8 April 2014

The Ukraine Mess

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
April 7, 2014

Most revolutions are ugly, inhuman and ruthless. Their children are chaos, deception, hypocrisy, violence, repressions, death, along with broken hopes and promises. Each revolution in its own way is a Pandora’s box. Ukraine is no exception.

As I write this from my vantage point in Kiev, where I have been for several months, it is safe to say the country—for lack of a better term—is a mess. Clashes between the groups of Maidan winners are leading towards a collapse of law and order. “Revolutionary justice” squads threatening politicians, journalists and businessmen are forcing many Russians to flee Ukraine. All this is occurring against the backdrop of a falling economy, a rise in unemployment and shrinking social care—coupled with mass protest movements in regions of South-East and Southern Ukraine, where ethnic Russians constitute a majority unwilling to bow to the Russophobic state-building imposed by western Ukrainian politicians. They are sending “friendship trains” to install revolutionary rule in provinces.

Such “trains” with cargoes of firearms and explosives, would have gone to Crimea but were turned back at its frontiers. “We are not minority or diaspora here,”—say protesters at South-East rallies, sometimes equal in strength to the Kiev Maidan,—“we are the people.” In such uneasy times Kiev is appointing oligarchs—major Maidan sponsors like the oligarch Igor Kolomoisky—as governors to control regions such as Dnipropetrovsk. The new regional bosses are innovative: local police are unreliable, so some governors hire private security companies to quell unrest. Others display patriotism by paying their private money to dig deep, wide anti-tank ditches to stop Russian tanks.

Ukraine: Invasion Is Russia's Fallback Option

Published on The National Interest (http://nationalinterest.org)
April 7, 2014

Mr. Putin badly misjudged the climate of Ukrainian politics and the survivability of his ally, Viktor Yanukovych. But since Mr Yanukovych's flight from Ukraine in late February, Mr. Putin has pursued a relentlessly clear-eyed policy meant to achieve one of two objectives. His preferred outcome is to have a compliant government in Kyiv, oriented eastward in foreign policy and, like Russia, authoritarian domestically. But his fallback is to take enough of Ukraine to leave it a rump state still subject to Russian pressure if it looks westward.

Kremlin Instruments of Influence

Mr. Putin has a variety of tools short of military aggression to achieve these objectives and has used most of them. He can exert economic pressure by blocking the import of Ukrainian goods, as he did in the fall to persuade Mr. Yanukovych to turn away from a trade association agreement with the EU. He can raise the price of natural gas, or limit gas supplies to Ukraine, although this is a less effective tactic in the spring than the winter. He can exert political pressure as the self-proclaimed protector of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in Ukraine. He can send provocateurs into Ukraine to create turbulence in the East and South, and point to the disorder as proof that ethnic Russians are in danger. He can conduct military exercises on the border with Ukraine to suggest that intervention is imminent. He can crank up the Russian media to launch the most extensive disinformation campaign seen since the failed Soviet media efforts against President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars). This media effort has failed miserably in Ukraine and the West, but has succeeded in creating a patriotic, if not xenophobic, frenzy in Russia.

Kremlin Weaknesses

President Putin and his Russia, however, suffer from several significant weaknesses that explain why the use of military force is his last resort. His economy grew like gangbusters until the Great Recession in 2008 thanks to higher prices for hydrocarbons; but it grew at less than 2 percent in 2013.

Russian Central Banker Elvira Nabiullina recently predicted that growth in 2014 would

fall below 1 percent. Asset flight in the wake of the Ukraine crisis is one reason for Ms.

Nabiullina's downward revision of Russia's economic forecast. Russia's Ministry of Economy projects capital flight at $70B in the first quarter of this year and could reach $150B for all of 2014.


While the world’s attention remains focused on Ukraine, Crimea is portrayed as its hotbed. No wonder as this peninsula is an absolutely pivotal portion of the Black Sea theatre for the very survival of the Black Sea fleet to both Russia and Ukraine. In the larger context, it revels the old chapters of history books full of overt and covert struggles between Atlantic–Central Europe and Russophone Europe for influence and strategic depth extension over the playground called Eastern Europe.

However, there are two other vital theatres for these same protagonists, both remaining underreported and less elaborated. The author brings an interesting account on Caspian and Artic, by contrasting and comparing them. He claims that both water plateaus are of utmost geopolitical as well as of geo-economic (biota, energy, transport) importance, and that Caspian and Arctic will considerably influence passions and imperatives of any future mega geopolitical strategies – far more than Black Sea could have ever had.

Between Inner Lake and Open Sea

As the rapid melting of the Polar caps has unexpectedly turned distanced and dim economic possibilities into viable geo-economic and geopolitical probabilities, so it was with the unexpected and fast meltdown of Russia’s historic empire – the Soviet Union. Once considered as the Russian inner lake, the Caspian has presented itself as an open/high sea of opportunities literally overnight – not only for the (new, increased number of) riparian states, but also for the belt of (new and old) neighbouring, and other interested (overseas) states.

Interest of external players ranges from the symbolic or rather rhetorical, to the global geopolitical; from an antagonizing political conditionality and constrain to the pragmatic trade-off between (inflicting pain of) political influence and energy supply gain. Big consumers such as China, India or the European Union (EU) are additionally driven by its own energy imperative: to improve the energy security (including the reduction of external dependencies) as well as to diversify its supplies, modes and forms on a long run.

On a promise of allegedly vast oil and natural gas resources (most of which untapped), the Caspian is witnessing the “New Grand Game” – struggle for the domination and influence over the region and its resources as well as transportation routes. Notably, the Caspian is a large landlocked water plateau without any connection with the outer water systems. Moreover, 3 out of 5 riparian states are land-locking Caspian, but are themselves landlocked too. (Former Soviet republics of) Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have no direct access to any international waters. That means that pipelines remain the only mode of transportation and delivery of carbonic fuels, thus creating yet another segment for competition, and source of regional tension as the 3 raparian states do depend on their neighbours for export routes.

Manila files South China Sea claim

By Richard Heydarian 

MANILA - After a year of futile diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the South China Sea disputes, the Philippines has risked permanent estrangement with China by pressing ahead this week with an unprecedented arbitration case before a United Nations court at The Hague, while ironing out a new security pact with the United States. 

The primary goal of the Philippines' latest maneuver is to put maximum pressure on China amid an intensifying territorial dispute, which has raised fears of direct military conflict. Manila has been alarmed by the increasing assertiveness of Chinese paramilitary vessels, which have reportedly harassed Filipino fishermen straddling the South China Sea as well as threatened

Filipino troops stationed across varying disputed features in the area. 

In the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, for instance, recent weeks saw Chinese paramilitary forces imposing a tightening siege on Filipino troops, who have struggled to receive supply materials from their military command headquarters in the Philippines. 

Since 1999, the Philippines has exercised effective and continuous control over the disputed feature, which falls well within the country's 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). But China is seemingly bent on seizing control of the shoal, which is very close to the hydrocarbon-rich waters off the coast of the southwestern Philippine island of Palawan. 

From the perspective of the Filipino leadership, China is not only threatening the country's territorial integrity, but also its vital economic and energy security interests in the South China Sea. In addition, the Philippines and its principal military ally, the United States, share similar concerns over China's accelerated military spending. Beijing has focused on enhancing the country's naval capabilities, part of China's short-term goal of consolidating its territorial claims in the Western Pacific - and its long-term ambition of becoming the preeminent naval power in Asia. 

Here's How to Unlock Africa's Economic Potential

2 APR 6, 2014

(Updates fourth and fifth paragraphs to account for new GDP figures.)

In the past year, I've visited Nigeria three times -- more than I've traveled to any other country except the U.S. I mentioned this to an audience on my most recent trip, saying I wasn't sure what it meant: Am I a leading, coincident or lagging indicator? Maybe I was just there for the power outages -- they shield me from the latest news aboutManchester United. (Don't ask.)

Of course I aspire to be a leading indicator -- and I'm hopeful Nigeria and much of the rest of Africa will demonstrate my farsightedness. It's hardly a sure thing, but Nigeria really does have the potential to be a spectacular economic success.

I laid out some reasons for this hope when I nominated the country as one of the "Next 11" emerging economies -- countries with lots of people and untapped economic promise, capable of following the path cut by the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China). More recently, I've drawn particular attention to four of the 11, the MINT countries: Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey.

This weekend Nigeria rebased its figures for gross domestic product, adding in previously uncounted industries such as telecoms and information technology. On this new basis, the country's GDP was roughly $500 billion in 2013 -- making Nigeria's economy the biggest in Africa.

True, even on this new measure, Nigeria accounts for only around 0.5 percent of global GDP. The whole of Africa has an annual output of only perhaps $2 trillion, comparable to India or Russia. But the region is growing well and its potential is impressive. Nigeria's government has set the goal of becoming one of the world’s 20 biggest economies by 2020. I think that's too soon to be likely, but I think Nigeria could be one of the top 15 by 2050.

In this scenario, remembering that Nigeria by then will be home to roughly 20 percent of Africa's people, the country's growth would power the whole continent. By the middle of this century, Africa's economy would be close to 10 times bigger than it is today. That kind of growth would lift a huge number of Africans out of dire poverty and introduce them to the prosperity that other regions take for granted.

Boiling Cauldron - Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan


Afghanistan and Iraq go for elections this month, while Syria plunges deeper into terror, killings and destruction.While the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has been extended until 17 March 2015 vide resolution 2145 (2014), it was acerbic on part of the UNSC to say that the people of Afghanistan should not allow “spoilers and terrorists” to undermine their democratic future, as if the people of Afghanistan are not nationalists and have any control over the terror flowing in from across the borders, besides the ‘great game’ that the region has been subjected to over the years, which is continuing. No doubt very few Pashtuns in the south and east Afghanistan turned up for the 2009 elections because of Taliban threat and the Taliban have again threatened death to anyone who takes part in the elections but voters have to be provided protection and not left to their fate.The 2014 exit declaration by US, inviting Taliban for talks without participation of Northern Alliance (who helped the US invasion succeed in the first place) and the soft US stance on Pakistan (the prime source of terrorism) have led Afghan’s to say that they are being subcontracted to Pakistan. If Hamid Karzai did not sign the BSA, perhaps the main reason was the underhand deal by the US being worked out that Pakistan Taliban entering Afghanistan would not be targeted as long as they were not operating conjointly with Al Qaeda. Obviously, US interests are to keep Afghanistan on the boil – checkmating China? So, what difference would the BSA make other than granting US troops immunity against Afghan law? As it is, the Taliban had declared that they would disrupt elections and terror attacks are taking place pan Afghanistanincluding in the West and North aside from Capital Kabul while south and east Afghanistan are perpetually violence ridden.An official Afghanistan statement this February put the total number of Afghan soldiers and police officers killed during the war at over 13,000 over and above 3,425 coalition soldiers killed during the 13-year conflict. The numbers also showed more clashes in past three years.With Afghanistan ranked 175 out of 187 countries on UN’s development index, whoever wins Afghanistan's 2014 presidential election will have his hands full with poverty, corruption, ethnic rivalries, terrorism and violent insurgency but the question also remains how the US and the West will continue to manipulate events in Afghanistan and the region, portents of which don’t look good.

Iraq tops the global terror index. In 2013 alone, 8000 were killed in terrorist violence and over 18,000 injured. While terrorist attacks in the run up to elections would depend upon the degree of political influence wielded over terrorist groups, given the dynamics of the terrorist groups and the spate of incidents it is unlikely Iraq will be able to successfully separate the terrorists from the population and run a successful campaign in combating terrorism particularly with the state of sectarian strife despite the Sahwa movement since 2005 to establish anti-terrorism Awakening Councils against the ISIL, the most prominent terrorist organization. Apparently the terrorist groups cannot dislodge the central government but the latter too does not have the strength to decisively defeat them. ISIL poses the most serious terrorist and military threat, while the other groups primarily constitute a problem for the government to assert control in Sunni Arab areas. Then is the vital question of outside support to terrorism and political will within Iraq to finish terrorism. ISIL whose cadres were estimated at 2,500 by 2012 can undertake over 100 operations in a single month. Iraqi Kurdish recruits of ISIL are going to Syria to aid the rebels and there is also terrorist movement from Syria to Iraq. Despite the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq preceded by the Status of Forces Agreement and a Strategic Framework Agreement, strong suspicion remains of CIA funding terrorism in Iraq. 


By Ranjit Gupta

Even though Iran had signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1967, it had been pursuing a clandestine nuclear programme since the mid-1980s, which became public knowledge in 2002 through defectors. The program was put on fast forward during President Ahmedinejad’s period.

On-off negotiations with the IAEA and Western countries, an escalating sanctions regime particularly since 2006, Iran’s economy sliding into deep depression rapidly, rising possibilities of Israeli military action, etc., failed to persuade the contending parties to reach any solution. A progressively deteriorating security scenario – post Arab Spring – in West Asia seemed poised to worsen further.

Oman as a Mediator

Oman has traditionally had a close relationship with Iran both during the Shah’s time and after the 1979 Revolution and has acted as a conduit between the US and Iran. According to well founded speculation Oman had been mediating secret interaction between the US and Iran for several months before Rouhani’s presidency. Sultan Qaboos visited Iran during 25-27 August 2013, three weeks after Rouhani became the President adding credence to reports that he had carried a communication from President Obama to Rouhani.

Developments under Rouhani

A moderate cleric, a quintessential insider and personally close to Supreme Leader Khamanei, Dr.Hassan Rouhani, with a more conciliatory approach to the world and greater transparency on the nuclear program, was elected Iran’s President in June 2013 by an absolute majority after a 72% turnout.

Providing further reassurance to the US, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who spent 12 years studying in the US and is well known and liked in the West, was appointed Foreign Minister; he was made responsible for negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. The choice of new incumbents for the Head of the Atomic Energy Commission, Ambassador to the IAEA and to the UN reinforced the positive message.

Syria, US and Russia: The Iran Angle

Despite intense criticism both domestically and internationally, Obama held back from military intervention after the August 21, 2013 chemicals weapons attack in Syria. On 9 September 2013 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov proposed that Syria should agree to place its chemical weapons under international control, dismantle them, and agree to the destruction of the entire stockpile. Syria immediately accepted the proposal and acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention on 12 September.

Iran’s Navy: Asian Ambitions?

The Iranian naval has a growing presence in Asia, a development many in the region could welcome. 
By Trevor Hollingsbee
April 06, 2014

Iran has a significant history of long-distance seafaring in pursuit of trade with Asia. The presence, to this day, of wealthy and influential families of Iranian descent in some Asian countries, notably India and Thailand, is lingering evidence of early Iranian maritime ambitions in the region.

Tehran’s recent foreign policy has been aimed mainly at countering the isolation brought about through international sanctions, by prioritizing official contacts with a relatively small number of friendly nations, and demonstrating that Iran retains credible international reach. The Iranian leadership is, therefore, keen to demonstrate its country’s continuing blue water capability. Over the past seven years, Iran’s offshore naval force, the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN), has undertaken about 30 increasingly ambitious overseas deployments.

IRIN’s focus is firmly on offshore waters, as coastal operations are the responsibility of the Islamic Republican Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN), which has a large inventory of fast attack craft armed with torpedoes and missiles.

For many years Tehran’s leaders favored the IRGCN, and IRIN was something of a poor cousin. Now, though, a change of policy has allowed the IRIN star to rise in the Iranian political firmament, with increased funding enabling the service’s capabilities to grow significantly in recent years.

Older, Western-built frigates, corvettes and fast attack craft have been upgraded, as have IRIN’s Russian-made Kilo diesel-electric submarines. In addition, a program of indigenous construction of both surface and sub-surface warships is underway.

Under this program, a Moudge-class frigate, Jamaran, was completed in 2010. Armed with both air defense and anti-shipping cruise missiles, this warship is very active in both Iranian and more distant waters. At least two more vessels in this class, which is an Iranian upgrade of IRIN’s aging, British-built Vosper frigates, are being built, as are a number of small and midsize submarines.

IRIN ships are increasingly well armed, with many now fitted with reverse-engineered, indigenous developments of 1970s and 1980s vintage Chinese and Western weapon systems. International naval technology advances at a rapid clip, and Iranian warships are therefore very likely to be technically inferior to the latest U.S. and European front-line warships, and would probably not survive long in any conflict with such vessels. Still, IRIN is a very strong force in a regional context. Not only is its order of battle larger than those of its neighbors, unlike adjacent naval forces it also puts in a lot of time at sea, and regularly ventures into distant waters

Particularly important IRIN assets are its three large, armed, helicopter-capable fleet replenishment vessels. These are the force multipliers that enable the service’s overseas deployments.

U.S. Tries Candor to Assure China on Cyberattacks

APRIL 6, 2014

President Xi Jinping of China and President Obama last month in The Hague. They discussed the issue of computer spying.

WASHINGTON — In the months before Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s arrival in Beijing on Monday, the Obama administration quietly held an extraordinary briefing for the Chinese military leadership on a subject officials have rarely discussed in public: the Pentagon’s emerging doctrine for defending against cyberattacks against the United States — and for using its cybertechnology against adversaries, including the Chinese.

The idea was to allay Chinese concerns about plans to more than triple the number of American cyberwarriors to 6,000 by the end of 2016, a force that will include new teams the Pentagon plans to deploy to each military combatant command around the world. But the hope was to prompt the Chinese to give Washington a similar briefing about the many People’s Liberation Army units that are believed to be behind the escalating attacks on American corporations and government networks.

So far, the Chinese have not reciprocated — a point Mr. Hagel plans to make in a speech at the P.L.A.’s National Defense University on Tuesday.

The effort, senior Pentagon officials say, is to head off what Mr. Hagel and his advisers fear is the growing possibility of a fast-escalating series of cyberattacks and counterattacks between the United States and China. This is a concern especially at a time of mounting tensions over China’s expanding claims of control over what it argues are exclusive territories in the East and South China Seas, and over a new air defense zone. In interviews, American officials say their latest initiatives were inspired by Cold-War-era exchanges held with the Soviets so that each side understood the “red lines” for employing nuclear weapons against each other.

“Think of this in terms of the Cuban missile crisis,” one senior Pentagon official said. While the United States “suffers attacks every day,” he said, “the last thing we would want to do is misinterpret an attack and escalate to a real conflict.”

Mr. Hagel’s concern is spurred by the fact that in the year since President Obama explicitly brought up the barrage of Chinese-origin attacks on the United States with his newly installed counterpart, President Xi Jinping, the pace of those attacks has increased. Most continue to be aimed at stealing technology and other intellectual property from Silicon Valley, military contractors and energy firms. Many are believed to be linked tocyberwarfare units of the People’s Liberation Army acting on behalf of state-owned, or state-affiliated, Chinese companies.

Synopsis of Top Secret 2009 NSA SIGDEV Conference at Fort Meade

April 6, 2014

There is a very interesting synopsis now available online of a June 2009 conference held at NSA headquarters at Fort George G. Meade about all the different cryptologic attack and developments efforts the agency was involved in. A large number of representatives from NSA’s Second Party allies in the UK and elsewhere also attended to share with NSA the nature and extent of their work on new systems. The summary of the conference can be read here.

Developments Over the Past Year in Iranian Cyberwar Capabilities

April 6, 2014

The following synopsis of a new report on Iranian cyberwar capabilities was posted yesterday on the website of the Independent Media Review Analysis (imra.org):

Developments in Iranian Cyber Warfare, 2013-2014
INSS Insight No. 536, April 3, 2014
Gabi Siboni, Sami Kronenfeld 

SUMMARY: Over the course of 2013, Iran became one of the most active players in the international cyber arena. Iran’s progress can be attributed to a combination of two elements: a certain easing of the restraints on offensive activity in cyberspace by Iranian decision makers, and a qualitative leap by the Iranian cyber warfare system. The rapid development of Iran’s cyber warfare capability means that Israel and other Western countries must work decisively and systematically to maintain qualitative and operational superiority in cyberspace. The importance of cyberspace for Israel’s security concept and the urgency of creating a “digital Iron Dome” were well expressed by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz: “Israel must be on a superpower level in cyberspace…we must not wait with this.” 

In early 2013, a senior official from the cyber security company CrowdStrike described Iran as a “third tier” country in terms of its cyber capabilities, and estimated that they lagged significantly behind the capabilities of leading countries such as the United States, Russia, Great Britain, and China. The perception was that Iran had the ability to be a nuisance to Western information security systems, but that it lacked the knowledge and means to carry out a strategic cyber attack. These assumptions largely dissolved over the course of 2013, when Iran became one of the most active players in the international cyber arena. Iran’s progress can be attributed to a combination of two elements: a certain easing of the restraints on offensive activity in cyberspace by Iranian decision makers, and a qualitative leap by the Iranian cyber warfare system. This major advance by Iran has surprised many Western experts in terms of its scope, its professional sophistication, and the ambitious choice of targets.

The Defense Concept: Cutting Iran Off from the World From its past experience with events such as the Stuxnet virus and the post-election riots in June 2009, Iran learned the importance of an effective cyber defense system and effective control of the internet. To this end, Iran has worked on three main tracks to create a multi-dimensional cyber-defense system: (1) creating a defense envelope against cyber attacks on critical infrastructures and sensitive information; (2) neutralizing cyber operations by opposition elements and regime opponents; 3) keeping Western ideas and content, which could contribute to the development of a “soft revolution” that would harm the stability of the regime, out of Iranian cyberspace.

7 April 2014


Monday, 07 April 2014 | 

There is talk about bringing back Indian funds illegally stashed in foreign banks. But what about the dirty money floating inside the local economy, particularly in sectors such as real estate?

On March 26, the Supreme Court rejected the Union Government’s plea to recall the court’s order to set up a Special Investigation Team, headed by its two former judges, to monitor investigations relating to black money and the flight of unaccounted amounts to foreign banks.

The court also slammed successive Governments at the Centre for “doing nothing to bring back the black money stashed away in tax havens abroad”. Indeed, it was only after six decades of independence, that at least one citizen came forward, in 2011, and complained that the Indian economy was being destroyed due to black money park in tax havens abroad.

The court said: “There will be a body (SIT) because you have failed. Were you not aware where the black money is deposited? You know it very well… Even if you have taken steps, this court being the highest court and the constitutional court can pass such an order”.

The Government has a number of agencies to deal with the problem of black money, like the Directorate General of Economic Enforcement, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and the office of the Chief Commissioner of Income Tax and even the Central Bureau of Investigations. But they are all parts of the larger Government machinery, and most of them cannot act on their own.

For instance, the CBI has to take permission from the Union Government before starting an inquiry against officers of the level of Joint Secretary and above. In 2013, the Union Cabinet has passed a resolution extending this shield to retired officials from the above ranks as well.

Politicians often think that the people are fools and the electorate does not see through their empty promises. One example of this is the announcement by the Congress that it will appoint a special envoy to track black money. But the Congress-led Government at the Centre has done little with the information it received regarding people who have stashed black money abroad. This is despite the fact that it has people from the Revenue and Intelligence services posted abroad in important Indian Embassies. Surely, they are doing some work.

A DISAPPOINTING SHOW - UPA-II has fulfilled few of its promises to the armed forces

Brijesh D. Jayal 

Writing in these columns when the United Progressive Alliance II commenced its innings (“Through Thick and Thin”, June 3, 2009), one was optimistic that the new dispensation would not sit idle whilst the nation’s armed forces continued down a slippery slope. This hope was driven by the belief that the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, who had earlier not shied away from bold decisions, would again not hesitate to look for innovative solutions to save the one institution on which rests the entire security edifice of the nation state.

On the morrow of the release of the Congress manifesto for the forthcoming elections, it is appropriate to reflect on how the armed forces have fared against the optimism then expressed by this writer. To put no gloss on it, one must admit that from the earlier slippery slope, the armed forces are now on the edge of the proverbial precipice with only their tenacity and grit holding them from the unknown. And judging by the recent resignation of the chief of naval staff on moral grounds and the vulgar haste with which the government accepted, it would seem that this tenacity has also reached breaking point.

In the interim, we have had the spectacle of an open war between a serving army chief and the ministry of defence with the former taking the unusual step of approaching the highest court. The extent of distrust is exemplified by media allegations of a secret military intelligence unit formed by the chief, purported to be snooping on conversations of officials in the ministry, and of unexplained army movements close to Delhi, with unsaid hints of the dreaded word, ‘coup’. Strangely, none of these stories have as yet been satisfactorily explained and put to rest, thus leaving not only a festering wound in civil-military relations, but also a sulking army deeply hurt by the open lack of trust in the institution itself.

When two of our soldiers were killed at the line of control and one beheaded by elements across the border, we had the unusual occurrence of emotional outpourings by relatives of the one mutilated when the bodies were brought home, but not one leader of significance was at hand to provide the families and the army with a healing touch. More recently, when five soldiers were ambushed and killed on the LoC, which, according to the army was the work of the Pakistan army, the defence minister told Parliament that they were “terrorists along with persons dressed in army uniforms”, thus offering Pakistan a readymade alibi.

No terrorists here

Khaled Ahmed | April 6, 2014 1

The American diplomats in Islamabad were sending a lot of dastardly information back home. WikiLeaks claimed that the al-Qaeda chief was in routine contact with up to 12 ISI officials. We say, all lies!. CR Sasi kumar

Carlotta Gall’s book will be met by the same denialism that has gripped Pakistan for many years.

Pakistan, where over 80 per cent of people hate America, is greatly upset over the yet-to-be-published book by reporter Carlotta Gall — a woman and a Jew — who has written in The New York Times that Pakistan was keeping Osama bin Laden in a safehouse in Abbottabad; and that it actually faked shock followed by populist rage at “discovering” him there after America’s dastardly attack to kill him on Pakistani soil.

We say her lies are myriad, typical of a Jewish hater of Pakistan and Islam. She says “the madrasas in Quetta are a cover, a camouflage. Behind the curtain, hidden in the shadows, lurks the ISI. The Pakistani government, under President Pervez Musharraf and his intelligence chief, Lt Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was maintaining and protecting the Taliban, both to control the many groups of militants now lodged in the country and to use them as a proxy force to gain leverage over and eventually dominate Afghanistan.”

She goes on to indict Pakistan further as an abettor of terrorism through proxy warriors it pretends not to know and claims to be helpless to curb. It pretends to “apparently” cooperate with America but covertly trains militants through its dreaded ISI to go to Afghanistan and kill Americans. She says Americans knew what its great ally was doing but refused to face up to it “for fear of setting off a greater confrontation with a powerful Muslim nation”.

She quotes a former chief of the ISI, Ziauddin Butt — a simple soldier, if you run into him at the Lahore Gymkhana, you will see him stuffing the heads of rich shopkeepers with stories of great derring-do against enemy America — as saying that “he thought Musharraf had arranged to hide bin Laden in Abbottabad”.

Of course, Butt has quickly denied what he said to Gall but he had already told a lot of foreign reporters about how Musharraf and the ISI’s Brigadier Ijaz Shah and ISI chief Shuja Pasha had actually placed him in Abbottabad.


April 3, 2014 · in Analysis

India and Pakistan have been bumping along in their own version of a Cold War for so many years now that it is tempting to assume the status quo will continue. Parliamentary elections in India in April and May, however, are about to introduce a new element of unpredictability in the region just as the United States prepares to pull its combat troops out of Afghanistan. The likely winner, Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is already signalling a tougher stance on Pakistan. That will not necessarily translate into increased tensions between India and Pakistan – Modi has made it clear his priority will be reviving economic growth, which at below five percent is far short of the eight percent needed to absorb India’s rising population. What it does mean is that the two countries will find it far harder to read each other’s intentions – Modi is an unknown quantity on foreign policy – complicating diplomacy and raising the risk of a rapid escalation in tensions after any acts of terrorism which India suspects originated in Pakistan.

The BJP meanwhile may be hoping that signalling a tougher stance alone will be enough to deter Pakistan, sparing India the need to choose between military retaliation and investment stability. The problem with that calculation is that Pakistan’s own grip on militants is deteriorating. The army, which dominates foreign and security policy, has faced accusations for years of backing the Afghan Taliban to counter Indian influence in Afghanistan. Unable to contain a domestic Pakistani Taliban insurgency, the short-term temptation for the army will be to push more militants into Afghanistan even at the risk of greater long-term blowback into Pakistan from an energized Taliban movement next door. Pakistan could also try to reduce pressure at home by easing curbs on jihadis more focused on India and Kashmir than on Afghanistan. It is the combination of the two – a new government in India and Pakistan’s domestic situation, compounded by long-standing fears of an India-Pakistan proxy war in Afghanistan after US combat troops leave – that will make the region so volatile.

Of the many unknown factors in India’s elections – themselves so notoriously unpredictable that Modi is far from guaranteed to become prime minister despite a strong showing by the BJP in opinion polls – only one thing can be said for sure. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who provided continuity to India’s Pakistan policy for a decade since his appointment by the ruling Congress party in 2004, will no longer be in office. Singh had hoped to make peace with Pakistan into his personal legacy. While he failed to push that through, he did maintain a policy of restraint, resisting calls for more aggressive action against Pakistan even after the 2008 attack on Mumbai by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group.

After Afghan Election, Debate Over Post-2014 Troops Will Continue


As Afghans head to the polls Saturday to elect their next president, those in Washington still pushing for a lasting United States commitment to the country are hoping fervently that things go well – or at least well enough – to keep both the Obama administration and the American public on board.

Lately, the narrative in the U.S. around the Afghanistan War has hardened into one that shows it as a futile effort that has yielded little gains, despite more than 2,300 Americans killed and $600 billion spent since 2001. A December CNN poll revealed American opposition to the Afghan war hit 82 percent – higher than the Iraq War ever reached. Only one quarter of respondents wanted to see U.S. troops stay in Afghanistan after the official end of the war in December. National Intelligence Estimate predictions that security gains will retreat alongside the U.S.troop withdrawal, regardless of whether several thousand troops remain, have strengthened the hand of those within the administration arguing for the so-called “zero option” of keeping no troops in the country come January.

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana. Full Bio

But those who have worked in Afghanistan on the diplomatic and military sides push back against that storyline and point to very real progress. 

“I am cautiously optimistic about what I am seeing in Afghanistan,” retired Adm. James Stavridis, former NATOcommander who now heads Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, told Defense One. “Despite unrelenting media focus on the difficult challenges of getting through the election and the ongoing insurgency, I think the macro picture is actually somewhat encouraging.”

Stavridis, like many commanders and aid workers, pointed to millions of Afghan girls and boys in school and economic growth as high as 13 percent in recent years. Women, too, have made gains, serving as parliamentarians, governors, entrepreneurs, judges, police officers and civil servants after being banished from their streets and schools under the Taliban. Stavridis also praised Afghan security forces. “We now have 350,000 Afghan police and soldiers in the field and they are fighting well,” he said. “They are taking casualties, but inflicting casualties, they are holding territory and the Taliban have made no significant gains whatsoever in terms of holding territory.”

Those who had a front-row seat to training Afghan forces agree. “I remember watching in 2006 and they couldn’t do the most basic things, and now man-for-man some of their folks are as good as ours. And as units, some of their units are as good as those in theNATO coalition,” said Mark Jacobson, former deputy NATOsenior civil representative who advised retired Generals David Petraeus and Stan McChrystal during their years commanding the war. “Even back in 2009 they handled the [attack on] the Intercontinental [Hotel] far better than Indian special operations forces handled Mumbai.”

Why Pakistan is Ignoring the Afghan Election

APRIL 4, 2014 

Though Afghanistan and Pakistan have long been linked in Western minds, with the "AfPak" designation reigning supreme in the collective conscience, the two countries are more disconnected now than ever before. 

Afghanistan is hardly mentioned in Pakistani media or public discourse, but there is a growing anti-Pakistan sentiment in Afghanistan. Some may even say it's a uniting factor in this election. Pakistan has been repeatedly accused of directly controlling anti-democratic forces such as the Taliban, and providing funding and safe havens for anti-state elements, all with the supposed intent of pushing Afghanistan into instability and chaos. Taken at face value, it would seem that Pakistan is the source of all the country's ills. Ironically, this is similar to a narrative that plays out frequently in the Pakistani media, except that Pakistan's bogeyman of choice is the United States. 

However, it is interesting to note that Afghanistan's other neighbors rarely feature into this conversation of interference and destabilization, despite evidence to the contrary. 

Iran, for example, has a long history of involvement in the country. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the NATO commander in Afghanistan, told reporters in 2010 that there was "clear evidence of Iranian activity" in Afghanistan, including cases of "providing weapons and training to the Taliban." A year later, British Foreign Secretary William Hague reiterated this when discussing "evidence that Iran continues to supply the Taliban with weaponry" which are "clearly intended to...kill Afghan and ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] soldiers." Although this involvement is common knowledge, it is not often discussed in the Afghan media or addressed in statements from the presidential palace. This may be due to the fact that Iran backs at least eight newspapers in Kabul and controls nearly a third of Afghan media. Perhaps if Pakistan followed suit, it wouldn't be subject to the same ire. 

Whatever the reason for this Afghan focus on Pakistan, it is clear that Pakistan will be blamed for any pre-election violence. Whether these allegations can stand up to scrutiny or be seen as being in the national interest is another question entirely. 

The Battle at Home 

So what exactly does the Pakistani leadership think of the upcoming Afghan elections and who is their candidate of choice? The short answer is that, frankly, they don't seem to be too concerned with the election or its outcome. 

Pakistan is facing a multitude of domestic issues, including acute energy shortages, rising inflation, sectarian violence, the discovery of mass graves in the increasingly restive Balochistan province, and anti-state groups challenging the government. This is further compounded by changes in the political landscape with a relatively new government in power: Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party is trying to translate his campaign promises into actual governance policy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province; the young Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is challenging militancy while trying to consolidate his party in Sindh; and Jamaat-e-Islami (the Pakistani chapter of a political party which also has a presence in Afghanistan, India, and Bangladesh) is operating under a newly elected leader against the backdrop of peace talks with the Taliban. 

Afghanistan Elections and the Taliban Threat

In the election run-up, the Taliban has increasingly set the agenda in the region with a spate of high-profile attacks. 

By Rajeev Agrawal
April 05, 2014

In the lead up to the presidential elections in Afghanistan, which get underway today, the Taliban has upped the ante in the region, especially in Afghanistan, with a spate of high-impact attacks in March. An attack on March 29 hit the heart of the election process when the Taliban stormed a building next to the Independent Election Commission headquarters in Kabul, making very clear the threat it posed to the elections. Beginning with an attack on a famous Lebanese restaurant in Kabul on January 18, which killed 13 foreign nationals, the Taliban has been cleverly choosing targets and patterns this year that leave the international forces and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) struggling to react.

Across the Durand Line, in Pakistan, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) seems to be toying with the Pakistani establishment, oscillating between attacks on the Pakistani army to accepting cease fire and peace talks proposals. A broad overview of the situation does indicate towards one clear pattern: the Taliban are on the offensive and are setting the agenda, forcing both, Afghanistan and Pakistan to react and follow.

Afghanistan’s transition in 2014 is built on three important pillars: elections, the handover of security responsibilities to the ANSF, and reining in the Taliban. While the latter two are ongoing efforts, the presidential elections are a clear landmark. Successful elections would benefit the Afghanistan peace process and undermine Taliban influence. It could also lead to the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States, which despite having been successfully negotiated and even passed by the Loya Jirga in November last year, awaits signing by President Hamid Karzai, who so far has refused. While the Afghanistan government, the U.S. and the Taliban all understand the significance of the elections, the difference lies in its execution. The U.S. simply wants this process to be done, and is more focused on the withdrawal timetable and the various scenarios for leaving troops behind, which stretch from a “zero option” to a figure of 10-15,000 troops. The ANSF and the Afghan government are more focused on the process of the elections and the safety of the candidates, while keeping the transition process in motion.

Where does that leave the Taliban? While everything that the U.S. and the Afghanistan do has a direct bearing on the Taliban, unlike the past three years, at present there is no clearcut campaign strategy against the Taliban nor are there any ongoing military operations to clear Taliban strongholds or target its leaders. In past few months, the process of “reintegration and reconciliation” also seems to have been lost in the din of transition and elections.

How Obama Lost Afghanistan


He said it was ‘the right war.’ Then he did everything he could to screw it up. 

Despite the violence and uncertainty surrounding this Saturday’s election for a new Afghan President, there’s one positive —Hamid Karzai, the sitting president and the architect of much of the country’s unrest, is not on the ballot this time. But while Karzai must cede power under the rules of the Afghan constitution, the other leader whose mismanagement helped tank Afghanistan abandoned his influence in what he once called “the right war” a long time ago. That leader is President Barack Obama. 

An outright winner is unlikely on Saturday, unless one campaign is far superior in the art of vote fraud. The most dramatic political comeback belongs to Dr. Ashraf Ghani, a technocrat economist who previously served as Karzai’s Minister of Finance. Known for a volatile temper—according to former colleagues, he once broke his wrist by slamming his hand into a meeting table—Ghani only earned three percent of the vote against Karzai in 2009. Today, Ghani polls as the frontrunner, dividing the margin of Karzai’s heir apparent, former National Security advisor and Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul, and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, an ophthalmologist with a fondness for flashy Italian suits. He gathered 30 percent of the vote in 2009, but declined to participate in a run-off against Karzai. 

The best scenario is a May run-off between the two top candidates—the opposite of the chaos of 2009 that left Karzai with a third term. Instead of a statesmanlike exit as father of a new democracy, Karzai’s re-election imploded his already troubled legacy. On an election day the UN characterized as Afghanistan’s worst episode of violence in fifteen years, Western diplomats accused Karzai and his cronies of at least 100,000 fictitious ballots and over 800 fake polling sites

Some level of corruption is to be expected in a post-conflict war zone, but the rancorous back and forth between Karzai and the Obama administration was a disastrous turning point. Dismissing voting irregularities as “totally fabricated,” Karzai dedicated his next five years to severing his relationship with the United States. Always a pacifist—a nuance neglected when drafting plans for a more aggressive war strategy—Karzai went increasingly public with his anger over civilian casualties, night raids and what he saw as American rejection to take the fight to Pakistan. 

Over the last year, Karzai refused to sign a security pact setting the terms for a long-term American troop presence, leaving the decision of keeping American forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to the next president. Only a month ago, Karzai told the Washington Post, “There is no war to be fought in Afghanistan. I believe that much of the conflict is a creation in which the Afghans suffer.” 

Pakistan’s Deal With the Devil And The Taliban Shadow Surge


On March 1, the Islamabad government cut a deal with the Taliban. And since then, all hell has been breaking loose in neighboring Afghanistan. 

In the last month, the Taliban has killed dozens of people in a string of attacks timed to destabilize Afghanistan ahead of the presidential elections on Saturday. 

Most recently, a suicide bomber breached the heavy security at the Interior Ministry building and blew himself up, killing six police officers. And that may be just a preview, if local Taliban commanders are to be believed. 

“We told Afghans not to vote,” said Haji Shakor, a Taliban commander in central Afghanistan. “If we found out you voted, you won’t take your five fingers home.” 

But the real accelerators of this violence aren’t Shakor and his fellow Afghanistan-based militants, local intelligence and security officials tell The Daily Beast. Instead, it’s Taliban insurgents streaming over the border from Pakistan that have enabled the group’s recent killing spree in Kabul. And they say the Pakistani government is to blame for the incursion. 

On March 1, the government in Islamabad agreed to a month-long ceasefire with Pakistan’s Taliban, known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The truce was supposed to be a chance to revive stalled peace talks but its timing, just ahead of Afghanistan’s elections, suggests that it may also have been a way to reposition forces before the vote. 

By increasing violence ahead of the election, the Taliban is trying to discourage voting and convince Afghans that the government is incapable of providing security. It’s a tactic the Taliban has used in the past before big political events, but this time to pull off its plan the group used some shrewd foreign diplomacy. 

There are, broadly speaking, two Talibans, one in Afghanistan and one in Pakistan. The two groups operate semi-autonomously but both fall under the leadership of the Quetta Shura leadership council. And major moves, like this ceasefire, would undoubtedly be blessed by the Quetta Shura. 

In a recent interview Srtaj Aziz, Pakistan’s advisor on foreign policy and national security, responded to allegations that Pakistan was responsible for Taliban attacks in Afghanistan. 

“We told Afghans not to vote. If we found out you voted, you won’t take your five fingers home.”