13 August 2016

*** ‘Our Greatest Challenge’: CJCS Gen. Dunford

August 12, 2016

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford came of age on the battlefields of America’s post-9/11 wars. As a colonel, he led the 5th Marine Regiment during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, earning his nickname of “Fighting Joe” Dunford. Later, he commanded all U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan as commander of the International Security Assistance Force from February 2013 to August 2014. Breaking Defense contributor James Kitfield interviewed Dunford one-on-one on a recent trip to Iraq and Turkey. This includes excerpts from a series of interviews Dunford gave to Kitfield and a small group of reporters that accompanied him.

Q: When you were asked during your confirmation hearings last fall what is the greatest threat the country faced from a dizzying array of challenges, you pointed to Russia. Given how much Russia has been in the news since then – bombing U.S.-supported rebels in Syria, conducting dangerous fly-bys of US warships, reportedly hacking the emails of the Democratic National Committee — do you still stand by that assessment?

Dunford: When I was asked about the top threats we faced, I listed multiple challenges. But I said the one that could pose an existential threat to the United States was Russia. That was based on their capabilities, to include cyber warfare, information operations, and nuclear weapons capabilities. My assessment was also based on their behavior in places like Crimea, Ukraine, and Georgia. So Russia still has all of those capabilities, and their behavior has remained pretty consistent since I testified. So I still believe Russia remains our greatest potential threat.

*** Not at the Cost of China: India and the United Nations Security Council, 1950 Mar 11, 2015

By Anton Harder

In CWIHP Working Paper #76, "Not at the Cost of China: New Evidence Regarding US Proposals to Nehru for Joining the United Nations Security Council," author Anton Harder examines the controversy surrounding India's role in the United Nations Security Council in the 1950s. Using Indian archival material from the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, this paper shows that America's interest in seeing India join the Security Council was motivated by the emergence of the People's Republic of China as a regional power, and that this episode was an early example of the United States attempting to use the United Nations to further its own Cold War interests.

Anton Harder is a PhD candidate in the International History Department of the London School of Economics. His dissertation is on Sino-Indian relations from 1949-1962.

Not at the Cost of China: New Evidence Regarding US Proposals to Nehru for Joining the United Nations Security Council


The issue of India’s right to a seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is a controversial one in India today, but it is not new. The historical controversy has centered on the culpability of independent India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in not seizing several alleged opportunities for India to join the United Nations Security Council as a permanent member in the 1950s. Nehru’s critics, then and now, accuse him of sacrificing India’s national interest on dubious grounds of international morality. The question, however, goes beyond Nehru’s reputation, as it provides rare insights into India’s relations with the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) at the beginning of the Cold War.

Higher Defence Organisation for India: Towards an Integrated Approach

By Maj Gen Rajiv Narayanan
12 Aug , 2016

The restructuring of both the MOD and the Service HQs, with the relevant changes in the AOB/TOB Rules and the creation of the CDS/PCSOC is the need of the hour, if India is to be an effective Major Power amongst the comity of nations. An integrated MoD will eliminate existing infirmities and result in higher levels of synergy, efficiency and decision making ability.

As India rises in the comity of nations as a major power in the 21st century, the mere use of ‘soft power’ may not be adequate…

As India rises in the comity of nations as a major power in the 21st century, the mere use of ‘soft power’ may not be adequate. Judicious use of ‘smart power’ would be the key. However, it is stymied by the structure of the Higher Defence Organisation (HDO) that is reminiscent of the mid-twentieth century.

Post Kargil War, based on the various committee reports, in spite of adopting the euphemistic term, Integrated HQ of Ministry of Defence (MOD) the MOD website belies the lexicon. The three Services do not form part of its organisational chart (Fig. 1) and continue to be attached HQs based on the Allocation of Business (AOB)/Transaction of Business (TOB) Rules 1961 as amended from time to time.

The MOD consists of four Departments – the Department of Defence, the Department of Defence Production, the Department of Defence Research and Development and the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare. The Defence Secretary functions as the head of the Department of Defence, and is additionally responsible for coordinating the activities of the four Departments in the Ministry.

The dos and don’ts of a digital sarkar

August 9, 2016 

It would be in the interests of the government and the BJP if Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah review their online strategies.

The recent controversy over Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s remarks — that implied that the campaign to punish Aamir Khan by pressuring Snapdeal, a company that engaged the actor as a brand ambassador, was orchestrated by a pro-Bharatiya Janata Party team — raises important issues on the government’s proper use of media, especially social media, in a liberal democratic republic.

Now, it is not only desirable but necessary for a government to be in constant communication with the people. The need is even more acute in times of rapid change at home and abroad. We are in such times, with rapid but uneven economic growth, social upheavals at home, and a changing world order abroad. The Modi government has done well in this regard, and the sense of anomie that characterised the United Progressive Alliance government’s second term has been replaced with a sense of direction, even if there are concerns about where we’re all headed.

Welcome developments

A country of 1.2 billion people cannot be governed by silence, and Dr. Manmohan Singh might have done a lot better had he spoken more often. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ is therefore a welcome development (but will the powers that be stop spamming our email inboxes and phones with notifications and SMS messages, please?).

Policy Brief: Capacity Analysis for Evacuation of Indian Diaspora

AUGUST 10, 2016

Capacity Analysis for Evacuation of Indian DiasporaBy Guru Aiyar, Takshashila Fellow

EXECUTIVE SUMMARYSince 1991, India has been involved in six major evacuations from West Asia alone. Mass evacuations have become a recurrent feature and it is very likely that the Indian government will be called upon for similar missions in the future.

On the other hand, the current Indian government has opted for a proactive outreach towards the diaspora. For instance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the merger of the Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards to a packed crowd of about 18000 Indians at Madison Square Garden, New York. The strong outreach continued with NRIs in West Asia when the PM told an Indian audience in Dubai in August 2015, “Wherever my Indians are, we never see the colour of the passport, their link with the motherland is enough.”

The proactive outreach, combined with the likelihood that the diaspora might be vulnerable to multifarious risks in their host countries, implies that the greatest concern for the Indian government will be to achieve a quick and safe evacuation of Indians.

This policy brief does a capacity analysis of civilian and military assets required for a successful evacuation. The brief concludes that if needed, India would be able to achieve successful evacuation from Qatar between 13 to 42, and from Saudi Arabia between 15 to 50 days under certain circumstances/constraints. Similarly, evacuation from Fiji to India can be done between 7 to 23 days.

The policy brief recommends that to enhance the capacity of evacuation in times of stress:

First, the government should include an evacuation clause in the licensing of commercial airlines, which can be invoked for bolstering the existing capacity during any crisis.

Second, the Indian missions abroad must have standing agreements with logistics companies that will ensure immediate availability of the latter’s assets such as trucks and buses for road transportation whenever a crisis erupts.

Third, the government must have access to operational sea and air bases for uninterrupted operations in neutral countries wherever there is a major concentration of the Indian diaspora.

This brief can be cited as: Guru Aiyar, "Capacity Analysis for Evacuation of Indian Diaspora" Takshashila Policy Brief 2016-S04, (2016) www.takshashila.org.in

Kashmir: Being Human - The Way Ahead

Rahul Bhonsle 
Aug 11, 2016 

35 days are not a long period in the life of a nation that too a civilisational entity as India.

Yet for many in Kashmir this has been a period of transition from life to death and from sight to darkness in the wave of violence that has wracked the Valley after the killing of Burhan Wani leader of the terrorist organisation Hizb ul Mujahideen.

Will the all party meet being held on 12 August deliberate on this reality of the situation in the Kashmir Valley or will it delve on the perfidious role of Pakistan and its sponsors - terrorists groups and separatists who have “literally,” waved the flag of anti nationalism in the past five weeks will provide the way ahead for rebuilding peace and stability.

The Known – Knowns

The role of Pakistan has been dealt elsewhere, the agenda of the separatists who have exploited the collective emotion of empathy for the killing of Burhan Wani has also been recorded extensively and needs reiteration only to evolve viable strategies to counter the same.

Confessions by infiltrators from Pakistan on national TV are not enough to blunt the stream of propaganda from across the border led by no other than Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr Nawaz Sharif. This turn of events if there is any is not surprising.

When Communism was threatened: How Mujahedeen drove communism out of Afghanistan

By Anant Mishra
12 Aug , 2016

The world first knew about Afghanistan in the year 1979. Undoubtedly, Afghanistan then had become a perfect symbol of Russian ambitions in Asia. According to the west, East Germany, Hungary, North Korea, Cuba and then Afghanistan had adequately indicated Kremlin’s ambitions to spread communism in Asia. The Soviet Union stepped in to defend to the then communist Afghan government against the anti-Communist Muslim guerrillas during the Afghan War (1978–92) and continued their presence until full withdrawal in 1989.

The Soviet Union was tasked to reinforce communist factions in Afghanistan, and to support the Banner leader Babrak Karmal in regaining stability…

A look in history

In 1978, the Afghan government under the leadership of the then President Mohammad Daud Khan, was overthrown in a coup led by the left-wing military officers under the leadership of Nur Mohammad Taraki. This resulted in equal distribution of power, making the two communist political organizations, the People’s (Khalq) Party and the Banner (Parcham) Party which then collectively came to be known as People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan after the coup. The new regime was quite unpopular among the Afghans, quickly established close ties with Kremlin, while launching a series of violent offenses against all the political groups who threatened their leadership, while initiating a series of land reforms. These reforms caused massive discontent among the Afghans especially from the largely anti-communist populations. This got converted into an armed insurrection supported by many tribal and urban groups, which later collectively known as mujahedeen (Arabic mujāhidūn, “those engaging in jihad”) in Islamic translation.

Pakistan Army’s Next Chief of Army Staff?

By Dr Subhash Kapila
12 Aug , 2016

Pakistan Army’s current Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif is due to retire in end-November 2016 and though he had declared in January 2016 that he would not seek extension, the grapevine has gone silent thereafter leaving utter suspense.

Pakistan’s internal dynamics and its external security environment has undergone a sea-change since January 2016 and it remains to be seen as to whether General Raheel Sharif firmly sticks to his publicly announced decision to retire on November 28 2016 or engineers or let it be engineered on his behalf that in view of Pakistan’s challenging security environment he should be given an extension of his tenure for another three years. The Pakistan Army Chief has remained silent on this issue after January 2016 and there has been no speculation visible even though only three months are left.

The Pakistan Army Chief’s selection is the prerogative of the Prime Minister of Pakistan but having learnt lessons from his past mistakes on this issue, Prime Minister Nawaz seems to be holding his cards on the issue close to his chest. The Prime Minister recommends the name to the President who then issues the proclamation. The outgoing Chief does recommend a list of Generals suitable for Pakistan Army Chief to succeed him.

The Pakistani Prime Minister presumably would like to keep his selection to be revealed closer to the date of retirement of the current Pakistan Army Chief.

Ordinarily, in any other country the selection of the country’s Chief of Army Staff does not make headlines or even speculation a year in advance of the changeover. But in Pakistan, this is not so. In Pakistan, the Pakistan Army Chief determines and dictates Pakistan’s foreign policies on the United States, China, India and Afghanistan and therefore becomes a key player in the dynamics of Pakistan including military governance of Pakistan when the Pakistan Prime minister is vulnerable or weak and beset with internal turmoil.

Afghan Taliban Have the Capital of Helmand Province Surrounded

Bill Roggio
August 10, 2016

Helmand “Practically Besieged” By The Taliban

A recent article from The New York Times on the deteriorating security situation in Helmand province highlights the limits and failure of US military policy in Afghanistan. In a nutshell, the Obama administration has decided to draw down US forces to 8,400 troops by the end of 2016, rely more on air power and special operations forces to support Afghan troops and provide military advisors to Afghan units. The Afghan Army and police is then to bear the brunt of the fighting – though they are by all accounts largely unprepared to do so.

In certain instances, this has worked. For instance, US special operations forces and airpower were critical in the retaking of Kunduz from the Taliban, which fell to the group for two weeks in September 2015.

However, that ignores the fact that Kunduz fell to the Taliban only after unprepared and overwhelmed Afghan forces were defeated in the surrounding districts in the first place. Afghan forces backed by US airpower and special forces have also had an impact against the Islamic State in Nangarhar province. Again, this ignores the fact that the Islamic State was able to organize and seize ground in Nangarhar, and hold it for well over a year.

Despite the US military’s increased use of airstrikes and special operations forces, another provincial capital, Lashkar Gah in Helmand, is “practically besieged.” From the Times:

Even as Afghan and American officials insist that they will not allow another urban center to fall, concerned about the political ramifications for the struggling government in Kabul as well as the presidential campaign in the United States, residents and local officials describe Lashkar Gah as practically besieged.

New Book About Chinese Industrial Espionage

August 10, 2016

For those of you who specialize in Chinese intelligence activities, you should be aware of a book that was published back in 2013 entitled “Chinese Industrial Espionage: Technology Acquisition and Military Modernization”, written by William C. Hannas, James Mulvenon, and Anna B. Puglisi. This book is part of British publisher Routledge’s excellent Asian Security Studies series.

This well researched book covers the gamut in terms of what the Chinese intelligence community is doing around the world to accelerate Chinese economic growth by stealing the trade secrets and technology of other countries.

Here is the table of contents:


List of Illustrations

List of Abbreviations



Trade With China Is a Net Plus for Americans

August 10, 2016

“The China Shock: Learning from Labor Market Adjustment to Large Changes in Trade,” a scholarly paperthat examines the impact of U.S. trade with China, has made quite a splash in policy circles. Media outlets hail it as “influential,” “famous,” “excellent,” and “a real bombshell.” And the Paulson Institute’s Damien Ma is right when says that “‘China Shock’ has driven a lot of the trade debate in this [election] cycle.”

The paper spotlights the alleged negative effects of trade with China. But are its findings accurate? Given the stakes of this year’s election — and the centrality of debates over free trade — that question is especially relevant. As it turns out, “China Shock” doesn’t prove that trade with China has made Americans worse off, nor make a compelling case for locking American workers and their offspring into low-wage manufacturing jobs in perpetuity.

If we compare “China Shock’s” central claims with undisputed facts from other sources, we can see that trade with China is, on the contrary, a net plus for Americans.

China Shock claim: “Views on how trade affects wages and employment turned less sanguine in the 1990s. As wage inequality rose, low-skill wages and employment fell, and manufacturing employment contracted in the U.S., globalization was seen initially as a prime suspect.”

The facts: Low-income U.S. households have been getting richer. In the 1990s, according to the Congressional Budget Office, real income increased by 17.9 percent for the lowest quintile of U.S. households. By 2013 real household income for the lowest quintile was 30.3 percent higher than in 1990.

China Goes Fishing in the East China Sea

By Jacob L. Shapiro
Aug. 9, 2016

A daily explanation of what matters and what doesn't in the world of geopolitics.

China has recently been more brazen in provoking Japan.

The latest round of Japanese and Chinese squabbling over disputed islands in the East China Sea has escalated in recent days. On Aug. 5, according to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as many as 230 Chinese fishing vessels and 13 coast guard ships sailed into the contiguous zones surrounding a group of islands, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China. Three of those ships reportedly had gun batteries, and two more Chinese government vessels allegedly got within 12 miles of the Senkakus/Diaoyus on Sunday evening.

There are two main things to note in this development. The first is that it represents a moderate intensification of tensions between Japan and China in the areas around these disputed islands where both countries’ territorial claims overlap. The second is that this escalation should not be blown out of proportion. China is not really spoiling for a fight, and Japan is not in a position to give it one.

Did China Cyber Attack Vietnam Over South China Sea Dispute?

By John Boudreau and Mai Ngoc Chau
August 10, 2016 

(Bloomberg) — The spyware used in cyber attacks on Vietnam’s major airports and national carrier last month is now suspected of having bombarded many more official sites, amid tensions with China over territory in the disputed South China Sea.

A malicious code disguised as anti-virus software found lurking in everything from government offices to banks, major companies and universities was the same as that used in “politically-colored” attacks on two of the country’s biggest airports and Vietnam Airlines, said Ngo Tuan Anh, vice chairman of Hanoi-based network security company Bkav Corp.

On July 29, the flight screens at the airports displayed messages critical of Vietnam’s claims to the South China Sea, according to the VnExpress news website. Vietnam and the Philippines have been the most vocal in criticizing China for its increased assertiveness over the area.

While more evidence is needed to pinpoint the likely origin, the attacks were clearly political in nature, Anh said. The spyware aimed at Vietnam was from one group or several actors working together that has made assaults on institutions in the Southeast Asian country since 2012, he added. Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

‘Political Agenda’

Hackers Crash Website of Australian National Census

August 10, 2016

Australia’s controversial census in chaos after possible cyber attack

Australia’s first online national census was in chaos on Wednesday after the survey website crashed overnight due to a possible cyber attack, raising concerns over the country’s cyber security and criticism of its slow internet services.

“It was an attack and we believe from overseas,” Australia’s chief statistician, David Kalisch told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.

Kalisch said that no data from the 2.3 million forms already submitted to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) had been stolen. “We have it at the ABS. No one else has it,” he said.

The census provides a snapshot every five years of the living conditions of Australia’s 24 million people, detailing incomes, religious and ethnic backgrounds, marital status, etc.

The minister responsible for the survey, Michael McCormack, refused to call the online crash an attack, but rather a “denial of service attempt” when the website was deliberately overloaded.

He said the site was equipped to handle heavy traffic, but there was a spike in visitors so steep that a router overloaded and the website was closed as a precaution.

What the West struggles to understand about Turkey and Erdogan

By Ishaan Tharoor 
August 10 2016

Demonstrators wave flags during a rally on Aug. 7 in Istanbul in protest of the failed July military coup. (Ozan Kose/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

It's getting close to a month since Turkey's elected government withstood a dramatic, bloody coup by a mutinous faction in the military. In the weeks since, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has presided over an unprecedented purge of state institutions and civil society, arresting and detaining thousands, while suspending or firing tens of thousands from their jobs.

For a ruler often caricatured as a neo-Ottoman potentate, Erdogan sees around him a byzantine web of conspiracies and threats. Turkish authorities want their U.S. counterparts to hand over Fethullah Gulen, a septuagenarian Turkish imam who has lived in the United States since 1999 and is said to helm a shadowy movement, some of whose followers are linked to the failed coup.

Both the putsch and the crackdown that followed remain shrouded in uncertainty: Gulen's role in all this is still a matter of debate and investigation; the grim, lasting consequences of mass detentions and blanket punishment of suspected Gulenists have yet to be measured.

But, as I wrote last week while in Istanbul, it's important to try to understand the palpable frustration among many Turks with both the West's actions in the region and its narratives about Turkey.

ISIS Is Switching Tactics in Iraq. Baghdad Needs to Get Its Act Together

AUGUST 10, 2016

As the Islamic State returns to urban terror attacks, Iraqi security agencies must learn to work with each other.

Over the past few months, the Islamic State has shifted tactics in Iraq, reverting to targeting civilian locations in the capital and other major cities. Iraq’s government, which has seen success in retaking territory, must now adjust as well.

On July 3, ISIS claimed responsibility for the suicide car bombing that killed over 300 Iraqis in Baghdad’s popular Karada district. This was the deadliest bombing since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. The last time a bomb in the city killed even half as many people was seven years ago.

The surge in attacks comes as the Islamic State is on the decline. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi continues to celebrate the victories and liberation of Iraqi cities from IS fighters, most recently, a few weeks ago in Fallujah. The quick success of that operation has led many Iraqis to believe that Mosul, IS’s most coveted prize, can be taken by the end of this year – much sooner than officials and commentators in Baghdad once anticipated.

After suffering such military defeats, the Islamic State has had to change its modus operandi. The organization, which once sought to conquer and occupy territory in an effort to build a state, is more frequently resorting to asymmetrical warfare and attacks on civilian populations in Baghdad.

Nearly 45,000 ISIS-linked fighters killed in past 2 years, US military official says

August 10, 2016 
Source Link

More than two years after the U.S. launched airstrikes against Islamic State targets in the Middle East, the commander overseeing the joint campaign said Wednesday as many as 45,000 ISIS-linked fighters had been killed.

"Although it's no measure of success and its difficult to confirm, we estimate that over the past 11 months we've killed about 25,000 enemy fighters. When you add that to the 20,000 estimated killed prior to our arrival, that's 45,000 enemies taken off the battlefield," Army Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland told reporters at a news briefing. "I only tell you this number to provide a sense to the scale of our support and perhaps explain why enemy resistance is beginning to crumble."

MacFarland said civilians and ISIS administration officials have been forced into front line combat jobs including manning checkpoints, making them a less capable and "diminished" force. "We don't see them operating nearly as effectively as they have in the past, which makes them even easier targets for us so as a result they're attrition has accelerated here of late."

He said the coaltion airstrike destroying hundreds of ISIS vehicles escaping Fallujah last month was further evidence ISIS was not as capable as it used to be. "I don’t they would have made that mistake a year ago," MacFarland said.

The U.S.-led coaltion has launched more than 14,000 airstrikes in the two-year war against ISIS. The first U.S. airstrikes struck ISIS in Iraq on Aug. 8, 2014.

The U.S. military has spent over $8.4 billion fighting ISIS since then.

Russian BACKFIRE Bombers Conducting Large Number of Strikes in Syria

August 10, 2016

Warplanes: Tu-22M3Ms Over Syria

Russia has been working its Tu-22M3M long-range bombers hard over Syria lately. Between July 12th and August 8th Tu-22s flew at least 20 sorties from Russian bases to hit targets in Syria. That’s a lot of work for the ten or so Tu-22M3Ms in service that have to fly all the way from southern Russia to Syria and back to deliver a few tons of smart bombs. But the Tu-22M3M proved to be very good at it and these is the first sustained combat experience the Tu-22 has had since Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Since 2010 Russia has been upgrading 30 of its Tu-22M3 bombers to the Tu-22M3M standard and the first of these entered service in 2012. This new version has improved electronics, is able to deliver smart bombs, and has in-flight refueling capabilities restored. Other components of upgraded aircraft were refurbished as needed. This is expected to keep these 30 Tu-22M3Ms in service for another decade or more. All 30 upgrades will not be completed until the end of the decade.

In 2002 Russia had over a hundred Tu-22M3 “Backfire” bombers in service. Or so it was claimed, as these aircraft had not flown much since 1991. When the Cold War ended in 1991 over 300 were still in service. About 500 were produced between 1969 and 1993. The Tu-22M saw combat in Afghanistan, where it carpet bombed areas thought to contain Afghan rebels. Some were also used in the 2008 war with Georgia. Efforts to find export customers failed.

Is Ukraine Just About to Blow?


Countless omens signal a new war on its way, from troop movements to Russia’s ‘August Curse.’ But this time they may be more smoke than fire.

According to the security service, an FSB agent was killed in a firefight with saboteurs on Saturday night near Russian-occupied Armyansk, a town close to the frontier with mainland Ukraine. Several Russian and Ukrainian citizens were arrested, the report claims, and a cache of explosives and weapons was discovered.

According to the FSB, some of the weaponry, which included improvised explosive devices and magnetic mines, belongs to Ukrainian special forces units. A Ukrainian citizen from Zaporizhia, one Yevgeny Panov, allegedly an agent of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR), was detained and is supposedly confessing to his captors.

On Sunday night, the FSB claimed that Ukrainian special forces made two attempts to cross the frontier under cover of “massive fire” from Ukrainian troops and armored vehicles. A Russian soldier reportedly was killed.

This information, although not independently verified, may track with rumors circulating earlier this week of Russian military patrols roving around in the north of Crimea, with some witnesses saying that they have heard sporadic gunfire. An “informed source” meanwhile told Rosbalt, a Russian news site, that there had been a clash on the frontier on Sunday night, likely the event that the FSB now frames as a terrorist incursion by Ukrainian commandos.

Putin raises stakes over alleged Ukrainian terror plot in Crimea

Shaun Walker in Moscow
10 August 2016

Russian president says Moscow will not ignore incidents in which two soldiers were killed, but which Kiev denies took place

Vladimir Putin has accused Ukraine of plotting terrorist attacks in Crimea and claimed two Russian servicemen were killed in clashes this week, as tensions over the peninsula rise to their highest level since Russia annexed it in 2014.

Ukraine denied the alleged incidents had taken place and dismissed the claims as Russian provocation.

In characteristically bellicose language, Putin accused Ukraine of playing a dangerous game.”We obviously will not let such things slide by,” the Russian president said on Wednesday. Ukraine had “resorted to the practice of terror”, he said.

Putin’s warning that Russia would not ignore the incidents will worry observers. The increased tension in Crimea comes at a time when the simmering conflict in eastern Ukraine appears to be heating up. There are almost daily casualties on the frontline between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebel military formations, and little sign of a resolution to the conflict, in which more than 9,000 people have been killed over the past two years.

Russia’s security service, the FSB, said in a statement that one of its officers had been killed during a shootout with a “group of diversionaries” on Saturday night, when they were supposedly discovered just inside Crimea’s border with mainland Ukraine. It said the group had 20 homemade devices with a total of 40kg of explosives in their possession.

50 G.O.P. Officials Warn Donald Trump Would Put Nation’s Security ‘at Risk’

 AUG. 8, 2016

Fifty of the nation’s most senior Republican national security officials, many of them former top aides or cabinet members for President George W. Bush, have signed a letter declaring that Donald J. Trump“lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”

Mr. Trump, the officials warn, “would be the most reckless president in American history.”

The letter says Mr. Trump would weaken the United States’ moral authority and questions his knowledge of and belief in the Constitution. It says he has “demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding” of the nation’s “vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances and the democratic values” on which American policy should be based. And it laments that “Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself.”

“None of us will vote for Donald Trump,” the letter states, though it notes later that many Americans “have doubts about Hillary Clinton, as do many of us.”

Among the most prominent signatories are Michael V. Hayden, a former director of both the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency; John D. Negroponte, who served as the first director of national intelligence and then deputy secretary of state; and Robert B. Zoellick, another former deputy secretary of state, United States trade representive and, until 2012, president of the World Bank. Two former secretaries of homeland security, Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, also signed, as did Eric S. Edelman, who served as Vice President Dick Cheney’s national security adviser and as a top aide to Robert M. Gates when he was secretary of defense.

Russia's Checkered History of Intelligence Sharing with the U.S.

AUGUST 10, 2016

On July 15, the United States and Russia announced a tentative agreement on Syria which, according to media reports, would establish a joint command center staffed with military and intelligence officers who would initially exchange information on the al-Nusra Front —a terrorist organization that was affiliated with al Qaeda up until last month. Based on that information, the two nations would consider coordinated targeting and integrated operations against Nusra Front targets. As part of the agreement, both sides could only strike mutually agreed upon Nusra Front targets. The U.S. also would expect Russia to convince Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to end bombings of the civilian population.

The proposal has sparked grumbling among national security officials at State and the Pentagon, including the Secretary of Defense, who justifiably mistrust the Russians based on their behavior in Syria to date. Besides, some argue, targeting the Nusra Front, one of the more effective anti-Assad groups, would only strengthen the Syria regime. However, unpalatable as it is, Putin's intervention has established Russia as a key player in the Middle East, and therefore some form of U.S.-Russia cooperation is unavoidable for a peaceful solution of the crisis.

Putin undoubtedly embraced the proposal because it serves his foreign policy interests. U.S.-Russia cooperation in Syria not only reinforces the Putin regime’s influence in the Middle East but also reduces its international isolation and acknowledges Russia as a superpower on par with the U.S., which in turn enhances his domestic popularity.

The proposed cooperation also has no impact on Putin’s staunch support of the Assad regime. Russian airstrikes, supposedly targeted against terrorists, have primarily focused on Assad’s opponents and weakened them in the process. Assad’s forces have also tightened their grip in the siege on Aleppo, the country’s largest city, and have encircled the Damascus suburb of Daraya, one of the first areas to rebel against the regime.

Russia using 'Ukraine as a warm-up for secret war with West'

Aug 10, 2016

RUSSIA is using the conflict in Ukraine as a warm-up for war with the West, according to an internal assessment of the threat from Moscow produced by the British Army. 

GETTY Vladimir Putin and senior defence officials in the Kremlin are testing new methods of combat

Vladimir Putin and senior defence officials in the Kremlin are testing new methods of combat, including cyber attacks and psychological warfare, the document warns. 

Tactics to cause economic turmoil and political uncertainty are also being deployed, including the spread of misinformation to confuse and undermine democracy abroad. 

Russian military planners also have an army of "little green men" at their disposal who can be dispatched behind enemy lines to carry out political assassinations and sabotage missions to cause maximum chaos. 

The Army's report also reveals how Russia is using social media to win the propaganda war without the need for lethal force. 

British experts claim it shows that the Kremlin is a step ahead of the UK, having used their covert involvement in the fighting in Ukraine to test new methods of warfare. 

Meet ‘Mayhem,’ the Computer Bug-Hunting Machine

AUGUST 10, 2016

This is Mayhem, the supercomputer that won a Pentagon contest to autonomously hunt software bugs.

The machine was built by a team from ForAllSecure, a technology startup that won first place in the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s Cyber Grand Challenge.

The contest, which took place Aug. 4 in Las Vegas and coincided with DEF CON, one of the world’s largest conferences for hackers, pitted seven supercomputers against each other in a digital game of “Capture to Flag” to comb software for problematic code.

The computers were big, standing several feet tall and requiring huge amounts of electricity and water to keep cool — some 300 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power one-and-a-half city blocks, and 180 tons of water at a rate of 200 gallons per minute.

ForAllSecure, a spinoff from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, received a $2 million cash prize for placing first in the contest with its Mayhem machine.

“Our vision is to check the world’s software for exploitable bugs so they can be fixed before attackers use them to hack computers,” David Brumley, chief executive officer of ForAllSecure, director of Carnegie Mellon’s CyLab Security and Privacy Institute and a professor of electrical and computer engineering, said in a statement. “We believe our technology can make the world’s computers safe and secure.”

A team called TECHx with experts from GrammaTech Inc. and the University of Virginia, placed second, earning a $1 million prize; and another called Shellphish with graduate students from the University of California-Santa Barbara was the third-place winner, landing $750,000, the release states.


by Dave Dittrich and Katherine Carpenter 
August 9, 2016

Threatpost Op-Ed is a regular feature where experts contribute essays and commentary on what’s happening in security and privacy. Today’s contributors are Dave Dittrich and Katherine Carpenter. The terms “cyber war” and “cyber weapon” are thrown around casually, often with little thought to their non-“cyber” analogs. Many who use the terms “cyber war” and “cyber weapon” relate these terms to “attack,” framing the conversation in terms of acceptable responses to “attack” (namely, “strike-back,” “hack-back,” or an extreme interpretation of the vague term “active defense”). 

Related Posts Researchers Go Inside a Business Email Compromise Scam August 4, 2016 , 10:00 am Bug Hunting Cyber Bots Set to Square Off at DEF CON August 2, 2016 , 1:00 pm Trump Comments Straddle Line of Soliciting Computer Crime July 27, 2016 , 4:03 pm Here, we will discuss two problematic issues: first, we illustrate the misuse of the terms “cyber war” and “cyber weapon,” to raise awareness of the potential dangers that aggressive language brings to the public and the security community; and second, 

we address the reality that could exist when private citizens (and/or corporations) want to act aggressively against sovereign nations and the undesirable results those actions could produce. We discuss these topics through the lens of the recent furor around the cyber incident at the Democratic National Committee. On June 14, 2016, news broke about an intrusion into the computer systems of the DNC. Crowdstrike, the company hired by the DNC’s lawyers to investigate the intrusion, immediately blogged and spoke in detail publicly about it. 

How Cyberwar From Hacking To GPS Jamming Is Changing The Face Of Society

This past March Bloomberg offered a compelling look inside the world of election hacking in which campaigns and their supporters hack into their opponents and steal or destroy data, saturate the online space with fake messaging and otherwise attempt to skew the election in their favor. Given the subsequent unveiling of the successful hack of the DNC here in the United States and the previous hacks of both campaigns in 2008, the article appears all the more prescient.

Indeed, this past April the head of the US Cyber Commandtestified before Congress that there was growing concern that hackers of the future will not simply steal data, but will instead penetrate computing systems and subtly change critical data in-place in such a way that the victim can no longer trust any of its data and doesn’t know what’s real or what has been changed.

NBC today published a fascinating look at how cyberwarfare has expanded beyond the purely digital realm to mission critical physical systems like GPS. Tracking systems based on GPS and using cellular backhauls have become commonplace in tracking valuable cargo, corporate vehicles and in police surveillance. However, the NBC article notes that GPS jammers have now become so commonplace that they can be purchased for a few tens of dollars online and plugged into a vehicle cigarette lighter jack, with criminals now routinely deploying them on the off chance that their stolen cargo might be carrying a tracker. Even enterprising employees are beginning to deploy them in an attempt to avoid their corporate office being able to track their vehicle.

What makes this so fascinating is that GPS jammers were formerly the exclusive province of the military, requiring highly specialized and extremely expensive equipment. Today such devices are widely available via the internet, very cheap and require no expertise to operate.

Cyber warriors take to the battlefield

OCT 26, 2015

As cyber operations become more of a presence on the battlefield, so, too, will cyber warriors.

At an exercise last week at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., the Army offered one version of what they would look like. Basically, they’d look like other soldiers on a mission—full camouflage, weapons and equipment in tow, crawling through the brush to stay out of sight. After setting up their computers and equipment, the cyber and intelligence team provided real-time intelligence to a brigade combat team whose mission was to find and capture a high-value target hiding in a crowded, multi-building compound.

"The cyber element was able to provide intelligence to myself on the ground that enhanced [intelligence] information that made the picture of the battlefield much more clear," 1st Lt. Kenneth Medina, who led the mission, said in an Army release. "When you incorporate cyber into that you gain a much higher degree of accuracy on the target and you can paint a much clearer picture of the objective area."

Medina noted that such missions ordinarily rely on information that was gathered in advance and could be out of date by the time a mission force arrives. In this case, though, "The cyber element was able to monitor some of the digital traffic that was moving through the village and the compound. They were able to relay that information to me via radio, and I was able to take action on that intelligence that they gave me in the village in real time," he said.

‘We Have No Idea What War Is’

AUG 10, 2016 
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Rosa Brooks discusses her tenure at the Pentagon, and the ever-expanding role of the American military.

Just days after I interviewed the legal scholar Rosa Brooks about her book on her time as a civilian advisor in President Barack Obama’s Pentagon, the United States bombed Libya again. This was the third such strike in the U.S. campaign against ISIS there, but this time, Reuters reported, U.S. officials said it “marked the start of a sustained air campaign.”

Still, it was hard to tell how much of a turning point it really was. Small numbers of American special-operations forces have been active in the country since late last year, ostensibly to support local partners against ISIS, though details are vague. By launching more airstrikes at the beginning of August, America was not so much opening up a new front in its war on the group as maintaining an existing one. And it wasn’t so much changing tactics as amplifying them. Did this mean that the United States somehow became more “at war” in Libya last week than it had been the week before? For that matter, as U.S. planes have accelerated their bombing campaign against militants in Afghanistan this summer, and President Obama has vowed to leave some 8,000 troops there through the end of his term, is the United States any less “at war” there than when U.S. combat operations in the country officially ended in December 2014? What about in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, where U.S. drones have killed thousands of people outside of what the government considers “areas of active hostilities”?