22 March 2013

Assessing Inspire Magazine's 10th Edition ***

March 21, 2013
By Scott Stewart

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula released the 10th edition of its English-language magazine, Inspire, on March 1. After discussing its contents with our analytical team, initially I decided not to write about it. I concluded that Inspire 10 conformed closely to the previous nine editions and that our analysis of the magazine, from its inception to its re-emergence after the death of editor Samir Khan, was more than adequate.

Since making that decision, however, I have been very surprised at how the media and other analysts have received the magazine. Some have overhyped the magazine even as others have downplayed -- even ridiculed -- its content. I have heard others say the magazine revealed nothing about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. All these reactions are misguided. So in response, I've endeavored to provide a more balanced assessment that can be placed in a more appropriate perspective.
A Balanced Assessment

I am certainly not among those who want to sensationalize the threat the magazine poses. Inspire 10 is not going to launch the grassroots jihadist apocalypse al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula seeks to foment any more successfully than the magazine's previous nine editions. The fact that a photograph of Austin, Texas, appears in the magazine does not mean that the city is somehow being secretly targeted for attack by jihadist sleeper cells.

But laughing at the magazine or dismissing it as irrelevant would be imprudent. The magazine has in fact inspired several terrorist plots. In some cases, the connections to the magazine have been obvious, as in cases where plotters have attempted to assemble improvised explosive devices using instructions provided in Inspire magazine's first edition. This happened in July 2011, when U.S. Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo was arrested as he attempted to assemble explosive devices he planned to use in an attack against a restaurant in Killeen, Texas, that was popular with soldiers from nearby Fort Hood.

In November 2011, the New York Police Department arrested Jose Pimentel, also known as Muhammad Yusuf, a 27-year-old Dominican-American. Pimentel was arrested at an apartment in Manhattan as he was allegedly constructing homemade improvised explosive devices, again following the instructions provided in Inspire.

Other cases have not been as blatant as those involving Abdo and Pimentel. However, they have involved individuals who were radicalized or motivated by Inspire. As recently as March 15, three men in the United Kingdom pleaded guilty to terrorism charges related to attending terrorism training camps in Pakistan. The men allegedly were motivated by Inspire. They had discussed attack ideas from the magazine, and the wife of one of the men was convicted in December 2012 on charges of possessing two digital copies of the magazine on a memory card.
  • There are several other recent and notable cases connected to Inspire magazine.
  • On Nov. 29, 2012, two brothers from Florida, Raees Alam Qazi and Sheheryar Alam Qazi, were arrested and charged with plotting attacks in New York. Prosecutors noted that the pair had been motivated by Inspire magazine.
  • On Oct. 17, 2012, Bangladeshi national Quazi Nafis was arrested as part of an FBI sting operation after he attempted to detonate a vehicle bomb outside New York's Federal Reserve Bank. Nafis reportedly was an avid reader of Inspire magazine.
  • On Sept. 15, 2012, Adel Daoud, another avid Inspire reader, was arrested after he parked a Jeep Cherokee outside a Chicago bar and attempted to detonate the bomb he thought it contained. His was also an FBI sting operation.
  • On April 25, 2012, four men were arrested in the British town of Luton and charged with plotting attacks against a British army base. The four were also charged with downloading and possessing six editions of Inspire magazine. They pleaded guilty March 1, 2013.

What Machiavelli Can Teach Us Today ***

March 21, 2013

What is modernity? Is it skyscrapers, smart phones, wonder drugs, atomic bombs? You're not even close. Modernity, at least in the West, is the journey away from religious virtue toward secular self-interest. Religious virtue is fine for one's family and the world of private morality. But the state -- that defining political structure of modern times -- requires something colder, more chilling. For the state must organize the lives of millions of strangers and protect their need to selfishly acquire material possessions. If everyone stole from everyone else there would be anarchy. So the state monopolizes the use of force, taking it away from criminals. The state appeals not to God, but to individual selfishness. Thus, it clears the path for progress. 

Thomas Hobbes conceived of the modern state in his Leviathan, published in 1651. Hobbes is known wrongly as a gloomy philosopher because of his emphasis on anarchy. Hobbes was actually a liberal optimist, who saw the state as the solution to anarchy, allowing people to procure possessions and build a community. Hobbes knew that in the path toward a better world, order first has to be established. Only later can humankind set about making such order non-tyrannical. 

But what did Hobbes' philosophy ultimately build on? It built on the first of the moderns, the early 16th century Florentine Niccolo Machiavelli, whose masterpiece, The Prince, was written 500 years ago in 1513. Here is an anniversary as important as the 500th anniversary of Columbus discovering America, celebrated in 1992. 

By taking politics away from the narrowing fatalism of the medieval Roman Catholic Church, Machiavelli created the very secular politics from which Hobbes could conceive of the idea of the state.The Prince may be less a work of cynicism than an instructional guide to overcome fate -- the fatalism of the Roman Catholic Church at that time. Thus, Machiavelli, more than Michelangelo perhaps, was the true inventor of the Renaissance. The founders of the American Republic, who conceived of a polity in which church and state were separate and in which government existed to lay the rules for individuals to compete freely in the struggle to acquire wealth, owed much to Machiavelli and Hobbes.

But it is with Machiavelli, more than with Hobbes, where the principles of Western modernity truly begin. Indeed, we are fortunate to have still among us one of the great interpreters of Machiavelli, Harvard Professor Harvey C. Mansfield Jr. Mansfield knows that it is more important to tell hard truths than it is to be liked and to get good reviews. That is why I have always had such deep respect for him, even though I have never met him. I know Mansfield the way one should know a great scholar: only through his writings. 

Mansfield's book, Machiavelli's Virtue (1996), though drawing on the ideas of an earlier interpreter of Machiavelli, University of Chicago political scientist Leo Strauss, is an academic classic in its own right. Mansfield himself may not necessarily agree with Machiavelli, but he fearlessly shows why this towering figure of the Renaissance is still so relevant. For by setting the terms for political reality, Machiavelli helps lay the foundation for geopolitics. 

Mansfield, interpreting Machiavelli's original Italian, explains to us that necessity frees people from religious faith. People may pray to God and go to church or synagogue or the mosque, but they must also acquire food and possessions for the sake of their loved ones, and thus they must enter into competition with their fellow human beings; just as nations must enter into competition with other nations. This is not something to lament, however. For in the last analysis, self-interest can lead to peace while rigid moral principles can lead to war. Self-interest informs compromise with other human beings, and thus a state governed by self-interest is likely to compromise with other states: whereas a person or state governed solely by religious or moral virtue will tend to delegitimize as immoral those with whom he or it disagrees -- and therein lies conflict. Virtue, in other words, is fine. But outstanding virtue -- because it tempts sanctimoniousness -- is dangerous. It is ultimately with this maxim that we find philosophical justification for moderation in contemporary politics and statecraft. 

Is A Neo-LTTE Emerging?

Instead of playing a leadership role, the Manmohan Singh government has surrendered all political initiative internationally to the US and the EU countries and locally to parties such as the DMK, motivated by political opportunism.

Is there a neo-LTTE emerging nearly four years after the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was wiped out in May, 2009, by the Sri Lankan security forces? That is a question that needs the attention of the intelligence agencies in the wake of the growing support for the Sri Lankan Tamils’ political and human rights in the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora abroad and among large sections of the international community.

India had reasons to be gratified with the total elimination of the LTTE, which had become a Frankenstein’s Monster, by the Sri Lankan security forces. Indian intelligence and security agencies had played an active, but low profile role in helping in the counter-LTTE operations of the Sri Lankan security forces through means such as exchange of intelligence, monitoring the movement of LTTE's commercial ships used for smuggling arms and ammunition, strengthening the anti-aircraft defence of the Sri Lankan forces, training etc.

While one has to concede that the uprooting of the LTTE was largely due to the excellent counter-insurgency operations of the Sri Lankan security forces, the unadmitted contribution of India was not insignificant.

While the governments of India and Sri Lanka were on the same wave length before the elimination of the LTTE in May 2009, nagging differences cropped up post-May 2009, due to various reasons. 

First, the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa sought to impose a dictated peace on the Sri Lankan Tamil population in total breach of the various promises regarding political accommodation with the Tamils which the Rajapaksa government and its predecessors had made over a period of years. India’s counter-insurgency help to Sri Lanka was in the expectation that the Sri Lankan Government would implement these commitments.

Second, after the operations against the LTTE were over, evidence, at least some of it credible, started emerging regarding alleged disproportionate use of force by the Sri Lankan Security Forces not only against the LTTE, but also against the civilian Tamil population living in areas controlled by the LTTE. Instead of addressing these complaints and taking corrective action where required, the Rajapaksa government started dragging its feet in the matter. Backed by countries like China and Pakistan, it became increasingly indifferent to nudging not only from the US and the EU countries, but even India to attend to these complaints before they became a major international issue.

Third, one found that the admiration of the world for the successful counter-insurgency operations of the Sri Lankan government gave way to pressures from various quarters for attending to these complaints.

Fourth, the successful counter-insurgency operations destroyed the LTTE’s support base in Sri Lankan territory, but not among the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora abroad. This diaspora had played a very important role in keeping the LTTE sustained through funds and clandestine supply of arms and ammunition. After lying low for a while after May 2009, the Sri Lankan Tamil political activists in the diaspora became active once again in giving fresh oxygen to the objective of an independent Tamil Eelam. The unaddressed complaints of serious violations of the human rights of the Sri Lankan Tamils were exploited by these elements to give a fresh lease of life to the movement with the help of Western human rights organisations which exercised pressure on their Governments to act against the Rajapaksa government.

Fifth, a new generation of Tamil activists mushroomed in Tamil Nadu, who acted in tandem with the activists in the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, for reviving the Tamil Eelam objective. Growing number of members of GenNext in the Tamil Community in Tamil Nadu, which had become disillusioned with the opportunistic politics of the traditional Dravidian parties, found themselves attracted to the ranks of neo-Dravidian parties which sought to develop a political base in Tamil Nadu by taking up the cause of the Sri Lankan Tamils and by projecting Prabakaran once again as a Tamil icon.

Know Yourself and Your Enemies

Date : 21 Mar , 2013 

Two books titled ‘Deception – Pakistan, The United States and the Global Nuclear Weapons Conspiracy’ by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott- Clark and ‘Military Inc.- Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy’ by Ayesha Siddiqa are valuable reading for scholars of national security and indeed all those responsible for formulating national foreign and security policies in India. 

US and some European authorities were fully aware of transfer of nuclear warhead technology and missiles from China to Pakistan… 

The first book reveals that every US administration starting from Jimmy Carter was not just aware of the unfolding of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, but turned a benign blind eye to it and even supported it indirectly through aid injection. Concrete evidence available from both US and Western intelligence sources was not only subverted but even kept from the Congress. Assessments and reports were either destroyed or tampered with and in one case an important official whose factual reports were not palatable was sacked and falsely framed. 

US and some European authorities were fully aware of transfer of nuclear warhead technology and missiles from China to Pakistan and the A. Q. Khan network that was selling nuclear know how and hardware to North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Libya. This illicit trade was being financed amongst others by Libya and Saudi Arabia as also through US aid money! Authors of the book state that ‘In reality, Khan’s confession was a ruse. It takes more than one person to make a mess of this proportion. Khan was the fall guy and his performance papered over the true nature of what many now believe was the nuclear crime of all our lifetimes and undoubtedly the source of our future wars. The nuclear bazaar Khan claimed to have orchestrated certainly existed ,but where the public and private stories diverged was that the covert trade in doomsday technology was not the work of one man, but the foreign policy of a nation, plotted and supervised by Pakistan’s ruling military clique, supposedly a key ally in America’s war on terror. The true scandal was how the trade and the Pakistan military’s role in it had been discovered by high-ranking US and European officials, many years before, but rather than interdict it they had worked hard to cover it up.’ 

The deception in the book cuts across nations and within nations across institutions and individuals. What really emerges is that in the harsh world that we live in today morality, trust or chemistry between leaders in diplomacy is of little consequence. At the altar of perceived national interest, anything goes! While the comprehensively researched book chronicles the intricacies of clandestine nuclear proliferation, missile proliferation, illegal international trade in nuclear components and materials and internal and international subterfuge, what really stands out is the huge gap between what national governments preach in public and what they practice in private. 

Today, the world watches with bated breadth at the events unfolding in Pakistan and irony is writ large on this unfolding drama. Those that were trained to bleed India are likewise training their guns on Pakistan as well. 

At one level, one cannot but feel surprised at the depths to which concerned leaders and their bureaucracies or militaries (in cases like Pakistan) could stoop to in deceiving not only other countries but their own institutions and people. At another, level, however, is the stark real politic of today’s complex world where the end justifies the means and those defining the former are pursuing agendas sometimes far more complex than mere national interest. It speaks volumes of our collective national security consciousness that even as the primary victim of this entire deception saga has been India, there has barely been comment or discussion on these revelations. Clearly as far as national security is concerned, successive governments are more comfortable with the ‘see no evil’ policy, hoping that the problem if ignored long enough will simply vanish! In the context of this security backdrop, it is worth revisiting some of India’s recent diplomatic initiatives. 

In the second book, with respect to Pakistan military’s role the author concludes that ‘The most serious consequence of the military’s involvement in economic ventures relates to their sense of judgment regarding political control of the state. ….. In this respect, economic and political interests are linked in a cyclic process: political power guarantees economic benefits which, in turn, motivate the officer cadre to remain powerful and to play an influential role in governance.’ With this internal dynamics of Pakistan, it is not hard to see why it is against the interest of the Pakistan military to improve relations with India. On the contrary, unless it keeps the bogey of India as an enemy alive, its claim as the country’s saviour and consequent influence in governance will be threatened. Not with standing this reality, the then Prime Minister took the bus to Lahore. The resultant Kargil cost us over 500 military lives and Nawaz Sharif his elected government! Pakistan army emerged the winner with a General as the first ever CEO of a nation! 

Is Pakistan's condition terminal?

By Robert M. Hathaway 
March 21, 2013

Sharing an elevator the other day, a colleague suddenly turned to me and asked: "So, just how much longer does Pakistan have?" My interlocutor is not the first person to pose that question, but coming from a savvy veteran of the international arena, his out-of-the-blue query was jolting. 

Pakistan, after all, is not Laos or Sierra Leone. It is a real country, too large and too centrally located to be casually written off. It will soon have the fifth-largest population in the world, with 40 million more people than Russia. It already has the seventh-largest army in the world, and is closing in on the United Kingdom to become the fifth-largest nuclear power.

Yet Pakistan gives the appearance of a state not merely in decline, but in terminal decline. Its institutions are broken, its economy lagging, its government finances slipshod, its social indicators deplorable. Corruption is rampant, while tax evasion is the national sport; a Pakistani investigative reporter last fall discovered that two-thirds of federal lawmakers paid no taxes in 2011, nor had the president. Journalists are regularly detained or murdered because their reporting has come too close to truths those in power prefer to obscure-the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom index has found that for the second consecutive year, Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. Assassination is also an ever-present danger for politicians who espouse progressive views or challenge the authority of extremists. Political and civic leadership is absent, while sectarian violence against Shi'as and other minorities is all too present - witness, for instance, the anti-Christian rampage in Lahore earlier this month.

To be sure, Pakistan has faced even graver crises in the past, most notably when the country split apart in 1971 and the eastern half of the state broke away to form the separate country of Bangladesh. But the systemic decay one sees in Pakistan today surpasses even the breakdown that preceded the 1971 crisis.

Pakistanis-many of whom will hate this article-will correctly point out that the Pakistani people are extraordinarily resilient. (They will also, quite properly, retort that an American should be the last person to be lecturing them on political gridlock or fiscal probity.) Indeed, that quality of sheer plodding resilience is inescapable to anyone with more than the barest familiarity with Pakistan. 

Resilience, however, is not rejuvenation, and it is far more difficult to find convincing evidence that Pakistan is capable of genuine rejuvenation.

Not all is lost; Pakistan's present ills need not be terminal. History offers examples of floundering states that have turned their fortunes around. Not many years ago, informed observers described Colombia, which was riven by narcotics mafias, multiple guerrilla forces, paramilitary groups, and surging numbers of displaced people, as a failed state in waiting. Yet in the last 15 years, Colombia has witnessed a profound transformation: the security situation has vastly improved, the economy is growing smartly, and the army and police are professional and operate within the bounds of the law. 

Pakistan’s 2013 elections: Next Steps and Implications for the United States

By Sadika Hameed, Andrew Halterman
Mar 20, 2013

Pakistan reached a democratic milestone this week, with a democratically-elected government completing its full term for the first time in Pakistani history. The general elections on May 11, 2013 will determine the composition of the National Assembly, which is the larger, lower house of parliament. Together, the National Assembly and the Senate, which is appointed by the provincial assemblies, will elect the prime minister. Both houses of parliament and the provincial assemblies will vote to elect the president.

Going forward, questions remain as to how the elections will be handled and the implications of the various combinations of parties in the next government. With the United States heavily invested in the withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, the next Pakistani government will be vital to upholding U.S. interests in the region. For Pakistan itself, the next government will have to take difficult steps to stabilize Pakistan and solve its internal issues of energy, security, corruption, and finances.

Until the May 11 elections, Pakistan will be under the control of a caretaker government, which will be appointed in the next several days according to the provisions of 20th amendment to Pakistan’s constitution. Passed in February 2012, the amendment aimed to ensure an independent election commission and a neutral caretaker government. The selection process for the caretaker prime minister has three phases. First, the outgoing prime minister and head of the opposition attempt to find a mutually-agreeable, neutral candidate. Failing that, the outgoing prime minister and head of the opposition each submit two names to a committee composed of eight members of the outgoing parliament, drawn equally from the ruling coalition and opposition. If that committee cannot agree on a caretaker prime minister within three days, the question is put to the election commission which must decide within two days.

Q1: What obstacles will the elections need to overcome?

A1: The two greatest challenges that these elections face are low voter turnout that will result in an illegitimate government and the ability to ensure free, fair, and transparent elections.

Historically, voter turnout has been low in Pakistan, with only 44 percent turnout in 2008. New players like Imran Khan and popular discontent over domestic policies have driven people to ask for change and could increase turnout. However, given the current trends of violence in Pakistan and threats by the Taliban, voter turnout could be low due to fear of attacks. Furthermore, the month of May is one of the hottest months in Pakistan and could keep people away from the polls.

Though the Election Commission has been reformed and rules and regulations have been put into place for polling stations, many Pakistanis remain skeptical of the elections being free and fair, especially given the levels of corruption in Pakistan and the lack of experience in holding transparent elections.

Q2: Could the election threaten U.S. interests in Pakistan and the region?

A2: Observers worry that the election and its lead-up could be violent and disorderly which would lead to greater instability in the coming months. For the United States government, fraudulent elections that delegitimize the resulting government with which it must partner will frustrate U.S. efforts to stabilize Pakistan and withdraw from Afghanistan in an orderly manner.

The worries in Afghanistan

Najmuddin A Shaikh 

It does not seem likely that the Americans will agree to the transfer unless they are given assurances that the three dozen or so prisoners the Americans regard as "enduring security threats" will not be released by the Afghan judicial system.

IN the days that have passed since American Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel visited Kabul and received a less than cordial welcome from President Hamid Karzai, there has been no visible improvement in relations between the Karzai administration and the International Security Assistance Force.

The fact that two Americans and some others were killed in a "green-on-blue" attack the day after Karzai made his speech criticising America and the Taliban was probably a coincidence. But the speech itself blaming the two for colluding to create security conditions to justify a continued American presence was deemed provocative.

US and Nato commander Gen Joseph Dunford issued an advisory to his commanders in the field asking them to be extra alert after what he termed an inflammatory speech that could trigger insider attacks by Afghan forces against Westerners.

He even went on to say that "he [Karzai] may issue orders that put our forces at risk". It is difficult to think of anything else that could better describe how precarious the Afghan-American relationship has become.

After a call from US Secretary of State John Kerry, Karzai did acknowledge the importance of working with America and maintained: "My recent comments were meant to help reform, not destroy the relationship." He did not, however, retract his charges of Taliban-American collusion or change his adamant stand on the transfer of Bagram's Parwan prison unconditionally to Afghan authorities.

In subsequent conversations with Dunford, Karzai's office claimed it had been agreed that the transfer would be completed within a week but the American statement on the subject went no further than stating that the next week would be used to work out the issues.

It does not seem likely that the Americans will agree to the transfer unless they are given assurances that the three dozen or so prisoners the Americans regard as "enduring security threats" will not be released by the Afghan judicial system.

And therein lies the rub. If one understands Karzai it would appear that beyond the publicly stated position of asserting Afghan sovereignty Karzai does want to release these mostly Pakhtun prisoners because of the influence they enjoy in the Pakhtun-dominated areas of south and east Afghanistan.

Perhaps he believes that these prisoners will on release become the vehicle for dialogue with the Taliban leadership that Karzai says he desperately wants as a means of advancing reconciliation. More likely he hopes that they will galvanise support in the Pakhtun belt for the candidate he puts forward for next year's presidential election.

In the meanwhile, Karzai's speech has provoked reactions both within Afghanistan and in the West. In Washington a senator, Lindsey Graham, involved in Afghan policy has been quoted as being ready to "pull the plug" on assistance to Afghanistan. The New York Times in an editorial has called Karzai's behaviour "appalling" and opined that "it will make it harder for Mr Obama to argue compellingly to keep a smaller counterterrorism and training force in Afghanistan into 2015 and beyond".

Afghanistan: The Way to Peace

Anatol Lieven

Jerome Sessini

Female US Marines with Afghan women and children during a search-and-seizure operation, Helmand province, June 2010

A very strange idea has spread in the Western media concerning Afghanistan: that the US military is withdrawing from the country next year, and that the present Afghan war has therefore entered into an “endgame.” The use of these phrases reflects a degree of unconscious wishful thinking that amounts to collective self-delusion.

In fact, according a treaty signed by the United States and the Karzai administration, US military bases, aircraft, special forces, and advisers will remain in Afghanistan at least until the treaty expires in 2024. These US forces will be tasked with targeting remaining elements of al-Qaeda and other international terrorist groups operating from Afghanistan and Pakistan; but equally importantly, they will be there to prop up the existing Afghan state against overthrow by the Taliban. The advisers will continue to train the Afghan security forces. So whatever happens in Afghanistan after next year, the United States military will be in the middle of it—unless of course it is forced to evacuate in a hurry.

As to the use of the word “endgame,” this might be appropriate if next year, upon the departure of US ground forces, the entire Afghan population, overcome with sorrow at the loss of their beloved allies, rolls over and dies on the spot. The struggle for power in Afghanistan will not “end” and US policymakers should not, as in the past, hop away from a swamp they’ve done much to create.

Two major new books, together with a number of lesser works, are crucial to an understanding of Afghanistan, the flaws of the Western project there, the enemies that we are facing, and therefore of possible future policies. Barnett Rubin, senior adviser to the US special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan in the first Obama term, has been consistently among the wisest and most sensible of US expert voices on Afghanistan. His book Afghanistan from the Cold War Through the War on Terror is a compilation of his essays and briefing papers over the years, framed by passages looking back at the sweep of Afghan history and the US involvement there since 1979.

Peter Bergen is a former journalist and long-standing commentator and writer on the region now working at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C.1 He has edited and introduces Talibanistan, a frequently brilliant collection of essays by different experts on the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including an analysis of the extent to which their past links with al-Qaeda represent an enduring threat to the West, and of how far a peace settlement with them may be possible. Rubin’s and Bergen’s works should be read in conjunction with a fascinatingly detailed new book by Vahid Brown and Don Rassler on the Haqqani network, the insurgent group led by Mawlawi Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son, which operates on both sides of the Afghan–Pakistani border. Its title, Fountainhead of Jihad, is the name of a magazine published by the Haqqanis.

Brown and Rassler bring out the deep roots of the Haqqanis in the history and culture of this region, on both sides of the Durand Line, which was drawn up in 1893 by the British to mark the border between India (later Pakistan) and Afghanistan. As far as the locals are concerned it has always been largely theoretical. In the words of Jalaluddin Haqqani himself, “Our tribes are settled on both sides of the Durand line since ages. Our houses are divided on both sides of the border. Both sides are my home.” Brown and Rassler point out that from this point of view, all the US invasion of 2001 managed to do was “force this [Haqqani] nexus a few dozen kilometers east.”

Phoenix Rising: Will Nawaz Sharif Lead Pakistan… Again?

March 20, 2013 
By Arif Rafiq 

At the time of his overthrow in 1999, Sharif was probably the most hated man in Pakistan. He may soon be Prime Minister. 
In the spring of 2000, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif stood in a jail cell in Pakistan's notorious Attock Fort as members of the local and international press looked on. Imprisoned by the army chief he appointed, Sharif appeared utterly demoralized and even pitiful. It was a radical reversal of fortune for a man who just two years earlier had not only been prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan — but a democratically-elected leader with a commanding parliamentary majority who took on the military and conducted the country’s first open nuclear tests. 

United States economic sanctions automatically triggered by the tests would spoil the party for Sharif. And relations with Gen. Pervez Musharraf, whom Sharif appointed as army chief, would quickly deteriorate as the army waged what Sharif claims was a secret military operation in the Kargil area of Kashmir that would bring Pakistan and India close to a fourth war. 

At the time of his overthrow by Musharraf in October 1999, Sharif was probably the most hated man in Pakistan. The country’s economy was in shambles. Sharif had butt heads with many, including the Supreme Court chief justice, often displaying an authoritarian streak. Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was in self-exile and her husband, Pakistan’s current president, Asif Ali Zardari, was in prison. Members of his party would bail on him and join Musharraf’s camp. By the end of 2000, Sharif was in exile in luxurious Saudi Arabia and his political fortunes had crumbled. 

Today, Sharif’s stock is again on the rise. Having been back in Pakistan for five years, he is now the favorite to be Pakistan’s next prime minister. This is a testament not only to his political savvy and maturation, but also to public exasperation with the status quo. Many Pakistanis look to Sharif to solve their country’s economic woes and reverse failing governance. But his path to power is far from clear and his return to leadership would in no way guarantee that Pakistan will take a turn for the better. 

To rise to power once again, Sharif’s political party, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), will have to contain the upstart Pakistan Tehreek-i Insaf (PTI) party led by former cricket star Imran Khan. PTI, after fifteen years of little political success, is now giving the PML-N a run for its money in its base, urban Punjab. Pakistani political analysts such as Sohail Warraich see the two parties as the main contenders in this area — the country’s most populous belt. So-called electables — candidates with the financial and social capital necessary to win in their respective districts — have been joining (and in some cases rejoining) the PML-N. Ahead of elections, there is a high rate of political defection, and viable candidates tend to side with the strong horse. 

The Next Arab Challenge

Updated: March 15, 2013

Two years after the Middle East revolts, the Obama administration has mounted no real effort to understand the dynamics of political Islam.

This article appeared in print as Containing Islamism
A democratic uprising replaced Egypt’s government with the Muslim Brotherhood. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

Ibrahim el-Houdaiby is exactly the sort of man the United States needs on its side these days. A 29-year-old graduate of the American University in Cairo, he is one of the firebrands who decamped to Tahrir Square, and he now opposes rule by both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian military. Houdaiby is an Islamist, not a Jeffersonian democrat. He believes passionately in sharia, or religious law, and the “totality of Islam” in governing the lives of believers like himself. In fact, he is Islamist royalty: His great-grandfather Hassan el-Houdaiby was once the brotherhood’s supreme leader, and his grandfather held the same post. But last year, young el-Houdaiby left the brotherhood in protest. Now he preaches a new, open kind of Islamism—one that doesn’t impose anything “against the will of the people.”

Ibrahim el-Houdaiby, who is trying to keep the original spirit of the Arab Spring alive, is what Americans might call a “good Islamist.” Consider, by contrast, Mokhtar Belmokhtar of Algeria. He, like Houdaiby, was a leader inspired and empowered by the political chaos of revolution. But Belmokhtar, 40, who may have died recently at the hands of Chadian troops, might be deemed a “bad Islamist.” Nobody paid much attention to him until he organized a raid on a BP gas facility in January that resulted in the deaths of 37 hostages. He is part of the terrorist “Pandora’s box” (Hillary Rodham Clinton’s description) that opened up in North Africa, Syria, Yemen, and other places where the autocrats have been ousted. And he is more proof—joining the agitators who killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, in Benghazi, on Sept. 11, 2012—that al-Qaida keeps generating new cells, like dragon’s teeth.

The protesters who ousted or threatened Arab dictators in the past two years—their uprisings have been euphemized as a “Spring,” like so many other democratic movements—have not produced governments that are channeling Western ideals of secular democracy. They are yielding, instead, to a new power elite who believe in some form of political Islam (a concept alien to the West), whether by vote or by force. Now the West will face new interlocutors there—reductively speaking: good Islamists and bad Islamists. And American strategists, until now, have done a very poor job of figuring out which are which, and what to do about them.

Shocked by the abruptness of the uprisings, the Obama administration has responded fitfully for two years, mostly improvising. First, it defended its old autocratic allies, such as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Yemen’s Ali Saleh. Then it moved to championing the young secularists in the street, with visions of liberal democracy that now look as naive as the visions of the George W. Bush-era neoconservatives. More recently, after the election of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, the administration has lurched in yet another direction, embracing the Islamist president and the Brotherhood, even to the exclusion of secularists, says Michele Dunne of the Atlantic Council.

What Dunne and other experts would like to see instead is a steadier policy based on set principles—beginning with “tough love” for Morsi after his recent efforts to crush protest. “Washington’s response to this crisis has largely been business as usual,” Dunne and Robert Kagan wrote in The Washington Post recently. “Just as the United States once clung to Mubarak, the Obama administration has hewed closely to Morsi, offering a visit to Washington and continuing to deliver the annual $1.3 billion in military assistance, including a recent shipment of F-16 aircraft.” In an interview, Dunne adds, “We always seem to be attaching ourselves to individual, small groups of people, ruling cliques.” The better approach is to stand up for standards, principles, and a proper system of government—and try to make it stick by frankly tying U.S. economic support to democratic progress.

So, You Want Another War?

Mar 20, 2013

On the 10th anniversary of Iraq, we’re about to make the same mistakes in Syria—that could plummet us into another bloody conflict, writes Leslie H. Gelb.

Only in America, where our intellectual energies are fully consumed by reality TV and stranded cruise ships full of poop, could we possibly be committing the very same mistakes regarding Syria that got us into war with Iraq a mere 10 years ago. We are putting ourselves under greater and greater pressure to take the first steps toward war in Syria. God love us, we feel properly guilty about upwards of 70,000 Syrians slaughtered and millions of refugees and displaced people. But the devil lures us into believing that the only way to help these Syrians is for the United States to take those first little military interventionary steps that would soon lead to bigger and bigger ones. This is not anti-war blue smoke; it’s precisely what we did in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. It’s the good old American tradition in world affairs of leaping before we ask. The tough questions are just sitting ducks waiting for us—Congress, journalists, the media, and the administration itself—to ask. If we don’t ask them, and if we don’t answer them to some reasonable degree, it’s likely we will find ourselves at war in Syria within a year.

Syrian rebels aim their weapons as they take position in a building during clashes with regime forces in the Salaheddine district of Aleppo on Saturday. (JM Lopez/AFP/Getty)

This go-slow question-raising process applies to the week’s latest crisis as well, that is, the charge that the Syrian government has just used chemical weapons against the rebels. Obviously, this must be checked and hard. But by itself, it is still insufficient reason to start arming the rebels and beginning the slide toward a U.S. war. Better for President Obama to make a one-off U.S. air attack against a prime Syrian military facility—a strong response that fits the crime—and leave it at that for the moment. It’s not the time for a “game changer,” as President Obama threatened. It’s time for a short, sharp, tough message, unless it is proven that Syria used chemical weapons again.

The first slippery slope now is the growing demand from the usual tiny group of interventionists for the U.S. to start supplying arms to the Syrian rebels. On the surface, this seems quite reasonable. President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Army is much better equipped, so why not at least equalize the fight against the dictatorial regime? But we must ask ourselves these questions first:

Who are those good rebels we want to arm? The interventionists seem to take for granted that we know them well. The fact is, the interventionists themselves and the U.S. government don’t know squat about Syria and know even less squat about these rebels. I don’t care what they say about what they know. They don’t know it. Finally, someone spoke the unmistakable truth this week. Talking to a group of Washington insiders, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey revealed what we really know about these rebels: “About six months ago, we had a very opaque understanding of the opposition, and now I would say it’s even more opaque.”

CIA operatives said they knew the mujahedin (future Taliban) after the war with the Soviets in Afghanistan. They knew almost nothing. We and others have had people thrashing around the rebel fighting groups inside Syria the last two years of war; does that mean we know our customers? These rebel customers are far shrewder than our side, and they know how to play us well. Some of them are truly good men and women fighting for their freedom; others are con artists, hiding their true goals. Our experiences in almost every war confirm this. We discover the truths about many of the people we help far too late and at a punishing cost to the United States.

World's ten largest militaries

In an increasingly unstable and polarized world, the importance of a nation's security cannot be highlighted enough. Here's where the soldier steps in, chest jutting out and head held high, as he marches in step with his country's strategic and military needs.

And as armies around the world prepare themselves for any eventuality, we take a look at the 10 largest and 10 smallest armies in the world.

People's Republic of China:
With the largest active military in the world, (2,285,000 personnel) People's Republic of China is the biggest military power in Asia. A major nuclear power, China spends the most on its military after the United States of America. Its military budget for the year 2013 was $114.2 billion.

United States of America:
The United States of America, with 1,458,219 military personnel, is the second largest active military in the world behind China. But in comparison to $114.2 billion military budget of the Asian superpower, the US' military spending amounts to a whopping USD 700 billion. The US army, which draws its manpower from a large pool of paid volunteers, is under civilian control. The US army plays a major role in various strategic affairs across the globe.

India: Headed by the President of India, the Indian military boasts of about 1,325,000 active military personnel. It is the third largest military in the world considering active military strength. On an average, India annually spends about 2.7 % of its GDP on its military. In 2013, India announced its military spending to USD 37 billion; a five percent increase over its previous year's spending.

North Korea:
The North Korean military, also known as the Korean People's Army, is the largest military organisation in the world considering a combination of active, reserve and paramilitary forces which amounts to 9,495,000 but ranks fourth considering just the active military strength with approximately 1,106,000 personnel. The Supreme leader of North Korea is the Supreme Commander of the Korean army. Due to many worldwide economic sanctions, North Korea, of late, has developed many eccentric warfare techniques that include cyber warfare, electronic warfare.

The Russian army, also known as the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, is headed by the President of Russia. With 1,040,000 active military personnel, Russian military ranks fifth in the world. With a budget of USD 53 billion announced for 2013, Russia annually spends about 4 % of its GDP on its military.

South Korea:

With 687,000 active military personnel, the South Korean army - also known as The Republic of Korea Armed Forces - is the sixth largest military power of the world. South Korea spends about USD 30 billion annually on its military.

In terms of the active troops, Pakistan military ranks seventh in the world. Around 617, 000 personnel are a part of the Pakistan's active military. Pakistan annually spends about USD 5 billion on military expenditures.

With active military personnel over 500, 000, Iran is the eighth largest military power in the world. Iran's defence budget annually amounts to 2.7 % of its GDP while its expenditure is believed to be close to USD 10 billion for 2013.

Turkey spends around 2.4 % of its GDP annually on military expenditure. The number of Turkey's active military personnel is approximately equal to 510,600. It ranks ninth in the world in terms of active military personnel.


Malaysia ranks tenth in the world with the number of active military personnel approximately equaling to 509,000. It spends about 2 % annually of its GDP on military expenses.

Stranglehold: The Context, Conduct and Consequences of an American Naval Blockade of China

BySean Mirski
FEBRUARY 12, 2013


In an all-out war with China, the United States could impose a naval blockade to pressure Beijing with minimal risk.


The mounting challenge posed by China’s military modernization has highlighted the need for the United States to analyze its ability to execute a naval blockade. A blockade strategy is viable, but it would be limited to a narrow context: the United States would have to be engaged in a protracted conflict over vital interests, and it would need the support of key regional powers. The United States would also need to implement a mix between a close and distant blockade in order to avoid imperiling the conflict’s strategic context. If enacted, a blockade could exact a ruinous cost on the Chinese economy and state. 


Since World War II, the United States has aimed to preserve military primacy in the Asia-Pacific region. Rather than using this ascendancy for expansionist purposes, the United States sought to maintain regional stability through deterrence. For over five decades, its forces largely preserved command over the global commons in the pursuit of this mission. Even to this day, the United States remains the region’s most powerful military actor. But American military dominance is steadily eroding thanks to the breakneck pace of China’s military modernization, and, as a result, the military balance in the region is shifting.1 Since the mid-1990s, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been in the process of creating a formidable anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) complex in China’s near seas.2 As China continues to upgrade its A2/AD system, it presents a serious and sustained challenge to the United States’ operational access to the region. In wartime, some American forces may initially be prevented from operating in China’s near seas. Even in peacetime, China’s A2/AD complex arguably attenuates the United States’ ability to defend its interests and its allies from potential Chinese coercion, and with it, the American-organized system of deterrence and regional stability. 

The mounting challenge presented by China’s military modernization has led the United States to review existing military strategies and to conceptualize new ones. In the universe of possible strategies, the idea of a naval blockade deserves greater scrutiny. By prosecuting a naval blockade, the United States would leverage China’s intense dependence on foreign trade—particularly oil—to debilitate the Chinese state. A carefully-organized blockade could thus serve as a powerful instrument of American military power that contributes to overcoming the pressing challenge of China’s A2/AD system. A blockade could also provide the United States with several gradations of escalation control and be easily paired with alternate military strategies.3 

Even if a blockade is never executed, its viability would still impact American and Chinese policies for deterrence reasons. The United States’ regional strategy is predicated on the belief that a favorable military balance deters attempts to change the status quo by force, thus reassuring allies and upholding strategic stability. The viability of a blockade influences this calculus, and can accordingly affect American and Chinese actions—both military and non-military—that are based on perceptions of it. If a naval blockade is a feasible strategy, it strengthens the American system of deterrence and dilutes any potential attempts by China to coerce the United States or its allies. Moreover, if a blockade’s viability can be clearly enunciated, it would also enhance crisis stability and dampen the prospects of escalation due to misunderstandings—on either side—about the regional balance of power. 

US & Chinese Pivots and India

March 21, 2013

China does not see itself as a rising, but a returning power . . . It does not view the prospect of a strong China exercising influence in economic, cultural, political, and military affairs as an unnatural challenge to world order—but rather as a return to a normal state of affairs. — HENRY KISSINGER, 2012 

It is China’s intention to be the greatest power in the world. — LEE KUAN YEW, 2011

The United States welcomes China’s rise as a strong, prosperous and suc- cessful member of the community of nations. — PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, 2011

As a region South Asia has increasingly been refocused at the centre of geopolitical calculations globally. The US Pivot to the Asia-Pacific, while still inextricably being involved in AF Pak and West Asia where fatigue seems to have set in, has bad ripple effects in Asia. Not to be undone, Beijing is debating a pivot of its own. In an insightful paper tiled ‘Westward Ho’, Yun sen writing in foreign Policy Magazine has presented views of Chinese think tanks and PLA in forging new alliances in regions that lie to China’s West by investing in Central Asian Republics(CAR), West Asia and South Asia – territories where US dominance only resides in Saudi Arabia and Israel. As US gets more self-reliant in its energy security at home, there would be a case for it reducing its footprint from the bleeding ulcer that is West Asia. China is significantly increasing its involvement through infrastructure development in these areas midst intense economic activity. 

The Centre of Gravity of both these strategies unfortunately traverse South Asia and more specifically India. It was discussed at length in our post “Why Indo US relations pass through Beijing”

If 21st century has to be an Asian century, it has to roll on the twin wheels provided by China and India. China on its part is Marching West while containing the East and South to pursue a firm policy of cooperation through sound economics and by adding muscle to PLA. The belligerence of PLA in shaping Chinese foreign policy over the last five years, as evident in South China Sea and Senkaku Islands or its new-found love for engaging in finding a security solution to post 2014 Af Pak, go beyond Chinese mantra of ‘Peaceful Rise’. After becoming CMC chair, Xi has used a new formulation of building a “strong army” (and PAP) that “obeys the party’s commands, is capable of winning wars, and has a good work style.” 

Lee Kuan Yew, the most revered statesman in Asia, opines that China would do well to balance its relationship in the neighbourhood through economic activity and positive engagement in a political environment where the current breed of political leaders may seek belligerence due to hubris arising out of China’s growing economic and military status. Apparently, the Chinese believe in developing political, economic and military leverages to conduct their foreign policy on their terms or norms. 

US today is weary of unintentional consequences of the ‘Pivot’ – that of India and China coming together purely based on their geographic proximity despite irritants such as Pakistan or LAC. President Xi Jinping’s 5 Point formula’ is effusive on this aspect. Western Analysts argue that if France and Germany the two dreaded enemies of World Wars could come together, so could India and China. At this point, it world be pertinent to look at the question of China and India … And or Versus” once again and define a global role for India in this now brewing rivalry where it has better relations with the two than they have with each other. 


By Dong Wang
The Montréal Review, March 2013

"The relationship between the United States and China may be the single most important bilateral relationship in the modern world. Dong Wang's book is an extremely valuable guide to that relationship, combining history and international relations to give a powerful account of how the two countries first encountered each other, and why their interaction matters so much in the present day."
-Rana Mitter, University of Oxford

Encounters between the United States and China span almost two and a half centuries. Many believe that U.S.-China relations are the most consequential bilateral relationship of our time. My new book, The United States and China: A History from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, explores not only high-level diplomacy but also a range of other human contacts in domestic and global affairs.

As someone who has studied and experienced American-Chinese relations during the last three decades from vantage points in Asia, North America and Europe, I will share here ten observations about the character of those relations.

First, Sino-U.S. relations are a tangle of contradictions. The two countries have been called the "odd couple," by The Economist in late October 2009, and the "power couple" by others more recently.

In 1915, Yuan Shikai, the first president of the Republic of China (1912 - 49), spoke of the dissonance between America's exclusion of Chinese immigrant labor and its Open Door policy in China (see Observation four below): "While America was the only country of the world which denied admittance to our countrymen, it was also the only nation which stood like the Great Wall between China and dismemberment." In contemporary times, the U.S.-China relationship fluctuates between being friends and foes, and strategic partners and rivals, as well as betweem deterrence and engagement, hedging and confrontation, accommodation and friction, and interdependence and independence. Contradictions indeed.

Second, the United States and China are rooted in each other, and not fundamentally worlds apart. Their bilateral relations grew out of private commerce, the Old China Trade, in 1784—which was relatively marginal in politics and the economy at the time-to become the center of their strategic attention. This transformation brought about a web of diplomatic, economic, social, religious, cultural, and military ties that conjoin the two peoples. Today, over three million Chinese immigrants live in the United States. In 2010, China ranked as the fifth-largest destination for American students (over 13,000) studying abroad.

Third, from a long historical perspective, the relationship between the United States and China has passed through three phases, roughly divided in the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. Their relations shifted significantly from interaction between an empire (Qing China, 1644 - 1911) and a young nation-state (United States), to interplay between two nation-states (Qing China/Republic of China 1912 - 49 and the United States of the same period), and then to wide-ranging encounters between a nation-state (People's Republic of China, 1949 - present) and an empire (United States, post-World War II).