22 February 2013

Hydrabad Blasts

21 Feb , 2013 

Eleven persons are reported to have been killed and over 87 injured in two well-timed explosions in the Dilsukhnagar area of Hyderabad around 7 PM on February 21,2013. 

Initial reports indicated that one of the improvised explosive devices had been placed in a cycle or motor-bike and the other inside a tiffin box.These reports are yet to be confirmed. The two blasts appear to have been well-timed and not remote-controlled. 

I do not so far see any sign of sophistication in the assembly of the IEDs and the synchronization of the blasts. There are no reports of any crater on the ground.If a powerful explosive material had been used, there would have been craters at the place where the IEDs had been placed. 

There are no reports of any crater on the ground.If a powerful explosive material had been used, there would have been craters at the place where the IEDs had been placed. 

The deaths and injuries seem to have been caused by the power of the blasts and not by the use of any projectiles such as nails, bicycle ball-bearings etc.When an IED is placed in a cycle or motor-bike, there would naturally be projectiles in the form of the splinters, but no other projectile has been discovered. 

Reports of damages to nearby buildings also do not indicate the use of any powerful explosive material. The timer might have been of a conventional nature in the form of a mechanical ( with a clock attachment) or chemical device. 

Two timed IEDs of this nature could have been easily assembled and planted by one or two terrorists. The involvement of a large team is unlikely. 

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act – Need for Review?

By Lt Gen Raj Kadyan(Retd)

Justice Verma Committee (JVC) was constituted in the wake of widespread public protests that followed the ghastly gang rape in December 2012. The committee examined over 80,000 suggestions and produced a voluminous report in just 29 days. They deserve our collective compliments. 

The JVC was asked to review existing laws and suggest amendments to effectively deal with instances of sexual violence. It made wide ranging recommendations with a view to ensuring the women’s right to equality and to dignity. While examining the issue the committee also delved into areas that were not strictly within its charter. Among the subjects covered was the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). 

The AFSPA was passed by the Parliament in 1958. It is a legal enabling act of a sovereign parliament which is essential for the security forces to enforce the constitutional authority of the State under subversion by hostile elements. Under the Act, Central government sanction is needed before an alleged offender can be tried by a civil court. Over the years the AFSPA has become a favourite whipping boy for certain vested interests. Unfortunately even the JVC joined that fringe chorus of populism. This article proposes to discuss the recommendations made by JVC vis-a-vis the AFSPA and the armed forces. 

The Committee recommends that sexual offences by the Army personnel be tried by ordinary criminal law without needing sanction of the Central government. Unfortunately, this is based on the false assumption the Army lets off its members found guilty of sexual misconduct. It is stressed that the one agency that has the highest stake in ensuring that soldiers adhere to the strictest norms of discipline, is the Army. It has its internal mechanisms to enforce discipline and ensures justice is imparted with speed and the guilty are punished severely. This is borne out by statistics where guilty officers, JCOs and men have been dismissed, cashiered or awarded rigorous imprisonment. There is an ill conceived notion that an Army court martial is a totally in-house affair implying that members of the court can be influenced. Apart from the fact that members come from different external units, in a court martial the accused has the freedom of engaging a civilian lawyer. There are numerous examples of Army courts having given quick and effective judgments. Unfortunately the Army keeps low visibility and these cases do not get publicised. If the JVC recommendation is accepted, it will lead to soldiers being involved in litigation endlessly as false accusations particularly in J&K are galore. It is empirically known that witnesses can be threatened and coerced by militants in to giving false evidence. Many such instances can be quoted. 

Cash-Strapped Army Still Plans on Helping Pakistan Fight Narcotics


U.S. and Pakistani soldiers greet each other on the Afghanistan border, January 2013. Next up: collaborating on stopping Pakistan’s flow of drugs. 

The war on terrorism isn’t the only endless war the U.S. is waging. The drug war never went away, it just went overseas — and the U.S. military is lending new support to an effort to stem narcotics in Pakistan. 

A series of new solicitations by the Army Corps of Engineers show that even in these cash-strapped times, the U.S. is willing to build new structures, including in major airports, for its Pakistani frenemies to sniff out drug smugglers. 

At the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, the Army expects to build a 7,000-square-foot command center right inside Jinnah International Airport. Complete with a “cell/interrogation building,” the new center will help provide “quick-response to constantly evolving narcotics and contraband smuggling tactics.” Among the chief beneficiaries: Pakistan’s “Rummaging and Patrolling Section,” which apparently exists. Cost: up to $2 million. 

Then there’s another 28,300-square-foot command center the Army wants to construct in Islamabad. This one will be operated by Pakistan’s DEA-mentored “elite, vetted” Anti-Narcotic Force Special Investigative Cell. At the command center, the Cell will “carry out liaison with international counterparts, compile sensitive drug related intelligence, conduct sophisticated investigations, and plan interdiction operations.” Cost: up to $5 million. 

Nepal: Murky road to polls

By Akanshya Shah
22 February 2013

Although the major political parties in Nepal have come close to striking a deal on holding elections in the country, there is yet no clarity on their proposed Chief Justice led government. 

Soon after the end of United CPN (Maoist) General Convention last week, Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda had proposed that a neutral government under the incumbent CJ Khil Raj Regmi be formed to conduct election to the Constituent Assembly (CA). It came as a political compromise to end the current impasse and to go for fresh mandate after the CA, which was also acting as the Legislature Parliament, was dissolved on May 28, 2012, without delivering a new constitution. 

But the proposal has faced severe roadblocks and the opposition is totally divided over it. While the Nepali Congress has said that the CJ must resign from his post to occupy the highest executive position, the UML is divided on it. While UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal has supported the proposal, other senior leaders like Madhav Kumar Nepal are against it. Nepal-led faction has called the proposal an attempt to politicise the judiciary. 

The legal experts too are divided on the proposal. The Nepal Bar Association has claimed that no sitting CJ can occupy executive post as that would infringe on the principle of separation of powers. Many legal experts have said that such a move would be against the spirit of the 2007 Constitution. However, many others have supported Prachanda's proposal by invoking the doctrine of necessity given the impasse facing the country. 

There is little doubt that a fresh election is required to end the present political turmoil and write a new constitution. But the most important question is whether a CJ-led government is the right political option in a country polarised along ethnic lines and when the political parties at loggerheads with each other on crucial issues of national importance, including the issue of state restructuring. 

The CJ himself has rightly pointed out that the environment is "not favourable" to hold elections by June 5. There is a huge group in Nepal which does not desire a CJ-led government. While the big four parties - United CPN (Maoist), NC, CPN-UML and the Madhesi Morcha - are busy at endless parleys to form the CJ-led election government, the other smaller parties are being totally marginalised. 

The nationwide strike called by the CPN (Maoist), which is a breakaway faction of the hardliners led by Mohan Baidhya Kiran, on February 19 showed the real strength of the smaller factions to cause trouble. If the majority of the people felt that the big political parties were headed in the right direction, then the people should have defied the banda. Instead, the entire country from west to east was shut down with violence erupting at major cities. Can Prachanda then impose a "neutral" government and assure that elections would be held? It is anyone's guess that the CPN (Maoist) can create situation to sabotage the planned polls. 

Arming Syria Will Hinder Peace

By Ian Garner, Jeremy Presto
February 21, 2013 

The Obama administration’s Syria policy again came under fire after outgoing Defense Secretary Panetta revealed that high level administration support in favor of arming the Syrian opposition [4] was overruled by the president and the White House [5]. Critics of the president’s handling of the Syrian conflict seized on this as another example of him leading from behind and being overly cautious when it came to using U.S. power to influence events and outcomes during the Arab uprisings. Some commentators even went further, saying that the Obama administration had absorbed the lessons of the Iraq war to a point of paralysis [6], and that the time to arm the Syrian rebels is now [7]. 

In the words of the Russian revolutionary Nikolai Chernyshevsky, what is to be done? 

Indeed, the Syrian conflict has irrevocably turned into an armed conflict. There is continuous, heavy fighting occurring across a wide swath of Syria, including hard-fought battles in Damascus [8]. Given the extent of the ongoing armed conflict, there is an argument that the United States should marshal its capabilities in support of the rebels. 

It is unclear, however, that a strategy of arming and supporting one faction in Syria’s civil war will somehow achieve the administration’s stated policy objective [9] of ending the Assad regime—particularly through a transition to a peaceful, inclusive, and democratic Syria where the rights of all Syrians are protected. A strategy of arming Syrian rebels would resemble the one currently being employed by Iran, which continues to arm and equip Shiite and Alawite proxy forces. This strategy makes sense for the Iranians because it supports their objective [10] of keeping Syria divided in order to maintain influence once the regime falls while keeping open its gateway to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Similarly, Turkish and Qatari support for the Syrian opposition forces has also resulted in keeping Syria divided, most recently in the country’s northeast, where opposition and Kurdish forces [11] have engaged in repeated clashes [12]. It seems clear that materiel support does not promote effective reconciliation and may in fact lead to further fragmentation. 

The Rise of a New Nigerian Militant Group

By Matthew Bey and Sim Tack 
February 21, 2013

In the past week, 14 foreigners have been kidnapped in northern Nigeria and Cameroon in two separate attacks. No group has claimed responsibility for the second attack, which occurred Feb. 19 in Cameroon, but the location is adjacent to Boko Haram's core territory in northeast Nigeria. Ansaru, a splinter group of Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the first attack and could be responsible for the second since, unlike Boko Haram, it has a history of kidnapping foreign nationals. If Boko Haram conducted the second attack, it would signal a significant shift in the group's targets and tactics. 

As Stratfor noted, Boko Haram's capabilities in 2012 were limited to soft targets near the group's base of operations in northeastern Nigeria. Ansaru has emerged over the past year and appears to have surpassed Boko Haram in its range of tactics and targets. Ansaru has relied on armed attacks for kidnappings rather than suicide bombings. Ansaru's targets have included foreigners and those involved with the intervention in Mali, while Boko Haram's targets have been Nigerian. 

Nearly all of the Ansaru attacks since December 2012, as well as the unclaimed kidnapping in Cameroon, have targeted French nationals or those supporting French operations in Mali. This has raised the fear that widespread kidnappings will be fallout from the Mali intervention. A continuation of this violence could harm foreign interests in Nigeria and the surrounding countries and strengthen militant jihadism throughout the region. 

Ansaru's Origins and Connections 

Not a lot is known about the origin of Ansaru, but following Boko Haram's attacks on Kano -- a predominately Muslim city in Nigeria -- that killed almost 200 people in January 2012, Ansaru publicly split from Boko Haram, denouncing the killings of innocent Muslims. However, the group's formation began earlier in connection to two kidnappings. 

The first was in May 2011, when a group claiming to be al Qaeda in the Land Beyond the Sahel and a faction of Boko Haram kidnapped two engineers -- one British and one Italian -- in Birnin Kebbi, Nigeria. On Dec. 1, 2011, a video was sent to Agence Nouakchott d'Information, Mauritania's state media outlet, demanding a 5 million-euro (about $6.7 million) ransom. Demanding millions in ransoms is a strategy employed by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb; Nigerian militants' demands do not typically reach this level. Agence Nouakchott d'Information is known to have close contacts with al Qaeda's North African branch and served as the mouthpiece for Mokhtar Belmokhtar during the January 2013 attack on the Ain Amenas plant in Algeria. The mediator in the ransom negotiations, Mustafa Ould Limam Chafi, also negotiated many of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's previous hostage ransoms, including the release of U.N. Special Envoy to Niger Robert Fowler, the Canadian diplomat who was kidnapped in Niger in 2008. The connections to Agence Nouakchott d'Information and Chafi suggest that the group responsible for the May 2011 kidnappings in Nigeria -- Ansaru or its predecessor faction within Boko Haram -- has close ties with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. 

How Wars Start **

21 Feb 2013

Just as Herodotus is the father of history, Thucydides is the father of realism. To understand the geopolitical conflict zones of the 21st century, you must begin with the ancient Greeks. Among the many important lessons Thucydides teaches in his History of the Peloponnesian War is that what starts a war is different from what causes it. 

Thucydides chronicles how the Peloponnesian War began in the latter part of the late fifth century B.C. with disputes over the island of Corcyra in northwestern Greece and Potidaea in northeastern Greece. These places were not very strategically crucial in and of themselves. To think that wars must start over important places is to misread Thucydides. Corcyra and Potidaea, among other locales, were only where the Peloponnesian War started; not what caused it. What caused it, he writes in the first book of his eight-book history, was the growth of perceived maritime power in Athens and the alarm that it inspired in Sparta and among Sparta's allies. Places like Corcyra and Potidaea, and the complex alliance systems that they represented, were in and of themselves not worth fighting a war over -- a war that would last more than a quarter century, no less. That didn't matter. They were pretexts. 

No one understood this distinction, which was perhaps made first in literature by Thucydides, better than Thucydides' most distinguished translator, the 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes writes that a pretext for war over some worthless place "is always an injury received, or pretended to be received." Whereas the "inward motive to hostility is but conjectural; and not of the evidence." In other words, the historian or journalist might find it hard to find literal documentation for the real reasons states go to war; thus, he often must infer them. He often must tease them out of the pattern of events, and still in many cases be forced to speculate. 

In applying the wisdom of Thucydides and Hobbes to conflict zones across Asia, a number of insights may be obtained. 

Winning the battle but losing the war

By  John Briscoe 
February 22, 2013 

The Hindu The Kishenganga hydroelectric project in north Kashmir. 

While allowing India to build the Kishenganga project, the International Court of Arbitration has de facto ruled that the Baglihar decision was wrong and should not be applied to future projects 

The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), signed in 1960, took 10 years to negotiate, primarily because of the thorny issue of balancing, on the one hand, the reasonable expectation by India that it could use the hydroelectric potential of “Pakistan’s rivers” (the Chenab, Jhelum and Indus) before these rivers entered Pakistan and, on the other, the reasonable expectation by Pakistan that this would neither decrease the flow to Pakistan nor change the timing of the flow. This was dealt with in the IWT essentially by hardwiring into the Treaty limitations on the amount of manipulable (or “live”) storage which India could develop in its projects. 
Stress point 

As has often been recounted, the IWT worked well for decades, even through periods when India and Pakistan were at war. But the truth of the matter is that the Treaty was not really under stress until India started (quite appropriately, in my view) building hydropower plants across the Himalayas, and, in particular, on its side of the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. The first case, where the Indian and Pakistani Indus Water Commissioners were unable to resolve their differences, was the one of the Baglihar hydropower project on the Chenab. At Pakistan’s request, the World Bank appointed a Neutral Expert to evaluate the claims. After two years of work the Neutral Expert returned his verdict. The essence of the verdict was that the Treaty allowed for new knowledge to be taken into account, that new knowledge on sediment management meant that modern dams should be able to flush sediments through low-level gates and that this element of the design of the Baglihar dam was therefore acceptable. What the Neutral Expert completely ignored was that this change essentially meant eliminating the “limit live storage” provision of the IWT, a provision that was at the very heart of Pakistan’s acceptance of the Treaty in the first place. Since there are a large number of hydroprojects on the drawing board in Indian-held Kashmir, and since the cumulative storage on the Chenab alone has been estimated to be about 40 days, this essentially left Pakistan with no protection against unintentional or intentional harm from Indian manipulation of the dead storage they were now allowed to build. 

David Cameron in India: Should U.K. Apologize for Its Imperial Past?

Feb. 20, 2013

Prime Minister David Cameron is shown around the Golden Temple at Amritsar in Punjab, India, during the last day of a three-day visit to the country, on Feb. 20, 2013 

On Wednesday, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron became the first serving British Premier to pay a visit to the Jallianwala Bagh memorial in the northern Indian city of Amritsar. The site marks the 1919 massacre of scores of unarmed Indian protesters by British colonial troops — imperial officials at the time put the body count at 379; subsequent Indian investigations claim more than 1,000 died. The incident is firmly embedded in India’s 20th century historical memory and inflames nationalist passions. It reached the rest of the world’s imagination when immortalized in a scene in Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning 1982 film, Gandhi. 

After laying a wreath at the memorial for those slain, Cameron commented in a handwritten note at the site, describing the slaughter 94 years ago as a “deeply shameful event.” But, as all the media have noticed in both India and the U.K., he didn’t extend a formal apology on behalf of his government. Aware of the full weight of scrutiny on his visit, Cameron offered this defense to reporters in Amritsar: 

In my view we are dealing with something here that happened a good 40 years before I was even born, and which Winston Churchill described as ‘monstrous’ at the time and the British government rightly condemned at the time. So I don’t think the right thing is to reach back into history and to seek out things you can apologize for. I think the right thing is to acknowledge what happened, to recall what happened, to show respect and understanding for what happened. 

Fair enough. Cameron was in India (he had earlier stops in Mumbai and New Delhi), after all, on a trade mission, focused on a rosy future of Indo-British cooperation. Why bother with the sulfur stench of the past? 

The Meadow: Kashmir 1995 - Where the Terror Began

By Raffaello Pantucci 
February 21, 2013

Conflict in Kashmir has been back in the news recently. In January, a series of attacks and counter-attacks by Indian and Pakistani soldiers were reportedly sparked by a grandmother who crossed the Line of Control to be near her children and their families, resulting in the deaths of soldiers on both sides. What is striking about recent events and seems to be a particular throw back to earlier times, is the apparent brutality with which two Indian soldiers involved were killed. One was reportedly beheaded, whilst another ‘mutilated.' This particular detail seems to belong to an earlier time highlighted in Adrian Levy's and Cathy Scott-Clark's book about the kidnapping of a group of western tourists in July 1995 in Kashmir, when the full insurgency was underway between Pakistan and India over the disputed province. 

The portrait that Levy and Scott-Clark paint of the 1990s insurgency in Kashmir is a brutal one: locals living in fear as groups and alliances shift around them. No one is certain who is on whose side, as idealistic Kashmiri freedom fighters are manipulated by Pakistani ISI agents and their families are punished by Indian authorities. Local warlords change sides regularly, turning on each other with ready brutality at the right price. Police and intelligence agents on the same side end up working against each other, each with a different goal in mind. And caught up in the middle of this is a group of foreign hikers, drawn by the beauty of the countryside and kept in the dark about potential danger by inept local authorities eager for the much-needed tourist revenue. 

The Meadow is written in the style of a thriller, with an investigative journalist's eye for detail. It uncovers new information, offering definitive conclusions about what happened to the unfortunate foreigners entangled in the kidnapping. It has attracted less attention than previous books the authors have written about the region - their earlier book Deception, about the Pakistani nuclear program, has been widely praised - but nonetheless comes to some dramatic conclusions about what happened to the group of tourists. 

The military-corruption complex

By Amitabha Pande 

I have been quietly amused by the pother over the AgustaWestland helicopter scam, as though bribes were paid because the government exercised its choice in favour of that company and someone "tweaked" the requirements to limit the choice. This shows a lack of understanding of corruption in defence. This case (like others before it) will follow a predictable course: investigators will earn junkets to Rome, honest reputations will be damaged, major procurements will halt and procedures made even more tortuous and centralised. Meanwhile, rent-seeking, like water, will seek new outlets. 

How we squander each opportunity for systemic reform by opting for the short-term excitement of hunting the corrupt! We so easily overlook two cardinal factors. First, in our defence procurements, most bribes are paid not for choosing X over Y but for simply proceeding with the procurement process and crossing the hurdles placed. The choice of vendor is generally made on reasonably strong professional grounds and merit is almost never sacrificed, because it is well established that whoever is selected will pay. Second, in a system where responsibility for a decision is so widely dispersed, the big fish invariably escape and small fish are caught for all the wrong reasons. 

In this case, there appear to be two red herrings. First, that money was paid for tweaking the requirements and much is being made of who tweaked the requirements, and when. This does not sound right. Money is normally paid for restricting competition and tailoring specifications to favour a particular vendor, not for expanding it and allowing more vendors to compete. While being given a chance to compete may command a price, it does not guarantee eventual success, particularly when AgustaWestland's competitors may have had an edge in terms of capacity to pay bribes. 

The second red herring is to draw attention to the role played by Air Marshal Tyagi and his relatives. Quite apart from the fairly convincing denial offered by Julie Tyagi and the former air chief, this was not an air force related procurement, where the air chief would have had a prominent role. This was a civilian requirement and the air force played, at best, the role of technical advisor to facilitate the SPG in meeting its requirements. In any procurement process, the determining role in laying down specifications (GSQRs) or in tailoring processes to benefit favourites is that of the buyer, not of those giving technical advice. Why should any payment be made to someone whose role was so peripheral? 

There are three tracks of corruption in defence procurement. The first is demand estimation, demand vetting, demand projection and inter se priority determination; the second is technical, from framing the GSQRs to preparing the engineering specifications, technical trials, user trials and techno-commercial evaluations before the procurement process commences. Both are the jealously guarded turf of the services and brook no interference from outsiders. Neither the processes nor the practices are audited or subjected to independent professional scrutiny. However, this case being an SPG requirement, these tracks are irrelevant. 

Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned from Afghans

by Carl Forsling
February 15, 2013 

Among advisors to Afghan units, one phrase often heard is “Afghan good enough,” usually as a disparaging comment. It means, ”They’ll never be as good as Americans, but they’re good enough to get by in this country.” It is true that the ANSF will never be able to project land-, sea-, and airpower anywhere in the world. But, in the world the Afghans live in, they bring assets to the table that most American forces do not. People wishing to sound insightful about Afghanistan’s history often remark on how its fighters have made it the “graveyard of empires.” Forgotten is the fact that many of those fighters are on our side, and that there is much they can teach us. While there are wide disparities in the quality and motivation of ANSF, the best are able to achieve more with fewer resources than any Western military could. Applying that same level of resourcefulness and agility to a Western military that already has high quality equipment and training would create a remarkable force. 

In 1988, Robert Fulghum wrote a book called “Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” The simple, homespun wisdom borne of the basics we teach children was a publishing sensation at the time. Its advice, such as “Play fair” and “Don’t hit people,” is as true at age 55 as it is at 5. Of course, there are some things one needs to know that are not taught in kindergarten—driving and sex education come to mind. The book’s point is that much of what we really need to know to be successful is really just the basics that we learn early on. Just as adults forget the simple lessons of childhood in favor of the complexities of adulthood, often to their detriment, so do militaries. In our sole-superpower, globe-spanning dominance, we have lost much of our former speed, flexibility, and mental agility. Just as adults can learn from children, so Americans can learn from Afghans. Some of what makes Afghans effective are traits that Americans lost in the course of industrializing warfare. 

An Afghan commander once told my advisor team a story about two frogs. He said that Afghans are like a frog at the bottom of a well. That frog there does not know that there is anything in the world beyond the space from one side of the well to the other. Then another frog falls into the well and tells the incredulous first frog about how big the world really is. That second frog is an American. The Afghan CO meant the story as a compliment to Americans and our broad-ranging experiences. While that CO did not mention it, there is a caveat to the story in regards to the American frog. That frog brings a lot of knowledge to the table, but he does not know the inside of the well like the first frog, and if they are both going to succeed inside the well, they need to learn from each other. The Afghan already knows he has much to learn from the American. Americans are often too intellectually arrogant to admit they have several things that they can learn from Afghans. 

1. There is such a thing as too much planning. Sometimes things really are as simple as they look. Afghans with no formal education and only the most basic military training can execute vehicle checkpoints, airborne interdictions, HVI snatches, and most of the basics of counterinsurgency without a single PowerPoint slide. If Afghans can successfully do these missions on a moment’s notice, why can’t Americans? Americans frequently get sucked down rabbit holes planning to counter every contingency and mitigate every risk. While we pride ourselves on detailed planning, COA development, wargaming, and so on, sometimes we forget that sometimes a simple mission is just that. While there are missions that require lengthy and detailed planning, many do not. Americans often plan operations for so long that the situation that necessitated an operation in the first place has long since passed by the time we are ready to act. In our zeal to answer every question we often paralyze ourselves with inaction. 

Shia Slaughter

Feb 22 2013

Shia Slaughter 

The protests by the Hazara Shia community in Quetta, Balochistan came to an end Tuesday when Islamabad promised to launch "targeted" operations against Sunni extremist groups. 

But there is little hope that the Pakistan army is prepared to confront the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi that has launched repeated and brazen murderous assaults on the Shia in Quetta and beyond. 

This year alone more than 200 Shia in Quetta died in these attacks. In January, the suicide bombing of a snooker hall in Quetta killed 93 and injured nearly 200 people. When the Shia refused to bury the dead until Quetta was handed over to the army, Islamabad responded by dismissing the regional government and imposing governor's rule. 

Last Sunday, in a terror blast at a busy market in Quetta, 89 Shia were killed and nearly 100 injured. The LeJ claimed credit for the attack. The Shia took to the streets again, as the governor of the province blamed the law enforcement agencies for "being too scared or clueless". 

In their talks with the Shia leaders in Quetta, the government claimed that it has "detained" nearly 170 suspects and that there will be "targeted" operations against the LeJ with the help of the army. 

Although the protests have ended, the violent sectarian extremism of the LeJ has thrived amidst the permissive political environment in Pakistan that has turned a blind eye to the mounting attacks on sectarian Muslim minorities as well as the Hindu minority. 

Pakistan's army and intelligence agencies have a huge presence in Quetta, from where they conduct the campaign against a separatist insurgency by the Baloch nationalists, keep a close eye on Afghan groups that enjoy its patronage, and monitor the turbulent border with Iran. 

The security forces, including the army, do not consider Sunni extremist groups like the LeJ as "anti-state" and have been willing to live with its excesses. Their current focus is on countering groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan that have confronted the military in Pakistan. 

Chinese View Of Islands Conflict: “Make It Quick”

By Kirk Spitzer
Feb. 20, 2013

An island in the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu group in the East China Sea. 

TOKYO – China’s airwaves and blogosphere are full of armchair generals predicting swift and righteous victory over Japan if fighting breaks out in the East China Sea. Overheated nonsense, mostly. Everybody thinks their side will win quick and easy before a war starts, but it rarely works out that way. 

But at least one senior commander offers a view that – while not necessarily right or wrong – sheds light on how the People’s Liberation Army might view a potential conflict, and what it thinks of Japan’s armed forces. 

“The battle to take over the Diaoyu Islands would not be a conventional operation. For either party involved in the war, it would be very difficult to employ their full military capabilities, because there would be no time for them to fully unfold in the fight. The real fight would be very short. It is very possible the war would end in a couple of days or even in a few hours,” said PLA Navy Rear Admiral Yin Zhou, a former director of the Navy Institute of Strategic Studies, in a recent primetime special on Beijing TV. 

Japan and China have been squabbling over a group of tiny, uninhabited islands that the former calls Senkaku, and the latter, Diaoyu. 

Raising the Senkaku stakes?

by Brian A. Victoria
Feb 21, 2013 

Special To The Japan Times 

YELLOW SPRINGS, OHIO – One question typically receives little attention in connection with the ongoing dispute between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands. That question is, what’s in it for the parties involved? 

To the extent this question is asked, China is accused of pursuing an aggressive if not expansionist military policy abroad while invoking nationalism at home to deflect criticism of its one-party Communist rule. And, of course, reference is made to China’s voracious appetite for the energy resources thought to lie beneath the ocean floor adjacent to the islands. 

Yet, what about Japan, might it also harbor hidden motives? 

For example, there is the question of the timing of this dispute, i.e., why now? This question is particularly relevant in light of the fact that in the years following the restoration of diplomatic relations between Japan and China in 1972, the two countries had what has been described as a “gentlemen’s agreement” to shelve the dispute over the Senkakus for future generations to resolve. 

Accordingly, when seven Chinese landed in the Senkakus in 2004, the Koizumi administration simply deported them, thereby ending the incident without further repercussions. However, in 2010, following the Japanese Coast Guard’s arrest of the captain of a Chinese fishing trawler on Sept. 7, the DPJ government under Prime Minister Naoto Kan had the Chinese captain’s case sent to the public prosecutors for investigation and possible trial. 

Why did the DPJ government, insisting there was no dispute over the Senkakus, break this long-standing gentlemen’s agreement to pursue the possibility of prosecuting the Chinese boat captain, although he was eventually released without being indicted? And, of course, the nationalization of three of the Senkaku Islands appeared to China as a further attempt on the part of Japan to strengthen its control of these islands, infuriating China even more. 

Writing about this incident, professor Emeritus Gavan McCormick of Australian National University noted: “It became possible to imagine that Senkaku/Diaoyu might even serve as the axis of Okinawan conversion to greater understanding of the national government’s defense and security agenda. … To the extent that ‘China threat’ perceptions spread, Okinawa’s anti-base movement would surely weaken.” 


FEBRUARY 20, 2013 

The case for kicking terrorists off Twitter. 

Somali al Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab woke up one January morning to discover that its popular English-language Twitter account -- @HSMPress -- had been suspended, apparently because it had issued a direct, specific threat of violence in breach of Twitter's terms of service. 

This rare termination dusted off one of the counterterrorism industry's most-cobwebbed and least-resolved debates: Should we let terrorist groups use the Internet, or should we try to knock them offline? 

When the debate first started, not long after 9/11, terrorist use of social media -- anything from message boards to Facebook accounts -- was concentrated in a relative few channels. Today, it's spread to hundreds of different outlets, including multiple dedicated Web forums, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and beyond. 

Stopping terrorists from spreading their propaganda online (using U.S.-based Internet companies to boot) seems like a no-brainer to many. But within the terrorism studies community, there are two common and sincere objections to disruptive approaches for countering violent extremism online. 

The first objection is that knocking terrorists offline "doesn't work," because when you eliminate one account, the terrorists just open up a new account under a different name -- which is exactly what al-Shabab did after a little more than a week. And then, the theory goes, you're back to square one. It's a high-tech game of whack-a-mole. 

If There’s a War With China… It’s All Evan Osnos’ Fault!

by Peter Lee 
February 20, 2013

Evan Osnos is the China columnist for the New Yorker. 

My impression is that he usually covers the social issues/human rights/dissident beat. 

However, yesterday, riffing off the news about organized Chinese hacking of US government and private websites, he veered off into counter-proliferationblack ops

The fact is that the United States government has already shown signs of an energetic capacity for cyber war, as in the case of Stuxnet, the software worm that the U.S., working with Israel, is believed to have used to disrupt Iran’s uranium-enrichment program. Coincidentally, I happened to ask some North Korea experts last week if Pyongyang’s latest round of nuclear tests might make it a prime target for a Stuxnet-style intervention. “The only time I heard anything along such lines recently was suspicion that the April launch failure may have resulted from cyber attack—but that was in the realm of conspiracy theory,” John Delury, of Yonsei University, in Seoul, told me. 

As long as it’s in the realm of the theoretical, here’s another twist: given China’s vocal frustration with its erstwhile allies in Pyongyang, and China’s fondness for cyber adventures, any chance that China might try a Stuxnet approach to slow down a headache on its northeast border? From what I gathered, the chances were slim, in part because of operational differences between Iran and North Korea. “Do the Chinese know which industrial-control systems are in place?” Adam Segal, of the Council on Foreign Relations, asked. “Could they deliver the malware to a system that is most likely ‘air gapped’ and not connected to the Internet? Could they be sure that the infection wouldn’t spread—back to China or to U.S. or others? Do D.P.R.K. nuclear scientists travel? Is it possible to leave thumb drives around with no one noticing?” On a couple of levels I am gobsmacked by Olnos’ blithe presumption.

I will set aside for the time being his rather fanciful view of the dynamics underlying PRC-DPRK relations. Suffice to say that Beijing’s vision for sustaining its rather precarious economic and political sway over the northern half of the Korean peninsula do not involve sabotaging Pyongyang’s most cherished strategic initiative.

But as to the casual attitude toward a “Stuxnet approach”, Stuxnet was an act of war. Full stop. If the PRC or anybody else did that to us, they would face the prospect of direct, escalating retaliation. 

Why Barack Obama and Joe Biden Are Gambling on Social Media

Feb 21, 2013 

The president and vice president are using Facebook and Google to bypass the mainstream press. Howard Kurtz on why the strategy is surprisingly risky. 

It must have seemed the safest of forums, a Facebook town hall in which Vice President Joe Biden would field questions about gun safety. 

After all, what elected official wouldn’t rather talk to actual voters than pesky reporters? And the White House is increasingly using technology to connect with the masses, pointedly bypassing the mainstream media in the process. 

Turns out Biden came out with both barrels. At Tuesday’s Facebook event, sponsored by Parents magazine, a reader named Kate Earnest posed this loaded question: “Do you believe that banning certain weapons and high-capacity magazines will mean that law-abiding citizens will then become more of a target to criminals, as we will have no way to sufficiently protect ourselves?” 

Biden laughed, saying he had never heard anyone at Parents magazine “ask these kinds of questions,” and suggested she get a shotgun. The veep said he had told his wife, “Jill, if there's ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here ... walk out and put that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house…. You don't need an AR-15 — it's harder to aim, it's harder to use, and in fact you don't need 30 rounds to protect yourself.” 

The aggressive response quickly went viral. Not since Dick Cheney accidentally drilled a fellow hunter has there been so much focus on a vice president and a shotgun. 

Clearly, the president is avoiding the national reporters who are most knowledgeable about his record and most likely to pin him down on policy. 

Cyberwar Fearmongering Pays Off for Defense Contractors

By Constantine von Hoffman 
February 21, 2013 

A survey paid for by a company that works for the Department of Defense says 92 percent of Americans believe the nation's infrastructure is vulnerable to malware attacks. Once the public has been buffaloed into stampeding the money is sure to follow, according to CIO.com blogger Constantine von Hoffman. 

Cyberwar, which has no true definition, is currently being waged. If you have any doubts then you clearly are not selling cyberwarfare stuff to the government. 

"We are in a cyberwar. Most Americans don't know it...and at this point, we're losing," says Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich). 

Cybersecurity is our "greatest threat" and a "21st century nuclear weapons equivalent," says Secretary of State John Kerry. I’m pretty sure nuclear weapons are still this century’s nuclear weapons equivalent, but thanks for playing John! 

Janet Napolitano, head of the Department of Homeland Stupidity, says "cyber 9/11" every chance she gets. The term sounds compelling but means nothing. Well done, Madame Secretary. 

Rogers, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, "told the [Pittsburgh] Tribune-Review on Wednesday that he is 99.9 percent confident Iran initiated recent cyber attacks on PNC and other major banks and that it clearly has the capability and desire to trigger more destructive assaults." It’s China one week, Iran the next–I believe North Korea is penciled in for later this month. Or maybe Monaco. 

All this has paid off big time in the hustings. A survey paid for by Tenable Network Security, a security firm that works with the Department of Defense, found 92 percent of Americans believe public utilities, such as electricity and water, are vulnerable to malware attacks. Once the public has been buffaloed into stampeding the money is sure to follow. 

Actually, the money is already there. As Tom Simonite writes in his great piece on the Malware-Industrial Complex

China hacking claims: tech firms move to front line in US cyberwar

Associated Press in Washington 
21 February 2013

Mandiant founder reveals how balance of power in US cyberwar has shifted to multibillion-dollar computer security firms 

China hacking claims: US national security and intelligence experts at Peterson air force base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Photograph: Rick Wilking/Reuters 

When Kevin Mandia, a retired military cybercrime investigator, decided to expose China as a primary threat to US computer networks, he did not have to consult with US diplomats in Beijing or declassify tactics to safely reveal government secrets. 

He compiled a 76-page report based on seven years of work by his company, Mandiant, and produced the most detailed public account yet of how, he says, the Chinese government has been hacking major US companies.

It was not news to his commercial rivals, or the US government, that systematic attacks could be traced to a nondescript office block outside Shanghai that Mandia believes was run by the Chinese army.

What was remarkable was that the extraordinary details – code names of hackers, one's affection for Harry Potter and how they stole sensitive trade secrets and passwords – came from a private security firm without the official backing of the US military or intelligence agencies responsible for protecting America from a cyber-attack.

The report, welcomed by both government and industry, represents a notable alignment of interests in Washington: the Obama administration has pressed for fresh evidence of Chinese hacking that it can leverage in diplomatic talks without revealing secrets about its own hacking investigations, and Mandiant makes headlines with its sensational revelations. Mandiant founder and chief executive Kevin Mandia. 

U.S. Not Ready for Cyber War Hostile Hackers Could Launch

by Michael Daly 
Feb 21, 2013

The Chinese reportedly have been hacking into U.S. infrastructure, and Leon Panetta says future attacks could plunge the U.S. into chaos—shutting down the power grid, as well as electric, oil, gas, water, chemical, and transit systems. We’re not prepared. 

If the nightmare scenario becomes suddenly real… 

If hackers shut down much of the electrical grid and the rest of the critical infrastructure goes with it… 

If we are plunged into chaos and suffer more physical destruction than 50 monster hurricanes, and economic damage that dwarfs the Great Depression…

U.S. and Chinese national flags are hung outside a hotel during the U.S. Presidential election event, organized by the U.S. embassy in Beijing. (Andy Wong/AP, file) 

Then we will wonder why we failed to guard against what outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has termed a “cyber-Pearl Harbor.” 

“An aggressor nation or extremist group could use these kinds of cyber tools to gain control of critical switches,” Mr. Panetta said in a speech in October. “They could derail passenger trains, or even more dangerous, derail passenger trains loaded with lethal chemicals. They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country.” 

And Panetta was hardly being an alarmist. He could have added that cyber-security experts such as Joe Weiss of Applied Control Solutions suggest a full-on cyber-attack would seek not simply to shut down systems, but wreck them, using software to destroy hardware. Some believe we could then be sent into chaos not just for days of even weeks, but for months. 

Welcome to the Malware-Industrial Complex

February 13, 2013 

The U.S. government is developing new computer weapons and driving a black market in “zero-day” bugs. The result could be a more dangerous Web for everyone. 

Governments, contractors, and researchers are developing cyber-weapons that could put businesses and ordinary Internet users at risk.

Every summer, computer security experts get together in Las Vegas for Black Hat and DEFCON, conferences that have earned notoriety for presentations demonstrating critical security holes discovered in widely used software. But while the conferences continue to draw big crowds, regular attendees say the bugs unveiled haven’t been quite so dramatic in recent years. 

One reason is that a freshly discovered weakness in a popular piece of software, known in the trade as a “zero-day” vulnerability because the software makers have had no time to develop a fix, can be cashed in for much more than a reputation boost and some free drinks at the bar. Information about such flaws can command prices in the hundreds of thousands of dollars from defense contractors, security agencies and governments. 

This trade in zero-day exploits is poorly documented, but it is perhaps the most visible part of a new industry that in the years to come is likely to swallow growing portions of the U.S. national defense budget, reshape international relations, and perhaps make the Web less safe for everyone. 

Zero-day exploits are valuable because they can be used to sneak software onto a computer system without detection by conventional computer security measures, such as antivirus packages or firewalls. Criminals might do that to intercept credit card numbers. An intelligence agency or military force might steal diplomatic communications or even shut down a power plant. 

It became clear that this type of assault would define a new era in warfare in 2010, when security researchers discovered a piece of malicious software, or malware, known as Stuxnet. Now widely believed to have been a project of U.S. and Israeli intelligence (U.S. officials have yet to publicly acknowledge a role but have done so anonymously to the New York Times and NPR), Stuxnet was carefully designed to infect multiple systems needed to access and control industrial equipment used in Iran’s nuclear program. The payload was clearly the work of a group with access to government-scale resources and intelligence, but it was made possible by four zero-day exploits for Windows that allowed it to silently infect target computers. That so many precious zero-days were used at once was just one of Stuxnet’s many striking features. 

Chinese cyberspies have hacked most Washington institutions, experts say

February 21, 2013

Start asking security experts which powerful Washington institutions have been penetrated by Chinese cyberspies, and this is the usual answer: almost all of them. 

The list of those hacked in recent years includes law firms, think tanks, news organizations, human rights groups, contractors, congressional offices, embassies and federal agencies.

The information compromised by such intrusions, security experts say, would be enough to map how power is exercised in Washington to a remarkably nuanced degree. The only question, they say, is whether the Chinese have the analytical resources to sort through the massive troves of data they steal every day.

“The dark secret is there is no such thing as a secure unclassified network,” said James A. Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which has been hacked in the past. “Law firms, think tanks, newspapers — if there’s something of interest, you should assume you’ve been penetrated.”

The rising wave of cyber-espionage has produced diplomatic backlash and talk of action against the Chinese, who have steadfastly denied involvement in hacking campaigns. A strategy paper released by the Obama administration Wednesday outlined new efforts to fight the theft of trade secrets.

Cyberspying against what could be called the “information industry” differs from hacks against traditional economic targets such as Lockheed Martin, Coca-Cola and Apple, whose computer systems contain valuable intellectual property that could assist Chinese industrial or military capabilities. 

Instead, journalists, lawyers and human rights workers often have access to political actors whose communications could offer insight to Chinese intelligence services eager to understand how Washington works. Hackers often are searching for the unseen forces that might explain how the administration approaches an issue, experts say, with many Chinese officials presuming that reports by think tanks or news organizations are secretly the work of government officials — much as they would be in Beijing.

“They’re trying to make connections between prominent people who work at think tanks, prominent donors that they’ve heard of and how the government makes decisions,” said Dan Blumenthal, director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute, which also has been hacked. “It’s a sophisticated intelligence-gathering effort at trying to make human-network linkages of people in power, whether they be in Congress or the executive branch.”