Is America Losing The Cyber War?


By Debbie Gregory.

According to U.S. intelligence officials, the Obama administration is contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election

Russia, as well as China, Iran and North Korea routinely launch cyberattacks.

Russia has demonstrated its ability to integrate full-scale cyberwar into its military maneuvers, further threatening U.S. allies along its border.

President Obama will ultimately have to decide whether he will authorize a CIA operation.

Complicating the ability to hit back are strict policies on how the U.S. is willing to conduct digital warfare. There are hard-line barriers between cyber operators cleared to carry out the government’s business and those who aren’t.

Too many U.S. combat commanders believe developing cyber tools is as clear-cut a process as making and employing conventional weapons.

America’s cyber shortcomings were at the center of a congressional hearing earlier this month during which Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee, pressed the nation’s two top officials for digital combat to appraise the military’s ability to respond to cyber aggression.

“The cyber threat is one of the greatest challenges we face,” offered Marcel Lettre, undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

The Arizona Republican prodded, citing former Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey’s troubling acknowledgement in January 2015 that cyber is the only major field of warfare in which the U.S. doesn’t have an advantage over its foes.

“It’s a level playing field,” the Army general said at the time, “and that makes this chairman very uncomfortable.”

The CIA’s cyber operation is being prepared by a team within the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, documents indicate. According to officials, the team has a staff of hundreds and a budget in the hundreds of millions, they say.

The covert action plan is designed to protect the U.S. election system and insure that Russian hackers can’t interfere with the November vote, officials say. Another goal is to send a message to Russia that it has crossed a line, officials say.

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Military Connection: Iraq Reclaims 25% of Land with Help

Iraq mapBy Debbie Gregory.

After the rapid and massive gains made by the Islamic State in 2014, Iraqi forces have managed to retake approximately 25% of the territory from the terrorist group.

American airstrikes against Islamic State units and strongholds effectively weakened the terrorist insurgents’ positions, to the point where ground forces were able to gain back an area that represents 5,000 to 6,500 square miles in northern and central Iraq.

But despite these gains, Iraq’s Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, contends that his country requires even more international assistance in its fight against the Islamic State.

Since the U.S. began training Iraq’s military to take over the fight against the Islamic State, approximately 6,000 Iraqi soldier have completed the training. Officials at the Pentagon estimate that 20,000 to 25,000 soldiers will be needed to retake Mosul.

Until then, the ground forces that support the Iraqi government are made up of Shiite and Kurdish militias. Although not as thoroughly trained, these militias are armed, determined, and prepared to fight against the Islamic State. Many of the Shiite militias are backed by the Iranian government, who supply them with funding and weapons.

The intervention of Iran in the efforts against the Islamic State are a double edged sword. The militias, as well as the artillery and other support offered by the Iranian government, is proving effective. But U.S. officials aren’t so keen on the idea that the Iranians might be pushing the Islamic State away so that they can slide in with their influence, which have historically been anti-American.

The Iranians have been supplying their assistance to the Iraqi government, and have yet to ask for anything in return. So both the Iraqi government and the U.S. government are stuck choosing between the possibility of allowing a snake in their yard or looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Recent talks with Iraqi leaders and U.S. officials called for the removal of all “Shiite militias” to withdraw from the front lines in Sunni-populated Ramadi. The U.S. said that they would not increase airstrikes against the Islamic State until the Shiite militias were gone, citing that they caused unrest among the Sunni locals. This is a true and valid point. But the way that the terms were relayed implied that the U.S. specifically wanted the Iranian-backed militias withdrawn.

The terms that the U.S. ambassador presented to Iraqi leaders, and agreed upon, called for the Shiite militias to withdraw, or for the individual fighters to come under the command of the Iraqi military.

The U.S. has been extremely concerned with ridding Iraq of the Islamic State, but is not willing to do so at the cost of opening the door for Iran to take over Islamic State holdings.

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Military Connection: Iraq Reclaims 25% of Land with Help: By Debbie Gregory