covering 1726 km of some of the treacherous terrain. 
The road ran only 61km in India before it crossed into Burma via the Pangsau pass. 
Lying at an altitude of 1,136m, in today’s Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh, it was nicknamed the ‘Hell Pass’ during the WWII due to its fierce gradients, serpentine twists and constant mudslides. 

During the War, the US had the choice between two ‘hells’. A large number of American planes had crashed in NEFA (today’s Arunachal Pradesh) while on supply missions to China. It is estimated that 416 US aircrew went missing in India, mostly in NEFA. The US troops desperately needed a way to bring supplies to the Chinese front, to fight the Japanese troops. Transport planes faced extraordinary difficulties with inclement weather, strong winds and a treacherous air route known as ‘The Hump’. 
The US then decided to build a road, and on January 12, 1945, the first convoy of 113 vehicles left Ledo to finally reach Kunming on February 4. The construction is said to have cost 13,70,00,000 dollars. 

Though originally known as the ‘Ledo Road’, it was later baptised after General Joseph Stilwell, alias ‘Vinegar Joe’, the Chief of Staff of Allied Forces in the China- Burma-India theatre. 
Can you believe that the road was reopened on December 30, 2015? Very few, except in the North-East, noticed the event: but a myth was reborn, with probably incalculable future economic consequences for the region. 
The Arunachal Times reported from Itanagar: “Exhibits from China arrived at the border trade point at Pangsau Pass in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh en route to the Assam International Agri-Horti Show 2016 at Guwahati.” 
The Chinese truck, accompanied by 2 light motor vehicles, carried 82 parcels with electronic goods, organic tea, coffee, and toys to be displayed during the show scheduled for next month. 

An official communiqué from the Arunachal government said: “Passing through the historic Stilwell Road, the exhibits arrived all the way from Baoshan in China’s Yunnan province.” 
Representatives of the North East Federation on International Trade (NEFIT), as well as Arunachal’s Trade & Commerce Director Tokong Pertin were present to receive the Chinese delegates. Pertin called the reopening of the Stilwell Road a ‘historic moment’. 
He said that the newly reopened route could become “a conduit for trade and better understanding for the two Asian economic giants as well as among the countries of the Bangladesh-China-India- Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation (BCIM).” 

Pathankot air base attack: Guns, a dagger and perfume, what the terrorists carried

Pathankot air base attack: Guns, a dagger and perfume, what the terrorists carried
The terrorists were also carrying several items of medication — four painkiller injections, one syringe, an eye drop, seven painkiller tablets, 21 cough tablets, two bandages (1x10 cm and 1x4 cm), two Betadine ointments and a burn set

Written by Sagnik Chowdhury | New Delhi | Updated: January 14, 2016 The NIA had recovered a mobile phone, an AK-47 magazine and a pair of binoculars from the airbase Tuesday.

AK-47 assault rifles, a grenade launcher, a dagger, cough tablets and some perfume are among things the Pathankot airbase attackers were carrying, recoveries made by the Air Force and the National Security Guard have revealed. A wire cutter recovered by the Air Force also strengthens the theory that the terrorists entered the base by scaling its 11-ft wall and snipping concertina wires, sources told The Indian Express.

On the Air Force’s list of arms, ammunition and equipment, accessed by The Indian Express, are four AK-47 assault rifles, three pistols, one Under Barrel Grenade Launcher, 29 AK-47 magazines, seven pistol magazines, 559 live rounds of 7.62 ammunition, 47 pistol rounds, a dagger, a multi-tool, a black-coloured wire tape, a first-aid box and a knife pad. Bomb disposal squads of the NSG and the Army have also destroyed 21 grenades.
The terrorists were also carrying several items of medication — four painkiller injections, one syringe, an eye drop, seven painkiller tablets, 21 cough tablets, two bandages (1×10 cm and 1×4 cm), two Betadine ointments, a burn set and three vials of ithar (perfume). Also recovered were two Rs 500 notes, a motivational note hailing the Jaish-e-Muhammad and two combat rucksacks.
On Wednesday, the NIA recovered a Chinese wireless set from Punjab SP Salwinder Singh’s car, in which the terrorists travelled to the airbase on the night of December 31-January 1. It has been sent to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory and the National Technical Research Organisation to retrieve the data, which had been deleted. “The set is similar to a wireless set recovered from the site of an attack in Sambha, J&K, last year,” the Home Ministry said. Officials said this indicated that both attacks were executed by the same outfit, the JeM.

Simply put: Aims and hurdles of cleaning the Ganga

The government’s Namami Gange programme seeks to tackle the problem at several levels at the same time.
Written by Amitabh Sinha | Updated: January 13, 2016 
A trash skimming machine is already in use at Varanasi. Should machines ordered from abroad arrive on time, surface cleaning could begin in March
It isn’t walking on water, but still a very difficult job — one that India has been trying unsuccessfully to accomplish for the last three decades. AMITABH SINHAlists the steps the government has planned to make India’s holiest river pollution-free

Much of the effort to clean the Ganga over the last 30 years has been centred around creating sewage treatment capacities in major urban centres along the river. Besides the fact that a lot of this capacity has remained underutilised or non-functional, the discharge of urban sewage is only one of several interventions required to rid the holy river of pollution.
The government’s Namami Gange programme seeks to tackle the problem at several levels at the same time. “Rejuvenation” of the Ganga includes reviving ‘Aviral Dhara’, or continuous flow in stretches that have gone dry due to natural or man-made reasons, regenerating the river ecology, making the river an important inland waterway, reviving it as a habitat for dolphins and gharials, and spreading awareness about the need to keep the Ganga clean.
But the first step no doubt is to restart the effort to clean the river that runs for some 2,500 km through five states, and is said to provide direct livelihood to almost 13 million Indians.

SOURCES: ‘Ganga River Basin Management Plan, 2015’, prepared by the consortium of 7 IITs; National Mission for Clean Ganga; ‘Ganga Rejuvenation, Challenges and Required Interventions’, GoI. Graphic: Mithun Chakraborty

Treating Urban Sewage
Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal together generate over 7,300 million litres of sewage per day that flows directly or indirectly into the river. About half of this comes from Tier I and Tier II towns like Kanpur, Allahabad and Varanasi. Currently, the five states together have the capacity to treat only about 3,300 million litres of sewage — or about 45 per cent of the total. The rest flows into the river untreated. This colossal volume might actually be even greater, because large parts of major urban centres like Kanpur and Varanasi are not even connected to the sewage network, and their waste remains unaccounted for.

To talk or not to talk…

January 14, 2016 
PTI"Talk we must, but for any dialogue with Pakistan to be successful, New Delhi will have to be sensitive to Nawaz Sharif’s imperative that it be seen as a win-win outcome for both sides."
Talk we must, but for any dialogue with Pakistan to be successful, New Delhi will have to be sensitive to Nawaz Sharif’s imperative that it be seen as a win-win outcome for both sides.
After the terrorist attack at the Pathankot airbase, a lot of discussion has taken place about whether or not the India-Pakistan Foreign Secretary-level talks, scheduled for mid-January in Islamabad, should go forward or not. However, that should not be the question. The question should be whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has a policy on Pakistan, and if so, what? So far, each time Mr. Modi has taken an initiative for resumption of dialogue with Pakistan, his policy has been hijacked by establishing new ‘redlines’ which have been rubbed out and forgotten as and when a new opening appeared. As a result, there seems to be a lack of coherence in policy which appears to oscillate between ‘talks’ and ‘no-talks’. Clearly, the Prime Minister needs a more centred policy to take forward his agenda, a BeJAK policy — Between Jhappi and Katti.

During the last quarter century, after the end of the Cold War and as the Indian economy gradually began opening up, every Indian Prime Minister has faced a similar dilemma and has dealt with it in the context of India’s larger geopolitical interests and domestic priorities. Yet, there has been a remarkable degree of consistency in the approach they followed though each one of them — P.V. Narasimha Rao, I.K. Gujral, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Dr. Manmohan Singh also put their own distinctive imprint on how they approached the talks.

Twenty-five years and counting
Following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, jihadist terrorism had already reared its ugly head in Kashmir and tensions rose between the two countries. Pakistan was widely believed to have developed a small nuclear arsenal. U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser (NSA) Robert Gates paid a low-key visit to New Delhi and Islamabad in May 1990 after taking the Soviets on board. Subsequently, Prime Minister V.P. Singh approved Foreign Secretary-level talks which focussed for the first time on the issue of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). Gradually, these talks took on a more structured character and the first CBMs were concluded in 1991. Other agenda items were gradually added on to the Foreign Secretaries’ dialogue, while the Directors General of Military Operations of the two sides focussed on finding a resolution for the Siachen glacier.

Are We Hostage to A Terrorist Agenda?

So the jinxes doesn’t go away. Like a visitation that can’t be wished away they keep haunting both India and Pakistan and the peace narrative the two neighbours take periodical pains to construct.
What a difference one week can make in the political calculus between India and Pakistan.
December 25 was a D-Day for all those peaceniks who refused to lose their quantum of hope even in the darkest of times. That was the day PM Modi landed, impromptu and previously-unannounced, in Lahore to give Nawaz Sharif and his clan the Christmas gift of a life-time. It all looked so hunky-dory, so impeccable and spic-span for the India-Pakistan bilateral scenario in the New Year, 2016.

But on January 2, the vaulting momentum was violently arrested in its tracks by a bunch of terrorists. Their assault against the Indian Air Force base at Pathankot, within hailing distance of the Pakistan border, blighted the political landscape like a blast from the blue. Suddenly, all bets were off; the rosy prospects of a week ago wilted under shadows of gloom. It seemed like a solar eclipse snuffing all the light out of the political landscape.
But for a very welcome change, the Indian news media didn’t lose its poise under the unexpected strain. It didn’t take the hackneyed line of instantly pointing the finger at Pakistan. That befuddled the Pakistani pundits. It was something novel, something totally different from the temptation to plunge into instantaneous denunciation of Pakistan for its presumed involvement in yet another episode of terrorism on Indian soil.
No doubt the media restraint was taking its cue from the measured and carefully calibrated stance of the Indian government. Delhi didn’t point the accusing finger at Islamabad either. Instead, it dignified its response to the tragedy by insisting that it was too early to know the perpetrators of the dastardly crime.

Delhi’s message between the lines was none other than a signal to Islamabad that, buoyed by the salutary impact of Modi’s masterly Santa-diplomacy, it was ready to give Pakistan the benefit of doubt. ‘Come clean,’ the message seemed to suggest, ‘either prove your innocence or if we furnish you evidence of imprints of Pakistani non-state actors in the crime then bring them to book.’

Pakistan Is Caught in the Middle of the Conflict Between Iran and Saudi Arabia

Omar Waraich @OmarWaraich Jan. 11, 2016
It has large Sunni and Shi‘ite populations and needs the cooperation of both Riyadh and Tehran
After severing ties with Iran — following the torching of the Saudi embassy in Tehran by protesters angered by the execution of a dissident Shi‘ite Saudi cleric — Saudi Arabia is courting Pakistan’s support in its widening dispute with its long-standing regional rival.

In their first foreign trips this year, Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi Foreign Minister, and Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the deputy crown prince and Defense Minister, traveled to Islamabad last week, within days of each other, meeting civilian leadership but also, crucially, Pakistan’s powerful generals.
Since announcing a 34-country “Islamic military alliance” last November, Saudi Arabia has been seeking the inclusion of the Muslim world’s second most populous country and sole nuclear power. The Pakistanis said they were initially surprised to learn of the coalition, but a Foreign Ministry spokesman reluctantly acknowledged Islamabad’s membership.

A senior Pakistani official also told TIME, “We are part of the coalition, but we will only be acting in our national interest.”
Following meetings with Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday, the Pakistan army issued a statement asserting “that any threat to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity would evoke a strong response from Pakistan.” Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif struck a more conciliatory tone, suggesting that Islamabad was willing to play the role of mediator between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

What “One Belt, One Road” Could Mean for China’s Regional Security Approach

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
January 12, 2016
In November, when the Islamic State group executed Chinese hostage Fan Jinghui, a Chinese advertising consultant and self-identified “wanderer,” Chinese netizens quickly vented their frustration over the government’s limited response. One Weibo user wrote, “It’s time for China as a big power to stand up and act.” Although Chinese censors temporarily blocked keywords such as “hostage” and “IS,” the burst of online sentiment raised questions about how the Chinese government would react to the mounting threat posed by terrorism both abroad and within its borders. In particular, would the specter of the Islamic State lead China to change its regional security strategy as it expands its trade and investment presence under its “One Belt, One Road” initiative?

China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) policy is an ambitious effort to link the country through infrastructure, telecommunications, and finance to Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Over the next ten years, Beijing aspires to achieve 2.5 trillion dollars in annual trade with the nations involved in OBOR. Chinese policy analysts are well aware of the security concerns posed by the project. Tsinghua University professor Zhao Kejin has noted, “As China becomes more involved in economic globalization and closely integrated with the world – especially with the ‘Road and Belt’ initiative and its underlying projects – ISIS is not an issue the country can get around.”

China has long claimed that it faces an externally supported terrorist threat inside its borders, particularly in the predominantly Muslim autonomous region of Xinjiang. With approximately 70 percent of the trade between China and Central Asia passing through Xinjiang, its stability is vital to the success of the Silk Road Economic Belt. Yet the region has been the site of significant ethnic violence. After the Paris attacks, leaders cited a Septemberattack on a mine in northwest Xinjiang that killed fifty people as evidence of China’s domestic terrorist threat and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi stated, “China is also a victim of terrorism.” However, a debate persists between foreign observers and Chinese officials over the sources of regional unrest and what constitutes terrorism.

China is building its first military base in Africa. America should be very nervous.

James Poulos
REUTERS, January 12, 2016
Africa is likely to become one of the biggest stories of 2016, and not because of some horrific new disease or harrowing new war. Instead, an unprecedented new dynamic is about to shape the continent. The U.S. and China, major powers with a minor footprint, are both poised for much deeper and more direct involvement in African affairs.
And rather than finding themselves on a crash course, they're facing a more complex — and, for America, unnerving — situation. Thanks to the much different challenges and priorities facing both powers, African intervention is shaping up as a feast for China and a famine for the U.S.

Look to Djibouti for big clues about why. News is quietly breaking that China has sealed a deal to build its first military base in that little country, a former French colony strategically located across from Yemen on the Red Sea, squeezed between Eritrea and Somalia. Confirming years of under-the-radar suspicions, AFRICOM commander Gen. David Rodriguez told The Hill that the "logistics hub" and airfield will let China "extend their reach" into Africa over the course of an initial 10-year contract. Currently, The Hill observed, China can't do much more than stage some naval patrols out of Djibouti ports.
Given China's breakneck expansion into Africa, that's just not good enough. In Africa, China has found not just a market for money but for jobs and land — crucial components of sustained economic growth. As December's Forum on China-Africa Cooperation revealed, the Middle Kingdom wants to ensure privileged access to that kind of future. Although it's hard to unravel the details, Beijing used the Forum to pledge $60 billion in loans and export credits.

No, the Chinese aren't about to lap the U.S. in investment anytime soon, but the financials have taken on an extra edge at a moment when Beijing needs all the good news it can get. "China operates in Africa with greater aplomb and with more nuanced and mutually beneficial relationships than America's corporations and its federal [government]," as one private equity analyst noted at the Council on Foreign Relations. "The USG's most visible diplomatic effort in Africa, Power Africa, is sputtering. American businesses haven't sufficiently picked up the slack."

Why Saudi Arabia May Be the Next Syria

Schuyler Moore, January 8, 2016
The Islamic State group (ISIS) is running up against a wall. As national coalitions take a larger role in the fight against ISIS, the group will become increasingly unable to operate on as large a scale as it has in years past, and it will be pushed out of its previously held territories – its decline may take years or even decades, but it will ultimately decline. But although ISIS may deplete its resources and feel increasing pressure from the international community, its members will not simply disappear as the group loses momentum. ISIS is largely comprised of foreign fighters with limited ties to the countries they fight in, and in the event of a relocation, one country in particular looks like a promising alternative – Saudi Arabia. With internal unrest, the threat of oil-driven economic instability and a history of conflict with its neighbors, the House of Saud is ripe for insurgency and would be the ideal next location for jihadists looking for a new rallying point. As ISIS loses steam and is pushed out of its old stomping grounds, Saudi Arabia is in danger of becoming the next ground zero for terrorism in the region.
Internal Risk Factors

Saudi Arabia has always faced unique demographic and socio-economic challenges. Out of a population of approximately 28 million people, immigrants make up nearly a third of entire population and over three-quarters of the labor force. Approximately 70% of the population is under the age of 30, and within that age group, unemployment is close to 30%. Nationals and non-nationals alike live under Sharia law with strict Wahhabi principles dictated by the royal family and the religious leadership of the ulema, which often cause strains within the immigrant population as well as the native population. While some within the kingdom push for modernization, the ultra-conservatives consistently call for increased rigidity in religious practice, causing friction within the royal family and the Saudi population as a whole. The recent ascension of King Salman last year has only added fuel to the fire as the internal politics of the royal family add another layer of uncertainty, opening the door for terrorist groups who might take advantage of the instability.

The army of the desperate

Jan 11, 2016, Talmiz Ahmad
The ISIS’ allure is that it is fighting these Arab tyrants across the region, even as it fulfils the longing of its adherents to participate in a cause that is founded on their own history and traditions
Last year, as he addressed the congregation from the pulpit of the mosque in Mosul, the self-styled caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi invited all Muslims to migrate to the Islamic State “because hijra to the land of Islam is obligatory”. He described his territory as one where “the Arab and non-Arab, the white man and black man, the easterner and the westerner are all brothers, (where) their blood mixes and becomes one, under a single flag and goal.”

The number of those who responded to this call is staggering: the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is said to have 200,000 fighters, of whom a third are already battle-hardened. Most of them are from Iraq and Syria, but at least 30,000 are foreigners from 80 countries; about 7,000 are from Europe, including 2,500 women. Till last year, when controls at the Turkey-Syria border were lax, a few hundred young recruits used to cross over to join ISIS every day. Most of the men are aged between 15-20 years, while the minimum age of women is only slightly higher. The men are paid a salary of $500-650 per month. A marriage bureau facilitates marriages, while a counselling office handles marital difficulties.
Not surprisingly, most of the recruitment is done online. ISIS employs the latest social media and the most talented IT specialists, putting its messages across in different languages through hard-to-detect tools such as Kik, WhatsApp and Skype. It has its own Facebook (“Muslimbook”), mobile phone app and a videogame in which American soldiers in Iraq are targeted. Given the centrality of digital technology, the distinguished Arab commentator Abdel Bari Atwan refers to the ISIS as “The Digital State” and says that without the Internet ISIS would not have recruited its army or succeeded in its territorial conquests.

Most fighters are allured through slick recruitment films, such as one titled There is No Life Without Jihad, which has interviews with three jihadis from different backgrounds talking about their battles, as also the comfortable home life they have in the ISIS. One jihadi says there is “no cure for depression (like) the honour of coming to jihad”. ISIS does not only want fighters; people with different skills are welcome: “There is a role for everybody,” the video says.
Messages projected are of two kinds: Those that use the street slang of young people (“jihadi-cool”) and focus on the “brotherhood” of the gang, showing the ISIS as a place where you can “belong”, and the other that focuses on battles and the killing of hostages and enemy forces, and exalts martyrdom as the highest achievement of the jihadi fighter.


JANUARY 13, 2016
The post-Arab Spring period has seen extraordinary growth in the global jihadist movement. In addition to theIslamic State seizing a vast swathe of territory spanning Syria and Iraq and al-Qaeda establishing itself as a potent military force in the Syrian civil war, instability and unfulfilled expectations in numerous countries — including Egypt, Libya, Mali, Tunisia, and Yemen — have presented jihadists with unprecedented opportunities.

But even as the jihadist movement experiences rapid growth, it has also endured unprecedented internal turmoil. The Islamic State’s emergence marks the first time that leadership over the global jihadist movement has been seriously contested. Since that group’s expulsion from the al-Qaeda network in February 2014, a fierce competition between the Islamic State and al-Qaeda has defined the militant landscape. The United States has an opportunity to exploit and aggravate fissures within the jihadist community, but to do so successfully, it is essential to understand the differences in the modus operandi of these two rival jihadist groups.

Two Models of Revolutionary Warfare

Though al-Qaeda and the Islamic State share the same ultimate goal — establishing a global caliphate ruled by an austere version of sharia (Islamic law) — each group maintains a distinct approach to revolutionary warfare. Al-Qaeda has come to favor covert expansion, unacknowledged affiliates, and a relatively quiet organizational strategy designed to carefully build a larger base of support before engaging in open warfare with its foes. By contrast, the Islamic State believes that the time for a broader military confrontation has already arrived, and has loudly disseminated its propaganda to rally as many soldiers as possible to its cause. The group combines shocking violence with an effective propaganda apparatus in an effort to quickly build its base of support.
The Maoist and focoist schools of revolutionary thought provide a useful framework for understanding these groups’ differing strategies. Al-Qaeda exhibits a revolutionary strategy that is both implicitly and explicitly based on the works of Mao Tse-tung, while the Islamic State’s approach is more consonant with the focoist writings of Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Régis Debray.

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 themap 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.

ISIS guide teaches jihadis how to blend in

JANUARY 11, 2016
ISIS warning ... Islamic State has urged its fighters to follow its guidelines to avoid being captured.
SHAVE your beard, wear western-style clothes and act Christian.
These are some of Islamic State’s tips to help jihadists blend in as they plan attacks in western countries.

The 62-page Safety & Security Guidelines for Lone Wolf Mujahideen (Jihadis) provides an unsettling glimpse at the lengths Islamic State recruits will go to in their attempt to avoid detection by intelligence services.
The guide recommends that would-be attackers establish cells with four or five members working with only each other and having no link with any other group, to avoid a mass neutralisation.

Guide for ISIS attacks ... the front cover of the guide features the Statue of Liberty and other global landmarks in ruins. Picture: Supplied
“If you are the one who established many independent cells or independent small groups, if you get caught, you could be the reason all those groups and cells get dismantled. So your responsibility at that time would be to put yourself in security, by going to the front lines of the open battlefields in Afghanistan or Iraq, or to enlist for a martyrdom operation, so that your secret goes with you. That’s because your mere presence is a danger to all these established cells and groups,” the guide reads.
https://www.chathamhouse.org/publication/russias-sovereign-globalization-rise-fall-and-futureRussia’s Sovereign Globalization: Rise, Fall and Future 
06 January 2016
Nigel Gould-Davies, Lecturer and Programme Coordinator in International Relations, Mahidol University International College
The failure of Russia's experiment with sovereign globalization encourages pessimism about Russia’s prospects but optimism about globalization.
Russian flag. Photo: bopav/iStock by Getty Images. 

Two major goals have driven Vladimir Putin’s presidency: a controlling state and a prosperous economy. His central dilemma has been to manage the tension between those objectives. He has had to consider how Russia could reap prosperity through globalization while maintaining domestic control and great-power autonomy.
To achieve that end, Russia evolved a strategy of ‘sovereign globalization’. Initially, this involved managing the terms of economic engagement to limit external influence by reducing sovereign debt, circumscribing foreign ownership rights and maximizing the balance of benefits over obligations in global economic governance.
As Russia’s confidence grew, it sought to exert broader political influence by economic means, using its position as the major market of the former Soviet Union and dominant energy supplier to Europe.
A series of adverse developments undermined that strategy: the decline of energy-export-led growth, global energy market developments and EU responses to Russian policy. Those changes led to a sharp and unfavourable shift in the balance between opportunity and risk in Russia’s engagement with the global economy.
The unravelling of Russia’s strategy propelled events in Ukraine and triggered the present crisis in Russia–West relations. As a consequence, Russia’s distorted political economy is now under strain; its regional influence is waning; and Western sanctions are depriving it of goods, capital and technology.
Russia’s experiment with ‘sovereign globalization’ was a highly ambitious attempt to harness interdependence to the pursuit of power-political ends. For the first time, Russia used economic relations – its traditional weakness – as a source of strength. The failure of that strategy encourages pessimism about Russia’s prospects but optimism about globalization.
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Experts: Ukrainian cyberattack on power supply a 'wake-up call' for US

With consensus growing that hackers caused a widespread power outage in Ukraine last month, many security experts worry whether the US grid could withstand such an attack. 

By Paul F. Roberts, Correspondent January 13, 2016 

A growing consensus is forming among experts that a coordinated cyberattack on a Ukrainian electric utility caused a blackout late last month, raising hard new questions for US policymakers and utilities about power grid security in this country.

"This is as big a wake-up call as you get," says Joe Weiss, an industry expert on industrial control system used to run large and small utilities.

The attack occurred on Dec. 23 and caused blackouts for several hours in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine. One affected utility, Kyivoblenergo, notified customers that the outage resulted from an "illegal entry" into its information technology system. In all, 30 substations were disconnected from the grid in the attack, affecting some 80,000 customers.
While US cybersecurity experts and policymakers have long warned that hackers could take aim at utilities, Mr. Weiss and others say the grid is still too vulnerable to attack. 
One major problem, says Weiss, is that the energy industry's current cybersecurity standard, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation's Critical Infrastructure Protection plan, exempts many operators who are part of the US power grid. That includes small power distributors such as those targeted in Ukraine. Rather, the industry oversight group focuses mostly on large power generators.

Obama prefers special ops to combat forces in the war on terrorism. It's not working.

Last week the Defense Department announced a couple of significant appointments: Gen. Joseph Votel, head of Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, would become head of United States Central Command, in charge of all military operations in the Middle East. Lt. Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas, head of the Joint Special Operations Command (composed of the Army's Delta Force, Navy SEALs and other “Tier 1” forces) would gain an extra star and replace Votel as overall head of special operations.
Thomas thus becomes the third Joint Special Operations commander in a row to ascend to lead SOCOM and Votel becomes the latest special ops veteran elevated to a senior command, following the precedent set by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who went from Joint Special Operations Command to director of the Pentagon's Joint Staff to command in Afghanistan.

This may sound like Pentagon inside baseball, but it actually reflects an important trend: the extent to which President Obama depends on Special Operations forces, especially the joint command, which specializes in direct action missions: kicking down doors and killing or capturing terrorists. Army Special Forces, popularly known as Green Berets, by contrast, specialize in the less sexy mission of working “by, with and through” indigenous forces. No career Green Beret officer has ever been put in charge of SOCOM.
Having become president by strongly opposing the Iraq war, Obama is loath to commit ground forces to combat. But it's a different story with special operations forces. Wherever the president sees a terrorist threat, his preferred solution is to use drones or special ops troops to stage “surgical” strikes against “high-level targets.”

And how is this strategy working? Thomas told a West Point interviewer last spring that in the war on terrorism “we're losing across the board.” That's not because of any lack of valor or skill on the part of the troops Thomas commands. Special operators can eliminate individual terrorist leaders such as Osama bin Laden, but they cannot eliminate the organizations those leaders run.
Since Bin Laden's death in 2011, the terrorist threat has only gotten worse. Al Qaeda central, in Pakistan, has been weakened but its affiliates, in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere are stronger than ever. Meanwhile Islamic State has emerged from the ruins of Al Qaeda in Iraq, whose founder, Abu Musab Zarqawi, was killed by special forces in 2006. Islamic State not only administers a “caliphate” sprawling across the borders of Iraq and Syria, but it is also proliferating from Libya to Afghanistan and inspiring killers from Paris to San Bernardino.
What the administration has been missing all along in the fight against Islamic extremists is a comprehensive counterinsurgency plan.-

ISIS Has Built A Secure Messaging App


Facebook and other big tech companies aren’t the only ones who can create apps for encrypted communication.
ISIS has a new Android app for exchanging secure messages, joining another app that distributes propaganda and recruiting material, according to a counterterrorism network called the Ghost Security Group.
Last month, Ghost Security and others,observed ISIS members using private messages on the Telegram app and direct messages on Twitter to send followers to a site (since vanished) to download the Amaq Agency app.

“The application’s primary purpose is for propaganda distribution. Using the app you are able to follow the most recent news and video clips.” Ghost Security representatives told Defense One. The Amaq Agency has known ties to Islamic State and issued statements in support of the attackers in the recent California shootings before all the details were publicly available. .
Shortly after, Ghost Security discovered a separate app called Alrawi.apk, or just “the Alrawi app,” Initially, they believed it to resemble the Amaq Agency app. But on Jan. 11, they discovered “encrypted communications features although rudimentary to Telegram or other more-company created ones,” a Ghost Security representative told Defense One in an email.

The app joins ISIS’ other known methods of communication to individuals and groups. Among their favorite is Telegram, the a messaging app created by Pavel Durov, a Russian entrepreneur residing in Germany. Telegram allows encrypted communication to individuals, similar to Facebook’sWhatsApp; as well as a public broadcasting capability.
Immediately after the Paris attacks in November, credited toISIS-affiliated gunmen, Telegram suspended 78 public ISIS-related channels in 12 languages. But Durov has made no promises that private chats could be shut down.

Towards a Principled Approach to Engagement with Non-state Armed Groups for Humanitarian Purposes

08 January 2016
Dr Patricia LewisResearch Director, International Security 
The challenge of meeting the humanitarian needs of people affected by conflict in areas controlled by non-state armed groups (NSAGs) is growing in complexity, not least as it may be difficult to reconcile with counterterrorism objectives.
The challenge of meeting the humanitarian needs of people affected by conflict in areas controlled by non-state armed groups (NSAGs) is growing in complexity.
States – whether party to or supporting a party to a conflict, or aid donors – can fund, facilitate, complicate or block humanitarian organizations’ responses to these needs as well as their engagement with NSAGs for operational purposes.
A wide range of factors determine states’ policies and actions, such as: political, military and counterterrorism objectives; the number, character and behaviour of NSAGs; the mandates, actions, and other parties’ experiences with and perceptions of humanitarian organizations; security and socio-economic conditions; the relative financial importance of aid; and public opinion, local or international, with regard to humanitarian suffering and need.
Many humanitarian organizations are seeking greater clarity both from donor states and from states party to conflict regarding the basis on which consent will be provided, or at least not withheld, for their engagement with NSAGs.
More realistic will be an ongoing dialogue among states on the principles that determine operationalization of consent consistent with international humanitarian law (IHL) for humanitarian operations including in areas under the control of NSAGs. This dialogue would benefit from input by humanitarian organizations and, where appropriate, NSAGs or former NSAGs.
This briefing, including a set of emerging core propositions, is based on research and consultations undertaken by Chatham House with a view to understanding the dynamics that will determine support for a principle-based approach to engagement by humanitarian actors with NSAGs.
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White House Raises Encryption Threat in Silicon Valley Summit

Jenna McLaughlin, Jan. 9 2016,
Top Obama administration officials are holding a summit meeting on counterterrorism on Friday in Silicon Valley with top tech executives, including Apple CEO Tim Cook. The White House delegation includes Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. “The goal here is to find additional ways to work together to make it even harder for terrorists or criminals to find refuge in cyberspace,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said at a news briefing.
The highly controversial topic of encryption is very much on the agenda, according to excerpts from a White House briefing distributed to participants of the summit, obtained by The Intercept. Read the excerpts below.

In addition to using technology to recruit and radicalize, terrorists are using technology to mobilize supporters to attack and to plan, move money for, coordinate, and execute attacks. The roles played by terrorist leaders and attack plotters in this activity vary, ranging from providing general direction to small groups to undertake attacks of their own design wherever they are located to offering repeated and specific guidance on how to execute attacks. To avoid law enforcement and the intelligence community detecting their activities, terrorists are using encrypted forms of communications at various stages of attack plotting and execution. We expect terrorists will continue to use technology to mobilize, facilitate, and operationalize attacks, including using encrypted communications where law enforcement cannot obtain the content of the communication even with court authorization. We would be happy to provide classified briefings in which we could share additional information.


As 2015 came to a close, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work described the Pentagon’s emerging third offset strategy at an event sponsored by the Center for a New American Security (War on the Rocks and CNAS have collaborated on the Beyond Offset series at this website). In a sharp break from the past 15 years, Work focused on the frightening prospect of conventional war against major near-peer competitors such as China and Russia. “This talk is all about conventional deterrence,” Work explained, a condition he believed is weakening due to the diffusion of advanced military technology around the world.

As with the previous two offset strategies (the Eisenhower administration’s focus on nuclear weapons in the 1950s and the precision munitions revolution of the 1970s), the third offset aims to achieve a new era of U.S. military-technical dominance. The need for such U.S. dominance should be indisputable — it would be foolish to simply spend more on legacy and increasingly uncompetitive systems and concepts when competitors like China will be able to match that spending and with lower unit costs.
Secretary Work should be commended for pushing this project. However, his speech (or, more precisely, what he did not discuss) revealed at least four concerns that raise doubts about the third offset initiative. The project is still in its childhood, with much presumably still under development. Yet these concerns are foundational and overshadow the technological points that were the center of Work’s remarks.
It’s the Access, Stupid

The third offset’s description doesn’t appear to address the central problem facing U.S. military forces. Work’s speech focused on the third offset’s five technology-related initiatives:
“Learning machines” that take advantage of “big data” and iterative processes to improve performance,
Human–machine collaboration, whereby equipment and software improve the presentation of data so humans can make better decisions,
Assisted human operations, where machines will directly boost the physical and mental performance of humans,
Human–machine combat teaming, where manned and unmanned systems will work in groups, exploiting the advantages of both, and
Autonomous weapons that will be resistant to adversary cyber and electronic warfare effects.

Companies, Scientists, and Activists Worldwide Call On Global Leaders to Protect Strong Encryption

Jenna McLaughlin, Jan. 11 2016,

Nearly 200 experts, companies, and activists in 42 countries have signed a letter demanding that world leaders take a stand in support of encryption technology, which protects nearly every internet transaction from banking and health records to emails and web browsing.
The letter, organized by Access Now, comes in response to the challenges being mounted against strong encryption by administrations — in the U.S. and worldwide — concerned that the technology gives criminals and terrorists a “safe space” to communicate and commit crimes with impunity.

“We’re seeing threats come up all over the world,” said Amie Stepanovich, U.S. policy manager for Access Now, to The Intercept. “This is a response to that — to draw clear lines in the sand between what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to the government acting on encryption.”
“We urge you to protect the security of your citizens, your economy, and your government by supporting the development and use of secure communications tools and technologies, rejecting policies that would prevent or undermine the use of strong encryption, and urging other leaders to do the same,” reads the letter.

In the U.S., FBI and DOJ officials have repeatedly described encryption as a major obstacle to public safety, shadowing criminal communications from view — but when asked for real-life examples of encryption thwarting major investigations, they haven’t produced credible evidence.
When it comes to uncrackable end-to-end encryption, technologists have been nearly unanimous that trying to build government access into encryption technology would be more dangerous than beneficial — allowing criminals and other nation-states the potential for that same access — and that there’s no going back, anyway.

Apple’s Tim Cook Lashes Out at White House Officials for Being Wishy-Washy on Encryption

Jenna McLaughlin, Jan. 13 2016,
Apple CEO Tim Cook lashed out at the high-level delegation of Obama administration officials who came calling on tech leaders in San Jose last week, criticizing the White House for a lack of leadership and asking the administration to issue a strong public statement defending the use of unbreakable encryption.
The White House should come out and say “no backdoors,” Cook said. That would mean overruling repeated requests from FBI director James Comey and other administration officials that tech companies build some sort of special access for law enforcement into otherwise unbreakable encryption. Technologists agree that any such measure could be exploited by others.

But Attorney General Loretta Lynch responded to Cook by speaking of the “balance” necessary between privacy and national security – a balance that continues to be debated within the administration.
The exchange was described to The Intercept by two people who were briefed on the meeting, which the White House called to discuss a variety of counterterrorism issues with representatives from Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Cloudflare, Google, Drop Box, Microsoft, and LinkedIn.

The Washington Post reported in September that the White House had decided not to pursue legislation against unbreakable encryption. But the intelligence community’s top lawyer was quoted in an email saying that that the administration should be “keeping our options open…in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement.”
And Comey has been urging technology companies to voluntarily alter “their business model” and stop offering end-to-end encryption by default.

If you're reading this with Internet Explorer, stop in the name of security

Starting Jan. 12, Microsoft will stop supporting older versions of Internet Explorer as it tries to move users to its newer Edge browser. The lack of technical support and upgrades will expose anyone using older IE versions to myriad security risks. 
By Jaikumar Vijayan, Correspondent January 13, 2016 
The end of the 'e' is near. The lowercase vowel that millions of Internet users clicked on to browse the Web for 20 years is fast becoming a relic of the Information Age as Microsoft Corp. ends support for all but the newest versions of Internet Explorer.

Effective Jan. 12, people using IE versions 7, 8, 9, and 10 will no longer receive updates, security patches, or technical support from Microsoft except in some limited situations where they might be running it with certain versions of Windows.
Microsoft announced its end of life plans for the pioneering browser more than a year ago. Even so, tens of millions of users, including thousands of companies worldwide, are expected to continue to use the obsolete browsers and expose themselves to potentially serious security issues in the process. In fact, security analysts expect to see a spike in attacks targeting users running older versions of IE and want them to update as soon as possible.
In cutting support for old IE, Microsoft wants to move users to its Edge browser. IE 11, released in 2013, will be the last version of IE that Microsoft will support – at least for now. In some cases, however, it will offer support for other browsers on certain operating systems (a full rundown can be found here). Still, it's clear the company is quickly looking to shelve the browser altogether.

But as often happens with technology upgrades, users do not always keep up with the latest upgrades. Microsoft's experience with Windows XP is a case in point.
Microsoft ended support for its venerable Windows XP operating system in April 2014. Yet nearly two years later, Windows XP, arguably the most popular version of Windows, still holds a nearly 11 percent market share, according to data from Net Applications. Several organizations are actually paying Microsoft extra money to receive support for Windows XP because they are not ready to shift yet.

Facebook Messenger is everywhere, but what is it for?

Facebook Messenger topped 800 million users and was the fastest growing app in 2015. To capitalize on the large audience, Facebook is redefining the app to become something closer to a platform than a messaging service.
By Corey Fedde, Staff January 8, 2016
When announced in 2011, Facebook’s decision to create a separate messaging app drew skepticism, but today users now total more than 800 million.
The Facebook Messenger app was the fastest growing app of 2015, according to a study by research firm Nielsen, which found that the app grew its user base 31 percent from 2014. Facebook Messenger user base still trails behind the 900 million users of WhatsApp, a messaging service that is also owned by Facebook.
Still, Messenger is approaching a state of near ubiquity, so the social media company is seeking to change and redefine it. Despite the name, plans allude to a future beyond Facebook messages.
"One of the things we have to work on this year is this perception or mindset that Messenger is only to speak with your Facebook friends," vice president of messaging products David Marcus told Reuters.
Last year, Facebook took steps to open Messenger up to more than just Facebook friends. In June 2015, Facebook allowed users without Facebook accounts – registration was done with a name, phone number, and photo. Messenger users can also reach out to others, even if they aren’t Facebook friends.

For 2016, Facebook plans on continuing this trend, according to a statement by Mr. Marcus. Attracting more users and retaining them with more options for communication, including video chat, emojis, and GIFs, Facebook aims to make SMS and texting extinct.
Think about it: SMS and texting came to the fore in the time of flip phones. Now, many of us can do so much more on our phones; we went from just making phone calls and sending basic text-only messages to having computers in our pockets. And just like the flip phone is disappearing, old communication styles are disappearing too. With Messenger, we offer all the things that made texting so popular, but also so much more.