27 March 2013

Bridging the Potomac: How a Rule of Law Field Force Strikes Balance Between Security and Development Operations

March 25, 2013 


In the aftermath of the September 11th terror attacks and the NATO invasion that overthrew the Taliban-controlled government in Afghanistan, the international community gathered at the initial Tokyo Conference where, led by the United States, they pledged to reshape Afghanistan into a stable democracy. In May, 2003, following the invasion of Iraq, then-President George W. Bush announced the end of combat operations and the beginning of a similar reconstruction mission. The goal was to turn rogue states into democratic strategic allies by building up both public and private institutions, such as governance, infrastructure, economic entities, civil society, and rule of law. However, the United States and its allies soon found themselves in protracted counterinsurgency conflicts, fighting ruthless enemies while, at the same time, working to build functioning states and protect local civilian population. These improvised peace building/ war fighting hybrid missions created unforeseen challenges for the United States and Coalition members. Many solutions, strategies, and grand proposals were put forth, with varying success. Yet, after more than ten years, an estimated billion dollars spent[1], thousands of Americans killed, and tens of thousands of Americans wounded,[2] the U.S. Government is still struggling to strike the balance in the “clear, hold, build” formula of counterinsurgency, or COIN, operations. 

The U.S. Government’s rule of law mission has morphed and mutated throughout the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Legions of lawyers, advisors, military commanders, civilian officials, contractors, and lawmakers all sought to stamp their brand on what is certainly the most fashionable sector of counterinsurgency and stability operations. The concept of “rule of law” captures the attention of nation-building westerners in a way that makes the likes of building functioning government institutions, economic planning, and big construction seem dull or overly technical by comparison. Like a Rorschach test for society, rule of law can mean all things to all people, and this subjective approach is too often reflected in disjointed efforts on the ground. Perhaps the greatest divide within the U.S. Government’s rule of law mission is between the military community and the civilian agencies tapped with rule of law tasks, particularly, the Department of State (DOS) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In Afghanistan, the U.S. military attempted to bridge this divide by establishing a rule of law “field force”—a command with mobile units specifically dedicated to rule of law projects in various areas of operations. 

The purpose of this paper is to identify some of the most frequent obstacles rule of law practitioners experience in military environments, and to suggest that the rule of law field force concept is the best formula for effectively bridging military rule of law tasks with civilian development missions in post conflict arenas and stability operations. 

Rule of Law and the Security Catch-22 

In December of 2006 the Army issued Field Manual (FM) 3-24, Counterinsurgency, commonly abbreviated as COIN. This field manual was the culmination of lessons learned by the military and civilian agencies in the Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively. Since the publication of FM 3-24, and even in the months leading up to it, COIN became the strategy, philosophy, and catechism of the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no shortage of analyses of the wisdom and folly of the U.S. COIN strategy, and there will be grist for the mill for decades to come. Indeed, with the end of the U.S. military mission in Iraq on December 18, 2011, and the current military drawdown in Afghanistan, many wait to see whether the COIN doctrine will prove itself to be sacred or profane. 

A major focus of the COIN debate revolves around the role of the rule of law mission within the COIN strategy. Up to the present, finding the balance between the expediency of the security mission with the long-term investment in rule of law efforts has eluded the U.S. leadership. The essence of COIN is delegitimizing insurgent control while simultaneously building support for the host nation government. Rule of law, under the COIN doctrine, is “a key goal and end state”[3] that stems from the “realization that combat operations without civilian stabilization efforts are insufficient to ‘countering’ or defeating an insurgency.” [4] Rule of law practitioners argue that in order for security gains to be fully realized, rule of law activities must have equal priority alongside kinetic missions. However, conducting rule of law operations in an environment with an active insurgency presents many challenges, and can be prohibitive to civilian rule of law practitioners. Battle space owners are primarily concerned, justifiably so, with carrying out combat and security operations. The result is that those units, organizations, and individuals charged with implementing rule of law operations, more often than not, are relegated to a secondary role in favor of immediate kinetic security gains. 

Europe's Disturbing Precedent in the Cyprus Bailout

March 26, 2013


By George Friedman

The European economic crisis has taken different forms in different places, and Cyprus is the latest country to face the prospect of financial ruin. Overextended banks in Cyprus are teetering on the brink of failure for issuing loans they cannot repay, which has prompted the tiny Mediterranean country, a member of the European Union, to turn to Brussels for help. Late Sunday, the European Union and Cypriot president announced new terms for a bailout that would provide the infusion of cash necessary to prevent bankruptcies in Cyprus' banking sector and, more important, prevent a banking panic from spreading to the rest of Europe.

What makes this crisis different from the previous bailouts for Greece, Ireland or elsewhere are the conditions Brussels has attached for its assistance. Due to circumstances unique to Cyprus, namely the questionable origin of a large chunk of the deposits in its now-stricken banking sector and that sector's small size relative to the overall European economy, the European Union, led by Germany, has taken a harder line with the country. Cyprus has few sources of capital besides its capacity as a banking shelter, so Brussels required that the country raise part of the necessary funds from its own banking sector -- possibly by seizing money from certain bank deposits and putting it toward the bailout fund. The proposal has not yet been approved, but if enacted it would undermine a formerly sacred principle of banking in most industrial nations -- the security of deposits -- setting a new and possibly destabilizing precedent in Europe.

Cyprus' Dilemma

For years before the crisis, Cyprus promoted itself as an offshore financial center by creating a tax structure and banking rules that made depositing money in the country attractive to foreigners. As a result, Cyprus' financial sector grew to dwarf the rest of the Cypriot economy, accounting for about eight times the country's annual gross domestic product and employing a substantial portion of the nation's work force. A side effect of this strategy, however, was that if the financial sector experienced problems, the rest of the domestic economy would not be big enough to stabilize the banks without outside help.

Europe's economic crisis spawned precisely those sorts of problems for the Cypriot banking sector. This was not just a concern for Cyprus, though. Even though Cyprus' banking sector is tiny relative to the rest of Europe's, one Cypriot bank defaulting on what it owed other banks could put the whole European banking system in question, and the last thing the European Union needs now is a crisis of confidence in its banks.

The Cypriots were facing chaos if their banks failed because the insurance system was insufficient to cover the claims of depositors. For its part, the European Union could not risk the financial contagion. But Brussels could not simply bail out the entire banking system, both because of the precedent it would set and because the political support for a total bailout wasn't there. This was particularly the case for Germany, which would carry much of the financial burden and is preparing for elections in September 2013 before an electorate that is increasingly hostile to bailouts.

Even though the German public may oppose the bailouts, it benefits immensely from what those bailouts preserve. As I have pointed out many times, Germany is heavily dependent on exports and the European Union is critical to those exports as a free trade zone. Although Germany also imports a great deal from the rest of the bloc, a break in the free trade zone would be catastrophic for the German economy. If all imports were cut along with exports, Germany would still be devastated because what it produces and exports and what it imports are very different things. Germany could not absorb all its production and would experience massive unemployment.

Currently, Germany's unemployment rate is below 6 percent while Spain's is above 25 percent. An exploding financial crisis would cut into consumption, which would particularly hurt an export-dependent country like Germany. Berlin's posture through much of the European economic crisis has been to pretend it is about to stop providing assistance to other countries, but the fact is that doing so would inflict pain on Germany, too. Germany will make its threats and its voters will be upset, but in the end, the country would not be enjoying high employment if the crisis got out of hand. So the German game is to constantly threaten to let someone sink, while in the end doing whatever has to be done.

Watered down by China

25 March 2013

Indian manufacturers of colours, water guns and plastic toys are facing huge losses due to rising demand for Chinese products in the market 

No matter how much we promote eco-friendly Holi and people resolve to stick to colours made from natural ingredients like kewara and tesu, there are a few who believe that the festival is meaningless without readymade paints and powders. So they are definitely spending money on them, but not on those that are manufactured locally, but the Chinese ones. 

Chinese perfumed sprays, water guns and other plastic toys are selling like hot cakes. And as per the recent survey done by ASSOCHAM there is a sharp decline in small and medium industries (SME) units, forcing widespread job losses in the sector. The survey reveals that over eight to ten lakh people, who were engaged in the business of colour and plastic toys making, are suffering badly and lost their means of livelihood due to invasion by Chinese products. 

As per the survey, nearly 1,000 SMEs have closed so far in the last two to three years with the rise in imports from China. The manufacturers, mainly from Allahabad, Brij Mandal (Agra, Hathras, Mathura and Vrindavan), Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow and Patna have closed down the production. 

“For the past five years, the business of local sprinklers is decreasing due to stiff competition with Chinese sprinklers. They are facing huge loss, as small plastic sprinklers, colourful perfumed sprays made in China are available in the market”, said a local manufacturer and trader of sprinklers. 

The only source of income that manufacturers have is by preparing toys, plastic goods and seasonal business of sprinklers but the Chinese invasion is causing a great threat to their daily earnings. 

“At present, only 12 per cent of the total produced sprinklers have been sold and we still have to meet the cost of manufacturing”, added the manufactures. 

The Caesarism of parties

Mar 27 2013, 02:01 hrs 

The institutional frame of the republic continues to be hollowed out. If there is one thread running through every crisis we face, it is this. A vast majority of our politicians simply do not understand the meaning of one word: institutions. And their inability to do so is undermining our power of any kind of collective action or credible intervention. Every single story last week made citizens want to scream, "It's about institutions, stupid." 

I was discussing the Lok Sabha debate on the anti-rape bill with a group of young, idealistic students, preparing to dedicate their lives to public policy. Even though the bill passed, the debate left them disillusioned to the point of exasperation. One of them offered a description that seemed to be apt for our politics: a bunch of fraternity boys playing a casual parlour game with serious issues. It is hard to contest this description. This is an important legislation dealing with serious issues like violence against women. It raised important questions about the relationship between law and society and the limits of criminal law. And it was introduced against the backdrop of a national crisis. Till Supriya Sule's well-judged outburst, the debate indeed seemed casual if not downright misogynistic. But the importance of the legislation was not just the law itself. This was supposed to be a teachable moment, where the highest authorities come together, draw new moral red lines, and display a resolve to combat a challenging social problem. Instead, the final parliamentary outcome looked more like a grudgingly casual caving in than a moment designed to induce greater self-consciousness. More than half of the MPs were missing, including prominent ones like Rahul Gandhi. It might be unfair to pick on Rahul Gandhi. But his absence matters for two reasons. Read Morris-Jones to remind yourself how Jawaharlal Nehru used all his personal authority to shore up the authority of Parliament. And the absence suggests a contempt for institutions that is worrying. Rahul Gandhi has legitimised the thought that party narcissism trumps everything else. Institutions are not the first priority, they are objects of whims and fancies. 

It should not therefore be a surprise that there has been so much faux outrage at the politicisation of the CBI. That the CBI is not independent and is the handmaiden of political power is not exactly a big secret. The fate of Indian democracy these days is contingent on the control of the CBI. But even by Congress standards, the way they handled the raids on Stalin is an embarrassment. Let us, for a moment, even grant the unlikely possibility that the government had no hand in the raids, that this was simply colossal misjudgement on the CBI's part. But the government's response only sent a signal of its contempt for institutions. If, indeed, the CBI was simply doing its job, albeit with bad timing, why condemn it? In this political football, the chains of authority within organisations are being completely undermined. The government's response had a "thou protesteth too much," quality to it. It was an act of self-incrimination that only someone so casual about institutions could engage in. 

A scheme for the poor, not a poor scheme

Mar 27 2013

Of late, there has been much public debate around the effectiveness of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), particularly on its targeting of the poor and the socioeconomic profile of its beneficiaries (most notably in this newspaper). It is important to look at these claims closely, not as much to counter them but as to present the real picture that has been undermined by often-unsubstantiated criticism. 

To begin with, it is important to keep in mind that the fundamental design of MGNREGA is based on universalisation, that is, any rural household, irrespective of caste, economic status etc, whose adult members are willing to do unskilled manual work, is eligible for work under the programme for up to 100 days a year. The thinking is that this built-in "self-targeting" mechanism makes the programme relatively more attractive to the most poor and marginalised. 

In this article, we analyse whether this targeting is being achieved. Overall, available credible evidence, including from the NSSO, UNDP and many other independent studies, suggests that MGNREGA does a fairly successful job of targeting the poorest and the most vulnerable. 

As per the 2009-10 National Sample Survey Office report on employment, it is the poor who are benefiting more from MGNREGA. Dutta et al (2012), while analysing the NSSO data, note that the participation rate — that is, the share of households working on MGNREGA — is much higher among the poor; 34 per cent of people in the poorest quintile (bottom 20 per cent households) benefited from MGNREGA, versus 14 per cent in the richest quintile (top 20 per cent). In fact, nearly three-quarters of workers are from the poorest 60 per cent of households. Field studies at the micro level find the same trend — a study conducted in Uttar Pradesh by IIM-Lucknow found that around 85 per cent of the scheme's beneficiaries were from below poverty line (BPL) families. 

The NSSO data does note that some households with higher Monthly Per Capita Expenditure (MPCE) participate in the scheme, as mentioned above. However, these are far fewer and could possibly reflect households who have been affected by recent economic shocks. It is also useful to note what "well off" means in the rural Indian context — a person on the 60th percentile in rural India has a MPCE of Rs 1,001, as per NSSO's 66th round in 2009-10, very far from any notion of "well off" that we may have. 

In terms of MGNREGA reaching the marginalised and most vulnerable groups, the evidence is again encouraging. For example, according to the MGNREGA MIS, the participation rate of SCs and STs in MGNREGA is consistently over 40 per cent and far exceeds their share in the population. A panel survey on MGNREGA conducted by NSSO between 2009-11 in the three states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan finds that more than 90 per cent of the beneficiaries of MGNREGA belonged to SC, ST and OBC households. Dutta et al corroborate this finding. They find that the average participation rate of SCs, STs and OBCs exceeds the participation rate of "others" by 12.4 per cent, though there are inter-state variations. The evidence on inclusion goes beyond this as well. A survey led by Reetika Khera and Jean Dreze, conducted in six states, found that 81 per cent of MGNREGA workers lived in kachcha houses and 72 per cent had no electricity at home. The CAG report on MGNREGA, which is going to be tabled in Parliament shortly, may well provide further evidence that MGNREGA is effectively reaching the most marginalised sections of rural India. 

India’s role in Sri Lanka

Domestic challenges complicating the issue

By G Parthasarathy 

With a population of barely 20 million, people in Sri Lanka have, in recent years, shed earlier prejudices and fears about India. Roughly one-thirds of its Tamil population of 3 million constitutes the descendants of Indian workers who sought employment there during colonial rule. They live in the central and southern regions and have elected leaders who have a working relationship with the Sinhala majority. Facing discrimination in the years following independence, Tamils, who have inhabited the island’s northeast for centuries, resorted to an armed struggle, in which India rather unwisely associated with armed Tamil groups in the 1980s. Nevertheless, the 1987 India-Sri Lanka Accord provided substantive autonomy to the Tamil-dominated north. This agreement’s provisions were enacted as the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lanka Constitution. India thus has a historical role and responsibility in facilitating the devolution of powers to the Tamil-majority northern province.

After the ethnic conflict became an armed insurrection in the 1980s, sentiments in Tamil Nadu were inflamed and assumed partisan political dimensions between the two major parties, the AIADMK and the DMK. While the AIADMK under MG Ramachandran initially backed the LTTE, the DMK led by Mr Karunanidhi, who is today the only leader in independent India to be elected as Chief Minister on five occasions, chose to back the rival TELO. Mr Karunanidhi strongly condemned Prabhakaran for assassinating TELO leader Sri Sabarathinam in 1985. While he later proclaimed that Prabhakaran was not a terrorist, he asserted in October 2012 that India cannot forgive the LTTE for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. This statement came after the culmination of the bloody civil war in 2010, when Prabhakaran was killed. 

While both the DMK and AIADMK governments have performed far better in economic and social development in Tamil Nadu than most other state governments in India, Mr Karunanidhi has opted for dynastic succession, handing over the reins of power to his third son Stalin. This proposed change has come at a time when DMK functionaries and even members of Mr Karunanidhi’s family are facing investigations and charges of corruption in the 2G spectrum scandal. In the meantime, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa moved swiftly to up the ante on the horrendous deaths in the last days of the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict. Impartial international observers, however, acknowledge that while there were excesses by the Sri Lankan armed forces, the LTTE could not be exempt from blame because of its use of civilians as human shields --- a tactic it regularly used against the IPKF in 1987-1988. The DMK, with its disciplined party cadres responded by organising mass agitations and whipping up public passions, demanding that India should take the lead in getting Colombo condemned for “genocide”.

Given the present domestic environment, New Delhi is having a difficult time navigating its way to get Colombo to ease up on the heaviness of its military presence and organise free and fair elections in the Tamil-dominated north. This process should lead to the establishment of a significantly empowered provincial government to address the day-to-day needs and aspirations of the Tamil people. With the Congress party lacking leaders with a mass base in Tamil Nadu, New Delhi appears to lack the potential to directly explain to people there why reason has to prevail over emotions in the conduct of foreign policy. A number of basic issues were never understood in the debate in Tamil Nadu. It was never realised that however hard New Delhi tried in the UNHRC, it was inconceivable that any resolution moved by India describing Sri Lankan actions as “genocide”’ would have picked up even five votes in the 47-member UNHCR. South Korea was the only Asian country, apart from India, to support the Washington-backed UNHCR resolution. Even Japan abstained. The US alone was capable of getting its nuanced resolution passed and that too with only 25 out of 47 members voting in its favour. Washington was in no mood to accommodate even minor Indian amendments.

The later Mughal era today

27 Mar 2013

Despite Mulayam Singh Yadav’s prime ministerial ambitions and record of changing his stance like a chameleon, the chances of a Third Front appear very dim

Rajiv Gandhi won an unprecedented electoral victory in the 1985 parliamentary elections with a bigger majority than his grandfather, the great Jawaharlal Nehru, had ever managed. Rajiv is reported to have asserted that he was not interested in studying history, he wanted to make history. 

He was not wrong. A Prime Minister of a great country like India certainly can make history but that does not mean that he should not learn from history. Those who fail to do so are doomed to repeat past disasters.

Chanakya compared the Centre’s relations with the provinces to a wheel, the Centre being the fulcrum and the provinces or the states being the spokes of the wheel. This means that the Centre must be a strong entity to hold the wheel together. Our history of thousands of years underscores the need for a strong Centre. The first Indian empire in history was that of the Mauryas, who established their rule for well over a century from Kashmir in the north to Karnataka in the south and from Kabul in the west to Kamrup in the east. The Mauryas defeated the invasion of the Greeks led by Alexander’s successor, Selucus Nikator. The Mauryan Empire survived for a century and a half. This was followed by five centuries of national disintegration during which India succumbed to repeated invasions of later Greeks and Scythians (Sakas). The Guptas, like the Mauryas, established an extensive empire. They maintained the country’s integrity for over half a century.

Chandragupta decimated the Scythians (Sakas) and Prince Skandagupta defeated the dreaded Huns. Atilla the Hun had devastated Europe and Rome quailed before him. After the Guptas we had instability and a weak Centre succumbing to repeated invasions till the Delhi Sultanate in the 13th century established a strong central rule. After over 150 years, a weak Delhi Sultanate was decisively defeated by Babar, establishing Mughal rule from 1526 till the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, secure against foreign invasions. There was a brief interlude of Sher Shah and his successors. Humayun reestablished Mughal rule. India suffered devastating invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmed Shah Abdali. The great Mughal emperors were reduced to being puppets with strong subedars and rulers in the outlying provinces of the empire becoming very powerful. Emperor Shah Alam, a descendent of the Great Mughals, now ruled from only Delhi to Palam. The Mughal emperors became pensioners of the Marathas and were helpless before the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Wazir of Oudh and the Nawab of Murshidabad. After the battle of Plassey came the first colonial empire in India with the British exiling the last Mughal Emperor to Burma in 1858 and establishing their empire in India for another century. After the Second World War, the British, rendered economically weak and militarily exhausted, had to quit India in 1947.

Great Game in Central Asia After Afghanistan

March 27, 2013 

Could efforts by Russia and America in Central Asia exacerbate tensions and make matters worse? 

As the U.S. and coalition forces prepare to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, with all combat forces out by the end of 2014, the governments of Central Asia are bracing for a possible spillover of instability from their south. Ostensibly to help Central Asian countries protect themselves against the Islamist radicals that may gain strength in post-2014 Afghanistan, the U.S. and Russia are both offering military aid programs to the region's governments. Their rival efforts, though, carry with them possible unintended consequence of exacerbating tensions between Central Asian countries. 

Russia has been building up the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a security bloc made up of ex-Soviet states. The organization has promised to take on a variety of security missions in the ex-Soviet space, from cybersecurity and counternarcotics to preventing “Arab Spring”-type revolutions. But more than anything, Russia has promoted the group as a means of bolstering security in Central Asia as a bulwark against Islamist extremists in Afghanistan who may set their sights on Central Asia. 

Last year, under the auspices of the CSTO, Russia offered a massive $1.1 billion military aid package to Kyrgyzstan, and another $200 million in assistance for Tajikistan. The aid to Kyrgyzstan will reportedly include armored vehicles, artillery and portable surface-to-air missiles, while Tajikistan is slated to get air defense upgrades and repairs to their current equipment. In the last six months, Russia also renegotiated leases for military bases it operates in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, solidifying its position in those countries. 

Meanwhile, neighboring Uzbekistan has been the America's key partner among the ex-Soviet states in its Afghanistan campaign. A large percentage of U.S. military cargo going to Afghanistan passes through Uzbekistan, which has acted as a critical strategic hedge against the volatility of relations with Pakistan. In late 2011, after a NATO incursion from Afghanistan into Pakistan killed several Pakistani soldiers, Islamabad closed its border to Afghanistan for Western military transit, and the supply route through Uzbekistan played a crucial role in ensuring uninterrupted shipments of U.S. troops and materials. 

Uzbekistan has seized this opportunity to build closer military ties with the U.S. The country's president, Islam Karimov, has told American officials that he wants to remake his military, replacing its legacy Russian gear with entirely American equipment. In late 2011 the White House loosened restrictions on military aid to Uzbekistan that had been in place for nearly a decade due to human rights concerns, and so far the U.S. has agreed to supply Uzbekistan with “non-lethal” military equipment including night-vision goggles, global positioning systems (GPS) gear and small surveillance drones. And as the U.S. draws down in Afghanistan, it has promised to leave some of its gear behind in Central Asia; Karimov reportedly has expressed interest in heavier equipment, like helicopters and mine-resistant armored vehicles. 

Kandahar and Hope

March 26, 2013

Kandahar. Ancient crossroads of Central Asia. Home province of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and the site from which Osama bin Laden began to prepare the Sept. 11 attacks. Epicenter of the fight pitting Afghan and NATO forces against the Taliban over the past dozen years. Region where patronage networks led by the likes of the late Ahmed Wali Karzai, together with centuries-old tribal rivalries, have greatly complicated our counterinsurgency campaign and efforts to help Afghans establish good, or at least better, governance. 

Now, Kandahar gives hope to the war effort. The struggle is far from won. But it is much closer to a success than a failure at present, as we saw on a recent trip sponsored by NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.

This is not meant to be happy talk. Kandahar was the sixth day of our trip and the first five days included plenty of discouraging news in Kabul. The tensions between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the United States have intensified to one of their worst levels ever, the corruption problems in the Afghan government remain serious, Pakistan is still playing a largely unhelpful role in the conflict, and uncertainty about America’s and NATO’s future presence in Afghanistan after the end of the current mission in 2014 looms large in every conversation. 

But for all that, it is still remarkable, and genuinely encouraging, to see what has happened down south. This area of the country has long been viewed as the heart of the war effort. Prevent Afghanistan from returning to a safe haven for Al Qaeda by denying the Taliban any real hope of restoring an Islamic caliphate, keep Kabul and other population centers relatively safe and secure, protect the road networks, and nurse the young Afghan democracy toward greater functionality — this remains the prescription for at least a partial success in Afghanistan. And developments in Kandahar in recent years, which have further accelerated in recent months, suggest that these objectives may still be achievable. 

Violence in Kandahar province is down by two-thirds over the past two years. Kandahar city is thriving, with markets and schools full of life. Surveys of the population report some 60 percent of locals generally satisfied with their personal security and their economic circumstances even as they remain less positive on the quality of local government. The Arghandab Valley just to the city’s north and west, the site of bloody military campaigns in recent years, is now largely calm. In Zhary and Panjway, longtime Taliban strongholds, a number of villages have recently risen up against the Taliban and asked the Afghan government to establish Afghan Local Police units to protect them. The patronage network dominated by Ahmed Wali Karzai until his death two years ago has splintered — meaning that, while corruption is still a major problem (exacerbated alas by much of the money NATO has poured into the area), spoils are spread more equally among different political leaders and tribes. That development may reduce the ability of the Taliban to recruit disaffected followers from disenfranchised communities. 

Jonathan Kay: What Pakistan needs is a South Asian Anwar Sadat

By  Jonathan Kay 

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf 
Power is an addictive drug. And like all addictions, it can drive men to reckless, even suicidal risks. 

Of this, there is no better example than Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s President from 2001 to 2008 — during which time he was the target of at least four assassination attempts, including a massive bomb blast that blew up a bridge in Rawalpindi mere moments after his convoy passed over it. For the last five years, he has been living a cushy retirement in London and Dubai. Yet now, aged 69, he has decided to try for a comeback amid Pakistan’s chaos and car bombs. 

His plane landed in Karachi on Sunday. And the jihadis who spent the post-9/11 years trying to kill Musharraf now will get another chance. To them, the returning ex-president must seem like one of those carnival shooting-gallery ducks that crosses back and forth until someone pops it with a pellet gun. 

Perhaps Musharaf misses the celebrity status he attained in the West during the 2000s. As the United States ramped up its war effort in neighbouring Afghanistan, Musharaf was seen as a sophisticated military-trained moderate who could prevent the whole region (including Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal) from falling into the hands of jihadi hordes. “After me, come the men with beards” was the subtext to all of his dealings Western leaders. 

George W. Bush and everyone else took him at his word. And an uncountable number of newspaper editorials appeared demanding that Musharraf “rein in” the Taliban-enablers — both within his own military’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and otherwise. But he never did, because he never could. 

As the 9/11 Commission Report made clear, no one in the West really paid much attention to the region in the years following the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. And it was only when NATO troops started getting killed by a Taliban guerrilla army headquartered in Quetta and Waziristan that we began realizing that Pakistan wasn’t a normal country — in the sense that its central government doesn’t even pretend to exercise full autonomy over much of its northern hinterlands. 

'Pak-linked terror attack on India could undo thaw'

March 13, 2013 

With the Lashkar-e-Taeba (LeT), believed to be behind the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, remaining Pakistan's most problematic militant group, the US fears an Islamabad-linked terrorist attack against India could undo efforts to improve ties between them.

"Both India and Pakistan 

have made calculated decisions to improve ties, despite deep-rooted mistrust," US director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in his annual report to the US Congress on Tuesday on the threats facing the United States.

"They held a series of meetings in the past year and will probably continue to achieve incremental progress on economic relations, such as trade, while deferring serious discussion on the more contentious issues of territorial disputes and terrorism," he noted. 

"Even modest progress, however, could easily be undone by a terrorist attack against India linked to Pakistan, which could trigger a new crisis and prompt New Delhi to freeze bilateral dialogue," Clapper warned in the report giving the assessment 16 US intelligence agencies. 

LeT "will continue to be the most multifaceted and problematic of the Pakistani militant groups," the report said suggesting "the group has the long-term potential to evolve into a permanent and even Hamas/ Hizballah-like presence in Pakistan." 

Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic organization that has governed the Gaza Strip since June 2007, while Hizballah (the Party of God) is a Lebanon-based Shia terrorist group formed in 1982 in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. 

In US intelligence assessment the Taliban-led insurgency has diminished in some areas of Afghanistan but remains resilient and capable of challenging US and international goals. 

Taliban senior leaders also continue to be based in Pakistan, which allows them to provide strategic guidance to the insurgency without fear for their safety, the report said. 

Al-Qaeda's influence on the insurgency is limited, although its propaganda gains from participating in insurgent attacks far outweigh its actual battlefield impact, it said. 

"India will continue to support the current Afghan Government to ensure a stable and friendly Afghanistan," the report said, as "India sees its goals in Afghanistan as consistent with US objectives, and favours sustained ISAF (The International Security Assistance Force) and US presence in the country." 

Japan breaks China's stranglehold on rare metals with sea-mud bonanza

Japanese scientists have found vast reserves of rare earth metals on the Pacific seabed that can be mined cheaply, a discovery that may break the Chinese monopoly on a crucial raw material needed in hi-tech industries and advanced weapons systems. 

 24 Mar 2013 

The team have found deposits just two to four metres from the seabed surface at higher concentrations than anybody ever thought existed. 

"We have found deposits that are just two to four metres from the seabed surface at higher concentrations than anybody ever thought existed, and it won't cost much at all to extract," said professor Yasuhiro Kato from Tokyo University, the leader of the team. 

While America, Australia, and other countries have begun to crank up production of the seventeen rare earth elements, they have yet to find viable amounts of the heavier metals such as dysprosium, terbium, europium, and ytterbium that are most important. 

China has a near total monopoly in the heavier end of the spectrum, though it is also the dominant supplier of the whole rare earth complex after driving rivals out of business in the 1990s. It still accounts for 97pc of global supply. 

Beijing shocked the world when it suddenly began to restrict exports in 2009, prompting furious protests and legal complaints by both the US and the EU at the World Trade Organisation. China claimed that it was clamping down on smuggling and environmental abuse. 

"Their real intention is to force foreign companies to locate plant in China. They're saying `if you want our rare earth metals, you must build your factory here, and we can then steal your technology," said professor Kato. 

Changing faces

China’s new leaders have shuffled their foreign-affairs team. Relations with other big powers will soon be tested Mar 23rd 2013 

WITH only a single dissenter among nearly 3,000 delegates, on March 14th the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s legislature, vested Xi Jinping with the formal title of state president. He had already been made head of the Communist Party and of the armed forces in November. Now Mr Xi is ready for a new role as global statesman—and the world is wondering how he will act. 

One of the few clues may be found in his decision to go to Moscow on March 22nd (he will continue to Africa, see article). At a time when the Americans are talking of reordering their security priorities with a so-called “pivot” towards Asia, some Chinese commentators have interpreted Mr Xi’s decision to visit Russia first as a gesture aimed at America. China, after all, sees the pivot as menacing, despite American efforts to persuade it otherwise. 

First trips matter: leaders meet friends before those with whom they have trickier relations. China and Russia, antagonists a few decades ago, are now on remarkably good terms. President Vladimir Putin has been assiduous in cultivating Mr Xi. Both countries resent American global dominance, as well as Western intervention in others’ affairs, notably in Syria. And as a new report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace points out, with tensions between China and Japan rising alarmingly over island disputes, Mr Xi may want to reaffirm smooth relations on China’s long Russian flank. 

Staying cordial with Russia is a priority for China. A Sino-Soviet split in the late 1950s taught both countries how draining tensions can be along a border that today stretches more than 4,000km (2,500 miles). Yet for all their “strategic friendship”, relations are not as good as they could be. To Chinese chagrin, the Russians have supplied advanced weaponry to India and Vietnam, two countries that are not on stellar terms with China. From Russia’s perspective, whereas China was until recently a chief buyer of Russian arms, it has now become a chief competitor—often with copied Russian designs. 

Energy also reveals the limits to Russian and Chinese cosiness. The two countries have bickered long and hard over China’s request for access to more of Russia’s oil and gas. Proposals to pipe natural gas from Russia to China have been stalled for years because of haggling over prices (see article). Hopes were raised last month when Gazprom, a Russian energy giant close to Mr Putin, said it would sign a gas deal with China by the end of the year. There have been false dawns before, though recent negotiations have been unusually intense. 

One Thing China and the USSR DON’T Have in Common

By Harry Kazianis 
March 26, 2013 

As I recovered from a rough bout of jetlag over the weekend, I came across an interesting piece by William Wan over at the Washington Post. The article explores China’s study of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The author points out that, “the shadow of the U.S.S.R. still hangs over many parts of Chinese society. What is considered bygone Cold War history by much of the rest of the world, even by many in Russia, lives on in China.” Wan goes on to note “The obsession is fueled by the fear that, with a few wrong steps, China’s Communist Party would face a similar fate.” 

Comparisons between the Soviet Union and China are certainly all the rage these days. The Diplomat has covered this subject several times, with an excellent piece by Center for National Interest’s A. Greer Miesels and another by China Power Blogger David Cohen – well worth your time. 

While there are many areas scholars can try and draw comparisons between the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and the CCP—such as political power, economic reform, technological innovation, and foreign affairs— the roll that massive military spending played in the Soviet Union’s collapse is one area that China should study. 

Although figures from different sources vary dramatically (with one estimate as high as 40% of the budget and an amazing 15-20% of GDP by the early 1980s), the Soviet Union spent tremendous sums of rubbles on its military. From MIRV’d missiles and advanced nuclear submarines, to the latest jet fighters, Moscow spent lavishly on the most advanced weapon systems to keep pace in a global struggle for dominance — the classic guns or butter example. As America built companies like IBM, Apple and Microsoft the CPSU struggled to stock its shelves with basic necessities. 

So what does China spend on its defense? In a recent piece, Andrew Erickson he observes that

“Even during the past decade of rapid increases to defense spending, the official defense budget has held steady at roughly 1.3-1.5 percent of GDP—when calculated based on high-end foreign estimates of actual total defense spending during the same period the figure still falls between 2 and 3 percent of GDP.” 

For all the talk of new aircraft carriers, advanced missiles, and a blue-water navy, China’s military modernization is nowhere near Soviet levels or anywhere near where it could harm its economy. 

Tanzanian Pearl

Mar 27 2013


Whether the "string of pearls" theory is credible or not, China continues to invest in the development of new ports all across the Indian Ocean littoral. After building deep-water sea ports in Gwadar (Pakistan) and Hambantota in Sri Lanka and outlining plans for another in Kyaukphyu (Myanmar), China is now ready to build another at Bagamoyo, on Tanzania's coast. 

While these ports are civilian, they also help the Chinese navy operate worldwide. As Xu Guangyu, from the China Arms Control Association, told a Hong Kong newspaper this week, the Chinese navy needs resupply bases as it ventures far from home waters. 

China's plans for Bagamoyo came into international view during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Tanzania this week en-route to the BRICS summit. The port at Bagamoyo, which happens to be near the hometown of Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, is expected to cost around $10 billion and would help relieve the pressure on the country's only port in the capital city, Dar es Salaam. A Chinese state-owned company, China Merchants Group, will lead the port construction. Beijing also has plans to develop a special economic zone near Bagamoyo. 

Xi signed 16 separate agreements for economic cooperation and sealed what Beijing calls an "all-weather" friendship with Tanzania. China is already Tanzania's biggest trading partner and the second-largest investor. China and Tanzania also have an expanding defence cooperation. China supplies a range of basic military equipment to Tanzanian armed forces. The Tanzanian navy and coast guard are built around Chinese vessels. Chinese trainers stepped in when India pulled out in the 1980s from a military college at Arusha that it had helped set up after the liberation of Tanzania. 

Since 2000, when two ships of the Chinese navy called at Dar es Salaam, maritime cooperation between the two countries has steadily expanded. Chinese naval units conducting anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden frequently call on Dar es Salaam. 

The discovery of massive natural gas deposits off the coast of Tanzania and neighbouring Mozambique has lent a new dimension to China's strategic interest in the waters of East Africa. 

Top Chinese university working closely with PLA cyber-war unit

26 Mar 2013

Faculty members at a top Chinese university have collaborated for years on technical research papers with a People's Liberation Army (PLA) unit accused of being at the heart of China's alleged cyber-war against Western commercial targets.

Several papers on computer network security and intrusion detection, easily accessed on the Internet, were co-authored by researchers at PLA Unit 61398, allegedly an operational unit actively engaged in cyber-espionage, and faculty at Shanghai Jiaotong University, a centre of academic excellence with ties to some of the world's top universities and attended by the country's political and business elite.

The apparent working relationship between the PLA unit and Shanghai Jiaotong is in contrast to common practice in most developed nations, where university professors in recent decades have been reluctant to cooperate with operational intelligence gathering units.

The issue of cyber-security is testing ties between the world's two biggest economies, prompting US President Barack Obama to raise concerns over computer hacking in a phone call with new Chinese President Xi Jinping. China denies it engages in state-sponsored hacking, saying it is a victim of cyber-attacks from the United States.

There is no evidence to suggest any Shanghai Jiaotong academics who co-authored papers with Unit 61398 worked with anyone directly engaged in cyber-espionage operations, as opposed to research.

"The issue is operational activity - whether these research institutions have been involved in actual intelligence operations," said James Lewis, director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "That's something the U.S. does not do."

"(In the US) there's a clear line between an academic researcher and people engaged in operational (intelligence gathering) activities."

Shanghai Jiaotong declined to comment.


In reviewing the links between the PLA and Shanghai Jiaotong - whose alumni include former president Jiang Zemin, the head of China's top automaker and the former CEO of its most popular internal portal - Reuters found at least three papers on cyber- warfare on a document-sharing web site that were co-authored by university faculty members and PLA researchers.

The papers, on network security and attack detection, state on their title pages they were written by Unit 61398 researchers and professors at Shanghai Jiaotong's School of Information Security Engineering (SISE).

The Final Frontier

For savvy investors looking to diversify their portfolios, there’s only one place left to go: sub-Saharan Africa. 

MARCH 26, 2013 

In popular culture, sub-Saharan Africa may still conjure images of conflict and poverty, yet investors from Wall Street to Main Street are taking a decidedly rosier view. Africa's surging growth is now well known -- the region is home to six of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world. "Never in the half-century since it won independence from the colonial powers has Africa been in such good shape," gushed a recent special report in The Economist. 

If you had jumped on this bandwagon in 2012, you too would be an Afro-optimist. Investors may be thrilled that the S&P 500 index rose a cheery 13 percent in 2012 and is up another 8 percent this year -- but this pales next to Nigeria's stock market, which spiked 35 percent last year and is up another 18 percent so far this year. Ghana (up 24 percent), Uganda (up 39 percent), and Kenya (up 30 percent) also posted strong showings in 2012, and even longtime economic basket case Zimbabwe is up 20 percent in 2013. 

But potentially huge returns are only part of the reason to invest in one of sub-Saharan Africa's budding equity markets. The real play is diversification. As we discovered in our recently released study for the Center for Global Development, African bourses are among the last of a rare and endangered species -- stock markets that remain uncorrelated with the major global exchanges. 

Diversification is a basic principle of asset allocation. Few investors want to put all their eggs in one basket, thus risking losing it all in the event of a downturn. By spreading around one's assets in markets that do not move in a synchronized manner, investment risks can be dramatically lessened. However, all this depends on finding markets that move independently from each other. 

But an irony of globalization is that as financial markets integrate, they respond to similar events -- and thus the benefits of spreading one's assets across different markets shrinks. These linkages can lead to contagion in times of crisis -- such as Mexico in 1994 or Thailand in 1998 -- when panic in one country can plunge markets into crisis on the other side of the globe. 

The old exotic is already the new normal: Traditional emerging markets, like those in Latin America or Asia, are even more strongly correlated with the United States than we expected. The main U.S. and European stock market indices monthly correlation is about 0.9 (with 1 meaning they move in perfect sync), and Latin America is not far behind. The correlation of the S&P 500 with a weighted average of Latin American stock indices reached 0.86 in 2010, up from a meager 0.15 in 1992. That means, when the Dow moves on Tuesday, it's highly likely that markets in Sao Paolo and Beijing will follow suit. 

Remarks as Delivered by DNI James R. Clapper on the 2013 Worldwide Assessment

March 12, 2013 

Remarks as delivered by
James R. Clapper
Director of National Intelligence

Worldwide Threat Assessment to the
Provided to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

March 12 2013

Think Again: North Korea

North Korea is a lot more dangerous than you think, but that doesn't mean that Kim Jong Un is insane. 

MARCH 25, 2013 

"North Korea's not that dangerous." 

Wrong. There is no threat of war on the Korean peninsula because the United States and South Korea have deterred the regime for over six decades, or so the thinking goes. And the occasional provocation from Pyongyang -- full of sound and fury -- usually ends with it blowing up in its face, signifying nothing. So why worry? Two reasons. First, North Korea has a penchant for testing new South Korean presidents. A new one was just inaugurated in February, and since 1992, the North has welcomed these five new leaders by disturbing the peace. Whether in the form of missile launches, submarine incursions, or naval clashes, these North Korean provocations were met by each newly elected South Korean president with patience rather than pique. 

The difference today is that South Korea is no longer turning the other cheek. After the North blew up the South Korean navy ship the Cheonan, killing 46 sailors in 2010, Seoul re-wrote the rules of military engagement. It has lost patience and will respond kinetically to any provocation, which could escalate into a larger conflict. Second, North Korea crossed a major technology threshold in December, when it successfully launched a satellite into orbit. Though the satellite later malfunctioned, the North managed to put the payload into orbit with ballistic missile launch technology that is clearly designed to reach the United States. 

This development appears to validate former U.S. Defense Secretary Bob Gates's January 2011 claim that the regime was only five years away from fielding a missile that could threaten the continental United States. To make matters worse, Pyongyang conducted a third nuclear test in February, which appears to have been more successful than the previous two. Within President Barack Obama's second term in office, North Korea could well be the third nation (after Russia and China) to field a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile targeted at the United States. Moreover, the North has sold every weapons system it has developed to the likes of Iran, Pakistan, and Syria. That's worth losing sleep over. 

But there's another point that is often overlooked: North Korea today can threaten all of South Korea and parts of Japan with its conventional missiles and its conventional military. The North can fire 500,000 rounds of artillery on Seoul in the first hour of a conflict. Stability has held for 60 years because the U.S. security alliances with South Korea and Japan make it clear to the North Korean leadership that if they attacked South Korea or Japan, they would lose both the war and their country. And, for half a century, neither side believed that the benefits of starting a major war outweighed the costs. The worry is that the new North Korean leader might not hold to the same logic, given his youth and inexperience. 

Can the Marines Survive?

If America's amphibious force doesn't adapt, it'll be dead in the water. 

MARCH 26, 2013 

On one day in 1965, a large sortie of U.S. Air Force F-105s dropped over 600 750-pound bombs on the Thanh Hoa Bridge, just 70 kilometers south of Hanoi. The result was the loss of five U.S. aircraft and a complete failure to destroy the bridge. Amazingly, the bridge would withstand over 800 more sorties from U.S. aircraft in the next seven years and receive the moniker "The Dragon's Jaw" because of its seeming indestructability and the nearby air defenses that stymied U.S. forces. Finally, in 1972, a sortie of F-4Ds carrying the new Paveway laser-guided bomb destroyed the Thanh Hoa Bridge. 

Although not obvious at the time, the advent of the Paveway marked the beginning of a dramatic transformation in U.S. military technology that would change warfare forever. The revolution in precision munitions that began then has so accelerated in recent years that enemy forces can no longer operate in formations and in mass. They simply present too big a target. That, in turn, means that the days of U.S. corps, divisions, and brigades maneuvering on a battlefield with tanks, artillery, and motorized/mechanized infantry are numbered. Our surveillance capabilities allow us to sense everything on the battlefield. Any sizable vehicle formation, or single vehicle for that matter, can be destroyed with the click of a button half a world away. On today's battlefield, movement means death. 

A lively debate is taking place within the Pentagon these days over how to adapt to this new reality. The Air Force and the Navy have come up with a new concept called Air-Sea Battle, which focuses on integrating naval and air forces to defeat adversaries with precision weapons backed by robust intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets. Simply put, the Air Force and the Navy are embracing new technology and have come to understand that with an integrated approach they should be able to defeat an enemy that is hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles away. 

By contrast, the Marines -- and the Army -- are still trained in infantry tactics that would be recognizable to a World War II vet, organized to fight big land battles with heavy tanks and armored personnel carriers. There's an elephant walking around the Pentagon these days and everyone is trying to ignore it. No one wants to talk about the fact that land forces, as currently organized, are becoming increasingly irrelevant. This is not to say that there is no use for ground troops. They are needed, but in future conflicts they will only play a secondary role. Land forces will no longer win wars. Computers, missiles, planes, and drones will. If the Marines want to survive, we're going to have to adapt -- and fast.