16 November 2012

Siachen Track II Forum on a treacherous trek

KARAN KHARB | 16/11/2012

The Track II strategy is a conspiracy hatched by Pakistan to make its sinister scheme appear transparent, non-partisan and credible, to evict Indian troops from Siachen which Pakistan desperately needs but cannot snatch it from India by force

Having suffered several defeats and dismemberment at India’s hands, Pakistan should seek peace more eagerly than India. Ironically and illogically, however, it is India that has always been at the receiving end while Pakistan has been getting away with her audacious mischiefs, outright anti-India tirade and perpetrating attacks deep inside India through proxy squads of terrorists trained, equipped and financed under a well organised military system. At last count, over 42 training academies—more mildly called ‘Camps’—are currently running in Pakistan and POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) even when, in a grotesque development, some of India’s very own revered strategists including a formerAir Force chief have been easily convinced by their Pakistani counterparts to coax the Indian Army to depart from Siachen as a step towards peace. Called “Track II Forum”, they are a group of retired military brass from Pakistan and India seeking ‘demilitarisation’ of the Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battlefield, held by Indian troops since 1984. Ever since, the Pakistan Army has tried to dislodge the Indian troops and capture Siachen but in vain.

Or is it the other way round? Prime minister Manmohan Singh was once quoted in India Today (14 May 2012) thus: “Siachen is called the highest battlefield where living is very difficult. Now the time has come that we make efforts that this is converted from a point of conflict to the symbol of peace.” The report went on, “Sources in the government say the prime minister has endorsed the Siachen talks on demilitarisation. For him, they say, the world's highest battlefield—and a snow-capped symbol of the Indian Army’s enduring sacrifice—comes without the baggage of Jammu and Kashmir and forward movement (read demilitarisation) would mean creating the right atmosphere for talks derailed by the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Demilitarisation is his CBM (confidence building measure) offer to Pakistan.” The Indian military viewpoint has always been unambiguous and steadfastly against any ‘demilitarisation’ of Siachen. The government, in all fairness, must respect and accept this professional opinion from the country’s military authorities responsible to defend these borders rather than yielding to pressure or blackmail from invisible quarters.

What is perplexing is that the proposal to demilitarise Siachen is said to have germinated in secretive parleys among some very senior military veterans—Indians and Pakistanis—organised as “Track II Forum” under the aegis of “Atlantic Council of Ottawa” and “Atlantic Council of US” (latter headed by Shuja Nawaz—a close confidant of Gen Kiyani) at exotic locales in the world. The Forum flaunting themselves as angels of peace, promise to replace animosities and the age-old trust deficit between India and Pakistan with peace, friendship and cooperation. ‘Demilitarisation’, a euphemism for ‘withdrawal’ or ‘abandonment’ of Siachen by India, is the first step they have proposed while remaining quiet on far more serious issues affecting daily life of millions of people on both sides of the border.

Siachen, at an altitude of 22,000 ft, has nothing to sustain life. All it has is scarce oxygen, chilly winds, icy gorges, debilitating fog, sleet, snow and temperature sinking to minus 50 degree Celsius. No birds fly there, no plants grow, no flowing streams—only frozen glaciers, no life whatsoever! Yet, the gallant Indian soldiers stand here to keep vigil throughout the glacial expanse in sheer defiance to nature and enemy. Even in these adversities, Indian troops holding these dominating heights enjoy a tactical advantage which renders it impossible for the Pakistan Army to wrest control of “key terrain features” in this area by fighting. But Indian occupation of these features denies Pakistan Army the freedom to encroach into Indian territory and stake claims subsequently as is evident by Pakistan’s persistence on delineating the LC (Line of Control) from NJ 9842 toKarakoram Pass. The Track II ‘demilitarisation’ proposal, therefore, is Pakistan Army’s silent attack by other nobler looking means to capture the strategically important objective in the region. If this were not so, why are they ignoring to address a host of other higher priority issues hampering normalisation process? Siachen being a desolate uninhabitable tract has no bearing on trade, industry, transport or any other human activity to affect life in Pakistan. Why then is it given such a prominence for normalising relations between the two nations? Since early 2004, even the opposing forces of the two countries have remained largely quiet in this region. Why should a quiet, tranquil Siachen be a cause of anxiety to Pakistan at this stage? Far from being an innocuous peace drive, the move is loaded with Pakistan’s strategic move to unhinge and upturn Indian defences in the region without military manoeuvre.

The vital strategic significance of Siachen is further heightened when viewed in relation to the LC that should justifiably run north from NJ9842 to the vicinity of the Wakhan Corridor, the western extremity of the original state of J&K ceded to India by the Maharaja genuinely and legally, as also the proximity of Shaksgam Valley illegally ceded by Pakistan to China.

Also, it is the strategic value of these dominating heights that stand between a Pak-China link-up. There are rumours that part of upper Gilgit-Baltistan has been leased by Pakistan to China for a period of 50 years. Presence of Chinese troops and labour in the Baltik region lend substance to these inputs. Imagine a geography that would conjoin Xingjiang, Shaksgam, POK (Baltistan), Aksai Chin and Tibet while Siachen is left bereft of Indian troops. If and when that happens, it would be tantamount to ceding areas north of Khardung La range to Pakistan putting life in the Nubra and Shyok Valleys at their mercy and opening floodgates for unhindered infiltration into Ladakh. Indian positions in Ladakh, Leh and Kargil would also be under serious jeopardy. Siachen in its present state stands formidably to deny Pakistan and China such strategic advantages besides asserting India’s sovereign authority over her territory in the region where border, LC or AGPL (Actual Ground Position Line) is yet to be authenticated.

If they were indeed promoting peace and friendship between India and Pakistan, there were other urgencies and priorities that should have caught the attention of Track II Forum. Siachen is not harming Pakistan in any way yet, whereas the terrorist training camps in Pakistan have been bleeding India. The Forum is strangely quiet on this issue. Why are they also not asking Pakistan to expatriate the terrorists and criminals wanted for their crimes in India and now roaming about freely and honourably in Pakistan? Why are they not seeking an undertaking from the Pakistani authorities to stop anti-India tirade at international forums?

If ‘demilitarisation’ of Siachen were logical and prudent in the Track II reckoning, there would be no logic or prudence for India to hold geographical features anywhere along the Line of Control by the same reckoning. With in-house calls for withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act from J&K already gaining eloquence, it is not impossible to foresee that vacating Siachen would ultimately trigger a demand for the Indian Army to ‘demilitarise’ J&K. By that corollary China would perhaps be the first to seek ‘demilitarisation’ of Arunachal Pradesh. It seems Track II Forum has big future and can plan their exotic jaunts in style!

Some Indian delegates in the Track II Forum are ducking questions and, bereft of argument, some of them brazenly conclude saying, “Siachendemil... it is my personal opinion? You may agree or disagree with it but in my retired capacity, I am free to express whatever I feel!” That is sad and grossly wrongly held notion. Agreed that retirement frees you from the rules and norms that restricted your “free and frank” expression, but the position you held before demitting office has given you an identity and status that conveys credibility and influences public opinion.

Personal opinions of personalities who become publicly recognisable should not be loosely tossed around under the plea of one’s fundamental rights. Even on retirement, military leaders cannot relinquish in life their commitment to “the safety, honour and welfare” of their country and violation of this Chetwodian virtue should be viewed most seriously. The Track II proposal to ‘demilitarise’ (which actually means abandoning) Siachen is not only wrong but a treacherous proposal that smacks of some conspiracy hatched to inflict significant damage through apparently innocuous means and cunning machinations.

Ideally, entire the Indo-Pak border and Line of Control/Actual Ground Position Line should be demilitarised. Maybe one day it will happen too. Perhaps by now both the countries would have achieved such good neighbourliness only if Pakistan had not betrayed India’s trust every time we moved closer to peace and friendship. Given the history of frequent betrayals, infiltration, cross border terrorism and Kargil, India would vacate Siachen at her own peril. Pakistan cannot afford to evict the Indian Army from its dominating positions at the Earth’s highest battlefield militarily. The Track II strategy therefore is a conspiracy hatched by Pakistan co-opting Indian veterans and journalists under the aegis of so-called Atlantic Council of Ottawa to make their sinister scheme appear transparent, non-partisan and credible to evict Indian troops from Siachen which Pakistan needs desperately but cannot snatch it from India by force. An army that is used to planning and executing coups to topple governments seems to have also perfected yet another art of launching quiet warfare in the garb of cool diplomacy to evict the Indian Army from its defences! It is therefore highly expedient for the India Army to consider and include such unconventional machinations and “diplomatic manoeuvrings” as factors while planning war-games to be able to see beyond what looks apparent in our enemy's posturing.

Peace and good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan or between India and China are very much needed and would be a welcome scenario any day. Sadly, these relations have been far from peaceful or good neighbourly with a history of more blood flow than trade and trust across borders. India’s initiatives for peace and friendship with Pakistan have almost always been betrayed even while agreements were being drafted or formally signed. Prime ministers Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif were celebrating peace at Lahore when the Pakistan Army was busy infiltrating to capture Kargil and cut off Siachen. Peace parleys for confidence-building measures were going on between the two countries when Mumbai 26/11 killings happened under the aegis of Pakistan Army/ISI. Yet, people on both sides of the border need and deserve peace and there is ample scope for cooperation to benefit from each other in numerous fields.

But peace cannot be begged. To be lasting, it has to be negotiated from a position of strength, honour, dignity and mutual trust.

To read more articles by the same writer, please click here.
The writer is a retired soldier, author of two international best-sellers and a social servant.

Hamas Shoots Rockets at Tel Aviv, Tweeting Every Barrage

By Noah Shachtman and Robert Beckhusen

On day one of the fight between Israel and Hamas, the Israeli Defense Forces executed a top leader of the militant group — and took to Twitter and YouTube to brag about it. On day two, the Palestinian group hit back, launching its most sophisticated rockets and announcing every new barrage on social media.

The counteroffensive is a major change from the last time the IDF and Hamas battled, during 2009′s “Operation Cast Lead.” Then, the Palestinian militant movement used improvised rocket-launchers to dump crude rockets on the Israeli towns nearest to Gaza. Their information warfare campaign was similarly primitive. Today, Hamas is armed with relatively sophisticated Iranian Fajr-5 rockets, firing them at Israel’s largest city, and tweeting that the rockets are causing havoc in Tel Aviv.

It’s a claim the IDF disputes. But an Israeli spokesperson adds that residents of central Israel should prepare for a night that “won’t be calm.” Tel Aviv — which hasn’t been hit by hostile projectiles since Saddam Hussein launched his Scuds during the 1991 Gulf War — may not stay protected for long. “1 million citizens in #Israel slept in bomb shelters tonight, barraged by dozens of rockets from #Gaza,” the IDF Tweeted.

A big reason why: the Fajr-5 rocket. Built by Iran — possibly with Russian and Chinese help — the rockets were first shipped through Syria to the Hezbollah militant group in 2002. Today, an unknown number are now in the hands of Hamas. (Presumably, that’s thanks in part to a porous border between southern Gaza and the Sinai, now controlled by the new Islamist regime in Egypt.) The rocket is liquid-fueled, has an estimated 45-mile range, and is fired from a mobile launcher. And while it’s more powerful than anything Hamas had before, it’s still unguided and not particularly accurate — the rocket could land anywhere within a one-kilometer radius of its target. But where the Fajr-5 is short on accuracy, it’s a significant boost in destructive power: the rocket can lob up to 200 pounds of high explosives.

The Israeli military claims to have destroyed dozens of the rockets. But as this video uploaded to the Twitter account of Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades shows, the stockpile hasn’t been exhausted entirely.

When the Israeli Defense Forces began on Wednesday “Operation Pillar of Defense” — the largest assault on Gaza in more than three years — the IDF aggressively liveblogged, tweeted and uploaded a stream of updates to social media sites. In particular, the IDF instantly boasted on social media about the slaying of Ahmed al-Jabari, one of Hamas’ best-known leaders. The head of the group’s military wing since the Second Intifada of the early 2000s, Jabari has been blamed by the Israelis for the deaths of countless citizens and for the kidnapping of the young soldier Gilad Shalit.

In part, the hyper-pugnacious social media push is a reaction to how Israel’s earlier wars were portrayed. During 2009′s Cast Lead and 2006′s war with Hezbollah, “there was no shining victory that Israel could hold up from either attack. There was nothing big you could point to — like how Obama said he got [Osama] bin Laden,” a former member of the IDF media team tells Danger Room. “Here you have Jabari, and have these Fajr missiles. It’s a way to show to the world a clear victory, and a way to keep the stock high with the [Israeli] elections coming up in January.”

Not to be outdone, Hamas has also taken to social media to publicize its rocket and mortar attacks, which it is calling “Operation Shale Stones.” And just like the IDF and Jabari, the al-Qassam brigades tweet when Israeli casualties are reported. “Enemy admits of killing 3 Zionists and injuring 3 others by Palestinian resistance shelling,” the Brigades tweeted at 4:29 a.m.

On Twitter, Israel sought to sway global public opinion with the hashtag #IsraelUnderFire. Hamas and their supporters responded with #GazaUnderAttack along with variations in different languages. These hashtags are also sometimes combined with #FreeGaza and the more militant #Resistance hashtag, and Hamas adds the hashtag #ShaleStones for military updates. And both sides are fighting over control of #Gaza.

It’s important to note that – like Israel’s social media offensive – Hamas’ version is intended as propaganda. A photo of a wounded child tweeted by the Brigades appeared online more than a month ago on the Facebook page of a French-language anti-Assad group. Another photo of Gaza explosions uploaded to the Facebook page of Hamas-affiliated news website Felesteen appeared digitally manipulated. We may be entering a new phase of social media war. But just like in the conflicts of the past, truth is often an early casualty.

Impact of Pakistan's TNWs

P K Chakravorty


Pakistan’s nuclear programme is Indo centric and is based on offensive usage of nuclear weapons. On 19 April 2011, Pakistan successfully tested the Hatf IX, named NASR a solid fuelled battlefield range ballistic missile. The missile has been developed by Pakistani National Development Complex and carries a sub kiloton nuclear war head. The engine comprises of a single stage rocket motor and has an operational range of 60 km. The launch platform is a Transport Erect Launcher (TEL) and is a multi tube ballistic system. Two Hatf IX Nasr Ballistic Missiles can be carried by a single TEL. NASR is a quick response system which has shoot and scoot nuclear delivery capability. A quick response system with regard to nuclear weapons is definitely destabilising as supposedly nuclear weapons ought to be used in the gravest circumstances.

Pakistani rationale

The obvious question was why did Pakistan test the NASR. The Pakistani establishment has provided its rationale which does not appear coherent. The first is the acquisition of miniaturisation technology. This technology would assist Pakistan in miniaturising their Cruise Missiles Babur and Raad for

submarine launches thereby moving on to second strike capability. The second is the TNW being a counter to India’s limited war doctrine. The adoption of a doctrine which envisages rapid attacks by India’s mechanised spearheads resulting in capture of sensitive shallow objectives would be effectively deterred by NASR. Pakistan proposes to use the TNW on Indian territory possibly at the areas of commencement of operations of Indian forces. This appears to be difficult as it entails usage of nuclear weapons prior to engagement by conventional forces.

Pakistan undertook nuclear tests in May 1998 and thereby emerged as an overt nuclear power, but it is yet to formally adopt a nuclear use doctrine. Accordingly one has to study the statements of Pakistani leaders as also its declaratory and operational postures to deduce the possible mode of usage of nuclear weapons. Mr Rao Sikandar, a previous Pakistan Defence Minister stated, “The country’s ultimate security lies in the use of atom bomb.” Broadly Pakistan wishes to maintain a credible nuclear deterrence vis a vis India. Pakistan sees the success of India’s Ballistic Missile Defence Programme and the Indo-US nuclear deal as issues which have compelled the authorities to enhance the number of war heads as also develop Cruise Missiles and TNWs which would not be intercepted by the Indian Ballistic Missile Defence. The second aspect is of Strategic Restraint. Pakistan has viewed this issue under the areas of reciprocal agreements with India on nuclear weaponisation. Primarily these fall under five areas, the first is not to deploy ballistic missiles, the second not to operationally weaponise nuclear capable missile systems, the third to provide prior and adequate notification of flight tests of missile and fourth to declare a moratorium on the development, acquisition or deployment of Agni as it can destabilise minimum credible deterrence, The third aspect is not to quantify minimum credible deterrence but to upgrade its capability based on Indian response. The fourth aspect is to pursue arms control and disarmament at the global and regional levels while maintaining minimum deterrence.

Logical Application

The Pakistani views expressed above are emotional and lack logical application. There are two issues which emerge on the application of NASR, targeting Indian mechanised spear heads attacking Pakistan. At the strategic level it is using a nuclear weapon and as Air Chief Marshal (Retired) P V Naik has stated “Tactical or Strategic, it is a nuclear weapon. Our response would be absolutely violent, if it is used as per our existing policy. Accordingly it is not a game changer.” The second aspect to be considered is the modus operandi by which Pakistan can dissuade our forces from under taking proactive operations. Pakistan must give up its covert sub conventional operations against India by dismantling the terrorist infrastructure that exists in the form of terrorist camps across the Line of Control (LOC). This would definitely send a positive signal resulting in lowering of tensions on both sides.

It is of interest to note the timing when this weapon will be used. In case the weapon is to be used in non Pakistan territory it would imply usage of TNW on our forces while they are commencing the offensive. The targets in such case would be the areas where troops are concentrated or assembling in their process of under taking proactive operations. In such an eventuality usage of NASR frees India from the No First Use and gives us the liberty to use nuclear weapons. This option is unlikely due to the advantages it accrues to India. The next option is to use NASR once our forces are on the verge of capturing shallow objectives. In such an eventuality, due to close proximity of Indian and Pakistani forces casualties would occur on both sides and the weapons would be used on Pakistani soil causing radiation hazards which would continue for a long time apart from inviting retaliation. In either case the overall result does not favour Pakistan.


The introduction of NASR has certainly added a new dimension to the usage of nuclear weapons by Pakistan. In a way Pakistan is possibly imitating the NATO route during the Cold War. The concept was to use TNWs from the commencement of operations to block the Warsaw Pact offensive. The thought process had to be changed as it was prudent to reply with nuclear weapons instead of TNWs as they did not prevent escalation and it led to use of more destructive weapons as a matter of course. Similarly use of Nasr would lead to punitive retaliation which would be detrimental to Pakistani interests. It would be naive to presume that there would be no retaliation to usage of TNW.

The response of India to the usage of NASR should be clear to all authorities. In consonance with our stated policy of ‘No First Use’ usage of NASR should be treated as use of a nuclear weapon and suitable response undertaken. As regards our land strike elements, they should be prepared for a TNW attack and be trained in undertaking protective measures while undertaking offensive operations.

The auhtor, a retired Major General is presently an Advisor to BrahMos Aerospace

Views expressed are personal

Pakistan's New Generation of Terrorists

Authors: Jayshree Bajoria, and Jonathan Masters, Online Editor/Writer
Updated: September 26, 2012

Terrorist Groups
The Pakistani Taliban
Changing Face of Terrorism
Counterterrorism Challenges


Pakistani authorities have long had ties to domestic militant groups that have largely focused their efforts abroad, as in Afghanistan and India. But with Pakistan joining the United States as an ally in the post-9/11 "war on terrorism," experts say Islamabad has seen harsh blowback from Washington for its support of militant groups. In May 2011, al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden was killed by a U.S. raid at a compound not far from Islamabad, raising new questions about Pakistan's commitment to fighting terrorism. Meanwhile, leadership elements of al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, along with other terrorist groups, have made Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal areas their home, and now work closely with a wide variety of Pakistani militant groups, like the Haqqani Network, which in September 2012 was added to the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO). Links between many of these new and existing groups have strengthened, say experts, giving rise to fresh concerns for the country's stability.

Terrorist Groups

Many experts say it is difficult to determine how many terrorist groups are operating out of Pakistan. Most of these groups have tended to fall into one of the five distinct categories laid out by Ashley J. Tellis, a senior associate at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in a January 2008 testimony (PDF) before a U.S. House Foreign Affairs subcommittee. 

Sectarian: Groups such as the Sunni Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and the Shia Tehrik-e-Jafria, which are engaged in violence within Pakistan;

Anti-Indian: Terrorist groups that operate with the alleged support of the Pakistani military and the intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), and the Harakat ul-Mujahadeen (HuM). This Backgrounder profiles these organizations, which have been active in Kashmir;

Afghan Taliban: The original Taliban movement and especially its Kandahari leadership centered around Mullah Mohammad Omar, believed to be now living in Quetta;

Al-Qaeda and its affiliates: The organization led by Osama bin Laden and other non-South Asian terrorists believed to be ensconced in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Rohan Gunaratna of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore says other foreign militant groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamic Jihad group, the Libyan Islamic Fighters Group, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement are also located in FATA;

The Pakistani Taliban: Groups consisting of extremist outfits in the FATA, led by individuals such as Hakimullah Mehsud of the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan, Maulana Faqir Muhammad of Bajaur, and Maulana Qazi Fazlullah of the Tehrik-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM).

There are some other militant groups that do not fit into any of the above categories--for instance, secessionist groups such as the Balochistan Liberation Army in the southwest province of Balochistan. BLA was declared a terrorist organization by Pakistan in 2006. Also, a new militant network, often labeled the Punjabi Taliban, has gained prominence after the major 2008 and 2009 attacks in the Punjabi cities of Lahore, Islamabad, and Rawalpindi.

Hassan Abbas, a professor of international security studies at the Washington-based National Defense University, wrote in 2009 that the Punjabi Taliban network is a loose conglomeration of members of banned militant groups of Punjabi origin--sectarian as well as those focused on Kashmir--that have developed strong connections with the Pakistani Taliban, Afghan Taliban, and other militant groups based in FATA and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Since there is also greater coordination between all these groups, say experts, lines have blurred regarding which category a militant group fits in. The Haqqani Network, a semi-autonomous faction of the Taliban, is particularly emblematic of the complex interrelations between militant groups in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. A 2011 report from the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC), an independent research institution based at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, characterizes the group as a "nexus player" with ties to Pakistan's ISI, al-Qaeda, Uzbek militants, and other global Islamists. "For the past three decades, the Haqqani Network has functioned as an enabler for other groups and as the fountainhead (manba') of local, regional and global militancy," write Don Rassler and Vahid Brown in the report. 

The Pakistani Taliban

Supporters of the Afghan Taliban in the tribal areas transitioned into a mainstream Taliban force of their own as a reaction to the Pakistani army's incursion into the tribal areas, which began in 2002, to hunt down militants. In December 2007, about thirteen disparate militant groups coalesced under the umbrella of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, with militant commander Baitullah Mehsud from South Waziristan as the leader. After Mehsud was killed in August 2009 in a U.S. missile strike, his cousin and deputy Hakimullah Mehsud took over as leader of the TTP. Experts say most adult men in Pakistan's tribal areas grew up carrying arms, but it is only in the last few years that they have begun to organize themselves around a Taliban-style Islamic ideology, pursuing an agenda much similar to that of the Afghan Taliban. Abbas writes in a January 2008 paper that the Pakistani Taliban killed approximately two hundred tribal leaders and effectively established themselves as an alternative.

TTP not only has representation from all of FATA's seven agencies (see this interactive map of the area) but also from several settled districts of the NWFP. According to some estimates, the Pakistani Taliban collectively has around thirty thousand to thirty-five thousand members. Among their other objectives, they have announced a defensive jihad against the Pakistani army, enforcement of sharia, and a plan to unite against NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The Haqqani Network, whose operations and relations straddle the Durand Line, has proven a valuable ally in some of these pursuits. The Haqqanis have not only fought alongside the TTP and Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan, they have also served as an influential mediator between the TTP and officials in Islamabad. Pakistan has long been a large supporter and beneficiary of the Haqqanis, according to CTC. The network has helped Islamabad manage militant groups in FATA, and provided leverage against India in the struggle over Kashmir.

Pakistani authorities accused the TTP's former leader, Baitullah Mehsud, of assassinating former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007. Some experts have questioned the ability of the different groups working under the Pakistani Taliban umbrella to stay united, given the rivalries between the various tribes. However, the group has proved since its inception, through a string of suicide attacks, that it poses a serious threat to the country's stability. On May 12, 2011, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for bombing a paramilitary academy that killed eighty people and injured more than 100 (BBC). A Taliban spokesman said the suicide assault "was the first revenge for Osama's martyrdom" (al-Jazeera). TTP also expressed transnational ambitions when it claimed responsibility for a failed bomb attack in New York in May 2010.
Changing Face of Terrorism

Violence in Pakistan has been on the rise as more militant groups target the state. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), a terrorism database, 8,953 civilians were killed in terrorist violence from January 2009 to September 2012, compared to around 1,600 civilian deaths from 2003 to 2006. This new generation of terrorists is also more willing to engage in suicide attacks; in a 2009 documentary (CBC), journalist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy reported that the Taliban are recruiting increasingly younger children to carry out suicide attacks. According to SATP, there were seventy-six suicide attacks in Pakistan in 2009 as compared to only two in 2003. Gunaratna attributes this to the influence of al-Qaeda. He says bin Laden's group is training most of the terrorist groups in FATA.

Besides providing militant groups in Pakistan with technical expertise and capabilities, al-Qaeda is also promoting cooperation among a variety of them, say some experts. Don Rassler, an associate at CTC, writes that al-Qaeda "has assumed a role as mediator and coalition builder among various Pakistani militant group factions by promoting the unification of entities that have opposed one another or had conflicting ideas about whether to target the Pakistani state." Al-Qaeda's greatest strength today, says counterterrorism expert Brian Fishman, is its "ability to infiltrate and co-opt other militant groups that have existing operational capability."

In an interview with CFR, Bruce Riedel, the original coordinator of President Obama's policy on the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, also stressed al-Qaeda's growing cooperation with groups like the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and others. "The notion that you can somehow selectively resolve the al-Qaeda problem while ignoring the larger jihadist sea in which [al-Qaeda] swims has failed in the past and will fail in the future," he said.

In December 2011, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi-al-Alami --a splinter of the sectarian group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi --claimed responsibility for deadly attacks on Shias in Afghanistan. But some experts raised doubts over the group's capacity to carry out such an attack on its own, pointing to possible support from al-Qaeda, Pakistani Taliban, or "rogue elements inside Afghanistan" (AFP). Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid writes "al-Qaeda and its attendant Pakistani extremists" are using sectarian warfare as a tool (Spectator) to divide Afghanistan and thwart any U.S. effort to reconcile with the Taliban.

Experts say militants have also expanded their control over other parts of Pakistan such as in South Punjab, some settled areas of NWFP, and as far south as Karachi. Military analyst Ayesha Siddiqa writes, "South Punjab has become the hub of jihadism" (Newsline). She argues South Punjabi jihadists have been connected with the Afghan jihad since the 1980s and the majority is still engaged in fighting in Afghanistan. Some estimates put between five thousand and nine thousand youth from South Punjab fighting in Afghanistan and Waziristan. According to some experts, the Karachi wing of TTP provides logistics support and recruits new members.

Counterterrorism Challenges

Pakistan's security forces are struggling to confront these domestic militants. As this Backgrounder points out, efforts are under way to reform the forces, but challenges remain both in terms of willingness to fight some of these militant groups as well as capabilities. Security forces, especially the army and the police, have increasingly become the target for the militant groups. In October 2009, militants attacked the army headquarters in Rawalpindi and held around forty people hostage for over twenty hours, much to the army's embarrassment.

These attacks have heralded a new period in army and ISI relations with many of these militant groups, say analysts. Steve Coll, president of the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, says since the bloody encounter between Pakistan's security forces and militant Islamic students in Islamabad's Red Mosque in 2007, there has been a pattern of some of these groups previously under state patronage, breaking away from the state. He says Pakistan's security establishment is now trying to figure out how to control them.

Most analysts believe that even though the Pakistani army and the ISI are now more willing to go after militant groups, they continue some form of alliance with groups, such as the Haqqanis, that they want to use as a strategic hedge against India and Afghanistan. But Pakistan's security establishment denies these charges. In October 2009, ISI Chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha said: "The ISI is a professional agency and does not have links (DailyTimes) with any militant outfit including the Taliban."

However, in April 2011, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen accused the ISI of having "a long relationship with the Haqqani network." Addressing the Haqqanis, Mullen said, "is critical to the solution set in Afghanistan."

The revelation in May 2011 that Osama bin Laden had been hiding in a compound around the corner from the Pakistan military academy at Kakul--Pakistan's version of West Point--raised new questions about the ISI's commitment to counterterrorism. CIA Chief Leon Panetta says the agency ruled out partnering with Pakistan out of concern that Pakistanis "might alert the targets" (TIME), highlighting the deep distrust in the relationship. Both President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani defended Pakistan's military and intelligence services, declaring claims of support for terrorists to be "baseless speculation" (WashPost).

The prospect of further deteriorating relations is concerning to both countries, but it remains to be seen whether mutual need will be enough to keep the relationship alive. "Pakistan needs the U.S. for its economic aid, and Washington needs Islamabad to continue its fight against terrorism and because it is home to the most important routes supplying the war in Afghanistan," writes Susanne Koelbl in Germany's Der Spiegel.

Pakistan: Why is the Military not opening a front in North-Waziristan?

Sander Ruben Aarten
Research Intern, IReS, IPCS
email: s.r.aarten@gmail.com

Over the years, North-Waziristan (NWA) has become the center of Taliban-affiliated terrorism. Concurrently, Pakistan has met heavy international pressure to launch an attack on terrorist safe havens inside NWA. Pakistan has announced and subsequently cancelled military operations in NWA on several occasions. Why is Pakistan so reluctant about launching an attack in NWA?

There seems to be a relation between increased US pressure on Islamabad and Pakistani announcements of an impending attack in NWA. In 2011, for example, the Pakistani Army made vague allusions about an operation inside NWA. However, a month after US Admiral Mike Mullen called the Haqqani network “a veritable arm” of Pakistan’s ISI directorate and accused the ISI of supporting the network as it launched an attack on the US embassy in Kabul, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister announced that 35,000 troops stood ready to launch the offensive. The offensive never materialised.

Similarly, in June 2012, the US Secretary of Defence Panetta said that Pakistan was “reaching the limits of our patience” and hinted at stepping up the drone attacks. Two months later, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Kayani announced that an attack on al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups such as the Haqqani network was imminent. A few weeks later, Interior Minister Rehman Malik stated that an operation was “not on the cards.” Apparently, another operation called ‘Tight Screw,’ was already launched to put pressure on militant strongholds in the region. Until today, very little is known about when, where, or even if ‘Tight Screw’ has been launched.

Keeping in mind its track record thus far, Pakistan may be wary of opening a new front in NWA. Between 2002 and 2009 the Pakistani Army launched a series of major offensives in and around FATA. These operations, which were primarily targeted against anti-Pakistani groups such as the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), have been of limited success for two reasons. First of all, while concentrating on destroying militant strongholds, they never managed to fully sanitise the region. At best, these operations resulted in a temporary disruption of militants’ activity, who would then either re-infiltrate the area or move base to another region. In its struggle against domestic terrorism, the army has suffered over 3500 casualties – a number that is higher than the total casualty rate of all NATO forces in Afghanistan combined.

Another undesired result was that the operations provided a breeding ground for anti-Pakistani sentiments among the population. The army did not shy away from using harsh measures; in 2008 alone more than 4000 houses were destroyed by the army in South-Waziristan, and in 2009 a series of campaigns in Swat and Malakand resulted in more than 3 million internally displaced persons. Compounding the issue, resettlement and reconstruction efforts of the federal government were hopelessly inadequate. Consequently, the TTP would cast the army and government as apostate entities, waging war against their own population, on behalf of foreign infidels. This is reflected in the upsurge in domestic terrorism since 2008.

Further, NWA provided sanctuary to two militant organisations that advance Pakistani geostrategic interests. First, the Haqqani network, which is an integral part of the Afghan Taliban, has its headquarters and several training grounds around NWA’s capital Miramshah. Pakistan, still in pursuit of strategic-depth vis-à-vis India, has an interest having a compliant government in Kabul and therefore continues to support the network via the ISI. Second, NWA provides sanctuary to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) which focuses on India and Kashmir being responsible for the Indian Parliament and Mumbai attacks in 2001 and 2008.

In addition to the Haqqani network and LeT, other organisations such as al Qaeda, TTP, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) are present in NWA too. Worryingly though, these organisations are known to be cooperating and pooling their resources and ideologies – effectively cross-pollinating. For example, last year a Haqqani Network spokesman warned it would shift focus to Pakistan if the latter was to attack. Similarly, an IMU cleric warned that it would fight for the imposition of Sharia in Pakistan and the destruction of the Pakistani army, should operations eventuate.
The India-factor may well be another reason why Pakistani strategists are reluctant to start an offensive in NWA. As Praveen Swami rightly noted in The Hindu, an all-out and prolonged internal conflict implies that Pakistan would be forced to drain its focus and military resources away from its powerful adversary in the east.

Pakistan is therefore likely to think twice before opening a new front in NWA. Any military operations in the region are likely to be self-defeating. Previous military campaigns have failed, resulted in a blowback that led to an upsurge in domestic terrorism, and reduced public support of the federal government. Moreover, Pakistan would alienate the sub-state entities that are a critical part of its foreign power projection – the LeT and Haqqani Network. Furthermore, it would imply a shift of its traditional military focus on its eastern border to its western border. Thus, announcements of an impending offensive are merely a public relations tool designed to temporarily deflect US pressure on Pakistan to take tougher actions against militant’s sanctuaries.

4 Threat Matrix: Pakistan to restore NATO's Afghan oil supply line after 12-month hiatus

Written by Lisa Lundquist on November 15, 2012
4 Threat Matrix

Available online at: http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2012/11/pakistan_restoring_natos_afgha.php

While the US has been distracted by the presidential election, the Syrian conflict, and jihadist outbursts in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, the Gaza strip and elsewhere, Pakistan has been moving at a glacial pace to restore NATO's critical oil supply line to Afghanistan.

The logistical supply lines, but not the oil supply lines, were opened in July after an apology two months earlier by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a US attack on a Pakistani military outpost in Mohmand on the night of Nov. 25-26, 2011 that left 25 Pakistani soldiers dead. US forces in Afghanistan attacked the Salala outpost just across the border after receiving fire from the outpost and sending up signal flares that were ignored.

After a 12-month blockade, the flow of oil through NATO's Pakistani supply lines is due to resume by the end of this month, according to the Express Tribune. The first two test-run tankers made it through the Torkham crossing in Khyber last week. "Officials cited multiple reasons [for the stoppage] including security issues faced by drivers and oil tankers on the route through Pakistan," the Express Tribune report stated.

As we noted back in July, the deal with Pakistan for the reopening of the supply lines involved sweeteners beyond Clinton's apology, including but not limited to: the release of $1.1 billion in withheld funds for Pakistan's counterterrorism efforts; reimbursements to Pakistani truckdrivers to the tune of $6,000 per truck stranded by the closure of the supply lines; and authorizing Pakistan to inspect every NATO vehicle passing through its territory.

And as we also observed, the deal also included the stipulation that the supply lines through Pakistan would not be available after the 2014 deadline set for the withdrawal of Coalition forces from Afghanistan. Pakistan seeks to hold the US to its 2014 withdrawal date and to limit, by means including control over supply routes, US influence in Afghanistan.

Our conclusion then still applies: "The bottom line is that Pakistan has manipulated the supply route issue -- which even the Taliban have called a "drama" orchestrated by the Pakistani government -- to continue to siphon billions of US dollars while at the same time maintaining Pakistan's jihadist proxies in Afghanistan and elsewhere."

General: We’re Staying in Afghanistan, No Matter What Obama Said

By Spencer Ackerman

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, nominated to be the next commander of the Afghanistan war, speaks in February at Eglin Air Force Base, February 2012. Photo: U.S. Marine Corps

Remember how President Obama said on the campaign trail that he would “responsibly end the war” in Afghanistan in 2014? Or when Vice President Biden said the president’s plan was “to end the war in 2014?” The general they want to lead that war is singing a much different tune.

During his confirmation hearing to take command in Kabul, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that the U.S. needs to present a “clear and compelling narrative of commitment” to Afghanistan, beyond the 2014 timeframe for turning over security to the Afghans. Step one is to negotiate the contours of a post-2014 U.S. force in Afghanistan, to “create momentum for that narrative that I was alluding to.”

The discrepancy between Dunford’s narrative of a continuing war and his boss’ narrative of a concluding war is a consequence of the Obama administration saying two things to two different audiences about the same war. To the American public, which Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) described as “war-weary,” the Obama team has sweeping rhetoric about “mov[ing] with confidence beyond this time of war,” as Obama said during his reelection speech last week. Overseas, not so much.

“It’s a question of confidence in the Afghan people that we will remain, confidence in the Afghanistan national security forces that we will remain,” confidence in the “capitals that we will remain,” and confidence among “regional actors that we will remain,” Dunford said. Constructing that narrative, in his view, is a hedge against the Taliban waiting the U.S. out and U.S. allies and adversaries alike preparing for the fall of the Washington-backed Afghan government.

Talks began on Thursday between U.S. and Afghan diplomats, as Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) noted, to craft the details of the U.S.’s continued presence, a long, long-telegraphed process Dunford says he wants to see wrapped up by May 2013. The general testified that the U.S. can “absolutely” cut its troop levels, but will need a residual force for “counterterrorism” operations and to backstop the fledgling Afghanistan army and police. (As well as to use Afghanistan as a platform to strike militant targets in Pakistan.) Regardless of the ultimate size of that force, Dunford’s testimony signaled that he intends to spend his time in Afghanistan telling whomever will listen that the U.S. is in Southwest Asia for the long haul, never mind what the president says.

Dunford had less to say about actually salvaging the war he will command. He elided critical debates about the pace of pre-2014 troop reductions — even saying he wasn’t part of internal deliberations over them — and the ultimate size of the Afghan security forces. He didn’t discuss any U.S. operations beyond training those Afghans, which he called “the critical part of our effort,” and said little of substance about stopping Afghan soldiers and cops from killing their American mentors. Instead, he came armed with talking points about progress in the war — although recent military statistics show enemy attacks to be more frequent than before the troop surge — and declared, “our objectives are achievable.”

Senators on the panel did not sound convinced. A frustrated Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of the war’s biggest congressional supporters, called Dunford a “blank slate” and made the surprising statement that if the U.S. “can’t accomplish the mission, I’m not sure why we should stay.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said the “lack of progress [and] the surge in insider attacks paint a rather bleak picture.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) mused about cutting off funding for the war if the U.S. withdraws too many troops to perform the residual missions Dunford outline. The panel’s chairman, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), however, encouraged Dunford to “present the positives” in Afghanistan and swiped at the media for emphasizing the negatives.

Lots of generals, especially David Petraeus, talk about shaping public perceptions of U.S. wars. Few are as blunt about it as Dunford was. That might be because the facts underlying Dunford’s narrative are basically in flux: NATO definitely wants its troops out, full stop, from Afghanistan, and the war is unpopular among the American people. Washington and Kabul still have to negotiate the size of a residual U.S. force, so it remains to be seen if that force will be an afterword to the war or the continuation of it under a new phrase. Facts like those tend to present a narrative all of their own.

BHUTAN: Getting Ready for the 2nd General Elections

Note No. 667 Dated 15-Nov-2012

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan.

Though still a few months away, Bhutan is in the grip of the "election fever." Four new political parties are likely to join the fray. Even candidates for some of the constituencies are being discussed in the media.

What should be worrying the government is not about democracy which is taking deep roots, but the economy that still appears to be in trouble.

The Indian rupee shortage continues despite desperate measures taken by the government to stem the tide though some observers rightly feel that the measures taken are sound and would take time to get reflected in the economy. Added to the rupee problem is the shortage now experienced in foreign exchange.

The ambitious programme of getting into stream the ten major hydroelectric projects by 2012 also appears to be stalled. Only three projects are being completed as scheduled as others are getting mired in bureaucratic procedures and financial problems.

Bhutan got a taste of its own position in the world when it lost its bid to get representation in the Security Council and the irony was that it got just 20 votes as against Cambodia and South Korea who got more votes! Some cynics would say that it is because of Bhutan being too close to India! . In my view Bhutan was ill advised by India to contest the elections in the first place.

To cap it all, one US-BASED academic Dr. David who had stayed in Bhutan for a short period made an unfair criticism of the very basis of the philosophy of the concept of "Gross National Happiness" and added that countries like Singapore and Sweden are better candidates to claim about national happiness than Bhutan! Surprising that he failed to notice that in the interior villages in Bhutan, people are generally happy and contented despite the harsh environment and the insulated nature of the village economy. To add insult to injury, he remarked that "Bhutan over promises and under delivers." Bhutan never claimed that it is a shining example of GNH but what is the harm in a country trying to achieve its own way to achieve the Buddhist ideals that form the basis of the GNH? Has material prosperity alone brought any happiness to those living in the west?

Coming to the elections in 2013

- it is likely to be held sometime in the last week of April 2013 and well before that the elections to the National Council will be held. ( February-March?)

Some important features in the elections this time would include-

* There will be no "mock election" as people have generally become aware of the procedures.

* Each contesting candidate is being given an enhanced allowance of Nu 130,000 to meet the election expenses.

* There is a welcome move to amend the rules to permit people to vote "in situ" rather than going to places where they are registered residents. This is necessary in view of the inhospitable terrain and the difficulties that will be experienced by people working in the urban centres.

* The most controversial aspect of the current elections will be that those who got elected in the local bodies will not be permitted to resign and contest in the general elections. The Election Commission has declared that unless the locally elected individuals are medically unfit and cannot function effectively, they will be disallowed to resign or else they will have to reimburse the cost of getting them elected.

It looks that the position of the election commission appears to be untenable. How does one compute the cost of someone who got elected to the local bodies? Secondly in a democracy how can one prevent a person from contesting when he has no criminal record? The reason given for the move is all the more absurd when it is being justified that not enough candidates were forthcoming for election to the local bodies! Perhaps Gyalpo 5 may have to intervene.

* Six parties are lined up to contest the elections. Of these, four are new besides the existing two parties the DPT in power and the PDP in opposition. Interestingly, even these two became eligible only recently after having cleared the debts incurred in the last general elections.

The four parties are

1. DNT: Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa- The main plank of this party is to end "political corruption" an ambitious philosophy and unlikely to be achieved ( see our experience in India!). The other objectives of the party are also somewhat confused - is said to be a mixture of social democracy, universal freedom, human values etc.

2. DCT: Druk Chaiwang Tshogpa: Is said to the party that campaign "voice for the voiceless." Its president is a former foreign service officer- Lily Wangchuk.

3. DMT: Druk Miksher Tshogpa: Not much is known about the party as yet.

4. BKP: Bhutan Kuengyam Party: This party has already submitted its application for registration with the Election commission. Rather unprecedented and unique aspect of this party is that it has offered a cabinet post to the opposition party if elected!

On the Refugee issue,

the Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal made a strange demand and perhaps for the first time that Bhutan should absorb the remaining residue of about 15000 refugees in Nepal who have declined to accept third country settlement! When Bhutan has not accepted its own citizens who were acknowledged to be in category I of the Kudenabari camp, where is the question of accepting others who are mostly radicalised? The recent incident of two "light" bombs that exploded on 21st September near the newly constructed bridge in Sunkosh of southern Bhutan should be an indicator of shape of things to come. An unknown outfit that goes by the name Bhutan United Social Democratic Party, claimed responsibility for the incident.

Finally, one cannot but admire the sentiments expressed by King Gyalpo 5 in his address to the National Graduates Orientation Programme 2012 on 20th August. He said that he is "proud of our unique culture, traditions and heritage that we have managed to preserve-Proud of our pristine environment and the respect for all the sentient beings- Proud of the manner in which democracy was introduced in a country which is unprecedented in history." The only fault I still hold against the country is the manner in which it treated some of its own citizens who languished in the refugee camps in Nepal for almost two decades.

Does Burma Still Have Nuclear Dreams?

The answer lies with the mysterious Dr. Ko Ko Oo.


President Obama is visiting Myanmar, better known as Burma. At the beginning of his term, Burma seemed set to take the place in the Axis of Evil left vacant by Iraq. In addition to brutally suppressing a pro-democracy movement, the regime's leaders had cultivated ties with North Korea and expressed an unhealthy interest in ballistic missiles and nuclear technology. Matters came to a head in 2009 and again in 2011 when a North Korean ship headed for Burma, carrying what the administration suspected might be ballistic missiles.

Then suddenly Burma came in from the cold. It released Aung San Suu Kyi, darling of the democracy movements, and told John McCain that it was done with all that nasty nuclear business. Case closed, right?

Well, not so fast. Although I welcome Burma's public rejection of nuclear weapons, experts had real reasons for concerns about Burma's past activities. I understand it is hard to imagine poor, backwards Burma in possession of nuclear weapons. But Burma's leaders are isolated and a bit paranoid. Which sounds like North Korea. We know how that worked out.

Administration officials are careful to make clear that they continue to be concerned about Burma's nuclear interests, as well as its relationship with North Korea. And it is worth stating at the outset that much of the information provided by dissident groups is of little value. It is often technically ignorant gossip gussied up as intelligence. Some of it appears to be outright fabrication, the sort of defector clap-trap made famous by Iraqis like Rafid Ahmed Alwan, better known as "Curveball."

But even if one strips away the near-hysterical claims of some dissident groups, some disquieting facts remain.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, let's look at a few.

The first one is a doozy. Hungry?

This is Senior General Shwe Mann in 2008 (seated, center left) -- then the head of Burma's military, now speaker of the lower house of parliament -- with Jon Byong Ho (standing).

Jon was North Korea's proliferator-in-chief, perhaps best known as the author of this letter released by business associate AQ Khan. For many years, Jon ran the Second Economic Committee in North Korea, along with his son-in-law, Yun Ho Jin. My colleague Josh Pollack dubbed them the "Dynamic Duo" of North Korean proliferation. Although Jon is now in his eighties and probably out to pasture, the sight of a senior Burmese general sitting down to dinner with him in North Korea is not encouraging.

The photo is one of nearly 200 images from a trip taken by a senior Burmese military delegation to North Korea in 2008. Another photo offers a rare glimpse inside North Korea's main missile factory.

Source: Democratic Voice of Burma

In addition to the pictures, there is a trip report, which makes clear that the Burmese window-shopped for ballistic missiles at North Korea's primary missile production facility. The list of foreign delegations to have visited this factory is not long -- it includes Egyptians, Syrians, and Iranians. Customers only. The trip report notes that "at an appropriate time, we should continue to produce these strategic weapons step by step." Shwe Mann also took time to sign a memorandum of understanding with the North Koreans on defense cooperation.

Gen. Shwe Man and KPA Chief of General Staff Gen. Kim Gyok Sik sign a memorandum of understanding on the 26th November 2008 (Source: Democratic Voice of Burma)

This helps explain why the United States turned back that North Korean ship headed to Burma. It is unclear whether American officials knew for certain whether the ship carried ballistic missiles, as they claimed, but one has to wonder after seeing pictures like this. The North Koreans were so pleased to see these pictures and the trip report online that they leaned on the Burmese to sentence to death two Burmese officials accused of having leaked it. I have no idea of knowing whether the sentence was carried out. But Burma's generals clearly have some sort of relationship with North Korea.

Obama officials have been clear that this is a continuing source of concern. According to Derek Mitchell, now the U.S. ambassador to Burma: "We have been quite consistent and direct in public and private about our continuing concerns about the lack of transparency in Burma's military relationship with North Korea and specifically that the government must adhere to its obligations under relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions and its other international nonproliferation obligations."

Let's look at some more pictures. Burma has openly sought to develop an ostensibly civilian nuclear program. For example, it has a Department of Atomic Energy. Until recently, DAE was run by this fellow in the green sarong: Dr. Ko Ko Oo.

Source: Regional Cooperation Agreement Oganization.

Dr. Ko Ko Oo now heads the Ministry of Science and Technology, which in 2007 concluded a memorandum of understanding with Russia to train 300-350 DAE personnel and to construct a nuclear research center in Burma, including a 10-megawatt research reactor fueled with low-enriched uranium. The deal eventually collapsed, but Burma has sent what Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell called "alarming numbers" of students to train in Russia. Here's a picture of a few trainees posing outside the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys.

Documents released by DictatorWatch, one of the more vociferous groups opposed to the Burmese regime, suggest that Burmese students are studying a range of missile and nuclear fuel-cycle activities in Russia, including the production of uranium, reactor operations, and spent nuclear fuel reprocessing. Burma has also carried out efforts to explore and exploit the country's uranium resources.

Let's pause before moving on to the more controversial material. There is no question that Burma went shopping in North Korea, toured the main missile factory, and signed an MOU on defense cooperation. Nor is there any question that Burma attempted to purchase a research reactor from Russia and sent large numbers of students to train in Russia. Once upon a time, if a country tried to purchase ballistic missiles and a research reactor, that made people nervous.

What really caught international attention, however, have been the claims of a defector named Sai Thein Win, a former major in the Burmese Army, who left Burma with a large number of photographs from a pair of technical workshops -- one in Myaing and one in Nuang Laing -- where he claims to have worked. These allegations are carefully summarized in a report prepared by Robert Kelley and Ali Fowle for the Democratic Voice of Burma, a group opposed to the Burmese regime. This is Sai, holding what appears to be a component of a rocket engine called an impeller.

Sai claimed the Myaing facility was associated with a nascent missile program, which would be consistent with his technical training. The Nuang Laing facility may be part of the same missile program, but it has also been rumored to be part of a nuclear program. After examining images of equipment manufactured using the tools at Myaing and Nuang Laing, Kelley and Fowle conclude that "this technology is only for nuclear weapons and not civilian use or nuclear power."

The workshops contain specialized machine tools from Germany and Switzerland. One of the suppliers had doubts about the end-user -- officially the Department of Vocational Training and Education (DVTE) -- and visited the facilities. According to Kelley and Fowle, foreign experts noted a number of discrepancies when visiting the site that caused them to wonder about the credibility of the declared end-use. For example, why did the staff contain only men of military age?

Here is a picture of a group of foreign experts visiting the facility near Nuang Laing. Notice a familiar face? Why, yes, that is our old friend Dr. Ko Ko Oo. 

Source: Democratic Voice of Burma

In addition to being the head of the Department of Atomic Energy, Dr. Ko Ko Oo was deputy director of DTVE and reportedly signed the end-user certificate for the equipment. These are examples of what David Albright has described as "deep connections" between DAE and DTVE.

Sai explained the discrepancies by noting the workshops were for defense production. He provided a number of photographs from inside at least one of the workshops showing uniformed personnel posing with equipment.

Source: Democratic Voice of Burma

Besides the presence of uniformed personnel, there are other reasons to suspect the facilities have a military purpose. For example, in most other cases, Burmese officials have publicly announced the opening of machine tool workshops.

There is a debate about the accuracy of Kelley and Fowle's analysis. The authors say the sum total of all the equipment suggests a uranium-based weapons program. Others, however, have been more skeptical. Pro Publica, a non-profit investigative journalism organization, released a report critical of Kelley's analysis that relied largely on anonymous intelligence sources. U.S. officials are said to have gone through the report "line by line" and rejected its conclusions, but the experts are anonymous and the basis for their rejection is not stated. David Albright and Christina Walrond argue that much of the equipment documented by Sai could be for recovering rare earths -- the funny metals essential to your smartphone and other digital gizmos. (To be clear, Albright has called Burma a "nuclear wannabe" and advised companies to be cautious in any dealings with Burma.)

The debate has gotten a bit heated at times, which is tough for me because I like all of the parties tremendously. And, in this case, I think the situation is rather complicated.

The extraction of rare earths is a plausible use for the equipment. A textbook, Extractive Metallurgy of Rare Earths, lists uses for all the equipment identified by Kelley: bomb reduction vessels, fluidized bed reactors made from Inconel to handle fluorine, glove boxes, and so on. (If you are desperate for a detailed discussion on the use of Inconel in handling fluorinated gas, I have posted a long technical analysis on my blog, ArmsControlWonk.com.) I think it is too strong to say there are no civilian applications for the equipment that Burma was producing.

But, and this is a Sir Mix-a-Lot-sized but ...

The authors of the textbook are two scientists at the Bhabba Atomic Research Center (BARC) in India. The United States sanctioned BARC after India's 1998 nuclear tests, because it is the beating heart of the Indian nuclear weapons program. India has a gas centrifuge program for enriching uranium located near Mysore, which operates under the cover of being a "rare metals plant." (The United States also sanctioned Indian Rare Earths, which operates the plant.)

So, a Department of Atomic Energy might plausibly engage in rare earths extraction given the similar technologies. But it might also use rare earths extraction as a cover for a military uranium enrichment program. Damned inconvenient, eh?

Burma also appears to maintain a unit called the "Number 1 Science and Technology Battalion" in a jungle facility near Thabeikkyin. That unit apparently requested production of a bomb reduction vessel from the factory in Myaing. Documents posted by DictatorWatch, describing the layout of the facility, are consistent with overhead images of a site located at: 22° 57' 29.59" N, 96° 5' 51.02" E. In addition to the satellite images, there are a small number of photographs of a visit to a construction site that perfectly matches the topography and layout of the buildings. Here's one showing the VIP visitor:

Why, unless I am very much mistaken, it's our old friend Ko Ko Oo. The presence of the senior DAE official at the site on what would appear to be an inspection tour suggests a nuclear purpose for the facility.

If neither the Number 1 Science and Technology Regiment nor the workshop near Nuang Laing are related to some sort of nuclear program, I'd really like to understand what the director of the Department of Atomic Energy was doing at both locations. And why is another of the machine shops producing equipment for the Number 1 Science and Technology Regiment? And why are the personnel at the civilian workshop posing in olive drab? I can come up possible explanations, but why should I have to guess? Dr. Ko Ko Oo could perhaps provide some insight here.

So, let's recap. Burma's military went on a shopping expedition to North Korea that included a tour of a ballistic missile factory, signing of a defense MOU, and dinner with the proliferator-in-chief. Burma's Department of Atomic Energy also attempted to purchase a research reactor from Russia and sent students to train in subjects such as reprocessing. Dr. Ko Ko Oo also was involved in the procurement of machine tools from foreign suppliers to establish two workshops that supply a military facility carved out of the jungle.

Golly, a fellow could get real suspicious.

I hasten to add that I have not included the wilder rumors about covert nuclear reactors and so forth. There is a lot of garbage out there about Burma's nuclear program. (Poor David Albright has had his hands full shooting down a lot of this silliness including some nonsense relating to tunnels. What is it about tunneling that makes people crazy?) Cables from Wikileaks demonstrate the very, uh, uneven quality of reporting. Worst of all, the dissident groups have turned on one another claiming credit for this discovery or that.

But despite all this drama, there is no "smoking gun," as former IAEA safeguard head Olli Heinonen has cautioned, that proves Burma is, or was, seeking a nuclear weapon.

Burma's motives are unclear. Perhaps some members of the Burmese junta believe that nuclear weapons would shield the regime from foreign pressure. Perhaps the Ministry of Science and Technology sees the extraction of rare earths as a future source of hard currency. And perhaps the machine tools they produced were intended for another country. But the workshop near Nuang Laing reminds me of the workshop that AQ Khan attempted to establish in nearby Malaysia. Whatever it is, something is going on. I would bloody well like to know what it is.

The Obama administration claims it is serious about ensuring that nonproliferation is part of its policy of engaging Burma. On the other hand, the anonymous officials cited by Pro Publica leave me with the impression that they worry too much attention to Dr. Ko Ko Oo's activities might disturb the delicate transition to civilian rule. These officials may calculate that democratization in Burma will move much faster than programs to develop ballistic missiles or nuclear technology. In October, Glyn Davies, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, told reporters that although Burma's leaders "made a strategic decision to...ultimately end these relationships with North Korea...it's a work in process. It was a long relationship that the two countries had and so it does take some time to work through it." It will be interesting to see how patient Congress will be.

Still, if the administration is reluctant to press for a full accounting of Burma's nuclear activities in the near-term, there are some more modest steps that we might seek: 

In late 2010, the IAEA director-general reportedly sent a letter to the Burmese government, requesting that the country "provide information about reports suggesting it was engaging in suspicious nuclear activities." Burma should oblige, providing access to facilities and associated personnel at Myaing, Nuang Laing, and Thabeikkyin. 

Senior Burmese officials have indicated they would consider signing an Additional Protocol, a stronger nuclear safeguards agreement created in response to Iraq's efforts to evade safeguards in the 1980s. Just do it, already. It also wouldn't hurt if Burma reported its uranium mining and milling activities. 

Russia and Burma should provide the IAEA details about the scope and size of training programs conducted for Burmese citizens. Who were these students? What did they study? Where are they today? 

Burma, we are told, has made a strategic decision to suspend defense cooperation with North Korea, but it should report the extent of its past dealings to the United Nations, starting with the full text of the purported MOU.

These steps fall well short of a complete accounting of Burma's nuclear activities, but they would offer some assurance that Burma is not actively pursuing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons while it is seeking to end its international isolation.

Time to Avoid Romanticisation of Aung San Suu Kyi

Paper No. 5297 Dated 16-Nov-2012

By B. Raman

1. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is presently on a visit to India where she grew up and studied as a teen-ager. Her widowed mother was posted as the Myanmar Ambassador to India. She delivered the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture at New Delhi on November 14, 2012. She was interviewed on November 15 by Barkha Dutt of NDTV and Karan Thapar of CNN-IBN. Before her arrival, she gave a detailed interview to Nirupama Subramanian of “The Hindu”.

2. Her lecture and three interviews have made a positive impact on public mind and highlighted her affection for India and her understated regret that during the long years she was under house arrest, India avoided taking up vigorously the cause of the human rights of the Myanmar people. India’s security and power considerations and not our concerns over the rights of her people influenced our policy priorities and options. In her reply to one of Barkha’s questions, she stated that she understood that Indian interests influenced Indian decisions towards her country and its military Government.

3. There is no need for us to have a guilt complex for having allowed realpolitik considerations to influence our priorities and decisions when she was under house arrest. Suu Kyi herself is a practitioner par excellence of realpolitik.

4. After she was released following an agreement with President Thein Sein and got elected to her Parliament, her priorities in respect of foreign visits have been Thailand, European Union, the USA and India. She intends going to China last. As between India and China, her priority is to India. As between the West and India, her priority has been to the West. Recent reports from Myanmar speak of a certain disillusionment in sections of the Myanmar political class over her perceived preferences for the West as against Myanmar’s Asian neighbours.

5. Since she became politically active, she has been focussing on two issues---- keeping up the pressure on President Thein Sein and his Government to keep moving on the road to internal democratisation and external opening-up and keeping up the pressure on the West to remove the remaining economic sanctions and the curbs on Western investments in Myanmar.

6. One can’t help forming an impression that in the matter of investments, she prefers investment flows from the West. She has no objection to investment flows from India but is concerned that this could lead to pressure from China for more Chinese investments.

7. In matters of interest and concern to India, her policies and pronouncements have been marked more by discreet silence than clear articulation. She has avoided a clear articulation of her views regarding the human rights of the Rohingya Muslims. This is an issue that in the medium and long term could have an impact on our Muslim community in the North-East. She has not uttered a word on the question of compensation for Indian businessmen who were driven out of Myanmar in the late 1950s and 1960s after seizing their property.

8. What I have enumerated above would show how she has had no qualms over taking decisions and advocating policies on the basis of her perceptions of Myanmar’s national interests and the interests of herself and her party.

9. If we had taken realpolitik decisions in the past on the basis of our perceptions of our national interests, there is no reason to let a gnawing feeling of guilt affect our future policies. Myanmar is an important buffer state between India and the Yunnan Province of China. If there is another military conflict with China due to the pending border dispute, the policies and attitudes of the Myanmar Government will have an impact on our ability to counter the Chinese designs.

10. We have two important national interests in Myanmar---- the security-related interests arising from the counter-insurgency situation in the North-East and our border dispute with China and our economic interests arising from the need for connectivity with Bangladesh and the ASEAN countries.

11. We have to identify those sections of the Myanmar society and administration which will be favourably inclined towards paying attention to these interests and strengthen our links with them. At present, only the Myanmar Armed Forces and the Government dominated by them have a positive comprehension of our interests and have been inclined to take notice of them.

12. Suu Kyi and her National League For Democracy have not shown such comprehension and such inclination. It will be unwise on our part to dilute the links that we had built up with the Armed Forces and the Government dominated by them just because of our affection for Suu Kyi and our tendency to romanticise her.

13. We must strengthen our relations with her and her party and build on the emotional links of the past without allowing the realpolitik links with the Armed Forces to rust.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com Twitter @SORBONNE75)

Forget Petraeus: The Real Scandal Is Generals' Corrupt Weapons Procurement

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

By Dina Rasor, Truthout

(Photo: The U.S. Army / Flickr)It is remarkable what a sex scandal can do in Washington. This one is especially juicy because it concerns a retired military general who had obtained almost god-like status in military, media and national security circles. Gen. David Petraeus is still getting quite a pass in the press because of his self-promoted "stellar" reputation. I have dealt with generals for years, and I can tell you that Petraeus isn't the one that we should be worried about - it is the generals who buy our weapons and, for years and years, help perpetuate a permanent war economy, who should concern us.

Please support Truthout’s work by making a tax-deductible donation: click here to contribute.

This current general corps has a deep grip on the US Treasury and has often been instrumental in buying weapons that don't work well in combat and then allowing their fellow travelers in perpetual spending, the defense companies, to fix their own mistakes for even more profit. Yet these generals labor is relative obscurity except in the eyes of people who follow the mind-numbing world of weapons procurement, those who have endured anesthetizing hearings where generals openly tell mistruths about weapons to members of Congress, who just nod their head in approval rather than risk questioning a general with stars blazing on his shoulders and a flotilla of staff lined up next to him.

These generals makes sure that they ticket-punch their way though the system, never taking large risks on behalf of the troops who have to use their equipment, hiding the mistakes and overruns until the next guy can take over, making sure that that they please the right members of Congress during pleasant but obfuscating trips to see the weapons that don't work. Most importantly, they make warm and fuzzy alliances with the defense companies for the all important post-retirement jobs on the companies' boards of directors, or set up their own consulting firms to milk out high consulting retainers from all the contractors, not just a few. The whole military procurement system is set up to benefit:
The defense companies, who get passes on their big mistakes and huge overruns.
The generals and their upper officer corps, who will retire on to pleasant and lucrative jobs to supplement their measly officer retirement, which reaches as high as $230,000 a year for a four-star general.
Members of Congress who can parlay big defense jobs to their districts while ironically boasting about the flawed weapons being made in their state.

So, what about the troops and the taxpayers who get screwed with ill-conceived weapons that continue to suck out the majority of the discretionary part of the federal budget?

Every once in a while, the taxpayers get a hint of this shellacking when a story about expenses such as a $435 hammer or a $7,600 coffee brewer slips through the tightly controlled news image of the Pentagon. There is some outrage; sometimes it is big enough to help cause the politicians to agree to a defense budget freeze, such as in the middle of the Reagan defense buildup in the 1980s. And sometimes, like now, the chinks in the supposedly infallible armor of the top generals reveal the closed and comfy world they live in, funded by our weapons procurement system while our troops went without basics like boots and even food after the Iraq War battles.

As I have written in this column before, this system also greatly affects something that is much more important than weapons; it causes a cynicism and despair among the lower ranks of officers who really would like their work for the service they love to have meaning, and they see what they have to do to advance and join this special world of the upper officer corps. Most of the true warriors and military reformers will tell you that if you want to make your military work in battle, the emphasis needs to be "people first," and that doesn't mean your top officers; it means the people who actually have to fight the battles.

I have a lot of stories about this problem from my travels in Pentagonland over the years, but two struck me the most with regard to how this system crushes innovation and initiative while promoting the worship of upper officers. I have been privileged to work with some of the most inspiring enlisted men and officers when I was researching my book on Iraq and Afghanistan war private contractors. I remember interviewing one of them, who will remain nameless because I still have hope that he will somehow make general some day. I told him, after he had returned from the invasion of Iraq, about how we were finding troops out in the desert in Iraq who were rationing food and water and didn't even know for several months that President Bush had declared, "Mission accomplished."

I found that this was happening because the logistics contractor for that war, KBR, had decided that it was too risky and complicated to get trucks out past the safe base to these far-flung troops, and that was one of the problems of putting your logistics on a private company in a war zone - they are civilians who can just say no. We also talked about how the colonels and generals responsible for these troops were sitting at this main base, literally made from one of Saddam's palaces, with marble swimming pools. They were being served desserts prepared by a pastry chef and soft ice cream from KBR, making sure that the upper officer corps could say that, as far as they knew, the troops were getting great treatment from this contractor.

My young officer didn't debate or question what we were finding because he found some of the same problems during the Iraq invasion, but he turned bright red, and the usually intense but polite officer hissed through his teeth in fury that he knew of this general officer corps and their failures toward their men in the field. He then firmly claimed that it was a group that he never wanted to join; he had utter contempt for their behavior. This made me despondent for the future of our officer corps because I knew that this brilliant young officer was just the type that should make general but probably won't, because he won't play that game.

Years earlier, I was asked to come to Alabama and give a speech in front of 400 officers who were in training at the Air Force military procurement school. I was to debate a two-star general about procurement. This was in the 1980s at the height of the spare parts scandals that I helped to expose, and I had recently had a young airman and a lower Air Force officer testify to Congress about their finding outrageously overpriced spare parts, including the now infamous $7,600 coffee brewer on the C-5 cargo plane. Even though my young airman was supposed to be protected by the Congress, I was concerned about his career when he insisted that he did not want to be in the shadows, but instead, wanted to take the risk of testifying while still in the service because he believed in the system.

We worked on getting the public and the Congress to understand that these overpriced spares showed a systematic overpricing in general, and members of the public, who can't decide what a C-5 and other weapons should cost, got a glimpse into the extent of overpricing via items they could identify with. As my mentor Ernest Fitzgerald said at the time, these spare parts were priced like the rest of the parts of the plane and the public should see that these overpriced parts were actually the whole aircraft, "just flying in close formation." The public was exceptionally angry over these spare-parts horror stories.

When the debate started at this Air Force school, I realized that I was a young female debating a general in his territory, so I kept it polite and procurement wonky. I could sense that the group of these officers in the auditorium was curious to what "the enemy" was saying. At one point, the general, who was very puffed up about himself, went into an explanation of a phony Air Force plan to solve the spares problem. I used documents to dispassionately take apart the plan and show it to be classic Department of Defense (DoD) damage control.

He grew furious at my questioning his program, but instead of attacking me, he began to attack the young airman. He named him and where he was working and then said that he checked on this young airman who was "hiding behind Dina Rasor's and Barbara Boxer's skirts." (Boxer, a California Democrat and now a senator, was a House representative at the time.) He said that the young airman was lazy and, now, pampered, so that he didn't have to take the tough morning shifts because he didn't like to be in the cold. The general claimed the airman went to Congress because he could not cut it in the Air Force system.

None of this was true, and I really could not believe that this general was denigrating an airman in front of 400 officers who might someday be his boss. I chided the general for picking on an airman in this safe audience, and furthermore, when he was not present to defend himself. I told the general he did not show any discretion or principle by trashing a young man to these officers to avoid answering to his failed procurement system.

I didn't expect anyone to applaud, but I was struck by the giant sucking sound that arose as the whole room inhaled. I could tell that many, if not most, of these officers never heard someone answer a general in that way unless he outranked him. We finished the debate somewhat cordially, but the general was so mad that I thought steam would come out of his head, or that perhaps his head would explode. He quickly stomped off the stage.

Most of the officers purposely avoided me after the event, but two of them marched up to me before I could even leave the stage and began to verbally berate me that I could not address a general in this manner. It was somewhat amusing but also maddening, so I pointed to my shoulders and said: "I am a civilian. He works for me, and I have the equivalent of five starts on my shoulders." They were angry, but we discussed the civilian world, mostly on bad terms, and they left. But when I got to the parking lot in the dark to get into my rental car, three of these officers had waited for me to surreptitiously tell me that I did the right thing. They told me that they didn't have respect for many of their upper officers, especially in the area of procurement, and that I went a long way to teach the group about command and respect for the troops that you lead. I remember thinking what a risk these officers did in even speaking to me, and I now wish I had gotten their names because I bet that most, if not all of them, never became generals.

I have written dozens of columns about the failures of our weapons procurement system and our ever-burgeoning defense budget. I have also written about the corrupting influence of that money to our real warfighting efforts. And I have written several columns exclusively focused on the general officer corps and their disgraceful post-retirement enrichment (much of it has been complied into a Truthout Reader e-book.) I have offered several suggestions for change, some small steps, some bold steps that normally would not resonate in a climate that worships generals and believes that is the same as supporting our troops.

But General Petraeus with his wandering eye and this story of scandal that reads like a military version of the television show "Dallas" may have made a big enough chink in the generals' armor with the public and Congress. So, I will suggest it again in hopes that we realize that generals should not take their rank, retirement pay and reputation outside the military to civilian government jobs or defense contractors jobs unless they actually resign from their service, which would require them to give up the rank and pay. Instead, these officers usually just go to retired status, get retirement pay and, unknown to the public, are not actually considered out of the military and can be called back into service.

President Obama had the distinction of firing several generals during wartime, a feat that has not been done since President Truman. Maybe the president and his administration are tired of the general officer corps trying to manipulate strategy with public leaks to denigrate the president's decision-making, but Obama also may also tire of this same general officer corps leaking to the media to protect their weapons money and the ever-rising defense budget. Their leaks are mainly done by their "retired" generals doing pundit media work predicting the apocalypse if any DoD budget is cut. They are exceptionally shrill about the sequestration numbers despite charts that show we are still at Vietnam-level war footing or higher.

So, I once again put out a tough solution, but based on my experience, nothing will change in the general officer corps or make them realize that you are serious. If you let them work for defense contractors when they leave the military, they have to give up their keys to the general club, their vaunted titles and their very generous taxpayer-funded pensions. It is the solution I put forth in a previous column:

My reform solution for the general officer corps requires them to make a choice. If they want to go work for or invest money in a defense contractor, they must give up their title of general and lose their military retirement pay and perks. If they think it is unfair because they earned the retirement and the military rank, they can keep to a higher calling and work in some other civilian industry, as many generals did after World War II. (See my January article on the corruption of the general officer corps.) If the generals still want to work on military issues and strategy, they can go work for one of the myriad of nonprofit organizations that look at military issues or oversight, as long as they strictly stay away from any lobbying efforts with the DoD or the Congress. They also cannot go work for a nonprofit organization that accepts contributions from defense contractors unless they give up their rank and pensions. They should also not be allowed to fill a civilian political office in the DoD because of the necessary authority of civilian rule and they are still considered military. These rules would not be subject to any type of executive or Congressional waivers.

If the generals realize what they would have to forfeit to go work for a defense contractor, they may decide to stick to the higher calling and drive the contractors to deliver what is best for the troops, not for their retirement.

I now believe that these generals also could be used for civilian jobs, but only with exceptional cases, and the same solution of losing their right to be called a general and the salary. General Petraeus was collecting his $230,000 pension and getting around $180,000 for being CIA director while he was foolishly charming a younger woman doing his biography. Reforming the system with hard choices may at least start to change the motives of our general officer corps by changing their access to the incentives of titles and money.Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Broken Record
David Petraeus had critics before scandal struck -- they just tended to fly under the radar. 


In the wake of David Petraeus' resignation as CIA director -- and the extramarital affair that precipitated it -- the press has been engaged in a great deal of soul-searching about its role in burnishing the general's formidable legacy in the years since he appeared on a 2004 cover of Newsweek alongside the question, "Can This Man Save Iraq?"

"Like many in the press, nearly every national politician, and lots of members of Petraeus' brain trust over the years, I played a role in the creation of the legend around David Petraeus," Wired's Spencer Ackerman reflected over the weekend. "The biggest irony surrounding Petraeus' unexpected downfall is that he became a casualty of the very publicity machine he cultivated to portray him as superhuman."

Yes, Petraeus received remarkably favorable reviews from the press and from politicians on both sides of the aisle -- particularly after spearheading the 2007 U.S. troop surge in Iraq and revamping and reviving the military's counterinsurgency doctrine. But when it came to his handling of Iraq, Afghanistan, and the media, Petraeus had his detractors as well. In case you missed it amid the admiring coverage of the former four-star general in recent years, here's a look at what some of his most vocal critics had to say.


Petraeus is still lauded as the poster boy for Iraq -- the general that inherited a broken war in 2007 and turned it around in a matter of months. But beneath Petraeus' carefully constructed public image there have always been blemishes, just as there have always been quiet critics of the man journalist Peter Bergen described this week as the "most effective American military commander since Eisenhower."

Petraeus' first assignment after the 2003 invasion of Iraq was overseeing the occupation of Mosul, and his second was attempting to reform the disbanded Iraqi army. The Bush administration heralded both missions as unqualified successes, but neither was as clean as the rosy press coverage suggested. According to an anonymous diplomat quoted in the Guardian in 2007, Mosul "basically collapsed" after Petraeus left and the soldiers he trained were "nowhere to be seen." Petraeus, the diplomat continued, was the "Teflon general."

Around the same time, the former U.S. diplomat Peter Galbraith, writing in the New York Review of Books, took Petraeus to task for ignoring warnings from America's Kurdish allies about appointments he made to Mosul's local government. "A few months after he left the city," Galbraith recalled, "the Petraeus-appointed local police commander defected to the insurgency while the Sunni Arab police handed their weapons and uniforms over en masse to the insurgents."

Even the general's signature counterinsurgency doctrine, which was widely credited with reducing sectarian violence in Iraq after 2007, encountered early criticism from Army Col. Gian Gentile, an Iraq veteran who teaches at West Point. Counterinsurgency, he wrote in World Affairs Journal in 2008, was an "over-hyped shift in emphasis that, on the one hand, will not necessarily yield an American victory in Iraq, but on the other might well leave the United States Army crippled in future wars."

It's a criticism that must have rung true for those involved in America's other war, the severely under-resourced campaign in Afghanistan that had been pushed to the backburner after the Iraqi invasion in 2003. Whatever else might be said about Petraeus' strategy in Iraq, some argue it made victory in Afghanistan that much more unlikely given finite U.S. military resources. As Bob Woodward put it in Obama's Wars, "This was a zero-sum game."


The rare bipartisan support Petraeus earned with the success of the surge in Iraq was on full display in the summer of 2010, when President Barack Obama tapped him to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the top commander in Afghanistan. The Senate confirmed Petraeus by a vote of 99 to 0 ("Is Gen. David Petraeus too big to fail?" a Politico headline inquired at the time).

But Petraeus' opponents didn't wait in the shadows for long. A month into the general's tenure, the former military officer Ralph Peters was already arguing that counterinsurgency would not work in Afghanistan like it did in Iraq, and that Petraeus should instead pursue the narrower counterterrorism strategy advocated by Vice President Joe Biden. (Some would say that's exactly what he did.)

As the architect of Obama's retooled "war of necessity," Petraeus had to fend off critics ranging from Rep. Dennis Kucinich (R-OH) to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who reportedly shocked the military leader by calling on the United States to reduce military operations and end night raids in the country. Human rights groups criticized Petraeus' plan to arm Afghan villagers while military analyst Bing West maintained that the United States had not committed enough troops to Afghanistan to make counterinsurgency work, and that the strategy actually undermined soldiers by asking them to be both fighters and nation-builders.

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the former British ambassador to Afghanistan, issued a particularly scathing assessment of Petraeus' record in the spring of 2011. "He has increased the violence, trebled the number of specialforces raids by British, American, Dutch and Australian special forces going out killing Taliban commanders, and there has been a lot more rather regrettable boasting from the military about the body count," Cowper-Coles asserted. By the time Petraeus left his post that summer, the intelligence community was much morepessimistic than the Pentagon about the extent to which the United States had weakened the Taliban and stabilized Afghanistan, and a flurryof articles about the grim fate awaiting Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal in 2014 followed.

"President Barack Obama's decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan signals the beginning of the end for the ambitious counterinsurgency strategy that Army Gen. David Petraeus designed and has single-mindedly pursued in Iraq and Afghanistan," the Huffington Post's David Wood wrote in June 2011. The journalist Michael Hastings was much harsher in a Rolling Stone book review. "Petraeus didn't win in Afghanistan -- unless one defines winning [in] the Charlie Sheen sense of the word," he wrote. "Rather, he proposed and followed a counterinsurgency strategy that was expensive, bloody, and inconclusive." Iraq, he added, "remains mired in brutal civil strife."


The revelations about Petraeus' affair have prompted manypeople to question the general's fervent outreach to the media -- and the media's eagerness to return the favor. But some journalists were ahead of their time. In an article on Petraeus for the New Statesman back in 2010, Mehdi Hasan noted that "[t]he Congressional and media hawks in the United States have acquiesced in the rise and political empowerment of a new cadre of generals and commanders committed to pushing policies -- such as so-called small wars, based on counter-insurgency principles -- that the US public has usually been sceptical of." In the Daily Beast, Matt Yglesias argued that Petraeus' genius lay in lowering expectations. In Iraq, Yglesias explained, the military leader had achieved a "largely a postmodern victory, a triumph of spin, narrative formation, and political psychology that ‘succeeded' largely in extricating the country from a toxic political deadlock."

Perhaps the most colorful critique came a year later, when Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) quoted Michael Hastings' Charlie Sheen analogy on the House floor. "General Petraeus is giving us the Charlie Sheen counter-insurgency strategy, which is to give exclusive interviews to every major network, and to keep saying ‘we're winning,' and hope the public actually agrees with you," she declared.

This time around, Petraeus isn't going anywhere near a camera.