November 01, 2008



The number of fatalities in the serial explosions in Assam on the forenoon of October 30,2008, has since gone up to 75, with the death of some of the injured in the hospitals. Another about 300 persons are undergoing treatment in the hospitals and some of them are stated to be in a serious condition.

2. According to the Police, there was a total of nine blasts timed to take place in four different cities or towns in the State between 11 and 11-30 AM.The most devastating in terms of casualties (35 killed), property damage and psychological effect on the people were the three in Guwahati, the Capital. In all these three cases, the improvised explosive device (IED) was kept in the boot of cars. The use of the boot of a car for keeping the explosives enabled the perpetrators to keep more explosive material than one could in a bicycle or in a tiffin box. In the Ahmedabad blasts of July,26,2008, the explosive device was kept in a car in the incident near a local hospital. Motor-vehicle- borne IEDs also cause more casualties due to the splinter effect and large fires, which have a traumatic effect on the local population. Many who rang me up after the Guwahati explosions remarked that the scene with cars burning reminded them of what they had been seeing on the TV about similar incidents in Baghdad. This kind of trauma one did not witness during the earlier serial explosions in three towns of Uttar Pradesh in November last year, in Jaipur in May,2008, in Bangalore and Ahmedabad in July, in New Delhi in September and in Agartala in October. The three cars had been kept parked with the IED near a vegetable and fruit market at Ganeshguri below a fly-over, in front of the office of the Kamrup Deputy Commissioner, and near a police station in the Fancy Bazaar. The Ganeshguri area is near the high security complex of the capital.

3. There were three explosions in the town of Kokrajhar in which 21 persons were killed. The IEDs were kept inside bags. A bag left in a local fish market seemed to have caused the largest number of casualties. Kokrajhar is the town headquarters of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). There were recently violent attacks on illegal immigrants from Bangladesh by sections of the Bodo tribals.Eleven persons were killed in two explosions in the Barpeta area. There was one explosion in the Bongaigon area, which does not appear to have caused any fatality. According to one report, the IED left in the Bongaigon area, which initially failed to explode, exploded after the police found it and were trying to defuse it. Ten persons were injured.

4. Forensic experts have not yet identified the explosives used, but the local police have been suspecting that the perpetrators had probably used a mix of the RDX and TNT. If they had used a high-power explosive like RDX and kept it in the boot of a car, the number of instant fatalities must have been more. Anyhow, one has to await the forensic report.

5. The traumatic nature of the explosions, the like of which Assam-----particularly Guwahati---- had not seen before caused an outburst of public anger against the authorities for failing to prevent the explosions. This necessitated the imposition of a curfew in some parts of the capital.

6. While Assam has been seeing for some years well synchronised serial blasts----either in different places in the same town or in different towns simultaneously--- those blasts were carried out with low-intensity explosives with low lethality. The synchronisation, the lethality and the expertise in assembling the IEDs exhibited in the October 30 blasts show the availability of higher lethality explosives and better expertise in using them. It is the assessment of the local police officers that the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), the ethnic terrorist group which has been fighting for an independent Assam, does not have the kind of material and expertise used on October 30. Only jihadi organisations----of local as well as Bangladeshi origin--- have such material and expertise. Among such organisations are the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami of Bangladesh known as HUJI (B) to distinguish it from the HUJI of Pakistan and the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen (JUM), which had carried out nearly 450 synchronised explosions of low intensity IEDs in different places in Bangladesh on August 17,2005. The JUM's activities in Bangladesh are in a state of disarray following the arrest, trial and execution of some of its principal leaders by the Bangladesh authorities last year. While the Bangladesh authorities have been able to neutralise its top leadership, its middle-level leadership, infrastructure and trained cadres are still intact. Its capability for carrying out serial blasts of the nature seen on October 30 is unimpaired. The leadership, infrastructure and trained cadres of the HUJI (B) are also intact.

7. The Assamese police authorities, therefore, suspect that the explosions were more likely to have been carried out by one of these organisations or both, with the role of the ULFA, if at all there was any, limited to providing local logistics. The ULFA itself, through a spokesman based in Assam, has strongly denied that it had organised the explosions. The denial might have been motivated by the strong public anger over the blasts.

8.An organisation identifying itself by the abbreviation ISF (IM) has claimed responsibility for the blasts in a text message sent to a local TV channel in Guwahati. The authorities think that these abbreviations stand for Islamic Security Force (Indian Mujahideen). A local jihadi organisation by the name Islamic Security Force had come to notice in 2002, but it had not indulged in such activities so far. The text message might have been sent from a stolen mobile. Before the recent Olympics in Beijing, there was an explosion in a bus in Kunming. The perpetrator of that blast had also claimed responsibility in a text message sent from a cell phone. He could not be traced by the local authorities.

9.Before the visit of L.K.Advani, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to Shillong on September 28 and 29, 2008, the local police and media reportedly received two E-mail messages holding out threats against him. One of these messages was from a local law student by name Mominul Haque. He was identified as the suspected originator of this message and arrested. The second message purported to be from what was described as the North-East branch of the IM. It was reportedly received by a local media house on September 25. The originator of the message gave his name as Ali Hussain Badr, field commander of the IM in the North-East. The message said: "Our main objective is to blow Advani to pieces. Our suicide bombers are ready for this prestigious assignment. Advani's Hindutva demand seems to push India into a fascist mould and, as is well known, the proclaimed and identified main enemy of the architects of Hindutva (are) the Muslims and the Christians. Apart from the Babri Masjid demolition to the Gujarat massacre and the recent attacks on churches in Orissa, Karnataka, and some parts of Madhya Pradesh, Advani has always tried to portray the Muslims and Christians as inveterate enemies of the Hindus.This will be history in the making in the state of Meghalaya when our suicide bombers will rock Shillong. Stop us if you can. We have already set our foot in Shillong to kill Advani." The Shillong Police took added precautions and no terrorist strike took place during Advani's visit. The serial blasts in Agartala took place two days after his visit to Shillong.

10 It is difficult to comment on the authenticity of these messages sent in the name of the IM because the originators had not given any indicator of authenticity. After the Jaipur and Ahmedabad blasts, the originators had given such indicators in the form of pics of the IEDs at the spot where they were left.

11. For the present, I am inclined to agree with the assessment of the local police that there is a greater evidence of jihadi involvement than ULFA involvement. The ULFA, being an ethnic terrorist organisation, generally takes care to target mainly non-Assamese from other parts of India such as Biharis and Sindhis working and living in Assam. It avoids indiscriminate placing of the IEDS which might kill Assamese as well as non-Assamese Indian nationals. The jihadis kill indiscriminately.The October 30 killings appear to have been indiscriminate

12. If one carefully analyses the various serial blasts which have taken place in different parts of India since November,2007, one could notice an organic, mushroom-like growth of jihadi terrorist cells in different parts of India----- self-radicalised, self-motivated, self-organised with self-planning and self-execution of the strikes---- with each cell motivated by its own local grievances, but with all these cells having an as yet invisible connectivity with a single brain and a single source of inspiration orchestrating them. The police of Ahmedabad, Delhi and Mumbai have been able to identify and arrest the individual perpetrators, but they still do not have an idea of the brain and the command and control of these perpetrators.

13.The intelligence agencies and the police have been repeatedly taken by surprise and there are many inadequacies in their performance.But I find it cruel to keep criticising them all the time because they can be effective only if the political leadership allows them to be effective. Despite the wave of serial blasts and mass casualties caused by the jihadis from our Muslim population, the present political leadership in the Government of India and the Congress (I) continues to be in a denial mode. For them, the Muslim votes in the forthcoming elections are more important than the lives of innocent men, women and children. They are not prepared to admit that some Muslim youth in our own Muslim population have taken to jihadi terrorism of Al Qaeda kind. To admit that would amount to admitting that their policy of mollycoddling the Muslims has proved counterproductive and is threatening the unity of the country and its well-being. One can see evidence of this disturbing mindset in the case of the Assam blasts of October 30 too. While the professionals have been saying that the jihadis have done it, the political leadership is not mentally prepared to blame the Indian jihadis.

14. In the face of the inaction by the Government of India, the Indian Mujahideen is growing, like the Internet, organically----- with nobody knowing where is the beginning of this Jihadi Net, where is its end, how the various jihadi cells are connected with each other and who is facilitating their connectivity. It is a frightening scenario.

15. The Annexure gives extracts from my earlier articles on the subject. (1-11-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail:


1.Despite the recent arrests by the police of Gujarat, Delhi and Mumbai of elements associated with the IM and the SIMI in connection with the serial blasts of the past, explosions continue to take place in a widespread area across the country. This clearly indicates that while the perpetrators of the previous blasts have been identified and in some cases arrested, the jihadi iceberg and its command and control are yet to be identified. The analytical reports regarding the IM and its linkages being carried by the media on the basis of police and intelligence briefings show that our police and intelligence agencies have been shifting from one speculative assessment to another. ( 2-10-08 Mushrooming Terrorism: Now Agartala )

2.Pleasing the Muslims at any price----by closing our eyes to the depredations of the jihadi terrorists in our midst--- in order to retain their support during the election has become an important driving force of the electoral strategy of the ruling coalition. If hundreds of innocent civilians have to die as a result, so be it. Keeping the Muslims happy is more important than protecting the lives and property of the citizens of this country. Another disturbing trend has not received the attention it deserved. Many members of the Cabinet of Manmohan Singh and many leaders of the ruling coalition are reportedly unhappy with the intelligence agencies and the Police for speaking of home-grown jihadi terrorism. They are also reportedly unhappy with the Prime Minister himself for drawing attention to this in his address to the Governors' conference. They want that the focus should continue to be on Pakistan and the terrorists sponsored by Pakistan and that one should not highlight the role of the Indian Muslims in the global jihad. They are worried that the talk of home-grown jihadi terrorism might increase pressure on the Government to step up the monitoring of developments in the Indian Muslim community and identify and neutralise the Indian Muslims taking to jihadi terrorism. ( 20-9-08 JIHADIS HOLD INDIA TO RANSOM )

3.If these blasts continue in this manner with the police and the intelligence agencies being perceived not only by our public, but also by foreign Governments and investors as helpless, it could come in the way of our efforts to invite more foreign investment. The foreign investors have till now shown signs of continuing confidence in the capability of our Police and security agencies to prevail over the terrorists sooner than later. But, if such incidents continue at regular intervals, this confidence could be shaken. (19-9-08 Counter-Terrorism: Act Now. )

4.It should be apparent by now firstly, that we have only identified the tip of the jihadi iceberg in our midst. The iceberg itself remains unexposed. Secondly, we have not yet been able to identify the command and control of the IM. Thirdly, like Al Qaeda, the IM is divided into a number of autonomous cells each capable of operating independently without being affected by the identification and neutralisation of the cells involved in previous blasts. (13-9-08 Self-Styled Indian Mujahideen Strikes in New Delhi )

October 31, 2008

How-To: Determining Source Reliability On The Internet (Link List)

There are a number of great sites (mostly libraries) where there is good guidance on how to evaluate internet based sources. I intend, in this post, to list some of those sites and identify some up-and-coming tools. Finally, I want to highlight an important contribution to this literature that specifically pertains to intelligence analysis.
Virtually every good research library has a page dedicated to evaluating internet based sources. Some good examples include, among others:
The Library of Congress
Purdue's Library and Online Writing Lab
U Cal Berkeley's Library
and checklists from New Mexico State University Library, the Milner Library at Illinois State and the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire's 10 C's

Beyond these resources there are also a couple of new automated tools that are available for checking the accuracy and reliability of some internet sites. Beyond those that look for malware (such as McAfee's Site Advisor), there are two products which I have found particularly interesting as they are primarily designed to examine content.

The first is SpinSpotter (a firefox extension). SpinSpotter (which is "very" beta right now) allows you to annotate web sites for "spin" and to view other people's evaluations on websites that have already been evaluated. At some point (although it is unclear when), a computer algorithm will kick in (once it has learned enough about how to spot spin from thousands of reader's input) and begin to automatically mark up pages. This is when the tool will get really interesting...
The second project, WikiTrust, developed by the University of California, Santa Cruz WikiLab, is designed to use data from any MediaWiki based product (such as Wikipedia or Intellipedia) and, in turn, be able to automatically indicate how "trustworthy" the content of that wiki is. You can actually see a demo of it here based on 2007 data. You can also download the software that will allow you to apply the trust algorithm to any MediaWiki based wiki today. The problem is, of course, that the person applying the code also has to control the wiki (Hmmm...I wonder if Intellipedia uses this...I wonder why Wikipedia doesn't use it now...).
None of these solutions specifically had the intelligence professional in mind, however. This has changed recently with Dax Norman's recent online publication of his 2001 Joint Military Intelligence College/National Defense Intelligence College thesis, usefully titled How To Identify Credible Sources On The Web. Dax is the curriculum manager at the National Cryptologic School and one of the most intelligent and insightful people I know. Possessed of deep experience and a darn good mind, he has spent a good bit of time reflecting on how best to improve the analytic process. As a result, he is always worth listening to.

His thesis is particularly well worth the read for anyone who is interested in the subject. While much as been done in the area of assessing internet sources (see above), his take-away -- a research based checklist of key variables in assessing source reliability -- is as good today as it was in 2001.

If you are interested in the details of this scoring system, how it was derived and validated, I will have to refer you to the thesis. Using the checklist, however, is dead easy. Just check the blocks, add up the total and compare it to the scale on top. While I am virtually certain that Dax would not claim that this checklist should replace analytic judgment, I do think that it is far better than a guess-timate or, even worse, no assessment of source reliability at all.

Russia's western security outpost

31 Oct 2008

Despite fence-mending with the West, Belarus takes further steps toward developing security ties with its closest ally, Russia, Sergei Blagov writes for ISN Security Watch.

By Sergei Blagov in Moscow for ISN Security Watch

Belarus, dubbed Europe's last dictatorship, has reiterated pledges to create a "union state" with Russia and act as Moscow's security outpost in the West. In November, Russia and Belarus are due to unify their air defense systems in an apparent bid to counter NATO's eastward advance.

It is believed that Russia has been considering extending its air and missile defense systems to neighboring Belarus. On 23 October, General Alexander Zelin, commander of Russia's air force, said that the joint air defense project with Belarus would serve as a western outpost for Russia's aerial defense.

In recent years, Russian officials repeatedly claimed that the agreement on a united Russia-Belarus air defense system remained ready for signing, but the deal has remained elusive due to economic disagreements between the two countries.

But now Minks is growing wary of what it perceives as increasing international tension. According to the traditionally outspoken Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, in a 23 October statement, the NATO military-political bloc has become active to the point that it must view the world as on the brink of war.

Apparently following Russia's example, Belarus has done some saber-rattling of its own. Earlier in October, Lukashenko pledged to modernize the country's armed forces by 2015.

"Today, we are able to mobilize up to 500,000 men," Lukashenko announced on 21 October, following joint war games with Russia.

The Belarusian leader also said his country's army would play a major role in defending the Union State of Belarus and Russia from the western direction. It was hardly coincidental that on the same day, Russia announced it would give US$2 billion in loan to Belarus.

In recent weeks, Russia and Belarus have intensified top-level contacts. On 25 October, Lukashenko traveled to Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev. Both leaders were said to discuss economic and military ties, but no concrete agreements were announced after the talks. Lukashenko voiced support for Russia's initiative to negotiate a new pan-European security treaty, a plan apparently aimed at undermining, or balancing, NATO's clout.

For years, Russia's cheap energy supplies to Belarus have been instrumental in sustaining the authoritarian regime of Lukashenko, who swept to victory in 1994 on promises of reuniting the nation of 10 million people with Russia's 141 million. In 1997, both nations signed a treaty pledging a Russia-Belarus union, but these agreements have yet to materialize.

The Kremlin's backing allowed the Belarus regime to largely ignore western pressure. In March 2006, Lukashenko secured a third term in office with Russian support, but the West slammed the vote as flawed. However, the European Union recently lifted some sanctions against Lukashenko's regime in an apparent bid to limit Belarus' dependence on Russia.

Meanwhile, Moscow has been keen to band together with Minsk due to Russia's significant security interests in Belarus. The two former Soviet nations signed an agreement in 1995, which allowed the Russian military to free use of an early warning radar hub in Baranovichi until 2020. The facility and its some 1,200 staff is designed to provide early warning of missile attacks from Western Europe.

Russian officials have made it clear they view a western military assault well within a realm of possibility. On 22 October, Vladimir Komoyedov, a member of the defense committee of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, warned that NATO could strike Russia with more than 2,500 cruise missiles.

"A nuclear shield is our only reliable defense," Komoyedov, a former commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, said in a statement.

Subsequently, Russia has repeatedly warned it was upgrading its nuclear deterrence systems in response to NATO's continued eastward advance and the US' missile shield moves in Europe. On 22 October, General Nikolai Solovtsov, commander of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, announced that forces under his command were being equipped with new systems to penetrate US anti-ballistic missile defense, including mobile missile systems.

Earlier in October, Russia held unprecedented strategic missile demonstrations, including the firing of ballistic missiles from nuclear submarines and launching cruise missiles with strategic bombers in highly sophisticated war games. The missile demonstrations were apparently designed to warn the West against pressuring Russia.

Simultaneously, Moscow was thought to be increasingly relying on strategic weapons in its security planning, including missile and air defense plans.

In the meantime, Belarus has hinted at its own desires for strategic rearmament. In November 2007, Belarus authorities criticized US sanctions and accused Washington of violating its commitments towards Belarus. Minsk recalled that the US had promised to refrain from any sanctions when Belarus became a non-nuclear state in early 1990s as Belarus-based nuclear weapons were moved to Russia. In other words, Minsk has indirectly cited western economic sanctions as a possible pretext for returning some strategic weapons, presumably Russian, to its soil.

Moscow continues to support Belarus, apparently counting on this post-Soviet state as a buffer between Russia and the West, and the Russian military clearly views Belarus as an important outpost. Yet it remains to be seen whether this outpost could become truly strategic.

Sergei Blagov is a Moscow-based correspondent for ISN Security Watch.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not the International Relations and Security Network (ISN).

PAKISTAN: Swat on the verge of civil war

By Khurshid Khan

Valley swat has been divided in two administrative units Tehsil swat and Thesil Matta. Both have their separate councils. Matta Tehsil council consists of thirteen Union Councils. Abdul Jabar Khan is its elected Tehsil Nazim while Naib- Nazim Zakirullah khan has been killed in the recent imbroglio in swat. The area is called Bar Swat (Upper swat) in local vernacular. Matta Town is the main trading center as well as the administration headquarter some 22 miles away from Mingawara city. The total population of upper swat is 251368 according to the 1998 censuses. Its total area is about 683 square kilometers. The population annual growth rate is 3.04 %.

Upper swat has mailnly divided into two territories Shamizai and Sibujni Sebat khel on the basis of Wesh (land distribution system,). The inhabitants of Shamizai belong to Yusufzai tribe of Pukhtuns and are lead by Afzal khan. Subjini Sebat khel inhabited by Nazar Khel and Shama khel. Nazar khel are Shinwaries while Shama khel belongs to Tarkalani tribe. Sebujni also has Balol Khel and sena Khel. The people of labat, Gwalerai and above are Sena Khel

Upper Swat consists of two main valleys, Sakhra and Rodingar. Arnwai stream irrigates Rodingar valley up to Totkai While Bawrai stream irrigates Sakhra valley up to Bagderai. Shawarai stream irrigates the narrow valley of Shawar. This is the unfortunate and notorious valley where Gatt and Pewchar villages are situated. The national and international media has brought these areas into the spotlight in the recent time.

These valleys are well known for their natural beauty, fertile soil and agricultural produce. Fruit orchards are the main cash crop of the valleys. The famous Swat Apples are cultivated and produced here. The natural forests of Pines and Deodars and medicinal plants are also the income generation sources. The inhabitants of the area are considered rich and prosper people in swat. They stick to the strict code of Pukhtunwali. But unfortunately the whole swat in general and upper swat in particular is in the venomous tentacles of terror since last year. The significant and influential elders of the area have been murdered, migrated or detained in their houses and hujras. The houses of many influential are incinerated and looted.

The important strategic points over the heights across the valley are under the control of the security forces while the militants control the villages and hamlets in the outskirts of proper Matta Town. Explosions, kidnappings and murders have become day to day affairs in the area which are augmented by infinite and endless curfews. Most of the fruits and vegetables are wasted away due to non- accessibility to the main markets.

Last Sunday, October 26, 2008, the miserable people of the area encountered still another terrible situation. The local elders of Biha, Gwalerai and Bartanra union councils formed a jirga congregated in the main Mosque of Gwalerai. The jirga was debating on the issue of deteriorating law and order situation, security forces’ indiscriminate shellings and air strikes and the consequent public casualties, injuries and private property’s destruction. The main jirga formed a delegation and sent it to the official of the security forces for negotiation over the alarming deteriorating condition of the area. It is reported that the members of the delegation were ambushed when they were returning. It is also said that the waiting jirga members in the mosque were also attacked killing several elders and about 70 were abducted. Several of the abducted elders were butchered ruthlessly and their bodies were thrown in the fields. The local people said that most of the dwellers of the area remained busy in burying the deceased on Monday. Most of the renowned elders of these three union councils were slaughtered in this onslaught. In one of the village, Gwalerai, six members of the same family were killed including four brothers. One of the local journalists says “thirty funerals at a time in the area presented the spectacles of dooms day. This incident has wiped out the bitter memories of Bartanra air strikes”.

Militants freed four abducted leaders on Wednesday on the condition that they will deliver their message to the local people and inform them of their strict conditions after which the other abductees will be freed. The leaders met the local elders and persuaded them to conform to the conditions of Militants. The conditions are; that no one will even think about organizing a force against Militants and will never be a member of such an enterprise. That they will never support Pir Samiullah and will never meet the security forces. And that Militant will freely patrol the area and no one will put hurdles in their way.

After ensuring that these conditions will be followed in true spirits, the militants freed sixty five more abductees Thursday.

The local people say that raising a Lakhkar / Lashkar (a tribal force taking the field under the tribal banner at the time of need without any payment, at their own’s cost; arms and ammunitions) is not to wage war against militants and make ground for security forces arrival but to establish peace and harmony in the area, reopen the educational institutes and restore traffic on the roads. But instead of achieving these peaceful objectives we received only bloodshed and became victims of bloodshed and destruction only.

The security forces banned the local journalists and media from coverage the event and imposed infinite curfew in the area.

This situation has brought both Taliban and public face to face; the militants are in the “do or die” situation. The concept of revenge is so deep rooted in the Pukhtun society that it is next to impossible to remove this code from this society. This volatile situation has given rise to two speculations; people in the same household will raise guns in favour or against militants and the chances of the formation of Lakhkar are fading. If this war spreads out to each household, clan and village, the destruction and annihilation will engender situation of hair raising.

This civil war must be stopped immediately which can be accomplished through proper co-ordination among local, district and provincial authorities. A peace treaty between the militant and the local people and the withdrawal of militants from these areas can halt the disastrous civil war.

Another alarming development in the area is the mysterious appearance of a new and significant figure, Pir Samiullah, of Tangar village of the area. He has his own circle of followers and admirers which spreads out to considerable area. In addition to this, the Gujar community also supports him due to ethnic affiliation. Local people said that Pir Samiullah is the only potential rival of militant leader Fazlullah in the area. A local Daily reported that security forces are taking extraordinary interest in this new development. The daily also reported the landing of military helicopters in Pir Samiullah‘s village on Monday.

If a war erupts between Pir Samiullah and militant leader Fazlullah, then the eye opening example of Bara in Khyber Agency should be glanced first .Thus, this war may take the shape of sectarianism which will be another shocking and new development in the history of swat. The alarming development will be the war between the militants and the local people in which the major losers will be the public. Uncountable human lives will be lost and properties damaged as a consequence of this venture.

The elders, representatives of swat and the provincial government who has its peace ambassador, should raise to the occasion and stop the impending calamity which has not happened yet.

It is also the responsibility of organizations working for peace, print and electronic media to come forward to make the ground work for the peace deal. If this movement does not commence now, then perhaps, it will not be needed.


LTTE Air Wing Strikes Again

by B. Raman

The air wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) carried out two attacks within an interval of about 90 minutes on a military target in the North and an economic target in Colombo on the night of October 28, 2008. This is the seventh operation by the LTTE's air wing since it went into action in March last year.

2. Tamilnet, the pro-LTTE web site in the English language, which has again been giving battle front news after being silent on this subject for some days last week, reported as follows on the LTTE air attacks of October 28: " The LTTE carried out an air attack on the Thallaadi military base, the main artillery and Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL) launchpad of the Sri Lanka Army in Mannaar around 10:30 p.m., dropping three bombs on the base. The Tiger aircrafts then proceeded to Colombo and dropped two bombs on the Kelanitissa power station, while Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) bombers were searching for LTTE aircrafts in the skies over Kilinochchi between 11:00 and 11:30 a.m. The SLAF aircrafts were flying over the suburbs of Mullaiththeevu and Puthukkudiyiruppu with para lights focused on the ground from 1:30 a.m. on October 29. An SLAF reconnaissance aircraft was continuously circling over Vanni from 11:00 p.m. Immediately after the Tiger air raid on the Thallaadi garrison, the SLAF fighters were circling over the suburbs of Kilinochchi, Iranaimadu, Visuvamadu and Murasumoaddai areas between 11:00 and 11:30 p.m. The SLAF aircrafts were using para lights in their search mission over Vanni. Civilian sources said the Tiger aircrafts flew back to Vanni over Mannaar. "It did not specifically mention the safe return of the aircraft to their base.

3. However,, the pro-LTTE website in the Tamil language, carried the following official announcement purporting to be from the LTTE: "At 10-20 PM on Tuesday night, Air Tigers of the LTTE bombed the Thallaadi military base in the Mannaar region. The military base sustained heavy damages. Many were killed and injured. At 11-45 PM on Tuesday the Air Tigers carried out a successful attack on the Kelanitissa power station in Colombo. After carrying out these strikes, the aircrafts returned safely to base."

4. Pro-LTTE sources have tried to give the impression that more than one LTTE aircraft were involved in the two attacks. The report of the Reuters correspondent claimed that only one aircraft was involved in the attack on the military base. Sri Lankan military sources have also spoken of only one aircraft being involved in the attack on the Colombo power station. Pro-LTTE sources have claimed that the same aircraft or aircrafts, after dropping the bombs on the military base in the Mannaar area, flew to Colombo to bomb the power station. The military base attacked is about 250 Kms to the north of Colombo. Would the aircraft or aircrafts, which must have been carrying at least two bombs each, have had sufficient fuel to be able to take off from the Vanni region, bomb the military base, fly to Colombo, bomb the power station and then return to their secret base?

5. Pro-LTTE sources have claimed that there were many fatalities and severe equipment damage in the military base, but according to Army sources, there were no fatalities and very little equipment damage. Only one security forces personnel was injured, they claimed. The power station admitted the death of one of its employees due to shock when the bomb or bombs fell. The administrative buildings and the cooling system sustained some damage resulting in a fire, which was put out by the Fire Brigade. Pro-LTTE sources have claimed some damage to the turbines, but there are so far no reports of any serious disruption of the power supply in Colombo.

6. The attacks were tactically successful in the sense that the aircraft involved in the two attacks reportedly returned safely to base after dropping the bombs on the targets without being intercepted by planes of the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) or without being hit and brought down by the anti-aircraft defence. But their strategic significance is limited since they do not appear to have caused any damage of a serious nature. However, the attacks could have a psychological significance in maintaining the morale of the LTTE cadres and its supporters in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and in the overseas diaspora.

7. These attacks and the earlier strike by two officers of the Sea Tigers, one of them a woman, on two commercial ships used by the Sri Lankan Army for carrying military supplies to the Sri Lankan troops in the Kilinochchi area at the Kankesanthurai port on October 22, 2008, show that the LTTE's command and control is functioning well despite the losses suffered by it on the ground in the Vanni region during the current ground offensive by the Sri Lankan Army.

8. Military analysts have commented that since the LTTE started using its air wing in March last year, it has been emulating the tactics followed by North Korea during the Korean war of the 1950s. The tactics consisted of using small planes to surprise and embarrass the South Korean and American Air Force planes without achieving any strategic objective. Since the LTTE started using its planes, only in two instances were substantial human fatalities and equipment damage inflicted. The first was during the raid on the Anuradhapura training base of the SLAF in October last year and the second was during the attack on the Vavuniya military base on September 9, 2008. Both these raids were conducted jointly by the LTTE's planes from the air and suicide cadres from the ground. It is the suicide cadres on the ground, who caused the fatalities and most of the equipment damage. The role of the aircraft was essentially psychological, meant, inter alia, to divert the attention of the ground personnel of the Sri Lankan security forces. But the combined operations carried out successfully did show good qualities of co-ordination between air-borne and ground-based cadres. Whenever the LTTE planes have operated alone and not in conjunction with ground-based cadres, the results achieved were not significant operationally.

9. Aircraft operating alone without support from ground-based elements can cause substantial damage to an economic target if the bombs are powerful enough and the bombing is precise. The LTTE has carried out two bombings of economic targets so far----one against some petrol storage tanks in Colombo last year and the other against a power station in Colombo on the night of October 28. In both instances, the bombs were not powerful enough to cause serious equipment damage and the bombing was not precise. As a result, these two bombings failed to cause any economic dislocation.

10. The latest strikes like the previous ones once again highlighted the weak night operational capabilities of the SLAF and the weak anti-aircraft defences. They were neither able to bring the planes down through anti-aircraft fire, nor able to chase the raiding planes and force them down nor identify the place of landing of the LTTE planes as they returned to base and strike them from the air. It is reported that SLAF planes were patrolling in the air at the time of the return of the LTTE planes, but they failed to locate their landing place and strike at them as they were landing. The aircraft managed to land safely and ground-based technicians of the LTTE's air wing managed to dismantle them quickly and shift them to their intended place of concealment.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail:

Abhishek Singhvi’s Time-Share

SOURCE: Offstumped

What happens when you mate Sonia Gandhi’s Absentee Leadership with Manmohan Singh’s Executive Delinquency in an extra-constitutional wedlock called the UPA ?
You end up with illegtimate triplets called Dysfunctional Governance, Communal Socialism and a Time-Sharing Parliament.
Offstumped will stop there and leave it to your imagination what a Menage-a-trois with Amar Singh’s fixing will beget this nation of ours ……


October 30, 2008

Why the Fight in Balochistan Matters

SEEKING FAIRNESS -- International powers are looking to exploit Pakistan’s gas and mineral rich region of Balochistan. But Balochs have long argued that they do not see their fair share of development and employment from the resources. Photo shows Baloch women making victory signs at a protest in Quetta, Pakistan. (PPI Photo via Newscom).

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The scarred Pakistani province of Balochistan has been suffering from conflict with the central government since the country's inception in 1947. Steeped in violence and deprivation, bitterness, hunger and frustration are everyday realities.

Apart from the humanitarian aspect of this conflict, why is Balochistan a concern for the rest of the world?

Balochistan is a strategically important region bordering Iran and Afghanistan. Left unchecked, this conflict between the Baloch people and the Pakistani government over the province's resources – combined with the increasing Talibanisation of the northern parts of Pakistan – could wreak havoc on the country by propelling it into a state of instability.

A protracted conflict could also destabilize the surrounding region, politically and economically. Balochistan is rich with gas, natural resources and some of the rarest mineral reserves. Large portions of two proposed gas pipelines – one between Iran, Pakistan and India and another between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India – would pass through Balochistan.

International powers like the United States, China, Iran and India are already looking to this region for increased access to gas and use of Balochistan's Gwadar port, at the entrance of the Persian Gulf, for international trade.
But Balochs have long argued that they do not see their fair share of the revenue – in the form of development and employment – from these resources. The Pakistani government has been fighting various Baloch insurgencies for decades, claiming that they want unwarranted autonomy and even independence.

Recently, however, there have been encouraging developments. No terrorist attacks or acts of sabotage have been carried out in Balochistan since three Baloch militant organizations, namely the Baloch Liberation Army, the Baloch Republican Army and the Baloch Liberation Front, announced a surprising ceasefire in early September.
Can we expect peace to return to Balochistan under these circumstances?
The success or failure of this resolve will depend on how quickly and effectively the new Pakistani government seizes this opportunity to set things right. Now is the time for the Baloch people to heal their psychological wounds and assuage political grievances through dialogue.

The intriguing decision to cease hostilities is proof of these groups' willingness to work toward resolving the conflict with meaningful words, not gunfire.
It is crucial that the two sides view this conflict not as a win-lose, but a win-win situation. For this to happen, three basic conditions must be met: acknowledgment, acceptance and adaptability: the three A's of conflict resolution, according to mediation trainers Judith Warner and Thomas Crum.

Both the Pakistani government and the Baloch resistance movements must acknowledge the conflict's existence, rather than trying to avoid or deny it, and accept each party's involvement.

Adaptability requires openness to ideas that could lead to viable solutions. A firm commitment and resolve, with the flexibility to make concessions, will determine how those solutions will be implemented.

Many in Pakistan hope to implement a peace deal similar to the Aceh Peace Agreement in August 2005, which brought an end to a 29-year-long conflict in Indonesia.
Through this pact, the Indonesian government agreed to cede power to Acehnese in all public sectors, except in foreign affairs, external defense, national security and fiscal matters. Instead of continuing their fight for full independence the Acehnese
settled for local self-rule.

The people of Balochistan would be happy with a similar settlement. Violence will only continue to hamper a consensus between the Baloch people and the central government.

The government must look sympathetically at the demands of Balochistan and be open to a political solution to the conflict. Most Pakistanis are inclined to provide more autonomy to the provinces than is granted under the current constitution, so that peace can prevail and provincial disparities are done away with.
Where there's a will there's a way. With a new democratic government in place, now is the time to institutionalize a change for Balochistan, by amending the constitution to give Balochs the rights they deserve and the limited control that the Pakistani government requires for sovereignty.

A peace deal between Islamabad and Balochistan could even serve as a model for the Northwest Frontier Provinces and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas within Pakistan. Most importantly, however, it will pave the way for long-lasting peace in the region.

The International Momentum Is For New Bretton Woods

by Nancy Spannaus

[PDF version of this article]

Oct. 22—As should be totally clear to even the political novice, no one can expect a competent plan for a new monetary system on the model of FDR's New Bretton Woods to come out of the G8-Plus emergency summit which French President Nicolas Sarkozy convinced President Bush to convene on Nov. 15. A meeting on monetary matters with Bush et al., Lyndon LaRouche recently remarked, would be more like a Mad Hatter's Tea Party than a serious conference.

However, there is no question but that the convening of this conference reflects an accelerating, and dead-serious momentum within major world capitals toward the only competent proposal for a new world economic order which is on the table: LaRouche's New Bretton Woods proposal. The ongoing disintegration of the world monetary system is causing terror throughout banking and political circles everywhere, especially as every plan put forward by the "authorities" implodes within days of its announcement.

The British bankers who sit on top of the Anglo-Dutch slime mold which created the current civilization-threatening crisis have their own reorganization plan, of course. As British Prime Minister Gordon Brown put it, there must be a "global response to the first truly global crisis," i.e., a global bankers' dictatorship run by the very same "experts" who created the current disaster.

But in this moment of increasing panic, those leaders who are determined to defend the sovereignty and existence of their nations are reaching back into their memories, for the one expert who forecast the crisis, and put forward the solution—Lyndon LaRouche.

A Global Pattern

In effect, the upsurge of support internationally, including in major countries such as Russia, India, China, France, and Italy, represents a form of pincer movement around the United States, where there is currently no leading establishment force which has taken up LaRouche's call.

The following developments reflect the scope of the international attention. Note that the coverage is substantial in all of the major powers LaRouche has identified as key to coming to a New Bretton Woods agreement—except the United States.

India: On Oct. 19 LaRouche was interviewed live on the 9 p.m. News show on "India This Week," a primetime program on India's most-watched national TV channel, NDTV. The program had an estimated 11-15 million viewers. LaRouche was introduced as a former U.S. Democratic Presidential candidate, and pictured in front of the White House during the interview.

On the subject of global financial collapse, LaRouche said: "We're in a crisis which is comparable in category, to what happened in Europe in the 14th Century with what was called the New Dark Age. This is a crisis immediately caused by the quadrillions of dollars, outstanding obligations in the derivatives category. And the system is crashing; it's going to a terminal end unless an immediate reform is made, which will involve a number of countries coming to an agreement, around the idea of what's called a 'New Bretton Woods.' "
Russia: For the second time in a month, on Sept. 22, Russia's English-language TV channel, Russia Today, broadcast a live interview with LaRouche, on critical strategic developments; the first was aired Aug. 21. In this second interview, LaRouche emphasized the terminal nature of the current crisis, and the need for a totally new monetary system.

In addition, LaRouche's concept of a New Bretton Woods has been widely circulated in print, including in an article by the prominent Russian economist Prof. Stanislav Menshikov, that first appeared Oct. 17 in Slovo (see EIR, Oct. 24, for an English translation).
China: LaRouche's economic analysis has been the subject of numerous lengthy articles in the Chinese press, over the last month.
Italy: On Oct. 20, the nation's newspaper of record, Corriere della Sera, in its economic supplement, featured an article comparing the ideas of Italian Economics Minister Giulio Tremonti and those of LaRouche, on the New Bretton Woods.
France: On Oct. 17, the leading representative of the LaRouche movement in France, former Presidential candidate and president of the Solidarity and Progress association, Jacques Cheminade, was an invited guest in a debate with Christian de Boissieu, president of the French Prime Minister's Economic Analysis Council, on the all-news international TV Channel France 24. Cheminade presented LaRouche's view on the global bailout, and the principles of the New Bretton Woods.
Italy and France
Within Europe, the major impetus for LaRouche's New Bretton Woods idea is coming from Italy and France. The Corriere della Sera article summarized it as follows:

Interviewed by Corriere in Brussels, Tremonti then specified that he meant that he was the first among government officials to propose a 'new Bretton Woods,' and that he was well aware that the idea had been pushed for many years by the American political guru Lyndon LaRouche, a historical enemy of financial speculation and deregulated free-marketism. The Economics Minister pointed out that he participated in a discussion with LaRouche in 2007, at a conference entitled 'Marketism or New Deal,' organized in Rome by [Member of Parliament] Alfonso Gianni, from Rifondazione Comunista.

Tremonti said that he thinks highly of LaRouche's writings—LaRouche has been a perennial (unwelcome) candidate in the Democratic Presidential Primaries, an economist without a University degree, and, since the '90s, he has announced the 'big crash' of speculative finance. Lega Nord MEP [Member of European Parliament] Mario Borghezio has invited LaRouche to speak at the European Parliament. [Sen.] Oskar Peterlini (SVP [Southern Tyrol People's Party]) and many other Senators from the Democratic Party and the UDC have asked the Berlusconi government to deal with the financial crisis by using the draft legislation circulated in the U.S. by LaRouche before the Summer, when he announced that the banking collapse due to subprime mortgages [sic] was imminent.

Sarkozy's initiatives seem to be heavily influenced by the Italians, but they are by no means as clear in intention. He and members of his cabinet have spoken out against the speculators, and for defense of national sovereignty—a stance which tends to pit them against the British. And speaking before the European Parliament on Oct. 21, Sarkozy appeared to propose fixed exchange rates, a leading element of the LaRouche anti-globalization Bretton Woods plan. But there is no developed plan.

What's Wrong with This Picture?
Coverage of LaRouche's New Bretton Woods is by no means confined to the major world powers. Over the recent weeks, as the financial disintegration has accelerated, there has been extensive newspaper and radio attention paid to LaRouche's ideas in the Philippines and various nations of Ibero-America, for example.

Then, on Oct. 22, the Kuwaiti daily Awan published an article by syndicated columnist Karim al-Hazzaa counterposing the policies of Alan Greenspan to those of LaRouche. Al-Hazzaa shows what a hoaxster Greenspan is, in contrast to the physical economist LaRouche, quoting statements made by both over the years. He states that LaRouche's New Bretton Woods solutions are the only workable ones in this crisis.

But, in the United States, which is crucial to realization of the New Bretton Woods, the British media have continued to keep a lid on LaRouche's economic record and proposals. The only straightforward coverage of LaRouche's economic forecasting record and proposed solution, in the United States, appeared, deep-down, in an Oct. 11 New York Times article about the protests against the bailout.

Payback: Debt as Metaphor and the Shadow Side of Wealth

A non fiction book by

Margaret AtwoodNext book >>
Margaret Atwood

Collected here, the Massey Lectures from legendary novelist Margaret Atwood investigate the highly topical subject of debt. She doesn't talk about high finance or managing money; instead, she goes far deeper to explore debt as an ancient and central motif in religion, literature, and the structure of human societies. By looking at how debt has informed our thinking from preliterate times to the present day, from the stories we tell of revenge and sin to the way we order social relationships, Atwood argues that the idea of what we owe may well be built into the human imagination as one of its most dynamic metaphors. Her final lecture addresses the notion of a debt to nature and the need to find new ways of interacting with the natural world before it is too late.

Sitting in A grand 18th-century clubhouse near St James's Park in London, Margaret Atwood exudes intelligence; her fine, birdlike features, mischievous blue eyes and barely tamed curls suggest a mind still gleaming on the eve of her 70th birthday. Even more remarkable than her presence, though, is her prescience.

In 1984 she wrote a dystopian vision of a fundamentalist society in which women are reduced to the status of child-bearers and servants, forcibly desexualised and veiled - The Handmaid's Tale pre-empted the Taleban's misogynist regime in Afghanistan, and the rows over Islamic women's dress and rights in Europe. Another futuristic novel, Oryx and Crake, charted the destruction of the Earth by global warming, pandemics and rampant genetic engineering. It was published in 2003, before Sars, bird flu, An Inconvenient Truth, and the genome revolution.

Now, in her new nonfiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth - a fascinating, freewheeling examination of ideas of debt, balance and revenge in history, society and literature - Atwood has again struck upon our most current anxieties. As the credit crunch grounds airlines and topples banks, nobody can escape the spectre of debt. So where does she keep her crystal ball?

“It was a coincidence,” she claims. “I chose this topic several years ago and then found myself writing the book while all this was happening - the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and these ads plastering the Underground: ‘We will help you with your debt', ‘Why pay more?', ‘Declare personal bankruptcy!'.”

Exclusive extract from Payback by Margaret Atwood
Pen ultimate
You’ll need luck, Atwood tells authors

Critic's Chart: Andrew Ellson picks six books on cash crashes
The subject of debt first occurred to her when she was asked to write a public “letter to America”: “I found myself doing it as the troops were about to invade Iraq, and I wrote, ‘Why are you digging yourself into a great big hole of debt?' Typically empires expand past where they can afford to defend their perimeters, at which point something is going to break.” She gives a dry chuckle. “The barbarians will get in sooner or later.”

Payback is Atwood's contribution to the Massey Lectures - a prestigious annual event that has been hosted by Martin Luther King and J. K. Galbraith - and once the book is published she will tour her native Canada reading from it. It has been hard explaining what it is about, though, or why she, a novelist, should be tackling economics: “It was never just about money: it was about owing. Money is the form in which we have embodied this but it takes a huge number of other forms. What we're really talking about is imbalances of obligation, which is what debt is.” Payback casts its net far and wide, taking in Ancient Egyptian heart-weighing, the bizarre practice of “sin eating”, Mesopotamian debt slavery, simian trading habits, Scrooge, Faustus, Get Shorty and Jung.

The Iraq war may have been the kick-off point, but debt had preoccupied Atwood for as long as she can remember. Her parents lived through the Great Depression, during which their income went into four envelopes: “Rent”, “Groceries”, “Other Necessities” and “Recreation”. “The first three envelopes had priority,” Atwood writes, “and if there was nothing left for the fourth envelope, there were no movies, and my parents went for a walk instead.” This, she concludes, is the “lost art” of “living within your means”.

Born in 1939 in Toronto, Atwood recalls that “We weren't supposed to talk at the dinner table about religion or money or sex. Money interested me because it was forbidden - but you knew it was there.” She collected pretty coins and was fascinated by the cash-splashing exploits of the comic-book character Scrooge McDuck; but it wasn't until she was 8 - when she had her first paying job and bank account - that money became real. “My parents didn't give my brother and me a lot of pocket money; they had worked from a young age and didn't see why we shouldn't too. But a lot of the traditional ‘kid jobs' that I did are now either classified as child labour or they don't exist.”

After babysitting and blueberry picking, as a teen Atwood was employed as an “arrow demonstrator” - having learnt archery during a “curious upbringing” that involved spells in the remote Quebec woods while her father studied insect behaviour - at a sports show. Later, with a friend, she ran a children's puppetry business that became so successful that they hired an agent. Even writing quickly proved its earning potential: “I was very pleased when my first poem got published. I got paid $5 - probably more than the rate now,” she adds, laughing.

As an adult, Atwood retained her parents' frugality, while immersing herself in another deeply financial environment: “I became a Victorian. That was my field of study at univer-sity - and that's the age par excellence in which plots are driven by money and people are embroiled in an outbreak of capitalism. Wuthering Heights is driven by money: Heathcliff earns a fortune and then comes back to extract the house from its previous owner. Madame Bovary would have been quite all right had she kept within her budget. It's not the adultery - it's the debt that sank her.”

It is the most famous 19th-century character of all, though, who is the presiding spirit of Payback: Ebenezer Scrooge, the progenitor of Disney's Scottish miser duck. “He's an extreme version of ‘living within your means',” Atwood says. “He does nothing with them except make more means.” In a capitalist society, Scrooge's major sin is that his currency is not “current” - it does not flow. Until, that is, he undergoes his transformation, when he becomes a dual, before-and-after figure. “He fulfils both our wishes: our wish to keep it all to ourselves and our other wish to be kind and generous and for people to like us”. The central chapter of Payback shows how Scrooge is the mirror image of the 16th-century Dr Faustus. Between Marlowe and Dickens, society's view of riches had reversed: for Faustus free-spending is damnation, for Scrooge it's salvation.

For us it's the norm. In the past 50 years we have gone so far down the free-spending route that debt is no longer feared but shruggingly accep-ted: from student loan to mortgage, everyone's in the red. And while the Victorians had the threat of debtors' prisons, we have the escape route of personal bankruptcy. But as credit becomes scarcer, Atwood thinks that the tide is turning: “Once you get TV shows where people are repenting not that they've cheated on their wife but how in debt they are, then you're returning to a mode in which debt is considered sinful, and thrift is valued. Nobody in the Eighties would have been caught dead in recycled clothing, but now vintage is chic.”

If citizens are relearning the arts of thrift, their governments are lagging behind. The Times Square debt clock in New York was switched off in 2000 because the Clinton Government had built up a budget surplus. But when George W. Bush's spending spree began, it was rebooted, and now stands at almost $10 trillion (£5.6 trillion). “Who's going to pay for it?” Atwood asks. “The US taxpayer. They already have - their social services have suffered horribly. But people didn't understand that it was happening. [The invasion of Iraq] was like one of those magician's tricks where somebody is waving a red handkerchief and while everybody's looking at it somebody else is stealing your wallet.” In the fortnight since we met, the pickpocketing has become even more audacious: the multibillion-dollar bailouts of the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the proposed rescue of the insurance group AIG will come straight out of the taxpayer's purse.

But financial debt is not our biggest burden. In writing Payback Atwood became fascinated with a phrase spoken of the dead: “He has paid his debt to nature.” “It means you've borrowed something - the physical part of yourself made up of natural elements - and you're paying it back by dissolving into nature. What else are we borrowing from nature and how do we repay it?” The book's final chapter proposes an answer in strong terms.

It's surprising, I say, to see a novelist - whose usual tools are ambiguity and indirection - produce something so close to polemic. Atwood is convinced that the form demands it: “Lecture series like this are secular sermons. You can't just throw a topic like this on to the table without deciding which part of it you think is good and which is bad.”

The bad part is the way we have treated the planet, and at the moment, there isn't much of a good part in sight. “Early cultures would make sacrifices to ensure a good harvest or whatever. If we don't change our ways the sacrifices will be made for us - and that is already going on, what with droughts, famines and floods. Talk to any epidemiologist and what they're really worried about is a mega-plague coming our way. We're overcrowded and malnourished - the same conditions preceded the Black Death.” It's a distressing vision - even more so when you remember Atwood's impressive track record in prognostication.

If mankind could declare bank-ruptcy and wipe the slate clean, we would. But we can't: instead, Atwood argues, we need to learn to manage our debt, and to pull ourselves back into the black: “We should start thinking of ourselves as elements in the balance, and how we are throwing out the balance. It's not a moral obligation - it's a physical obligation.”

Assam Serial Blasts: Cobbled Conglomerate is likely to be involved

By Divya Kumar Soti

Today Assam was rocked by 18 high intensity serial blasts which happened within a narrow time span of half an hour and were spread over four districts of Upper as well as lower Assam. Details of casualties are not known but hundreds are feared dead. Early indications suggest involvement of sophisticated terror conglomerate
assigned with some specific tasks.

Few events over past few months which are worth mentioning in this regard are-

1. HUJI activities are on a rise in North-East and region is being used as a channel to support operations by this group inside India.These operations range from Arms smuggling, Counterfeit Currency smuggling, Cattle smuggling, to co-coordinating terror operations inside India.

2. These attacks may be in response to recent crackdown by security forces on HUJI over past few months in which many of its operatives were arrested and killed in North Eastern states.

3. Simultaneous blasts over many cities points towards HUJI's involvement. HUJI in past was involved in similar attacks in Bangladesh in which tens on cities all over the country were simultaneously targeted.

4. Media reports suggest that a wide variety of IED's seems to have been used in these blasts. Different types of methods have been used to plant these bombs and everything from bicycles to cars was used.

5. According to reports out of these 18 blasts, three were Grenade attacks which clearly indicate the involvement of ULFA elements. Major surrenders by ULFA cadres over past few months had its unavoidable side effects but Security agencies failed to recognize them. These surrenders left lots of ULFA splinters behind them. Many of them may have been utilized by masterminds in today's blasts.

6. These blasts were preceded by major communal clashes between local Tribals and Bangladeshi settlers over this month.

7. ULFA's internal equations are quite turbulent these days. ULFA's hierarchy is in complete control of ISI since last few years. This group is nothing more than an ISI instrumentality for sabotage assignments and Greater Bangladesh catalyst. ULFA has progressively lost its original insurgent character and now most of its activities resemble that of Ghost insurgent-cum-mercenary gangs employed by
intelligence agencies for sabotage and propaganda activities. This group is also involved in brokering different type of logistic deals among different groups active in Bangladesh.

8. In all likelihood ULFA elements were cobbled with HUJI to carry out these serial blasts.

For a broader picture refer to-

ASSAM : Multiple blasts kill 50

Blasts symbolic of insecurity in the country: Advani

New Delhi, Oct 30 (PTI) The serial blasts in Assam were symbolic of the sense of insecurity in the country and the UPA government has failed to combat terror, senior BJP leader L K Advani today accused.
"I believe that these blasts are symbolic of the sense of insecurity in the country. This also proves the total failure of the government in combating terrorism,"
he told reporters here.

Advani said it is likely that illegal Bangladeshi migrants from Assam, which has seen an increasing influx of these people in recent years, could be involved in the blasts. PTI

India's Assam Hit by 12 Bombings; 50 Die; 300 Hurt (Update2)

By Bibhudatta Pradhan

Oct. 30 (Bloomberg) -- More than 50 people were killed and about 300 injured in 12 bombings across the eastern Indian state of Assam, the scene of clashes between ethnic groups.
The casualties took place as devices containing high- intensity explosives went off between 11 a.m. and noon today in the city of Guwahati and the Barpeta, Bongaigaon and Kokrajhar districts, state Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said in a phone interview. Most of the bombings were in crowded places, he said. Authorities imposed a curfew in some parts of Guwahati. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks.

Cities and towns across India have been targeted recently in bombings, with devices strapped to bicycles, hidden under auditorium seats and left near market stalls. About 40 bomb attacks took place from May 13 to Oct. 21, killing 175 people. The blasts on Oct. 21 in Imphal, capital of the northeastern state of Manipur, left at least 17 people dead.

Ethnic clashes in tea- and oil-rich Assam killed 49 people this month. The clashes began Oct. 3 in the Udalguri district, between members of the indigenous Bodo tribe and Muslim settlers from neighboring Bangladesh, and spread to other areas. The two sides are involved in longstanding land disputes.

Assam, which also shares a border with Bhutan, is home to several rebel groups. At least 314 security personnel and civilians were killed last year in violence in the state.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bibhudatta Pradhan in New Delhi at

The eighteen blasts, which rocked Assam killing 48, are said to be the handiwork of ULFA or HUJI, a Bangladesh based outfit. Opposition leader LK Advani ascribed them to government's failure in providing security to the people..

CJ: Abhishek Behl, Merinews ,

INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES are ascribing the serial blasts that shook Assam Thursday morning (October 30) to United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) or Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HUJI), a Bangladesh based outfit, which has been behind a number of incidents in the country.

Opposition leader LK Advani ascribed them to be a government failure. He asserted that the attacks has proved United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government failure to provide security to the people.

Reacting to the serial blasts, which killed at least 48 people, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has asked the people to fight the terror unitedly and remain calm. He condemned the attacks as inhuman and said that people should come together to defeat the motives of the terrorists.

Commenting on the attacks, minister of state for Home, Shri Parkash Jaiswal, also said that involvement of ULFA and HUJI was possible, but refused to take any stand on the issue. As has been the wont of the UPA government, the minister termed the attacks as routine and said that this happens every second month in the country. He assured thorough investigation into the attack.

Advani said that these blasts have added to the insecurity in the country and could have been the handiwork of the illegal migrants from Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, in Guwahati tension prevailed as strong crowds thronged the streets and shouted slogans against government. People targeted fire brigade and ambulances, which had come for the rescue operations.

Government officials were not allowed to come near the blast site till police intervened and prohibitory orders were forced by the administration.

People alleged that police reached the blast site almost one hour late and it was only the local people, who came to the rescue of the people immediately after the explosions.

Similar tension was witnessed in all areas of Guwahati, where people have been seething with anger as their dear ones battle for life in the Guwahati Medical College (GMC). At least 26 people have been confirmed dead and hundreds were injured when the blasts ripped apart the north eastern state.

Experts meanwhile said that it was likely that HUJI or a similar outfit could be behind the attacks rather than ULFA. The Assamese outfit has been under constant pressure of late and it was difficult for the organisation to execute attacks on such a large scale and in such a lethal manner, they added.

However, in a confirm report a bomb was found in scooter and has been defused.



Available police statistics of incidents involving explosions and civilian casualties caused by the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) since 2002 are given below:


2002 18 218
2003 19 260
2004 103 202
2005 121 65
2006 86 59
2007 70 124
2008 6 (till end January) NIL

The figures of civilians killed in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 include civilians killed by explosions as well as in attacks not involving IEDs.The figures for 2006 and 2007 refer to only civilians killed by IEDs. While there was a large number of incidents involving IEDs, the number of civilians killed per incident was low as compared to incidents involving IEDs caused by jihadi terrorists in other parts of India. This could be attributed to the fact that the explosive material used by the ULFA----much of it procured from Bangladesh--- was of low quality as compared to the material available to the jihadi terrorists --- whether procured from Pakistan or Bangladesh--- and the expertise in the use of IEDs imparted to the ULFA in the training camps in Bangladesh was also of inferior quality as compared to the expertise imparted to the jihadi terrorists---whether in Pakistan or Bangladesh.

A defining characteristic of the incidents involving the use of IEDs targeting civilians in Assam was that many of the incidents specifically targeted non-Assamese civilians while taking care not to target Assamese-speaking civilians and illegal Bangladeshi migrants. Jihadi terrorists in other parts of India make no distinction. They kill civilians indiscriminately---- without worrying about their religion, ethnic or linguistic origin.

Jihadi terrorism, as distinguished from the ethnic terrorism of the ULFA kind, has also started making inroads in Assam. According to the Assam Police, the following jihadi organisations are now active in Assam: The Muslim Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA); the Independent Liberation Army of Assam (ILAA); the People United Liberation Front (PULF); the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), whose Pakistani counterpart is a founding member of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF); and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), whose Pakistani counterpart is also a member of the IIF. According to them, the activities of all these organisations are co-ordinated by the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen (JUM) of Bangladesh, which organised hundreds of simultaneous explosions of crude devices all over Bangladesh on August 17, 2005.

Some HUM cadres, along with two Pakistani nationals, were arrested in August, 1999. Forty-two HUM cadres, including some trained in the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), surrendered till 2006-end. Four HUJI cadres trained in Bangladesh surrendered in August, 2004. One HUJI cadre was arrested in February, 2004. Till 2006-end, 370 jihadi terrorists belonging to different organisations had been arrested and 128 had surrendered.

The Security Forces in Assam have been putting up a determined fight against the ULFA killing 1,128 cadres since 1991 and till 2006-end and arresting 11,173 during the same period. 8,465 others surrendered. The result: decrease in cadre strength; erosion of its support base in the population; decrease in recruitment and fund collection; and shortage of arms and ammunition. In view of these developments, the ULFA started following a new modus operandi with the following features: decrease in specific targeted violence; increase in
indiscriminate violence directed at soft targets; targeting of vital installations in remote areas; attacks on security forces when and where possible; and use of unconscious third persons not suspected by the Police for having the IEDs planted in public places. The use of such unconscious third persons has been increasing.

However, the ULFA still has an estimated hardcore of 800 trained cadres and another 1,500 untrained cadres. There are no signs of any weakening of its morale and motivation. Its command and control orchestrated from Bangladesh is intact.

Any effective counter-terrorism strategy in Assam has to have the conventional components such as improving intelligence collection, analysis and assessment and co-ordinated follow-up action; improving the capability and resources of the police; strengthened physical security; and a well-tested crisis management drill. In addition, it must have a strong anti-illegal immigration component---to prevent any further illegal immigration from Bangladesh and the identification, arrests and deportation of those, who have already illegally entered India. Obviously for electoral reasons, there is a reluctance on the part of the Government to deal effectively with illegal immigration. This is likely to prove suicidal. Muslims constitute about 32 per cent of the population of Assam today. If the problem of illegal immigration from Bangladesh is not tackled, there is a real danger that in another 50 years, Assam might turn into a Muslim majority State.

Pakistan, Bangladesh and China have an interest in keeping Assam destabilised---each for its own reason. The interest of Pakistan and Bangladesh is in facilitating the emergence of a Muslim majority State and its ultimate secession from India. The interest of China is in weakening the Indian capability to protect Arunachal Pradesh in the likelihood of the unresolved border dispute over Arunachal Pradesh one day leading to a confrontation between India and China.

The previous Government headed by Shri A. B. Vajpayee was strong in rhetoric relating to terrorism, but weak in action. Its successor Govt. is weak in rhetoric as well as action. It seems to believe that confidence-building measures with neighbours who are sponsoring terrorism against India and the peace process would pay dividends in improving the terrorism situation on the ground. This is unlikely to happen. Lack of determination to act strongly and in time is already costing us heavily and will cost even more heavily in future.

---Extract from the Chapter titled ASSAM: TERRORISM & “SILENT UNARMED INVASION” in my book titled "Terrorism: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow" published by the Lancer Publishers ( of Delhi in June,2008


More than 50 persons are feared to have died and more than a hundred injured in over 10 blasts that were simultaneously orchestrated in Guwahati, the capital of Assam, and in the Districts of Barpeta and Kokrajhar on the night of October 29,2008. The picture regarding the exact number of explosions and the places where they took place is still confusing. Some reports put the number of explosions as high as 18. At least four of the blasts took place in Guwahati.

2. The people of Assam are not strangers to serial blasts carried out from time to time by the ULFA and jihadi organisations of Pakistani and Bangladeshi vintage, which have made inroads into the State by taking advantage of the uncontrolled illegal immigration of Muslims into the State from Bangladesh They have been operating separately of each other when possible and in co-ordination with each other, when necessary.

3. Assam has been the nerve-centre of a cocktail of terrorist organisations----ethnic and jihadi--- who have been systematically eating at the vitals of this State, which is key for protecting the integrity of India from the designs of Pakistan, Bangladesh and China.But nobody has had the time to pay attention to the alarming ground situation in this key State----neither the Congress (I) nor the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nor any other party. Taking advantage of the lack of serious attention from the Government of India and the mainstream political parties, this cocktail of terrorists has been spreading havoc in the State.

4. "My heart goes out to the people of Assam," said Jawaharlal Nehru in a broadcast to the people of Assam as the Chinese troops were marching in in 1962. He did nothing to protect them before the Chinese invaded. His Government and its successors did precious little to protect this right arm of India and its people either from the Chinese in the event of another war or from the terrorist organisations of various hues which have come up in the State since the 1980s. Who is whose surrogate? Who is the surrogate of Pakistan? Who is the surrogate of Bangladesh? Who is the surrogate of China? Is there a joint co-ordination by Pakistan, Bangladesh and China to undermine the control of the Indian State? Nobody knows the answer.

5. Everyone is clueless---- the intelligence agencies, the police, the security forces, the political class. There is hardly any realisation of the seriousnress of the situation in Assam. One can even understand inadequacies and even incompetence, but one is alarmed by the total disinterest in Delhi in what is going on in Assam.

6. It is too early to say who was involved in the explosions of October 29---- the ULFA only or ULFA plus? One has to wait for the results of the investigation, but from the large number of casualties and the widespread nature of the attacks, one thing is already clear----there has been a worrisome increase in the lethality of the explosives available to the terrorists and their ability to use them effectively.

7. Public opinion has to force the Governments at the Centre and in the State and the political class as a whole to act before it is too late. (30-10-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

October 29, 2008


By Dr. Subhash Kapila

Introductory Observations

Afghanistan my be passing through a critically testing military stage presently but what is disconcerting is that there seems to be an inspired campaign underway in the Western media and think- thanks to project that strategic fatigue has set-in in the United States and NATO policy establishments. Such projections would lead one to believe that the United States/NATO combine is exploring exit strategies from Afghanistan.

Available indicators suggest that while strategic fatigue may have set-in in some NATO participants in Afghanistan due to domestic pressures, the same cannot be said of the United States.

United States military operations in recent times have acquired added vigor after a review of United States operational strategy this year. The year 2008 marks the final denouement in United States – Pakistan military coalition (so-called) against global terror. While strategic analysts, including this Author, were constantly pointing out that Pakistan was double-timing the United States all along, it took the United States policy establishment six years to finally recognize it.

In fact what we are witnessing today in Afghanistan is not an Afghan civil war but a puny state like Pakistan (its nuclear weapons notwithstanding) challenging the military might of the global only superpower, namely the United States, through asymmetric war through its proxy insurgent outfit – the Taliban.

The aim of United States military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001-2002 was to evict the brutal medieval Islamic Jehadi regime from Kabul for its role in brutally converting Afghanistan into the Mecca of Islamic Jehad which acted as a magnet for the Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups from the Islamic world. At the time of its military intervention in Afghanistan, the United States was aware that Pakistan was criminally culpable for 9/11 events and the hosting of Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The United States ignored all that and finds itself in the present strategic quagmire that Pakistan’s treachery generated for USA.

Post-9/11 and up till now, Pakistan nurtured and regrouped the Taliban within Pakistan hoping that with strategic fatigue eventually creeping in US-NATO combine the Taliban could be used once again as an instrument of its strategic objective to enslave Afghanistan.

The armed conflict turbulence in Afghanistan today is a violent contest between the US-NATO combine to stabilize Afghanistan and the Taliban (with Pakistani support) attempting to regain control over tracts of territory in Southern Afghanistan, more specificall, before a final push to Kabul.

With the Taliban unable to make major strategic gains, an inspired campaign is underway, exploiting the gullibility of highly paid Western journalists in Kabul and also some Western think tanks and intellectuals to over-hype and over-sensationalize Taliban gains in Afghanistan and minimize the tactical successes of US-NATO military forces.

This inspired campaign has spawned in its wake some dangerous alternatives detrimental to United States strategic interests, namely to explore an exit strategy from Afghanistan and secondly to co-opt the Taliban in a dialogue with the Karzai Government with the ultimate aim of Taliban sharing political power in Kabul.

While the first dangerous alternative is not being seriously considered, the second dangerous alternative of dialogue with the Taliban has made some tentative gains with Afghan-Taliban dialogue in Saudi Arabia engineered by Pakistan and British intelligence agencies with a grudging nod by USA.

It is amazing and the height of strategic naivety for the United States to have given a nod to the second dangerous alternative by pressuring Afghan President Karzai for Afghan participation in a dialogue with the Taliban in Saudi Arabia.

Can it be forgotten that 9/11 would have never taken place had “The Other Axis of Evil” of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were pre-empted by the United States from the creation of Taliban and ensconcing of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.

Can it also be forgotten that the inclusion of “moderate Taliban” in the Kabul Government in 2002 was mooted by Pakistan’s General Musharraf to ensure Pakistan’s hold in Kabul and was wisely rejected by USA. A Taliban has no shades; the Taliban are a fundamentalist Islamic armed insurgent militia believing in medieval brutality.

How come that the inclusion of the Taliban in an Afghan-Taliban political dialogue has been brought about? Reports indicate that this has been advocated by European countries, and particularly Britain.

The United States policy establishment should take this as a wake-up call and prevent such dangerous alternatives taking shape which are grossly in contradiction and capable if endangering United States global and regional strategic interests.

To highlight the dangers to US national security interests by advocacy of dangerous and defeatist alternatives, this Paper intends to examine the following perspectives:

United States Strategic Interests in Afghanistan
Taliban No Strategic Asset for United States
Taliban is a Strategic Asset for Pakistan and Saudi Arabia
Afghanistan is a Strategic Asset for United States and Not Pakistan
Afghanistan Can be Reclaimed by United States as a Moderate, Democratic Islamic State
US Intellectuals Must Disabuse Their Minds that Pakistan’s Sensitivities are Paramount in Solution of Afghanistan Conflict
United States Strategic Interests in Afghanistan

United States strategic Interests in Afghanistan should determine the centrality of all United States policies and strategies in the securement of Afghanistan as a stable state and its protection against Islamic fundamentalist onslaughts.

The United States when it entered Afghanistan in its military intervention and secured Kabul in 2002 with the assistance of Northern Alliance Forces had a two pronged strategy, namely (1) Regime change in Afghanistan by evicting the Taliban occupation of Afghanistan and (2) Dismantle the Islamic Jihadi terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The United States succeeded in both its strategic aims except that Pakistan pre-empted the capture of Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership and cadres by spiriting them away to sanctuaries within Pakistan, out of reach of US Forces.

In gross contradiction to US strategic aims the United States airlifted nearly 12,000 Pakistan Army operatives who provided the backbone of the Taliban from Kunduz away from retribution by Afghan tribesmen whom they had brutalized for nearly six years. This was a strategic blunder which is now costing heavily to the United States.

Notwithstanding the strategic blunders above, with the passage of time, United States strategic interests in Afghanistan today can be assessed as follows (1) Afghanistan’s emergence as a stable, democratic and moderate Islamic state contributing to regional stability (2) Afghanistan as a base for extension of American influence in Central Asia (3) Afghanistan as a possible springboard for neutralizing Iran (4) Afghanistan as a base for any future neutralization of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal (5) In any future confrontation with China, Afghanistan’s territory touching China and Afghan air bases can be crucial pivots for US military operations.

The United States therefore must cultivate and craft a long term strategic vision to ensure its presence in Afghanistan coupled with transformation and build-up of Afghanistan as a stable nation immune to Pakistani and Taliban covetous designs.

Taliban No Strategic Asset for United States

The strong advocacy of those favoring entering into a political dialogue with the Taliban and their inclusion in political power-sharing in Kabul would have been logical and understandable had there been even a remotest chance that the Taliban could be transformed into a strategic interest for the United States. The picture, however, is otherwise.

The Taliban are mercenary free-booters with no stake in the stability of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a creation and an instrument of the Pakistan Army tasked with the forcible subjugation of Afghanistan as a client state of Pakistan. Their operational strategies are pronouncedly medieval Islamic brutalism which is alien to the Afghan psyche

With such credentials the Taliban hardly qualify to be a strategic asset for the United States in any future US plans for Afghanistan. More frankly, the Taliban are the very anti-thesis of whatever the United States stands for in Afghanistan and their cooption would be an insult to all US-NATO lives lost in Afghanistan in defense of democracy and freedom.

Taliban is a Strategic Asset for Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

As a follow-up of the above, the United States needs to recognize that the Taliban and Al Qaeda were strategic assets of the “Other Axis of Evil” namely Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Both were instrumental in spawning the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and for 9/11 too. Please refer to the Author's Paper No. 548 dated 12/11/2002 entitled "United State and the Other Axis of Evil".

The above position continues today. Pakistan ensconced the Afghan Taliban hierarchy and the Taliban Shura under direct protection of the Pakistan Army in Quetta where it continues untouched till today. Surprisingly, the United States which has now become active in attacking Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda hide-outs within Pakistan in FATA has not touched Quetta where Mullah Omar and the Afghan Taliban are housed and from where all Taliban major operations in Southern Afghanistan are launched from.

Pakistan’s obsession with Afghan Taliban persists became it still remains as the only instrument to ensure Afghanistan’s subjugation as a client state of Pakistan subservient to its Pakistani strategic designs.

It needs to be recorded that Pakistan views the Pakistani Taliban as a threat to its security, but views and nurtures the Afghan Taliban as a strategic asset to be used for forcing the exit of USA from Afghanistan.

Is it not diabolical that the Pak-Saudi-sponsored Afghan-Taliban dialogue in Saudi Arabia should have the notorious Mujahideen leaders like Haqqani and Hekmatyar present there the same time? It does not augur well for the United States.

Saudi Arabia’s interest in the Taliban associated with the Al Qaeda as a strategic asset has been re-invented. In the words of Fareed Zakaria, Editor of News week: “Bin Laden began his struggle hoping to topple the Saudi regime. He is now aligned with the Saudi monarchy as it organizes against Shiite domination.”

Can it be over-looked that today Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are more closer to China than the United States. Can it be overlooked that both also are not on the best of terms with Iran.

Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have plans to use the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda in their future strategic blueprints. Convergence exists again between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to place a Taliban Government in Kabul.

Afghanistan is a Strategic Asset for Untied States and Not Pakistan

The United States today is at strategic cross-roads in Greater South West Asia. It has a stark choice in deciding what are going to be its priorities in the region.

Pakistan is once again headed for state failure or worse state-disintegration as a result of its internal contradictions, exploiting Islamic Jehadi impulses as a foreign policy and strategic instrument and divisive tendencies within Pakistan.

Afghanistan on the other hand is reeling under a proxy jihadi onslaught launched not only against Afghanistan but also against United States-NATO combine intent on stabilizing Afghanistan. The Taliban are the proxies.

The United States therefore is confronted with a fateful choice, namely to save Pakistan or Afghanistan. The United States cannot save both as was argued in this Author’s SAAG Paper No. 2585 dated 13 Feb 2008 entitled "United States Fateful Choices: Save Afghanistan or Save Pakistan".

The major conclusion that was offered was that if USA chooses to save Afghanistan it has the chance of saving Pakistan as a follow-up. On the other hand if USA elects to save Pakistan at the cost of Afghanistan it could face the danger of losing both to disorder and fragmentation.

That Afghanistan is a prized strategic asset for the United States is even recognized by Pakistan. It is for nothing that Pakistan has persisted in the last six years to undermine the United States control of Afghanistan by utilizing the Taliban insurgency.

It is for nothing that Pakistan has audaciously dared to militarily challenge the United States as a global super- power through asymmetric warfare utilizing the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban insurgents. This is an ample indicator as to high the stakes are for Pakistan in Afghanistan.

A stabilized Afghanistan will share many strategic convergences with the United States. Pakistan if ever stabilized would never share any strategic convergences with the United States and moreso now with a growing US-India strategic partnership and its strategic alliance with China.

The new bogey raised by Pakistan Army against the United States is that it is intent on circumcising the only nuclear weapons arsenal in the Islamic world with the clandestine assistance of Israel. The United States is painted as a Christian power at war with the Islamic World.

It is amazing therefore as to how US intellectuals and strategic analysts discover strategic convergences with Pakistan where all indicators indicate otherwise.

Afghanistan Can be Reclaimed by United States as a Moderate, Democratic Islamic State

American analysts overlook many of the following indicators which suggest that Afghanistan can be reclaimed by the United States as a stable moderate, democratic Islamic state (1) The Afghan people are not anti-American like those in Pakistan (2) The Afghan people especially the Northern Alliance assisted and facilitated the
Taliban regime change by the United States (3) Following displacement of Taliban from Afghanistan there were no large-scale uprisings by Afghans against the United States (4) Afghan people took part in democratic elections to elect US-favored President Karzai (5) The Taliban has had limited successes in Afghanistan only in areas where US-NATO military presence in scarce. The major deduction here being that the Afghan people do not favor the Taliban.

More importantly, Northern and Western Afghanistan distantly located from Pakistan are relatively more peaceful, stabilized and have developed in the last six years. Southern Afghanistan was always troubled and become more troubled in the last six years as in the initial years after 2002, the United States militarily neglected it in the vain hope that Pakistan Army would play its part in controlling the Taliban on its behalf in this region. Pakistan however treacherously did otherwise.

In the last six years of US-NATO assisted Karzai regime, appreciable progress and reconstruction has taken place including in the social sectors like Afghan women emerging once again in the liberal mould.

Afghanistan and the Afghan people are ready to assist the United State to stabilize Afghanistan and re-build it into a progressive state, only if the United States does not display weakening of resolve in this direction and stops exploring dangerous alternatives like exit strategies and dialogue with the much Afghan-hated Taliban. The Afghan people look to USA for steely resolve in eliminating the Taliban threat to Afghanistan.

US Intellectuals Must Disabuse Their Minds that Pakistan’s Sensitivities are Paramount in Solution of Afghanistan Conflict

This Author has argued in earlier Papers on Afghanistan that the most glaring contributory failure of United States policy and strategies in Afghanistan was due to (1) Linkage of US policies in Afghanistan with Pakistan (2) Over-importance given to Pakistan’s sensitivities over Afghanistan (3) Over reliance on Pakistan by United States for intelligence and logistics support.

Sadly, this trend still persists as if the United States would collapse in Afghanistan without Pakistan. This trend has led to the acceptance of a dialogue with Taliban in Saudi Arabia. This trend leads to avoidable pressures, at times counter productive in Indian’s eyes that India must give concessions to Pakistan on Kashmir and keep the peace process going Suggestion keep surfacing that Afghanistan must not cozy up to India in deference to Palestinian sensitivities.

Similarly, there are pressures on President Karzai to recognize the Durand Line and talk with the Taliban.

All this talk is utterly ridiculous and especially when it comes from personages who have held important official positions in the US establishment.

Illustrative of this line of thought and which persists till today was a joint articles by Karl Inderfurth former US Assistant Secretary of State and Dennis Kux former US diplomat in the Baltimore Sun in December 2006. Main points made were

USA and key allies should prevail over Afghanistan to recognize the Durand Line.
Urged Washington to use influence with Karzai Government “to take greater account of Islamabad sensitivities in dealing with India”.
“Even though India continues to provide generous economic assistance to Afghanistan, Kabul would be wise to address Pakistani concerns”.
Such wise men should have recommended otherwise, namely (1) USA should liquidate the Taliban from Quetta and its surroundings (2) US aid should be conditional on the same (3) US will militarily intervene in Pakistan to achieve the foregoing if Taliban continues to operate from Quetta and elsewhere (4) US will not enter into any dialogue with Taliban and nor will the Karzai regime.

In this connection one would like to quote the remarks of the Australian Defense Minister Fitzgibbon who was quoted in ‘The Australia’ December 17, 2007 that while NATO had been successfully “stomping on lots of ants, we have not been dealing with the ant’s nests”.

Need it be said that the ant’s nests are in Quetta area of Pakistan and it is only the Al Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban that are in FATA. Quetta Taliban are the major threat to Afghanistan.

Concluding Observations

Afghanistan is a prized strategic asset by virtue of its geo-political setting adjoining West Asia, Central Asia, China and South Asia. It is also of great strategic value to Russia.

With such a strategic setting it would be strategically disastrous for the United States to forego its strategic and political gains of the last six years in Afghanistan just to humour Pakistani sensitivities.

The United States must recognize that Pakistan aided by Saudi Arabia and with the tacit support of China, is the root of all strategic turbulence that afflicts Afghanistan. Pakistan therefore cannot be the part of the solution to stabilize Afghanistan.

The United States can only stabilize Afghanistan if America’s Afghan policies are delinked from Pakistan and America warns Pakistan of retribution if it persists in disruptive policies in Afghanistan through proxy use of the Taliban.

(The author is an International Relations and Strategic Affairs analyst. He is the Consultant, Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group.