23 June 2017



CORRECTION: This article originally and unfortunately referred to Moeed Yusuf as a proxy of Pakistani officials. Due to a serious editorial lapse, for which I take personal responsibility, this was not removed prior to publication. It absolutely should have been removed and we are implementing stricter editorial practices to help ensure something like this does not happen again.

Dr. Yusuf is a well-regarded and valuable member of the South Asia security community. War on the Rocks does not endorse Prof. Christine Fair’s baseless characterization of him as a “proxy” and we regret that we published it due to an oversight. Dr. Yusuf’s body of work on democracy, militancy, and a host of other issues offers valuable contributions to U.S. policymakers, academics, government officials, and security practitioners. We offer our sincere apologies to Dr. Yusuf as well as to our readers who rightly hold us to a higher standard. It is absolutely vital that we engage in public debate without personal attacks. -Ryan Evans, editor-in-chief

For the last 16 years, the Washington policy community has debated how the United States should deal with its problematic partner in its war in Afghanistan: Pakistan. During the Obama administration, there was a growing consensus that Pakistan was the problem, even if there was no agreement on how to manage it. Despite disagreements, at the end of the Obama administration, there was a grudging acknowledgment that the Washington needed to show some real stick while pulling back on the carrots. In apparent protest to this growing conviction that a more coercive suite of policies is needed, on June 16, Steve Hadley and Moeed Yusuf argued in The New York Times that any successful U.S. strategy in Afghanistan requires the “United States must understand and address Pakistan’s strategic anxieties,” which center around India and its neuralgic fantasies about India’s imagined pernicious role in Afghanistan. Both men should know better. This argument is not only flawed — it is deadly. Not only can the United States not address Pakistani anxieties, but U.S. efforts to do so have undermined vital U.S. interests in the region.

First, this is an old argument, which Pakistan has peddled since its birth. Pakistan cried foul when it did not get the “Muslim majority state” of Kashmir when the British partitioned the Raj into India and Pakistan in 1947. Kashmir was a princely state and was not bound by the Indian Independence Act of 1947. Despite signing a standstill agreement with the sovereign of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, Pakistan invaded Kashmir in effort to snatch it using a combination of state and non-state actors. Despite Pakistani claims to the contrary, the work of Shuja Nawaz demonstrates that this was very much a state-sponsored adventure. Singh asked for India to come to Kashmir’s defense. India agreed on the condition that Singh would join the Indian dominion. Upon receiving his signed instrument of accession, India airlifted troops to defend what was now sovereign Indian territory.

When the war was over, Pakistan’s raiders had successfully wrested away one third of Kashmir’s territory. India referred the matter to the U.N. Security Council, which promulgated Resolution 47 in 1948. That resolution called for three sequential steps. First, Pakistan was to withdraw all forces from Kashmir. Second, India was to withdraw, with the exception of a defensive force. And third, when both sides satisfied the sequential withdraws, India was to facilitate a plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations to discern Kashmiris’ wishes. While Pakistani officials continue to opine about the plebiscite, the fact is that Pakistan never fulfilled its obligation to demilitarize. Pakistan alone is responsible for derailing the plebiscite when it was still feasible and relevant.

Although Pakistan was not legally entitled to Kashmir, it has built its entire national security architecture around illegally securing territory there through bloodshed. To do so, from the earliest years of independence, Pakistani civilian and military leadership begged the United States to incorporate it into its alliance structure such that it could obtain needed armaments and resources to fortify its rag-tag army against the much more robust forces of India. In fact, as Husain Haqqani has brutally demonstrated, during every period of this alliance Pakistan has promised to service U.S. interests while in reality using American resources to expand its conventional and later nuclear assets to counter India. Despite being keenly aware of Pakistani duplicity, Washington has obliged because it believed that it needed Islamabad to secure its strategic objectives during the Cold War and later during the Global War on Terrorism.

*** Iran, Russia, and the Taliban: Reassessing the Future of the Afghan State

By Amin Tarzi

The first combat zone utilization of the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) device by the U.S. forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A) on 13 April 2017 brought the Islamic State–Khorasan Province (ISKP) to the headlines. ISKP emerged in Afghanistan and Pakistan in early 2015 after individuals and groups of militants pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. This ISIS affiliate became operational after only a few months. While the ISKP represents a danger to the stability of Afghanistan and Pakistan and to the wider region including India and Central Asia, the outfit has become a vehicle to legitimization of the growing internationalization of the wider Afghan conflict, particularly in changing the calculus of Iran and Russia vis-à-vis the Taliban, and it has the potential of becoming a tool for proxy warfare in Afghanistan evocative of the mid-1990s.

ISKP and the Taliban: Taking Different Paths

Since its emergence in the mid-1990s, the Taliban sought international legitimacy, unlike the self-identified Islamic State. The initial proclamations of the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate were mostly Afghan-centric. However, with the cementing of their ties with al-Qaeda after capturing Kabul in 1996, their views took on a more pan-Islamist outlook.1 Retrospectively, the strategies of the Taliban and those of al-Qaeda differed fundamentally, as the former wanted to become a national movement and be recognized by the international community as such, while the latter wanted to keep Afghanistan in a perpetual state of anarchy, utilizing it as a base for waging global jihad. In a 2012 study on Taliban’s attitudes towards reconciliation, most respondents agreed that al-Qaeda was responsible for derailing the Taliban’s initial aim of establishing an Islamic state in Afghanistan.2 Currently, the majority of the Taliban has returned to the founding Afghanistan-centric principles of the movement with an arguably less religiously zealous message, calling on Muslims to avoid extremism in religion with the goal of becoming a legitimate force in the political arena of the country as well as in the international calculations on Afghanistan. Perhaps learning from their initial mistakes, the reemerging Taliban has tried to speak for the totality of Afghanistan, including providing assurances that they will respect the rights of the Shi‘a and other minorities within the country. Nevertheless, the Taliban remains a violent insurgency and is very keen not only on retaining its monopoly over this violence, but also on controlling and managing it to help calibrate the reactions of both domestic and foreign actors.3

The emergence of ISKP occurred during a sensitive time for the Taliban, which had lost its elusive, but unifying founding leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, sometime in spring 2013. While the movement managed to keep a lid on Mullah Omar’s demise until it was officially revealed two years later by the Afghan government, the Taliban had to deal with internal fractures due to the absence of their undisputed leader in a time when major decisions needed to be made on whether and how to make peace with the Afghan government; to open dialogue with foreign countries; and to shape relations with their host Pakistan in addition to decisions on military matters and expanding their areas of operation. Following the confirmation of Mullah Omar’s passing, Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansur, became the new amir al-muminin (commander of the faithful), but disagreements remained among top members of the movement over leadership positions. The leadership experienced another setback in May 2016 when the United States conducted an airstrike, which killed Mansur, who subsequently was replaced by his deputy, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, a senior cleric and former senior member of Supreme Court under Taliban rule.

Taking advantage of the discontent over internal leadership struggles and rifts with their erstwhile allies, the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), ISKP began recruiting among the Taliban members. ISKP used the absence of and later the confirmation of the demise of Mullah Omar in its propaganda aimed at courting disgruntled members of the Taliban. In these efforts, ISKP argued that Mullah Omar no longer was the legitimate leader of the Islamic community or emirate. The Pakistani Taliban and IMU were increasingly at odds with the Taliban due to the latter’s refusal to conduct and support operations inside Pakistan. Due to the unreliability of the date of Mullah Omar’s death and the fluid nature of Taliban membership, it is difficult to provide reliable statistics on the number of hardcore Taliban members who turned to ISKP. The most significant switching of sides occurred around January 2015 in the heartland of the Taliban when Abd al-Rauf Khadim setup a cell with a several hundred former Taliban fighters in Kajaki district of Helmand province. Khadim was a former commander of the Taliban. According to Afghan analyst Borhan Osman, after being released from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2007, he rose to prominence, becoming the second in command within the Taliban’s military establishment. He later fell from grace partly because of his pan-Islamist views. Khadim’s reach also extended beyond his native Kajaki to neighboring districts of Musa Qala, Nawzad, and Baghran, threatening key Taliban strongholds. Within weeks of Khadim’s appointment as the deputy governor of ISKP, he was killed in an airstrike attributed to the United States, much to the Taliban’s relief.4 Since Khadim’s demise, no one of his stature has switched sides from the Taliban to ISKP.

The main arena of Taliban-ISKP military confrontations began in the southeastern districts of Nangarhar Province in 2015 where ISKP began and continues to have a presence. Beyond the confrontations in Nangarhar, the Taliban also started campaigns against ISKP affiliates and supporters elsewhere in Afghanistan with notable success. In November 2015, the Taliban gained a decisive victory in the southern Afghan province of Zabul against IMU, ISKP’s main Uzbek affiliate. The Taliban also began opposing the mainly Uzbek Jundallah, an IMU splinter group operating in northeastern Afghanistan in proximity to Tajikistan.5 These victories were a two-pronged blessing for the Taliban. First, the Taliban stopped a major local rival from gaining a foothold in the country and reversed the brief territorial gains made by Jundallah in northeastern Afghanistan. Second, they were propaganda boons for the Taliban in Central Asian, Chinese, and Russian circles where the Uzbek groups are regarded as a serious threat to the security and stability of Central Asian states, and by extension, Russia as well as China’s Xinjiang Province. For the key regional players (Iran, Russia, and China), the Taliban’s victories against ISKP were proving useful to their strategic designs on the region.

Iran’s Jekyll and Hyde Relationship with the Taliban

Iran’s longstanding policy for Afghanistan has been to prevent the full stabilization of a unitary Afghanistan as long as the United States supports Kabul. At the same time, Iran simultaneously has sought to prevent a total collapse of order in its eastern neighbor. In Tehran’s Jekyll-and-Hyde gameplay in Afghanistan, the Taliban has been regarded as Iran’s staunch enemies, yet as useful allies to oppose USFOR-A (and prior to that, some members of the broader NATO-led coalition). With the advent of ISKP, the stakes for Tehran are higher and so is the utility of the Taliban as useful tools to counter the radical Sunni movement bringing Iran closer in partnership with Russia. Concurrently, Tehran will continue its steadfast policy of denying a victory to the Western plans for the rehabilitation of the Afghan state.

In its initial campaign to gain control of Afghanistan in the 1990s, the Taliban, at times, targeted Shi‘a due to their religious affiliation and not just because of their refusal to submit to Taliban rule. As the movement gained more authority, its anti-sectarian tendencies diminished, but never ceased. Currently, the Taliban, in spite of its alliances with militant jihadist outfits with anti-sectarian doctrines, has by-and-large stayed away from sectarianism and has called on the Shi‘a to join the Taliban movement as an Islamic—rather than just Sunni—national liberation front. There are no credible statistics on the number of Shi‘a among the Taliban ranks, and these numbers ought to be small given the low level of support for the Taliban in the predominantly Shi‘i regions of Afghanistan. The overarching policy of the movement has been to remain aloof on sectarian issues. While the Taliban’s change of policy on sectarianism is undertaken primarily for domestic reasons, the inclusiveness of the movement’s message has made the Taliban more publically palatable in Iran, as the comments of Iran’s ambassador to Kabul, Muhammad Reza Bahrami, in December 2016 reveal. Bahrami confirmed that Iran has “communication with Taliban but not ties” and that the purpose of that communication is to gain “intelligence information.”6 Eighteen months prior, he is on record denying any contacts between his country and the Taliban while adding that in “Iran’s security strategy, there is no interpretation in connection with terrorist groups and any connection with these groups are [sic] against” his country.7

The strengthening bonds with Shi‘i Iran and the Taliban challenges ISKP and the broader Sunni Arab-dominated IS community. With the potential growth of discontent by non-Afghans and Afghan Salafists within ISKP’s ranks for the current Taliban leadership’s Shi‘i -tolerant or Shi‘i -friendly policies, there are dangers that the hallmark anti-sectarianism of IS could be mobilized to further push Afghanistan’s war towards a more sectarian conflict. Such a move could potentially reignite the regional proxy war in Afghanistan with realigned alliances and newcomers as well as increase the threat emanating from the ungoverned regions of Afghanistan to global security. Moreover, if the Afghan government’s control over its territory deteriorates further, Iran could come to see the Taliban as their least threatening option, which would bring the complicating Iranian voice—regardless of Tehran’s direct participation—into the on-again, off-again peace negotiations with the Taliban. The United States has publically acknowledged Tehran’s backing of the Taliban as well as Iran’s multidimensional relationship with the Afghan government.

The first manifestation of the Taliban’s strategy of inclusivity occurred in July 2016. ISKP claimed responsibility for an attack on a predominately Shi‘i demonstration, resulting in the death of 80 individuals demonstrating their reach into Kabul. In response to Taliban condemnation, ISKP issued a fatwa claiming that the Shi‘a were undisputedly infidels, adding that any Sunni religious scholar who rejects this understanding and the permissibility of their killing is himself an apostate. In October 2016, two attackers targeted a popular shrine during Ashura—the commemoration of death of Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed who is considered by the Shi‘a as their third imam, killing 19 people.8 The Taliban condemned ISKP’s attacks, referring to the Shi‘a as their “brothers.”9 The Taliban’s response shows how the group has evolved since its emergence in the 1990s.

This tension between the two groups could be exploited. The majority of Afghans, including the Taliban, thus far have tried to show a unified front against ISKP attacks specifically targeting the Shi‘a. Additionally, part of the Taliban’s current sectarian policies can be traced to their warming relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Russia: An Unlikely Partner

Another player in this complex security environment not to be ignored is Russia. In their operations against IMU and their overall opposition to IS-inspired or -backed groups, the Taliban has found a sympathetic ear in Moscow, potentially inducing the re-internationalization of the Afghan conflict. Taliban successes against ISKP and IMU prompted Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s special envoy to Afghanistan, to state that “Taliban interests objectively coincide with ours.”10 The internationalization of the Afghan conflict is reminiscent of the 1990s proxy wars supported by India, Iran, and Russia on one side and Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and, to certain point, the United States on the other—albeit two decades ago, the Taliban was the main challenge for India, Iran, and Russia triangle. To the discomfort of Kabul and New Delhi, the Russians, with Iranian and Chinese support, have opened a dialogue with the Taliban. Russia, along with Iran, China, and Pakistan (without the participation of Afghanistan and India), held a meeting in Moscow in November 2016 to discuss countermeasures to the threats posed by the ISKP. After complaints by Afghanistan and India, another meeting in Moscow was organized two months later that included representatives from Afghanistan and India. While specific information of what the Moscow talks entailed is not available, the maneuverings are reminiscent of the support provided to various Afghan factions in the aftermath of the collapse of the communist government in Kabul in 1992.11 The latest of the Russia-led talks on Afghanistan were held on the same day the United States dropped the MOAB on the ISKP target in Achin District of Nangarhar. The U.S. reportedly refused a Russian invitation to participate in the talks. According to General John W. Nicholson, “Russia has overtly lent legitimacy to the Taliban,” and he added that Moscow, basing their position “not on facts,” believes the Taliban is only engaged against ISKP and not the Afghan government.12
More recently, after the Taliban attacked the headquarters of the Afghan National Army’s (ANA) 209thCorps based in Mazar-e-Sharif on 22 April killing more than 140 ANA soldiers, the United States increased it criticism of Russia’s support of the Taliban, including hints that Moscow was supplying small arms to the Taliban, which Secretary of Defense James Mattis said was “violation of international law” and something that the U.S. would “have to confront.”13

Russia’s involvement in Afghanistan as a political supporter of dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban, if coordinated with other stakeholders, including the United States, would add to the legitimacy and chances of a successful political outcome to the insurgency in Afghanistan. But Moscow’s military support of the Taliban and promotion of parallel political processes would only complicate the already fragile state of affairs inside Afghanistan and has the great potential of opening greater opportunities for groups such as ISKP or other terrorist or insurgent outfits to grow in strength at the expense of the Afghan government. While Russia has genuine concerns with the growth of pan-Islamist jihadist organizations such as ISKP, its romancing of the Taliban may seem to be part of the ongoing and expanding competition with the United States. The withdrawal or removal of foreign forces from Afghanistan is the Taliban’s paramount demand for accepting a peaceful resolution to their insurgency. As in the case in Syria, the Kremlin’s long-term goal is to push the United States out of Afghanistan, while in the short term, Russia hopes to make U.S. deployment and stabilization policies in the country more difficult.

New Alliances and Configurations Create a Cloudy Future

The variety of groups and policies engaged in Afghanistan once again potentially serves to undermine peace and stability in Afghanistan. There is a risk to the continued legitimacy of the Afghan government and an incentive for the Taliban ranks to split in order to accommodate or to take advantage of these groups of potential supporters. Such a scenario would also open more opportunities for ISKP or a future rendition, not only inside Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also across Central Asia and in India—particularly in Kashmir.

Iran has been a constant player in Afghanistan since the 1978 Soviet-backed communist coup d’état, and for the most part, Tehran’s policies and actions have been unilateral and uncoordinated with regional actors since the demise of the Taliban in 2001. The current support provided to the Taliban is, as in the case in Syria, coordinated with Russia despite overall strategic differences between the two countries’ long-term priorities. These new alignments in Afghanistan have Russia and Iran at the lead with China and Pakistan less vocally involved in pushing for a reconciliation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban. With the exception of China, the other three are lending support to the Taliban, including military support. The wildcard in this pursuit is Pakistan, the longtime backer and host of the Taliban. As echoed in early 2017 by the new commander of USFOR-A, General Nicholson, “the insurgents cannot be defeated while they enjoy external sanctuary and support . . . in Pakistan.”14 As the Taliban fosters closer ties with Russia and Iran, ostensibly due to their opposition to ISKP, its submissiveness to Islamabad’s directives should be expected to decrease. The question to consider is whether a united Taliban with more freedom to make political decisions will emerge to engage seriously in peace negotiations with the Afghan government or whether ISKP will morph into a savvier spoiler role and create new alternatives to the Taliban, prolonging the instability in Afghanistan and the region.

In 2008, while serving as Russia’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov reportedly said that the U.S. and its allies have repeated all of the Soviet mistakes there, adding, “Now they are making mistakes of their own, ones for which we do not own the copyright.”15 It would be interesting to ask Ambassador Kabulov whether Russia would own the copyright to its reemergence into the Afghan scene.


1 For example see, Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, 2nd ed., (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 133-140.

2 Michael Semple et al., “Taliban Perspectives on Reconciliation” Briefing Paper, Royal United Services Institute, September 2012, 5-7.

3 Vanda Felbab-Brown, “Blood and Faith in Afghanistan: A June 2016 Update,” Brookings Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, 17.

4 Borhan Osman, “The Shadows of ‘Islamic State’ in Afghanistan: What threat does it hold?” Afghanistan Analysts Network, 12 February 2015.

5 Obaid Ali, “The 2016 Insurgency in the North: Raising the Daesh flag (although not for long),” Afghanistan Analysts Network, 15 July 2016.

8 Casey Garret Johnson, “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan,” United States Institute of Peace, Special Report,” 13; Borhan Osman, “With an Active Cell in Kabul, ISKP Tries to Bring Sectarianism to the Afghan War,” Afghanistan Analysts Network, 19 October 2016.

9 Osman, “Active Cell.”

10 Javid Ahmad, “Russia and the Taliban Make Amends,” Foreign Affairs, 31 January 2016.

11 Suhasini Haidar, “India to join Moscow meet on Afghanistan,” The Hindu, 15 February 2017.

13 Gordon Lubold and Habib Khan Totakhil, “U.S. Says Russia Arming Taliban,” Wall Street Journal, 25 April 2017.

14 Statement for the Record by General John W. Nicholson, Commander, U.S. Forces—Afghanistan before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Situation in Afghanistan, Washington, 9 February 2017, 11.

15 Peter Tomsen, The Wars of Afghanistan: Messianic Terrorism, Tribal Conflicts, and the Failures of Great Powers (New York: Public Affairs, 2011), 201.

***ISIS Captures Tora Bora, Once Bin Laden’s Afghan Fortress


KABUL, Afghanistan — Tora Bora, the mountain redoubt that was once Osama bin Laden’s fortress, fell to the Islamic State early Wednesday, handing the extremists a significant strategic and symbolic victory, according to Afghan officials and local elders and residents.

Taliban fighters who had previously controlled the extensive cave and tunnel complex fled overnight after a determined, weeklong assault by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, according to villagers fleeing the area on Wednesday.

Hazrat Ali, a member of Parliament and a prominent warlord from the area who helped the Americans capture Tora Bora from Al Qaeda in 2001, said that the offensive was prompted by the American decision to drop the so-called mother of all bombs on an Islamic State network of tunnels in Achin District in April. The 20,000-pound bomb was thought to be the largest non-nuclear bomb ever deployed.

The Islamic State then decided to shift its refuge to the Tora Bora caves and tunnels, Mr. Ali said. “Some 1,000 ISIS militants were gathered close to Tora Bora, to capture the area,” Mr. Ali said. “I informed government forces to target them, and I told them they are trying to capture Tora Bora, but they did not pay attention.”

A local Afghan police official confirmed that the fortress had fallen. “ISIS has captured Tora Bora and areas around it,” he said. “The tribal elders are here in my office. They all escaped the area last night.” He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.

*** A Coalition of the Less-Than-Willing

By George Friedman

It’s been almost 16 years since the United States responded to 9/11 by going to war in Afghanistan, and 14 years since the United States invaded Iraq. Neither war has been successful, and there is no reason to believe that either is going to succeed if it continues to be fought as it is. Indeed, it’s been some time since they’ve been fought with any expectation of success. They have been fought in large part because neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama were prepared to admit failure. Domestic consequences in the U.S. would be grave, but there was also legitimate fear that abandoning the wars would result in the creation of radical Islamist states in the region and the toppling of governments that the U.S. regarded as, at best, preferable to the radicals.

The wars turned into a holding pattern whose primary purpose was to keep al-Qaida, the Taliban and, now, the Islamic State off balance, destroying their capabilities in some areas but ideally destroying the groups themselves. But this was wishful thinking. The U.S. did not have enough forces in either theater to eliminate groups like the Taliban and IS. And it was a mistake to believe the destruction of the groups would mean the destruction of the jihadist movement. Instead, it spawned new flag bearers for the movement. Further, the idea that these operations reduced the amount of terrorist activity was becoming dubious. There were no more attacks on the scale of 9/11, but there were several smaller attacks that went on despite the wars.

The Wrong Approach

** Pentagon Cyberwarriors Find Fertile Ground in Silicon Valley

By Sandra Erwin

It is virtually unheard of in government contracting for the Defense Department to be brief and straightforward in stating requirements.

So it was a surprise when a Pentagon solicitation this month for cybersecurity software was summed up in a single sentence: “The Department of Defense is interested in systems to automatically find previously unreported vulnerabilities in software without source code and automatically generate patches to remediate vulnerabilities with minimal false positives.”

The time window to bid on this opportunity also is unusually short. Responses will be accepted only from June 12 to June 20.

This is how business is done at the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, known as DIUx. The Pentagon’s two-year-old enclave in Silicon Valley has moved rather quickly to shake up the contracting culture — and to prove that it is more interested in getting results than in forcing vendors to deal with red tape.

Necessity has forced the Pentagon to make innovation a top priority, especially in the cybersecurity field as the U.S. government and military information networks face unprecedented threats from hackers and malware. DIUx is being challenged to find solutions, and fast.

In technology-rich Silicon Valley, it falls on DIUx to spot relevant products, test them and select the ones that best solve problems for the Defense Department. DIUx has 40 people based in Mountain View, Calif., and smaller offices in Boston and Austin, Texas.

** Information Warfare: THAAD The Hack Attack Magnet

June 11, 2017: In May 2017 the United States revealed that it had sent one of its few cyber protection teams to defend the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) battery sent to South Korea earlier and declared operational in April. This anti-missile unit is considered a major target for hackers. Each THAAD battery consists of two or more launcher vehicles (each with eight missiles stored in canisters they are fired from), a fire control and communications system and a TPY-2 X-Band radar (or equivalent radar or radars). THAAD missiles weigh 836 kg (1,400 pounds) and are about the same size as the Patriot anti-aircraft missile and have a range of 200 kilometers and max altitude is 150 kilometers. THAAD is intended for stopping short (like SCUD) or medium range (up to 2,000 kilometer) range ballistic missiles. To work properly the battery depends a lot of networks for quickly transmitting target and other data. Since China, Russia and North Korea all have excellent network hacking capabilities and have been hostile to the stationing of a THAAD battery in South Korea, it was expected that the THAAD networks would be subject to penetration and disruption attempts by foreign hackers.

Neither the THAAD nor the cyber protection teams have had any real combat experience. THAAD has been successful in tests but the army is still seeking a realistic way to test the effectiveness of the cyber protection teams. The tense situation in South Korea could be the first real test of both new systems. At the moment THAAD seems more likely to succeed, but only if the untried cyber protection teams can keep numerous and determined hackers out.

The army knows it has a major problem with cyber protection as do the other services (air force, navy and marines). This was made clear after U.S. Army established its first Cyber Protection Brigade in late 2014. There were plans to create two more brigades by 2016. That did not happen because the army in particular and the military in general could not create or recruit enough qualified personnel. There were other problems but the key difficulty was a shortage of qualified people to staff the key units; the cyber protection team.

* Google ramps up efforts to combat online terrorism, recruitment efforts

by Paige Williams

Google announced Sunday that it is taking additional steps to prevent online terrorism using Google-owned platforms, according to a company blog post.

The company denounced the use of its websites to disseminate terrorist recruitment materials, most prominently YouTube, calling on industry to step up and participate in prevention.

“While we and others have worked for years to identify and remove content that violates our policies, the uncomfortable truth is that we, as an industry, must acknowledge that more needs to be done,” said Kent Walker, senior vice president and general counsel of Google.

Google, and similar companies that own social media websites, must toe the line between freedom of speech and responsibility for security. Google stated that their increased efforts are a good balance between the two.

Its four-pronged mission intensifies the technological efforts it has already taken against extremist content.

Ideas and ivory towers

Written by Dinesh Singh 

The Indian readymade garments industry has been a vital enabler of our export trade. Each year it exports to the West, ready-to-wear apparel worth several billion dollars. Trade analysts, in the recent past, have been quite gung-ho about this sector’s prospects. Where do countries like India, China and others in the region derive the strength that adds so much value to their economies? It is not as if nimble fingers and skilled tailoring hands do not exist in developed nations. The answer lies is in the availability of cheap labour. Unfortunately, this advantage is likely to disappear in the near future. Just as worrying is the obliviousness of this looming danger on the part of our policy and decision-makers.

We simply need to delve into the realm of robotics and artificial intelligence to gauge the situation. A former professor of robotics at the Georgia Institute of Technology has helped create a robotic tailor that can stitch a perfect circle: If you can stitch a perfect circle, then you can perform almost any complicated sewing task that, in the past, could only have been undertaken by skilled and experienced hands. The only seemingly viable option for the garments industry in the Asian region is to seek to import such machines. There goes a part of our plan to keep unemployment figures down.

A substitute for planning - Learning to do better by looking at other states

Ashok V. Desai

As chief minister, Narendra Modi had to spend a few days every year in meetings with the Planning Commission. It was a begging trip; the Planning Commission decided the allocation of plan funds to states. He had to accept whatever he was given. Gujarat's fiscal and economic performance was good. He was not rewarded for it; instead, he was given less because he was raking in so much in taxes. He hated the supercilious looks and shrill sermons of Montek Singh Ahluwalia; he did not see why Ahluwalia should lord it over just because he had been to Oxford. He was determined to abolish the Planning Commission if he ever came to power in Delhi.

When he finally arrived in 2014, he kept his resolve. That, however, raised problems he had not anticipated. For one thing, loans and revenue transfers from the Centre to the states had to be determined on some rational criteria. That is what the meetings with the Planning Commission that he hated were doing; in its absence, who was to do it? He could have asked Vijay Kelkar, the fortune-teller who gives weekly and annual astrological predictions for each of the dozen astrological signs; for instance, if you are Leo, his current advice to you is to take care of your belongings when you travel. But he was never asked; instead, Vijay Kelkar, the familiar figure who has spent years in the Delhi government, was asked. He passed on the report of the Finance Commission which he had chaired. That was, however, five years old; and it only told how Central revenue should be shared with states. When he was asked to come back to Delhi and show how to do that from year to year, he refused; he was happy to be out of Delhi's dog-eat-dog world.

India wants to be a trade, transit hub; inks UN pact in bid to counter China’s OBOR

By Indrani Bagchi

NEW DELHI: India became the 71st country on Monday to join the United Nations TIR Convention, the international customs transit system, to position itself as a regional trading and transit hub.

The TIR system is the international customs transit system with the widest geographical coverage.

As other customs transit procedures, the TIR procedure enables goods to move under customs control across international borders without the payment of the duties and taxes.

TIR Convention is more than a transport agreement and has a strong foreign policy element.

In a world where China's 'One Belt One Road' (OBOR)+ is the dominating project straddling economics and geopolitics, India has no option but to play a better game if it wants to be counted as a serious rising power.

Welcoming India into the global transport arrangement, Umberto de Pretto, the secretary general of IRU which manages the TIR Convention, told TOI from Geneva that India's accession would have a big impact on regional connectivity. "TIR can help implement the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement by addressing policy incompatibility among the BBIN group. For example, Bangladesh does not recognise insurance policies made in India, Nepal or Bhutan. With TIR, there would be no need for bilateral arrangements as guarantors are covered by the global guarantee chain."

Yoga: India’s Soft Power That Can Change The World

David Frawley

The Yoga initiative, starting with International Yoga Day, is a welcome break from India’s prior cultural lethargy.

It is imperative that India expands its yogic culture as its civilisational strength.

India has a tremendous cultural power or civilisational shakti that has maintained a profound impact on the world for thousands of years. This is represented by India’s great gurus, rishis and dharmic traditions at an inner level, along with a sophisticated artistic and material culture outwardly.

India’s many-sided civilisation spread to Indochina and Indonesia during their formative periods, and had a lasting influence on China, Japan and East Asia. It also had significant effects on Central Asia, extending into West Asia. India’s civilisation was honoured in ancient Greece and Rome, and India had regular trade contacts with Mesopotamia and Sumeria, going back to the third millennium BC. Ancient Indo-European traditions like the Persians, Scythians, Celts, Germans and Slavs had much in common with India’s Vedic culture.

As U.S. Adds Troops in Afghanistan, Trump’s Strategy Remains Undefined


WASHINGTON — When President Trump made his first major decision on the war in Afghanistan, he did not announce it in a nationally televised address from the White House or a speech at West Point.

Instead, the Pentagon issued a news release late one afternoon last week confirming that the president had given the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, the authority to send several thousand additional troops to a war that, in its 16th year, engages about 8,800 American troops.

Mr. Trump, who writes avidly on Twitter about war and peace in other parts of the world, said nothing about the announcement. But its effect was unmistakable: He had outsourced the decision on how to proceed militarily in Afghanistan to the Pentagon, a startling break with how former President Barack Obama and many of his predecessors handled the anguished task of sending Americans into foreign conflicts.

The White House played down the Pentagon’s vaguely worded statement, which referred only to setting “troop levels” as a stopgap measure — a tacit admission of the administration’s internal conflicts over what to do about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

Don Brown 1 day ago

Why the West treats China with kid gloves


ADRID — If you want to know why the European Union has shied from challenging China on its human rights record, look no further than what happened the last time a European country crossed Beijing.

In November 2013, a Spanish court ordered a prosecuting magistrate in charge of an investigation into an alleged genocide in Tibet to issue international arrest warrants for former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, former Prime Minister Li Peng and three other retired top Communist officials.

The case stemmed from a lawsuit filed in 2006 by two Tibetan support groups based in Spain and a Tibetan exile with Spanish nationality. It took advantage of a local law that allowed Spanish judges to prosecute crimes against humanity committed outside the country — legislation that famously led to the arrest of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in the U.K. in 1998.

Beijing didn’t take long to respond. Two days after the ruling, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Hong Lei, expressed Beijing’s “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition” to the investigation and warned Spanish authorities “not [to] do things that harm the Chinese side and the relationship between China and Spain.”

Behind the scenes, Beijing froze all high-level meetings with Spanish representatives, including a state visit by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, according to two sources in the foreign and economy ministries.

“They put us in the fridge for a while,” said a Spanish official who was working in Beijing at the time.

Facing limits of remote hacking, Army cybers up the battlefield


The US military and intelligence communities have spent much of the last two decades fighting wars in which the US significantly over-matched its opponents technologically—on the battlefield and off. In addition to its massive pure military advantage, the US also had more sophisticated electronic warfare and cyber capabilities than its adversaries. But those advantages haven't always translated into dominance over the enemy. And the US military is facing a future in which American forces in the field will face adversaries that can go toe to toe with the US in the electromagnetic domain—with disastrous physical results.

That's in part why the Army Cyber Command recently experimented with putting "cyber soldiers" in the field as part of an exercise at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. In addition to fielding troops to provide defensive and offensive cyber capabilities for units coming into NTC for training, the Army has also been arming its opposition force (the trainers) with cyber capabilities to demonstrate their impact.

Mosul Old City Battle Goes House to House as IS Fighters Defend

by Reuters

Islamic State fighters defended their remaining stronghold in the Old City of Mosul, moving stealthily along narrow back alleys and slipping from house to house through holes in walls as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces slowly advanced.

The intensity of fighting was lower than on Sunday, when Iraqi forces announced the start of the assault on the Old City, a Reuters visuals team reported from near the frontlines.

The historic district, and a tiny area to its north, are the only parts of the city still under the militants' control. Mosul used to be the Iraqi capital of the group, also known as ISIS.

"This is the final chapter" of the offensive to take Mosul, said Lieutenant General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi, senior commander in Mosul of Counter Terrorism Service.

The militants are moving house to house through holes knocked through inner walls, to avoid air surveillance, said Major-General Sami al-Arithi of the Counter Terrorism Service, the elite units spearheading the fighting north of the Old City.

“Now the fighting is going on from house to house inside narrow alleys and this is not an easy task,” he told state TV.

The Iraqi army estimates the number of Islamic State fighters at no more than 300, down from nearly 6,000 in the city when the battle of Mosul started on October 17.

After Terror Attacks, Britain Moves to Police the Web


After deadly terrorist attacks and a nationwide election, Britain is once again focusing on a controversial plan: to regulate the internet.

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum are promoting some of the widest-ranging plans anywhere in the western world to rein in the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter, setting up a likely standoff.

On one side are British policy makers and law enforcement officials, who want to crack down on how extremist messaging and communication are spread across the internet. On the other are privacy and freedom of speech groups — alongside the tech giants themselves — who say that the government’s proposals go too far.

Similar debates are popping up around the world.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation took legal action against Apple last year to force the company to decrypt a suspected terrorist’s iPhone. American law enforcement eventually used a third-party service to gain access to the smartphone.

In Germany, lawmakers are pushing ahead with fines of up to 50 million euros, or $56 million, if Silicon Valley companies do not limit how online hate speech circulates on their social networks.

Recent legislation already gives Britain’s law enforcement officials some of the world’s strongest powers to read and monitor online chatter from potential extremists.

Now the country’s politicians want to go further.

In its electoral manifesto and in speeches by senior politicians, the governing Conservative Party outlined proposals to offer security officials more ways to keep tabs on potential extremists. Theresa May, the prime minister, raised the issue at a recent Group of 7 meeting and in talks with President Emmanuel Macron of France.

But if the proposals are pushed through, there will be costs.

The Conservatives now rule with a minority in Parliament, and will most likely have to rely on other parties for support. That may necessitate compromise or horse trading.

And the additional measures could hurt Britain’s effort to court new investment from the global tech sector as it prepares to leave the European Union.
Who Should Have Access to Your Messages?

Mrs. May had a simple message after the recent deadly terrorist attack in London.

“We need to do everything we can at home to reduce the risks of extremism online,” she told the British public, echoing a similar message by her government after a previous attack in Manchester.

Part of that plan is to demand that companies such as Apple and Facebook allow Britain’s national security agencies access to people’s encrypted messages on services like FaceTime and WhatsApp.

These services use so-called end-to-end encryption, meaning that a person’s message is scrambled when it is sent from a device, so that it becomes indecipherable to anyone but its intended recipient.

British officials, like their American counterparts, would like to create a digital backdoor to this technology.

Yet an opening for intelligence agencies, experts warn, would also allow others, including foreign governments and hacking groups, to potentially gain access to people’s digital messages.

It would also most likely induce terrorist groups to move to other forms of encrypted communication, while leaving everyday Britons — and others traveling in the country — susceptible to online hacks.

“If the British government asks for a special key like this, what stops other governments from asking for the same access?” said Nigel Smart, a cryptology professor at the University of Bristol. “You need end-to-end encryption because it stops anyone from listening in.”

British lawmakers say law enforcement and intelligence agencies need such access to foil potential terrorist plots.

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But Facebook and others respond that they already provide information on people’s online activities, when required, including the I.P. address — a pseudo fingerprint for digital devices — of machines from where messages are sent.

And in a letter sent to British politicians in late 2015 — just as an earlier debate about tech regulation was bubbling to the surface — Apple made its views clear.

“We believe it would be wrong to weaken security for hundreds of millions of law-abiding customers so that it will also be weaker for the very few who pose a threat,” the company said.
Extremist Messages: What Should Be Controlled?

British politicians have another target in policing the internet: extremist messages that are circulated on Facebook, YouTube and other social media.

While other countries have taken steps to control how such material is shared across the web, tech executives and campaigners say that Britain has gone further than almost any western country, often putting the onus on companies to determine when to take down content that while offensive, does not represent illegal — or violent — messaging.

“I’d like to see the industry go further and faster in not only removing online terrorist content, but stopping it going up in the first place,” Amber Rudd, the country’s home secretary, said before meeting with tech executives this year. At the time, she called on them to take further steps to counter such extremist material.

Mrs. May also had discussions with Mr. Macron, the French president, last week about holding tech companies legally liable if they fail to remove content.

The British government’s stance has put tech companies in the difficult position of having to determine what should, and should not, be allowed online.

Britain’s freedom of expression laws are not as far-reaching as those in the United States, allowing British lawmakers to push for greater control over what is circulated across the web.

In recent months, companies like Facebook and Twitter say that they have taken additional steps to remove illegal extremist material from their social networks, and are giving users ways to flag potentially offensive content.

That includes Facebook announcing on Thursday that it would use artificial intelligence technology to flag, and remove, inappropriate content. Google has also provided financing to nonprofit organizations aimed at countering such hate speech online.

Some other European lawmakers have warned that too-strict limits on what can be shared across the web may hamper freedom of speech, a touchy subject for many people who grew up behind the Soviet-era iron curtain.

“For me, freedom of expression is a basic fundamental right,” Andrus Ansip, the digital chief at the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, said in an interview this year. “Nobody wants to see a Ministry of Truth.”

What happens after the Islamic State is defeated in Iraq and Syria?

THE UNITED STATES is committed to defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but as that goal nears realization, another strategic question looms: What security order will replace it, and which of the outside powers enmeshed in the region will stand behind that order? The Trump administration doesn’t appear to have a strategy for that, but others clearly do — which helps to explain the incidents over the weekend in which the United States downed a Syrian government warplane , while Iran fired intermediate-range missiles from its territory at Islamic State targets in eastern Syria. 

Though the two incidents were nominally unrelated, they have a common cause: the drive by Iran and Russia, along with their Syrian and Iraqi Shiite clients, to dominate the space that will be left when the Islamic State is driven from its capital of Raqqa in eastern Syria, which is under assault from U.S.-backed Kurdish and Syrian Arab forces. At stake are both Syria’s oil-producing area to the south of Raqqa and a land corridor between Baghdad and Damascus that Iran aspires to control. Russia, for its part, hopes to drive the United States out of the region. 

Dealing with Jihadist Returnees: A Tough Challenge

By Fabien Merz

With the military setbacks ISIS is now experiencing, the number of jihadist foreign fighters returning to Europe will rise. Like its neighbors, Switzerland must prepare to deal with these individuals. According to Fabien Merz, there is much the Swiss can learn from the experiences of Denmark and France, including 1) there is no panacea for dealing with foreign fighters, and 2) pursuing a ‘balanced’, anti-repression approach is the most sensible way to address this problem.

With the ongoing military setbacks the “Islamic State” (IS) suffered, the number of jihadist foreign fighters returning to Europe might further increase. Switzerland, too, must be prepared to deal with these individuals. Some clues may be gained from experiences made in France and Denmark, two states particularly affected by this phenomenon.

Since the start of the civil war in Syria and the resurgence of the conflict in Iraq, around 30,000 “foreign fighters” have joined jihadist militias fighting in these conflicts. Around 5,000 of them are from European countries. Many have joined IS, which has, amongst others, the stated goal of carrying out attacks in the West. This phenomenon is also of relevance to Switzerland (cf. CSS Analysis No. 199). As of May 2017, the Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) had registered 88 jihadist-inspired journeys. Of these, 74 were destined for Syria or Iraq.

IS has recently come under severe military pressure in Syria and Iraq. This has also led to a worsening of conditions for foreign jihadist fighters on the ground. Experts warn that further territorial losses by IS could lead to an increase of returnees. Thus, today more than ever, the question arises of how to deal with a potential increase of jihadist returnees and the concomitant security and societal challenges. The present analysis will only consider the post-return phase.


by RC Porter

DOD Releases Report on Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan

Today the Department of Defense provided to Congress a report on “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan” covering events during the period from December 1, 2016, through May 31, 2017. The report was submitted in accordance with requirements in Section 1225 of the Fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as amended by Sections 1231 and 1531 of the Fiscal 2016 NDAA and Sections 1215 and 1521 of the Fiscal 17 NDAA.

The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) effectively conducted training and reequipped units during the winter. In March, the Afghan forces began implementing a yearlong campaign against the insurgency and simultaneously restructuring the force to build offensive capabilities over time according to a plan called the “ANDSF Road Map.” Major initiatives within the Road Map include transitioning the Afghan Air Force from Russian Mi-17 helicopters to U.S. UH-60 helicopters over the next several years, expanding the Afghan Special Forces, and gaining efficiencies through realigning paramilitary organizations from the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Defense.

The ANDSF continue to make progress in their efforts to counter terrorist networks and provide the United States with a valuable counterterrorism partner. Despite the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s regional affiliate, ISIS-Khorasan, conducting high profile attacks in Kabul, the organization’s influence has diminished. Both Afghan and U.S. forces have committed to defeating the organization, and continued operations and airstrikes against ISIS-K have largely confined the group to a few districts in Nangarhar province.

The Proposed Nuclear Ban Treaty: The Road to Utopia?

By Ephraim Asculai

In late 2016, the United Nations decided to launch discussions on the establishment of a treaty banning all nuclear weapons, and on May 22, 2017 the Chair of the conference dealing with this issue presented a first draft of the proposed treaty. The proposed draft is of a treaty negotiated among states, not taking into account the existence of non-state entities that could be holding a trump card in the case of universal nuclear disarmament. Moreover, in many respects, the draft falls into the same troubling trap of previous treaties. It is a detailed treaty but with a number of loopholes that come to placate the diverse opinions and approaches of the states to the issue. Thus while striving toward nuclear disarmament is a noble goal, one must be realistic and not really expect the proposed treaty to achieve it.

A short time after nuclear weapons were used in World War II, a movement to eliminate these weapons, the most horrific weapons of mass destruction (WMD), began with what is known as the Baruch Plan. Although many governments and hundreds of non-governmental organizations supported and still support nuclear disarmament, their achievements(including the disarmament of South Africa, reductions of stocks, and a moratorium on testing that was not universally upheld) have been partial.