Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Countering 'little green men': Pentagon special ops studies Russia ‘gray zone’ conflict

Good to see that Congress remains concerned with unconventional warfare.  I asked this question two years ago:  Congress Has Embraced Unconventional Warfare: Will the US Military and The Rest of the US Government?http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/congress-has-embraced-unconventional-warfare-will-the-us-military-and-the-rest-of-the-us-go

I am still waiting for an answer.

You can read Johns Hopkins APL's study on Russia's Little Green Men referenced in the article at this link:  http://www.jhuapl.edu/ourwork/nsa/papers/ARIS_LittleGreenMen.pdf

Countering 'little green men': Pentagon special ops studies Russia ‘gray zone’ conflict

The Pentagon is studying gray zone conflict – otherwise known as hybrid warfare – beginning with a focus on Russia and later moving on to study Iran and China, the acting assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, told members of Congress.
On the heels of a Johns Hopkins University study on the nature of Russian unconventional warfare, U.S. Special Operations – through the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office within ASD SO/LIC – is looking at “developing predictive analytic technologies that will help us identify when countries are utilizing unconventional warfare techniques at levels essentially below our normal observation thresholds,” Theresa Whelan said during a May 2 House Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee hearing.
The study will help identify early evidence of unconventional warfare, she added, noting that once her office completes the research on Russian unconventional warfare, it will move on to developing a strategy for Iran and China.
Russian aggression has been characterized by the insertion of “little green men,” special forces that try to discreetly rile up ethnic Russians against the West in countries along its border. Russia’s surprise annexation of Crimea in 2014 has sparked fear in surrounding countries that something similar could take place within their own borders.
And Russia’s behavior in Ukraine and along the Baltic States continue to cause heartburn and worry among the U.S. and its European and NATO allies.
Recently, the top U.S. military commander in Europe said the U.S. has not done enough to reinforce its own and NATO’s nascent efforts to fight Russia’s prolific propaganda against European allies – considered to be classic “gray zone” activity.
By definition, special operations forces in the region would likely be among the first to notice such activity.
The fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act required the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff along with other U.S. government departments and agencies to develop a strategy to counter unconventional warfare threats posed by adversarial state and non-state actors. Unconventional warfare “means activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, or guerrilla force in a denied area,” according to the legislation.
The strategy was due to Congress no later than 180 days following enactment.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, asked during the hearing, for an update, noting delivery of the unconventional warfare strategy to Congress was roughly two years late.
The Pentagon has “had to shift resources to focus on this and develop capabilities and knowledge bases that had, to a certain extent, atrophied over the years,” Whelan said. “But also, the nature of UW has fundamentally changed because of 21st century technologies and techniques. We really in many ways have been starting from scratch.”
In order to complete the strategy, Whelan added, the Pentagon is working with interagency partners – acknowledgement that UW poses multiple threats to the U.S. government “because of the ways that our adversaries are using it.”
Studies already conducted by the Pentagon, as well as Georgetown University on UW has shown adversaries, “particularly the more sophisticated ones,” are focusing on “seams between our organizational entities and trying to exploit those seams and decision-making cycles in order to gain advantage on us in the space that essentially is below conventional war,” Whelan said.
She added the Pentagon does expect to have an interim “answer with our thoughts” delivered to Congress before the end of June.
The study focused on Russian UW, will feed into the greater strategy. Looking through a Russian lens also makes sense from a special operations perspective because countering the Russian threat is its number two priority. There are roughly 1,400 special operations forces deployed to protect against Russian aggression.
Gen. Raymond Thomas, U.S. Special Operations Command commander, echoed Whelan during the same hearing, stating, “We’re working closely with the department for the overall strategy, but I think as importantly and more practically, we’re focused on the resources and authorities that would underpin that strategy. So we actually are having some pretty substantive discussions specifically as it applies towards countering Russian aggression.”

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Trump administration wants to send more military advisers to Afghanistan. Good luck with that.

Of course Security Force Assistance (SFA) in its present form was not invented until 2008 when the wheel of FID was reinvented.  

The one lesson that we should learn is that SFA or FID does not work unless there is a strategy that it supports (a strategy with balance and coherency among ends, ways, and means) and this must include the political objectives to be achieved.  We think that if we simply train security forces that they will somehow magically succeed for us.  We pay lip service to "through, with, and by" and treat it as a silver bullet because we have no idea how hard it really is to accomplish political objectives indirectly when by definition you are not in complete control and dependent on indigenous forces that are not the equivalent of US forces despite us trying to create them in our image through SFA.

Below this article I have pasted my Eight Points of Special Warfare, LTG Cleveland's comments about indigenous forces and my description of Frank Hoffman's principle of understanding.

Regarding the discussion of Korea in the article:  We should remember that our FID/SFA security assistance efforts prior to 1950 likely contributed to the failure of the ROK Army on June 25, 1950.  Based on poor assessment and erroneous assumptions we refused to allow the ROK military to develop a combat capable force capable of both combined arms defense and maneuver.  We allowed only a constabulary force to be established to defend against north Korea subversion.  We allowed this force to restrict the ROK from being able to attack the north to achieve unification.  And of course the Soviets and the Chinese placed no such restrictions on the north and when 100,000 combat hardened soldiers returned from the Chinese Civil War they were provided with Soviet T-34 tanks and the rest is history.  We of course learned our lesson and help the ROK to develop a military that is optimized for combined operations (ROK and US) with interoperability and not necessarily completely independent operations.

The Trump administration wants to send more military advisers to Afghanistan. Good luck with that.


Marines salute during a handover ceremony at Camp Leatherneck in Lashkar Gah, in the Afghan province of Helmand. They returned there April 29, as embattled Afghan security forces struggled to beat back the resurgent Taliban.Photo by: WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images
Senior Trump administration officials have proposed sending 3,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Their mission? Advise and assist Afghan security forces.
The Obama administration’s plan was much the same. So is the U.S. strategy for Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Ukraine, Niger, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Mauritania and many other locations around the world. In all these places, U.S. strategy relies on Security Force Assistance (SFA): using a small U.S. force to advise, train, equip and assist local allies to do the difficult ground fighting that Americans would rather avoid.
There’s a reason Security Force Assistance is so common. But it rarely works.
Why is SFA so widely used? The United States faces threats to interests that are real but often limited. U.S. officials feel the need to do something, but they are unwilling to send tens of thousands of American troops. SFA’s low cost and small footprint makes it look like a cheap solution that seems appropriate to the stakes.
But results are often disappointing. The massive train-and-equip program in Iraq after 2003 yielded an army that dissolved facing Islamic State forces in the June 2014 offensive in Mosul. SFA operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan fared little better.
That’s no accident. As we show in our recently published paper in the Journal of Strategic Studies, the low-cost SFA strategy rarely succeeds. Only when the host nation’s interests align very closely with Washington’s — and when the U.S. presence is both substantial and conditional — can SFA really substitute for a larger U.S. troop deployment.
Why Security Force Assistance often goes to waste
The United States rarely conducts SFA missions in Switzerland or Canada — because allies like these don’t need it. Rather, SFA usually goes to weak states with corrupt, unrepresentative regimes whose military shortcomings gave rise to the need for assistance in the first place.
This weakness also leads to a mismatch between U.S. interests and those of SFA recipients. Americans are looking for a local partner to fight an external threat, such as the Islamic State. But local leaders are typically more concerned with threats to their own rule from other elites within their state, especially the risk of a coup d’etat from dissatisfied officers or militia leaders.
SFA partners thus have a strong incentive to use U.S. aid to bolster their own internal security, rather than for whatever military operations that the United States wants.
Host regimes therefore often look the other way when their officers sell U.S. supplies on the black market, pocket the U.S.-provided salaries of “ghost soldiers,” use U.S.-provided equipment to settle scores with rival groups or extort protection payments from local civilians. This kind of corruption buys the loyalty of heavily armed elites who might otherwise be rivals, and it protects the regime’s internal political position. But it saps military readiness and undermines combat motivation: Why should Afghan or Iraqi soldiers risk their lives in combat for corrupt, cronyist officers who care only about lining their own pockets? The result is a military designed for internal politics, not for effectiveness against the external enemies that Americans care about.
Security Force Assistance can work, but only if the stars align and the conditions are right
In our paper, we looked at three historical examples where the United States sent significant security force assistance: Iraq from 2003-2014, El Salvador from 1979-1992, and South Korea from 1949-1953. These examples show just how hard it is to pull off SFA successfully.
In Iraq, the United States invested more than $25 billion on the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), deployed thousands of trainers and advisers, and by 2007 fielded more than 100,000 other U.S. troops to provide security until the ISF could take over. Yet the resulting Iraqi military collapsed in June 2014 when challenged by numerically inferior Islamic State fighters in Mosul. How could all this assistance produce so little real military power?
Here’s the problem: The U.S. and Iraqi governments had two very different visions for the ISF. The United States wanted trained military technocrats who could defeat the insurgency. The Iraqi regimes of  Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Nouri al-Maliki, however, saw that kind of ISF as a danger to their power, not an asset. The regime preferred a corrupt military it could control to a professionalized one it could not. All that U.S. effort thus created a military that was well-suited to Jaafari’s or Maliki’s internal political requirements, but a very poor tool for defeating ISIS.
The Salvadoran civil war, by contrast, is often seen as an SFA success story. Between 1979 and 1982, $5 billion in U.S. aid and fewer than 200 American advisers helped the Salvadoran government survive the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front insurgency. And U.S. SFA certainly was helpful. Without it, the government could well have fallen.
Yet a closer look reveals that the results of the U.S. investment in SFA were only modest. The Salvadoran regime shared the U.S. goal of preventing its overthrow, but the regime also wanted to preserve its internal position. Hence the regime permitted just enough military improvement to keep the FMLN from toppling the government, but never enough for the army to get proficient enough to deliver a knockout blow. As a result, the war lapsed into a long, bloody deadlock that ended only when the Cold War came to a close. The net result was a real — but limited — payoff for SFA.
The one major SFA success we examine — Korea — is the exception that proves just how hard it is to do effectively. When North Korea invaded the South in June 1950, a weak, corrupt South Korean army collapsed. For South Korean President Syngman Rhee, the threat of outside conquest by North Korea now posed a more immediate threat than internal violence. His personal interests now aligned with that of the Americans in an urgent need to defeat a strong external enemy.
The United States rapidly expanded its aid, but it also monitored its use and threatened to withdraw assistance from Korean units that didn’t professionalize to U.S. standards. Since Rhee was more threatened by North Korean conquest than by a coup from within, he accepted these conditions and permitted politically risky military reforms that Iraqi and Salvadoran elites resisted. The result was major improvement in South Korean military proficiency by 1953. But the Korean case shows just how much the stars must align for SFA to work.
Sending more usually isn’t the answer
U.S. officials and politicians often see SFA as engineering rather than politics: Just send enough military aid and an ally’s forces will improve. When SFA falls short, as it often does, this implies the aid wasn’t enough — and so critics call for more.
But this view misses the key fact that SFA often directly affects local politics. SFA is unlikely to work unless the U.S. invests enough to gain leverage over its local host, and puts conditions on that aid to help ensure that the partner’s military really does improve.
On balance, then, SFA does not really offer a free lunch. Where limited U.S. interests mean that the U.S. will not deploy large numbers of its own troops, SFA will not yield major results from minor investments. For the foreseeable future, small footprints mean small payoffs for the United States.
Stephen Biddle is professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University and adjunct senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Julia Macdonald is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House and an assistant professor at the University of Denver.
Ryan Baker is a PhD candidate at George Washington University.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Chinese supercomputers threaten U.S. security (and comments on Countering Unconventional Warfare)

Will we ever understand unconventional warfare?  I am reminded of this excellent analogy I heard at lunch yesterday with one of my good friends and SF brothers:

"UW is to Warfare as Acupuncture is to Medicine” COL (RET) Jack Jensen, US Army SF, 3 May 2017 

Georgetown appreciates the shout out. And Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab has done great work on Russia's Little Green Men (and assessing revolutionary and insurgent strategies).  Note the heavy emphasis on cyber and UW.  COL Pat Duggan (US Army SF) is one of the leading (or perhaps only) thinkers in the SOF community on cyber and particularly cyber in the human domain which is especially relevant and important to influence political resistance and conducting political warfare which is a major component of unconventional warfare.  Read Pat's latest work here: http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/tactical-cema-in-cognitive-spaces or his award winning article Strategic Development of Special Warfare in Cyberspace in Joint Force Quarterly here:  http://ndupress.ndu.edu/JFQ/Joint-Force-Quarterly-79/Article/621123/strategic-development-of-special-warfare-in-cyberspace/

I would quibble with the idea that the nature of unconventional warfare has changed as it is and always has been about political resistance at the very heart.  Sure there are new characteristics and capabilities but in the end this is a very human endeavor and all the technology in the world is not going to change its nature.

Excerpts:

The Pentagon is two years late in supplying Congress with a study on new strategies for countering unconventional warfare threats posed by Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, chairwoman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on emerging threats, pressed a senior Pentagon official on the subject during a hearing Tuesday. The study was required in 2015 legislation.

“This strategy, which is now almost two years late, ultimately can help provide a way to ensure that our ends, ways and means are aligned to help counter these unconventional threats,” said Ms. Stefanik, New York Republican.

Unconventional warfare is the use of nonkinetic warfare capabilities ranging from cyber and electronic attacks to “influence operations” using political, media and legal means.

In response, Theresa Whelan, assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, said unconventional warfare is an emerging threat and the Pentagon is studying the issue. Ms. Whelan noted that the military’s counterterrorism mission has been the main focus of low-intensity conflict.

“We have, as a consequence, had to shift resources to focus on this and develop capabilities and knowledge bases that had, to certain extent, atrophied over the years,” she said.

“But also, because the nature of UW has fundamentally changed because of 21st-century technologies and techniques, we really in many ways have been starting from scratch. And that has been one of the challenges that we’ve faced as we dug into this over the last 18 to 24 months.”

Russia used hybrid warfare to take over Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and its cyber-enabled influence operation targeting the 2016 U.S. presidential election. China has been using similar information operations in its bid to gradually take control of the South China Sea.

Examples of Iranian information operations have included cyberattacks on U.S. banks and a waterway control system in upstate New York.

North Korea has used extensive cyberattacks to achieve objectives — including the cyberattack on Sony Picture Entertainment and cyberattacks on banks in Asia that netted the regime in Pyongyang tens of million of dollars.

The Pentagon is working with other U.S. government agencies to deal with what Ms. Whalen called “multiple threats” from foreign information operations.

Georgetown University has conducted a study for the Pentagon that found that America’s adversaries are “focusing on the seams between our organizational entities and trying to exploit those seams and decision-making cycles in order to gain advantage on us in the space that essentially is below conventional war — the space that we now refer to as the gray zone or hybrid warfare,” Ms. Whalen said.

Two research projects are underway on the topic of unconventional warfare, one at Johns Hopkins University on Russian hybrid warfare, and a Pentagon research effort to develop predictive analytic technologies.

The technologies “will help us identify when countries are utilizing unconventional warfare techniques at levels essentially below our normal observation thresholds,” Ms. Whalen said.

After the Russia unconventional warfare strategy is completed, the Pentagon will look at Chinese and Iranian unconventional warfare threats, she added. “This continues to be an evolving threat.”

Chinese supercomputers threaten U.S. security

China is eclipsing the United States in developing high-speed supercomputers used to build advanced weapons, and the loss of American leadership in the field poses a threat to U.S. national security.
That’s the conclusion of a recent joint National Security Agency-Energy Department study, based on an assessment of China’s new supercomputer called the TaihuLight.
“National security requires the best computing available, and loss of leadership in [high-performance computing] will severely compromise our national security,” the report warns.
Supercomputers play a “vital role” in the design, development and analysis of almost all modern weapons systems, including nuclear weapons, cyberwarfare capabilities, ships, aircraft, communications security, missile defense, precision-strike capabilities and hypersonic weapons, the report said.
China is rapidly developing hypersonic strike missiles that can deliver conventional and nuclear payloads by maneuvering past advanced missile defenses.
“Loss of leadership in [high-performance computing] could significantly reduce the U.S. nuclear deterrence and the sophistication of our future weapons systems,” the report says.
“Conversely, if China fields a weapons system with new capabilities based on superior [high-performance computing], and the U.S. cannot accurately estimate its true capabilities, there is a serious possibility of over- or underestimating the threat.”
A copy of the 18-page report, “U.S. Leadership in High Performance Computing (HPC): A Report from the NSA-DOE Technical Meeting on High Performance Computing,” dated Dec. 1, has been obtained by Inside the Ring.
Chinese supremacy in computer capabilities also could produce distortions in allocating defense funds for U.S. research and development, and strategic policymaking and result in “incorrect responses to world events,” the report said.
Currently, the United States has a cost-effective supercomputer capability. But loss of U.S. leadership in the field would result in acquisition of supercomputers in ways similar to Pentagon acquisition of aircraft carriers — at vastly increased costs.
For industrial applications, if the United States were to become reliant on Chinese supercomputers, it “could threaten the loss of intellectual property and competitive edge.”
“Personal email and private information, social networks and the emerging Internet of Things are all subject to even greater privacy risks if offshore entities have superior HPC analytics or control the data/information markets,” the report said.
The report called for a surge in U.S. government investment and action in supercomputing, including the priorities outlined in the 2016 National Strategic Computing Initiative Plan.
Energy Department national laboratories and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity are working on cutting-edge supercomputers.
The study was based on a two-day conference in September of some 60 experts, including 40 from U.S. government agencies, 10 from the technology industry and 10 from academia and other organizations.
PENTAGON LATE WITH HYBRID WARFARE STUDY
The Pentagon is two years late in supplying Congress with a study on new strategies for countering unconventional warfare threats posed by Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.
Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, chairwoman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on emerging threats, pressed a senior Pentagon official on the subject during a hearing Tuesday. The study was required in 2015 legislation.
“This strategy, which is now almost two years late, ultimately can help provide a way to ensure that our ends, ways and means are aligned to help counter these unconventional threats,” said Ms. Stefanik, New York Republican.
Unconventional warfare is the use of nonkinetic warfare capabilities ranging from cyber and electronic attacks to “influence operations” using political, media and legal means.
In response, Theresa Whelan, assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, said unconventional warfare is an emerging threat and the Pentagon is studying the issue. Ms. Whelan noted that the military’s counterterrorism mission has been the main focus of low-intensity conflict.
“We have, as a consequence, had to shift resources to focus on this and develop capabilities and knowledge bases that had, to certain extent, atrophied over the years,” she said.
“But also, because the nature of UW has fundamentally changed because of 21st-century technologies and techniques, we really in many ways have been starting from scratch. And that has been one of the challenges that we’ve faced as we dug into this over the last 18 to 24 months.”
Russia used hybrid warfare to take over Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and its cyber-enabled influence operation targeting the 2016 U.S. presidential election. China has been using similar information operations in its bid to gradually take control of the South China Sea.
Examples of Iranian information operations have included cyberattacks on U.S. banks and a waterway control system in upstate New York.
North Korea has used extensive cyberattacks to achieve objectives — including the cyberattack on Sony Picture Entertainment and cyberattacks on banks in Asia that netted the regime in Pyongyang tens of million of dollars.
The Pentagon is working with other U.S. government agencies to deal with what Ms. Whalen called “multiple threats” from foreign information operations.
Georgetown University has conducted a study for the Pentagon that found that America’s adversaries are “focusing on the seams between our organizational entities and trying to exploit those seams and decision-making cycles in order to gain advantage on us in the space that essentially is below conventional war — the space that we now refer to as the gray zone or hybrid warfare,” Ms. Whalen said.
Two research projects are underway on the topic of unconventional warfare, one at Johns Hopkins University on Russian hybrid warfare, and a Pentagon research effort to develop predictive analytic technologies.
The technologies “will help us identify when countries are utilizing unconventional warfare techniques at levels essentially below our normal observation thresholds,” Ms. Whalen said.
After the Russia unconventional warfare strategy is completed, the Pentagon will look at Chinese and Iranian unconventional warfare threats, she added. “This continues to be an evolving threat.”
REPORT CALLS FOR DEFEATING JIHADIS ONLINE
The global Islamic terrorist movement could not function without the internet and defeating terrorism online is possible, according to a report by the Middle East Research Institute (MEMRI).
“Jihadi organizations used the web to recruit supporters and fighters, provide practical instruction and manuals for terror operations including car bomb and ramming attacks, make arch-terrorists into heroic models for emulation, and raise funds for their activity,” the report says. “The internet provided them with an ideal vehicle for spreading their ideas, even to young children.”
Recently, social media companies have begun to lose advertising revenue as a result of hateful content on their sites. Companies including Johnson & Johnson, Toyota, General Motors, Wal-Mart, AT&T and HSBC have pulled ads to protest terrorist videos, the report said.
Governments also are pressuring media to remove hateful speech, and families have begun to sue internet companies for carrying content that incited and radicalized terrorists who killed relatives.
The MEMRI report said the measures are good first steps but that more needs to be done. The internet should be purged of jihadi propaganda and incitement content through financial investments, and new technologies could identify and remove jihadi material.
“Purging the internet of jihadi content can deal with terrorism at its source, and can have an immediate impact on recruitment, indoctrination and training of terrorists,” the report said. “This will significantly reduce the threat which will, in turn, enable Western democracies to reduce the degree of infringement upon our liberties, freedoms and daily life.”
 Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.

Joint Statement between the United States and the Republic of Korea

Some good news here.  Many positive statements in this joint statement. I hope both the ROK and US national security practitioners can take...