14 February 2017

*** The Never Ending Story: The Morass of Afghanistan and Pakistan


The new administration must surely be thinking about the challenges of Afghanistan and Pakistan and what to do. The region has bedeviled outsiders for generations. Afghanistan perplexed Alexander the Great, got the best of the British, beat up on the Soviet Union, and now it’s befuddled U.S. Presidents Barack Obama for the last eight years and George W. Bush for most of the eight years before that. While Obama had originally hoped to end our long U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan, he wound up going sideways over the last few years, grudgingly maintaining about 10,000 non-combat mission troops on the ground.

What might the new Trump administration do? On the good side, you have Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn in the administration, and those two men have deep experience in the area. On the bad side, you unfortunately have a situation that frankly does not have any good answers. These are difficult foreign policy challenges for the U.S. (and the world), and ones where there are no real “solutions” to implement – only a slate of bad options from which you are going to have to choose something and try to make it work. 

In Afghanistan, we have now had U.S. military forces in the country for over 15 years. What is the plan? Is there a plan? Are we getting out? Staying forever? Combat operations ended at the end of 2014.

There seem to only be two broad choices in Afghanistan for the new Commander in Chief – and both choices have serious downsides:

Stay the course and continue to spend tens of billions of dollars on Afghanistan every year, paying billions to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and billions to Afghanistan to support the Afghan National Army and other institutions. The only real mission today is to stop the country from falling to the Taliban and to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists who might plan attacks against the West. Meanwhile, if we stay, the death toll for the U.S. continues as the casualties dribble in.

** The 30-Years War in Vietnam

Source Link

It should go without saying that the Vietnam War is remembered by different people in very different ways. Most Americans remember it as a war fought between 1965 and 1975 that bogged down their military in a struggle to prevent the Communists from marching into Southeast Asia, deeply dividing Americans as it did. The French remember their loss there as a decade-long conflict, fought from 1945 to 1954, when they tried to hold on to the Asian pearl of their colonial empire until losing it in a place called Dien Bien Phu.

The Vietnamese, in contrast, see the war as a national liberation struggle, or as a civil conflict, depending on which side they were on, ending in victory in 1975 for one side and tragedy for the other. For the Vietnamese, it was above all a 30-year conflict transforming direct and indirect forms of fighting into a brutal conflagration, one that would end up claiming over three million Vietnamese lives.

The point is not that one perspective is better or more accurate than the other. What’s important, rather, is to understand how the colonial war, the civil war and the Cold War intertwined to produce such a deadly conflagration by 1967.

** Steve Bannon’s War on India’s High-Tech Economy


Steve Bannon is clearly no fan of Asia. Back in 2015, when he was a mere far-right media provocateur, Bannon chatted on his radio show with then-candidate Donald Trump and bemoaned the fact that as many as two-thirds of Silicon chief executives were “from South Asia or from Asia.” That statistic turned out to be wildly inaccurate — the true figure is probably more like one in eight — but it was hardly the first time Bannon, now Trump’s chief strategist, had expressed alarm over threats from the East. “I’m an economic nationalist,” he said last November. “The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia.”

In the early days of Trump’s administration, Bannon’s antipathy toward globalization has mostly targeted manufacturing industries, and especially the threat American companies face from Chinese competitors. But there are already signs the administration may open up an equally damaging second front in its protectionist battle, targeting global services as well. Beginning with a crackdown on the visas used by Indian software engineers working in America, this would accelerate the reverse of globalization and mark a further attempt to unpick the supply chains upon which global companies rely, just as Peter Navarro, the head of a new White House National Trade Council, made clear that unwinding those supply chains is now an explicit objective of U.S. policy.

** What Do Europeans Think About Muslim Immigration?

New research points to significant and widespread levels of public anxiety over immigration from mainly Muslim states.

President Donald Trump’s executive order to ban citizens of seven Muslim-majority states from entering the US for 90 days, and temporarily freeze all refugee arrivals (including Syrians indefinitely), has been interpreted widely as an attempt to curtail the inward migration of Muslims, which Trump and his supporters argue pose a threat to national security.

Trump’s policy has generated a backlash among some of Europe’s leaders. Angela Merkel’s spokesman said the chancellor had ‘explained’ the UN Refugee Convention to the president in a phone call discussing the order, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan argued that the invitation to the president for a state visit to Britain in 2017 should be withdrawn until the ban is rescinded. Meanwhile, leaders of Europe’s populist right-wing parties, including Geert Wilders, Nigel Farage and Matteo Salvini, have heaped praise on Trump.

Amid these competing views, where do the public in European countries stand on the specific issue of Muslim immigration? There is evidence to suggest that both Trump and these radical right-wing parties reflect an underlying reservoir of public support.

** The case for digital reinvention

By Jacques Bughin, Laura LaBerge, and Anette Mellbye

Digital technology, despite its seeming ubiquity, has only begun to penetrate industries. As it continues its advance, the implications for revenues, profits, and opportunities will be dramatic.

As new markets emerge, profit pools shift, and digital technologies pervade more of everyday life, it’s easy to assume that the economy’s digitization is already far advanced. According to our latest research, however, the forces of digital have yet to become fully mainstream. On average, industries are less than 40 percent digitized, despite the relatively deep penetration of these technologies in media, retail, and high tech.

As digitization penetrates more fully, it will dampen revenue and profit growth for some, particularly the bottom quartile of companies, according to our research, while the top quartile captures disproportionate gains. Bold, tightly integrated digital strategies will be the biggest differentiator between companies that win and companies that don’t, and the biggest payouts will go to those that initiate digital disruptions. Fast-followers with operational excellence and superior organizational health won’t be far behind.

About the research

These findings emerged from a research effort to understand the nature, extent, and top-management implications of the progress of digitization. We tailored our efforts to examine its effects along multiple dimensions: products and services, marketing and distribution channels, business processes, supply chains, and new entrants at the ecosystem level (for details, see sidebar “About the research”). We sought to understand how economic performance will change as digitization continues its advance along these different dimensions. What are the best-performing companies doing in the face of rising pressure? Which approach is more important as digitization progresses: a great strategy with average execution or an average strategy with great execution?

** Beyond The Buzz: Assessing The Terrorist Drone Threat

by Scott Stewart

The Islamic State is taking to the skies as the fight for Mosul wears on. Over the past several weeks, the extremist group has been flaunting its use of unmanned aerial vehicles against Iraqi army and Kurdish forces in and around the city. Propaganda videos feature dramatic aerial footage of the precision attacks, and they have produced their intended effect, receiving heavy coverage in mainstream media outlets.

So far, the Islamic State has deployed this technique only in Iraq and Syria. That's likely soon to change, though, considering the attention the group's drone attacks have been getting and the prevalence of drones in the West. Drone attacks are coming. But they do not necessarily portend death from above.

Above graphic: Recent Islamic State propaganda videos have flaunted the group's use of drones to attack Iraqi and Kurdish forces in Mosul. But the technique will be hard to replicate outside the Islamic State's core territory. (ABU MEDINAH/Youtube)

The Islamic State's use of drones is nothing new. Since 2014, the group has been using the technology to conduct reconnaissance on enemy defensive positions and to capture aerial footage of attacks for use in propaganda videos. It has also used drone video feeds to adjust fire from mortars, artillery guns and rockets against static targets. And though the group still employs drones for these purposes, over the past year, it has started using them offensively as well, either as guided airborne bombs or as vehicles to carry and drop ordnance on enemy targets. This new development has caused a stir in the media and stoked fears that Islamic State operatives could use the tactic in terrorist attacks outside the group's core territory.

Tackle discontent in J&K, Valley fragile

In the absence of pellet guns, the renewed use of live ammunition can only be cause for concern.

Army personnel along with a sniper dog move towards the house where militants were hiding during an encounter at Frisal area of Kulgam district of south Kashmir. (Photo: PTI)

The raid by the Army on a house in the Kulgam area of south Kashmir, in which four militants, a civilian and two jawans were killed on Sunday, shows the security situation in the Valley continues to be fragile. Militants being holed up inside a house is not a surprise. But the worrying part is that the local population came out in protest against the security forces’ action, and reports from two hospitals suggest a dozen civilians sustained bullet injuries. While more confirmation of these details may be required, this suggests in the first instance that the use of pellet guns may have been discontinued by the security establishment. These had caused injuries to the eyes, and there were also cases of blindness resulting from the action of the security forces against protesting civilian mobs in the Valley late last year following the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani.

In the absence of pellet guns, the renewed use of live ammunition — if the hospital records quoted in the media are correct — can only be cause for concern. Fortunately, there were no deaths. Else, the situation could have turned explosive.

Still, the civilian protests after anti-militant operations is indicative of the public mood against the government, which apparently continues to be hostile. The most proximate cause of this is that there has been no political initiative on the government’s part after the months-long Valley-wide protests that erupted in early July after Wani was killed in an encounter during a raid on a house in an orchard in south Kashmir.

Not On A War Footing

by Amit Cowshish

Having made no reference to the defence budget in his budget speech last year, much to the chagrin of many, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley made an almost passing reference to it when he presented the Union budget on February 1. At Rs 2,74,114 crore, excluding the outlay of Rs 85,740 crore for defence pensions, the allocation is prima facie inadequate, though not surprising.

In his medium-term fiscal policy statement last year, the FM had stated that the total defence expenditure is estimated at about 1.6 per cent of GDP in 2017-18 and 2018-19. If that is any consolation, the proposed defence outlay does not disappoint at least on that score. Many defence analysts, and even the standing committee on defence, have been rooting for defence outlays to be pegged at three per cent of GDP — while that seems unlikely in the near future, focus on this demand overshadows many other concerns.

The first reaction has been how it would adversely affect modernisation of the armed forces. Unfortunately, repeated underutilisation of the capital budget weakens the case for higher allocations for new acquisitions. It is not uncommon to hear that underutilisation of the capital budget is because of the finance ministry’s machinations, which wouldn’t let big contracts be approved, so it could withdraw huge sums from the MoD to meet the fiscal target.

Demographic Changes Making Jammu A Ticking Timebomb – Analysis

By Brig Anil Gupta (Retd)

Consequent to eruption of militancy in Kashmir in the late 1980s and its extension to Doda District and Rajouri-Poonch in the 1990s, the migration of Hindu families to Jammu began. This was soon followed by migration of Muslims belonging to the militancy-affected areas. A large number of Gujjar settlements also erupted all of a sudden close to the International Border and around Jammu City.

However, this was followed by a very serious event which appears like a well-planned conspiracy to alter the demography of Jammu. A large number of members of a particular community commenced buying landed and built-up properties in parts of Greater Jammu. Even illegal encroachments of forest and government land by them were ignored by the government machinery.

During the last decade-and-half exclusive Muslim colonies have mushroomed around Jammu, some of them openly advertising in papers that plots will be sold to Muslims only. Though being illegal, these colonies are provided amenities like water and electricity by the government machinery. The settlements have been planned in such a manner that Hindu-dominated localities have been encircled.

Jammu is basically a Hindu-dominated area. In 1981, there were only two Muslim-dominated localities within the city. As per official figures of 1986-87, the religion-wise breakdown of Jammu was Hindus 88.5 per cent, Muslims 4.5 per cent, Sikhs 6.4 per cent and others 0.6 per cent. Thereafter, due to disturbed conditions in the state, proper census could not be conducted in 1991 and 2001.

India scraps funding ties with Gates Foundation on immunization

By Aditya Kalra

A group backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that works on India's immunization program will now be funded by the health ministry, a government official said, a move in part prompted by fears foreign donors could influence policy making. 

The decision is seen as part of India's broader clampdown on non-governmental organizations to assert control over decision making in key policy areas. Last year, India ordered the dismissal of dozens of foreign-funded health experts working on public welfare schemes. 

The Gates Foundation has for years funded the Immunization Technical Support Unit (ITSU), which provides strategy and monitoring advice for New Delhi's massive immunization program that covers about 27 million infants each year. 

It will now be funded by the government which felt there was a need to completely manage the crucial program on its own, senior health ministry official Soumya Swaminathan told Reuters. 

"There was a perception that an external agency is funding it, so there could be influence," Swaminathan said on Wednesday. 

Swaminathan, however, stressed there were no instances of influence found and the decision was only in part prompted by a wider perception about foreign funding of the program. The unit will continue to exist, she said. 

India’s Own Baghdadi: How This Maulana Has Carved Out A Mini Islamic State In Mamata’s Bengal

Jaideep Mazumdar

This Salafi maulana eats with three fingers, has banned photography, music and TV, and all interaction with kafirs, in a small town in Malda, West Bengal. He is symptomatic of the larger and spreading malaise.

Maulana Nasser Sheikh, 44, looks like an oddity. And speaks and behaves like one too. Standing pretty short at about 5 feet 2 inches, this man is, however, a towering figure at Kebala, a small town near Harishchandrapur, nearly 400 kilometres north of Kolkata, in West Bengal’s Malda district bordering Bangladesh. Nasser is the imam of the local mosque and also runs a madrassa that is not registered with the state government. He speaks a strange mixture of Bengali and Bihari (Kebala is a short distance away from the Bihar-Bengal border), but is fluent in Arabic.

Nasser, attired in what liberal Muslims derisively say is “chhote bhai ka pyjama aur bade bhai ka kurta” (younger brother’s kurta since it ends well above the ankles and elder brother’s pyjama since it stretches much below the knees), has hennaed hair, an untrimmed beard, shaven moustache, kohl-lined eyes that dart around like a snake’s, a rosary in his hands, and reeks of cheap attar (perfume). Reverentially called “Maulana Sahab”, he adjudicates over matters of religion, marriage, divorce and other personal issues.

Nasser describes himself as a “pure” Muslim, which is why he will not be photographed. The only photograph he has in his three-roomed house inside the madrassa, where 72 young boys ranging from the age of eight to 18 learn the Quran and other scriptures by heart, is that of the Kaaba Stone (or the al-Hajar al-Aswad) at Mecca. He doesn’t even have photographs of his two daughters and four sons from three wives (he had four, but one died two years ago and he’s planning on getting another one soon) on his Samsung mobile.

U.S. general calls for review of relationship with Pakistan

By Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said on Thursday that there was a need for a "holistic review" of the relationship with Pakistan, potentially opening the door for a new approach to one of America's most vexing alliances. 

Experts said the remarks by Army General John Nicholson, who leads U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, could signal a harsher policy toward Pakistan under President Donald Trump's administration. 

However, they warned that such an approach could be a high-risk strategy that could threaten the long-term stability of the region. 

"Our complex relationship with Pakistan is best assessed through a holistic review," Nicholson told the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

He added that ties with Pakistan would be a priority in his discussions with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and the White House, which has given little details on its strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

The United States has cut both military and economic aid to Pakistan sharply in recent years, reflecting mounting frustration among a growing number of officials with the country's support for the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan. 

"The tools that will get Pakistan to hurt so badly, that it would want to do what the U.S. is asking, is a very high-risk proposition in terms of what happens within Pakistan," said Moeed Yusuf, the associate vice president of the Asia Center at the United States Institute of Peace. 

An eyewash or a turning point?

D. Suba Chandran

In all likelihood, the arrest of Hafiz Saeed is more a tactical escape by the Pakistani state than a strategic ‘policy decision’

The decision by Pakistan to raid the office of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) in Lahore recently and put its leader Hafiz Saeed and some of his associates under preventive house arrest for an indefinite period has come as a surprise. What could have precipitated this? Was it the result of something he did which the Pakistani authorities were unaware of? Or did it come after pressure from the Trump administration? Further, will Pakistan follow it through? Or, will history repeat itself in a cycle of house arrest, a court case, an investigation and insufficient proof leading to him getting a clean legal chit?

Real or otherwise, the arrest, if not pursued with real intent, may in fact enhance his position as well as boost the popularity of the JuD within Pakistan.

Something did change in January this year which led to the crackdown. In the past, despite both international sanctions and American initiatives against Saeed and his organisations, Pakistan did not make any serious attempt to pursue his case.

No domestic cases against Saeed

Today within Pakistan, there are no major domestic cases against Saeed; neither is there a paradigm shift in Pakistan’s terror strategy calling for action against all militant groups on Pakistani soil. So it was surprising when the Interior Ministry made a statement on his arrest and the Punjab government issued a notification under the Prisons Act, declaring his house as a sub-jail for confinement.

Afghanistan Needs ‘Thousands’ More Troops, US General Says in Stunning Assessment


The commander of U.S. forces there lays the first major war decision on Donald Trump’s desk. 

Fifteen years after the U.S. invasion, Afghanistan is in a “stalemate” that will require several thousand more Western troops to break, the war’s top U.S. commander told Congress.

Gen. John “Mick” Nicholson’s testimony laid on Donald Trump’s desk the first major war decision — surge troops or not? — just three weeks into his new and tumultuous administration, which so far has focused more intently on U.S. border security than overseas military engagements. The commander of NATO’s Operation Resolute Support said he expected Defense Secretary James Mattis to present the request to alliance defense ministers when they meet next week in Brussels. 

“I believe we are in a stalemate,” Nicholson told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. He said the current Western coalition has a “shortfall of a few thousand” troops. But rather than the 30,000 combat-brigade soldiers sent by President Barack Obama in 2009, Nicholson said he wants more “advise and assist” troops to help Afghan forces, who incurred heavy losses in 2016 as they beat back various terrorist offensives. The general said his forces have enough equipment and resources for the mission but needed more “expeditionary packages” of advisors to deploy across Afghanistan. The desired troops would come “below the corps level” and could be American or come from allied nations of the NATO training mission.

“We’re going to be able to discuss this in greater detail,” at NATO next week, Nicholson said.

China Tells India To Stay Off Its Indian Ocean 'Colony,' Sri Lanka

Panos Mourdoukoutas

After claiming South China Sea to be its own sea, telling America to stay off its islands, China is reaching for the Indian Ocean, telling India to stay off its own colony, Sri Lanka.

That’s something investors in Southeast Asian markets should keep a wary eye on, as it opens yet another front between the two Asian giants, raising the geopolitical risk of investing in the region.

Markets, for the time being, seem to be ignoring these risks.

China’s And India’s Equities

Index/Fund                  12-month Performance          5-year Performance 

iShares India (INDY)     27.95%                                 16.56% 

IShares China (FXI)       30.75                                    -5.59 

Source: Finance.yahoo.com 2/10/17 

Sri Lanka’s colonization began back in 2007, when China supplied President Rajapaksaboth military and diplomatic support to crush the Tamil Tigers. Then came high profile construction projects and high interest loans that eventually were swapped for equity, transforming China into an owner of Sri Lanka’s major port— and a key outpost in the Indian Ocean for Beijing.

That’s bad news for India, which is becoming encircled by China.

Reinforcing the Front Line: U.S. Defense Strategy and the Rise of China

Evan B. Montgomery

With some of the world’s largest economies, most vital sea lanes, and closest U.S. allies, the Asia-Pacific Region is quickly becoming centrally important to today’s international system.

It is also home to the first new great power of the twenty-first century: the People’s Republic of China. Managing China’s rise will not be easy. In recent years, Beijing has been modernizing its military forces, acting more assertively, and raising the risk of escalation, especially with respect to territorial disputes throughout its near seas.

In Reinforcing the Front Line: U.S. Defense Strategy and the Rise of China, CSBA Senior Fellow, Evan Montgomery outlines the key elements of a U.S. defense strategy for the region—one that is based on the enduring grand strategy of global leadership and engagement, but also recognizes the new challenges posed by China’s growing military power. 

To date, Washington’s preferred option in critical regions like East Asia can be described broadly as “forward defense”: preparing to counter threats when and where they materialize rather than responding directly long after aggression has occurred or responding indirectly by imposing costs in other theaters. By clearly and credibly signaling that the United States will oppose an adversary’s aims and come to the assistance of its allies, forward defense has underpinned both deterrence and assurance—and, as a result, has underwritten stability in the regions where it matters most. Looking ahead, forward defense remains the best approach for the United States in the Asia-Pacific.


By: Benjamin Weingarten

Lost in the deluge of punditry, prognostication, and politicking in the wake of the media uproar and subsequent and ongoing litigation on President Donald Trump’s terror entry executive order is a fundamental principle that sits at the heart of the order.

If you have not read the order’s text in its entirety, you have likely missed the part that holds the key to American national security and foreign policy in the war against the global jihad.

Hidden in plain sight in Section One is one of the most consequential paragraphs produced by our nation’s leaders since September 11, 2001, if we will only recognize it. 

The language reads as follows:

In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including "honor" killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Is Greece Really On the Verge of Another Financial Crisis?

Milton Ezrati

Just about every adult on earth has seen this show before. Greece faces a debt repayment that it cannot meet: for this performance, €86 billion due in July. It needs fresh bailout funds from the European Union and/or the International Monetary Fund because borrowing directly on global capital markets comes at too high a cost—10 percent to replace the maturing bonds. Germany, leading the EU, states that before Greece receives a single euro it must first commit to more severe budget policies. The IMF points out that Greece cannot possibly live up to Germany’s demands, and even if it did, the country would not be able to repay its outstanding debt burden, which at last count stood at 181 percent of Greece’s gross domestic product. The IMF goes on to hint that Greece may have to leave the eurozone. Throughout this familiar point and counterpoint, few focus on Greece’s need for the fundamental economic reforms that offer the country its only hope of using its own resources to meet its obligations.

Pretty much the same actors are playing the same roles as a couple of years ago, when Europe last staged this farce. Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras has assumed his same initial tough stance toward Greece’s creditors, just as he did last time, before he caved into EU demands. German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble insists that the EU will give no help until Greece broadens its income tax and cuts public pensions enough to create a budget surplus excluding debt service costs—known as a primary surplus—that is equal to 3.5 percent of GDP and maintain that surplus for ten years. Greece has countered by saying that it might commit to three years. The head of the IMF’s Europe department, Poul Thomsen, has argued that such goals are impossible. He has pointed out that next year Greece expects a primary budget surplus of only 1.5 percent—even after two years of severe budget constraints. He has also gone on to stress that such fiscal severity is counterproductive given Greece’s depressed economy and fragile politics.

The Threat of Grexit Returns


The specter of a Greek exit from the eurozone, or Grexit, is gradually returning to haunt European politics. Fears stem in part from the international security environment, as an isolationist United States and an assertive Russia raise fears of a return to great-power rivalries. If Europe wishes to survive as a global player, it should stand on its own feet by developing a security policy based on higher defense spending and an active international presence. This, however, is conditioned by a strong European economy, which is currently far from guaranteed.

The EU should prioritize the completion of the half-finished construction of monetary union, by reinforcing its fiscal and financial structures and improving its system of governance. As the notion of more Europe is no longer popular, far-reaching changes cannot be envisaged for the foreseeable future. However, France and Germany have no other option than to set the train moving after their elections later in 2017, because monetary integration, once started, only goes in one direction.

In the midst of this turmoil, Greece is continuing to make a mess of its handling of the economy. Over the last decade, successive Greek governments have committed fatal policy errors that, coupled with selfish policies by Athens’s euro area partners, have led to the present impasse.



It is all too easy to think the Kremlin is escalating the fighting in eastern Ukraine to test a Trump administration widely believed to be pro-Russian. Moscow, this argument goes, is exploiting an opportunity to show that President Trump actually cares very little about the conflict in Donbas and is focusing instead on deals with Moscow on bigger priorities like the fight against Syria or the challenge posed by China and Iran. Regardless of whether such efforts yield a big payoff for Moscow, like the relaxation of U.S.-EU economic sanctions, the new tone from Washington should be sufficient to increase political uncertainly and sow unrest inside Ukraine.

During a recent research trip to Ukraine, I found the country’s political elite are dealing with this uptick in geopolitical uncertainty and insecurity in two ways.

First, there is scrambling by various political factions to build bridges to the new U.S. administration. Yulia Tymoshenko, the controversial former prime minister turned populist opposition leader, has been playing up her brief informal interaction with Trump last week at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Second, Ukraine is using the flare-up in the Donbas to call attention to Russia’s thinly disguised role in the war — a tactic that has worked in the past. A tough statement from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley suggested that this tactic is starting to do the trick with the new team in Washington. However, Trump’s press secretary’s statement, the readout from Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and Trump’s latest note that “we don’t know exactly what is happening there” begs for a more careful assessment. So far, the Trump administration has only been talking about the importance of maintaining Crimea-related sanctions while implying that the more far-ranging sanctions imposed over the war in Donbas could be rolled back if Moscow partners up with Trump in Syria.

India Will Be World's Fastest Growing Economy In 5 Years: Top US Think Tank

WASHINGTON: India will be the world's fastest growing economy during the next five years, a top US intelligence think-tank has said while underlining that Pakistan, unable to match India's economic prowess, will seek "other methods" to maintain even a semblance of balance.

"Pakistan, unable to match India's economic prowess, will seek other methods to maintain even a semblance of balance," said the report 'Global Trends' of the National Intelligence Council (NIC), which is the center for mid-term and long-term strategic thinking within the US Intelligence Community.

"India will be the world's fastest growing economy during the next five years as China's economy cools and growth elsewhere sputters, but internal tensions over inequality and religion will complicate its expansion," the report said.

In its report, the National Intelligence Council said that Pakistan will seek to maintain a diverse set of foreign partners, from which it can draw economic and security assistance, and to develop a credible nuclear deterrent by expanding its nuclear arsenal and delivery means, including "battlefield" nuclear weapons and sea-based options.

"In its efforts to curtail militancy, Islamabad will also face multiple internal security threats, as well as a gradual degradation of equipment used in these operations, declining financial resources, and a debate over changes needed to reduce the space for extremism," it said.

NIC said India's growing economic power and profile in the region will further complicate calculations, as New Delhi navigates relations with Beijing, Moscow, and Washington to protect its own expanding interests. New Delhi, however, will continue to offer smaller South Asian countries a stake in India's economic growth through development assistance and increased connectivity to India's economy, contributing to India's broader effort to assert its role as the predominant regional power, it added.

The Coming War in Space

By Paul D. Shinkman

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, California – Gen. David Goldfein, the fighter pilot who now serves as the Air Force's top officer, had an unorthodox priority on his mind when he and the rest of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sat down for their first meeting with President Donald Trump on Jan. 27 to outline for the incoming commander in chief their top operational concerns.

"We talked about space more than any other topic," Goldfein recalls from that session in "the Tank," the Pentagon's secure facility for top-level meetings, "because there's this debate going on now, and will go on for the remainder of this year: Where are we headed in the business of space?"

The debate centers on the 73 trillion cubic miles spanning everything from a few hundred miles above the Earth's surface to the farthest reaching satellites 22,000 miles out. It's a domain over which the U.S. claims it must continue to be the principal governing power if space is to remain a peaceful commons. And it involves both protecting orbiting U.S. assets as well as ensuring the safety of the vital military and commercial information they convey to Earth.

Losing U.S. dominance in space could have wide-reaching effects, American officials fear, from limiting the ability to guide ships, foot patrols, manned jets, drones or missiles toward precision targets, to communicating with and saving wounded soldiers in the deep hinterlands of the Afghan Hindu Kush mountains, to more benign matters, like disrupting GPS systems that direct millions of American commuters and support domestic farmers who rely on them to steer combines in perfectly straight lines and maximize their crop yields.

Top Marine's 2017 to-do list: better PT, fixing aviation and cracking down on 'general jackassery'

By: Jeff Schogol

Top Marine's 2017 to-do list: better PT, fixing aviation and cracking down on 'general jackassery'

Marines need to dedicate themselves to preparing their bodies and minds for war, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in two messages to the force.

On Tuesday, Neller released a list of the Corps’ 25 top tasks for 2017, along with a message outlining the areas where the service needs to improve this year.

He plans to implement the changes to the physical and combat fitness tests that were announced last year. He also called for the Marine Corps to update policies for assigning Marines military occupational specialties, and promoting and retaining them.

If Congress provides more money, the Marines also plan to buy new aircraft to accelerate the services’ aviation recovery plan, Neller wrote in his task list.

Speaking to reporters on Feb. 3, Neller explained his priorities for the Corps and why he remains committed to reducing alcohol abuse and illegal behavior within the ranks.

Excerpts of the interview, edited for clarity and space.

Q: Will there be any more changes to the physical and combat fitness tests as part of the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Program?

Army Cyber Accelerates; Electronic Warfare Lags


Electronic Warfare Planning & Management Tool (Army concept)

PENTAGON: The Army is ahead of schedule building cyber teams — but its equally essential electronic warfare branch is lagging badly. Like a fiddler crab, one arm is much more developed than the other. While effective in the current fight against Daesh (aka ISIL), this unbalanced force would be at a severe disadvantage in future Multi-Domain Battles the Army envisions against a sophisticated adversary such as Russia, which excels in both cyber and electronic warfare.

On the cyber side, the Army expects to have its 41 National Mission Force teams fully operational by the end of 2017. (30 are currently at Full Operational Capability; the other 11 are at Initial Operational Capability). That’s ahead of the 2018 deadline, noted Brig. Gen. Patricia Frost, who holds the new position of cyber director on the Army staff.

The U.S. Military Has Started Making Fake News


On March 11, 2016, Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), was asked about the daily news releases published by the U.S. military to describe the progress of the war against the Islamic State. The statements list the number of airstrikes conducted by the coalition during the previous 24 hours, their locations in Iraq or Syria, and an estimate of the Islamic State targets damaged or destroyed. One “strike” is defined as “one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative effect.” They omit artillery fire used for counter-fire, or for fire support on behalf of maneuvering ground forces.

During the news conference 11 months ago, reporter Lolita Baldor asked Warren directly: “The daily strike press releases that we get. Can you give us a sense of whether or not all airstrikes are included in those press releases?” Warren replied:

We do everything we can to report every single strike on those releases. We’ve missed one or two for admin errors. … But our standard is that, if a bomb falls in Iraq or in Syria, it makes it to that press release … whether it’s a high-value individual, or a bunker, or a tactical unit or a chemical weapons facility.

Warren often repeated the claim that official releases included “every” strike. On Oct. 28, 2015, he stated: “every single time we do an air strike, it gets listed on our daily air strike release.” On Dec. 22, he proclaimed: “We list the number of airstrikes conducted every day on our daily strike releases.” On May 27, 2016, during his final news conference as OIR spokesman, he declared: “We release the actual number of strikes that we conducted every day. … I would ask you to go check out that website. It’s a terrific website. … You will see the exact number of strikes conducted that day.”

​Cyber espionage poses very real risk to critical infrastructure

By Eric O' Neill, national security strategist, Carbon Black 

As technology has become more sophisticated, the battlefield has shifted increasingly from the physical to the digital. With cyber war now being fought on a global scale, there is more onus than ever on security, and too many organisations (and governments) are failing to take the threat as seriously as they ought, especially when it comes to defending critical infrastructure.

When it comes to cyber attacks against critical infrastructure, we aren’t just talking about accessing an organisation’s sensitive data, but literally shutting down cities, financial systems or water supplies, to name just a few possibilities.

The scope of the threat is only likely to grow as we continue down the path of digitalisation. It is no longer enough to defend and react if you are breached. Taking a ‘bad-guy’ approach is a massive step forward when tackling attackers in the world of cyber espionage.

Espionage is a critical thread in the fabric of policy decisions. Every nation spies, from the global superpowers to tiny island nations. Learning what your adversaries and friends will do before they act presents a critical advantage to any society. Traditional spying evolved to meet the rapid increase in the affordability and near instant exchange of information using the Internet.

Spies also needed to evolve to steal information from databases, where before they primarily recruited sources to abscond with paper secrets. As espionage evolved, spies necessarily became hackers. During this evolution, nation states realised that the near anonymity of cyber espionage launched from a virtual and borderless world made it easy to attack.

The Army Wants To Recruit Cyber Experts By Hiring Civilians At Rank Of Colonel


The Army is looking at ways to commission civilian experts who could help fill some of its capability gaps.

Civilians with expertise in cybersecurity could be directly commissioned into the Army with a rank up to colonel to help the service improve its expanding cyber domain operations under a Pentagon pilot program authorized in recent weeks.

The program would be similar to the Army’s direct commissioning programs for medical doctors, lawyers and chaplains, which place experts in those fields into the Army at a rank that is commensurate with their experience in the civilian sector, said Army Brig. Gen. Patricia Frost, the service’s cyber director for operations and planning. The Pentagon tasked the Army with the project on Jan. 30.

In June, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the Pentagon would begin looking at broadening its direct commission program to help it attract leaders who have had success in the private sector, especially in fields where the military needs to improve rapidly. Congress has given the Pentagon through 2020 to study the potential of expanding direct commissioning programs.

Cyber is a relatively new sector within the Army. Army Cyber Command was established in 2010, and the service has worked to quickly grow its force. It has had to pull units directly into the cyberspace battle just as quickly as it can train them, Brig. Gen. J.P. McGee, Army Cyber Command’s deputy commander for operations, said Wednesday.

Army announces service, civilian cyber workforce pilots

by Mark Pomerleau

The Army announced a pair of new pilots surrounding its cyber workforce, one for servicemembers and another for civilian employees.

The first, which came directly from the Department of Defense and spreads across all the services, will look at civilian direct commissioning.

“Much like we do with lawyers and doctors and other career fields for the Army, DoD has now asked us to do a pilot program by service that we can conduct looking at skill sets that we could bring on direct commissioning to the cyber career field,” Brig. Gen. Patricia Frost, director of the Army’s cyber directorate at the Pentagon, said during a Feb. 8 media roundtable.

Hot off the press, and official as of Jan. 30, 2017, Frost did not have many details on the pilot but explained it will improve recruitment of skilled cyberspace personnel. Congress is giving the services until 2020, at which time each service secretary will submit a report on their findings as to implementation of the pilot. There are no funding details yet, she added.

The second is a civilian cyberspace-effects career program for Army government civilians. Frost said the civilian track is similar to the intelligence career program, IT career program and the like.