3 July 2013

The Psychological Warfare in J & K

by Lt Gen Raj Kadyan in IDR 2/7/13

The militancy in J&K is a mix of violence and clever use of psychological warfare. Having failed to succeed in their designs to defeat the security forces, the militants have been trying to discredit and defame them to ultimately force them to be moved out. There are many instances of false allegations against the Army operating under difficult conditions in the militancy affected area.

Unless one assumes that the whole battalion comprised depraved officers and men, the allegation is prima facie preposterous.

According to a recent news report a group of women representing various women’s organisations has submitted a memorandum to the Defence Ministry urging fresh investigation into the alleged mass rape in village Kunan Poshpura. The reported incident dates back to 23 Feb 1991 when soldiers belonging to 4thBattalion of the Rajputana Rifles are supposed to have resorted to mass rape during night of 23/24 Feb. The allegation at that time was, ‘… that up to 100 women “were gang-raped without any consideration of their age, married, unmarried, pregnancy etc”. The victims ranged in age from 13 to 80’. Unless one assumes that the whole battalion comprised depraved officers and men, the allegation is prima facie preposterous. The case had been investigated by different agencies at that time and the allegations had been found to be false. In light of this, what is even more disturbing is the reported comment of Shri Salman Khurshid during his visit to the Valley on 28 June 2013. When questioned about this 22 years old incident he is reported to have remarked, “What can I say? I can only say that I am ashamed that this happened in my country.” In saying so the Hon’ble Minister has gone against the finding of his own government. Nothing could be sadder.

A few hard facts about the reality in J&K need recalling. In the beginning of this year Mirwaiz Mohammad Umar Farooq had openly appealed from Srinagar that Pakistan should do something unless the ’freedom struggle’ dies out. After that Hurriyat leaders went to Pakistan, except Syed Geelani. As per media reports they all met Gen Kayani, the Pakistani Army Chief. They undoubtedly would have met the ISI operatives too. Mirwaiz also travelled to Muridke to meet Hafiz Saeed of LeT and spent more than a day there. Yasin Malik did the same and pictures of his meeting the LeT supremo were in the media. The attempted revival of terrorism is an outcome of those efforts. A recent ambush when eight soldiers lost their lives is one of the outcomes and is unlikely to be the last act of militants. The effort to get the old allegation of mass gang rape in Kunan Poshpura reopened is a related attack on morale of the security forces. Repeated calls by some quarters for removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act fall in the same mode.

It is a strange ceasefire where Pakistan can open fire whenever they need and we keep exercising restraint

Pakistan is known to have raised combined SSG and LeT teams for activities along the LoC. All these militancy related developments have an obvious link. The adversary appears to be winning in every encounter because they are highly trained and motivated and well armed. With our LoC fences, they cannot cross into Kashmir without fire support from Pakistani posts. There has been a ceasefire in place since 2003. It is a strange ceasefire where Pakistan can open fire whenever they need and we keep exercising restraint. When we were erecting the fence, Pakistan constructed a bund in many places along the LoC. As a result their small arms fire is more effective against us vis-à-vis ours. We have to respond with mortars and artillery to equalize that, making the retaliation more visible and seemingly escalatory.

It is the start of the new ‘freedom struggle – Jihad’. The intensity would surely pick up tempo after the Western troops pull out of Afghanistan next year and more jihadis are available to operate in J&K. Our head-in-the-sand policy is not leading us anywhere. We have to see and face reality. Undoubtedly secularism is the strength of our constitution. But secular should not be synonymous with suicide.

India’s nuclear doctrine and capability: Some answers

The Daily Star
July 2, 2013
Manpreet Sethi

IT has been fifteen years since India conducted five nuclear tests. This period has been spent operationalising the country’s nuclear doctrine in order to establish credible deterrence. This has meant building certain capabilities to address the country’s threat perceptions. The most evident of these have been the testing in 2012 of Agni V, a ballistic missile of the range of 5000 kms, and the launch in 2009 of INS Arihant, the nuclear submarine.

Both these capabilities are still some distance from being inducted into operational service. Comments, however, have appeared (such as in Daily Star of June 9, 2013) expressing apprehensions over what the capability would mean for “small nations like Bangladesh in the Asia Pacific,” or that through these India is looking for “great power status” which it might then be tempted to abuse.

These questions arise from an inadequate understanding of India’s nuclear doctrine and the role that the country envisages for its nuclear weapons. India entrusts its nuclear weapons with the narrow task of deterring the threat of use or use of nuclear weapons. Deterrence is based on communicating the message that any nuclear use against India would invoke massive retaliation since India eschews first use of the weapon. It is also clearly stated that India would not use or threaten to use its nuclear weapons against states that don’t possess these weapons and are not aligned with other nuclear weapon powers.

Not all nuclear-armed states so clearly define the purpose of their nuclear weapon or the circumstances of their use. But, India has been transparent by placing a written doctrine in the public domain. Encapsulating the philosophy behind the nation’s nuclear strategy, it provides pointers on the nature and size of the nuclear arsenal, including delivery vehicles, the kind of command and control systems, and the type of retaliation and targeting options.

Another unique aspect of India’s nuclear doctrine is that while operationalising nuclear deterrence, it nevertheless identifies “global, verifiable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament” as a “national security objective.” This is not rhetorical. India believes that its national interest best lies in a world without nuclear weapons. Until such a world emerges, however, nuclear deterrence becomes necessary to safeguard the nation against nuclear coercion or blackmail.

Rejection of the concept of nuclear war fighting and the need of the weapon purely for defence allows India to accept credible minimum deterrence (CMD) and no first use (NFU) as the defining principles of its doctrine. Both these need to be examined in some detail to understand why India is building the capability it is.

CMD mandates a capability that remains at the minimum level and yet credibly signals that nuclear use against India would invoke retaliation that would be punishing enough for the aggressor to negate any gains he makes through first use. It is a strategy that deters by the promise of punishment, and punishing modern urban conglomerates does not require a huge arsenal. Therefore, India’s focus has not been on increasing nuclear warheads, but on developing delivery systems of requisite ranges, accuracy and reliability that can reach targets whose loss would be unacceptable to the aggressor. The continued testing of missiles, including Agni V, is with this objective in view.

The second pillar of India’s nuclear strategy is no first use (NFU) or a retaliation only posture. Since India does not intend using the nuclear weapon for coercion or territorial ambitions, it refuses to carry the burden of first use. Rather, it maintains deterrence by conveying that while India will not use the weapon first, in case the adversary does so, India would respond to inflict punishment.

National security decision-making process needs urgent reforms

Deccan Herald
June 26, 2013
Gurmeet Kanwal

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is reported to have rejected the proposal of the Naresh Chandra committee on defence reforms to appoint a permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC). This is a retrograde step as the proposal itself was a watered down version of the original recommendation of the Group of Ministers (GoM) of 2001 to appoint a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). 

Defence planning in India has always been marked by knee-jerk reactions to emerging situations and haphazard single-service growth. The absence of a clearly enunciated national security strategy, poor civil-military relations, lack of firm commitment of funds for modernisation beyond the current financial year and sub-optimal inter-service prioritisation have handicapped defence planning. 

Consequently, the defence planning process failed to produce the most effective force structure and force mix based on carefully drawn up long-term priorities. With projected expenditure of US$ 100 billion on military modernisation over the next 10 years, it is now being realised that force structures must be configured on a tri-Service, long-term basis to meet future threats and challenges. 

In 1999, the Kargil Review Committee headed by the late K Subrahmanyam was asked to “…review the events leading up to the Pakistani aggression in Kargil and to recommend such measures as are considered necessary to safeguard national security against such armed intrusions." The committee looked holistically at the threats and challenges and examined the loopholes in the management of national security. The committee was of the view that the “political, bureaucratic, military and intelligence establishments appear to have developed a vested interest in the status quo.'' It made far-reaching recommendations on the development of India’s nuclear deterrence, higher defence organisations, intelligence reforms, border management, the defence budget, the use of air power, counter-insurgency operations, integrated manpower policy, defence research and development etc.

The post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), whose tasks include inter-Services prioritisation of defence plans and improvement in jointmanship among the three Services, was approved. However, a CDS is yet to be appointed. The tri-Service Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) was established under the COSC for strategic threat assessments. Speedy decision-making, enhanced transparency and accountability were sought to be brought into defence acquisitions. Approval of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP 2002) was formally announced. The CCS also issued a directive that India’s borders with different countries be managed by a single agency – “one border, one force.”

Ten years later, many lacunae still remain in the management of national security. The lack of inter-ministerial and inter-departmental coordination on issues like border management and centre-state disagreements over the handling of internal security are particularly alarming. In order to review the progress of implementation of the proposals approved by the CCS in 2001, the government appointed a Task Force on National Security led by Naresh Chandra, former Cabinet Secretary. The task force report was sent for inter-ministerial consultations.

A fluid strategic environment, rapid advances in defence technology, need for judicious allocation of scarce budgetary resources, long lead times required for creating futuristic forces and the requirement of synergising plans for defence and development - all these make long-term defence planning a demanding exercise. The lack of a cohesive national security strategy and defence policy has resulted in inadequate political direction regarding politico-military objectives and military strategy. Defence planning in India had till recently been marked by ad hoc decision-making to tide over immediate national security challenges while long-term planning was neglected. This is now being gradually corrected and new measures are being instituted to improve long-term planning.

It is now being increasingly realised that a Defence Plan must be prepared on the basis of a 15-year perspective plan. The first five years of the plan should be very firm (Definitive Plan), the second five years may be relatively less firm but should be clear in direction (Indicative Plan), and the last five years should be tentative (Vision Plan). A reasonably firm allocation of financial resources for the first five years and an indicative allocation for the subsequent period is a pre-requisite. 

Waiting for Maoists to encircle Delhi

Wednesday, 03 July 2013 

Without a political consensus between the Union Government and the Maoist-affected States, and without breaking the nexus between the States and the Maoists, the insurgency cannot be effectively tackled

The ambush by Maoists on July 2 in Jharkhand reflects the total ill-preparedness of the country against the insurgents. Like the avoidable monsoon tragedy in Uttarakhand, the all-weather Maoist threat afflicting the country will not be resolved anytime soon. Like the monsoon’s invasion of India’s pride, the Delhi international airport, the Maoists will shortly migrate from rural to urban areas. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will then have at least one more chance — at the next Chief Ministers’ meeting — of sombrely declaring that the Maoists pose the gravest internal security challenge to India. This ritualistic twice-a-year reiteration of the threat since 2004 is a record stuck in its groove, which refuses to break.

The recent Darbha ambush in Chhattisgarh, meant to be a wake-up call for the sleepaholic establishment, will pass by, even though it was called by Prime Minister Singh as an assault on democracy that eliminated the Congress’s political core from the State. Nothing, it seems, will shake the Government from its stupor till the Maoists arrive in Delhi, which is their political objective, with the war cry: “Dilli ghere lebo, ghere lebo”(We will besiege Delhi). The tangible cost that India incurs from shadow-boxing the Maoists is more than one per cent of its GDP, according to an estimate.

Why not blame the British? After all, it were they who decided in 1925 to preserve the social fabric and culture of the tribals in the forested Dandakaranya belt — approximately 1,23,000 sq km bordering seven of the nine Maoist-affected States. Like in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan, the British did not extend the administration to Dandakaranya. The Maoists have fully secured 40,000 sq km of this area where they run a parallel administration calling it a ‘liberated zone’. Abujhmad in Chhattisgarh, which the security forces tried to penetrate recently, was found impregnable, covered by three layers of mines and defences — much like the departed Prabhakaran’s sanctum sanctorum in Wanni in Sri Lanka. Colombo displayed political will and national unity to reclaim the liberated zone.

By contrast, New Delhi shied away from mounting a surgical operation in Chhattisgarh in 2005 following an unmanned aerial vehicle detecting a big, hot Maoist camp which, even after the Prime Minister and the Home Minister showed extreme enthusiasm to tackle, was not removed. That is why, while the drains in Delhi may get de-clogged, the Maoist wound will become cancerous.

The reasons for this diagnosis are varied and many. The Maoists are waging a full-blown insurgency to capture political power. It is not, and never was, a law and order policing problem — which is a State responsibility under the Constitution. Internal security is a national issue subsuming considerations of federal autonomy, and needs to be brought on the concurrent list. Justice AK Patnaik recently said that Maoism is due to oversight of Schedule V and VI of the Constitution regarding rights of tribals and forest dwellers over forest land and its produce. While Schedule VI applies to the North-East, the complaint is that Governors have failed to exercise their authority under Schedule V in protecting tribal rights but no one has challenged their exalted omission. Only last month, Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Kishore Chandra Deo wrote a letter to Governors over violations of Article 244 of Schedule V in the failure towards protection of tribal rights. The Law Minister must clarify whether Schedule V as later modified is defective in law and, therefore, non-implementable?

It is apparent that State intelligence and police forces do not have the requisite capability and motivation to subdue the Maoists. Neither do, at present, the Central police forces. Without a political consensus between the Union Government and the Maoist-affected States, without putting aside differences between the ruling party at the Centre and those in the States, and breaking the nexus between the States and the Maoists, no headway can be made. Clearly, there are constitutional, political and capability problems which include the lack of a unified counter-Maoist grid and strategy, backed by a unified command. Special Forces are required as also a more creative employment of the Army and the Air Force, for a breakthrough. The Army was used in West Bengal in 1969 — a full Infantry Division and the Parachute Brigade — to form the outer cordon for the police to defeat the Naxals in the Birbhum forest areas.

The big myth surrounding the Maoists is that they are fighting for the rights of tribals. They’re doing nothing of the sort; they’re are only promoting their political interests. When the Maoists in Nepal with whom they have fraternal links, abandoned the bullet for the ballot and urged the Naxals to join the political mainstream, they were chastised by their Indian counterparts for betraying the people’s armed struggle. The pro-tribal mirage of the Maoists is backed by a platoon of intellectuals who glibly talk of the ‘alternate narrative’: The Maoist understanding of democracy and sustainable development etc, and being Gandhians with guns.

WHIRLWIND MEETINGS

- John Kerry is by no means to be underestimated
Diplomacy: K.P. Nayar

Had the fourth annual “strategic dialogue” between India and the United States of America not taken place in New Delhi last week, nothing would have changed in Indo-US relations. This was what a senior official who is crucial to policymaking in the United Progressive Alliance government told me in a candid analysis of the whirlwind meetings between the two countries over a 42-hour period. I then put the idea to a member of the delegation of the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and he entirely agreed. There are two ways of looking at such an assessment. One is to take satisfaction that the engagement between New Delhi and Washington has now reached a level of continuing activity at such a substantive pace that it no longer needs ritual high-level meetings or homilies from top down. The relationship has a momentum of its own.

The other is a strangely pervasive sense of disappointment that there will not be anything like the nuclear deal between India and the US any time in the short to medium term future. Such a view belongs to the school of pessimists on the premise that New Delhi frittered away opportunities to advance ties with Washington in the last two years because of the UPA’s political shortcomings. Those who subscribe to this view think that neither a strategic dialogue nor a Washington summit between the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and the president, Barack Obama, now being planned for October, can pull the bilateral relationship out of the perceived rut it has fallen into.

The only misstep during Kerry’s travel to India for his first meeting with the external affairs minister, Salman Khurshid, was what Indians saw as his insensitivity in not expressing condolences over the loss of eight unarmed soldiers and 13 others in a terrorist attack in Srinagar. News of the attack reached Kerry just as he was stepping into a meeting with the prime minister. He could have told Singh that the US condemned terrorism of that kind — personally so, in Kerry’s case, because his hometown of Boston is still recovering from a terror plot that killed scores of Americans. But he did not.

Kerry had at least one more opportunity when he spoke at the bilateral higher-education dialogue the next day to express his sympathy for India, which had suffered a grievous loss. Again he did not: unlike Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who instantly and generously responded to Indian sensitivities when similar terrorist attacks took place around their presidential presence in this country. Kerry could at least have had a statement on the incident issued in his name while he was still in New Delhi.

In my subsequent conversations with officials from Washington who were with Kerry, these officials regretted that it was an omission. Their insistence that the slip was unintentional seemed genuine, but it is instructive that even a diplomatic establishment as large as the one in Foggy Bottom, the seat of the US state department, and equipped with the sharpest antennae on public relations can make mistakes.

The timely announcement during the strategic dialogue that the vice president, Joe Biden, and his teacher wife, Jill, would be in New Delhi in the penultimate week of July has helped keep up whatever euphoria was created by the Kerry visit. Biden has been a friend of India much more demonstratively than Kerry. Besides, the vice president was thrust into positions in his earlier political incarnation to be gifted with opportunities to show his feelings towards this country: for several years he has either been chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee or its senior-most Democratic member. More than on any other occasion, that role offered him the chance to show his total and unfailing support for the Indo-US nuclear deal, especially during the months soon after the deal was announced by Bush and Singh when no more than 15 to 20 senators were in favour of the deal.

Kerry, by nature, is not anywhere as demonstrative as Biden. But an anecdote by the prime minister’s former media adviser, Sanjaya Baru, in the run-up to the strategic dialogue is revealing about the secretary of state. Baru was present when Kerry met Singh along with a Congressional delegation in early 2008: the nuclear deal was comatose and taken for dead. Baru wrote in a newspaper last month that had Kerry not told the prime minister then that it was now or never, that if Democrats gained control of both chambers of Congress and the White House in that year’s election, they would effectively kill the nuclear deal, Singh may never have acted to risk his own government to push through the agreement.

Those who accuse Kerry of tilting towards Pakistan and preferring Islamabad to New Delhi must read accounts of a press conference that he addressed in New Delhi soon after meeting the prime minister on that occasion. There was the standard question about whether Pakistan, a long-term ally of the US, would be offered a nuclear deal similar to India’s. Kerry was emphatic: “India is different, it is not a proliferator.”

As secretary of state, Kerry is today as convinced about the imperative American need to placate Pakistan as he was convinced as a senator in 2008 that the US should do what it can to end India’s nuclear winter. The two extraordinary invitations to Pakistan’s chief of army staff, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to meet Kerry in third countries are similar in a different setting to Baru’s narration of what Kerry told the prime minister five years ago. It requires firm conviction to go against the current the way Kerry did.

Young And Educated, Armed And Dangerous

As cross-border militancy wanes, youth in the state pick up arms to keep the jihad alive
2013-07-06 , Issue 27 Volume 10

Crowd puller People congregate on the streets at Sajad Ahmad’s funeral. Youth like him are seen as martyrs. Photo: Faisal Khan

On 30 May, Muhammad Yusuf Mir, 50, was returning home by train when the phone in his pocket started ringing. It was a call from the police and Mir was scared to answer it; he had already heard about an ongoing encounter between the militants and security forces in the area and he feared the worst. Mir was right.

The policeman on the phone had a grim message to deliver. Security forces were battling two militants, 3 km from his village in the south Kashmir district of Pulwama, and one of them was his 25-year-old son Sajad Ahmad, a post-graduate in Islamic Studies and an MCA student in Kashmir’s Islamic University of Science and Technology when he joined militancy in 2009. Mir had seen this day coming many times in the past. After every encounter with militants in the district, the police would call him, assuring that his son was not among the militants who were in the cordon. But, this day was different; Mir was told in no uncertain terms to prepare for his son’s funeral as he was soon going to be shot.

Since Sajad had joined militancy four-and-a-half years ago, there had been many efforts by security agencies to persuade him to surrender, but to no avail. Anxious about her son’s well-being, his mother visited faith-healers for his safety and that he should renounce his gun. But Sajad didn’t budge from his chosen path. His mission, he said, was “Kashmir’s Azadi”.

Sajad is not a lone case. He represents a new trend that is causing concern across the Kashmir Valley. At a time when former militants, disillusioned with jihad, are returning from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) to surrender and settle into mainstream life, a new crop of youth in Kashmir is taking up the gun to carry forward the campaign. Though still tiny in number, they are relatively more educated and motivated than their forbearers. And their presence on the scene along with some help from foreign militants has imparted a new sting to the militancy.

In five daring attacks since February, three of them in the heart of Srinagar, militants have killed 23 security personnel. Besides, in May alone, in four successive encounters in south Kashmir, six militants and four jawans have lost their lives. This has put the state back on edge. The targeted attacks have created a perception of militancy in the Valley that far exceeds the number of militants on the ground.

What is more, the death of any of them leads to a groundswell of public support. As security forces were engaged in gunfight with Sajad and his colleague Muhammad Ashraf in Pulwama, they had to simultaneously battle a massive law and order problem in the area with a huge gathering of people shouting pro-Azadi slogans and throwing stones. Later when Sajad was laid rest to rest, thousands of people attended his nimaz-i-jinaza with some youth pledging to carry his mission forward.

The change has taken even Chief Minister Omar Abdullah by surprise, who termed the trend “a matter of great concern”. “We have also found that militants killed in recent encounters were qualified and most of them were products of Kashmir University and Islamic University,” he says.

For many in the Valley, the trend is inexplicable at a time when the general mood is against an armed struggle. Even Pakistan is now preoccupied with mopping up the fall-out of the endgame in Afghanistan and exhibits little will to abet a fresh spell of militancy in the state, on the pattern of 2008-10 unrest.

“This has been going on for a while and might continue,” says DIG, Police, Central Kashmir, Afadul Mujtaba. “We need not be worried as long as there is no active stoking of this trend from across the border.”

But the police does not deny that there is a certain metamorphosis underway in the Valley. “I see this kind of militancy graduating to terrorism,” says Imtiaz Hussain, SP, Sopore, Kashmir’s citadel of militancy. “There is a new modus operandi in place. We have a close-knit group of 10-15 militants backed by an overground support of around 100 people. Besides, there are sleeper cells, which are only activated in times of need. This keeps the possibility of a surprise attack always open.”

In contrast to the past few years, when they preferred to lie low until identified and targeted by the security forces, militants in Kashmir are now going on the offensive. A latest J&K Police report talks about a definite move by militants to change their strategy. Most significant is their abandoning of the use of communication devices in planning and coordinating their operations. Technologically savvy, these groups now use Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technologies to communicate with each other. Using Internet-based communication software, including Viber, Kakao, Skype, etc, they defy easy interception. This has dried up a useful source of “technical intelligence” for security agencies, hampering not only the efforts to trace and target militants but also to forestall future attacks. The police is now stressing on cultivating “conventional human intelligence” to fight this new militancy.

Massacre in Pakistan’s Karakoram signals eastern storms over China

1/7/13
by Praveen Swami. 

Fairy Meadows, it’s called, the quiet stretch of grass where the ten men were sleeping before they began their perilous assault on the great Nanga Parbat. From the testimony of a man who survived, we know this: ten foreign climbers, and one Pakistani mistaken for a Shi’a, were lined up, and then shot through the back of the head. The guides were then allowed to go, after a lecture on the virtues of jihad.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the murders—including its very first of Chinese nationals since 2011, when it assassinated a woman in Peshawar saying it was that country “killing our Muslim brothers”.

Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. AFP

Like so much else in Pakistan, elements of the media have been scrambling to blame the killings on the favourite fiction of the country’s paranoiac conspiracy theorists, the HinJew Plot.

No dissimulation, though, can obscure the stark message: even though China’s friendship with Pakistan might be “taller than the mountains, deeper than oceans, stronger than steel and sweeter than honey”, Asia’s principal power won’t be immune to the storm that is building up as the United States withdraws from Afghanistan in 2014.

For much of this summer, China’s Xinjiang—an oil and coal-rich province which makes up one-sixth of the Asian giant’s territory, and borders troubled Pakistan and Afghanistan—has been mired in communal violence. Last week, knife-wielding mobs were reported to have killed 17 in attacks on police stations and a construction site in Shansan, east of Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi, before police opened fire killing another 10. Earlier, 21 people were killed in riots which broke out in Kashgar, reportedly after tried to force Muslim women to stop wearing niqab.

In 2009, an estimated 197 people were killed in Ürümqi during murderous communal violence pitting the region’s Uighur Muslims against ethnic Hans. Later, in 2011, several people were killed in serial knife and bomb attacks. Last year, 16 people were killed in an led by Uighur religious activist Abudukeremu Mamuti at Yecheng, near the border with Pakistan.

From images circulating around the internet, there’s good reason for suspicion that jihadist groups are hoping to cash in on the ethnic-religious strains in Xinjiang. Earlier this summer, the Hizb-e-Islami Turkistan—also known as the Turkestan Islamic Party, and in Chinese literature as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement—posted video of its operatives conducting suicide attacks in Afghanistan.

The video featured suicide bomber Nuruddin Mehmet, who announced that he was participating in the operation “to make the religion of Allah the Almighty supreme and predominant in the world, and to make polytheism disappear”. Firstpost obtained video footage showing children being trained at a Hizb-e-Islami Turkistan training camp said to be located in Pakistan’s North Waziristan.

The Hizb-e-Islami Turkistan has well-documented links with Al Qaeda. Abdul Haq al-Turkistani, the organisation’s former chief, was a member of Al Qaeda’s executive council. Abdul Shakoor al Turkistani, also reported killed in drone strike last year, is also thought to have been appointed to the central council, in addition to being designated commander of Al Qaeda forces Pakistan’s tribal areas.

None of this is news to Beijing—but with the United States pulling out of Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s north-west in meltdown, it’s likely groups like these will gain strength.

Islamism in Xinjiang was forged in that great crucible: the great anti-Soviet Union jihad that tore Afghanistan apart from 1979—funded, and equipped by the United States and Saudi Arabia, with China’s assistance. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Uighurs are reputed to have participated in the jihad, returning home empowered with the belief that a superpower could be successfully defeated through insurgent warfare. In 1993, Hasan Mahsum and Abdukadir Yapuquam, both residents of the town of Hotan, founded ETIM to spearhead this cause. Both men are known to have met with Osama bin Laden; their cadre fought alongside the Taliban.

Xinjiang’s first struck in February, 1997. Following the killing of nine Uighurs in police firing on a mob protesting the execution of several Islamists, a clash now known as the Ghulja incident, jihadists, bombed three buses Ürümqi. Hasan Mahsum had, by this time, relocated TIP’s headquarters to Kabul, under the Taliban’s patronage—and Beijing began to worry that worse was to come.

New report says CIA drone strikes in Pakistan at all-time low

July 2, 2013

Bonus read: "Musharraf's malaise," Shamila N. Chaudhary (AfPak

Falling numbers

A new report released by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism on Monday notes that the number of reported civilian deaths caused by the CIA's drone campaign in Pakistan is at an all-time low (ET). The drone strikes are at their lowest level since early 2008, and the average number of people killed in each strike has also fallen sharply over the last few years. Similar data from the New America Foundation shows that, to date, there have been 13 drone strikes in Pakistan and 82 people have been killed, down from the record 122 strikes and 849 people killed in 2010. Peter Bergen and Jennifer Rowland have written repeatedly about the sharply falling civilian casualty rate for the past year on CNN.com. 

In an effort to fulfill his campaign promise to fix Pakistan's crippling energy crisis, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to request China's help when he meets with Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Thursday (ET). According to government officials, some of the items of Sharif's wish list include a 1,100 megawatt nuclear power plant, a $448 million loan for a 969 megawatt hydroelectric power plant, and help setting up an oil refinery at Gwadar port. 

Some observers have also wondered if more power plants in Pakistan will be privatized in an effort to combat the country's frequent power outages, which can last for up to 12 hours (NYT). Since the Dubai-based private equity firm, Abraaj Capital, purchased a controlling stake in the Karachi Electricity Supply Company, the only privately-owned utility company in Pakistan has been able to reduce its workforce, cut-off subscribers who don't pay their bills, and destroy illegal power lines - problems that affect most of the government-owned utilities in the country.

The Anti-Terrorism Court in Rawalpindi ordered authorities on Monday to produce former President Pervez Musharraf on July 9th, before it adjourned the case relating to the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (Dawn, ET). Musharraf, who is accused of failing to provide adequate security for Bhutto, has not appeared at the court due to security concerns. Neither has Chaudhry Azhar Ali, the Federal Investigative Agency's special prosecutor in the case, who is also concerned about adequate security at the court. 

In accordance with a 2008 Consular Agreement, the Pakistani and Indian governments exchanged lists of prisoners currently held in each other's respective prisons on Monday (Dawn). According to the lists, there are currently 386 Pakistani prisoners in Indian prisons and 491 Indians in Pakistani jails. The lists, which are not used to facilitate any potential prisoner exchanges, are shared twice a year to help the governments' see which prisoners are completing their sentences and to advocate for their release once their respective jail terms have been completed. 

Not impressed

Navanethem Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, publicly condemned Afghan President Hamid Karzai's recent appointments to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) last Friday, saying that "serious concerns have been raised [over] whether the new commissioners meet...important eligibility standards" (NYT, OHCHR). AIHRC Chairperson Sima Samar agreed on Tuesday that the appointments - which include a mullah who believes sharia law is the best source for human rights legislation, a fundamentalist party bureaucrat, a politician with close ties to Karzai, and a retired four-star general - were not in line with the criteria spelled out in the Afghan constitution, but did not say what, if anything, would be done to address these concerns (Pajhwok).

The Doha portent

Wed Jul 03 2013

The most hardline elements in Taliban were strengthened by the Doha office opening

Americans are justly eager to end their longest war ever and bring home their troops from Afghanistan. President Obama's administration promises often that the war will be over in 2014, forgetting that the war almost certainly will not end for Afghans next year even if all American and other foreign forces depart the country. This eagerness to find a way out has been on display in Doha in the preparations to begin a political process to get the Taliban to the negotiating table. The truth is we really don't even know who is calling the shots in the Taliban leadership today.

After years of indirect talks between the Taliban, Washington, Kabul and several other third parties, the Qatari government allowed the Taliban to open an office in Doha with the Taliban flag flying and signs everywhere proclaiming the office represents the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. For President Hamid Karzai and the Afghan government America supports, the symbolism was a sell-out. Instead of treating the Taliban as a political party or a gang of terrorists, the Taliban got the symbols of full statehood. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is the title the Taliban gave the government they and Pakistan created in the 1990s. It was only recognised by two other governments then and was ousted by a United Nations-endorsed and America-led international coalition in 2001 after it harboured the al-Qaeda attack on 9/11. For Karzai and his government, the announcement, the flags and signs conceded the legitimacy of the Taliban's claim to be the authentic government of Afghanistan and that the NATO-led army is nothing more than a foreign occupation illegally backing up a rogue regime. The most hardline elements in the Taliban were strengthened by the Doha office opening.

The Taliban's patrons, the Pakistani army and its ISI intelligence service, were pleased with the outcome. Pakistani journalists close to army chief General Ashfaq Kayani quickly announced that he orchestrated the entire Doha affair and outsmarted the Americans. The Pakistani generals believe time is on their side in Afghanistan, that America has already lost the war and that their clients will prevail.

Mullah Omar, who most believe lives under ISI protection in Quetta, Pakistan, said nothing. That is not unusual. He has not been seen in public in years. On rare occasions, a message is issued in his name but he never appears in front of his followers. For all the world knows, the self-styled Commander of the Faithful may be dead, mad or incapacitated. The Taliban team in Doha is said to be totally loyal to Omar but they too are creatures of the ISI. As the former head of Afghan intelligence, Amrullah Saleh, likes to point out, the Taliban negotiators in Doha fly home to Karachi whenever they want to see their bosses or their families. They are not independent players.

Karzai was in Doha just a week before the office opening and he clearly warned the Qataris and Americans not to give the Taliban these symbolic victories. So he suspended the talks with the United States on a long-term strategic agreement to provide for a post-2014 security relationship between America and Afghanistan and he announced his government will not participate in any political process with the Taliban under the Doha ground rules. After several messages from Secretary of State John Kerry, Karzai has backed off and the offending flag and sign have been removed in Doha, at least temporarily.

But the Doha debacle will be seen by many as a portent of the future. Karzai undoubtedly noted that the US also backed down on its longstanding demand that the Taliban break publicly with al-Qaeda. Instead, the Taliban made vague statements about never letting "their country" be used for terrorism against another. That echoes the Taliban's statements before and after 9/11 that al-Qaeda was not engaged in attacks on American targets despite all the obvious evidence that it was. The Taliban leadership has never broken with al-Qaeda and openly mourned the death of Osama bin Laden two years ago after Obama sent commandos to kill him outside the gate of Pakistan's Kakul military academy in Abbottabad. For its part, al-Qaeda still swears loyalty to Taliban leader Mullah Omar as the global commander of the jihadi faithful. Perhaps they know if he is really still running the show in Quetta, perhaps not. But al-Qaeda fighters are still on the battlefield in Afghanistan fighting with the Taliban.

Has Foggy Bottom Forgotten Asia?

BY ELY RATNER | JULY 2, 2013

Yes, Mr. Secretary, we get that you want to fix the Middle East. But remember that whole 'pivot' thing?

For an illustration of Secretary of State John Kerry's commitment to Asia -- or lack thereof -- look no further than his travel schedule. On July 1, he arrived in the tiny nation of Brunei for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, an annual multilateral dialogue. In the weeks prior, Kerry canceledinaugural stops in Indonesia and Vietnam so he could return to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel for the second, third, and fourth time as secretary, respectively. Then, instead of holding important meetings with Asian allies and partners in Brunei on the evening of June 30 and morning of July 1 as originally scheduled, Kerry decided to stay an extra day in Israel. This disregard for U.S. interests in Asia is unacceptable.

Kerry's agenda at the State Department has been dominated by crises in Syria, Iran, and the Arab world -- at the expense of Asia. In diplomacy you vote with your feet, and since taking office in February, all but one of Kerry's overseas trips have included a visit to either Europe or the Middle East. Before Brunei, his lone venture to East Asia came in April. According to people familiar with the matter, he piqued the Chinese with Saturday meetings and initially planned to cram his stop in Japan -- one of America's most important allies -- into a Sunday afternoon. (He ended up allowing Tokyo part of a Monday as well.) Four days after returning to Washington, Kerry was back on a plane to Turkey for meetings with the Syrian opposition.

Yes, Kerry's personal commitment to Syria, attention to Iran, and efforts to kick-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process are commendable. But diplomats and policymakers in Washington and throughout Asia are beginning to doubt Kerry's dedication to the principal foreign-policy innovation of President Barack Obama's first term: the rebalancing, or "pivot," of U.S. attention and resources to the Asia-Pacific region after more than a decade of war in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Even before Kerry was nominated to be secretary of state in December, there was already widespread concern in Asia that the new leadership in the State Department would shift its focus away from the region.

Asian officials and scholars visiting Washington over the last year have all been asking the same question: Will the pivot endure into Obama 2.0? A Southeast Asian ambassador to the United States told me recently that there was "a lot of anxiety" among his colleagues about the current State Department's commitment to the region. By giving short shrift to Asia since taking office, Kerry has done little to reassure them.

Asia's importance is so obvious it barely needs stating. It is home to more than half the world's population, several important U.S. allies, the world's largest democracy, two of the three largest economies, and the most populous Muslim-majority nation. No region is more crucial than Asia in revitalizing the U.S. economy, while a nuclear North Korea and a rising China present challenges that demand Washington's attention. 

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is faithfully executing the president's policy on Asia by strengthening ties with allies, building deeper relationships with new partners like Vietnam and Burma, and maintaining a robust bilateral and multilateral engagement calendar. The State Department should be complementing the powerful U.S. military presence in the region with economic, diplomatic, and cultural dimensions. But Kerry's inattention to Asia means that the rebalance's most prominent player is the U.S. military. As a result, the United States runs the risk of overplaying its hand on security issues, provoking China and alienating emerging partners who do not want to be seen as picking sides in the region. 

The answer is not for the Defense Department to slow down, but for Foggy Bottom to catch up. Yes, fillingkey vacancies like the post of assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, open since the influential Kurt Campbell left in February, will ameliorate Kerry's Asian attention deficit. But unless the secretary himself is seen as personally committed to the region, U.S. diplomats in Asia (not to mention those on the 7th floor) will have a difficult time making the case that they represent the leadership and will of the State Department. 

Asian officials need to remind Kerry and top State Department brass that, in diplomacy, showing up is half the battle and that the U.S. absence is having both immediate and long-term implications for U.S. interests. The time for diplomatic courtesy has passed.

Myanmar’s “Look West” Policy: Is China Being Sidelined?

Aung Tun, June 26, 2013

Under Thein Sein, the country is seeking to evolve from its reliance on China.

When the quasi-civilian government led by Thein Sein came to power in Naypyidaw in early 2011, many Myanmar observers drily remarked, “old wine in new bottles”.

It’s become the most popular phrase for describing the reformed Myanmar. And it may still hold true given that the majority of communities have yet to experience any tangible benefits from the reforms. For instance, under the previous military governments, much land was illegally seized from poor farmers by the military and its business cronies. The land has yet to be returned. Even though the reform government has been in power in Naypyidaw for almost three years, most ordinary people are still where they were before: below the poverty line.

This lack of change prompted pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi to claim recently that there have been “no tangible changes” in the lives of ordinary Burmese. This is especially true of rural people. However, it is clear that this expression – old wine in new bottles – no longer holds true of Myanmar’s relationship with China, because a marked shift has been taking place since the new government was installed in Naypyidaw.

Thein Sein often mentions that the aim of Myanmar’s foreign policy is to live peacefully with the rest of the world. Who would disagree with this vague formulation? But in more specific terms, Myanmar’s current foreign policy can be best termed “Look West”—similar to India’s “Look East” and the American “Pivot toward Asia.”

“Look West” is designed not only to substantially rebuild a sound relationship with the West and at the same timeto balance China’s excessive influence in Myanmar; it also seeks to develop and maintain better ties with other Asian countries, especially ASEAN members, who already have strong ties with the West. It is reflected in Thein Sein’s plans to make his second European tour within five months, including former colonial powers France and the UK in mid-July. This is Naypyidaw’s foreign policy and it will probably remain unchanged until Thein Sein finishes his tenure in 2015.

However, critical questions remain. Has Naypyidaw’s foreign policy been successful so far? What needs to be done to ensure it succeeds? Most importantly, who will benefit from its success?

Many Myanmar watchers believe that Myanmar has long been one of “China’s few loyal friends.” That is no longer true.

First, just a couple of months after Thein Sein took power, Naypyidaw successfully challenged its long-term friendby suspending construction of the Myitsone dam, a deal worth more $3.6 billion that had been struck with the previous military government. It was reported that Thein Sein did not even speak about the controversial dam during his three-day visit to China in early April, three weeks before heading to the White House. Beijing may well have felt put out by his silence on the topic of compensation or the resumption of the Myitsone, but Thein Sein remains adamant.

Second, Thein Sein seeks to build trust with America and its closest ally in Asia, Japan. He hopes to bring those countries, Beijing’s two most bitter economic rivals, into Myanmar to counterbalance more than two decades of dominant Chinese economic influence. This will hurt Beijing not only economically but also militarily, since the US is now speaking of opening military ties with Naypyidaw.

Beijing is, however, not naïve. It is quickly taking steps to secure its own interests. Somewhat surprisingly, it has recentlyinitiated what it calls a “people to people” relationship. Beijing has arranged several friendship tours targeting various political parties in Myanmar, including the National League for Democracy (NLD), civil society organizations such as the 88 generation students’ Peace and Open Society, as well as local media groups to China, aiming to build better understanding between the two countries. The Chinese Embassy in Yangon has even opened a public Facebook account, asserting that there is “still friendship with Naypyidaw.” All of these steps are quite unprecedented for Chinese policy towards Myanmar. China is now trying to win hearts in Myanmar. Will the new approach succeed?

That seems unlikely without some substantial changes. China has to overcome deeply rooted anti-Chinese sentiment among the Burmese people. One display of this came when poor villagers in the copper mining areas of Letpadaung in Upper Myanmar protested a Chinese mining project backed by the Burmese military. The project was temporarily suspended until a commission headed by Suu Kyi could investigate and report. Even though the commission approved the resumption of the project last March, many villagers are still protesting.

Bangladesh: Lessons from Estonia?

By Arafat Kabir
July 2, 2013

Bangladesh and Estonia. Two countries rarely included in the same sentence. Dhaka has no official representation in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, and Estonia has none in Dhaka. Bilateral trade is negligible. Yet the two countries have more in common than might first appear to be the case.

“Digital Bangladesh” is a popular term first coined by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in her party’s election manifesto in 2008. The proliferation of the Internet in education, health, governance and daily life has become a goal for Hasina’s government.

In recent years, Bangladesh has achieved tremendous success in several sectors vis-à-vis the use of computers and the Internet. The Internet has reached villages in remote corners of the country and investments have been made to build modern computer labs in each state-run school. Internet-based contests like Internet Utshab promote connectivity among youth. No longer is the Net unknown to Bangladeshis. 

Recently, a website was launched in collaboration with UNICEF that will target youth between the ages of 10 and 17 to nurture their journalistic skills. The state minister of information could not hide his elation, “This is a digital Bangladesh.”

Estonia, on the other hand, has long been a laboratory for experimentation with the Internet. Since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Estonia has improvised a truly audacious plan to turn the country into E-stonia. Unlike Bangladesh, it paved the way for an education system in which Internet use goes hand-in-hand. All Estonian schools were online by the late 1990s. In this tiny Baltic nation, pupils from an early age start learning computer programming. Schools are so advanced that if a student is absent from class, the absentee’s parents can catch up with their missed lessons online. People call such school systems Ekool (E-school).

According to Estonian President Toomas Henrik IIves, these changes in the education system need 15 to 20 years to yield tangible outcomes. His contention has some support, as the first generation of E-stonia has already begun to mentor Internet-based revolutions. The most prominent of these is the Internet-based phone system, Skype. Estonian innovators have also been improvising bold ideas to safeguard the country’s history and tradition. One game maker has developed a game that teaches Estonian primary school children their nation’s history. 

It is this harmony of history, education, business and Internet that is producing the benefits in Estonia. And it is here where the discrepancy with Bangladesh lies. Even though the current government has changed the nation’s secondary school syllabus and examination pattern, it has nothing to do with the government’s frequently touted plan to take Bangladesh digital. Bangladesh today cannot find solutions to some of the biggest hurdles to building an Internet-dependent Bangladesh – electricity chief among them. The country is still struggling to offer its computer literate youth suitable jobs. Although it was once thought that Bangladesh was to replace India or China as a leading call center market, progress was halted due to poor policymaking. Bangladesh is among a handful of countries where getting Internet access is costlier than in developed countries. A report by the International Telecommunication Union shows that Bangladesh ranks 113rd out of 161 countries in terms of fixed broadband price, assuming a 1GB data download over a 256 Kbps connection.

BEGINNING OF THE ENDGAME

Friday, 28 June 2013 

Is there any chance that the Taliban will change heart and work towards peace? Will their mentors agree?

The Afghan endgame prior to the scheduled withdrawal of the US-Nato troops in 2014 has begun to unfold. On June 18, the leading responsibility for maintaining the security of Afghanistan was formally handed over to the Afghan troops. The foreign troops present in the country will hereafter play only a supporting role.

The US and other Nato countries are keen to cut their losses and exit Afghanistan. The shortest and least expensive transport route to and from Afghanistan is through Pakistan. The northern route, called the Northern Distribution Network, passing through Russia and several Central Asian states, is longer and more expensive. The NDN was made functional by the US to reduce its total dependence on Pakistan. The fact remains that the US-led Western countries need Pakistan's support to ensure the smooth and safe withdrawal of nearly 1,00,000 troops, support staff and vast amount of equipment from Afghanistan. Pakistan is cashing on this to clinch a deal with the US.

The Taliban leadership under Mullah Omar, called the ‘Quetta Shura’ is well ensconced in Pakistan's Quetta city under the protection of Pakistan's military and Inter-Services Intelligence. Pakistan, therefore, is in the best position to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

For more than a decade, Pakistan has perfected the art of hunting with the hounds by joining the US-led war against terror in Afghanistan as its non-Nato ally, and running with the hare by supporting the Taliban insurgency. As a result of Pakistan's support, the Taliban have not only survived, but have also grown in strength. Militant groups that are fighting in Afghanistan and are involved in cross-border terror acts in Jammu & Kashmir are regarded by Pakistan's military establishment as “strategic assets” for furthering Pakistan's interests at the expense of its two neighbours. Pakistan has persistently sought “strategic depth” in Afghanistan in a bid to counter India from a position of relative strength.

However, the terror groups nurtured by the Pakistani establishment have become so powerful that they threaten the very survival of Pakistan's socio-political order. The spectre of Pakistan's Talibanisation looms large. Large areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas are beyond the control of the Pakistani military and the civil administration. The Taliban have destroyed girls' schools and killed women teachers in these areas.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, a loose alliance of militant groups known as the ‘Pakistani Taliban’, is pitted against the Pakistani security forces, with the aim of establishing a hardline Islamic system in the country. Pakistani rulers are following a dual policy of supporting the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network responsible for insurgency in Afghanistan, while fighting the Pakistani Taliban which challenges their authority within the country. No doubt, Pakistan's military-political elite would not like the extremist groups to establish dominance in their own country. 

Reports have come of late that the Government of Punjab Province ruled by Mr Shahbaz Sharif, brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has given a grant-in-aid of Rs61 million to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the parent organisation of the dreaded terrorist outfit, Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, headed by Hafiz Sayeed, the Mumbai 2008 carnage mastermind. Pakistan's provincial Government has also allocated a sum of Rs350 million to Jamaat's Markaz-e-Tayyeba to set up a knowledge park there. 

Apparently, Pakistan is trying to buy peace with terror groups within the country. At the same time, it is working overtime to ensure that the energy and ambition of the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network aligned with the latter are directed towards wresting control of Kabul. The Taliban are hardline Sunni extremist groups, whose support base is limited to the Pashtu-majority communities of southern and eastern Afghanistan.

The Man on Horseback

BY ROBERT SPRINGBORG | JULY 2, 2013

Egypt's top general holds the fate of the country in his hands, but even the Army may not be able to restore order in Cairo.

Pity the man on horseback. Egypt's defense minister, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is all saddled up, but he knows not where to ride. On July 1, he delivered an ultimatum giving the civilian government 48 hours to "meet the demands of the people" or the military would step in and implement a "road map" for the country's future.

The military's soaring popularity would seem to provide Sisi with sufficient leverage to force the Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsy, to bend to his will. The armed forces now boast an approval rating of 94 percent, according to a Zogby poll conducted from April to May. This is a remarkable change of fortune and a high-water mark for the military's popularity: Approval had been in a steady slide following the February 2011 ouster of President Hosni Mubarak as a result of Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi's clumsy and ill-fated leadership of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). By contrast, support for Morsy has been in steep decline, falling from 57 percent to 28 percent, according to the Zogby poll.

But what does the general plan to do with his newfound leverage? Lest there be any misunderstanding that he aspires to the classic "officer on horseback" role of running the state directly, his spokesperson "clarified" within hours of the July 1 declaration that the military had no intent of seizing power in a coup d'état -- raising the question of how, then, it would implement its "road map" to political recovery. The experience of the SCAF, after all, had carried a clear lesson to the officer corps that direct political action is best left to others.

This ambiguity over the military's precise role and objectives could of course be purposeful, intended to keep its opponents off balance. More likely, however, it reflects Sisi's real dilemma of how to use his powers without undermining them -- and even the country he claims to be saving. The potential costs of a coup, however it is dressed up, are substantial: Egyptians take pride in their country's long history of at least nominal constitutionalism, and a military takeover would be at least a-constitutional, if not outright unconstitutional. No doubt the military high command is concerned that a profound violation of even the rather dubious Egyptian Constitution could come back to haunt it, both politically and legally.

A full-fledged coup would also risk the military's vital relationship with Washington. U.S. President Barack Obama's administration has been consistent and outspoken in its opposition to direct military rule since Mubarak's fall, even though it has been willing to accept a pretty thin civilian fig leaf. U.S. officials have reportedly warned the Egyptian generals that a military coup could result in the cutting of all U.S. aid to the country.

The military's coercive power is also too blunt an instrument to use in the political arena, especially against those as well organized as the Islamists. The street-level organization of the Muslim Brotherhood alone is now further reinforced by penetration and at least partial control of some state entities, including the Interior Ministry. Unlike in 1954, when Gamal Abdel Nasser and his officer colleagues met virtually no resistance when they rounded up Brotherhood activists, the military would certainly face a different situation today. Deploying heavy weapons against civilians would cross so many red lines it is basically unimaginable, while deploying troops would invite myriad problems when the military's civilian opponents are spread over the length and breadth of the country. And the Brotherhood, mindful of its past struggles with the military, would be far more likely to fight back.

As for the military's widespread popularity, that too is potentially ephemeral. An essential ingredient in the military's high standing has been its political neutrality, which it would find difficult if not impossible to square with direct rule. Even more challenging would be actually guiding the ship of state, which is going off an economic cliff as the political drama unfolds. Much of Morsy's unpopularity is due to the economic crisis and its various manifestations -- all of which would remain were the military to seize power, and none of which can be quickly resolved.

The military is well aware that it can't count on the loyalty of the crowds that cheered the Army helicopters that buzzed over Tahrir Square Monday, July 1. Among the secular opposition, distaste for military rule is widespread -- and indeed is the very factor that caused many to vote for Morsy in the second round of the presidential election last year when he faced off against his military-backed opponent, Ahmed Shafiq. While the secular opposition would welcome the military pushing the Brothers out of power, such support would quickly dissipate if the military then sought to rule.