18 December 2014

Terrorism and domestic politics

G Parthasarathy
Dec 18 2014

Pakistani politicians too fan terrorist violence in India
In our public discourse on terrorism from territory under Pakistan's control, there has been a tendency to hold the military establishment as being solely responsible for the rise of terrorist outfits in Pakistan, as though the country's political parties are devoid of any responsibility for the burgeoning of radical Islamic groups in the country. The Deobandi-oriented Jamiat Ulema e Islam (JUI) headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman has backed the Taliban in Afghanistan, Harkat ul Mujahideen in J&K and Jaish e Mohammed, responsible for the hijacking of IC 814 and the December 2001 attack on our Parliament. Pakistan Government assistance to the Taliban was organised by Benazir Bhutto's Interior Minister, Gen Nasrullah Babbar, when Maulana Fazlur Rahman was her political ally. Jamat e Islami, a perennial ISI favourite since the days of General Zia, backs Hizbul Mujahideen in Jammu and Kashmir.

It is in this context that the role of Nawaz Sharif in the promotion of terrorism across Pakistan's borders with India and Afghanistan has to be analysed. While the Sharif family may have lived in Punjab (initially in Amritsar and thereafter in Lahore and Raiwind), their roots are really in Kashmir. Mian Mohammed Sharif (Nawaz's father) hailed from Anantnag and his mother from Pulwama. Sharif has a far more hardline position on J&K than many other politicians. Despite the obvious futility of seeking international mediation and a UN role in Jammu and Kashmir, Sharif is obsessed with creating conditions to keep international attention focused on Jammu and Kashmir, even if this involves promoting terrorist violence across India.

Sharif started his political career in the 1980s with patronage from the Islamist-oriented President Zia ul Haq. He was elected for his first term as Prime Minster, heading a group of Islamic parties, stitched together by then Army Chief, Gen Aslam Beg. His Islamist inclinations towards Afghanistan became evident when, in 1992, he became the only foreign Head of Government to visit Afghanistan, then ruled by a motley group of radical "mujahideen," put together by the ISI. More importantly, Sharif appointed a bearded fundamentalist, Lt. Gen Javed Nasir, who was a member of Tablighi Jamat, then backed by Mian Mohammed Sharif, as head of the ISI. There is substantial evidence that it was General Nasir, backed by Sharif, using the services of Dawood Ibrahim, who masterminded the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts in which 250 Indians perished,

Equally ominous are the links of the Sharif family with an obscurantist “Ahle Hadees” fundamentalist, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, who was an asset for the ISI during its Afghan jihad in the 1980s. When Sharif returned to power in 1997, he accorded formal diplomatic recognition to the Taliban led by Mullah Omar. He ordered Governor of Punjab Shahid Hamid and his Information Minister Mushahid Hussain to call on Hafiz Saeed. Lashkar e Taiba thereafter replaced Harkat ul Mujahideen, backed by Benazir, as the primary instrument of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in J&K and elsewhere in India. Sharif also moved to strengthen residual ties with “Khalistanis” worldwide with the appointment of Gen Javed Nasir as the head of a so-called “Pakistan Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee”. Barely hours after the conclusion of Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit to Lahore, “Khalistan” banners and slogans came up in gurudwaras across Pakistan to incite Sikh pilgrims, then on pilgrimage. An Indian diplomat witnessing this was beaten up.

Pakistan’s greatest enemy is denial

Written by Husain Haqqani
December 18, 2014 

The policy of allowing militants to operate on Pakistani soil has proved disastrous.

Over the last few decades, Pakistanis have become accustomed to terrorists, as well as terrorism. But the Taliban’s slaughter of schoolchildren in Peshawar on Tuesday was an unprecedented act of savagery. It has caused grief and generated outrage that earlier attacks on hotels, mosques, shrines and even the army headquarters did not.

But will Pakistanis respond to the Peshawar school attack by starting to change the national narrative that has brought us to this point? Or will the narrative take over, as it has done after previous tragedies, allowing tweaking of Pakistani policy without significantly changing it? The December 16 attack is the result of a sustained national policy gone wrong. It can only be changed by a new, sustained policy.

The origins of Pakistan’s ill-fated romance with jihadism lie in the notion that the country faces an existential threat from India. Driven by six decades of insecurity, the Pakistani deep state wants the country to have parity in status and power with India, a country more than six times the size of Pakistan and increasingly wealthier. Arguments about the 1947 Partition and the two-nation theory, hardly relevant in the current context, continue to fuel the ideology of Pakistan. The division of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh, with support from India, in 1971, also still looms large in the Pakistani elite’s imagination.

Jihadi militancy and terrorism have just been ways of enabling Pakistan to stand up to a bigger and increasingly powerful India through asymmetrical warfare. During the war against the Soviets, Pakistan used American money, weapons and training not only to equip fighters to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, but to also raise brigades of irregular fighters for Jammu and Kashmir and for permanent influence across the Durand Line.

The problem with ideologically motivated warriors is that their ideology can morph and mutate in directions unacceptable to a pragmatic state. The attacks within Pakistan by the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) and other militant groups should have made the Pakistani deep state realise some time ago that asymmetric warfare through ideologues is not a reliable military capability.

Islamist extremism has always brought with it a domestic component that hampers Pakistan’s evolution as a modern state. There will always be extremists who say, “Why are women wearing Western dress? Why are girls going to school? Why are we accepting Shias or Ahmadis or non-Muslims as equal citizens?” Similarly, the Inter-Services Intelligence might feel reassured by commitments from the Haqqani network, Mullah Omar’s Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Toiba/ Jamaat-ud-Dawa to not conduct militant operations inside Pakistan. But there is no guarantee that these instruments of regional influence would not, in turn, support groups such as Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Pakistani Taliban, which can attack inside Pakistan.

The Unmasking of an Islamic State Twitter Troll

DECEMBER 17, 2014
Source Link

What Shami Witness tells us about the potency of the Syrian jihad’s message around the world -- and online.

Hassan Hassan is an analyst with the Delma Institute, a research center in Abu Dhabi. Follow him on Twitter @hxhassan.
The Unmasking of an Islamic State Twitter Troll

The last private message I received from the pro-Islamic State Twitter user Shami Witness was one day before an investigation by Channel 4 revealed his true identity.

“Will you journalists ever talk about the continuous deportation of Arabs, burning their homes and properties … and killing them by YPG [Syrian Kurdish militants]?” he asked me. “Or are you waiting for [the northern province of] Hasaka to be Arab-free before the faux wailing can begin? Aren’t they Syrians too or is YPG that much venerated that their war crimes can’t be touched.”

This was typical Shami Witness — simultaneously defending the Islamic State’s attacks on its enemies, while accusing its critics of violating their principles in failing to do the same. And he was influential: He had gathered over 17,700 followers by the time his identity was uncovered, and a reportreleased in April found that he was followed by two-thirds of foreign fighters on Twitter.

In reality, as the Channel 4 investigation discovered, Shami Witness was a 24-year-old executive in Bangalore named Mehdi Masroor Biswas. 
The cleanshaven young man didn’t live the life of a grizzled jihadi, instead posting pictures of eating pizza with his friends and attending Hawaiian-themed parties at work on his Facebook page.The cleanshaven young man didn’t live the life of a grizzled jihadi, instead posting pictures of eating pizza with his friends and attending Hawaiian-themed parties at work on his Facebook page. Mehdi was arrested in his one-room apartment on Dec. 13 and, despite initial confused attempts to deny it, eventually confessed that he ran the account.

I started following Mehdi on Twitter in August last year. I interacted with him often, publicly and privately. His tone in private messages was noticeably different than his tweets to thousands: He toned down the aggressive jihadist rhetoric, and would write in a more detached manner. Until recently, I had the suspicion that he either worked for a foreign intelligence service — and I told him that at least twice — or that he exaggerated his dogmatism in public because he wanted jihadists to trust him.

The disclosure of his identity is significant, not only because his tweets were effectively the link between many Syria analysts and Islamic State supporters on social media, but also because his behavior after the arrest showed he was not what he was pretending to be. After writing thousands of tweets praising the Islamic State and trying to convince other Muslims to join the fight, hetold Channel 4 that he would not resist arrest if the police came, and attempted to downplay his loyalty to the Islamic State. In the end, he was never willing to push his radicalism as far as he wanted others to go.

Vijay Diwas – A nation’s unpaid debts to its fallen warriors

DEC 17, 2014

Vijay Diwas is the day when the ‘Instrument of Surrender’ was presented by Lt Gen AK Niazi, C-in-C of Pakistan Army in East Pakistan before Lt Gen JS Arora, GOC-in-C Eastern Command of the Indian Army at Dacca (now ,Dhaka) with a request to accept it. Gen JS Arora, accepted history’s greatest military surrender post World War II on December 16, 1971.

As the three Services chiefs and the Defence Minister paid their homage early yesterday morning at Delhi’s India Gate to the country’s soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the 1971 war, every Indian would have been moved by the dignity and solemnity of the ceremony. The immaculately fine-tuned event was performed with the care, finesse, and precision that only our armed forces bring to each and every task that the nation gives them.

Even at this stage of my life, I get goose pimples when I see how our armed forces pay their respects to the nation and to their own fallen comrades. It is the same when I hear Vande Mataram andJana Gana Mana when they are rendered with the appropriate dedication on any occasion. This is not blind nationalism; it is the primordial sentiment that any human being feels for his near and dear ones. The concept of the “nation-state” has, of course, been derided in the last century and a half by many rootless cosmopolitans ; yes, mindless nationalism has been the cause of many conflicts and problems in recent times, but there is a higher and infinitely purer form of attachment to one’s own civilisational and cultural roots. This is what I subscribe to.

This is what the 16th December events signify for people who share my ethos. Yet, there is also a deep sense of unease that the magnificent remembrance ceremonies for our fallen warriors are still being held at a structure that was erected by our former colonial masters, however impressive that building may be. For nearly 70 years after independence, we Indians have failed to construct a National War Memorial (NWM) where such events should be commemorated. Every now and then, I have heard the netas and the babus promising a NWM at the earliest, but such promises have been routinely forgotten as easily as they were trotted out.

When will India start to honour those who fought in its name?

16 December 2014

Legend: The general who led the country in 1971, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, was an authentic Indian legend

December 16, 1971, is an unforgettable date for anyone who lived through the Bangladesh War.

Vijay Diwas, as the day is known, commemorates not just an absolute military triumph, unparalleled in modern Indian history, but also the triumph and heroism of the professional Indian soldier. 

Three-thousand, eight-hundred and forty-three Indian soldiers died in 1971. About three times that number, 9,851, were injured. 

The war also saw 1,313 Indian soldiers receiving gallantry awards, many posthumously. Four were awarded India’s highest battle honour, the Param Vir Chakra. 

These four men represented the best of India, and yet they came from diverse backgrounds. 

Lance Naik Albert Ekka was born in a small village near Ranchi. 

Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal from Pune, was just 21 when he died in his tank, having single-handedly crippled the Pakistani armoured advance at the Battle of Basantar. 


Flying Officer Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon, literally the Flying Sikh, defended the skies above Srinagar, taking on and outgunning F-86 Sabres in his slower and smaller Gnat. 

Finally, there was Major Hoshiar Singh, who braved heavy shelling and went trench to trench, urging his men to fight on and capture an important Pakistani position in the Shakargarh Sector.

What motivated these men and thousand others? Under the inspiring leadership of men like Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, these men weren’t just “doing a job”; they were going well beyond the call of duty, showing extraordinary calm and determination and sheer, audacious bravery to fulfil the national objective despite overwhelming odds. 

It is important to recall and remember these achievements, and distinguish this from the self-congratulation of a political and sarkari bandobast on every Vijay Diwas. 

Politicians and bureaucrats in the Ministry of Defence have essentially spent the past four decades riding on the valour, the grit and the hard-won successes of those heroes of 1971. 

And how have they appreciated these men? The general who led us in 1971, Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, was an authentic Indian legend. 

When he died in 2008, the Government of that time did dishonour. Let alone their presence, no wreaths were placed on behalf of the President and the Prime Minister. The Defence Minister was too busy with political meetings in Delhi. Instead, he sent his Minister of State – the most senior government representative at Sam Manekshaw’s funeral. 

Three-thousand, eight-hundred and forty-three Indian soldiers died in the Bangladesh War of 1971. About three times that number, 9,851, were injured

Ashton Carter Knows India Well

By Seema Sirohi
December 16, 2014

Carter’s nomination bodes well for India-U.S. relations, but India will need to be proactive. 

President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the Pentagon, Ashton Carter, inspires confidence in India as an expert who knows the relationship well and has effectively steered it in the past.

In fact, such is the respect for Carter in New Delhi that after U.S. ambassador Nancy Powell resigned earlier this year in the wake of a diplomatic spat over Devyani Khobragade, many in Washington consciously floated his name as Powell’s replacement, in the hope that the White House might get the hint.

Carter politely declined when approached for the job of U.S. envoy to India, citing his private sector commitments. But when Obama shortlisted him for the position of defense secretary, he accepted the challenge.

Praise for Carter is bipartisan in Washington, even if it isn’t so for his boss. The Republicans, who now control both houses of the U.S. Congress, have been falling over themselves to show support – a happy situation for the nominee after the bruising his predecessor Chuck Hagel received during his senate confirmation hearing.

Senator John McCain, the incoming chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, called Carter “a highly competent, experienced, hard-working, and committed public servant.”

With McCain, an open champion of the Indo-U.S. strategic partnership sitting on key senate committees, and Carter at the helm in the Pentagon, it can only be good news for India. They can push elements of the defense relationship through a dysfunctional Washington dominated by extreme partisan politics.

Carter is credited with reviving and injecting new blood in Indo-U.S. defense ties with the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative or DTTI, a program he led when he was deputy secretary of defense in the Obama Administration October 2011 to December 2013.

The story of how DTTI came into existence is illustrative of how the two countries accommodated each other in the spirit of partnership. In July 2012, Carter began consultations with senior Indian officials on taking Indo-U.S. defense ties to the next level from a purely buyer-seller relationship. He met India’s then national security advisor, Shiv Shankar Menon, for consultations. The U.S. side referred to the new initiative as the Defense Trade Initiative to highlight attempts to increase bilateral trade; Indian officials called it the Defence Technology Initiative to emphasize technology transfer and the goal of indigenization.

The different names showed differences in emphasis until Carter incorporated both and started calling it DTTI. The careful terminology was a way for an established power to adjust to the desires of a rising power in the interest of a long-term relationship. With DTTI, the United States effectively agreed to treat India as an alliance partner on crucial technology issues without requiring New Delhi to sign a formal treaty.

The Death Throes of the Pakistani Taliban

Why the brutal attacks in Peshawar have already backfired against the TTP.

Arif Rafiq is president of Vizier Consulting, LLC, which provides strategic guidance on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. He writes at the Pakistan Policy Blog and tweets @PakistanPolicy.

The devil showed his face in Peshawar, Pakistan, on Tuesday, when six terrorists attacked an army-run primary and secondary school, killingnearly 150 people, mostly children. Since 2008, Pakistan has been among the world’s top targets of terrorism. But this attack was particularly gruesome. Attackers stalked through the school room-by-room, pumping bullets into the bodies of small children and teenagers. A teacher who tried to save them was set on fire. The terrorists made no demands. Murder alone, it seems, was the only thing on their minds.

The attacks, perpetrated by the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistani Taliban, were roundly condemned by Pakistan’s politicians, military officials, and civil society members. Leaders from across the globe, including India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also spoke out against the carnage in Peshawar. Many key jihadi leaders, including Lashkar-e Taiba’s Hafiz Saeed and Zabihullah Mujahid, the Afghan Taliban’s spokesman, also decried the bloodbath. “We are deeply pained by this tragedy and we stand with the families of the deceased in pain,” Mujahid said. 
Extremists in Pakistan it is clear, do not speak with one monolithic voice.Extremists in Pakistan it is clear, do not speak with one monolithic voice.

Perhaps the most startling revelation of the Peshawar attacks is that, strategically, the TTP stood to gain little from them. The group has been hammered both by thePakistani military and defections from within its ranks. And now it has united Pakistanis of all backgrounds and beliefs in revulsion. On Wednesday, Islamabad called for a three-day mourning period. This week, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will also convene aconference of leaders from Pakistan’s major political parties to solidify the country’s commitment to fight terrorism. But this may matter little to the TTP, a group seemingly motivated by a mix of desperation and a lust for revenge against the Pakistani military, as well as Pakistan’s political class.

Over the past year, the TTP has been reduced to a shell of its former self. Founded in December 2007, it was once a formidable umbrella organization uniting scores of Taliban-style groups across Pakistan’s border regions with Afghan jihadis in a war against the Pakistani state. By the spring of 2009, the TTP controlled most of the country’s northwest, holding territory just 60 miles from Islamabad. While two major Pakistani army operations in 2009 managed to repel them from the capital, the TTP proved resilient, thanks in part to the safe havens it had carved out in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area and in parts of Afghanistan.

For Our Children

16 December 2014 is one of the worst days Pakistan has had to live through since its inception. This national tragedy, which has caused unimaginable grief and pain across the landscape, will not and must not be forgotten anytime soon. Muhammad Khorasani of Jamat-ul-Ahrar, also known as Omer Khorasani, of the Jamat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan led by Mullah Fazlullah, has accepted responsibility for the attack on the school. In his statement given to the media, the militant commander termed the attack as retaliation for the ongoing military operation in FATA.

Some say that at a time like this, it is not wise and appropriate to blame the government or state institutions. Such a tragedy calls for unity, and criticism doesn’t help to achieve that purpose. But no consensus can be built, no wrong can be corrected, no problem can be solved by deciding against speaking the truth. And the truth is this: Not just terrorists, but everyone, from the wider population to the civil and military leadership is responsible for the barbarity our children were subjected to.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, your government has contributed absolutely nothing towards building a narrative against extremism. Operation Zarb-e-Azb started without your permission, and it continues absent meaningful political ownership. You have refused to act against seminaries funded through Saudi money, which are poisoning the minds of our youth and turning them into zealots. Instead of putting them behind bars, the Punjab government protects sectarian elements as they return the favour by not attacking you and taking out rallies in your support.

How to talk climate change in Paris

Parkash Chander
December 17, 2014 

There is absolutely no ground for India to agree to cut its emissions at the 2015 climate change summit. Instead, it has a strong case to press the three biggest emitters to do more as there is still a huge gap between what they have pledged and what is required by science and their historical responsibilities

The United States and China, the two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, have recently agreed on a timetable to limit their emissions. Under the agreement, the U.S. has agreed to emit 26-28 per cent less carbon in 2025 than it did in 2005 while China will peak its emissions by 2030 and increase the share of non-fossil fuels in its primary energy mix to 20 per cent by 2030. The U.S.-China agreement came soon after a proposal by the European Union (EU) — the third largest emitter — to reduce its emissions to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030, conditional on whether other countries would make similar commitments at the Paris summit in December 2015. The EU also proposes to raise its share of renewable sources to 27 per cent in total energy consumption by 2030. Following the U.S.-China deal, the U.S. President, Barack Obama, said on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Brisbane, “If China and the U.S. can agree on this, then the world can agree on this — we can get this done ....” Announcing a $3-billion contribution to the U.N.-backed climate change mitigation fund, he said that the U.S.-China agreement showed the way forward.

The U.S.-China agreement

A closer look at what the agreement really means shows that, first, it does not lay out a road map for meeting the targets. Second, it is bilateral and voluntary. Thus, there are no penalties if either the U.S. or China misses the targets. The fact that Japan, Australia, Canada and Russia are doing less than what they had promised to do under the Kyoto Protocol is a case in point. The 26-28 per cent reduction, now agreed upon, from 2005 levels is less than the 30 per cent reduction from the 2005 levels the U.S. had promised earlier in compliance with the Copenhagen Accord. Third, it allows China unlimited emission expansion until 2030. China had already set itself a goal of raising the share of renewables in its energy use to 15 per cent by 2020. Raising it by an additional 5 per cent in the next 10 years is more or less a continuation of an existing policy.

The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says a 2°C pathway — seen by most scientists as necessary in preventing catastrophic climate effects — requires annual greenhouse gas cuts of 40-70 per cent by 2050, compared to levels in 2010 and to zero or below by 2100. Thus the pledges by the three biggest emitters for 2025 and 2030 are not sufficient for limiting climate change to 2°C above the preindustrial average temperature and much less than what they can or should do.

Reuters Chris Allbritton Chris Allbritton facebook tweet post SNAKES IN THE BACKYARD12.17.14 Pakistan’s Dance With Terrorists Just Backfired and Killed 132 Children

For decades, Pakistan’s generals have treated jihadi groups as assets to use against India. That policy didn’t protect their very own children.

Today’s horrific attack in Peshawar on a military school, in which scores of children were killed by the Pakistani Taliban, should put Pakistan’s security choices over the last few decades in a stark light. And while the immediate reaction from the Pakistani military will no doubt be swift and terrible, Pakistan needs to think long and hard about what kind of country it wants to be when the initial retaliation is over.

Will it be one that continues to treat extremist groups as assets to use against its regional rivals? Or will this stomach-churning attack finally be the last straw that convinces the “establishment,” as it’s called, that playing with the fire of Islamic radicalism cannot continue.

“We’ve made huge sacrifices in the war on terror,” says Erum Haider, a Pakistani graduate student at Georgetown. “Whatever strategic interests there are or were in the region, the children and parents of Pakistan didn’t ask for them.”

History, geography, and the leaders of both the United States and Pakistan have conspired to make Pakistan a frontline state in the war on terror. And Pakistan has a long history of using non-state actors to project power beyond its borders. Driven by a deep sense of insecurity regarding Afghanistan and India, Pakistan has pursued a security strategy that incorporates conventional elements of deterrence—the world’s sixth largest army and the fastest-growing nuclear arsenal—with the use of militant groups that allow it to harass its rivals while maintaining a thin fiction of deniability.

As Saed Shah wrote in The Economist back in 2011, Pakistan feels it has no choice but to support jihadist groups. Archrival India has money to throw around, and Iran and Russia are also exerting influence in the region. So Pakistan, as a senior Pakistani official told Shah, is forced to play the latest version of the Great Game, too. “Except we have no money. All we have are the crazies. So the crazies it is.”

The list of “crazies” supported by Pakistan is long: Lashkar-e-Taiba, which attacked Mumbai in 2008 with help from former members of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency; the Haqqani network, one of the most ruthless and effective groups operating in Afghanistan, which also was behind the 2011 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul with the connivance of the ISI; and of course the Afghan Taliban, set up in the mid-1990s under the mentorship of the former director general of the ISI, Hamid Gul, who to this day spews anti-Western conspiracies on mainstream Pakistani television shows.
“Pakistan needs to get out of denial that there are any jihadi groups that can be trusted or considered allies of the state. However useful they might be for external purposes, they will always be dangerous internally.”

Pakistan has no choice but to make a choice, NOW

By Nitin Gokhale
December 17, 2014

That Tuesday's Peshawar massacre is the most despicable terrorist attack in Pakistan is undeniable. 

That this is a moment of truth for the Pakistani Army is also indisputable. 

It has to now choose between eliminating the very Frankenstein it created and continuing to nurture 'strategic' assets in the form of 'good' Taliban. 

Pakistan is in fact a perfect example of the devil devouring its master. The army created the ISI to destabilise the neighbourhood and even its own politicians. The ISI created the Taliban and its bunch of 'good' terrorists. The Tehrike Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is just one of the terror groups the ISI has nurtured. But somewhere down the line, old allies have fallen out once Pakistan Army launched Zarb-e-Azb, its operation against TTP in North Waziristan.

By choosing a Pakistan Army run school as a target for its most outrageous attack, the (TTP) or one of its faction, was sending a message to the Pakistani Army on its duality: You cannot be brazenly sustaining the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and at the same time attack us. Many of the victims in the Peshawar attack were children of Pakistani army and para-military personnel.

A statement by Taliban spokesman Mohammad Khurasani gives credence to the theory. The attack, he says was a response to anti-militant offensives in North Waziristan and the Khyber region. "The children of our tribes are our children. The women of our tribes are our mothers and our sisters. Six hundred people have been killed in just one year, innocent people who were killed, their bodies mangled." Mohammad Khurasani added: "These are the soldiers who have thrown their bodies in sacks. We were forced to make this decision, so that they should be hurt in their homes. When you are wounded in your own home then you realise. They burnt our homes and we were forced to set their homes on fire."

Pakistan to pursue terrorists even outside its borders

By Tim Craig, Pamela Constable and Daniela Deane 
December 17 

A Pakistani flag flies at half-mast on the compound a day after an attack by Taliban militants on a school in Peshawar, in Quetta, Pakistan. (Jamal Tarakai/EPA)

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed Wednesday to pursue terrorists even outside his borders and lift a moratorium on the death penalty as Pakistanis staged mass funerals for the 141 people, mostly schoolchildren, killed the day before in a bloody siege at an elite army high school.

“We cannot take a step back from this war against terrorism,” the Pakistani prime minister said, addressing a hastily-called meeting of political parties in Peshawar, where Tuesday’s horrific school attack took place.

“It was decided that action would be taken against terorrists present on the Afghan side of the border,” he said, after speaking with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. It was not immediately clear what actions that might entail.

He said a meeting between Pakistani officials and Ghani in Kabul was “successful,” adding that “important decisions were made that need to be implemented.”

Prayer vigils were meanwhile held across the nation to mourn those killed Tuesday after seven Taliban gunmen, explosives strapped to their bodies, scaled a back wall to enter the Army Public School and College.
During a memorial service, Pakistani school children pray for victims who were killed in an attack at the Army-run school in Peshawar. (Rehan Khan/EPA)

Students and teachers were then gunned down with some of the female teachers burned alive in an attack that shocked a country accustomed to continuing terrorist assaults. Army commandos, who quickly reached the scene, fought the Taliban militants in a day-long battle until the school was cleared and the attackers killed.

Tuesday’s bloody assault was an apparent retaliation for a major recent army operation after years of ambivalent policies toward the homegrown Islamist militants.

After spending the night in Peshawar, Pakistan’s powerful military chief made an emergency visit to Kabul to meet with Ghani and Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of coalition forces, to discuss the fallout of the attack on the school.

Speaking to reporters, Maj Gen. Asim Bajwa, chief spokesman for the Pakistan military, said army intelligence officers believe they know where the attack was coordinated from. Bajwa declined to pin the blame on militants residing in Afghanistan, but many Pakistani Taliban leaders are believed to reside in eastern Afghanistan.

Bajwa refused to rule out a cross-border military operation to try to capture or kill more Pakistani Taliban leaders. Instead, Bajwa repeatedly told reporters to “wait till tomorrow” for more information about what actions the Pakistan military may take.

“We will not rest unless and until every terrorist is killed,” Nawaz Sharif told the Peshawar meeting. “We cannot take a step back from this war against terrorism, there is no room for that especially after the tragedy that occured at the school.”

Backgrounder on Pakistani Taliban

Carlotta Gall, Declan Walsh and Douglas Schorzman
December 16, 2014

How the Pakistani Taliban Became a Deadly Force

People carried a student injured during an attack on a school by Taliban gunmen on Tuesday in Peshawar, Pakistan. Credit Mohammad Sajjad/Associated Press

Q. Who are the Pakistani Taliban?

A. The Pakistani Taliban, formally known as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, is a loose and increasingly divided umbrella organization that once represented roughly 30 groups of militants. The group was officially founded in 2007 by a prominent jihadi commander, Baitullah Mehsud, and for years it and allied groups like Al Qaeda have been based in the Pashtun tribal areas in northwestern Pakistan, particularly in North and South Waziristan.

Many Pakistani Taliban commanders fought in Afghanistan as part of the movement that swept to power in Kabul. When American forces ousted that movement in 2001, many of its leaders fled across the border into Pakistan. The Pakistanis among them played host to their Afghan counterparts — as well as hundreds of fighters from Al Qaeda — providing them with shelter, logistical support and recruits.

The Afghan Taliban and Qaeda fighters steadily radicalized the tribal regions, encouraging the Pakistani Taliban to spread their influence across the mountainous region and beyond into Pakistan’s settled areas and main cities.

Baitullah Mehsud, right, in 2004 in South Waziristan. Credit A. Majeed/A.F.P. — Getty Images

The militant groups resisted the Pakistani military’s efforts to impose control. They sometimes cooperated in cease-fire agreements with the Pakistani military, only to renege months later. Mr. Mehsud began leading the Tehrik-i-Taliban in attacks that directly challenged the Pakistani security forces and government, even within the country’s major cities.

The United States designated the Pakistani Taliban a terrorist organization in September 2010.

Q. What relationship do the Pakistani Taliban have to the Afghan Taliban?

A. The group owes allegiance to the Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, and cooperates closely with the Afghan movement in its insurgency in Afghanistan, providing men, logistics and rear bases for the Afghan Taliban. It has trained and dispatched hundreds of suicide bombers from Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Will There Ever Be Peace in Afghanistan As Long As Pakistani Intelligence Supports The Taliban?

Bruce Riedel
December 16, 2014

Revisit Afghanistan’s End Game Plan

The longest war in American history is approaching its moment of truth. Next year, the American- and Nato-built Afghan army will face Pakistani-backed Taliban insurgents with only modest and decreasing foreign assistance. President Barack Obama has promised even that small troop presence will end by 2017. He needs to revisit this decision.

From January 2015, Nato will have 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, of which 10,800 will be Americans. Germany will be the second-largest troop contributor with 850, and Italy third with 500. The US force total is scheduled to drop to 5,500 by the end of 2015 and to near zero by the end of 2016. Obama has already slowed the withdrawal once, keeping an extra 1,000 troops next year than originally planned, and expanding their mission beyond training and advising the Afghans to include some combat roles, especially air support.

The president’s decision this past spring to publicly lay out his timeline for ending American troop involvement on the ground is widely regarded as a mistake in Washington. It gave the enemy unnecessary insight into our war plans and confidence that it could out-wait American resolve. Many fear it will lead to a repeat of the Iraq disaster, where the Iraqi army collapsed last summer without US support and lost Mosul to the Islamic State, forcing a very reluctant Obama to send troops back to Baghdad. But the White House has not changed the endgame plan so far.

Washington and Kabul have both sought to persuade Islamabad to reduce its support to the Afghan Taliban this fall. Pakistan’s army chief, General Raheel Sharif, was in Washington last month, and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani met with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to improve ties. Shortly after the army chief’s visit, the Pakistan army announced it had killed a Saudi Arabian al-Qaeda operative in counter-terrorism operations near the Afghan-Pakistan border. This is a familiar pattern in US relations with Pakistan — an Arab terrorist is caught or killed just before or after a high-level bilateral meeting.

But the real problem has not changed: Pakistani support for the Taliban insurgency. Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, has been providing the Taliban with safe haven and sanctuary in Pakistan for over a decade. The ISI participates directly in planning Taliban operations and target selection against Nato and Afghan targets. It helps arm and fund the Taliban and assists its fundraising efforts in the Gulf states.

Mullah Omar, the shadowy leader of the Taliban who calls himself commander of the faithful, divides his time between Quetta and Karachi, where the ISI provides his security. The Haqqani network keeps an office in Rawalpindi near the ISI headquarters. General Sharif supervises all of this, just as his predecessors did before him. The general, not the prime minister, makes Afghan policy.

As former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on his first visit to India since leaving office, Pakistan remains the Taliban’s patron and safe haven, while demanding that Kabul reduce India’s presence in Afghanistan. Offers to train Afghan officers in Pakistan are only for public relations consumption. The army’s goal in Afghanistan is victory and the creation of a puppet state in Kabul. That has been the goal since at least when Zia-ul-Haq took power in his coup.


December 16, 2014

A few weeks before President Obama was due to decide whether to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden – the reason America had invaded the country in the first place – was killed in Pakistan. Just after midnight on 2 May 2011, two Blackhawk helicopters approached a compound on the outskirts of the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. Obama sat anxiously in the White House Situation Room, watching the operation with his national security team courtesy of a scratchy video feed from a drone.

Within moments of reaching the compound, the carefully laid plan started to unravel. One of the helicopters was forced to perform a ditch landing after unexpected air currents had caused the pilot to clip his tail rotor against the compound wall. There were gasps in the Situation Room as the helicopter dropped briefly out of sight, before the feed resumed, showing the Navy SEAL team sprinting clear of the crash site.

They proceeded to secure the compound, killing a man who poked his head round a door. Three of the SEALs reached a metal gate in the compound wall. Beyond lay a second enclosed area and the darkened outline of what was clearly the main house. Entering the ground floor, the SEALs fired into a ground-floor bedroom, killing an unarmed man and woman. At the rear of the house, they found a stairwell with a locked metal gate leading to the first floor. This was destroyed with an explosive charge.

When they got to the top of the stairs, they finally glimpsed their target, a tall man in a tan gown, ducking into a side room. The lead SEAL fired off two shots, before he cautiously approached the room. Two women were standing at the entrance, and behind them a man was lying at the foot of a bed. Seeing the lead SEAL, one of the women, dishevelled and hysterical, launched herself at the point man, who drove her and the other woman back into a corner. The other two SEALs entered and observed bin Laden on the floor, twitching in his death throes from a bullet wound to the side of his head. The SEALs fired more bullets into his body until they were certain he was dead. After securing the rest of the floor, they returned to the corpse.

“I think this is our boy,” said one of the men, leaning over the body.

Baying for slices of a contested Bay

Ataur Rahman
17 Dec 2014 

This paper brings out the evolving complexity of relations among China, India and the United States. It highlights how a number of strategic initiatives undertaken by China, like investing in a deep sea port in Bangladesh, an oil-pipeline from Chittagong to Kunming, BCIM Economic Corridor, and Maritime Silk Road are yet to be realised in the contesting and divergent perceptions and interests of the three major maritime powers. The seven littoral countries of the Bay of Bengal - Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia - have an outlet through this largest bay in the world. It is thus attracting renewed attention catalysed by its strategic links, resource endowments and overall geopolitical significance. Recently, focus has been more on bridging infrastructure and broader connectivity gaps created by rapid development and the increasing volume of goods, services, people, and capital flows between economies of the bay region

US interestsSecurity relations in and around the Bay region are perceived by the US to have significant implications for its new “Asia Pivot” strategy. In the past several years, the US has developed new interests in the Bay of Bengal, and is in competition with India and China driven by a number of geo-strategic, economic and security considerations. The US expects that Bangladesh and other states adjoined by the Bay in the Indian Ocean should be partners in its security and economic cooperation framework. The US hopes that the Bay states or ‘community' should not relapse into chaotic unstable conditions, and that the US security assistance programme should aim at supporting them to “better control their borders and coastline and better deal with natural disasters and transnational security threats.”

India's ambitionsThe rising importance of the Bay of Bengal in recent years is also linked to growing assertion of India as a naval power, and its stepped-up activities in trade relations, investment opportunities and establishing increasing connectivity with littoral states. India's ambitious modernisation of its navy with increasing bilateral and multilateral naval ties in the Bay of Bengal are driven partly in response to China and partly as a power rising on the world stage. Indian Maritime Doctrine projects a depletion of world energy resources that will make the prospect of outside military involvement in India's geographic environs even more prominent than now. India's ambitious ventures along the eastern part of the Bay of Bengal are underway. They include construction of a large new terminal beside the old harbour in Sittwe (Akyab) in Myanmar to open its own landlocked and impoverished north-eastern states, reduce costs of freight, and provide easy movement of cargo.

China's goalsChina looks at the Bay of Bengal as an important maritime space for its future connectivity, trade and energy link to the Indian Ocean security landscape. China's ambition is also propelled by a constellation of strategic, commercial and security considerations. The paramount concern animating Chinese interests in the Bay and Indian Ocean is energy security, an imperative that has been widely discussed and debated in media and academic studies. China's use of naval power to preserve its vital interests in the Indian Ocean is already being perceived by other powers as causing a security imbalance in the region. It is thus being factored in a major way in the strategic calculi of India, US and others. China's current strategy in the Indian Ocean is to make its presence felt through building a credible naval strength. Submarines that at present give China a ‘short-run relief’ give it the ‘capability’ of deploying its naval forces in the Indian Ocean by 2020–2025. Some regional countries are seeking to augment their naval sea denial capabilities either through acquiring new submarines (Bangladesh and Malaysia) or by upgrading the existing capabilities (Pakistan, Indonesia) from China.

Resistance, repression, and the cycle of violence in the Uyghur Struggle

10 October 2014

Is the state actively engaged in decreasing participation in nonviolent resistance and delegitimizing Uyghur grievances by highlighting escalating violence?

100 members of the Uyghur community in Oslo, Norway, marched the streets to commemorate the one year anniversary of the 5 July 2009 massacre in Urumqi. Olav Ljone Skogaas/Demotix. All rights reserved.

On Tuesday, September 26, 2014 a Chinese court convicted Ilham Tohti, a Uyghur economics professor, to a life sentence on charges of separatism in a disgracefully political trial. Amnesty International’s China researcher William Nee wrote, “This shameful judgment has no basis in reality. Ilham Tohti worked to peacefully build bridges between ethnic communities and for that he has been punished…”

Ilham Tohti’s conviction should be seen as a symbol sent by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to other Uyghurs and a reprisal against Mr. Tohti specifically for his outspoken activism for Uyghur rights. He has been adamant that central government policies have been abusive toward Uyghurs and have fueled conflict. However, he has been steady in his commitment to nonviolent action as the necessary path for Uyghur rights in China, always advocating autonomy never independence, despite contrary claims by the government.

Admittedly, over the past few years, there has been a tragic increase in violent episodes attributed to Uyghur discontent in China. Uyghurs are the ethnically Turkic, predominantly Muslim minority who claim ancient homeland in what is today the northwest Chinese province of Xinjiang, a Chinese word that literally translates as ‘new territory.’
Restive and repressive

China: Xi Jinping’s Ideological Dilemma

By D.S.Rajan

There is no doubt that the policy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) led by Xi Jinping , is to further accelerate economic reforms; and at the same time, like the earlier regimes, firmly against political liberalization in the country. 

Confirming the policy has been the CCP Fourth Plenum (October 2014) ‘Decision’ document which, while giving approval to the ‘socialist rule of law’ in the country, first time to happen in such sessions, did not fail to reiterate the party’s supremacy in the Chinese political system. This being so, there is evidence to point out that the CCP has come under pressure to fight against liberal voices increasingly emanating from circles close to the party itself as well as the society at large; this has led to its launch of an ideological debate with the liberals, which is progressing intermittently. Interestingly, some of the arguments from the party side to counter the liberal ideas are being made on the basis of orthodox Marxist class positions which are irrelevant to reforms, thus exposing the existence of ideological hardliners within the CCP. Who are the liberals being targeted by the party in the debate? They include influential and outspoken media representatives, some even working for CCP affiliates and academicians who have come out in favor of full economic liberalization and genuine political reforms. 

A prominent subject of the ongoing debate is the concept of ‘constitutionalism’, which provides for every institution in the country including the CCP being accountable to the constitution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In essence, the party considers it as a Western inspired one and unsuitable for China. Among the CCP documents on the subject, is one issued by its General Office (No.9/2013), which was made public in the foreign media in June 2013. It chose ‘constitutionalism’ for attack and asked the cadres to guard against seven political “perils”- constitutionalism, civil society, universal values, media independence, criticizing errors in party history i.e. historical nihilism, questioning the policy of opening up reforms and opposing socialist nature of China’s development. It called on Party members to strengthen their resistance to infiltration by outside ideas.

Catching attention is also a pre-Plenum document of the CCP’s central party school itself which raised (October 2014) eight fundamental ideological questions; important among them concerned the CCP’s role in market economy, core socialist values, theory of class struggle and the collapse of the former Soviet Union. These questions have not been fully addressed in the plenum the main agenda of which was ‘rule of law’, not ideological matters; a full answer to them is therefore yet to come and a more lively debate can be in the offing.

Lastly, the already mentioned Plenum’s ‘Decision’ document has made party’s official position in clearest terms– “governance according to law requires that the CCP governs the country on the basis of the constitution and laws and that the party leadership and socialist rule of law are identical. Party leadership is the most fundamental guarantee for comprehensively advancing the rule of law and building country under socialist rule of law”. Not to be missed is the fact that in the Decision, there has been no mention of “constitutionalism”, a pet word for the liberals, while the term “constitution” appears 38 times. It did not say anything about strengthening the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the power of the NPC standing committee for interpreting or applying the constitution. 

Information Warfare: China Leads The Way

December 12, 2014

China recently (November 19-21) held an international Internet conference in the city of Wuzhen. As it usually does for international conferences the government turned off most of the government firewall functions for Wuzhen for duration of the conference. Any Westerners in Wuzhen before or after the conference would find the Internet incredibly difficult to use because so many popular (and many less popular) web sites are blocked. This is normal for Chinese, who now comprise about a third of the people on the Internet. Yet Chinese officials feel their massive censorship effort serves a useful purpose (making the population easier for the ruling Communist Party to control) and that this is not in conflict with Chinese efforts to be a major player in their proposed world Internet governing body. While many Western nations would like to see the U.S. play a less dominating role in governing the Internet, there is little enthusiasm for China having a major role in running the Internet. That’s because the Chinese believe that governments should have a lot more control over Internet activity (and access) within their borders and would like to see the establishment of a worldwide organization with the power to “control” (censor) the Internet worldwide. Thus the government sponsors these international conferences in an effort to gain wider support for their goals.

Inside China the government very much practices what it preaches. In addition to monitoring and censoring the Chinese Internet to eliminate anti-government material, China has also been trying to eliminate pornography for over a decade. In the last year China has gone after the use of rumor and false information campaigns as well as sharing opinions about politics or issues of public interest. The use of rumor and false information have long (since the Internet began to be a major media force in the late 1990s) been used by businesses, and some individuals in China to attack and discredit competitors and rivals. Even government officials will use it against those they are having disputes with, as in other officials, businessmen or foreigners. This sort of thing is more common in China than elsewhere and has become a very rough and unregulated form of media manipulation and public relations. In the last year the government rolled out this new campaign to restrict such bad behavior. The government is prosecuting and making an example of celebrities and other high profile offenders, to ensure that the message gets around. The new rules only allow government approved organizations to do “public relations” work via the Internet. This includes commenting on the news.

This new program went into high gear in early 2014 when China ordered its Internet censors to crack down on what people say on Chinese social media. This quickly led to many local critics (or simply commentators) of the Chinese government disappearing from the Chinese Internet. This does not surprise most Chinese, especially since in 2013 the government finally revealed the number of people (two million) involved in Internet censorship operations. This undertaking is called Golden Shield (or “Great Firewall of China” in the West) and it’s a huge information control system that has been under construction since for over a decade.

Before the new revelations Golden Shield was believed to have at least 40,000 full time Ministry of Public Security employees dedicated to monitoring and censoring Internet use throughout the country. This was done using specialized hardware and software and lots of paid and volunteer censors. These “irregulars” were known to be numerous but it was difficult to get an accurate estimate. Now the government revealed that irregulars bring the total Internet censorship manpower up to two million. This is for keeping some 700 million Chinese Internet users under control. This is not cheap and over ten billion dollars has been spent on Golden Shield so far. While the Great Firewall cannot stop someone expert at how the Internet works, it does greatly restrict the other 90 percent of Chinese Internet users. 

Leadership: China Analyses Their Primary Weakness

December 14, 2014

Chinese efforts, since the 1990s, to curb corruption in the military have not been working. But the civilian leadership (the Chinese Communist Party) keep demanding new attempts and new approaches. The latest one uses a more analytical approach. A team of military and civilian analysts took a close look at the corruption cases investigated and prosecuted so far. As the civilian analysts suspected, most of the corrupting occurred in a few areas (personnel management, finance and all matters dealing with purchasing and distributing fuel). This is apparently where most of the corruption was taking place, because the opportunities for quick money were most abundant and controls least effective. The new anti-corruption effort will concentrate on 130 specific situations that should be more carefully monitored with past activity there investigated as well.

Not all the misbehavior is stealing cash, goods or services. Some military personnel are also involved in bribing others in the military (or civilian bureaucracy) for some advantage or abusing their rank in the military of civilian bureaucracy. This often involved doing “favors” liking helping someone, or the son or friend of someone, get a promotion or a certain job. Such favors are a form of currency with real value, more so in Chinese culture than in the West. One thing the Chinese have borrowed from the West is the concept of “zero tolerance.” Like many concepts adopted from the West this one will run afoul of more ancient and much more ingrained customs. That would include groups of corrupt individuals protecting each other. Thus the big problem the anti-corruption effort within the military will have is avoiding corruption among those investigating the corruption of others. This problem is not new, in fact it’s the primary reason corruption has proved so difficult to eliminate in the military. But change does come in China, it just tends to arrive on its old schedule, which is often a lot slower than many would like.

Corruption isn’t the only thing the military has been analyzing recently. In an effort to become more effective, even with all the corruption, the government has also done some detailed studies of how the military operates and how effective the armed forces are. These studies found lots of problems, most of them connected in one way or another with corruption. This led to the recent appearance of many stories in state-controlled media detailing how corruption in the military was a major reason for Chinese defeats in the last two centuries and precisely why this was so. At the same time much media attention is being given to senior generals currently being prosecuted for corruption. In Chinese culture this is the equivalent of a Western country suddenly accusing senior military leaders of corruption and damaging the ability of their troops to get the job done. China is also not sparing recent political leaders as these articles are also discussing more recent military disasters (like the 1979 war with Vietnam) and the role political and military corruption played. All this is a big deal in communist China, a very big deal indeed. Until recently the senior communists rarely criticized each other in public like this. This is supposed to send a message to the people and the troops that something is finally being done, and to scare the senior officers, especially the ones who are dirty.

The Syrian Army Has Been Reduced to 135,000 War Weary Troops

Christopher Kozak
December 16, 2014

The Assad Regime Under Stress: Conscription and Protest among Alawite and Minority Populations in Syria

After three years of grueling warfare against armed opposition fighters, the Syrian regime faces a dire internal crisis not witnessed since the initial months of the conflict. Defections, desertions, and over 44,000 combat fatalities havereduced the Syrian Arab Army from a pre-war high of 325,000 soldiers to an estimated 150,000 battle-tested yet war-weary troops. Despite reinforcementfrom tens of thousands of foreign volunteers, Lebanese Hezbollah militants, and pro-government militias, regime forces have proven unable to decisively overcome rebel brigades on the battlefield. These pressures were only exacerbated by the withdrawal of thousands of Iraqi Shi’a militiamen from Syria inJune 2014 redeployed to counter the ongoing ISIS offensive in Iraq. 

At the same time, key demographics within the President Bashar al-Assad’s support base - including the Alawite population - have exhibited growing signs of dissatisfaction with the Syrian regime. Pre-existing grievances related to repression and socialinequities have merged with high casualty counts and rising economic stress to fuel a sense of exhaustion among regime supporters. Faced with both a war-weary populace and a burgeoning manpower deficit that threatens its survival, the Syrian regime has resorted to a nation-wide forced conscription campaign - threatening to further split the regime from its base. Charting the contours of this program and its interaction with growing discontent within pro-regime elements of the Syrian population will prove critical for understanding the future state of pro-regime forces and the overall trajectory of the conflict in Syria. 

The Regime Conscription Campaign