3 September 2014

Putin’s Chilling Kazakhstan Comments

By Casey MIchel
September 03, 2014

The Russian president fires a rhetorical warning shot across the bow of another neighbor.

There are few places more dangerous these days than to be a friend to the Kremlin. Those in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner sanctum have seen their purse-strings snipped and their passports blocked. Those most integrated with the Russian economy – either through trade or gastarbeiter programs – have watched their economic potential tumble alongside Moscow’s. Over the past six months, the Kremlin’s embrace has morphed into a suffocating squeeze, draining the region’s commercial appeal and gutting any weight the Eurasian Union (EEU) could have boasted.

To the Kremlin, friendship is a four-letter word. And it seems that Kazakhstan, which has continuously and publicly supported Russia’s geopolitical flailings, knows this better than anyone. Not only has Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev watched his country’s economic surge stumble through the Kremlin’s actions, but he’s witnessed Putin mangle Nazarbayev’s original EEU dream beyond recognition.

But if Kazakhstan wasn’t already aware of the potential daggers lining their relationship to the north – for those in the country still believing Russia provided some beacon of righteousness and prosperity – Putin’s comments at the recent Seliger Youth Forum should give them pause.

A few days after Minsk’s EEU summit, which saw a palpably tired Nazarbayev attempt to broker some kind of mediation, Putin fielded a question from a young woman at Seliger about the role of nationalism in Kazakhstan, and the potential impact the putative jingoism could have on relations with Russia.

Putin answered at relative length, but before getting into the exegesis of his thoughts, it’s worth circling back to the girl’s question. Not only did the woman, an obvious plant, cite Nazarbayev as the most important “restraining factor” in tamping the alleged Kazakh nationalism, she also made a point of Kazakhs not “correctly understanding Russian political rhetoric,” and asked if there was any reason to expect “a Ukrainian scenario upon Nazarbayev’s departure.”

As to her observation of some “growth” of Kazakh nationalism, this is, technically, true. Pushback to the Eurasian Union, with concomitant concerns about a loss of Kazakhstani sovereignty to an overbearing Russia, has found a public presence in Kazakhstan in 2014. And this was new, especially among the handful of protestersdiscussing the “virus” of Russian imperialism. But not only is the concept of a saber-rattling Kazakh nationalism laughable, it pales in comparison to, say, the “Russia for Russians!” crowd. There isn’t a reason for any level-headed person to believe Kazakh chauvinism presents any credible threat to non-Kazakh citizens – all the more against Russians.

Balancing act: Strategic ties with both Japan, China possible

September 02, 2014
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Much has been achieved during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s just-concluded visit to Japan. He wanted some solid results to emerge from his postponed journey. Pragmatic thinking on his part won over the symbolism of which country he would first visit bilaterally. The time gained has produced more results, compensating for any earlier disappointment.

The Japan-China rivalry over who should receive the first handshake from Modi has also got deftly side-stepped by the prime minister receiving the Chinese foreign minister before any other foreign dignitary on Indian soil and preceding his Japan visit by meeting Chinese President Xi Jingping on foreign soil in a multilateral setting. The Japanese were very keen that Modi’s first bilateral visit abroad should be to Japan. That bid has succeeded in spirit, in that the prime minister’s first bilateral visit outside the neighbourhood is to Japan.

These are not mere diplomatic games of temporary importance. The sharp deterioration of China-Japan relations has given India cards to play in the triangular strategic geometry now increasingly defining the relationships between these three Asian powers. Japan, allied to the US, has the protective shield of American power, but the intensity of US-China financial and economic ties and the US’ reluctance to openly confront China, makes Japan less confident about relying on a single country, however powerful, to manage the emerging China threat. It is logical for it to work with India strategically to build political and security firewalls against an assertive China, with which India too has concerns that parallel those of Japan.

Modi’s several overtures to China, including the early invitation to the Chinese President to visit India earlier than initially planned, is another instance of his pragmatic approach to foreign policy that seeks to shift the focus away from bilateral political differences to economic cooperation so that gains for India and its partners can be maximised through increased trade, investment and technology transfers.

Bangladeshi Muslim population grows 5-7% in Assam and West Bengal

2011 Census data shows in many districts of Assam, Bengal they are in a maority

The religion data findings of Census 2011 show exponential growth in Muslim population of Bangladeshi origin over the last census in several districts across Assam and West Bengal.
The data was complied last week by the Office of Registrar General of India (RGI) and the Census Commissioner. It shows 5-7 percentage point increase in absolute terms of Bangladeshi Muslim population over the 2001 census data in nearly all districts of Assam and West Bengal bordering Bangladesh, sources told dna.

So, how many Bangladeshi Muslims are there?
"In most districts of Assam and West Bengal bordering Bangladesh, their population has either become majority or threatening to become majority. The uniform increase of 5-7 percent clearly shows illegal migration has remained unchecked during the last decade," a source said.
How's the new demographic changing politics?
The All India United Democratic Front of Badruddin Ajmal, said to be supported by Bangladeshi Muslims, won three seats – Karimganj, Dhubri and Barpeta – in the LS elections. Incidentally, Muslim population is the highest in these places.

Doesn't it vindicate the BJP stand?
Yes. Large-scale illegal immigration of Bangladeshi Muslims was the party's main poll plank in the recent Lok Sabha elections. Riding this plank, the BJP won 7 parliamentary seats, an all-time high, in Assam.

What's the govt reaction?
The data, being kept under tight wraps, was discussed in two back-to-back meetings by home minister Rajnath Singh, secretary Anil Goswami and RGI Dr C Chandramouli last week. A presentation of the findings is now being readied for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The government is expected to kick-start a series of steps to check the demographic fallouts.

What's the break-up of the population?
Muslim population, mostly of Bangladeshi origin, is 59% in Barpeta, 36% in Cachar, 52% in Karimganj, 74% in Dhubri, 51% in Nagaon, 25% in Kamrup, 54% in Goalpara, 57% in Hailakandi, 47% in Uttar Dinajpur, 24% in South Dinajpur, 52% in Malda, 25% in Cooch Behar and 64% in Murshidabad as per 2001 census.


S.L. Rao 
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Indira Gandhi as prime minister led India in a war that culminated in the creation of Bangladesh. She was titled “Empress of India” by the London Economist. Atal Bihari Vajpayee called her Durga. In a few years, she declared the Emergency, arrested most Opposition leaders and gave her second son, Sanjay, unbridled powers. Congressmen meekly consented to her dictatorial powers. She asked for a “committed” bureaucracy, and a “committed” judiciary. She succeeded with the bureaucracy. It became so powerful that in the Manmohan Singh years it had a stranglehold on government, with cushy post-retirement jobs, protection of corrupt colleagues, and engagement in increasingly blatant corruption. The Congress litany in the years of Indira Gandhi was that “there was no alternative” to her as leader of the Congress, and as one who could keep it together. Indira Gandhi marginalized competition in her party by inducting potential competitors to the Centre. They lost their support base. Y.B. Chavan was an example. Jayaprakash Narayan was the towering pre-Independence figure who opposed her. His opposition and the Emergency led to the creation of the Janata Party government into which other political parties, including the Jana Sangh, merged themselves. He died and the Janata formation fell apart into its earlier constituents. 

Today, besides the failures of an inept Congress party, government and ministers, Narendra Modi’s election campaigning and the diligent fieldwork of thousands of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh volunteers have given the Bharatiya Janata Party an overwhelming majority in the Lok Sabha. In a few months, the BJP might well dislodge many of the remaining Congress and regional party governments in the states. It will take little time for the BJP to control the Rajya Sabha as well. With the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and most state legislatures under BJP control, Modi will have unprecedented power over his party, and the Central and state governments. His election speeches showed that he had a vision and a plan for transforming India into a developed nation, abolishing poverty and making India a global power. We have to wait for decisive reform actions from this government, maybe two years away. As with Indira Gandhi, murmurs have already begun which will become a roar, that “there is no alternative” to Modi. 

When Jawaharlal Nehru was prime minister, there were many potential successors. Many were powerful chief ministers or political leaders. Jayaprakash Narayan, S.K. Patil, B.G. Kher, B.C. Roy, Govind Vallabh Pant, Y.B. Chavan, S Nijalingappa, Devraj Urs, and many others could have succeeded him. Although he was immensely popular, with full control over the Central government and the party, the states had their own powerful leaders. He had to consult them. There were no comments that “there was no alternative” to Nehru.

*** Syria's foreign jihadis: Where do they come from?

By Richard Allen Greene and Inez Torre, CNN
 Mon Sept 01, 2014

At least two Americans have been killed in Syria, and the video of James Foley's beheading is narrated by a man who seems to have a London accent, raising fears about the number of American and British Muslims going to fight in Syria. But do the U.S. and UK have the greatest problems? CNN crunched the numbers from 25 countries that have given official estimates of how many have gone to fight.

More than 11,000 people have traveled from abroad to fight in Syria, officials suggest, although some have gone back home again. They ally themselves with different factions, and sometimes change loyalties as groups merge, disband or change allegiances. Naturally, countries with bigger Muslim populations tend to send the largest number of fighters.

But some countries with relatively small Muslim populations have sent a disproportionately large number of jihadis. Finland and Ireland have the highest number of foreign fighters per capita -- nearly one per 1,400 Muslims living in those countries has gone to Syria. 

Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population, but tiny numbers of fighters going to Syria. And even countries closer to the conflict such as Turkey, Algeria and Morocco have sent relatively few. (Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, which all have more Muslims than any country other than Indonesia, have not issued official estimates of how many of their citizens, if any, have gone to Syria.) Viewing this on mobile? Click here to see a larger version of this map.

All 25 countries in the study

Britain and France have comparable percentages of local Muslims going to fight in Syria -- just over one in 6,000 British Muslims and one in 6,666 French Muslims have gone to Syria, governments say. The figures in the Netherlands are not far off, around one in 7,700. American Muslims are going to Syria at a much lower rate, closer to one in 25,000. 

*** On “Ridding The World” Of “The Islamic State” By BG. Huba Wass de Czege

By Brigadier General Huba Wass de Czege, US Army, Retired
September 1, 2014 

On “Ridding the World” of “The Islamic State” (IS, ISIS, ISIL Or Whatever It Is Called Tomorrow)

Calls to denounce The Islamic State (IS) group, a movement led by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi that has become the scourge of Iraq and Syria, are coming from all quarters, including from the Pope in the Vatican[1], the Grand Mufti of Sunni Islam in Egypt[2], the US Media[3], the US Secretary of Defense[4], and the US President. So far the US has restricted its operations to defensive and humanitarian actions in Iraq. They would all like to rid the world of this “cancer,” as the President referred to it after the beheading of journalist James Foley. The question is by what conceptual strategy of ends ways and means? And, particularly, how can the moral forces at work in the global Sunni Muslim community be harnessed in support of this aim? [5] My purpose here is to outline the logic for a strategy to remove the IS regime from Syria and Iraq and to replace it with an interim regime that can evolve in several directions depending on a broader strategy beyond Iraq and Syria. This new logic avoids the conceptual faults of the long, costly and mostly indecisive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Any limited, and convenient, effort against IS may satisfy immediate political pressures, but could only make matters worse. It might be better to do nothing beyond the defensive and humanitarian efforts of the present. Consider what happened in Libya with a limited intervention there. Is America safer with Qadafi gone?

Ridding the world of this scourge will require more than the wishful thinking and half-measures that took America to War in Afghanistan and Iraq. It will require deep commitment not only by Americans (and therefore a congressional vote of confidence), but it will also require the commitment of a broad coalition to share the burdens and carry it out. Most of all, it will require clear and realistic thinking about warfare in the modern age.

I think it is important to consider strategies for accomplishing the task at the heart of the crisis first, then to consider strategies beyond that to support the core strategy, and finally to consider future strategies that can be enabled by the previous ones.

What To Do About IS: A Core Strategy

If anything will be done about IS, an American led coalition will do it, and Iraq and Syria must be seen as one theater of war[6]. It will take capable and reliable ground troops as well as air power.[7] And the strategy has to be more than “degrading” al-Baghdadi’s “terrorist Army” whether by a bombing campaign or by that and some friendly Arabs on the ground. Surveillance drones, spy planes, and spy satellites in space orbit may provide imagery and other data to support a broad bombing campaign against weapons, hardware, and fixed facilities but, after 12 years of unfettered overflying and aerial spying the 2003 Iraq invasion encountered many unpleasant surprises, such as the role, large size, and dispositions of the defensive forces Saddam Hussein trusted most, the paramilitary Saddam Fedayeen. And after the 77th day of bombing and over flight in the Kosovo Air War, the NATO side was surprised to see that most of the Serbian tank forces emerged unharmed from hiding and withdrew in orderly columns.[8] If this is the way we plan to approach the IS problem we have learned little about strategy from past wars,.

An exclusive focus on the opening battle against the military arm of IS resembles the faulty military strategies for Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The thinking of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks approached military strategy the wrong way, and also suffered from faulty thinking about military power. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, an opening “shock and awe” battle-winning strategy was not followed with a well-thought-through war-winning one. Good things do not necessarily follow the removal of a “bad” regime. As a result, interventions expected by their designers to be short became very long instead. In this case, there is no reason to believe that destroying IS weapons, hardware, and fixed facilities would bring about IS regime collapse. This strategy will be costly, indecisive, and may bring more recruits and support to IS. It will also kill and maim many people who are not supporters but victims of IS tyranny.

Expectations for the viability of such strategies are shaped by still-dominant theories about offensive military power that require revision. They are mostly attempts to breathe new life into outdated theories of offensive war with modern weaponry. Military minds are still in the grip of an age-old theory of offensive war. This theory holds that the destructive military instrument operates on the state of mind of leaders, followers, and supporters, causing them to give up fighting and accept the will of their enemy. It applies mostly to winning battles and firefights with people who are not fanatics. It is a very insufficient theory for winning wars. Such thinking today allots undeserved causal power to the “shock and awe” of modern air and naval weaponry over the decisions of hostile governments and other relevant human actors. It skews the cost-benefit calculus of choosing war by minimizing the costs of success and exaggerating the efficacy of its methods. Worse still, it ignores an important scientific finding by Canadian Psychologist J. T. McCurdy about the 1940 London “Blitz” that has not been proven wrong since its publication in 1943-the inevitable hardening of will beyond the immediate deadly and traumatizing range of bombs and missiles.[9] Regardless of what happens to the networks, heavy weapons, supply depots and infrastructures of the Islamic State’s “terrorist army,” when the towns and villages now occupied by IS are bombed and strafed based on this theory, IS leaders, cadres and the people who support them will decide to continue resistance. And enraged civilian victims will join them. Events will have gained them recruits and solidified their collective resolve more than reduced their numbers and cowed them.

Transforming An Intolerable Status Quo Into An Acceptable One

Changing Geopolitical Challenges and India’s Foreign Policy

Sep 1, 2014 

Mr. Kacker, Director of the IHC - and my friend Uday Bhaskar, Director of the Society for Policy Studies and Chairperson for this evening, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I wish to compliment the India Habitat Centre and the SPS for initiating a new series of lectures on the theme of Changing Asia. 

I am honored for being asked to deliver the inaugural lecture in the series, which I hope will become a regular and prestigious forum for an informed and focused dialogue on India’s national security and foreign policy challenges in a constantly mutating regional and global environment. It is only through such continual analysis and debate that one may be able to spot the opportunities that lie embedded in these changes to advance India’s national interests.

Let me begin with a perspective on the current geopolitical landscape. As is frequently the case the present often finds an echo in the past. In the 19th century, the legendary German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck had this to say about the political turmoil in Europe:

“We live in a wondrous time, in which the strong is weak because of his scruples and the weak grows strong because of his audacity.”

These words could well apply, in some measure, to the current geopolitical landscape across the world, a landscape marked by multiple crises, both political and economic, both old and new, with few visible prospects for early, in fact any, resolution. The powerful often appear like Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver, harried into immobility by audacious Lilliputians, with their own tactics of “shock and awe”. It has been apparent for some time, but particularly since the horrendous 9/11 terrorist outrage against the U.S. in 2001 and the subsequent global financial and economic crisis of 2007/8, that the post Second World War international order, created and dominated by the U.S. and its Western allies, was being steadily and relentlessly dismantled. This was partly the result of political and economic power being diffused away from its trans-Atlantic moorings to newer centres of power and influence, particularly in Asia. It has also been the case that the upholders of the established order have themselves been guilty of expedient and selective observance of its rules as their relative dominance has diminished. We must also take account of the emergence of new technological domains of cyber and space which pervade all aspects of contemporary life. In some respects they augument the power of states. In other respects they add to the asymmetric power and influence of non-state entities and individuals. Both these aspects have been starkly manifest in the Snowden affair- a technologically empowered, almost omniscient National Security Agency serving a predatory state but also one individual who could use the same new technological tools to deal a massive blow to that power. Thus these new domains are pervasive but they remain mostly ungoverned and, in some ways ungovernable. They have also empowered non-state actors, both benign and malign, which, too, no longer respond to the traditional levers of state power. The power to “shock and awe” is no longer the privilege of the powerful; it is increasingly the brand image of the non-state actor and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) reflects the “audacity of the weak”.

In his forthcoming book, the World Order, Kissinger puts forward an ominous possibility:

“Are we facing a period in which forces beyond the restraint of any order determine the future?”

Traditionally, order has been achieved either by consensus amongst the major and most influential international actors. Or it has been imposed by a powerful hegemon. Neither is in evidence today. Even if they were, one wonders if a modern Gulliver, whether individual state or a composite community of powerful states, could enforce any inter-state rules of the game over the multiplicities that define our world today.

It is against this backdrop of a changed and still changing geopolitical setting that one must seek to articulate India’s foreign policy.

Russia to Revise Military Doctrine in Response to NATO

SEPT. 2, 2014

MOSCOW — With NATO leaders expected to endorse a rapid-reaction force of 4,000 troops for Eastern Europe this week, a senior Russian military official said on Tuesday that Moscow would revise its military doctrine to account for “changing military dangers and military threats.”

In an interview with the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, the official, Mikhail Popov, deputy secretary of Russia’s military Security Council, called the expansion of NATO “one of the leading military dangers for the Russian Federation.”

Mr. Popov said Russia expected that leaders of NATO would seek to strengthen the alliance’s long-term military presence in Eastern Europe by establishing new military bases in the region and by deploying tanks in Estonia, a member of NATO that borders Russia.

“We believe that the defining factor in our relationship with NATO remains the unacceptability for Russia of plans to move military infrastructures of the alliance to our borders, including by means of expanding the bloc,” Mr. Popov said.Continue reading the main story

NATO has long been the bugbear of Russian foreign policy. Speaking at a news conference in Moscow on Tuesday, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said a recent initiative by the Ukrainian government to shed its nonaligned status and to join NATO could scuttle efforts to negotiate a peace settlement between Kiev and separatists in southeast Ukraine.

Before a NATO summit meeting begins in Wales on Thursday, President Obama is expected to visit Estonia , to highlight the United States’ commitment to the military alliance and the alliance’s determination to protect all 28 members from aggression — from Moscow or elsewhere.

On Tuesday morning, an aide to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia played down but did not deny a report that Mr. Putin had told José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, “if I want, I will take Kiev in two weeks.”

The comments came as Mr. Barroso asked Mr. Putin about Russian troops in Ukraine. Mr. Putin, who has repeatedly denied having any troops there, then turned “to threats,” Mr. Barroso told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

Yuri V. Ushakov, an aide to Mr. Putin, said Mr. Barroso’s recounting of a private conversation was “inappropriate.”

“Whether these words were said or not, in my viewpoint, this quote given is taken out of context and it had absolutely different sense,” Mr. Ushakov said.

On a nationally televised call-in show in April, Mr. Putin said, “When the infrastructure of a military bloc approaches our borders, we have grounds for certain apprehensions and questions.”

“We wanted to support the residents of Crimea, but we also followed certain logic: If we don’t do anything, Ukraine will be drawn into NATO sometime in the future,” Mr. Putin said, adding that “NATO ships will dock in Sevastopol, the city of Russia’s naval glory.”

Mr. Popov, the military adviser, also said that Russia believed it had sufficient forces in Crimea “to repel an invasion from a potential aggressor on the territory of the republic.”

“Crimea today is the territory of the Russian Federation, and armed aggression against Crimea will be seen as aggression against the Russian Federation with all of the resulting consequences,” Mr. Popov said.

Israel claims West Bank land for possible settlement use, draws U.S. rebuke

Aug 31, 2014 

1 of 4. Israeli women walk in a Jewish settlement known as 'Gevaot', in the Etzion settlement bloc, near Bethlehem August 31, 2014. Israel announced on Sunday a land appropriation in the occupied West Bank that an anti-settlement group termed the biggest in 30 years and a Palestinian official said would cause only more friction after the Gaza war. Some 400 hectares (988 acres) in the Etzion settlement bloc near Bethlehem were declared 'state land, on the instructions of the political echelon' by the military-run Civil Administration. Construction of a major settlement at the location has been mooted by Israel since 2000. Last year, the government invited bids for the building of 1,000 housing units at the site.

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel announced on Sunday a land appropriation in the occupied West Bank that an anti-settlement group termed the biggest in 30 years, drawing Palestinian condemnation and a U.S. rebuke. 

Some 400 hectares (988 acres) in the Etzion Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem were declared "state land, on the instructions of the political echelon" by the military-run Civil Administration. 

"We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision,” a State Department official said in Washington, calling the move "counterproductive" to efforts to achieve a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. 

Israel Radio said the step was taken in response to the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish teens by Hamas militants in the area in June. 

Tensions stoked by the incident quickly spread to Israel's border with Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, and the two sides engaged in a seven-week war that ended on Tuesday with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. 

The notice published on Sunday by the Israeli military gave no reason for the land appropriation decision. 

Peace Now, which opposes Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank, territory the Palestinians seek for a state, said the appropriation was meant to turn a site where 10 families now live adjacent to a Jewish seminary into a permanent settlement. 

Construction of a major settlement at the location, known as "Gevaot", has been mooted by Israel since 2000. Last year, the government invited bids for the building of 1,000 housing units at the site. 

Peace Now said the land seizure was the largest announced by Israel in the West Bank since the 1980s and that anyone with ownership claims had 45 days to appeal. A local Palestinian mayor said Palestinians owned the tracts and harvested olive trees on them. 

The Grim Lessons of “Protective Edge”

Published on August 31, 2014

Israel’s long-term strategy against Hamas will not bring clear, satisfying victories, but attrition is its only viable option.

After nearly two months of fighting, Israel and Gaza have agreed to an open-ended ceasefire, and for the third time in six years, Israel finds itself looking back at its attempt to stop the barrage of rockets fired at its citizens from the Hamas-controlled enclave of Gaza. Ever since withdrawing from Gaza in 2005, Israel has sought to prevent the smuggling of weaponry into the coastal territory and to deter militants from firing rocketry by exacting significant tolls on Hamas and other terrorist organizations operating in the Strip. While many have highlighted Protective Edge’s technological innovations and the calls for radical changes to the status quo—be it in the reoccupation of Gaza, the international demilitarization of Hamas, or a jump-start to a true peace negotiation—in the end, most of the operation’s tactical and strategic lessons were quite traditional. For all the attempts to find technological quick fixes or enforce a permanent settlement, Operation Protective Edge has highlighted that a war of attrition, known as a “long war”, remains the only viable strategy in the current environment.

Protective Edge did display remarkable advances in military technology. As a result of its investment in a national advance warning system and Iron Dome, its missile defense system, Israel withstood a Hamas-led barrage of 4,450 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza. Most impressively, rocket fire only caused 7 civilian casualties, a 652:1 ratio that is unparalleled in any other conflict. For comparison, the ratio during Pillar of Defense in 2012 was 301:1, and in Cast Lead in 2008–09 was 187:1. Moreover, while Hamas’s bombardment managed briefly to scare some Western airlines into suspending flights to Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s strategic infrastructure remained unharmed. Finally, effective air defenses gave the Israeli government the breathing room to control the pace of its military operations to maximum effect. Sustained popular support allowed Israel to focus on destroying the assault tunnels it had discovered during the ground phase, rather than exclusively targeting the rocket threat.

The operation also underscored other less visible, yet no less impressive demonstrations of technology and intelligence. The successful targeted killings of several senior Hamas commanders highlighted the impressive nexus between intelligence-gathering and military action. The Israel Defense Forces’ practice of calling, text-messaging, and “roof knocking” (or dropping empty shells) to warn Palestinian civilians of a military operation were all made possible by technological advances and high quality intelligence. Additionally, rather than send troops deep into Hamas’s vast tunnel architecture, the IDF employed new and advanced robotics, saving soldiers’ lives. Similarly, the repeated interdictions of Hamas frogmen before they could cause civilian casualties further demonstrate the IDF’s ability to identify and interdict targets quickly.

Despite Israel’s clear technological edge and notable intelligence capacity, it could not accomplish all of its objectives through air power alone. Even by the most optimistic Israeli military estimates, the air campaign neutralized very few of the estimated 20,000 Gaza-based fighters in Hamas’s al-Qassam Brigades. Additionally, for all of Iron Dome’s successes, neither it nor the air campaign actually stopped Hamas from firing rockets. Nor did it destroy Hamas’s extensive tunnel network. Moreover, despite all the Israeli intelligence assets devoted to Gaza prior to the incursion, even the IDF was surprised by the extent of the tunnel network. In short, even the most sophisticated surveillance systems and weaponry have limitations.

Consequently, the air phase gave way to a ground phase, which predictably was grueling, incremental, and bloody. Although still reliant on aerial reconnaissance and airstrikes, the ground campaign of Protective Edge featured more traditional tactics of urban warfare. As Israeli Major General Sami Turgeman, commander of the IDF Southern Command, aptly reflected in the midst of the fighting, “This is no Iron Dome, but a Sisyphean task, gathering technology and intelligence along with forces on the ground.” Israeli technological prowess, while certainly decisive, is not a panacea.

Hamas also underwent a tactical and operational revolution, although one grounded in traditional insurgencies rather than sophisticated weaponry. Like Israel, Hamas found that technology has its limits. The organizational emphasis on importing, producing, and firing even more advanced rockets and missiles neither caused substantial Israeli casualties nor independently compelled the Israeli government to make concessions. If anything, the continuous yet ineffective barrage increased the Israeli populace’s support for the operation, acting as a boost rather than a brake on the government’s response. More broadly, Hamas rocket attacks also complicated the international response to the crisis. Even European countries—not often favorably disposed to Israel—acknowledge its right to self-defense. Instead, Hamas’s achievements came from its return to tradition, beginning with improved soldier discipline. CNN correspondent Ben Wederman remarked,

The last serious street fighting I saw in Gaza was in early 2008, and it was almost like it was ‘amateur hour,’ with fighters in Gaza parading around with their weapons but not really able to stop the Israeli forces. Now it appears they’ve learned they must keep a much lower profile. They’ve developed what could be called commando tactics, and are taking full advantage of their knowledge of their turf.

Others have made similar observations.

Pakistan: Narrative of a counter-revolution

By Daniele Grassi 

The concept of revolution generally implies the overthrow of a political-institutional system and the emergence of a new balance of power. The ongoing anti-government protests in Pakistan do not share a similar goal, despite the proclamations of the two leaders of the popular uprising, Imran Khan and Tahir ul-Qadri. On the contrary, despite the likely genuineness of the feelings of some of the protesters, the so-called "revolutionary march" has as its main objective to weaken the government led by Nawaz Sharif, allowing the military to reaffirm their undisputed leadership on the national political scene and to resume full control of the most important dossier of domestic and foreign policy. 

Asia Times Online. The Asia News Hub providing the latest news and analysis regarding economics, events and trends in business, economy and politics throughout Asia. 

The relationship between the current head of the government and the armed forces has always been stormy. Sharif's victory in the May 2013 elections was preceded by a pact signed with the military, with which the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) undertook to keep the action of his government within certain limits, particularly as the management of relations with India and the preservation of the role of the armed forces were concerned. However, the strong popular support which sealed the victory for the PML-N chief has prompted the government to question that covenant, in an attempt to gradually weaken the military, relying on their desire not to directly meddle in the political arena. 

The participation of Sharif to the swearing-in ceremony of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was greeted by many observers as an event of historic significance, as it had never occurred until then. However, it was an alarming wake-up call for the military, which has always opposed the hypothesis of a real and sincere rapprochement to the historic enemy of India. The failure to grant New Delhi the status of "most favored nation" derives from the opposition of the armed forces, fearful that any normalization of relations with India would deprive them of one of their main raison d'etre. 

The current political crisis has also been determined by the effort made by Nawaz Sharif to damage the image of the armed forces. From the point of view of the military, the current process against Pervez Musharraf is an intolerable act of aggression on the part of civilian authorities. Several times the two sides have seemed close to an agreement, broken by last-minute changes of mind on the part of the government that has until now prevented Musharraf to leave Pakistan. 

Further tensions were fueled in April by a case relating to the allegations made by the broadcaster GeoTV to Pakistani intelligence (Inter-Services Intelligence, ISI), in the aftermath of the attack suffered by one of its most popular conductor. On that occasion, Nawaz Sharif tried to take advantage of the criticism of the military to create space for his own government. Without any appreciable result. GeoTV, in fact, later retracted, thus avoiding the definitive removal of the channel from the national programming. 

The military operations launched in June against the "Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan" (TTP) had already shown that the attempt to Nawaz Sharif to weaken the armed forces had failed. Among the main points of the PML-N electoral campaign, the dialogue with TTP was prominent. On the contrary, the military had never hidden their opposition to peace talks and had repeatedly asked permission to intervene militarily in border areas with Afghanistan. The terrorist attack carried out on June 8 against the International Airport of Karachi provided the armed forces with a pretext for intervention, despite the persistent opposition of the government. 

Therefore, the political crisis that is crippling the capital Islamabad goes far beyond the allegations of fraud made by Imran Khan and the revolutionary proclamations of Tahir ul-Qadri, whose real goal is to gain prominence at a political level. The security forces will be the real beneficiary of the current events. The Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif looks now politically isolated. The weakness of his government has already resulted in the abrupt halt of the normalization process of relations with India. In recent days, the government in New Delhi has cancelled a meeting scheduled for August 25, accusing the Pakistani High Commissioner to India, Abdul Basit, to have previously consulted a Kashmiri separatist leader (a practice tolerated by the previous Indian governments ). In addition to confirming the hard line adopted by Modi towards Pakistan, it is possible that the Indian leader considers it of no use to talk to a government so weak and has therefore decided to take advantage of this opportunity to gain support at home, compensating for the poor results so far obtained in its efforts to reform the economy and the Indian bureaucracy. 

Putting Karachi on the Map

September 01, 2014

A Pakistani photographer offers a different, more personal take on her city. 

Her love for her city is set in stone. Through her project, “Humans of Karachi” (an immensely popular Facebook page inspired by Brandon Stanton’s “Humans of New York” page), Karachi-based photographer Khaula Jamil provides her audience with a different, more humane side of Karachi.

Featuring Pakistanis from all walks of life, Jamil has emulated Stanton’s model by not only featuring the overlooked, but also by quoting her subjects about their lives, their hopes, and their dreams. The photographs and stories are as rich as they are varied. Honest, raw and intriguing, the page offers a positive and, at its best,realistic portrayal of one portion of the Pakistani populace.

Initiated in 2012, the photographer states that she was inspired to launch her page when Stanton encouraged others to launch similar pages as an ode to their cities. At the time, Jamil was working with the Citizens Archive of Pakistan – CAP, a non-profit co-founded by Pakistan’s Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

“I emailed Sharmeen and said I really wanted to do this and perhaps we could make it a culture project that CAP supports. She loved the idea and gave me the go ahead to choose whose help I wanted and [to] start,” Jamil says, “CAP has been great with supporting this project.”

Given the rapid trend in photography and video-based social media apps and the media’s heavy reliance on visuals and less text for impact, can pages like Humans of Karachi be used as a tool to connect societies? “It’s really quite simple,” states Jamil, “We are living in a day and age where information is being shared so rapidly that the visual dialogue is taking over; especially in social media. Photojournalism is so vast that it puts a face to that story you once only heard of – once you see a face and connect the story to THAT person it somehow validates what is being said. It is simply a classic case of ‘seeing is believing.’”

However, given photography’s constant, unrelenting metamorphosis thanks to the advancements of technology, do apps like Instagram aid in shaping or destroying the art of photography?

“I think apps like Instagram are changing the course of photography for sure, in a two-fold manner,” Jamil answers, “Where apps like Instagram are adding to the artistic side of the matter, perhaps the one place they are harming the industry is the way they have begun to devalue the profession of photography. Photojournalists are getting paid less because amateurs and bad photographers are able to make mediocre photographs not look terrible thanks to these apps. Having said that, I believe trained photographers or those who have developed their art over several years (with practice and patience) will always stand out from the crowd. I personally love Instagram and think it’s a great tool for photographers/journalists to make quick essays instantly no matter where they are.”

Currently working on a “Humans of Karachi” book and her side business of silver jewelry that features her own photography of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, the Fulbright scholar states that her Humans of Karachi project has made her far more daring as a photographer when she’s in the field, story and subject hunting.

“I was never one to feel uncomfortable photographing in the city in the first place but I have become evenbolder in the past two years,” she says. “Karachi is not the easiest city to do a photo project like this in. People normally do not trust anyone with a camera. They immediately think you are from the press and that they will be misrepresented with some false claims. A large part of society believes image-taking is against Islam and so they look down upon it. I remain friendly and so does my partner in the project (Kamran, popularly known as KB) and together we manage to gain people’s trust – we have figured out how to be friendly and not offend anyone we approach.”

Sonya Rehman is a journalist based in Lahore, Pakistan. She can be reached at: sonjarehman [at] gmail.com

The U.S. Strategic Vacuum in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia

SEP 2, 2014 

The United States has failed to define meaningful future strategies for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia. It is cutting its presence in Afghanistan so quickly that its Transition efforts may well fail, and it has no clear future strategy for Pakistan and Central Asia.

The Burke Chair is issuing a new study that examines the problems in U.S. strategy in the region. It suggests the best solution for the U.S. in dealing with the complex problems in South Asia and Central Asia may be the simplest and most minimalist approach. No vital U.S. national security priorities are currently involved that require sustained, major U.S. intervention, and strategic triage indicates that other areas and problems have a higher priority.

This paper is entitled The U.S. Strategic Vacuum in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia, and is available on the CSIS web site athttp://csis.org/files/publication/140828_AfPak_Strategic_Vacuum.pdf.



The Taliban Is Running Low on Foreign Fighters Hint—they’re all going to Syria

Just a few years ago, the Taliban was one of the two prime Islamist militant groups—the other being Al Qaida-aligned insurgents in Iraq—for foreign fighters around the world to enlist with. But with the self-proclaimed Islamic State on the warpath and new conflicts in North Africa, the Taliban has become less attractive.

Specifically, the Pakistani Taliban. That’s the subject of a new report inCTC Sentinel, West Point’s counter-terrorism newsletter.

As of July 2008, the Pakistani Taliban included around 8,000 foreign fighters, notes Raza Khan, a political analyst who authored the report. These fighters came from western Europe, the Middle East, China, Russia, India, and central Asian countries, particularly Uzbekistan. But today, only a few hundred remain.

There are several reasons for the decline. For one, American drone strikes have killed thousands of people in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s a powerful disincentive for potential recruits.

Then in June, the Pakistani military launched Operation Zarb E Azb—sending 30,000 army troops into the province of North Waziristan aimed at routing out the militants based there. So far the operation has inflicted heavy casualties on Taliban fighters—about 500 dead.

“They must either relocate to other parts of [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas], scatter across Pakistan, shift to Afghanistan, return to their countries of origin, or fight to the death,” Khan writes.

None of these options are very good for the Taliban.

Pakistani artillery shells North Waziristan in June 2011. AP/Anjum Naveed photo. Top: Taliban militants in South Waziristan in August 2012. AP/Ishtiaq Mahsud photo

For foreign fighters originating from Russia, China and Egypt, returning comes with greater risk than militants from western Europe. While returning from Pakistan to a country like the United Kingdom or United States comes with its own risks, such as imprisonment, returning to China risks execution. The fighters also face a considerably higher risk of being tortured by Russian, Chinese or Egyptian jailers.

There’s the option of scattering across Pakistan, Khan notes. But this would disrupt the various Taliban organizations’ ability to plan a war, while leaving them vulnerable to capture. That leaves fighting to the death or hopping across the border to Afghanistan.

The latter appears to be happening, at least in part. Khan details a split this summer within the Pakistani Taliban into two factions. One faction led by militant Khalid Mehsud is based in South Waziristan. The other faction led by Maulana “Radio Mullah” Fazlullah is now based in Afghanistan, and he “seems to focus all of his attacks on Pakistan,” Khan writes.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan-based Haqqani network is still launching attacks on U.S. forces. The disarray and confusion among the different groups is contributing to foreign fighters abandoning the conflict.


By Dr Subhash Kapila,SAAG

The Pakistan Army stands at the centre of facilitating the ongoing besiegement of Pakistan’s democratically elected Government by its political stooges and notably synchronising it with escalation of border clashes on the India-Pak borders.

Pakistan Army’s end-game is patently clear and that is to engage in calibrated escalation of the dubious political demonstrations in Islamabad through its minions, namely, PTI Chief Imran Khan and the parachuted Pakistani Canadian cleric Tahirul Qadri, combined with ceasefire violations escalation on its Indian borders so that a combustible mix occurs justifying any impending military coup.

The Pakistan Army needs to answer as to how these political demonstrators were allowed to penetrate into Islamabad’s ‘Red Zone’ housing the Pakistan National Assembly, PMs House and other constitutional organs of Pakistan. Nobody seems to be asking the question as to how when the security of Islamabad was handed over to the Pakistan Army preceding the siege, how did Imran Khan’s motley crowd succeeded in penetrating the Army -secured Red Zone area.

The infamous 111 Infantry Brigade at Rawalpindi is tasked for the security of Islamabad besides being more famous as the spearhead of all Pakistan Army’s coups against democratically elected governments. Why is it been found wanting to adequately secure Islamabad’s nerve centre of governance? Or, is it that it is being made to wait the calibrated plan of the Pakistan Army to declare Martial Law on the pretext that both Pakistan’s internal security and Pakistan’s external security along the Indian borders stands threatened?

Pakistan’s domestic actors in the ongoing political turmoil are obviously the Pakistan Army and its political stooges like Imran Khan and Qadri who preferred to collude with the Pakistan Army rather than following the constitutional route of seeking redress from the Pakistani Courts.

Noticeably, the present political turmoil seems to be confined to Islamabad only without reverberations in Pakistan’s heartland of Punjab.

Imran Khan’s PTI Party won only thirty four seats in the National Assembly and is disputing rigging in four constituencies. Presuming that even all these four seats are given to PTI by any Election Commission verdict which Imran Khan has not awaited, he still could not overturn Nawaz Sharif’s Government which commands a comfortable majority. Or is it Imran’s claim as the main disputant that massive rigging took place in all the over three hundred plus National Assembly seats?

This flies in the face of verdicts given by European Union’s election observers and also those from the United Nation, both of whom certified that Pakistan General Elections 2013 were by and large fair.

Obviously, Imran Khan has willingly played along the tunes orchestrated by the Pakistan Army and the ISI. This is also revealingly being unfolded by the statements of his own PTI President and that the forced march to the Parliament House which was not on the PTI agenda was ordered by Imran Khan two nights back on instructions from someone. This obviously seems to have been done on the Pakistan Army’s instructions so that political violence is provoked and Pakistan Army has a ready- made ‘cassus belli’.

The Foreign Policy Essay: Iraq’s Lessons for Afghanistan

August 3, 2014

Editor’s Note: The chaos in Iraq has intensified since U.S. forces withdrew at the end of 2011, leading many to question the wisdom of that decision. Although the clock cannot be rolled back—and some see the strife as proof that the United States is best off getting out of the region altogether—the latest crisis in Iraq has raised questions about how to handle the end of the other major U.S. intervention since 9/11: Afghanistan. Seth G. Jones, director of RAND’s International Security and Defense Policy Center and a noted expert on the Afghanistan conflict, offers his thoughts on what the Iraq experience should teach us and what we can do to prevent the same thing from happening in Afghanistan.

The extraordinary advances of Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq this summer, led by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), were impressive for their blitzkrieg-like speed and ruthless precision. Equally remarkable was the precipitous collapse of Iraqi security units in cities like Mosul, less than three years after the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

During the fighting in Tikrit in July, ISIS moved hundreds of fighters and military vehicles from entrenched positions in Syria and Iraq to reinforce the city. ISIS also effectively utilized anti-aircraft artillery to repel aerial attacks, cut roads to disrupt Iraqi forces, and targeted advancing troops with improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers.

The result was a stunning turnaround for ISIS. From 2006 to 2011, its predecessor organization, al Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI), was uprooted from sanctuaries in Al Anbar and other provinces following Iraqi and U.S. offensive operations. These actions, along with the Sunni Awakening, undermined AQI’s support base and decimated its leadership.

Today, however, ISIS controls key territory in western and northern Iraq, along with portions of eastern Syria. And it operates much like a state in some areas it controls. ISIS has provided water, electricity, oil, and telephone services in eastern Syria. In Mosul, it has set up a salaried police force, freed prisoners, and provided limited water and electricity to some areas.

It may be difficult for ISIS to continue holding all the territory it currently controls, in part because its harsh treatment of residents and destruction of local shrines and landmarks already appear to be causing resentment among some Sunnis. But even if ISIS loses most of the territory it now controls, its actions have exacerbated Sunni-Shi’a friction, increased Iran’s role in Iraq, and further encouraged Kurdish independence.

The successes of ISIS and other Sunni groups have raised important questions about the wisdom of America’s decision to withdraw U.S. military forces in 2011. And they raise equally significant questions about the U.S. decision to exit Afghanistan in the future. Only a few weeks before ISIS began its blitzkrieg into western and northern Iraq, U.S. President Barack Obama announced he would be withdrawing U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and that all U.S. forces would be gone by 2016. “We’re finishing the job we started,” Obama proclaimed. “America’s combat mission will be over by the end of this year … We will no longer patrol Afghan cities or towns, mountains or valleys. That is a task for the Afghan people.”

Iraq and Afghanistan are, of course, different countries. They have distinct cultures, political systems, histories of conflict, and meddling by neighboring countries. But there are broad lessons from Iraq that U.S. policymakers need to consider as the United States withdraws forces from Afghanistan.

First, much like in Iraq, there are substantial challenges with Afghan army, police, and intelligence forces. Competent security forces are essential for any state to survive. Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) forces are almost certainly less competent than their Iraqi counterparts—yet they face a more formidable enemy.


An article of faith that pervades many policy briefings on the growing tensions in the South and East China Seas is that “China has no friends.” China, we keep hearing, is a bully, constantly seeking out nasty confrontations over various shoals and rocks in the seas it shares with its neighbors. A common corollary position is that the United States has lots of friends. Of course, the United States has every right to take pride in its history of alliances, particularly NATO. ASEAN and other Western Pacific nations have also encouraged the U.S. Navy to engage more vigorously against China’s increasingly expansive claims, independently affirming its claim to be “a global force for good.” The idea of a friendless China has some validity, to a point, but the notion will prove dangerous if it fosters complacency among American strategic thinkers. Indeed, a number of recent developments call this comfortable myth into question.

In August the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a multinational organization that is increasingly viewed as China-centric, announced that it would be admitting four nations to full membership status: Mongolia, Pakistan, Iran and, most significantly, India, at a forthcoming meeting to be held in Tajikistan in September. Although the four states all already have observer status in the SCO, the decision was as dramatic as it was unexpected. Iran’s membership had been barred by the fact that the SCO rules forbid a country under UN sanctions from membership. The longstanding tensions between Pakistan and India, as well as China’s coolness to Indian membership (in part due to territorial disputes between the two), have always been viewed as insurmountable hurdles to full membership for both countries for the foreseeable future. The decision to admit the four at this time was the result of vigorous behind-the-scenes Russian advocacy– Russia being another country that American orthodoxy tells us is friendless. In commenting that the decision “constitutes a major setback for America’s regional strategies,” oneanalyst said

It does not need much ingenuity to figure out that the SCO is taking the decision to admit India at a defining moment in Post-Cold War era politics.

Well, of course, through the SCO both “friendless” Russia and China obviously have one another and their other SCO partners, which is of great interest to those who find value in the writings of classical geopolitical theorists such asHalford Mackinder. Mackinder, a British academic in vogue prior to the First World War, postulated that whoever controlled the Eurasian “Heartland” (an area of considerable overlap with the member states of the SCO) could control the world. Notably, these two major traditional land powers also happen to operate the world’s second and third most powerful navies. India’s admission into the SCO therefore diminishes somewhat the hopes of many in Washington who viewed India’s growing naval forces as a means of providing balance against China’s growing blue water navy. In this regard, readers of tea leaves are paying particular attention to the fact that newly-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have met multiple times with Chinese President Xi Jinping before having a single meeting with either President Obama or Japan’s Prime Minster Shinzo Abe. (Mr. Modi’s predecessor, by contrast, had several far-reaching meetings with Mr. Abe. The decision of the U.S. Congress to deny Mr. Modi the honor of addressing a Joint Session of Congress certainly did not help.)

There are numerous ways to interpret the newfound accommodation between India and China. Perhaps the impending withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan is causing anxiety about the spread of terrorism, particularly since it comes at the same time as an unusual rash of violence in China’s Xinjiang province. Another interpretation is that Russia seeks to balance out its increasingly junior position vis-à-vis China with another large member state — one with which it has strong historic ties. Many see India’s motivation as primarily economic, both to foster ties with the energy-rich nations of Central Asia, but also to expand trade and investment with the economic juggernaut that is China. On the other side, Chinese President Xi Jinping is reportedly interested in Modi’s support for China gaining full membership in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)— an eight member economic development organization in which China has long sought membership. President Xi has set the stage for this quid pro quo by extending India its first invitation to attend the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, which this year is hosted by Beijing.