Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Beginning of a New Kind of World War III

Webster Tarpley in Studio on Alex Jones TV:of Things to Come

Whatever the mainstream Americans and British may say, the fact is that this is the game plan and I have no doubts about it.

USA even pressured Pakistan to allow Indians a face saving Mock Strike. The era of Muslims versus the godless communists is over. Now its the Hindu Fascist versus the Muslims. Soon a World War III of a different kind would begin.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


13 DECEMBER 2008
By Usman Khalid

London, December 14. As I was preparing to go to bed last night, Geo TV was breaking news that Indian aircraft had violated the air space of Pakistan at two points – in Lahore sector and in Azad Kashmir. Clearly, India was following in the footsteps of its strategic partner – the USA – and expected no resistance from Pakistan as the target was the common enemy (the terrorists) as in FATA and the NWFP. India must have been peeved by the unfriendly scrambling of the aircraft by the Pakistan Air Force that led to the Indian mission having to be aborted. India would press upon President Zardari directly and through friends – the USA and UK - to give the same facilities to the Indian Air Force as given to the USA to strike ‘terrorists’ inside Pakistan. Prime Minster Gordon Brown is visiting Pakistan today and would no doubt give assurances to President Asif Zardari that NATO led ISAF would not strike targets inside Pakistan. That helps. The safe passage to NATO supplies from Karachi Port to Afghanistan has already been disrupted. The British perhaps do remember what happened to the expeditions they sent into Afghanistan from India. No one made it back alive. India remembers that too but it thinks it is much cleverer than the British, the Soviet Union or the Americans and would emerge victorious.
The USA and UK are willing to let India try and are willing to provide India full diplomatic support at the UN and elsewhere. America is ready to provide more; it is understood to have promised air support from its bases in Afghanistan and its aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea. The diplomatic moves to demonise and isolate Pakistan are already underway. A British minister declared in the Parliament last year that HM Government supports the Indian stand on Jammu and Kashmir. Jang Daily published from London carried the news but there was no public outcry. With the military led Musharraf Government being willing to consider solution other than a ‘UN supervised plebiscite’, the public has come to expect its leaders not to safeguard the national interests and to be eager to get into bed with the enemy. Now the UN Sanctions Committee has passed a resolution to ban Jamaat ud Daawa as a terrorist organisation, a legal handle has been provided to India and the US to invade Pakistan. Remember the UNSC passed a resolution for Iraq to let the UN Inspectors in to complete their inspection to confirm there were no WMD in Iraq, and promised not invade Iraq if it did. Iraq did allow the UN Inspectors to complete their inspection but the USA still invaded. The spectacular briefing to the UN Security Council by Secretary of State Colin Powell, which has since been discredited as totally false, was used by the US as excuse insisting that Iraq was not co-operating with the UN Inspectors.

Just as the British declaration of support to Indian stand on Kashmir was ignored by Pakistan, Zardari administration is displaying breathtaking naivety (more probably treachery) in joining India to say that the UN Sanctions help Pakistan fight the scourge of terrorism. No, Sir! This resolution provides an excuse to invade Pakistan and mobilise international support for it. All that India needs to do is to keep saying that the action of Pakistan is an ‘eyewash’. Pakistan’s friends would be silenced. Many countries will join India to ask Pakistan to ‘do more’. I do not believe that India would carry out air strikes inside Pakistan until President Obama enters upon his office. But then it might, in order to force the hand of the new President. In either case, India would rely on the precedent set by the USA in North Pakistan and carry out air strikes to ‘help’ Zardari against ‘terrorists’ in Kashmir and the South. It is unlikely that Asif Zardari would survive dragging his feet that makes response to Indian strikes tardy. But his ouster would be no skin off the Indo-US nose. Without a ‘legitimate’ government in Pakistan, both would feel free to invade Pakistan.

The narrative for war on Pakistan written by Indo-US planners appears to have no holes. But the holes are really big if the military of Pakistan is able to act boldly and sometimes even pre-emptively. In the first Indo-Pakistan War of 1948-49, forty percent of Jammu and Kashmir was captured by the people aided by tribal lashkars and the Northern Scouts well before the Pakistan Army went into Kashmir. That area is still held by Pakistan. In 1965, Pakistan was so eager to keep the war confined to Jammu and Kashmir that it did not deploy its troops into battle positions on the rest of the border ostensibly and ridiculously to ‘avoid provoking’ an all out war. The same mistake was made in the Kargil War of 1991. We always said that the defence of East Pakistan lay in West Pakistan and yet we did not go into Kashmir in 1971 when India invaded East Pakistan. Pakistanis always fought well and would do even better in the next war but the mistakes of strategy cannot be overcome by good tactics or fighting spirit of the troops. The first principle is to prepare for all eventualities particularly the most dangerous one. We say that our nuclear doctrine is ‘first strike’ and that a ‘nuclear war’ is the most dangerous eventuality. We must therefore prepare for that worst eventuality – calmly and with sobriety. If we didn’t, the enemy would know. And the worst eventuality would catch us unprepared.
On the other end of the spectrum is the asymmetrical war in which Pakistan has been on the wrong side of the populace. Pakistan should return to the same side as the people of the country in that war. That war should not be fought in FATA or even Afghanistan; it should be fought in Kashmir. If the USA and India want to rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure as they say, Pakistan, China and Iran should welcome that and offer every assistance so that peace returns and ISAF troop levels can be scaled down. The Afghan people should be able to become friends with those who helped them fight the Soviet occupation. However, there are real and genuine doubts in Pakistan about the real intentions of India or America. But we should not forget that neither has a safe route into Afghanistan. Their presence in Afghanistan is a guarantee of their good behaviour. They are so vulnerable to being completely wiped out like the British during the Afghan Wars that it is hard to exaggerate the threat they face. But Pakistan is now engaged in a wrong war; they are fighting the Afghan resistance. Pakistan should make a strategic withdrawal from Afghanistan immediately. It should open the border with Afghanistan and let the people on both sides of the Durand Line figure things out. Pakistan needs tribal lashkars once again and not only in Kashmir.

Fortunately, the security situation is outside the control of President Asif Zardari. He can hurt Pakistan’s economy, which he is doing. Pakistan’s formal economy is close to a meltdown and it would be no bad thing if the ‘controls’ that provide opportunities to the political class to rob and steal disappear. India has started the fourth Indo-Pakistan war already. It is a war like no other before it. This is a war that Pakistan alone can win; all others can lose although in different ways. India is cautiously climbing the escalation ladder in the hope that it can avoid an all out nuclear war. It is India’s need to escalate with caution that guarantees freedom of action to those fighting asymmetrical war against India in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan has to remain demonstrably prepared for the worst thus reinforcing the freedom of action to the resistance in Jammu and Kashmir. There will indeed be skirmishes between India and Pakistan; the sound of the weak knees of the rulers knocking would be loud for all to hear. There is no need to remove this pathetic lot. Let them die of fear – fear of India, fear of America, fear of the ‘militants’, fear of the people who elected them, fear of the armed forces, fear of the lawyers. Let them and their masters die a death by a thousands cuts.

The writer is the Director of London Institute of South Asia

Saturday, December 13, 2008


By Anatol Lieven

The most important questions concerning the terrorist attacks in Mumbai are also obvious ones, yet are not asked nearly often enough by Western analysts. They are: What goals did the terrorists hope to achieve by these attacks? And how to what degree did they achieve them? Regrettably, the terrorists so far seem to have achieved at least a qualified success.[i]

The first terrorist objective was clearly the direct human and physical damage caused, and the direct impact of this damage on India. From this point of view, most unfortunately, the terrorists have pulled off the greatest success in a single operation since 9/11, though less due to their own strength than the weakness of the Indian state. India has suffered a severe economic blow at a most inopportune moment, and the shortcomings of its security system have been cruelly revealed. In fact, its entire claim to be an aspiring great power has been called into question. It still seems extraordinary that a mere ten terrorists can have achieved so much.[ii]

The less obvious, but even more important terrorist objective was the effect of the operation on the behaviour of India's government. It seems clear that by far the single most important goal in this regard was to worsen relations between India and Pakistan, and wreck hopeful recent signs of reconciliation, like the speech of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in the week before the attacks dubbing the insurgents in Indian-controlled Kashmir "terrorists" and calling for economic union between India and Pakistan. Islamists in Pakistan have spoken, and written openly of their desire to disrupt this reconciliation, and ideally to cause a new war between India and Pakistan.[iii]

The extremists' interests in such a new conflict, or the threat of one, are threefold. In the first place, Pakistani tension with India tends to boost wider Islamist support, especially since India is now seen as a close ally of the United States. Secondly, tension with India tends to increase support for the extremists in the Pakistani security services. There may well also be a more immediate objective, which is to draw Pakistani troops away from the campaign against the Pakistani Taliban in the Pashtun areas of Pakistan along the western border with Afghanistan, by forcing the Pakistani military to concentrate troops for defence against the old eastern enemy, India.[iv]

So far, the terrorists have not succeeded in creating a new conflict; and they have suffered a serious blow with the Pakistani army's attack on their main base in Pakistani Kashmir and arrest of their leader.[v] However, in many respects India's response to the attacks fell straight into the trap dug by the terrorists. Rather than stressing that India and Pakistan had been victims of the same kind of monstrous attacks on their international hotels (India at the Taj and Oberoi in December, Pakistan at the Marriott in September) and needed to work together, Indian rhetoric, official and still more private, made it sound as if the Indian government was blaming the Pakistani government itself for these attacks. The Pakistani response was bound to be deeply hostile.

It is indeed obvious that the Pakistani state needs to do far more to crack down on home-grown terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba on its territory, and on any serving or former Pakistani intelligence officers still associated with them. It is simply outrageous that seven years after 9/11 there should still be such serious doubts about Pakistan in this regard.[vi]

The Obama administration, as a matter of urgency, should dust off an interesting plan drawn up by the staff of Vice President-elect Biden in 2007, arguing for a mixture of greatly increased economic aid to Pakistan with strong, calibrated U.S. pressure on the Pakistani military through cuts to military aid and arms sales.

For Pakistan to target its own militants will admittedly not be as easy as some Western and Indian commentators would have one believe. In recent visits to Pakistan, a senior policeman and intelligence officer have both admitted to me that their services are thoroughly permeated by extremist sympathisers.[vii]

After nine years of appointments by ex-President Musharraf, this is not true of the higher ranks of these services; and certainly there is no sympathy whatsoever in the new administration of President Asif Ali Zardari for the forces which murdered his wife Benazir Bhutto. Nonetheless, as my police acquaintance candidly admitted, unless the planning of operations against the extremists is restricted to a very small circle of trusted senior officers, every one is liable to be leaked in advance to its targets.[viii]

The presence of extremist sympathisers in the security services reflects the situation in the population in general. Election results which show the Islamist parties' share of the national vote as very low are somewhat misleading from this point of view. Pakistanis who have no desire for an Islamist revolution in Pakistan may still sympathise with Pakistanis who hit at the old enemy, India, or at America, now perceived by much of the population as a de facto enemy of Pakistan.[ix]

The situation from this point of view is especially grave in the Pashtun areas, where the Afghan Taliban enjoy overwhelming sympathy as far as their jihad against Western forces in Afghanistan are concerned, and the Pakistani Taliban enjoy lesser but still considerable sympathy in their battles against Pakistani forces.

U.S. missile strikes across the border, though in principle justified—since these areas are being used by the Taliban as a base to attack American soldiers—are increasing anti-American feeling in the Pashtun areas of Pakistan. As for U.S. raids on the ground, if resumed these will lead to actual battles with Pakistani forces, the collapse of the U.S.-Pakistani alliance, and a downward economic and political spiral in Pakistan, the depths of which cannot be foreseen.

There is a key point to be made about the role of Pakistan and India in the "war on terror" as far as the United States and the West are concerned, which may at first sight seem counterintuitive, but on reflection should be obvious.

In the struggle against Islamist extremism and terrorism, Pakistan is a dreadfully flawed and unsatisfactory ally, but it is still an essential ally.

This is because in the end, only Pakistanis can govern and control Pakistan. Any attempt by outside forces to do so will lead to general revolt and a catastrophic increase in global Muslim support for terrorism.

The mathematics are unequivocal: With more than 160 million people, Pakistan has four times the population of Afghanistan or Iraq, twice the population of Iran, two thirds the population of the entire Arab Middle East, and possesses nuclear weapons and one of the most powerful armies in the world.[x]

India, by contrast, is not really a useful U.S. ally at all from this point of view, but a potentially disastrous liability. The direct help that India can give to the United States in the war on terror is very limited; while India's dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir, and treatment of its Muslim minority, contribute to inflaming Muslim sentiment in Pakistan and far beyond.

The new Obama administration therefore should be careful to balance pressure on Pakistan over shelter for terrorists with pressure on India over these two points. Concerning Kashmir: It needs to be clearly recognised—and India itself has not denied this—that the latest flare-up of trouble in Kashmir was not due to Pakistani influence, but was purely home-grown, and was a result of a poisonous combination of Kashmiri Muslim aspirations for greater independence, ethno-religious tensions in Kashmir between Muslims and Hindus, and mismanagement by the Indian state.

As far as Pakistan's role is concerned, the last two Pakistani leaders, Musharraf and Zardari, have gone as far as any Pakistani government can go in offering a compromise to India, and India's response so far has been virtually zero. Musharraf essentially suggested a peace deal with India along the lines of that in Northern Ireland, with existing de facto borders recognised but also softened through a variety of common institutions. Washington should launch a new international initiative via the United Nations to seek an Indo-Pakistani peace treaty along these general lines, with the European Union, Russia and China enlisted to add economic incentives and geopolitical pressure.

Secondly, India needs to come under much greater international scrutiny, led by Washington, regarding its treatment of its own Muslim minority. For a long time now, the Indian establishment has been in denial over the bitter and understandable alienation of much of this community, and the way in which this is feeding into terrorism and extremism. We have now seen a row of dreadful terrorist attacks in India over the past year, several of which may well have had connections to Pakistani terrorist groups, but not one of which could have taken place without local help.

It is important to remember in this regard that the massacres of Muslims by Hindu extremists in the Indian state of Gujarat in February-March 2002 may well have claimed more victims than 9/11, and certainly claimed many more victims than the latest atrocities in Mumbai (official figures record more than one thousand deaths; independent estimates range as high as five thousand). As reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the EU and Indian NGOs have made clear, these attacks took place with the encouragement of the then state government of Gujarat, led by the Hindu nationalist BJP, and with the connivance and on occasions active participation of the local police.

No official or politician has been sent to prison for this, and the official response of the U.S. administration and Congress was in general a disgraceful silence. This is the kind of behaviour that fuels contempt for the United States in Pakistan and across the Muslim world. If America wishes to regain any moral credibility with the population of Pakistan, it is very important that it be seen to take account of the entire background to the Mumbai atrocities, including India's own record.

Above all, the United States needs to be seen by the people of Pakistan to be doing something serious to help Pakistan, rather than simply threaten it. This relates above all to the economic field. The biggest threat to internal stability in Pakistan today stems from economic crisis, brought on by the global recession. There is an enormous amount that the United States can do to help in this regard—and at a cost which is insignificant compared to that of baling out the U.S. financial and automobile industries.

It is true that the times are hardly propitious for American generosity in this regard; but the new administration needs to remember that during the cold war against Soviet communist expansionism its predecessors in the Truman and Eisenhower administrations—often treated as models of statesmanship by both Democratic and Republican thinkers—were dedicated to visionary programmes of economic assistance in order to strengthen key states against communist subversion, in Asia as well as Europe.

If Pakistan is indeed the very dangerous place that the American media portrays, then it is also worth this kind of concentrated and calibrated assistance from the United States.

Anatol Lieven, a professor in the War Studies Department of King's College London and a senior fellow of the New America Foundation, is a senior editor at The National Interest.


This essay has two clear parts that are disconnected. The first part goes with the current perception in Europe and West led to think that Pakistan and its institutions are rogue and out of state control. In the second part, he takes a more real view of the situation and sentiments of Pakistanis.

[i] . It is too early to presume who were the terrorists? Were they a rogue group acting at their own or under influence/control of a state that had stakes in the region and a definitive advantage? Many international commentators ignore the coincidence that ethnic riots broke out within hours in Karachi and stopped abruptly once the perpetuators were identified. They were certainly not Pathan or any religious group connected to them.

[ii] . After the Bay of Pigs, this was the first large scale invasion by irregulars using the sea, if at all they did. Those familiar with maritime training would confirm the detail, preparedness and difficulty of such an operation.

[iii] . Conspiracy Theory

[iv] . The most this incident did was to create a fault line between the present government and people of Pakistan. They are not happy and convinced at the way the government performed and now see it as part of the bigger problem. Already most thinkers in Pakistan are convinced that the government id US sponsored and disloyal to the country.

[v]. It was not an attack but rather a raid with no resistance. The only new conflict that could emerge is a Civil War in Punjab. So far this has not been the case and the government of Punjab has handled the situation in a very mature manner.

[vi] . What is expected of Romantic Revolutionaries of the Afghan War.? Should they kill themselves, be sent to the gallows or drowned in the Indian Ocean. These are battle hardy people, who had laid down their arms and immersed themselves into Human Resource Development activity. They were running colleges; Cambridge University affiliated schools, charity hospitals and relief camps. In October 2005, barring the catholic missionaries of Rawalpindi, they were the first to reach Balakot. During my relief visits to the area I was impressed by their dedication. The one who brought me food and insisted I share the meal with him was a veteran of the Afghan War and had now become a missionary. Imagine, what worse could have happened if men such as these were not engaged in missionary relief work. Many international NGOs that worked in the area would vouch for their dedication and sacrifice e.g they used to sleep in the open in below freezing temperatures, as the tents they had were given to the victims.

[vii]. The most recent US police officers who visited Pakistan were the Scotland Yard agents who came to investigate the murder of Benazir Bhutto. Against all logic in light of the Channel 4 Video, they supported the government theory of the handle. Such is the credibility of this police. This is another conspiracy theory.

[viii] . This is totally illogical. Most brigadiers of 1999 are either Lt Generals or since retired. The present major generals were either majors or Lt. Colonels in 1999. Many of them participated in Kargil and were later dismissive the way the whole operation was handled. Having been a part of this structure including three tenures in Military Operations Directorate, I am sure no such notions exist. Pakistan army is amongst the most disciplined with a deep sense of corporatism and exclusivity. Officers in this army do not act in individual capacities. An odd exception like God’s earth cannot be ruled out.

[ix] . The situation is a reflection of the social dilemma in Pakistani society. Deep sense of religious identity and spirit of armed resistance was brought to the fore through US assistance during the Afghan War. It was Brezinski, who during his address at Pabbi (NWFP) evoked the spirit of Jihad against a Godless USSR. After the Soviets withdrew and USSR broke, no effort was made to rehabilitate these Holy Warriors. Those who did are still terrorists.

[x] . The sudden twist in the author’s assessment is strange but true. Barring small ruling elite of opportunists, and very few westernized Pakistanis, the entire country is now anti USA. In extensive discussions that I have had, USA is held as a bigger threat to Pakistan’s security ahead of India. In my long discussions with analysts and research scholars, the single point concurrence was that Indo US Nuclear deal was in fact an extension of the US-Nuclear Umbrella.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


By George Friedman

In an interview published this Sunday in The New York Times, we laid out a potential scenario for the current Indo-Pakistani crisis. We began with an Indian strike on Pakistan, precipitating a withdrawal of Pakistani troops from the Afghan border, resulting in intensified Taliban activity along the border and a deterioration in the U.S. position in Afghanistan, all culminating in an emboldened Iran. The scenario is not unlikely, assuming India chooses to strike.

Our argument that India is likely to strike focused, among other points, on the weakness of the current Indian government and how it is likely to fall under pressure from the opposition and the public if it does not act decisively. An unnamed Turkish diplomat involved in trying to mediate the dispute has argued that saving a government is not a good reason to go to war. That is a good argument, except that in this case, not saving the government is unlikely to prevent a war, either.

If India's Congress party government were to fall, its replacement would be even more likely to strike at Pakistan. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress' Hindu nationalist rival, has long charged that Congress is insufficiently aggressive in combating terrorism. The BJP will argue that the Mumbai attack in part resulted from this failing. Therefore, if the Congress government does not strike, and is subsequently forced out or loses India's upcoming elections, the new government is even more likely to strike.

It is therefore difficult to see a path that avoids Indian retaliation, and thus the emergence of at least a variation on the scenario we laid out. But the problem is not simply political: India must also do something to prevent more Mumbais. This is an issue of Indian national security, and the pressure on India's government to do something comes from several directions.

Three Indian Views of Pakistan

The question is what an Indian strike against Pakistan, beyond placating domestic public opinion, would achieve. There are three views on this in India.

The first view holds that Pakistani officials aid and abet terrorism — in particular the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), which serves as Pakistan's main intelligence service. In this view, the terrorist attacks are the work of Pakistani government officials — perhaps not all of the government, but enough officials of sufficient power that the rest of the government cannot block them, and therefore the entire Pakistani government can be held accountable.

The second view holds that terrorist attacks are being carried out by Kashmiri groups that have long been fostered by the ISI but have grown increasingly autonomous since 2002 — and that the Pakistani government has deliberately failed to suppress anti-Indian operations by these groups. In this view, the ISI and related groups are either aware of these activities or willfully ignorant of them, even if ISI is not in direct control. Under this thinking, the ISI and the Pakistanis are responsible by omission, if not by commission.

The third view holds that the Pakistani government is so fragmented and weak that it has essentially lost control of Pakistan to the extent that it cannot suppress these anti-Indian groups. This view says that the army has lost control of the situation to the point where many from within the military-intelligence establishment are running rogue operations, and groups in various parts of the country simply do what they want. If this argument is pushed to its logical conclusion, Pakistan should be regarded as a state on the verge of failure, and an attack by India might precipitate further weakening, freeing radical Islamist groups from what little control there is.

The first two analyses are essentially the same. They posit that Pakistan could stop attacks on India, but chooses not to. The third is the tricky one. It rests on the premise that the Pakistani government (and in this we include the Pakistani army) is placing some restraint on the attackers. Thus, the government's collapse would make enough difference that India should restrain itself, especially as any Indian attack would so destabilize Pakistan that it would unleash our scenario and worse. In this view, Pakistan's civilian government has only as much power in these matters as the army is willing to allow.

The argument against attacking Pakistan therefore rests on a very thin layer of analysis. It requires the belief that Pakistan is not responsible for the attacks, that it is nonetheless restraining radical Islamists to some degree, and that an Indian attack would cause even these modest restraints to disappear. Further, it assumes that these restraints, while modest, are substantial enough to make a difference.

There is a debate in India, and in Washington, as to whether this is the case. This is why New Delhi has demanded that Pakistan turn over 20 individuals wanted by India in connection with attacks. The list doesn't merely include Islamists, but also Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, the former head of the ISI who has long been suspected of close ties with Islamists. (The United States apparently added Gul to the list.) Turning those individuals over would be enormously difficult politically for Pakistan. It would create a direct confrontation between Pakistan's government and the Pakistani Islamist movement, likely sparking violence in Pakistan. Indeed, turning any Pakistani over to India, regardless of ideology, would create a massive crisis in Pakistan.

The Indian government chose to make this demand precisely because complying with it is enormously difficult for Pakistan. New Delhi is not so much demanding the 20 individuals, but rather that Pakistan take steps that will create conflict in Pakistan. If the Pakistani government is in control of the country, it should be able to weather the storm. If it can't weather the storm, then the government is not in control of Pakistan. And if it could weather the storm but chooses not to incur the costs, then India can reasonably claim that Pakistan is prepared to export terrorism rather than endure it at home. In either event, the demand reveals things about the Pakistani reality.

The View from Islamabad

Pakistan's evaluation, of course, is different. Islamabad does not regard itself as failed because it cannot control all radical Islamists or the Taliban. The official explanation is that the Pakistanis are doing the best they can. From the Pakistani point of view, while the Islamists ultimately might represent a threat, the threat to Pakistan and its government that would arise from a direct assault on the Islamists is a great danger not only to Pakistan, but also to the region. It is thus better for all to let the matter rest. The Islamist issue aside, Pakistan sees itself as continuing to govern the country effectively, albeit with substantial social and economic problems (as one might expect). The costs of confronting the Islamists, relative to the benefits, are therefore high.

The Pakistanis see themselves as having several effective counters against an Indian attack. The most important of these is the United States. The very first thing Islamabad said after the Mumbai attack was that a buildup of Indian forces along the Pakistani border would force Pakistan to withdraw 100,000 troops from its Afghan border. Events over the weekend, such as the attack on a NATO convoy, showed the vulnerability of NATO's supply line across Pakistan to Afghanistan.

The Americans are fighting a difficult holding action against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The United States needs the militant base camps in Pakistan and the militants' lines of supply cut off, but the Americans lack the force to do this themselves. A withdrawal of Pakistani forces from the Afghan border would pose a direct threat to American forces. Therefore, the Pakistanis expect Washington to intervene on their behalf to prevent an Indian attack. They do not believe a major Indian troop buildup will take place, and if it does, the Pakistanis do not think it will lead to substantial conflict.

There has been some talk of an Indian naval blockade against Pakistan, blocking the approaches to Pakistan's main port of Karachi. This is an attractive strategy for India, as it plays to New Delhi's relative naval strength. Again, the Pakistanis do not believe the Indians will do this, given that it would cut off the flow of supplies to American troops in Afghanistan. (Karachi is the main port serving U.S. forces in Afghanistan.) The line of supply in Afghanistan runs through Pakistan, and the Americans, the Pakistanis calculate, do not want anything to threaten that.

From the Pakistani point of view, the only potential military action India could take that would not meet U.S. opposition would be airstrikes. There has been talk that the Indians might launch airstrikes against Islamist training camps and bases in Pakistani-administered Kashmir. In Pakistan's view, this is not a serious problem. Mounting airstrikes against training camps is harder than it might seem. The only way to achieve anything in such a facility is with area destruction weapons — for instance, using B-52s to drop ordnance over very large areas. The targets are not amenable to strike aircraft, because the payload of such aircraft is too small. It would be tough for the Indians, who don't have strategic bombers, to hit very much. Numerous camps exist, and the Islamists can afford to lose some. As an attack, it would be more symbolic than effective.

Moreover, if the Indians did kill large numbers of radical Islamists, this would hardly pose a problem to the Pakistani government. It might even solve some of Islamabad's problems, depending on which analysis you accept. Airstrikes would generate massive support among Pakistanis for their government so long as Islamabad remained defiant of India. Pakistan thus might even welcome Indian airstrikes against Islamist training camps.

Islamabad also views the crisis with India with an eye to the Pakistani nuclear arsenal. Any attack by India that might destabilize the Pakistani government opens at least the possibility of a Pakistani nuclear strike or, in the event of state disintegration, of Pakistani nuclear weapons falling into the hands of factional elements. If India presses too hard, New Delhi faces the unknown of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal — unless, of course, the Indians are preparing a pre-emptive nuclear attack on Pakistan, something the Pakistanis find unlikely.

All of this, of course, depends upon two unknowns. First, what is the current status of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal? Is it sufficiently reliable for Pakistan to count on? Second, to what extent do the Americans monitor Pakistan's nuclear capabilities? Ever since the crisis of 2002, when American fears that Pakistani nuclear weapons could fall into al Qaeda's hands were high, we have assumed that American calm about Pakistan's nuclear facilities was based on Washington's having achieved a level of transparency on their status. This might limit Pakistan's freedom of action with regard to — and hence ability to rely on — its nuclear arsenal.

Notably, much of Pakistan's analysis of the situation rests on a core assumption — namely, that the United States will choose to limit Indian options, and just as important, that the Indians would listen to Washington. India does not have the same relationship or dependence on the United States as, for example, Israel does. India historically was allied with the Soviet Union; New Delhi moved into a strategic relationship with the United States only in recent years. There is a commonality of interest between India and the United States, but not a dependency. India would not necessarily be blocked from action simply because the Americans didn't want it to act.

As for the Americans, Pakistan's assumption that the United States would want to limit India is unclear. Islamabad's threat to shift 100,000 troops from the Afghan border will not easily be carried out. Pakistan's logistical capabilities are limited. Moreover, the American objection to Pakistan's position is that the vast majority of these troops are not engaged in controlling the border anyway, but are actually carefully staying out of the battle. Given that the Americans feel that the Pakistanis are ineffective in controlling the Afghan-Pakistani border, the shift from virtually to utterly ineffective might not constitute a serious deterioration from the United States' point of view. Indeed, it might open the door for more aggressive operations on — and over — the Afghan-Pakistani border by American forces, perhaps by troops rapidly transferred from Iraq.

The situation of the port of Karachi is more serious, both in the ground and naval scenarios. The United States needs Karachi; it is not in a position to seize the port and the road system out of Karachi. That is a new war the United States can't fight. At the same time, the United States has been shifting some of its logistical dependency from Pakistan to Central Asia. But this requires a degree of Russian support, which would cost Washington dearly and take time to activate. In short, India's closing the port of Karachi by blockade, or Pakistan's doing so as retaliation for Indian action, would hurt the United States badly.

Supply lines aside, Islamabad should not assume that the United States is eager to ensure that the Pakistani state survives. Pakistan also should not assume that the United States is impressed by the absence or presence of Pakistani troops on the Afghan border. Washington has developed severe doubts about Pakistan's commitment and effectiveness in the Afghan-Pakistani border region, and therefore about Pakistan's value as an ally.

Pakistan's strongest card with the United States is the threat to block the port of Karachi. But here, too, there is a counter to Pakistan: If Pakistan closes Karachi to American shipping, either the Indian or American navy also could close it to Pakistani shipping. Karachi is Pakistan's main export facility, and Pakistan is heavily dependent on it. If Karachi were blocked, particularly while Pakistan is undergoing a massive financial crisis, Pakistan would face disaster. Karachi is thus a double-edged sword. As long as Pakistan keeps it open to the Americans, India probably won't block it. But should Pakistan ever close the port in response to U.S. action in the Afghan-Pakistani borderland, then Pakistan should not assume that the port will be available for its own use.

India's Military Challenge

India faces difficulties in all of its military options. Attacks on training camps sound more effective than they are. Concentrating troops on the border is impressive only if India is prepared for a massive land war, and a naval blockade has multiple complications.

India needs a military option that demonstrates will and capability and decisively hurts the Pakistani government, all without drawing India into a nuclear exchange or costly ground war. And its response must rise above the symbolic.

We have no idea what India is thinking, but one obvious option is airstrikes directed not against training camps, but against key government installations in Islamabad. The Indian air force increasingly has been regarded as professional and capable by American pilots at Red Flag exercises in Nevada. India has modern Russian fighter jets and probably has the capability, with some losses, to penetrate deep into Pakistani territory.

India also has acquired radar and electronic warfare equipment from Israel and might have obtained some early precision-guided munitions from Russia and/or Israel. While this capability is nascent, untested and very limited, it is nonetheless likely to exist in some form.

The Indians might opt for a drawn-out diplomatic process under the theory that all military action is either ineffective or excessively risky. If it chooses the military route, New Delhi could opt for a buildup of ground troops and some limited artillery exchanges and tactical ground attacks. It also could choose airstrikes against training facilities. Each of these military options would achieve the goal of some substantial action, but none would threaten fundamental Pakistani interests. The naval blockade has complexities that could not be managed. That leaves, as a possible scenario, a significant escalation by India against targets in Pakistan's capital.

The Indians have made it clear that the ISI is their enemy. The ISI has a building, and buildings can be destroyed, along with files and personnel. Such an aerial attack also would serve to shock the Pakistanis by representing a serious escalation. And Pakistan might find retaliation difficult, given the relative strength of its air force. India has few good choices for retaliation, and while this option is not a likely one, it is undoubtedly one that has to be considered.

It seems to us that India can avoid attacks on Pakistan only if Islamabad makes political concessions that it would find difficult to make. The cost to Pakistan of these concessions might well be greater than the benefit of avoiding conflict with India. All of India's options are either ineffective or dangerous, but inactivity is politically and strategically the least satisfactory route for New Delhi. This circumstance is the most dangerous aspect of the current situation. In our opinion, the relative quiet at present should not be confused with the final outcome, unless Pakistan makes surprising concessions.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Pakistan’s Impulsive Diplomacy

The Mumbai attacks are over. Unfortunately the epitome was not the grieving over the innocent lives lost, but the spontaneous reaction of Indians from all walks reaching firm conclusions even before the sites had finally been cleared and sanitised. Three teams from Israel, USA and UK were there in no time, though some reports suggest they were already there and deemed it opportune to offer a helping hand as early as the blame on the culprits was fixed. The Indian secret services and investigating agencies a la Mumbai movie hero in contrast to earlier sluggishness instantly awoke from the slumber and efficiently caught up with the most crucial information. In contrast, despite such accurate information of the entire terror plot, it took India over four days to determine the exact strength of the attackers that fell from forties to ten.

Usually, I write objectively with reason and logic. However such has been the charade of anti Pakistan propaganda by India and US establishment, that I see sarcasm the only recourse to rebuttal.

I was most amused to hear the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice say that Pakistan needed no evidence to apprehended the Mumbai culprits as sufficient information was already available. By saying so, she has put the cart before the horse and conclusions are foregone. The Mumbai attacks were planned, rehearsed and directed from Pakistan and it is now up to Pakistan to prove its allegiance to the WOT by extending Civil War within Pakistan, ceding nuclear control and ultimately getting disintegrated. There appear no choices and trade offs.

Earlier, while leaving USA, she made a clear reference to India as an ally, bound by a treaty. Needless to mention, that this was a rejoinder to the Indo US Nuclear Treaty whose preamble and objectives seek a joint cooperation and action against terrorism and proliferation. Thus by implication, a terror attack against India is also an attack against USA. The conclusion is that the subject treaty extends the umbrella of American Nuclear Deterrence to India. If that be it, then Pakistan’s declared nuclear policy is now a direct threat to USA.

In Pakistanis, the establishment needs to get out of its state of denial and begin to realise that they are actually hares trying to hunt with the hounds. Impulsive statements and actions of the key statesmen were most damaging and allowed India and Condoleezza Rice to pre-empt issues such as Non Sate Actors, evidence and Pakistan’s security concerns. Knowing that Pakistan was already placed in the box, this incident and errors by statesmen have pushed Pakistan into the corner of the box. Coincidently, this incident is also timed with a view of US assessments that Pakistan is the next cross road of WMD. It was indeed na├»ve and painful to see the President of Pakistan seek cooperation of its neighbours (India) and friends in this regard during his talk with Larry King. If this be it, it strengthens my earlier assertion that Pakistan appears a rudderless derelict ship loaded with a nuclear cargo complying with every crest and wave.

There are also reports that USA is considering to declare at least four retired officials of ISI as international terrorists through the UN Security Council. A similar leak also alleges that Ex ISI and military officers of Pakistan actually trained the Mumbai Terrorists. So what of Pakistan embroiled in a Civil War, curtailed Intelligence Agencies and a Non Capable Nuclear Arsenal?

In the days to come, Pakistan will remain under sharp scrutiny on three counts.

First, how effectively Pakistan fights against the militants beyond FATA in Punjab. This has serious implications for national security?

Secondly, what mechanism is put in place to assert effective controls over Pakistan’s nuclear capability? The implication is that in US assessments, Pakistan’s nuclear capability already stands de graded and therefore unwanted.

Thirdly, degrade Pakistan’s counter terrorism intelligence networks with the implication that Pakistan disown in letter and spirit, its sympathy with the Pashtun resistance in Afghanistan. The case is then ready for a greater Pashtun cause that could hypothetically lure the romantic militant Pashtun on both sides of the Durand Line.

The all Parties Conference despite being a rare show of national unity is most likely to see the same fate as many such pluralistic declarations. Behind the counter, sinister plots would continue. The question is till when?

Does Pakistan need a Place de la Bastille?

Brigadier (r) Samson Simon Sharaf


In my assessment, this incident could involve individuals from diverse nationalities. If incidents of the past are to be considered, them even a remote Pakistani connection is but obvious.

Having been put into the box, Pakistan after this Bombay incident could be forced into the corner of the box.

If Kiani and Co complies further, we head for a Place de la Bastille.

There are parallels to the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001. If there is mobilisation by India to exert pressure on Pakistan, the consequences for Pakistan without ever going to war would still be far worse than 2001. Pakistan would be forced to pull troops from the western front to the east as it did in 2001. Even then, I was the sole voice pleading that we should call the bluff and not unhinge. This unhinging allowed the entire backwash of Afghanistan violence to flow into Pakistan and hence the FATA situation.

This time round, it may result into militant control of NWFP and far worse. Karachi may follow on lines of MQM-Pashtun divide resulting in the port city blocked. Supplies from Iran could easily be cut off by the BLA.

From the point of view of National Power, Pakistan is in no position to call the bluff other than showing desperation to the extent of an unambiguous nuclear statement. However, seeing the entire matrix, this may not happen unless the people of Pakistan revolt and there is a real revolution. But all revolutions have a history of being hijacked.

Realistically, Pakistan is in an ‘all loose situation’. Our national leadership including the Army Chief do not measure up to it. Then what? Pakistan will remain a rudderless derelict ship loaded with a nuclear cargo complying to every crest and wave till something happens.

Perhaps the biggest hope will be providence. In that case, the backwash will flow into India and that must be realised by both India and USA.

Then the war would have just begun. 9/11 and Bombay would just seem to be preliminaries.


In my assessment, this incident could involve individuals from diverse nationalities. If incidents of the past are to be considered, them even a remote Pakistani connection is but obvious.

Having been put into the box, Pakistan after this Bombay incident could be forced into the corner of the box.

If Kiani and Co complies further, we head for a Place de la Bastille.

There are parallels to the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001. If there is mobilisation by India to exert pressure on Pakistan, the consequences for Pakistan without ever going to war would still be far worse than 2001. Pakistan would be forced to pull troops from the western front to the east as it did in 2001. Even then, I was the sole voice pleading that we should call the bluff and not unhinge. This unhinging allowed the entire backwash of Afghanistan violence to flow into Pakistan and hence the FATA situation.

This time round, it may result into militant control of NWFP and far worse. Karachi may follow on lines of MQM-Pashtun divide resulting in the port city blocked. Supplies from Iran could easily be cut off by the BLA.

From the point of view of National Power, Pakistan is in no position to call the bluff other than showing desperation to the extent of an unambiguous nuclear statement. However, seeing the entire matrix, this may not happen unless the people of Pakistan revolt and there is a real revolution. But all revolutions have a history of being hijacked.

Realistically, Pakistan is in an ‘all loose situation’. Our national leadership including the Army Chief do not measure up to it. Then what? Pakistan will remain a rudderless derelict ship loaded with a nuclear cargo complying to every crest and wave till something happens.

Perhaps the biggest hope will be providence. In that case, the backwash will flow into India and that must be realised by both India and USA.
Then the war would have just begun. 9/11 and Bombay would just seem to be preliminaries.


Afghanistan does not have any economic base to survive

The Pakistan government on many occasions has stated that it would talk to the extremists only after they lay down their arms. After a long in-camera presentation, debate, and arguments in the Parliament, it seems that the Pakistan government intends to take a firm line against the extremists in FATA.

However, the PPP government has still not been able to convince a good number of politicians, intellectuals, and general public that a strong action in FATA is the best way to go.

A healthy but emotions packed debate of the Law Makers in the parliament as well as the Opinion Makers in the media is a tremendously welcome sign for the democracy. Pakistan has been trying to shed the stigma of secretive closed door decisions of a few, for the last many years. This debate would enormously help build confidence in democracy. The patience shown by the ruling party on this issue is commendable and the extensive input of the Pakistanis at home or abroad through the media has given people a strong sense of participation in the national affairs.

There is an elementary principle of reasoning: it’s known as making distinctions. The Government is facing a rough and highly charged resistance on this issue because the ruling party has not been able to frame the issue in the right context. Majority of Pakistanis absolutely would not connect with the global war on terror and the trepidations are not unreasonable. The issue really is not whether this is Pakistan’s war or it is being forced on Pakistan. The subject of the discussion should be: what our national interests’ demand? As long as the government persists with framing the issue in the context of the global war on terror, the issue would remain divisive. People all over the world are distancing from the GWOT. The current US administration’s abuse of the term GWOT has made it synonymous with the cultural war against the Muslims. The repeated mention of the clash of civilization, the crude invocation of the crusades, calling Iraqi resistance–terrorism, and the hounding and bullying of the Muslims in the Western media over the last seven years has toughened resistance to the idea of participating in a cause that is so heavily tied with the US aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan. The decline of U.S. credibility is hampering the progress on the FATA issue in Pakistan.

The government would have a hard time overcoming both emotional or realist objections, unless it is able to effectively demonstrate to the people that there are many distinctions between the situation in FATA and some other places.

Making this case is not all that hard. The Pakistanis have learned many things over the last several years. They have seen the humiliations of the nation, they have seen the falling opinions about Pakistan throughout the world and they are now more conscious of the enormous mistakes made in the past. The previous regime and the way it operated have given people a strong sense of right and wrong. The reaction to the dismissal of the Chief Justice finally proved once and for all that Pakistanis are looking for justice and are ready to stand up for the truth. While the PPP government vacillated on the Chief Justice issue, transparency on FATA is vital. Rationalizing and leveling with the people are the keys to garner support.

There is no ambiguity now about the fact that the Pakistani decision to interfere in Afghanistan after the leftists’ takeover in 1978 deeply impacted subsequent events in the area. The ideology and the influx of the refugees in Pakistan were the prime reasons. However, what aced all other reasons was the doctrine of Strategic Depth. The doctrine placed against the ground realities in Pakistan, appears to have more holes than Swiss cheese. A good faith discussion on the doctrine would benefit the people. An unconfirmed availability of fissionable material in Afghanistan might also be a factor in the decision. The implausible shortsightedness at the top in 1978 to a great deal hurt Pakistani national interests. A course correction was needed after the Soviets left Afghanistan but the involvement intensified even further. However, there is more in the history then just the Pakistani mistakes.

Afghanistan never in the history had and still does not have any economic base to survive on its own. As long as the Achaemenids and the Greeks controlled large areas, the Ghaznavids, the Ghorids, and the Durranis kept on plundering and conquering the neighboring territories, the current Afghanistan survived economically and was relatively peaceful.

From the Mid 19th century on, the Afghan State was kept afloat by the British subsidies.
When the Indian independence struggle intensified, Afghanistan stepped up efforts to reclaim NWFP, FATA and parts of Balochistan lost to the Sikhs and the British in the 19th century principally for the economic survival. The relatively well off, fertile, and arable NWFP offered a hope to replace the British subsidies for the economic survival of the Afghan state. Afghanistan actively supported Faqir Ipi in FATA and political groups in both NWFP and Balochistan to position itself favorably with the Pushtoons. The persistent refusal by the successive afghan governments to accept Durand Line as the permanent borders should be looked at in the right background. Ignore these facts at your own peril. Analysts would fail to highlight Pakistan’s national interests, if they do not account for these realities.

In the recent history, the drought and the famine in 1972-73 brought King Zahir Shah down. The drought in 1997-2001 forced the Taliban to ignore the poppy crop and when they tried to control it, they lost support–one of the main reasons of fast retreat in 2001.

The dwindling support of Karzai and the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan now are directly related with the international pressure to curtail the poppy crop. The poppy crop is a major source of reliable income for the Afghanistan peasantry. Any afghan government that would attempt to curtail that would lose support instantly.

The constant changes in the strategies, the rivalries between the players in the Capital, and the domestic politics exigencies make the US policies in Afghanistan perceptibly overweening. However, a deep analysis would reveal and reinforce the American Vertigo scenarios. Still, the elephant in the room has to be accounted for. US may be weary of fighting in Afghanistan but it would continue to maintain its presence in the area by forging new alliances with different groups. Its new ally could very well be some breakaway Taliban group.

The continued insurgency in FATA, now extended to parts of NWFP creates conditions that would allow some groups to strengthen their positions for a future unification of the Pushtoon speaking areas. With NWFP and FATA joining in, the chances of economic viability of any such area would increase manifold. That is where the Taliban role in the area is of prime concern.
FATA has been in a state of semi-war for the last thirty years. Especially the last seven years of intense war like conditions in the area have contributed to the collapse the traditional cultural, tribal, and familial relations. The tribal areas lack any infrastructure for remedies. Residents have abandoned their fields; number of jobless is on the rise. Many villages have already been abandoned by its residents; some residents are in the process of moving from the vulnerable areas. The increasing numbers of jobless youth provide perfect environments for the Taliban recruitment. This is a replica of South American guerrilla movements where uneducated and unemployed youth from the countryside joined the insurgencies for obscure reasons they did not understand. The Taliban make the religious pitch; provide opportunities to youth to assert power, and promise financial rewards to help out the already strapped parents, brothers and sisters. In a collapsing social structure militants’ numbers swell up fast.

The Pakistani Taliban is not an ideological but an opportunistic anarchic group. Unlike the afghan Taliban, Pakistani Taliban do not have a country to fight for nor do they have deep ideological roots and a history of struggle to qualify as legitimate holy warriors. The farrago of Sharia is just a cover to step up recruitment to create anarchy in FATA and NWFP. The FATA is already conservative and deeply religious. The Taliban Sharia just means removal of all schools and entertainment outlets in favor of Madrassah and Jihad.

The Taliban like groups can be easily manipulated by many interested parties. The most likely manipulators could be the Afghan Taliban and some foreign groups. They encourage insurgency in Pakistan to loosen the state structure by spreading lawlessness. With the anarchy spreading to the settled areas, state would lose the apparatus to maintain the physical integrity of the country. The Taliban appears to be a classical separatist group!

With international forces on Pakistani borders, Pakistan needs to manage the area to safeguard its legitimate borders. The Taliban has become a vehicle for the disruptive forces that intend to break up the country. How is it not in our National Interest to deal with the Taliban effectively?