27 November 2014

Action at Defence Ministry at last Bigger challenges need to be faced

Inder Malhotra

The Indian armed forces should be liberated from the stranglehold of the generalist babus of the MoD

FOR over a quarter of a century the Indian Army has desperately needed artillery guns. But no matter how hard it tried it couldn't get them. One reason for this, of course, was the aftermath of the Bofors scandal, which became the standard excuse of all concerned not to take any decision at all. There was an element of disingenuousness in this posturing. For, despite the commissions worth Rs 64 crore distributed to the still unnamed beneficiaries, the Swedish gun served this country superbly during the Kargil war. Ironically, it was at the peak of this fight that the Army discovered to its dismay that it was running out of ammunition because of the obsession of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to blacklist all suppliers it suspected or disliked. Ultimately, we had to buy the ammunition from South Africa at thrice the normal price. Even this made no difference to the civilian bureaucracy in the MoD and its political bosses. Indecision remained the ruling doctrine of both. Sadly, A. K. Antony, a very fine man with an enviable reputation for personal probity, who has been the longest-serving Defence Minister so far, became the biggest hurdle to decision-making. By doing nothing he was sure of retaining his image as "St. Antony".

Against this bleak backdrop it is greatly to be welcomed that within a few days after his appointment as Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has ended the paralysis over the procurement of artillery guns by clearing the decks for acquiring 814 long-range mounted artillery guns to fill a serious gap in its equipment and, therefore, in its overall capability. The cost will be Rs 15,570 crore. The deal was approved after a serious consideration at a Defence Acquisition Council meeting that Mr Parrikar presided over for the first time. He also said that the DAC should meet oftener than it has done so far even if its agenda is rather short. My first thought on hearing this was that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should have handed over the Defence Ministry to the former Goa Chief Minister while forming his Cabinet on May 26. Mr Parrikar has laid down that that the acquisition of artillery guns — like all future procurements — will take place within the framework of the Prime Minister’s “Make-in-India” concept.

While the Army will buy 100 guns off the shelf of the foreign vendor, the remaining 714 will be manufactured here. Global tenders will be floated soon, and the Indian manufacturer will have to "tie up" with the selected foreign vendor for building the gun. Several Indian companies such as the Tatas, Larsen & Toubro and Kalyani, as well as the public sector Ordnance Factory Board have already produced prototypes of 155mm, 52 calibre guns. They are all likely to take part in the bid.

So far, so good. But the real point is that the defenders of the country's freedom and frontiers will be greatly handicapped in discharging their duty until the makers of policy on national security attend to the fundamental task of reforming the higher management of the defence system. Civilian control over the military is, of course, the basic principle in every democracy. Indeed, even in China the doctrine of the “Party controlling the Gun” has prevailed since the time of Mao Zedong. The present Chinese President, Xi Jinping, has reinforced it. But in a democracy like India the civilian supremacy does not, and must not, mean the supremacy of civil servants. It is long overdue that the Indian armed forces — absolutely apolitical, unlike the armies of some of our neighbours — should be liberated from the stranglehold of the generalist babus of the MoD. In recent years when a service chief informally and politely told the then Prime Minister that he and his two opposite numbers regretted that they were not asked to be present at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), the reply he got was: “Well, you were represented by the Defence secretary”! This pattern has to end.

Getting Jawaharlal Nehru's autograph

Lieut-Gen Baljit Singh (retd)

MY generation of Indians, who entered colleges in the early 1950s, did not have any structured education about neither the nationwide movement seeking independence from colonial rule nor the personalities who were in the vanguard of that mission. My understanding of those momentous times was gleaned chiefly from reading random pages of three books on my father's bookshelf; biographies of Mahatma Gandhi by C F Andrews and Louis Fischer and “An Autobiography” by Jawaharlal Nehru. In due course, the latter book acquired symbolism of memorabilia.

I had arrived home on winter vacation in December, 1951, a few days prior to Prime Minister Nehru's address to an election rally at Sangrur where my father was posted as the Deputy Commissioner. There was just one air strip in Punjab those days and Mr Nehru’s motor cavalcade was late by an hour and the crowd of several thousand peasants was becoming restive. But the moment the Prime Minister in a brown-coloured woollen “Achkan” and a white Churidar mounted the podium, there was instant hushed silence which only a charismatic and inspiring personality can infuse among his audience.

Though I was privileged to sit on one of the few chairs upon the rostrum, I was simply mesmerised to be in the shadow of the great man that I paid scant attention to his speech. He finished his exhortation with a flourish, by asking his audience to get up and join him in a full-throated chorus of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai Ho” three times over!

All this while I had sat holding a book and a pen but no sooner did Mr Nehru turn to leave than I stepped forward and, as tutored by my father, opened the book and requested him to autograph it, at the marked page. The catechism “Chacha Nehru” had not gained currency at the time but his love of children was so evident that not only did he break into a gentle smile but also gladly autographed it and patted me on my cheek. I was to learn later in the day that recounted on that page was Mr Nehru’s arrest at Jaitaun (a village in the interior of Nabha princely state) on May 23, 1923, for inciting disorder by the agitating Akalis and his lodgement in Nabha jail. And when produced in court the following day, a kindly Sikh Magistrate ordered the police to remove the handcuffs as the accused was not a criminal. Mr Nehru was obviously pleased by the fair sense of jurisprudence shown by the Magistrate and even more so by his humanity as a few days later the Magistrate visited the jail to enquire whether he was reasonably comfortable! That endorsement of probity by Mr Nehru was intrinsically valued like a family heirloom because the Magistrate was my father's father!

As befitting the spirit of the times, the hard binding of the first edition of “An Autobiography” had off-white ‘khadi’ cloth pasted as its outer wrap with his autograph imprinted on the upper half of the front cover which, in a manner of speaking, also symbolised the elegance of Mr Nehru, the man.

Starting at minus one

Written by Pratap Bhanu Mehta 
Posted: November 27, 2014

The besetting sin of government now is casualness more than venality.

As expectations for reform soar, it is important to remind ourselves of the nature and magnitude of the challenge. There is much talk about second-generation reforms. But as one smart government official quipped: Forget second-generation reforms, India needs minus-one generation reforms. We don’t even know what we are facing. Political stability, the RBI’s determined effort to fight inflation (despite big business engaging in ideological obfuscation) and changing international circumstances have altered the mood. But the underlying rot is deep. Its surface has yet to be scratched. Too much energy is being expended on reforms that are besides the point, rather than on credible fundamentals.

Just imagine this. Structural regulatory uncertainty continues to affect about a quarter of India’s economy in sectors like mining, natural resources, any investment involving land. This has large indirect effects. There is always some uncertainty and dispute in an economy. But structural regulatory uncertainty basically means that a pricing mechanism has irrevocably broken down. You can have either a market mechanism or an administered price mechanism. The problem is that we do not have either that is credible.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was right to say in Australia that reform by stealth does not work. What it ended up creating was institutions that had neither the old certainties of state-set prices in areas like coal, nor fully developed markets. Add to this the fact that the legal landscape has now become incredibly complicated: The coal judgment, for example, does not just raise questions about the method of giving mining licences; it has implications for federalism and who should be issuing them. But we underestimate this fact. The regulatory web is now so tangled that you don’t quite know what will happen if you pull at one string. This history of regulatory reform in India, with a few exceptions, has ended up muddying the landscape rather than clarifying it.

Two of the most critical sectors for the economy, health and education, exhibit these characteristics. The single biggest mistake of the right to education, for instance, was to muddy the distinction between public and private. Instead of saying let the public do its job and the private its function, we now have a regulatory system than distorts both irretrievably. And now it is proving near impossible to set the system right. The health sector is a combination of laissez faire and half-baked regulatory interventions. And each attempt to reform the system makes it more vulnerable. There is no reliable measure of inflation in these two sectors either, which probably has a greater effect on the rest of the economy than we realise.

All factors of production still face pricing and structural uncertainty. Add to this the quiet chaos in the financial system. The Indian banking system was not good at assessing projects or pricing risk. Or rather, what it was good at was assessing risk in the context of a closed loop of crony capitalism, where you could count on renegotiated contracts, unscrutinised gold-plating and government patronage. But there are two problems. The first is whether there will be a banking culture that can price risk and promote innovation. The jury is out on this one. The second is this: The lines of credit look more like electricity wires in a standard Indian city — so tangled that you don’t know what you will short circuit if you try and straighten and clean them up.

The new Iron Curtain of Europe


Reuters"Immigration is one of the most divisive issues confronting an already bitterly divided Europe." Picture shows a golfer hitting a tee shot as African migrants sit atop a border fence while attempting to cross into Spanish territories from Morocco.
Changing demographics, the global recession and increasing pressure on the welfare system has ratcheted up cultural and racial tensions in Germany

On November 9, a bitterly cold and overcast day, Berliners were out on the streets in thousands to commemorate a landmark event in the history of the 20th century. It had been 25 years since the Berlin Wall, a brutal and crude symbol of the Cold War, came crashing down, heralding the end of the Soviet Union that, for most of the latter half of the century, had been locked in an existential battle with the West.

The mood was somewhat sombre, tinged with a sense of triumph and pride that Germany had emerged stronger after a peaceful reunification, taking its rightful place as a major power at the high table of international politics. People milled around the vestiges of the Wall, talking of the days when it still stood, and watched documentaries on giant video installations of the chaotic days leading to the moment when East Germans, tired of decades of suffering in a Kafkaesque nightmare, brought it down. But while Berliners and the thousands of tourists who had descended upon the city celebrated, not much attention was paid to the new walls that have been erected around Europe to keep away immigrants and refugees from impoverished, strife-ridden countries in search of a better life.

According to a study by a consortium of European journalists, in the past 14 years, close to 24,000 refugees from outside the European Union (EU) have died trying to reach the continent.Welfare curbs

At present, immigration is one of the most divisive issues confronting an already bitterly divided Europe. In May, Eurosceptic, far-right parties in France, the U.K. and other nations made big gains after contesting the EU elections on an anti-immigration agenda. They received a boost on November 11, when the European Court of Justice weighed in on the issue, ruling that the EU’s richer countries could limit the access of migrants from other EU states to welfare benefits if they migrate only to claim social aid.

Envisioning a new Afghanistan


Pakistan is known to be advising China to enlarge its profile in Afghanistan as a replacement to the United States. So, what does stability and peace in the region depend on?

Close on the heels of the fourth ‘Heart of Asia’ Ministerial conference in the framework of the Istanbul Process, hosted for the first time by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the first official visit the Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani paid to Beijing, a regional Track II conference, “Envisioning Afghanistan post-2014” (supported by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung) was held in Istanbul this month. While the West may have expressed a diminishing interest in Afghanistan, 60 experts, from Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics, barring Turkmenistan, along with advisers from Iran, Turkey, Russia and China have been meeting regularly over the last three years. This is to monitor events to update and uplink their joint declaration on Afghanistan which has been keenly studied by officials in many countries, including the National Security Council in Washington and the European Commission in Brussels as well as those in leading think tanks.

What is of relevance from the joint declaration are its three key recommendations: establishing a joint special commission of AfPak, holding an India-Pakistan dialogue on Afghanistan, and advocacy that Afghanistan be accepted as a neutral country commencing with a framework for non-interference and non-intervention underwritten by the United Nations.Neutrality of Afghanistan

Afghans espouse a strong culture and tradition of neutrality which their country enjoyed between 1929 and 1978 and which includes the period of World War II. At the Istanbul meeting, Central Asian policy groups asserted that the Shanghai Six — the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) — Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia and China, have been pledging for the last three years at the SCO summit, their commitment for a neutral Afghanistan. Point 7 of the Dushanbe Declaration of September 2014 notes: “Member states of SCO reiterate their support for development of Afghanistan into a democratic, peaceful prosperous and neutral state.” In an interview with Afghan Tolo TV (March 18, 2012), Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that his country supported Afghanistan’s neutrality.

The joint declaration will shortly have an add-on: an Annexure on Enduring Neutrality. Experts who have studied the Austrian and Swiss models say that the neutrality of Afghanistan will mean de facto neutralisation of Pakistan, and so the biggest obstacle in its acceptance will be the Pakistan Army with its gospel of strategic depth. The Pakistan Army has invested precious lives and resources in creating strategic assets through “good terrorists” which has paradoxically led to many of these terrorists securing strategic depth inside Pakistan. Afghans, including the Taliban’s Mullah Omar, say they have never accepted the Durand Line; therefore, its resurrection by Kabul is a big fear in Pakistan. A grand bargain between Afghanistan and Pakistan — Kabul accepting the Durand Line in return for Pakistan ending support to the Afghan Taliban and providing a land corridor through Balochistan to the sea is a deal which has strategic benefit for all in ending external interference in Afghanistan.A suitable regional organisation

UK Intelligence Oversight Committee Accused US Company Believed to Be Facebook of Withholding Information Leading Up to Murder of British Soldier

November 26, 2014

Facebook thought to be tech firm at the heart of Lee Rigby accusations

Samuel Gibbs and Alex Hern

The Guardian, November 26, 2014

David Cameron reacts after the intelligence and security committee delivered its report on the murder of Lee Rigby. Photograph: PA/PA

Facebook is the internet company accused by the intelligence and security committee of failing to pass on information which could have prevented the murder of Lee Rigby, the Guardian understands. 

The ISC investigation found that one of Rigby’s killers, Michael Adebowale, conducted an online exchange detailing his desire to murder a soldier “in the most graphic and emotive manner” with a known terrorist, five months before the attack, yet did not directly name the company concerned. 

“The party which could have made a difference was the company on whose platform the exchange took place,” states the report. 

“However, this company does not appear to regard itself as under any obligation to ensure that its systems identify such exchanges, or to take action or notify the authorities when its communications services appear to be used by terrorists.” 

“There is therefore a risk that, however unintentionally, it provides a safe haven for terrorists to communicate within,” it states.

The report does not name which US tech service Adebowale used, but at various points the 191-page report mentions Apple, BlackBerry, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo when giving examples of monitoring procedures. 

The Guardian understands the company is Facebook. 

Could China Save India's Railways?

November 25, 2014

Chinese state-owned firms will conduct a feasibility study for Chinese high-speed rail infrastructure in India. 

In line with recent trends, China is examining the possibility of exporting its high-speed rail technology to India. Specifically, according to Reuters, China will carry out and finance a feasibility study in India for a potential high-speed rail project linking the country’s capital New Delhi with the southern city of Chennai. A spokesperson for the Indian Ministry of Railways made the announcement on Tuesday. The move comes at a time when high-level diplomacy between India and China has focused heavily on expanding economic cooperation between the two Asian giants, who cooperate despite looming geopolitical rivalry and mistrust. China is approaching India on the issue of high-speed rail technology after having made similar bids to Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Mexico, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Only the latter two countries have awarded China contracts; an initial contract in Mexico was withdrawn.

The Indian Ministry of Railways announcement revealed no specifics about a cost estimate for the high-speed rail line, which would be 1,750 km long. The Reuters report notes that a much shorter (500 km) line between Mumbai and Ahmedabad is estimated to cost 600 billion rupees or $9.7 billion according to a similar feasibility study by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Japan is a major contributor to other Indian infrastructure projects, including the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). Japan has been pushing for India to adopt its Shinkansen bullet train technology for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor.

Should the Chinese feasibility study prove positive, the Indian government could make good on promises to improve the country’s aging rail infrastructure — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stated his desire to overhaul India’s lagging railway infrastructure and institute a “diamond quadrilateral” better connecting the country’s four major cities (New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata). However, as The Diplomat noted earlier this year, despite the continuing economic relevance of national railways in India, Indian rail networks run at a loss. This drove the government to increase fares for both passengers and freight, causing considerable criticism. Foreign investment into improving the quality of Indian railways could draw the attention of the current government, which is more open to the prospect of privatizing portions of India’s poorly maintained and underdeveloped rail networks.

THE LAST FARCE A despatch from the Maoist heartland

Meeting Deva, the Maoist commander of Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region, India’s most militarised zone after Kashmir, is an anti-climax, especially after a long and uneasy wait in the darkness. The man hasn’t heard of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Neither is he aware of the pro-capitalist changes that have buffeted Chairman Mao’s China.

Sitting on a tarpaulin spread inside an unwalled shack in some forlorn hilly outpost in Dantewada, anticipating this ‘top Maoist’s arrival is not particularly exciting when accompanied by a fear-inducing buzz of malarial mosquitoes, which, it is said in a lighter vein, kill more Maoists than Indian security forces do. And you cannot really see where you are going to sit and wait because the teen sentries have stopped lighting their torches after guiding you to a halt. The other option, more viable for your city-dwelling back, is to stand and lean onto one of the three wooden poles that hold the roof of hay, and watch the glow-worms and stars.

But the high point of the day is that Soni Sori, the teacher-turned social activist, darling of civil society members and an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate in the last General Election, is there too, chatting away with her nephew, Lingaram Kodopi, an energetic and muscular Tribal activist given to frequent guffaws. In the run-up to the polls, Sori had said that, “I am not a Maoist, but an Adivasi from Bastar.” But she is there to meet the Maoist commander to seek his blessings and direction to launch a new organisation, likely to be called ‘Sanyuqt Prajatantra Manch’ (roughly, ‘joint democratic platform’). She had her team prepare a set of logos for the new outfit: one of them has a picture of Pravin Chand Bhanjdeo, the late Bastar king who campaigned for equal rights for Tribals. The Maoist leader can handpick one of the logos for them.

With Sori and Kodopi, we had already spent close to nine hours together at four different locations, waiting for word on the place and time of the meeting with the ‘commander’. “You will be meeting a very senior guy,” a point person for the Maoists who is popular among journalists had told us as early as 7 am. A conversationalist, he announced immediately that the BBC had been there recently, and that a “German TV channel” was there a few days earlier to meet a senior member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Since its formation in 2004 with the merger of the People’s War Group (PWG) and Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), the CPI (Maoist) has eliminated more than 6,000 civilians and security forces across the Red Corridor, a vast belt of India’s east controlled by armed Maoist cadres, and especially in Bastar, the epicentre of the insurgency where the newly elected Narendra Modi Government has sent additional troops to check left-wing extremism.

This person, who proudly declared that he worships the activist-author Arundhati Roy for her pro-Maoist stance, asked us to wait until 9 am before we set off for the meeting. While Roy, in an article published in 2010 inOutlook magazine, had made clear her sympathy for Maoists in their fight against exploitation by corporates, contractors, the police and politicians, she had commended them for being more Gandhian than Gandhians themselves in their consumption patterns and lifestyle.

Afghan President Orders Top-to-Bottom Review of Afghan Military and Police

Official: Afghan president orders military review

Associated Press, November 25, 2014

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — President Ashraf Ghani has ordered a top-to-bottom review of the operations of Afghanistan’s defense forces, including discussing the resumption of controversial night raids banned by his predecessor.

The move appears aimed at revamping the military for the fight against the Taliban amid new indications that U.S. and international forces will play a greater role than initially envisaged after the 13-year U.S.-led combat mission formally ends next month.
The wholesale review is already underway, presidential spokesman Nafizullah Salarzai told The Associated Press, saying Ghani had instructed the National Security Council to “work on a manual of guidelines and standards for military operations.”

Under new guidelines quietly approved by President Barack Obama, U.S. troops may once again engage Taliban fighters, not just al-Qaida terrorists, U.S. administration officials confirmed last week. Until Obama broadened the guidelines, U.S. forces were to have limited Afghanistan operations to counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida after this year, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Obama’s decisions by name.
The emerging rethink in both Kabul and the U.S. appears linked, at least in part, to this year’s successes by jihadi radicals in Syria and especially Iraq — which have made the December 2011 pullout from Iraq seem less successful and forced a reengagement there by the West.

Counter-Terrorism: The Martyr Factory

November 26, 2014: On November 5th Pakistani police arrested 45 people in eastern Punjab on suspicion that they were involved in the killing of a Christian couple the day before. The two Christians were accused of desecrating the Koran (the Moslem bible) and were burned to ashes in a brick kiln. Pakistan still has severe blasphemy laws that are mostly used by Moslems against innocent Christians and other non-Moslems, but sometimes against other Moslems. Efforts to repeal these laws, or at least limit their misuse, are violently resisted by Islamic political parties. 

Police, and many who knew the dead couple, suspect religion and sacrilege had nothing to do with this incident. That’s because many of these spontaneous “blasphemy” incidents later prove to be killers using religion to get away with murder. Many Pakistanis still remember in infamous 2012 case where a court conducted an investigation of one such incident and confirmed suspicions that a 14 year old Christian girl had been framed by a Moslem cleric for desecrating a Koran several months earlier. The girl was then murdered. 

This sheds unwelcome attention on that fact that not all terrorist related deaths in Pakistan are the work of Islamic terrorists in the northwest and not all the deaths described as related to religion are. Many use religion as a cover for some more secular reason. In the case of the 14 year old girls, it was to shut up the victim of sexual assault. For others it was revenge or to terrorize some other group just for being different. Nevertheless Pakistan has recorded nearly 5,000 deaths attributed to religious intolerance in the last 25 years. These usually involve violence against different forms of Islam (usually Shia) as well as against Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and others. Most of these 5,000 Pakistani deaths have occurred since September 11, 2001, when it became easier to claim religious fervor as an excuse for killing someone, and get away with it. Religion based violence has been on the increase in Pakistan starting in the 1970s when the government basically legalized a lot of it. At first not a lot of people took advantage of it. But gradually more and more did. 

Since 2001 there have been over 20,000 terrorism related deaths in Pakistan, nearly all of the victims were other Moslems that Islamic terrorists accused of not being Islamic enough and thus, according to their murderous logic, not Moslems at all and deserving of death. Yet most of these deaths are not classified as resulting from religious intolerance. There is a widespread tendency by Moslems and non-Moslems alike to downplay the religious basis for Islamic terrorism. Why that is so is hard to say. Apparently it’s partly due to political correctness, the self-image most Moslems prefer to use and billions spent by oil-rich Arab states over several decades to support this worldview in the UN and international media. In any event a lot of Pakistanis, including most Moslems, are getting tired of it. 

Afghanistan Post-2014: The Pashtun Factor

There is an effort among some western commentaries – taken up and amplified by the Pakistanis - to try and project the situation in Afghanistan as a proxy war between India and Pakistan. The drumbeat of this thesis grows as the draw-down of western forces from Afghanistan draws near. Such a view sounds strange to Indian ears, for we were labouring under the belief this last decade that it was a straight, though covert, fight between the US and Pakistan.

And that is how, moreover, people like Negroponte and Mullen projected it too – and you would expect them to know. However, it is important to understand the reality of what is happening in Afghanistan, and for that, the narrative must begin some decades back.

To anticipate the conclusions of this essay: one, the fight is not between India and Pakistan. Ever since 1947, India has kept out of Afghan-Pakistan affairs, and Afghanistan has kept out of Indo-Pakistan affairs.

Two, the fight is between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has its own logic, going back to the dispute over the Pashtun issue, with Baluchistan also steadily in focus. It has acquired an additional facet in recent years, since Afghanistan has no interest in becoming any other country’s “strategic depth” – indeed, deeply resents the idea, and rejects the Pakistani military push behind the concept.

Three, Afghanistan has become a battleground indeed, between Pakistan [aided occasionally by outside powers] on the one hand, and the USSR, the US, and Afghan nationalism by turns.

And four, and most important, there is a coded message behind this analysis. The message is that Pakistan is going to continue to meddle in Afghan affairs, and seek once more to inject the Taliban, in their newest iteration, into Afghanistan, and no one should oppose this. India is simply shorthand for the fact that all the neighbours of Afghanistan – Iran, the Central Asians, and countries like India and Russia – are concerned at the ceaseless sponsorship of terror and extreme groups by Pakistan. If they oppose Pakistan, that becomes a proxy war.

The Afghans themselves want none of this Pakistani interference, but that is also conveniently skipped over. The truth is, if Pakistan does not promote the extremist Islamic groups, there will be no push-back from the Afghans or anybody else; it is entirely emblematic that in all this lofty talk about avoiding a proxy war, the Pakistanis refrain from mentioning anything about their solemn, repeated – and repeatedly broken – promises of non-interference.

The history of the face-off is well-known: Afghanistan never accepted the Durand Line which divided Pashtun from Pashtun, and this was made clear to the British authorities from the 1920’s onwards. By 1944, when it was clear that the British were to withdraw from India, the Kabul authorities asked the British Government in London to allow the Pashtuns in British India to choose to accede to Afghanistan or opt for independence as well; instead, they were only given the choice to accede to India or Pakistan. The number of registered voters was a fraction of the total population, and even among them, the support for accession to Pakistan was barely above 50 percent. The hill tribes, who are in the centre of the fighting today, were not allowed to vote because they were not considered part of the administered territories.

New Study Raises Questions About Accuracy of Intelligence Used to Target CIA Drone Strikes

Spencer Ackerman
November 24, 2014

41 men targeted but 1,147 people killed: US drone strikes – the facts on the ground

‘Drone strikes have been sold to the American public on the claim that they’re ‘precise.’ But they are only as precise as the intelligence that feeds them.’ Photograph: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

The drones came for Ayman Zawahiri on 13 January 2006, hovering over a village in Pakistan called Damadola. Ten months later, they came again for the man who would become al-Qaida’s leader, this time in Bajaur.

Eight years later, Zawahiri is still alive. Seventy-six children and 29 adults, according to reports after the two strikes, are not.

However many Americans know who Zawahiri is, far fewer are familiar with Qari Hussain. Hussain was a deputy commander of the Pakistani Taliban, a militant group aligned with al-Qaida that trained the would-be Times Square bomber,Faisal Shahzad, before his unsuccessful 2010 attack. The drones first came for Hussain years before, on 29 January 2008. Then they came on 23 June 2009, 15 January 2010, 2 October 2010 and 7 October 2010.

Finally, on 15 October 2010, Hellfire missiles fired from a Predator or Reaper drone killed Hussain, the Pakistani Taliban later confirmed. For the death of a man whom practically no American can name, the US killed 128 people, 13 of them children, none of whom it meant to harm.

Jama'at-ul-Ahrar: Obsessive Pursuits

Ambreen Agha
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

On November 21, 2014, two Security Force (SF) personnel were killed and two others were injured in a bomb attack targeting SFs vehicle on Warsak Road in Mathra Bazaar area of Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province. Ehsanullah Ehsan, the 'spokesman' of the Jama'at-ul-Ahrar (JuA, Group of the Free), a breakaway faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), while claiming responsibility for the attack said that the attack was revenge of one of their members who was killed in an operation by the army. He further warned, “We will continue to target the Pakistani military in the future.”

On November 18, 2014, two Policemen were killed and another was wounded in a targeted hand grenade attack in the Shabqadar tehsil (revenue unit) of Charsadda District in KP. Ehsanullah Ehsan the 'spokesman' of TTP-JuA claimed responsibility for the attack.

Earlier, on November 2, 2014, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the parking area, at least 500 meters from the Wagah Border with India, on the Pakistan side, killing 60 persons and injuring more than 150. One of the injured died later. Soon after the attack, three terrorist groups claimed responsibility for the attack. These included al Qaeda-affiliated anti-Shia group Jandullah, TTP’s Mahar Mehsud faction, and JuA. In order to establish its role in the attack on the Wagah border, JuA, however, went on to release three photographs of the suicide bomber involved in the attack. "Brother Hanifullah" the email sent by Ehsan to The Long War Journal read, "carried out successful martyrdom operation on murtad [a Muslim who rejects Islam] Army in Wagah Lahore."

On September 26, 2014, two activists of an anti-Taliban peace committee were killed and another seriously injured in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast in the Dawezai area of Pandyalitehsil in the Mohmand Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). JuA 'spokesman' Ehsan, claiming responsibility for the attack, warned that the peace committee members were targeted for fighting and spying against the 'Taliban', and that such attacks would continue on ‘pro-government paid people’ as they were the enemies of the Taliban.

Significantly, the announcement of the formation of JuA was made on August 26, 2014. Maulana Qasim Khorasani, the former head of the TTP-Swat Chapter, was appointed emir (chief) of TTP-JuA and Ehsanullah Ehsan its 'spokesman'. Declaring the formation, Ehsan stated, from an undisclosed location, "the new group…only wanted the Sharia'h system to prevail in the country."

Afghani Drops to 13 Year Low; Pakistan has World’s Fastest Growing Nuke Program; Indo-Pakistani Foreign Ministers Meet

NOVEMBER 25, 2014 

Afghani drops to 13 year low

Afghanistan's currency, the Afghani, dropped to a 13 year low, 58 Afghanis and 20 cents to $1 US (TOLO News, Pajhwok). Officials from the Money Exchangers Union of Shahzada Currency Market point to the Afghan central bank's failure to stabilize the current market, the delayed formation of a new cabinet, and the lack of trust in the new government as reasons for the decrease in value.

Afghan peace process excludes women

The international aid group, Oxfam, released a report on Monday that concluded that Afghan women have been excluded from the government's attempts to make peace with the Taliban (NYT, RFE/RL). The report found that Afghan women felt marginalized in the peace process and were worried that any agreement with the Taliban would detract from any gains made by Afghan women in education, work, and government. The report cited 23 secret peace talks between the Afghan government and militants, including the Taliban, since 2005, none of which had female delegates (TOLO News). Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Taliban was in favor of including woman in the peace process, as well as any future government, but only after all foreign troops leave Afghanistan.

Haqqani Network bombed weekend games

The Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) spokesman, Hasib Sediqi, said on Monday that Haqqani Network militants, Qari Omari and Mullah Rahimullah, planned Sunday's suicide bombing at an inter-district volleyball game in Paktika province that killed 61 people (TOLO News, Pajhwok). Sediqi added that the two plotters took instructions from Abdullah Bilal, the so-called governor of the Haqqani Network in Paktika, and the suicide bomber's name was Ismail.

TTP chief escapes drone strike

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Mullah Fazlullah survived a U.S. drone strike that hit in the Nizyan area of Ningarhar province in Afghanistan on Monday, according to a senior FATA security official speaking to the Express Tribune (ET). The official said that five others were killed in the strike, and that Fazlullah's current location is unknown.



November 25, 2014 

Daniel: Obama Will Likely Enact Panel’s Advice On Blunting Cyber Risks

President Obama will likely implement recommendations from a presidential advisory panel aimed at improving planning for a worst-case cyber attack on the country and averting risks in the emerging “Internet of Things,” said White House Cyber security Coordinator Michael Daniel.

“I think that we’re very supportive and interested in the input,” Daniel told Inside Cyber security after Wednesday’s meeting of the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee.

The panel approved two reports at the meeting. One urges Obama to convene representatives from critical information and communications technology providers and U.S. national security organizations to prepare the United States to manage a cyber attack of national significance.

Although government and industry are continuing to develop ways to share cyber-threat data, “there exists no effective methodology that currently supports the rapid mobilization and coordination of critical commercial sector assets to respond to a large-scale incident of national security concern,” the report states

The other study concludes the federal government must rush to address cyber security gaps created by the Internet of Things before they become long-term, intractable problems.

“There is a small – and rapidly closing – window to ensure that [the Internet of Things] is adopted in a way that maximizes security and minimizes risk,” the report states. “If the country fails to do so, it will be coping with the consequences for generations.”

“These are big, meaty, weighty topics that are not simple and easy,” Daniel said. The work of this particular advisory committee has over time proven very valuable to the White House, he said

“These reports often serve as the kernels of really good ideas and then we take them and figure out a way to implement them that actually works on the government side,” Daniel said.

“So I think that there’s a very high likelihood that even if they don’t get implemented in exactly the form that they are written in, that the concepts and ideas behind them are things that we will pursue,” he said.


November 25, 2014

When people ponder where the next major conflict might erupt, they often look to the South China Sea – the scene of the potentially most explosive, intractable, overlapping sovereignty claims in the world. What can the United States do to find a peaceful solution to tensions between China, the Philippines and Vietnam, and indirectly between Beijing and Washington?

These problems in the South China Sea are not new; the first U.S. policy statement regarding South China Sea disputes was made in 1995. Today’s policy is virtually identical, i.e., a peaceful, non-coercive diplomatic resolution that preserves regional stability and freedom of navigation in one of the world’s most heavily travelled seaways. What is different is that after almost a decade and a half of relative tranquility, the South China Sea has emerged as a cockpit of contention that raises the potential for conflict and introduces instability in Southeast Asia. The United States could become directly involved because the Philippines, one of the contending claimants to land features in the South China Sea, is a U.S. treaty ally.

In the South China Sea there are approximately 180 features above water at high tide. These rocks, shoals, sandbanks, reefs, and cays, plus unnamed shoals and submerged features are distributed among four geographically different areas of that sea. These features are claimed in whole or in part by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei. China and Taiwan (the Republic of China) claim all of the land features in the South China Sea. A bedrock principle of U.S. policy is that Washington takes no position on the legal merits of these respective claims.

Why Should Anyone Care who Owns largely Uninhabitable Islands and Rocks?

A very small number of the land features have strategic value for the claimants because they have, or could have, runways long enough to accommodate tactical jet aircraft and are adjacent to some of the world’s most heavily travelled commercial shipping routes. In short, gaining sovereignty provides a foothold that could enable a country to interfere with trade to or from China and the rest of Northeast Asia. This is highly unlikely, but nonetheless, the strategic location of the South China Sea islands has been on the minds of strategists since the end of the First World War.

China's Spratlys Airstrip Will Raise South China Sea Stakes

November 25, 2014
Beijing is developing a man-made island on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys. 

Late last week, an IHS Jane’s report corroborated claims that China was embarking on an island-building project in the South China Sea. Based on satellite imagery, Jane’s reported that China was building an airstrip-capable island on Fiery Cross Reef, a group of three reefs in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China claims the territory as part of Hainan province’s Sansha prefecture and exerts de facto control over the area. The reef’s central location in the broader South China Sea renders it a strategic position for an island-based airstrip.

The Jane‘s report substantiates speculation earlier this year that China was constructing an airstrip on a man-made island in the South China Sea. Based on the most recent satellite imagery, Jane’s notes that “Chinese dredgers have created a land mass that is almost the entire length of the reef.” Fiery Cross Reef is an underwater reef, but China is looking to develop a new island that is roughly 3 km long and 200 to 300 m wide — just wide enough for a functional airstrip. The strategic advantages of an airstrips in the middle of the South China Sea include shorter resupply routes for deployed PLAN patrols, a base for reconnaissance aircraft and unmanned system, and a potential permanent installation for anti-submarine warfare equipment including undersea radar arrays. For China, this island on Fiery Cross Reef could fulfill the strategic role of an “unsinkable aircraft carrier.” As Beijing continues to raise the stakes in the South China Sea, developments such as this airstrip will cause concern among the other claimants.

Of all the major claimants of South China Sea territory, China is the only one without an island-hosted airstrip in the region (outside of Hainan Island, off the Chinese coast). As a result, Beijing has claimed a disadvantage vis-a-vis the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and even Taiwan (Brunei is the only claimant without a similar asset). In real terms, however, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) remains the most capable navy in the region, both in terms of sheer size and in terms of modernization. Additionally, in recent years, China has significantly expanded its interest in backing up its territorial claims in the South China Sea with kinetic action — in 2012, it seized the Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines and in 2014, it sent naval and coastguard ships into Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to support the activities of an oil rig. China bases its claims to the South China Sea on historical maps that it argues are evidence of the South China Sea’s long-standing status as Chinese territory.

Can China Put a Cap on Coal?

November 25, 2014

Putting a cap on China’s coal use will be difficult, but not impossible, experts argue. 

A cap on Chinese coal use will determine the success or failure of the Chinese government’s recent pledge to cap all emissions by 2030. On a larger scale, a Chinese cap on coal could be the single most important factor in whether or not the world is able to prevent catastrophic climate change (defined by most scientists as a global temperature change of two degrees Celsius). But is a Chinese coal cap feasible?

That was the subject under discussion at a recent event hosted by the China Environment Forum of the Wilson Center in Washington, DC. The general consensus was that such a cap is possible, and recent positive signs (like the U.S.-China joint announcement on emissions reduction targets) indicate the government is taking the problem seriously. Still, there’s a lot of work to be done to ensure that China’s coal use reaches a peak soon.

Jake Schmidt, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s International Program, said that China’s coal use will determine whether its goal of reaching peak emissions by 2030 is achievable. Rebutting those who feel the 2030 goal will allow China to continue “business as usual” for the next 16 years, Schmidt pointed out that most previous studies predicted China reaching peak emissions in 2040 or 2050 without government action.

Schmidt is encouraged by recent trends toward more serious environmental protection measures in China. Popular outrage over air pollution has great raised the political stakes of ignoring the problem; Schmidt called Chinese public sentiment the “single most important driving dynamic” for government policies dealing with coal consumption levels and overall emissions. Thanks to this new public pressure, Schmidt says, the “debate has shifted” from arguing over whether China’s coal consumption will peak to debating when it will peak. The State Council’s new Energy Development Strategy Action Plan, which set a goal of having coal use top out at 4.2 billion tons in 2020 is a “good start,” Schmidt said.

Still, the 2020 target is not necessarily a final cap for coal use, but only the targeted cap for 2020 emissions. The NRDC hopes to encourage China to adopt a coal cap in the 13thFive Year Plan, which will be unveiled in 2016. According to Schmidt and Fuqiang Yang, a senior adviser at NDRC, there’s an increasing recognition among Chinese officials that a coal cap is necessary, if only to combat public outrage over pollution levels. As Yang points out, coal use contributes 62 percent of China’s PM2.5 pollution, a key element of the smog that envelopes many Chinese cities. That means there’s no way to effectively address China’s air pollution issues without reducing coal use.

Heightened Tensions in the East and South China Seas Report Released

November 3, 2014 

Territorial disputes, rising tensions and increased military capabilities in the East and South China Seas: will this lead to a regional arms race and potential conflict, or will cooler heads prevail and quell any local action?

A Wikistrat report, released today, explores four distinct scenarios that discuss various aspects of the fragile situation, including interference from the United States, Chinese assertiveness and regional reactions.

The East and South China Seas territorial disputes, including but not limited to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, the Spratlys and the Scarborough Shoal, have not only increased in complexity but are an area of concern for the United States. The lands in question hold historical and strategic significance and highly sought-after potential energy reserves. As China has grown in power and asserted its regional influence, it has looked to increase its claim to these territories, causing concern among neighboring states with similar claims. Under these circumstances, the current international order in East Asia, maintained by the United States, comes into question.

The significance of these disputed territories as strategically important and prospective offshore energy sources is fueling efforts to solidify national claims. In the midst of increased disquiet over the issue, regional states are augmenting and modernizing their military capabilities, particularly the navy and aerospace. Notably, China has dramatically increased military capacity while states such as Japan, Australia, and South Korea are also undergoing upgrades. Such increased military investment and political strain could lead to a regional arms race and accidentally spark conflict over a misunderstanding.

In light of the United States’ commitment to maintaining its conception of international order, what role could they play to ease tensions? Or will regional states step up and mediate before the situation becomes unstable?

In June 2014, Wikistrat conducted a crowdsourced simulation exercise intended to examine potential driving factors that could influence stability in the waters of the East and South China Sea. The simulation utilized the expertise of more than seventy analysts who developed scenarios and policy options illustrating the complexity of the political and economic issues surrounding this topic.

More Details on How UK Telecom Cable & Wireless Helped GCHQ Access Undersea Fiber-Optic Cables November 26, 2014

Frederik Obermaier, Henrik Moltke, Laura Poitras and Jan Strozyk

Süddeutsche Zeitung, November 24, 2014

Previously unpublished documents show how the UK telecom firm Cable & Wireless, acquired by Vodafone in 2012, played a key role in establishing one of the Government Communications Headquarters’ (GCHQ) most controversial surveillance programs.

A joint investigation by NDR, WDR, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Channel 4 based on documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, reveals that Cable & Wireless actively shaped and provided the most data to GCHQ mass surveillance programs, and received millions of pounds in compensation. The documents also suggest that Cable & Wireless assisted GCHQ in breaking into a competitor’s network.

In response to these allegations, Vodafone said that an internal investigation found no evidence of unlawful conduct, but the company would not deny it happened.

"What we have in the UK is a system based on warrants, where we receive a lawful instruction from an agency or authority to allow them to have access to communications data on our network. We have to comply with that warrant and we do and there are processes for us to do that which we’re not allowed to talk about because the law constrains us from revealing these things. We don’t go beyond what the law requires” a Vodafone spokesperson told Channel 4.

In August 2013 Süddeutsche Zeitung and NDR first named Vodafone as one of the companies assisting the GCHQ. Reports that Vodafone secretly provided customer data to intelligence agencies damaged the company’s relation to German customers. Few months later Der Spiegel reported that the NSA had spied on Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose cell phone was on a Vodafone contract.

This could be a coincidence. No evidence suggests that Vodafone was involved in the “Merkelphone” scandal. But unlike Facebook, Yahoo, or other companies forced to cooperate with the intelligence services, Vodafone has yet to challenge the GCHQ publicly. Konstantin von Notz, a German member of the Bundestag for the Green Party, urges Vodafone to take legal action: „A company such as Vodafone, which has responsibility for so many customers, has to take a clear stand against these data grabs.“

Similarly, Vodafone has provided no explanation as to why GCHQ discussed “potential new deployment risks identified by GERONTIC” in June 2008. According to the Snowden-documents “GERONTIC” was the GCHQ codename for Cable & Wireless, and after acquisition in 2012 (at least for a while) presumably for Vodafone.

The documents show regular “Joint Project Team” meetings between june 2008 until at least february 2012 and that a GCHQ employee worked full-time within Cable & Wireless.

The Search for the Plan To Destroy ISIS

November 24, 2014 

The United States has promised that America will “degrade and destroy” ISIS in a “targeted, relentless counterterrorism campaign.” But two and a half months in, ISIS’s appeal shows little sign of waning. And the question is, even if the U.S. is able to kill the elusive architect of ISIS’s ascent, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, can America kill the idea propelling his organization’s appeal?

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a regular contributor to Defense One. Lemmon is also a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana. 

“You have to see ISIS as fundamentally a state-building enterprise,” says David Kilcullen, former special advisor to the Secretary of State and senior advisor to retired Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, as well as author of a 2010 book on counterinsurgency. “These guys are trying to build a state.”

To date the U.S. has delivered a three-month campaign of air strikes in Iraq and Syria. Earlier this month the Pentagon announced that 1,500 more American troops would head to Iraq to advise and assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces now facing off against ISIS. The Obama administration has announced a plan to get $500 million in additional weapons, training and resources to more moderate Syrian fighters, the “boots on the ground” now fighting both the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL, and the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. But that training and equipping has yet to begin. And that, say those close to the more moderate Syrian fighters, is part of the problem.

Several people inside and outside the administration tell Defense One that moderate Syrian rebel forces feel let down by the West, which has yet to articulate a coherent strategy or match resources to their rhetoric when it comes to supporting Syrian moderates. That lack of resources, they say, has increased ISIS’s appeal as the blood-soaked Syrian civil war grinds on into a stalemate.

“ISIS is offering salaries to young men and it is providing protection because the choice is either you fight ISIS or you join them; on top of that you are getting weapons, ammo and a piece of war booty,” said one administration official. “For Syrian fighters the immediate reason to join begins with at least the rumor of consistent salaries.”


November 25, 2014 

In September, the Islamic in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched a devastatingly effective offensive in Iraq’s Anbar province that for a time masked the losses the group was experiencing elsewhere (see two previous WOTR reports on ISIL’s Anbar campaign). Beginning in late October, ISIL garnered even more headlines through its horrific slaughter of hundreds of members of the Albu Nimr, a Sunni tribe. However, there are signs that ISIL’s attempts to crush the Albu Nimr under its boot have backfired, instead stiffening the tribe’s resolve to fight the jihadist group. ISIL’s campaign in Anbar now appears stalled.

This report, which primarily draws from Arabic-language sources, provides a granular examination of how ISIL’s ongoing campaign in Anbar has developed since mid-October, when the last installment in WOTR’s series on the Anbar offensive was published.

Mid-October: ISIL on the March

Following the killing of Anbar provincial chief of police Ahmad Siddiq al-Dulaymi on Oct. 11, ISIL managed to swiftly overrun Camp Hit after the 300 remaining members of the Iraqi security forces (ISF) at the base undertook a “tactical retreat.” Faced with the prospect of ISIL control of Hit district, about 180,000 people fled en masse for areas that remained under control of the government of Iraq. The only exception was the al-Furat suburb on the eastern side of the Euphrates River, which remained under Albu Nimr control until Oct. 22.

Shortly after ISIL completed its seizure of Hit on Oct. 13, the group moved to secure the outlying villages of Bustamiyah, Sahliyah, Kassarah, Khazraj and Dulab along the western and southern ends of Hit district. ISIL’s move into these western areas was not simply opportunistic, but rather a critical part of the group’s designs to eventually stage a large-scale attack against Baghdad.

ISF responded to these losses by bombing Fallujah with barrel bombs, rockets, and heavy artillery, which at this point was more a sign of the Iraqi government’s anger at ISIL’s advances than a legitimate strategy to counter the group’s gains. The situation had deteriorated so significantly that Ali Hatim al-Sulayman, the emir of the Sunni-dominated Dulaymi tribal confederation, called for an “Arab intervention by land” to fight ISIL (almost certainly meaning a Saudi or Jordanian intervention). Meanwhile, the Sunni-dominated Anbar Provincial Council had grown so desperate that itopenly pleaded for all available assistance, even from Iranian-backed Shia militant groups, such as Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq, Badr Organization and the “Peace Brigades” (the most recent incarnation of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Jaysh al-Mahdi). Such calls for help from Shia militant groups would have been inconceivable just months ago. There were also calls for U.S. military intervention, to include an American troop presence in Anbar.

ISIL also attempted to take the town of Baghdadi on the Euphrates River from Oct. 15-20, only to have its attacks repelled. ISF made anotherground incursion into Fallujah on Oct. 15, likely as part of a continued effort to keep ISIL off-guard and unable to mount a ground attack into eastern Anbar.