Tag Archives | support

It is about our internal security

On the blast in an Israeli Embassy car

A blast in an Israeli Embassy car in Delhi left four injured, including a woman employee of the Embassy. Indian External Affairs minister, Mr SM Krishna issued a statement which became a butt of jokes on social media. What else do you expect from a statement which includes such well-worn cliches:

India very strongly condemns such incidents and it is going to be fully investigated and the culprits will be brought to justice at the earliest.[MEA]

Israeli Prime Minister was quick to blame the attack on Iran and its proxy Hezbollah. Iranian Ambassador to India has denied the charge. Delhi Police, basing its preliminary finding on an eye-witness account, suggests that a sticky bomb was used by motorcyclists on the car. With a cocktail of Middle-east politics, terror and shrill television coverage, conspiracy theorists are having a field day.

If we cut through the haze of speculation, there are only two established facts so far. One, there was an explosion in a car carrying an Israeli embassy employee in New Delhi. Two, Israeli Prime Minister has blamed it on Hezbollah and Iran. Anything else beyond this has not been fully established yet.

While India’s foreign ministry handles the diplomatic challenge, it is incumbent upon the Home Ministry to look at this very closely and draw the right lessons. The incident happened in a high-security area, barely 500 metres away from the Prime Minister’s residence. The motorcyclists, if that eye-witness account is true, were able to get away easily. No footage or picture of them has been released so far. It is doubtful if the National Counter-Terrorism Centre which is being inaugurated on March 01st would have helped had it been in place today.

Moreover, such an attack would not have been possible without some assets on ground. It could not have been attempted by people flown in from another country for a day and flown out the next day, after the attack. Reconnaissance over many weeks would have been needed to establish the pattern of the employee who went to pick her child from school. The route and the timing would have thus been established beyond doubt. Rehearsals and dry-runs would also have been carried out by the terrorists.

This points to a need for logistic and related support from some local elements, who could have either been hired or provided by some other terror groups. Unearthing that support base should be the foremost priority of our security agencies. But if such an attack was carried out without any local support, it should be even more worrying for our security agencies. Because it would mean that foreign agents can come in with explosives, operate in a high-security VIP area in Delhi with impunity and escape unscathed. That scenario is far more scarier than some local criminals being used to execute the terror strike.

Forget Iran, Hezbollah, Israel and diplomacy, the fact that Delhi was selected by someone to mount a strike on an Israeli diplomat should bother us the most. It is a shameful reflection of our internal security vulnerabilities and reputation. Fixing these weaknesses, which is a continuous process of a cat-and-mouse game, should be our top-most priority today. The rest can wait for the moment.

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Should Pakistan join the gang?

Of countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism by the US

Along with the talk about designating the Haqqani Network as a foreign terrorist group, there have been some whispers about the US designating Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism. What exactly does it mean? Here is the official take from the US State Department’s website:

Countries determined by the Secretary of State to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism are designated pursuant to three laws: section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act, section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act, and section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act. Taken together, the four main categories of sanctions resulting from designation under these authorities include restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.

Designation under the above-referenced authorities also implicates other sanctions laws that penalize persons and countries engaging in certain trade with state sponsors. Currently there are four countries designated under these authorities: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.[Link]

Hasn’t Pakistan “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism”? Forget the numerous terror attacks in India starting from the days of the Punjab militancy in the 1980s till 26-11 terror strikes in Mumbai, it is Admiral Mullen’s recent testimony to the Senate Armed Service Committee (here is what he said) which explicitly shows that Pakistan qualifies to be designated a state sponsor of terrorism.

Yes, Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria could also do with some fresh company. They haven’t had a new member in the gang since August 12, 1993.

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Breaking-up with the IMF

Pakistanis must celebrate this Independence Day.

Pakistan has given up its hopes of getting the last two tranches of $11.3 million loan from the International Monetary Fund. The loan has been suspended since May 2010 and could have been resumed till September this year. What does this breaking of ties with the IMF mean for Pakistan?

  • No budgetary support for Pakistan from other multilateral donors including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) because Pakistan can not provide the “letter of comfort” from the IMF.
  • Moody’s credit ratings for Pakistan are B3, and Standard & Poors credit rating is B-, which are both classified as junk status. This means that Pakistan has very limited ability to borrow money on the markets at reasonable rates.
  • Higher inflation (around 20% or so) as the government of Pakistan will continue to borrow more heavily from the State Bank of Pakistan for budgetary support.
  • Stalling of economic reforms in Pakistan which could have reduced the fiscal deficit (currently estimated at 6.5%) and put Pakistani economy back on track. These reforms include widening of the tax base (current tax-to-GDP ratio in Pakistan is 8.5%) and trimming of energy subsidies (currently at 1.5% of GDP).
  • An impending economic crisis as Pakistan starts repaying its IMF loans in February 2012. The seemingly healthy foreign exchange reserves of now will then get depleted to alarming levels. The impact will be exacerbated with the US stopping PCCF and CSF payments to Pakistan.
  • Poor foreign exchange reserves would restrict Pakistan’s ability to import items, including crude oil (a fair share of it is on deferred payment basis from Saudi Arabia).
  • This will lead to further weakening of the Pakistani rupee and an increase in the trade deficit.
  • Slashing of development budget as Pakistan’s defence budget would continue to be supported fully by the treasury, both overtly and through circular funding.
  • All this will lead to low economic growth — probably in the range of 3% per annum. This would adversely impact the already poor Human Development Indices in Pakistan.

Higher inflation, lesser development budget, high military budget, low growth rate — this is a recipe for economic disaster. Add the problems of Islamist militancy and radicalisation of Pakistani society and you can imagine the magnitude of the problem India has on its western borders.

Does the solution to this problem lie with the West or with the multilateral aid agencies? No. The problem is of Pakistan’s own creation and the solution also lies with Pakistan. No amount of external aid or soft loans can help Pakistan unless the government of Pakistan can generate greater resources of its own steam and match its expenditure (mainly consumed by the military) to the resources available. This needs structural reforms in the economy which the current Pakistani government is singularly incapable of pushing through. In fact, no other government would be in a position to do better. This exposes an endemic weakness of the Pakistani state itself: the military, landowning and political elite are getting richer at the expense of the state.

In these circumstances, the future of Pakistan’s economy — and consequently its people — doesn’t look all that bright. But today is a day of celebration for them. They must celebrate today for the rest of the year may not give them much to celebrate about, at least economically. Happy Independence Day, Pakistan!

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A rotten Fai

Hurts the credibility of Kashmiri separatists and India’s left-liberal intellectuals

The filing of a criminal complaint by the FBI against Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai of the Kashmiri American Council, which is also known as the Kashmir Center, is being dismissed by many Indians because it is the outcome of a souring US-Pakistan relationship. Whatever be the cause of its timing, there are many unintended consequences of the episode; the collateral damage is hurting many others: the Kashmiri separatists, and the Indian Left-liberal intelligentsia which associated with Fai and his Kashmir Center in Washington DC.

Background Reading: ProPublica report on the episode; the Department of Justice Press Release; the Criminal Complaint and the Affidavit filed by the FBI; Praveen Swami profiles Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai; ProPublica profiles Fai’s co-accused, Dr. Zaheer Ahmad; Reactions of some Indian intelligentsia associated with Fai; and the reaction of the Kashmiri separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

First, the Kashmiri separatists. For the last 15 years, the Kashmiri separatist leadership — with different monikers of hardliner, moderate, Gandhian and pro-Azaadi — has thrived on a popular myth created about them being the true representative of the Kashmiris. Although mainstream political leaders like Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have won popular elections which have seen more than 60% electoral participation, they have often been dismissed — and often by many well-meaning Indians — as not being representatives of the electorate but merely an outcome of Kashmiris’ yearning for an administrative machinery in the state. Of course, many continue to ignore the recent Panchayat elections in Kashmir where 80% Kashmiris turned up to vote in defiance of a public boycott call given by what Western magazines like The Economist call the tallest Kashmiri leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

With their support in the state being limited to parts of Srinagar and areas like Sopore, the separatists draw their credibility from the international support provided to them. This international support was not generated due to the “moral, diplomatic, and political support” provided by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan but an organised intelligence operation run across the globe by its military spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

Herein lies the bigger tragedy. Those claiming to speak for the Kashmiris have taken the Kashmiris for a ride. They are stooges and mouthpieces of the ISI, with their purses provided by their puppeteers at the ISI headquarters in Rawalpindi. It shouldn’t surprise us though because these self-styled Kashmiri leaders have never even spoken a word about the terrible situation in other parts of Kashmir — the one under Pakistani occupation: Pakistan occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. This also perhaps explains why Mr Geelani continues to favour Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan even while trying to ride on the sentiment of Azaadi among a section of young Kashmiris.

The Geelanis and the Mirwaizs and the Yasin Maliks are not the representative of the Kashmiris. They are the stooges of the ISI. When they start pontificating about talking to India, India’s point-blank reply should be: Take us to your masters.

From the Haqqani network to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, more revelations tell us that the militancy in Kashmir was not started or stoked by Pakistan, but owned, controlled, funded and manned by the Pakistani military-jehadi complex. Kashmir was a handy battleground for Pakistan to hurt India and Kashmiris the unsuspecting victims of Pakistan’s malice. The militancy and violence in the state came down once India was able to put a mechanism in place that reduced the infiltration from across the Line of Control. The drop in violence was possible only because the indigenous Kashmiri component in the militancy is insignificant.

Many commentators have suggested that the stone-pelting incidents witnessed in certain urban areas of Kashmir Valley in the summer of 2010 were an expression of their popular anger against the Indian state, because the militancy had subsided. While there is an element of truth in this contention, reportage from the ground (last year by Samar Halarnkar and this year by Smita Prakash) has highlighted the role of Pakistani money in organising these stone-pelters. The state government did make mistakes in its handling of the situation (and it is a credit to the state government that they have prevented a encore this year) but if it were not for the financial and organisation support provided by the ISI and ISI-backed proxies in Kashmir, the stone-pelting protests would not have been of the magnitude witnessed last year.

It is to the credit of the ISI that it has done its job well. There are some unresolved issues in Kashmir, as they are in nearly half the districts of the country. But where the ISI has succeeded is in hyping the problem in Kashmir out of proportion. It has shaped the popular narrative about Kashmir, not only abroad but also in India.

This brings us to the question of the Left Liberal intelligentsia in India which has, wittingly or unwittingly, helped the ISI in furthering its aim. Despite the vocal pronouncements and actions by some of these people, it would be preposterous to conceive of them as being anti-India. They were, now that the ISI-Fai relationship is in the open, to use that popular Cold War term, “Useful Idiots”. They have been used by the ISI against India and Indians.

The argument that these intellectuals should not be criticised for attending the ISI-sponsored conference but for their views expressed there doesn’t hold much water. The Indian speakers lent credibility and respectability to these partisan events and biased the global narrative against India.

Furthermore, sections of the India media (notably Praveen Swami and Seema Sirohi) have flagged Fai and his events for nearly a decade now. It was evident to most other observers that Fai was an integral component of the Pakistani propaganda machinery on Kashmir. Attending these events raises serious question marks about the judgement and wisdom of these intellectuals and experts. Even if they were useful idiots, they were — and dare I say, are — idiots. It is in our interest to identify, acknowledge and treat them as idiots, whether it is on Kashmir or any other issue of national interest.

This holds a salutary lesson for many Indian media personalities, intellectuals, commentators and experts. They would be well-advised to seek wiser counsel before accepting free junkets in the garb of conferences and seminars, especially when it comes to issues related to Pakistan.

Finally, the Government of India. The FBI charge-sheet has been met with a stony silence by the GoI so far. Perhaps the MEA has been kept busy with the India-US Strategic Meeting this week and will soon take cognisance of this issue before the Pakistani delegation arrives in Delhi next week.

What else should GoI do? GoI must focus on the other two Kashmir Centers — in London and Brussels — and press upon the British government and the EU Parliament to probe them and shut them down. GoI must simultaneously bring to book those Kashmiri leaders who are proved to be on the payroll of the ISI.

The opportunity has presented itself to India to set the narrative about Kashmir right: locally, nationally and internationally. In football parlance, this is like an open goal available to the striker which India cannot afford to miss.

Alas, we in India are used to seeing such open chances being wasted often. One fears that this will be no different now.

Recommended Reading: ANI’s Smita Prakash on the Fai affair – Fait Accompli: Kashmir loses one junket genie.

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The Haqqanis of North Waziristan

A few extracts from a new CTC study on the Haqqanis.

Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has a new report on the Haqqani network, the jehadi group based in North Waziristan. Titled The Haqqani Nexus and the Evolution of al-Qa’ida, the deeply-researched study report is authored by Don Rassler and Vahid Brown. The report explores how the Haqqani network has historically functioned as a nexus organization and as a strategic enabler of local, regional and global forms of Islamist militancy.  Specific attention is placed on examining the Haqqani network’s support for al-Qa`ida and its global jihad, and more recently the Pakistani Taliban.

A few noteworthy extracts from the study, especially some pertaining to Kashmir:

  • At the regional level, many of the Pakistanis who fought with Haqqani would later shift their attention and employ the fighting skills and training they had acquired in Loya Paktia against Indian forces in Kashmir. Some would even go on to create their own jihadist organizations and become legendary commanders, a dynamic perhaps best exemplified by Fazlur Rahman Khalil and Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi, who were respectively central to the formation of Harakat ul Mujahidin (HuM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba.
  • Jalaluddin Haqqani was not bashful about his influence or impact upon the Kashmir jihad, and his assistance would pay dividends to the Pakistani state and its covert war against India. During a meeting in Karachi attended by some of Pakistan’s religious elite, including the General Secretary of Jamiat Ulema?e?Islam, Haqqani boasted, “We have trained thousands of Kashmiri mujahidin, and have made them ready for jihad.” Farooq Kashmiri, the Deputy Head of HuM, directed students at the madrassa where this gathering was held to spend their summer in Afghanistan so they could train under Jalaluddin. These and other Pakistani madrassa students likely formed the rank and file at HuM/Harakat-ul-Ansar (HUA) training camps throughout the 1990s, all of which were based in Loya Paktia and supported by the ISI.
  • The Haqqani network’s direct support for various Kashmiri training camps are revealed in a 1998 communication from the Pakistani government to the Taliban, contained in the Harmony database. This document includes a list in Pashto and English of nine wanted Pakistani “terrorists,” with photographs and names, aliases and last known sightings.
  • The most striking element of the Haqqani network’s evolution post 9/11 is the persistence of its cross?dimensional nexus. During this decade, surprisingly little changed in terms of the Haqqani network’s relations, strategy and outlook. The war in Afghanistan has reinforced and strengthened the Haqqani network’s central role, with the group still being located at the nexus between local, regional and global forms of militancy. Similar to the 1990s, areas in which the Haqqani network exerts the most influence continue to be used as a platform to enable other actors, most notably al Qa’ida and more recently elements of the TTP. The Haqqani network has been able to maintain close ties with these actors while also remaining a key proxy for Islamabad, highlighting the paradox underlying Pakistan’s security policy. Perhaps most importantly, this nexus has also survived a generational change in leadership from father Jalaluddin to son Sirajuddin, as well as a ten year campaign against al Qa’ida conducted by the United States and its partner Pakistan.
  • The actions and outlook of Haqqani network leaders are not confined to the Afghan theater today, and they have not been since the late 1970s. In addition to operating as a distinct organization, the Haqqani network has historically functioned as a nexus and key enabler for local, regional and global groups. Al?Qa’ida’s global jihad and elements of Kashmir’s regional jihad have been shaped by the safe haven, training, combat experience, propaganda support, resource mobilization, and networking opportunities facilitated by the Haqqani network. By serving as the local to al?Qa’ida’s global over multiple decades, the Haqqani network has directly contributed to the development and endurance of global jihad.
  • The nature of Haqqani support for international jihadism, however, is best evaluated through the context of the group’s consistent support for al Qa’ida and the Haqqani network’s unwillingness to meaningfully disengage from the group since it formally declared war on the United States in 1998. This makes the Haqqani network a willing ideological partner and an active participant in al Qa’ida’s global jihad, as Haqqani network leaders have consistently provided the local context and space for al Qa’ida to sustain itself and continue its fight. By shedding new light on the history of al Qa’ida, this report also tells us that al Qa’ida and the Haqqani network, and not the Quetta Shura Taliban, became the United States’ primary enemies on 11 September 2001.
  • Pakistan’s favored Afghan proxy is also the very same actor that has served as al Qa’ida’s primary local enabler for over two decades. Given the ISI’s historical sponsorship of the Haqqani network, it is highly unlikely that Pakistan has not been aware of this history. Although less clear, there is also some evidence that the ISI helped, and continues to a lesser degree, to facilitate these ties, suggesting that Pakistan could have played a more influential role in the development of al Qa’ida than has thus far been recognized. More tangible is Pakistan’s reluctance to conduct a military operation against the Haqqani network and the milieu of jihadist actors sheltered in North Waziristan. Pakistan’s inaction is fueling the Afghan insurgency and it is also providing space for the Haqqani network to sustain itself and for anti?Pakistan militants and global jihadists to further coalesce. Left unchecked, North Waziristan will continue to function as the epicenter of international terrorism.
  • In the wake of Usama bin Ladin’s death, the al Qa’ida organization may face an uncertain future, but the nexus of resources and relationships that the Haqqani network carefully assembled over the course of three decades and which helped to foster al Qa’ida’s rise remains firmly in place. Positioned between two unstable states, and operating beyond their effective sovereignty, the Haqqani network has long been mistaken for a local actor with largely local concerns. It is vital that the policy community correct the course that has taken this erroneous assessment for granted and recognize the Haqqani network’s region of refuge for what it has always been – the fountainhead of jihad.[CTC]

A quick conclusion. The contents of this report confirms what this blogger has long suspected about US demands from Pakistan. Forget the intelligence cooperation and the NATO supply lines, the US pressure on Pakistan, including the pause in military aid, is driven only by one goal — to press the Pakistan Army to undertake military operations in North Waziristan against the Haqqani network.

Perhaps there is good reason why the US has avoided highlighting this issue publicly. It is to save Pakistani Army chief General Kayani the embarrassment of being seen as sending his troops into North Waziristan under direct US pressure, if he agrees to send them there. But that is a big If — if General Kayani is able to convince his corps commanders that Pakistan army should actually be taking on its long-term strategic asset, the Haqqani network.

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Requirements of our democracy

To get a responsive government.

Hartosh Bal in the Open magazine:

The Congress has over time developed what can be best described as an optimal approach in such a democracy. It is a party designed to lurch in any possible direction, depending on voter expectation, unhindered by ideas or ideology. It is no surprise that the longer a party survives and bids for power, the more it tends to resemble the Congress—take the BJP or for that matter the DMK or the Akali Dal or even the Left. There may be legacies difficult to shed but in practice the shape each party takes is very similar. If the Congress has lost the huge appeal it once had, it is not because it has deviated from some ideal, it is because other parties have learnt to conduct their politics from the Congress.

This has not been a conscious process; it is the result of responding to the requirements of our democracy.[Open]

It is simplistic to blame the requirements of Indian democracy for lack of ideas and ideologies among Indian political parties. Political parties in India respond not to the requirements of democracy but to the requirements of electoral politics. Electoral politics is an essential democratic process but not sufficient by itself to sustain a robust liberal representative democracy.

As Pratap Bhanu Mehta has often stated, elections are an inherently blunt instrument of control. Despite heavy anti-incumbent voting, elections seem to discipline politicians less than we would like. Their effectiveness as mechanisms of accountability are contingent, fraught with unintended consequences and the incentives they impose upon policy makers need to be understood in more precise ways.

If these “requirements of democracy” have eroded the various parties of their ideas and ideologies, it is something to be worried about. Firstly, as one party or candidate becomes indistinguishable from the other, the cost of elections rises and electoral malpractices increase. As the distinguishing characteristics of parties and individual candidates — based on policies, ideas and ideologies — matter less and less to elections, what increasingly differentiates one party from another, is the fund raising capacity and ‘winnability’ of candidates, not ideology or ideas.

Secondly, it gives rise to the crassest form of identity politics to mobilise support, usually based on religious, caste and sectarian considerations. Exacerbating social tensions provide the best opportunity for the political parties to mobilise support by creating vote-banks. Failing which, parties are liable to resort to cheap populism and short-term promises (loan waivers, free electricity, caste-based reservations etc) which harm the state and the society in the long run.

Even within the Indian context of an ill-formed democracy, these “requirements of democracy” can not be a justification for intellectual bankruptcy of our political parties and the electoral malpractices pervading our system. Unfortunately, what it takes to win elections is not necessarily what it takes to respond to the requirements of the citizens, even of the core supporters who voted that party in to power. A representative government is not always a responsive government.

The real requirement of our democracy is to ensure that a responsive party metamorphoses into a responsive government. Responsive government, which in Birch’s words, is a government that is responsive to public opinion, that pursues policies that are prudent and mutually consistent, and that is accountable to the representatives of the electors.

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What about Lashkar-e-Taiba?

US mustn’t ignore the threat posed by the Lashkar-e-Taiba .

In the off-the-record briefing of 20 selected Pakistani journalists by the Pakistan Army Chief, General Kayani and DG of ISI, Lieutenant General Pasha after the US forces killed Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan, General Pasha is reported to have stated this about Pakistan’s conflicting interests with the US.

Pasha said he had made clear to Washington that if the U.S. were deemed to be acting against Pakistan’s interests, “We’ll not help you — we’ll resist you.”[Time]

And these Pakistani interests are, as Stephen Tankel explains:

The Pakistan army views the Taliban and the Haqqani Network as the best, and perhaps only, tools for shaping a better outcome in Afghanistan, where it fears Indian influence will translate into encirclement. Notably, neither the Taliban nor the Haqqani Network is involved in the insurgency currently raging inside Pakistan, and the army is leery of action that could alter this reality.

In short, the army sees other countries reaping the benefits were it to act against these militants, while Pakistan would be left to deal with the costs (both domestic and geopolitical). No amount of money is likely to change that calculus in the near term and neither side [Pakistan or the US] should pretend otherwise.[Link]

Even if there is no congruence between US and Pakistani strategic interests, increased pressure in the aftermath of the Osama bin Laden killing means that Pakistan might, on the face of it, pretend to stop actively supporting — mind you, not act against — these two groups.  This school of thought will gain prominence among Western strategic analysts, as some analysts (perhaps with the good offices of US lobbying firm Locke Lord Strategies hired by Pakistan for $75,000 a month) start sprouting this theory. Anatol Lieven, who is supposedly very close to the Pakistani army, states it openly.

Hard as it may be to swallow, the United States must go on cooperating with the Pakistani state, military, and intelligence services against terrorism directed against the West and not allow this relationship to be destroyed by Pakistan’s sheltering of the Afghan Taliban. In fact, the United States should accept and even welcome continued Pakistani military links to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the terrorist group alleged to be behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks, while holding to the absolute condition that the Pakistani military uses these connections successfully to prevent further LeT attacks on India and, above all, the United States.[FP]

Lieven further explains why the US should not ask the Pakistan Army to act against the LeT.

So far, however, LeT has not planned or carried out any attacks against the West, even as its activists have gone to help the Taliban in Afghanistan and killed Westerners as part of the group’s 2008 attack on Mumbai. …

The strategy of the Pakistani military seems largely responsible for LeT’s restraint. According to well-informed sources in Pakistan, the military has told LeT leaders that if they do not revolt against Pakistan and do not carry out terrorist attacks against India (for the moment at least) and above all the United States and Europe, then they are safe from arrest or extrajudicial execution. Incidentally, a leading JuD member told me in 2009 that despite its Islamist revolutionary ideology, the group would do nothing to destroy the Pakistani state “because then the Hindus would march in to rule over us.”[FP]

While the earlier quotes were from an essay written just before bin Laden’s death, Lieven goes on to add to his pet theory even in the post-Osama killing scenario.

These officials say that the Pakistani state and Army are now restraining Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and other groups trained by the military to attack India, holding them back from future violence. However, this means that the state has to maintain contacts with these groups and refrain from cracking down on them, despite demands from India and the West. In addition, Pakistani officers say—and here I am afraid that they are right—the popularity of LeT in Pakistani society practically guarantees that cases against its members are dismissed by the courts. The only available measures against LeT are extrajudicial, which is dangerous considering the movement’s widespread acceptance.[Newsweek]

Irrespective of whether US agrees to the grotesque suggestions of Lieven or not,  LeT is one jehadi group whose position will remain secure in all Pakistani strategic calculations. Stephen Tankel lays out the reasons:

There are several reasons. First, Pakistan is facing a serious insurgency and LeT remains one of the few militant outfits whose policy is to refrain from launching attacks against the state. The security establishment has taken a triage approach, determining that to avoid additional instability it must not take any action that could draw LeT further into the insurgency.

Second, the Pakistan army and its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) have long considered LeT to be the country’s most reliable proxy against India and the group still provides utility in this regard. LeT also provides potential leverage at the negotiating table and so it is therefore unrealistic to assume support for the group will cease without a political payoff from India in return. As a result, the consensus among the Pakistani security establishment appears to be that, at least in the short-term, taking steps to dismantle the group would chiefly benefit India, while Pakistan would be left to deal with the costs.

Finally, LeT provides social services and relief aid via its above ground wing, Jamaat-ul-Dawa, and its activities in this sphere have led to a well of support among segments of the populace.[Link]

Furthermore, the belief that the army and the ISI, under US pressure, can successfully control the LeT is not accepted by Tankel.

The army and ISI are believed to be putting significant pressure on LeT’s leaders to refrain from overtly engaging in attacks on Western interests abroad. Unless Pakistan wants a showdown with the United States this is unlikely to change. However, this also presumes a level of organizational coherence and control that may be at odds with the ground reality. LeT militants are present on both sides of the Durand Line, meaning not all of them rely on safe haven in Pakistan. Furthermore, individuals or factions within LeT can utilize its infrastructure as well as transnational capabilities to pursue their own operations without the leadership’s consent. Enhanced organizational integration with other outfits heightens the opportunities for freelancing, with former LeT members acting as an important bridge to al-Qaeda as well as other militant outfits.[FP]

There is enough evidence around to show that the LeT remains a potent threat not only to India, but also for the Western targets (Gitmo files, Ilyas Kashmiri linkage, Chicago trials of Mumbai terror attackers). Tankel, again, explains how this could work in the future:

The current threat to Western interests comes from a conglomeration of actors in Pakistan who are working in concert. Thus, LeT need not take the lead role in an attack in order for its capabilities to be used against the U.S. homeland or its interests abroad. Notably, working as part of a consortium enables LeT to earn credit from its fellow militants while also providing it cover, since shared responsibility makes it easier for the group to conceal its fingerprints from the U.S. or other possible targets. Furthermore, the threat comes not only from LeT as a stand-alone organization or from its collaboration with other actors.

Rather, individuals or factions within LeT can utilize its domestic infrastructure as well as transnational capabilities to pursue their own operations. Enhanced organizational integration with other outfits heightens the opportunities for freelancing, thus increasing the chances that some of the group’s capabilities might be used for attacks without the leadership’s consent. Because members who leave do not necessarily cut ties with the group, or may bring elements within it with them, the threat also comes from LeT’s alumni network. Thus, when assessing the dangers of LeT’s expansion in terms of its intent in the medium-term as well as how it might respond in the near-term following bin Laden’s death, one must consider the capability of current and former members both to steer the organization in an increasingly internationalist direction as well as to leverage its infrastructure for these purposes whether or not the leadership approves.[Link]

West is not going to be safer because the US has eliminated bin Laden. Even if the West were to somehow completely destroy the al Qaeda and the Taliban (highly unlikely unless Pakistan stops its support to the Taliban), it will always be under threat from jehadi groups like the LeT. Thus the suggestion made by Lieven — and likely to be repeated by Pakistan army and ISI to the US — to ignore the LeT because the ISI will guarantee that the jehadi group doesn’t target the West, needs to be treated with the contempt that it deserves.

However that is unlikely to happen. Elizabeth Rubin at the NYRB blogs recounts:

In 2010, I had the chance to ask Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about the US relationship with Pakistan. He’d just been to the country to urge its generals to go after the jihadists, the Taliban, and the Haqqani network. I asked Gates how he could possibly consider Afshaq Kayani, the chief of the Pakistani army, an ally. “It’s frustrating,” Gates told me. I waited for more, but nothing came. Your silence says a lot, I said. “Well, I was very specific in a couple of my meetings in looking at them point-blank and saying, ‘Haqqani and his people are killing my troops. I’ve got a problem with that,’” Gates responded. And what did they say, I asked. Gates is all control, but he cracked a small smile as he said: “They listened.”

…Or as an advisor to Ambassador Holbrooke told me not long before Holbrooke died: “We see Pakistan as a flawed ally and the Afghan Taliban as our enemy. The truth is the reverse.”

…Of course at the heart of the problem lies Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. We’d rather our Pakistani army enemy controls it than our Pakistani Taliban enemy. But will we ever know who is who, and can we tell them apart? And so our policy in Pakistan has collided with the Lot equation: How many righteous men must there be for God to save Sodom and Gomorrah, asks Abraham. And when God says fifty, Abraham keeps lowering the number. What if there is just one? How many American, Afghan, Pakistani, European casualties are worth keeping this Catch-22 policy alive?[NYRB]

The US must remember one thing. Osama bin Laden is history now. Greater challenges of jehadi terror lie ahead in the future. The Pakistani military-jehadi complex lies at the heart of those terror threats. LeT, the most powerful and protected jehadi organisation today,  happens to be Pakistani state’s most reliable proxy. The US can afford to ignore the LeT — or its masters in Pakistan army — only at its own peril.

explains this further:

These officials say that the Pakistani state and Army are now restraining Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and other groups trained by the military to attack India, holding them back from future violence. However, this means that the state has to maintain contacts with these groups and refrain from cracking down on them, despite demands from India and the West. In addition, Pakistani officers say—and here I am afraid that they are right—the popularity of LeT in Pakistani society practically guarantees that cases against its members are dismissed by the courts. The only available measures against LeT are extrajudicial, which is dangerous considering the movement’s widespread acceptance.[Newsweek]

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Why Sopore matters

The complicity of silence and need for political mobilisation

After having read a very emotional blogpost by Raheel Khursheed, the primary reason why the recent killings of two young girls in Sopore matters is known to everyone. It is the Talibanisation of the state that is worrying the moderate Kashmiris. Evidently these girls were killed as a part of the moral policing campaign by the militants.

Sopore, for those who care to remember, was known as a “liberated zone” till 1993, when the Indian Army launched an operation to regain control over the town. Veteran journalist Harinder Baweja had covered that operation (see her tweet).

In the nineties, when militancy began in Kashmir, Sopore fast became its hub. It was in Sopore that one of the first major pro-Pakistan militant outfits, the Tehreek-e-Jihad-e-Islami (TJI) led by Abdul Majid Dar, set up base.

The strategic importance of Sopore—it links Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipore—made it a favourite haunt of militant groups like the Hizbul Mujahideen, which found substantial support in the town and its adjoining cluster of villages.

In 1993, Afghan national and Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbadeen Hikmatyar’s bodyguard, Akbar Bhai, lived and operated in Sopore for over two years. Akbar Bhai was killed in a fierce gun battle with the Border Security Force (BSF) on August 7, 1993. His killing encouraged the Army to enter the town and launch an operation to flush out militants. Finally on November, 26, 1993, the Army entered Sopore and launched one of the biggest-ever combing operations in the history of Kashmir’s counter-insurgency. And for the first time, tanks rolled out in the Valley. Sixteen people, most of them militants, were killed in the gunbattles that followed. Though thousands of troops swooped down on Sopore, they could not enter the congested Kraltang neighbourhood where militants, armed with heavy weaponry, had taken position on roof tops.

The Army, however, took over the town, shut it for a week and subsequently set up a network of bunkers to establish a permanent foothold. The Army left soon after the operation was called off and the BSF was once again deployed.[ENS]

However Sopore, merely 55 kilometres away from Srinagar, is also known for being a separatist stronghold with a substantial support base for the Jamat-e-Islami. Before the advent of militancy, Sopore was, in fact, represented for three terms by Syed Ali Shah Geelani in the state Assembly. One of the top-most pro-Azadi Kashmir leaders and founder of Mahaz-e-Azadi (Front for Freedom), Sofi Akbar, too came from Sopore. The hold of the separatists on the area can be gauged from the polling percentages in Sopore constituency in the successful assembly elections of 2008 and parliamentary elections of 2009: 19.96 percent and 7.8 percent respectively.

While militancy has seen a downturn over the last few years in all other areas of the state, Sopore continues to remain the area with most active militancy even now. Even the CM contends that “Sopore has some committed militants that take advantage of policy of no collateral damage to hide.”

The police have a list of 63 top militants active in Sopore, among them foreign militants belonging to the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammad. Apart from them, there are new recruits and local boys too: the police put their number at around 200 and growing. According to a recent report compiled by the police, 23 boys are missing in Sopore town alone and police say they have all joined militant ranks.[ENS]

It is this confluence of separatism and terror that lends Sopore its significance in the happenings in the state. It is the place which provides the top-separatist leader Syed Geelani with his committed support base. He draws his political strength from here and his idea of an Islamic state of Kashmir, being run in accordance with the Shariah, seems to being slowly put into place with the recent killings in Sopore.

For all those who claim to stand by the ideals of the Indian Republic, this is a moment of reckoning. Either they can ignore it as just another ghastly terrorist act by the jehadis or they can choose to confront the demon of Talibanisation now. Those who opt to look the other way need not go further than the neighbouring Islamic Republic of Pakistan to see the consequences of  tolerating this brand of Islamisation.

Even when viewed from the lens of realpolitic, this is a great opportunity for the mainstream politicians to put the separatist leaders on the backfoot. Syed Geelani can be cornered in his own backyard and his true colours exposed in front of the national and international media. Crypto-Islamists, commonly known as the moderate separatists, should also be forced to take an unequivocal call on the incident. There can be no better time and place for all the political parties in Kashmir to mobilise their supporters and put the separatists on the defensive.

However, this can only happen if all the mainstream parties in the state are willing to grasp this moment. Alas, this doesn’t seem to be the case. The leader of the PDP, the main opposition party in the state, Ms Mehbooba Mufti has refused to comment on the incident. PDP’s close political association with the Jamat-e-Islami and their brand of soft separatism easily explains her reluctance to do so. Moving beyond, there has been no statement from the ex-CM of J&K, Ghulam Nabi Azad, of the Congress party so far. Perhaps, his own personal political ambitions of regaining the CM’s chair seem to be affecting his behaviour. The BJP is more keen on laying siege outside Yasin Malik’s residence in Delhi than on pushing the Congress party to act boldly in Kashmir.

The time has come not only to condemn those who perpetrated this ghastly act, but also to name and shame those who are silent on the matter. For silence is often the voice of complicity.

Ideally, the national leadership of all the political parties should have grabbed this opportunity and moved in to support the J&K CM, Omar Abdullah in condemning the incident. It would not have been unfair to expect an All party Delegation from the centre to pay a quick visit to Sopore to send a strong, united message to the terrorists and their sympathisers. If our leaders waste this opportunity, they would have no one else to blame for when these Islamist terrorists raise their ugly head soon again in the state, somewhere else. By then, it might be too late.

Two related issues. Firstly, a lot of anger is being directed against people like Ms Arundhati Roy and others of her ilk  for their silence on the brutal murders. Other than venting out steam, it serves no purpose and is irrelevant to the subject. Let us instead focus on those who matter.

Secondly, the call for political action by the parties does not take away from the responsibility of the state to tackle the challenge on other fronts simultaneously: ensure better law and order by enhanced security, undertake accelerated development in the town and monitor the running of madrassas in the area.

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A la Marines: ARF against Maoists

Employing an Indian version of Aerial Reaction Force against the Maoists is an idea worthy of serious consideration.

It is gratifying to hear that the government has not closed its options over use of air power in security operations against the Maoists. Indian Air Force is also debating the subject at CAPS later this week in a closed-door seminar on Left Wing Extremism and Use of Air Power. As if on cue to provide some fresh inputs for this discussion, here is a quick extract from a report on tactically innovative use of air power by the US Marines in Afghanistan [via TCJ].

It can be dangerous for troops on the ground to chase fleeing insurgents because the enemy uses mines and improvised explosive devices to protect their routes of escape, explained Morriss.

Morriss and Kinkade created a concept called an aerial reaction force by adapting the concept of a quick reaction force. A QRF is a rapid response force commonly used to reinforce or investigate areas of interest. By combining the time-tested tactics of the QRF and the capabilities of the new Huey, the Marines created ARF — a force with strength in a couple of prime areas.

“ARF proves the capabilities of the Huey,” said Morriss. “It improves abilities of the [ground combat element] giving the Marines more flexibility and maneuverability.”

The new Huey can keep up with the demands of the ARF concept because of the improved lifting power of the helicopter. It can carry 6-8 combat-loaded Marines, plus the helo’s crew, into and out of tactical zones at high altitudes and in hot weather. The previous helicopter the Marine Corps used was the UH-1N Huey that did not have the power to carry such a load. Morriss’ squadron is the first HMLA to use the new Huey in combat.

The new helicopter provides outstanding economy of force, giving close air support and reconnaissance support for the Marines that it inserts. Historically, Marines used a heavy or medium lift helicopter to bring in the reinforcements, and flew attack helicopters for close air support.[Link]

Union Home Minister had not ruled out the use of Special Forces teams from the army in his reply during the debate over Dantewada incident in the Rajya Sabha last week. While India may not have the latest Huey helicopters, it could still effectively combine the existing helicopters in its inventory with these special forces teams to form its own version of the Aerial Reaction Force [ARF].

Among many other similarly brilliant suggestions, employment of ARF against the Maoists is an idea that merits serious consideration by the authorities. Anyone listening?

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Reading the end-game

A précis of the new RAND monograph, How Insurgencies End.

The RAND Corporation has recently released a monograph with an attention-grabbing title: How Insurgencies End. The publicly released report [pdf here] is the unclassified portion of a two-part study that undertook a quantitative examination of 89 cases of insurgencies in great detail.

Here are the key findings of the Report:

  • Modern insurgencies last approximately ten years, and the government’s chances of winning may increase slightly over time.
  • Withdrawal of state sponsorship cripples an insurgency and typically leads to its defeat. Inconsistent or impartial support to either side generally presages defeat.
  • Anocracies (pseudodemocracies) do not often succeed against insurgencies and are rarely successful in fully democratizing.

And the additional findings:

  • Insurgencies with more than two clear parties involved have longer, more-violent, and more-complex endings.
  • Over the long run, governments tend to win more often than not.
  • Governments do slightly better with no external support at all.
  • Insurgency is an endeavor best practiced in rural, or a mix of rural and urban, terrain.
  • Those insurgent groups that were able to restrict their use of terrorism by minimizing civilian—vice government—casualties were more likely to win than those that did not.
  • Insurgents do not need to be militarily strong to win, and, in fact, military strength can backfire if the threat of insurgent military victory galvanizes government security forces.
  • Insurgencies rarely survive or succeed without some kind of sanctuary, internal or external.

Next are the key indicators identified by the study.

  • Desertions, Defections, and Infiltrations: The rates at which these phenomena occur, as well as changes in these rates, often indicate significant trends and, occasionally, tipping points.
  • Information and Reporting: Qualitative analysis of the 89 cases substantiates conventional wisdom in that civilians’ willingness to report on insurgent activity to the government usually reflects the success of government security and pacification programs. Conversely, a lack of reporting correlates with a lack of progress.

Then there are these other indicators, which are not so universally applicable.

  • Force Ratios: A dominating force presence (9:1 or greater) correlated strongly with success for the counterinsurgent and that taking on an insurgency with a 1:1 (or even 2:1) force ratio was imprudent. [Note - One might assume from this finding that more forces are better. But accurately counting insurgents is at best a dubious undertaking and at worst impossible; and, perhaps most importantly, conventional wisdom focuses on troop-to-population, not troop-to-insurgent, ratios. Because COIN is a population-centric endeavor, this last criticism is also the most relevant.]
  • Civil-Defense Forces: Incorporating a CDF program into a COIN campaign plan can help shape a positive ending, but only if the program is well designed and systematically implemented. However the program is implemented, it can be gauged a success only if it helps establish security and demonstrates a shift in popular perception toward the government.

And the conclusions, which are intended to inform COIN campaign planning and midstride campaign adjustments.

  • With a few exceptions, lasting insurgency endings are shaped not by military action but by social, economic, and political change.
  • Government victories often cause the insurgency to splinter, leaving behind small elements of irredeemables that may or may not represent an ongoing threat. Tracking these splinter groups can provide tremendous insight into the nature of the insurgency ending.
  • Professional intelligence organizations should be able to identify shifts in strategic momentum during the course of a campaign by incorporating a small set of generalizable indicators into the all-source analysis process.
  • No insurgency ending is inevitable.

On reading this report [or this blogpost for those who do not have either the patience or the time to wade through 270 dense pages], the temptation to fit this as a template into the biggest internal security challenge that India is currently facing, the Maoist problem, must be resisted. As the report itself warns,

Generalized findings derived from historical case studies should not be taken as prescriptions for upcoming or ongoing operations. For example, while we found that insurgencies last about ten years, we do not suggest that any specific insurgency will last ten years. Predicting specific outcomes from general assumptions is a common logical or, by some scientific definitions, an ecological fallacy. Quantitative findings alone cannot—and should not—shape COIN campaign planning. Further, these findings are correlative and not necessarily causative. In other words, addressing only one factor, such as the availability of sanctuary or external support, will not necessarily create a tipping point that will mark the beginning of the end of the insurgency.

But there are two distinct take-aways from this report which Indian COIN planners at the North Block or South Block, and at the secretariats of the state capitals must take note of and remember during their COIN design and planning processes.

In nearly all cases we studied, only the direct and consistent application of basic COIN methodology promulgated by David Galula (1964 [2006]), David Kilcullen (2009), Thomas X. Hammes (2006), GEN David Petraeus, Gen. James Mattis, and others leads to favorable endings. Failure to heed the past 50 years of expert opinion on the subject almost guarantees an undesirable, and possibly a disastrous, end.

…as David Kilcullen and other experts make clear, while it is necessary to apply basic COIN principles, there are no cookie-cutter approaches to COIN. Counterinsurgents must adapt tactics, operations, and strategy to fit specific circumstances and then be prepared to change them as often as necessary to win.

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