25 September 2014

Could America Lose Its Superpower Status?

September 24, 2014

The Road to "Regional Power with Some Global Reach"

At last week’s Air Force Association annual conference, I was privileged along with other defense analysts to have a series of conversations with senior Air Force leaders, many of whom are responsible for conducting a wide range of day-to-day operations in complex and at times dangerous parts of the world. They see the evolution of threats to U.S. global interests and the rapid rise of military competitors up close.

Every one of these military leaders told the same story of being required to do more with less. This is before sequestration will cut nearly $100 billion from the proposed FY 2016 defense budget. If that happens, the impact on U.S. national security will be nothing short of catastrophic. One Air Force officer said it best: If sequestration takes effect, the United States will stop being a global superpower and become “a regional power with some global reach.”

Today, the United States faces rising security challenges on no fewer than four continents. Europe faces the specter of a Russia willing to use force to redraw national boundaries, something that has not occurred there for more than 60 years. Moscow has threatened the West with the specter of nuclear attack and claims a special right to protect those it deems to be Russian even if they are citizens of foreign lands.

In Asia, North Korea is testing a family of ballistic missiles as it continues to build nuclear weapons. China has asserted unlawfully the right to control large swathes of the international air and sea environment between it and neighboring countries. Its fighter jets have repeatedly “buzzed” U.S. surveillance aircraft operating in international airspace. It is building a modern military that in a few short years could be sufficiently lethal so as to deter U.S. military intervention in the event of Chinese aggression against one of our allies in the region.

The explosion in the terrorist/insurgent threat in North Africa and the Middle East now extends all the way from Libya, Mali and northern Nigeria to Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, the Sinai, Gaza, Syria and Iraq. This is an area larger than the continental United States with about as many people. Most recently, the Ebola virus has threatened to become a pandemic in West Africa prompting the Obama Administration to deploy more troops to that part of the world than it has proposed sending to Iraq to train and assist anti-ISIS forces.

The U.S. military is being stretched to the breaking point. Because most of the military is now based in the United States, deploying overseas for ongoing contingencies and crises takes more manpower, equipment and units than if the U.S. were still forward deployed. For every unit overseas, regardless of the mission, there is one that just returned and another preparing but not yet ready to deploy. Critical capabilities such as the U-2 airborne surveillance aircraft have been maxed out, which is ironic since the Pentagon plans to retire the entire fleet in 2016 even though there is not a replacement either in quantity or quality available. The Marine Corps has been forced to deploy a special response unit with V-22s and aerial tankers to a base in Spain because it doesn’t have enough amphibious warfare ships to conduct continuous maritime patrols in the Mediterranean as it once did.

A faster, cheaper Mars orbiter


Photo: PTIMAKING HISTORY: In the Martian marathon, India has reached the finish line ahead of China. Picture shows the rocket carrying the Mars Orbiter lifting off from Sriharikota on November 5, 2013.

India’s Mars orbiter mission tells the world that the more technology was denied the more determined the country became to master space technologies

India has created global history by becoming the first Asian nation to reach the Mars orbit in a space mission. The success is sweeter because this has been done in its maiden attempt. No other country that has attempted a mission to Mars has succeeded in reaching the planet on debut. So, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) can claim that it has done a shade better than accomplished space powers such as the United States and Russia in reaching Mars.

India’s Mangalyaan has cost the country Rs.450 crore or about $70 million; it is without doubt the cheapest inter-planetary mission ever to be undertaken since Martian exploration began. On September 22, a mission by NASA called the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN), made at a cost of over $670 million, reached Mars. This Indian marathon took 300 days to cover a distance of over 670 million kilometres — a sprint really in a record time of 10 months.

The first official hint that India was undertaking a mission to Mars came in the budget speech of 2012. Subsequently, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh formally declared in his Independence Day speech that year that an Indian mission was heading to Mars. The mission itself was launched on a balmy afternoon on November 5, 2013, and the journey from the Red Fort to the Red Planet has had a dream run.

On his last visit to ISRO, when he witnessed the launch of a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India’s Mars orbiter is a “great achievement” since it costs less than the making of the Hollywood blockbuster movie “Gravity” which had a tag of $100 million.

An inexpensive mission

Many have questioned why India should be sending a robotic mission to Mars when there is so much poverty, malnutrition, death, disaster and diseases among its 1.2 billon population. Some have even called this mission as being a part of India’s “delusional dream” of becoming a superpower in the 21st century. There can be nothing farther from the truth. If one analyses the cost of the Mars Orbiter mission of Rs.450 crore, for Indians it works out to be about Rs.4 per person. Today, a bus ride would cost a lot more.


 25 September 2014 

China is reluctant to have an agreement on the Line of Actual Control because, if such an agreement were to be reached, then Beijing’s action of repeated intrusions would be construed as an act of war

There are two ways to look at an event, especially a state visit by a foreign dignitary: It can be described as a resounding success, a game-changer, or it can be seen as a missed opportunity, a failure.

President Xi Jinping’s visit to India was a bit of both. Before his arrival at Ahmedabad, Mr Xi wrote an op-ed in The Hindu: “As the two engines of the Asian economy, we need to become cooperation partners spearheading growth. I believe that the combination of China’s energy plus India’s wisdom will release massive potential.”

Unfortunately, things did not go as scripted. First an extraordinary event, (a real scoop not fully noticed by the Indian media) occurred a day before the President’s arrival: Mr Wei Wei, the Chinese Ambassador to India was suddenly transferred. He was replaced by Mr Le Yucheng, earlier posted in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing.

To change the Ambassador a few days before his head of state arrives in the country, must be a first in diplomatic annals. What was behind this abrupt move? We may never know, though it happened at a time when speculations were rife about the fate of the Chinese Ambassador to Iceland, who apparently was too close to the Japanese; he has ‘disappeared’ somewhere in China.

There is probably no link between the two issues, but Mr Wei’s sudden ‘departure’ is rather strange. The second issue which did not go according to the planned programme is the worsening of situation in southern Ladakh.

Everyone knows that there are different ‘perceptions’ about where the Line of Actual Control lies, particularly in this area; but as Mr Xi arrived in Ahmedabad, hundreds of Chinese troops from the People’s Liberation Army and the People’s Armed Police Force crossed the LAC and stood a few metres away from the Indian jawans. Why was there this show of force when Mr Xi, who is also the Chairman of the Central Military Commission was trying to do business in India?

Last year, at the time of the Depsang incident, I wrote that Chinese intrusions were probably due to the unfortunate initiatives of some local PLA commanders. I was then told: “It can’t be. The PLA’s Generals are a disciplined lot and Chairman Xi is fully in command.”

This came back to my mind when I read in The Business Standard, Shrikant Kondapalli, a Jawaharlal Nehru University professor and an expert on China affairs, asserting: “This could be a message given by the Chinese troops to Mr Xi, that no fruitful discussion on the boundary issue be held with the Indian leadership during his official trip.”

Were some very senior PLA Generals unhappy about the thaw between India and China? Or perhaps disturbed about Mr Xi’s fight against corruption?

What is strange is that Chumar, located north of Himachal Pradesh, has historically never been claimed by Tibet (and consequently, by China). It is a totally new claim with no serious basis. The intrusions in Chumar are pure land-grabbing by China — ‘expansionism’.

India's first Mars satellite 'Mangalyaan' enters orbit

BBC Online

A 24-minute engine burn slowed the probe down enough to allow it to be captured by Mars' gravity. Photo: BBC

India has successfully put a satellite into orbit around Mars on its first attempt.

The Mangalyaan robotic probe arrived in orbit early on Wednesday following a 10-month journey from Earth.

A 24-minute engine burn slowed the probe down enough to allow it to be captured by Mars' gravity.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was at the mission control centre in the southern city of Bangalore, said India had achieved the "near impossible".
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) congratulates K Radhakrishnan, head of the state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), after India's Mars Obiter successfully entered the red planet's orbit, at their Spacecraft Control Center in the southern Indian city of Bangalore September 24, 2014. Photo: Reuters

Liberalise border trade practices

Myanmar can be the gateway of India to the East
G Parthasarathy

We have not been able to take full advantage of either our shared Buddhist heritage with Myanmar or use our economic potential to our full advantage

OUR media and academics often overlook the fact that four of our north-eastern states — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram — share a 1,640-km land border with Myanmar. Myanmar is not only a member of BIMSTEC, the Bay of Bengal Grouping linking SAARC and ASEAN, but is also our gateway to the fast-growing economies of east and south-east Asia. While successive leaders of Myanmar — all devout Buddhists — have looked on India predominantly in spiritual terms as the home of Lord Buddha, they recognise that an economically vibrant India provides an ideal balance to a growingly assertive China. Sadly, we have not been able to take full advantage of either our shared Buddhist heritage with Myanmar by facilitating increased pilgrimages, or use our economic potential to our full advantage.

The blossoming of the India-Myanmar relationship over the past two decades has nevertheless been a success story. Mechanisms are in place between the military and security agencies of the two countries, which have effectively fostered cooperation across the border. This has led to effective cooperation in dealing with cross-border insurgencies. Myanmar's Information Minister recently reiterated to India's new government, his government's readiness to crack down on Indian insurgent groups like ULFA (Assam), PLA (Manipur) and NSCN K (Nagaland). India, in turn, has acted firmly against Myanmar insurgents entering its territory.

Myanmar has steadily eased the rigours of military rule after the elections that swept President Thein Sein to power in 2011. The military, however, still has a crucial role in national life as negotiations are in progress to achieve a comprehensive ceasefire with 16 armed insurgent groups drawn from ethnic non-Burmese minorities. This is no easy task, but is a prelude to negotiations on the highly sensitive issue of federalism and provincial autonomy for ethnic minority areas. After years of extreme bonhomie during military rule, which was accompanied by international isolation, Myanmar’s relationship with China is facing strains.

China has helped in building Myanmar's infrastructure and equipping its military. India's fears of Chinese military bases in Myanmar were, however, not borne out. But differences between China and Myanmar have grown lately, especially on large projects like the Myistone Dam and a proposed railway line to connect Yunnan to the Bay of Bengal. There is also growing opposition to Chinese projects in copper and nickel mining and concern that Myanmar has not benefited from an oil pipeline linking China's Yunnan Province to the Bay of Bengal Port of Kyaukphu. There are also concerns about the Chinese involvement with Myanmar insurgent groups like the Kachin Independence Army and the United Ws Army in Shan state. Despite this, border trade across the Yunnan Province-Myanmar border reached $4.17 billion in 2013, against a mere $35 million of trade across the India-Myanmar border. The “unofficial trade” (smuggling) across this border is, however, estimated at around $300 million annually.

India's former Ambassador to Myanmar, Dr V.S. Seshadri, has authored a recent report spelling out how India has proceeded tardily in building connectivity through Myanmar to Thailand and Vietnam and in getting access for our land-locked north-eastern states to the Bay of Bengal. Or border trade regulations are crafted by mandarins in North Block and Udyog Bhavan, New Delhi, who have no idea either of the ground situation along the India-Myanmar border or the pragmatism that China shows in treating the markets across its land borders with its neighbours, not as foreign markets, but as extensions of China's own markets. Opening up such trade will also enable our north-eastern states to meet their growing requirements of rice at very competitive rates.

A global call for climate justice


ReutersGLOBAL APPEAL: The citizen’s movement for climate justice is a sign of gathering impatience towards politically entrenched interests stalling the movement to reduce greenhouse gases. Picture shows protest signs during the ‘People’s Climate March’ in New York.

Neither Narendra Modi nor Xi Jinping attended the U.N. climate change summit despite being leaders of countries that are among the top three annual emitters of greenhouse gases

More than half a million people marched in nearly 3,000 simultaneous events conducted across 161 countries as part of the People’s Climate March on September 21. They carried placards promoting alternative sources of energy and chanted slogans condemning governments for their inaction on climate change and for mollycoddling global capitalism. They targeted, in particular, the fossil fuel industry, which has recklessly promoted the practice of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” and other carbon-intensive activities. The demonstrations were to some extent mobilised by the non-governmental organisation 350.org, along with a growing global network of organisations, which are alarmed by the lethargy evident in international negotiations towards reaching a ‘safe’ limit for atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases.

The scientific consensus is that this should be around 350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide. However, the primary greenhouse gas is persistent in the atmosphere and has increased its concentrations by nearly half since pre-industrial times to reach about 400 ppm.

The demonstrations were timed to coincide with the U.N. Climate Summit called for by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the U.N. Headquarters in New York this week. This meeting of world leaders, heads of states, finance ministers, business heads and leaders of civil society and community groups was meant to energise global action to address the global warming challenge. Many commitments were made at the summit separate from the formal negotiation processes. For instance, countries of the European Union pledged to reduce emissions to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030. Seventy three countries and over a thousand businesses and investors, making up more than half of the global economy, gave their strong endorsement for pricing carbon. Many leaders expressed their support for addressing loss and damage due to climate change and announced a number of initiatives for building resilience. India promised to double its use of solar and wind energy by 2020. A global movement and mobilisation for action that may have seemed impossible even a few years ago, appears now to be gathering force.


India’s chances at achieving economic growth will increase manifold if the resources offered by its northeastern states are utilized wisely, write Pravakar Sahoo and Abhirup Bhunia

The northeastern region of India occupies eight per cent of the country’s geographical expanse, and is home to about four per cent of its vast population. The Planning Commission poverty estimates a few years ago, based on the Tendulkar Committee’s report on the poverty line, suggest that poverty in the northeastern region seems not to have gone down; rather, it has increased. Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Assam and Meghalaya, in fact, registered increases in poverty by 12.1 per cent, 9.2 per cent, 5.7 per cent, 3.5 per cent and 1 per cent respectively. However, in spite of all odds, the Northeast is not doing badly — it is, in fact, doing better than many states — as far as industry is concerned. For instance, the average state gross domestic product growth rates in the industrial sector for the 2012-13 financial year in Tripura, Sikkim, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam were 2.75 per cent, 6.74 per cent, 6.57 per cent, 4.28 per cent, 5.76 per cent, 5.33 per cent, 6.71 per cent and 3.34 per cent respectively, compared to an all-India average of growth below below one per cent. Specific areas, such as physical infrastructure (mainly transport) and power, will help tap the huge development potential of the Northeast and help its integration with mainland India.

Going by factor endowments, the northeastern region is a primary goods exporter; the goods are tea, coal, fruits, rubber and so on. The manufacturing sector needs to be built around these sectors, in addition to opening up opportunities for trade with Myanmar, Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries, as well as the east Asian countries, in order to exploit these factor endowments. The region’s share in the total exports of India is negligible, as is its trade with the rest of India. This is also reflective of a trifling participation of manufactured goods. Both the lack of a market and a constrained supply chain — reasons for the poor state of affairs in the Northeast — can be somewhat rectified by building infrastructure.

The Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre, in keeping with its pre-poll promises of taking care of the needs of the Northeast, made allocations of Rs 53,706 crore in the interim budget earlier this year for the region, mostly focusing on the infrastructure sector. This, however, is not a Northeast-specific attribute of the government’s economic policy, as Arun Jaitley’s focus on infrastructure spreads throughout India. While the Northeast is essentially landlocked, air connectivity and rail networks are limited, partly owing to the hilly terrain and its associated difficulties. There is a very nominal presence of railway lines in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram. From 1990 to 2010, the entire railway network in the Northeast increased from 3,846 kms to 4,253 kms. This reflects a tardy building pace of only 20 kms per year. In this context, the new government allocated Rs 1,000 crore, in addition to the amount already provided in the interim budget, for rail connectivity. Further, the rail budget earmarks Rs 5,116 crore for various projects in the Northeast. But plans are afoot to put the region firmly on the Indian railways map, and it remains to be seen whether work will pick up.

Meanwhile, roughly eight per cent of the total Rs 37,880 crore allocations to the National Highway Authority of India and state roads also went to the Northeast. This is important as roads are a reasonable means of transport, but also a more viable option in the region. Once these plans for roads are implemented, the infrastructural bottlenecks hindering trade will be smoothened out, and this will attract investments to the region. In turn, these investments should help build up reliable supply chains — mostly agriculture-industry based — over time. The development of cold-chain storages supported by improved electricity supply is also expected, preferably through both state and private sector participation. Better physical infrastructure will also unlock trade potentials with neighbouring countries in the east, with whom the Northeast shares more than 90 per cent of its borders.


The IMF and the Lagarde scam
First Person Singular - A.M.

I owe this story to my departed friend, I.G. Patel. During the early 1950s, he was with the research department of the International Monetary Fund, the formidable international financial institution set up at the end of World War II to arrange short and medium-term credit for its mentor countries. Its twin institution, the World Bank, was to arrange long-term capital for economic rehabilitation and development.

A member country had approached the Fund, seeking a credit to tide over a balance-of-payments crisis it was suddenly facing. The research department had to prepare a paper analyzing the background of developments, which had led to the crisis and offer its views on the admissibility of the loan application. I.G. was assigned to prepare the draft of the paper in some rush and had to work over the weekend. A secretary was placed at his disposal, working overtime, to help him prepare the paper. The director of the research department casually hinted that, since this young girl was sacrificing her weekend to come to work, I.G. might be ‘nice’ to her — take her out to lunch, for instance. I.G. took the hint and treated her to a sumptuous lunch at a very posh restaurant located close to the Fund building. He was taken aback, when, a couple of days later, the girl, submitted her claim for overtime payments, itemizing her claim; one entry said, “Going out to lunch with Mr. Patel, 1.45pm to 3.15pm each day.” True, she had a free lunch, but was she nonetheless not working overtime during the hours spent on the two lunches, and, in her view, she was justified to charge expenses for that period too. The Fund’s treasury division approved her claim.

The story is amusing. However, it also reflects a climate of social morality. The United States of America is the largest stockholder of both the Fund and the Bank. The ethos of the two institutions is heavily influenced by the prevalent corporate moral code in that country, which encourages the culture of keeping an eye on the main chance as far as money-making is concerned. Maximize one’s earning, it should always be the goal; when an opportunity comes, even if a few corners need to be cut, by all means do so.

The story of going out to lunch with Mr Patel did not involve any issue of transgressing a rule or permissible limits. But certain recent developments in the IMF, and right at its very top, do.

The twin financial institutions based in Washington, D.C., the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund with the US as the largest stock-holder, are run in the manner of American corporate bodies. By a tacit agreement, the president of the World Bank will always be a citizen of the US, while the managing director of the Fund will rotate among the west European nations. This arrangement has remained undisturbed since the two institutions were set up over six decades ago. All attempts by Russia, China and developing countries like India to reform the structure of their management have been successfully resisted by the Western governments.

Asia Competitiveness Institute (ACI) Review Seminar on Masterplan for Strategic Regional Economic Development, Updating Competitiveness Ranking, and Agriculture Productivity for 35 States and Federal Territories of INDIA

19 August 2014

Opening Remarks by Guest-of-Honour Mr Mohan Guruswamy, Chairman, Centre for Policy Alternatives, India

Good Morning Professor Kanti Bajpai and thank you for the introduction. Dr. Tan Khee Giap and Dr. Tan Kong Yam thank you for having me back here. I realise that over the years I have been coming to the school and this is actually my seventh visit to this university. Seven days has a special significance in India these days because our education minister recently claimed that she had a degree from Yale because she did a seven day course at Yale. So I am hoping that with Kanti around here, I might get a Lee Kuan Yew school degree in addition to my Harvard education. Degrees are very important because when Kennedy was given a honoris causa Phd at Yale he said that I have best of both worlds now, I have a Harvard education and a Yale degree. So there is nothing better to top off my educationlife with a Singapore degree.

Talking about Harvard when I finished my education in 1964 and I returned to India, I went to work at the Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad as a Professor of Public Policy. In the course of my work I met several politicians and leaders in Delhi. A man who later on became the Prime Minister of India said to me that look you won’t understand India until you go and work in Bihar. So as a part of my job, we were given 12 weeks a year of consulting which were your own, I decided to go to Bihar and spend all of 12 weeks in Bihar. It was about the most dismal place I had ever been to in the world and to a large extent Bihar continues to be like that. It has very little infrastructure and has got a bad law and order problem. Despite having a very rich soil and very rich cultural and historical background it continues to be the last among Indian states. Following my stay there I wrote So I did a study which was grandiosely called “The Cchildren of the Ganga- an Eenquiry into the Ppoverty of the Gangetic Plainsnes”.

Given the tools with which you come out with from a school of public policy you looked at input-output. And So there is a great lesson in public administration in the United States, back in the 70s and 80s, that all problems can be handled like the World War II was won with good management and application of resources. All world problems can be solved with good management and application of resources. So Iwe looked at allocationed of resources which went to Bihar and I found that ever since the first plan began in India, Bihar was systematically underinvested in. As plans, government expenditure drives growth in many countries at early stages of development, depending on how much is spent gives youyou get different income levels and then income generates taxation then taxation gives you the share of national budget. So as these plans began, Bihar started getting less and less and by the time I reached there during the eighth plan the distance between Bihar and the rest of the country in per capita investment had become enormous.

This was one big lesson and I had an answer. When you come back young from Harvard, you have to have answers. I said Bihar has been under invested and exploited. It’s an internal colony of this country. The credit-deposit ratio further proved it because Bihar had a credit-deposit ratio of 126 which means more money was going out than invested in Bihar. It was one of the appalling things and we said unless you correct this you can’t set right India. As those who live in India, work in India know that you can’t go ahead leaving the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Together they count for about 20% of India’s population and they are the most dominant political and cultural states in India. You can’t leave them behind and go ahead. So after that I started doing these number of studies on the states and we found out very clearly that there are high performers and low performers. Each of these states are huge and enormous now and if the state of Uttar Pradesh was a member of United Nations it would be the eighth largest country in the world.

When I began first studying these issues the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of India was less than the turnover of General Motors. In 1990 when first economic reforms were attempted in India the GDP of India was 200 billion. Today the GDP is almost 2 trillion in current terms. The GDP has grown 10 times in 24 years. And if you look at the next 36 years; benchmark 2050; 36 years is not a long time in the life of a country. It’s just a blink. It just goes like that. The GDP of India is now projected to be somewhere between $35 trillion to $55 trillion if you are looking at different growth rates. So if you look at the lowest growth trajectory of 5.6% you are looking at the GDP of $35 trillion. If you look at 8% i.e. a leap of 2% you are looking at GDP of $55 trillion and at $45 trillion India’s GDP will cross China’s GDP. And looking at present conditions many of us expect India to cross China’s GDP around 2045. At one time this looked hugely farfetched.

Biography -Lieut. General P.S. Bhagat, PVSM, VC

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Premindra Singh Bhagat was one of the rare breed of generals, who excelled in war, as well as in peace. He was, perhaps, the only Indian general whose hall mark was courage. Examples of physical and moral courage are seldom found together, in the same person, yet Bhagat had this distinction. For the first he won a Victoria Cross, during World War II. Of the second, the instances are too numerous to recount. Though he never attained the highest rank, and retired as an Army Commander, there is no doubt that if anyone deserved to become the Army Chief, it was Bhagat. If he had, the Indian Army would not have remained the same. And this is perhaps the reason why he was denied the post. Due to his immense popularity, even Indira Gandhi did not dare to supersede him, and had to resort to a subterfuge to get him out of the way.

Prem Bhagat was born on 13 October 1918. His father, Surendra Singh Bhagat, was an executive engineer, in the United Provinces. He had two brothers, Nripendra (Tony) and Brijendra (Tutu), both older than him. Prem's mother died when he was just nine years old. At that time, his father was posted in Gorakhpur, and his two elder brothers were in school, at the PWRIMC, in Dehradun. The Military College, or PWRIMC, had been established in 1922, as a result of the recommendations of the Esher Committee, appointed in 1919 with Lord Esher as Chairman, and of the Select Committee of the Legislative Assembly, set up in March 1921, under the Chairmanship of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru. The Select Committee had recommended that 'adequate facilities should be provided in India for the preliminary training of Indians to make them fit to enter the Royal Military College, Sandhurst'. Soon afterwards, the Commander-in-Chief announced that the Military College would be established at Dehradun. It was inaugurated on 13 March 1922, by the Prince of Wales, and was hence named the Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College (PWRIMC), which later began to be called the RIMC.

Within a year of his mother's death, his father remarried. Prem's step mother, Sheila, was only 18 years old, less than half his father's age. Prem and his brothers treated her more as a friend than a mother, and called her Aunty. In 1930, at the age of twelve, he was sent to the RIMC to join his two elder brothers. Prem's course, or batch, was the tenth to join the RIMC, which was run like a military school, and the students were called cadets, instead of boys, as in a public school. Instead of Houses, there were Sections, named after Rawlinson, Roberts, and Kitchener. Though it was called a college, it was only a school, whose primary purpose was to train prospective candidates for entry into Sandhurst. As a youngster, Prem was not very robust. He played all games, but was good only at tennis and swimming. He was reasonably good at studies, but did not excel. On the other hand, Tony was exceptionally bright, while Tutu was an outstanding sportsman. As a result, nobody thought that he would do as well as his brothers. Many years later, when the award of the VC was announced, everyone thought that it must be one of his brothers, and were quite surprised when they found that it was Prem who had won the decoration.

Prem joined the tenth course at the IMA in June 1937. His elder brother, Tony, had joined the first course, in 1932, which came to be known as 'The Pioneers', and had three future Chiefs - Sam Manekshaw, Smith Dun and Mohd. Musa. Tony passed out on 22 December 1934, with the Gold Medal, having stood first in the order of merit, and was commissioned into the Engineers. The second brother, Tutu, passed out two years later, and was commissioned into Signals. Prem performed creditably in all spheres, but did not excel in any. He was awarded colours for tennis and squash, and captained both teams. He also won his spurs in equitation, as well as his PT badge. His most important achievement, in his own eyes, was passing the 'drill square' in three months, in his first attempt. This entitled him to an 'outpass', and he could visit Mussourie, on weekends. His father was building the family home, called Bhagat Kot, at Mussourie, and Prem often joined them at the Savoy, where they were staying. Prem's father died in Banaras (now Varanasi), in January 1938, due to an unfortunate accident while riding. At that time, Prem was with him, on vacation. After his father's death, Prem technically became an orphan, though he continued to have close relations with his step mother, and her four children. 

Afghanistan's Karzai criticises U.S., Pakistan in farewell speech

Sep 23, 2014 
Source Link

Outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a ceremony commemorating the 2001 assassination of legendary Tajik resistance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, in Kabul Septembsr 9, 2014.
(Reuters) - Outgoing President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday blamed the United States for Afghanistan's long war in a final swipe at the country that helped bring him to power 13 years ago but towards which he has become increasingly bitter.

His farewell speech came days ahead of the swearing in of a new president, Ashraf Ghani, after months of turmoil over a disputed election that ended in a power-sharing deal, yet to be tested, with rival Abdullah Abdullah who will fill the role of chief executive.

Karzai blamed both the United States and neighbouring Pakistan for the continuing war with the Taliban-led insurgency and warned the new government to be "extra cautious in relations with the U.S. and the West".

The conflict kills thousands of Afghans each year and has claimed the lives of more than 2,200 American and other international forces in Afghanistan.

"One of the reasons was that the Americans did not want peace because they had their own agenda and objectives," Karzai said. He did not elaborate, but in the past has suggested continued violence has been an excuse for the United States to keep bases in the country.

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham called Karzai's comments "ungracious and ungrateful".

Ukraine Is More of An Existential Threat Than ISIS, Because It Could Destroy NATO

It is rare for a head of state, especially one fighting a hot war against, using Mitt Romney’s phrase, “America’s number one geopolitical enemy,” to be invited to address a joint session of Congress. Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko delivered an urgent plea on Thursday for American military support against Russia’s invasion. The passionate speech elicited standing ovations from both sides of the aisle.

For the press, however, it was as if Petroshenko’s speech never took place despite his memorable jab at President Obama: “Blankets do not win wars.” The New York Times relegated Poroshenko to A12. No mention on the Drudge Report, and the Wall Street Journal placed its Ukraine Gets More Aid, No Weapons on A6 and derided Obama’s fear that “real weapons (for Ukraine) will provoke Vladimir Putin, as if he needs an excuse for invasion” on itseditorial page. BTW: The Russian invasion of late August was conveniently dismissed in White-House speak as an “incursion.”

The slaughter of more than 3,000 civilians and Ukrainian soldiers and a growing toll of Russian mercenaries and conscripts in southeast Ukraine can hardly compete with ISIS’s (or ISIL’s, if you like) grisly You-Tube beheadings, but the potential risk posed by Russia’s War of Southeast Ukraine exceeds those emanating from the ISIS threat.

If you do not believe me, hear me out.

A retired general, a former ambassador, and an intelligence expert testified before the House shortly before Poroshenko’s speech about how to defeat the 30,000 strong (and growing) ISIS forces. We must keep our options open and not “tell our adversaries in advance any timeline … or which of our capabilities we will not employ.” Defeating ISIS will be a tough slog. ISIS’s recruitment of European and American sympathizers complicates the war on terror, which we must regrettably fight for decades to come, ISIS or no ISIS.

The same military experts would be hard pressed to explain how the hobbled Ukrainian army is to defeat the Russian-backed separatists and regular Russian troops without military assistance, especially now that Russia has shown it will invade with regular forces. Sanctions are indeed hurting, but they are a price Putin is willing to pay. If anything, Europe and the United States seem to be rooting for Ukraine’s military weakness. Angela Merkel rejected military aid lest Ukraine believe a military solution is possible. Barack Obama expressed fear that military aid might involve the U.S. more deeply in the conflict. Neither Merkel nor Obama seem to understand that you gain a good peace by winning not by losing.

Whereas Poroshenko’s “blankets do not win wars” line gained the most attention, his chilling parallel with the Cuban Missile Crisis largely escaped notice:

“Without any doubt, the international system of checks and balances has been effectively ruined (by Russia’s actions). The world has been plunged into the worst security crisis since the U.S. (Cuban missile) standoff of 1962.”

By this stark comparison, Poroshenko made clear that Vladimir Putin’s territorial ambitions, his clear intent to restore a Russian empire, and hishatred of NATO provide the tinderbox for reigniting events similar to October 1962 when U.S. and Soviet forces faced each other “eyeball-to-eyeball.” We could be weeks or months away from another such standoff with Russia, not in the Caribbean, but in a small state on the Baltic Sea.

In Ukraine, Winter Is Coming

Once again Russia brandishes the threat of a gas cutoff to squeeze Kiev and coerce Europe. Folks are taking cold showers already, and the weather soon will be glacial. 

MOSCOW — Fur coats may well be in high demand this winter among those glamorous ladies in Ukraine who can afford them. But many others will be happy just to get a hot shower before bundling up in their icy apartments. 

Once again, the Kremlin is threatening its trouble neighbor with a long-term cutoff of gas supplies, and already there are signs that as the weather gets colder, Russia is pumping less gas, not more, through the pipelines to Western Europe. 

The pro-European Revolution that erupted last November, the conflict with Russia and the loss of the Crimea, a new civil war, and refugee and economic crises over the summer weakened the hands of President Petro Poroshenko and other proven advocates of European values in Ukraine. Now they hope that their powerful neighbors to the west will not let them freeze, literally, in what feels more and more like the beginnings of a new Cold War. 

Turn the Corner in Afghanistan

By Harsh V Pant
25th September 2014 

Last week after months of tortuous negotiations, Afghan presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani finalised and signed a power-sharing pact in a ceremony with president Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul. The last disagreement was on how to announce the results of the June 14 run-off election vote audit. Abdullah, who was widely assumed to be trailing Ghani, had insisted that the official percentages either not be made public at all or be altered to give him more votes. The election authorities ultimately decided not to reveal the vote tallies, but declared Ghani the president-elect hours after the agreement was signed. Ghani will be sworn in on September 29 and Abdullah is expected to take on the newly created position of chief executive—similar in power to a prime minister—though he could nominate someone else in his stead.

The international community, not surprisingly, has welcomed the agreement. The Obama administration heaved a sigh of relief with this pact and hailed it as an “important opportunity” for unity and increased stability. Washington also congratulated Abdullah and Ghani for ending Afghanistan’s political crisis and confirmed that the US “stands ready to work with the new administration to ensure its success”. In the US, the signing of the pact has raised hopes that the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) would soon be finalised, which would determine the size and scope of any US troop presence that would remain in Afghanistan once the NATO combat mission ends in December. While Karzai refused to sign the BSA on one pretext or another, both Ghani and Abdullah had pledged to sign the pact during their campaigns.

The Taliban, unsurprisingly, have assailed the pact terming it a “sham” orchestrated by the US. In a statement its spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said: “Installing Ashraf Ghani and forming a bogus administration will never be acceptable to the Afghans,” adding: “We reject this American process and vow to continue our jihad until we free our nation from occupation and until we pave the way for a pure Islamic government.”

With this, Afghanistan has taken a major step towards its post-2014 political future. Much will now depend on how the political transition unfolds. India will now have to articulate its own policy response. So far, the Modi government has been reluctant to spell out the terms of its engagement with Kabul as the political realities in Afghanistan have been in flux. Though external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had visited Afghanistan earlier this month, it was largely a symbolic exercise. Swaraj underscored India’s commitment to continue extending all possible help to Afghanistan to meet various challenges and conveyed it would remain engaged in the country’s reconstruction activities in a significant way. Describing India as Afghanistan’s first strategic partner, Swaraj suggested that New Delhi would always share the Afghan people’s vision of a “strong” and “prosperous” Afghanistan. And she thanked the people of Afghanistan for their constant appreciation of India’s partnership with the country. For this, she received fulsome praise from her political opponents. Shashi Tharoor lauded her for underlining “India’s priority by meeting up top leaders in Afghanistan” and showing that “India is not going to give up.”

Of all India’s South Asian neighbours, the Modi government’s outreach to Kabul has been the most lackadaisical. Perhaps the reason is obvious: the political uncertainty so far in Afghanistan would have made any outreach to Kabul devoid of any real meaning. But when asked whether the new Indian government would review its policy towards Afghanistan, Swaraj had suggested that there was no question of any change in it and asserted that India would continue to help the country in its reconstruction. As Afghanistan turns over a new leaf in its political destiny, the usual approach from New Delhi won’t do. The argument that India will merely focus on reconstruction and developmental issues without bothering about the security implications of the rapidly changing ground realities in Afghanistan is unlikely to get India any traction. India will have to think more creatively than it has done for the past decade.

The Islamic State Is Spreading Into Pakistan

Agents have crossed the border with propaganda to recruit new fighters

In early September, about a dozen militants crossed the border from Afghanistan to Pakistan with pamphlets and flags, urging locals to join the Islamic State. They distributed hundreds of pamphlets in Afghan refugee camps and madrassas in Pakistan’s Peshawar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) regions, according to local militants. These pamphlets, published in Pushto, Dari, and Farsi, were titled “Fateh,” meaning “victory.” “Every Muslim must follow the orders of Caliph and should contribute in whichever capacity he or she can to assist the Islamic State against Taghoot (the enemies),” they said. The pamphlets also said the revival of Islam is only possible through jihad, and the final crusade between Muslims and infidels is imminent. 

“The United States invaded the Muslim land, and we will use our force to invade them,” said former Al-Qaeda fighter Javed Iqbal, 32, who helped distribute the pamphlets and just returned from fighting in Syria. In many ways, Pakistan is an ideal spot for a group like IS to recruit and grow. For decades, the country has been a breeding ground for terrorism and militancy: It is home to at least 48 jihadist groups, many of which Pakistan’s military secretly backs as proxies. According to local sources in Kashmir, IS flags and slogans have been visible sporadically since June, although the Indian Army has helped prevent any terrorist attacks. In Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran and is the largest province in the country, locals have found walls chalked with messages that glorify the Islamic State and calling for fighters to join.

Local sources in Peshawar and KPK say IS started recruitment in Pakistan two years ago—“even before they emerged as ISIS themselves,” a member of the jihadist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvisaid, on condition of anonymity. “More than 200 fighters have left from Pakistan to join what is now called the Islamic State.” Most of these fighters were from the Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and other militant groups. Although state authoritiesdeny any such activity, another militant commander from Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, also on condition of anonymity, said dozens of fighters left as early as November 2012 “to fight Bashar al Assad, and eventually joined [IS].”

IS’s military successes in Iraq and Syria, meanwhile, have impressed many Pakistani jihadist groups. “IS is openly distributing pamphlets in big cities like Peshawar,” said Khan, a journalist in Peshawar, who did not want to reveal his full name. “This is evidence that they have done their homework and are willing to gain influence in the region.”

Is this the death of democracy in Afghanistan?

 23 Sep 2014

The unity deal is widely seen as a setback in the war-battered country's process of democratisation.

Helena Malikyar is an Afghan political analyst and historian.

The political elite's deal has disenchanted ordinary citizens, writes Malikyar [AFP]

"Death of democracy" is the phrase that has gone viral on social media among young Afghans since the September 21 announcement of a deal between the country's two presidential election rivals.

The live televised signing of the political deal, perhaps consciously scheduled on International Peace Day, simultaneously prompted sighs of respite and despondency. Then again, contrasting emotions, half-hearted endeavours and progress and detour have characterised the past decade of Afghanistan's transition towards peace and progress.

Afghans celebrated the end of a deadlock that had plagued their country's April 5 presidential elections because of the tremendous adverse effects that the impasse had brought onto the nation's economy, security, and the function of the entire state apparatus.

However, the political deal that entails the formation of a "government of national unity" by rival presidential candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, is widely seen as a setback in the country's process of democratisation. By brushing aside people's votes, the political elite's deal has disenchanted ordinary citizens and has shaken their confidence in the democratic process.

Inevitable collapse

Attack on PN Dockyard: Terrorists in Uniform

September 15, 2014

The attack on Pakistan’s Naval Dockyard on September 6, which is celebrated as Pakistan’s Defence Day, was a landmark event. The naval dockyard is a highly sensitive security zone, where naval ships, submarines and auxiliaries are not only berthed, but also repaired and built. It undertakes all indigenous construction projects like Missiles Boats, Mines Counter Measure Vessel and Agosta 90-B Submarine. 

So shocked was the Pakistan’s security establishment with the attack that the whole news was kept under wraps for two days and even today the details of the attack have not been made clear.Little news that has trickled out reveals that the terrorists had not only infiltrated through the dockyard, but also targeted PNS Zulfiqar, a Chinese built frigate of the Pakistan Navy (PN). The involvement of many naval personnel and claim by newly created Qaedat-ul Jihad or Al Qaida in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), as well as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) of involvement,has raised suspicion that the terrorists wanted to hijack the ship and take it out to sea. A fully armed warship with terrorists at sea can be an extremely potent weapon that can be used to target any unsuspecting ship at sea including the US warships in Gulf. AQIS has subsequently claimed that a US supply ship was the target.

Fortunately, for Pakistan, the naval commandos responded promptly and in the ensuing encounter killed three terrorists while apprehending seven terrorists alive, while one petty officer of the navy was killed and six others sustained serious injuries. Five 9mm pistols, three intercoms, four suicide jackets, two detonators, handcuffs and other ammunition was recovered. The main accused is believed to be Owais Jahhrani, a former naval officer, who wasexpelled from the force in 2013 for his rigid religious views. He died during the attack and is the son of an Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police from Karachi. Subsequently, three other naval officers were arrested at Mastung in Balochistan enroute to Quetta, from where they were planning to escape to Afghanistan. The arrests have also been made at the Ormara Airbase. 

Accomplices were also arrested from Swabi, south Punjab and interior Sindh. The whole investigation process has been kept under wraps as the security forces do not want the international community to know that radical virus has afflicted Pakistani Armed Forces. The security establishment has been so sensitive about propagation of such facts that investigative journalist Syed Saleem Shehzad was brutally killed in 2011 for publishing a story which highlighted the presence of Al Qaeda cells within the PN.

However, despite the attempts to brush aside such acts under the carpet, the attack on PN Dockyard has not been a one off act, but just one incident in a series of terrorist attacks where members of the armed forces were involved. Every single attack on a military installation bore clear marks of collusion by elements from within. Many Pakistani Air Force (PAF) and army personnel including six officers were convicted for attempts on General Pervez Musharraf in December 2003. An army soldier, Abdul Islam Siddiqui, was hanged on August 20, 2005 after an in camera Court Martial for triggering an explosion to target Musharraf in Rawalpindi. On another occasion, an anti-aircraft gun was discovered on the flight path of General Musharraf’s plane, when he was taking off from Rawalpindi Air base on a pitch dark night. 

Indo-Pak Discord: The Existentialist Question

23 Sep , 2014

An anti-terrorist post being manned by infantry soldiers in Doda District, J&K

As we again react against an intransigent and hostile Pakistan by cancelling Foreign Secretary level talks, one cannot but conclude that there is a fair bit of similarity between our long term Pakistan policy and a dog chasing its own tail, all going nowhere fast. For all the reams of paper wasted and policy pronouncements made on the issue, the fact of the matter is that all our wise men are stumped by two very stark existentialist questions.

…that direct confrontation between two nuclear weapon armed powers can easily lead to uncontrolled escalation into a nuclear exchange that will leave no winners.

What exactly do we want in Kashmir and how do we tackle a nuclear Pakistan that appears to be willing to take us down with it if it cannot have its way. These are undoubtedly excessively difficult questions to answer and our wise men cannot really be faulted for having failed to do so, because unlike Australia, Britain or the United States we do not have the luxury of an ocean or sea that separates us from those who wish us ill. Also over the years we have learnt to our cost that the fences we build, however sophisticated they may be, are better at keeping us in than at keeping our enemies out.

Let us first take the vexatious issue of what exactly is the end state we are looking for in regard to Kashmir? All governments over the years have been hamstrung in their negotiations with Pakistan because of the parliamentary resolution of 1994 that requires the government to liberate Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). There is also a vocal right-wing hardline minority which makes no secret of its active support for the resolution. All this makes for bad politics and really gets us nowhere because realistically speaking, liberation of POK will be an extremely costly business.

Moreover, in a country where the median age is thirty five who really cares about territory lost at the time of Kashmir’s accession in 1948! At a recent discussion on the subject the suggestion to work towards making the Line of Control the International Boundary was mooted by one of the participants. There was vehement opposition to this eminently realistic and reasonable solution by a few and while such sentiments sound wonderful in air conditioned halls, they make little sense to anybody who has been at the receiving end of bullets fired in anger. It surely is high time that people with such hardline views did more than just talk at seminars. They should either be leading a volunteer militia force to liberate POK or hold their peace forever and let the people of this region get on with the business of living.

The Real Reason al-Qaeda Is Establishing an India Branch

By Jordan Olmstead
September 23, 2014

The terrorist outfit looks to be playing a long game. 

On September 3, Ayman al Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda Central (AQC) announced the establishment of a new branch: al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). Zawahiri, often described as “long on words and short on charm” delivered a characteristically ambling and inchoate message. He explained how the new group was the “blessed result” of a two-year effort to consolidate various Al-Qaeda affiliates in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Baluchistan and India into one organization with the (ostensible) purposes of serving embattled Muslims in the region by establishing sharia law and “freeing the occupied land of Muslims.” The Indian states of Kashmir (the site of a six decade long secession struggle), Gujarat (where an infamous pogrom against Muslims occurred in 2002), and Assam (a state where Muslims are persecuted for allegedly being parasitic Bangladeshi immigrants), along with Burma and Bangladesh, are mentioned as loci for potential operations.

Analysts are portraying this administrative re-shuffling as a desperate response to the existential challenge posed to AQC by the upstart ISIS, whose seizure of Northwestern Iraq and swaths of Eastern Syria has seemingly rendered al-Qaeda impotent and irrelevant in the eyes of many potential recruits (especially valuable Western ones) along with formerly dependable donors. Most of these analysts were underwhelmed by the prospect of a branch of al-Qaeda in India; in a representative statement, Peter Bergen deemed the idea of AQC opening a branch in India as “just crazy” given the previous inability of al-Qaeda to establish a presence in the country.

Certainly, the likelihood of AQC attracting a meaningful following from India’s Muslims because of this move is low. Muslims only account for 13.4 percent of India’s population, so even if al-Qaeda wanted to establish a (counter)caliphate there, it would simply not be feasible. Also, the pan-Islamist ideology of al-Qaeda is unlikely to gain much traction in light of the hostile sentiments that most Indians, including the country’s Muslim population, generally harbor towards Pakistan, its neighboring Islamic state. Instead, India’s Muslim population is preoccupied with extremely particularized struggles: Kashmiris are concerned with wrangling independence or greater autonomy, while the Assamese are focused on fighting discrimination and persecution within the framework of the existing state.

Spectacular 9/11 style attacks are (or should be) off the table because they would likely stoke reprisal attacks against India’s minority Muslim community – fomenting indigenous blowback/hostility against al-Qaeda rather than helping to net more recruits.

Moreover, even if AQIS could magically conjure the 31,000 fighters ISIS has managed to wrangle (tellingly, only four are confirmed to have come from India), it would still fall short of being the largest security threat the government has faced in the last two decades: India struggled with a bloody separatist insurgency in Kashmir and is currently managing a Maoist Naxalite insurgency throughout Central India. The state is very experienced in dealing with rebellions. In short, al-Qaeda does not pose a meaningful threat to India and is unlikely to blossom there.

Role of 5 Arab Nations in Airstrikes Against ISIS Targets in Syria

Mideast Countries Play Major Role in Islamic State Strikes

Awad Mustafa and Aaron Mehta

Defense News, September 23, 2014

F-16 Fighting Falcons from Jordan and the Air Force 13th Fighter Squadron at Misawa Air Base, Japan, wait on the flightline in May 11

DUBAI AND WASHINGTON — Jordan was compelled to join US airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria after the government uncovered a number of militants crossing its border with Iraq, a Jordanian government source told Defense News.

Jordan, along with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain, took part in operations in Syrian airspace Tuesday morning local time, giving the Pentagon some much sought-after public support from Arab nations as it expands its war against the quickly expanding militant group.

The Jordanian security official told Defense News that the strikes featured significant cooperation from the five Arab nations.

“Jordan has provided intelligence and fighter jets, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have provided logistical support through air refueling aircraft, [and] Qatar and Bahrain have provided their bases for operations,” the official said.

The official said funding for the strikes was provided jointly by the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. “The strikes have targeted mainly Islamist extremist groups in Syria as well as the Islamic State,” he said.

The targets of the strike include the militant al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and the Khurasan Group, a new al-Qaida faction, the official added. The Pentagon has claimed the Khurasan Group represented a direct threat to the US.

Notably, the official said that the Syrian Air Force has also conducted strikes against the extremist groups, but those were not in co-ordination with the coalition forces at the time of the strike.

Jordan has sent up to six fighters into Syria for the strikes, the official added. A US general told the press that a majority of the airstrikes were from US forces, including remotely piloted aircraft, F-15E, F-16, F/A-18 and F-22 fighters and B-1 bombers.

“The airstrikes that came from Jordan were conducted from al-Azraq airbase in eastern Jordan and Mafraq airbase in the north, where both Jordanian and US flights [were launched],” the official added.

While the official did not say how many of the airstrikes were launched from those Jordanian bases, other bases were likely involved. That includes al-Dhafra airbase in the UAE, which are likely the home of the F-22 jets that took part in the strikes.

Having the Arab powers in the region join coalition strikes against IS is a notable achievement for the United States — and Jordan almost wasn’t involved.

According to the official, Jordanian participation in the strikes was decided within the last 72 hours, after a pair of incursions in the east and south of Jordan compelled authorities to approve the action.

“Earlier this week on Saturday, the Air Force bombed an [Islamic State] convoy of four-by-four [vehicles] entering from Iraq, and in the same day a small boat originating from Sinai was sunk near [the port city of ] Aqaba in the south,” he said. “Two people were killed and two were captured and interrogations revealed that they are Islamic State militants.”

Furthermore, a cell was uncovered planning bombing attacks in northern Jordan, the official stated, where 11 IS militants were arrested.

Jordan shares a 375-kilometer border with Syria. A combination of human intelligence assets and a surveillance and monitoring radar system along that border helped identify the potential terrorists, the official said.

The airstrikes were supplemented with 47 Tomahawk cruise missile attacks, launched from the US destroyer Arleigh Burke and cruiser Philippine Sea operating in the Red Sea and North Arabian Gulf, a Defense Department official said.
Goals Ahead

The strikes caught observers in the Middle East by surprise.

“We were expecting the airstrikes, but we were not expecting them to be that soon,” said Riad Kahwaji, chief executive officer of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA). “I am sure they came as a full surprise even for ISIS and al-Nusra Front of al-Qaeda. It is clearly a war on terror.”

But as the surprise wears off, it is becoming clear that the US views this as just the first wave of an operation.