30 March 2016

*** 7th Pay Commission: Armed forces pitch for better compensation, common pay matrix

by Sushant Singh 
March 29, 2016 
Source Link

7th Pay Commission: The absence of the military in the Empowered Committee has been a major cause of concern for the defence services.
According to those present at the March 11 meeting, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha spoke before the presentation by stating that the issues about to be raised are important as there is discontent among the rank and file.

At about 10 am on March 11, the three military chiefs were in the meeting room of the cabinet secretariat to attend a crucial briefing. The Pay and Allowances Review Committee (PARC) of the three services, comprising Major General rank officers, had been allotted 45 minutes to brief the Empowered Committee of Secretaries to process the recommendations of the Seventh Central Pay Commission (7th CPC).

The Empowered Committee is chaired by the Cabinet Secretary, PK Sinha and is meant to function as a screening committee to process the recommendations with regard to all relevant factors of the 7th CPC in an expeditious, detailed and holistic fashion. The Empowered Committee consists of 13 secretaries, which includes nine IAS officers, one IPS officer and one from Railway Board. There are, however, no military officers on the committee. “We are 29.7 per cent of all central government employees, as are the Railways. They have a member on the Committee but we don’t. The IPS, with strength of only 4,675 officers, has a member,” a senior military officer told The Indian Express.

The absence of the military in the Empowered Committee has been a major cause of concern for the defence services. The emotions of those in uniform have been running high since the time 7th CPC submitted its recommendations to the government in November last year. Military officials monitoring various social media platforms told The Indian Express that they have been “shocked at the vehement anger and outrage” among military personnel “not only against the civilian bureaucracy but also senior military officials” over the recommendations of the 7th CPC.

The issue has been discussed at the highest levels in the services where fears of things going wrong, in case corrective steps are not taken to address the anomalies by the Empowered Committee, have been expressed by the military hierarchy. These fears were the reason for the three military chiefs to take the unusual step of being present for the briefing of the Empowered Committee. Even earlier, immediately after the 7th CPC submitted its report, the three chiefs had jointly written to the defence minister about their concerns over its recommendations.

According to those present at the March 11 meeting, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha spoke before the presentation by stating that the issues about to be raised are important as there is discontent among the rank and file. Requesting the committee to look favourably at the issues, he highlighted the fact that the status of the armed forces has been downgraded in the 7th CPC, and for the military, status and honour is the most important aspect of their service to the country.

The 25-minute PowerPoint presentation by PARC raised four demands before the Empowered Committee. The first demand was for grant of a Common Pay Matrix for the military and the civilian employees. The Defence Pay Matrix of the 7th CPC has only 24 pay levels while there are 40 pay levels for the civilians. This means that all military officers will stagnate at the pay reached after 31 years of service, which will, in turn mean that their pensions will be Rs 20,000 less than their civilian counterparts.

Senior civilian government officials say that due to higher number of ranks in the military compared to the civilian bureaucracy, it is not feasible to have a Common Pay Matrix. They say that the defence services were thus offered the option of a separate pay commission, which was rejected by them. “Our attempt is to get fully integrated into the system, at par with the civilians. Going for a separate pay commission defeats that purpose. We instead want to have a member on the pay commission,” explained a military official.

The second demand of the military pertained to Reciprocity of Allowances. A large number of allowances are applicable to civilian employees but not to the uniformed personnel. In April 2009, the government issued a letter stating that all compensatory field and other allowances applicable to the armed forces will also be applicable to the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF). But the allowances of CAPF have not been extended to the armed forces.

In its presentation, PARC furnished the example of a CAPF DIG in Leh would be earning an allowance of Rs 57,500 while a Brigadier will get only Rs 17,000. Similarly, a military jawan deployed for disaster management like flood or earthquake relief shall get no allowance while a National Disaster Response Force will gets Rs 6,000 every time he is deployed, and a CAPF jawan will earn Rs 17,000.

*** The Tech Revolution Comes Of Age

29 March 2016

-- this post authored by Matthew Bey

Technological revolutions frame historical eras. Each cycle thrusts new sectors into prominence, turning companies into strategic assets for their governments to exploit. Whether it is European trading companies in the colonial era or international oil companies in the 20th century, technological revolutions give corporations such power and importance that they become inherently geopolitical.

The information technology revolution is no different. Computer software and hardware technologies have become indispensable to the modern economy, underpinning the economies of the developed world. The companies that operate in this space, such as Samsung, Apple, Google, Facebook and Baidu, are among the most powerful in the world today. At the same time, they often find themselves at the center of geopolitical disputes.

Though 30 years in the making, the IT revolution remains in its infancy. The balance of power between tech companies and governments has not yet been fully defined. Likewise, the extent to which countries such as China - countries where, by Western standards, state institutions work too closely with the business elite - will benefit from this revolution, and whether they will be able to wrest control of it away from entrenched Western powers, remains to be seen.

From Trading to Transportation

Over the past 500 years, two revolutions have defined the way the world's powers interact. The first was the development of deep-water navigation in the 15th and 16th centuries, which marked the start of five centuries of European global domination. European trading companies such as the Dutch East India Co. and British East India Co. soon became de facto arms of their governments, implementing foreign policy goals throughout their colonies and even administering them politically at times.

*** Troubles, They Come in Battalions: The Manifold Travails of the Indian Air Force

Ashley J. Tellis
March 28, 2016

The Indian Air Force’s falling end strength and problematic force structure, combined with its troubled acquisition and development programs, threaten India’s air superiority over its rapidly modernizing rivals.

 The Indian Air Force (IAF) is in crisis. Despite being a world-class combat arm, the IAF’s falling end strength and problematic force structure, combined with its troubled acquisition and development programs, threaten India’s air superiority over its rapidly modernizing rivals, China and Pakistan. Indian air dominance is vital for deterrence stability in southern Asia and for preserving the strategic balance in the wider Indo-Pacific region. Resolving India’s airpower crisis, therefore, should be a priority for New Delhi.

Troubles Facing the Indian Air Force

The IAF’s fighter force, as of early 2016, is weaker than the numbers suggest. At nominally 36.5 squadrons, it is well short of its sanctioned strength, and many of its frontline aircraft are obsolete.

China and Pakistan field about 750 advanced air defense/multirole fighters against the IAF’s 450-odd equivalents. The airfield infrastructure limitations in Tibet, however, prevent China from bringing all of its air capabilities to bear against India. Yet after 2025, China could be able to deploy anywhere between 300 and 400 sophisticated aircraft against India, in addition to the 100 to 200 advanced fighters likely to exist in Pakistan by then.

** President Xi stresses military academy's role for high combat effectiveness

Mar 25, 2016 

President Xi stresses military academy's role for high combat effectiveness

President Xi Jinping on Wednesday underscored the importance of combat effectiveness in the military academy.

Xi made the remarks during an inspection tour of the National Defence University (NDU) of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the top military academy.

While being shown the NDU history museum, Xi applauded the university's accomplishments.

He encouraged the university to continue to improve its educational theories and training models, as this would boost the competence and professionalism of its faculty.

To build a world-class army, military-affiliated colleges must be elite academies, Xi said, adding that reform and innovation would support this goal.

The president urged all military academies to advance warfare strategies to create a "military theory that is up-to-date, pioneering and unique."

They were encouraged to closely follow global military developments, research the role of IT in military operations and address the problems in the country's combat readiness.

* The Dark Web Is Too Slow and Annoying for Terrorists

MARCH 27, 2016

For starters, a site on the dark web doesn’t do what jihadis need it to do: get their message out.
Terrorists are skulking around the dark web, the bit of the internet that can only be accessed by specific software, propagating messages of hate and extremism, right? Not really, according to data gathered by Thomas Rid and Daniel Moore of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.

“The one thing that was surprising was that there was so little militant, extremist presence. Only a handful of sites,” Rid told Quartz.

The two designed a system to crawl “hidden services” on Tor, the network of computers that obfuscates the identities of those connected to it, to try to categorize the content found on those hidden sites. A Tor hidden-service has an address that ends in .onion, like this one–https://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion–which points to DuckDuckGo’s hidden-service (here’s Facebook’s one). It has to be accessed by the Tor browser, a piece of free software that lets users view hidden services while keeping their identity hidden under multiple layers of encryption. People who run a hidden service can’t be easily identified either.

Here’s what Rid and Moore found:

Democracy and the Military

By Brig Deepak Sinha
29 Mar , 2016

Despite the accuracy or otherwise of whatever has been alleged by Mr. Manish Tewari, former Union Minister, his personal motivations aside, the stark truth is that citizens of this country have never woken up to tanks in their backyards or Army Generals telling them what to do. Given the near absence of political leadership, the insufferable quality of governance and continued loot of the public treasury over decades, it speaks highly of the ethos and traditions of our Armed Forces that they have not only studiously avoided any attempts to subvert the fledgling democratic process that we adopted on Independence but have continued to remain apolitical in word and deed.

… they (military leadership) deserve more credit for making our country a liberal democracy than all our so called national leaders, who have so effectively used the policy of divide and rule to achieve their own personal ambitions.

“Thales have been partnering with the Indian industry, sharing technology and expertise...” Antoine Caput

29 Mar , 2016

How is Thales working in the direction of “Make in India”?

Thales’ strategy is in line with the Indian government’s policy of ‘Make in India’ and developing the industrial defence base of the country. We have been partnering with the Indian industry, sharing technology and expertise for years now. Our association with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is over five decades old now and we have also been associated with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) for over 60 years. During this period, we have collaborated with BEL on many successful and critical projects to service the Indian Armed Forces.

Thales remain committed to India by significantly contributing to the growth of Indian aerospace and defence sectors and sharing technology and expertise with our Indian counterparts.

Further, we have also created a JV with BEL focusing on civilian and select military ground based radars. Our other JVs with Samtel and L&T Technology Services in the fields of military avionics and airborne sensor systems, and avionics software respectively too reinforce our commitment towards the country.

Air Power: Ground Strike Capabilities must be enhanced to Support Army Operations

By Brig. Gurmeet Kanwal
29 Mar , 2016

A specialised aircraft is needed to destroy targets on land on the future battlefield

As the biennial DefExpo gets underway at Goa on March 28th, the state of India’s air power will be a major issue for discussion even though the DefExpo is mainly about land and naval systems. This is because, in a rare public admission, Air Marshal B S Dhanoa, Vice Chief of Air Staff (VCAS), said while briefing the media recently on the eve of Exercise Iron Fist(a fire power demonstration of the Indian Air Force) that the “numbers are not adequate to execute a full air campaign in a two-front scenario.”

The technological ability and the skill to acquire and accurately hit targets on the ground will be key capabilities that the IAF must have.

With a decline in the number of IAF squadrons from the currently authorised strength of 39.5 to 32, the ability of the air force to hit and destroy targets on the ground has also been adversely affected. Well-known South Asia analyst Dr Ashley J. Tellis, Senior Research Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, D.C., has emphasised the importance of providing accurate and timely “close air support” to the army in the required quantities in a recent monograph entitled “Troubles They Come in Battalions: The Manifold Travails of the Indian Air Force”.

DPP 2016 Released At DefExpo 2016

Mar 28, 2016 

At the inauguration of DefExpo 2016, Shri Manohar Parrikar announced that the Defence Procurement Procedure-2016 (DPP-2016) has been uploaded on the website of Ministry of Defence, commenting that it will provide a push to the ‘Make in India’ campaign. He said the Government has been proactive in its ‘Make in India’ initiative and desires to also include ‘Startup India’ which will find opportunities in Defence sector. The Defence Minister stated that the Government has tweaked the policies to address the concerns of defence manufacturers and suppliers and enhanced transparency.

The new procurement policy being promulgated by DPP-2016 will ensure faster pace in procurement especially through newly introduced categories under Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured (IDDM) provisions. Such provisions will encourage Indian Industry in Defence Sector, he added. He acknowledged the contributions of the Small and Medium Scale Industries in Defence Sector, quoting that many innovative ideas have come from these sectors.

He further added that, while Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Defence Sector is capped at 49%, cases for higher FDI can be considered on case to case basis. He commended the organisers and the delegates present for the overwhelming response to Defexpo 2016 with record participation of companies in the event.

The Document is available at http://mod.nic.in/writereaddata/DPP-2016.pdf. However many aspects of the procedure remain incomplete and the issue of nomination of strategic partners in private sector also has not been covered. 

‘Democrazy’: Being An Argumentative Indian Is An Unmitigated Disaster

March 28, 2016

The problem is not the idea of argumentation itself, but what we have reduced it to.

What you see or hear is not the argumentative Indian keen to engage with ideas and thoughts, but the deaf Indian, driven by ego and hubris to rubbish others.

For argumentation to be worth the candle, it can only be productive if we agree on the rules, preconditions and fundamental premises.

Argumentation without the willingness to listen and rethink your position is a dialogue of the deaf, and can only add to bitterness.

We should abandon our argumentativeness if we are not willing to be contemplative and introspective.

Ever since Amartya Sen wrote his book on “The Argumentative Indian”, we have taken unholy pride in this debatable – if not wholly wasted - strength of Indian democracy from ancient times. The problem is not the idea of argumentation itself, but what we have reduced it to. Our argumentation is about a battle of egos, point-scoring, putting down others, and not agreeing on anything. And usually, the argumentation is never about things that matter to ordinary Indians.

Deployment of P-8I to Seychelles for EEZ Surveillance

Mar 24, 2016

Deployment of P-8I to Seychelles for EEZ Surveillance

The Indian Navy has deployed a P 8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft to Seychelles since 20 Mar 16, for surveillance in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Seychelles, in accordance with the MoU between the Governments of India and Seychelles. The Indian Navy has, in the past, undertaken surveillance missions in the Seychellois EEZ twice a year, by deploying IN ships. The last such deployment was undertaken by ships of the 1st Training Squadron of the Indian Navy, in Oct 15. This is the first time that the P8I aircraft has been deployed to Seychelles.

The aircraft will remain deployed till 23 Mar 16. During this period, the aircraft will undertake surveillance of the Seychellois EEZ. In addition, the deployment will facilitate professional interaction between the aircrew and the Seychelles People’s Defence Force (SPDF).

Deployment of Indian Navy’s latest and technologically most advanced maritime reconnaissance aircraft is an indicator of India’s commitment towards ensuring the security of Seychellois EEZ. This deployment would assist in curbing illegal activities and piracy as well as contribute towards security and stability in the Indian Ocean Region. [PIB Press Release 

New India as the Old Pakistan, according to some

Former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal at his biting best in this subtle satire.

Sections of our political class, those wedded to a certain version of secularism, and the sensation-seeking media seem determined to erode the legitimacy of the Modi government. The political and emotional fissures between various communities, including between the Dalits and Hindus at large, are being wilfully deepened in the process. If the ruling party should rein in elements in its ranks whose statements and actions create social and religious disharmony, the opposition and sections of the media should also act responsibly and not pretend that the BJP/RSS is responsible for all the ills of India, and blow out of all proportion every reprehensible incident involving a Muslim or a Dalit to give force to accusations about rising intolerance in India.

The recent World Culture Festival organized by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living provided one more occasion to secular diehards to denigrate any occurrence in the country under the present political dispensation that reflects the country’s Hindu personality and traditions. One particular commentary that has appeared encapsulates most eloquently the anti-Hindu prejudices of this group. One needs to quote from the text of the commentary point by point and expose its many false assumptions and exaggerations, with the help of some irony, humour and satire.

Against a sea of troubles - India's concerns about the South China Sea

Kanwal Sibal 

The South China Sea has become a source of serious regional tensions because China has become increasingly assertive in the area, backed by its growing economic and military strength. It has already forcibly occupied the Scarborough Shoal claimed by the Philippines and refused arbitration by the International Court. It has begun massive reclamation work on reefs in the South China Sea, creating artificial islands and building dual use air strips on them. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea does not recognize territorial and economic zones attached to such islands, though the logic of China's actions would imply such claims, substantiated by its protest at the right of "innocent passage" exercised by American naval ships through the 12 nautical mile zone around Mischief Reef. China has now positioned air defence missiles in the Paracels, although during his visit to the United States of America last year President Xi Jinping had generally affirmed that China had no intention to militarize the islands in the South China Sea.

India Wants To Make Everything You Buy


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi 
India received $222 billion in investment pledges at the “Make in India Week” in Mumbai last month. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s signature initiative, to transform his country into a “global manufacturing hub,” is catching fire.

Modi announced his “Make in India” plan in September 2014, shortly after coming to power in a landmark election, and selling the initiative around the world has been the easy part for the reform-minded, charismatic leader.

Foreign direct investment into his country is on the verge of overtaking that of both the United States and China. That’s not too surprising because Modi’s got a great story to tell. India, after all, is by far the most promising of the BRICS.

The countries represented by the first two letters, Brazil and Russia, have contracting economies and face intractable problems across-the board. The “C,” China, is heading into a debt crisis as growth stalls and money flees. South Africa, the “S,” is limping.


March 27, 2016

Homicide Bomber In Pakistan Kills 65 And Injures 300; Islamic Extremism ‘Is Mushrooming In The World’s Only Nuclear-Armed Muslim Country’ — What Can The U.S. Do If Pakistan Loses Control Of Its Nuclear Weapons Arsenal?

Various news outlets and websites are reporting this evening that a homicide bomber targeting Christians celebrating the Easter holiday — killed mostly women and children at a Pakistan play park in the city of Lahore. Sixty five deaths have been confirmed; but, the death toll is expected to climb considerably higher, as many of the 300 wounded are in critical condition. A Pakistan Taliban faction named Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, claimed responsibility for the bombing and in a statement claimed it had specifically targeted Christians. Reuters News Service is reporting that “the explosion occurred in the parking area of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park close to children’s swings.” Reuters adds that “the park is a popular site for members of Lahore’s Christian community, many of whom had gone there to celebrate the Easter weekend holiday.”

“The target was Christians,” a spokesman for the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said, “We want to send this message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore. He can do what he wants; but, he won;t be able to stop us. Our suicide [homicide] bombers will continue these attacks.”

This despicable act must be a forcing function for Prime Minister Sharif’s government to launch a swift and harsh anti-Taliban campaign; but, the nuclear-armed nation of some 190 million is infested in the military, intelligence, and other government and security entities with Taliban and Islamic State sympathizers.

Islamic Extremism ‘Is Mushrooming In The World’s Only Nuclear-Armed Muslim Country

Sichuan-Tibet Railway to be listed as national key project

Mar 25, 2016 

Sichuan-Tibet Railway to be listed as national key project

The “13th Five Year Plan” outlined the Sichuan-Tibet Railway as part of its key construction projects, indicating the project is now on the agenda.

After completion of Sichuan-Tibet Railway, travel time between Chengdu and Lhasa will be greatly reduced.

The Sichuan-Tibet Railway is the second “sky road” in Tibet after the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. It originates in Chengdu of Sichuan Province, passing Ya’an, Ganzi, Changdu, Linzhi, and other cities before reaching Lhasa in Tibet Autonomous Region. The whole route measures 1,900 kilometers, with 1,800 kilometers of construction.

According to the construction headquarter, as of December of 2014, the construction of Lhasa-Nyingchi portion is in full swing. The Chengdu-Ya'an portion has also begun construction. Currently, the workers there are overcoming various difficulties such as complex geography, high altitude, and low oxygen during construction.

The Sichuan-Tibet Railway has very challenging geographical conditions. Lin Shijin, Assistant Chief Engineer of Sichuan-Tibet Railway Inspection and Design Team in China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group Co. Ltd, said that building this railway is similar to building the world’s hardest rollercoaster in the most dangerous and treacherous terrain of the world.

After completion of the railway, travel time between Chengdu and Lhasa will be only 13 hours. Currently, it takes 48 hours to travel between the two cities. 

President Xi Jinping’s "Belt and Road" Initiative

MAR 28, 2016 

A Practical Assessment of the Chinese Communist Party’s Roadmap for China’s Global Resurgence 
President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road” Initiative highlights the influences shaping the genesis of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, examines the balance China is seeking to strike between geostrategic ambitions and practical economic aims, and explores the mechanisms the Xi administration is establishing to manage its implementation. The report concludes by assessing potential pitfalls and making the call for an innovative U.S. approach to global infrastructure development.

Will the EU-Turkey Deal Work?

By KP Fabian
27 Mar , 2016

After long negotiations in Brussels, Turkey and the 28-member European Union (EU) have signed a deal on Syrian refugees that is both complex and controversial. The deal was inked at the EU headquarters on March 18, with the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu beaming and his EU counterparts looking relieved, but far from beaming. Turkey has extracted a good deal for itself from the EU.

The EU found itself in a weak negotiating position, overwhelmed by the inundation of Syrian refugees coming from Turkey threatening its very foundations, the Schengen Agreement and much more. At the same time, it is difficult to dismiss the thought that the EU could have played a smarter game with its weak hand. While it is too soon to say whether the deal is going to work out to the satisfaction of its makers, primarily, President Erdogan of Turkey and Chancellor Merkel of Germany, there are serious flaws and none should be surprised if it falls through and seriously hurts the two principal deal-makers politically, Merkel much more than Erdogan, not to mention the mounting misery of the helpless human beings in question.

IS said to aim cyber ‘second strike’ against terror targets

March 27, 2016

Terrorists who strike European countries often follow attacks with mass hacking, according to Israeli cyber-security firm 

People gather to observe a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the Brussels airport and metro bombings, on the Place de la Bourse in central Brussels, on March 23, 2016, a day after the triple blasts killed some 30 people and left around 250 injured. 

Terror attacks are often followed, in an extra strike of cruelty, by major cyber-attacks on the targeted country, according to data gathered by Israeli cyber-security firm Cytegic.

Such second strike attacks then provoke a response by anti-terror cyber-activists, with the result that a country could find its networks paralyzed for days because of the huge strain, just when communication is especially vital.

Cytegic researchers have been observing this pattern for months, and the best example to date is the activity in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris last November – activity that has repeated itself in the days since the Brussels attack last week.

Saudi Brinkmanship in Lebanon

March 24, 2016

In the context of its continuing rivalry with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s response to limited success in Yemen and setbacks in Syria has been to try and reassert its influence, contain its enemies, and close ranks—reevaluating some of its alliances in the process. Recent Saudi moves to apply financial and diplomatic pressure on Lebanon suggest the country may be the first casualty of Riyadh’s new policy. But squeezing the Lebanese state may merely weaken it and Saudi Arabia’s own allies in Beirut while failing to achieve the kingdom’s strategic objectives. 

In the past, although Lebanon often served as an arena in which the Saudis competed with Iran and Syria, Riyadh nevertheless sought to find an uneasy but pragmatic working relationship with Damascus and its local allies in Beirut. For example, when Syrian troops were stationed in Lebanon following the civil war, Riyadh heavily supported post-war reconstruction and greatly invested in the Lebanese economy. While Riyadh’s investment was channeled through its main local political ally—the Hariri economic and political dynasty—it did so while trying not to step directly on Syria’s toes. Even following the shocking assassination of Rafik Hariri, the Saudi resolute stance against Syria, Iran, and their domestic allies was relatively short-lived. By 2008 Riyadh had abandoned its strategy of confrontation and instead resorted to a policy of rapprochement with Damascus, a de facto acceptance that it was impossible to end Syria’s influence on Lebanese domestic politics. 

Is ISIS Decentralizing?

MARCH 25, 2016

Judging from the Islamic State’s (ISIS or ISIL) recent killing spree, the terrorist organization has demonstrated its ability to maintain it operational capacity to target the West. This week’s coordinated attacks in Brussels claimed by ISIS resulted in over 31 deaths and 200 injured attacks, taking place against the backdrop of threats by the organization against the West, including the United Kingdom threatened with a Doomsday attack. The Brussels bombings come four months after the infamous attack in Paris. ISIS’s latest violent spout is symptomatic of two new realities: it aims to reassure its supporters and the world that it remains unfazed in face of adversity (mostly in the form of a US-led coalition in Syria and Iraq), despite facts on the ground—especially at the heart of its caliphate. It also shows that ISIS can maintain a nuisance capability, with a growing autonomy of its cells in the West. Yet it also shows desperation as it suffers tremendous losses in Syria and Iraq.

The Incredibly Difficult Job of Counterterrorism Intelligence

Mark Townsend
March 26, 2016

Counter-terrorism is a relentless challenge to spot the critical intelligence

It is the eternal conundrum facing every intelligence official. How to filter which of the tens of thousands of snippets of information, the terabytes of chatter, tipoffs, sightings or wiretaps, to prioritise. How to decipher the weak signals of embryonic plots or telltale tradecraft of Islamist operatives. Such decisions underpin the safety of every European state.

During the aftermath of the November Paris attacks, western intelligence officials suspected that Brussels was both a probable source and target of a follow-up atrocity. The failure to thwart Tuesday’s attacks exposed serious weaknesses in Belgium’s intelligence assessment capability. Effective intelligence work requires intensive manpower, both to analyse data and to gather it. Counter-terrorism experts believe Belgium can do neither adequately. 

Yan St-Pierre, counter-terrorism adviser for the Modern Security Consulting Group, a private intelligence firm with headquarters in Berlin, articulates the scale of the relentless data challenge facing Europe’s security services. In Germany, he said, the federal police alone are bombarded with around 10,000 items of intelligence every day – email, sightings and telephone tipoffs concerning potential criminal suspects.

“If you start combining the other agencies, plus the wiretapping, the electronic surveillance, then you are talking about hundreds of thousands of terabytes of information every day on a 24-hour scale,” he says.


MARCH 28, 2016

The Los Angeles Times’ contention Sunday that “in Syria, militias armed by the Pentagon fight those armed by the CIA” is basically incorrect.

This is complicated, but bear with me. The Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are not a monolithic force. Like nearly every other faction in Syria, they’re spread across an archipelago of enclaves nationwide. The SDF units clashing with Syrian rebels reportedly supported by the CIA are not supported by the Pentagon —they’re from a different enclave. The U.S. military is exclusively supporting the SDF in northeastern Syria on the other side of the Euphrates River. The Pentagon-backed SDF east of the Euphrates is fighting the self-proclaimed Islamic State, not rebels with or without U.S. backing.

Map credit: “Agathocle de Syracuse,” 2 March 2016. Labels added. Map key: Red, regime; yellow, SDF; green, rebels; grey, Islamic State.

Allow me to explain.

Why it’s wrong to say that the Arab uprisings failed

By Marc Lynch 
March 28 2016

Egyptians wave their nation’s flag in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during a Jan. 25, 2014, rally marking the anniversary of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. (Virginie Nguyen Hoang/AFP/Getty Images) 
Conventional wisdom holds that the Arab uprisings that began in Tunisia in December 2010 failed. It’s hard to argue with such a harsh verdict. Most Arab regimes managed to survive their popular challenges through some combination of cooptation, coercion and modest reform. Egypt’s transition ended in an even harsher military regime. Yemen and Libya collapsed into state failure and regionalized wars, while Syria degenerated into a horrific war. 

But simply dismissing the uprisings as a failure does not capture how fully they have transformed every dimension of the region’s politics. Today’s authoritarians are more repressive because they are less stable, more frightened and ever more incapable of sustaining their domination. With oil prices collapsing and popular discontent again spiking, it is obvious that the generational challenge of the Arab uprising is continuing to unfold. “Success or failure” is not a helpful way to understand these ongoing societal and political processes. 


MARCH 28, 2016

In the span of less than two weeks, two European capitals were struck by horrendous acts of terrorism. Two European capitals lost dozens of innocent civilians to cowardly bombings. Two European capitals had their public transportation systems targeted and hospitals inundated with the injured and scared. One of these European capitals received significant media coverage in the United States and one did not. One of these European capitals was supported by Facebook profile filters and world monuments displaying colors in its honor, while the other has been met largely with indifference and silence.

The bombings in Brussels were devastating. As with Paris only months before, they shook Western society. I grieve as I remember last month, when I stood in the international airport terminal and the Maelbeek metro station in the very spots terrorists struck. However, as I share the grief and concern for our friends and allies in Belgium, I also mourn with the people of Turkey, who have faced a spate of bombings in their own capital, as well as their treasured city of Istanbul, but without the same outpouring of support from their friends and allies.


MARCH 28, 2016

As a foreign exchange officer to the Pentagon observing the crescendo of activity that the so-called third offset strategy is generating in the open-source press, I can’t help but feel that a lot of effort is being expended with little progress toward problem resolution. The third offset strategy is an ambitious effort to maintain the U.S. military’s technological advantage over future adversaries, but — like most bureaucratic undertakings, is currently missing the mark. At the heart of the current predicament is a failure to clearly articulate and frame the problem we face. To save our strategy from dissolving into a mass of buzzwords, we must pin down the core issue at hand: The third offset strategy should be framed as comprehensive deterrence, under a 21st-century model, in the face of nuclear-armed adversaries opposed to the current international order.

In my 15 years of working directly with the U.S. military, I have always been impressed by the tactical brilliance and ingenuity of its soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. But they need clarity of guidance to move out. Contrary to arecent article at War on the Rocks by Shawn Brimley and Lauren DeJonge Schulman, it looks to me like we have a lot of activity absent a strategy, and the military services are in a rush to show that they are getting behind the effort. To address the challenge that we seek to offset, we have to better articulate the military problem at hand, or else the bureaucracy will just end up answering the mail. To avoid this, those of us working on and thinking about the third offset should elevate our thinking from the tactical and operational levels to the strategic level and nest the military problem within the grand strategic setting. When we do this, the problem looks different, and a path to resolution becomes clearer.

Talking Tactics

Brussels Attacks Were A Terrorist Interrogation Failure

by Marc A. Thiessen, Washington Post

For years, Brussels has been the epicenter for European outrage over the CIA’s terrorist interrogation program. Now it is Belgium that has some explaining to do for its failure to effectively interrogate a high-value terrorist — an interrogation that could have foiled last week’s deadly terror attacks. The carnage is a direct result of Europe’s refusal to accept that terrorists must be treated differently than common criminals.

When Salah Abdeslam, believed to be the logistics chief for an Islamic State terror cell, was captured, Belgian officials followed law enforcement procedures with precision. They provided Abdeslam a lawyer, told him he had the right to remain silent and put him into the Belgian criminal justice system. Four days later, the terror cell carried out bombings in Brussels that killed 35 people — including at least four Americans — and injured hundreds more.

Astonishingly, officials did not question Abdeslam at all for his first 24 hours in custody…

Global Infrastructure Development

MAR 28, 2016 

A Strategic Approach to U.S. Leadership 

China’s recent global infrastructure development initiatives serve to place it at the center of Asian regional and worldwide economic activity, while also meeting a critical need in the developing world. In marked contrast, the United States lacks a strategic approach to supporting global infrastructure investment. While the U.S. government does have the instruments in place to increase support for infrastructure investment, there is little coordination among relevant agencies, including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Trade and Development Agency, and the Export-Import Bank. This report examines how the United States has approached infrastructure development in the past and how it is approaching it today with an eye toward practical recommendations to improve the United States’ ability to support infrastructure investment.


Gustav Gressel
March 28, 2016 

An October 2015 report from the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). The 18 page report can be downloaded at this link. http://www.ecfr.eu/page/-/ Russias_Quiet_Military_ Revolution.pdf

Russia’s Quiet Military Revolution, And What It Means For Europe 

* Russia has implemented far-reaching military reforms to create a more professional and combat-ready armed forces that can swiftly deploy abroad, backed by expertise in non-conventional warfare tactics such as subversion and propaganda.

* The West has misunderstood these reforms – focusing on shortcomings in equipment – and, as a result, has dangerously underestimated Russia’s military capacity, as shown by its response to the Ukraine crisis.

* Russia could now overwhelm any of the countries in the post-Soviet sphere if they were isolated from the West, but it lacks the capacity for effective long-term military action further afield, such as in Syria.

* Europe’s military advantage over Russia is undermined by low combat-readiness, under-staffing, and the need to coordinate between countries.

* Europe should develop a united political response to Russian expansionism, including a coordinated position on nuclear deterrence, while preparing for hybrid scenarios. It will need the support of the US, but EU crisis response agencies would be key in a hybrid war.

Unconventional Warfare


March 24, 2016 

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is just out of frame on the right side of the screen.

As soon as it was airborne, the drone flying inside West Point crashed to the ground at the feet of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. The soldier responsible for the drone’s demise gently lowered the weapon, no smoke wafting from its barrel, not even a sound made with the shot.

Built by the Army Cyber Institute at West Point, the rifle was demonstrated last fall at the Association of the United States Army exposition in Washington, DC. Unlike pretty much every other variety of gun, this rifle doesn’t shoot any projectiles. Instead, it uses an antenna, wi-fi radio, a cheap Raspberry Pi computer, and a known weakness in the Parrot quadcopter to tell the drone to power off and sending it crashing to the ground. The design could presumably be tuned to take down other drone brands as well.

This version was built by Captain Brent Chapman for the the Army Cyber Institute at West Point, and cost just $150 in parts. That makes it exactly the sort of weapon, built from existing information and commercial technology, that DARPA’s looking for in a new program. Success breeds imitation, or perhaps because design converges, when Chapman debuted his rifle in October, another version came from defense contractor Battelle was debuted at the same time.

Google's Cloud Ambitions

by Felix Richter, Statista.com

Google is a company that is used to winning. So many of the company's products and services are industry-leading (think Search, Android, Maps or Gmail), that you have to think twice to find an industry in which Google is running behind. The cloud industry is one of these exemptions. In the past year, Google's cloud infrastructure market share amounted to just 4 percent, trailing industry leader Amazon Web Services by a long shot, as our chart, based on Synergy Research data, illustrates.

John Dinsdale, an analyst at Synergy Research Group, attributed Google's weak position in the cloud industry at least partly to the company's insufficient network ofdata centers. An issue that will now be addressed: By the end of 2017, Google plans to build 12 new data centers around the world to increase the global footprint of its Cloud Platform services, the company announced on Tuesday. After the expansion, Google's Cloud Platform will be available in 15 regions across the globe - market leader Amazon Web Services covers 12 regions with plans for 5 more.