Matt Preston: The Friend of my Friend is my Enemy

US CENTCOM confirmed on Monday that they had dropped supplies to the Kurds fighting to protect the Syrian town of Kobane, right on the border of Turkey. Despite having tanks lined up within site of the battleground, Turkey has refrained from helping. Instead, they bombed Kurdish PKK rebels near the Iraq border.

 

The fact that the Turks are taking advantage of the turmoil in the neighbourhood to strike at their long-time enemy is not surprising. What is interesting is that it seems Turkey is perfectly willing to project the notion that as long as the United States include the Kurds as a key member in their fight against ISIS, Turkey will provide only minute amounts of support. Recently, the government denied any notion that they may allow American and allied aircraft from using Turkish airfields.

The troubled relationship between Turkey and the United States as regards the current fight in Iraq should prove worrisome to all NATO members. As tensions have risen in Europe, many believed that a NATO searching for a purpose following the draw-down of the war in Afghanistan had found one, and that the alliance would survive yet another change in enemy, albeit to one who has already been NATO’s principle adversary. Staring this search for newfound solidarity is a Turkey unwilling to help in a fight on NATO’s southern border.

And yet, the alliance, at the request of Turkey’s Defence Minister, has drawn up plans to defend the country should ISIS attack, presumably invoking Article 5 of the NATO Charter. It seems that the country is willing to accept NATO’s help, but not offer any of its own to the alliance’s biggest force.

As in so many foreign policy decisions around the world, President Erdogan could be pursuing this policy to partially placate the nationalists, whose support he needs to alter the constitution in order to give the presidential position more power. Previously, he relied on a peace deal with the Kurds and help from their parties in parliament, but now he may be changing tact. Regardless, the battle against ISIS is merely the background for political intrigue within Turkey, and should prove interesting as time goes on and Erdogan tries to consolidate power.

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Mark Collins – Automating Intelligence

Regardless of technological progress and prowess I still believe that the Fingerspitzengefühl of experienced and knowledgeable people is crucial:

As Defense, Intelligence Agencies Drown in Data, Technology Comes to the Rescue

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper [website here] has asked the government’s tech gurus and the private sector to “help us find the needles without having the haystacks.”

Clapper’s clarion call comes at a time of unprecedented demand for data-intensive products and services at all levels of the U.S. national security apparatus. The task of filtering and sorting through massive loads of data is only going to get bigger as the military and intelligence agencies collect more information than they can handle. There are more drones and satellites collecting video and imagery than ever before, and human analysts desperately need automated tools to find those needles in ever-expanding haystacks.

“Our next big investment is big data,” says Dawn Meyerriecks, deputy director of the CIA’s directorate of science and technology. The challenge for data scientists is “figuring out how we deal with high volume intelligence.”

Government agencies find that software tools that can parse huge loads of information into actionable information are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, but there are still many gaps to be filled.

As the United States steps up the fight against elusive extremist groups, the traditional methods of finding and tracking targets are inadequate. The amount of data being collected has made it nearly impossible to track and identify suspicious activities and potential security threats solely through human analytical processes…

Another major tech battle that defense and security agencies are fighting is the flood of data generated by social media. What used to be innocuous social media platforms are now bursting with potential threat intelligence that is of great value to the U.S. government.

The data in social media is very unstructured and the government needs tools to make sense of it…

Plus a somewhat related matter:

Marshall To Retire From Net Assessment Office in January

Andrew Marshall — a Pentagon institution who influenced policy makers from the Cold War to today — has signaled his intention to step down in January, according to sources.

Marshall, 93, heads the Office of Net Assessment (ONA), which months ago was spared the budget ax as part of a restructuring of the Office of the Secretary of Defense [more here].

Having founded the Pentagon’s internal think tank in 1973, Marshall is the only director it has ever known. His influence over the decades on defense policy analysis in Washington has been vast…

Talk about experience and knowledge.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Automating Intelligence

Regardless of technological progress and prowess I still believe that the Fingerspitzengefühl of experienced and knowledgeable people is crucial:

As Defense, Intelligence Agencies Drown in Data, Technology Comes to the Rescue

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper [website here] has asked the government’s tech gurus and the private sector to “help us find the needles without having the haystacks.”

Clapper’s clarion call comes at a time of unprecedented demand for data-intensive products and services at all levels of the U.S. national security apparatus. The task of filtering and sorting through massive loads of data is only going to get bigger as the military and intelligence agencies collect more information than they can handle. There are more drones and satellites collecting video and imagery than ever before, and human analysts desperately need automated tools to find those needles in ever-expanding haystacks.

“Our next big investment is big data,” says Dawn Meyerriecks, deputy director of the CIA’s directorate of science and technology. The challenge for data scientists is “figuring out how we deal with high volume intelligence.”

Government agencies find that software tools that can parse huge loads of information into actionable information are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, but there are still many gaps to be filled.

As the United States steps up the fight against elusive extremist groups, the traditional methods of finding and tracking targets are inadequate. The amount of data being collected has made it nearly impossible to track and identify suspicious activities and potential security threats solely through human analytical processes…

Another major tech battle that defense and security agencies are fighting is the flood of data generated by social media. What used to be innocuous social media platforms are now bursting with potential threat intelligence that is of great value to the U.S. government.

The data in social media is very unstructured and the government needs tools to make sense of it…

Plus a somewhat related matter:

Marshall To Retire From Net Assessment Office in January

Andrew Marshall — a Pentagon institution who influenced policy makers from the Cold War to today — has signaled his intention to step down in January, according to sources.

Marshall, 93, heads the Office of Net Assessment (ONA), which months ago was spared the budget ax as part of a restructuring of the Office of the Secretary of Defense [more here].

Having founded the Pentagon’s internal think tank in 1973, Marshall is the only director it has ever known. His influence over the decades on defense policy analysis in Washington has been vast…

Talk about experience and knowledge.
Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – RCAF Acquiring (a few) ISR Planes from US for Special Forces

Further to this post, maybe new aircraft after all though all still a bit confusing (typical with our procurements, eh?):

Canada Seeks ISR Planes for Spec Ops

Sources say Canadian special forces officials are interested in acquiring aircraft such as the US Air Force’s MC-12W Liberty surveillance planes for their ISR capability [more here and here]. (Senior Airman Elizabeth Rissmill / US Air Force)


Canada’s special operations forces are planning to acquire a small fleet of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to improve their capability to track and target insurgents on the ground.

It would be the first time that Canada has fielded such a capability.

Four aircraft will be purchased, outfitted with signals intercept capability and sensors to target ground movement.

The Royal Canadian Air Force would operate the planes, mainly for the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM [website here]), although they can be made available to other units.

Dan Blouin, a Department of National Defence spokesman, said the requirement is for an operational level, multi-sensor manned airborne ISR capability that would be used to complement existing intelligence and reconnaissance platforms, such as the CP-140 Aurora. The Aurora is the Canadian version of the US Navy’s P-3 [more here, two will take part in the campaign against ISIS].

The new aircraft could be deployed on short notice and, unlike the Aurora, which is largely a maritime surveillance plane, the fleet is to support ground operations [for which role the Auroras are now very capable, see Libya].

“It is being examined as a dedicated ISR platform capable of direct support to ground troops, however it shall also be capable of supporting all operations,” Blouin said.

He noted that the procurement, dubbed the Manned Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance program, would allow the Canadian military to expand its ISR capabilities.

Blouin said the program has no firm milestones that are publicly available.

…in August of this year, CANSOFCOM changed its procurement process, indicating it would proceed with the purchase of the airframes through a foreign military sale (FMS) with the US government [website here]…

[Mike] Ferguson [Boeing official in charge of business development for RAMIS--more here] said the change in Canada’s procurement plan — moving from the purchase of aircraft from a company to the acquisition of aircraft through an FMS case — doesn’t affect Boeing’s interest in the program.

“If it’s modifying existing aircraft we’re ready to do that and we have programs do that,” he explained. “Or if it is buying new aircraft from the United States through an FMS case, we’re ready to support them on that.”..

Industry officials have not been provided with details on when the project would proceed…

So maybe we’re considering used USAF planes or other aircraft–used or new–reconfigured by someone for the ISR mission.  But in any case bought through the US government’s FMS program.  Sometime.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – “5 Places Where World War Three Could Break Out”

Mark Collins – “5 Places Where World War Three Could Break Out”

For your consideration, at the realist The National Interest:

…most of the predictions below examine the possibility of conventional strike and counterstrike between nations. No nuclear-armed power—whether it is the United States, China or Russia—would accept defeat to a peer competitor in conventional warfare without then inflicting the maximum penalty on its opponent.

That is one very good reason why World War Three as we know it is unlikely to happen; it is also why all of the possibilities mentioned below involve nuclear-armed—or potentially nuclear-armed—entities.

North Korea vs. the World

China vs. India (vs. Pakistan)

[background here and here]…

Middle East Imbroglio

Russia vs. NATO

China vs. America (via Taiwan, Japan or the South China Sea)

Last and definitely not least, the biggest potential conflict of all
[background here, here and here]

James Hardy is the Asia-Pacific Editor of IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of IHS.

I wrote this a while ago with regard to China:


China’s rise, above all militarily, is the most significant and I would argue most ominous/dangerous feature of our times–and Japan’s military oats the wild card.  Russian adventurism is a minor nuisance by comparison, though one that could end up going blooey if irresponsible madness prevails both in the Kremlin and the West (read very, very mainly the US).  Militant/military Sunni Islamist extremist, unless it gets nuclear weapons, has no truly threatening physical strength for us.  Let us work to cauterize those areas where it is in ascendance and try to limit its moral ascendance (that is a frightening power) elsewhere to the extent that we can…

But the overall policy, of all sorts, Schwerpunkt should be the Dragon.

More on realism here.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Solve Budget Problems: Abolish the Canadian Forces?

A modest proposal at a Milnet.ca topic thread:

E.R. Campbell

Imagine, just for a moment, please that a future prime minister said, “OK, that’s it; we cannot afford the sort of military machine we might need and the one we can afford is inefficient and ineffective, a waste of good money. Thus, effective in a few weeks we will disband the Canadian Armed Forces, regular and reserve, and the Department of National Defence. We will have a new Department of National Security which will incorporate, amongst other agencies, the Canadian Border Services Agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.”

Now, the “new” RCMP would be much larger and would have one new division, something akin to the French Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (CRS) and the Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale (GIGN), plus much expanded air and marine divisions.

The new RCMP air division will be interesting. In the immediate aftermath of the Prime Minister’s shocking announcement about disbanding the CF the US Ambassador would have come to call. “We respect your right to do as you think best, Prime Minister, in pursuing your national strategy for effective and efficient government but we must remind you that you have an obligation to help us protect our strategic deterrent; that’s the main reason NORAD is here. If you’re not going to have an air force then we must insist that we have a couple of sovereign bases in Canada–say at Cold Lake and Goose Bay and the absolute right to overfly Canada whenever we need to do so.” But the PM will be ready for him: “No need, Mr Ambassador,” he will say, we will still buy F-35s, the RCMP will fly them out of our current bases at Cold Lake and Bagotville, and we will replace out LRPA fleet [CP-140 Auroras], too to continue to provide integrated, continental support there, too. Our RCMP marine divisions will have new, fast corvettes to participate in regional anti-smuggling operations, including in the Caribbean [related: "Royal Canadian Navy: 15 Canadian Surface Combatants? Maybe Some Offshore Patrol Vessels Instead"], and it will have a flotilla of armed Polar 8 icebreakers, too [why RCMP, not Canadian Coast Guard?]. We’ll meet our continental responsibilities.” “What about NATO?” the US Ambassador will ask. “We will stay in, in a similar mode to Iceland.”

There are issues, of course, like: who helps out in floods, etc, and what happens when we, as a nation, need to take some action in some remote, dark, dirty place, far, far from Canada? Shall we hire foreign “contractors” to do our dirty work? Shall we allow “private military contractors” to exist in Canada, to have “bases” here?

Hmmm.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Facing the Bear: Nordics’ Fighter Force Greatly to Outnumber Canadian…

…go figure.  Just consider this arithmetic:

1) Norway, population 5 million, is planning to acquire 52 F-35As–see here and here.

2) Sweden, population moving on 10 million, is now moving to acquire 70 Gripen Es.

3) Finland, population 5.5 million, currently has 62 F/A-18C/D Hornets (Canada has 77 modernized older CF-18 Hornet As and Bs); one imagines a somewhat smaller number of fighters will eventually be acquired to replace them.

So.  Some 20 million Nordics, with a much smaller land mass than Canada and some 55 per cent of Canada’s population–our is 35.5 million with a comparable standard of living–look like ending up with around some 170 new fighters.  About two and a half times the 65 new fighters our government is planning to buy sometime (that 65 has been the F-35A number, see “National Defence Planning AssumptionsAcquisition Phase Assumptions”).

We, like the Nordics, have the Bear’s aircraft with which to contend,

NORAD (RCAF) vs Bears…and Foxhounds–and Nukes
[see here also]

but, in case the numbers above might lend one to wonder about the future state of the RCAF’s fighter force, do recollect that the Conservative government professes to be a fervent supporter of the Canadian Forces:

NATO and Canadian Defence: The One Per Cent Solution

Jack Granatstein: The Tories and Defence

Elinor Sloan: Harper failing Canada’s armed forces

Hurl.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – “Destroy” the Caliphate? Good Luck Without Western Boots

1) Further to 1) at this post, the same two Canadians urge people to get real:

Kobani: A Metaphor For the Contradictions Facing The West

Questioned as to why the IS assault was not being stopped, Admiral John Kirby [Pentagon spokesman] responded,  “Airstrikes alone, are not going to . . . to save the town of Kobani.” However, the bravery and tenacity of its Kurdish fighters, combined with airstrikes have permitted it to hang on. It also proves that the IS is not omnipotent in the face of spirited resistance. Quite the contrary…

The Obama plan, for which airstrikes are only the opening act, is seemingly unable to find regional actors to provide the ground forces on which the very success of his plan to degrade and destroy the IS rests. If Turkey with a 400 kilometer long border–now occupied by the IS–will not act, despite the recommendations of its own high command, there is little likelihood that other, smaller regional Arab nations will.

Whether Kobani falls or not it presents a series of contradictions for everyone–whichever camp they belong to…

Of all the nations contributing to the coalition, most will not fly over Syria; the niceties of international law rooted in the Westphalian notion of states’ rights standing in the way of any responsibility to protect (R2P). Under international law, Syria has not explicitly granted permission for coalition airstrikes against the IS but to seek that authority, would politically for some nations, be seen as siding with or abetting that regime.

Airpower alone will not stop the IS without fierce resistance on the ground. And in not attacking the IS in its entirety, meaning both in Syria and in Iraq, by coordinated air and ground offensives, an incoherent piecemeal effect will be the result. The Kurds [in Iraq, one assumes] can hold, but are not large enough or well enough equipped to defeat the IS alone. The Iraqi Army seems to exist in name only. The longer we wait, the more difficult the task of destroying the IS will be.

Hope cannot supplant the glaringly obvious and despite US and western reluctance to intervene with ground forces, only with some western troops committed, will regional partners be enticed join us. If we insist on none of our boots on the ground, why would regional partners volunteer?

As in Gulf War One, aims limited to recapturing territory and destroying ISIS strongholds should be the limit of our military aspirations. We should not be drawn into reconstruction or the reconstitution of government and civil society by military means. Regional actors can do that and deal with wider issues like Syria’s Assad after we’re gone.

If not, the goal of all this, the rapid destruction of the IS, will somehow be forgotten, as are the people we are trying to protect; bogged down in a lengthy air campaign and the interminable search for willing partners…

George Petrolekas is on the Board of Directors of the CDA Institute and co-author of the 2013 and 2014 Strategic Outlook for Canada [more here]. Mr. Petrolekas served with NATO, and in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Cyprus and as an advisor to senior NATO commanders.

2) Fareed Zakaria of the Washington Post also injects considerable realism–but does not want to inject those boots:

Obama needs to dial back his Syria strategy

From the start, President Obama’s Syria policy has foundered because of a gap between words and deeds. And he’s done it again. Having declared that the aim of U.S. policy is to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State, Obama now finds himself pressured to escalate military action in Syria. This is a path destined for failure. In fact, the administration should abandon its lofty rhetoric and make clear that it is focused on a strategy against the Islamic State that is actually achievable: containment.

…The central reality is that Washington has no serious local partners on the ground. It is important to understand that the Free Syrian Army doesn’t actually exist [see "Syria: Why Help Rebels? ..."]…

The political solution, presumably, is some kind of power-sharing arrangement in those two capitals. But this is not something that the United States can engineer in Syria. It tried in Iraq, but despite 170,000 troops, tens of billions of dollars and David Petraeus’s skillful leadership, the deals Petraeus brokered started unraveling within months of his departure, well before American troops had left. This is not a part of the world where power-sharing and pluralism have worked — with the exception of Lebanon, and that happened after a bloody 15-year civil war in which one out of every 20 people in the country was slaughtered [and included decades of Syrian occupation!].

The only strategy against the Islamic State that has any chance of working is containment — bolstering the neighbors (who are threatened far more than the United States) that are willing to fight militarily and politically…

The Obama administration is pursuing many elements of this strategy. It should be forthright about its objectives and abandon its grander rhetoric, which is setting itself up for escalation and failure.

It seems to me though that his containment has a pretty shaky basis–what neighbours are really willing to fight?  Except probably Shia Iran (more here) and that will only terrify the Sunni Arabs.  So in the end Mr Zakaria’s realism is pretty thin gruel.  I wrote earlier:


Implicit in all discussion of what to do is that the actually existing states of Syria and Iraq will, Inshallah, be maintained with their current borders.  But can anyone explain just how that outcome is to be achieved?..

At least Mr Zakaria appears to have abandoned the notion of reconstitution of the two states in any near term.  As have the authors at 1) above.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Saudi, or, the Shifting Sands of Islam

The Kingdom’s, super-Sunni in theory, ruling princely et al. types must be sh…… bricks.

They’ve long had those very numerous, very Shia and, even longer, historically powerful (including culturally–unlike the Saudis) Persians to their north-east.  Now they have due north a Shia rump Iraq, also quite populous and increasingly hand-in-glove with Iran (the Saudis themselves are less than kind to their own Shia, in the big oil area close to south-east Iraq and Iran).

Then, also close to their northern borders, is the Caliphate, more strictly and brutally Wahhabist than even the Riyadh régime.  Moreover that Wahhabism is the ideological and social glue for the Kingdom’s rulers.  How to compete?  See “The Caliphate: It All Goes Back to the Saudis…

Worser yet.  There are rampant Shia in Yemen to the south-west, no doubt supported by Iran.  What’s a poor Saudi princeling to do?  Rely on POTUS?  Knows only Allah, one guesses.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3DS

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Mark Collins – Libya Chaos Update–Go Figure the Oil

Further to this post,

3Ds Has Looked: “Don’t Look Now But Libya Is Falling Apart”

we look at battleground Benghazi (lots of, er, input from such as Egypt, UAE, Quatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey):

The Fight for Benghazi Heats Up

Egypt warplanes hit Libya militias, officials say

…Turkey and Qatar backing the Islamist militias while Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates support their opponents…

General Escalates Libya Attack

Libyan army backs ex-general [same fellow] in battle with Benghazi Islamists

But who is getting the oil revenue?

…Libya’s production—hit by civil war—crashed to just 200,000 b/d; by the end of September output was back up to 900,000 b/d and heading towards its pre-war level of 1.5m b/d…

Lot of money in that thar crude.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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