April 10, 2010

Russians See Foreign Financing of Attacks

This article appears in the April 9, 2010 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

April 4—Russian specialists, as well as the population at large, are looking intently at the factor of foreign funding of the ongoing spate of terrorist attacks on the country. This morning's bombing of a freight train in Dagestan was officially declared an act of terrorism.

The LaRouche Political Action Committee release, "LaRouche: Look to British Intelligence Behind Moscow Bombings," issued immediately after suicide bombers killed 29 people in the Moscow subway system, has been published in Russian on dozens of websites, blogs, and Internet forums, drawing mostly approving comments from many readers. Some of those joining the discussion cite the British role in instigating conflicts in the Caucasus, going back to the 19th Century.

Speaking to the Rosbalt news agency on April 1, Vadim Mukhanov, a senior researcher at the Center for Caucasus Studies of the MGIMO (the Foreign Ministry's university), stressed that "our" terrorists "have sources of funding abroad," especially in the Middle East. While Saudi Arabia-based Wahhabite funding channels to Chechen and other North Caucasus radicals are well known, other Russian figures are looking deeper, to the British connection. It was reliably reported already two years ago, that the 2007 heightening of tension between Moscow and London was connected with Russian security agencies' discovery of a "British trail" in the destabilization of the North Caucasus.

EIR presented a relevant dossier, beginning with the April 12, 1996 cover story, "British Monarchy Rapes Transcaucasus, Again," which was updated in EIR of Sept. 10, 1999, in conjunction with publication of Lyndon LaRouche's strategic video, "Storm Over Asia," on the renewal of British imperial geopolitical schemes throughout Eurasia. EIR drew attention to the coherence of the London-sponsored North Caucasus Common Market plan and the radical separatist North Caucasus Caliphate scheme—and the overlap of some personnel between the two projects.

After the recent Moscow subway bombings, Vice-Speaker of the State Duma Vladimir Zhirinovsky also brought up the London connection.

The explosions in the Metro are a continuation of the plan for struggle against Russia, which is worked out in London both by the special services and by our former compatriots. It's also certain forces from the U.S.A., who are unhappy that there will be some improvement in relations between our countries.... And it also is the North Caucasus, which remains in a state of latent terrorist threat. There may not be major fighting there, but the centers have remained, there are unemployed people, there's drugs and there's dollars. They all go off to Islamic universities in Cairo, and so forth, and it's known what they study—how to do subversion.

Gen. Leonid Ivashov (ret.), former head of the Ministry of Defense international department, in a March 29 interview, cautioned against being too sure the attacks were planned in the North Caucasus, even if that was the staging ground.

The situation in the Caucasus is socially, economically, and politically the most beaten down in Russia, and there you have the most grotesque version of the clan relationships which have been imposed on Russia.... But, I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that the organizers are sitting in the Caucasus. Of course, suicide bombers can be recruited. But the ultimate 'customer' is most likely somewhere higher up, maybe abroad, maybe here in Russia.

Saudi/British Geopolitics

Behind the mindless acts of terrorism lurk the machinations of two external forces, represented by the Saudi Arabia-spawned Wahhabism, and the British policy to weaken Russia. Training of these terrorists, along with the Uzbek and Uighur Chinese terrorists, was carried out in Pakistan's tribal area of North Waziristan. There were reports that since last August, these terrorists began moving towards their home bases, to step up jihad against the governments of Central Asia and Russia.

According to a high-level Indian intelligence contact, who follows terrorist activities in the region, reports from the Caucasian region of Russia indicate that jihadi terrorists continue to be active in the Ingushetia region, bordering Chechnya. In February, at least 20 insurgents were reportedly killed by Russian security forces in Ingushetia. Many Chechens work as security guards and manual laborers in the commercial establishments of Moscow. Pro-al-Qaeda Chechens sometimes use them for creating sleeper cells.

It should be stressed that those who are training the Chechens are Wahhabis, who are virulently anti-Shi'a, involved in violent dismantling of sovereign nation-states and installation of a supranational Caliphate. Many of these trainers are of Chechen origin, whose ancestors settled hundreds of years ago in Jordan and other Southwest Asian countries. Imbued with the ultra-orthodox Wahhabi version of Islam, they have become, in essence, terrorists working for Saudi Arabia and Britain, to undermine all sovereign nations in Central Asia, and Russia.

LUKoil continues its supplies to Iran


To avoid U.S. sanctions, the Russian oil company LUKoil has stopped its trade with Iran, including supplies of gasoline from its terminals in the Middle East and transporting crude from the Caspian Sea to the port Iran's Neka, announced today sources close to the Russian oil giant.

Over the last three months, the commercial arm of LUKoil in Geneva Litasco had delivered at least a cargo of gasoline with a volume of 30 000 m3 to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

Only a half-dozen companies still provide gasoline to Iran, especially trading companies Vitol and Trafigura Switzerland.

The pressure from the United States on Moscow to harden its position on the Iranian nuclear dossier So finally punch their weight. Russia is now more hostile to sanctions against Iran, suspected by the West to hide a nuclear program for military purposes. The United States and France hope to achieve in the coming weeks an agreement in the Security Council of the United Nations to adopt sanctions against the Iranian regime.

'A nuclear deal for Pakistan is sheer fantasy'

April 10, 2010 10:27 IST


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's [ Images ] presence at the first-ever Nuclear Security Summit hosted by United States President Barack Obama [ Images ], beginning April 12, will be key for 'critical substantive reasons', believesDr Ashley J Tellis, an expert on nonproliferation and nuclear security matters.

Tellis, a former official in the George W Bush [ Images ] administration at the State Department and the National Security Council, was closely involved in negotiating the India-US civilian nuclear agreement.

In an interview with rediff.com's Aziz Haniffa, he also talks about Pakistan's demand for a similar nuclear agreement with the US.

A senior White House official recently said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's attendance at the Nuclear Security Summit will be the key to the success of the summit. Was this just hyperbole?

There is no reason to think that the statement is merely hyperbole. Dr Singh's presence at the summit is important for critical substantive reasons. First, it symbolises India's [
Images ] partnership with the United States on an issue that is very important to President Barack Obama personally.

Second, it epitomises the support of a key country that, along with the United States and Israel, would be among the most likely victims of nuclear terrorism, should the summit's objectives not be realided.

Third, and most importantly, it demonstrates that a responsible nuclear power such as India, although not a signatory to the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty, nevertheless supports the United States and the international community more generally in strengthening the global nonproliferation regime. All these considerations taken together make India's presence at the summit significant. It is not often realised that India has worked very closely with the United States behind the scenes to make this summit a success. Hence, Dr Singh's participation will be all the more welcome.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao [ Images ] recently spoke of how India believes that the summit can be a milestone in addressing the threat of nuclear terrorism. How so?

India has been deeply concerned about the threat of nuclear terrorism. In part, this is simply because of its proximity to Pakistan, which has historically been the fountainhead of both nuclear proliferation and political terrorism. Indian officials are still fearful about infirmities in Pakistan's nuclear programme. But more generally, they are afraid that if extremist groups manage to get their hands on nuclear material or a nuclear device, India would be among the primary targets for their vengeance.

Consequently, the government of India hopes that the nuclear security summit will serve as a consciousness-raising event that highlights the threat of nuclear terrorism, mobilises international action towards combating this threat, and produces an action plan to deal with the most troubling challenges in this arena.

In terms of playing a leadership role at the summit, India has apparently offered to set up an international centre on nuclear security. This is rumoured to be one of the proposals Dr Singh will bring to the table at the summit. How important and tangible of a contribution will such a Centre be if India makes such an offer?

I believe India's offer to set up such a centre of excellence focusing on issues of nuclear security will be a significant contribution for several reasons. First, no such institution currently exists, or at least none which offers opportunities to operators of nuclear facilities worldwide. Offering to set up such a centre offers the best evidence of India's responsible stewardship -- it represents a contribution that India is willing to make towards building a secure global regime.

Do you believe the US will continue to try to influence India to join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and ultimately the NPT?

I think the prospect of CTBT ratification in the US Senate is virtually zero -- for the foreseeable future. Consequently, I cannot imagine the administration making any effort to lean on India to sign the CTBT. If it did, such an action would have no credibility whatsoever -- and India would respond appropriately.

In terms of the threat of nuclear terrorism, which will be a priority agenda item of the summit, does India live with this danger more so than any other nation?

I think the single biggest priority would be to develop and secure consensus on the need to safeguard nuclear materials to certain universally accepted standards. This will not be easy because it will require extensive reviews of current practices worldwide and many remedial actions, some of which will no doubt be costly. But the alternatives are obviously far more dangerous. The biggest threat out there is actually complacency --because the various extremist groups seeking nuclear materials are anything but inactive.

Pakistan has assured that its nuclear arsenal is safe and secure and will not fall into the hands of terrorists? Are these assurances sufficient? Do you believe the summit has to obtain fresh pledges and assurances from Pakistan?

The security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal has increased significantly since 2001, in large part because of the concerted efforts made by Lieutenant General Khalid Kidwai and Pakistan's Strategic Plans Division. International pressures undoubtedly contributed to these reforms, as did the terrible activities of A Q Khan. Securing Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, however, will have to be a continual effort because the political, ideological and social trends in that country are not reassuring. My summary judgment in testimony before the US Congress has been that Pakistan's nuclear capabilities are reasonably secure in peacetime. Fixing the weaknesses in security cannot be done through action at the summit. It has to be done through quiet and continued diplomacy between Washington and Islamabad [ Images ].

With Pakistan's sorry track record, do you think the Pakistanis had some chutzpah in demanding a civilian nuclear deal similar to the one the US struck up with India?

I can understand why Islamabad would ask for such a deal: It has less to do with energy and everything to do with seeking parity of treatment with India. Obviously, this is not a request that has the slightest chance of being acceded to: President Obama will not consent to such a deal, and the Congress will resolutely refuse to amend US law for Pakistan's sake, given Islamabad's egregious nonproliferation record.

The likes of Senator John F Kerry have said Pakistan has a long way to go before such a deal could be considered for Pakistan, and have the support in Congress. What's your take on this?

There are clearly some within the administration and some outside who think giving Pakistan a nuclear deal similar to that given to India is a good idea. Those holding such a view though are in a distinct minority. I do not know what Senator Kerry's actual views on this subject are, though it appears as if he is attempting to at least leave the door open for such a deal with Pakistan in the future. I don't believe, however, that President Obama will go down such a road, but I am uncertain whether his administration will say so clearly and distinctly to Pakistan.

Consequently, it is entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that the Pakistani delegation to the recently concluded Strategic Dialogue actually believes that a nuclear deal for Islamabad is on the cards merely because its American counterparts were unable or unwilling to say clearly what everyone who has the slightest knowledge of American politics knows to be true today -- that a nuclear deal for Pakistan is sheer fantasy.

Obviously, Iran, and its alleged march toward a nuclear weapons capability will be a major agenda item at this summit. But India has been advising against punitive sanctions against Teheran. Won't this mount immense pressure on India on this front?

I think this pressure is coming -- not specifically directed against India but at all states that continue to do 'business as usual' with Iran. At some point, India will have to make up its mind about how important a threat an Iranian nuclear weapons programme is to India's security -- and act upon it. I think we are soon coming to a point where hard choices will be required regarding Iran -- both in Washington and in New Delhi [
Images ].

Back from China


NOTE: This is a Google Translation

[01/04/2010 - 12:00]

Invited by the Chinese Academy of Sciences as part of its Einstein Chair, I spent several weeks in Beijing, to evaluate a large laboratory space, and I was able to share the daily life of my colleagues, although far off from normal. I have collected some impressions that I deliver in all humility.

We know that the rate of growth of the Chinese economy resulting from the introduction since 1979 of the Western doctrine of high productivity and consumerism, that is ie the maximum use of natural resources through science and technology.

The country's leaders, or rather the ruling class as a whole, are aware that current rates of development, as well as methods for manage the planet, are incompatible with the limited nature of these resources. We must find other engines of growth as those operating today. And it is the science that they place their hopes in a scientism that recalls more moderate than the Soviets, and for good reason. They considered primarily important not as the application of existing knowledge, certainly not negligible, that future breakthroughs in the fundamental domain. The official dogma is that China needs to invest in basic research, only capable of generating large-scale actions that solve its vast problems: agricultural "green" friendly and water saving soil, an aging population which is already eighty million people without progeny will have to deal with it, energy while China has only coal as a fossil fuel, etc..

Applying this analysis, China wants to be twenty years before the "first country scientific the world "by his discoveries, patents, publications. The political will is there to support universities, create and pay for research institutes, provide heavy equipment, and it employs vigorously. But the Chinese realize that this will is not enough to bring forth the findings. They are upset and irritated that no Chinese had yet received a Nobel Prize. This award has indeed crowned no Chinese left the country and having worked all his life in a Chinese laboratory. While the vast modern technology has been assimilated: skyscrapers, high speed trains, satellites and astronauts, computers, telecommunications, pharmacy out in quantity of sites and factories. The national target is to move products "Made in China" label to "Invented in China". I think the country is still far. He works hard but the specific creativity of the scientific community, based on organized communication, respect and even worship of heterodoxy, in short, intellectual freedom, creativity needs to be established. Science, built by the iconoclastic and provocative, not like technology, built by the followers and conformists.

There is thus a paradox in Chinese philosophy, this national priority given to an activity difficult to reconcile with the political morals, paradox that joins another, that of a building frenzy which must be conducted under absolute "stability" golden rule regime. Chinese pragmatism will he solve them?

Jacques Blamont graduated from the Ecole Normale Superieure, associate in physics and PhD. Associate then Senior Research Fellow at CNRS (1952-1957), he became first deputy director (1958-1961) and director (1962-1985) Service Aeronomy CNRS. It is also, from 1962 to 1972, Scientific and Technical Director of the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) from 1972 to 1982, CNES Top science adviser and from 1982 to today, Adviser to the President of CNES. The work of Jacques Blamont devoted to astronautics and astrophysics, is remarkable for its work on the Earth's atmosphere, the Sun and planets. Responsible for the development of artificial satellites launched by France, he conceived the idea in 1962 to build a shooting range space from Kourou in French Guiana. Jacques Blamont is a partner of the Academy of EI . He is a member of the Club and writes for Vigilant Vigilances, the letter Club Vigilant.

THESIS MONTH: Mercyhurst's graduate students in applied intelligence


Mercyhurst's graduate students in applied intelligence did some extraordinary work last year and I have been negligent in not making their theses more widely known. With this apology/explanation in mind, I have decided to make April, "Thesis Month".

My intent is to summarize and publicize as much of the good research done by our grad students over the next 30 days (or so) as I can. I will focus first on the theses where I was a reader since I know them best but I hope to shine some light on some of the student work done under the auspices of other readers as well.

In order to pique your interest, here are a few of the topics covered by the grad students last year (It should make for some interesting reading):
  • A Study Into The Size Of The World's Intelligence Industry
  • Explicit Conceptual Models: Synthesizing Divergent and Convergent Thinking
  • The Effectiveness of Multi-Criteria Intelligence Matrices In Intelligence Analysis
  • The Effect Of Labels On Analysis
  • And more!

Arrogant Obama alienates friends

Swapan Dasgupta


When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sits with the assembled world leaders at the Nuclear Security Conference in Washington, DC, he should ponder over one notable absentee: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Once the US’s most steadfast ally and a country with which it enjoyed a ‘special relationship’, Israel’s relationship with Washington has taken a precipitate nosedive.

There are many who will undoubtedly view Netanyahu’s absence to Israeli evasion over its nuclear ambivalence. This may undoubtedly be a factor but Israel has in the past faced this ticklish question with a combination of deft diplomacy and nationalist brazenness. What is different about today’s Washington that made the otherwise pugnacious Netanyahu opt out of an important international gathering (although Israel will be nominally represented)?

The answer is simple: President Barack Obama.

In the past few months the international grapevine has been buzzing with tales of a new, abrasive style of diplomacy that has become the signature tune of the Obama Administration. It may have been understandable if this departure from niceties had been confined to dealings with countries such as Iran and Venezuela that don’t miss any opportunity to take side swipes at the US. Intriguingly, Obama appears to have reserved his acid tongue for those who are considered close allies of the US.

It would not be inaccurate to suggest that the Israeli Prime Minister, the only representative of a vibrant democracy in the region, was sought to be wilfully browbeaten by Obama in the White House during their meeting in March. It is said that much of Obama’s impatience stems from the perception of Netanyahu as a sympathiser of the Republicans on Capitol Hill. If so, it suggests that the American President has a misplaced sense of his own intellectual superiority and a heightened sense of liberal intolerance. There was just no way that the thorny issue of East Jerusalem which Israel, with some justification, considers an integral part of its national Capital, was going to be resolved in one meaningful sitting at either the White House or Camp David. That Obama could actually believe it could suggests a rough-and-ready approach to diplomacy which may soon begin to irk even the friends of the US.

Nor was Obama’s peremptoriness limited to Netanyahu. On March 28, Obama made a sudden visit to Kabul, partly to cheer American forces stationed there and partly to confer with President Hamid Karzai. According to reports carefully leaked by the American side, Obama read Karzai the proverbial riot act. He is said to have told him that the US found his style of governance quite unacceptable and the levels of corruption well beyond the threshold of tolerance. He was told to shape up or ship out.

Obama’s sharp tongue lashing hasn’t gone down well in Afghanistan. Karzai has rightly been offended by Obama’s discourtesy and has lost no opportunity to lash out at the West. He has sought to befriend Iran, caution the US against any unilateral offensive on Kandahar and even let it be known that sheer exasperation with American arrogance may drive him into the arms of the Taliban. The US has hit back by calling Karzai’s mental stability into question and even hinting that he is suffering the effects of hallucinatory drugs. Rarely has the relationship between two allies plummeted to such incredible depths.

For all practical purposes the US has said its triple talaq to Karzai. The question is: When will the elected Afghan President be replaced by a compliant nominee of the US and its outsourced partner, Pakistan?

It is being said that the political unilateralism that marked the passage of the Health Care legislation through Congress has taken hold of Obama. From being the genial representative of a new, less divisive political culture, the US President appears to have evolved into an evangelical crusader - pursuing that which he regards is right. It’s an approach that may work in the US, although even that is debatable, but there are other civilisations where everything is not always divided into black and white, and where old world courtesies do play a role.

Not everything about Karzai is digestible but then, democracy and Afghanistan are not the most compatible of partners. To assess the world through the prism of the political correctness of liberal America is unwise. It suggests an ideological arrogance that could rebound on the US. Obama wants to get out of Afghanistan fast. But why pick on Karzai to facilitate the process? Will a handpicked nominee of Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Kabul’s Presidential Palace be a better bet?

These are concerns that the Indian Prime Minister should bear in mind during his US visit. It has now emerged that it was a peremptory Obama directive to get India and Pakistan to improve relations that was a factor behind the useless meeting of Foreign Secretaries last month. Whether India chooses to engage with Pakistan after Islamabad’s foot-dragging over the 26/11 culprits is not a matter that should be of obsessive concern to the White House. Of course, the US can give its suggestions but paying heed to the White House’s ‘directive’ diplomacy will not be appreciated within India. This may explain why the US-India bonhomie that surrounded the passage of the nuclear deal has been replaced by a climate of suspicion which, if allowed to fester, could so easily turn into hostility.

How Obama chooses to turn his machismo into political advantage in his battle with the Republicans is a matter best left to the American voters. It is of academic concern to India. But when this combativeness is transferred to the global stage and, furthermore, is accompanied by gratuitous discourtesy, it is time for a country like India to consider diplomatic alternatives to over-dependence on the US. The experiences of Netanyahu and Karzai are clear writings on the wall.

PM may take up Headley access with Obama

Indrani Bagchi, TNN, Apr 11, 2010, 01.39am IST

WASHINGTON: National security adviser Shivshankar Menon will push for direct Indian access to Pakistani-American LeT operative David Coleman Headley, during his meeting with his US counterpart, Gen James Jones, here this week. Given the profile the issue has acquired in India, it's likely that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may also raise it with President Barack Obama himself.

Sources said, while India acknowledges that there is a legal process the US will have to go through for the purpose, Menon will stress that Headley should be extradited to India. Since the 26/11 attacks, for which Headley has pleaded guilty, occurred in India, it made sense for him to be tried there.

But, Indian officials are also clear the US wants to try him in their country. That is also part of the terms of Headley's plea bargain agreement.

Short of extradition, India will ask for direct access to him, to answer questions that Indian investigators have. India's interest will centre on Headley's connections in the Pakistan army, about the Karachi Project etc. These are not on the US list of priorities.

"Such direct access can qualify as evidence in our laws too," said sources.

The US flip-flop on Headley has only served to heighten old suspicions among the Indian intelligence community about US bona fides on counter-terrorism specially as they concern Pakistan. This, many in government see as being counter-productive because in the post-Mumbai scenario, India and US have had the best ever cooperation in counter-terrorism, overcoming decades of mistrust. It did not help matters when senior US officials contradicted each other on India's access to Headley.

However, Indian officials say they are also seeing a greater US emphasis on LeT, and pressure on Pakistan to crack down on this group which may soon acquire a greater global footprint than al-Qaida.

During the recent strategic dialogue with Pakistan, the US reportedly asked Pakistan to crack down on the ISI's favourite terror group. From all accounts, Pakistan refused to take on that particular challenge.

BLA captured workers of Pakistani Oil and Gas Exploration Company

April 09, 2010

Fallout of a New Great Game?

6 Apr 2010


As Russia agrees to facilitate NATO resupply in Afghanistan, the Taliban and their sponsors worry about being hedged in by Moscow. In this light, it is possible that the recent bombings in Moscow are linked to a new Great Game, Dr Prem Mahadevan comments for ISN Security Watch.

By Prem Mahadevan for ISN Security Watch

Commentary on the Moscow bombings has focused on the likely involvement of Chechen ‘Black Widows,’ an angle which links the bombings to the Chechen separatist movement. However, there is an alternative explanation, which does not exclude the separatist dimension but subsumes it within a larger analytical framework, like a Russian doll. This is the possibility that Islamist terrorism in Russia is a by-product of an intelligence war over Central Asia - a modern day version of the Great Game.

The ‘Great Game’ was a term used to describe Russo-British rivalry in Central Asia during the 19th century. It involved intrepid spymasters, cartographers and ethnographers from both sides who ventured into the Asiatic wilderness to map out its features and buy the loyalties of local tribesmen. At the core of their secret missions was Afghanistan, which served as a buffer state between Russia and British India.

Today, as US-led NATO forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan, the stage appears set for the continuation of a new Great Game, which has been played out since the late 1980s between Russia and Pakistan. The latter has assumed the role previously played by imperial Britain i.e., opposition to Russian influence in Asia. Its strategic elite visualize themselves as having to navigate geopolitics as their predecessors did - through local proxies. Their intention is to leverage Pakistan’s geographic location for economic benefit, since the country itself lacks a strong natural resource base.

Such a policy is reflective of the general trend in Pakistani grand strategy since the 1950s, which aimed to monetarize the country’s proximity to Central Asia. At first, it permitted western intelligence agencies to set up technical collection facilities aimed at the Soviet Union, in exchange for developmental aid. With the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan became a frontline state in Operation Mosquito - the US and Saudi-led covert operation that armed Afghan resistance fighters during the 1980s.

It was while assisting the Afghan resistance that Pakistan began to regard Soviet-controlled Central Asia as a region where it could expand its influence. Having conceptualized itself as a Pan-Islamic state, it encouraged the spread of political Islam among the Muslim population of the southern Soviet Republics. Initially, support for an Islamist rebellion in these states was confined to propaganda distributed by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. However, with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, such support escalated into financial and physical contacts between Pakistan-based Islamists and local separatist groups.

The mid 1990s saw Russian officials blaming Pakistani Islamists for sheltering Chechen separatist leaders and training them in paramilitary tactics. Simultaneously, the ISI and a group of transport contractors in the Pakistani city of Quetta sponsored an Afghan militia called the Taliban. The latter swept over large tracts of Afghanistan in 1994-96, eventually coming to power in Kabul and executing the pro-Russian president. What remained of Moscow’s influence in Afghanistan retreated to the northern-most corner of the country.

Constituting the Northern Alliance, this collection of Afghan ethnic minorities controlled a thin wedge of territory that cut Afghanistan off from the rest of Central Asia. They received support from Russia, India and Iran. Meanwhile, 90 percent of Afghanistan came under the Pashtun-dominated Taliban who, not coincidentally, shared their ethnicity with a majority of officers in the ISI.

The worst years of Russo-Chechen tensions coincided with Taliban dominance in Afghanistan. This is not to suggest that a causal relationship existed between the two. It is merely to emphasize that Central Asia and the Caucasus were ravaged by religious militancy simultaneously.

Linking the two regions was a vision that a handful of senior ISI officials had about creating an Islamic ‘security belt,’ that would have the Central Asian ‘stans’ as its buckle. Even as Soviet forces were withdrawing from Afghanistan in 1988, the agency’s Afghan Bureau lobbied for a thrust into the Russian sphere of influence. It hoped that Islamism could fill the ideological space vacated by communism. In part due to the repressive practices of the Soviet state regarding religion, the implementation of this policy won converts in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The rebellions that broke out in these states after 1991 received strong encouragementfrom Pakistani Islamist groups like the Tablighi Jamaat and Jamaat-e-Islami. (As revealed by writers such as former ISI officer Mohammad Yousaf, author ofAfghanistan the Bear Trap, and Indian journalist MJ Akbar, author of The Shade of Swords.)

Islamabad’s official motive for seeking an ideological foothold in Central Asia was (and still is) grounded in a narrative of ‘strategic depth.’ Put simply, this holds that Pakistan lacks the capability to withstand an Indian conventional military assault and as such needs friendly neighbors to its West. Although such a rationale had some merit when it was originally formulated in the late 1980s, it has long since outlived its viability.

The nuclearization of Indo-Pakistani hostility in 1998 nullified Islamabad’s fears of a conventional military defeat. Repeated crises between the two sides have not escalated into war precisely because of the nuclear factor. The real reason for Pakistani interest in Central Asia is therefore not military survival but economic gain.

The Taliban’s sponsors in Quetta had originally hoped it would serve as a road-clearing party that would open up trade routes between Pakistani ports and Central Asian markets. Owing to interference by the Northern Alliance however, this design was frustrated. Subsequent Pakistani attempts to loosen ties between Central Asian governments and Moscow through trade agreements remained unsuccessful due to suspicions that Pakistani Islamists supported rebellious groups with the ISI’s knowledge.

In this context, the impending retreat of NATO forces from Afghanistan opens up the possibility of an Islamist resurgence in Central Asia and the Caucasus. The Moscow bombings were, on one level, motivated by local considerations (such as avenging the recent assassinations of top Chechen terrorists by Russian forces). On another level, they were linked to shifts in the Afghan strategic situation. With Russia agreeing to facilitate the resupply of NATO forces in Afghanistan, the Taliban and their sponsors are worried about once again being hedged in by Moscow.

The proposed Northern Distribution Network would enhance connectivity between Afghanistan and the Russian sphere of influence in Central Asia. It would also significantly reduce NATO dependence on supply convoys routed through Pakistan - a factor which would lose Islamabad several hundred million dollars in transit fees and might explain the sudden drop in Taliban attacks on the convoys.

Given that members of Chechen separatist groups are known to be fighting alongside the Taliban, it is quite possible that the two have a long-term convergence of views regarding the need to resist Russian influence in the region. If this is the case, it is likely that as the war in Afghanistan intensifies, so will terrorist attacks in Russia.

Dr Prem Mahadevan is a senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies in Zurich. He holds a bachelors degree, a masters degree and a doctorate from King's College in London.

Cyberwar: Concept, Status Quo, and Limitations

Political, economic, and military conflicts are increasingly also being carried out in cyberspace. However, conceptually, the notion of “cyberwar” only includes a narrow sub-section of all conflicts in cyberspace. At the operative level, capabilities for cyberwarfare are becoming increasingly important. Nevertheless, the prospects for strategic IT wars that only take place in the virtual space remain extremely unlikely. For many states, there is a particular need for action in the area of cyberdefence.

© 2010 Center for Security Studies (CSS), ETH Zurich



Myriam Dunn Cavelty


Opportunity and Peril in Kyrgyzstan


The dramatic events in Kyrgyzstan, which have apparently led to the overthrow of the administration of President Kurmanbek Bakiev and the installation of a transitional regime, represent a significant diplomatic conundrum for Washington, Moscow and Beijing, Dr John CK Daly comments for ISN Security Watch.

By John CK Daly for ISN Security Watch

Bakiev reportedly has fled to the south of the country, and a provisional government under opposition leader and former foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva is preparing the country for a six-month interim government.

The situation represents both opportunity and peril for the US, Russia and China, which share little in the way of common interests aside from seats on the UN Security Council. Ongoing chaos in Kyrgyzstan is not in their interest, however, and this may forge a common cause in improvising joint solutions to stabilize the new regime and put an end to the cronyism and corruption that destabilized its predecessor.

After 9/11, the Bush administration declared two global polices – a war against terrorism and a relentless push to advance democracy worldwide. Georgia’s 2003 Rose Revolution, was followed by Ukraine’s early 2005 Orange Revolution, which in turn was followed by Kyrgyzstan’s Tulip Revolution that same year. Kyrgyzstan has produced the second rollback of this agenda, following Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko’s electoral defeat in February, leaving only the beleaguered Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

The unrest began in the northern Kyrgyz city of Talas on 6 April after the arrest of several opposition leaders, but quickly spread to Bishkek and outlying cities.

Government security forces opened fire with live ammunition, provoking similar violence from the opposition, who seized the national TV, parliament and government buildings. Estimates of the dead range up to 100 killed with over 400 wounded. Unlike western anti-riot police, who use water cannons, teargas, stun grenades and canine forces prior to deploying lethal force, a number of pictures from the demonstrations show police militia at the outset firing sub-machineguns directly into the crowds; others show demonstrators subduing militia armed with rocket propelled grenades.

While analysts argue about the tripwire for this week’s violence, it may well be that, five years after the Tulip Revolution deposed the administration of president Askar Akaev, his successor Bakiev, signally failed to deliver on promises of increased prosperity and anti-corruption, instead pursuing policies similar to, if not worse than, Akaev’s. Nepotism was rife in Bakiev’s administration, with many top jobs going to cronies and family members. Bakiev was also believed to be preparing his son Maxim to inherit power. Indeed, Maxim was visiting Washington when the unrest broke out.

The opposition now controls four out of Kyrgyzstan's seven regions. On 8 April, Otunbayeva declared that her provisional government was dismissing the parliament, establishing a provisional government to spend six months stabilizing the situation and preparing constitution amendments prior to new presidential elections.

Bakiev, apparently no longer in the capital, on 8 April sent an e-mail to Kyrgyz news agency 24.kg stating: “I declare that I did not resign nor do I resign as president… I am ready to bear liability for the recent tragic events, if it is proved through an objective investigation, not using presidential immunity as a cover.”

How will the Russia, China and the US respond?

The US suspended air operations on 7 April through its Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan, and Russia sent 150 paratroopers to safeguard its nearby air base at Kant.

Despite the destruction of Chinese property in Bishkek, the Chinese Foreign Ministry observed only that “China hopes the situation in Kyrgyzstan turns stable at an early date…” According to Kyrgyz Deputy Minister of Economic Regulation Sanjar Mukanbetov, since January 2009, bilateral Chinese-Kyrgyz trade has exceeded $3.45 billion. Accordingly, China, whose Kyrgyz assets are $51.2 million, will be pressing quickly for a quick solution to the unrest, as it has no in-country military assets to protect them.

The chaos provides a unique opportunity for the superpower trio to cooperate. Otunbayeva’s provisional government will be in need of immediate assistance to address the country’s most pressing social concerns. Three countries with a combined population of 1.77 billion and a collective GDP of $25.15 trillion undoubtedly can assist an impoverished nation of 5.4 million, where 18 percent are unemployed and the average monthly wage is around $130. The country’s infrastructure continues to crumble. Furthermore, the UN notes that Kyrgyzstan’s infant mortality rate soared from 20.9 per 1,000 thousand live births to 30.6 in 2007, two years after the Tulip Revolution.

If such demands for justice and fiscal relief are not met by Otunbayeva’s bankrupt government and its successor, then expect similar unrest in 2015, if not sooner.

Dr John C K Daly is a non-resident Fellow at John Hopkins Central Asia-Caucasus Institute in Washington, DC.