30 May 2017

*** Who are the new jihadis?

By Olivier Roy
There is something new about the jihadi terrorist violence of the past two decades. Both terrorism and jihad have existed for many years, and forms of “globalised” terror – in which highly symbolic locations or innocent civilians are targeted, with no regard for national borders – go back at least as far as the anarchist movement of the late 19th century. What is unprecedented is the way that terrorists now deliberately pursue their own deaths.

Over the past 20 years – from Khaled Kelkal, a leader of a plot to bomb Paris trains in 1995, to the Bataclan killers of 2015 – nearly every terrorist in France blew themselves up or got themselves killed by the police. Mohamed Merah, who killed a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012, uttered a variant of a famous statement attributed to Osama bin Laden and routinely used by other jihadis: “We love death as you love life.” Now, the terrorist’s death is no longer just a possibility or an unfortunate consequence of his actions; it is a central part of his plan. The same fascination with death is found among the jihadis who join Islamic State. Suicide attacks are perceived as the ultimate goal of their engagement.

This systematic choice of death is a recent development. The perpetrators of terrorist attacks in France in the 1970s and 1980s, whether or not they had any connection with the Middle East, carefully planned their escapes. Muslim tradition, while it recognises the merits of the martyr who dies in combat, does not prize those who strike out in pursuit of their own deaths, because doing so interferes with God’s will. So, why, for the past 20 years, have terrorists regularly chosen to die? What does it say about contemporary Islamic radicalism? And what does it say about our societies today?

*** What I Learned from Transforming the U.S. Military’s Approach to Talent

Ash Carter

When Army 2nd Lieutenant Joseph Riley was a senior at the University of Virginia, he ranked 10th out of 5,579 in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) National Order of Merit List. Upon graduation, he was proudly commissioned an Army officer and selected as a Rhodes Scholar to study at Oxford, where he pursued a master’s degree in international relations.

That was where the trouble began. In 2015 the Army informed Riley that, because of his time away, he was not being promoted alongside 90% of his peers to the rank of 1st lieutenant and he would soon be facing a board to determine whether he should be separated from the Army altogether. It took the intervention of Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley to save Riley. Today he continues to wear the uniform.

2nd Lieutenant Riley’s background is any employer’s dream, and his retention in the armed forces is a good thing for the Department of Defense, the organization I had the honor to lead from 2015 to 2017. But the protocols that almost led to his leaving the Army are an employer’s nightmare. When contending for talent in a competitive world, no organization — let alone the largest in the world, with the largest stakes — can afford to lose employees like 2nd Lieutenant Riley.

*** An Invisible Curtain Falls Between Russia and the West

By Jon Sather

The Cold War ended over 25 years ago, but the lingering Soviet specter continues to haunt the Western world. Since the election of Russian President Vladimir Putin in March 2000, a new conflict has been brewing, this time in cyberspace. And on a battlefield monopolized by the United States and Russia, the historical threats of nuclear war, ambitions of global dominance and aspirations of containing the enemy may not be the relics of the past we imagine them to be.

The Next Weapon of Mass Destruction

Nuclear war is still a very real and pressing threat. But the increasingly pervasive cyber threat is just as critical and even harder to counter. Layered onto the tensions that arose during the Cold War, cyberwarfare has added new dimensions to politically based threats, scalability of tactics, deniability of action and strategies of containment — all made possible, and performed remotely, with a new weapon: the computer. As Mr. Wabash so aptly put in "Three Days of the Condor," it's hard not to "miss that kind of clarity" the old Cold War provided.

** Colin Powell: American Leadership — We Can’t Do It for Free


By COLIN POWELL

At our best, being a great nation has always meant a commitment to building a better, safer world — not just for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren. This has meant leading the world in advancing the cause of peace, responding when disease and disaster strike, lifting millions out of poverty and inspiring those yearning for freedom.

This calling is under threat.

The administration’s proposal, announced Tuesday, to slash approximately 30 percent from the State Department and foreign assistance budget signals an American retreat, leaving a vacuum that would make us far less safe and prosperous. While it may sound penny-wise, it is pound-foolish.

This proposal would bring resources for our civilian forces to a third of what we spent at the height of Ronald Reagan’s “peace through strength” years, as a percentage of the gross domestic product. It would be internationally irresponsible, distressing our friends, encouraging our enemies and undermining our own economic and national security interests.

* This Tragic Stat Shows How Much We’re Relying On Elite Combat Units

By Brian Adam Jones 

As the United States wages a protracted war in Afghanistan and a 16-year-long Global War on Terror that has received renewed commitments from President Donald Trump, the Los Angeles Times has highlighted a stunning reality in a new profile published May 25: More than half of the American combat fatalities since 2015 have befallen service members assigned to U.S. special operations units.

The detail reveals the increased pressure placed on members of the military’s most elite units, which include the Navy SEALs and special warfare combatant crewmen, the Army’s Green Berets and Ranger battalions, the Air Force’s pararescuemen, and the Marine Corps’ MARSOC Raiders. To that end, consider this statistic: six U.S. service members have been killed in combat thus far this year. Five of them were either members of the Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, or the 75th Ranger Regiment.

High-profile deaths of American special operators have drawn attention to Trump’s aggressive stance with the use of American military power. This includes the death of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed in a raid in Yemen just nine days into the Trump presidency. It also includes the death of Navy SEAL Chief Petty OfficerKyle Milliken, killed earlier this month fighting al Shabaab militants in Somalia, as part of the expanded use of military force there. Milliken is the first U.S. service member to die in combat in Somalia since 1993, when 18 American troops were killed in the “Black Hawk Down” incident. There are currently roughly 50 special operations forces deployed in Somalia, working with the Somali military to conduct anti-terrorism operations against al Shabaab. The commander of U.S. forces in Africa, Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, sought for and received increase autonomy from the Trump administration in conducting strikes against al Shabaab in Somalia earlier this year.

Time for Modi to reset foreign policy strategy

K C Singh

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three-nation visit starting May 29 is an interesting mix of destinations. He visits Germany for the Biennial Inter-governmental Consultancies (BIC), begun in 2011. In Russia, he attends the annual bilateral summit, combined with the 21st St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 1-3, which is Russia’s premier economic conference for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a grouping of nine of the 15 former Soviet republics. The detour to Spain is a fresh foray to a nation rising from an economic crisis. Despite internal political uncertainty over a minority government led by Mariano Rajoy of the conservative People’s Party, Spain, having been led by socialist governments for 22 of the 29 years till 2011, there are technologies such as renewable energy that beckon India.

Both Germany and Russia are vital for India to balance China’s assertive rise and Donald Trump’s uncertain ways characterised by friends and foes as being hugged and berated randomly. The world is unsettled and India is already late in crafting a counter-strategy, as Russia has already drifted towards China. India this year appears to have been, to wit Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for (American) Godot. The Prime Minister’s current trip ameliorates that delay.

With The Long-Haired Boys

Yoginder K. Alagh

127 million tonnes, as President Mukherjee said at the centennial function, and those who made fun of us were profuse in their praise.

At a recent event where a commemorative centennial volume on Indira Gandhi’s life and works was released, President Pranab Mukherjee made a point of her commitment to self-reliance in food. The release of a coffee table book is not quite the occasion to detail the obstacles she faced, and the resoluteness with which she resolved them, but that is quite an untold story. It is a little difficult for the present generation to visualise an India which is living from hand to mouth. Food reserves were unthinkable. The food policy literally consisted of meeting deficits from PL 480 US imports and organising their distribution. Mrs Gandhi knew that global aid and the Bretton Woods systems wanted India to be dependent in this nexus. I was fortunate in getting a ringside view of this great episode in India’s history.

I had modeled a long-term plan for Gujarat and Sukhomoy Chakravarty brought me to the Planning Commission to head its powerful Perspective Planning Division (PPD), an honour I accepted for term deputation, since I did not want to join the government permanently. My predecessor, the indomitable Pitamber Pant, was a friend of Indira Gandhi. The files I inherited were always marked Pitamber to Indira. Her perspectives were clear. She was humiliated when India had to beg for grain and she wanted India to be liberated from these clutches. The PPD was mandated to build a plan for food self-reliance and if there were difficulties, to get back to the PMO.

The march to spectacle

Pratap Bhanu Mehta

The relationship between the Indian Army and Indian democracy might be entering new and unchartered waters. The ethical and constitutional issues in the incident involving Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi using a human shield have been discussed well by two columns (‘Why Major Gogoi is wrong’, by Omar Abdullah, IE, May 24, here and ‘A blemished medal’, by Praveen Swami, IE, May 25 here). But there is a larger institutional transformation underway that does not bode well, either for democracy or the army. A professional army needs three things: Broad social legitimacy where the worth and excellence of the institution is recognised; a clear set of political goals and a legal framework within which it can operate; and the right degree of professional autonomy, where it can exercise judgment based on the highest professional standards. The “human shield” crisis has revealed that all three are under more threat than we recognised.

The threat emanates from an unlikely source. Whether we like it or not, we live in an age of spectacle, where the dominant political idiom is a seemingly unmediated conversation with the public. It used to be that you were nobody if you did not have money or power; now, that is sometimes not necessary, and often, it is not sufficient. Politics has become a frenzied contest over unmediated representation, with an impatience for all institutions and processes. But that has also inflected other institutions. Parts of many institutions, including the judiciary and bureaucracy, have also convinced themselves that merely doing their professional jobs will not get them social legitimacy or visibility. Something else, some splash, was required. In boring terminology, this is called communication. But underlying it is a shift in the norms of social legitimacy. You are nobody if you have not trended. This is disfiguring many institutions.

SOME ADVICE ON FOREIGN POLICY MATTERS.

Mohan Guruswamy

Sometime ago a senior official of the government called on me to seek my views on foreign policy issues. It is the first time it has happened since Narendra Modi became PM. Going by experience in conversing with IFS officials, I knew I will not get many sentences in. As it so happened I barely managed a few words. I also paid for the lunch at the IIC. Knowing what to expect, I quickly knocked out a few points for consideration and putting into the system. I usually don't mind if ownership changes in the process, if some good comes out of it. Here goes:

India’s foreign policy is much too focused on Europe and North America. While the centricity towards America can be understood given the USA’s world pre-eminence, a similar attitude towards Europe may not be required.

India must focus on the near and on its expanding economic interests. Most of India’s oil comes from West Asia and Africa. The UAE is the initial destination of most Indian exports. India earns over $40 billion as remittances from the region. Our focus must be to become influential here. We need to impress with our embassies and by greatly expanding their visibility and footprint.

Trump’s Imaginary “Strategy” for Afghanistan

by Ehsan M. Ahrari

Everyone was waiting for President Donald Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan. But the announcement of that strategy came as a repeat of President Barack Obama’s original version of that strategy. It stated that Trump is likely to send as many as 5000 additional US troops to Afghanistan. 

Like almost all policies in the realm of domestic and foreign policy, Trump liked nothing about his predecessor’s way of conducting the Afghan war. So, the expectation was that he would announce a different approach to that war. But Afghanistan has a forbidding way of surprising everyone.

After sending his Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, and his National Security Advisor, Lt. General H.R. McMaster, to Afghanistan on “fact finding missions,” Trump found out that the Afghan war is not a winnable one; and the United States has no choice but to stay put and find some sort of a negotiated solution. In the interim, increasing ground troops appears to be a make-believe version of a strategy. That was precisely what Obama was doing. 

Tackling China? See its history

Abhijit Bhattacharyya

Historically, the Hans of mainland China are known for clear thinking, intelligence, ingenuity, the art of war, the craft of diplomacy and their indifference to outsiders. They still do, specially when it comes to contemporary issues — like South Asian (read Indian). They suddenly become alert, yet inert (or unreactive). Is that a contradiction? Perhaps. Because what spurts is a rigid, inflexible, aggressive “containment of India” policy that results in India’s counter-rigid posture and thus the Beijing regime’s inability to get a firm commitment on its grandiose dream project called “Silk Route”.

Also known by the fancy name of “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR), it’s meant to be the reincarnation of an exotic economic empire of the Hans of the Tang era (618-908 CE), passing through the sparsely populated, vast swathe of barren, deserted, remote land routes of the great Euro-Asian heartland. While as a student of history, one learns of the “Silk Route” going through both land and sea lanes, it’s also a fact that as two opposite civilisations, “each stood unchangeably firm in itself, with no possibility of fruitful exchanges”, interaction and socio-religious exchanges between India and China notwithstanding. Indeed, there once existed three lines of communication — across Central Asia, via “Bamiyan and Bactria, via Kashgar across the Tarim Valley and via Kashmir, Gilgit and Yasin across the Pamirs”. These routes became important after the 2nd century BCE, and till the end of 9th century CE, when Islam interposed an effective barrier, they were the most important highways of communication.

Rethinking the Next China


STEPHEN S. ROACH

Stephen S. Roach, former Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and the firm's chief economist, is a senior fellow at Yale University's Jackson Institute of Global Affairs and a senior lecturer at Yale's School of Management. He is the author of Unbalanced: The Codependency of 

NEW HAVEN – For the past seven years, I have taught a popular class at Yale, called “The Next China.” From the start, the focus has been on the transitional imperatives of the modern Chinese economy – namely, the shift from a long-successful producer model to one driven increasingly by household consumption. Considerable attention is devoted to the risks and opportunities of this rebalancing – and to the related consequences for sustainable Chinese development and the broader global economy.

While many of the key building blocks of China’s transitional framework have fallen into place – especially rapid growth in services and accelerated urbanization – there can be no mistaking a new and important twist: China now appears to be changing from an adapter to a driver of globalization. In effect, the Next China is upping the ante on its connection to an increasingly integrated world – and creating a new set of risks and opportunities along the way.

How Islamic State clings on in Libya


LIKE their comrades in Iraq and Syria, the jihadists of Islamic State (IS) in Libya were in retreat earlier this year. Their branch, considered the most lethal outside the Levant, was pushed out of Sirte, its coastal stronghold, in December and hit hard by American bombers in January. The blows seemed to dispel the idea that, as the core of its “caliphate” crumbled, Libya might serve as a fallback base for IS.

But although the jihadists are down in Libya, they are not out. And they may have international reach. Many of the fighters have regrouped in a swathe of desert valleys and rocky hills south-east of Tripoli. British police are probing links between Salman Abedi, the suicide-bomber who murdered 22 people at a concert in Manchester on May 22nd, and IS, which claimed responsibility for the attack. Mr Abedi was in Libya recently; his brother and father were arrested in Tripoli on May 24th. The militia holding them says the brother is a member of IS and was planning an attack on Tripoli.

Chaos has been the norm in Libya since the uprising that toppled Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. Myriad armed groups, loosely aligned with rival governments in the east and west, vie for power. A UN-backed peace deal, signed by some of the adversaries in 2015, has failed to unite the country or create an effective state under the “government of national accord” (GNA). IS has fed on the chaos—and added to it, lately by attacking water pipelines and pumping stations.

In Indonesia and Philippines, Militants Find a Common Bond: ISIS


By RICHARD C. PADDOCK

Philippine soldiers ran for cover to evade sniper fire on Thursday while trying to clear the southern city of Marawi of armed militants, one street at a time. CreditJes Aznar/Getty Images

BANGKOK — An eruption of violence in the southern Philippines and suicide bombings in Indonesia this week highlight the growing threat posed by militant backers of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia.

While the timing of the Jakarta bombings and the fighting on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao appears to be coincidental, experts on terrorism have been warning for months that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has provided a new basis for cooperation among extremists in the region.

“Setbacks in Syria and Iraq have heightened the importance of other theaters for ISIS, and in Southeast Asia, the focus is the Philippines,” said Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, based in Jakarta. “ISIS supporters around the region have been urged to join the jihad in the Philippines if they can’t get to Syria, and to wage war at home if they can’t travel at all.”

Syria Has Effectively Ceased to Exist

by Jonathan Spyer

On my last night in Damascus, some younger members of the Ministry of Information-sponsored delegation in which I was taking part decided to have a drink. It was late April, and the bars and restaurants were doing good business in the cool and breezy evenings. An inebriated Russian journalist, accompanied by a uniformed Russian soldier entered the bar opposite our hotel in the Old City where my colleagues were sitting. Words were exchanged. An altercation began.

At a certain point, the Russian journalist produced a pistol and aimed it at the forehead of one of the delegation's participants. He then entered our hotel, and threatened one of the employees there, all with his uniformed colleague silently accompanying him.

How the incident ended says much about who truly holds power in regime-controlled areas of Syria today. After the two Russians had departed, the delegation's participants sought to contact the authorities and report the incident. The representative of the Syrian security forces asked if the armed men were Russians. When told that they were, he replied that in that case, there was nothing the Syrian authorities could do.

The survival of the Assad regime is now assured, but the regime has become something of a façade. 

Electronic Weapons: Stealthy Hide And Seek Over Syria


In April 2017 one of four new Russian A-50U AWACs (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft was spotted in Syria. This U version entered service in 2011 but foreign ELINT (electronic intelligence) experts had not yet had a good opportunity to see how effective it was. To do that you have to get your ELINT aircraft close to an A-50U in a combat zone. In this case the most effective ELINT aircraft turned out to be several American F-22s stealth fighters quietly (and apparently undetected) operating over Syria. Officially the F-22s were there to perform missions where effective stealth was a requirement. That meant reconnaissance missions during periods when the Russians or Syrians were angry at the U.S. Russia had some of its most modern

The other American ELINT aircraft was several new F-35Is owned and operated by Israel. These have been seen flying near the Syrian border but no one is sure if an F-35I or two slipped across the border to join the hide and seek action the F-22s had monopolized until recently. The F-22 and F-35 have more than stealth in common. Both have impressive software that automatically operates the many passive (they don’t broadcast and reveal their position) sensors on board both aircraft. The U.S. Air Force recently admitted that the F-22 was, as was always suspected, carrying out ELINT missions (early sales efforts pointed that out). The F-35 uses a similar but different array of sensors and apparently more powerful software to control the collection and analysis of what is out there and do it in real time. The Israelis have installed a lot of their own hardware and software in the F-35I (which is why it isn’t called F-35A) and both Israelis and Americans want to see what the Israeli version of ELINT do, compared to the F-22 and, one suspects, an F-35A pretending to be Israeli for the purpose of playing with the hostile electronics found in Syria.

GETTING THE PENTAGON’S NEXT NATIONAL DEFENSE STRATEGY RIGHT

SHAWN BRIMLEY

A small Pentagon team has started working on the next National Defense Strategy that, if properly scoped and staffed, will be an important tool for Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to positively shape the Pentagon’s strategy and spending.

For every first-term administration, the development of a cohesive statement of U.S. defense strategy and policy is among the most important steps a new Pentagon team can take. In addition to conveying the new administration’s strategic approach, a good strategic planning process will produce effective mechanisms for guiding the long-term evolution of the U.S. military, and can help shape healthy civilian-military relations along the way.

In late 2015 and early 2016, a series of hearings by the Senate Armed Services Committee explored how the Pentagon develops strategy. These hearings ultimately informed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which replaced the legislative foundation of the Quadrennial Defense Review with a much clearer and well-defined set of expectations for a National Defense Strategy. The 2017 NDAA outlines what the strategy must include: 

The priority missions and key force planning scenarios; 

The projected strategic environment and the strategies that the Department of Defense will employ to counter key threats; 

A strategic framework guiding how the Department of Defense will prioritize among threats and military missions, manage risks, and make resource investments; 

Multi-Domain Confusion: All Domains Are Not Created Equal

By Erik Heftye

Words matter. They frame thoughts and influence concepts by shaping perceptions, preferences, and priorities in the form of tacitly embedded assumptions.[1] Unfortunately, military conceptual frameworks are often encapsulated in jargon and buzzwords that periodically dominate the landscape of Pentagon briefing slides. Notable past examples of these operational concept catchphrases include: Active Defense, AirLand Battle, Full-Spectrum Dominance, Network-Centric Warfare, Effects-Based Operations, Anti-Access/Area Denial, and AirSea Battle. The latest conceptual phrase to command the spotlight is Multi-Domain Battle, which was officially unveiled by the US Army’s Training and Doctrine Commander, General David Perkins, at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition on October 4, 2016.[2] This announcement was foreshadowed a month earlier in an article by Albert Palazzo and David P. McClain in which they touted “multi-domain battle will allow the joint force commander to dominate the targeted domains” because it “breaks down the traditional environmental boundaries between domains that have previously limited who does what where.”[3] The advent of multi-domain battle begs a question that remains unanswered: what constitutes a military domain and why make this distinction?

Over the past two decades the use of the word domain has attained wide acceptance in the military lexicon. Vague when described in doctrine, it exerts a strong influence by establishing the most basic boundaries of military functional identities. As described in an essay by Frank Hoffman and Michael Davies, domains “create a frame of reference that defines the preparation and conduct of war. Each military institution and Service crafts doctrine and platforms that are designed to operate or maneuver in their dominant domain. Little preparation is made to conduct war beyond them.”[4] Despite the unquestioned usage of domain-centric terminology, the exact meaning of domain remains largely undefined without consideration of etymological origins. However, the word contains some built-in assumptions regarding how we view warfare that can limit our thinking. An ambiguous categorization of separate operating domains in warfare could actually pose an intractable conceptual threat to an integrated joint force, which is ironically the stated purpose of multi-domain battle.

Broken and Unreadable: Our Unbearable Aversion to Doctrine

By Steve Leonard

In 2016, when the University of Kansas opened the doors to the new DeBruce Center, the main attraction was a display of two simple, yellowed pieces of paper, stored behind a pane of electrochromic glass. In 1891, when tasked with creating an indoor game that would occupy the young men of Springfield College during an especially bitter New England winter, Dr. James Naismith framed the rules of a game that would one day capture a nation (and increasingly, the world): basketball. In 1898, Naismith brought his game to the Heartland, where he planted the roots of the modern sport as the first coach of the Kansas Jayhawks.

Basketball has always been a part of my life. From summers on the concrete playground to winters in the gym, I long ago lost count of the hours spent playing the sport. I knew the language of the court. I understood the guiding principles—the fundamentals—that shape how we play the game. I knew every dimple in the leather of the ball and how to make it respond to my will. Yet, in all those years, I’d never once read those rules. Not once. But I knew them—every last one of them.

The Marine Corps Is Window-Shopping For A New Rifle With Some Very Specific Features


By MATTHEW MOSS and JARED KELLER

On May 16, the Corps released a request for information notice calling on weapons vendors to show off their latest weapons technologies, including new suppressors, optics, and several M27-like enhanced capabilities and features, at a highly anticipated showcase in September. And while the Corps may not walk away with a brand new rifle, the companies who show up will inform the procurement process for years to come. 

Over the last couple of years, the Corps has been steadily investigating off-the-shelf options for a new rifle, and this new RFI shows their continued interest in exploring a variety of new features. While this year’s RFI follows on from 2016’s in a search for the next-generation rifle, the new request places far more emphasis on adaptability and the addition of suppressors.

The RFI for the new infantry rifle lays out 12 specific required characteristics, a few of which are listed below: 

Upgrade package (including an upper receiver) or complete rifle with enhanced M27 like capability and features. 

Free floated handguard 13” for use with 14.5” or longer barrel, 9.5” for use with 10.3/10.5” barrel. 

Manchester Attack: We Are In An 'Arms Race' Against Ever Adapting Terror Networks

by Kris Christmann,

The Manchester attack illustrates how Western society is locked in an arms race with an ever adapting group of terrorists who keep changing their tactics and targets. Winning the battle depends on a number of complex factors and the acceptance that on the morning of June 23 Britain woke up to a new reality. A world where your teenage daughter can be killed while doing nothing more than attending a pop concert became a reality.

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A suicide bomber entered the foyer at the Manchester Arena and detonated an IED loaded with shrapnel. The plan was simple, kill as many revellers as possible and sacrifice yourself in the effort. Job done. The most deadly terrorist attack in Britain in a decade.

Don’t Cry For Me Pyongyang:’ Cyber Security Firm, Symantec Increasingly Confident WannaCry Ransomware Attack/Cyber Pandemic, Linked to North Korea


Joe Uchill has an article on yesterday’s (May 22, 2017) TheHill.com, noting that “researchers at [the cyber security firm], Symantec, are increasingly confident that a recent, massive ransomware outbreak — is linked to a [known] North Korean state hacking group.”

“Analysis of these early WannaCry attacks by Symantec’s Security Response Team, revealed commonalities in the tools, techniques, and infrastructure used by the attackers and those seen in the previous Lazarus attacks — making it highly likely that Lazarus was behind the spread of WannaCry,”according to a blog post on Symantec’s website posted Monday evening.

“The earliest versions of the WannaCry ransomware — ones deployed before the leak of the stolen [NSA] hacking tools — appear to have been deployed to networks by hand,” Mr. Uchill noted, as opposed to later versions that spread rapidly — a cyber pandemic if you will — and infected hundreds of thousands of computers, devices and networks across the globe within a matter of days. “Symantec was able to determine that hacking tools used by the Lazarus Group, the same group who hacked Sony Pictures, were likely used to install early versions of WannaCry,” Mr. Uchill noted. Prior to this revelation, Symantec had already posted a note to their blog that they had found a suite of hacking tools used by the Lazarus group on computers infected by the first known version of WannaCry in February of this year. Mr. Uchill referred to Symantec’s February blog post, noting that “the attack used two different variants of the malware known as, Destover, which was used in the Sony hacks, and one of Volgmer, used in attacks against South Korean targets.”

Fighting Fire With Fire – Equipping A Digital Army In A Cybersecurity War

By Eric Berdeaux

Cyber security is now a major industry, whose sheer size and growth is reflected in Statistics MRC data that showed the cybersecurity market is estimated to grow to $224.48 billion by 2022. There is so much data and information available on companies and individuals now, that there has never been as much risk and threat as there is currently.

The last few years especially have seen a number of high profile cyberattacks, where the ability, professionalism and organisation of hackers has far outweighed a company’s ability to defend itself. As well as being unable to defend against such attacks, many organisations also struggle to quantify the impact of such risks, leaving them more vulnerable than ever before. What are the reasons behind the on-going rise in cybercrime and what must organisations do to adequately defend themselves against attack in a cybersecurity war?

The rise of cybercrime

There can be little doubt that over the past decade, cybercrime has risen massively. In the UK alone in 2016, around £124million was stolen by hackers via the internet – a jump of 1,266% compared to 2015, according to the KPMG Fraud Barometer.

Before WannaCry Was Unleashed, Hackers Plotted About It on the Dark Web


By Jessica Swarner

Last weekend, more than 150 countries and 300,000 machines experienced the largest cyberattack to date. The attack did not come out of nowhere: It exploited a known flaw in some versions of Windows. Microsoft issued the patch for it back in March, but many people failed to update their systems, leaving them vulnerable. The hackers knew that many machines would have been left unprotected. In fact, they were counting on it.

Hackers network with one another through many platforms, and a very popular one is forums. These forums work like regular messaging boards where people create profiles and post in threads among different categories. The difference here is that all posters are anonymous, and the forums are present on both the Clearnet (hackerspeak for the regular, less private internet) and the darkweb. Most of the time discussions are harmless and focus on current events or white-hat coding, but sometimes, as in this case, they are used to identify vulnerabilities and exploits as the beginning of cyberattack plans. A 2012 report from Imperva studied a popular hacker forum and found that posts mentioning SQL injection (a web hacking technique) and distributed denial-of-service attacks each generated 19 percent of the discussion volume studied, making them the most discussed topics on that forum. Hackers can give each other ideas and help troubleshoot obstacles in these forums, making them very important to monitor.

Malicious Cyber Capability Is Spreading. How Do We Stop It?


By Robert Morgus


Aglobal outbreak of ransomware is rapidly infecting machines in critical and not-so-critical infrastructure across the globe, including the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, a Spanish internet service provider, the German rail system, and mall billboards in Singapore. This digital pandemic illustrates a challenge that the cybersecurity community has been wrestling with for nearly a decade: how to counter the spread of malicious cyber capability.

29 May 2017

*** Admiral Stavridis: 5 Reasons Trump Should Send More Troops to Afghanistan

James Stavridis

Admiral Stavridis was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and is Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

As the Trump Administration wrestles with locations, numbers and missions for American combat deployments globally, one perennial has re-emerged near the top of the list: Afghanistan. Famously called the “Graveyard of Empires” to reflect the successive defeats of Alexander the Great, the British Raj, and the Soviet Union, Afghanistan continues to vex US military planners and political figures leaders. After perhaps a $1 trillion investment and thousands of casualties, another “ask” for troops is particularly unwelcome. 

The question on the table is simple: how many troops do we need in Afghanistan? When I was the Supreme Allied Commander at NATO for global operations, I had strategic responsibility for the fighting in Afghanistan and a total NATO force of over 150,000. Over my four years in command, I had four brilliant Generals working for me commanding those NATO forces: Generals Stanley McChrystal, David Petraeus, John Allen and Joseph Dunford, the latter still on active duty as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. With each of them, I spent considerable time honing our requests for more troops, apportioning the burden among the 28 nations of NATO and, sadly, writing condolence letters to the families of thousands killed on my watch. But we generally succeeded in wresting control of much of Afghanistan from the Taliban, safeguarding the election that delivered President Ashraf Ghani (an enormous improvement over his volatile predecessor Hamid Karzai), and turning over the fight to the Afghan security forces we financed and trained. 

** Russian Electronic Warfare in Ukraine: Between Real and Imaginable


By: Sergey Sukhankin 

The outbreak of war in the Donbas region (April 2014) turned Ukraine into one of the main targets of Russian information warfare, information-psychological operations, as well as cyberattacks and electronic warfare. Within the past three years, Ukraine has been subjected to no less than 7,000 cyberattacks. Ukrainian cyber expert Sergey Radkevych recently claimed that “Ukraine is in a state of cyber war with Russia” and that Russian cyber activities pose an existential threat to Ukraine’s national security (Sprotyv.info, May 5).

Furthermore, military clashes in Donbas have once again demonstrated that Russian military strategists and experts believe Electronic Warfare (EW) has become the backbone of “warfare of the future.” Western sources have claimed that from December 2015, Russia started to act much more decisively aiming to “achieve kinetic effects by delivering severe blows to Ukrainian critical infrastructure” (Cna.org, March 2017). Namely, these activities included damaging/destroying command-and-control networks through jamming radio communications, hampering the work of radar systems, and muting GPS signals. The main obstacle, however, was in the lack of concrete proof and factual data pertaining to tools, gadgets and other means used by the Russians while waging EW against Ukraine. But thanks to independent investigations conducted by Ukrainian activists and cyber specialists, it is now possible to speak about Russian involvement in EW against Ukraine as an undisputed fact. And the data presented by the Ukrainians illuminates many points of ambiguity regarding Russia’s use of EW in Donbas.

** Trading Progress For Equality In The Global Economy


The nature of global trade is shifting once again. For two decades, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been locked in a stalemate between the wealthy north and the poor south as countries on either side of the global divide fail to find room for compromise. But now that seems to be changing, and new alliances are being made across age-old battle lines. Unfortunately for free trade advocates, this doesn't necessarily signal forward motion in global trade talks. Instead it will likely slow negotiations even further as two factions are replaced by many, giving rise to an increasingly multipolar world in which multilateral trade deals are even harder to come by.

The change underway was on full display last week during a meeting of the WTO's General Council. At the May 10 event, India caused an international uproar by blocking discussion of the meeting's agenda after charging that the "investment facilitation" items several countries had submitted were outside the organization's remit. That the move caused consternation, or that it came from India, was not unusual. But the players facing off against one another in the debate were. On one side, the developing nations that had proposed the items - China, Brazil and Russia - lined up next to their developed counterparts, Japan and the European Union. On the other, India likewise had the support of members from different economic circumstances, South Africa and the United States. Should countries continue to cross the historical divide between the developed and developing worlds, it could dramatically reshape global trade as we know it - and not necessarily for the better.

** What the Manchester attack shows us about how the terrorism danger has evolved

Daniel L. Byman

Terrorist groups themselves have changed, writes Dan Byman, altering the nature of the threat they pose. Some of these dangers concern the groups and their ideology, while others emanate from how they recruit, act, and thrive. Similarly, the U.S. and European response to terrorism has evolved, both for better and for worse, he argues. This piece originally appeared on Lawfare.

The latest atrocity claimed by the Islamic State—the killing of at least 22 people, many of them children, at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester—illustrates how the terrorism threat has evolved. The United Kingdom, after all, is no stranger to terrorism. On July 7, 2005 al-Qaida attacked several transportation targets in London, killing 52, and Irish Republican Army attacks (IRA) regularly struck at the United Kingdom in the decades before al-Qaida began attacking targets in Europe. Yet the Manchester attack, with its targeting of children and lack of a concrete link to a coherent political agenda, shows how the danger posed by terrorism has changed over the years.

I frequently compare the risk of terrorism to the United States with that of past decades and argue that we typically overstate the current level of danger and that, in general, U.S. counterterrorism is performing admirably when it comes to defending the U.S. homeland. In the post-9/11 era, terrorists have killed 154 Americans in the U.S. homeland, with jihadists accounting for 95 of those. These numbers are lower than the average number of deaths within the United States in a comparable period for the pre-9/11 era. Even in Europe, the number of deaths and attacks in the post-9/11 era are lower than those in the pre-9/11 era, when groups like the IRA and Basque separatists waged a bloody war of attrition against the United Kingdom and Spain, respectively, and state sponsors like Iran and Libya committed attacks against their foes on European soil.

Great firewall of India?


The recent blocking of various social media websites in Kashmir by the Centre has engaged the attention of relevant stakeholders. The blocking has been done keeping in mind the broader national interest of India, but the blocking has presented numerous challenges.

The first of the challenges was the fact that the order for blocking of websites was issued under the Indian Telegraph Act, whereas statutory powers for blocking lies under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Second, in today’s world, blocking is an outdated and antiquated phenomenon. Blocking of websites is akin to trying to fix a leaking roof by means of putting a Band-Aid. With the Internet providing so many distinct new tools, as well as VPN facilities to bypass the blocking orders, people are increasingly getting tech-savvy. No wonder reports have come that people in Kashmir are using VPNs for accessing the blocked websites.

In today’s scenario, where the Internet is getting more and more ubiquitous and where people are finding more innovative ways of trying to connect to the Internet, it is a utopian dream to completely block specific websites. If a person has the will to access the blocked websites, he will be able to find innovative mechanisms to access them. Needless to say, sovereign governments are facing immense practical challenges in terms of the misuse of social media. The governments of the world, including India, now need to come up with more customised and innovative approaches to deal with the misuse of social media. In the Indian context, the government needs to take far more concrete steps rather than to look at short-term ad hoc measures like blocking of websites in Kashmir. It is imperative that the provisions of the Indian cyber law, being the Information Technology Act 2000, need to be appropriately amended so as to be made it topical and relevant in the context of today’s times.

India cancels plans for huge coal power stations as solar energy prices hit record low



The Independent Online A field of solar panels at Cochin International Airport in southern India CIAL

India has cancelled plans to build nearly 14 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations – about the same as the total amount in the UK – with the price for solar electricity “free falling” to levels once considered impossible.

Analyst Tim Buckley said the shift away from the dirtiest fossil fuel and towards solar in India would have “profound” implications on global energy markets.

According to his article on the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis’s website, 13.7GW of planned coal power projects have been cancelled so far this month – in a stark indication of the pace of change.

In January last year, Finnish company Fortum agreed to generate electricity in Rajasthan with a record low tariff, or guaranteed price, of 4.34 rupees per kilowatt-hour (about 5p).

Mr Buckley, director of energy finance studies at the IEEFA, said that at the time analysts said this price was so low would never be repeated.

Solar is now cheaper than coal-based electricity in India, but the math makes no sense



Solar energy prices are crashing through the floor in India.

In the last three months, solar tariffs have dropped by over 25%, with much of the recent action focused around Rajasthan’s Bhadla solar park, a 10,000-hectare facility on the edge of the Thar desert.

At an auction for 500 megawatts of capacity at the park on May 12, the state-run Solar Energy Corporation of India managed to discover a record-low tariff of Rs 2.4 per kilowatt-hour. The previous low was two days before that when tariffs hit Rs 2.6 per kilowatt-hour during auctions for another phase of the Bhadla solar park.

At such rock-bottom prices, solar power is even cheaper than India’s coal-based thermal power plants. The country’s largest power company, NTPC, sells electricity from its coal-based generation units at a princely Rs 3.2 per kilowatt-hour.

Moreover, India’s solar-generation capacity is expected to touch 8.8 gigawatts this year (a jump of 76% over 2016) to become the third-largest solar market in the world, according to renewable energy consultancy Bridge To India. And, on the back of prolific growth in non-conventional power, consulting giant Ernst & Young reckons that India is the world’s second best market for investing in renewable energy.

Xi Jinping’s imperialistic ambitions have beaten Modi’s soft-power diplomacy right to India’s doorstep



At his swearing-in three years ago, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi pulled a coup of sorts by featuring an array of heads of states from South Asian countries, including arch-enemy Pakistan, at an event that rarely has a high-profile foreign contingent. Months later, the Indian prime minister’s bromance with former US president Barack Obama—who even wrote a note in praise of Modi in Time magazine—was the subject of much adulation.

In the first two years of his term, Modi travelled to as many as 36 countries—and all India’s neighbours—in an attempt to establish the world’s fastest-growing major economy as a regional soft power.

But in the past year the Modi diplomatic whirlwind has waned. Meanwhile, China—India’s nuclear-armed neighbour—under president Xi Jinping, appears to be making all the right moves in its foreign policy, particularly in Asia, to New Delhi’s increasing consternation.

“Modi is a product of a system and institutions that make it hard to move quickly.” 

“Modi sought to depict himself as a more decisive kind of leader who can actually make things happen quickly—and to an extent he has succeeded,” Michael Kugelman, a senior associate for South and Southeast Asia at the Washington DC-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said. “Still, he is a product of a system and institutions that make it hard to move quickly, including in the area of foreign relations. And ultimately Xi and China win out from this.”