Showing posts with label Blog Master Recommended Reading. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blog Master Recommended Reading. Show all posts

1 December 2017

Independent Assessment of U.S. Government Efforts against AlQaeda

Independent Assessment of U.S. Government 
Efforts against AlQaeda
                                                                             - Maj Gen P K Mallick,VSM (Retd)

CNA has recently published a paper on Independent Assessment of U.S. Government Efforts against AlQaeda. 

The report finds nearly 16 years after September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda today is a very different organization in a very different world. It has suffered setbacks and periods of weakening, but it has also made gains and expanded in the face of international efforts against it. The report assesses that : 

· Al-Qaeda is still pursuing the core goals that it had in 2001, the most notable of which is the establishment of a global caliphate.

· Al-Qaeda today is larger, more agile, and more resilient than it was in 2001.

· In 2001, Al-Qaeda was a rigidly hierarchical organization. Today, Al-Qaeda is a flat, decentralized, and geographically dispersed organization.

· Al-Qaeda is a learning and adaptive organization, and this contributes to the group’s resilience.

· The threat from Al-Qaeda to the United States homeland remains, but does not appear to be the foremost goal of every part of the organization.

· The emergence of ISIS (an Al-Qaeda offshoot), presents both obstacles and opportunities for Al-Qaeda.

· Al-Qaeda may be biding its time to regroup, regenerate, and regain the mantle of global jihad.

Findings on local and regional security environments

· In the years since 2001, many of the countries in the Middle East and Africa have become increasingly politically, socially, and economically unstable.

· Al-Qaeda routinely exploits deteriorating security conditions, or vulnerabilities, in the security environments of weak and failing countries in order to maneuver and expand. 

· Al-Qaeda can exploit security vulnerabilities in weak or failing states, though its success in doing so still requires skillful approaches on the part of the organization’s affiliates.

· Al-Qaeda has benefitted from slow, negative trends in the security conditions in countries across much of the Middle East and Africa, but its largest gains have occurred when there were sharp and rapid deteriorations. 

· Worsening trends in security conditions not only help Al-Qaeda but can significantly hinder U.S. government efforts to counter the group.

Summary of assessment of U.S. government efforts against Al-Qaeda


Having assessed the threat that Al-Qaeda poses to the U.S. homeland and U.S. interests abroad, the impact of changing security environments across much of Africa and the Middle East on Al-Qaeda and U.S. efforts to counter the group, and the effectiveness of U.S. government approaches against Al-Qaeda, we conclude the following:

· Current U.S. efforts are more aligned with the direct threat that Al-Qaeda poses to the United States and less to the security conditions, or vulnerabilities, that Al-Qaeda exploits to survive and expand.

· U.S. government efforts to date have not defeated Al-Qaeda. The current U.S. strategy—centered on military approaches and anchored in the assumed linear goals of disrupting, dismantling, and defeating the organization—is unlikely to do so.

· Dismantling Al-Qaeda would entail a commitment of U.S. resources well beyond those committed today.

· Continued disruption of Al-Qaeda is likely to require increasing resources as security environments continue to weaken in many parts of the world where Al-Qaeda operates and seeks to operate.

Based on these findings, we conclude that the current U.S. strategy toward AlQaeda is unlikely to attain the United States’ desired goals. Therefore, we recommend that the U.S. government should undertake a new review of its policy goals and overarching strategy against Al-Qaeda. This review should take a fresh look at Al-Qaeda and the environments in which it operates, or seeks to operate, as they exist today. This review should also critically examine U.S. strategic goals with respect to Al-Qaeda and like groups, the resources required to achieve those goals, and the political and domestic appetite for sustaining them. It should also examine the balance of roles across U.S. government agencies and the timelines and metrics required for success.

The U.S. has been battling Al-Qaeda primarily militarily for 16 years and yet the group is stronger and present in more places today than it was in 2001. Clearly, the U.S. needs a renewed approach.

29 November 2017

Use of Technology in Counter Terrorism Operation Part II

I had the privilege of serving in OP - RAKSHAK in Punjab in 1990-1991, OP – RIHNO in Assam during 1991 – 1992 and three tenures in J&K. After my tenure as Chief Signals Officer, Chinar Corps at Srinagar I wrote a paper on Leveraging Technology In Counter Insurgency Operations which was published at in The PINNACLE, The ARTRAC Journal in its Jun 2008 issue. The same in available at :

After 10 years, on 26/11 I thought of revisiting the topic.

Here is my take on Use of Technology in Counter Terrorism Operations.
                                                                                                                   - PKM

Use of Technology in Counter Terrorism Operations
                                                                - Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Cyber Warfare

Dealing with terrorist groups, many experts fear their hacking capabilities, part of the security community considers the ISIS a serious menace to the security of Western critical infrastructure.

The availability of tool and exploits in the criminal underground makes it easy for terrorists to hit computer networks and infrastructure worldwide. The IS has the offensive capabilities to hit its adversaries; this is the opinion of many cyber security experts, including the popular Mikko Hypponen.

“The Islamic State is the first extremist group that has a credible offensive cyber capability,” said F-Secure Chief Research Officer Hyppönen, speaking last week at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJDLive conference in Laguna Beach, Calif. “Clearly, this situation isn’t getting better. It’s getting worse.”

A terrorist could attack a critical infrastructure to sabotage, or computer systems to steal sensitive data to use in other attacks.

The use of cyber weapons is a novelty in the terrorism landscape; it is a concrete risk with some advantages including

· The pre-attack phase is stealth, the organization of a cyber attack present low risks respect conventional terrorist attacks.

· The use of a zero-day vulnerability provides a real advantage to the attackers that minimize the risks of failure of operations and maximize the efficiency of the cyber weapon. Zero-day exploits could be acquired in the criminal underground and could be used in targeted attacks.

· The costs of a cyber weapon are very cheap compared to the one related a conventional weapon (explosive, weapons, vehicles for the commandos, etc.).

· The choice of cyber weapon allows the terrorists to remain under the radar until the attacks.

· Cyber weapon could have similar effects of a terrorist attack.

What are the objectives of cyber weapons?

The list is very long and includes almost every strategic infrastructure of a country such as Industrial control systems, communications networks, and defense systems. Despite groups of terrorists haven’t the time and the knowledge necessary for the design of a new cyber weapon, there is the concrete risk that threat actors in the wild can conduct a reverse engineering of the code of other nation-state malware circulating over the Internet. The ISIS is trying to recruit hackers and experts to involve them in the hacking campaigns.

Social Media 

Social media is not the cause of violent extremism, but a powerful amplifier and accelerant. Digital platforms and increased access to smart phones and internet connectivity help facilitate radicalization and recruitment. Violent extremists’ exploitation of digital platforms allows would-be terrorists to seek inspiration and information online—and rally around a terrorist group as a brand, an idea, or a methodology—without ever leaving their homes. The widespread use of social media has also made violent extremists’ plans more difficult to disrupt. Security agencies have to track a much larger number of potential plotters, giving terrorists more space to plan large, complex operations against a higher background level of activity.

A special report by the US Department of Homeland Security listed various terrorist uses of Facebook: 

• As a way to share operational and tactical information, such as bomb recipes, weapon maintenance and use, tactical shooting, etc.

• As a gateway to extremist sites and other online radical content by linking on Facebook group pages and in discussion forums. 

• As a media outlet for terrorist propaganda and extremist ideological messaging. 

• As a wealth of information for remote reconnaissance for targeting purposes

The technology firms have faced increasing pressure from governments across the globe to stop the spread of extremist propaganda. Last year, White House officials met with Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft to discuss the subject. The British prime minister, Theresa May, has recently renewed her campaign against the technology companies with a crackdown meant to punish platforms that fail to take sufficient action against terrorist propaganda. At a recent bilateral meeting in Paris, May and French president Emmanuel Macron said they would explore new legal liabilities for tech companies that don’t remove inflammatory content, including possible fines.

While governments have urged companies like Facebook to do more, the social network has also faced backlash for ethically questionable censorship of non-terrorist content under the guise of countering propaganda. 

The tech firms have long struggled to balance their missions of supporting free speech with the need to remove and prevent the spread of terrorist content. The companies have faced intense scrutiny over the way terrorist groups have used the site for recruitment and for spreading hateful and violent messages. On Jun 25, 2017 Facebook, Microsoft, YouTube and Twitter collectively announced a new partnership aimed at reducing the accessibility of internet services to terrorists. The new Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism adds structure to existing efforts by the companies to target and remove from major web platforms recruiting materials for terror groups. Together, the four tech leaders say they will collaborate on engineering solutions to the problem, sharing content classification techniques and effective reporting methods for users. Each company also will contribute to both technical and policy research and share best practices for counterspeech initiatives.

As part of the new forum, the companies said they would share best practices regarding content detection and classification techniques using machine learning” and “define standard transparency reporting methods for terrorist content removals”. Back in December of 2016, the same four companies announced the creation of a shared industry hash database. By sharing hashes with each other, the group was able to collectively identify terror accounts without each having to do the time- and resource-intensive legwork independently. This new organization creates more formal bureaucracy for improving that database. Facebook, Microsoft, YouTube and Twitter will be teaching smaller companies and organizations to follow in their footsteps to adopt their own proactive plans for combating terror. A portion of this training will cover key strategies for executing counterspeech programs like YouTube’s Creators for Change and Facebook’s P2P and OCCI.

Privacy vs Security. Law enforcement and security agencies have claimed that encrypted platforms built for commercial purposes to safeguard privacy—where only the sender and receiver hold the keys and devices to decipher the message—are a gift to terrorists and criminals to help them communicate in a way that puts them beyond the law’s reach. In January an ISIL follower provided would-be fighters with a list of what he determined were the safest encrypted communications systems. Soon after the list was published, ISIL started moving official communications from Twitter to Telegram.

Both in the US and in the UK there has been a push for technology companies to either ban encryption on the grounds that we’re paying too high a price in terms of security, or at the very least request that companies like Apple, Google and Facebook build ‘backdoors’ that allow law enforcement access into their encrypted tools.

Tech companies have resisted any push to hand over to law-enforcement the keys to their customers’ encrypted data. Privacy advocates have, post-Snowden, defended the technologies as a protection against government snooping. But tech companies, are arguing that there are real risks of going along with government requests to access encrypted messages. Apple CEO Tim Cook, for example, recently warned that ‘any back door is a back door for everyone. Everybody wants to crack down on terrorists. Everybody wants to be secure. The question is how. Opening a back door can have very dire consequences.’

When it comes to privacy and security, we need to find the right balance in not allowing new encryption technologies to obstruct our counterterrorism efforts. We need secure encrypted systems for commerce, government and the protection of personal information (our digital identity). Banks and telcos are using those products to safeguard our data. Deliberately weakening encryption solutions would arguably weaken key infrastructure, with the ultimate beneficiaries being criminals, cyber activists and rival nation states. A cooperative solution with our police and security agencies working with relevant companies to identify the problems would be better than trying to introduce laws to restrict encryption. Indeed, there’s no guarantee that by banning the use of encryption solutions, as recently proposed in the UK by David Cameron, can be effective. Users and companies might migrate to other countries, solutions, products or servers.

Latest Technologies in Counter Terrorism Operations 

Big data plays a vital role in the war on terror. In order to fight the enemy, it is critical to get an in depth understanding of that enemy, how they operate, what technology they use. Nothing gives us better insights than big data. The data can be used to get an understanding of backgrounds, motives, modus operandi, methods of communication. Once these elements are understood, the information can be leveraged to learn about terrorist networks; who finances them, who supplies them, who supports them and who are the informants. Big data can also be used to establish patterns and make predictions on which population groups or what type of person would be most likely to join a terrorist organisation.

In a project, big data was used to scrutinise and analyse social media such as Facebook and Twitter in order to locate the origins of supporters of terrorist organisation ISIS. Over a period of three months, researchers monitored and analysed three million tweets. They managed to pinpoint important characteristics and patterns among tweets that showed support for ISIS and terrorism, as well as those who opposed it. Using these findings, the researchers created algorithms that were able to group users as pro- or anti-ISIS with an accuracy of nearly 90 percent. It is clear to see the value of being able to identify which people would be most likely to join ISIS as this could help limit the proliferation of extremist groups.

Surveillance data from drones gathered in areas where suspicious activity is taking place can also provide valuable information, especially when this real-time information is combined with other data sources. Information like this can help establish connections between people and events and identify the location of terrorists and even make predictions of the where they may move to in the future. 

Toy-sized battle robots with grenades and assault rifles. At the World Robot Conference in Beijing, China recently unveiled toy-sized battle robots with grenades and assault rifles. These robots have been designed in three versions: an attacker robot – armed with grenade launchers and rifles that minimise recoil – a reconnaissance robot capable of detecting hazardous gases, and a bomb disposal robot. The reconnaissance robot is apparently designed to be able to fit into a soldier’s backpack. Another robot used in the war against terrorism is the PackBot – a machine that locates and diffuses bombs. The PackBot will eventually carry out complex tasks without any human interference and will be very effective in detecting terrorists and explosives. PackBot can gather information from devices such as streetlights, bus shelters and sensors and combine it with its own data to make decisions. Various countries are developing autonomous robots that are able to eliminate terrorists and free hostages. These bots will be outfitted with biometric recognition technology and connect with sources that supply image data and location information to help identify potential terrorists.

Dfuze and Predictify Me – predicting the unpredictable. The use of prediction software in the fight against terrorism is also referred to as ‘predictive policing’. This form of counterterrorism has been on the increase and the ISS (Intelligent Software Solutions) behavioural analysis tool Dfuze is already used in over forty countries. Dfuze was used at the 2012 Olympics in London to pinpoint high risk areas to enable police forces to increase security presence. The software was also used to investigate the Boston bombings in 2013. The Dfuze system is a database which holds information on all terrorist attacks that have ever taken place. Governments can access this data to analyse previous attacks and share information, leading to more efficient methods of communication between nations. With the Dfuze system, specialists are able to establish and analyse trends and patterns, future attack hotspots, the types of explosives, modus operandi and help them predict, prepare for or even prevent any future terrorist attacks. In the past, this type of work was done by analysts trawling through mountains of information, initially in paper files and later on computers.

Another predictive solution, launched in 2014, is Predictify Me. The technology is simple to deploy, can help predict an impending terrorist attack and secure areas against it. Predictify Me uses 200 indicators, such as public holidays, the weather, attacks in nearby countries, sports or other events and even video releases on social media to predict whether and when a terrorist attack is likely to happen. Predictify Me have indicated that it is able to predict an attack within three days with an accuracy of over 70 percent.

With the Internet of Things, every device has an IP address. With more and more devices connecting to not only the Internet but also to each other, the Internet of Things enables increased convenience, efficiency and energy conservation. With internet connectivity moving away from the traditional laptops, tablets and smartphones and migrating toward wearables and household devices such as fridges and washing machines, the IoT can also easily be used for monitoring, location tracking, identification, surveillance and gaining access to networks. Every device will have an IP address and security experts have indicated that surveillance services will able to intercept signals of networked devices in much the same way as they intercept cell phone signals. Information from speeches, satellites, videos and news is all collected and used to monitor and analyse activities, enabling intelligence services to close in on terrorists.

New colour-changing sensors can detect multiple explosives within seconds. In December 2015, scientists developed a new colour-changing sensor that is able to identify and quantify multiple explosives such as DNT, PETN, tetryl, RDX and TNT within ten seconds. The fluorescent sensor gives out information about the type of explosive and how much of it is present in a sample. PETN and RDX for example, have been used in terror plots because they are hard to detect by sniffer dogs. The colour-changing sensor is made from light-emitting nanomaterials or ‘quantum dots’ to which receptors that target the explosive are attached. Each explosive that binds to the quantum dot emits a different colour. These are then analysed in order to generate a unique ‘fingerprint’ for each compound. This makes it possible to detect multiple explosives with one single test.

Way of the Future

Could the internet eventually be used to cause physical attacks? So far, jihadists and others practicing "cyberterrorism" have mainly cracked the passwords for online accounts to collect information for target lists. These efforts have caused a great deal of fear, but not damage or death.But this is something that's coming. The United States and Israel reportedly caused actual damage to the Iranian nuclear program through malware such as Stuxnet. Russia has conducted cyberattacks against physical targets such as the Ukrainian power grid. With Stuxnet being reverse engineered by hackers, and other National Security Agency hacker tools made available through groups like Wikileaks, it won't be long before jihadist or other terrorist hackers are able to cause real world damage by simply accessing the internet.

Other technological tools that can be used for pre-operational surveillance, propaganda purposes and attacks have become prominent as well. For jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria, it's small commercially available drones. Much has been made of the threat of using drones to launch attacks, but to date, drone strikes by the Islamic State have used altered conventional munitions such as 40mm grenades or military-grade explosives placed in locally manufactured munitions. Hezbollah likewise has used drones in attacks, but they similarly have relied on military ordnance provided by Iran. Consequently, even if militants elsewhere attempt to use drones, it will be difficult for militants to reproduce these attacks outside of active war zones. They simply don't have the weaponry. Such drone strikes in domestic settings will remain limited in their capability for now.

As technology advances, terrorists and counterterrorism forces will continue to use it to their advantage. It just depends on who picks it up from the table first.

Challenges Ahead

Research and Development Trends. Most of the cutting-edge research in related areas, particularly with regard to information technology and biotechnology, is in the private sector where development pro­grams are largely driven by potential markets and the profits to be made in the security sector seem to pale in comparison with other commercial opportunities. This challenge can be addressed by mak­ing the counterterrorism community a more attrac­tive customer for the private sector. A significant next step would be initiating a serious dialogue to determine what a future inter­national counterterrorism security technology development regime might look like. 

Barriers to Innovation. Even if private research and development can be better teamed with gov­ernment efforts and focused on the terrorism chal­lenges of the 21st century, the traditional barriers to innovation in law enforcement technologies will remain. These challenges include four areas.

Cost. The expense of new technologies includes both the cost of procuring a technol­ogy and the opportunity cost of adopting that technology as compared to other uses to which resources might be put.

Technology Risk. This includes the ever-present risk that "big bets" will fail. The tech­nology may not perform as expected or ade­quately address the tasks for which it was adopted.

Human Factors. New counterterrorism tech­nologies can face a plethora of obstacles that have nothing to do with fiscal costs or technical specifications. For example, data mining and biometrics have raised an array of concerns about the protection of civil liberties and safe­guarding of proprietary commercial informa­tion. Non-lethal weapons face legal barriers. 

Unanticipated Costs. Any new technology will bring unintended consequences. The introduction of nanotechnologies, for example, has raised concerns about the potential conse­quences of unintentionally introducing new compounds into the environment. New tech­nologies can also bring unexpected liabilities and adverse public reactions.


The terrorists are proving more and more adept at using sophisticated technology. The terrorist threat against the free world is seri­ous and enduring. We need to stay one step ahead and keep developing new, improved technology. We need to jointly develop the means and the technologies needed to meet this threat. The obstacles to creating an arsenal of counter-terrorism technologies that are practical and afford­able and overmatch the threat of 21st century ter­rorism are daunting. Creating a vision of these future technologies, implementing initiatives that broaden the market and make it more predictable and dependable, and developing policies that will help to overcome the barriers to innovation are essential steps to harnessing technology to the future needs of law enforcement.

28 November 2017

Use of Technology in Counter Terrorism Operation Part I

I had the privilege of serving in OP - RAKSHAK in Punjab in 1990-1991, OP – RIHNO in Assam during 1991 – 1992 and three tenures in J&K. After my tenure as Chief Signals Officer, Chinar Corps at Srinagar I wrote a paper on Leveraging Technology In Counter Insurgency Operations which was published at in The PINNACLE, The ARTRAC Journal in its Jun 2008 issue. The same in available at :

After 10 years, on 26/11 I thought of revisiting the topic.

Here is my take on Use of Technology in Counter Terrorism Operations.
                                                                                                                       - PKM 

        Use of Technology in Counter Terrorism Operations

                                                                                     - Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd) 


The technologies that connect the modern world are among humanity’s greatest accomplishments. Never before have so many people had easy access to affordable tools to communicate, learn, organise and transact. Freed from the old constraints of geography and physical factors of production, a new generation of technologists has ushered in an era of exponential change. The opportunities are truly transformational: delivering lifelong access to education and good work, building world-class internet infrastructure, automating government administration and doubling down on front-line staff, bringing cutting edge tools and business models into the public sector, developing a new social contract with big tech – and much more besides. 

Social media has helped like minded people around the world to connect, but in some cases it has also aided the causes of Islamist or far right extremists by introducing them to similarly inclined individuals and organisations. The battle against online extremism and disinformation is an apt example of how innovations that have had an overwhelmingly positive impact on global interactions and connectivity have been exploited by groups with nefarious objectives. Whether it is ISIS videos on YouTube, the encrypted communications of the group’s supporters, or Russian-backed ads on Facebook and Twitter that seek to influence elections, none of these represents what tech developers set out to revolutionise.

Terrorists excel at exploiting opportunities, forging something out of what already exists. But terrorists did not create Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook – although they have used these platforms extensively. So the balance of power lies not with abusers of platforms but with their developers and governments.

it is clear that both tech companies and governments are aware of the scale of the challenge and the need to act. The introduction of artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing technology to identify and remove terrorist content online is a positive move to make the Internet safer. But an overreliance on censorship detracts from the other ways technology can support the fight against extremism.

As advancements in digital communications and artificial intelligence continue, those developing these technologies must learn from the experiences of social media and messaging apps, whose innovations have been hijacked by people and groups with malicious aims. Technology companies have demonstrated their commitment to tackling such abuses, but they must move beyond responding to threats and frontload considerations about security, safety, and social impact and responsibility from the design phase, rather than dealing with them as an afterthought.

Responsible leadership and decisionmaking are required from governments and technology firms to deliver the products and services needed to reap the benefits of innovation and make technology work for everyone.

Use of Technology by Law Enforcing Agencies 

- Technology can help in:  

- Understand the causes of radicalisation 

- Protect the national infrastructure 

- Reduce the vulnerability of crowded places 

- Protect against cyber terrorism 

- Improve analytical tools 

- Identify, detect and counter novel and improvised explosives 

- Understand and counter chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threats (CBRNE)

Communications. Counter terrorism efforts have forced terrorist groups to change how they communicate. The U.S. government turned the full attention of its military and intelligence assets against al Qaeda following the 9/11 attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan. Soon after, al - Qaeda leaders found that it was dangerous to use radios, cell phones or satellite phones to communicate. Many al Qaeda leaders hiding in Pakistan were tracked down and captured because of sloppy communication methods. Identifying and tracking al Qaeda communications networks was so successful that it forced Osama bin laden to shun electronic communications devices altogether, relying instead on human couriers as a link to the outside world.

In the places where it was more difficult to capture or arrest terrorist leaders, the United States began to use unmanned aerial vehicles and missiles to not only track but also attack targets. The rise of armed drone strikes again caused terrorists to alter their operations. High value targets had to change how they communicated and traveled. Even rank and file members had to be trained differently: Iraqi forces recently found an underground training facility in their operation to re-capture Mosul, showing just what lengths the Islamic State went to when it came to protecting its fighters from detection and attack.

When it comes to planning an attack, the internet is again an invaluable tool. Information available online can be very useful in the target selection phase of the terrorist attack cycle and can greatly aid terrorist planners as they begin to conduct surveillance for the planning phase of the cycle. And while research on the internet simply cannot replace physical pre-operational surveillance, it can provide teams with a great deal of information that can guide and help shorten the process. Smartphones with video and still camera capabilities are incredibly useful in surveillance operations, as are remote cameras that can be used to monitor the residences or offices of potential targets, all without having to place operatives on the street. Many cameras can be monitored in real time over the internet.

Key Information Technologies(IT) for Counterterrorism

The world has changed dramatically since the Cold War era. The ballistic missiles and satellite surveillance systems that were considered so effective at ending the Cold War are not sufficient to counter this new threat. There are many technology challenges, but perhaps few more important than how to make sense of and connect the relatively few and sparse dots embedded within massive amounts of information flowing into the government’s intelligence and counterterrorism apparatus. IT plays a crucial role in overcoming this challenge. The government’s intelligence and counterterrorism agencies are responsible for absorbing this massive amount of information, processing and analyzing it, converting it to actionable intelligence, and disseminating it, as appropriate, in a timely manner.

Table shows some information technologies considered important for counterterrorism.

Counter-terrorism technologies and diverse partnerships are essential when dealing with terrorist threats in cities. RAND Europe's five counter-terrorism policy recommendations based on the analysis:

· Deploy appropriate counter-terrorism technologies that enhance decision making, but pay attention to the evolving technology landscape.

· Establish partnerships with all levels of national government, law enforcement agencies, private sector security companies and local authorities, while also collaborating with international partners and allies.

· Where possible, engage with the public, the media and local communities when deploying new counter-terrorism technologies, such as surveillance systems.

· Carefully consider the extent to which data collection and data sharing during a counter-terrorism operation are proportionate, necessary and justified.

· Identify and address any potential privacy issues as early as possible before introducing new counter-terrorism technologies.

Use of Internet 

The Internet could be exploited by terrorist organizations for several purposes including: 

- Propaganda 

- Psychological warfare 

- Recruitment and mobilization 

- Fundraising 

- Data Mining, information gathering 

- Secure communications 

- Cyber attacks 

- Software distribution (e.g., mobile app) 

- Buying false documents 

- Training 

The Internet propaganda is probably the most common use of technology by terrorist organizations. Groups like the ISIS demonstrated a great mastery of the technology and a deep knowledge of the techniques of communication. Each video is carefully prepared, and its programming is meticulous and aims to reach the largest number of individuals. Terrorists use the new social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and media services such as YouTube. Their language is direct, young, and it can reach a specific audience by using images with a high emotional impact. The online propaganda is multi-lingual. It reaches not only Arab people and is easily accessible to young people. The amplification effect is obtained through easy dissemination of content, sympathizers and media outlets allow easy sharing of the terrorist messages through emails, messaging and mobile apps.

Terrorist Propaganda. The chain of communication leading massacres and executions directly into our homes is extremely short, a few tools (i.e. A smartphone, a camera and a laptop) and the free Internet network are the pillars of the new strategy of terror.

· Figure – Chain of Terrorist propaganda (

One of the phenomena worries the intelligence agencies most of all is the narrowcasting; that consists in the dissemination of information to a narrow audience. The narrowcasting targets specific segments of the public, contextualizing the practice to the terrorism, the propaganda content could be crafted to reach teenagers. Security experts have uncovered a number of websites offering pro-jihad content designed using a ‘comic-style’ and high impact Videos and Animations. The scenarios we are exploring demonstrate the great interest of modern terrorism in technology, the Internet is becoming a point of attraction for members of terrorist organizations and wannabe terrorists. Another worrying aspect related to the strict link between technology and terrorism is the possibility of acquiring counterfeit documents that could be used by militants to move across the Europe. On the internet, and in particular in the cybercriminal underground, there are many black markets where it is possible to acquire any kind of illegal product and services, including fake documents.

Pseudo-anonymity offered by darknet makes the dark web an ideal environment for various activities such as:

· Propaganda

· Purchasing weapons

· Purchasing stolen card data

· Counterfeit documents

· Recruiting

· Download Mobile Apps used for secure communications

· Purchase of malicious code

· Fund-raising

· Doxing (process of gathering information about a person from internet)

27 November 2017


                               - Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Recently Atlantic Council SOUTH ASIA CENTER published a remarkable paper on ASIA IN THE “SECOND NUCLEAR AGE” by Gaurav Kampani and Bharath Gopalaswamy. Whether one agrees with the paper or not people interested in nuclear issues cannot ignore this document.
The Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center conducted three workshops in India, Pakistan, and China in the fall of 2016, with the objective of drawing academics, policy practitioners, and analysts in each country to discuss the unfolding nuclear dynamics in the region. All three workshops had a common theme: Assessing Nuclear Futures in Asia. Under this umbrella theme, workshop participants tackled three specific subjects: the general nature of the strategic competition in Indo-Pacific region; the philosophical approaches shaping nuclear developments in China, India, and Pakistan; and the hardware and operational characteristics of their nuclear forces. 

The first workshop was conducted in September 2016 at the Center for International Strategic Studies in Islamabad. This was followed by a second workshop in September at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. The third, and final, workshop was held in November 2016 at the CarnegieTsinghua Center in Beijing. Each workshop involved structured sessions with formal presentations and follow-on roundtable sessions. Notes from each session were transcribed, as everything discussed by the participants during the workshops was on the record.

What stands out in these findings is that regional participants generally reject the nuclear pessimism in Western capitals. The nuclear “sky is falling” argument, they maintain, is simply not supported by the evidence, at least when evidence is embedded in its proper context.

Key Conclusions

• While the first nuclear age was riven by deep ideological conflicts between two contrarian political systems that viewed the victory of the other as an existential threat, the nuclear rivalry between China, India, and Pakistan is nothing like that. All three states accept the legitimacy of the international system, to the extent that they share goals of market capitalism, state sovereignty, and multilateral institutionalism. Undoubtedly, the three states have different domestic political systems: authoritarian capitalist (China), liberal democracy (India), and praetorian democracy (Pakistan). Yet, none of these nuclear powers views the domestic political system of another as jeopardizing its own existence.

• At least two among the three nuclear powers—China and India—have vast strategic depth, excellent geographical defenses, and strong conventional forces. Neither fears a conventional threat to its existence. Leaderships in both countries have a shared belief that nuclear weapons are political weapons whose sole purpose is to deter nuclear use by others. They also share a common institutional legacy of civilian dominated nuclear decision making structures, in which the military is only one partner, and a relatively junior one, among a host of others. All three factors—the structural, the normative, and the institutional—dampen both countries’ drives toward trigger-ready, destabilizing, operational nuclear postures that lean toward splendid first-strike options. 

• However, this reassurance does not extend to Pakistan, which—due to the lack of geographic depth and weaker conventional forces against India—has embraced a first-use nuclear doctrine. Pakistan’s hybrid praetorian system also allows its military near autonomy in nuclear decision-making. This combination of structural and institutional factors has led Pakistan to elect a rapidly expanding nuclear force that, within a decade, could rival the British, French, and Chinese arsenals in size, though not in sophistication. Evidence also suggests that Pakistan has developed tactical nuclear weapons, although it does not appear to have operationalized tactical nuclear warfare.

• In the nuclear dynamic in the Indo-Pacific region, India and Pakistan are novice developers of nuclear arsenals; the weapons in their inventory are first-generation fission weapons. Likewise, their delivery systems are the first in the cycle of acquisitions. Their hardware acquisitions generate outside concern because of the scope of their ambitions. Both nations plan to deploy a triad capability. Nonetheless, this ambitious goal and the selection of technologies underline the central lesson of the nuclear revolution, which is force survival (to enable an assured second strike capability). 

• Force survival through secure second-strike capabilities is also China’s goal. It is the only nuclear power among the three that is actually modernizing, i.e., replacing aging delivery systems with newer and better designs. Thus far, the evidence suggests that Chinese and Indian explorations of multiple-reentry vehicle technologies are aimed at reinforcing deterrence through the fielding of more robust second-strike capabilities. This conclusion is also supported by the fact that neither India nor China has, nor is developing, the ancillary intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems necessary to execute splendid first-strike attacks. Another technology of concern is missile defense. India’s goals vis-à-vis missile defense are still unclear, and its technical successes with the program are even less evident. Chinese goals are similarly unclear, and appear to be exploratory means for defeating adversarial attempts to stymie its deterrent capability.

• On a more positive note, neither India nor Pakistan is conducting nuclear tests to develop or improve designs for nuclear warheads. The same holds for China. 

· However, Pakistan is rapidly accumulating fissile material, which could increase to four hundred and fifty kilograms of plutonium, sufficient for ninety weapons, and more than 2,500 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU), sufficient for one hundred simple fission warheads by 2020. 

· India is accumulating approximately 16.6 kilograms of fissile material annually, sufficient for a force of approximately 150-200 warheads, though all fissile material is probably not converted into nuclear warheads. 

· China, however, is no longer producing fissile material. It is only modestly increasing the size. of its arsenal, from 264 to 314 warheads.

The size of the Chinese, Indian, and Pakistani arsenals will remain a function of the calculations of damage ratios that each believes essential to achieve deterrence. Yet, if current trends remain stable, the size of their arsenals should remain comparable to the French and British nuclear arsenals. The arsenals will be large, but will by no means approach the gargantuan size of the US or Russian nuclear arsenals.

• Like other regional nuclear powers during the first nuclear age, China, India, and Pakistan might also decide to forego one or more vulnerable legs of their nuclear triad. At present, however, there are no indicators of this happening. 

• The nuclear rivalry in South Asia remains ominous, because Pakistan wages LIC against India via non state actors, while the latter has devised limited conventional war options to punish the Pakistani military on Pakistani soil. India has also recently hinted that it could abandon nuclear no first use (NFU) in favor of splendid first strike options. Simultaneously, however, India is backing away from its purported limited conventional war doctrine against Pakistan, on the premise that the LIC does not represent an existential threat to Indian security, and that there are other sophisticated methods for dealing with Pakistan’s aggressions that don’t involve pressing nuclear buttons. The decline in India’s appetite for limited conventional war against Pakistan, if institutionalized over time, would represent a game changer and significantly reduce the risk of nuclear war in the region.

• The big difference between the first and second nuclear ages is the domestic stability of the nuclear-weapon powers. For the greater part of the first nuclear age, states that wielded nuclear arsenals were stable and boasted strong governing institutions. In Asia—while China and India represent this continuity of strong state institutions, as well as checks and balances on the military—Pakistan remains internally unstable, and increasingly unable to rein in praetorianism over national security and nuclear policy.

The Emerging Indian Nuclear Force

Hardware. Serious doubts remain as to whether Indian scientists can field reliable boosted-fission and thermonuclear weapons. Even Indian nuclear observers, both scientific and military, are unable to clarify these doubts, and much controversy remains about the nature of the weapons that India is capable of fielding. Nonetheless, fewer doubts are expressed about the relative success of India’s simpler fission weapons, and even fewer about the growing sophistication of its delivery systems.

Doctrine and Operations. The issue of whether India has privately abandoned NFU, or will do so soon, is an unknown. However NFU has survived at least three internal governmental reviews and is here to stay. But, there is no resolution to the suggestion that under certain circumstances—such as when there is apparent surety about an impending nuclear attack—India might decide to use nuclear weapons first. It is also suggested that even token/symbolic nuclear attacks by Pakistan could trigger a massive disarming strike from India.

At the operational level technical reliability and force reconstitution are the greatest challenges. Technical reliability remains a concern because of India’s very limited number of nuclear tests. In the case of delivery systems, however, the SFC is gradually forcing the issue of a greater number of field tests for missiles under more realistic operational conditions. Force reconstitution is also considered a challenge, because the bulk of the Indian arsenal is maintained in a de-mated form during normal peacetime conditions. However new procedures allow the co-location of nuclear warheads with aircraft. In the case of ballistic missiles, warheads will very likely be mated to the missiles during emergency flushing-out routines. A small number of missiles may be kept permanently mated with warheads, to deal with a bolt from the blue scenario.

The nuclear force will remain a force in progress for many years to come.

Nuclear Observations from Islamabad

Hardware. Pakistan could possibly build a total of approximately 220-250 warheads by 2025, a figure that comes close to rivaling the size of the French and British arsenals, and possibly exceeds China’s. Pakistan’s nuclear force architecture has a choice of delivery system technologies which traditionally focused on land-based ballistic missiles and aircraft, has expanded to include a sea leg. 

Doctrine and Operations. Unlike China and India, Pakistan is committed to an asymmetric nuclear strategy of first use. The well-known red lines include: an Indian invasion and a major defeat for the Pakistani army on the battlefield, Indian threats to major Pakistani urban centers, the severing of Pakistan’s major internal lines of communication during an invasion, or any attempts by India to internally destabilize Pakistan. These red lines are predictably vague, sufficient to keep the enemy guessing while leaving enough room for the Pakistani military to walk back from a crisis of resolve and credibility. Pakistan may initially demonstrate its nuclear resolve via token strikes against invading and isolated Indian units on Pakistani territory. Thereafter, attacks may escalate to Indian bridgeheads on the border, and area military targets critical to the invasion. Further still, attacks could encompass Indian cities, and portions of the nuclear force itself.

Pakistani interlocutors have no convincing explanations for their military’s presumptions about India’s graduated escalatory behavior. 

· Why do they believe that India would necessarily follow Pakistan’s token demonstration shots with mimicry? 

· How would Pakistan react to a massive Indian nuclear attack to any token nuclear attack by the Pakistani military?

· How would Pakistan retain escalatory dominance during the course of a nuclear conflict?

· How could Pakistan be confident of attacking Indian nuclear forces in the course of escalation, without the requisite ISR capabilities?

· How might Pakistan resolve the use-them-or-lose-them dilemma for forward-deployed tactical nuclear weapons, subject to accidental or deliberate conventional attacks by an adversary?

Few in Pakistan are publicly willing to explain how Pakistan proposes to operationalize tactical nuclear warfare, in light of the collateral damage from such weapons and the command, control, and logistical challenges they pose. Nor is evidence shown to back up the Pakistani military’s claims that its tactical battlefield capabilities are more than paper exercises and staff planning.


India is veering around to the consensus that the LIC does not constitute an existential threat to its security. India believes that she ought to pursue multiple foreign policies to deal with Pakistan’s civil and military establishments. Successive Indian governments also appear to have quietly concluded that escalation to a conventional counterattack against Pakistan could end up in self-defeat. There are other sophisticated options available to India, including covert attacks using special forces, diplomatically isolating Pakistan and legal sanctions through the United Nations. 

China and India lack real-time ISR capabilities, which are the key to successful first strikes.

Pakistan’s tactical nuclear-weapons program is dangerous for safety and security reasons, and also because it is the surest route to escalating conventional war to the nuclear level. However, Pakistan does not appear to have operationalized its tactical nuclear-warfare plans yet.

The greatest threat in the region comes not from the development of large, sophisticated, and diversified nuclear arsenals, but from the continued stability of the institutions guarding them. In the last four decades, the Pakistani deep state’s pursuit of LICs in Afghanistan and India, via the vehicles of radical jihadi non state actors, has produced terrible blowback effects on Pakistan itself. Both the Pakistani state and civil society have become the targets of brutal terror attacks. Some of the attacks have occurred, with insider help, on sensitive military bases where nuclear weapons are likely stored. The possibility that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons could be stolen—or that schisms in Pakistan’s military might cause nuclear command-and-control failures—is not as fantastic as it once seemed.

25 November 2017

Professional Military Education - An Indian Experience

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

“The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.” - Thucydides

Professional Military Education (PME) has always been a critical component of developing military leaders. It is based on two key principles: train for certainty, so that military personnel gain and master the skills needed for known tasks and educate for uncertainty, so that they have the broad base of knowledge and critical thinking skills needed to handle unanticipated and unpredictable situations.