Monday, October 31, 2016

Missing Physics - The 9/11 Towers to Dust Theory

NIST has very wisely stayed away from describing the physics of the collapse of the WTC towers. Most ordinary observers have seen the videos of the dust clouds and wondered how a 100 story concrete building could come down like that.

In the space created by NIST's unwillingness to address the issue of the collapse and the public's fascination with the terrible events of 9/11, a number of conspiracy theorists have embedded themselves.

I don't wish to debunk anything - I believe everyone is entitled to their own views.

I do wish to point out though that in the reams of material on the internet about the tower collapse, two pieces of physics are largely missing. Both these physics pieces could account for a good fraction of the phenomenology observed.

We can accept the following did happen on 9/11. Some kind of airplane (or flying thing with lots of aviation turbine fuel) flew into a building. The fuel inside the "flying thingy" ignited inside the building and caused a massive inferno. I happen to think the "flying thingy" was an airplane [see videos from Fresh Kills]

Usually when you have an inferno like that - you get a convectional flow cell that transports the burning matter and the accompanying hot air in one direction. The exact direction this chooses is dependent heavily on the exact nature of the burn, but after a brief amount of chaotic behavior the convection cell structure stabilizes.

Once a steady-ish pattern of flow is established, a relatively simple set of energy transport processes are put in place. The first energy transport is along the direction of the flow and the second energy transport is perpendicular to the direction of the flow.  If the flow brushes against a stationary object - this cross-flow energy transfer has an inter-facial aspect to it - i.e. energy is transferred from the flow to the stationary object even if the object isn't directly in the way of the flow.

This brings me to the two missing pieces of physics.

The first piece of physics that is missing is cavitation [1].

A lot of people have talked about the absence of extremely high temperatures which could cause powder formation seen in the WTC debris. This part is correct [2].  The thing is though - you don't need high temperature to powder things, you can do it with cavitation [3]. The exact physics of cavitation is still somewhat mysterious but we know it happens in many systems. If I have a very high velocity (high Reynolds Number) flow near a concrete column, even at relatively low temperatures I will see a remarkable amount of cavitation near the surface and then we will see fractures propagating into the concrete. The erosion due to the turbulent flow proximate to the concrete could produce a significant weakening of the columns [4]. Once sufficient weakening has occurred, the concrete column which is under compression should buckle [5] spewing out tiny pieces of concrete at moving at extremely high speeds.

This brings me to the second piece of missing physics - pyroclastic flow [6].

Again traditional literature on pyroclastic flow describes it loosely as high temperature, fast moving transport of rock and air (above ground) /water(if the volcano is underwater). But if you think about it carefully, what you need for significant momentum transfer is the entrainment of sufficient amounts of rock in a fast moving flow. Once that happens - the flow is just as destructive as the traditional pyroclastic kind seen at volcanoes. Perhaps a good example of this what was seen in the famed Yosemite National Park 1996 event [7], where a slab of granite weighing several hundred tons fell to a thousand or so feet on to the forests below [8]. In that event too we saw similar destruction to a pyroclastic flow - but without the heat. [9]

As the small pieces of concrete that spew out of the buckling concrete get entrained in the flow, they will act in a fashion analogous to a traditional pyroclastic flow. This will powder anything in their path. This kind of "pyroclastic flow" would turn to dust before your very eyes. The effect would be similar to the action of a ball mill [see 5.08 in 10] or a jet mill [11].

If you add these missing pieces to what is known about the collapse, it may help you explain what you see without resorting to "Star Trek Physics" i.e. ("Free Energy", "Directed Energy") .

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Acquittal of the Oregon Occupiers

I confess I find this verdict shocking. I can't believe that persons who points a weapon at a police officer or federal agent is allowed to go free.

I am baffled that they would let people get away with this kind of behavior, especially as in other countries, the standard policing response to this is to shoot first and ask questions later.

I was reading the judicial instructions given to the jury in this case. [1]

The complexity of these instructions may account for what verdict has been returned. The jury probably found this level of complexity daunting, and the ten hours of testimony [2] by one of the defendants was able to influence the jury's perspective.

One particular part sticks out to me:

"A conspiracy is a kind of criminal partnership – an agreement of two or more persons to engage in illegal conduct.''
"It is not enough that they simply met, discussed matters of common interest, acted in similar ways or perhaps helped one another."

This essentially leaves the entire judgement open to the perception of what constitutes "agreement" and "illegal".

I have not seen the detailed reports of the case, but it seems that one of the defendants was able to convince the jury that though there was "agreement" - the actions themselves were not "illegal" but rather perfectly legal expressions of the first and second amendment rights of the defendants. The defendant was able to hoodwink the jury into looking at what he was trying to do as opposed to what he actually did.

Given that how much of that kind of con job rests on the ability of the defendant to secure trust in the minds of the jurors, I feel the judgement would have been quite the opposite if the defendant was not from the same ethnic background as the jurors or even if the defendant looked like someone less desirable.

This is beginning to look like a joke in the Onion [3].

I guess that is what is implied in the words "a jury of their peers".

That a judicial system would permit people of a certain ethnicity to go free despite challenging federal agents and police officers with lethal weapons is deeply deeply disturbing.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Predictive Modeling of the US Elections

The 2016 US election is a great place to understand some of the intricacies of using predictive modeling in complex systems. Nate Silver has recently published a post on the shift in the polls recently and its impact on the overall election model [1]. At the very end of the post - Nate talks about Donald Trump's chances of winning being equal to the chance of losing a game of Russian roulette.

The one thing I really like about the US modeling efforts is that the process is quite transparent. I feel this is best way to do this. That way no one can claim you did something to fudge the results.

In Nate's models [2] - each poll is taken as an input and assigned a credibility score.  While the one place everyone can complain is the credibility score, it is an open process [3]. In order to have a high credibility score, your polling organization has to put the data and the analysis for a public review. Your firm also has to produce consistently good agreement between the polls and the eventual outcome.  Each poll is assigned a margin of error so that the agreement of the poll with real world outcomes can be evaluated.

While the details may be too dense for the average reader to parse, the key point that one has to recognize is that the polling agencies and the predictive models only gain from matching their prediction to the outcome. This vested interest drives them towards more accuracy. Whatever the biases of the pollsters or the modelers, if their predictions don't match reality - they won't get paid next time. And the rating system ensures that this accuracy evaluation is almost continuously performed. IMO this is the best it can get.

While a poll or model can't guarantee any outcome - so there is no reason for any side to lose heart at the sight of one - polls and models are at the core of how a campaign manages its resources internally. If polling data and modeling consistently show deficits in a particular geographical region, and that region is important from a strategic perspective - then the campaign has to seek out ways of reaching out to the people who live there.

The Clinton and Trump campaigns are diametrically opposite in the way they approach the polling data and subsequent modeling.

The Clinton campaign uses a very data driven approach - the model is most likely an old aggressively tested one from past elections, and the exact polling data (i.e. credibility scoring system) is very nuanced.  Resources are focused where the data says there is some possibility of a significant return. The Clinton campaign behaves like a well managed mutual fund on Wall Street.

The Donald Trump campaign does not seem to be interested in anything detailed. The polls are seen merely as a publicity vehicle -if they favor Donald Trump - the campaign can't stop talking about them but if they don't the entire campaign dismisses them as being "rigged". It is not clear to me if there is even a higher level data model. Resources are allocated based on Donald's gut feelings. The Trump campaign operates like a small family managed investment firm.

It makes sense in a way I suppose, Hillary Clinton is a career politician who is used to having every minute of her existence scrutinized and dissected by everyone.  Donald Trump runs a small family firm that leverages risky-investments off a guerrilla marketing strategy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The attack at PTC Quetta

A massive terrorist strike has occurred at Police Training College Quetta. A fidayeen squad targeted the facility and several dozen cadets were killed. The police are presently blaming this atrocity on the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi-al-Alami [1] which they allege is working out of Afghanistan.  As I was writing this post - IS claimed responsibility for the attack [2,3].

I can never find a clear thread in these events in Pakistan but here are some things I have noted.

The Pakistan Army relies on a very complex  relationship with Jihadi groups to secure its "sub-conventional" options vis-a-vis India. There seems to be a dedicated apparat which handles this relationship and for organizational purposes, the apparat divides the  Jihadi groups into ones that will take money and do what they are told and ones that won't. The latter are publicly identified as enemies-of-Pakistan and are usually lumped with India in the Pakistani media discourse.

Most Jihadi groups that operate inside Pakistan limit the attacks to the security forces. The aim is to avoid alienating the population at large which serves as a manpower reserve and psychological support mechanism. Killing civilians is not something the Jihadi groups vie to take credit for. The same is not true for attacks on security forces. If the attack is very successful, then there is a kind of competition to take credit for the attack. Any claim of responsibility is usually linked to something the  security forces did.

There are numerous reports of IS penetration of Jihadi groups inside Pakistan. It is not entirely impossible that the Pakistan Army may be facing some competitive pressure from the Islamic State brand on the financial offers it makes to various groups. Such a competitive bidding process would doubtlessly lead to a massive surge in terror attacks inside Pakistan. As the IS operation in Mosul winds down, there is likely to be a spread of IS operations and spectaculars anywhere.

Monday, October 24, 2016

What does "Special Forces" really mean?

Over the weekend - I watched may YouTube videos (it is very easy to OD on these) and I came across fine examples of what-is and what-is-NOT special forces in my humble opinion.

The term "Special Force" is used quite generally to refer to a variety of roles. The word is often used interchangeably with the word "Commando". I am not going to bother with the lexical issues and stick to simple ways in which you can distinguish between the various groups of people with the "Special Forces" or "Commando" tag.

For starters - what-is-NOT a "Special Force" - Here is a prime example - Shifuji's Commando Course. This is just an average Indian Army obstacle course. The men taking it having difficulty with it because they are doing it in wet conditions with fully loaded backpacks and rifles. Watching Shifuji come up a hill with an AK pointed near the feet of the people ahead of him, makes me uncomfortable. I hope for the sake of the safety of those men that weapon is not loaded. Thankfully at 2.30 we can see a safety that ON, but this is pure theater - there is very little that can be termed "Commando" training here.

At a most basic level what one is looking for in a "Commando" is the ability to think and act in ways that the enemy does not expect. This requires a significantly higher level of physical, technical and psychological skills.

In terms of physical skill the most sought after thing is endurance. The simplest endurance cut-off that really "Special Forces" use is an ultramarathon. If the candidate can complete an ultramarathon (usually performed with a 20kg kit, over adverse terrain and in a reasonable time) - then they make the cut. Another skill that the Special Forces look for is ability to cope with the agony of running out of air. This is commonly explored through simulated drowning. If the candidate can live handle several hours of repeated near drowning without hypoxia or brain damage - they make the cut. Another common test is a three day continuous stress test. There is a version of this in every real special forces organization.

The typical suite of technical skills for this role is familiarity with various weapons, marksmanship, CQB techniques, use of specialized equipment (such imaging devices), Map reading/Navigation, secure communications (RT sets), paramedical skills, rappelling and linguistics. Typically this skill set is spread out across an entire platoon, and in a "Commando" you try to get a lot of this packed into one individual.

The main psychological skill they are looking for is the ability to resist demoralization. A common framework used is stressful exertion followed by demands to perform complex organizational or technical tasks while being subject to intense distraction. Another common tool is simulated capture and interrogation. The objective here is to test the candidates memory, their mental acuity under stress and most importantly their ability to  remain focused on the mission.

For a SWAT type force - a fraction of physical skills and technical skills are tested for. Emphasis is usually laid on marksmenship, the ability to familiarize oneself with weapons and low light vision devices, limited formation movement, and some endurance. This is why all SWAT teams kind of look alike and make the same sorts of videos. [Sindh Police SSU, Khyber Pakhtunwa Police SCU, Bombay Police Force One , Brazilian PMERJ BOPE etc...]

For a federal police unit - some of the physical skills, a larger fraction of the technical skills and some of the psychological are tested. The emphasis is on urban environment. This is why most federal conflict resolution teams look similar perform HRT type roles (MHA-NSG, FBI-HRT , FSB-Vympel)

A higher level conflict resolution team (a "really special forces" - DEVGRU, Para-SF, SSG etc..) tests all the things listed above. This effort is very expensive. It is expensive because a very small fraction of people make it through the testing. The usual number quoted for the pass rate is about 1%. Putting these extremely high capability individuals in harms way can lead to a significant loss of capability. The usual rule is don't put them at risk unless you absolutely have to.

The extremely high level conflict resolution teams are also expensive because when someone passes through all that training, they only remain effective for a few years.

The published service spans of special forces operators in the US are about 7 years, Navy seals are often told that more than half of each passing batch will not make it past their 30th birthday. So in order for a special force to exist for long periods of time, you have to invest in a great deal of recruitment and training.

That part is difficult for most governments. No one wants to invest in capabilities that aren't tied to direct threats. This makes securing funding for anything long term very challenging. One typical scheme (used in many countries) is to setup a "special operations" incubator. And then this "incubator" spawns a variety of units. The units are special task forces that are gradually regularized into full establishments of their own. The regularized establishments then set up training wings of their own and spread their knowledge to other related or affiliated groups.

Friday, October 21, 2016

A visual guide to India's special operations capabilities

I think a lot of media folk are finding it hard to distinguish between the various groups of Indian special operators.

India (despite what you hear in the press) is still not rich enough to bring all its armed forces to very high levels of readiness and training. So the GoI decided to do this piecemeal. Where possible they raised special units with some immediate justification and then used the units to incubate a gradual improvement in the training and quality of the main force.  I think the scheme has paid off - to an extent - but the result is a massive proliferation of special forces. This making the landscape visually complicated.

One my pet peeves is when a local channel attempts to pass off footage of special forces people as something completely different. Recently a channel was showing some SOG people and then talking about them as if it was footage of actually Jihadis. That is not a good thing.

I hear that a somewhat related problem in the Op Rakshak Theater is IFF. There should be a color-of-the-day but that is quite risky so the alternative is to simply shoot first and ask questions later. Worst case you get chewed out by your CO for being trigger-happy - best case you immobilize a threat.

Anyway - here is a visual guide with some information.

1) SG/22/Mavericks - No uniform, facial camouflage, any weapon.[Ex. Maj. Sudhir Kumar, Maj. Amit Deswal, Maj. Udai Singh] - if you see a name against a photo of one of these people - it most likely implies they are dead. Their faces are seldom exposed, they perform a lot of undercover work. There are many sub-branches of this establishment (Ex. Vikas Regiment) very few have been photographed. I have even heard of Ladakh Scouts people being lumped with this establishment.

2) IA - SF in the valley - Maroon beret/patka, facial camouflage, Tavor or AK.[Ex. RR Cdo] Mainly provide high endurance interdiction of known Jihadi modules over adverse terrain.

3) Unified Command - SOG in the valley - Mixed fatigues, No Patka/Beret, face covered, AK variant [Ex. Pulwama SOG]. This organization used to  have two parts - the SOG and the STF. The STF component AFAIK is no longer active. Typically used for intelligence gathering and targeted operations.

4) "SG-I and SG-II" (Most likely under UC) - Fatigues, no head gear, AK variant. Limited to operations in the Pir Panjals. Comprised of Gujjars and other natives of the area - these units help interdict an arms supply channel from Pakistan. I have only seen one set of photos of these guys - it was circa 2003 and I'm not sure if these units are still on active status.

5)  JK-Ikhwan/National Security Organization (UC) - Shalwar kameez, beards, AK variants, (Ex. This Guy). Limited levels of active duty personnel. Most units disbanded.

6) IA - SF (Para) in the valley - Maroon beret, no facial camouflage, Tavor/AK variant. Deploy from ALH for AIOS security roles - exposed faces mean they are not assigned undercover roles.  [see here]

7) MHA-NSG (Phantom) - Black attire, conspicuous webbing, HRT gear, black balaclava masks. [Ex. This Guy] - primarily HRT roles. Usually a subset something called 51-SAG.

8) MHA-NSG (SRG) - Black dungarees, Black or Maroom Beret, usually with HKMP5 or MP5k variant. Typically assigned to VIP security. [See these people]

9) MHA-SPG - Usually seen around PMs and ex-PMs or family of ex-PMs. Hard to mistake for anything else [Here their Counter-Fire Team]

10) IN - MARCOS - Black attire, facial camouflage, scuba gear, rarely seen in public barring the occasional media spectacle. [See here]

11) IAF - Garud - Peculiar fatigues, Cloth hats, helmets, eyes covered and faces shaved. Seen at airbases and the odd security detail for senior IAF officers in a sensitive area [see here]

12) CRPF - Cobra - Jungle fatigues, cloth hats, helmets, faces exposed, Tavors [a typical image]. One typically sees these guys in the Maoist insurgency areas.

13) CISF Commandos - Mixed fatigues, cloth hats, peculiar balaclava with white stripes. AK variants some Tavors [see here]. Mostly seen on YouTube - supposedly trained to provide QRFs at critical installations.

14) "Ghatak/Commando" - Slightly better kitted versions of their peers mainly for serving HRM (High Risk Missions) and providing local QRFs. Closer to the F-INSAS standard promoted some years ago. Usually have a prominent personal comm-link on the left top. [see here]

Okay - I will bite.. Who is Shifuji?

I am sure you have seen this before and wondered - what am I looking at?

I confess - I do not have a clue - who Shifuji is?

I don't know what his connection to various special operations teams in India is.

It seems he idolizes other people with mustaches.. and is some kind of expert in martial arts, and does something with Bollywood, and I guess he trains corporate security teams.

Most of these corporate security teams are retreads of IA/CPMF retirees - so I am not sure what additional training he is imparting but I guess some refresher courses might not be so bad.

I have trouble taking CQB advice from someone who has never killed anyone with their bare hands before. It is a credibility thing - and I am entitled to an opinion. It is just that no one I know who has actually killed people goes around calling themselves the "deadliest commando"...  most don't even want to talk about it much less advertise it on a website and YouTube video.

But beyond that I don't know who he is.

If any of you do - please tell me.

And if this is just all Bollywood stuff - then please ignore completely.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What the "surgical strikes" mean for the Special Forces in India

I am going to speak on these issues without direct references to a specific published text but if you are looking for where I am coming from - the core information can be found in Saikat's book. The rest of what I am saying - can be dismissed as the spin of an old fool. I don't actually know why I am bothering to do this - it doesn't fit into 160 characters and everyone is much happier listening to Rajit.

In the days of old a warlord in a distant land approached a very capable police officer in India and spoke about his fears that India's neighbor was building and testing nuclear weapons. To find out if this was actually the case a special group of people was set up. The selection process for this special group was quite tough. People with a certain flair for independent thinking and coherent action were selected. The emphasis was on people who were very fit but did not have to be given very detailed orders for every little thing and were willing and able to do whatever was needed to make it all hold together.

This special group climbed mountains and looked over the horizon at what was happening. They also trekked deep within the neighbor's yard and repeatedly picked up the neighbor's family members and asked them if they knew anything about his nuclear intentions. As long as they could determine that neighbor did not intend to deploy nuclear weapons in his back yard there was a chance that the peace of a thousand years could remain.

The people of this special group sat in a set of old huts behind the President's house. They had unfettered access to parts of Hindon and Palam - which all they really seemed to need. It was a small low/no profile affair.

And as time wore on, the warlord lost interest in this part of the world but his friend the police officer grew in national stature. It was after all a small country back then and everyone knew everyone. The police officer was asked by his commander to help solve a vexing problem along the eastern border. Again he fell back on the men of the special group. Again they delivered. This became a pattern whatever was asked - they delivered with no questions. They did grumble occasionally but it was nothing compared to what they delivered.

What started as a small group of misfits - gradually morphed into a real but nameless establishment with a real sense of national thought. As they were usually the last steps of the national thought process - they became the real stakeholders in all policy making. Never has a small group of people had so much influence on the nation since the companions of Gandhiji.

What emerged from this establishment was a very lean and mean version of India's national security policy. A minimalist national thinking - long on substance and short on bullshit. Long after the policeman retired, the group continued to affect the way India thought about critical issues. As the national sphere expanded and threats morphed, the group grew in size to meet the various needs. Eventually a place was set up in Himachal Pradesh to gradually fill the ranks. The place was managed by the Army and the volunteers from the Army staffed the ranks. The standards were extremely high - about 1% of those that applied actually made it through. Those that got through were capable of picking up new languages, dialects, adapting to new cultures while still retaining the capacity for extreme physical exertion. This establishment became the mothership from which all other conflict resolution capabilities emerged. Whether it was hostage rescue, or riot control a variety of policing functions grew naturally from their roots planted by the establishment.

There was a catch though. Per the policeman's world view - if you were to become part of this special group - you could not be part of the uniformed services. The rationale was that a member of the uniformed services being caught in a foreign land could be interpreted as an act of war. So you could only join this group by renouncing the connection to your parent cadre or service. From that point on - you were a civilian.

Now over the last decade, things have been changing. The Armed forces came in and expanded the setup in Himachal. They came to have a bigger and bigger role in the day to day affairs of the establishment. It became harder and harder to claim that the establishment and the Armed forces were not tied at the hip. The policeman's principle of separating the two elements became increasingly unworkable.

The old members of the establishment looked upon this with disdain. They felt the standard were being diluted and pretty soon the special group would spend its time painting anything that didn't move. They reconciled to all this with the understanding that whatever new capabilities were raised outside the needs of the special group would remain confined to national borders. This was all effectively a glorified internal security operation.

But that was not to be. By crossing the borders and then crowing about it in public - the enfant terrible of the establishment made it clear that it was not going to remain subservient to the older ways and do what it felt was right.

So where does that leave things?

I feel we are at a parting of ways here. The old establishment's ideas do not sit well with what has formed in Himachal over the last decade.

Will things split as they have in other lands? Will the establishment separate into an "Activity" and a "Command" like they have in the US? Perhaps. Or will they remain unified but separate the S, A and B groups?

Will the old establishment simply disappear into thin air? will the Piyush and Hector Corporation suddenly see its payroll swell?

I don't know - but the change is coming.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Who is more important Breitbart News or The Donald Trump Campaign?

Earlier this year, I had predicted that in the final month of the election, the Breitbart news guys would expected to carry out a major strike on the HRC Campaign. The attack would likely be a major media spectacular and in the aftermath of the political strike - the counter-strike mounted by the HRC campaign would completely destroy Breitbart News' credibility and make it impossible to continue. I was expecting a repeat of the Peter Thiel - Gawker situation but it seems I was wrong.

Right now based on all the information that is leaking out from various places, it looks like Breitbart News had no intention of sacrificing itself for the Donald Trump campaign. The version of events that is now available suggests that Steve Bannon carefully setup the press conference with the former Clinton accusers and then promptly disappeared from the scene. From the point that those accusers ended up on the same table as Donald Trump - the Donald Trump campaign entered the crosshairs of the HRC response mechanism.

It is not a terrible surprise that allegations of sexual misconduct have surfaced about Donald Trump. He kind of prides his aura of masculinity. Some people like that and that is why he continues to enjoy some level of support despite the open allegations of sexual assault against him.

What is interesting to me is that he is taking the hit directly. There is no Breitbart News or Drudge Report style foil. Both those agencies have gone on to focus on the Wikileaks hack of HRC campaign emails. That is an odd thing for both those groups to do. No one believes a hacked email as everyone knows you can make that hacked email say whatever you want. The Donald Trump campaign discovered this to its detriment when it accidentally re-tweeted an excerpt of John Podesta's emails from a Russian site only to discover that the the Russian site was actually mistakenly attributing quotes from Karl Eichenwald to Sidney Blumenthal. No one in their right mind has enough time to read through millions of "hacked" emails - those emails might as well not exist.

And as regards the idea of emphasizing that HRC can't seem to keep her emails secret - well that point kind of went out the window when Breitbart and Drudge went to town telling everyone how she kept 33000 emails secret from the FBI!

It looks like the Donald Trump Campaign is being sacrificed for a alt-right website's interests.

That is odd - I must just have the relationship between these two entities wrong. It must be that the DTC is expendable and it is Breitbart News that is supposed to survive all this carnage.

Sidebar: This brings me to another character Roger Stone, it is not clear why Roger spends so much of his time glued to Wikileaks. Surely Roger knows that what he does is a direct reflection on his boss? When Julian Assange holds a 3AM press conference and doesn't release anything incriminating, and Roger Stone is one of the first people going "Aw- shucks!!! we bin wikirolled!!!". It makes people think that Roger Stone is somehow orchestrating the entire hacking.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The GOP Civil War - Why did the they walk back from cutting off Donald Trump?

As I indicated in the earlier post - the GOP broke with Donald Trump because he fell far behind Hillary Clinton in the polls. This imperiled the GOP's senate and congressional campaigns and that created a pervasive fear that their majority in the houses was under threat.

So why did they first push away from Donald Trump and then apparently walk back into his fold?

The answer is simple - the top of the GOP that sits in established seats and with long standing ties to financial channels in  Washington DC couldn't care less about Donald Trump and his shenanigans. The only GOP people who care about Donald Trump are the ones without that same sense of security.

A number of insecure Republican party politicians are still trying to ride the Trump tiger. They have actual hard data on how many registered voters they can count on to turn up at the polls on November 8th, but they do not have any idea how many of these people are hard-line Trump supporters. The absence of this data makes it difficult for these insecure Republicans to remain distant from Donald Trump for too long. When asked why by the press - these insecure Republicans will first indicate pause and then reply that their own polling says that Donald Trump comments on women do not seem to matter to their own voters. While his comments do not sit with their own personal views, they have to listen to the professional pollsters who are obviously supported by hard data. As that data never has to be released - the GOP flip-floppers can hide behind it.

The insecure Republican candidates can't become too distant from the GOP leadership either because that would lead to a serious shortage of funds and they must walk the line between riding the tiger and remaining loyal party people.

This is an impossible situation - no one can survive being pulled in two directions like this. That is why the middle of the GOP is splintering so badly.

What we are witnessing are desperate attempts to re-seal the ever widening rifts in the GOP.  Most of the efforts are being led by Reinhold  Priebus  Given that the GOP leadership probably does not want to see too many mid level people drift towards Donald Trump (given how hard they find it to get along with him)  - it is unclear if the "healing efforts" will actually succeed.

This is like watching one of those Afghan tribal coalitions fall apart. Uncles turn on brothers who turn upon cousins who turn upon fathers and so on.

The GOP civil war - some observations

It appears a civil war has broken out in the GOP. It is easy to understand why this is happening, the GOP congressional leadership made a deal with Donald Trump when they made him the party nominee. The some terms of the deal are now active but the GOP does not seem to be in a position to fully divest itself of Donald Trump.

Based on news reports at the time I think the deal went something like this - you do what you can to bring your fans over to the party's voter rolls and we will support your brand. The fine print in the deal was - if Donald Trump starts alienating the GOP existing  voters, then the GOP backs out. The flag set on this was Hillary's lead over Donald Trump in the polls. If Donald Trump fell below Hillary by 7 points - the GOP would move to secure its needs  and abandon the Trump campaign.

The basic rationale of the GOP for making the deal was that the Donald Trump supporters were not really part of its voting ranks. They were the ones making weird stances at rallies and they were clearly easy to sway with emotional reactions, but these were not people you could count on to turn up to actually vote.

Donald Trump for his part promised to make them all turn up to vote. He directed his machine to start registering voters and reaching out to people to make sure that they came to the polling both or cast early ballots.  Unfortunately for Donald Trump - there really is no Trump organization - he has never invested any money in one or raised money to build one. The result was his directives to the organization - were basically directives to nowhere. The GOP's internal surveillance people picked up on this disconnect very early on and told him to fix that - it seems like he didn't actually do it.

An added problem arose when the release of the lewd comments tapes and the ensuing mishandling of the issue by the Trump campaign created a massive 10+ point lead for Hillary over Donald. This automatically activated the "Abandon Trump" clauses of the deal and the GOP top leaders began to distance themselves from Donald Trump. The GOP's financiers began to slowly back out of pledges for campaign support [1].

The rank and file of the party and lower tier GOP leaders however were not in a position to action on these clauses. In the last decade as the GOP's voter base struggled to cope with a black man being president, a number political opportunists jumped into the party. They saw this voter disaffection as a means to launch themselves into a position of influence inside the GOP. This group of opportunists saw Trump as a great chance to topple the existing GOP leadership and seize control of the main organs of the party. It is these people that are making it hard for the GOP to detach from the Trump campaign.

The naivete of these opportunists is something to be seen to be believed  - it appears these people are operating under the assumption that the massive financial support for GOP causes which comes from personal pledges by long time leaders to special interest group will simply flow to them just because they are the new guard. The opportunists don't understand that is not how it really works.

For his part now with the "Abandon Trump" clauses in action - Donald Trump has two choices. He can either try to sound conciliatory and recover the lost support of the GOP. This would be a significant distraction from his main campaign task of attacking Hillary Clinton. Or he can abandon the GOP leadership and push ahead with the task of consolidating his base. The latter move will likely cost him the election but it might secure his brand against the catastrophic losses it would endure if he failed in the election despite GOP support.

I am not really sure what strengthening Donald Trump's brand this late in his life will do. At most he will be like Sumner Redstone - living and nominally in control but ruled by random special interest groups who basically buy airtime by engaging expensive legal teams to sue each other. I also echo Mark Cuban's question - what is the point of running a mass market engagement when you have a *premium* brand? none of these people you are drawing to your rallies are going to buy your premium products. At best they will buy mass market stuff but the royalties from those are shaky at best. Typical margins on those products are ~ 5% at most compared to the 30-50% you get from a premium brand. Why would you do this? It is one thing to broaden a brand portfolio - but it is completely another thing to shoulder ridiculous risks for no clear gains.

For the GOP - this civil war is going to cause a major split that has been some years in the making. It could be that the older established GOP people will keep their seats this time around but in the GOP's core will pull a way and try to establish its own political presence (with or without Donald Trump). Kind of like a Tea Party 2.0. It isn't clear that formation will sustain but the GOP will have to spend a lot of time restructuring itself.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

New Delhi presses the pause button

It appears that Sonia Singh has shut down all political commentary on the cross border strikes on NDTV. The answers she offers to The Wire's questions on "questioning the army's claims" are Trumpesque. This is a red flag to me that she doesn't know the answers herself and that she is acting on instructions from someone higher up.

I think this incident at NDTV is a sign that someone in New Delhi has pressed the pause button.

To those of us who knew the TV scene in India, this is important because NDTV is trusted by the Armed Forces. This makes NDTV the natural choice for making the Army's point of view known without actually publicly saying so.

There is some supporting evidence for this from a related source.

The Indian Army was coming under pressure from political channels to release the drone video. However another NDTV anchor -  Vishnu Som has indicated that he feels that the release of the video will likely be damaging to operational secrecy matters.  I don't know if I agree with Vishnu Som but I think he is trying to rationalize something the Army has indicated they are strongly inclined to do.

My guess is that the Indian Army does not feel it's hand is strengthened by releasing the drone video data. The Indian Army does not like being pushed around by the politicians into playing a card it is not comfortable with laying on the table right now. This is different from politicians taking credit for the Army's achievements - that is annoying - but it doesn't really damage the Army in any way. So Manohar Parrikar taking credit for the hard work of raising the various Para regiments to the SF standard (a process that took the better part of a decade) - is not really a problem from the Indian Army's point of view. [**]

On a much broader canvas, one persistent criticism of the "hot pursuit" or "cross border strike" approach has been that if the Pakistani Army is pushed too hard in Kashmir, then they will likely retaliate against soft targets in the rest of India. This thought  has acted as a barrier against sudden escalation by the Indian Army in Kashmir. No government in New Delhi has ever been keen to accept high visibility terror strikes in India's cities. If it happens - then they struggle to cope with it, but those cities are practically indefensible against such assault.

We are seeing reports emerge now about India preparing for a "big terror strike" in the Indian "mainland". Last week all airports were put on high alert. A number of institutions and public areas had their security beefed up. The Indian intelligence side is seeing an increase in chatter about a major strike on India.

I don't know what Sri. Modi really wants, and what his grand plan for Pakistan is, but it appears that someone in the government of India does not want the probability of such strikes to increase beyond a certain point  - and that is why I think the Indian Army is very publicly indicating that it is not keen to release the drone video data.

This will give the Pakistan Army enough wiggle room and allow it to deny that the strikes ever happened.

A lot of people will see this a failure of India's policy vis-a-vis Pakistan, but I think it is quite the  opposite. This reflects a highly calibrated and coordinated approach between the Indian Army and other branches of the national security machinery.

I feel the Indian government is pursuing a very Machiavellian policy of hedging against a coup inside Pakistan. The GoI is less interested in ending cross border terrorism and more interested in reaching a position of real leverage with the Pakistan Army.

If the Indian Army gives the Pakistan Army the political cover it needs at this time to secure itself from civilian criticism - in a "surrender at Dacca"-sort-of-way it makes the Pakistani Army beholden to the Indian Army.

This is a powerful element of leverage - one which may be well worth the price paid in terms of human lives at Uri and elsewhere.[***]

If my guess is correct - there will be no major terror strike in India now. The Pakistani backed modules inside Kashmir will go to ground for the winter. And the rhetoric in the media will go down over the next week.

I think thankfully - this escalation is now over [*].

* I am not in Delhi - so this is my best guess at this time - so if this blows up in two weeks, you can call me a stupid peace loving fool.

** When Gen. Nirbhay Sharma first pushed for all Para regiments to be raised to the SF standard - he was severely opposed by people in the know. Countless articles were written about whether such a massive increase in SF strength was needed if no cross border ops were planned. A lot of ink was spilled about how the average Army Commander doesn't really know how to use SF properly and the highly expensive SF assets would be used to do mundane counter-terrorism tasks. A few of those predictions have come true, but now at least - there is a cross-border element that has come into play and frankly one doesn't need Domaki/Burushaski/Pashto speakers to do this kind of thing. The correct assessment of the people at Nahan in 2003 was that this would require diluting the standards. And that is what was done - the regiments were put through a filter that was set at higher percentage pass instead of the usual 2% pass. But now over the last decade, the filter has slowly been  rolled back and some 10% of the probationers are clearing. This is not ideal - but perhaps it is enough to meet India's needs? I don't know - you are as informed as I am about that part.

*** A crazy old bat like myself would like to see as little SG level resources committed as possible to stuff like this. There are certain missions that only SG level operators can service, and it is best to  keep them in reserve for exactly those tasks. Chasing random international criminals is a job for a police force - not the 1%-of-the-1% crowd.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Is Pakistan heading for a coup?

Here is why I think Pakistan may be headed for a coup.

There is a separation of powers between PM Nawaz Sharif and the Army under Gen. Raheel Sharif. The PM controls the civilian function and some fraction of internal security matters, and Gen. Raheel Sharif controls all external security issues and the greater fraction of internal security matters. The arrangement is quite robust and there is almost no overlap between the two domains.

The Pakistan Army has for decades now accepted that it cannot fight and win a conventional war against India and the Army has had to resort to sub-conventional options to redress the imbalance. As India's economy has grown, its capacity for defense spending has increased - and so proportionally has the size of its arsenal and the readiness of its military forces. The Pakistan Army has to keep up with that change and both its conventional and sub-conventional packages have be *expanded*.  In order to carry out this expansion it needs to pull more resources out of Pakistan's shrinking budget. The budget is in the civilian sphere of responsibility.

The Modi Administration has indicated that it does not want to see the sub-conventional side of the Pakistan Army's option package expanded. In order to make its view heard it has put the entire Indus Water Treaty (IWT) on the table. The Pakistan Army knows its option packages cannot change the lower riparian status of Pakistan. It has no counter to the Indian move to cut of meetings of the Permanent Commission. By pulling this move - India has basically openly said that the Pakistan Army is irrelevant to the Indo-Pak discourse. I am sure that attitude by India is making the Pakistan Army feel terrible.

Most of Pakistan's civilian leaders and a good number of Pakistan Army people rely on agricultural income. They need more water for their farms to be productive. That water can only come from India, and without the IWT's negotiation meetings, there is no scope of Pakistan getting that water. The civilians are not okay with that.  As the water negotiations and distribution (managed by the Indus River System Authority - IRSA) are under civilian control, they feel that they have the last say on these matters.

The Army has a history of ignoring civilian inputs and so the civilians are being extremely forceful in telling the army to restructure its sub-conventional options package. The problem is that this intrudes on a topic that is firmly in the military domain.

From the Army's perspective - it doesn't have to take this behavior from the civilians. It can conduct a coup - seize control of the national budget and IRSA and then reorganize things the way it prefers it. The Pakistani political spectrum has shown itself to be quite malleable, for every defiant Nawaz Sharif, there is a pliant Imran Khan waiting in the wings.

As both the Pakistani civilian leadership and the Pakistan Army cast an eye on things in each others' possession - the friction between them increases and a coup draws nearer.

I am one of those people that believe that Pakistan will continue to see civilian regimes punctuated by military coups in the foreseeable future.

There is no room in that country to have a functional democracy and a powerful military - for one to live - the other must die and since a coup is much cheaper than a democratic revolution - the coup is inevitable.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Was someone important captured in the Indian Army cross border strikes?

The attack on the 46 RR camp in Baramulla was quite strange. RR camps are heavily defended and there is no reason to attack one or to even provoke attention from one. There is often no way to get to an RR camp without passing through a screening force made up of BSF and CPMF units. If you come near an RR camp or get withing line of sight with an RR patrol and they don't like you - then you are in for a lot of harassment.

Doing this at a time when tensions between the countries were so high didn't make a lot of sense to me. If anything the PA-ISI should have been asking its assets to go to sleep given the climate. What possible sense could there be in throwing away squads on hard targets like an RR camp?

Now it appears that the squad tasked to attack the camp encountered a screening force and that "woke up" the entire defense line around the camp. The element of surprise was lost. At this point - in a fashion completely out of sync with other other fedayeen attacks, the assault commander appears to have called off the attack. This says he wasn't keen on sending his men to die - the objective of the raid was not to kill people at the RR camp.

What is stranger still was that the attackers escaped and after the attack a Para-SF unit was called in to clear the area. This almost immediately suggested to me that the Indian Army felt the threat to the RR camp was quite severe, otherwise why bother with redeploying the local reserve to cope with the situation?

Nothing made sense to me until a few days ago, Banuk Zarina Baloch's twitter account posted an image of a man in Indian Army custody.  I do not know who the man is in this picture or if he is indeed the man photographed next to Hafiz Saeed, but if the images are accurate and it is the same person - we are looking at a very high level LeT asset who has been captured. Given the revolving door that exists between these groups and the ISI - this person is likely to be very close the ISI itself.

It is difficult to imagine why such a person would be near the border. Usually critical assets are placed far away from any situation where they could be compromised. This was the case with Tariq Aziz's son (Tariq Aziz was a civilian bureaucrat who was very close Gen. Musharraf). Tariq's son fell in with the Al-Badr Mujaheddin. Al-Badr acts as a kind of nodal body for United Jihad Council operations in Muzaffarabad. It attracts a large cadre of experienced and highly placed Jihad vets and usually played a major organizational role in the way the Jihad is actually conducted in Kashmir. At that time, it appears Tariq's son wanted to cross the LoC and go to India. This would put Tariq at great risk and so he was picked up from Al-Badr HQ and deposited back his father's care before he could do anything really dangerous.

I do not know how much faith I want to put in Zarina's image and what it suggests, but there have been sporadic reports of people being arrested in the Indian attacks on the "launch pads". If anyone of importance was captured, it is possible they would kept in the 46 RR camp for interrogation before being moved to Red Fort in New Delhi. Anyone arrested would traditionally have been moved to facilities like Haftchinar, Hariniwas and Fairview, but those were closed down in the last decade. I suppose an RR camp would be the perfect place to locate such a detention center - no one in their right minds would think of interfering with it.

The fact that someone in Pakistan would think it was a good idea to tangle with an RR camp suggests to me that there was something valuable inside the camp itself. Something valuable enough to risk expending a full fedayeen module. Add to this the fact the fedayeen squad commander chose not to press the attack and we have a very few options for what this was all about.

I think it is plausible that a high value asset was captured by the Indian Army in one of its recent operations and the asset was being detained at the Baramulla RR facilities.

Whoever this asset is, (I don't know if the person in Zarina's photo is that person) the ISI wants to get them back.

A submerged dynamic like this could emerge as a significant driver in the escalation.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Climbing the ladder

This situation is climbing up the ladder.

I don't know where things are going to go.

The Pakistanis went on a media offensive yesterday by trying to take reporters to locations that had nothing to do with the Indian strikes on the "launch pads". Again this is understandable - everyone knows they have to do something to save face. But this is NOT the time to sound belligerent.

It is important to note that a "launch pad" is not a "camp". There is no camping at a "Launch Pad". It is simply a way point where the infiltration team gathers before making the passage through the AIOS.

The pad is usually 2 km from the AIOS. There is no line of sight from any Indian post. So in this article, when Mr. Rustam takes the NYT journalist to a place where Indian positions are visible - that is the *last* place where a "launch pad" would be located.

The pads are positioned in gaps between AIOS OP/LPs - precisely where local terrain breaks up the line of sight from the Indian posts. The usual launch pad is easier to access from the Pakistani side and difficult to approach from the Indian side.

When you lie that transparently - I don't know who is going to believe the Pakistanis when they deny that the attacks have happened.

The IA is claiming 20-30 dead per site and 7 sites in total. That puts the number of dead at around 200. That is a month's worth of infiltrators during the high (spring+summer+fall) season. I would be shocked if there was no drone footage and or if there was no collation team that accompanied the away teams.  You can bet your bowl of nihari that there are photos and videos of the events. The away teams were on the ground for a hour or so - plenty of time to get proof of kill or validation and the drones would have flown and done damage assessment. The IA has a pile of data they can share with the world at a time and place of their choosing.

I think the seasonal totals during the worst periods of infiltration in the 90s were in the 2000-3000 per season range. Someone can dig up the number from SATP and IA sources for confirmation but the numbers haven't been that high in a decade. If the IA did effect 200 KIA in this raid - the infiltration season is over. There is going to be no push in October or November. You won't able to convince the Tanzeems to put up the men if all the PA guarantees is that they will be wiped out inside Pakistani territory - long before they actually cross the LoC. If these numbers are anywhere near correct, that is a big hit.

The logical thing at this time would be to go into force conservation mode and ask all assets to go to ground until the shitstorm blows over. But instead in this environment - the super-geniuses at Aabpara- ask their guys to go after an RR encampment. This is very stupid - there is no likelihood of making it through the BSF screening force. You might as well ask the seeded modules to shoot themselves and their UGW hosts - because that is about as effective as this is going to be.

Seriously - what are you people doing in I'bad? Have you completely lost your minds?