Wednesday, October 19, 2011

America's Cyber War Against Pakistan?

After a reportedly successful US-Israeli stux-net cyber attack on Iranian nuclear installations last year, there is now a report in the New York Times that the Obama administration has considered deploying cyber warfare against Pakistan as well.

The New York Times quotes unnamed US officials as acknowledging that the US "military planners suggested a far narrower computer-network attack to prevent Pakistani radars from spotting helicopters carrying Navy Seal commandos on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2." It says the idea of cyber attack on Pakistani air defense system was dropped, and radar-evading Black Hawk helicopters and stealthy RQ-170 Sentinel surveillance drone were instead used to for the raid in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad. The CIA spied on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan by video transmitted from a new bat-winged stealth drone, the RQ-170 Sentinel, which hovered high above Abbottabad for weeks before the raid. There are speculations that the US might be doing such aerial surveillance in other parts of Pakistan, particularly on Pakistan's nuclear installations.

Recently, officials at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada acknowledged a virus infecting the drone “cockpits” there, according to Wired magazine. The source of the virus has not been identified. Back in 2009, the Wall Street Journal reported that militants in Iraq used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they needed to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.



At the 2009 World Economic Forum, the U.S.-based security software firm McAfee's CEO Dave Walt reportedly told some attendees that China, the United States, Russia, Israel and France are among 20 countries locked in a cyberspace arms race and gearing up for possible Internet hostilities. He further said that the traditional defensive stance of government computer infrastructures has shifted in recent years to a more offensive posture aimed at espionage, and deliberate disruption of critical networks in both government and private sectors. Such attacks could disrupt not only command and control for modern weapon systems such as ballistic missiles, but also critical civilian systems including banking, electrical grid, telecommunications, transportation, etc, and bring life to a screeching halt.

In a Sept 2010 report, the Wall Street Journal quoted cyber security specialists saying that "many countries including the U.S., Russia, China, Israel, the U.K., Pakistan, India and North and South Korea have developed sophisticated cyber weapons that can repeatedly penetrate and have the ability to destroy computer networks".

Last year, Chinese hackers apparently succeeded in downloading source code and bugs databases from Google, Adobe and dozens of other high-profile companies using unprecedented tactics that combined encryption, stealth programming and an unknown hole in Internet Explorer, according to new details released by the anti-virus firm McAfee and reported by Wired magazine. These hack attacks were disguised by the use of sophisticated encryption, and targeted at least 34 companies in the technology, financial and defense sectors, exploiting a vulnerability in Adobe’s Reader and Acrobat applications.

While the Chinese cyber attacks on US and India often get wide and deep coverage in the western media, a lower profile, small-scale cyber warfare is also raging in the shadows between India and Pakistan, according to some reports. These reports indicate that around 40-50 Indian sites are being attacked by Pakistani hackers on a daily basis whereas around 10 Pakistani sites are being hit by their Indian counterparts.

Here is how Robert X. Cringeley described the potential effects of full-scale India-Pakistan cyber war in a June 2009 blog post captioned "Collateral Damage":

"Forget for the moment about data incursions within the DC beltway, what happens when Pakistan takes down the Internet in India? Here we have technologically sophisticated regional rivals who have gone to war periodically for six decades. There will be more wars between these two. And to think that Pakistan or India are incapable or unlikely to take such action against the Internet is simply naive. The next time these two nations fight YOU KNOW there will be a cyber component to that war.

And with what effect on the U.S.? It will go far beyond nuking customer support for nearly every bank and PC company, though that’s sure to happen. A strategic component of any such attack would be to hobble tech services in both economies by destroying source code repositories. And an interesting aspect of destroying such repositories — in Third World countries OR in the U.S. — is that the logical bet is to destroy them all without regard to what they contain, which for the most part negates any effort to obscure those contents."


Coming back to the US, it is no secret that the Pentagon and the CIA have increasingly been using America's significant technology edge for war fighting in many parts of the world in recent years. One example is the growing fleet of the remotely controlled stealthy drones being deployed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere for espionage and attacks. Among other new developments, the modern drone is just one of the ways to fight wars covertly in remote places at low cost to America in terms of dollars and casualties, often without so munch as declaring such wars.

The Pentagon now has some 7,000 UAVs, compared with fewer 50 just 10 years ago. The US Air Force is now anticipating a decrease in manned aircraft but expects its number of “multirole” aerial drones like the Reaper — the ones that spy as well as strike — to nearly quadruple, to 536, according to NY Times. Already the Air Force is training more remote pilots, 350 this year alone, than all of the fighter and bomber pilots combined.

The covert nature of drone warfare is particularly true outside Afghanistan and Iraq which are declared wars. In Pakistan, for instance, the secret war is being fought by the CIA, an intelligence agency, not the American military. This war is not even publicly acknowledged by the US administration, and it's a clear violation of international laws and all conventions of war.

The US politicians, spies and generals seem to be calculating that the American people would be more willing to support such wars if they don't bust the US budget and result in as few American body bags as possible. However, this calculation ignores the basic fact that most international conflicts, including terrorism, are essentially political in nature, and must be solved by political rather than the military means.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Cyber Attacks in India, Pakistan and China

Nature of Future India-Pakistan Warfare

ITU Internet Access Data by Countries

Foreign Origin of India's Agni Missiles

Pakistan's Space Capabilities

Seeing Bin Laden's Death in Wider Perspective

Pakistan's Multi-Billion Dollar IT Industry

John Arquilla: Go on the Cyberoffensive

Pakistan Defense Industry Going High Tech

India-Pakistan Military Balance

21st Century High Tech Warfare

16 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a Salon piece by Glenn Greenwald on civilian victims of US drone strikes in Pakistan:

In late June, President Obama’s chief Terrorism adviser, John Brennan, made an extraordinary claim about drone attacks in Pakistan: “in the last year, ‘there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop.” He added: ”if there are terrorists who are within an area where there are women and children or others, you know, we do not take such action that might put those innocent men, women and children in danger.” The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism had heard similar claims from Obama officials over the past several months, and thus set out to examine the relevant evidence to determine if those claims are true.



Last night, they issued the findings of their study which, simply put, definitively establish that the administration’s claim about civilian deaths is patently false. Contrary to Brennan’s public assertions, “a detailed examination by the Bureau of 116 CIA ‘secret’ drone strikes in Pakistan since August 2010 has uncovered at least 10 individual attacks in which 45 or more civilians appear to have died.” That count — which includes numerous children — covers only the civilian deaths which the Bureau could definitively establish by identifying the victims by name. Given how conservative their methodology was, these findings almost certainly under-count, probably dramatically, the number of civilian deaths at U.S. hands during the period about which Brennan made his claim: ”at least 15 additional strikes warrant urgent investigation, with many more civilian deaths possible.”

Other data similarly establish how false and misleading are Brennan’s claims. A British photojournalist providing on-the-scene reporting of the aftermath of drone strikes in Waziristan documented this week that “far more civilians are being injured or dying than the Americans and Pakistanis admit” and “for every 10 to 15 people killed, maybe they get one militant.” To describe Brennan’s claims as merely “inaccurate” or “untrue” is to be unduly generous......


http://www.salon.com/2011/07/19/drones/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report in The Hill on Ron Paul's criticism of US policy in Pakistan:

GOP presidential hopeful Ron Paul said Sunday that the U.S. military is inciting a civil war in Pakistan.

The Texas Republican said the civilian casualties resulting from the Pentagon's drone attacks over Pakistan and other countries only create more enemies at the expense of homeland security.

"Sometimes they miss and sometimes there's collateral damage. And every time we do that, we develop more enemies," Paul said on Fox News Sunday.

"We're dropping a lot of drone missile/bombs in Pakistan and claim we've killed so many, but how about the innocent people [who have] died? Nobody hears about that. This is why the people of Pakistan can't stand our guts and why they disapprove of their own government," he said.

"We're bombing Pakistan and trying to kill some people, making a lot of mistakes, building up our enemies, at the same time we're giving billions of dollars to the government of Pakistan," he added. "We're more or less inciting a civil war there, so I think that makes us less safe.

"For everyone you kill, you probably create 10 new people who hate our guts and would like to do us harm."

The eight-term Republican reiterated his calls for a $1 trillion cut in federal spending in year one if he reaches the White House, and rejected the notion that those reductions could undermine the country if programs like medical research and development (R&D) are eliminated.

"If you take all these resources out of the hands of the government, that doesn't mean the money isn't going to be spent. It means that the individuals are going to be spending it," he said.

"You would have much more R&D and it would be better directed if investors and the market makes these decisions, because believe me, the politicians and the bureaucrats aren't smart enough to know what you should be investing in."

Paul also weighed in on the sexual harassment allegations dogging fellow-GOP presidential contender Herman Cain, saying the focus on the scandal "dilutes the real debate."

"The media's blown that way out of proportion," Paul said. "I don't like these distractions."


http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/192023-ron-paul-us-is-inciting-civil-war-in-pakistan

Riaz Haq said...

The Express Tribune reports that Russia is offering to help Pakistan in steel and energy projects.

ISLAMABAD: Russia has announced a grant of $500 million for reviving the financially troubled Pakistan Steel Mills and also shown willingness to finance $500 million for a 1,000 megawatt regional electricity transmission project.

Federal Secretary for Industries and Production Javed Awan told Express News that the announcement for the mill – which was established by the Russians 30 years ago in Karachi – was made when Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the 10th heads of government meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a regional security grouping.

The two premiers, on the sidelines of the summit, also expressed willingness to speed up work on the proposed Free Trade Agreement and currency swap deal to boost bilateral trade and further strengthen economic ties.

Gilani in his fourth meeting with Putin had a frank and detailed discussion on relations between the two countries in a cordial atmosphere.

Russian Prime Minister Putin said relations between Pakistan and Russia have reached a level, where both the countries were in a position to enhance trade and strengthen ties.

Moreover, Gilani said that Russia was an important country and a source of stability in the region because of its geographical proximity.

The projects

The money earmarked for Pakistan Steel Mills will be spent on repair of machinery and expansion of the steel mill. As a result, its production capacity is expected to increase from 1.1 million tons to 1.5 million tons per annum.

Earlier, Putin had offered Russia’s assistance for enhancing the mill’s production capacity from one million tons to three million tons.

Putin also announced willingness to help finance $500 million for the CASA-1000, a project that envisions building a 1,000-megawatt transmission line from hydropower generators in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are seeking more reliable and cheaper sources of electricity.

The initial agreements call for Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to supply an equal amount of electricity to Pakistan, which will receive 70-75 percent of the flow, and to Afghanistan, which will receive 20-25 percent, analysts from the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute told the United Press International...


http://tribune.com.pk/story/289087/russia-announces-500m-grant-for-pakistan-steel-mills/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's WSJ excerpts on Iran shooting down American stealth drone RQ-170 Sentinel also used in bin Laden raid in Pakistan:

WASHINGTON—Iran said on Sunday that it shot down a U.S. stealth drone near the country's eastern border, but U.S. officials in Afghanistan said the craft could instead be an unmanned reconnaissance plane that veered off course and crashed last week.

Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted a military official who said Tehran had downed an RQ-170 Sentinel, the U.S. Air Force's stealth drone.

U.S. and NATO officials wouldn't say what kind of American drone had disappeared, but U.S. officials said there was no indication that the aircraft had been shot down by the Iranians. One American official said the drone likely suffered from a mechanical failure.

American officials said they believe that after the remote pilots lost control of the aircraft, the drone crashed in an unknown location.

On Sunday afternoon, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's command in Afghanistan said the Iranians may have been referring to an unmanned craft lost while flying a mission over western Afghanistan "late last week."
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The RQ-170 Sentinel was the type of stealth drone used to conduct surveillance on the compound used by Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, before the May raid by Navy SEAL commandos that killed the al Qaeda leader.
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Defense analysts have speculated in the past that the Sentinel, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., was based in Afghanistan not just to conduct secret missions into Pakistan but also for surveillance of Iranian military sites.

The stealth drone was originally part of the Air Force's classified fleet and its existence was officially denied.

But the service now makes available a fact sheet about the aircraft.

The drone is a wing-shaped aircraft, like the stealth bomber, a design that is supposed to make it less visible to radar.

The number of Sentinels that the Air Force operates remains a closely guarded secret.

The "RQ" designation is used for unarmed drones, such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk. But some analysts have said the U.S. might try to arm the airframe at some point in the future.

Iran claims to have its own fleet of unarmed drones, but U.S. officials question Tehran's ability to conduct even short-range reconnaissance with unmanned aircraft.


http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204770404577078160095550518.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Washington Post story on tensions within Obama admin on relations with Pakistan:

Nonstop crises between the United States and Pakistan this year have fueled tensions within the Obama administration over what kind of relationship the two countries should have and who should be in charge of it.

The State Department has long smarted over the preeminence of military and intelligence priorities, which seems to leave diplomacy in a distant third place. The result, diplomats say, is that there is little goodwill to cushion blows such as the U.S. airstrike last month that left two dozen Pakistani soldiers dead along the Afghanistan border.

More than a week after the attack, President Obama called Pakistan’s president on Sunday to say that the deaths were “regrettable,” stopping short of an apology that many in Pakistan have called for.

The airstrike has cast a shadow over a major diplomatic gathering Monday in Bonn, Germany, that the administration hoped would help facilitate plans to wind down the Afghanistan war. Pakistan has said that it will not attend the meeting, which brings together more than 100 countries and international organizations and whose agenda includes regional and Afghan development and peace talks with the Taliban.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will lead the U.S. delegation, unsuccessfully appealed for a change of heart in a telephone call Saturday to Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

The U.S.-Pakistan breach has also set back Obama administration attempts to improve the brittle relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai told Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine on the eve of the Bonn meeting that he thought Kabul’s closest neighbor was trying to sabotage the possibility of peace negotiations.
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Until his retirement in September, Adm. Mike Mullen, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the most public face of the bilateral relationship. Mullen’s trips to Pakistan for face-to-face meetings with Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, were far more frequent than Clinton’s visits with the civilian authorities.

When an exasperated Mullen publicly accused Pakistan’s military of supporting Afghan insurgent groups in congressional testimony just before leaving office, some State Department officials said they felt blindsided.

On a subsequent visit to Pakistan in October, Clinton insisted on leading a delegation that included CIA Director David H. Petraeus and Mullen’s replacement, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey.

But the State Department’s efforts to assert at least the appearance of control over U.S. policy are regularly undermined by a steady stream of congressional visitors to Pakistan who “all want to visit Kayani,” an administration official said. “They don’t want to talk to their civilian counterparts” in Pakistan’s Parliament, “and they only want to stay a few hours,” the official said.

Retired Maj. Gen. Mahmud Ali Durrani, a former national security adviser to Gilani and Pakistani ambassador to the United States, agreed with that reality and the impression it leaves in Pakistan. “You look at the visitors from Washington,” Durrani said. “They would go and spend time with the president, then most of the serious discussions they had with the army chief.”

“In my view,” he said, “there is one and only one issue” between Pakistan and the United States, “and that is counterterrorism. And that is in the lap of the security establishment. So that, in itself, is a problem.”


http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-breach-with-pakistan-shows-imbalance-between-diplomatic-security-goals/2011/12/03/gIQAd2DsTO_story_1.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Tech Lahore blogger analysis of what Iran can learn from the US RQ-170 it has captured:

1. Airframe and low-observable design: While this is by no means the most important piece of information that can be gleaned from this drone, being in possession of a confirmed LO platform does allow someone to analyze it completely and replicate it. As far as the physical elements of design which contribute to stealth go, Iran should be able to get 100% of that information simply by observing, measuring and modeling this aircraft.

2. Materials: Reverse engineering many materials is entirely possible by studying their chemical composition. For example, RAM coatings....

3. Propulsion: There are two elements here; first, the engine itself, and second the techniques used to reduce the engine’s heat/sound signature. Let me tackle the first one here. I don’t know how advanced the power plant in the RQ-170 is, but reverse engineering a complex jet engine may not be possible in a short timeframe....

4. Techniques used for signature reduction: The RQ-170 design will likely employ numerous techniques to reduce the heat (IR) signature emanating from the engine or other active sources in the aircraft. It would also likely use techniques to reduce audio signature. Iran can definitely get a lot of value by studying the design, materials used and techniques employed to achieve this signature reduction. The Iranians have their own stealth project, the “Sofre Mahi”. This analysis could help them advance that stealth fighter development effort.

5. The actual audio signature of the RQ-170: This speaks more to detecting the presence of aircraft like the RQ-170 in future. For example, does the engine of the ’170 give off a particular “whine”, i.e. does it have a distinct audio signature? Depending on whether this is a high frequency, it could be possible to deploy audio sensors particularly tuned to listen for this pitch as a means for detection.

6. The all-aspect radar signature of the RQ-170: No design is perfect. There may be certain aspects which produce a higher signature than others. Now that Iran can study the full response profile of an RQ-170, it may learn more about how to detect these aircraft in future using radar configurations.

7. The cameras: This would be a huge asset for the Iranians in two ways. First, they will now know the exact capabilities of this surveillance platform in terms of resolution, light spectrum performance and numerous other aspects. This means they could plan on how to evade such surveillance. ....

8. The transceivers: There will be numerous transceivers on board and each of these will give the Iranians lots of information that can be used to develop cyber warfare capabilities to neutralize US drones, and also the means to eavesdrop on US communications. For example, the satellite transponder will tell the Iranians exactly which frequencies are used by US drones for sat link-up. Could the Iranians deploy balloon-based transmitters that “jam” or “spoof” these frequencies and deploy these over their own country, thus making it difficult for these drones to have a clean sat linkup? ...

9. The algorithms: This is a tough one. One line of thought says that it would be impossible to extract any “code” from this platform. Perhaps. But another line of thinking says that the processors and controllers employed in military projects are not much different to those available commercially. Yes, they have much higher tolerances and quality standards, but a lot of the basic technology is the same. ...

10. Encryption: This would apply both to the radio/satellite transceiver links as well as to any data or code stored on the RQ-170s own systems. ......


http://www.techlahore.com/2011/12/10/what-can-iran-learn-from-the-us-rq-170-stealth-drone/

Riaz Haq said...

Iran guided the CIA's "lost" stealth drone to an intact landing inside hostile territory by exploiting a navigational weakness long-known to the US military, according to an Iranian engineer now working on the captured drone's systems inside Iran, reports Christian Science Monitor.

Iranian electronic warfare specialists were able to cut off communications links of the American bat-wing RQ-170 Sentinel, says the engineer, who works for one of many Iranian military and civilian teams currently trying to unravel the drone’s stealth and intelligence secrets, and who could not be named for his safety.

Using knowledge gleaned from previous downed American drones and a technique proudly claimed by Iranian commanders in September, the Iranian specialists then reconfigured the drone's GPS coordinates to make it land in Iran at what the drone thought was its actual home base in Afghanistan.

"The GPS navigation is the weakest point," the Iranian engineer told the Monitor, giving the most detailed description yet published of Iran's "electronic ambush" of the highly classified US drone. "By putting noise [jamming] on the communications, you force the bird into autopilot. This is where the bird loses its brain."

The “spoofing” technique that the Iranians used – which took into account precise landing altitudes, as well as latitudinal and longitudinal data – made the drone “land on its own where we wanted it to, without having to crack the remote-control signals and communications” from the US control center, says the engineer.
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Western military experts and a number of published papers on GPS spoofing indicate that the scenario described by the Iranian engineer is plausible.

"Even modern combat-grade GPS [is] very susceptible” to manipulation, says former US Navy electronic warfare specialist Robert Densmore, adding that it is “certainly possible” to recalibrate the GPS on a drone so that it flies on a different course. “I wouldn't say it's easy, but the technology is there.”

In 2009, Iran-backed Shiite militants in Iraq were found to have downloaded live, unencrypted video streams from American Predator drones with inexpensive, off-the-shelf software. But Iran’s apparent ability now to actually take control of a drone is far more significant.


http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2011/1215/Exclusive-Iran-hijacked-US-drone-says-Iranian-engineer

Riaz Haq said...

Longest 33 day pause in drone strikes in Pakistan since 2008, reports Long War Journal:

The covert US drone program that hunts al Qaeda and allied terrorists operating in Pakistan's tribal areas has entered its longest pause since the strikes were ramped up in the summer of 2008.

The US has not launched a Predator or Reaper airstrike against terrorist targets in Pakistan for 33 days, according to statistics compiled by The Long War Journal. The last strike took place on Nov. 16 in the Ramzak area of North Waziristan.

US officials have previously told The Long War Journal that the program is "on hold" due to deteriorating relations between the US and Pakistan from the fallout of a cross-border incident by NATO forces in the tribal agency of Mohmand that resulted in the deaths of 24 Pakistani officers and soldiers.

One US official told The Long War Journal there is concern that another US strike on Pakistani soil will "push US-Pakistan relations past the point of no return." Another official said, however, that the US would attack if "an extremely high value target pops up." [See LWJ report, US drone strikes 'on hold' in Pakistan: US official, for more information on the reasons behind the current pause.]

The 33-day-long gap in strikes is the longest since another pause that took place in the spring of 2009 (28 days, May 16 to June 14). US officials attributed that gap to operational issues with the unmanned aircraft.

The third- and fourth-longest pauses also took place earlier this year, during a time of high tensions with Pakistan. A 27-day-long gap in strikes from Jan. 23 to Feb. 20 occurred after CIA contractor Raymond Davis killed two Pakistanis in Lahore. The US ended the pause in strikes the day Davis was returned to the US.

And a 25-day-long gap from March 17 to April 13 took place after the US killed dozens of Pakistanis in a strike in North Waziristan. That strike killed a senior Taliban leader and 11 fighters along with an estimated 30 tribesmen who were said to be negotiating mineral rights in the area. Several members of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, the military's intelligence arm, which supports the Taliban and other terror groups, were rumored to have also been killed in the strikes.

US officials had previously denied that the two pauses earlier this year were due to tensions with Pakistan, and instead cited operational issues with the unmanned aircraft, to include "weather." There have been significant pauses during that seasonal time period in previous years.

But one US official told The Long War Journal that the two long pauses earlier this year were indeed related to political problems with Pakistan encountered during those time frames.

"If it isn't clear by now, the airstrikes targeting AQAM (al Qaeda and allied movements) have been constrained by deteriorating relations [with Pakistan]," a senior US official said.


Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/12/us_drone_strikes_in.php#ixzz1h2mntuvO

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan is turning away from the West and looking East, reports RT.com:

...
(Dai Bingguo) visit came shortly after Beijing and Islamabad finalized a $1.6 billion currency swap agreement which will allow the two countries to boost their trade relations and decrease the involvement of the dollar. Currently China-Pakistan trade stands at $10 billion a year, but Dai has called for that figure to be increased to $15 billion over the next three to four years.

China is strengthening its role as a regional leader, and Pakistan is among key targets for Beijing’s influence building strategy. It is investing in a number of big construction projects in the country, including the Karakorum Highway and Gwadar Port, both of which will improve China’s transport links with energy-rich Gulf nations. It will also help Pakistan develop its nuclear power industry.

The Chinese army also regularly performs joint war games with Pakistani forces. Islamabad is seeking China’s military support against its long-time rival, India, while China needs a stable and well-defended Pakistan to stop any future incursion into its territory of extremists from volatile Afghanistan.

The visit comes as Pakistan distances itself from its long-time strategic ally, the US. The year 2011 was a difficult one for relations between Islamabad and Washington, with a number of incidents contributing to the deterioration. The downward spiral started in January when a CIA contractor killed two men but later evaded punishment because families of the victims were paid blood money. The case caused anger in Pakistan when the US said the perpetrator had diplomatic immunity and demanded his release.

In May, US commandos raided Pakistan’s territory and killed Osama bin Laden, who had been living in the country for several years. Islamabad was given no warning of the operation, which angered the Pakistani military. Washington said if it had informed Pakistan’s government in advance, the Al-Qaeda leader would have been alerted, enabling him to escape.

In November, a US air strike on a Pakistani border post killed 24 troops who were mistaken for Taliban militants. It took the Pentagon a month to reluctantly admit their part of the blame for the deadly mistake and offer apologies. However, the Pakistani military do not appear to consider the case closed.

The Americans also have their share of grudges against Pakistan, from the alleged embezzlement of military aid to alleged support for Taliban attacks in Afghanistan, to harboring bin Laden. With relations between the allies deteriorating, Pakistan has more and more incentive to turn away from the US as its key partner and side with China, which challenges American influence in the region.

Joseph Chang, a professor of political science at Hong Kong City University, believes the alliance is beneficial to both sides. China, an ally of Pakistan against India and Soviet Union during the Cold War, now sees the benefits of a partnership with Pakistan as primarily economic.

“Pakistan has been Beijing’s best ally throughout the history of the People’s Republic of China,” he told RT. “Increasingly, Pakistan has a certain strategic value to China because of the completion of the Karakorum Highway, as well as the almost-completion of the Gwadar port. China certainly hopes that it can, through land links to Pakistan, then open up sea links to the Indian Ocean and bring oil through this route, avoiding the overcrowded Straits of Malacca.”

Chang believes Pakistan could also profit from the alliance: “China is always very helpful in terms of trade, investment as well as military and economic aid. So having an ally like China will help to much strengthen Pakistan’s bargaining power with Washington DC.”


http://rt.com/news/pakistan-china-ties-us-647/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on the high cost of alternative routes while NATO supplies thru Pakistan remain shut:

The U.S. is paying six times as much to send war supplies to troops in Afghanistan through alternate routes after Pakistan’s punitive decision in November to close border crossings to NATO convoys, the Associated Press has learned.

Islamabad shut down two key Pakistan border crossings after a U.S. airstrike killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers in late November, and it is unclear when the crossings might reopen.

Pentagon figures provided to the AP show it is now costing about $104 million per month to send the supplies through a longer northern route. That is $87 million more per month than when the cargo moved through Pakistan.

While U.S. officials have acknowledged that using alternate transportation routes for Afghan war supplies is more expensive and takes longer, the total costs had not been revealed until now. The Pentagon provided the cost figures to the AP on Thursday.

U.S. officials said Thursday the elevated costs are likely to continue for some time, as U.S.-Pakistan tensions remain high and Pakistan has not yet offered to restore the transport arrangement or to begin negotiations on the matter. Until the closure, the U.S. had relied on Pakistani routes to move about one-third of all war supplies for Afghanistan.

The U.S. has given Pakistan more than $20 billion in aid since 9/11, including civilian and military assistance. But over the past year, relations with Islamabad have been strained by a series of incidents, including the U.S. assault in Pakistan last May that killed Osama bin Laden.
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Pakistani officials say they are sorting through the thousands of stranded vehicles to push through supplies for Afghans. So far, the Pakistanis have given no indication of when they will open the border for NATO supplies to Afghanistan.

There has been limited contact between top U.S. and Pakistani officials.

Last week, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talked by phone with his Pakistani counterpart, Army Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, their first contact since Dec. 21. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has not spoken to Pakistani leaders since the incident.


http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/apnewsbreak-pakistans-closure-of-supply-routes-costs-us-6-times-more-for-new-route/2012/01/19/gIQAzTUTBQ_story.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AHN report on US intelligence assessment of US-Pak relations:

At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, top U.S. intelligence officials were candid in admitting that the bilateral relationship with Pakistan is essential but strained at present.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, categorized the relationship as “challenging … but important one,” citing Pakistan’s status as a nuclear power.

Replying to a question from chairwoman Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Clapper said, “Their existential threat continues to be India,” stressing that, “Pakistan and our interests are not always congruent.”

“Sometimes our interests converge and sometimes they differ,” said Clapper, adding, “I would characterize the relationship is crucial — we have one and have a positive relationship even though we have gone through some trying times.”

Accepting the fact that present U.S.-Pakistan relations are at their nadir, CIA Director David Petraeus said, “The relationship is very important but relationship right now is quite strained.” He added, “The most recent cause of that, of course, is the 26 November border incident between ISAF and Pakistani forces.”

Petraeus highlighted the ongoing domestic tensions among different political, judicial and military players within Pakistan, saying, “The activities right now are also complicated because of the difficulties in the domestic context there where there is a bit of tension between the Supreme Court, between the Army Chief and the ISI director and the government of president and the prime minister.”

There were positive signs of change in internal political equations in Pakistan, according to Petraeus.

The intelligence chief said it was “worth noting that the former Pakistani ambassador to the United States — Ambassador [Husain] Haqqani was allowed to leave and he did arrive in the UAE this morning.”

Haqqani was forced to resign late last year after Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz claimed Haqqani had asked him to pass on a memo, on behalf of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, to the American government calling for their help to oust Islamabad’s military leadership.

Ijaz has since hesitated to return to Pakistan to appear before the Pakistani agencies investigating the truth behind the claims.

Citing “awareness there that this is a critically important relationship,” Petraeus said, “There is a committee (in the Pakistani Parliament) that is determining recommendations to make for the government for the way forward between United States and Pakistan.”

On the ongoing refuge and safe heavens in Pakistan for terrorists, Clapper said, “During the past year, the Taliban lost some ground, but that was mainly in places where the International Security Assistance Forces … were concentrated,” adding that “the Taliban’s senior leaders continued to enjoy safe haven in Pakistan.”

Clapper argued that for success Afghanistan needed support from ISAF and its neighbors — particularly Pakistan. “And although there’s broad international political support for the Afghan government,” he added, “there are doubts in many capitals, particularly in Europe, about how to fund Afghanistan initiatives after 2014.”


http://gantdaily.com/2012/02/01/top-u-s-intelligence-officials-cite-interests-with-pakistan-as-not-always-congruent/

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts of CBS 60 Minutes segment on Stuxnet aired on Mar 4, 2012:

The first attack, using a computer virus called Stuxnet was launched several years ago against an Iranian nuclear facility, almost certainly with some U.S. involvement. But the implications and the possible consequences are only now coming to light.

FBI Director Robert Mueller: I do believe that the cyberthreat will equal or surpass the threat from counterterrorism in the foreseeable future.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: There's a strong likelihood that the next Pearl Harbor that we confront could very well be a cyberattack.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers: We will suffer a catastrophic cyberattack. The clock is ticking.

And there is reason for concern. For more than a decade, the U.S. military establishment has treated cyberspace as a domain of conflict, where it would need the capability to fend off attack, or launch its own. That time is here. Because someone sabotaged a top secret nuclear installation in Iran with nothing more than a long string of computer code.

Ret. Gen. Mike Hayden: We have entered into a new phase of conflict in which we use a cyberweapon to create physical destruction, and in this case, physical destruction in someone else's critical infrastructure.
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We know from reverse engineering the attack codes that the attackers have full, and I mean this literally, full tactical knowledge of every damn detail of this plant. So you could say in a way they know the plant better than the Iranian operator.

We wanted to know what Retired General Michael Hayden had to say about all this since he was the CIA director at the time Stuxnet would have been developed.
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You can download the actual source code of Stuxnet now and you can repurpose it and repackage it and then, you know, point it back towards wherever it came from.

Kroft: Sounds a little bit like Pandora's box.

McGurk: Yes.

Kroft: Whoever launched this attack--


http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57390124/stuxnet-computer-worm-opens-new-era-of-warfare/?pageNum=4&tag=contentMain;contentBody

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece in a Russian newspaper on Putin's visit to Pakistan:

Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin will, on his first foreign tour after taking office, make his first stop in Pakistan. It symbolizes not just Pakistan’s importance in the region, but the shift in relations which means that the two countries, kept apart for so many years because of Russia’s espousal of Communism, are trying to come together. Russia seeks a new ally in the region, to substitute for India, now in the American lap, after the collapse of the USSR. Mr Putin’s visit shows that Russia intends to play a more proactive role in world affairs. It must do so, because by ceding to US supremacy, it has seen it not just invade Afghanistan physically, but threaten Iran. Russia has found its own physical space threatened by US expansionism, with the expansion of Nato threatening it in the West, the snatching away of India and the occupation of Afghanistan threatening it in Asia. The visit is a result of the successful visits to Russia by President Asif Zardari, in August 2010 for the Quadrilateral Summit, and by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar earlier this year.

Russia had previously tried to make headway in Pakistan through the Steel Mills project, and now it has offered to be involved in the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. This is an offer that Pakistan must not hesitate to take up. While Pakistan's official 'ally' has done its best to sabotage the project, and has insisted India withdraw from it, Russia is extending a helping hand. Unlike the steel mills, the pipeline from Iran is existential, providing as it will, gas not just for domestic and industrial users, but also for power production. Thus not just for strategic concerns, but national interest should incline Pakistan towards Russia. However, as strategic concerns include Afghanistan, which Russia has been deeply interested in for a very long time, Russia would also be interested in how Pakistan sees the future of Afghanistan.

It should also be recognized that Russia has a deep interest in the reset in relations between the USA and Pakistan that is presently being discussed by the joint sitting of Parliament. Russia too has seen that the US has not just gained access to South Asia through Pakistan, but also Central Asia. As Russia is seeking an ally in the region to substitute for India, and as Pakistan is distanced from the USA, Russia is naturally more interested in Pakistan than ever before. President Putin’s visit, the first ever by a Russian President to Pakistan, reflects that.


http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_04_13/71586559/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

With confirmation that the United States was behind the 2010 cyberattack on Iran's nuclear enrichment facility, the world has officially entered a new era of warfare. The New York Times' comprehensive reporting details how the US and Israeli governments developed the malicious Stuxnet software and how they deployed it in the digital wilderness of the Internet specifically to attack the plant at Natanz. Over the past decade, US experts have strenuously warned about the ominous possibility of other nations, rogue states, or even terrorist groups attacking US infrastructure through the Internet. As it happens, however, it is the United States that has developed malicious software in secrecy and launched it against another country -- in this case, Iran.

The parallels with the invention and first use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are eerie. Consider the similarities: First, government and scientific leaders invent a new kind of weapon out of fear that others will develop it first and threaten the United States. Second, the consequences of using the new weapon -- both the material damage it might cause as well as its effects on international security and arms-race dynamics -- are poorly understood. Third, scientists and engineers warn political and military leaders about the dangers of the new weapon and call for international cooperation to create rules of the road. Fourth, despite warnings by experts, the US government continues to develop this new class of weaponry, ultimately unleashing it without warning and without public discussion of its implications for peace and security.

And so, this may be another watershed moment, when, as Albert Einstein put it in 1954: "Everything has changed save our way of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe."

During World War II, the Allies feared that Germany would be the first to create an atomic bomb with disastrous consequences for civilization. And so, in utmost secrecy, the United States and Britain mobilized their scientists and engineers in order to develop the first atomic bombs. In the end, Germany did not come close to producing a nuclear weapon; perhaps US fears had been overstated. But the major goal was achieved: The Allies won the race to create to harness atomic energy in a bomb. But instead of declaring that the game was over, American political leaders considered using the new bomb to bring the war against Japan to an end.
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In 1945, atomic scientists determined that only international control of nuclear energy could prevent an arms race between the United States and other countries. In yet another parallel, cyber scientists and engineers also have called for international cooperation to establish institutions to control cybertechnology and protocols to prevent a new kind of arms race. Unfortunately, these recommendations have not been heeded either, and once more, government leaders seem all too eager to deploy a new and very dangerous weapon.

And how ironic that the first acknowledged military use of cyberwarfare is ostensibly to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. A new age of mass destruction will begin in an effort to close a chapter from the first age of mass destruction.


http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/columnists/kennette-benedict/stuxnet-and-the-bomb

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an IEEE Spectrum piece on Stuxnet virus:

1986

The Brain boot sector virus (aka Pakistani flu), the first IBM PC–compatible virus, is released and causes an epidemic. It was created in Lahore, Pakistan, by 19-year-old Basit Farooq Alvi and his brother, Amjad Farooq Alvi.
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Computer cables snake across the floor. Cryptic flowcharts are scrawled across various whiteboards adorning the walls. A life-size Batman doll stands in the hall. This office might seem no different than any other geeky workplace, but in fact it’s the front line of a war—a cyberwar, where most battles play out not in remote jungles or deserts but in suburban office parks like this one. As a senior researcher for Kaspersky Lab, a leading computer security firm based in Moscow, Roel Schouwenberg spends his days (and many nights) here at the lab’s U.S. headquarters in Woburn, Mass., battling the most insidious digital weapons ever, capable of crippling water supplies, power plants, banks, and the very infrastructure that once seemed invulnerable to attack.

Recognition of such threats exploded in June 2010 with the discovery of Stuxnet, a 500-kilobyte computer worm that infected the software of at least 14 industrial sites in Iran, including a uranium-enrichment plant. Although a computer virus relies on an unwitting victim to install it, a worm spreads on its own, often over a computer network.

This worm was an unprecedentedly masterful and malicious piece of code that attacked in three phases. First, it targeted Microsoft Windows machines and networks, repeatedly replicating itself. Then it sought out Siemens Step7 software, which is also Windows-based and used to program industrial control systems that operate equipment, such as centrifuges. Finally, it compromised the programmable logic controllers. The worm’s authors could thus spy on the industrial systems and even cause the fast-spinning centrifuges to tear themselves apart, unbeknownst to the human operators at the plant. (Iran has not confirmed reports that Stuxnet destroyed some of its centrifuges.)
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Companies have been slow to invest the resources required to update industrial controls. Kaspersky has found critical-infrastructure companies running 30-year-old operating systems. In Washington, politicians have been calling for laws to require such companies to maintain better security practices. One cybersecurity bill, however, was stymied in August on the grounds that it would be too costly for businesses. “To fully provide the necessary protection in our democracy, cybersecurity must be passed by the Congress,” Panetta recently said. “Without it, we are and we will be vulnerable.”

In the meantime, virus hunters at Kaspersky and elsewhere will keep up the fight. “The stakes are just getting higher and higher and higher,” Schouwenberg says. “I’m very curious to see what will happen 10, 20 years down the line. How will history look at the decisions we’ve made?”


http://spectrum.ieee.org/telecom/security/the-real-story-of-stuxnet

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Atlantic mag piece on more lethal US robotic military:

In the future, an Army brigade might have 3,000 human troops instead of 4,000, but a lot more robots, according to recent remarks by General Robert Cone, the Army's head of Training and Doctrine Command.

"I’ve got clear guidance to think about what if you could robotically perform some of the tasks in terms of maneuverability, in terms of the future of the force," Defense News reported he said in a speech at the Army Aviation Symposium.

Continuing, he noted that the Army had devoted more resources to "force protection," keeping the troops safe, at the cost of some firepower. "I think we’ve also lost a lot in lethality," Cone said.

Robots could reduce the force protection burden, giving the Army more killing power per brigade.

Those robots could be a pack bot like the Legged Squad Support System perhaps, or a conventional-looking semi or fully autonomous vehicle like Lockheed Martin's Squad Mission Support System.

The lesson? If Google is doing it, DARPA is also doing it, but with more lethality.


http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/01/the-future-of-the-army-fewer-soldiers-more-robots-more-lethality/283230/