April 25, 2009
Strategic Comments – Volume 15, Issue 3 – April 2009
Rise of home-grown terrorism
In March, India announced that its prestigious cricket tournament, the Indian Premier League (IPL), would move to South Africa, citing security fears during the country’s elections, which also take place in April–May. Organisers were most concerned about a ‘spectacular’ like that in Mumbai in 2008, or an attack similar to that on the Sri Lankan cricket team recently in Pakistan.
Islamic activists demonstrate in Hyderabad, calling for the reconstruction of the Babri mosque, whose destruction by Hindu mobs in 1992 helped to radicalise Indian Muslims
But the move also focused attention on the rise in home-grown Indian jihadi terrorism. Although it long insisted that Islamic extremism had not developed among its Muslim communities, India is now having to accept that a small section of its 160-million-strong Muslim community – the second largest after Indonesia’s and accounting for 14% of the largely Hindu population – has become radicalised.
The next government will need to take formal cognisance of this development and embark on reducing the threat.
Communal violence was occurring in the subcontinent before the partition of British India in 1947 – when India and Pakistan became separate, independent countries. During partition, up to one million Hindus,
Muslims and Sikhs were killed in ethnic riots. In the following years, serious Hindu–Muslim riots took place in Jabalpur (1961), Ahmedabad (1969), Moradabad (1980), Neli (1983) and Bhagalpur (1989).
Despite this violence, and despite pervasive poverty in Muslim communities, most Indian Muslims remained peaceful and moderate. Democracy and the rule of law provided redress of local grievances, while India’s pluralistic and secular nature offered religious tolerance and warded off Muslim alienation. For the local ulema, or Muslim legal scholars, India is Darul Sullah (abode of coexistence), not Darul Islam (abode of Islam) or Darul Harb (abode of war). While the dispute over the status of the mainly Muslim Kashmir valley has caused wars with Pakistan, non-Kashmiri Indian Muslims have largely ignored the secessionist struggle, perceiving it as an ethnic, not a religious, issue.
Two key developments served to radicalise a small part of the Muslim community. The first was the demolition by Hindu mobs of the Babri Masjid (mosque) in Ayodhya, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, on 6 December 1992. Hindu nationalists claimed the sixteenth-century mosque had been built over a temple marking the birthplace of Hindu god Rama. Right-wing politicians led the charge, while the Congress Party government in Delhi, and the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), failed to prevent the mosque’s destruction. With passions inflamed on both sides, anti-Hindu riots broke out across northern India, followed by anti-Muslim riots in Mumbai, leaving more than 2,000 dead, mainly Muslims.
The second event was the anti-Muslim rioting in the western state of Gujarat in 2002. On 27 February in the town of Godhra, a fire broke out on the Sabarmati Express train carrying Hindu activists and 59 people were killed. Blaming Muslim youths for petrol-bombing the train, Hindu mobs went on the rampage. More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in March and April. The local police were impassive or supported the Hindus. Gujarat’s BJP chief minister, Narendra Modi, and the BJP-led central government of PM Atal Behari Vajpayee failed to stop the killings.
These events had wide implications. In apparent revenge for the Babri mosque’s demolition, Mumbai mafia don Dawood Ibrahim planned bombings in Mumbai on 12 March 1993 that killed 257 people. Aided by criminal networks, terror organisations in Pakistan and Bangladesh – including Lashkar-e-Tayiba (LeT), the Jaysh-e-Mohammad and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami – began recruiting Indian Muslim extremists to help carry out terror attacks in India, for the first time outside the state of Jammu & Kashmir. On 11 July 2006, bombs on trains in Mumbai killed 187 people. The attack was blamed on the Pakistan-based LeT, but some radicalised Indian Muslim supporters provided significant help.
Meanwhile, divisions grew between India’s Muslims. Owing partly to being descendants of converts from Hinduism and partly to local mystical Sufi traditions, two-thirds of India’s predominantly Sunni Muslims follow the local Barelvi liberal school of thought; the others chiefly follow the conservative Deobandi school. Barelvi mosques seek to prevent stricter interpretations and practices of Islam, but this became increasingly difficult with the encroachment of fundamentalist Wahhabist ideology, helped by external funding. In February 2001, a government report expressed concern that establishing new madrassas (religious schools) with Saudi and Gulf funding would cause ‘systematic indoctrination’, even though less than 4% of Muslim children attended madrassas.
Muslims’ grievances were exacerbated by their low socio-economic status; the official Sachar Committee report of 2006 said this was only just above that of dalits (formerly known as ‘untouchables’) and tribal people. Muslims only account for 3% of the Indian Administrative Service, 1.8% of the Indian Foreign Service and 4% of the Indian police.
Several Indian Muslim organisations have conducted jihadi terror campaigns:
Al-Umma, formed in the southern state of Kerala, has carried out terror acts in southern India. Leader Syed Ahmed Basha was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2007. The organisation was banned and is now believed defunct.
The long-standing Deendar Anjuman (‘religious association’) Sufi sect became radicalised after the Babri mosque demolition. After a bombing campaign in 2000 (see table) it was banned.
The Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) was established in Uttar Pradesh. Becoming increasingly radicalised, it has repeatedly been banned over the past eight years. Its chief, Safdar Nagori, a 39-year-old mechanical- engineer-cum-journalist, was arrested in 2008. SIMI has had alleged links with the LeT. Before being banned, it was reported to have 400 full-time cadres and 20,000 members below the age of 30.
The Indian Mujahideen (IM) is the most active, claiming responsibility for several deadly bombings since 2006. After five near-simultaneous blasts at courts in Uttar Pradesh in November 2007, it sent an email to television stations protesting ‘violence against Muslims’, mentioning the destruction of the Babri mosque and the Gujarat riots. Following attacks in Jaipur in May 2008, it sent an email with a video of a bicycle used in a bombing. The message expressed anger against ‘infidel’ Hindus, said the group aimed to destroy India’s economic and social structure, and threatened Britons and Americans with suicide attacks.
IM operatives were thought to have provided logistical and operational support to the LeT in the 2006 Mumbai train bombings. Two IM members already in custody, Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed, have also been charged with carrying out recon-naissance for, and providing maps to, the LeT for the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. IM members are typically young, educated, technologically savvy and ideologically driven. Most have no police record. The reported leader is 36-year-old Abdul Subhan Usman Qureshi, a soft-ware engineer. Co-founder Mohammed Sadiq Israr Ahmed Sheikh, a mechanic, was arrested in September 2008.‘IM operated were thought to have helped the LeT in the 2006 Mumbai train bombings and last year’s Mumbai attacks. Members are typically young, educated, technologically savvy and ideologically driven’
Although Indian Muslims appear disinclined to support pan-Islamic jihadist ideology, al-Qaeda appears to be paying greater attention to India in its public statements. In February 2009, a senior al-Qaeda commander based in Afghanistan, Mustapha Abu al-Yazid, threatened India with ‘Mumbai-style’ terrorism if ever it attacked Pakistan. Although al-Qaeda has not carried out a direct terror attack in India, for some time there has been a close relationship between al-Qaeda and Kashmiri jihadist groups, most notably LeT, which has moved progressively away from a focus on Kashmir towards a more universal, al-Qaeda-style agenda. There is disquiet over al-Qaeda’s potential recruitment of Indian Muslims. There is also official concern about the radicalisation of Indian Muslims working or living abroad, including the large expatriate community in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The spread of violent Islamic extremism from Pakistan is also a significant worry for India.
Several terror attacks abroad have involved Indians. Kafeel Ahmed, an engineer from Bangalore, died attempting to car-bomb Glasgow Airport in June 2007. Roshan Jamal Khan, a Mumbai businessman, was arrested in Barcelona in January 2008 and charged with being a member of a terror group and possessing explosives. His trial is expected soon. In 2006, Dhiren Barot, an Indian-born Briton who converted from Hinduism to Islam, was convicted in the UK of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Haroon Rashid Aswat, a Briton of Indian origin, was a confidant of radical Finsbury Park mosque cleric Abu Hamza, and is in jail awaiting extradition to the United States for trial.
Although it has banned some organisations, India’s Congress-led government has not officially acknowledged the new threat of Indian jihadi terrorism for fear of alienating mainstream Muslims, who tend to vote for the Congress Party. (That is, outside the heavily Muslim-populated states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Kerala, where they back regional opposition parties.)
The next Indian government will have several options. It could, for the first time, formally condemn ‘home-grown’ terror. It could take measures to alleviate Muslims’ perceived or real grievances. For example, it could enact and implement the Communal Violence Bill of 2008 to intervene, even forcibly, to prevent the outbreak or escalation of communal violence.
To counter Islamic radicalism, the government needs to be seen to be tough with Hindu extremist groups that incite violence against Muslims. Justice has been selective, and many criminal cases relating to anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat have not been investigated.
The influential conservative Darul Uloom seminary in Deoband, Uttar Pradesh, issued a fatwa (Islamic decree) against terrorism in February 2008. Yet, it did not specifically condemn terror, while expressing deep concern over the perceived targeting of Muslims worldwide. Clearly, more needs to be done. The mainstream Muslim community also needs to strongly condemn and isolate the extremists.
Convincing official action could reduce the possibility that home-grown jihadist terrorism could become a major security challenge. The fact that some key thresholds have not yet been crossed – for example, the use of suicide bombings or commando-style attacks – suggests that the threat may still be in its early stages and could respond to mitigating government action.
April 24, 2009
MOSCOW, April 23 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian government allocated $64 million in 2009 to part finance a joint project with India to develop a new military transport plane, a defense industry official said on Thursday.
Russia and India signed an intergovernmental agreement on the joint development of a multi-role transport aircraft (MTA) in 2007. The cost of the $600-mln project is being equally shared by the two countries.
"The Russian government has signed a directive to launch the Russian-Indian project for the development of the MTA military transport plane, 2.156 billion rubles ($64 mln) has been allocated from the federal budget for this project in 2009," said Viktor Livanov, general director of the Ilyushin design bureau.
The transport plane, with a 20-ton cargo capacity, is expected to go in service with the Russian and Indian air forces in about eight years, the official said.
The Russian participants in the project include the Ilyushin design bureau and the Irkut Corporation, which is part of Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), created in 2006. HAL state-owned aircraft manufacturing company is representing India in the project.
India is expected to procure 45 MTA planes, while Russia, which needs to replace its outdated fleet of An-12, An-26 and An-32 transport planes, is most likely to commission at least 100 aircraft.
MOSCOW. (Ilya Kramnik, RIA Novosti military commentator) - The development of the fifth-generation jet fighter is one of the most widely discussed issues in Russia's military.
What's more, with its potential involvement in developing the jet fighter, India, one of Russia's long-standing partners in military technical cooperation, confirms its interest in Russia's future project.
The new jet fighter is being developed under the PAK FA (Prospective (promising) Aircraft System of the Frontline Aviation) program to replace fourth-generation models now in service in Russian and Indian air forces.
The Soviet Union launched fifth-generation fighter programs in the 1980s. By the mid-1990s, the Mikoyan Design Bureau developed the Project 1.44 warplane, also known as the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG MFI. The Sukhoi Design Bureau came up with the S-37 Berkut experimental supersonic forward swept-wing jet fighter. The S-37 aircraft was an advanced technology demonstration prototype not intended to be mass-produced as a fighter. However, due to the lack of funding, the Project 1.44 aircraft was not streamlined and never entered production either.
By the late 1990s, it became apparent that existing fifth-generation fighter projects were becoming obsolete, that their production versions would be inferior to the brand new American F-22 Raptor air superiority fighter, and that even if finalized the air force would receive such warplanes a decade too late. (U.S. secret weapon: F-22-A Raptor in action. RIA Novosti video)
As a result, in the early 2000s, the Russian Government made decision to develop an entirely new fifth-generation fighter. The Sukhoi, Mikoyan and Yakovlev Design Bureaus, all renowned for their fighters, offered several warplane versions.
The project was eventually entrusted to Sukhoi, which refers to it internally as the T-50.
Various maiden flight and supply deadlines were discussed from the very beginning. The T-50 was eventually scheduled to perform its first flight somewhere between 2008 and 2010. In late 2008, the commander of the Russian air force announced that the plane would first take off in August 2009.
Mikhail Pogosyan, head of the Sukhoi Design Bureau, confirmed the information. "The progress that has been made by now suggests that we can begin the flight tests within one year," Mr Pogosyan said. Several versions of the aircraft are being discussed, including a two-seater model, and a carrier-based aircraft.
In the summer of 2008, officials said the T-50 design had been approved and prototype aircraft blueprints sent to the Komsomolsk-on-Amur aircraft-building plant (KNAAPO) in Russia's Far East, where jet fighters will be produced. The plant is currently building three prototype T-50 fighters for future tests, due to last five to six years, while mass production will not get underway before 2015.
Although T-50 specifications have not been disclosed, it is known that prototypes and the first production aircraft will be fitted with 117S (upgraded AL-31) turbofan engines from Russian aircraft engine manufacturer Saturn. As a result, the T-50 will be a heavy fighter with a takeoff weight of over 30 metric tons and will have the same dimensions as the well-known Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker. The Tikhomirov Institute of Instrument Design, which had developed the Irbis radar for the Su-35BM Flanker, is now working on the T-50 radar. The new fighter's radar and fire-control system will be designs on the basis of the Su-35BM's systems.
India is reportedly more interested in the two-seater version, while Russia, with its developed ground and air fight control system, plans to concentrate on the one-seater fighter. There is a possibility that the Indian version of the Russian fighter will be lighter and smaller, and thus cheaper.
There have been reports in the past few months about the new fighter's exterior design. Judging by photographs of the prototype available online, the T-50 will resemble the American F-22, a fact easily explained by similar parameters on their technical specifications. However, it is yet undecided whether the model will eventually be used as a prototype.
As of now, one can only make general conclusions on what kind of a machine it will be, based on the known parameters of their technical specifications. The new fighter should be:
- multifunctional - capable of successfully hitting air, ground and water targets alike, including small and moving ones, in any weather or time of the day, against an enemy equipped with high-precision weapons;
- super-maneuverable - capable of performing controlled flight at low velocity and large angle of attack;
- largely undetectable by optical, infrared or radio radars; and
- capable of taking off and landing on short runways.
However, the term "fifth-generation" covers more than just the fighters. It also embodies a whole range of equipment to ensure advanced combat capabilities, including weapons, radio-electronic equipment, ground- and air-based supply and control systems.
These elements are also under development, although not all projects are proceeding with equal speed and success. Nevertheless, they are all crucial to the program as a whole. Without them, the new fighter will remain a very expensive toy incapable of boosting the combat capabilities of the air force.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
MOSCOW, April 24 (RIA Novosti) - The chief of Russia's military intelligence (GRU), Gen. Valentin Korabelnikov, was relieved of his post after handing in his notice, a Defense Ministry spokesman said on Friday.
He has also been discharged from military service.
According to the Kremlin, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree earlier in the day appointing Korabelnikov's first deputy, Lt. Gen. Alexander Shlyakhturov, as the new military intelligence chief and deputy chief of the General Staff.
"Valentin Korabelnikov submitted a resignation request due to his retirement age. His request has been satisfied," the official said.
A highly-placed ministry official later told RIA Novosti that Korabelnikov had been appointed advisor to the chief of the General Staff in a civilian capacity.
The compulsory retirement age for senior officers in the Russian Armed Forces is 60. However, Korabelnikov's contract was earlier extended for three years. He turned 63 in January.
Media reports earlier claimed that Korabelnikov, who has led GRU since May 1997, had tendered his resignation over objections to a proposed reform of the body, but Russian military officials consistently dismissed the rumors, saying the general would keep his post for another two years.
A GRU source told RIA Novosti on Friday that Korabelnikov had tendered his resignation several times, but that only the latest request had been satisfied.
"Korabelnikov recently submitted another request for retirement in protest at the ongoing disbandment and re-subordination of elite GRU divisions and also some steps to streamline the GRU structure," the source said.
GRU is Russia's largest intelligence agency. It gathers human intelligence through military attaches and foreign agents. According to some sources, GRU has six times as many agents in foreign countries as the SVR, which is the KGB's foreign intelligence successor.
It also maintains significant signals intelligence and imagery reconnaissance and satellite imagery capabilities.
Like the Neo Taliban of Afghanistan, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has evolved in less than a year from a bunch of suicide bombers to a conventional army capable of set-piece, stand and fight battles with the Pakistani Army and para-military forces. This conversion has been facilitated by the recruitment of a large number of retired Pashtun ex-servicemen living in the Pashtun tribal belt in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and in the Malakand Division of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). The Swat Valley and the Buner District, less than a hundred kms from Islamabad, which was occupied by the TTP earlier this week without any resistance from the local security forces, form part of the Malakand Division.
2. The agreement signed earlier this year by the coalition Government in the NWFP headed by the Awami National Party (ANP) with Sufi Mohammad of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-a-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), which is a constituent unit of the TTP, for the introduction of Sharia courts covers the entire Division, consisting of seven districts and not just Swat. Now that the agreement, despite strong criticism from abroad, has been got approved by Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani by the National Assembly and signed by President Asif Ali Zardari, the TNSM has lost no time in expanding its control to areas of the Malakand Division outside Swat. The occupation of the Buner district is the beginning. The occupation of the other districts will follow.
3. What should be of great concern to both India and the US is that the TTP, which was seen till recently as merely a collection of young suicide bombers with limited capability for territorial control and dominance through conventional forces, has started demonstrating that it has evolved into a conventional army, which can fight, occupy and administer territory. Thus, the TTP has evolved into a mirror image of the Neo Taliban. It shares with the Neo Taliban its objective of fighting for the defeat of the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. At the same time, it has its own independent agenda of expanding its territorial and ideological dominance to other areas of the Pashtun belt in the NWFP initially and then to non-Pashtun areas. The Neo Taliban does not approve of this independent agenda, but does not oppose it actively.
4. The Pakistan Army headed by Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, its Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), has shown neither the will nor the inclination to counter the advance of the TTP and then roll it back. It is not Kayani’s worries about what could happen on the Indian border, which have come in the way of a vigorous response to the TTP’s military advance. It is his worries over the continuing loyalty of the Pashtun soldiers, who constitute about 20 per cent of the Army, and of the Frontier Corps and the Frontier Constabulary, which are responsible for his anxiety and keenness to make peace with the TTP. The Frontier Corps and the Frontier Constabulary consist predominantly of Pashtun soldiers recruited in the FATA and the NWFP, officered by deputationists from the Army. These units have been showing less and less inclination to fight the TTP. They have been either avoiding a confrontation with the TNSM and the TTP or in some cases just deserting and surrendering to the TTP units.
5. According to reliable sources in the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), it is pressure from an alarmed Kayani to reach an accommodation with the TNSM and the TTP, which set in motion the negotiations with Sufi Mohammad and the developments that have followed. The Army and the para-military forces have already conceded territorial control to the TTP in the FATA and in the Malakand Division of the NWFP. By re-locating his forces and by reducing the Army’s presence in these areas already under the domination of the TNSM and the TTP, Kayani is reportedly hoping to prevent an ingress of the Pakistani Taliban into other parts of the NWFP and beyond.
6. The objectives of the TTP are presently limited to ideological unity of all Muslims in Pakistan based on the Sharia and the ethnic unity of all the Pashtuns in the Af-Pak region to wage a relentless jihad against the US-led NATO forces till they vacate Afghanistan. It has the motivation and intention to extend its ideological influence to non-Pashtun areas too, but is not yet in a position to establish territorial dominance in those areas. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) of Altaf Hussain apprehends that the TTP wants to set up a strong presence in Karachi, which has the largest Pashtun community in Pakistan after Peshawar.
7. Confronted with the worsening ground situation in the NWFP and with the danger of a possible collapse of the strategy of President Barack Obama even before it was taken up for implementation, the US is acting like a cat on a hot tin roof. There have been understandable cries of alarm not only from Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, and Robert Gates, the Defence Secretary, but also from White House spokesmen. Cries of alarm and the preparation of yet another national intelligence estimate on Pakistan alone will not help. What is urgently required is a national intelligence estimate on US policy-making towards Pakistan, which has been leading it from one critical situation to another.
8. A study of the course of US policy-making would show how those Pakistani leaders who are toasted one day as frontline allies against extremism and terrorism turn out to be either accomplices of terrorism or capitulators to terrorists and extremists the next day. Pervez Musharraf belonged to the first category. Zardari belongs to the second. Despite nearly 60 years of close US interactions with the political and military leaderships in Pakistan, the US has not been able to acquire any enduring influence over policy-making circles in Islamabad. The US has very little to show in terms of changed policies in Islamabad in return for its unending pampering of successive regimes in Islamabad with the injection of more and more money and military equipment. The time has come to stop pampering, but there is a reluctance in the Obama Administration---as there was in the preceding Bush Administration--- to do so due to fears that a stoppage of US assistance and pampering may result in a failed state with the control of its nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of the jihadis.
9. Unfortunately, the situation in Pakistan has reached a stage where the outcome---ultimate jihadi control of the State and its nuclear arsenal--- may be the same whatever the US does----whether it continues pampering or stops doing so. It is a thankless dilemma. It is easy to criticize the US strategy or the lack of it, but difficult to suggest a viable alternative. The starting point of an alternative strategy has to be a cordon sanitaire around the areas already under the control of the TTP and a crash programme for the economic development of the Pashtun areas not yet controlled by the Taliban. Obama’s plans to spend billions of dollars in the areas of the FATA already under the control of Al Qaeda and the Taliban would produce no enduring results except to waste the US taxpayers’ money. This money should be better spent on immunizing those areas where the influence of the Taliban has not yet spread.
10. An equally important point of the strategy should be to step up the US Predator strikes in the FATA and to extend them to Swat in order to keep the Al Qaeda and Taliban elements running for cover all the time and make it difficult for them to plan new strikes and get them executed.
11. The third point of the strategy should be to restore to the Intelligence Bureau of Pakistan its original role of primacy as the internal intelligence and internal security agency of Pakistan. Over the years, the IB has been reduced to the position of a powerless appendage of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and its top ranks militarized through the induction of serving and retired military officers. This has to be reversed.
12. These are medium and long-term measures, which would take time to produce results. The questions requiring an immediate response is how to protect Pakistan from itself. How to stop the advance of the Taliban? How to confront it ideologically? For this purpose, the US needs objective allies in Pakistan. It has none so far. It has been working through opportunistic allies in the army and the political parties. They will accept all the money from the US, but will not produce results.
13. The objective allies have to be found in the Pashtun community. All the talk in Washington DC about their being good Taliban and bad Taliban is ridiculous. But there are good Pashtuns and bad Pashtuns. The US should urgently identify the good Pashtuns and encourage and help them to take up the fight against the Taliban ideologically. After the elections in Pakistan in March last year, I had pointed out that the ANP, which came to power in Peshawar, was a party of good Pashtuns and that the US should work through it, forgetting its past links with the Communists in Afghanistan and the erstwhile USSR. I was given to understand that a couple of ANP leaders did visit Washingtin DC, but beyond that nothing further was done. Now the ANP-led Government in Peshawar has conceded ideological victory to the TNSM in Swat. Despite this, the US should persist with cultivating it and other good Pashtun elements in parties such as the Pakhtoonkwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP) of Mehmood Khan Achakzai. They constitute the progressive component of the Pashtun community and they need to be strengthened and encouraged to counter the Taliban. The present US policy of depending on repeatedly failed elements in the Army and in the mainstream political parties is not working. The regional Pashtun forces have to be encouraged to take up the fight against the Taliban.
14. The survival of Al Qaeda in the FATA and the rise and spread of the TTP are due to support from large sections of the Pashtun community. The resistance to them has to come from the Pashtun community. It cannot come from the likes of Zardari, Gilani and Kayani. ( 24-4-2009)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, the Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Katrine Barnekow Rasmussen
This publication is part of DIIS’s Defence and Security Studies project which is funded by a grant from the Danish Ministry of Defence
This is a brief English version of a Danish DIIS Report on the foreign policy of Iran. In the Report, Iran’s foreign policy is investigated both ideologically and in respect of its pragmatic motivations.
It is argued that, since the revolution, and especially since the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran has shown itself to be a rational, pragmatic actor in foreign policy, even though actions and rhetorical outbursts from parts of the country’s leadership have at times suggested otherwise.
It is also suggested that a dialogue between Iran and the West – and with the United States in particular – could very well turn out to be a prerequisite for peace in the Middle East.
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Police in Uniform Join In as Victim Is Whipped, Beaten, Electrocuted, Run Over by SUV
By VIC WALTER, REHAB EL-BURI, ANGELA HILL and BRIAN ROSS
April 22, 2009
A video tape smuggled out of the United Arab Emirates shows a member of the country's royal family mercilessly torturing a man with whips, electric cattle prods and wooden planks with protruding nails.
An investigation into a savage torture by a royal family member of a close ally.
A man in a UAE police uniform is seen on the tape tying the victim's arms and legs, and later holding him down as the Sheikh pours salt on the man's wounds and then drives over him with his Mercedes SUV.
In a statement to ABC News, the UAE Ministry of the Interior said it had reviewed the tape and acknowledged the involvement of Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan, brother of the country's crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed.
"The incidents depicted in the video tapes were not part of a pattern of behavior," the Interior Ministry's statement declared.
The Minister of the Interior is also one of Sheikh Issa's brother.
The government statement said its review found "all rules, policies and procedures were followed correctly by the Police Department."
By Sudha Ramachandran
Asia Times Online
BANGALORE - Indian Maoists hijacked a train with 800 passengers in the eastern state of Jharkhand on Wednesday morning. Although the crisis was defused within five hours, when the Maoists released the train and its passengers, the incident has sparked grave concern throughout the security establishment.
The ease with which the Maoists were able to stage an operation of this magnitude - and at a time when security has been tightened for general elections - has laid bare yet again that it is the Maoists' writ, not that of the government that runs through this part of the country.
The train was on its way from Barkakana in Jharkhand to Mugalsarai in the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh when it was
hijacked near Hehegarha railway station in Latehar district. Around 200 Maoists are said to have carried out the operation. A railway station in Palamu was bombed as well.
In March 2006, a train was hijacked in the same district. Passengers were set free after 12 hours. The Indian Railways have been targeted repeatedly by the Maoists. Besides holding-up trains, they have blasted railway tracks, burned railway stations, looted weapons from railway police and abducted personnel.
No passengers were hurt in Wednesday's hijacking and hostage drama. The operation, which took place on the eve of the second part of India's month-long five-phase general election, was aimed at scaring voters into staying away from polling booths.
Maoists have called for a boycott of the polls in the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Bihar. In a bid to disrupt polling during the first phase of voting last week, they detonated landmines, raided polling booths and torched electronic voting machines. Around 20 people were killed and scores injured on polling day alone.
Analysts have sought to downplay the impact of the Maoist's poll violence. Bibhu Prasad Routray, research fellow at the Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management has written that "Maoist violence on April 16 affected a meager 0.09% (71) of the 76,000 polling stations that were identified as vulnerable in the first phase." He argues that Maoists suffered damage in the violence they sought to inflict on the security forces in the run-up to voting.
While the Maoists have carried out spectacular attacks and did disrupt polls to some extent, they were not fully successful in effecting a boycott. Voter turnout in the constituencies worst hit by Maoist violence was a respectable 50%.
Maoist influence runs through a stretch of territory referred to as the "Red Corridor". This extends from the Telangana region in Andhra Pradesh through Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand up to Bihar. Areas in western Orissa and eastern Uttar Pradesh are also under Maoist influence. And they have some presence in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka as well.
The area where the Maoists operate has grown dramatically in recent years. In the early 1990s the number of districts affected by varying degrees of Maoist violence stood at just 15 in four states. This rose to 55 districts in nine states by the end of 2003 and to 156 districts in 13 states in 2004. Maoists are believed to be operating now in around 200 districts (of a total of 602 districts in the country) in 17 states.
Government officials point out that these statistics and the name Red Corridor have conjured up images of Maoists being in control of a large swathe of land and posing a threat to the Indian state. An official in Chhattisgarh's Bastar region told Asia Times Online that while the Maoists do control "some area" in Dantewada district and are able to carry out big attacks in several states, in most areas of the Red Corridor they operate as a hit-and-run force.
"They do not threaten the government, either at the state or the federal level and they are nowhere near sparking off a general uprising," he said, drawing attention to the diminishing public support for the Maoists and increasing resistance to their diktats.
Human-rights activists argue that while the Maoist threat might "not have Delhi on its knees, it is a fact that the problem has laid bare India's failure to deliver good governance, to respond to the plight of the poorest and most marginalized sections of its population".
Unlike jihadi violence that comes from across the border in Pakistan, Maoist violence has its roots firmly in India. Indeed, the Maoist problem has left India red-faced.
Districts that fall in the Red Corridor are rich in minerals like iron ore and bauxite. But the people living there, who are largely Adivasi or tribal are desperately poor. Exploited by forest officials, contractors, mining companies and middlemen and neglected by the state, villagers in the Red Corridor are among the worst off in the country.
And it is to liberate them from their oppressors and the Indian state that the Maoists claim to be waging their armed struggle.
It is true the Maoists have improved life for the Adivasis by forcing local officials to dig wells or pay better wages to the villagers. But over time, the liberators have turned oppressors themselves. Villagers who don't obey the Maoists have been killed and Maoist violence stands in the way of development projects.
The scale of Maoist operations has grown dramatically over the years. In November 2005, more than 1,000 Maoists stormed a jail in Jehanabad in Bihar and freed about 350 of their jailed comrades. Armories and camps of the police and paramilitary forces have been raided. A week ago, they signaled capacity to stand and fight the security forces. Around 200 Maoists stormed a state-owned bauxite mining company in the eastern state of Orissa, taking around 100 employees hostage. They battled for more than nine hours with members of India's Special Operations Group and its Central Industrial Security Force before they finally retreated.
Analysts have drawn attention to increasing Maoist attacks on infrastructure. P Ramana, research fellow at the Delhi-based Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, has pointed out that 62 telecommunication towers were damaged by the Maoists in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Orissa in from 2005 to 2008, with 43 of these occurring in 2008. These attacks are aimed at disrupting "communication amongst the security forces, as well as between 'police informants' - who have been provided cellular telephones - and the security forces, in order that operations against the rebels get impaired," he writes.
The Maoists have also been blowing up power lines and service towers. In May 2007, they blew up three 132 KVA high-tension towers in the Bastar region, plunging six districts into darkness for a week and disrupting normal power distribution for a fortnight. "Functioning of hospitals, communication systems and rail traffic, besides iron ore mines was badly affected," Ramana points out. In June of last year, two 220 KVA towers were blasted depriving 15,000 villages of electricity.
Maoists have displayed their military capability through their high-profile attacks on railways and other infrastructure. They have been able to inflict losses running into millions of dollars on the state they are seeking to overthrow.
But simultaneously they are inflicting heavy losses on the people they claim they are going to liberate. They have worsened the daily lives of some of India's most exploited people.
Sudha Ramachandran is an independent journalist/researcher based in Bangalore.
(Copyright 2009 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
April 23, 2009
Howard L. Berman (D-CA), Chairman
From Strategy to Implementation:The Future of the U.S.-Pakistan Relationship
You are respectfully requested to attend the following open hearing of the Full Committee to be held in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Date Wednesday, April 29, 2009 Time 1:30 PM Location Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building witnesses Panel I
The Honorable Richard C. HolbrookeSpecial Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
Note Witnesses may be added.
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is in its death rattle. It was decisively defeated by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces weeks ago, but a handful of its leadership headed by Prabhakaran has cynically and cruelly prolonged the agony of the Tamil civilians by using them as a buffer and human-shield in order to delay the re-establishment of the writ of the Sri Lankan Government in a miniscule piece of territory (about 20 sq.kms), which has been declared by the Government as a no-fire zone to avoid collateral casualties among the civilians still under the control of the LTTE and to enable them to escape from the clutches of the LTTE.
2. Prabhakaran is a leader with a split personality. During the 26 years he has dominated the Tamil landscape in Sri Lanka, he had shown a remarkable organizing capacity and an ability to motivate his followers to perform virtual miracles. His motivating his cadres to acquire a capability for action by air and sea would go down in the history of insurgency and terrorism as indicating an organizing capability of a high order. The LTTE under his leadership managed to bring almost the entire Tamil-inhabited territory in the Northern and Eastern Provinces under its control. The determined manner in which the LTTE fought against the Indian-Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in the late 1980s and frustrated its efforts to defeat it spoke highly of its capabilities for a conventional warfare.
3. If Prabhakaran had the activities of the LTTE confined to conventional warfare and developed the LTTE as a purely insurgent force, which targeted only the armed forces and not innocent civilians, he would have acquired greater support from the international community for the Tamil cause. The rational side of his personality as illustrated by his organizing capabilities had to constantly contend with a highly irrational side, which drove him to simultaneously take to terrorism of a shockingly brutal kind.
4. The targeted killings by the LTTE of many Sri Lankan Tamil leaders, who were perceived by Prabhakaran as possible impediments to his rise as the unquestioned leader of the Tamil community, and its brutal assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991 were the outcome of the irrational side of his personality. No other Indian leader had done more to help the Sri Lankan Tamil cause than Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Only a sickly and sickening irrational mind could have ordered the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and Laxman Kadirgamar, a highly-respected Tamil leader, who was a senior adviser on foreign policy to former President Chandrika Kumaratunge. The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi on Prabhakaran’s orders shocked Indian public opinion----including public opinion in Tamil Nadu--- and weakened Indian support for the Tamil cause. The assassination of Kadirgamar shocked the Western public opinion and led to the declaration of the LTTE as a terrorist organization by the Western world, thereby denying the last vestiges of Western support for the Tamil cause.
5. As the LTTE faced one defeat after another during the last three years from the Sri Lankan Armed Forces---initially in the Eastern Province and finally in the Northern Province---- the irrational side of Prabhakaran’s personality erased his rational side. His shocking use of the Tamil civilians in order to delay the final end of the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism campaign undertaken by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces is driven by this irrational streak in him, which now dominates his personality.
6. The prolonged agony of the Sri Lankan Tamils caused by the final bout of Prabhakaran’s irrationality and loss of lucidity in thinking has to be ended. The Sri Lankan Armed Forces, which have shown patience till now and deliberately slowed down their operations, cannot be faulted if they have come to the conclusion that the time has come to liberate the no-fire zone too from the clutches of the LTTE by undertaking limited operations with small arms and ammunition even at the risk of some collateral casualties to the civilians.
7. The desperate attempt of Prabhakaran to use the civilians to protect himself from the advancing Sri Lankan Army can be attributed to the total loss of lucidity in his thinking and his consequent inability to face the bitter truth that he and his organization have been defeated decisively by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and that there is no chance of their staging a come-back. The Requiem for the LTTE could be written without fears of going wrong, should the LTTE stage a come-back as it had done on occasions in the past. It has been defeated beyond recovery. His conventional as well as terrorist capabilities are in shatters. Earlier conventional wisdom that small groups of the LTTE might still be able to keep indulging in sporadic acts of terrorism in different parts of Sri Lanks needs re-consideration. His desperate delaying action at the cost of immense suffering to the Tamils, whose cause he claims to espouse, is meant to give him an opportunity to seek safe sanctuary either in Tamil Nadu or elsewhere from where he could try to re-start his fight against the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. It is in the common interest of India and Sri Lanka that Prabhakaran is finally able to make peace with his Maker by either being killed by the Armed Forces or by taking his own life. A defeated Prabhakaran, if left alive in India or elsewhere, would not be a threat, but could be a nuisance for both the countries.
8. After the final death of the LTTE, which is expected any day, what is the future of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause? Would a Requiem for the LTTE also mean a Requiem for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause? Hopefully not. It is in India’s interest that the LTTE as a terrorist organization is destroyed once and for all, but it is not in India’s interest that the Sri Lankan Government and Armed Forces proceed from the destruction of the LTTE to the destruction of the Tamil aspirations for greater political and economic rights in their traditional homeland and for greater human dignity.
9. Let us not forget that ever since our independence in 1947, the Bengalis of the then East Pakistan, the Balochs and Sindhis of Pakistan and the Tamils of Sri Lanka have been India’s natural allies. It was this reality which persuaded Indira Gandhi to assist the Bengalis of the then East Pakistan to achieve their independence. Even though successive Governments in New Delhi refrained from supporting the causes of the Sindhis and the Balochs, Indian public opinion sympathized and continues to sympathise with their cause. It was sympathy for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause at New Delhi when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister and in Tamil Nadu, which induced India to take up their cause in the 1980s.
10. There is no reason why India should not pride itself and seek to be the paramount power of the region. To emerge and remain as the paramount power, we need natural allies in the region around us. We should not let the legitimate aspirations of our natural allies---whether they be the Sindhis and Balochs of Pakistan or the Sri Lankan Tamils--- be crushed by a brutal regime--- whether in Islamabad or in Colombo.
11. Since 1947, the Balochs rose twice in revolt in favour of independence for their homeland. On both occasions, they were defeated by the Pakistani Armed Forces as decisively as the LTTE by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. The Pakistani leadership brutally used the Air Force against the Balochs to crush their freedom struggle. Undaunted by this, the Baloch people, under a new leadership, rose in revolt for a third time two years ago and their third war of independence is still going on.
12. The remarkable victory of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces against the LTTE was partly due to their improved counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism capabilities made possible by Indian assistance in the form of training and sharing of intelligence and partly due to their emulating the Pakistani Armed forces in the brutal use of the Air Force against people whom they portray as their own. Just as the Balochs were defenceless against the brutal Pakistani air strikes, the Sri Lankan Tamils were defenceless against the Sri Lankan air strikes.
13. The US has used air strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan----but in foreign territory and against foreign nationals. Only three countries in the world have used air strikes in their own territory against their own people---- the Pakistanis against the Balochs, the Russians against the Chechens and the Sri Lankans against the Tamils.
14. President Mahinda Rajapakse has repeatedly promised that once the LTTE is defeated, he would be generous in meeting the political aspirations of the Tamils. He gives the impression of being a sincere man, but will the Sinhalese Army with its head bloated by its success against the LTTE allow him to do so? The indicators till now are not encouraging. Many Sri Lankan officers might have been trained in India, but their mindset and their attitude towards the minorities have more in common with those of their Pakistani counterparts than with those of their Indian counterparts. Therein lies the danger that after winning the war against the LTTE, the Government, strongly influenced by a victorious army, might trey to impose a dictated peace on the Tamils.
15. If the angry Tamils once again look up to India, there is no reason why we should not reciprocate provided a new leadership emerges in the Tamil community and it has drawn the right lessons from the brutalities of the LTTE.
16. The LTTE is deservedly dying, but long live the Tamil cause.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-Mail: email@example.com )
April 21, 2009
Address delivered by Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir at the AGM of the Central Bank of Iceland
Trust is a key word – not only during the economic downturn we are currently experiencing and in financial markets, but in all areas of society and in government. Trust is the foundation of all our relations, and the foundation of a healthy, everyday society.
The government currently in power has had just over two months to build trust and begin the reconstruction of the country’s economy. It has had a short time to restore trust both domestically and internationally, and to reconstruct the economy, which is the basis for work and welfare and thereby for our common future. By restoring trust we lay the foundation for savings, a healthy financial and equity market, and the reconstruction of business and industry in the future.
During this short time many things have happened and positive signs are appearing. Inflation is falling rapidly and interest rates are dropping, the balance of trade in goods is positive and, for the first time in a long time, figures on unemployment are lower than forecast.
As early as the beginning of next year, inflation is predicted to be only 2.5%, and under such conditions interest rates should have reached a lower level than we have seen for a long time. This will make a decisive difference for Icelandic households and industry, the central pillars of our society.
Despite the difficult situation which prevails in our economy and in the global economy, it is important to bear in mind that these are temporary difficulties, which the Icelandic nation can withstand. Doom and gloom predictions of national bankruptcy or the large-scale handover of natural resources have no basis in reality, if we continue along the path which has now been charted out in co-operation with the IMF and friendly countries.
The only thing which could place us in such a position are irresponsible suggestions that the problem could be solved by rejecting international collaboration and evading our obligations. If there is anything which threatens Iceland’s future at this moment it is such mirages.
Although the Treasury debt has increased following the banks’ collapse, the lion's share of this will consist of obligations to domestic parties in ISK. At the end of this year, gross national government debt is estimated to be around ISK 1,100 billion. This debt is naturally offset by substantial assets. At the end of 2009 the Treasury’s corporate assets are estimated to amount to ISK 580 billion, plus an additional ISK 355 billion in receivables and cash and cash equivalents.
If these forecasts prove correct, the net Treasury debt at the end of this year will therefore amount to only ISK 150 billion, or 10% of GDP. It should be borne in mind that, in the short term, gross debt will be high due to Icesave commitments, making interest payments substantial. On the other hand it is now evident, and I am pleased to be able to report this here today, that assets of Kaupthing bank are sufficient to settle accounts with the bank’s German depositors. This is a significant milestone towards reaching a settlement in good faith with the international community.
Ladies and gentlemen.
The economic strategy followed by the Icelandic government is transparent and accessible; it has been formulated in close co-operation with the IMF and none of it is shrouded in secrecy. The entire programme is accessible, as it should be at all times. There are no secret clauses concerning our natural resources or other interests. Everything is out on the table – as it should be. Important benchmarks have been reached in the Economic Recovery Programme in recent weeks and further major steps will be taken in the coming weeks.
Major advances include changes to the Central Bank, the introduction of a new Monetary Policy Committee and alterations to the Financial Supervisory Authority. Crucial steps have been taken in restructuring the banking system, for instance, by improving relations with foreign creditors and information disclosure to the new banks. The government’s decision to enlist the services of foreign financial advisors to work with our own experts has accelerated this work significantly, as was urgently necessary.
Another key benchmark was reached in bank reconstruction this week, with the delivery of the provisional assessment of assets transferred from the old banks to create the balance sheets of Nýja Kaupthing, NBI and Íslandsbanki. Finalisation of this assessment is underway and the final version is expected to be available next week.
Increased confidence in the economy, both abroad and in Iceland, is a prerequisite for the relaxation of currency controls. Expectations of stability and a rapid economic turnaround would accelerate the removal of these controls.
Another crucial aspect is to follow the Economic Recovery Programme drafted in consultation with the IMF, which represents the international community. In this context, a decision by Iceland to commence accession talks with the EU would be of major significance.
The threat which the sizeable sums held by domestic and foreign investors, for instance, in so-called Glacier bonds, pose to exchange rate stability is a cause for definite concern. It is therefore essential that the parties be given an opportunity to sell these assets and convert their ISK systematically and effectively.
The Central Bank of Iceland plays a key role here and I am convinced that it will resolve this issue in the near term, in close co-operation with experts from the ministries and the IMF.
While tightening the rules on currency transactions was a solution of last resort, it was necessary and unavoidable. The government’s prompt and determined action has already begun to produce results and provide the economic premises for ISK appreciation. Anyone circumventing the controls is merely prolonging their duration still further and acting against the interests of households and most businesses – just when we need to stand together and defend broader interests than have been in focus in recent years.
When Finnish expert Kaarlo Jännäris delivered his report on regulation and supervision of financial undertakings to the government, I at once appointed a working group to review the report. This morning the government agreed to implement immediately the following proposals made in the Jännäris report.
Firstly, proposals will be drafted immediately under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office, on combining various tasks and perhaps reducing the number of ministries responsible for financial market legislation.
In the second place, as soon as the elections are over, a committee will be appointed to examine in detail the advantages and disadvantages of increasing co-operation between the Central Bank of Iceland and the Financial Supervisory Authority (FME) and/or merging the two institutions. This work would focus not least on how to ensure that both bodies would apply the supervisory authority granted to them with full effect.
In addition, the Minister of Commerce will be requested to present to the cabinet a bill amending the Act on Deposit Guarantees, to respond to the consequences of the banks’ collapse on the situation of the current fund and the changes which have been made to the European regulatory framework for deposit guarantees to date. The Ministries concerned shall also take an active part in discussions at European level on further review of deposit guarantee schemes.
We have no time to lose, each week and each month is important. Things moved far too slowly during the first months following the collapse and now we have to work faster and turn words into deeds.
Ladies and gentlemen.
I have made no secret of my view that an application for membership of the European Union, followed by the adoption of the euro, should be one of the priorities of the next government. The conclusion of accession negotiations will reveal a clear picture of the opportunities offered by EU membership. We can then put the outcome without hesitation to the nation, to decide in a referendum.
Accession to the European Union and the adoption of the euro would be, in my estimation, material steps towards increasing credibility and achieving the stability necessary for profitable business and industry and household financial recovery. While EU accession would by no means solve all of our problems, it would constitute a decisive further step along the route we are already travelling. EU membership would mean greater financial discipline for the government and set clear goals in the form of the Maastricht conditions. This effect became very apparent on the Swedish financial market following the decision by Sweden to apply for EU membership.
The fact is that EU states which have not adopted the euro, such as Denmark, have benefited from the support of the European Central Bank, and that the ECB has assisted other states, such as Hungary, who have found themselves in difficulties. I propose that in tandem with EU accession talks we seek to negotiate an agreement on whether, and if so how, the European Central Bank could contribute to stabilising the exchange rate in Iceland in the short-term, or until the euro can be adopted in Iceland.
The report on EU membership presented earlier today examines the advantages and disadvantages of following this course. Clearly, any and all co-operation with the European Central Bank would add to the credibility of the Central Bank of Iceland and facilitate the achievement of its objectives on financial stability.
Only by increasing stability can we ensure long-term economic growth and prosperity for all. The nation’s independence and vitality is by no means dependent upon having an independent currency. The ISK does not ensure our independence, but rather places us at the whim of international financial markets. These are forces with which we cannot contend, despite having such highly capable people at work in the Central Bank.
There are no doubt plenty of improvements which need to be made, not least in view of the events of the past months. I have therefore decided to request that the new Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank review the pros and cons of altering monetary policy and present proposals to the government upon concluding such assessment. Furthermore, in my estimation the Central Bank is the proper party to assess how we can take major steps towards dispensing with indexation of debt.
Rebuilding trust will be among the key emphases of the government in coming quarters. Since taking over as Prime Minister, I have had occasion to speak to prime ministers of many friendly countries. I have been aware of their willingness to work with us on recovery and reconstruction.
It is extremely important that we resolve the Icesave matter with favourable agreements with foreign states offering to provide us with credit. The outcome will determine how indebted the nation and its people will be in the future. This is one of the key challenges facing the government today, a task which unfortu¬nately was postponed for too long and simply left in abeyance. There has been a major change here, and the issue has now been grasped firmly and with determination.
Ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the superb staff of the Central Bank for their dedicated efforts under difficult conditions and in demanding times. It is important that the government’s economic policy be implemented in close colla¬boration with the ministries and the Central Bank and in plain sight of everyone. This seems to me to have been the case since the new Governor and Deputy Governor took over at the Bank. Improved co-operation and consultation by no means jeopardises the independence of the Central Bank, but ensures that everyone row together in the rough waters in which we find ourselves.
Next month a special assessment committee will make its selection from a group of well-qualified applicants for the positions of Governor and Deputy Governor. A positive and professional outcome is crucial and is not open to compromise. It is the basis for building trust and that trust is the foundation for the reconstruction which has now commenced and for all that we have yet to do.
PAKISTAN’S TALIBANIZATION: INGLORIOUS RETREAT BY PAKISTAN ARMY OR CALIBRATED COLLUSIVE COLLABORATION?
Pakistan today is in dire straits where its very existence as a nation state is at stake. Pakistan’s creeping Talibanization is no longer creeping but now galloping from its explosive western peripheries to the very heartland of Punjab. The United States and the West stand focused on this menacing development for months now.
Pakistan’s galloping Talibanization is no longer a strategic menace for the United States and NATO Forces in Afghanistan only, or far that matter to India. Pakistan’s Talibanization has emerged today as an untreatable or malignant cancer afflicting Pakistan’s survival.
The United States and the West, long sedated by General Musharraf during his eight years military rule with duplications assurances on Pakistan Army’s committal to liquidate the Al Qaeda and the Taliban, continued in a “state of denial” on Pakistan Army’s perfidy, constantly highlighted by this Author in his Papers on Pakistan on SAAG website and elsewhere.
Pakistan’s meltdown and prospects of a civil war was covered in a consolidated Paper by this Author (SAAG Paper No. 2570 dated 29 January 2008) based on cumulative analysis of the previous five years. This Paper was entitled “Pakistan at Sixty: Meltdown and Prospects of Civil War.”
Nurtured by years of adulating the Pakistan Army as the glue that holds Pakistan together and denied access to analytical reports highlighting the military failures of the Pakistan Army in its wars with India from 1948 to Kargil War in 1999, Pakistan’s own strategic community was in a state of denial about the unholy and diabolical operations of the Pakistan Army and the ISI (intelligence organization) under its control.
Pakistan’s abject surrender in Swat of the state sovereignty and ceding a large tract of territory on the very steps of the national capital Islamabad has finally hit home and painfully hard on Pakistan’s strategic community, its academia and its civil society, however limited.
Their pain and horror is that much more because the western-aligned President Zardari maneuvered to get the National Assembly “to share his shame” (as one Pakistani Columnist put it) to rubber stamp endorsement of his signature on the law authorization of Sharia in Swat.
It was left to Ayaz Amir, the noted Pakistani Columnist, a former Pakistan Army officer and now a parliamentarian to reflect this anguish in his column “Wages of Fear and Appeasement” (The News, April 17, 2009). His anguished words which will echo in Pakistan need to be reproduced in original.
“When a state and its military forces mentally reconcile themselves to defeat, one can only mourn the event. There is nothing left to say.”
“But we are trying to put a gloss on it and are putting forward all sorts of justifications – that there was no way out and that signing the Nizam – e – Adul regulation will bring lasting peace to Swat and its environs – but in out heart of hearts we know that, our courage having fled and no vision worth the name to guide us, we have acquiesced in a great act of surrender”.
“Munich is written all over it”.
“Before India our Eastern Command laid down its arms in 1971, not its spirit or soul. Before the Taliban in Swat we have ceded a part of out national soul.”
Pakistan Army’s abject surrender of Swat sequentially crowns a long list of surrenders to the Taliban of Pakistan’s state-control of frontier regions along the Afghan border beginning with the infamous Waziristan Accords. In Swat, the Pakistan Army has surrendered to the Taliban in the hinterland too.
The United States and the West having invested in billion of dollars on the Pakistan Army and still persist in doing so as evidenced by the pledges made on April 17, 2009 at Tokyo meeting of “Friends of Pakistan”, should now feel entitled to question as to why the Pakistan Army has been an abject and mute spectator to the Talibanization of Pakistan.
The people of Pakistan too should be asking the Pakistan Army the same questions having denied themselves for 60 years, democracy and development, to sustain Pakistan Army’s grandiose military adventurism against India.
Pakistan Army’s accountability on the galloping Talibanization of Pakistan needs to be asked for, as to why this over-glorified Army has failed the people of Pakistan and its strategic patrons in not stemming the tide of Talibanization, This apparent military inaction of the Pakistan Army in not effectively combating the Taliban menace raises two separate questions as follows:
Pakistan Army – Is it in an inglorious retreat against the Taliban advances?
Pakistan Army – Is it involved in a calibrated and collusive collaboration with the Taliban for strategic reasons?
This Paper attempts to analyze the above under the following heads:
NWFP and FATA Regions: Talibanization Virtually Complete
Pakistan Army in Inglorious Retreat or Calibrated Collusive Collaboration with Taliban for Strategic Reasons?
United States AF-PAK Strategy Unravels
Pakistan: The Prospects of a Civil War.
NWFP and FATA Regions: Talibanization Virtually Complete
Pakistan’s NWFP and FATA regions bordering Afghanistan and of critical strategic interest to the United States, stand fully Talibanized, courtesy the Pakistan Army for whatever reasons.
The prospects of this taking place and the hard decisions that would be so forced on the United States was analyzed by this Author as far back as January 2006 in his Paper (SAAG Paper No. 1688 dated 25.01.2006) entitled “Pakistan’s Explosive Western Frontiers and Their Impact: An Analysis”.
Tthe strategic impact on the United States can be read in the quoted Paper. However the observations made on Pakistan were that this explosiveness on its Western frontiers would be “suicidal” for Pakistan. Two major points from this Paper of contemporary pertinence need to be highlighted:
“Pakistan in all these decades could smugly indulge in military adventurism against its predominant neighbour India, chiefly because its western frontiers were not explosive.”
“Pakistan’s revived strategy of Taliban resurgence via the Waziristan route may result once again in an over-stretch of Pakistan Army, continued explosiveness in NWFP and generate in its wake many crucial contradictions in Pakistan, domestically.”
Nemesis can be said to have caught up with Pakistan and the Pakistan Army where today the border region of NWFP and FATA depict the following pattern of Taliban control:
Full Taliban Control: The entire border areas of NWFP and FATA are under “Full Taliban Control” with two exceptions of Kurram and Chitral which are still contested.
Contested Taliban Control: An intermediate stretch between the border regions and the settled areas, a narrow strip is both contested between the Taliban and Pakistan Army.
Taliban Influence Areas: This comprises the settled areas bordering the Pakistan heartland and in this the Taliban has penetrated and can be said to be establishing influence.
Government Control: Only two regions of Abottabad and Haripur
Therefore, for all practical purposes of state sovereignty Pakistan has ceded control of NWFP and FATA to the Taliban. This is a severe indictment on the Pakistan Army's professionalism as the guardian of Pakistan.
For details of the various regions in terms of these three broad categorization of Talibanization control of NWFP and FATA, please refer to Annexure attached.
Pakistan Army in Inglorious Retreat or Calibrated Collusive Collaboration with Taliban for Strategic Reasons?
Pakistan Army has been projecting to the United States that it has more than 100,000 troops deployed in the NWFP and FATA engaged in military operations against the Al Qaeda and Taliban. If that is a military truth then it is inconceivable as to how the professionally renowned Pakistan Army, has failed to prevent the Talibanization of NWFP and FATA. This has not only endangered US strategic interests in Afghanistan, raised questions about Pakistan Army as a reliable strategic interest in US strategic calculations, but by ceding Pakistani territory to Taliban control has endangered Pakistan’s survival as a nation state.
Pakistan’s noted strategic expert, Ahmed Rashid, especially on AF-PAK affairs and intensely consulted by the United States presently, has implied that the Pakistan Army has been in an inglorious retreat against the Taliban. Some important observations made by him lately are pertinent:
“Rather than order the Pakistan Army to retake Swat, the PPP Government have capitulated to Taliban demands to avoid more violence”.
“Deal may be interpreted as an unmistakable defeat in the country’s losing battle against Islamic extremism”.
“Pakistan Army is demoralized and overstretched and has refused United States offers to retrain its regular forces in counter-insurgency”.
“Pakistan Government and the Pakistan Army have lost the will and capability to oppose the Taliban”.
As a strategic analyst, this Author in his opinion finds it hard to believe that the Pakistan Army has lost the will and capability to fight the Taliban. On the contrary, this Author strongly feels that General Kayani and the Pakistan Army have indulged in a calibrated, and collusive collaboration to let the Taliban over-run Pakistan’s western frontier regions of NWFP and FATA for strategic reasons to pressurize the United States.
It would not be a conspiracy theory or a cynical strategic analysis to assert the following:
Continued explosiveness in NWFP and FATA contributes to retention of centrality of Pakistan Army in United States strategic formulations in this region with particular relevance to Afghanistan.
Such centrality of Pakistan Army especially in the AF-PAK context would force the United States, despite a civilian government on Islamabad, to deal directly with Pakistan Army GHQ in Rawalpindi.
Pakistan Army in such a calibrated strategy would place its bargaining chip on the table for the United States – the ISI under the Pakistan Army has a central role in helping US operations against the Taliban, USA should concede this role and stop criticizing the ISI.
As another quid-pro-quo make the United States to prevail over India for compromises on Kashmir and demilitarization of Kashmir and prevail over Afghanistan to recognize the Durand Line.
A detailed analysis of this calibrated strategy can be found in this Author’s Paper (SAAG Paper No. 3079 dated 03.02.2009) entitled Pakistan’s Talibanization is No Strategic Threat to India” and under the group heading “Pakistan’s Talibanization Facilitated by Pakistan Army Ceding Strategic Space by its Withdrawals from Frontier Regions”.
The Pakistan Army seems to be convinced in the belief that its well-crafted blueprint would ensure that it can retain calibrated control over Taliban escalation.
At best it can divert the Taliban drives towards India in Kashmir as part of its calibrated control. At worst, the Pakistan Army under intense American coercion could ultimately confront the Taliban in he plains areas of Pakistan with its traditional ruthlessness.
On both counts analysed above strategic concerns are generated for USA and the West and by extension to India.
United States AF-PAK Strategy Unravels
The United States major drawback in its strategic management of Pakistan has always been its single-point over-reliance on Pakistan Army Generals to deliver on its strategic objectives. Presently in Pakistan the United States has in place a decidedly pro-American Pakistani President and a perceived US inclined Pakistan Army Chief.
While the United States may persist in projecting that General Kayani is not a “political general” and would like to keep his nose out of politics, the record of the last year or so indicates otherwise.
President Zardari and PM Gilani had months back asserted that they have full faith in entrusting the sole responsibility for military operations in NWFP and FATA without political interference to the Pak Army Chief.
What have been the results of such a policy and the innumerable dialogues between General Kayani and US military hierarchy?
The state of affairs emerging in Pakistan hardly provide any sense of optimism that the United States AF-PAK strategy would succeed. On the contrary it may unravel even before it takes off.
One of the main props of the AF-PAK strategy is socio-economic development of the border regions of NWFP and FATA. Pray one may ask as to how the United States can achieve this when these regions are no longer under Pakistan Army control but under effective control of the Taliban.
The United States may be left with no choice but to reverse its priorities in AF-PAK Strategy from retrieving Pakistan from state-failure to reclaiming Afghanistan and assist nation-building as a bulwark against the impending chaos that is likely to engulf Pakistan.
Pakistan: The Prospects of a Civil War
The prospect of a civil war in Pakistan stands pointed out in my SAAG Papers quoted above. Such assertions then used to be met with amused reactions as the very thought seemed preposterous. But eminent Pakistanis too are seized with this worrisome prospect especially after the events of Swat.
Former Pakistan Ambassador Zafar Hilaly makes his concern in historical comparisons. In a recent commentary he has made the following observations.
“The Taliban are the 21st Century Mongols. Their mission too like that of 12th Century Mongols is to destroy the culture, faith and way of life to their opponents and to capture and kill if they resist. But unlike the Mongols hordes they (Taliban) do not simply terrorise the land like a swams of locusts, instead they stay.”
“The situation in Pakistan today is like a Greek tragedy: we all know the end but are powerless to prevent it.”
Rather ominous words coming from a thinking Pakistani. Another eminent Pakistani strategic and political analyst Ayesha Siddiqa states:
“Finally, we have a state that does not have any clue about where it wants to be in this century”.
“People have classifications for weak states such as banana republic, a term many despise”.
“Probably the right term for Pakistan is the “Jalebi Republic”, circles within circles and no clarity about the future”.
Many analysts in Pakistan have began to draw conclusions comparing the situation in Pakistan to the 1971 scenario when as a result of Pakistan Army transgressions, East Pakistan seceded to emerge as an independent entity of Bangladesh.
Close advisers to the Obama Administration are virtually coming to the same conclusion like David Kilcullen who has asserted that Pakistan could be facing an internal collapse within six months.
Pakistan and the Pakistan Army seem to have reconciled themselves to defeat at the hands of the Taliban and Swat portends that Pakistan Army’s abject indifference to uphold national integrity has ceded its national soul as observed by Ayaz Amir. He has always like may other thinking Pakistanis have been strong defenders of Pakistan’s honor. The seriousness of Pakistan’s crisis today echoes strongly in his words and many like him.
The United States with the most critical and massive strategic stakes in Pakistan’s stability needs to do a quick rethink and recast its AF-PAK strategy. The Pakistan Army cannot be counted as a reliable strategic asset in US strategic formulation for the region.
The United States has the strategic, political, military and financial leverage to bring around the Pakistan Army to stem the tide of Talibanization.
India has not contributed to the creation of the Taliban or the galloping Talibanization of Pakistan under way. The Pakistan Army is solely responsible for the grim state of affairs in Pakistan and the United States should call it to accountability, if for nothing else, to account for the billions of dollars invested in it to serve US strategic objectives.
(The author is an International Relations and Strategic Affairs analyst. He is the Consultant, Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org)
NWFP AND FATA: PATTERN OF TALIBAN CONTROL
Areas Under Full Taliban Control
Swat, Shangla, Buner, Malakand, Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Hangu, North Waziristan, South Waziristan, Bannu
Areas Under Contested Taliban Control
Chitral, Kurram, Mardan, Charsadda, Peshawar, Kohat, Karak
Areas Under Taliban Influence
Kohistan, Balagram, Manshera, Swabi, Nowshera, Dera Ismail Khan
Under Pakistan Government Control
Abottabad and Haripur
Disagreements in ministries over Nordic projects in Arctic Ocean
Finnish jet fighters are unlikely to be seen patrolling the air space of NATO member Iceland in the near future. Sources in the Finnish civil service have told Helsingin Sanomat that there are economic, political, and legal impediments to Finland’s participation in the proposed joint Nordic project.
“It would be a bridge too far. Even if there were enough money, there would be political questions”, says one source.
The participation of the Finnish and Swedish air forces in air patrols over Iceland were one of the proposals put forward by Norway’s former foreign minister Thorvald Stoltenberg in February on ways to increase Nordic foreign and security policy cooperation. NATO members Norway and Denmark are already taking part in the surveillance.
Stoltenberg also proposed a joint solidarity declaration, including a commitment to providing help in a crisis.
Finland’s official reactions to the new proposals are not expected until the end of May, when the foreign and security policy committee of the government and president meet. The foreign ministers of the Nordic Countries will discuss the proposals in the Icelandic capital Reykjavik on June the ninth.
According to the sources, problems related to the air surveillance of Iceland have emerged in work by civil servants at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence. However, there are differing opinions on Finnish participation in extensive Nordic joint projects in Arctic areas in general.
The sources say that taking part in air patrols over Iceland in shifts of about two weeks would be very costly. The United States needed 700 men at the Keflavik air base in Iceland as backup for two fighters.
The USA is committed under treaty to monitor Iceland’s air space, and says that it will keep its obligations. The sources also say that NATO is not very enthusiastic about the idea of allowing countries that are not members of the alliance to take part in the patrol flights.
According to other sources, the proposal for air surveillance has been given too much attention. They say that cooperation on maintaining a common air surveillance picture in northern sea areas would not be a problem. Finland is already involved in similar cooperation with NATO via Norway.
Critics have said that with its proposals, Norway hopes to harness the Nordic Countries into securing its own interests in areas such as Spitzbergen, where it has unresolved territorial issues with Russia.
Others, meanwhile, feel that if defence cooperation among the Nordic Countries is to be increased, Finland needs to consider Norway’s interests as well, and not just the Baltic Sea region.
Stoltenberg will be in Finland next week to discuss his latest proposals for Nordic cooperation
April 20, 2009
By Samuel Logan for ISN Security Watch
With billions of dollars being laundering through the Mexican financial system every year, authorities in Mexico and in the US seem to overlook this essential factor in the gun and drug trade between the two countries.
Estimates vary, but between the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Mexican Attorney General’s office (PGR), and other independent sources, cash smuggled in bulk - or through remittance systems - varies from US$10 billion to US$45 billion a year in illicit funds, with US$25 billion as the average that many agree as a realistic sum. The PGR targets five major drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) in Mexico, and each one potentially earns as much as US$5 billion a year.
From what many in both the US and Mexico have said, the Mexican financial system facilitates the movement of this money, rather than impedes it.
According to the Washington Post, 10 percent of Mexico’s financial system operates with funds earned from criminal activity, often referred to simply as “dirty money.”
Within the Mexican government, the role of investigation falls upon the PGR, but Mexico’s National Bank Commission (CNBV) controls access to the information on the flow of money through Mexico’s financial systems, the Post concluded.
When the PGR needs this information, it must make a formal request to the CNBV, and that request can be denied. If the PGR contests the denial, a judge must decide to allow access or not. This time consuming process gives a suspect plenty of time to move dirty money out of a suspicious account.
This lack of cooperation has, in part, resulted in a very poor success rate for the PGR’s already limited number of money laundering cases.
Between 2004 and 2007, the PGR investigated only 149 cases of money laundering in Mexico. In 2007, there were 14 convictions, but many of these cases were based on evidence gathered by police apprehension of individuals caught with large amounts of illicit cash, not by investigation of bank accounts and the illicit movement of money.
Egardo Buscaglia, professor of law and economics at the Instituto Technologico Autonomo de Mexico (ITAM), agrees that the lack of cooperation between officials with the Mexican IRS and the federal police is a major hindrance.
“Federal auditors working with those who direct criminal investigations is fundamental to disrupt billions [of dollars] derived from criminal activity,” Buscaglia told ISN Security Watch in a recent correspondence.
Apart from hurdles associated with gathering information, the PGR has only recently received specific legal tools that allow it to seize assets - businesses, bank accounts, possessions, etc. - proven to be associated with criminal activity. The country’s assets forfeiture legislation, as of March 2009, had languished in the Mexican Congress for over six months, essentially pigeon-holed until it was recently passed.
“The recent passage of an asset forfeiture law should make a big difference, if Colombia’s experience is any example,” Shannon O’Neil, a Latin American studies fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, told ISN Security Watch.
Jeff Ross, a former official the Department of Treasury’s financial crimes investigation unit, points out that asset forfeiture in Mexico is a law with little support. Due to high levels of corruption, many people assume that with this law on the books, crooked cops could plant drugs on someone who has something they want to seize.
High levels of corruption suggest a nightmarish picture of bad cops taking advantage of the assets forfeiture law to plant evidence, make arrests and seize houses, cars and businesses owned by Mexico’s upper class.
Mexico’s government has, however, been working with the US Department of Treasury since 2005, which has produced some results over time, most noted in the significantly increased number of money laundering investigations in 2009, at 450.
According to an IMF report from January 2009, Mexico has made a solid start toward passing legislation that criminalizes money laundering, but “money laundering crimes have not been adequately investigated.”
One area where the US and Mexico could surely cooperate is within the practice of geographic targeting.
Ross explained that inside the US, the Treasury Department works with the Justice Department to target geographic areas high on the list of heavy drug trafficking, such as New York, Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles.
Financial crime agents then prepare a “geographic targeting order” that focuses on small companies that act as brokers, moving money from the US to destinations abroad.
Ross explained that brokers act as the middle man in money laundering “wash cycles,” whereby the guy on the street hands over his illicit funds to a broker who uses “sometimes hundreds” of bank accounts to hide the source of the money before he places it in a single account, where the money appears to be legitimate.
The order limits brokers in the targeted geographic area from moving more than a very small amount of money. This order restricts businesses from moving up to US$10,000 per wire transfer to only US$750 a wire, overnight.
“This makes washing dirty money nearly impossible, as there are millions of dollars to move a week,” Ross explained.
These orders can cover a period up to 90 days in the US, which forces the targeted brokers to make a move or simply shutter their operations. Justice Department agents keep an eye on their suspects to see what happens.
“Cooperation between Treasury and Justice is essential for this strategy to work,” Ross said.
Many choose to close shop and move out of the targeted region. Others decide to move the cash via bulk smuggling, making them easy targets for stop, search and seizure. A few decide to ignore the order and keep up with business as usual, but they almost immediately face arrest.
The practice of geographic targeting has been very successful in shutting down money laundering efforts inside the US, and it is part of the reason why most of the money earned by Mexican organized crime is shipped in bulk across the border before it is laundered in Mexico.
If Mexico were to adopt such a measure, it would have the tool to cripple organized crime where it most hurts, in the numerous businesses that appear to operate legally in the formal economy where corruption facilitates money laundering.
“Due to high corruption, 78 percent of the formal economic sectors have been infiltrated by organized crime,” Buscaglia said.
Cash: Organized crime’s Achilles’ heel
Criminals know they’re successful when they have a problem with money laundering. It is the Achilles’ heel of any criminal organization because dirty cash is the lifeblood of black markets.
Mexican DTOs must get the cash out of the US and use it for three very important tasks.
First, these groups must pay their suppliers. In the case of cocaine, money needs to move to Colombia. In the case of methamphetamines, money needs to move to the precursor chemical salesmen across the region in Argentina and Paraguay, and across the Pacific, in China and India.
Second, these groups must equip themselves with guns, trucks and all the tools of their trade. Without money, the gun problem that so preoccupies Mexican President Felipe Calderon would not exist.
Yet “we haven’t heard as much about money as about guns, in part because the Mexicans are most publicly concerned about guns,” O’Neil recently told ISN Security Watch.
Finally, these groups must pay their employees and bribes. The Mexican PGR has reported that over 150,000 individuals are directly involved in organized crime in Mexico, and another 300,000 are local marijuana and poppy suppliers. Apart from nearly half a million employees to pay, tens of thousands of local police, politicians, businessmen, street vendors and all manner of corrupted individuals receive regular payments to keep important information flowing, or, more importantly, to ensure the disruption of the government’s activities.
The November 2005 arrest of Ricardo Garcia Urquiza who was considered one of the financial wizards of the Juarez DTO, and the recent arrests of Vicente Carrillo Leyva and Vicente Zambada, two of the so-called “narco juniors” who took over the financial practice of their father’s drug trafficking businesses, certainly affected the flow of illicit cash in Mexico.
Criminals adapt. Sources in Mexico indicate that dirty cash pays the salaries of lower-level DTO employees, and smaller bribes, somewhat alleviating the need for money laundering.
The largess of Mexico’s organized criminal activities hinges on the ability to successfully launder money through hundreds or perhaps even thousands of small and mid-sized businesses across the country. As long as the Mexican government focuses its assets and financial resources on guns and direct confrontation with DTOs, and not on anti-money laundering efforts, it is difficult to see an end game to Calderon’s current offensive on Mexican organized crime.
“When you’ve got a target that does business in the billions of dollars, and you’re only seizing one billion, that’s not good enough,” Ross said, adding, “it makes for a great sound byte, but if eight to twelve billion is moving and you’re only seizing one of it, that’s just the cost of doing business for them.”
Samuel Logan is an investigative journalist and author of This is for the Mara Salvatrucha: Inside the MS-13, America's Most Violent Gang, forthcoming from Hyperion in summer 2009. He is the Editor of Southern Pulse | Networked Intelligence, and has reported on security, energy, politics, economics, organized crime, terrorism and black markets in Latin America since 1999. He is a senior writer for ISN Security Watch.
A new report on the sources of violent death in Iraq is relevant to an assessment of the changing nature of the air-war over Pakistan, Paul Rogers writes for openDemocracy.
By Paul Rogers for openDemocracy.net
The phrase "war on terror" might have been quietly dropped from the United States's military lexicon - to be replaced (according to a memo to Pentagon staff) by "overseas contingency operation". But it is clear that to some degree there is continuity in practice in the tactics being pursued by the coalition in Afghanistan and Pakistan. An example is the relatively little reported campaign in western Pakistan characterised by what (in another euphemism) are commonly termed "drone incidents" but which would be better called air-raids.
The term "drone" has a serviceable analytical use, but the suggestion it conveys - of a very small pilot-less aircraft that is more of a scaled-up version of a model aircraft - is misleading as a description of what is happening in parts of Pakistan. For the technology of the "drone", which is developing at an extraordinary rate, is as sophisticated as its effects are becoming more intensive and destructive.
The present reality of these "drone" deployments is that United States forces are flying large and heavily armed aircraft over Pakistan for virtually every hour of every day, frequently accompanied by actual attacks. These air-raids have killed hundreds of people, many of them civilians and including scores of women and children.
Three aspects of this major development in the war are worthy of note: the size and power of the weapons being used, the rapid increase in their use, and the impact in terms of civilian casualties. If a so-called "al-Qaida central" is genuinely trying to target countries such as Britain - a claim that has arisen from the detention of twelve people at seven addresses in northwest England on 8 April 2009, though without any firm evidence so far - then a possible motivation for new recruits to the movement is readily at hand in western Pakistan (see Mark Mazzetti, "The Downside of Letting Robots Do the Bombing", New York Times, 21 March 2009).
A grim reaper
The weapon of choice for United States forces was until recently the Predator, manufactured by General Atomics. The much larger and more powerful MQ-9 Reaper is now becoming their favourite. The Reaper's turboprop engine is nearly eight times as powerful as the Predator; it carries fifteen times the weapons load and yet travels three times more quickly.
Because these planes have no pilots and are operated remotely, often by technicians at bases in the United States, there is a huge "weight gain". This, combined with the sheer size of the Reapers, means that they can easily carry a range of weapons on a par with a conventional strike aircraft.
A recent version of the Reaper has a wingspan of over twenty-five metres (about the same as a Boeing 737 passenger-jet), and can carry sufficient fuel to stay airborne for thirty-four hours. If fitted with two drop-tanks and 300 kilograms of weapons, it can fly a forty-two-hour sortie; as pilot fatigue is not an issue, shifts of operators can be used to sustain this length of time in the air.
In practice, however, bombing attacks are more likely to be undertaken by Reapers with a much shorter range and carrying more weapons. These can include Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, Paveway laser-guided bombs or GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs).
The Reaper is a bomber in all but name. A comment in September 2006 on the designation of this "unmanned aerial vehicle" (UAV) from the then chief-of-staff of the United States air force (Usaf), General T Michael Moseley, is indicative of official attitudes: "We've moved from using UAVs primarily in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance roles before Operation Iraqi Freedom, to a true hunter role with the Reaper." An even better indication of its growing role is that in 2008 the New York Air National Guard 174th fighter wing began to make the change from flying F-16 strike aircraft to "flying" Reapers.
A recent customer for the Reaper is Britain's Royal Air Force, which has deployed the aircraft in Afghanistan since autumn 2007. Its initial deployment was an unarmed reconnaissance vehicle, but the armed variant is now in use. The ministry of defence (MoD) acknowledges the MQ-9's "[complementary] mission" to be "a persistent hunter-killer against emerging targets to achieve joint force commander objectives." The MoD has, however, been notably reticent about publicising actual cases where the Predator has engaged in combat, or about any casualties resulting from this.
A view from the ground
These military and technical advances, in the context of the difficulties experienced by western coalition forces in Afghanistan in the war against the Taliban, help explain why the escalation in the number of air-strikes in Pakistan (regarded as the source of much Taliban activity and weaponry) has been rapid (see "Pakistan: the new frontline," 18 September 2008).
US forces struck just twice in 2006, three times in 2007 and seven times in the first eight months of 2008. A surge in the last four months of 2008 saw twenty-nine air-raids, and there were fourteen between January and 8 April 2009. Pakistani sources assess the number killed over this near forty-months period at 701, including 14 al-Qaida leaders; 152 of these have lost their lives this year (see Amir Mir, "60 drone hits kill 14 al-Qaeda men, 687 civilians", The News [Lahore], 10 April 2009). These sources also claim that the great majority of people killed are civilian, though US military sources often dispute this.
The pattern here is that the Pentagon or US spokespersons closer to the action tend to discount claims of civilian casualties immediately after a raid, only for independent evidence later to appear that confirms the initial local reports. It is therefore plausible in many cases to be sceptical of the denials.
A return message
Moreover, evidence becoming available from Iraq indicates that air-strikes are precisely the forms of attack most likely to lead to high numbers of civilian casualties. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) - one of the world's leading medical journals - the authors used the extensive and detailed database maintained by Iraq Body Count (IBC) to analyse 14,196 incidents in which 60,481 civilians were killed violently (see Madelyn Hsiao-Rei Hicks et al., "The Weapons That Kill Civilians - Deaths of Children and Noncombatants in Iraq, 2003-2008", New England Journal of Medicine, 16 April 2009, www.nejm.org)
The lead author, Madelyn Hsiao-Rei Hicks of King's College, London, says: "By linking a large number of deaths to the particular weapons used in specific events, the IBC database offers a unique opportunity for detailed analysis of the public health impact of different forms of armed violence on Iraqi civilians".
The study examines all the different kinds of incidents - including small arms, roadside-bombs, suicide-bombs, mortars and air-strikes - to find that the suicide-bomb achieves one of the worst killing-rates (sixteen civilian deaths per incident, on average). This might be expected, given that the tactic is often used deliberately to kill as many people as possible, often in crowded marketplaces.
More surprising is that the analysis reveals air-strikes to have an even worse effect, with seventeen civilian deaths per incident. Furthermore, the detailed nature of the IBC primary research allows data on many of the incidents to include the gender and age of the victims. The NEJM report finds that 46% of victims of known gender were female and 39% of victims of known age were children.
This is data for Iraq, not Pakistan, and there is no way of being certain that what has applied in one country is true for another. What is now clear is that research findings based on objective evidence from Iraq suggests that internal Pakistani reports of high numbers of civilian casualties through Predator and Reaper raids must be taken seriously.
It is also relevant that the air war in Pakistan has accelerated in a manner largely unrecognised in the western media, though this is widely covered in the middle east and southwest Asia. This goes a long way to explain the anti-western mood in Pakistan, and the difficulty that the current government in Islamabad has in supporting US actions.
Whatever the outcome of the investigations in northwest England - where ten of those arrested are Pakistani-born nationals reported to have entered the country on student visas - much of the media speculation has focused on suggestions that their focus is a bomb-plot with connections to Pakistan. The logic of this narrative is that the source of the security threat to Britain might be shifting from groups (such as the perpetrators of the 7/7 bombings in London) that had become radicalised within Britain to ones trained in Pakistan by "al-Qaida central" and deployed to the target country.
Britain may not be involved in any of the air-raids across the Afghan border into Pakistan, but the country is widely seen as the United States's closest ally. If "al-Qaida central" does exist and does see an opportunity to undertake operations in Britain, it could well see the changing nature of the war in western Pakistan - including the many civilians being killed each month in air-raids - as fuel and succour in its effort.
Paul Rogers is professor of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England. He has been writing a weekly column on global security on openDemocracy since 26 September 2001.
This article originally appeared on openDemocracy.net under a Creative Commons licence.