19 December 2013

Dhaka spillover

C. Raja Mohan : Thu Dec 19 2013, 

It is the site of a larger battle between forces of moderation and extremism.

The continuing violence in Bangladesh, following the execution of Islamist leader Abdul Quader Mollah, and the political cloud over the general elections scheduled for January 5 are of great consequence for the entire subcontinent.

That Bangladesh is deeply divided on these issues is not in doubt. If many in Bangladesh have welcomed the execution of Mollah, a leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, as long overdue, radical groups have gone on the rampage. Mollah was convicted by a war crimestribunal of murdering a family of 11 and aiding the Pakistan army in killing 369 people. The divide in Dhaka has fed into the bitter rivalry between the Awami League, led by Sheikh Hasina, and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by Khaleda Zia, that has long undermined political stability in the nation and limited the realisation of its vast economic potential.

The current violence is also about two very different conceptions of Bangladesh — Hasina swears by secularism and ethnic nationalism; Zia is now in the thrall of the Jamaat-e-Islami, which collaborated with the Pakistan army in the genocide against Bengalis in 1971, and other extremist groups that seek to bring the nation under the sway of political Islam. Those who joined the Pakistan army in mass murder should have been brought to justice long ago. The political twists and turns in Bangladesh over the last four decades gave much impunity to those who participated in the genocide. After her massive victory in 2010, Hasina formed a war crimes tribunal to bring the collaborators to justice.

The unfolding developments in Bangladesh are not just internal to the country. They are about a troubled history that binds the subcontinent — the liberation of Bangladesh from the clutches of the Pakistan army by Indian forces in 1971. It is also about the political future of the subcontinent. As extremists took to the streets in Bangladesh, their ideological kin in Pakistan were quick to react. Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, chief of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, now going by the name of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, led the funeral prayers in Multan for Mollah and accused India of being a part of the conspiracy to eliminate "Pakistan lovers" in Bangladesh.

The Pakistan National Assembly passed a resolution condemning the execution of Mollah. Pakistan's interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan called it the "judicial murder" of a man who had stood for the unity of Pakistan. The struggle for justice in Dhaka has become intertwined with the general elections. Hasina has formed an all-party government in the run up to the elections. Her opponents are demanding her resignation and the establishment of a neutral government before the elections are held. The Awami League had amended the constitutional provision calling for a neutral caretaker government for three months before elections.

Because the BNP has boycotted the elections, many candidates of the Awami League and its allies are likely to win unopposed. Hasina might well get a two-thirds majority if the election proceeds as planned. Meanwhile, the Jamaat and the BNP are determined to disrupt the process, rob the elections of their legitimacy and make it impossible for the next government to function. Some in the West and in Bangladesh have criticised the work of the war crimes tribunal on technical grounds. The United States and European countries have said that the non-participation of major parties like the BNP is bound to diminish the political credibility of the elections. International efforts, including by the UN, to resolve the differences between the Awami League and the BNP have failed.

There is, indeed, another way of looking at the current dynamic in Bangladesh — as part of a larger struggle in the subcontinent between the forces of moderation and modernisation on one hand, and those who want to push the region towards religious extremism on the other. At one end of the subcontinent, in Afghanistan, the Taliban, with the support of the Pakistan army, is poised to strike at the Afghan people after the international community withdraws troops in 2014. In Islamabad, the Nawaz Sharif government appears to have no political stomach to confront the militant Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which seeks to overthrow the state and establish an Islamic order.

The right way to arm

Manmohan Bahadur : Thu Dec 19 2013

Any move to reconsider the air force's Avro replacement decisionwill damage the private sector's chances of participating in defencemanufacture.

Energising an indigenous private defence industry requires three fundamental steps. Tae Ming Cheung, an authority on the rise of the Chinese aviation industry, has characterised them as creative adaptation followed by innovation of three types: incremental, architectural and, finally, disruptive. The Chinese are almost at the last stage with their J-20 fighter while we, despite seven decades of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), are barely at the first. To force a change, the Indian bureaucracy, both civil and military, and the political hierarchy gathered the will to break from the past and use the chance offered by the planned replacement of the Avro, the workhorse of the IAF's aircraft transport fleet.

The Defence Procurement Procedure mandates that in the event of a "Buy (from abroad) and Make (in India)" categorisation of equipment, the Department of Defence Production (DDP) would nominate the Indian production agency (IPA) to take on the transfer-of-technology (ToT). Theoretically, the IPA can be a private player but a dispensation has always been made in favour of a Defence PSU (DPSU), with a "tail clear" attitude to avoid the three Cs — the CAG, CBI and CVC. The result, which is no state secret, is that

DPSUs and ordnance factories have orders pending for 10 years, if not for two decades ahead.

HAL is a lead runner among these laggards, and to get away from its "clutches" (the word used in government circles), all stakeholders — the IAF, the ministry of defence, MoD (Finance), DRDO and even the DDP that oversees HAL — agreed, after almost two years of discussion, that to galvanise the private aeronautical industry, the Avro replacement project was a godsend. Having already selected the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), C-17, C-130, Apache, the Mi-17V5 and Chinook helicopters, there was going to be no new induction for the next two decades. So why miss the last chance to energise the private industry through the Avro replacement route? In any case, if HAL were made the IPA, given its track record, the project would be doomed.

This writer, as part of the tri-service acquisition process, saw how progressive the Indian bureaucracy can be when it wants to. A well-thought-out decision was taken that the Avro would be replaced through the process of asking a foreign manufacturer to choose an Indian partner, based on criteria laid down by the government. The rationale was that technology would get transferred to a vibrant Indian private entity whose foundation in making transport aircraft would then be laid. Before confirming the decision, the Defence Acquisition Council formed two high level committees — the first to check the correctness of the proposed novel route (headed by the DRDO chief) and the other (headed by an additional secretary) to check the criteria for selecting the IPA. There was no disagreement; in fact, there permeated a feeling of the tide being turned in favour of India. The request for proposal was floated to eight foreign vendors. Predictably, the DPSU lobby has struck back, as evident from the request of the heavy industries minister, Praful Patel, to the defence minister, requesting a re-look at the proposed pathbreaking route.

Iftikhar Choudharys Judicial Activism and the Pakistani state: Time for a rethink?

December 18, 2013

Iftikhar Muhammad Choudhary, the 18th Chief Justice of Pakistan, has stepped down. Choudhary Iftikhar became famous after he resisted Pervez Musharaf’s manoeuvres and manipulations with Pakistan’s constitution and for leading or becoming an iconic figure for the lawyers movement in Pakistan. The former Chief Justice of Pakistan also was known for what could be called ‘judicial activism’ and the frequent suo moto notices he issued. One notable example of Choudhary’s judicial activism was the disqualification of Pakistan’s 16th prime minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani. Gilani was forced to resign after he resisted calls to reopen corruption and graft charges Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari.

While Choudhary’s judicial activism did restore a degree of sanity to Pakistan, it came at the expense of other institutions and created an imbalance of power among the country’s institutions. This perhaps, along with the ideational and ideological confusion that defines Pakistan, goes to the heart of the country’s problems. Weak institutionalization has led to a situation wherein Pakistan can be termed as a weak state or more accurately a weak state with praetorian, patrimonial features. This institutional morass and torpor has affected almost every dimension of Pakistan’s polity and has led to dysfunctional governance, poverty and even its foreign and security policy which has come to be dominated by the Army and its allied intelligence agencies. Apparently and on the face of it, Iftikhar Choudhary’s judicial activism was a mean to restore a semblance and patina of normalcy to the institutional fabric of Pakistan. This, besides being controversial, could only mean a short term palliative for Pakistan’s structural problems but, in the final analysis, may have even reinforced the institutional imbalance of the Pakistani state. Pakistan, to become a normal state, at peace with itself and the world at large, may not need institutional tinkering but a wholesale rejigging of its institutional superstructure and substructure.

How can this be done? A good start may be to revisit the foundational premises of Pakistan and try to build a consensus over the nature and identity of Pakistan. Contemporarily, the pulls and pressures that bedevil the state and society of Pakistan perhaps emanate from an ideological confusion. Is Pakistan a theological state? Is it a secular state? Or is it a hybrid and synthesis between the two? Various quarters in Pakistan would perhaps offer different answers to these rather existential questions. However, a consensus answer would be that it is a Muslim state. This would be accurate and it would be almost impossible for Pakistan to be become a liberal democratic, secular state. Prudence then dictates that Pakistan conform and correspond to its Muslim identity but arrive at a consensus on the nature of this state. This may mean integrating modernity and Islam in both the state and society of Pakistan.(Hoping that Pakistan becomes a pure liberal state(if there is one in the world) is fantasy).

US wrongly prefers authoritarian modernisation in Afghanistan: Scholar

18 December 2013

The contemporary US perception of the constitutional experiment of Afghanistan was not very positive, according to Stanford University professor Dr. Robert Rakove. 

Giving a talk on "US-Afghan relations in the decades before the Soviet Invasion" at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi, on December 9, Dr. Rakove said US did not believe in the view that democracy could accomplish economic growth. Their preference was authoritarian modernisation rather than through democratic means, he said. 

Dr. Rakove said that Afghanistan, in some sense, drove Americans to think seriously of the neutrality of the non- aligned world, emphasising how the United States accepted Afghanistan’s non-alignment and in fact tried to preserve it. 

He said that US also made it clear to Afghanistan that they shouldn’t offend the Soviet Union on their behalf. This, according to Dr. Rakove, was quite a plausible policy. However, it had a number of loopholes which the speaker addressed one by one. 

Dr. Rakove pointed out that the spreading détente between United States and Soviet Union did not work well for Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s ability to harness US support was compromised as a result of ebbing cold war tensions. There was a growth of cordial relations between US and the Soviet Union, he pointed out. Hence, from 1960s, US foreign Aid budget was declining. Dr. Rakove, said that Lyndon Johnson in particular saw foreign aid as a ship he could trade in for progress on other fronts. US aid dropped steadily, thus putting Afghanistan in a tough position. 

He, however, highlighted that Afghanistan was not exceptional in this regard and India and Indonesia suffered because of the same. 

Dr. Rakove further showed how the Afghan Prime Minister Mohammad Hashim Maiwandwal’s visit to US worsened the relations. Here Dr. Rakove mentioned an incident where Maiwandwal, getting agitated by a reporter, said that US needs to stop bombing in North Vietnam. President Johnson took this incident very negatively and commanded that all future Afghan aid requests must go by his desk even when he had much bigger tasks in his hand. This arrangement delayed the aids to Afghanistan which was struck by a serious food famine. 

Dr Rakove explained that recent writings on US-Afghan relations only focused on the period of 1940s and 50s, thus ignoring the period of 1960s and 70s which was in fact a very crucial period for US-Afghan relations. He spoke about the lost decade of US-Afghan relations between1963-73. This was the time when Afghanistan was modernising and had opened its doors to the outside world. 

He pointed out how at this moment of history no one would have called it a failed state. He said Afghanistan, despite becoming a theatre of cold war competition, managed to remain independent and non-aligned. And this period marked the peak of US-Afghan Relations. He pointed out how when Vice President Agnew visited Kabul, he wrote a letter to Ambassador Robert Neumann saying that Afghans were more like Americans than any Asians. 

Referring to the present and previous set of writings of US-Afghan relations, Dr. Rakove showed how they linked the decline of US choice to decline aid to Afghanistan with Afghanistan’s shift of attention to Soviet Union for help. He said there were two variants of this thesis. First stated that, Afghanistan had always been an object of uninterrupted Soviet attention and what happened in late 1970s was a culmination of a long term design. The other variant of the thesis shows the heightening of Afghan-Soviet relations as consequential. 

For Dr. Rakove, none of the two variants are satisfying. He argued how both the variants skip the period of constitutional experiment in Afghanistan which was in fact very crucial to understand the state of affairs. Secondly, he also argued how the second variant was true yet insufficient that is, for example, the Soviet training of Afghan Corps. According to him, it holds weight but does not suffice for an adequate explanation. He put forward the view that there was more at play and any one explanation wasn’t fully correct. 

He concluded by stating that US’s stake in Afghanistan was profound and thus cannot be neglected. The question and answer session comprised of useful insights on the British influence on historical knowledge of the area on US policy formation. It was also pointed out that the influence of Soviet education system should also be taken into account while trying to understand the then Afghanistan. 

(This report was prepared by Ananya Pandey, Research Intern, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi) 

Can maid fracture plateau with US?

Rohit Bansal
18 December 2013

On Monday (December 16) morning, 70 of us tackled dense fog to be at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) for the India launch of "Beyond the Plateau in US-India Relations," a joint study** with The Heritage Foundation.

Trading tricks to skirt "post-2010 logjams," including the one to reach ORF that day, many discussants dwelled on the intriguing term, "plateau." The optimists had the final word thanks to Manish Tewari, his presidential argument being that a plateau isn't necessarily a bad thing. "It (a plateau) gives us occasion to think and to recalibrate," the Government's principal spokesperson counselled.

But in less than 36 hours, there's a crater right at the heart of the plateau. Whither our relationship with our fifth largest source of FDI, trade in goods accounting for $58 billion (2011), two-way investment to the tune of $30 billion (2010), and the stakes of 2.9 million people of Indian origin living there! All because of a maid and her calculative employer, a 1999-batch IFS officer, flouting her own undertaking on complying with US minimum wages - and the fact that over-zealous enforcement agencies in New York wounded our national pride!

So, ID cards of US diplomats have been recalled - a precursor to withdrawal of diplomatic and consular immunity; payment details of Indian teachers at American schools here sought for a likely tax assault; protection barricades around the US embassy removed; and licenses Team Nancy Powell enjoys to import, say, turkeys and wine for Christmas, rolled back!

Poor yanks! As Shiv Aroor, a TV anchor said on his twitter, 'what'll starve them truly is if Delhi's INA Market shuts down too!' Banter apart, a US Congressional group was denied pre-accorded handshakes with Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi, the Lok Sabha speaker, the Home Minister, and the NSA. I am unsure if ambassador-designate S Jai Shankar, here in Delhi just ahead of flying off to Washington this weekend, will now go so soon. Even if the tough-talking envoy does, will Barak Obama grant him accreditation in a hurry?

For those smarting under the humiliation, our diplomat's unnecessary handcuffing, her strip search etc, the cause comes down to our track record on human labour:

1 )It's because we brush under the carpet modern laws on domestic workers. We lack basic data on their numbers what to speak of classifying them appropriately or enforcing their rights on healthcare, hours of work and pensions.

The US claims to do better. Which is why New-York-based Devyani Khobragade, the IFS officer causing the row, signed a false declaration on the sum she'll pay her maid. (In IFS legalese, a maid is called, "India-based Domestic Help" - IBDH, and the justification is that she/he can toss up "Indian-home-cooked food" to visiting locals. For all practical purposes, more often than not, the said IBDH is a 24x7 "slave.")

2) Our foreign office entitles its officers of the rank of Third Secretary up to Ambassador a complement of IBDH and reimburses their wage at par with industrial workers here. The problem arises in the "First World," say, the US, where the law demands a minimum wage of $9 per hour, something Khobragade (and, perhaps, all others diplomats seconded to the US) signed up to just so that the maid got a visa. In a 24x7 format, this translates into $220 a day, or a whopping $6,500 a month! Now, US law doesn't factor in-house servants just as IFS folks don't just go to the US. In, say, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh, the money is enough to add more servants! Some IBDH, all white-passport holders, have been found to find a love life or compromised by intelligence agencies. Others have jumped their visa and disappeared. Some have blackmailed their way back to India.

So, when tempers have cooled down, and the plateau regained, we should rethink IBDH, enforce strict set of "Devyani Guidelines," and derisk an entire gamut of ties - sadly, the US one being the only legacy Manmohan Singh might have had!

(The columnist is a Visiting Fellow at Observer Research Foundation and CEO & Co-Founder of India Strategy Group, Hammurabi & Solomon Consulting) 

**Authors: Sunjoy Joshi, C Raja Mohan, Vikram Sood and Rajeswari Rajagopalan from ORF and James Jay Carafano, Walter Lohman, Lisa Curtis and Derek Scissors from the Heritage Foundation

Courtesy: The Pioneer, December 18, 2013

US: Bullying Not Diplomacy

IssueNet Edition| Date : 18 Dec , 2013

Devyani Khobragade

The arrest and hand-cuffing of India’s Deputy Consul General (DCG) Devyani Khobragade in New York as if she is a criminal with all the intrusive personal indignities heaped on a “felon” by the US manuals raises serious questions about India-US bilateral equations and the unilateralist manner in which the US interprets the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR).

The government has rightly called the US action unacceptable. Concrete reciprocal action should follow to signal that there is a price to pay for willfully humiliating our diplomatic representatives.

This humiliation has been consciously inflicted by the US authorities ignoring its political implications. It could have been avoided since there is nothing in the case that could have compelled them to take this drastic step. If the US authorities felt that denying the maid the US minimum wage was intolerable, they could have sought the DCG’s expulsion. Instead, they have themselves — not the maid — filed the case against the DCG by contriving a legal cover for their extreme step by claiming that she had committed visa fraud by falsely declaring the maid’s wages.

There is much chicanery involved here. Indian diplomats taking domestic staff to the US accept the minimum wage requirement when all concerned, including the US visa services and the State Department, know this is done pro-forma to have the paper work in order. To imagine that the US authorities are duped into believing that our diplomats will pay their domestic staff more than what they earn is absurd. The US authorities have been clearing such visas for years to practically resolve the contradiction between reality and the letter of the law.

Any US concerns about this practical approach exposing our diplomats to potentially lethal legal consequences do not seem to have been amicably addressed at the official level despite the numerous dialogues that we boast of to underline our transformed bilateral ties. Absurdly, US authorities first recognise domestic staff as officials because visas are affixed on their official passports (without insisting on affixing them only on ordinary passports) and subsequently de-recognising their official status by subjecting them to local employment laws. The VCCR does not require that home-based domestic staff be treated as local American employees. The other ludicrous implication of the DCG’s case is that any Indian national giving wrong information on a US visa form can be hauled into a US prison at the whim of US authorities.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Did local democracy help or hinder post-2001 Afghanistan? An MIT study comes up with some surprising insights.
DECEMBER 18, 2013

At the end of 2014, most NATO combat forces will have been withdrawn from Afghanistan, marking a disappointing end to an extraordinary exercise in nation-building. Despite over $100 million in development aid to the country, achievements in strengthening Afghanistan's economy and institutions have fallen short of expectations. Paeans to an "Afghan miracle" have given way to hand-wringing post-mortems. Attracting particular criticism have been efforts -- at both the international and local level -- that promoted Jeffersonian democratic ideals over the hierarchical decision-making structures that have governed Afghanistan for hundreds of years.

But did the imposition of democratic structures in Afghanistan really make things worse? In a recent experimental study, "Do Elected Councils Improve Governance Quality?" we examine whether externally-imposed local democratic institutions improved or worsened governance in rural Afghanistan. Our results indicate that democracy per se was not the problem; when democratic bodies were charged with a specific activity, they produced more equitable outcomes. However, such institutions were often created in parallel to existing customary structures, and this had a different effect. With multiple local bodies, there was a lack of clarity as to who was in charge, which weakened leader accountability and provided opportunities for fraudulent behavior. As an Afghan proverb remarks, "the calf with two mothers gets no milk."

As an Afghan proverb remarks, "the calf with two mothers gets no milk."

Our study was a combination of two experiments: one long and one short.

In the long experiment, we created of democratically-elected, gender-balanced development councils in 2007. As per the randomized controlled trial methodology, we randomly selected 250 villages from a pool of 500 villages to receive democratic councils. These councils supplemented informal yet sophisticated customary structures (which usually include the village headman and an ad hoc council of tribal leaders), but assumed responsibility for implementing development projects in the villages. The remaining 250 villages formed the control group and did not receive elected councils, with governance structures remaining centered on customary local authorities.

We conducted the short experiment four years later, in which we distributed wheat to examine the effects of the councils on leader behavior and local governance quality. Across the 500 villages, we varied the distribution procedures to find out whether directly involving different groups also affected distribution outcomes. In half of the 250 villages with elected councils, the council was directly asked to manage the distribution, while, in the other half, we delegated responsibility to the "village leaders," a deliberately vague term which, depending on who was more powerful in the village, could mean either the elected council or the customary leadership. To examine the effects of involving women, we induced similar variation in the control villages. In half of these 250 villages, we specifically asked women to oversee the distribution, while, in the other half, we did not.

Why Was Firefighter-Marine Reserve Maj. Jason Brezler Betrayed?

By Michael Daly
November 19th 20135:45 AM

Maj. Jason Brezler’s warnings about an Afghan police chief and his ‘tea boys’ went unaddressed, and three Marines were slain. One year later, the Marines are taking action—against him.

More than a year after three Marines were shot to death on their base in an insider attack by an Afghan police chief’s “tea boy,” there is still no official explanation for why a warning that could well have prevented the tragedy seems to have gone unheeded.

There is also no explanation for why the police chief was allegedly allowed to sexually assault children with apparent impunity on an American military facility.

But authorities have taken action against one person they should be praising, the 32-year-old Marine Reserve officer who issued the warning about the police chief and his crimes.

Marine Reserve Maj. Jason Brezler—now also a firefighter with the elite Rescue 2 of the FDNY—faces a forced exit from the Marine Corps as a result of an inconsequential security infraction he committed in his hurry to respond to an urgent email from Afghanistan that he received two years after he returned home.

The July 25, 2012, email that popped up on Brezler’s Yahoo account was sent to him from Helmand Province by a fellow Marine officer, and its subject line made its urgency unmistakable:


Exclamation points by themselves in a message from Helmand meant it could very well be a matter of life and death. The name Sarwar Jan made it all the more so.

Jan had been district police chief when Brezler served in the same town, Naw Zad, in 2010. Brezler had come to the conclusion that Jan was involved in narcotics and arms trafficking as well as facilitating attacks by the Taliban, even selling Afghan police uniforms to the enemy. Jan also was alleged to be what Brezler’s lawyer would call “a systematic child rapist” who allegedly ran a child kidnapping ring and acquired “tea boys” with the help of U.S. taxpayer job development money.

Jan might have imagined himself untouchable as the protégé of an accused drug lord who has connections to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Brezler kept pushing and was finally able to pressure the provincial governor into removing Jan from his post, a rare and notable bright spot in the bloodiest province in the bloodiest year of the war.

But now here was this email from a fellow Marine officer in Afghanistan saying Jan was back as police chief and had allegedly been raping as many as nine boys at Forward Operating Base Delhi. The email asked Brezler for any information he might be able to provide.

Why the U.S. Paid Karzai's Top Aide

December 18th 2013

The Afghan president’s top aide was on two USAID contractors’ payroll, drawing more than $100,000 a year as part of a program to install West-backed technocrats in the government.

The chief of staff to Afghanistan’s president drew a salary from two U.S. government contractors in 2002 and early 2003 as he was managing President Hamid Karzai’s office, serving as his spokesman and advising him on foreign affairs, according to documents reviewed by The Daily Beast and subsequent interviews.

The contractor salary provided to Said Jawad was part of a U.S. initiative to directly pay high salaries to Western-educated Afghans who helped rebuild a government from scratch in the midst of an ongoing civil war and foreign occupation.

While some current and former U.S. officials say these measures were necessary in the first months and years of the Afghan reconstruction to attract top talent to a daunting project, other experts say it’s no different from the kind of corruption the Bush and Obama administration have publicly criticized inside the Afghan government.

Two separate contracts for Jawad, one reviewed by The Daily Beast and the other mentioned in an email to Jawad, total more than $100,000 per year when taking into account stipends for housing, food, and health insurance that were included in the contracts.

Unlike the CIA cash payments first reported by The New York Times to Karzai’s palace to pay off local warlords and other Afghans allied with the United States, Jawad received money from contractors for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through a formalized arrangement with two separate contractors. One contractor was an international media organization.

This disclosure of the program to pay Afghanistan’s top bureaucrats through U.S. contractors comes as the United States is urging Karzai to sign an agreement setting the terms of U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan after 2014. That is the year the current arrangement, first negotiated in 2002 and 2003, for the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will expire. The existing terms were originally spelled out in an exchange of letters between the United States and Afghanistan, and are considered by most experts to be favorable to the United States. For example, the current arrangement does not require the United States to compensate the families of civilians killed in U.S. military operations. (The U.S. military has provided such compensation to families nonetheless.)

A contract reviewed by The Daily Beast from RONCO, a U.S. contractor that did extensive work for the U.S. military and State Department in the early 2000s in Afghanistan, says Jawad was considered a “consultant” at a rate of $314.12 per day for a period of six months. The contract is dated November 7, 2002, and also compensates Jawad $60 a day for lodging while in Kabul and $40 a day for meals, specifying that lodging receipts would be required. RONCO has not responded to queries for comment on the contract.

When shown the contract this week in person, Jawad acknowledged that it was his signature on the document, but he also said he knew nothing of the details of the arrangement. “I did not know these people were private contractors, or public contractors, for us this was a salary provided for by the United States,” he said. He also implied many other Afghan officials were paid more money from international institutions and other foreign governments. “This is probably the lowest salary; a lot of people were getting paid in cash,” he said.

Pakistan's Controversial Chief Justice Retires

Iftikhar Chaudhry leaves behind a controversial legacy for Pakistan’s embattled legal system.
December 18, 2013

It’s been a remarkable year for the highest echelons of Pakistani leadership. First, Nawaz Sharif returned to the post of Prime Minister in what marked the first successful transfer of power from one civilian government to another in Pakistani history. Second, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff – the most powerful person in the country by certain measures – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani retired; he was replaced by the counterinsurgency-focused General Raheel Sharif. Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s retirement last week marks the third major shake-up in Pakistani politics. He was the 18th Chief Justice of Pakistan, a post he held for eight years.

Anyone watching Pakistani politics can imagine that the last eight years must have been quite the time to hold the position of Chief Justice. Chaudhry made the most of his time as Chief Justice. He pushed the judiciary to the frontier of political participation when he discharged and ousted Yousaf Raza Gillani and his government in early 2012. Chaudhry’s term was marked with controversy, spurred by his propensity for judiciary activism.

Chaudhry’s retirement draws to the fore the weaknesses in Pakistan’s historically inept judiciary – something Chaudhry had tried to address. Chaudhry’s activism led him to acquire more than a few critics on the Pakistani political scene – they charge him with politicizing the court, corruption, and ignoring established legal practices in the pursuit of personal power. Chaudhry expressed a preference for suo moto hearings, dramatically widening the agenda of the court and allowing it to traverse previously uncharted territory.

For all Chaudhry did to galvanize the Supreme Court, Pakistan’s district and local courts remain absolutely ineffective – over one million cases remain pending in these courts. The seriousness of an ineffective system of justice at the local level is underscored by the fact that the Pakistani Taliban continues to expand its Sharia courts beyond the tribal belt, including in Karachi. If allowed to continue unchecked, the Taliban could succeed in supplanting the legitimacy of Pakistan’s official courts.

In his farewell speech at the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Chaudhry expressed his support for and confidence in his successor: Tassaduq Hussain Jillani. He additionally emphasized the importance of free and fair elections in ensuring that Pakistani democracy remained functional. “The Court has adjudicated on a number of cases relating to the fair conduct of elections in ensuring that fake ballots and the like are not utilized, and electioneering practices are free and fair,” he said, according to Dawn.

Chaudhry’s legacy is controversial; plenty of evidence supports contentions that he sought personal power and behaved in ways detrimental to the role of the Pakistani judiciary as well as contentions that his judicial activism abetted Pakistan’s pivot away from the Musharraf era into its current civilian-led incarnation. His successor, Jillani, will carry the court into 2014 but will retire in July after turning 65.

Afghans Look on the Bright Side

DECEMBER 17, 2013

2014 will be a momentous year for the Afghan people. As the Economist has observed: "Tectonic plates are shifting in Afghanistan as the country nervously prepares itself for three big transitions, all related." 

The security transition in Afghanistan is already underway. By the end of 2014, all U.S. and NATO combat forces will be gone and Afghan troops will have full responsibility for the country's safety. Afghanistan's political transition will kick off with April's presidential and provincial council elections. With President Hamid Karzai constitutionally barred from running for a third term, the country is poised to have the first peaceful transfer of political power in its history. And then there is the economic transition, which will come as the country begins to wean itself off the massive infusion of foreign aid of the past dozen years in favor of a more self-reliant economy.

So how do Afghans feel about these transitions? A recent survey directed by the Asia Foundation provides answers, some with current policy implications.

In July, the foundation surveyed some 9,300 Afghan men (62 percent) and women (38 percent) across all 34 Afghan provinces; 14 percent were from urban areas, 86 percent rural. The margin of error is 2.25 percent. This was the ninth poll conducted by the foundation in Afghanistan since 2004, providing a valuable perspective on the national mood of Afghans over time. 

Regarding the security transition, fear for personal safety among Afghans was up from 48 percent last year to 59 percent this year, an all-time high. This rise was certainly influenced by the increase in civilian casualties in the first half of this year and the expanded use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by insurgents. 

Around three quarters of the Afghans surveyed also said they would be afraid when encountering international forces (77 percent), as well as when traveling from one part of the country to another (75 percent). The former may explain, in part, Karzai's strong insistence that the U.S. military stop all raids on Afghan homes if he is to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that is presently under consideration.

At the same time, the survey reveals that confidence in the Afghan security forces continues to grow among the population. The percentage of those who regard the Afghan National Army as helping to improve security rose from 87 percent in 2012 to 91 percent in 2013. Still, when asked if Afghan security forces will continue to need foreign support, 76 percent said they would, a point made by many tribal leaders at the recent Loya Jirga (grand council) convened by Karzai to consider whether to sign the BSA with the U.S.

Turning to the country's political transition, perhaps the single most encouraging finding of the survey is that 56 percent of those polled said the outcome of the 2014 election will make a positive difference in their lives. Only a very small number, 15 percent, anticipated that it will make their lives worse.

Did the Taliban Attack a Downed U.S. Helicopter or Not?

DECEMBER 17, 2013

Six U.S. forces died Tuesday after their helicopter went down in southern Afghanistan, defense officials said. It marks the single deadliest event for the United States in the war there this year, and already has raised eyebrows because of the conflicting reports coming out of Kabul.

An initial statement by the International Security Assistance Force, which oversees coalition military operations, said the crash was under investigation and no insurgents were in the area. At the Pentagon, a defense official initially said an investigation had been launched into potential engine failure -- but later switched gears and said it was unclear if that was the case. That came as both CBS News and NBC News reported that defense officials reported on condition of anonymity said the helicopter -- reportedly a UH-60 Blackhawk -- initially made a "hard landing" in Zabul province and came under attack afterward. At least one person on board the aircraft was injured and survived, U.S. officials told CBS.

The situation was clouded by the uncertainty that always goes with initial battlefield reports. U.S. officials were working Tuesday to determine more details in the crash.

The Taliban, meanwhile, took credit for the crash on Twitter. Using an account labeled "Abdulqahar Balkhi," they said the helicopter was shot down about 3 p.m. and "crashed in ball of flame." They are known to color the facts on social media to make events sounds worse than in reality, however.

A US-nato helicopter was shot down by Mujahideen 3pm local time today while flying at a low altitude over Shahjoi district (#Zabul)...— Abdulqahar Balkhi (@ABalkhi) December 17, 2013

Reading Abe's national security strategy

18 December 2013 

On 17 December the Japanese government issued three national security documents: the first-ever National Security Strategy (which explains overall foreign policy strategy), the National Defense Program Outline, and the Mid-term Defense Plan (which together describe military strategy and force structure planning for the near-term).

The National Security Strategy promises proactive peace and outlines a clear strategy of closer alignment with other maritime democracies and states in the Pacific. The defence documents point to a 1.7% increase in defense spending per year (important given overall budget pressures in the West), and a shift towards air and naval capabilities (the army will not shrink in numbers, but will have to live with half as many tanks).

Meanwhile, the Abe Government has launched Japan's first National Security Council (coinciding interestingly with China's new National Security Committee) and has passed necessary but controversial secrecy legislation in the Diet. In the first half of next year Prime Minister Abe is expected to relax constraints on exercising collective self-defense (the right of Japanese forces to come to the assistance of allies who come under attack while operating together with Japan).

Media reaction has fallen into a facile narrative about the return of Japanese militarism and the bold departure of the nationalist Abe. In fact, Abe's national security agenda builds logically on the direction already set by his predecessor from the Democratic Party of Japan, Yoshihiko Noda, as well as overall efforts to strengthen the role of the prime minister's office in national security going back decades.

Nor is Japan a target of deep suspicion abroad.

The US government has wanted Japan to take many of these measures since the 1950s and the Obama Administration has publicly welcomed Abe's moves as a necessary part of the current effort to revise and update US-Japan defence guidelines. China will oppose Abe for reasons of historical experience, but also because Beijing does not want to see either a more effective US-Japan alliance or a more confident Japan.

Korean views of Abe are negative, but professionals in the Korean military and foreign ministry quietly recognise that their own security depends on the effectiveness of the US-Japan alliance, and that Washington and Tokyo suffer from the lack of jointness that is built into the US-ROK alliance. Still, Abe will have to redouble his efforts to keep Korea on side if he wants his security agenda to accrue to Japan's strategic benefit and not undermine the US and Japanese position in Northeast Asia. Meanwhile, 96% of Southeast Asians say they have positive views of Japan.

Of course, Abe will also have to maintain domestic political support, and that will depend on economic performance more than anything. The first two arrows of his 'Abenomics' program (monetary easing and fiscal stimulus) were the easy part and they worked. Now comes the hard slog of reform and restructuring for longer-term economic growth. Abe's LDP is not a reformist party, and he will have his work cut out going beyond the mediocre strategy for reform announced so far. As negotiating partners with Japan in the Trans Pacific Partnership, the US and Australia can each help nudge the LDP towards greater reform and opening.

At CSIS in February, Abe vowed that Japan would never become a 'tier two' player. The US, Australia and other supporters of the neo-liberal order in international affairs have a major stake in Abe's success. We must also recognise that his agenda will make Japan a more effective national security player. If the US strays in Asia, we will see more Japanese hedging and unilateralism. But with a deliberate effort to build greater jointness and interoperability, Washington and the region can benefit from increased Japanese security output.

For more on Abe's national security agenda, please see my new Lowy Institute Analysis paper, Japan is Back: Unbundling Abe's Grand Strategy.

The Coming Sino-Japanese War: Pick a Scenario

December 18, 2013

China's recent declaration creating an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over a large portion of the East China Sea, including the disputed Senkaku (Diaoyu) islands, has been a feast day in Japan for arm-chair strategists, would-be thriller writers, retired generals and other assorted defense analysts and pundits.

In the wake of China's declaration, five of Japan's seven national weekly magazines published articles proposing various scenarios for a new Sino-Japanese war breaking out over the disputed islands. Can a book, or several books on the coming Sino-Japanese war of 2014, be that far behind?

The blog War is Boring postulates a swirling, high-tech dogfight over the East China Sea, involving Japanese F-15 Eagles, American F-22 Raptors and Chinese fighters. Several Japanese fighters -- and one American -- are shot down, but the Chinese lose several more. Round One goes to the Japanese-American team.

Shukan Gendai, a weekly tabloid, speculates that war would break out after China's President Xi Jinping orders that a Japanese civilian jetliner be shot down after declining to identify itself while crossing the Chinese ADIZ on a flight to Japan. Currently, civilian airliners are supposed to file flight plans and respond to inflight directions.

The Sunday Mainichi, one of Japan's national newspapers, ran an article with the ominous headline: "Sino-Japanese War to Break Out in January." It goes on to postulate that a collapsing Chinese economy might convince Beijing's autocrats that war against the despised Japanese might take people's attention away from their troubles.

Many serious military analysts have been sounding off on strengths and weaknesses of the two- (or three-) sided conflict. In their collective view, China has the advantage of holding numerous air bases or potential bases relatively close to the prospective battlefield, while Japan has a qualitative edge on Beijing's aircraft and naval vessels.

The Japanese air force at the moment maintains only one squadron of 20 F-15s at Naha, the capital and largest city of Okinawa, and aircraft and pilots must be getting worn down through the almost daily scrambles to investigate intruders over the Senkaku air space. They will be reinforced next year by a second squadron of 20 aircraft.

Japan can call on aerial reinforcements from other parts of the country, but they would still be constrained by lack of bases near the combat zone. That weakness would, of course, be easily filled by one or more American aircraft carriers, each of which has about 70 aircraft, should the United States be drawn into the conflict.

And it is likely that the U.S. will be drawn in, too. Washington's official position is illogical in that it professes to be neutral about who owns the Senkakus, while at the same time asserting that they, like the rest of Japan, would fall under the protection of the Japan-U.S. security treaty that obliges America to defend the country.


19 December 2013 | Claude Arpi

News reports in the local media have criticised the People’s Liberation Army for its low level of defence preparedness and revealed Beijing’s ongoing efforts to restructure the forces

China has once again provoked India by arresting three local porters in the Chumar sector of South Ladakh. But despite these constant acts of bravado, is China prepared for a conflict? The answer is that the Middle Kingdom is far from being ready.

“China’s People’s Liberation Army is striving to maintain its glorious wartime reputation by advancing military reform and putting paid to the ethos of decadence”, said an editorial of The PLA Daily, the day after the Third Plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee ended. Beijing was rather frank: “The people have noticed that certain Army cadres have only a vague understanding of their mission after a long break from combat, and have become lazy in their primary tasks,” asserted The PLA Daily in its editorial.

The Army publication criticises officers who lack the ‘awareness of always being ready to fight’; it even admits that some soldiers “have not been trained hard enough and the quality of military training is not good enough. They are just not up for the fight.” The newspaper reminds its readers that “the primary task and ultimate duty of military leaders should be to lead soldiers in battles.” The fact that this needs to be said probably means that something is rotting in the Middle Kingdom.

As analysts started talking about reforms, The Global Times published a short communique: “The Ministry of National Defence denies rumors of military restructuring.” The Global Times, however, details these famous ‘rumours’; one is “a ground force headquarters will be added to the current Air Force, Navy and the second artillery force (missile force).” A separate ground forces (Army) headquarters makes sense. Traditionally, the other three services come under the PLA.

General Xu Qiliang, one of the two vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission had earlier told The People’s Daily: “The Chinese military will strengthen and enhance the Navy, Air Force and the second artillery force in accordance with the challenges and threats the country is facing.” It clearly means that the prominent role of the ground forces needs to be rebalanced with the other three services. Mr Yang Yujun, the MND spokesman had also spoken of “blazing a trail in reform on joint operation command system …with Chinese characteristics.” He had given some examples to enhance the PLA’s ability of winning battles: “The ratio of officers to soldiers and that of troop units to organs are not reasonable in the PLA; …the scale and structure of the Chinese military should be further optimised and the proportion of combat forces should be raised.”

The fact that Beijing now calls ‘rumours’, some proposed changes is strange; it probably means that President Xi Jinping’s reforms are not unanimously appreciated in the PLA.

Another rumour quoted is more interesting for India: “The military areas in Xinjiang Uyghur and Tibet Autonomous Region will be merged into one force.” In case of a conflict with India, it seems logical for the PLA to have a single Military Area Command facing India, instead of having to coordinate the Western Front (Lanzhou MAC) with the Eastern Front (Chengdu MAC), with all the complications and coordination issues implied.

China flexes its muscles

Its claims beyond its borders violate a UN convention
G Parthasarathy

Chinese President Xi Jinping has got powers on national security issues akin to those exercised by Deng 

THE symbolism of Emperor Akihito’s visit to Delhi and India's extraordinary gesture of the Monarch being personally received on arrival by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could not have passed unnoticed in Beijing and other Asian capitals. The visit coincided with Beijing taking unprecedented steps to declare large areas beyond its land borders as an “Air Defence Identification Zone” (ADIZ), challenging the sovereign rights of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan over islands and reefs controlled by them. Under its new notification, China required all foreign powers to give prior notification of their aircraft — civilian and military — flying over the ADIZ, reinforced by the threat to scramble fighter aircraft to challenge any violations. These extraordinary measures by China, which are known to have followed years of internal discussions, were undertaken almost immediately after the Third Plenum of the Communist Party’s 18th Congress.

The Communist Party Plenum put the seal of President Xi Jinping’s virtually unchallenged leadership. Apart from populist measures like doing away with the one-child policy, eliminating repressive labour camps and providing relief to migrant labour, strong anti-corruption measures were promised together with removing government control over the allocation of resources. But perhaps the most significant announcement was the establishment of an apex national security committee under President Xi, which gives him powers on national security issues akin to those exercised by Deng Xiao Ping. Deng wielded these powers when China was relatively weak economically and militarily and had to follow his wise advice: “Hide your strength and bide you time”.

The Deng era has been followed by an economically vibrant and militarily robust China flexing its muscles across its entire neighbourhood. Having added an aircraft carrier to its fleet to project power, China clearly intends to expand its reach across the Pacific and Indian oceans, defining its maritime frontiers unilaterally in the South China Sea under its “Nine Dotted Line”. It has militarily seized the Paracel islands from Vietnam and asserted claims of sovereignty on the Spratly islands, overriding objections from the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. It has used force to seize the Mischief Reef, located barely 51 km from the Philippines and 590 km from its Hainan island. China’s extraordinary claims on its maritime borders do not conform to the provisions of the UN Convention of the Laws of the Seas.

China’s assertion of its ADIZ has been challenged by Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The US has challenged the legality of the ADIZ by sending unarmed B 52 bombers into the zone. But US commercial aircraft have been advised to observe China’s requirements. Japan and South Korea have, however, refused to comply with the Chinese demands. The Chinese threats of overflying the disputed Senkaku islands have been have been met by Japan scrambling F15 fighters. The South Koreans proclaimed: “We expressed deep regret and reaffirmed our jurisdictional rights to the waters surrounding the (submerged rock) Leodo, which would not be affected by the neighbouring State’s air defence zones”. The Chinese announcement of its ADIZ has exacerbated the existing dispute with South Korea over fishing rights in the Yellow Sea.