1 August 2014

Fighting the Last War: The War in Gaza Strip Is Yet Another Wake-Up Call for the Israeli Army

Wake-up call for the Israel Defense Forces

Despite the IDF’s many achievements, the current war in Gaza reveals once again the necessity of a comprehensive reorganization of the military.

Amos Harel

Haaretz, July 30, 2014

On the 22nd day of the war in the Gaza Strip, the Israel Air Force intensified its bombardments, hitting Hamas targets in spots close to densely populated areas, like the heart of Gaza City. There is obviously a link between these powerful attacks and the death of 10 soldiers the previous day in three separate incidents.

This escalation, however, does not point to a dramatic shift in the Israel Defense Forces’ troop deployment policy. The restrained tone of the press conference Monday evening given by the prime minister, defense minster and chief of staff was no coincidence. At the top they understand that wars have days in which tactical errors result in losses, but the state must absorb them and stick to its strategy, assuming it still believes the strategy is correct.

One can state with caution that Israel seems to be looking to end the operation within a few days, assuming Hamas doesn’t screw up its plans.

The aim is to complete the mapping and destruction of the terror tunnels to the degree possible and remove IDF forces from the Strip. On the one hand, the political echelon fears further entanglement and additional international criticism; on the other hand it doesn’t want to be perceived as having given up too soon, which could exact a high price in political and public support.

In recent days, senior intelligence, political, and military officials have repeatedly made two claims. The first is that the damage the IDF has inflicted on Hamas is incredible. The group has lost military assets and will suffer politically as well, because the Gaza population will hold it responsible for the consequences of the third failed campaign against Israel in five-and-a-half years.

The second is that Hamas is desperate for a cease-fire. The leaders, generals, and intelligence people seem to agree that the public doesn’t yet understand the depth of the blow delivered to Hamas. Its scope and ramifications, they say, will become clear only after the dust settles.

The humble brinjal’s Bt moment?

August 1, 2014 02:38 IST 

The HinduThe present acrimony needs to give way to a reasoned and sober dialogue, says Jairam Ramesh, Former Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests.

Between the U.S. approach of permissions and the European one of prohibitions, there lies a middle path based on precautions, the approach India needs to follow on Bt brinjal

Shiv Visvanathan has, in his own inimitable style, called for a wider public debate on genetically modified crops (“Harvest of controversy,” The Hindu, July 29). While doing so, he has drawn attention to the genetically modified brinjal episode and my own role in it — a role that has attracted bouquets and brickbats in equal measure.

Moratorium on introduction

Briefly, on February 10, 2010, as the Minister for Environment and Forests, I had, in a detailed 19-page “speaking order” made public immediately, overruled the recommendations of the statutory Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) and imposed a moratorium on the commercialisation of Bt brinjal — the first genetically modified food crop sought to be sold in the markets. The moratorium had been imposed because of four crucial reasons. First, no State government cutting across party lines and ideologies supported the commercialisation. Second, there appeared to be no overwhelming consensus on it in the domestic and international scientific community. Third, there were concerns that seed supply would be the monopoly — direct and indirect — of one multinational company. Fourth, there appeared to be a persuasive case for more tests and trials under an agreed protocol and under an independent regulatory agency that would inspire wider confidence.

Professor Visvanathan draws attention to the public consultations that were held which he feels strengthened the democratic process. These took place in seven cities — Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Nagpur. Kolkata and Bhubaneswar were selected because West Bengal and Odisha account for 50 per cent of brinjal production in India. Ahmedabad was selected because of the success of Bt cotton in Gujarat. Nagpur was chosen because it is the home of India’s premier research institution in cotton and there have been controversies over Bt cotton in Vidarbha. Chandigarh was included because it is the capital of India’s two most agriculturally advanced States while Bangalore and Hyderabad were chosen because they are the most important centres for biotech Research and Development (R&D).

Over 8000 people from all sections of society — and I stress all — participated in these consultations. As expected, widely divergent views were expressed, including one that accused me of being an agent for the multinational in question! These consultations were videographed and put in the public domain.

The extreme intolerance on the part of the civil society activists as well as the disdainful arrogance on the part of the scientists were on full display. Simultaneously, the views of over 60 scientists in India, the U.S., France, New Zealand and other countries were sought. A number of them supported commercialisation while many others opposed it. Some others advocated caution and called for more data.

A Himalayan Opportunity

By Harsh V Pant
01st August 2014 

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s maiden visit to Nepal last week was an important opportunity to recalibrate Indo-Nepalese ties and lay the foundation for prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit from August 3—the first bilateral visit to Nepal by an Indian PM in 17 years. Nepalese polity, cutting across party lines, had welcomed the assumption of power by Modi, with most expressing hope that Nepal would be a beneficiary of Modi’s development agenda. Swaraj’s visit managed to convey the right message by settling a long-pending issue as she promised a review of the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship within two years on the basis of recommendations from a group of eminent persons from both nations. She also co-chaired the Nepal-India Joint Commission that met after 23 years and reviewed the bilateral ties holistically. The Modi government now has an opportunity to reshape the contours of New Delhi’s relations with Kathmandu and it should lose no time in doing that, especially as India seems to be losing ground in Nepal to China.

“A yam between two rocks” was how the founder of Nepal, Prithvi Narayan Shah, described the Himalayan kingdom, given its pivotal geostrategic location landlocked between China and India. In 1955 Nepal established diplomatic ties with China, recognising Tibet as part of China in 1956. Since the mid-19th century, Tibet, rather than Nepal, had served as India’s buffer with China. The role of this buffer passed on to Nepal after the Chinese annexation of Tibet. It became imperative for New Delhi to deny China direct access to Nepal because of the vulnerability of India’s Gangetic Plain containing critical human and economic resources. India’s growing influence had grave implications for China’s security considerations, especially as regards Tibet. Thus, preserving the balance of power in southern Asia in its favour and securing Nepal’s active co-operation to prevent its rivals’ use of the nation for anti-China activity became principal strategic objectives of Beijing’s Nepal policy.

The 1950 treaty enshrined the close relationship between India and Nepal (including co-operation on trade, transit, defence and foreign affairs) and constrained Chinese options in Nepal. As China’s economic and political profile rose, it slowly began to increase its influence in Nepal, and Kathmandu, wanting to counterbalance India, was keen to leverage China in its dealings with New Delhi. By supporting Nepal’s position during most disputes between that country and India, China was able to project itself as a benevolent power in comparison with India’s supercilious attitude towards its smaller neighbours. Nepal signed an arms pact and secret intelligence-sharing agreement with China in 1988 which elicited strong reaction from New Delhi, leading to the imposition of an economic blockade on Nepal in 1989-90. Despite this, Sino-Nepal ties continued to evolve with Nepal importing Chinese weapons and cultivating extensive military co-operation in a move to reduce dependence on India.

The Maoists came to power in 2008, made clear their intention to renegotiate the 1950 treaty, but collapsed before they could accomplish it. Since then, in a bid to cover its bases in a fractured political environment, China has reached out to all the political parties in Nepal, while demanding that Nepal recognise the annexation of Tibet and repress Tibetan activists within Nepal. Kathmandu has obliged, making it clear it won’t allow any group to use Nepal’s territory for anti-Chinese activities. As a result, restrictions have grown for 20,000 exiled Tibetans in Nepal, with even the birthday celebrations of the Dalai Lama being curbed. The Tibetan spiritual leader lives in exile in India and had a representative in Kathmandu until the office was shut down by the Nepal government in 2005. China has been undertaking development initiatives across Nepalese villages adjoining Tibet, as well as liaising with border security and upgrading police stations at points used by Tibetans to cross into Nepal. The Chinese government hopes this can be used to suppress Tibetan activities in Nepal.


By Amit Bhandari
JULY 30, 2014 

In his budget speech, the Indian finance minister hinted at a greater role for natural gas in India’s energy mix. The shift will help diversify our energy sources, reduce our import bills and cut pollution.

In the presentation of the union budget, finance minister Arun Jaitley announced that his government will diversify India’s energy use from a heavy dependence on crude oil to natural gas. It will start by doubling gas pipelines to 30,000 kilometres. Such a diversification is desirable and feasible.

A shift to natural gas will help India reduce its energy import bill as well as reduce our dependence on imports from a West Asia in turmoil.

It will help the ordinary consumer greatly. For now, petroleum products such as diesel, petrol, liquefied petroleum (LPG) and kerosene are used as fuels for transportation and in the kitchen. These four products account for almost 65% of India’s petroleum consumption at a cost of over $1 billion, and can easily be replaced by compressed natural gas (CNG). 1

CNG is widely used as a vehicle fuel in Iran, Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, and China. In Pakistan, almost 80% of four wheelers and bigger vehicles run on CNG; in Iran, it is over 25% (see Table 1).2 Clearly, the large-scale use of natural gas as vehicle fuel is technically feasible.

Two factors have enabled that success: plentiful gas and a lower price as compared to petrol. Iran is rich in crude oil and natural gas. It has inadequate petroleum refining facilities and has to import refined fuels such as diesel and petrol, which are restricted by western sanctions. But Iran has the world’s second largest reserves of natural gas, which it cannot export because of the sanctions. For Iran therefore a shift to natural gas at home was necessary.

Pakistan is short of crude oil, but has relatively larger reserves of natural gas. Pakistan began the switch to CNG in 1996.3 In both Iran and Pakistan, CNG was priced below petrol to encourage consumers to shift. For locally-produced gas, this isn’t a problem because production cost is minimal once wells are drilled and the infrastructure is built.

Table 1: World’s largest users of CNG for vehicles
CNG vehicles (millions)Share of CNG vehiclesCNG filling stations
Source: Natural & Bio Gas Vehicle Association, Europe

For the consumer, CNG-driven vehicles are more fuel-efficient than petrol (~10%), 4 & 5 and give a slightly lower mileage than diesel (~6%).6 Because petroleum products such as diesel and petrol need to be processed before being used, their cost to consumers is higher. Internationally, the price of diesel and petrol is just over $120/barrel; natural gas provides the same energy at $90.

For India, therefore, a successful reallocation will depend on three factors: the price of gas compared with oil, the availability of gas, and a delivery infrastructure. The first two factors are already in place, but India lacks the last-mile delivery infrastructure.

India has to import natural gas, but it is difficult. Gas has to be cooled and liquefied at cryogenic temperatures into liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is then moved on special ships and to special receiving terminals—all of which requires multi-billion dollar investments.

Reasons vs. Principles: India at the WTO

By Rachit Ranjan
July 30, 2014

India’s defense of its food policy is understandable, but it risks isolation from future global markets. 

The tussle between the North and South in trade negotiations has gained momentum in the past few weeks. The current WTO negotiations carry the risk of undermining the legitimacy of the organization itself, and thereby the utility of the multilateral trade body. As a prerequisite for executing the deal concluded in Bali, India called for a permanent solution to its food security program. Currently, India is holding up negotiations on the most important outcome of the Bali deal, the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), as it seeks a more concrete discussion on the future of food stockpiling programs across the world. The TFA is expected to be a major employment and income generator in the context of world trade (expected to generate $1 trillion in trade and create 21 million jobs).

Many developing countries still perceive the TFA as nothing more than an import facilitation agreement that will benefit conglomerates from developed countries. Moreover executing a deal of this scale would require immense financial and infrastructural input from developing countries. As a trade-off, India wanted to make food stockpiling programs an exception to the Agreement on Agriculture, which only allows for a 10 percent aggregate measure of support on the total value of agricultural production based on 1986-88 prices. With the July 31 deadline for adopting the protocol to bring the TFA under the WTO’s legal framework at hand, India remains firm in its stand, risking the first derailment of a multilateral trade deal since the failure of the Doha round of negotiations.

The support for India’s stance stems from a deeply embedded belief that the West is apathetic to the suffering of the poor in developing and least developed countries. Although this view has some merit, it could encourage a prejudiced and parochial standpoint devoid of the long-term perspective necessary in trade negotiations. The extent to which the Indian government has considered the ramifications of its current position on the economy and industry is uncertain. Nor is it known whether there was any empirical study conducted on the impact that such a spirited stance would have on its economy, or why a new government, which came to power on slogans about development, is pursuing an agenda reminiscent of the maladministration conducted by its “leftist” predecessor.

Nevertheless, it is important to discuss both ends of the spectrum before forming an opinion on any issue, so consider this decision through the prism of rational choice theory. The theory is linked to the Realist school of international relations. It is premised on the idea that a state will do a thorough cost-benefit analysis, and ultimately make a choice that maximizes its utility. Given this backdrop, it is pertinent to observe the factors that should inform India’s position on the issue, such as India’s reservations, the ramifications of derailing the Bali deal, and the sidelining of India through tactical pressure on other developing countries.


July 30, 2014

If you think reconciling the Israelis and Palestinians is hard, try the Indians and Pakistanis. The latest war in Gaza has laid bare India’s and Pakistan’s different views about the Middle East, revealing a great deal about how these countries view themselves and each other. The newly elected Indian government of the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has become more confident about showing sympathy for Israel, bringing to the surface a relationship that has been growing for more than two decades. Pakistan refuses to recognize the Jewish state and its outrage over Palestinian deaths in Gaza is colored by its identity as a country bristling to defend the rights of Muslims around the world, from Palestine to Kashmir. These different worldviews could ultimately exacerbate the historical animosity between the two countries, and pit the pro-Israel Hindu right in India against the hawkish pro-military establishment in Pakistan.

In the early decades after independence in 1947, it was India rather than Pakistan that was particularly vocal about the Palestinian cause. The partition of Palestine to create the state of Israel in 1948, coming just one year after British India was partitioned to create Pakistan, was seen in South Asia as a legacy of British imperialism. India’s commitment tochampion the Palestinian cause fitted, therefore, with the anti-colonial spirit of the Non-Aligned Movement of which it was a leading member. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi — disliked by Pakistan for her role in its defeat in the 1971 war that led to the creation of Bangladesh — got on particularly well with Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat. In addition to its anti-colonial stance, India had powerful domestic political reasons for supporting the Palestinian cause. The Israel–Palestine conflict is viewed monolithically in South Asia as one primarily between Muslims and non-Muslims. Indian governments, wary of alienating Muslim voters who make up roughly 14% of the electorate, had an incentive to side with the Palestinians. Finally, India was determined to prove its secular credentials. Support for the Palestinians — which was then a leftist cause — was one way for governments in New Delhi to show they could fairly represent both Hindus and Muslims, thus demonstrating that Pakistan had been wrong to insist on the need for a separate homeland for Muslims.

While Pakistan also viewed Israel as having been imposed on Palestine as a result of European colonialism, it was nonetheless more circumspect because of its alliance with the United States during the Cold War. Islamabad’s close ties with Washington also meant it was regarded with suspicion by Arab nationalists and kept at arm’s length. Though Pakistan refused to recognise Israel, Pakistani support for the Palestinians in the early decades after 1947 came from the public rather than officials, who had a different message. Its future military ruler, then-Brigadier Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, massacred Palestinians on behalf of Jordan in the Black September civil war in 1970.

The end of the Cold War, Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait and subsequent defeat by the United States, and India’s own economic liberalization in 1991, all forced New Delhi into a major reappraisal of its policies towards the Middle East. The ideological approach that inspired the Non-Aligned Movement was replaced by a more pragmatic one designed to secure India’s economic and security interests. After siding mainly with secular Arab nationalists in the past, India began to improve relations with Saudi Arabia, a close ally of Pakistan, to secure its energy needs. Its new pragmatism also led it to give full diplomatic recognition to Israel in 1992. The two countries had much in common in terms of security. Both were status quo powers, with less incentive than their enemies to try to change the existing set-up — Israel when it came to Palestinian statehood and India in its conflict with Pakistan over Kashmir. Both were non-Muslim democracies that faced a threat from Islamist militants. Growing defense and security cooperation between the two countries bore fruit during theborder war between India and Pakistan in the Kargil region of Jammu and Kashmir in 1999. At the time, India was facing sanctions over its nuclear tests the year before. When India ran short of artillery shells, Israel stepped in to supply them. India and Israel have steadily increased defense cooperation ever since. Among other things, Israel provides India with high-tech defense equipment that New Delhi has traditionally failed to get from the United States because of U.S. laws about transferring sensitive equipment. This includes Israeli Phalcon airborne warning and control systems that could be used against Pakistan.

Pakistan’s shrinking minority space

August 1, 2014 

The desire of Islamist extremists to ‘purify’ Pakistan has resulted in a major catastrophe for the minorities. The country cannot emerge as a modern pluralist state until the reversal of this culture of intolerance

The murder in Gujranwala of an elderly woman, a seven-year-old girl and an infant in a mob attack on members of the Ahmadi community highlights the continuing deterioration of Pakistan’s treatment of its religious minorities. The mob was incited by an Ahmadi youth allegedly sharing blasphemous material on his Facebook page. But the cause of incitement is hardly relevant. Pakistan has been described by several human rights organisations as one of the nations with the least tolerance in religious matters.

The latest incident should be viewed as part of a tragic pattern that has evolved over decades. Ironically, the intolerance that is now widely associated with Pakistan had little to do with its founder’s vision of a country where “in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”

The Ahmadis consider themselves Muslim but their beliefs are deemed by the orthodox as falling outside the tenets of Islam. The community recognises Mirza Ghulam Ahmed of Qadian as messiah and an emissary from god, a concept that runs contrary to the Orthodox Muslim notion of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat or Finality of the Prophethood. Anti-Ahmadi agitations have often been used by religious-political groups, particularly in the Punjab, as an instrument of polarisation. Violent attacks on Ahmadis in 1953 resulted in Pakistan’s first instance of limited martial law being imposed in the city of Lahore.

Growing discrimination

In 1974, another wave of violence led to Pakistan’s Parliament amending the Constitution to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims for legal purposes. It was argued at the time that once the Ahmadis’ apostasy is legally recognised and they are classified legally as non-Muslims, their orthodox Muslim critics would be satisfied and anti-Ahmadi violence would decline. But that has not happened. Instead, attacks on Ahmadis have continued unabated and along with other minority religious communities, there is an effort to marginalise the community, convert them or push them out of Pakistan.

Currently, the Ahmadis are barred by law from calling themselves Muslim or using Islamic terminology like “masjid” to describe their places of worship. Violation of that law entails criminal proceedings and imprisonment. But the community is not afforded any legal protection even as a non-Muslim minority. Over a one-and-a-half year period in 2012-2013, there were 54 recorded mob attacks against Ahmadis.

The latest incident stands out because of the frivolousness of its ostensible cause and the innocence and helplessness of its victims. A grandmother and her seven-year-old granddaughter or an infant could hardly pose a threat to Islam in Gujranwala, a large city with millions of inhabitants and hundreds of mosques and madrasas.

The desire of Islamist extremists to “purify” Pakistan has resulted in a major catastrophe for the country’s minorities. The violence of Partition denuded Pakistan of the majority of its Hindus and Sikhs, who would have otherwise constituted almost 20 per cent of the new country’s population based on the 1941 census.

Now that a sizeable swathe of Pakistan’s Muslim population has been turned into zealots, communities such as the Ahmadis, who were considered Muslim at independence, have joined the ranks of endangered minorities. Even the Shia, almost 20 per cent of the populace, are being attacked by extremists who do not acknowledge them as being a part of Muslim society. The attempts to describe Shias as non-Muslims are particularly ironic in view of the fact that Pakistan’s founder, Quaid-e-Azam (the great leader) Muhammad Ali Jinnah was himself a Shia Muslim.

The Forces Shaping Transition in Afghanistan: 2014-2016

JUL 30, 2014 
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee,

If there is any lesson I have learned during the time between Vietnam and the present, it is that we perpetually seek simplicity and good news in wars that are extraordinarily complex, and we spin the facts into some simple justification of what we are doing rather than face the far more challenging mix of problems and risks that actually shape a conflict.

We have been asked to testify today about the third war in my lifetime where we are headed out of a war while denying or understating many of the risks, spinning the facts to justify a rapid departure, and failing to provide any meaningful public debate over the strategic importance of our actions.

Our latest QDR, strategic guidance, and the President’s recent West Point speech on strategy virtually ignore the strategic importance of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia. Our Transition “plans” make no meaningful public mention of the role of Pakistan – which many see as the real strategic center of gravity in the conflict – or of other outside powers.

To the extent we have a public strategy, it is one that involves less than a year of the minimum level of US advisory effort recommended by key officers like General Mattis, General Allen, and General Dunford. It will throw limited amounts of civil and military aid at Afghanistan without any public plan for shaping the future of Afghan forces and governance. It fails to take into account whether Afghanistan can make the reforms necessary for that funding to be effective, and ignores clear warnings from recent data on the trends in the fighting, governance, and economy that our level of commitment will be too limited, too short, and too lacking in structure to be effective.

We are also acting after we have increasingly reduced the amount of data we make public on the course of the fighting and the state of the Afghan economy, and have spun the data we do provide to support our present political goals. We focus on Afghan forces and the military dimension at the tactical level, and understate or ignore massive uncertainties as to Afghanistan’s political unity and capacity to govern. We talk about aid levels that are not based on concrete plans and costs, and we are moving forward at a time when the war lacks the support of the American people, and most polls conducted over the last two years show that the war lacks public support from most of our key ISAF allies. (pp. 26-32 of report)

The war in Afghanistan demonstrates – as do the wars in Vietnam and Iraq – that we actually face three primary threats when we go to war:

• The first and most obvious threat is the enemy. Although “obvious” is not an accurate word in a war where we have never openly come to grips with the fact that Pakistan has been both a sanctuary for our enemy and maintained ties to key enemy factions throughout the conflict.

• The second threat is the mix of weakness and failures in the host country and a lack of commitment from our key allies. Every serious counterinsurgency struggle is to some extent the result of a failed state, and becomes an exercise in armed nation building where the military and tactical outcome is only part of a civil-military struggle for popular support.

• The third –and in some ways the most important threat – is ourselves. It is our unwillingness to face hard facts, objectively assess the strategic reasons for the fighting, the risks involved, and the cost-benefits of what we are doing.

We have done more than simply spin the facts. We have focused on the tactical dimensions of insurgency, rather than the political dimension of what is fundamentally a political form of warfare. We have made no public assessments of the relative size of the areas where insurgent groups control territory, challenge the Afghan government, present a current threat, or have growing influence. We have made no effort to make a net assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of insurgent groups versus the central government and local power brokers.

These are not issues I can adequately address in a short statement, but I have prepared and provided a comprehensive comparative analysis of the overall mix of trends in the fighting and the Transition effort that I request be entered into the record.

I do not expect any Member to have the time to read through the entire document, but even skimming through it reveals the extent to which we have distorted the facts surrounding the fighting, the desperate need for effective Afghan unity and leadership quality of governance, and the state of the Afghan economy and its inability to deal with the shock of transition.

If you do skim through the data, you will see many other risks and issues we choose to deny or ignore. They include the following key challenges to our present course of action:

Social Media Is Deadly in Pakistan


Pakistan’s blasphemy laws aren’t going anywhere, and innocent people are getting caught in the mix. A grandmother and her young granddaughters are the latest victims, reportedly killed in a mob attack sparked by a Facebook post. 

On Sunday evening, a grandmother and her two young granddaughters (7 years old and 8 months old) were burned to death in their homes during a mob attack on their village. A picture posted on Facebook reportedly sparked the attack. 

The city of Gujranwala is primarily populated by the Ahmadi Muslim sect, a minority religion that differs with tenets of Islam, including the belief in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. As Pakistani law dictates, Ahmadi members are not permitted to identify themselves as Muslim and have been subjected to violent persecution for blasphemy in the past. 

In fact, it is written in the Pakistan Penal Code that anyone who “defiles the The Holy Prophet Muhammad” is subject to life in jail or punishment by death. 

But the blasphemy accusation wasn’t even leveled at Bushra Bibi, the grandmother mentioned above. The trouble began when an 18-year-old Ahmadi man named Aqib Saleem allegedly uploaded a picture of a shrine in Mecca with a partially naked woman on top. A friend of his alerted authorities in the neighborhood, after which a mob of nearly 1,000 people burned down property in the town. According to police, the fire killed Bibi and the two young members of her family. 

The interior of a torched house belonging to an Ahmadi Muslim resident is pictured following an attack by an angry mob in the low-income Arafat Colony of the eastern city of Gujranwala, some 112 kilometres north of Lahore, on July 28, 2014. (Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

“The police and the courts respond to the reports of citizens of alleged violations of the blasphemy law,” Phelim Kine, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, told The Daily Beast in an interview. “There’s a proven willingness by the Pakistani police and the courts to pursue these charges. And there is a proven willingness of individuals in Pakistani society who are willing to report on what they perceive as, justifiably or not, violations of this dangerously ambiguous law, that they detect through social media or personal interactions.” 

Bypassing the Graveyard: A New Approach to Stabilizing Afghanistan

July 30, 2014 

Bypassing the Graveyard: A New Approach to Stabilizing Afghanistan

"To counter the spread of violent extremism requires not simply one-off missions designed to eliminate senior leaders; what is required is steady, long-term engagement to build up indigenous institutions capable of keeping order on their own." - Max Boot, New York Post


Our current policy in Afghanistan is failing and our transition plan is putting our National Security at unacceptable risk. Unless we make significant changes to our current approach, the U.S. will be another headstone in the Afghan Graveyard of Empires. It doesn't have to be this way. There is a way to bypass the graveyard. In a world where policymakers and security experts profess only three inappropriate options: Counter-Insurgency, Counter-Terrorism, or complete withdrawal - there is a better and more cost-effective, fourth option.

To achieve relative stability in Afghanistan we need to adopt a long-term, small-footprint, Remote Area Foreign Internal Defense (FID) strategy. This whole of nation approach, led by the U.S. Country Team, includes U.S. and Afghan Special Operations Forces advising regular and irregular host nation forces to achieve relative stability in a country largely dominated by informal, clan society.

There are a lot of frustrated people who support this fourth option. I talk to them every day. I wrote this essay for them. Near the end of the war, around 2009, like-minded-passionate special operations advisors, civilian stability practitioners, academics, and some senior leaders started collaborating to change stability in Afghanistan. We had a strong network. Unfortunately, current policy has diluted this network, and the collective clamor for the exit is drowning our voice. 

In light of a floundering Afghan policy and weak transition, we need this network to come together more than ever before. We need unprecedented collaboration from D.C to remote villages, and across the rest of the vast network to illuminate a path for viable stability in Afghanistan. We almost did this in our initial attempt, and we can do it this time around. 

It takes more than theory. It takes a network to bring about change. That is the purpose of this paper and why I founded the Stability Institute. We broker knowledge and connect stability professionals from all walks of life around tough stability challenges. We need you actively participating in our network to inform good Afghan policy and help light the dark path for relative stability in this violence – riddled country.

In this essay, I will cover our evolution from top-down security to bottom-up stability in Afghanistan, over the last decade of Counter-insurgency (COIN) leading up to transition, the emerging strategic threats we face beyond 2014, and finally, thirteen points that we should improve upon if we are going to stabilize Afghanistan. This isn't the last word on Afghan stability. In some of these points, however, it may be the first word. 

I invite you to consider these points, but more importantly, to join our collaborative network as we come together to develop a bottom-up approach to stabilizing Afghanistan. With your input we'll craft a way ahead that is achievable and effective. But, before we consider the way ahead, let's start by looking at how we tried to fit a square peg in a round hole. 

Square Peg in a Round Hole

The U.S. and its allies have fought valiantly in Afghanistan, but fighting courageously in this unfortunate country does us no more good than it did for Alexander the Great. The Afghan Campaign (2002 – 2014) following the initial SOF-led Unconventional Warfare Campaign of late 2001, evolved into an obscenely large and disconnected military endeavor for the type of threat and instability faced in this violent place. This top-down military campaign involved large-scale and unwieldy unilateral counter-insurgency forces projecting a war of attrition against shadow extremists who were embedded among a grievance-riddled clan society we did not care to understand.

This top-down approach continued for almost a decade until SOF tried something different – not new – getting back to the roots of Special Forces. By stepping back, and defining relative stability as largely bottom-up informal civil society handling its own affairs, SOF began to live and work within rural Pashtun villages to help locals stand up against extremists. This program is known today as Village Stability Operations (VSO). This SOF-initiative under-pinned the Afghan-led program of Afghan Local Police (ALP) and put power in the hands of rural folks, the way it always was. It also sought to connect rural villages to their government in minimalist ways - ways that the locals accepted.

U.S. paratroopers in Afghanistan hope to deal a few final blows against the Taliban

July 28, 2014

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan have widely divergent outlooks about the odds that this nation stymied by a rocky political transition, a stubborn insurgency and an anemic economy will somehow stabilize.

June 23, 2014Pfc. Charles McCullough, 24, from Brooklyn walks back with other soldiers to a landing spot after spending several hours trying to disrupt Taliban smuggling routes in this barren stretch of Zabul. Ernesto Londoño/The Washington Post

SHINKAI, Afghanistan — It was a homecoming of sorts for Lt. Col. Paul Larson, returning to this remote corner of southern Afghanistan at the twilight of America’s longest war. He was back to take stock of a slice of the battlefield that seemed brimming with possibility when he last led soldiers here a decade ago. 

In 2005, Larson was zealous about counterinsurgency, convinced that irrigation projects, agrarian reform initiatives and new schools would plant the seeds of peace, rendering this impoverished, barren area inhospitable to an insurgency that appeared on the brink of defeat. 

As he flew to his former outpost late last month, commanding the last U.S. battalion conducting full-spectrum combat operations in Afghanistan, Larson’s mission was narrower, less ambitious and without altruistic impulses. 

“It’s a pleasure to be here to help you finish off the last little pockets of Taliban,” the American officer told Col. Gada Mohammed Dost, the Afghan commander who for the past two years has muddled through in this contested sector of southeastern Afghanistan with virtually no American help. 

The 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers under Larson’s command have been tasked with dropping into contested areas to examine how Afghan troops are faring as U.S. forces have thinned out and to deal a few final blows to militant groups that have withstood nearly 13 years of American firepower. 

14 people were shot dead by Taliban gunmen who stopped their minibuses in central Afghanistan. A 3-year-old child was among the victims. (Reuters) 

The mission has given them a rich vantage point on the state of a war the United States will largely disengage from by year’s end — and the soldiers here have divergent outlooks about the odds that this nation stymied by a rocky political transition, a stubborn insurgency and an anemic economy will somehow stabilize. 

As the conflict’s final lethal act, Larson’s men hope to tilt the scales, even if just slightly. 

Turmoil among militants 

Civilians have been killed and maimed at a growing rate this year as insurgents have sought to make inroads in populated areas where foreign troops have left, according to figures compiled by the U.N. mission in Kabul. 

Where Are The Guns The U.S. Gave To Afghanistan?

Special Inspector General’s report says the Pentagon gave hundreds of thousands of rifles, machine guns, and other small arms to the Afghan police and army. But now the military can’t track who has them.posted on July 28, 2014, at 9:30 a.m. 

An Afghan soldier near Kabul, Feb. 21. Omar Sobhani / Reuters

The United States government has delivered almost three quarters of a million weapons to Afghanistan’s army and police since 2004 but can’t track where those arms went, according to a new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, known as SIGAR.

“U.S. and Coalition–provided weapons are at risk of theft, loss, or misuse,” the report said. “We’re very concerned,” added John Sopko, the inspector general, “that weapons paid for by U.S. taxpayers could wind up in the hands of insurgents and be used to kill Americans and Afghan troops and civilians.”

Training and equipping the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army has been central to President Obama’s Afghanistan policy. But arming the police and army has been plagued by a lack of accountability, the report says.

The weapons distributed to Afghan forces include 465,000 small arms, the report says. But that number might not be accurate, an official with SIGAR said in an interview, because the data from the Department of Defense “is not very reliable.”

On top of the problems in accounting for the guns, the auditors found that Afghan forces have been sent far more rifles, machine guns, and grenade launchers than they need in the first place. For example, Afghanistan received 83,000 excess AK-47 assault rifles.

A 2010 law required the Pentagon to set up systems to track and monitor weapons being delivered to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and two America databases were established. But the audit says those databases, known as SCIP and OVERLORD, aren’t synchronized or linked, and tens of thousands of weapons have missing or duplicated information.

Once the weapons are transferred to the custody of the Afghanistan government, accountability is even worse, the report says. For example, at one Afghanistan national police garrison, the only inventory available was a partial, handwritten list of serial numbers, the audit says.


By Tarun Basu

People’s Daily, China’s iconic newspaper known to the world as the voice of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), is constructing in the heart of Beijing a 32-storey office tower that will have 140,000 square metres of working space with new-media ventures alone occupying seven of its floors. Its concave glass facade sits somewhat oddly in its steel and terra cotta-girded frame that its Chinese architects proudly proclaim will give the traditional touch to a very modern edifice.

It is one of the latest architectural monuments to China’s mad race to modernisation to keep pace with its ambitions to be a recognised global power in every development metric that counts – from economy, to infrastructure, to information, to militarisation, from culture to sports.

Pointing out to an older side of Beijing that has serried rows of multi-storeyed apartment buildings from an earlier era, the architect tells proudly how “all that” will be pulled down in the next 10 years to make way for gleaming office and apartment towers that dot Beijing’s skyline as far as the eye can see on any side.

China is on a building spree, with dozens of new cities and towns springing up across the country, in each of its 41 provinces and autonomous regions with one provincial (state) and municipal authority competing against the other to urbanise as 60 percent of China’s 1.3 billion population is expected to live in cities by 2030.

Changes that you see in China are not restricted to its big cities alone. Makeover and modernisation are the reform mantras of the CPC as it obsesses with presenting an image of China to the world that is in keeping with its self-image of a power on the rise.

In the northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region that has seen unrest in recent years and where the ethnic Uyghurs, who are largely Muslim, have come under security after a spate of terror attacks in the province and elsewhere, the “ambitous urbanisation goal”, according to the Global Times, the English edition of the People’s Daily, is to ensure that each of its 14 divisions build a city and each of its 175 regiments builds a township.

The CPC considers the building of cities and towns as the “lifeblood functions” of the Chinese economy that has lately come under strain and has created an element of restiveness in the ranks of civil society manifest in growing expressions of disenchantment aired through mushrooming social media that authorities are finding it difficult to control or regulate.

It is in this spirit of providing the building stimulus to the economy, which at 7.5 percent faced its worst slowdown in 24 years, that Chinese President and party supremo Xi Jingping came up with what is being described as the twin “strategic initiatives” of Economic Belt along the Silk Road and the “Maritime Silk Road of the 21st century”. The “Belt” and “Road” seek to revive the ancient trade route to Central Asia and Europe as a modern business and commercial corridor in an interlocking chain of “friendly” countries cutting across the entire swathe of Eurasia.

Officials, diplomats and media representatives from nearly a dozen countries, including Turkey, Russia, India, Pakistan and five Central Asian nations, were invited to a conference in Beijing this month to discuss how media cooperation among these countries can further the goal of the Silk Road Economic Belt.

Besides, having it at the Great Hall of the People, the impressive edifice that houses the National People’s Congress, the country’s highest legislative body, and where the Chinese government usually hosts heads of state and government and has highest-level meetings and conferences, the leadership wished to convey to delegates that this was going to be a major policy thrust in the coming years.

Breaking Through China’s Great Firewall

By Kevin Holden
July 30, 2014
Can the US and EU use the WTO to halt Beijing’s blocks on Google, the New York Times and other sites?
China blocks its 600 million Web users from joining the global Facebook generation, using Google’s search engine, or reading about the Nobel Peace Prize award to Tibet’s Dalai Lama.
BEIJING – Beijing’s leaders haltingly opened connections to the Internet toward the close of the last century. Since then, though, they have beenconstantly fortifying the Great Firewall that encircles China and censors information flowing into the long-isolated country.

This Chinese wall now blocks more than 18,000 websites operated across the planet, and is patrolled by tens of thousands of cyber-sentries, according to scholars in the United States and Europe who closely track Beijing’s Internet security structures.

But these experts also say many of China’s digital barricades violate World Trade Organization rules, and believe that the U.S. and the EU should challenge Beijing before the WTO’s dispute resolution council.

China’s walling itself off from social media sites including Twitter and the video-sharing channel YouTube contravenes WTO principles on free trade and open market access, says Aynne Kokas, an expert on Chinese Internet policies at Rice University in Texas.

Kokas points out that Beijing’s unjustified blockade on American Internet outfits, combined with the rise of their Chinese counterparts, like weblog hosting site Sina and YouTube lookalike Youku, in the U.S. market has created massively unequal playing fields in the two countries.

This growing imbalance, she adds, is certain to expand the American trade gap with China, which hit $318 billion in 2013.

While China prevents its 600 million Internet users from joining the global Facebook generation, she says in an interview, its own rising powers on the Web are not only free to operate across the U.S., but also have raised more than $40 billion on U.S. stock exchanges.

The U.S. should move to extend its recent victory in the WTO’s dispute settlement forum, which ruled in 2012that Chinese barriers to the import and distribution of American audio-visual products, films, music, books and newspapers all violated WTO rules. Kokas says the U.S. Trade Representative should file a new complaint to obtain a similar injunction against Chinese controls on Web-based video, media, and communication platforms.

The WTO forum can likewise be used to contest the censorship the Chinese government wields against information channels like Google, say Brussels-based scholars Fredrik Erixon and Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, co-directors of the European Centre for International Political Economy.

The Internet is an integral part of the global marketplace that China joined when it became a WTO member by agreeing to open and liberalize its economy, they say. And Beijing specifically pledged to create unrestricted market access for online data processing services like search engines upon entering the global trade group.

Beijing’s bans on foreign information platforms, e-mail systems and photo-sharing sites are all likely to be ruled violations of WTO precepts mandating equal treatment for foreign and domestic firms, says Erixon, a leading European economist and former advisor to the Swedish prime minister.

The European Union should coordinate with the U.S. to launch a joint battle in the global trade forum to halt these bans, he says.

European outfits frozen out of China’s market include portions of the sites operated by British Broadcasting Corp. and the Norwegian-based Nobel Peace Prize, along with the Paris-based International Herald Tribune. On the Peace Prize site, the sections covering the award being bestowed upon Tibet’s Dalai Lama in 1989, and upon Chinese democracy leader Liu Xiaobo in 2010 are blocked.

Since Fredrik Erixon and Hosuk Lee-Makiyama began conducting a series of studies on how best to challenge China’s cyber-bans, sections of their European Centre’s website, including their paper “Digital Authoritarianism: Human Rights, Geopolitics and Commerce,” have likewise become hidden behind China’s digital blockade.

China’s cyber-border guards lead the world in terms of crushing individual and commercial online freedoms, says Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, a legal scholar who was a senior adviser on WTO issues to the EU leadership.

Comparing Beijing’s Great Firewall to the heavily armed Berlin Wall, Lee-Makiyama says: “China has very stringent laws on Internet cafes, on online publications and on websites operated across the country.”

“Now China is trying to make this domestic system global,” he says during an interview in Beijing.

The BRICS Bank and China’s Economic Statecraft

By George Yin
July 29, 2014

Can a China-dominated New Development Bank replace the World Bank and the IMF? 

The proposed BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) New Development Bank (NDB) has attracted much attention after its announcement during the BRICS summit in Fortaleza, Brazil, on July 15, 2014. On paper, the NDB serves two purposes: (1) provide liquidity protection to member countries during balance of payment crises; (2) grant aid to finance development in low and middle income countries. China has been instrumental in pushing through the initiative, and is the largest donor (supplying 41 percent of the funds) to the $100 billion Contingency Reserve Arrangement (CRA).

What does China have to gain from the NDB? The answer is less obvious than we might think. China has the largest foreign exchange reserves in the world (about $4 trillion in the first quarter of 2014); it clearly does not need liquidity protection. Perhaps China is a Good Samaritan interested in promoting regional financial stability and development. However, at least in Asia, there is already the Chiang Mai initiative, which provides its members with funds when they are hit by crisis. Moreover, if China simply wanted to promote development, it could easily increase its bilateral aid or contribution to existing multilateral institutions instead of creating a new international bureaucracy. Indeed, it did recently become a donor to the World Bank’s International Development Aid (IDA).

China supports the NDB initiative because it can serve as a useful tool to further the expanding political and economic interests of China, a rising power. To understand the political logic behind Chinese support for the NDB, note that Chinese aid has a bad international reputation. Chinese aid is often associated with attempts to prop up corrupt and authoritarian regimes and with ruthless promotion of Chinese economic interests. During her 2011 trip to Burma, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned the country to “[b]e wary of donors who are more interested in extracting your resources than in building your capacity.” Without naming names, the comment is clearly directed at China, Burma’s long-time patron state. Moisés Naím, currently a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, dubbed Chinese aid “rogue aid.”

Reputation matters. Given the rogue aid status of Chinese money, any investment or assistance deal with China is more likely to fall under intense scrutiny by the international community as well as domestic political opponents from the recipient country. This makes it more difficult for China to reach a favorable development assistance deal with the recipient country in exchange for guaranteed access to raw material or political support in multilateral forums.