22 August 2016



Paper 289 07.08.2001
by B.Raman
Before the recent Agra summit, Gen.Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's self-reinstated Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), self-styled Chief Executive and self-promoted President, had held a series of consultations with political and religious leaders of Pakistan, including Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), on his negotiating strategy at Agra. As we had mentioned in our reports on the subject available at www.saag.org , significantly, he did not invite any representative of the Pakistan-Occupied Northern Areas (Gilgit & Baltistan) for these consultations.

Reports available since then indicate that his decision not to invite anyone from the Northern Areas was due to the fact that Gilgit was in a serious state of unrest for a fortnight from the last week of June,2001, due to protests from Sunni organisations over the decision of the local administration to introduce different text-books in the schools for the Shias, who are in a majority in Gilgit, and the Sunnis. Embarrassed by the outbreak of the violence before the summit, the Pakistani authorities stopped all movements between Gilgit and the rest of Pakistan and imposed strict censorship on the publication of the details of the incidents in Gilgit.

The riots in Gilgit started on June 23,2001, when there were clashes between the workers of the extremist Sunni organisation Sipah Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and law enforcing agencies following the arrests of some SSP leaders, who demanded that Shia students should study the same books as are prescribed for Sunni students by the Sunni Ulema and not separate books approved by the Shia clergy.

The Sunni traders started a shutter down strike in protest against the arrests of the central Khateeb and Ameer Tanzeem-e-Ahle-Sunnah-al-Jamat, Maulana Nisar Ahmed, and the President of the Gilgit branch of the SSP,Himayat-ullah, along with other religious scholars on the night of June 22.

To disperse rioting SSP members, the police first baton charged and when the SSP cadres retaliated by pelting stones, they fired tear-gas shells intermittently for nearly two hours, which resulted in a large number of casualties. A curfew was imposed and para-military forces were deployed to enforce it.

Thousands of protesting activists of the Ahle Sunnah blocked the roads in Gilgit City and Kohistan to prevent the movement of reinforcements, which were then rushed to the affected areas by helicopters, The Army then forcibly removed the demonstrators from the roads and used bulldozers to remove the barricades erected by them.

Subsequently, about 500 activists of the SSP surrounded the Gilgit City Police Station, demanded the release of the arrested Sunni leaders and defied an one-hour ultimatum to disperse issued by the Army.Brig.Zahid Mubashir, the Station Commander at Gilgit, then rushed to the Police Station and tried unsuccessfully to persuade the demonstrators to disperse. Later, he withdrew the Army to the barracks and let the local Police handle the inflamed situattion.


Paper No. 941 03.03.2004

by B.Raman


In my despatch of February 16, 2004, from Israel, I had stated as follows: "The Falluja raid has come at a time when there are reports of the infiltration of about 60 Yemeni, Yemeni-Balochi and Pakistani terrorists, belonging to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (al-Almi meaning international) and the sunni extremist Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) into Iraq from Saudi Arabia. They had gone to Saudi Arabia under the guise of Haj pilgrims. After the Haj was over, they crossed over into Iraq instead of returning to their country. Similar instances had taken place last year too. With their entry, the total number of foreign jihadi terrorists in Iraq is estimated at about 360 to 380.

2. To understand the anti-Shia massacres at Karbala and Baghdad in Iraq ( about 180 fatal casualties) and at Quetta in Pakistan's Balochistan (41 killed ) during the Muhurrum procession on March 2, 2004, one has to go back to the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

3. When Pakistan was formed in 1947, the Shias were amongst the major land-owners of Pakistan's Punjab, its granary, and many of the Sunnis, who migrated to Pakistan from India's Punjab, were largely poor landless farm workers, who had to earn their livelihood in their country of adoption by working in the farms of the Shias. The perceived exploitation of the Sunnis by the Shia landlords started the process of the polarisation of the two sects of Islam in Pakistan.

4. This sectarian polarisation largely due to economic reasons was given a religious twist by Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan's military dictator of the 1980s, after the overthrow of the Shah of Iran and the triumph of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. To counter the growing political assertiveness of the Shias and their political party, the Tehrik-e-Jaffria (TEJ) Pakistan, which generally supported Mrs. Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP), he encouraged and assisted Sunni extremist organisations such as the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP).

5. With his blessings, the SSP challenged the right of a woman to come to political power and projected the Shias and Mrs. Nusrat Bhutto, the mother of Benazir, as the surrogates of Iran. The SSP also started calling for the declaration of the Shias as non-Muslims and for the proclamation of Pakistan as a Sunni State.

6. Even before Zia seized power in 1977, Pakistan used to see sectarian tension and clashes between the Sunnis and the Shias, but this violence took a virulent form in the 1980s. There were many targeted attacks on Shias in the Sindh and Punjab provinces of Pakistan and in the Northern Areas of Jammu & Kashmir (Gilgit and Baltistan, where the Shias are in a majority), which has been under Pakistani occupation since 1947-48.

7. The last years of the Zia regime saw the Shias of Gilgit come out with a demand for a separate Shia State consisting of Gilgit and the Shia majority areas of Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). They wanted the Shia state to be called the Karakoram Province and remain part of a confederation of Pakistan.

8. The Zia regime crushed the Shia movement ruthlessly. In August 1988, the Pakistan Army inducted a large Sunni tribal force from the NWFP and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), led by Osama bin Laden, into Gilgit and it massacred hundreds of Shias and crushed their revolt. The hatred of the Shias for Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda dates from this period.

9. Shortly after this massacre, Zia died in a mysterious plane crash. Though the report of the enquiry commission has not been allowed to be released by the Army, it is generally believed by many in Pakistan that the crash of the aircraft was caused by a Shia airman on board the flight. In October,1991, Lt.Gen. (retd) Fazle Haq, a close associate of Zia, was assassinated in Peshawar, the capital of the NWFP, by Shia gunmen.

10. The virulent anti-Shia ideology of the SSP was also exploited by the intelligence agencies of the USA and Iraq in their attempts to destabilise Iran and have the Shia clergy ruling Teheran overthrown. As a result of the support from the Saddam Hussain regime, the SSP, which was an anti-Pakistani Shia and not an anti-Iran movement, started targeting the Iranians living in and visiting Pakistan too in the 1990s. There were many attacks on Iranian civilians, diplomats and military officers coming to Pakistan for training. The SSP was also used by the intelligence agencies of the USA and Iraq to instigate the Sunni Balochis of Iran to revolt against Teheran.

11. Many notorious Pakistani and Arab terrorists such as Ramzi Yousef, now in jail in the US for his involvement in the New York World Trade Centre explosion of February,1993 Maulana Masood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), Fazlur Rahman Khalil of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, started their career as terrorists as members of the SSP and participated in many of its anti-Shia massacres in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. When al-Zarqawi, along with some other Jordanians, many of them of Chechen ancestry, came to Pakistan in the 1980s to join the Arab mercenary force trained and armed by the CIA and the ISI and used against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan, his passport gave his name as Fadel al-Khalayleh, which is believed to be his real name.

12. On June 20, 1994 Ramzi Yousef and al-Zarqawi, at the instigation of the Iraqi intelligence, caused an explosion at Mashad in the Iranian territory adjoining Pakistan which killed a large number of Shias. Zarqawi, along with the late Riaz Basra, the leader of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), the militant wing of the SSP, helped the Taliban in the capture of Kabul in September, 1996.

13. The LEJ subsequently helped the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the massacre of the Hazaras (Shias ) of Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden never liked Saddam, whom he looked upon as an apostate because of his secular and socialist policies, and the proximity of the LEJ and al-Zarqawi to Saddam's intelligence agency created differences between them and bin Laden.

14. Despite this, the LEJ joined bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People after it was formed in 1998 and has remained loyal to bin Laden. Till 2002, the anti-Shia activities of the LEJ were confined to Punjab and Sindh. Balochistan remained largely free of anti-Shia incidents. The situation changed after the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM) by the Pakistani authorities at Rawalpindi in March, 2003 and his handing over to the USA's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It was reported that KSM had fled from Karachi to Quetta in September 2002, after the arrest of Ramzi Binalshibh and from there shifted to Rawalpindi fearing betrayal by the Hazaras (Shias) of Balochistan, who were suspected of helping the US agencies in their hunt for bin Laden because of their anger over the massacre of the Hazaras of Afghanistan before 9/11.

15. It is this suspicion, which was behind two anti-Shia incidents in Quetta last year. In the first, Hazara policemen under training and in the second in the first week of July, 53 Shia worshippers were killed. This suspicion against the Shias has increased in recent weeks in the wake of reports, contradicted by the Pakistani authorities, that President Pervez Musharraf has agreed to permit the US troops to comb for bin Laden in the FATA and the Pashtun majority areas of Balochistan. The massacre of the Shias in Quetta on March 2 was in reprisal partly for their suspected collaboration with the Americans in their hunt for bin Laden and partly for the murder of Maulana Azam Tariq, the leader of the SSP, last year, allegedly by Shia extremists.

16. In a message disseminated by Al Jazeera TV before the invasion of Iraq by the coalition troops led by the US last year, bin Laden had called for a united struggle against the Americans by the Sunnis and Shias of Iraq forgetting their sectarian differences. While continuing to describe Saddam as apostate, he appealed to the Shias and Sunnis not to let their differences come in the way of a joint resistance against the Americans.

17. Even before the invasion, terrorist elements of the IIF started moving to Iraq via Saudi Arabia and Iran for starting a jihad against the Americans. The first group to go was from the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM). They went to Saudi Arabia as Haj pilgrims and from there crossed over to Iraq. Subsequently, Arab-speaking volunteers of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the LEJ also started going to Iraq in small numbers. Many of the Arabs of Chechen ancestry, originally belonging to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, who were in the South Waziristan area of the FATA, also joined them.

18. Neither the HUM nor the LET had in the past come to notice for indulging in anti-Shia massacres in Pakistan though some leaders of the HUM had originally been members of the SSP. Of those who have gone to Iraq from Pakistan, only the members of the LEJ had indulged in anti-Shia massacres in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the past and could be expected to indulge in similar massacres in Iraq without any hesitation. The Iraqi resistance fighters are unlikely to indulge in the kind of massacres carried out at Karbala and Baghdad on March 2. The needle of suspicion, therefore, strongly points to the LEJ.

19. Their action in targeting the Shias of Iraq arises partly from their deeply-ingrained anti-Shia reflexes and partly is a reprisal for the perceived collaboration of the Shia leaders of Iraq with the American troops. If al-Zarqawi wanted to promote a civil war in Iraq by instigating Shia-Sunni clashes, as alleged by US officials, the LEJ, with which he has had a history of association in the past and which would not hesitate to massacre Shias anywhere in the world, would be the ideal tool in his eyes.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter. E-Mail: corde@vsnl. com )

*** U.S. Wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen: What Are The Endstates?

August 15, 2016

It is one of the many ironies of the 2016 presidential campaign that the United States is at war in varying degrees in four different countries in the Middle East and North Africa—Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen—as well as continuing its “longest war” in Afghanistan. All five of these wars now involve ISIS to some degree—ISIS is the central focus of the wars in Iraq, Syria, and Libya—and probably to a degree that seriously threatens the future stability of the MENA region and U.S. strategic interests. 
Neither Trump nor Clinton have seriously addressed U.S. policy for any of these five wars, and the Obama Administration has not publically stated its grand strategy for any conflict. For the first time in its national history, the United States may get through a Presidential campaign amidst multiple wars without seriously debating or discussing where any of its wars are going, or what their longer-term impact will be.
If anything, both American politics and the media seem to focus far more on whether or not President Obama failed to keep his 2008 campaign promises to end very different wars. This focus disregards whether or not his legacy involves the ability to actually win any of what are now very different conflicts in a form that will have an outcome that serves U.S. interests and those of our allies.

True Victory in War is Not Shaped by the Military Outcome But by What Happens Once the 

Fighting is Over
This lack of attention to America’s wars is dangerous in the case of all its wars, but it is particularly dangerous in the case of Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen. The United States is supporting a very different mix of forces in each country in different ways with what seems to be one narrow goal: denying ISIS the ability to control territory or the ability to establish some form of government and sanctuary. The key U.S. tools in each war zone mix air power and with U.S. train and assist efforts and arms transfers to local factions. The United States also provides some limited ground artillery and Special Forces support in Iraq, and a mix of more limited U.S. and allied support for very different types of factions in Syria and Libya.
In each case, the United States may be succeeding to the point where it is tipping the balance enough to achieve the narrow strategic goal of “defeating” ISIS to the point where ISIS no longer controls major cities or blocs of territory. Moreover, the United States may largely achieve this goal before a new President comes to office and can put his or her national security team fully in place. This may well be a “victory” in a narrow sense, and no one can deny that ISIS’s ability to control population centers, blocs of territory, and sanctuaries for fundraising, training terrorists and fighters, and for carrying out its indoctrination efforts made it a far more serious threat.

There is no prospect in any such war, however, that the United States will win a near term victory in either the broader strategic sense of fully defeating ISIS, or in the grand strategic sense of ending a war with a stable and desirable outcome.
Once again, the United States does not seem to be learning from its past. The real test of victory is never tactical success or even ending a war on favorable military terms, it is what comes next. World War I was a military victory that became a grand strategic disaster. World War II led to nearly half a century of Cold War, the creation of an existential nuclear threat to the United States, and a “peace” that still has not created a stable relationship with Russia. Korea has been locked into more than half a century of unstable stalemate that is now going nuclear. Vietnam has produced the irony of a long chain of U.S. tactical victories that have ended in a major strategic defeat, but have gradually been followed by steadily closer U.S. strategic relations with its former enemy.
ISIS Cannot Be Defeated Quickly and No Credible Form of Eventual Defeat of ISIS Will Defeat the Threat of Terrorism
Moreover, America’s political leaders seem to be ignoring warnings from senior U.S. officials like the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Director of National Intelligence, and experts in its National Counterterrorism Center that any victory which deprives ISIS of control over cities and major blocs of territory in Iraq, Syria, and Libya will be limited at best. U.S. military planners—like their Iraqi counterparts—are deeply concerned that “liberating” Mosul will trigger at least a year of constant ISIS attacks from the fighters that disperse or hide in Western Iraq, and no one seems to openly address how Western Iraq can be secured until IISS is defeated in Syria as well.
This, however, raises the broader issue of what will happen to tens of thousands of ISIS fighters if ISIS loses its major population centers in Iraq and Syria like Mosul and Raqqa, as well as control over the coastal strip in Libya around Sirte (Surt). Many will head back to their country of origin, others will go to a new front somewhere in the region or South and Central Asia, and some will stay. The organizations they join may or may not keep the name ISIS, but they are likely to stay violent Islam extremists whose terrorism in the United States and Europe continues to try to divide the true path of Islam from the rest of world, and threaten every moderate regime in the Muslim world.
A terrorist by any other name is not a “rose,” and the threat both ISIS fighters and other such extremists pose will continue to be a threat indefinitely into the future. Moreover, all of the political, economic, social, and demographics forces that triggered the rise of such extremism and the massive upheaval that begin in 2011 have grown worse over the last half-decade – as have the tensions Muslims living in the West face as the result of the terrorism committed by a small minority.
The effort to counter the extremist message seems to be improving, but there is no similar success in addressing the complex mix of other underlying causes. Civil upheavals, civil war, sectarian and ethnic violence, a loss of investment and capital flight, massive refugee and IDP problems, a loss of tourist income, and a 40-60% drop in petroleum revenues do not alone produce some predictable increase in extremism or terrorism. Neither does fear of Muslims by non-Muslims, and discrimination against Muslims in the West and other areas outside largely Muslim states. These forces, however, are almost certain to make things worse.
Here, it is critical to look beyond the current U.S. obsession with ISIS and look at the broader threat. If one looks at the most recent START statistics on terrorism in the State Department annual report on terrorism, and only considers the top five threats, three are clearly Islamist extremist: ISIS (in Syria and Iraq), the Taliban, and Boko Harum. There are more than 40 Islamist extremist groups listed in the START database, but if one looks only at these top three, ISIS was responsible for only 37% of the attacks and 38% of the deaths.
(Source: National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism: “Annex of Statistical Information,” Country Reports on Terrorism 2015, U.S. State Department, Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism, May 2016, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2015/257526.htm)
There is no clear way to assess the role of ISIS role in terms of all Islamist extremist attacks, but if one looks at the total numbers of attacks in the countries with the highest rates of terrorism in the MENA region (Egypt, Iraq, Libya, and Syria), ISIS was responsible for 29% of the attacks in 2015, and 56% of the deaths.
Islamic extremism does dominate global terrorism, but ISIS was only responsible for 9% of the attacks in the entire world in 2015, and 21% of the deaths. Depriving ISIS of control over population centers and sanctuary to raise funds and train fighters, and breaking it up as key organization, matters. Defeating it in any practical sense, however, will not begin to deal with the lasting threat.
(Source: National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism: “Annex of Statistical Information,”Country Reports on Terrorism 2015, U.S. State Department, Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism, May 2016, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2015/257526.htm)
Looking Beyond ISIS: What Comes Next in Libya
The problems of what comes next in the wars the United States is now fighting also goes far beyond ISIS. The issue is simplest in Libya. Defeating ISIS may or may not ease the tensions between Libya’s two de facto governments in its west and its East. They have cooperated to some degree in fighting ISIS. It may or may not ease the internal tensions within each area that have sharply reduced Libya’s petroleum exports and income. Other tribal and regional fighting may or may not emerge as more serious problems.
What is clear is that these divisions and low-level civil war have made Qaddafi’s terrible legacy in terms of poor governance and failed economic development even worse. Libya will need a decade of rebuilding and reform to produce true stability and raise its per capita income and income distribution to acceptable levels. This requires both stable internal politics and leadership, and serious international aid.
Once again, the civil dimension both in war and post-conflict is critical to any form of lasting successful outcome. Some form of “nation-building” is even more difficult than winning actual conflict, but is no less necessary. No real grand strategy is possible without it, and Libya faces critical challenges.
• Population 6.4 million; Median age 28
• Youth unemployment 48.7%; overall unemployment 30% (?)
• 79.7% urbanized
• GDP drops from $130.2B in 2013 to $92.6B in 2015
• Per capita income drops from $20,800 in 2013 to $14,600 in 2015
• 33% below poverty line in 2014.
• As of 2015, 434,869 IDPs, 471,653 people of concern.
• Libya's economy, almost entirely dependent on oil and gas exports, struggled during 2015 as the country plunged into civil war and world oil prices dropped to seven-year lows.
• In early 2015, armed conflict between rival forces for control of the country’s largest oil terminals caused a decline in Libyan crude oil production, which never recovered to more than one-third of the average pre-Revolution highs of 1.6 million barrels per day.
• The Central Bank of Libya continued to pay government salaries to a majority of the Libyan workforce and to fund subsidies for fuel and food, resulting in an estimated budget deficit of about 49% of GDP.
• Libya’s economic transition away from Qaddafi’s notionally socialist model has completely stalled
• Libya’s leaders have hindered economic development by failing to use its financial resources to invest in national infrastructure. The country suffers from widespread power outages in its largest cities, caused by shortages of fuel for power generation. Living conditions, including access to clean drinking water, medical services, and safe housing, have all declined as the civil war has caused more people to become internally displaced, further straining local resources.
• Extremists affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacked Libyan oilfields in the first half of 2015; ISIL has a presence in many cities across Libya including near oil infrastructure, threatening future government revenues from oil and gas.
This does not mean the United States needs a major aid mission or even has to take the lead. The United States does, however, need a clear strategy that looks beyond ISIS, does not simply hope for action by other countries, or simply leave a vacuum in its broader efforts while it bombs ISIS. It can lever limited civil and military aid, seek some kind of common effort with Europe, and develop an integrated civil-military approach to strategic partnership.
Past experience also shows that such efforts have to be public and transparent enough to put real pressure on State, USAID, and Defense to act. The past efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan simply papered over a lack of real planning, interagency coordination, and effective effort. It also papered over a lack of coordination with other countries, tolerance of failed efforts by key groups like UNAMA, and unwillingness to press coordination with the World Bank and IMF.
Whether the next President choses to use more force, rely on strategic partnerships, or do both, the U.S. has got to look beyond ISIS in dealing with Libya, and look beyond the threat alone, as well as look beyond the partisan domestic politics in the United States of the tragedy in Benghazi.
Yemen: Some States Stay Failed
This need to look beyond ISIS and the threat of Islamist extremism is equally true in the case of Yemen, although for very different reasons. The U.S. backing of the Saudi-UAE led coalition in Yemen is limited largely to support of air operations, intelligence, and targeting data, and is the lowest level of U.S. involvement in its current wars – although a U.S. Marine amphibious force did prevent Iranian convoys from coming to Yemen at one point in the war. Yemen, however, is a military and civil strategic nightmare.
Yemen’s elected (one candidate) government, the remnants of the Saleh regime, the Houthi Shiite rebels, the separatist factions in the south, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and various tribal factions have no clear reason to reconcile or stop fighting. Any peace is almost certain to be temporary and unstable. Worse, Yemen is so poor, so limited in water, lacking in economic development, so tied to a narco-economy, and so highly populated that it has no clear path towards nation building its various factions can agree upon.
Even if one ignores immediate issues like casualties, food shortages and people at risk from the war; Yemen faces a host of longer-term challenges like sharp population growth, critically low rate of development and critical water problems, and the following mix of immediate challenges:
• Population 27 million; Median age 19
• 40% of children underweight before war.
• Youth unemployment 37%; overall unemployment 27%
• GDP dropped from $105B in 2013 to $75.5 in 2015
• Per capita income drops from $3,900 in 2013 to $2,700 in 2015
• 54% below poverty line in 2014.
• As of 2015, 2.5 million IDPs, 267,000 refugees, 2.8 million people of concern.
• Ongoing war has halted Yemen’s exports, pressured the currency’s exchange rate, accelerated inflation, severely limited food and fuel imports, and caused widespread damage to infrastructure. At least 82% of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance.
• Rebel Huthi groups have interfered with Ministry of Finance and Central Bank operations and diverted funds for their own use. Yemen’s Central Bank reserves, which stood at $5.2 billion prior to the conflict, currently stand at $1.5 billion.
• The Central Bank is exposed to approximately $7 billion in overdraft, more than three times the legal limit, directly linked to the Houthis withdrawing $116 million on a monthly basis.
• The private sector is hemorrhaging, with almost all businesses making substantial layoffs.
• The Port of Hudaydah, which handles 60% of Yemen’s commercial traffic, was damaged in August 2015 as a result of the conflict and is only operating at 50% capacity.
• Access to food and other critical commodities such as medical equipment is limited across the country due to security issues on the ground.
• The Social Welfare Fund, a cash transfer program for Yemen’s neediest, is no longer operational and has not made any disbursements since late 2014.
Yemen’s strategic position at the gates to the Red Sea and long border with Saudi Arabia do make it a potential strategic threat. At least for the foreseeable future, however, the most that one can hope for is to limit and contain its violence and role in terrorism and in the growing tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Any end to conflict is likely to be temporary or illusory, and serious nation building is likely to be impossible. The United States still needs a strategy for both the military and civil side of Yemen’s fighting and instability, and it sill has to make hard choices, but the best real-world strategy is likely to be an awkward and unstable mix of containment and finding the least bad options.
The Greater Strategic Challenges and Risks in Iraq
The most serious strategic challenges and risks, however, occur in Iraq and Syria. Both have religious and ethnic factions that either want forms of federalism that give them near control over the regions they dominate, or these factions want independence. The fight against ISIS has already been secondary to the broader civil war in Syria, and it has never halted the growing levels of tension between Kurd and Arab and Sunni and Shi’ite in Iraq.
In the case of the Kurds, they now occupy areas in both Iraq and Syria that have never been Kurdish before and now include large areas dominated by Arabs, as well as major oil resources in the case of Iraq. The end result is Iraq and Syria now have separate Kurdish regions which have expanded significantly beyond the areas dominated by Kurds, and done largely because of U.S. aid and military support. Both Kurdish zones also have complex internal tensions that lead to intra-Kurdish conflicts, and tensions with Turkey as well as their Arab populations. Moreover, some of the Kurds in both Iraq and Syria have ties to the PKK in Turkey, a Turkish Kurdish movement that many see as “terrorist” and that is now at war with the Turkish state.
The fight against ISIS has to some extent led both Arab and Kurd to focus on ISIS instead of their own ethnic power struggles, and led Turkey to accept the fact that the United States is using both the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds as lead elements in its fight against ISIS. At the same time, the United States does not seem to have any clear policy that will shape a future role for the Kurds that will give them security in their present countries, reassure the Arabs and Turkey to the degree this is possible, and reduce the future risk of ethnic conflict.
The United States also does not seem to have any public strategy for dealing with the reality that ISIS’s caliphate crosses the border, any victory in one country that does not defeat ISIS in the other makes security extremely difficult for both Syria and Iraq, and defeating ISIS in Iraq, Syria, or both countries opens up new risks of sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shi’ite in Iraq and Sunni and Alawite in Syria.
These tensions cannot be isolated on national level, and will inevitably involve Iran, the other Arab states, and Turkey. In the case of Iraq, any defeat of ISIS in Iraq will raise the question of how a largely Sunni Arab rebel force in the east of Syria—in a country and region where Arab Sunnis make up the largest part of the population as well as dominate Islamic extremist factions—will interact with an Iraq where Arab Sunnis are in a distinct minority and lost control over the state with the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Any defeat of ISIS in Iraq will also will trigger greater Sunni demands for a better solution to ensuring the protection and status of Iraqi Sunnis in Iraq’s major cities and mixed areas, and for resolving the future “federal” status of the Sunni-dominated portions of Western Iraq. It will also have to deal with million of largely Sunni IDPs, finding a way to build the recovery and development of western Iraq after well over a decade of war, and offering both Iraqi Sunnis and Shi’ites security and freedom from sectarian and terrorist attacks.
Even if ISIS could be totally defeated, this would not end sectarian violence and terrorism. A considerable amount of the sectarian Sunni-Shi’ite violence in Iraq has never involved ISIS, and the Sunni’s loss of political dominance after Saddam’s ouster and the impact of de-Baathification and Maliki’s misrule still deeply divide the country – as well as polarize outside Arab support around the Sunnis while reinforcing Iranian support of Iraq’s Shi’ites.
Once again, nation building presents many challenges, but no stable peace can occur without it. A post-ISIS Iraq will have to cope with the fact the United States has built something like a Kurdish protostate in Iraq, pushed Iraq’s ruling Sunni elite out of power, and opened up Iraq’s Shi’ites to major amounts of Iranian influence. It will also have to deal with the fact that once ISIS is sufficiently weakened, Iraq’s deeply divided Shi’ite factions will have far less need for the United States, and Iran will have far less need to avoid over tension and clashes with U.S. forces in Iraq and show restraint in exploiting its political and military influence – both in the Iraqi government and with Shi’ite political movements and militias.
This would be challenging in any state, but Iraq is a “failed state” as well as a state at war. Decades of conflict, terrible economic policies, corruption and inept governance have combined with 40-60% cuts in oil export revenues to largely bankrupt the state and sharply limit its ability to recover from its ISIS war and buy its way out of its ethnic and sectarian differences. Its per capita income has dropped, and population growth means it faces a massive need to create real, productive jobs it cannot meet. These challenges include:
• Population 37 million
• People of concern because of the fighting and violence rose from 1.4 million in 2013 to 4.7 million in 2015. May reach over 7 million after a successful campaign in Mosul.
• Number of IDPs rose to 4.4 million in 2015. Some 277,000 refugees outside Iraq
• 72% urbanized and counting under hyperurbanized conditions with major slums, added ethnic and sectarian pressure, limited job growth, and sharply inadequate infrastructure and security.
• Iraq's largely state-run economy is dominated by the oil sector, which provides more than 90% of government revenue and 80% of foreign exchange earnings
• Falling global oil prices resulted in declining export revenues: Iraq government and KRG effectively bankrupt.
• Budget deficit equal to 15.4% of GDP in 2015.
• Declining per capita income. $15,500 (2015 est.)
• 25-30% of population below poverty line.
• 16-23% unemployment
And, the time lags in these data mean they only begin to take account of the massive cuts in oil export revenues whose fully effect will emerge in 2016.
The end result is that Iraq faces forces that will do much to ensure its continued instability, it is that the defeat of ISIS opens the country up to far more serious ethnic and sectarian challenges, and a major challenge from an Iraq that only has to care about Iraq’s Shi’ite majority.
The end result could well be a U.S.-led military “victory” over ISIS that adds up to a serious U.S. strategic defeat. Without some effective civil-military effort to bring unity and recovery, the best outcome could be a hopelessly unstable mess. If the Obama Administration has such plans or such a strategy, it is one of the few well-kept secrets in Washington. Its absence, however, is a good way to leave office and ensure the next President gets most of the blame.
The Future Mess in Syria
Syria may not be the worst case in finding a stable outcome of all of America’s wars, but it certainly appears to be so at the present. Its Kurdish “problem” is one even greater and less stable than the one in Syria because it is relatively new, and Syria’s Kurds lack even the uncertain history of political development that occurred in Iraq. A new U.S.-backed Kurdish enclave in Syria and on Turkey’s border is also creating more tension with both Turkey and Syria’s Arab neighbors, and the United States does not have counterbalancing ties to other major political and military forces in Syria, or the limited history of success it has had in dealing with Iraq Sunni forces and militias.
The all too real weaknesses of the Iraqi government are limited compared to the total lack of any clear power structure and capability to govern that now exists in Syria, where there some 40 constantly mutating and divided factions of Syrian Arab rebels. These factions sometimes fight each other, and have strong Islamist extremist elements that are marginally better—at best—than ISIS. The fact that an Islamist extremist group like the Al-Nusra Front has formally broken its ties to Al Qaida, and changed its name from Jabhat al-Nusra to Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (the Front for the Conquest of the Levant), is roughly equivalent to putting lipstick on a pig. An Islamist extremist is an Islamist extremist by any other name.
Syria’s broader sectarian tensions between Alewite and Sunni now run far deeper than the Sunni-Shi’ite tensions in Iraq. Many Sunnis do still support and work with the Assad regime, but half a decade of bitter civil war that has included the use barrels bombs, mass arrests, starvation sieges, and the use of poison gas have created divisions, anger, and hatred than cannot be bridged by negotiations at the top. Syria’s Shi’ites are also now seen as tied to it Assad and the Alewites -- as are with many of its other religious minorities. The largely Sunni and heavily religious Arab rebels in Syria’s East are not likely to live easily with the other sects in the more mixed population in Syria’s West.
Syria is also an even more massive exercise in nation-building than is needed in Libya Yemen or Iraq. Some aspects of the resulting challenges are similar, but the effects of the war are much worse:
• Population down from 22-24 million to 17.1 million, median age 23.8
• Estimates of dead range from some 270,000 to 470,000
• UNHCR estimates in July 2016 that Syria had 4.8 million refugees out the country – roughly 22% of its prewar population -- and 8.7 million people – over half of its present population -- displaced away from their homes and jobs inside Syria.
• More than 12.2 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, including 5.6 million children Lack of access to health care and scarcity of medicine have led to a catastrophic health situation. Poor food availability and quality and successive cuts in subsidies on bread have exacerbated nutritional deprivation. An estimated 25 percent of schools were not operational by 2014.
• No reliable summary of how badly the economy t has suffered since 2011, but the CIA estimates that Syria’s GDP shrank from an already very low $97.5 billion in 2012 to $55.8 billion in 2014, and per capita income was only $5,100 in 2010 – before the fighting began. This drop, instead of growth, ranked Syria as 219th of the world’s nations.
• Unemployment reached 57.7% in 2014, and 82.5% of the population lived below the poverty line by then – putting Syria at a rank of 202nd, and at the near bottom of the world’s nations.
• Turkey hosts over 2.7 million registered Syrians. In Lebanon, more than a million registered Syrians live in over 1,700 communities and locations across the country, often sharing small basic lodgings with other refugee families in overcrowded conditions. In Jordan, over 600,000 men, women and children are currently trapped in exile. Iraq has also seen a growing number of Syrians arriving, hosting nearly 25,000, while in Egypt UNHCR
The estimates of dead range from some 270,000 to 470,000, but real problem lies in the living that have been affected by the war. The UNHCR estimates in July 2016 that Syria had 4.8 million refugees out the country—roughly 22% of its prewar population—and 8.7 million people—over half of its present population—displaced away from their homes and jobs inside Syria. The UNHCR described Syria’s situation as follows:
Turkey hosts over 2.7 million registered Syrians. The majority of them live in urban areas, with around 260,000 accommodated in the 23 refugee camps in the provinces of Hatay, Gaziantep, Kilis and Sanliurfa. In Lebanon, life is a daily struggle for many Syrian refugees, who have little or no financial resources. Around 70 per cent live below the poverty line on less than USD 3.84 per person per day. There are no formal refugee camps and, as a result, more than a million registered Syrians live in over 1,700 communities and locations across the country, often sharing small basic lodgings with other refugee families in overcrowded conditions.
In Jordan, over 600,000 men, women and children are currently trapped in exile. Approximately 80 per cent of them live in urban areas, while more than 100,000 have found sanctuary at the camps of Za’atari and Azraq. Many have arrived with limited means to cover even basic needs, and those who could at first rely on savings or support from host families are now increasingly in need of help. Iraq has also seen a growing number of Syrians arriving, hosting nearly 25,000, while in Egypt UNHCR
…But although life in exile can be difficult, for Syrians still at home it is even harder. (http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/syria-emergency.html.)
The World Bank summary of Syria’s situation has not been update since September 2015, but makes Syria’s future internal challenges all too clear:
More than 12.2 million people in Syria are in need of humanitarian aid, including 5.6 million children (UNOCHA, Syrian Center for Policy Research-SCPR). Lack of access to health care and scarcity of medicine have led to a catastrophic health situation. Poor food availability and quality and successive cuts in subsidies on bread have exacerbated nutritional deprivation. An estimated 25 percent of schools were not operational by 2014.
A World Bank remote in-conflict assessment on damages in Aleppo, Dar’a, Hama, Homs, Idlib, and Latakia as of December 2014 estimated that the conflict has significantly damaged public and private assets including health, education, energy, water and sanitation, agriculture, transportation, housing and infrastructure. Aleppo is the most affected city accounting for roughly 40 percent of the estimated damages. Latakia is the least affected city; however, the conflict’s impact on the city is manifested in the increased pressure on infrastructure and services from the population increase from Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs). Among sectors, housing was assessed to be by far the most affected sector accounting for 65% of the estimated structural damages.
The economic impact of the conflict is difficult to estimate precisely given limited data but is large and growing. Syria’s GDP is estimated to have contracted by an average of 15.4 percent for the period (2011-14) and is expected to decline further by nearly 16 percent in 2015. The decline in GDP growth was in part attributed to a sharp decline in oil production, down from 368,000 barrels per day in 2010 to an estimated 40,000 barrels per day in 2015. After increasing by nearly 90 percent in 2013, average inflation increased by 29 percent in 2014. CPI inflation is estimated to increase by 30 percent in 2015 because of continued trade disruption, shortages and a sharp depreciation of the Syrian pound.
Public finances have materially worsened since the start of the conflict. The overall fiscal deficit increased sharply, by an average of 14 percent of GDP during the period 2011-14, and is estimated to reach 22 percent of GDP in 2015. Underlying fiscal developments were, however, much more adverse than suggested by changes in the deficit. Total revenue fell to an all-time low of below 6 percent of GDP in 2014 and 2015 due to the collapse of oil revenues and tax revenues. In response, government spending was cut back, but not by enough to offset the fall in revenues. Reduction in outlays on wages and salaries were not high enough, while military spending increased.
The severe decline in oil receipts since the second half of 2012 and disruptions of trade due to the conflict put pressure on the balance of payments and exchange rate. Revenues from oil exports decreased from $4.7 billion in 2011 to an estimated $0.22 billion in 2014, and are estimated to decline further to $0.14 billion in 2015. Therefore, the current account balance is estimated to continue its trend and reach a deficit of 13 percent of GDP in 2015. As a result of the civil war, total international reserves have declined from $20 billion at end-2010 to an estimated $2.6 billion at end-2014, and are estimated to fall further to $0.7 billion by the end of 2015. Depressed export revenue caused by the impact of the conflict and declining international reserves have caused a significant depreciation of the Syrian pound from 47 pounds per USD in 2010 to an estimated 177 pounds per USD at end-2014 and have depreciated further to 305 pounds per USD at end-August 2015.
Once the situation stabilizes, Syria will have to grapple with immediate economic challenges. It will also need to support the return of internally displaced people and refugees in neighboring countries, rebuild the country’s infrastructure, enhance the provision of public services including health and education, and rebuild the social fabric of the country. (http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/syria/overview)
Syria’s development has longed lagged badly behind its population’s growth and needs under both Assads before the civil war began. There is no reliable summary of how badly it has suffered since 2011, but the CIA estimates that Syria’s GDP shrank from an already very low $97.5 billion in 2012 to $55.8 billion in 2014, and that its per capita income was only $5,100 in 2010 – before the fighting began. This drop, instead of growth, ranked Syria as 219th of the world’s nations. It also estimates that unemployment reached 57.7% in 2014, and that 82.5% of the population lived below the poverty line by then – putting Syria at a rank of 202nd, and again at the near bottom of the world’s nations.
Even if Syria can acquire some degree of political unity and effective governance, it is hard to see how it can rebuild in less than half a decade, impossible to predict how much of the massive refugee burden it places on its neighbors will ease, and equally impossible to know how much of it brain drain of wealthier and better educated Syrians will return.
The end result is not simply a massive and lasting humanitarian nightmare, it is a strategic nightmare as well. Syria’s ethnic and sectarian divisions already cross all of its borders, and are now complicated by the presence of Russia, Iran, and the Lebanese Hezbollah, as well as by the fact these outside presences seem likely to enable Assad to survive and keep well over half of its population under his control—leaving divided rebel movements in the east to try to cope with a shattered desert economy and the remnants of ISIS.
The Arab Gulf states and the United States will have to cope with a major continuing level of Iranian and Russian influence in Syria, which inevitably will influence the situation in Iraq, Lebanon, and the rest of the region. Such a division may do much to breed further extremism and terrorism, and link the growing confrontation between Iran and the Arab Gulf states to other states in the Middle East.
So far, the United States seems to have done little to address these issues. Secretary Kerry’s negotiations with Russia seem to have done little more than give Russia freedom of action in backing Assad while the United States focuses on ISIS – choices that also empower Iran and raise critical question about who will really win in Syria if the United States does defeat ISIS. As in Iraq, the narrow focus of U.S. strategy—and the lack of any clear grand strategy—may turn any element of military victory over ISIS into an open-ended need for U.S. engagement, post-conflict defeat, or both.
Further, as may be the case in Iraq, the failure to plan for some coherent international recovery effort that goes beyond humanitarian aid means Syria’s faction lack of material incentive to cooperate and that any new government or governments may become hopelessly unstable in the fact of the sheer scale of the challenges that recovery will pose.
Both candidates may choose to continue to address these issues in silence, but there is even less doubt than in the case of Iraq as to what the real legacy of the Obama Administration is likely to be by the spring of 2017. The transition plan seems to consist of a poison chalice.

*** Monkey With A Machine-Gun: Why Modi Should Let Pak Drown In Its Own Bile

TCA Srinivasa Raghavan - August 19, 2016, 
By experience, it can be safely concluded that Pakistan only seems to understand the language of force, belligerence, aggression, and threats.
Congress leaders would do well to remember that Indira Gandhi had adopted the same approach in 1971 as PM Modi does today.

What until a few years ago used to be called received wisdom is now called the ‘dominant narrative’. It is difficult to tell where such nomenclatural fashions come from, or why, but they make those who use them sound contemporary. That does not mean what they are saying is contemporary, however. In fact, more often than not, it is old hat, just a recycling of, well, received wisdom.
In India, for nearly 70 long years the ‘dominant narrative’ has been the Gandhian notion that India must be nice to everyone, you know, that ‘turn the other cheek’ thing. This ‘get-slapped-repeatedly’ philosophy was presented by semi-educated liberals as being the only truly Indian one. The properly educated ones had a different view.
The Noughties, under the vapid leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, took this idea further. India became a weepy-teary country where the defence of wimpish conduct, albeit in well-crafted phrases, became the norm. After all, for the Sonia-Singh duo, as long as the words were right action could be forsworn.

Pakistan took full advantage of this and has been running circles around us.
By some extraordinary osmosis and transmission Narendra Modi, a toughie if there was one, also adopted this approach between May 2014 and August 2016. He sounded exactly like the wimps of yore.
But on August 15 this year, however, he decided to dump that pretence and spoke the only language Pakistan understands -- of force, belligerence, aggression, and threats. Congress wimps made some inane noises, forgetting that their Great Leader, Indira Gandhi, had done exactly the same thing in 1971. In fact, she had taken it further and broken Pakistan into two.
Modi is now asking—a la Mrs Gandhi Sr—if the time has come for another kick in the Pakistani shalwars? Most Indians would say yes. Even if they do not say it, most foreigners would agree, I suspect. Judging by Pakistan’s shrill statements on 16 August, Modi’s remarks seem to have hit home. It is making an ass of itself – as usual – over Kashmir.

*** Bangladesh to Balochistan: Pakistan Army’s Sordid Record of Ethnic Genocide

Paper No. 6160 Dated 19-Aug-2016
By Dr Subhash Kapila

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stirring reference to Balochistan in his Independence Day Speech 2016 not only marked a strategic shift in India’s foreign policy but also implicit was India’s support for Balochistan freedom struggle and drawing attention to Pakistan Army’s ethnic genocide there.
Little known is the fact that Pakistan Army’s genocidal operations in Balochistan predated Pakistan Army’s ethnic genocide in erstwhile East Pakistan( now Bangladesh) having shaken of the Pakistani yoke in December 1971. In a manner of speech the Pakistan Army has been bleeding Balochistan ever since 1948 with a ‘thousand cuts’. Ironically, Jinnah the founder of Pakistan, who was earlier the Legal Adviser of the Kalat State, as Balochistan was then known, ordered the invasion of the Kalat State in March 1948 which had strongly opposed opting for accession to Pakistan.

From Jinnah to Bhutto and thereafter under General Zia and General Musharraf, all of them reacted with unleashing Pakistan Army’s vicious onslaughts on the Balochi freedom struggle led at different stages by the three main tribal groups of Marri, Mengal and the Bugtis, of course with the remainder of Balochistan.
Heartening and reinforcing Indian Prime Minister Modi’s references of support to the Baloch nation were the news that Bangladesh, having been a victim of Pakistan Army’s ethnic genocide itself has come out with condemnation of Pakistan Army’s atrocities against the Baloch people.
Reminiscent of Bangladesh atrocities by the Pakistan Army, in Balochistan too, the Pakistan Army has gone-in for selective and targeted killings of political leaders, lawyers, the educated and educated sections within Balochistan. As one of my colleagues remarked that the recent killing of over fifty lawyers in one go at the Quetta Hospital smelt of such targeted killings by the Pakistan Army, the ISI, Islamic Jihadist groups affiliated to Pakistan Army and civilian terror gangs operating under government control. It was as if the Pakistan Army wished to decimate the entire potential leadership of the ongoing Baloch freedom struggle.

Balochistan civilisationally has been a distinct entity with no political, economic or cultural affinities with the Punjab core of Pakistan. Balochistan has no dependency on Pakistan.
Balochistan as a nation independent of Pakistan would be politically, economically and geopolitically self-sustainable with its vast energy and mineral deposits. Significantly, Balochistan comprises virtually the entire coastline of Pakistan totalling 470 miles. Pakistan’s only deep-water port of Gwadur lies within Balochistan. Balochistan comprises 43% of Pakistan’s total territory. It is no wonder that Pakistan is obsessively fixated on keeping possession of Balochistan at any cost, including ethnic genocide.
Balochistan has been deliberately been kept under-developed by Pakistan resulting in a virtual absence of education facilities and health care setup. The only things that Baluchistan stands out distinctively is the profusion of Pakistan Army garrisons, sale of Baluchi lands especially around Gwadur to Punjabi colonisers and retired Pakistan Army senior officers. Also in tandem is Pakistan’s deliberate strategy of changing the demographic profile of Balochistan by influx of Punjabis. This is reminiscent of Pakistan’s strategic patron China’s policy in China Occupied Tibet.

A gamechanger for the Baloch

Baloch nationalists have always wished to be treated as an entity separate from Pakistan. Prime Minister Modi’s statements have granted us that recognition. 

Written by Malik Siraj Akbar | Updated: August 19, 2016 
 Baloch have already been arrested, tortured and killed before Modi expressed his support for them.
I hardly know a Baloch who is not excited about and appreciative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent statement on Balochistan. Many of them look at this as a breakthrough as Baloch political activists have been struggling for years and making direct appeals to the government of India to condemn Pakistan’s atrocities against the Baloch. 
Modi’s statements are a gamechanger, not only in the context of India-Pakistan relations, but they will also internally divide Pakistani society. It is not as if the Baloch, who have thanked Modi for his statements, do not realise the consequences of India’s possible support for them. 
However, they ask, what can Pakistan do to them that has not already been done should they receive Indian support? Will Pakistan increase military operations against the Baloch in the backdrop of these developments? It doesn’t matter because the Baloch have already been arrested, tortured and killed before Modi expressed his support for their struggle. Will the Baloch movement lose its credibility and be branded as a product of India’s interference? Well, when was the last time Pakistan did not question the origins of the movement? The Baloch have been at war, albeit at varying degrees, with the Pakistani state since 1948. Pakistan has billed them as Iraqi, Afghan, Soviet, and now Indian agents in order to discredit a home-grown rebellion. So, this is not the first time they have been labelled “foreign agents”. With all the things the Baloch have been called, they will probably not be seriously offended if they are described as Indian agents.

So, who are the Baloch and what do they want? Even most Pakistanis do not have a clear answer to this question due to a systematic blackout of news stories in the Pakistani media about Balochistan. The people in the rest of Pakistan get as much information about Balochistan as the military establishment decides to release. Heavily influenced by the official narrative, Pakistanis describe the people and the conflict in Balochistan in the same words as government officials. For instance, all that the Pakistanis know about Balochistan is a stereotypical image of a tribal region where a bunch of chiefs do not want to develop their people or that India and foreign countries are out there to break up Pakistan. They want the “Balochis” (sic) to be “given” their rights but under no circumstance would they allow the Baloch to seek a separate homeland. A Pakistani textbook recently described the Baloch as “uncivilised people”. The Pakistanis insist that the Baloch are incapable of running their own affairs. Therefore, they feel they have an obligation to “modernise”, “develop” and “civilise” the Baloch. 

The absence of honest news reporting has kept most Pakistanis in the dark about the situation in Balochistan and the Baloch war of independence. The closest that Pakistanis come to acknowledging the movement for independence is admitting some “angry Balochi brothers” want more autonomy. On the contrary, as one Baloch leader said, “we are not angry. We are just fed up with you.” The army has chosen to “fix” Balochistan through the use of brute force. This approach has backfired, leading to an increase in the support for the pro-freedom camp. 
A tiny section of Pakistani liberals has spoken up in support of Baloch rights although they do not endorse the idea of a free Balochistan. Their primary loyalties lie with Pakistan. When they see Modi speak in support of the Baloch, they immediately jump to their default positions as Pakistani patriots. In Pakistan, nothing ruins your personal and professional reputation more than being called an “Indian agent” or a “kafir” (infidel). Pakistan’s security establishment uses these labels very conveniently to isolate and silence its critics. Modi’s comments will give the army a perfect reason to censor news stories on Balochistan in the national media. 

NITI Aayog Wants To Drag Indian Medical System Into The 21st Century. Here’s How

Swarajya Staff - August 12, 2016, 

NITI Aayog is recommending reforms which if implemented well, could truly usher in the 21st century system for medical profession in India. 
The Medical Council Of India (MCI) is one of the most corrupt state-run bodies in the country. 
Here is an example of its notoriety : A couple of months ago, the union government entrusted NITI Aayog to prepare a report outlining the broad contours of reforms in the medical profession. The government think tank has not only recommended to scrap the MCI, and replace it with a completely new body, but has also suggested not to hire any staff from the council for the new body. 
The IMC Act was passed in 1956, and since then the body has enjoyed unchallenged monopoly in setting standards for medical education, granting recognition to medical qualifications, giving accreditation to medical schools, granting registration to medical practitioners and monitoring medical practice in India. 

However, while engineering colleges proliferated, the number of medical colleges remained stagnant. By erecting high barriers for those trying to enter the medical profession, MCI has created a supply mismatch in the market. Mired in corruption from top to bottom, the statutory body hasn’t kept up with the times and has become sclerotic. 
A need for its complete overhaul has been felt for long. The UPA government tried to move the needle a bit forward in 2010 by promulgating an ordinance to amend the IMC Act, but failed to bring the legislation in the parliament despite repeated efforts. 
In this backdrop, NITI Aayog’s latest report, which also contains the draft bill to replace the IMC Act of 1956 is an important development. 

Here’s a brief summary of NITI Aayog’s proposals: 

*** Towards a Fourth Offset Strategy


Journal Article | August 11, 2016 - 8:36am

The Department of Defense has launched the Third Offset Strategy to increase our completive advantage by a much-needed effort to restore technological superiority. But is it really strategy?
The Secretary of Defense recently launched the Defense Innovation Initiative[1] and the Corresponding Third Offset Strategy[2] to restore U.S. technological superiority and offset its shrinking military force structure in a new era of great power competition. It is modeled on two previous endeavors: in the 1950’s it leveraged the overwhelming advantage of the United States’ nuclear arsenal; the 1970-80’s offset focused on the development of precision-guided munitions, stealth, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).[3] Both aimed to counter the numerical superiority and improved technical capabilities of Warsaw Pact military forces in Europe. Both also were anchored by the decades-long strategy of containing the Soviet Union.

Most pundits agree on the need for new ‘things,’ and there is a nascent call for a parallel effort in new ‘thought’ aimed at developing corresponding operational concepts. That said, to date little attention has been given to strategy. This paper seeks to initiate such discussion by proposing that the quest for new capabilities and concepts should be integrated within, and thus guided by, an overarching strategy. It further proposes, with regard to the future operational environment, what such a strategy should entail.

But First a Brief (But Necessary) Digression: What, Exactly is Strategy?
Defining strategy would seem a simple task, and many believe it is. But it isn’t. The evolution of Western governance required changing the meaning of ‘strategy’ in order to conform to its changing relationship with policy. Thus so, one’s individual interpretation is formed and shaped by the breadth and depth of their reading and research. In short, discussions about strategy are confusing most often due to the dating of its entomology – even the official definition lacks clarity in distinguishing strategy from policy.[4]

Military theorist and historian B.H. Liddell-Hart addressed this confusion in his classic opus, Strategy. While a full discussion of his thoughts on the topic goes beyond the limits of this paper, a review of a few key points help bring clarity. The first is that he distinguished three levels of strategy:
Strategy, per se, is “the art of distributing and applying military means to fulfill the ends of policy.”[5] Today, this level encompasses Regional Component Commanders’ responsibilities for campaign and war planning through the application of operational art.[6] It is conventionally referred to as ‘military strategy’ (as it will be throughout the balance of this paper).
Tactics, the lower level of strategy, is “the application of the military instrument as it merges into actual fighting.”[7]
Grand strategy, or high strategy, is the coordination and direction of “all the resources of a nation, or band of nations, towards the attainment of the political object of the war—the goal defined by fundamental policy."[8] He further specified that:

It must calculate and develop the economic resources and man-power of nations in order to sustain the fighting services. Also the moral resources—for to foster the peoples’ willing spirit is often as important as to possess the more concrete forms of power.
Grand strategy must also regulate the distribution of power between the several services, and between services and industry. 
Moreover, fighting power is but one of the instruments of grand strategy – which should take account of and apply the power of financial pressure, of diplomatic pressure, of commercial pressure, and, not least of ethical pressure, to weaken the opponent’s will.[9]
Liddell-Hart also recognized that grand strategy was not limited to the movement of forces but also needed to be concerned with the intended effect:

Report: Contractors outnumber U.S. troops in Afghanistan 3-to-1

By: Leo Shane III, August 17, 2016 
Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan still outnumber U.S. troops by a 3-to-1 margin according to new research released this week, raising questions again about the role those workers play in the ongoing wars overseas and the oversight they receive.
The data, compiled by the Congressional Research Service and first reported by Politico, shows contractor numbers in both Iraq and Afghanistan dating back to fiscal 2007. Combined, the Defense Department spent more than $220 billion on contractors in both war zones for a variety of services and support. 
The numbers show that the non-military defense workers have outnumbered U.S. troops in Afghanistan continuously since mid-2011, even as the numbers of both have drawn down steadily. But the ratio between the two groups continues to widen as administration officials work to reduce the roles played by armed military personnel in the war-torn country. 

In early 2012, the number of defense contractors in Afghanistan peaked at more than 117,000 individuals, as compared to around 88,000 U.S. servicemembers. 
Of those contractors, about 23 percent were working as supplemental security personnel, and more than 70 percent were foreign nationals receiving money from American companies and agencies. 
The latest figures available, for the first few months of 2016, show nearly 29,000 defense contractors still in Afghanistan, with fewer than 9,000 U.S. troops stationed there. About two-thirds of the contractors were foreign nationals, but only about 10 percent were providing security services. 

Defense Department records show the majority of their contractors in Afghanistan today (more than 12,00) are providing logistics and maintenance services, to both American and Afghan troops. About 1,600 are working as translators, 1,700 as construction workers, and 2,200 as base support professionals. 
Lawmakers in recent years have questioned how much oversight and scrutiny those contractors receive, especially given concerns from watchdog groups about waste and fraud connected to war-zone contracts. 
Senators included new contracting oversight rules and reforms in their draft of the annual defense authorization bill earlier this year, but those provisions don’t specifically single out Afghanistan contractors as an area of concern. 

The CRS report also notes that earlier this summer, roughly 2,500 defense contractors were employed in Iraq to assist with the fight against Islamic State group militants in the region, along with about 4,000 U.S. troops. 
The report was made public by the Federation of American Scientists this week, and isonline at the group’s web site.

In Afghanistan, Special Operators Continue to Burn Both Ends of the Candle


Things aren’t going so well in Afghanistan these days. The Obama administration plans to reduce America’s presence there by only about half as much as it originally intended, from the current level of 9,800 to 8,400 instead of 5,500 by the end of 2016. The administration also expanded the rules of engagement governing the armed forces’ ability to involve themselves in conflict and will allow U.S. forces to accompany the regular Afghan military into combat situations. These expanding mission sets come at a time when the U.S. military continues to be underfunded, faces a troubling readiness crisis, and must contend with an increasingly dangerous and demanding global operating environment.
Special operations forces (SOF) have avoided much of the recent belt-tightening faced elsewhere in the Pentagon. As the most well-resourced, but also most flexible and innovative element of the military, we shouldn’t be surprised that SOF will continue to play a large role in Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and Operation Resolute Support. The relatively limited core responsibilities of America’s forces in Afghanistan—training, advising, and assisting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and conducting counterterrorism missions— also play to SOF strengths.

SOF have a tendency to be overused. But the mission sets, terrain, and the nature of conflict in Afghanistan make the use of special operators a natural choice. So natural, in fact, there is a tendency to overlook potential issues that might impede their success.
For those not involved in counterterrorism missions, the main issue affecting SOF, ironically enough, is a lack of resources. America has had a problem translating top-line budgetary and personnel resourcing into adequate support for in-theater operations ever since the U.S. effort in Afghanistan began in 2001. Old habits die hard. Even considering the comparatively limited scope of their mandate as compared to times past, the new responsibilities, as laid out in the recently loosened rules of engagement, threaten to stretch thin SOF train, advise, and assist efforts.

US General Asks India for Military Assistance in Afghanistan

By: Vivek Raghuvanshi, August 11, 2016 
NEW DELHI — The commander in charge of US forces in Afghanistan has asked India to step up military aid in the Asian country. Gen. John Nicholson's call to action comes as Western sanctions against Russia is leading to a paucity of spares for Russian-made weaponry used by Afghan forces.
Speaking to journalists Wednesday after meeting with India's National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Defence Secretary G.Mohan Kumar, the US Army officer said: "Due to sanctions on Russia, it's difficult to acquire supplies of spare parts for Russian military platforms, because much of the money is given to Afghanistan by donors who have sanctions against Russia in place."
Nitin Mehta, a defense analyst in India, commented on the US approach: "The call for stepping up military aid to Afghanistan is not a changed response of Washington in diplomatic terms, but only in military terms, arising from the sanctions by the Western world on Russia, thereby [pulling] the plug on supply of military spares."

India has transferred four Russian-made Mi-25 attack helicopters to the Afghan Air Force, marking the first transfer of lethal military equipment to Afghanistan.
"The Afghans have asked for more of these helicopters. There is an immediate need for more. When these aircraft come in, they immediately get into the fight," Nicholson said. "We are building the Afghan Air Force as a critical component of security. That is built on several airframes. Some are older Russian models, integrating newer ones. We need more aircraft, and we are looking at how we can meet that need."
While no official would provide concrete details of Wednesday's meeting, a source in India's Ministry of External Affairs said that Indo-US cooperation in "helping" Afghanistan was discussed.

By talking about Balochistan, Modi has put both Pakistan and China on notice

The PM's remarks suggest India will adopt a muscular policy when its sovereignty and territorial integrity are at stake. | 19-08-2016

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks on Balochistan as well as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Gilgit and Baltistan from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15, potentially herald a marked departure from India's stance thus far.
They unmistakably signal to Pakistan that India could, henceforth, adopt a proactive policy to reclaim Gilgit, Baltistan and the portion of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan, while highlighting human rights and other violations by Pakistan in Balochistan.
The remarks suggest India will adopt a muscular policy in dealing with Pakistan and other countries when its sovereignty and territorial integrity are at stake. The newly enunciated policy is in keeping with the other strategic moves initiated by the prime minister from the day of his swearing-in. His remarks also dovetail with the policy implicit in the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016.

In the coming days, the prime minister's bold initiative will ensure focus, including in international fora, on Pakistan's human rights violations in Balochistan.
The spotlight on Balochistan will indirectly encourage the demands of the Balochi people, who occupy half of Pakistan's territory with the highest concentration of its natural mineral wealth. It will also cause unease in Beijing which has invested immensely in the Gwadar port, located in the Balochistan province.
Prime Minister Modi's proactive policies towards Pakistan could well alter the regional dynamics. 
Modi's remarks also address China's claims on Ladakh, described by Beijing as "Little Tibet". China has, incidentally, hinted at the possibility of its becoming a party to the Kashmir issue.
The remarks question the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which goes through Balochistan and Gilgit and has a definite military component. China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) has deployed troops in these areas, with their number likely to increase in the coming months. Moreover, the headquarters of the South Xinjiang Military District of China's newly created West Zone (Theatre Command) and the Pakistan Army GHQ in Rawalpindi have established a direct secure communications link indicating heightened coordination in future military operations.

Pakistan's ties with China got elevated in April 2015 when Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Islamabad and announced the CPEC. The CPEC will effectively bind Pakistan to China as power generation, transport, commerce, R&D and the defence of Pakistan will all be increasingly tied to Chinese investments and interests.
Almost six months before Xi Jinping's visit to Islamabad, an influential, senior Chinese academic, who is occasionally called to brief the politburo of the Chinese Communist Party, said in a private conversation that "while we had earlier purchased the loyalty of the Pakistanis, we will now buy Pakistan."
After Xi Jinping's visit, senior Chinese communist cadres began urging India to ease tensions with Pakistan and resolve the Kashmir dispute.Yan Xuetong, director of the Institute for International Relations at Beijing's Tsinghua University and an influential Chinese strategic analyst close to Xi Jinping, told The New York Times on February 9, 2016 that "China has only one real ally, Pakistan".

*** Balochistan in India’s Pakistan policy: Time to up the ante

Posted:Aug 16, 2016 
By Monish Gulati

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi would have endeared him to the ‘hawks’ in the Indian foreign policy establishment as he came out openly in support of "freedom" for Pakistan's restive border province of Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied (administered) Kashmir (PoK). "I want to speak a bit about the people in Balochistan, Gilgit- Baltistan (GB), and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir," he had said. Earlier in the week at an all-party meeting on Kashmir, Modi had remarked that it was time for Islamabad to explain to the world "why it has been committing atrocities on people in PoK and Balochistan".
Some observers view the references to Balochistan, PoK and GB as indication of a significant aggressive change in India’s Pakistan policy provoked by the recent Pakistani interference in the developments in the Kashmir valley; and as the proverbial last straw that has dented Modi’s outreach to, and patience on Pakistan which he had persevered since his government came to power two years ago. It is also an indication of the government in New Delhi’s conviction that external stimulus to the unrest in the Kashmir valley must end before any workable political solution can be found to the issues in Jammu and Kashmir within the framework of the Indian constitution.

This shift in India’s outlook to Balochistan from the oblique reference at Sharm el-Sheikh (after a bilateral between the then India and Pakistani Prime Ministers at this Egyptian resort) some years back to this direct broadside from the Red Fort this month, has been under consideration before but India had not taken this path as it is fraught with geopolitical challenges and implications. The geopolitical challenges on the Baloch issue are complex as Balochis reside not only in Pakistan but also in parts of Iran and Afghanistan. The plight and ethnic dispersion of the Baloch people mirrors that of the Kurds in the Middle East. India might face opposition from Iran and Afghanistan as it tenders its support for Baloch human rights and aspirations. Balochistan strife has a sectarian dimension which has been used by the US, Israeli and the Saudis in the past to build pressure on Iran.
Developments in Balochistan might also see Indian interest in Chabahar being targeted and may ultimately lead to the emergence of the Baloch region as a new theatre for superpower rivalries. Further, the absence of an organized national movement, the dominance of tribal leaders with shifting loyalties, the large presence of Afghan migrants (including the Taliban), active sectarian strife and heavy Pakistani repression, all hobble Baloch aspirations in the province.

But now that a turn in this direction has been taken, it is hoped that comes with an implementation plan, at least for the short term. To that end, India would be required to declare in clear terms its diplomatic and moral support in international fora for the Baloch cause for the policy to be effective. It would require more a more muscular and risk taking posture for its new foreign policy ‘dare’ to be effective. For starters it has its timing right.
Pakistan has never been more vulnerable as it is today - both geopolitically and economically - and if there was ever a time to get Pakistan to mend its ways, it is now. Pakistani backers in the Middle East are today alive to the perils of Islamist terror and its manifestations; Saudis are dealing with their Yemeni ‘albatross’ besides falling oil revenues and Turkey is distracted by its internal challenges. Iran has never been more aggressive to any external disruption and Afghanistan never so clear where its ills lie and what needs to be done for peace in the country. A world wracked by terrorism, migrants and an economic downturn has little appetite for Pakistani petty diplomacy and foolhardiness.